Dallas Keuchel – 2018 Fantasy Outlook

Dallas Keuchel turned in a Solid bounce back campaign in 2017 after a down year in 2016. The 2015 Cy Young Award Winner did miss some time last year (two DL stints for a neck issue) but came back strong to finish with a 2.90 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP in 145.2 innings. The overall Ks were not great at 125 but that was offset by 14 wins. Unfortunately wins are the most difficult category to predict but luck is on your side when you have the offense of the Astros behind you.

Let’s talk about why Dallas will be overrated in 2018. His surface numbers look much closer to his 2015 Cy Young season numbers but I’d argue he’s closer to the guy he was in 2016. First, his K rate is nearly identical, 7.71 in 2016 and 7.72 in 2017 and his BB rate actually went up in 2017 to 2.90 from 2.57. Let’s look at BABIP which was a career low at .256 in 2017, his previous low was in 2015 at .269. Now, to be fair you can’t just say well a pitcher’s BABIP against is below the league average of .300, so he’s going to suppress because Keuchel does induce a lot of weak contact. So while I think he’s similar to Kyle Hendricks in this regard, I think a BABIP around .280 seems more comfortable. Along with the weak contact I love that he leads the league in ground ball rate at 66% and in turn limits home runs in an era where everyone and their great aunt Clare is hitting balls 425 feet. Wait, is this a LOVE post or a bust post, I’m getting confused.  

Take a look at the graph showing ERA, FIP, and BABIP.  BABIP and ERA basically are in line with each other with the exception of 2012 (partial year).  And his FIP had improved every year from 2012 – 2015 but in 2016 and 2017 it’s leveled off in the high 3s. The ERA stayed low and the BABIP stayed with it. As mentioned earlier, I expect that BABIP to bounce back up and the ERA will go with it. Also look at HR/FB which shot up in 2017 and now his margin for error is minimal with Keuchel, a few less GB and a few more HR with a rising BB rate = 4+ ERA and limited K upside.

I can’t deny that Keuchel is a good major league pitcher but I’m looking at his numbers regressing and I haven’t even mentioned his LOB % of nearly 80%! I do think his Ks will go up near 8.0/9 due to the fact that he does have a very good sinker/slider combo and mixes his pitchers very well. However, another issue arises when I look at his zone% which was only 37% and while he does get hitters to chase those pitches out of the zone over 32% of the time, I think hitters are going to start to be a little more patient with Keuchel and you’ve already seen some that with the increased walk rate. So I don’t expect a decrease in walk rate back to his career numbers.

Typically the margin for error with a pitcher that doesn’t have overpowering stuff (90 mph on his fastball) is so slim (Shady) a slight adjustment takes Keuchel from a 3.00 ERA guy to a 4.00 ERA guy. So to recap, Keuchel needs to do the following perfect to be successful: locate all pitches, get ahead in the count, get hitters to chase, suppress HRs, and get weak contact/ground balls. I don’t doubt he has the ability to perform on some of those tasks, but I’m betting he under performs on his projections especially since he’s had trouble staying healthy (he’averaged under 157 IP the last two seasons).

Projections for 2018: 170 IP, 13 Wins, 3.82 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 154 Ks

His early ADPs are around 64 overall, going as the 17th SP off the board. I’d rather have Aaron Nola, Jose Quintana, and Masahiro Tanaka among others.

Patrick Corbin – 2018 Fantasy Outlook

Patrick Corbin is a post hype sleeper who is one of many pitchers to lose significant time to Tommy John surgery.  He lost all of his 2014 season and half of 2015 to the recovery.  Pre-surgery, he went 14-8 with a 3.41 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 2013 at only 24 years old. When he returned in the second half of 2015, he pitched very well but completely fell apart in 2016.  In 2017, he had a bit of a bounce back with a 4.03 ERA but still a high WHIP of 1.42!  I love that his ERA finished above four and his WHIP was so high.  He will be overlooked in many leagues due to his final numbers and even may go un-drafted in shallow leagues.  That would be a mistake.

