2023 SABR Analytics: Watch highlights from Players We Love For 2023 Panel

2023 SABR Analytics: Ben Clemens of FanGraphs and Hannah Keyser of Yahoo! Sports

At the SABR Analytics Conference on Saturday, March 11, 2023, in Phoenix, Arizona, a panel discussion was held on Players We Love For 2023.

Panelists included Ben Clemens of FanGraphs, Hannah Keyser of Yahoo! Sports, and moderator Vince Gennaro, former SABR Board President.

Here are some highlights from the panel:

On Lars Nootbar of the St. Louis Cardinals

  • Clemens: “[Lars Nootbar] is really good and I do not think there are a lot of questions among people in baseball that he is really good. But you might not notice because he is a fourth outfielder who played half the season in the majors last year due to injuries. But he fits the two things you want good hitters to do: hit the ball really hard when they make contact and not swing at bad pitches. Hitting is incredibly hard today and more than ever, pitchers are throwing out of the strike zone and stuff that moves a lot. … Not swinging at bad pitches is really important and that is a skill that he has always had and he has really grown into a lot of his power in the last few years and I think a lot of people did not notice because he did not hit a lot of home runs. He is 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, it seemed strange. But in the interim he worked a lot at Driveline, started swinging a lot harder, and hitting a lot harder when he connected and maintained his on-base skills. … I am hoping Lars Nootbar turns into Kyle Tucker, but that is really the ceiling.”

On Hunter Greene of the Cincinnati Reds

  • Keyser: “I am a reporter more than an analyst and so I was thinking about guys that I thought — based on conversations I had or based on their holistic experience and not just what you could look at — that might be primed for a breakout and I thought of Hunter Greene. … I did a piece on Hunter Greene early last year after his first start in Cincinnati where he was very bad … and talking to him the next day, one of the things he really highlighted is he had so little experience pitching giving the circumstances (after) missing all of 2019 to Tommy John (surgery) and spending 2020 at the alternate site. … I talked to him in April and he was talking about really basic stuff, like learning to throw a changeup and (to) appreciate the value of having a changeup instead of just getting by with the ability to pitch 100 mph. … He is learning stuff at the major-league level that most guys learn in the early minors. Like they really rushed him through the system given his stuff and his circumstances. ”

On Tyler Anderson of the Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Clemens: “Tyler Anderson was really good last year on the Dodgers…but what I think a lot of people are missing, and he was really good in 2021 too, is that he is a lot different then when he was on the Rockies. He has added a lot of variation to his game. He is a fastball changeup guy, except that now he throws a cutter a lot and that makes him really effective against righties. He throws a changeup almost half the time against righties and that works really well… He kills spin on it really effectively. He also added a wrinkle that makes him really good against lefties where he normally is pretty close to over the top, high ¾ , and he has a dropdown sinker now where he drops nearly a foot in release point and it becomes a really good lefty-lefty pitch… It is easy to look at him as a one hit wonder, but I think for pitchers particularly, it is pretty important to look at what they changed…cause if they say ‘I am doing something different’, they can completely change the way they work…and I think Anderson has done that.”

On Tommy Edman of the St. Louis Cardinals

  • Keyser: “Tommy Edman had the fourth-most stolen bases last year but was 78th in sprint speed. And thinking about that, perhaps the new rules will benefit guys who are not just fast but smart base-stealers really well. You talk to minor-league coaches about the effect of the new rules, one of the things they say a lot is guys are sort of ‘running off the clock instead of running off the pitching motion.’ And I think pitchers will probably adapt to that at some point but there will be this back and forth as pitchers, hitters, and runners adjust.”

On Kyle Tucker of the Houston Astros

  • Gennaro: “I think [Kyle Tucker] is an MVP candidate. Both his seasons are 30 home run seasons, his first two full seasons had a really high walk rate, really low K rate, hard hit rate, solid plate discipline. I think the shift ban will certainly help him. He is still only 26 and I think the sky’s the limit for him.”

Transcription assistance from Reece Calvin.

For more coverage of the 2023 SABR Analytics Conference, visit SABR.org/analytics.

Originally published: May 1, 2023. Last Updated: March 22, 2023.