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Reason for optimism for Yuli in 2019

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Should you be optimistic about Yuli improving in 2019?

Yuli has now had 2.5 years in the Majors at this point, including a rough transition to the MLB while shaking off the rust from his time off during the transition of changing citizenship out of Cuba. In his 2.5 years, Yuli has accumulated a .291/.323/.449 and 110 wRC+ career across his 1,274 MLB Plate Appearances. The 110 wRC+ would rank 18th out of 39 Qualified Batters at 1st base, which grades out as roughly league average over the past 3 years.

With 2 years left on his deal, especially as an aging 34 year old, you may be a bit disappointed in the overall value the Astros have received and not be particularly optimistic about his future. Especially as you look at the projections which have him slotted for regression to the tune of .284/.320/.437 for a 109 wRC+

So why would I feel comfortable with the prediction that a 34 year old player would perform above his 3-year average, and above his 2018 rate results? The largest factor is due to a broken hamate bone that he recovered from in the 2018 season.

What is the Hamate bone and why does it matter?

The eight bones in the wrist are known as the Carpal, same ones related to the commonly diagnosed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. One of the eight small bones of the wrist, the hamate bone is unique with a protruding part in the palm that is shaped like a hook. This bone is susceptible to injuries related to grip, and thus common in sports such as baseball and golf.

What are the effects of a Broken Hamate Bone?

Generally the Hamate bone is removed, and the recovery time is listed as roughly 4-6 weeks for the wound to heal. There does seem to be an effect of loss of power associated with the surgery. Luckily, our sister site did a good analysis on the injury and found the following result:

“Overall, it appears that with time, player’s who succumb to a hamate injury will find themselves back to previous power numbers upon their return to play, though it will probably take roughly a full season of at bats to do so. Of course a number of other factors could predispose a player to not bounce back quite as quickly or as robustly—age of injury, previous injury history, and even the time it took for correct diagnosis and treatment approach all play potential roles—but compared to other upper extremity injuries, the outlook for a full return to health and hitting power with the hamate fracture is generally promising.”

Interestingly, the National Center for Biotechnology Information (part of NIH) did a study as well and found:

“MLB players sustaining hook of hamate fractures can reasonably expect to return to their preinjury performance levels following operative treatment.”

“There was no significant change in Wins Above Replacement or isolated power when preinjury and postinjury performance were compared. “

Looking at 2017

So if we consider 2018 to be a recovery year, let’s take a closer look at 2017, in which Yuli had his best season of his MLB career. In 2017, Yuli hit .299/.332/.486 which was good for a 119 wRC+, which at a premium offensive position is still relatively average for production. His BABIP of .308 shows that the results were not BABIP luck dependent. Taking a look, his wOBA (.345) and xWOBA (.332) show a slight amount of luck, but nothing that screams that it was luck driven.

Yuli was actually faster in Sprint Speed in 2018 (27.6) than 2017 (26.9), but both rank above average, which I think many fans don’t realize, clocking in at 0.1 ft/second slower than George Springer/Josh Reddick and at the same speed as Tony Kemp. In average time from home plate to first, he stays with players not generally considered slow Yuli (4.33) Springer (4.32), Correa (4.32) Bregman (4.31) and is faster than players like Marwin Gonzalez (4.40 / 26/4).

What is my Projection?

Well, I started with the Hamate bone injury, which makes it a fairly easy prediction. But there’s a little more to it than that.

Over the past 3 years, Yuli has improved his miniscule BB%. Getting your walk percent all the way up to a whopping 4% is rather unremarkable in itself. With that he has continued to improve his contact rates, reduce his GB rates and improve his LD rates from the previous year. It took a bit for Yuli to get familiar with MLB pitching, but I think he will overachieve expectations.

So my projection for Yuli will be .295/.340/.490 for 2+ WAR in 2019.

Let me know your thoughts, do you think Yuli will achieve this line? What is your prediction?


Do you think Yuli will overachieve the projections in 2019?

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