Is it Legit? 6/25/24: Cristopher Sánchez, Fedde, Duran, and Josh Smith

Are Cristopher Sánchez, Fedde, Jarren Duran, and Josh Smith for real?

We are somehow getting close to the midpoint of the season. For most guys, we have plenty of data to be confident in. Here are some players that are playing well. Let’s see if it makes sense to be aggressive in picking them up, or buying/selling them.

Cristopher Sánchez, SP, Philadelphia Phillies

Sánchez is off to the best start of his career, having already earned more WAR than the rest of his relatively short career combined. He is 27 years old and last year was his first MLB season as a full-time SP. In 99.1 IP in 2023 he had a 3.44 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 24.2% K%, and 4.0% BB%. In 84.1 IP this year he has a 2.67 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 20.2% K%, and 6.9% BB%.

That 13.3% K%-BB% is quite a bit worse than last year’s 20.2% K%-BB%. The various ERA estimators range from 2.49 to 3.67. The increased WHIP doesn’t support his ERA either. However, most of his Pitcher List sliders are a light shade of red and his PLV is an astonishing 94th percentile. The numbers are telling opposing stories so let’s see if we can figure out what’s going on.

Sánchez is a sinker-changeup-slider guy. He’s only thrown 4 cutters all year so we’ll disregard that. His pitch usage is nearly identical to last year. He throws the sinker 49%, the changeup 32%, and the slider 18%.

Stuff+ gives his sinker a 102, but that’s 4th best amongst qualified pitchers, and PLV loves it, considering it 88th percentile. It averages 94.5 mph (77th percentile), 18.4″ of iHB (95th percentile), and 6.5″ iVB (31st percentile). It induces a good GB% and Str%, but its only stand-out quality is its ability to suppress home runs. It has just a 12.0% FB%, 98th percentile FB EV, and has yet to allow a HR. That’s impressive considering how often he throws it. Suppressing home runs is obviously important.

He is known for his changeup. The 21.7% SwStr% is 91st percentile and has led to a 30.9% CSW% (90th percentile). It also has a 74th percentile ICR and 83rd percentile PLV. It gets little iVB, but 92nd percentile iHB. Like the sinker, he keeps it down in the zone. Both pitches have 73rd percentile loLoc%.

His slider has just a 35th percentile Total Break and 29th percentile MPH, but he also keeps it low. It has a 65th percentile loLoc% and has induced a 58.1% GB% (83rd percentile). It’s primarily used to keep hitters off balance and generate ground balls.

Verdict: Legit. As long as your expectations aren’t too high I think Sánchez is a very reliable SP. He does an excellent job generating ground balls and limiting home runs. Because of this he will likely always have a fairly high WHIP and low K%. He will maintain a low ERA and hence, get a lot of wins on a good Phillies team.

Erick Fedde, SP, Chicago White Sox

After struggling mightily across 6 seasons with the Nationals Fedde spent a year overseas pitching in the Korea Baseball Organization. His surface stats say he’s come back as a different pitcher. In 94.1 IP he has a 3.05 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 22.1% K%, and 6.2% BB%. They are all career bests. His K% is only slightly better than at previous points, but the other 3 numbers are much better than the rest of his career.

The biggest change he’s made to his repertoire is he’s dropped his curveball in favor of a sweeper, which he throws 21% of the time. It gets more iVB than most sweepers and has a solid 28.6% ICR (81st percentile). It’s good at suppressing hard contact, but not at generating strikes. It has a 59.4% Strike% (43rd percentile). PLV only grades it as 25th percentile. His curveball was crushed in 2022 so it’s addition by subtraction.

He throws his sinker 31% of the time and it is a modestly improved pitch. The SwStr% and CSW% have improved 4-6 points. Of course, sinkers aren’t meant to generate whiffs, but that SwStr% is 91st percentile. Its stuff hasn’t changed, but PLV likes it slightly more, so that means his command of it must have improved. However, its PLV is still just 39th percentile. It does have a good wOBA and xwOBA. I believe the reason for this is it has 84th percentile oLoc% which has led to a low Pull% and high Oppo%. This may be Fedde’s way of limiting damage by discouraging pulled batted balls which tend to cause more damage.

His usage of his cutter has remained unchanged and it seems to be more or less the same pitch, but controlled a bit better. It does have a better CS%. This may be because of the improved command, or possibly just noise. Either way, it’s not a major improvement.

Fedde’s usage of his changeup has increased to 16%. Like his other pitches, there aren’t changes to its stuff, but it has a higher PLV, again likely because of improved command. There really isn’t much else to say about it as it’s a pretty average pitch.

Verdict: Not legit. Fedde’s better results seem to be driven by improved command. His Location+ is 105 and his improved BB% supports this. Command is notoriously finicky and cannot be relied upon. I think he’ll be a good streamer going forward, but that ERA and WHIP will decline.

Jarren Duran, OF, Boston Red Sox

Duran was a hyped prospect who performed well in 102 games last year, so it’s not a surprise that he is playing well in 2024. However, I’d say he is outperforming prospect expectations. His 130 wRC+ is 30th best amongst qualified hitters. MLB Pipeline gave him a 55 Hit tool, but just a 40 Power. FanGraphs gave him a 30/35 Game Power and 45/45 Raw Power. It’s difficult, but not impossible, to have such a high wRC+ and .361 wOBA (23rd best) without some power.

He’s been steadily improving his K%, BB%, and ISO. The ISOs from the last two years are above average and better than one would expect given his grades as a prospect.

Power+ is an xISO and Duran’s is above average. That’s more than sufficient for someone with his speed. I think his ISO is real.

Verdict: Legit. This one is simple. Duran has been improving in nearly all aspects of hitting. Across a combined 721 PA over the last two years Duran has averaged a 125 wRC+, .357 wOBA, and .191 ISO. It is no surprise to see him hit for a solid average and steal bases, but the good ISO is. This isn’t a result of many home runs (he has just 15 in the last two years), but in 2024 he has 22 doubles and a shocking 10 triples. This will lead to a lot of runs and RBI. He’s already up to 20 SB this year. He will be a reliable 4-category contributor for many years to come.

Josh Smith, 3B, Texas Rangers

Josh Smith is 26 years old, was the 67th overall pick in the 2019 draft, and the 78th-ranked overall prospect in 2022. FanGraphs gave him a 55/60 Hit, 35/40 Game Power, 40/40 Raw Power, and 55/55 Speed. Across 485 PA in 2022 and 2023 he posted just a 71 wRC+ and .274 wOBA. So far in 2024, he has a .303/.391/.478 triple slash, 148 wRC+, and .382 wOBA. His 17.9% K%, 8.7% BB%, and .303 AVG make sense given his prospect grades, but the lack of power he was expected to have does not support his high wOBA. So what is behind it?

He has just a 2.7% Brl% (9th percentile), 33.9% ICR (22nd percentile), and 23.6% Ideal Plate Appearance (25th percentile). These don’t seem like numbers that would come from the 11th-best wOBA in baseball. He has 27th percentile Bat Speed, 26th percentile Hard Hit%, and below average Max Exit Velocity of 107.2 mph.

Smith’s Power+ is also well below average.

Verdict: Not Legit. All signs point to Smith’s wOBA as unsustainable. His xwOBA is .334. That’s not bad, but it’s not .382. He should be a good AVG and OBP guy going forward, but his xAVG is 44 points lower than his .303 Avg. Pitcher List’s Hit Luck stat suggests he has 12 more hits than expected. This would give him a .250 AVG. I think it’s time to sell high on Josh Smith.

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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