I’ll stop talking about all the negatives and get to why I think you should draft him.  He’s got one of the best sliders in the game, in fact, his slider ranks 9th in all of MLB sandwiched between Carlos Martinez and Carlos Carrasco!  That’s good company. The bad news, his fastball is in the bottom three for qualified starters.  OUCH Bro!  However, he’s increased his slider usage (2nd most by % thrown in 2017) and decreased his fastball usage as well.  

Let’s do a little digging into Corbin’s profile. In 2017 he turned in a career high Swstr % at 11% but it’s not as if he didn’t have solid SwStr rates previously (10.8% in 2015, 10.7% in 2013). Plus his velocity is back up near 93 mph which won’t blow anyone away but it’s another indicator that he’s fully healthy and the Tommy John surgery is behind him. Another aspect he’s been able to bring back is the ability to induce popups which were back up to 10%. That combined with a near elite 50% GB rate means the home runs should decrease. Home runs have been his Achilles heel but at under 30% FB rate, I’m expecting his HR/9 to drop for the 3rd straight year to around 1.1/9. Ok, so he’s getting ground balls and popups, increased his K rate by 3% and decreased his BB rate from 9% to a respectable 7%. 

He’s clearly trending in the right direction and now three years removed from the surgery, and should have no restrictions on innings. Can we talk BABIP? In2017, his BABIP was .328, that’s pretty high. Here’s why: he was tied to the WHIPing Post a few too many time last season.  Two of them he was BABIP’ed to death by the Brewers on the road and the Padres (of all teams) at home; the other two were road games against the Rockies and the Cubs where he gave up the gopher ball.  Now I hate kicking out stats especially since he can’t avoid the Rockies at home because they are division foes but you’re likely benching him there and against the Cubs in Midsummer at Wrigley.  Taking out those two games, his ratios for 2017 look like this: 3.35 ERA, 1.36 WHIP.  Not too bad!  Now the WHIP is high but again the BABIP should come down closer to league average couple that with a decrease in home runs and walk rate and now he’s looking like #3!

Here are my projections for 2018:

195 IP, 14 Wins, 3.62 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 184 Ks; he’s going around 250 overall and SP #70! That’s absolutely nuts especially since he did throw 189 IP in 2017 and could be a candidate to be a 200 inning horse and a #3 on your fantasy team.  I’ll have to mention the humidor which would certainly help reduce home runs but no one knows if that’s actually happening this year. If it does go in, it’s only going to help Corbin.

Yelich Brings his Talents to…. Bradford Beach?

Full disclosure, I had this article written early in the off season before Christian Yelich was traded and even before Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton were traded. The reason I held off on posting it is because the Marlins began  gutting their entire team and it was looking like Yelich was going to be surrounded by  minor leaguers and league average veterans. Alas, Yelich got himself out of Miami up north to Milwaukee. The same day, the Brewers signed Lorenzo Cain and all of a sudden, the outfield is now crowded. I fully expect the Brewers to trade Domingo Santana for pitching because Ryan Braun has 5/10 rights and likely isn’t going anywhere. So how does the move from Miami to Milwaukee change Yelich’s value? Let’s find out.

Check out his new digs

I’ve always been a fan of Yelich.  He’s an athletic kid that does all things well on the baseball field.  He’s one of those guys who’s not exceptional at anything but good at everything, know what I mean?  Plus he’s entering his age 26 season and could be primed for a breakout. We have to be careful not to over value Yelich because of the trade. Just looking at park factors for home runs, (100 being neutral or average) Miami falls around 85 to 90 depending on the source and Milwaukee is around 105. Miller Park is typically known as a launching pad but in recent years the park factors show that it’s only slightly above average for home runs and Marlins Park hasn’t played as bad for home runs as it has in the past.  So while this should certainly help Yelich, it may not be as big of jump as some may think.

