NL Central - Bust Candidates 2022

During an offseason of frustration during the lockout, the time has finally come where we can eat, sleep and talk about baseball. Between the expectations and reality of what each players season will look like, I will try to break down this week why these three players will fall short of what they did in 2021. The NL Central produced some great talent in 2021 and all three of these players had some of their best seasons (1/3rd of a season). I have received feedback through previous articles on how I can label some players bust when their ADP is so low to begin with. Two of these players are in that same category going into 2022. I touch on these players, however, to ring in your expectations on production they have previously shown to help you examine why they either will not climb past that ADP, or fall very short of it. A prime example of this is our first NL Central bust, Frank Schwindel who comes in roughly with an ADP of 230.

Frank Schwindel – (CHC – 1B)

So why am I talking about Frank Schwindel? Across 64 games for the Cubs/A’s, after trading Baez and Rizzo, Schwindel took over 1B and batted .326 with a .371 OBP, 14 HR’s and an OPS around 1.000. If you’re buying Schwindel to be your 1B in 2022 and put up relatively similar numbers to that, you will heavily regret that decision. If you followed Schwindel when he was in the KC organization, you know that he was a candidate to put up 20 HR’s and bat .270 in the MiLB. In 2017, he clearly put up numbers in AA and AAA ball to deserve a call up the next year but was consistently held down. He didn’t get called up till 2019 where he clearly struggled across his first 15 AB’s at the age of 27. It was well known that he was aggressive at the plate and was not looking to walk often in the minors and that transferred over.

In 2021 in AAA, Frank once again mashed and put up 17HR’s with a .296 BA across 54 games. Once again he showed that he was very aggressive at the plate hunting for fastballs and had a very low OBP but the power remained. He finally got the call up to the bigs where we saw his biggest sample size to get a sense of what he can do. When looking deeper at the numbers however, we notice some serious concerns to indicate the success will not last. Schwindel produces an exit velo at 86.9 MPH which is 1.5 MPH under league average. His sweet spot percentage was also under the league average. His expected batting average for the year was .272, however he managed a .342 BA. How can this be? His BABIP was .348!!!! For someone who does not hit the ball very hard and doesn’t hit a ton of line drives, how did he manage a .270 ISO? Simple answer? Small sample size.

If you’re buying into him to be your 1B in 2022 in a roto format, you will definitely have to make up a lot of categories. Between the lack of steals, low OBP, a batting average that will likely sit around .260… you have to be hopeful he can manage 25 HR’s. He also plays for the Cubs where run production this year is going to be very difficult. Even in a points league format, I expect Schwindel to not break the top 25 fantasy 1B, and for this reason I suggest looking elsewhere. Players such as Jesus Aguilar and Nate Lowe are much better options in my opinion at a similar or lower price to target.

Bryan Reynolds – (PIT – OF)

“This is a guy” that I am certain I will have a lot of people disagree with me on, but I am not sold at all. His ADP is way too expensive and I think you can find 5-8 outfielders behind him that I would draft before him. (Yelich, Lowe, Winker, Bellinger, Haniger, Kelenic, Reyes & Gallo even though the shift ban doesn’t start till 2023.) Now, I know he batted .302 with 24 HR’s, an OBP of .390 and a .912 OPS. He also managed to put up 90 RBI’s on a very bad Pirates team and scored 93 runs. Outside of steals, this looks like the complete package for Roto leagues and a top 20 OF for points leagues. In 2019 he put up similar numbers with slightly less power production but a higher BA. So what happened to him in the 2020 season and why should you not value you him as highly as his ADP is after the 2021 season?

When it comes to Bryan Reynolds in 2019/2021…. He hunted fastballs and was very opportunistic. 31 of his 40 HR’s came off fastballs, and his average was roughly .330 combined between the 2 years. However, he only .245 roughly off breaking balls and off-speed pitches. That is not uncommon however - What is uncommon is to have a whiff percentage that is doubled on breaking/off-speed pitches. Bryan had a whiff percentage over 30% on both pitches and pitches noticed this and nearly pitched both offerings at a 50% rate compared to fastballs. Fortunately for Reynolds, he is a very strong contact hitter so these were not dominant put away pitches against him.

In summary, here's why you should value Reynolds closer to a 115-125 ADP instead of around 75: I expect a regression down to a .280 BA with HR output under 20HR’s. Don’t look for the BA to stay around .345 against fastballs with a high HR output. With the low exit velo’s against off-speed/breaking balls, and pitchers already throwing them 50% of the time against him, look to see adjustments from pitchers. With the lack of speed from Reynolds, if his power goes under 20HR’s and his BA doesn’t stay above .300, this easily pushes him out of the top 100 players.

Joey Votto – (CIN – 1B)

So... you are probably wondering why in the hell I am talking about this Canadian old fart and so am I. Well, let’s just say he easily earned it putting up 36 HR’s, a .266 BA with 99 RBI’s and a very impressive .375 OBP. A player that had to be a free agent in most fantasy leagues, many of us saw this 38 year old help teams win late in the season. After a very down couple of seasons in 2019 and 2020, we saw this .302BA/.416OBP career hitter drink from the fountain of youth and adjust his game to remain very valuable.

So how did Joey Votto go from bust to boom in 2021? The swing approach was very clearly much different. Prior to 2021, Votto only had an average exit velo above 90MPH once in his 6 previous seasons. In 2021, he posted a 92.9 MPH exit velo which put him in the top 1% of the league. He also raised his launch angle to 18.2 degrees which was over 4 degrees higher than his career average. Without throwing too many more numbers at you, he also managed to put up a career high 53.2% hard hit percentage which was 14% higher than his career average. It was clear how Votto had so much success.

This is the first player I am not using stats to explain why I think he is a bust. At 38 years old, it is improbable for Votto to continue on this path. Between his reliance on hitting the fastball for his success, his age and trying to stay healthy and the terrible lineup that the Reds now have after trading Winker and Suarez, the odds are against him. If the Reds decide to trade him, I still believe these are numbers that he will not be able to maintain for a full 140 games. Look to see Votto bat .255, 340OBP, 14 HR’s and put up 55 RBI’s across 115 games.

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