Intriguing Yet Underrated - Mike Yastrzemski & Donovan Solano

With the fantasy baseball season coming to a close, it’s time to look at two intriguing yet underrated players in Mike Yastrzemski and Donovan Solano. Mike Yastrzemski is a notable name due to the family ties and his 2019 and 2020 performance. However, Donovan Solano is an underrated veteran with a high BABIP and batting average. Both players provided fantasy production in 2020, and let’s break down these two intriguing yet underrated hitters.

Mike Yastrzemski, OF, San Francisco Giants

As one of the best Giants hitters in 2020, Mike Yastrzemski has ten home runs, 38 runs, 35 RBI, and two steals while slashing .285/.387/.565. He increased his 13.3% walk rate by over 5% and lowered his 24.6% strikeout rate from 26% in 2019. 

Let’s quickly compare his surface stats from 2019. Through 411 plate appearances last year, Yastrzemski hit 21 home runs, 64 runs, 55 RBI, and two steals with a slash line of .272/.334/.518. For reference, the 411 plate appearances from 2019 are almost double of his 217 plate appearances this year. 

Batted Ball Profile & Plate Discipline

When looking at Yastrzemski’s batted ball profile, the 16.4% line drive rate dropped from 22.8% in 2019. Meanwhile, the 40.6% ground ball rate jumped up from 33.8% last year. Overall, the drop in line drive rate raises concerns since he displayed a healthy line drive rate last year and throughout the minors. However, in a full season, it could have evened out over time. He typically pulls the ball over 40% of the time, and he currently rocks a 40.6% pull rate. 

In terms of plate discipline, it’s relatively similar to 2019 outside of his swing percentages. 

  • 2019 - 29.2% O-Swing%, 69.4% Z-Swing%, 47.1% Swing%
  • 2020 - 23.3% O-Swing%, 59.5% Z-Swing%, 38.8% Swing%

Overall, Yastrzemski reduced his swing percentage, and in turn, the swing percentage inside and outside of the zone dropped. The drop in O-Swing% and overall makes sense when we consider Yastrzemski increased his walk rate in 2020. It appears that he’s using a more patient approach. Also, his 9.3% swinging-strike rate dropped from 11.5% in 2019, which further backs up the plate discipline improvement.

Statcast Data

Intriguing Yet Underrated - Mike Yastrzemski

The most notable Statcast data for Yastrzemski includes a 43% hard-hit rate (66th percentile) and a 10.9% barrel rate (73rd percentile). His 88.2 mph average exit velocity (39th percentile) ranks below average, but Yastrzemski’s 93.7 mph average exit velocity on FB/LD (No. 112) ties him with Tim Anderson. A couple of his expected stats rank in the top 25% of the league with a .515 xSLG (78th percentile) and .372 xwOBA (75th percentile). We love seeing the above-average power and quality of contact even though the .259 xBA is concerning. 

Although it’s a small sample, Yastrzemski has shown improvements against offspeed pitches. 

  • 2019 - Offspeed - .327 BA, .592 SLG, .390 wOBA
  • 2020 - Offspeed - .464 BA, .893 SLG, .563 wOBA

Similar to his other metrics, I expect it to even out over a full season. However, it appears the power numbers and quality of contact are legitimate. 

2021 Outlook

Yastrzemski proved that 2019 wasn’t a fluke, even in a smaller sample. The main improvements include the increased walk rate, lowered strikeout rate, and increased batting average. His Statcast data was slightly down from his 2019 numbers, but expect it to even out over a full season. With a deep outfield position, Yastrzemski should be a value in 2021 redraft leagues. In dynasty leagues, Yastrzemski is a sneaky player to acquire as a fifth outfielder for a team ready to compete in 2021.

Donovan Solano, 2B/3B, San Francisco Giants

Veteran and batting average machine Donovan Solano displayed back to back seasons with similar ratios and counting stats through fewer games and plate appearances. Solano has three home runs, 22 runs, and 29 RBI while slashing .335/.374/.476 in 198 plate appearances. His 17.7% strikeout rate and a 5.2% walk rate, both rank in the top 25% of the league. In 2019, Solano totaled four home runs, 27 runs, and 23 RBI with a triple slash of .330/.360/.456, all of which came in 228 plate appearances. 

Batted Ball Profile & Plate Discipline 

Unsurprisingly, the high batting average pairs with a healthy 27.4% line drive rate down that is slightly down from 33.9% last year. However, Solano’s 36.3% fly-ball rate increased from 29.2% in 2019 in exchange for the lowered line drive rate. Solano pulled the ball more with a 37.7% pull rate in comparison to a 28% pull rate last year. He often makes contact across the board and much higher than the league average.

  • Solano - 82.3% Contact%, 90.7% Z-Contact%, 71.3% O-Contact%
  • League Average - 75.2% Contact%, 84.2% Z-Contact%, 61.3% O-Contact%

Below will show the most notable changes in his plate discipline, particularly with the zone swing percentage and O-Contact rate.

  • 2019 - 66.3% Z-Swing%, 74.9% O-Contact%
  • 2020 - 70.9% Z-Swing%, 71.3% O-Contact%

Solano lowered his strikeout rate and slightly increased his walk rate, and that’s reflected in his zone swing rate and contact rate outside of the zone. 

Statcast Data

When looking at Solano’s Statcast data, it’s not surprising to see the power and quality of contact numbers rank as average or below average. In 2019, he reached a career-high with four home runs and a 43.1% hard-hit rate in about 20-30 fewer plate appearances. Solano’s 88.7 mph average exit velocity ranks in the 48th percentile, and his 4.8% barrel rate ranks in the 25th percentile. With his high line drive rate, I expected his 91.4 mph average exit velocity on FB/LD (No. 186) to rank a little higher. However, Solano evenly distributes fly balls and ground balls at 36.3% and doesn’t hit the ball very hard overall.

His expected stats are more encouraging with a .301 xBA (89th percentile), .476 xSLG (62nd percentile), and .349 xwOBA (59th percentile). Solano’s best two seasons of his career occurred in 2019 and 2020, and the Statcast data is similar across the board.  

In terms of sweet spot percentage, Solano rocked a 46.4% sweet spot percentage in 2019 and 44.5% in 2020. Solano ranks 4th in 2020 and 1st in 2019 when adjusting to 150 batted ball events. When looking at the leaderboard for sweet spot percentage, some hitters provide more power, such as Freddie Freeman and Matt Carpenter. We’re not expecting his home runs to tick up, and Solano helps more in the batting average and on-base department. 

2021 Outlook

In most redraft leagues, Donovan Solano was likely a waiver wire pickup, and fantasy teams reaped the underrated benefits of batting average, runs, and RBI. Solano's counting stats won't win leagues by any means, but his 29 RBI ranks 63rd tied with Cody Bellinger. Surprisingly the Giants hitters have a 115 wRC+ (No. 6) ranking right behind the Padres. At 32 years old and mostly providing a high batting average with minimal power, Solano is a name to keep in mind towards the end of 2021 drafts, particularly in deeper leagues. 

Feel free to hit me up on Twitter @corbin_young21

Feature photo credit: Getty Images 2019

Data courtesy of Fangraphs and Statcast

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