Ronald Acuna Prospect Post

Ronald Acuna is the unquestioned #1 prospect in baseball right now in my opinion.  The only other prospect that comes close is Baby Vlad (who I love) but he’s still over one year away from the majors.  Acuna Matata can hit for average, hit for power, run, and play solid defense.  Oh, and he was born in 1997!  I was busy sitting on the bench keeping stats for my Babe Ruth league in 1997.  Man, I was so integral to those teams….

Back to Acuna, check out the first clip of this article from mlb.com, a two HR game in the AFL from this past fall. That moonshot to center is an absolute bomb! He has shot up through the Braves minor league system across three levels in 2017 and his wOBA improved at each stop: 135, 159, 162! You don’t often see a guy improve at every level along the way (except for maybe Hoskins). His stolen base totals are huge: 44 in 139 games in 2017 and 30 in 97 games in 2015 & 2016 combined.  The one downside to those numbers is the fact that he was caught quite a bit (70% success rate).  So obviously, they were letting him run wild which is something they won’t allow at the major league level at his current success rate. I’ve seen his speed grade out around 60 out of 80 so his speed is good but at his age I can’t project a ton of steals because he’s still learning how to read pitcher’s moves and how to steal. Major league pitcher’s general do a better job of holding runners on, not to mention the MLB catchers’ ability to throw out runners compared to minor league catchers.  

His power is still developing but  (obviously bro, he was 19 in 2017) but based on his batted ball profile and the ability to show improvements in the power department as 2017 progressed, I don’t see any reason not to expect 30 HR in his prime. The Matt Kemp trade has opened up a spot for Acuna on the opening day roster. This doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be up immediately, but I’m going to say he will be up no later than June of 2018.

He’s got so much upside I don’t know how to even project him. The two main factors are his call up date and where he hits in the order. He could bat anywhere from leadoff the 7th or 8th in the order. Ideally, he bats right in front of Freddie Freeman (YES PLS)!  IDK.  The sweet spot for Acuna’s true fantasy upside is once he learns how to steal bases at the major league level and before his speed starts to decline. There’s a point where raw power starts to peak and speed has yet to decline (significantly at least) that typically takes place around 25-28 for most players.  That means that Acuna is likely several years away from those seasons, but at that point his speed will have already began its decline. It’s difficult to predict but phenoms typically peak a little sooner than other players.   I could see a peak season for Acuna as soon as 2019 or 2020. Let’s try not to get ahead of ourselves; for 2018, I’ll give Acuna: .283/.346 17 HRs, 15 steals with 125-130 combined R+RBI in 465 PA.  If he gets 600+ PA, I’d give him 22/19 (HR/SB) with 165 R+RBI.

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.

Will the Yankees Break the Single Season Home Run Record?

The all time record for home runs in a single season is 264 held by the 1997 Seattle Mariners.  Some things that come to mind as I write this:  The team was comprised of peak Ken Griffey Jr., a hulking Jay Buhner who hit 40 bombs that year, a young stud shortstop named Alex Rodriguez, and this was of course during the steroid era. In fact, prior to 2017, eleven of the top fifteen home run hitting teams played during the steroid era.  There is some debate on when the era began and ended, I’m going with 1991 through 2003 for reference.  In 2017 however, The Yankees led the way with 241 home runs good for 9th all time! The Astros and Rangers were not far behind, both jumping into the top 15.  So naturally the team with the most power in 2017 adds even more power with Giancarlo Stanton in 2018.

The knee jerk reaction to the question in the title is yes, the Yankees will demolish this single season home run record. They added the best power hitter by HR/PA in this generation coming off a 59 home run campaign, so why wouldn’t they break the record?  To get to the answer we first have to look at batting order and plate appearances.  Based on the information above it may not surprise you to know that the Yankees led the majors in plate appearances with 6,354. That comes out to over 39 PA per game, 39.22 to be exact. The average for all teams in 2017 was about 38 PA/game, so it’s really only about 200 more PA over the course of the entire season above the league average.  For reference the Cubs led the league in PA in 2016 with 6,335.  So let’s go with a slight regression for the Yankees in 2018 based off this information to 6,340.  Here’s a table showing the  number of PA by spot in the bating order using our estimated 6,340 as a team in 2018.

Order GS PA % of PA PA Using
6,340
Batting 1st 4860 22678 12.24% 776
Batting 2nd 4860 22136 11.95% 757
Batting 3rd 4860 21632 11.67% 740
Batting 4th 4860 21153 11.42% 724
Batting 5th 4860 20621 11.13% 706
Batting 6th 4860 20110 10.85% 688
Batting 7th 4860 19581 10.57% 670
Batting 8th 4860 18978 10.24% 649
Batting 9th 4860 18406 9.93% 630
Total 185295

I rounded them to the nearest PA to make the math easier. Now we have to figure out the batting order and since we know the same 9 players won’t play all 162 games, we have to adjust for that.  Since this is theoretical, let’s assume 145 games played for all starters and 135 for Gary Sanchez at catcher (but can also DH). For second base I’ve combined Torres and Torreyes not only because their last names are so similar but the position is Torreyes’ until Glayber Torres is healthy and ready to be called up.  That could be in the first few weeks, it could be mid season, I don’t know.  I don’t expect Jacoby Ellsbury and Clint Frazier to be on the team all season, in fact, I expect one to be traded before the season starts, so those 250 PA are essentially for one player.  After all is said and done the total number of plate appearance has reached 6,340.

