Affinity Pool: Statcast Bust Hitters for 2023

Ben Pernick finds busts via a useful Statcast batted ball comp tool

Last week, we overviewed Statcast Affinity Hitter Sleepers. This week, we’ll instead take a look at the potential busts. Sleepers may be more fun (who doesn’t like wishcasting?) but historically, my bust predictions have been far more accurate, with approximately 75% accuracy over the previous two years I did this exercise.

Granted, that’s not entirely surprising, as our universe is built on entropy and players are more likely to succumb to attrition and injury than they are to break out. Still, such high accuracy on bust picks (and not just due to injury and factors like that) indicates that there is definitely value in this exercise even if it sometimes means throwing cold water on people’s favorite spring picks (unless it’s me, because I find showering in cold water “refreshing.” I’ve been told this is “not normal”). So here are some players whose ADP are far higher than that of their comps, indicating serious bust potential. ADP is from all NFBC Draft Champions drafts starting from February 1st.


Matt Olson, 1B, Atlanta Braves (ADP: 47)


J.D. Martinez (.87), Anthony Santander (.84), Seth Brown (.84), Willie Adames (.83), Rowdy Tellez (.83)

Now, relative to most of the other players that will be listed here, these comps ain’t half bad. They’re all productive major league regulars with an ADP in the #100-200 range. The only problem with that is that Olson is going as a top-50 pick, with a current ADP of 47. So this isn’t so much of a bust pick as a potential mild disappointment pick. But nobody wants mild disappointment either, right?

It’s rather surprising as you’d expect better comps for a first baseman known for high hard hit rates and barrel rates, as his 14% barrel% rate and 117 mph MaxEV were career bests, and were 93rd and 98th percentile, respectively.

But it’s worth noting that his surprising 2021 improvement in strikeout rate to just 16% regressed in a big way, with a more pedestrian 24% K% and 10% BB. This could be somewhat less of a sign of him being a bust as it is a sign his comps are sleepers, as I did write up JDM and Brown as sleepers with Tellez as a close runner-up. Olson should be a lock to hit at least .245 with 30-40 homers. I suppose the problem is, can’t Santander, Adames. Tellez and maybe even Brown also do this. And if that’s true, why are drafters lunging for Olson so much earlier?

It’s not about position scarcity, given that 1B is deep this year, and players like Tellez and Christian Walker can be had about 100 picks later. Of course, Olson has a stacked lineup and favorable ballpark, so the run production is at least a bit safer. Still, given that he doesn’t have the factors of youth or speed to make me brush aside the comps, I just think he’s not worth drafting unless he’s falling at least 20-25 picks, maybe even 30, since I’d much rather target SBs at that point in the draft. Maybe that’s why his last name backward is “No, slo.”


Adley Rutschman, C, Baltimore Orioles (ADP: 69)


Top Comps: Jon Berti (.80), Brandon Crawford (.78), Jake Fraley (.78), Dominic Smith (.78)

I must admit, I was rather shocked and dismayed by this, as I badly want Adley to succeed. Last year we got to see the much-anticipated debut of Big Time Rutsch, and after an initial stumble, he brought what we were all hoping to see. He hit a solid .254/.362/.445 with 13 HR and 4 SB in 378 AB (470 PA), showing OBP prowess and even stealing a handful of bags, so it’s not surprising that the hype is a full-blown helium balloon, going as the #4 catcher overall with a #69 ADP. But taking him there, you might get screwed.

I mean, how is his top batted ball comp Jon Berti? After all, take away Berti’s stolen bases and general foot speed (although Rutschman’s 47th percentile sprint speed is solid for a catcher). Well, Berti did have a lower BB rate and higher K rate (not by much), and actually Rutschman’s avg. EV of 88 mph and HardHit% of 37%, as well as his 8% Barrel% are rather close to Berti (88 mph eV, 37% HardHit%, 6% Barrel).

