Mark Canha and Eduardo Escobar are linked together in my mind. The two veterans both came to the Mets prior to the 2022 season on two-year contracts, put up similar seasons, with a 2.8 fWAR for Canha and a 2.3 mark for Escobar and both had seasons propped up by a six-week hot streak. Canha’s came in the middle of the year, while Escobar’s came at the end. Yet, somehow most fans view Escobar as eminently replaceable, while viewing Canha in a more-positive light. Here’s what the computer models think:
ATC – 517 PA, .243/.344/.383, 13 HR
Marcel – 534 PA, .246/.352/.389, 13 HR
RotoCh – 509 PA, .253/.362/.410, 15 HR
Steamer – 522 PA, .242/.345/.390, 14 HR
THE BAT – 517 PA, .241/.342/.381, 12 HR
ZiPS – 525 PA, .242/.360/.390, 14 HR
Now’s a good time to remind everyone that the PA forecast for Roto Champ here is AB + BB. As a fantasy baseball site, it doesn’t really care about PA. And for most players, it doesn’t make a ton of difference. But with Canha and his HBP proclivity, we have the exception. So, mentally add 25 or so PA to the above listed total.
These models show Canha with about 30 points or so of expected higher OPS this season than Escobar. Canha with the edge in AVG and OBP and Escobar having the SLG advantage. But can Canha put up these AVG numbers in 2023?
Last year, Canha started off the season with an elevated AVG thanks to seemingly every soft-hit ball landing for a hit. Thru his first 54 games of the season, Canha had a .298 AVG. While the hits were falling in, Canha was doing a lousy job of hitting for power, as he had just a .106 ISO, which is backup middle infielder territory, not a mark worthy of a starting corner outfielder.
Then, thru the rest of June and most of July, Canha went into a slump, one that saw his AVG dip to a .268 mark. And then came the hot streak.
You can use different starting and end points and come up with equally-impressive OPS numbers. But let’s just use the month of August. In the eighth month of the calendar year, Canha put up a .979 OPS, with a .293 BABIP. This wasn’t a case of the hits falling in and nothing else. Instead, Canha had 13 XBH and a .291 ISO in 86 PA. He was killing the ball.
The hot hitting continued the first few games in September. And then he reverted back to the punchless hitter he was for most of the first four months of the year. From April-July, Canha had a .109 ISO. From Sep. 1 to the end of the season, he had a .104 ISO. So, what on earth happened in August?!?
It’s a question that virtually no one is asking.
At the time, there was talk about an adjustment Canha made in the batter’s box. And if he continued driving the ball – even if not to the extent that he did in August – one might be content with that explanation for his jump in power production. But Canha completely reverted back to the balsa-wood hitter he’d been previously.
The Mets have obvious replacements for Escobar with Brett Baty and Mark Vientos both coming up thru the farm system at third base. But they don’t have anything similar to that in the outfield. It’s a major reason for me why the refusal to start giving Ronny Mauricio reps in the outfield is so frustrating. And to make matters worse, they sign a free agent with a fork sticking out of his back to be the club’s fourth outfielder.
There is essentially no replacement for Canha anywhere in sight. It would be one thing if we were the Braves and could count on picking up a stiff from the waiver wire or promote some unheralded kid from Double-A and expect to receive elite production from a potential trouble spot. But the Mets generally don’t have that type of fortune. Instead, they will be looking at the potential need to raid the farm system at the trade deadline to acquire an outfielder who can hit the ball with some authority. Here’s my totally biased forecast for Canha in 2023:
460 PA, .236/.347/.340, 9 HR