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Ryon Healy Should Be Fine in the Future

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But I couldn’t tell you with certainty.

Kansas City Royals v Seattle Mariners Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Jerry Dipoto is not exactly an executive who makes a lot of “upside” moves. This is by design; taking the helm of a team with a weak farm means you mostly do not have prospects with the upside to turn into superstars, and the Mariners already had his core of elite (broadly speaking) talent in place thanks to the previous regime. There’s also a growing body of evidence—hello, Max Muncy—that “upside” is much more ethereal than we all thought for a long time; as this proves true, stockpiling 45-50 (on the ol’ 80 scale) talent gives you enough variance, with enough prospects accumulated, to get some true breakouts. Marco Gonzales and Mitch Haniger say hello. All of this “lack of upside” talk brings me to our beautiful big first base boy, Ryon Healy.

Healy’s acquisition polarized those of us who spend far too much time on fangraphs. True, the cost was low—Emilio Pagán had a nice year last season, but relievers gonna reliever and true to that bromide, he has put up exactly no value this year with a stint in AAA to work on some things. Healy’s wildly varying two professional seasons meant you could look at him any which way you wanted, a personal saber Rorschach for each of us. Was he the mashing rookie who blasted through AL West pitching in 2016, had an expected sophomore slump, and now is prepared to return to form and terrorize pitchers a little more while hitting in the bottom third of a stacked Mariners lineup? Or was he the hitter of his second year, now that the league had adjusted, and another Mariners first baseman who would have his metaphorical bones buried just south of the foul line at Safeco?

Healy’s profile before this season is a little more complicated; it’s a good day to publish this article on the first anniversary of Healy leaving a game with back spasms, which would hold him out for four days but presumably limit him for a little longer. Here’s his career MLB line on that day.

Ryon Healy, 7/16/2016-7/2/2017

Date PA H 2B 3B HR R RBI SB CS BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Date PA H 2B 3B HR R RBI SB CS BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Total 611 168 38 0 32 72 88 0 1 3.90% 24.10% 0.23 0.337 0.289 0.32 0.519 0.353 123

Not so bad. After an episode of back spasms, Healy took a ground ball off the face in late July and missed some more time. Overall, a truly abysmal July held him back in a pretty hefty way, posting a month wRC+ of 44 in 78 PA. That is absolutely part of his player record and counts against him; however, it demonstrates the difficult of sample size in evaluating players like this. Is it the injuries that dragged his 2017 down, and we can expect more going forward? Or is it just coincident timing? Healy’s player profile is always going to be slump-prone; as a power hitter who doesn’t walk much he will be very BABIP and HR/FB% dependent for production, without speed or walks as underlying skills to prop up his statline (hello, Denard Span.)

And that brings us to Spring, 2018. Of course, there was a hearty dose (understandably) of “Same Ol’ Mariners” when the team’s fresh-faced 1B acquisition was forced to spend the winter avoiding bats and balls entirely as a bone spur first sidelined him, then forced him into surgery in mid-February. His return was likely rushed and Healy put up a truly abysmal start to his time in Seattle.

Y I K E S dot excel

Date PA H 2B 3B HR R RBI SB CS BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Date PA H 2B 3B HR R RBI SB CS BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Total 23 2 1 0 0 1 4 0 0 4.30% 26.10% 0.045 0.125 0.091 0.13 0.136 0.122 -30

Though it was just 23 PA, this is still dragging down Healy’s overall statistical profile for this season. An unfortunate ankle band situation claimed him in April, but after a few weeks off and some time in Arkansas working on his swing as he could have in Spring Training were it not for his bone spur, here’s where Healy stands since that DL return:

Ryon Healy, Post-DL 2018

Date PA H 2B 3B HR R RBI SB CS BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Date PA H 2B 3B HR R RBI SB CS BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Total 248 63 7 0 16 31 36 0 0 4.00% 22.20% 0.233 0.283 0.267 0.298 0.5 0.339 120

That overall line looks an awful lot like his first half of 2017, doesn’t it? In fact, there may be even more cause for optimism. Healy’s career BABIP is .316, well above his 2018 post-injury mark of .283. His xwOBA for 2018 is .356, 35 points ahead of his wOBA; his xSLG is 51 points above his SLG. xwOBA and BABIP only measure certain things, and aren’t perfect indicators of what his line will be going forward—he’s a slow runner and a moderate pull hitter—but overall, signs point to Healy having had a lot of poor luck to date on batted balls in 2018.

