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.

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.

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.

Jameson Goes Down Smooth

Jameson Taillon Sleeper Post:

Listen, this guy’s been through quite a bit over the last 8 months or so, much more than most of us can relate to.  So I could be immature and tell you his stats during ONE BALL counts, but I won’t.  I’ve matured in my adulthood, kinda…

Jameson Taillon was a top tier pitching prospect but has been derailed with injuries throughout both the minors and now cancer.  It’s pretty amazing that he came back after less than 6 weeks but obviously he was not the same pitcher he was prior to the diagnosis/surgery (2.73 ERA in the 1st half, 5.96 ERA in the 2nd half).  Either way, this is a tough MFer or he has elite stuff, how about both.

But wait!  His June ERA which was just after the surgery was 2.42 in 22.1 innings.  So what’s the deal, why such sub-par 2nd half?  Was his body breaking down due to everything he was going through?  Nope, his Fastball velo averaged over 95 mph, same as the first half.  His Ks dropped by 1.5% but the BB% also dropped 1%.

The only thing that jumps out at me is the BABIP.  Taillon was unlucky all season based on a crazy high .352 BABIP, but check out the 2nd half, the BABIP ballooned up to .375!!  That’s almost as unbelievable as Avisail Garcia’s .392 BABIP in 2017.  Talk about a major fade in 2018, but I digress.  Taillon’s BABIP in 2016 was .287.  Maybe he’s not that good but somewhere around .310 sounds about right to me.  Due to that unusually high BABIP, his FIP and xFIPs were consistently lower than his ERA around 3.50 and 3.75 respectively in both halves.  I believe those numbers to be accurate looking forward to 2018.

Looking at his profile, I love the ground balls which sits around 50% in 235 major league innings.  Limiting fly balls help limit his home runs, this is ground breaking stuff here guys!  His control is great, I expect his walk rate to hover around the low 2s/9.  The only thing he won’t do well is strikeout a high percentage of batters.  The 20-22% K percentage is what you will get which should translate to around 8.0 K/9.  That’s fine but slightly below the average fantasy starter in this era.  At least he’s got three of the four qualities I look for in a starter: Quality stuff, high ground ball rate, and low walk rate (Ks obviously being the 4th).   For 2018, I will give Taillon:

185 IP, 13 W, 3.51 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 164 Ks (going around 180 overall in Way to Early Mocks)

You’ve got a guy who has top 20 SP upside going in 15th-16th rounds. So pour yourself a SINGLE high-BALL with of Jameson in 2018.

Ozzie Albies 2018 Sleeper Post

Tags: Ozzie being Ozzie, Starboy, Francisco Lindor

Love me some Ozzie!  He’s got a ton of energy and plays with passion a little bit like Lindor…  I’m not gonna go that far to say that comparison but then again he’s only going to be 21!  Did you hear that? The kid is going to play the entire season at age 21!  I call these kinds of talented youngsters Starboys. I do think his upside will be similar to what 2016 Lindor did but with more speed.

So we know he has speed, typically around 30 steals per year in the minors, and he had 8 in 244 PA in the majors.  But let’s look at some other numbers from his two-month audition in 2017. You’ll notice that he flashed a little power hitting 6 HRs in 244 PA.  He also hit 9 in AAA before being called up.  His previous high was 6 in 2016.  You might think that 15 is more of a ceiling but digging deeper into his approach, his FB% jumped from around 30% in 2016 to 40% in 2017 (38% in AAA).  That isn’t by accident.  A jump of 2-3% might be, but not 10%.  In his small sample, he hit the ball relatively hard, especially for an undersized 20-year-old and he pulls over 40% of his batted balls while rarely hitting popups.  I like this approach, it’s very similar to what Lindor and Jose Ramirez are doing in Cleveland.  If the ball remains the same in 2018 (and why wouldn’t it, the ratings are up), expect the HRs to keep coming for Albies.

Whatever is going on with the ball is helping the 8-10 HR hitters more so than the Stanton / Judges of MLB.  See the table below published by The Ringer about Alan Nathan’s trajectory calculator and the aforementioned NCAA seam-height study.

Now again this is just a study on NCAA balls but it at least gives us an idea about how extra distance can be added to the ball within the legal parameters.

That extra 5-10 feet turn those warning track fly outs into dingers.  “Just enough” HRs count the same as Judge’s 495-foot blasts.  Expect a few ups and downs throughout the year because remember, he’s only 21!  Did I say that already?  The steals will be there as well, he was very efficient in 2017, at nearly 90% success rate at should be slotted 1st or 2nd in an underrated lineup with a better than average Suntrust home park.  Unfortunately, with his new approach I don’t think he’ll hit for as high of an average as originally expected, but you’ll take the HRs as a trade-off.

