Is it Legit? 7/11: Donovan Solano, J.P. Crawford, Lane Thomas, Kyle Bradish

Are Solano, J.P. Crawford, Lane Thomas, and Kyle Bradish for real?

We are somehow over halfway through the 2023 season. The days are getting shorter, which of course means winter is coming. 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. Sample sizes are even large enough to not just look at 2023 stats as a whole.

Donovan Solano, 2B, Minnesota Twins

Donovan Solano is a 5’8″ 35-year-old journeyman who has played for 5 MLB clubs. He was a sub-par hitter throughout his first five seasons from 2012-2016. He then spent most of 2016, 2017, and 2018 in MiLB with the Yankees and Dodgers. He seems to have reinvented himself during this time because when he re-emerged with the Giants in 2019, he posted a 116 wRC+ over 228 PA. Since then he has continued to be a good, but not great hitter.

Thus far in 2023, he has a 130 wRC+, but most impressive is that in the last 30 days, that number has been 188. As a side note, Ohtani tops that list with a 257 wRC+ with an absurd .563 ISO. Throughout Solano’s resurgence, he has primarily been someone who helps in the batting average and OBP department, but little else. He has 31 career HR and 13 SB.  Is he doing anything differently recently to post his career-best numbers?

Yes and no. Other than his xBA, his StatCast numbers have always been middling. This has mostly held true for this year. However, his Hard Hit% and Hard Contact% are both career-best and better than most in MLB. His BB% is also career-best 11.0%. This makes his HC% especially impressive considering this Pitcher List stat uses PA as the denominator.

Verdict: Somewhat Legit. Solano doesn’t appear to be doing anything fundamentally different than the last few seasons. This certainly isn’t surprising for a 35-year-old. He seems to have further honed his pitch recognition skills. He is swinging a bit less, so perhaps he’s gotten better at waiting for “his pitch.” Solano should continue to be an underrated source of AVG and OBP with position flex, but little else.

J.P. Crawford, SS, Seattle Mariners

To me, J.P. Crawford has always been someone who has just been a guy on some disappointing Mariners teams. His defensive metrics have been inconsistent to poor, and he’s been an average hitting SS with little power or speed. Prior to this year, 2021 and 2022 were his best seasons. He combined for 15 HR, 6 SB, .257 AVG, .339 OBP, .307 wOBA, and a 103 wRC+ over 1,290 PA. The bulk, AVG, and OBP were somewhat helpful as a fill-in, but that’s it.

In 2023 his wRC+ is up to 122. In the last 30 days, it is 169. He seems to have accepted a higher K% for an increased BB% and ISO. Crawford’s quality of contact numbers are in line with career norms, but he is pulling the ball more. His Swing% is also a career-low 38.9%.

Verdict: Legit. Crawford appears to be looking more for pitches he can pull to maximize his power. He has pulled all of his HR in his career. During the last 30 days, his Pull% is up to 48.0%. He is on pace to nearly double his previous career high in HR while also increasing his BB% and not hurting his AVG. It’s hard to see him ever becoming a star SS, but he could be a guy who plays a lot, walks a lot with a decent AVG, and hits close to 10 HR the rest of the year.

Lane Thomas, OF, Washington Nationals

Lane Thomas is a 27-year-old who began his career with the Cardinals before moving to the Nationals in 2021. He has primarily been known as a defense-first speedster. His Sprint Speed is 94th percentile. In his first full-time role in MLB last year he posted a.241/.301/.404 slash with 17 HR and 8 SB in 548 PA. One would expect him to have more SB with his speed.

In 2023 that slash is up to .302/.347/.497 with a 126 wRC+. Is he doing anything differently? His quality of contact numbers and expected stats have improved modestly, but are still not great. Both Pitcher List and Baseball Savant show that he is outperforming his expected stats by a wide margin.

Verdict: Not Legit. While Thomas has slightly improved his underlying metrics, there is nothing to support his breakout. It is encouraging to see him run more frequently, but I would expect him to continue to be a defense-first OF with some SB and pop.

Kyle Bradish, SP, Baltimore Orioles

Kyle Bradish is 26 years old, was a 4th-round pick by the Orioles in 2018, and was their 7th-ranked prospect going into the 2022 season according to FanGraphs. FanGraphs generally graded his stuff as plus, but his Command was suspect. In MLB in 2022 he threw 117.2 IP and posted a 4.90 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 21.8% K%, and 9.0% BB%. His expected stats suggest he was a bit lucky, but not egregiously so.

Thus far in 2023, he has a 3.32 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 22.9% K%, and 6.7% BB%. His various ERA predictors have also improved somewhat. What really stands out with him is his PLV and Stuff+ metrics. His overall PLV for 2023 is 15th amongst SP. Stuff+ gives him a 122, which is tied for 4th among pitchers with at least 80 IP. Both the slider and curveball grade out really well. His slider is 100th percentile according to PLV. It’s also his most-thrown pitch at 30%. Both metrics liked him in 2022 but to a lesser extent.

Verdict: Legit. I was really surprised when I saw how much PLV and Stuff+ like Bradish. The reduced BB% suggests he is harnessing it more as well. He throws too many pitches in the middle of the zone so there is still room for improvement. This is only his 2nd MLB season, so it’s possible his IP will be controlled somewhat, but considering he threw 117 last year that shouldn’t be a major concern. If he can do a better job of locating that slider down and glove side, he could be in for an even better second half.

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? 7/11: Donovan Solano, J.P. Crawford, Lane Thomas, Kyle Bradish”

  1. Alice the Goon says:

    I like Popeye.

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