Now that’s a jingle that gets you pumped to buy replacement parts for your car! A similar jingle was likely reverberating through the craniums of many drafters in the offseason when the button was clicked for Tyler O’Neill. And why not? He smashed 34 home runs and stole 15 bases last season in 537 plate appearances. The Wizard at Razzball, Rudy, was off O’Neill because he felt that he was being overdrafted. In NFBC drafts, O’Neill was being selected with the 47th overall pick. So far in 133 plate appearances, the slash is .195/.256/.297 with a .102 ISO. He’s shockingly been dropped in 6.3% of ESPN leagues. Shrug. If you have O’Neill, you’re not dropping him. If he’s out there on the wire, grab him immediately. That said, this post will try and decipher why he’s struggling.
The strikeout rate is 31.6%. It was 31.3% last season so this is not a surprise. The .286 batting average last season was fueled by a .366 BABIP. The BABIP is .269 this season. These were the main reasons why Rudy was off O’Neill. The strikeout rate and potential batting average drain were being overlooked by the robust home run and stolen base numbers. Yet another reason why Rudy is the Wizard and why you should be subscribing to the Razzball Tools. I may be biased because I’m a disciple of the Tools but they truly are fantastic as they are completely data driven, eschew narratives, and assist in acquiring a more complete picture.
Looking at the batted ball profile, the GB/FB rate has ticked up slightly but nothing too dramatic. The obvious differences are in the HR/FB, Pull%, and Hard Hit%. The HR/FB is 6.1%. His career mark is 20.8%. The Hard Hit rate is 23.8%, a career-low by a wide margin. The career mark is 39.8%. O’Neill is pulling the ball 46.3% of the time. His career mark is 41.8% but last season he was more balanced and pulled the ball only 38.1% of the time.
The plate discipline numbers look fine, relatively speaking. The swinging strike rate is 15.7% but he’s always had a high number. The biggest discrepancy is in the swing rate in the strike zone. He’s at 69.8% this season after being 76.1% last season. The career mark is 73.3%.
Now, pitchers have adjusted and are attacking him differently this season. He’s seeing fastballs 29% of the time, the first time under 30% in his career. This makes sense because O’Neill absolutely demolished fastballs last season. According to Statcast data, he saw 1,126 fastballs and had a .313 batting average and .585 slugging percentage. The changeup frequency has jumped 2.9% while the slider usage has increased a whopping 7.7%.
This is the cat-and-mouse game that occurs between all pitchers and hitters in MLB. O’Neill is always going to have swing-and-miss to his game so there’s always risk that he gets exploited at times and is prone to cold streaks. That said, he has 1,120 MLB plate appearances, so he’s been through some of the ebbs and flows of this battle with pitchers. He’s adjusted in the past and should be able to going forward.
O’Neill was being overdrafted due to the allure of 30/10 potential without factoring in the risks of cold streaks and floor. That said, the power/speed combo is still there and you can probably buy for a much cheaper price, which would bring the risk/reward ratio down to more palatable levels.