Batted Ball Data

Season Team GB/FB LD% GB% FB% IFFB% HR/FB IFH% BUH% Pull% Cent% Oppo% Soft% Med% Hard%
Season Team GB/FB LD% GB% FB% IFFB% HR/FB IFH% BUH% Pull% Cent% Oppo% Soft% Med% Hard%
2016 Athletics 1.07 19.60% 41.60% 38.80% 7.40% 16.00% 9.20% 0.00% 41.90% 34.30% 23.80% 19.50% 50.50% 30.00%
2017 Athletics 1.12 19.10% 42.80% 38.20% 7.20% 15.10% 9.10% 100.00% 41.10% 36.00% 22.90% 16.50% 49.50% 33.90%
2018 Mariners 1 19.80% 40.10% 40.10% 8.90% 20.30% 6.30% 0.00% 41.40% 34.30% 24.20% 16.20% 46.00% 37.90%
Total - - - 1.08 19.40% 41.90% 38.80% 7.70% 16.60% 8.50% 33.30% 41.40% 35.20% 23.50% 17.20% 48.90% 33.90%

Despite hitting the ball hard more than ever, and hitting as many line drives and fly balls as ever, Healy is having a decidedly middling season. No one factor I’ve identified here can tell us with finality that Healy is a better hitter than he’s been to date, but considering the total picture of his batted balls, the signs point to a much better hitter than the stat line would initially indicate.

So what if Healy is a 120 or 125 wRC+ hitter? Does that make him good enough at first base? Among all qualified 1B in 2018, this would rank him about 7th.

Top 25 1B of 2018, sorted by wRC+

Name Team G PA HR BB% K% wOBA wRC+ WAR
Name Team G PA HR BB% K% wOBA wRC+ WAR
Freddie Freeman Braves 82 369 16 13.00% 18.40% 0.4 153 3.4
Brandon Belt Giants 68 290 13 12.80% 21.00% 0.386 148 2.8
Paul Goldschmidt Diamondbacks 82 361 18 13.90% 26.60% 0.382 141 2.8
Joey Votto Reds 83 363 8 17.60% 14.30% 0.389 145 2.7
Matt Carpenter Cardinals 77 327 15 14.40% 24.80% 0.368 134 2.5
Cody Bellinger Dodgers 82 335 16 10.70% 25.40% 0.339 117 1.7
Matt Olson Athletics 85 347 18 8.90% 25.60% 0.338 117 1.6
Carlos Santana Phillies 82 351 14 17.90% 13.40% 0.344 115 1.3
Jose Martinez Cardinals 76 319 13 9.40% 14.70% 0.371 136 1.3
Yonder Alonso Indians 74 289 12 9.00% 21.10% 0.334 110 1
Anthony Rizzo Cubs 73 326 12 10.40% 12.30% 0.333 108 0.9
Joey Gallo Rangers 82 325 20 12.00% 36.30% 0.322 100 0.8
Justin Smoak Blue Jays 76 319 11 15.40% 25.40% 0.346 119 0.7
Eric Hosmer Padres 81 351 9 10.30% 21.40% 0.335 114 0.7
Jose Abreu White Sox 81 354 12 6.20% 18.10% 0.337 115 0.6
C.J. Cron Rays 76 329 16 6.10% 27.70% 0.323 107 0.6
Justin Bour Marlins 83 330 13 16.70% 23.90% 0.338 114 0.4
Yulieski Gurriel Astros 66 283 4 3.50% 10.60% 0.314 102 0.2
Josh Bell Pirates 83 329 5 11.60% 18.20% 0.315 98 0
Ryon Healy Mariners 68 271 16 4.10% 22.50% 0.321 107 -0.1
Albert Pujols Angels 77 331 12 4.50% 14.20% 0.297 90 -0.2
Logan Morrison Twins 73 277 9 10.80% 20.60% 0.287 78 -0.3
Ian Desmond Rockies 82 320 17 8.80% 27.50% 0.316 82 -0.4
Chris Davis Orioles 67 272 7 8.10% 36.40% 0.221 33 -2

Paired with his decidedly average (in my view; I do not believe any defensive statistics for 1B and do not @ me about it) defense and the fact that he will hit in the bottom half of our lineup all year, I hereby pronounce Ryon Healy Fine. Or Good. Or pick another pretty nice adjective.