I know I said I didn’t want to over inflate his value due to the move to Milwaukee but I can’t help it! Yelich’s career road wOBA is .363 with a wRC+ of 128! We aren’t talking about good numbers on the road, those are perennial all-star type numbers. He’s even stolen more bases on the road 41 to 31 in his career (for whatever that’s worth), probably nothing. Speaking of stolen bases, Jeff Zimmerman of fangraphs recently wrote an article about how managers influence stolen bases. Would you look at that! Craig Counsell is one of the most aggressive managers in terms of sending runners while Don Mattingly is about 6% to 7% below average. Now, it’s important to note that Milwaukee is going all in this year and being ultra aggressive on the base paths is not a great strategy for winning ball games. So, he may dial back the green lights a bit but should still be more aggressive than the Marlins. Man, this is getting difficult to not get excited.

I mentioned that Yelich is entering his prime, and he already makes hard contact, takes walks, can run a little bit, and should hit somewhere in the top three spots in the batting order. Roster resource has his leading off. I don’t love that for his production but it makes sense.  His ONLY real problem is his GD Ground Control.  The kid beats baseballs into the ground to the tune of 59% for his career! That’s insane, but at least he hits line drives right?  Right guys…. Guys?  You there?  

I may have lost the extreme launch angle guys with that information. Ok, so a lot of people will argue that Yelich is who he is at this point in his career with over 2800 PAs and 4.5 seasons to his name.  I’m taking a leap of faith and saying that Yelich continues to evolve as a hitter and will continue to get better.  Maybe it’s because I’ve just always liked him as a ball player, but take a look at some batted ball info:

Season FB% Hard% Pull% wOBA
2013 13.8% 34.3% 32.0% 0.341
2014 17.8% 34.2% 27.8% 0.341
2015 15.0% 33.1% 31.7% 0.343
2016 20.0% 38.0% 36.0% 0.367
2017 25.2% 35.2% 33.3% 0.348

Now if can combine his increased FB% with a career high Hard% & pull%, we might have something! Nearly every year Yelich has increased his FB% (with the exception for 2014).  This seems like a conscious decision. We all know a pulled flyball has the best chance to get out, and Yelich’s pull percentage isn’t as high as you’d like for hitting home runs; but Yelich is a great hitter to all fields and can hit the ball out the other way better than most. What’s more, in the second half of 2017 Yelich hit 29.3% of his balls in the air.  So, now we are getting somewhere.  You can see that in 2016 Yelich had his best offensive season mostly due to his career high Hard% and HR/FB over 20%, but he also pulled more balls and continued his trend of hitting more fly balls.  If you’re wondering, Yelich almost never hits popups (2.5% for his career), so he can increase hs FB% without giving himself up with popups.

What’s your angle Bro?

For me, I think he can put together the best season of his career in 2018. A stat I Iike a little more than FB% is average launch angle because it’s a little stickier” year to year because it encompasses all batted balls. Here are Yelich’s average LA (in degrees) since 2015: 0.0, 2.5, 4.5. Now those aren’t great for home runs but balls hit from 0-10 degrees are valuable. So this backs up his increased FB trends. And just to check in on his 2nd half increased FB%, I took his last 200 BBE and averaged his LA, which comes out to 6.3 degrees. At 200 batted balls, LA is more accurate, so this justifies his 2nd half FB% increase.  With that information, I believe he continues his FB trend and 28-30% FB is a reasonable expectation, that along with making more hard contact at age 26 is possible. The move to Miller Park is great for Yelich and the surrounding cast is also very solid. To keep expectations in check, we have to remember Yelich hit in the middle of a lineup that was stacked and had career years from both Stanton and Ozuna, so his production in terms of runs and RBI likely won’t improve from 2017.