That simultaneously makes me scared of Adley but also intrigued by Berti’s 298 ADP. Crawford, Smith, and Peterson were all downright lousy, with Fraley being the only bright spot (but aided by Cincy’s extremely hitter-friendly confines).

The good news is that Adley is a true gamer, and can likely improve on his early numbers, just as he made adjustments over his debut season. Maybe that’s partially why his comps are bad, because they were dragged down by early struggles. Still, considering he actually outperformed his expected stats with an xBA of .248 and xSLG of just .411, too much of this improvement is baked into the price, especially since at age 25, he’s the same age as Ryan Mountcastle.

Which inevitably leads to mentioning the challenging home ballpark. While I doubt he’ll collapse, and will still be a wonderful real-life catcher, I doubt he’ll return value at this high pick, and would much rather take my chances on catcher later with the likes of Cal Raleigh, Danny Jansen, or even Jonah Heim.


Xander Bogaerts, SS, San Diego Padres (ADP:  91)


Top Comps: Victor Caratini (.88) Ketel Marte (.84), Brandon Crawford (.83), Jake Fraley (.82)

I feel like it’s a bit mean to double-tap him and pick him as a bust on back-to-back years, but with a career course like this, I have no choice but to hit a double Bogey. Of course, last year he wasn’t a true bust in the sense he still hit .307 with solid run production, but with only 15 homers, his year resembled more of a mid-career Jean Segura than the consensus top 50 player he had been before. But before you make conclusions about this, you should know that Xander is one strange bird.

How so? Well for one, Bogaerts has broken Statcast more than almost every other player, posting averages and slugging percentages well above his expected stats ever since they started measuring it in 2015. He’s never reached a double-digit barrel rate, his HardHit% rates are merely good, and the same goes for his solid but unspectacular plate skills.

That being said, last year his real and expected stats were both the worst they’ve been since 2018. Aside from his strong MaxEV, his overall hitter measures hover around 50th percentiles. So why’s he still a top 100 pick, yet he’s an 88% match with a backup catcher whose name sounds like a Pokemon?

While it’s not entirely clear how he’s outperforming, it’s likely as a career Bostonian that he learned how to use Fenway Park to his advantage, similar to how other Statcast breakers like Alex Bregman took advantage of the dimensions of their home parks. And now in San Diego, he’s going to a tough park to hit, one that stymied even Juan Soto among several other acquisitions. Ty France (.82) and Ketel Marte could be somewhat reassuring comps,  though note their ADPs are 179 and 205, respectively.

Sure, Xander is in a stacked lineup and has been a rare bastion of health and volume, which does make him a higher floor pick, but he’ll need to change his approach in his age 30 season to be more than a .275 12-14 home run bat with a handful of steals, which would be enough to make him a bust. In that case, I’d take my chances on teammate Ha-Seung Kim nearly 200 picks later.


Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins (ADP: 100)


Top Comps: Cal Raleigh (.82), Jake Burger (.79), Luke Voit (.79), Eugenio Suarez (.78)

I must admit, I found this one rather shocking, as I expected that if anything, his batted ball data would make him more of a “sleeper.” After all, most of his Statcast page is blood red, with a 97th percentile barrel rate, 50% HardHit%, and a 91st percentile xwOBA. But this is why I find affinity more interesting than just using expected stats of barrel rates, so let’s see what the tea leaves are trying to tell us before you throw a ton of bux at him.

I’m guessing these comps are primarily due to his high 30% K% (just 7th percentile) which took a big jump compared to previous years, and while his 9% BB% was a career-best, I’d much rather have a Buxton that struck out and walked less. Raleigh and Burger both exhibited big raw power as well with similarly troubling plate discipline. Of course, #5 comp Schwarber (.78) is who we’re hoping we’re getting, with 40+ HR and 10-20 SB, and it’s certainly possible. After all, Buxton has reinvented himself as a player every year more than just about any player I can recall at the moment, and the 2021 version was simply glorious. But the version we saw last year did show the risk.

