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Plate Discipline Standouts for 2020


Last year, I unveiled a new weighted index statistic for hitters – mPDI, which mirrors a famous quote by Hall of Fame pitcher, Greg Maddux:

“The key to pitching is to have the ability to throw a strike when they’re taking and throw a ball when the hitter is swinging.”

If we consider the inverse of Maddux’s quote, the key to hitting would be to swing when the ball is in the zone, and to lay off when the ball is out of the zone. That sounds easy enough right?

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mPDI Matrix

Luckily, my mPDI statistic for hitters attempts to emulate this. mPDI (for hitters) is a metric which quantifies the percentage of the time in which hitters demonstrate this plate discipline skill.

Each and every pitch thrown at a baseball game can be classified into one of the following tracked six outcomes:

Outcome A Outcome B Outcome C Outcome D Outcome E Outcome F
Zone? Out of Zone Out of Zone Out of Zone In Zone In Zone In Zone
Swing? Swung On Swung On No Swing Swung On Swung On No Swing
Contact? No Contact Contact Made No Swing No Contact Contact Made No Swing

Named after the legend, and closely resembling his quote - The Maddux Plate Discipline Index (mPDI) for hitters is defined as:

Outcome C + Outcome D + Outcome E
Total Pitches

An awful mPDI would be one in the low .600s, while an elite one would be near .750. An mPDI of .685 was the average for 2019.

Prior to the 2019 season, I used mPDI to uncover a number of plate discipline breakouts such as Jeff McNeil and Josh Bell. In this article, I’ll give you a few player candidates to look out for in the 2020 season.

 

Cavan Biggio (2B, TOR)

First, it might help to glance over at the mPDI leaderboard for 2019. Below are the top plate discipline batters with a minimum of 175 plate appearances:

Player mPDI
Jordan Luplow .764
Luke Voit .755
Cavan Biggio .754
George Springer .750
Curt Casali .747
Khris Davis .746
Christian Walker .744
Joey Votto .742
Mike Tauchman .742
Brandon Belt .740
Yandy Diaz .738
Guillermo Heredia .738
Carlos Santana .737
Brandon Nimmo .737
Anthony Rendon 736
Corey Seager .736
Robbie Grossman .736
Juan Soto 735
Marcus Semien .735
J.D. Davis .735
Chance Sisco .734
Ryan McMahon .733
Josh Donaldson .733
Jason Castro .731
Freddie Freeman .730

Cavan Biggio, son of Hall of Famer Craig Biggio has a very distinct offensive player profile - power, speed and patience. Throughout the minors, he has shown the ability to hit for a moderate amount of power, as well as to steal a fair number of bases. ATC has projected the sophomore to amass 8 homeruns while swiping 6 bags. He is a legitimate full season 20/20 threat – a valuable player for fantasy baseball – especially in rotisserie formats.

But what grabs my attention is his plate discipline. In 604 plate appearances between the majors and minors in 2019, Biggio walked a fantastic 105 times – for a 17.4% BB% rate.

2019 MLB Walk Rate Leaders:

Only Mike Trout, Yasmani Grandal and Alex Bregman had a higher walk rate than Biggio in the majors last year (minimum 300 PA).

Name PA mPDI Outcome C Outcome D Outcome E
Cavan Biggio 430 .754 .486 .039 .229

Looking deeper at Cavan’s plate discipline outcomes, it his Outcome C which is eye opening (out of the zone, no swing). For players with more than 200 PA, no one had a higher Outcome C component. Biggio hardly swings at would-be balls.

Unfortunately, his batting average is well below where it should be. ATC projects him for a mere .236 BA this season with a rather large 27% strikeout rate. But look out – if he is able to cut down on his swings and misses, Biggio is a star in the making. So far in 2020, he has 2 HRs and a steal – picking up right where he left off. Keep your eye on this plate discipline stud.

 

Oscar Mercado (OF, CLE)

Name PA mPDI Outcome C Outcome D Outcome E
Oscar Mercado 482 .726 .398 .033 .294

While Biggio might excel in his out of zone skills, Oscar Mercado is elite within the strike zone. His Outcome E (in the zone, swung on, contact made) is one of the best in baseball. Similar to Jeff McNeil – Mercado is superb at recognizing when pitches are in the zone. While swinging at would-be strikes, he is able to make contact 9 out of 10 times. He is a true Maddux plate discipline stud!