PROJECTIONS

For 2018, assuming Yelich hits leadoff, I’ll give him: .289/.371 24 HRs, 15 steals, 98 runs, 69 RBI. If he hits 2nd, not much changes, a few less runs and a few more RBI. If he does hit in three hole, expect a couple less steals but close to a 90-90 in the R + RBI department. Basically, that’s Hosmer with speed! Here’s another good one, what’s the difference betweenYelich Andrew teammate Ryan Braun? Not peak Braun, mid-30s Braun. Nothing, except health, I’ll have Yelich ranked over Braun all day. Currently Yelich is going around 70th overall but I expect that to bump up 15 or so spots with this move. It will interesting to monitor as the season approaches. Around 55 overall you’ve got guys like Hoskins, Buxton, Cruz and Hamilton. That sounds about right to me. I’d take him over Buxton and Hamilton but probably not over Cruz or Hoskins.

Javy Baez Beware

This is a tough one to write as a life long Cubs fan but bias aside, Baez aside?  I have to go with what my eyes and the numbers tell me. Javier Baez had a bit of a breakout in 2017 with 23 HRs, 10 steals and managed a .273 average!  He chipped in with 75 runs and RBI apiece.  He did this with a career high 508 PAs and 145 games (though he only started 127 of them).  He’s an absolute wizard defensively that’s an absolute treat to watch and is far and away the best defensive 2B on the team and probably the best SS as well, though Addison Russell is no slouch.  Baez started 67 games at SS in 2017 mostly due to an injury to Addison Russell.  I don’t see Baez playing that many games at short this year, and if Zobrist is still getting playing time, it will be split between 2B and LF/RF.  In other words, Baez will most likely see the bench once or twice a week and will come in as a defensive replacement late in games when they have the lead.  In terms of playing time, I don’t see an increase in PA for 2018.

Batted Ball Profile and Plate Discipline

In terms of talent, he’s got great power, some speed, and that’s where the positives end for Baez on the offensive side.  Now the negatives: a career high 28.3% K rate in 2017, an unsustainable .345 BABIP, typically bats 7th or 8th in the batting order, and the previously mentioned playing time issue. The reason for the unsustainable BABIP is the fact that he only had a 15.4% line drive rate which matches what he had done in the minors as well.  He hits about 10% popups which are essentially automatic outs, and home runs aren’t included when calculating BABIP.  So where does he get a .345 BABIP from?  Grounders?  Flyballs that don’t leave the yard?  xStats pegged Baez for a triple slash of .242/.317/.431 with a xBABIP of .304.

Let’s talk about those strikeouts. Last year he had a career high 144 Ks to go along with an 18.6 SwStr%!!  Just for reference, that falls somewhere between Aaron Judge and Joey Gallo.  Cool Max, but those guys hit 40 and 50 HRs last year Bro!  They are also the size of Lebron James and Baez is 6 foot 190 Lbs, soooo…..  Based on those numbers, I actually expect his strikeouts to go UP in 2018.  You don’t have to throw him a strike to get him out.  He swung at 45% of pitches out of the strike zone (2nd worst in MLB) and even his zone contact was under 80% (4th worst), I’m sorry but that’s rough.  Unless he makes major adjustments this year he’s not going to get over 450 PA and come close to his numbers from 2017.

Before I get to his projections, I haven’t even mentioned the most amazing Baez stat from 2017: Baez walked a total of 30 times in 508 PA good (bad) for 5.9% BB rate; how many of those do you think were intentional walks?  …Maybe 3 or 4?  No, try 15 of them!  Exactly half of them; that ties him for 2nd in the league with Goldschmidt and some guy named Trout!  The reason for that is because he usually hits in front of the pitcher more often than not.  If you take away his IBB, his BB rate is 2.95% when he’s actually asked to work an at bat.  Somewhere Rougned Odor is shaking his head.

For this season I’ll give Baez: 465 PAs, .251/.299, 20 HRs and 9 steals 61 runs, 66 RBI. Early Mock Drafts have his ADP around 123 per fantrax.  Those numbers in this day in age belong the waivers kids. Listen, I love watching Baez and his defensive wizardry and the occasional moon shot but watching at bat after at bat where he chases three sliders a foot off the plate and in the dirt is frustrating. Here’s to me being wrong though.

