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PLV Weekly: First Half Hitter Surprises

Examining first half standouts including Jarred Duran and Anthony Volpe

Batting average and OPS are great, but they are just a piece of the picture. Context is critical. That’s where PLV can help us assess player performance with intuitively scaled metrics like decision value, contact ability, and power. This week, we’ll reexamine some standout hitting performances as we approach the halfway point. I know, I can’t believe it either.

For reference, our approximate benchmarks for sample size are 400 pitches for DV, 200 swings for contact ability, and 75 BBE for power. For Pitchers, PLV and PLA stabilize at around 500 pitches.

You can find Nick’s primer here if you’re new to PLV. All the metrics are normalized to 100. Decision Value (DV) has also been further broken down this season into zDV (inside the strike zone) and oDV (outside the strike zone).

Note: Stats and PLV data are current through Monday, June 24th.

 

Taylor Ward

Carlos Correa

Bo Bichette

Anthony Volpe

 

Volpe’s bump in batting average and on-base ability is reflected by his contact ability jumping from 90 to 107. But curiously enough, he’s regressed in SZ Judgement (93; 105 last year) and DV (96; 105 last year) in year two. The biggest drop, though, has been in his power (88; 106 last year).

I don’t want to discount his gains in contact but, otherwise, the metrics suggest that the full-fledged Volpe breakout hasn’t happened. Right now, hitting in front of Aaron Judge and Juan Soto might be masking some warts (shocking, I know). At 23, he’s far from a closed case but I’m curious to see how his numbers look at summer’s end.

 

Bryan De La Cruz

 

De La Cruz has seen his roster rates rise amidst a power surge. He’s added some pop this year (116; 105 last year). However, I’m still skeptical that he’s destined to stick in standard-sized leagues given his rough plate approach and below-average contact ability.

De La Cruz reminds me a little of his teammate Jake Burger, who has gone MIA this year. Burger has actually shown slightly above-average contact ability (103). However, he’s struggled to stay afloat because of extremely poor swing decisions and pitch recognition (70 DV, 74 SZ Judgement).

 

Jarren Duran

 

Sixth among qualified OFers with a .843 OPS Duran looks like this year’s breakout hitter. However, his PLV metrics are maybe a little understated, including modest bumps in power (101; 95 last year), Decision Value (99; 95 last year), and contact (105; 102 last year). The most interesting thing might be his evolution from an aggressive hitter (4.5% swing aggression last year) to a more patient/passive approach (-1.4% swing aggression).

 

Heat Check: Royce Lewis

 

Royce Lewis falls short of our benchmarks, but forgive me. How can we not at least mention him? It’s been thrilling seeing him back on the field. Again, it’s 52 BBE so it’s a silly sample size but Lewis’ 147 power is making Shohei Ohtani (139) blush. He’s still below Aaron Judge (156) and Tyler O’Neill (148) in power, so he has work left to do.

 

Jackson Merrill

 

The injury to Fernando Tatís Jr. could thrust Merrill into a more prominent role in the Padres lineup. The 21-year-old rookie is fourth on the Padres with a .767 OPS. He has shown exemplary contact ability with above-average power, but his swing decisions are what you might expect from a 21-year-old not named Juan Soto

 

Andrew Vaughn

 

He’s hitting .236 with a .662 OPS, which are below his career norms, but he has been making some noise lately. A former collegiate star out of California and third overall pick, Vaughn might be on your do-not-care list because of a pedestrian .315 wOBA through just under 2,000 career PA. I get it. Still, Vaughn might be worth a look because he’s flashing more power (112; 105 last year). His recent hot stretch might be a mirage but there’s just enough here that I don’t think it’s completely fair to cast aside.

 

Jordan Westburg

 

Second on a star-studded O’s squad with a .831 OPS, Westburg has proven a draft-day steal, ranking 58th in Yahoo standard leagues. The righty from Mississippi State has showcased exceptional power albeit with below-average contact ability.

Pitches at the top of the zone have given him some problems, so there’s a chance we might see his K rate creep up a few points.

 

Elly De La Cruz

 

He leads the league with 37 thefts; Brice Turang is second with 26. He’s improving as a hitter, too, with a massive gain in overall Decision Value (102; 79 last year). He’s swinging a bit less this season (-6.6% swing aggression; -2.0% last year) and chasing less frequently (104 oDV; 87 last year) while demonstrating more power (108; 99 last year 243 BBE) and better SZ Judgement (91; 83 last year). He’s about the same in contact ability (90; 92 last year). Overall, he’s shown impressive growth as a 22-year-old switch-hitter. I shudder to think what he might be in a year or two.

 

Davis Schneider

 

Kyle Bland detailed Schneider a few weeks ago, but let’s circle back since we’ve seen his playing time oscillate again. I have a hunch that if we surveyed Blue Jays fans, this guy wouldn’t be the odd man out. Regardless, he’s lost a couple of games lately as the Jays try to revitalize slumping vets Justin Turner and George Springer while playing new call-up Spencer Horwitz.

Schneider’s contact ability is a clear weak spot. But he has a sharp eye at the plate with exceptional power thanks to an affinity for pulled flyballs. Think what we wanted Edouard Julien to be minus the dangerously low swing aggression that put him behind the eight ball too often. Schneider is someone I’d hang on to in OBP leagues but it’s understandable seeing him tumble a bit in standard 5×5.

 

Alec Bohm

 

We’ll end with Alec Bohm tied atop the NL leaderboard with 64 RBI. Bohm is slugging a career-best .500. However, the big power breakout many had forecasted hasn’t really happened. This is one of those cases where the surface results are a bit misleading with PLV grading his power at just over a standard deviation below league average, compared to about league average (99) last year. He has, however, demonstrated gains in SZ Judgement (115; 101 last year) and Decision Value (101; 94 last year).

Ryan Amore

A proprietor of the Ketel Marte Fan Club, Ryan Amore has been writing things at Pitcher List since 2019. He grew up watching the Yankees and fondly remembers Charlie Hayes catching the final out of the '96 WS. He appreciates walks but only of the base on ball variety.

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