In only 438 at bats in 2019, Oscar Mercado hit 15 homers and stole 15 bases. He exhibited more speed in the first half, but more power in the second half. ATC projects Mercado for 6 HRs, 8 SBs and a .264 batting average in the short season.

Thus far Mercado is struggling mightily with just three hits in 35 at-bats, but his BABIP is extremely unlucky to start 2020. Mercado, a speedster, is used to BABIPs in the low .300s. This season he is at just a .154 mark, which means that he will be on the base paths in short order.

Give it a little time if you own him in fantasy, or if another owner is impatient – now is the time to pounce on this mPDI gem.

 

George Springer (OF, HOU)

Name PA mPDI Outcome C Outcome D Outcome E
George Springer 556 .750 .440 .054 .256

George Springer is hardly a surprise breakout player. The 7-year veteran already has 163 major league homers and a World Series title. But with an elite mPDI of .750 (4th in all of baseball), I felt the need to write a few words about him.

The name of his game is OBP. Among qualified players in 2019, Springer had the 15th highest on-base percentage at .383. He does so by both hitting for average, as well as walking at an elite pace (12% BB% in 2019). When he does make contact, he does so with authority. He had a 45% hard contact rate last year finishing with a 156 wRC+ (he is 56% better than the average hitter).

I personally own Springer on a number of my fantasy teams. Even though he was an early-round pick in 2020, I still believe that he is undervalued. Batting leadoff on Houston, Springer is a lock for a 100 run season in a normal year. mPDI further verifies my intuition about the Astros’ stud outfielder.

 

Christian Walker (1B, ARI)

Name PA mPDI Outcome C Outcome D Outcome E
Christian Walker 603 .744 .422 .058 .263

Christian Walker broke out in 2019 with 29 HRs in 529 at-bats. In addition, he also stole eight bases - which made him extremely fantasy relevant, particularly in rotisserie leagues.

In 2019, Walker only hit for a .259 batting average. We might have glanced quickly over him, if not for a .744 mPDI. A top Maddux Plate Discipline Index highlights his superb plate discipline. Like Cavan Biggio, his strikeout rate is on the high side, but so is his walk rate. While the strikeouts will cap his batting average, an 11% walk rate will prop up his on-base percentage.

Superior to one aspect of Biggio’s skill set, Walker’s power stroke is legit. He now has shown a greater than 20% homerun to flyball rate in each of his prior two seasons, while his flyball percentage remains high. Walker also lights it up on the Statcast leaderboard with elite exit velocity. 25-30 HRs are what Christian is capable of in a full year of play, and he has been getting the lions share of playing time thus far in 2020. To start the season, he has amassed 13 hits in his first 41 at-bats – a .317 BA.

Walker isn't due for the magnitude of breakout that Josh Bell exhibited in 2019, but I would still keep an eye out for this streaky Arizona first baseman.



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Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 20th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 20th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 54: 2 Early Mocks APD Player Debates - Benched with Bubba (Episode 316)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They go over some of the positions and look at players with similar ADPs and debate. Going around the diamond discussing some players people are high on and some they are down on with a... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 18th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 18th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 17th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 17th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


2021 Early Mock ADP Values & Reaches: WPC+ Videocast

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut prepare for the 2021 fantasy baseball season with a look at early mock draft results from the RotoBaller Expert mock. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well! Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller... Read More


Statcast Season Review: 2020 Barrel Leaders (Hitters)

The 2020 MLB season will always be one for the record books, even if everything that took place will have multiple asterisks attached to it. Evaluating Statcast numbers is a nice way to find hot and cold hitters, as well as underachievers and overachievers. Now that the regular season is over, let's reflect on the... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 16th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 16th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 15th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 15th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 14th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 14th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 53: 2 Early Mocks APD Trends & More - Benched with Bubba (Episode 315)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They dig into trends, some interesting risers/fallers, and much more. They also go over some listener questions at the end to keep the Fantasy Baseball information coming even in the offseason. Be sure to subscribe... Read More