Chad Kuhl Story Bro – Fantasy Outlook

There are several types of sleepers, the early to mid-round guys who have the upside to be top 25 players, the mid-late round guys (200ish overall) who have a chance to be top 100+/- and the guys who are basically going undrafted in all but 16 team or 30 man roster leagues.  AKA guys that make you fall asleep faster than watching afternoon golf of tv.  Chad Kuhl is that guy! But maybe he can be more than that.

Because he’s either undrafted or a late-late flier, you don’t need much to get value from him.  Quick overview about Mr. Kuhl. His name alone is worth it.  You could name your team something like Kuhl’s Out for the Summer or Kuhl Hand Luke.  You probably have to be over 45 to get those references.  Anyways, back to Kuhl.  He’s 25, he’s a sinker / slider guy and mixes a change and curve; he averages nearly 97 MPH on his fastball.  This sounds like Charlie Morton, but not young Charlie Morton, he never threw that hard.  The old/current Charlie Morton who is good now and World Series Champ.  So that’s good but he hasn’t quite gotten the swings and misses you’d expect from a pitcher with that profile.  Some scouts say his fastball is too straight and maybe that’s part of the problem. Another take that I saw on Twitter from Eno Sarris is the heatmap below of his sinker: 

(courtesy of Eno Sarris on Twitter) Basically, it’s not a bad pitch but his location of the pitch is way too middle-middle. It appears he’s got consistent control with that pitch, he just needs to control it down in the zone. That tells me it can and should be discovered and that he can correct it.

Taking a look at the plate discipline since his call up in 2016, he threw 70 IP in 2016 (+83 in the minors) and 157 IP in 2017 (all in the majors).  His K rates improved but his walk rates regressed.

Season Age O-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% SwStr%
2016 23 26.4% 65.7% 87.5% 80.3% 8.9%
2017 24 27.7% 63.4% 86.3% 78.5% 9.5%

Keep in mind the MLB average contact% is 80%. These are marginal improvements but they seem to justify the improvement in K rate and I think there is room to improve.  Not shown here, but his Zone % and F-Strike % both increased in 2017 so I have no idea how his BB rate jumped over 10% when his previous career high at any level was 6.7%! I’m thinking the BB rate will drop back down below 10% and settle around 8.5% this year. If you combine a K% near 22% and a BB% around 8.5% you’re looking at a potential #3 fantasy starter.

Back to the negatives. He’s been bad against lefties but some of that is bad luck with an elevated BABIP but it could also be that lefties can time up his fastball judging by the nearly 40% hard hit rate off of it in 2017.  Yikes!  All we really need is a slight improvement against lefties to justify a top 60 SP price.  I’ll bet on young talent as there have been some positive adjustments already from year one to year two.

2018 Projection: 10 W, 4.06 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 162 Ks in 175 IP. He’s an afterthought going as late as 400 overall or SP 110 around guys like Jose Urena and Brandon Woodruff. He might not be super exciting but the numbers I project would have been the SP 65, 225 overall in 2017. Any 14+ team leagues or expanded roster leagues need to jump all over him.

Swingin’ on the Gallo’s Pole

The ultimate three true outcome hitter and the ultimate BOOM or BUST fantasy player. Joey Gallo is currently going just inside the top 100 after hitting 41 HRs in only 532 plate appearances in 2017!  That’s nuts. YARRR!  You know what else is nuts? Having 196 K and 75 BB in those 532 plate appearances. Calculating, calculating… that comes to 58.6% of his PA resulted in a HR, K, or walk in 2017. I’m not going to give the easy, lazy comparison of Gallo to former Texas Ranger Chris Davis because Gallo strikeouts more (hard to believe), walks more (that’s good), and actually hits the ball harder and in the air more than Davis ever has.  There is no single player comp for Gallo.

