This is a story as old as time. You enter the draft with the fervor of a hormone-raged teenager while donning a cap with YOLO embroidered on the front. Outfield? It’s super deep. Let me handle my business with the rest of the squad. So, you’ve got one hand on the steering wheel while the other is trying to find some good tunes on the radio as you cruise down the fantasy draft highway. The windows are down and the wind blows the hair into Picasso art. Round marker after round marker whizz by, then a dread encompasses the cabin of the car like a nasty fart; I need outfielders. With leagues requiring five outfielders, the once vast player pool dissipates quickly like a Sahara watering hole during the summer. One name that is often dredged up is Mike Yastrzemski. He is far from sexy and there’s a reason he’s in the dredges in the first place, but is he trash or a diamond in the rough?
Yastrzemski is 32 years old, 5-foot-10, 178 pounds, and bats from the left side. Did you know that he is the grandson of Carl Yastrzemski? <sarcasm> M. Yas was drafted by the Orioles in the 14th round of the 2013 MLB draft. He always showed good plate discipline with a little speed and a little pop, but nothing to overwhelm. M. Yas said of his time there, “In Baltimore I was a cog stuck in the system. No matter how I played, I wasn’t going anywhere.”
He was traded to the Giants in 2019 and immediately made an impact. He received the call-up to The Show and hit 21 home runs in 411 plate appearances. The .245 ISO was eye-opening since that number was in the .150 range in Baltimore. The slash was .272/.334/.518 that first season in San Francisco. The walk rate was 7.8% while the strikeout rate was 26%. Since it was his first time in the bigs, the lower walk rate and higher strike rate weren’t surprising.
In 2021, the walk rate ticked up to 9.6% while the strikeout rate went down to 24.6%. The ISO remained at .233 and he hit 25 home runs in 532 plate appearances. The slash, though, plummeted to .224/.311/.457. Last season, the walk and strikeout rates remained in a similar range but the slash again went down to .214/.305/.392. Not great, Bob.
Let’s dig in. I will primarily be comparing his numbers from 2019 to last season, since he was pretty, pretty good in 2019 and not so much in 2022.
The average exit velocity in 2019 was 89.6 mph with a max EV of 108.5 mph. Last season, those numbers were 89.9 mph and 109.7 mph respectively. That translated to the 55th-best average exit velocity last season and the 101st-best max EV.
The launch angle of 19.9 degress was 9th-best in MLB last season. The barrel rate of 11.1% was a career-high. That number was 10.1% in 2019. According the Statcast, the hard hit rate was 42.5% last season. It was 42.9% in 2019.
The GB/FB rate remained the same but he did hit fewer line drives last year and more fly balls. The HR/FB rate has ticked down in every season since arriving in San Francisco, from 18.4% to 10.6% last season. He’s pulling the ball slightly more now – 44.7% vs. 42.2%.
If you guys have read me in the past, the plate discipline numbers have so much weight for me. Looking at M. Yas, the chase rate has gone from 29.2% to 25.4%. That was 17th-best in MLB last season. Juan Soto was at 19.9%, for perspective. The zone contact rate has improved from 81.5% to 88.5% and the swinging strike rate has gone from 11.5% to 8.7%.
I love those numbers. So, what’s the problem here?
Two things stood out when digging deeper: success against lefties and the shift.
In 2019, M. Yas had a .329/.382/.561 slash against lefties with a 22.5% strikeout rate. The sample size was only 89 plate appearances, though. In 2022, the slash was .179/.250/.325 with a 29.9% strikeout rate in 137 plate appearances.
In 2019, teams employed the shift 50.2% of the time against M. Yas. In 2022, that number exploded to 81%. That’s probably a huge reason why the BABIP went from .325 to .261.
I don’t know if you guys/gals have heard, but there will be no shift this season. And that will impact M. Yas in a positive way.
M. Yas will likely play as much as he can due to his defense, so the risk of getting platooned is minimal. In addition, he’s slated to be the number two hitter for the Giants.
The more I dig in and write about M. Yas, I’m getting more excited. He’s going to play a ton, hit near the top of the order, has good plate discipline, hits the ball hard and with loft, could be one of the batters that are positively impacted by the banning of the shift, and is essentially free in drafts. Yup, sign me up.