I'm going to do that thing where you present two players, whose names I have cleverly disguised, to show how similar their stat lines are:
And now I will end the mystery by telling you those are the stat lines for Randal Grichuk's breakout 2015 campaign and Paul DeJong's year-to-date stats.
Kinda terrifying, right?
We all knew that DeJong's profile was very much akin to Grichuk's, but I have to admit when I ran these numbers I was a little surprised just how close they are. Grichuk's not a terrible player by any means, but after 3+ years of watching the ups and downs of his approach, I think we all now understand his role will continue to be more of a 4th outfielder.
Paul DeJong has spent the better part of this season as the team's starting shortstop and #3 hitter, so my big question is whether he maintain those very good production numbers on the right-side of the table despite those alarming underlying numbers on the left side.
The classic Three True Outcome hitters put up big numbers in Walks, Strikeouts and Home Runs. Grichuk and DeJong only manage two of those true outcomes, as their walk numbers are extremely low. Whereas they float around the 5% mark, a classic 3TO guy like Adam Dunn maintained a career mark around 15%.
The way I think of it is this: You start with a player's total plate appearances, carve out a certain percentage that will be home runs, strikeouts and walks. Those tend to happen at a steady rate for each hitter. Whatever percentage of their plate appearances is left is up to the fickle Gods of BABIP.
Because of his extremely low walk rate, DeJong - like Grichuk - is susceptible to wild swings in production based on fluctuating BABIP. Since that 2015 season, Grichuk's BABIP has never again even topped .300, and as a result neither has his OBP, dragging down all of his associated value accordingly.
So if I can go all Debbie Downer on you for a bit, Paul DeJong is unlikely to maintain that .354 BABIP he's rocking right now. As Ben Markham noted about a week ago, we see similar signs in DeJong's xwOBA (based on Statcast data), which sits at just .318, compared to his .363 wOBA. The regression is coming.
On the plus side, DeJong's MiLB BABIP has never landed below .318. Grichuk, on the other hand, never posted a BABIP north of .300 anywhere above A-Ball. So there's reason to believe Pauly D's drop will not fall quite as far as K-Pop's.
Still, the offensive profile of the two players is pretty similar, and DeJong with the bat is more likely to look like Grichuk 2.0 than he is not. But there's still reason to hope DeJong can remain a more prominent piece of the lineup, and that's because of his defense.
I've written several posts over the Grichuk years, beginning with the premise: If Randal Grichuk can stick as a center fielder, his defensive and baserunning value will balance out his offensive fluctuations. Unfortunately, The Lamborghini couldn't manage to hang-on as even just a league-averagish center fielder. As a corner outfielder, he's maybe even slightly above-average, but with the diminished positional value, that's just not enough to move the needle.
DeJong, on the other hand, is playing the highly-valuable position of shortstop. So far he's been about average, maybe a little above... definitely better than Aledmys Diaz was last season.
DeJong has been a fairly poor base runner, whereas Grichuk is a quite-good base runner. Of course, you have to get on base to provide value with your base running, which is always a problem for Randal.
At the end of the day, I wind up feeling about Paul DeJong much like I felt about Randal Grichuk in 2015. I expect some offensive regression is coming, and given his profile, I expect his production to fluctuate pretty wildly with his BABIP. The more defensive value he can provide, the better he can balance out those offensive lows.
So far, I suppose you'd have to say the prognosis is good for DeJong to stay at shortstop, at least in the near-term. He's done nothing in the majors to suggest he can't handle the position, but remember he only moved over to short late in his minor league career and spent less than 1⁄3 of his games there, so the jury's still out.
But I'm cautiously optimistic that Grichuk 2.0 will continue to be an upgrade over the previous software.