The closest comp I can find is that of Miguel Sano. He strikes out just about as much (36.8% for Gallo, 35.8% for Sano) and hits the ball just as hard as Sano (93.1 mph for Gallo, 92.4 mph for Sano). However, he’s a much better athlete than Sano and hits the ball in the air over 10% more often than Sano. That’s good for his home run totals but bad for his BABIP and batting average. But let’s go back to how hard he hits the ball. He actually hits the ball just about as hard as anyone.  Take a look at the 2017 Baseball Savant Statcast Leaderboard. Gallo is second only to Aaron Judge in Brls/BBE and 4th in Brls/PA! Notice anything interesting about the top five in Brls/PA? They all finished in the top five for home runs in 2017. That’s great, but you know the issue; Gallo strikes out way too much. His number of batted ball events is more than 100 less than any of the other top 5 HR hitters, which makes what he did in 2017 even more impressive.

So we know with all those fly balls his BABIP and batting average are going to suffer but a .250 BABIP is awfully low for a guy like Gallo. As a result of his frequent hard contact, I don’t think he’s a .209 hitter unless his K rate goes up to something like 43%. As crazy as that sounds, it’s actually possible with a guy like Gallo. That’s the downfall. If that happens, Texas may have to send him back to the minors. So the floor could look something like a sub .200 average and 20 HRs due to being sent to the minors for a half a season or so. Not good.

But, this young lumberjack of a man is 24 years old, 6-5 and 235 pounds. He improved his overall contact and lowered his swinging strike rates. They are still basically among the league’s worst rates but have I mentioned he hit 41 HRs with those contact numbers! Oh I did? Anyways, I’ll bet on talent and youth more often than not. I’m willing to gamble on him for 2018 not only because of the power, but because his career 13.9% BB rate which should help him through prolonged slumps. Also, his 123 WRC+ in 2017 ranked third on the Rangers behind only Beltre and Chirinos, neither of which played over 95 games in 2017. By production, he’s basically one of the top two or three hitters on the Rangers (Andrus and rookie Willie Calhoun should also be up there) and spent most of the season hitting between the number 5 and number 9 slots in the order.

When you break down the numbers, he’s not all that different than Aaron Judge. I’m expecting regression from Judge in terms on batting average and with a full season of at bats from Gallo, their numbers could be almost identical with about 80 picks between them. For 2018, I’ll give Gallo: .230/.340 43 HRs, 84 runs, 93 RBI, 7 steals. Look at his 2nd half splits where his batted ball luck was more neutral. Don’t sleep on his speed either, he had a 5.5 speed score in 2017 and is an above average base runner. Ten steals is not out of the question. That’s the Joey Gallo I expect in 2018 and he qualifies at 1B, 3B, and OF. Way Too Early ADP checks in around 98. With those projections he slides just inside the top 50 overall. The risk is too high to take him there but I wouldn’t let him get much further than 75 overall.

Buster Posey – 2018 Fantasy Outlook

This one’s too easy, his name almost spells out Bust Post! Just take away the ER and Y and you get Bust Pose, which actually sounds kind of erotic. Which I like, but what I don’t like is Posey’s fantasy outlook for 2018.  While he’s no longer the top catcher off the board for the first time in about 7 years, he’s STILL being drafted as a top 3 catcher behind Gary Sanchez and Willson Contreras.  Some sites will still have Buster Posey #2 behind Sanchez.  That is something I cannot endorse. 

I won’t take anything away from Posey, he’s been great over his eight year career but he hasn’t hit 20 HRs since 2014 and had a career low of 12 home runs in 2017.  Yes, he did hit .320 with a .400 OBP and still maintains a very low K rate with a solid BB rate. But that .347 BABIP tho, not happening again.  The power is almost completely gone and his home park doesn’t help him either.  In the 2nd half of 2017 he hit all of 2 HRs!!  Scooter Gennett hit twice that many in one game last year!

Listen, catcher is wasteland, I get that, but I’m not wasting a 5th or 6th round pick on a guy who won’t hit more than 15 HRs or drive in over 80 RBI.  But what about his 6 steals each of the last 2 years???  I can’t explain that because prior to 2016 his season high was 3 and he’s older and slower.  I’ll put my money on the under for 2018.  Let’s do a blind player comparison!

