The Stillwater, Oklahoma native is a free agent after the St. Louis Cardinals declined the team option. Matt Holliday will be 37 when the new season starts up and will be headed to the third team of his career. Originally drafted by the Colorado Rockies in 1998, Holliday made his debut in 2004 and has had a strong career totaling close to 50 Wins Above Replacement (fWAR). While on the surface it looks to be the start of a steep decline for an aging player, digging deeper shows us that Holliday was still a capable hitter.
Holliday’s Isolated Power was over the .200 mark for the first time since 2012. This was due to an elite 96.9 MPH exit velocity on flyballs and line drives. Only 15 players had a higher exit velocity on those types of batted balls than Holliday. Moreover, he posted an above average distance on balls in play and barrels per plate appearance. His approach culminated in him reaching 20 home runs for the sixth time in seven years. The former Cardinals batter posted a HR/FB% slightly above his career average leading it to be likely he is able to hit 20 home runs again next year.
The largest detriment to Holliday’s offence this past season was his batting average. Holliday posted the lowest batting average of his career at .246. This was almost entirely due to a poor line drive rate leading to a poor batting average on balls in play. Not only did Holliday post the worst line drive rate of his career, it was the worst among batters with at least 400 plate appearances.
Holliday continued to spray the ball all over the field while hitting into fewer popups. The line drive rate was also much lower than his past three seasons before 2016 suggest. Moreover, Alex Chamberlain’s xBABIP Calculator showed Holliday had an expected BABIP of .285 based on his batted ball profile and speed.
The biggest concern with Holliday was his walk rate decreasing to its lowest percentage since 2008. The good news is that his outside the zone swing percentage remained consistent with his career average. Furthermore, Holliday lowered his swinging strike rate from 10.6% to 9.2%.
Holliday is not a good base-runner and his fielding ability has declined to the point where he should be a first baseman or a designated hitter. The right hander did get 60 innings in at first this year but not enough to draw significant conclusions about his abilities. This will limit his suitors and subsequently his price.
Despite a drop in overall production, Holliday’s peripherals suggest he is still a good hitter. Moreover, it is likely he will play at 1B or DH allowing him to shed some negative defensive value. With a bounce-back likely, Holliday is poised to be one of the best value contracts signed this winter.