It’s worth noting that his 92nd percentile sprint speed makes him likely to outperform relative to his plate skills and batted ball quality alone. It’s just that his extensive injury history makes him an extreme high-risk player, and if the quality is in question in addition to the quantity, the chances of him providing value at a 100 ADP are low.

Given the injury risk, he’s unlikely to be stealing many bases in an environment where everyone else will be stealing more, and he did get a step slower than when he was fastest in baseball. The tools remain tantalizing, but if he doesn’t start making more contact, he could disappoint even with a mostly healthy season. I’d much rather roll the dice on a power/speed play like Lars Nootbaar over 80 picks later.


Rhys Hoskins, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies (ADP: 125)


Top Comps: Mike Yastrzemski (.90), Mitch Haniger (.87), Seth Brown (.84), Ramon Laureano (.84)

I get that not all of these comps are so lousy, but a 90% comp with Mike Yastrzemski is enough to make my Hoskin crawl. The steady big bopper is no longer being drafted as a top 100 bat, but is still in the upper tiers with an ADP of 124, above the likes of recent risers such as Christian Walker and Tellez, and I think it’s a mistake to label him as a “safe” pick at his current ADP. Am I the only one saying this? You bet your Yaz I am.

It’s true his surface stats have remained rather constant, hitting .245-.247 the past 3 seasons and hitting 27-30 homers the past 4 years (well, not in 2020, but he was pacing for it). That’s like a light version of Mr. .247 aka Khris Davis! Hey. what happened to him again?  Anyway, Hoskins high walk rate used to make up for his failings, but it’s become pedestrian at 11% with a 25% K% that’s slightly worse than previous years.

The bigger problem is on the batted ball end, as his 11% is way down from his previous rate of 17% in 2021. His 7.0 Barrels per PA is tied for 62nd in baseball with A.J. Pollock, Tyler O’Neill, Jack Suwinski, and… Mike Yastrzemski.

The fact he cleared the 30-tater plateau hides the fact that he really was pretty mediocre for a 1B on an at-bat basis, as hitting .246/.332/.462 with 30 HR and 2 SB in 589 AB (672 PA) makes his power more of a volume-dependent play. He wasn’t unlucky either, as he actually slightly outperformed his xBA of .239 and xSLG of .445, though his friendly home park makes up for that somewhat.

I’d rather have a .253 xBA and .438 xSLG, which were the numbers last year for Carlos Santana (ADP: 426). Sure, he’s old and slow as molasses, but Hoskins isn’t a spring chicken either with a lousy 19th-percentile sprint speed. While it’s possible he played last year hurt and his recent meniscus procedure will help, I think it’s just the nail in the coffin for me burying him in my drafts, as I think he deserves an ADP around 180-200. So I’ll watch him go by in my drafts and instead look to cheaply acquire the next Hoskins as I take a long sip from my glass of Rhysling.


Tyler Stephenson, C, Cincinnati Reds (ADP: 132) 


Top Comps: Edmundo Sosa (.83), Aaron Hicks (.82), Andres Gimenez (.81), Tommy Pham (.80)

Yes, I know he plays in Great American Smallpark. But maybe, just maybe, that doesn’t do enough to make me feel good, any more than the staff pizza party did to thank me for working overtime throughout the pandemic. Keep your grubby paws off my slice, Susan. I’m continuing a thread of calling him a sell-high bust last year before he got hurt, but now he’s going ahead of two of my favorite sleeper catchers so I need to warn you that it’s a trap. He did hit a beautiful .319/.372/.482 with 6 HR in 166 AB (183 PA), and I do usually try to avoid small sample size shenanigans, but let’s at least see why I feel this way.

For one, despite being 6’4 and 225 lbs, thus far Stephenson really has the raw pop of a pipsqueak. With a MaxEV of 106 mph, he’s outpowered on that metric by Luis Arraez and Santiago Espinal. The barrel rate of 7% was better than last year, but his HardHit% of 35% was lower. On top of that, his supposedly elite plate skills fell apart last year, with a 26% K% and 7% BB% a year after posting a decent 19% K% and 10% BB in 2021. Oh, and like quite a few other guys here, there’s also high injury risk.


