Is it Legit? 5/28/24: Reynaldo López, Wilyer Abreu, and Ryan McMahon

Are Reynaldo López, Wilyer Abreu, and Ryan McMahon for real?

While it’s still early, we can start to gain more confidence in 2024 season data. Now is the time to jump on hot starts to gain an edge over your league-mates.  However, if you’re going to jump ship this early on your draft picks, you’ve got to be confident in who you’re picking up. Here are four players off to hot starts. Let’s see if it makes sense to be aggressive in picking them up or trading for them.

Reynaldo López, SP, Atlanta Braves

López has primarily been a reliever the last two seasons. He had been a full-time starter with the White Sox up until 2021 when he began to convert. He was a decent, but not a dominant RP, posting ERAs between 2.73 and 3.43, WHIPs between .95 and 1.27, and K%-BB% between 17.6% and 20.5%.

In 9 starts this year he has thrown 51.1 IP with an impressive 1.75 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 23.3% K%, and 8.9% BB%. That 14.4% K%-BB% is 49th among qualified Starting Pitchers. Charlie Morton, Trevor Williams, Mitch Keller, and Patrick Sandoval are in that territory. I’m not a big believer in ERA estimators, but his range from a FIP of 2.85 to a SIERRA of 3.99. K%-BB% is likely more indicative than any of them.

His pitch mix has been consistent since 2021. This year he is throwing a few less fastballs in favor of curves, but it’s not a significant change.

His fastball velocity has dropped nearly 3 mph since last year and the Swinging Strike% has declined by almost 7% to just 7.8% (26th percentile). Nothing else stands out about most of the other fastball metrics. The pitches’ stuff and outcomes range from a little below to a little above average. Location-wise, it has a hiLoc% of just 40.3% (19th percentile) and mmLoc% of 10.4% (85th percentile-bad). PLV and Stuff+ both view it as below average. It also has yet to allow a HR, despite 434 thrown. It seems to me that he has been fortunate throwing an average pitch 57% of the time.

López throws his slider 30% of the time. and it has been a Swinging Strike and groundball machine. It has a 23.2% Swinging Strike% (87th percentile), 42.0% O-Swing% (86th percentile), and 59.0% GB% (83rd percentile). That’s a good combination. He has done a good job keeping it down and away from hitters. However, it has just a 31.1% Zone% (13th percentile). Once hitters learn to lay off it more he’ll either walk more guys or be forced to throw it in the zone more. It has decent stuff and movement, but not enough to maintain the same level of success if it’s in the zone more. It also has yet to give up a home run.

He throws his curveball 10% of the time. It’s allowed an ICR of just 26.3% (87th percentile). Otherwise, it’s pretty average. Again, it has not allowed a home run.

Verdict: Not Legit. The only two things supporting López’s very low ERA are the O-Swing% on his slider and very low overall HR/FB ratio of just 3.6%. I don’t see either of them being sustainable. I don’t expect him to turn into a bad starter, but I think a 4.00 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 23% K%, and 9% BB is reasonable. I think Nick would call that a Toby, but The Office is an awful show so I shudder every time I hear that term.

Wilyer Abreu, OF, Boston Red Sox

Abreu’s .373 wOBA is 19th among qualified hitters. In 167 PA he has a .284/.359/.500 slash line with a 25.7% K%, and 10.8% BB%. He is 24 years old and FanGraphs gave him just a 35/40 Hit, 45/50 Game Power, 50/50 Raw Power, and 40 Future Value. Last year he had a .375 wOBA but it was in just 85 PA. What has he been doing that scouts may have missed?

Well, last year he had an extremely high .431 BABIP and this year he has a .366 BABIP, .269 xBABIP, and .232 xAVG. It’s safe to say we can expect his BA to decline, especially with just a 14.3% LD%, 35th percentile ICR, and 25th percentile IPA. He also has a +12 Hit Luck! What about his .216 ISO?

It’s supported by just 5 HR, but 13 doubles and 2 triples. He has a 11.4% Brl% (83rd percentile), 95th percentile FB%, and 77th percentile FB EV. He also has a strong 114.4 Max EV and 87th percentile bat speed. His extreme fly ball tendencies further support a drop in BA, but his good power outputs seem sustainable.

For most of the season his swing decisions have been good, but have plummeted that last week or so.

He’s run good BB% throughout his professional career, but his contact ability is poor so I’d expect his K% and BB% to hold steady.

Verdict: Mixed. All evidence points to a precipitous drop in BA, but a legitimate power output and BB%. Because of this, I anticipate a wOBA of around .320-.330 going forward. That’s nothing like it’s been, but is still useful. He has already chipped in 7 SBs so he helps in that department also.

Ryan McMahon, 2B/3B, Colorado Rockies

McMahon is 29 years old and has generally thought of as a bit of a disappointment throughout his MLB career. Prior to this year 2022 was his best season when he had a 95 wRC+ in 597 PA. He posted similar numbers from 2021-2023. Not bad, but not great. This year most of his sliders are red.

Even that 24.9% K% would be amongst the best of his career. That .381 wOBA is the 16th best in MLB. Is he doing anything differently?

Yes. His Z-Contact% is a career-best 82.8%. That’s still just 41st percentile, but a big improvement for him. He has career bests with a 14.4% Brl% (92nd percentile), 52.1% ICR (98th percentile), and 32.4% IPA (91st percentile). 99th percentile FB EV will certainly help your power, especially in Colorado.

Verdict: Legit. He has been lucky with a 35.7% HR/FR ratio, but his various expected BA metrics support his .294 BA. He also has a by far career-low 20.1% FB%. If he can increase that some I’m sure his BA will drop some, but his power output should remain steady, despite a decrease in that HR/FB%. It took him a while, but he might be breaking out. Wish I hadn’t dropped him early in the season…

Featured image by Doug Carlin (@bdougals on Twitter)

Andrew Krutz

Andrew writes for Pitcher List and is a lifelong New York Yankees fan. During the warmer months he can be found playing vintage baseball in the Catskill Mountains of Upstate New York.

One response to “Is it Legit? 5/28/24: Reynaldo López, Wilyer Abreu, and Ryan McMahon”

  1. Moelicious says:

    The Office is hysterical and I am someone who rarely laughs or smiles. But yes, Rey-Lo is a sell high for me. Shame he has a fraction of the wins as Sale even though they have similar ERAs for the same team. Wins are dumb.

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