My 2018 Projections are: .277/.339, 90 runs, 16 HRs, 70 RBI and 27 steals (ADP around 171 in the Way Too Early Mock Drafts)

Ma-(man)-sahiro Tanaka 2018 Sleeper Post

Tags: Masahiro Tanaka, Sleeper, 2018 Projections, @MaxFreeze

What a crazy up and down year for Tanaka and most of it was down.  Something that could keep Tanaka from being underrated in 2018 were two of his final three starts of 2017 (last regular season start & 1st post season start against the Indians).  In those starts he combined for 14 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 0 ER, 22 Ks!  Yes PLS!  In the 15 strikeout game he had SWStr% of 21.4% and that wasn’t even his highest SwStr% in the month of September.

Speaking of SwStr%, he had a career high in 2017 with an amazing 15.1%!  Is that good??  Well, let’s see. Kluber had a 15.6%, Scherzer had a 15.5%, and Sale (who had 308 Ks) had 14.9%.  That rounds out your top 4, YES Tanaka was 3rd in all of baseball!

Tanaka has always been above average in K rate and SwStr % but 2017 was nuts and his 9.79 K/9 was a career high, but even that impressive K rate does not jive with his insanely high SwStr %.  His K/9 should have been somewhere between 10 and 11. Now I’m drooling. In other words he was unlucky.

Tanaka being unlucky in 2017 is an understatement.  His HR/9 and HR/FB were 1.77 and 21.1% respectively ranking 3rd and 1st worst for qualified starters.  Ouch Bro.  1st worst sounds weird, kind of like bratwurst, but bratwurst sounds great! Ok, back to it!  Even his .305 BABIP was unlucky IMO though it’s near league average.  But, and this is a BIG BUT, his career BABIP coming into this year was .275!  How about his career low LOB % 71.5% in 2017 which is 4 % below his career average.  Str8 up unlucky.

I know what you’re thinking.  His FIP is 4.34 Max, that’s high and I don’t like it!  You’re right.  But his xFIP and SIERA are 3.44 and 3.52 respectively.  I’ll trust the xFIP and SIERA over FIP!  When xFIP and SIERA are in agreement, I like that.  Listen, he certainly had some Memory Loss in several starts due to the long ball. That SHOULD decrease in 2018.  All in all, Tanaka is my pick for most unlucky pitcher of 2017.  Think Robbie Ray in 2016. Tanaka could have a Robbie Ray type 2018 with less Ks and less BBs.  Oh and then there’s AL East v NL West thing, so there’s that.

Switching gears, the injury thing comes up every year with Tanaka and he just keeps taking the ball every 5th day (except for 1 short DL stint in 2017).  At some point, you just have to say he’s beating the odds until he doesn’t and his arm falls off.  For now, I love me some Tanaka for 2018.  Early ADPs have him going anywhere from 117 or around SP 30.

2018 Projections:

15 Wins, 3.41 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 204 Ks in 190 IP. 

Looks like a top 15 SP to me FAM!  YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST!  

Luis Castillo Sleeper Post and 2018 Outlook:

Tags: Luis Castillo Mass Appeal

  • Luis is probably my favorite young SP sleeper who by the time late March rolls around, may not be a sleeper anymore due to the potentially massive hype. If you are one of the lucky few reading this, then you have the advantage Bro!
  • Castillo is 24 already and came up straight from AA in 2017 and by Mid-August already had Mass Appeal. I love the fact that he complied nearly 170 innings between AA and the majors which means he shouldn’t be limited in 2018.
  • I’ve heard him compared to Severino. WOW!  Well, maybe 2015 Severino and we all know how 2016 went…not good; but the kid averages nearly 98 MPH on his fastball!! How’s his stuff?  Well, his K rate and Ground Ball % went up and his HR % went down when he came to the majors.  Weird right?  Well not really.  He developed a pretty damn good sinker and has a great change that is 10 mph slower than that fastball; mix in an above average slider as well.  The sinker, change, and sliders all induce ground balls at over 60% and he throws those 49.4% of the time.  The only minor issues are the fastball and that he plays his home games in the GAB (that’s Great American Ballpark) so home runs could be a problem.   Now, the BB rate was a little high but he’s shown great command in the minors and I expect that improve to just below 3.00 BB/9.  If you want a more detailed read on Castillo, check out this fangraphs community research piece by Lance Brozdowski.  Great read, and the fact that Castillo was actually better at the end of the season really gets me going!  In that piece, Red Manager Bryan Price has already committed to Castillo for a rotation spot, so it’s looking like a full season for the kid!
  • Let’s get down to the projections: Since Wins are difficult to project (Reds aren’t good so he could end up anywhere from 9 to 15), I’ll give you IP, ERA, WHIP, Ks for 2018:
  • 185 IP, 3.59, 1.14, 194 Ks
  • The ERA jump is mostly a regression based on the low BABIP (which I still think he keeps well under .300) and a slightly lower LOB % He’s had an ADP of around 160 in Way Too Early Mock Drafts. That’s around the 40th  I’d take him inside the top 30 SP, around 25 and about 110 overall.