Is it Legit? 5/30: Brent Rooker, Elias Díaz, Isaac Paredes

Have these three players made real changes to drive their hot starts?

Nine weeks’ worth of data leads to more confidence. Most unexpected hot starts have been picked up and the stragglers dropped. Now we’re switching gears to buy low/buy high guys in trades. In order to make the best possible trade decisions we need to know what’s real and what isn’t.

Brent Rooker, OF, Oakland Athletics

Brent Rooker is off to a phenomenal start through the first two months. One of the few bright spots on the abysmal Athletics, he has a 146 wRC+ to go along with 11 HR, 23 R, and 32 RBI. He would certainly have better counting stats on a better team in a better park. He’s spent the majority of his professional career with the Twins before jumping around to the Padres, Royals, and finally the A’s in 2023. He does not have much MLB experience (only 270 PAs before this year,) so he is not arbitration eligible until 2025, but he is 28 years old. This means he could be a trade candidate this season.

There isn’t much to go on prior to this year, but he was about a league-average bat in his limited/scattered playing time. However, he dominated throughout his minor-league career and FanGraphs gave him a 50/60 Game Power and 65/65 Raw Power. It also gave him a 35/40 Fielding grade. Over half of his PAs in 2023 have come as a DH so Oakland apparently doesn’t think much of his defense either. Is it possible he is just someone who wasn’t given much of a chance because teams couldn’t find a place for him?

Most of his hitting sliders are red on Savant, but his Whiff% is in the 3rd percentile. He also has an 18.0% SwStr%, which is 8th percentile. His K% and BB% have been diverting (in a bad way of course) about the last 30 games, and his K%-BB% currently sits at 14.4%.

Verdict: Half Legit. As the league becomes more aware of his terrible Whiff% and the large hole in his swing on the outer half of the zone, that problem will likely become exacerbated. Having said that, AAA pitching isn’t chopped liver, and I’m sure they were aware of his contact issues. He still managed to post some big ISO numbers and very good OBPs. It’s easy to say he will regress, but that is because it is true most of the time. He won’t have many SBs, but I think he’ll be a good power and decent OBP guy the rest of the way.

Elias Díaz, C, Colorado Rockies

In recent years whenever I’m looking to stream a catcher Elias Díaz always catches my eye for the simple fact that he plays in Coors. It’s never seemed to work out and I quickly drop him. With the Pirates in 2018, he had a 114 wRC+ in 277 PA, and in 2021 with the Rockies he had a 91 wRC+ in 371 PA. That’s serviceable for a catcher. However, in every other season from 2017-2022 he had an average wRC+ of about 60.

In 173 PA in 2023 he has the 3rd highest wRC+ among qualified catchers at 131, trailing only Sean Murphy and Adley Rutschman. His wOBA is 50 points higher than the hyped breakout Jonah Heim. How does Coors come into play with all of this?

As one would expect his splits have been better in Coors throughout his career. (To be honest, because of the holiday I did not have time to make a more exact table.) 2023 is no different, but his numbers are up across the board, regardless of the park. I wouldn’t say that he is simply gorging at home while being mediocre on the road. His wRC+ on the road is 90.

His K%-BB% is on track with career norms. His BABIP is way up at .374, but I like to see if that is because he has been lucky or better.

Verdict: Legit. A .374 BABIP for a 32-year-old catcher will never stick, but Díaz seems to be consciously pulling the ball more, while simultaneously limiting soft contact and making more hard contact. His xBA has gone from 16th percentile in 2022 to 88th in 2023. He will likely wear down as the season goes on, but I think he can be an average catcher in 12-team leagues going forward.

Isaac Paredes, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays

Isaac Paredes is 24 years old and was given 55/60 Hit, 40/45 Game Power, 50/50 Raw Power, and 30/20 Speed grades from FanGraphs. He was traded from the Tigers to the Rays in 2022 for Austin Meadows. He had a HR explosion, hitting 20 in just 381 PA. However, this came with just a .205 AVG and .304 OBP.

In 2023 his home run pace is comparable, but his AVG is way up to .282. This has increased his OBP to .354, despite a worse BB% of 6.1%. His K% and Whiff% continue to be excellent, but the rest of his Statcast sliders are quite poor and down from last year.

Verdict: Not Legit. A .309 BABIP can not be sustained by a 14th-percentile Sprint Speed and 9th-percentile Hard Hit%. A look at his spray chart shows flashes Alex Bregman. None of his 30 career HR have been anything but pulled. As a general rule little power comes from away pitches, but Paredes has ISOs approaching .000 on pitches on the outer third of the plate.

Courtesy of FanGraphs

In the near future, I expect he will continue to provide power on mistake pitches, but he seems very one-dimensional. His utter lack of athleticism will severely limit his BABIP, and he will only get slower. His success will be entirely dependent on mistake pitches.

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.

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