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A closer look at what Luis Guillorme brings to the Braves

The Atlanta Braves made an under the radar move in signing Luis Guillorme. Let’s take a closer look at the former Met.

MLB: Game One-Miami Marlins at New York Mets
Luis Guillorme has the potential to be a solid backup in Atlanta
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

In early January, The Atlanta Braves made what was clearly a depth move in adding former New York Mets utility player Luis Guillorme. This move seemed a bit of a head scratcher for a few reasons. First, the Braves already have David Fletcher who can fill the role, and secondly Guillorme had a terrible year in 2023.

In fifty-four games last year Guillorme had one-hundred-twenty plate appearances in which he had a slash line of .224/.288/.327, one HR, 70 wRC+ and an fWAR of -0.3. He did play three positions in the infield (3B, SS, and 2B), with above average Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) at both 2B and 3B. However, his overall defensive metrics were nothing to write home about with a Defensive Runs Saved either league average of slightly below in all three positions.

Versatility is nice, but the Braves infielders don’t miss many games when healthy. In fact, even with injuries, the Braves starting infielders collectively played in 93.8 percent of all possible games. Plus, the Braves are already paying David Fletcher who can fill the role.

So, why add Guillorme?

There are multiple variables involved in most signings, and this one is no different. A Guillorme signing is obviously more of a depth move than anything else. Fletcher has a minor league option and so that allows the Braves to bring in Guillorme to add some insurance at a low cost. Guillorme will only cost the Braves $1.1MM this season, so if it does not work out, they can release him and bring up Fletcher. Or, worst case scenario, if someone gets hurt then the Braves can bring up Fletcher and can play the platoon matchups since Fletcher bats righty and Guillorme bats lefty.

Again, if we look at Guillorme’s numbers from last season, there is not sugar coating it. They were bad. But, prior to that, he had respectable numbers with the bat and glove.

In 2022 he had three-hundred-thirty-five PAs and had a wRC+ 4.0 percent higher than league average. He was also league average or better in DRS, UZR, and OAA at all three infield spots he plays. In fact, his OAA was in the top 9.0 percent of MLB according to Statcast. This equated to an overall fWAR of 1.3. This output is not an All-Star level talent by any means, but most teams would be happy to have that as their primary utility guy.

Last year’s performance was not just a case of bad luck. His xwOBA was also terrible at 0.238 (league average in 2023 was .320). However, if we look at the rest of his career, his xwOBA was much better.

xwOBA of all pitches over the years

If we go back to the worst-case scenario of running a platoon with Fletcher, it makes even more sense to have him as cheap insurance. From 2020-2022 he had a wRC+ of 162, 106, and 116 against RHP respectively. His xwOBA showed he was a bit lucky in this regard, but he still had solid numbers against RHP in those three seasons never dropping below a .311. In fact, before 2023 .311 xwOBA was the lowest of any of his seasons. His sharp drop off to a .250 xwOBA in 2023 seems like an anomaly.

Why did his numbers drop in 2023?

The one area that really sticks out as to his offensive decline was a spike in strikeout rate. From 2021-2022 he had a very solid strikeout rate that never rose above 14.7 percent. In 2023 his rate jumped from 13.7 percent to 25.6 percent.

His xwOBACON dropped from .303 in 2022 to .266 and his barrel percentage was cut in half from 2.4 percent to 1.2 percent. His max exit velocity also dropped by almost ten MPH. All of these variables obviously suggest something was off and that he was not getting the solid contact that he had been seeing in the previous years.

It was almost as if he forgot how to hit anything but a fastball. If we look at the chart below, we see a huge decline in xwOBA against breaking and off-speed pitches in 2023 relative to his previous three seasons.

xwOBA by pitch group over the years

He only saw thirty-four curveballs and sixteen sweepers which only accounted for 10.4 percent of pitches he saw, but they were the two pitches he saw the largest drop-offs with. His xwOBA against the curve dropped from .277 to .084 and against the sweeper his xwOBA dropped from .418 to .008. He also saw the 4-seamer 39.1 percent of the time and there was a drop-off from .322 to .276.

On the July 21st Luis Guillorme strained his calf against the Red Sox. He only played in four games after returning, so we can’t say with certainty that his injury played a large role in his massive decline. However, there is a small chance that he had an impending physical ailment that hindered him prior to the official IL designation.

In Summary

The Braves are taking a low-risk gamble on Guillorme, who has the ceiling of being one of the better backup infielders in the game if 2023 was an anomaly. His XSTATS do not point to bad luck in 2023, but his history suggests that he was just having a bad year.

Due to Fletcher having a minor league option, adding Guillorme allows the Braves to be more flexible in that they have two serviceable bench players that if disaster strikes can be used as a platoon that could realistically produce a wRC+ above league average between them both. If Guillorme can reclaim his 2022 form, he would be a bargain at his salary price.

Fun fact; Guillorme is making more this season than Spencer Strider. This means nothing since Strider is signed for years to come, but it is just a fun little nugget.

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