Thoughts on Patrick Wisdom for 2019

Author’s Note: The majority of this piece was written yesterday on my day off before Asdrubal Cabrera signed with the Rangers on a 1 year deal to play third base. That said, most of what I covered is still relevant, though Wisdom might not make as much of an impact as I first thought in the upcoming 2019 season. That said, I hope you enjoy the article either way.

With the baseball season only about two months away, it is time for me to really start planning for my upcoming fantasy leagues. I currently play in two AL-Only leagues, an 8 team Roto Auction redraft and a 15 Roto dynasty league. In order to do well in AL-Only leagues, I have found it is important to get as much elite talent as possible and then supplement the rest of your roster out with a combination of solid role players and players with upside (these things are not mutually exclusive). One such player that looks like he will have (Author’s Note: read as “had”) both of those things going into 2019 is Patrick Wisdom of the Texas Rangers.

Wisdom is a 27 year old third basemen drafted 52th overall by the Cardinals back in 2012. He was once a prospect in his earlier years known for his power and his arm, but there were questions about his defense and hit tool. As a result, he spent four seasons in the minors before working his way up to AAA in 2016. Coming into Spring Training of 2017, Wisdom had made a swing change and he went on to have a breakout season in 2017 at AAA. I should add I am a sucker for swing changes, especially those that seem to have actually lead to improvement in a player. While he continued to strikeout at an above average rate, he raised his fly ball percentage to over 50% for the first time and set career highs in power. Despite the breakout year in 2017, Wisdom did not get a call up to the majors and spent most of 2018 improving upon his breakout from the year prior.

Here are his stats from AAA in 2016, 2017, and 2018 in two tables.

SeasonAgePAHRSBCSBB%K%SwStr%
2016242955518.8%24.7%10.1%
20172550631227.5%29.4%13.8%
2018264211511210.2%26.6%14.3%
SeasonAVGOBPSLGISOLD%GB%FB%BABIP
2016.233.303.374.14117.8%38.7%43.5%.298
2017.243.310.507.26317.5%28.2%54.2%.286
2018.288.363.480.19126.2%31.2%42.7%.371

This is just a sample of some of the statistics I look at when evaluating players. One thing that is encouraging from the above tables is the constant improvement he has shown over the past three seasons in walk rate and batted ball distribution. However, you might be looking at his .371 BABIP in 2018, the highest of his career by far, and thinking his performance was fluky and due for some negative regression. I would agree with that to some degree, but that BABIP was accompanied by a high LD% which means this might be a skill, especially since he has shown some speed.

He finally received his first opportunity in the big leagues at the end of last season where he played in 32 games for the Cardinals. Though he was a 27 year old rookie, in 58 plate appearances Wisdom put up a respectable triple slash line of .260/.362/.520 with 4 homers and 2 steals continuing to show the gains he made at AAA were most likely legitimate. His GB% was still below 40% (35.5%) and his LD% was high (25.8%) like in AAA. Additionally, he continued to show he can take walks and the power was still present.

Another encouraging sign is his Xstats indicate his actual outcomes should have been a bit more positive, giving him an expected triple slash of .304/.400/.614 in those 58 2018 PA. Xstats take the expected metrics from Baseball Savant, which just use exit velocity and launch angle, one step further by using, “only the vertical and horizontal launch angles, exit velocities, batted ball distances, game time temperature, and ball park” as the factors for calculating the expected outcome of a player. What can be taken from this is not that Patrick is a .300 hitter, but that there may be some positive regression to his batting line next season if he continues to show the same skills.

It should be noted while I have bought into his improvements and his potential, Steamer does project a not so promising 426 PA of .225/.291/.392 with 15 home runs and 6 stolen bases (Author’s Note: prior to the Cabrera signing). 
This is to be expected as he was a 27 year old rookie with a small sample size of major league success since projection systems are usually weight more of the previous track record of a player. While it does happen, it is not often an older rookie comes out of nowhere to have continued major league success.

Looking further at his Statcast metrics from Baseball Savant, Wisdom was one of 544 players with 30+ batted ball events in 2018. Of those 544 players, the following table will show you where he ranked in most of the stats.

Statcast MetricsValueRank
(# of 544)
Cherry Picked Players
(within 5 spots)
Launch
Angle
17.0
degrees
86thJed Lowrie, Alex Bregman,
Whit Merrifield
Avg.
Exit
Velocity
90.5
mph
70thBryce Harper,
Anthony Rendon,
Xander Bogaerts
Avg. Exit
Velocity
Line Drives &
Fly balls

97.8
mph
8thGary Sanchez,
Miguel Cabrera,
Shohei Ohtani,
Pedro Alvarez
Avg. Batted
Ball Distance
194 ft.57thDaniel Murphy,
Matt Kemp, Matt Adams
Hard Hit %41.8%108thJuan Soto, Jesse Winker,
Brandon Nimmo
Barrels per
Plate Appearance
6.9%75thMitch Haniger, A.J. Pollock,
Shin-Soo Choo

There is a lot to like about his Statcast metrics as he ranked in the top 20% for each of them. While he does have a problem making contact, when he does hit the ball, he hits it hard, hits it in the air, and, most importantly, hits it hard in the air. With the state of baseball the way it is today, those skills are valued in players. Additionally, the Rangers already have no problem playing power hitters who can take a walk while swinging and missing too much (Looking at you Joey Gallo). I was going to write, “However, all Wisdom should need to do is play passable defense for him to keep his starting spot (assuming he hits of course) as the Rangers are currently looking to rebuild their team for the future”.

With the Cabrera signing this changes everything. Wisdom will most likely not be the primary third baseman for the Rangers this year. In fact, Roster Resource now has Wisdom as starting the season at third base for the AAA affiliate since he still has options remaining. If Wisdom hits at all like he did with the Cardinals at either level, I do not doubt he will be up in the majors in 2019. I would also assume that Wisdom would probably be one of the first players called up if there was an injury in the infield, but there is also no guarantee he returns to the majors this year.

Currently, using NFBC ADP for all drafts in 2019, at the time of posting, Wisdom is going off the board as the 587th player with a minimum pick of 355. I was going to write, “For someone with the chance to get 500+ plate appearances while hitting for a passable average with power, who might even chip in a few steals, I feel like he is being underrated. I know I am certainly going to be looking to acquire him as a corner infielder in my AL-Only Auction and will attempt to grab him in my dynasty leagues now while his value is low. I suggest you do the same.” Alas that is not longer the case and the signing will probably depress his value further. That said, he still might be a player worth speculating on as his price will probably be even cheaper. In deep dynasty leagues, I am looking to buy very low and in AL-Only leagues, depending on bench size, he will be a reserve pick of mine or someone I am watching on the waiver wire.

Original post on IVthoughts.com. All stats in this piece were taken from Fangraphs.comBaseballsavant.mlb.com, and xstats.org. ADP data is from NFBC. 2019  projections  are  from  Steamer,  hosted  on  Fangraphs.com.

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