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Season Preview: Manuel “MarGOAT” made some improvements last year

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He should have a role even in the Rays crowded outfield

Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Last off-season the Rays traded former closer Emilio Pagan to their number one trade partner, the San Diego Padres, for C/OF prospect Logan Driscoll and former top prospect Manuel Margot. MLB.com’s Juan Toribio reported:

Neander said the club had pursued Margot throughout the offseason and had tried to acquire him with prospects, but the Padres continued to ask for a Major League player.

In the shortened 2020 season, Margot proved to be a valuable asset on the Rays, mainly covering RF in lieu of the injured Austin Meadows, with an ability to cover CF to give Kevin Kiermaier a break. Margot was especially important in the Rays’ postseason run last year, helping defeat the Astros in the ALCS.

Margot played in 47 out of the 60 games for the Rays in 2020 and posted a very solid .269/.327/.352 with a career high 93 wRC+, although that was probably helped by another career high .317 BABIP.

Margot’s 2020 8.2% walk rate was the second year in a row of posting a better rate than his career 7.0% walk rate. His 2020 strikeout rate of 15.7% was his career best, and significantly better than not only his 2019 20.0% rate, but also his career of 18.6%. Digging a little deeper, Margot saw a less pitches in this zone, but made more contact on those pitches.

Margot Advanced Stats

Year Zone% Zone Swing% Zone Contact% Exit Velocity Barrel% Launch Angle
Year Zone% Zone Swing% Zone Contact% Exit Velocity Barrel% Launch Angle
2019 50.7 65.1 80.5 87.7 MPH 3.5 14.2
2020 48.5 64.3 81.1 89.4 MPH 4.1 7.1
Career 51.8 64.5 82.6 88.3 MPH 3.1 11.2

Obviously this is a small sample size, but Margot’s advanced stats increased across the board, with decreased launch angle being the biggest difference. That change in launch angle helps explain Margot’s increase in LD%: 22.6% in 2020 vs 16.4% in 2019/ 20.4% career, and a huge increase in Pull%: 56.2% in 2020 vs 44.7% in 2019/38.7% career. This also explains his higher than normal BABIP that we saw in 2020.

Looking at all of these together, it looks like the Rays are letting Margot concentrate on making contact with the ball, instead of trying to get the ball in the air. Margot is also seeing fewer balls in the zone, but those that he has seen, he’s making contact on. That should help Margot keep up the higher than average BABIP as well.

His projections seem consistent with the analysis above, but the forecast systems don’t believe in the increase in walk and strikeout rates.

  • 2021 Steamer: .254/.319/.401 - 295 BABIP, 94 wRC+ in 105 games & 411 PA - 11 HR - 1.4 fWAR
  • 2021 ZiPS: .257/.308/.408 - .303 BABIP, 93 wRC+ in 145 games & 507 PA - 13 HR - 2.0 fWAR
  • 2021 BAT: .247/.310/.387 - .287 BABIP, 94 wRC+ in 105 games & 483 PA - 10 HR
  • 2021 BAT X: .248/.309/.391 - .285 BABIP, 94 wRC+ in 105 games & 483 PA - 11 HR

Overall, pretty solid projections and shows that Margot’s 2020 advancements are seen as sustainable. Even with a decreased triple slash line and BABIP, all projections are pretty consistent with wRC+ and HR.

The outfield is crowded, so it is tough to see how Margot fits with Arozarena, Meadows and Kiermaier to be in the starting lineup nearly everyday. Yet, whenever we worry there are too many outfielders, we should remember how in 2016 everyone got injured and somehow the Rays ended up with Jaff Decker in centerfield. Margot should get regular appearances as a platoon, day off, and #1 injury replacement option for Kiermaier and Meadows, and provide solid output with above average defense and solid offensive contribution.