Player A      
SeasonBB%K%Hard%LD%FB%Contact%
201610.4%11.1%36.1%21.5%29.9%87.0%
201710.7%11.6%33.0%23.3%33.0%85.3%
Player B
SeasonBB%K%Hard%LD%FB%Contact%
201613.7%16.1%31.3%26.8%21.3%86.2%
201711.1%13.9%36.4%24.9%23.6%88.7%

Player A strikes out less and hits more fly balls while Player B walks more and hits more line drives. Their hard contact is about equal and both make a lot of contact in general. So Player A most likely hits more home runs while Player B looks like he might hit for a better average/OBP. You’re probably assuming one of the payers is Buster Posey and of course you’re correct, Player A is Buster Posey. It might surprise you that Player B is Joe Mauer. I get that Mauer is no longer catcher eligible, but he’s basically fantasy irrelevant at this point in his career. It’s becoming more evident that Posey is going the way of Joe Mauer now that he’s over 30 years old, unfortunately he looks more like mid-30s Mauer and not mid-20s Joe Mauer. Remember, most catchers do not age well and unfortunately, it’s starting to look like Posey is not going to buck that trend.

If you still don’t believe in this comparison, go check xstats and look at Joe Mauer and Buster Posey’s 2018 projections. You won’t be able to tell the difference between the two. Both are projected for 11-12 HRs and a solid .290 average. Cool, not cool. I also don’t expect Posey to catch 150 games in 2018, maybe he plays some first base, but he’s not going to play 150 games in 2018. So ultimately, that’s good for his playing time but his surrounding cast leaves a lot to be desired. They missed on Stanton, Ohtani, and Santana. Now they are left with Jay Bruce or Eric Hosmer. I suspect Jay Bruce is more likely than Hosmer, but that doesn’t get me excited.  For 2018, I’ll give Posey: .287/.372 12 HRs, 61 runs, 69 RBI, 3 steals. His early ADP in Mocks sits around 65 overall. He’s still a top 5 Catcher for me, but I don’t think I’ll have him in the top 100. He’s right there with Realmuto and Lucroy, all should be between 90-110 overall.

Str8 No Chase(r) Anderson Sleeper Post

Listen, I understand that Chase Anderson has been a boring starting pitcher that just turned 30 and I’m sure we’ve all streamed him in the past.  You’re probably aware that he had a career year in 2017 but greatly out performed his peripherals: 2.74/3.58/4.33 (ERA/FIP/xFIP).  Looks like Mad Max has some digging to do (Not Scherzer, he’s already got a job).  Wouldn’t that be bad-ass if I got Scherz to do my research tho?  

Let’s start with this plot via fangraphs: plotting HR/FB, SwStr%, Hard%, and K/BB since 2014. I realize it’s difficult to see, you can click the link to get a better view.

 

 

 

 

 

So you can see the three subtle improvements including a career high 10.2 % SwStr rate, hard hit % decrease and as a result; a lower HR/FB %.  The three minor improvements along with a decrease in BB% resulted in a huge improvement in K/BB by nearly 1.0 from 2.3 (bleh) to 3.2 (oh hi there)!  That’s the big spike in light blue on the plot.  How did this happen?  Did 29 year old boring Chase turn into a #2 starter overnight? Well, almost.  

First he improved his fastball velocity by about 1.5 MPH to 93.7 (AVG).  Of course 93.7 mph isn’t exactly blowing hitters away, but that’s a career best for Anderson.  Second, he wasn’t good in 2016 at getting first pitch strikes % at only 57.7%.  In 2017 is went up to 61.2%, so at least he’s getting ahead of hitters more often.  Getting ahead allowed him use his secondary stuff which in the past has not been great.  His O-Swing % was over 30% for the first time in three years and he graded out with three Plus pitches! So his secondary stuff is good now?  Kind of. What happened is that Old boring Chase learned how to pitch.  The Brewers have a pretty solid pitching coach in Derek Johnson who also helped Jimmy Nelson turn things around prior to his injury. What Johnson helped Anderson do is locate his fastball (which is good especially with increased velocity) and set him up to utilize his average secondary stuff effectively.  Also, that 1.5 mph velocity bump helps Anderson attack up in the zone for swings and misses as opposed to throwing 91-92 MPH and missing on his locations allowing hard contact.