Jose Miranda, 1B/3B, Minnesota Twins (ADP: 162)


Top Comps: Gio Urshela (.86), Matt Vierling (.81), Carson Kelly (.81), Ketel Marte (.81)

It was hard to pick a bust in the late 100s between Miranda, Grissom, and Ke’Bryan Hayes, who all have bad comps, but ultimately went with Miranda since he doesn’t have the speed of Grissom or Hayes, even though he’s a rookie. Miranda has steadily moved up draft boards in the spring as it’s become more and more common knowledge that third base, after the early rounds, is a runaway dumpster fire heading straight for the methane gas factory.

Miranda’s overall stat line leaves something to be desired, with a .268/.325/.426 line with 15 HR in 444 AB (483 PA). That said, he had a pleasing shape to his debut season, as his splits seemed to improve with every passing month after a rough start.

But affinity cares not for shapes, be they round, parallelogram, or Euclidean. So most of his comps were with players who are passable, but not quite good enough to hold down a regular role (Ketel doesn’t apply here, but Nick Fortes was the #5 comp). Of course, Miranda is 24 and likely to improve, but Statcast on the whole agrees, with him slightly outperforming his expected stats with an xBA of .253 and xSLG of .410.

His hard hit rates and K rates were all average but with a poor walk rate and defense, which puts a lot of pressure on the bat to carry the profile. While the trade of Arraez all but ensures he’ll be a starter, and perhaps it’s a relief that his top comp Urshela was dealt away, if he doesn’t start tapping into his minor league magic, he’ll be at risk of having playing time cut into by acquisitions Kyle Farmer and Donovan Solano. And if that happens, he’s going to leave owners feeling the burn like Eliza Schuyler (Fun fact: Jose is Lin-Manuel’s cousin!) So if you feel like a 3B around here better to wait for it.


Austin Hays, OF, Baltimore Orioles (ADP: 282)


Top Comps: Elias Diaz (.87), Frank Schwindel (.87), Jackie Bradley Jr. (.86), Jonathan Schoop (.86)

To me, it’s weird that Ryan Mountcastle gets a lot more attention as being the one who was hurt most by Camden’s park changes when Hays is right there. Mounty at least has a huge barrel rate and hits the ball to all fields, whereas Hays only has righty pull power, which happens to be the area most affected. It’s for this reason I avoided him entirely last year, and even with this depressed price, I’m not letting the “bargain” on Hays cloud my judgment.

It’s not encouraging that more than one of these guys was released and has become minor-league contract material. Hays is still 27 and penciled in as the starting left fielder, but he might be more at risk of losing PT than we realize.

For one, while his strikeout and walk rates have remained constant over the past two years, his batted ball quality nosedived with a mere 5% barrel rate, which might explain how his expected stats say he actually got lucky if anything, with an xBA of .240, and even worse, an xSLG of .372. On top of that, he has a lengthy injury history and is a poor defender (other than his plus arm). and if his Statcast sliders were a person they’d be getting treatment for hypothermia.

Despite Baltimore’s reputation as a poor offense, there are a few more prospects potentially coming down the pike, such as Colton Cowser, Heston Kjerstad, and Connor Norby (2B/OF) that are all about major league ready and can push him out of his role, or at least push other guys like Urias and Mateo in such a way that his at-bats are eaten into.

I’d much, much rather take a shot on an all-around better player in a better park Jake Fraley who is going after him for some reason, so don’t get stuck with him or you’ll be as existentially miserable as Tom Hanks in Austin Translation.


Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire
Unsplash | Emma Shappley
Unsplash | Graham Holsthausen
Adapted by Kurt Wasemiller (@KUWasemiller on Twitter / @kurt_player02 on Instagram)

Ben Pernick

I've been writing for Pitcher List since the beginning, and have been a fantasy baseball addict now for 20 years. I grew up as a Red Sox fan in New York, but now I declare allegiance only to my fantasy teams.

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