So what are we looking at in 2018?  I’m not going to go crazy because his LOB % was high in 2017 and his HR/FB mentioned earlier was low which is difficult to do when since he plays half his games a Miller Park. OK, we are looking at some regression there.  But the early mocks have his ADP regressing (morphing) back into OBC (Old Boring Chase) mentioned above.  For 2018, I’ll go with:  13 Wins, 170 IP, 163 Ks, 3.72 ERA, 1.26 WHIP.  Early mock drafts have his around 212 overall but I suspect that to rise a bit as we move closer to the 2018 season. There’s value here and you can grab him as your 4th or 5th starter.

Snells Like Teen Spirit

Yes that title is a Nirvana reference from the early 1990s and this is a Blake Snell sleeper post.  My guess is some of you weren’t even born in 1991 when the song was released but that’s OK.  This is about the now!  I know most of us have had or streamed Snell in the past where he tied us to the WHIP-ping Postbut look for Snell to take another step forward in 2018.

On the surface Snell looks like he’s regressed from his rookie season in 2016 in terms of ERA, K%, and HR/9.  Oh cool, looks like a great sleeper Max!   Ugh.  I try not to give up on guys with pedigree and talent who are 25 and younger (Snell will be 25 in 2018).  Some positives include improvements in the most troubling part of his game and that’s BB% down 1.9% from 2016!  That’s a lot, but his walk rate is still too high at 10.8% but it’s a start.  Digging deeper, his Swinging strike % is still very good at 10.8%, so that K% of 21.8% is below where it should be.   He should be around 24% at least bringing that K/9 up between 9.0 and 9.5.  Ok, now we are getting somewhere.

His arsenal consists of a fastball, change up, slider, and curve.  His change and curve are both plus pitches.  I like that he started throwing his change up more as the season progressed because that’s been his best pitch.  The other thing that intrigued me along with the curve, his fastball graded out as a plus pitch as well in 2017!  He throws it at 95-96 so if he can command it, he’ll get some swings and misses on that pitch; so now he’s got 3 plus pitches! This is starting to sound pretty good.

While his overall 2017 season numbers don’t on the surface display the changes I’m hoping for from Snell, his 2nd half splits look like he’s already made adjustments.  Here they are: 23.7 K%, 8.0 BB%, 12.4% SwStr, 3.49 ERA, with a 3.56 FIP to back it up.  That’s in 77.1 innings so it’s a good sample.   If I narrow his splits down to his final 11 starts of 2017 from August 1st on, he made significant changes to his pitch mix.  He increased the use of his curve and change by 5.2% and 5.9% respectively while decreasing his slider and fastball by 4.4% and 5.8% respectively.  He made a conscious change to throw his most effective pitches more often.  Decreasing the fastball usage actually increased its value (mentioned above as a plus pitch).  Remember, he’s still young with only 218 IP in the majors so he’s still learning how he can use his arsenal to his advantage.

All of the stats listed above happened after he was sent to the minors for poor performance in the 1st half so it seems like he’s ironed out the kinks.  He totaled 173 IP in 2017 so there shouldn’t be an innings cap on him for 2018.  That being said, he started 31 games between AAA and MLB so his IP/start is not great.  That’s why I can’t project 200 IP even if I think he’ll get 30-32 starts in 2018.  He’s going outside the top 200 right around SP 60.  There’s very little risk involved with Snell at that pick.  I think he should be inside the top 45-50 for starting pitchers.  For 2018 I’ll give Snell: 11 Wins, 3.82 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 182 Ks in 177 IP.  Early Mock drafts have him going around 212 overall.