Projected Lineup  Position Plate App.
Brett Gardner CF/LF/RF 695
Giancarlo Stanton RF/DH 678
Aaron Judge LF/DH 662
Gary Sanchez C/DH 603
Greg Bird 1B/DH 632
Didi Gregorious SS 616
Aaron Hicks CF 600
Chase Headley 3B 581
Torreyes/Torres 2B 630
Bench
Ellsbury / Frazier OF 225
Romine C 200
Dustin Fowler OF 95
Tyler Wade SS/2B/3B 120
Total 6340

Finally, let’s get to the home run projections. I’ll fly through the “low power” hitters but will go into more depth for the Yankee Bombers: Stanton, Judge, Sanchez, and I’ll throw Bird in there as well.  The Bench:  Tyler Wade and Ellsbury are speed guys with minimal power; Wade hit a career high 7 in 2017 in 450 PA and Ellsbury has settled into a 7-10 home run hitter (outside of the 2011 season).  Fowler has some developing pop but is only above average based on Eric Longenhagen’s 50 raw power grade.  Frazier has a similar 20 home run power upside but neither of them will get much playing time with the already crowded outfield.  Catcher Austin Romine has never hit more than 7 HRs in a single season.  So, without much analysis I’ve projected this bunch of players to get 640 total PA (by this estimation); which is basically a full season for one player; should only get about 15 HRs.  Working our way up Torreyes; he has almost no power to speak of and Torres while having significant power upside, will only be 21 and has a season career high of 11.  I do expect Torres to get more of the PA, so I’ll put the home run total at 14 for the #9 spot in the order.  Headley, ugh. We have a 33, soon to be 34 year old third baseman with below average power.  He’s averaged 13 home runs over the last 5 years.  I’ve got him at 13, simple.  This isn’t looking good right now.  We are at 42, only 223 to go!  Aaron Hicks is a wild card, he’s a very good player but can’t stay healthy.  Luckily for me in this experiment, he does stay healthy!  Over the course of his career, he’s averaged 1 home run for every 38 PA but had 15 HR in only 361 PA in 2017 or 1 HR every 24 PA.  He’s in his prime and playing in a good hitter’s park, I’ll have him somewhere in between and give him 21 HR.  On to Didi Gregorious.  I don’t like his projections, check out my bust post about him.  In there I have him pegged for 15 HRs, so that’s what we’ll go with.  Brett Gardner was a surprising source of power in 2017 hitting over 20 for the first time in his career (21 to be exact). He did it with a career high 13.5% HR/FB which at age 34 seems high even for a lefty playing half his games at Yankee Stadium. I say he drops back down to around 11.0% and hits 17 home runs in 2018.

This is where things get interesting.  Greg Bird is a prototypical power hitting left handed first baseman. He’ll be 25 during the 2018 season so he’s entering his prime.  He’s not Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton in terms of power but who is?  Given his 24 HR in only 348 PA in the majors, you can expect big things from Bird given a full season of at bats. His 50% FB rate combined with hard contact and Yankee Stadium provides some high hopes. Yes, he will strikeout and hit popups limiting his batting average, but all we care about in this article is home runs.  All that being said, I’ll give Bird 32 home runs in 632 PA.
Gay Sanchez has been a monster since entering the majors in August of 2016 hitting 53 home runs in 177 games! His PA/HR almost matches Aaron Judge’s: 13.8 PA/HR to 14.2 PA/HR. In this experiment I’ve projected less PA for Sanchez due to the wear and tear catchers have to deal with day in and day out.  Now Judge does hit more fly balls and hits the ball harder and a result, his HR/FB% is higher as you’d expect (33.3% to 29.3%).  These are both elite. I do expect both to drop in 2018 because it’s difficult to improve on rates that high even for the best power hitters in the game.  I expect Sanchez to be around 25% and Judge to be around 28-29%. That brings us to 35 home runs for Sanchez and 44 home runs for Judge. 

We have 206 projected home runs for the 2018 Yankees with Giancarlo Stanton to go. He needs 59 to get the Yankees to 265 for the season. Isn’t that a coincidence, he he hit 59 in 2017 and will now be playing half his games at Yankee Stadium.  Although I’ve seen articles that overlaid Yankee Stadium over all his home runs from 2017 and it would have added between 1 and 3 home runs for the entire season.  Why?  Well, because a 475 foot fly ball is a home run anywhere. In 2017 Stanton changed his approach, he changed his stance to where his front foot is extremely closed.  It helps him see the ball better and limits his leg kick creating more contact. It helped cut his strikeouts down below 25% for the first time but did lower his hard contact. That’s OK though because Stanton, along with Judge, can hit a ball at 80% and it be a home run.  I have Stanton hitting 2nd giving him 678 PA which is 14 less than he had in 2017. His 34.3% HR/FB was a career high (not a surprise) but he did have a 32.1% HR/FB% in just under half a season in 2015, so it’s not insanely high for him. His FB% was under 40% and his IFFB% was a career high, so those are bad signs but I do believe in the decrease in strikeout rate.  He cut his SwStr% by almost 3% and his O-Swing% was below 28% for the first time in his career.  Ok, enough with analysis, what’s his HR total for 2018?

I’m going with 50 HR for Stanton in 2018. The Yankees fall 9 home runs short of breaking the record and 8 short of tying it with 256 home runs in 2018.  It’s interesting because on the surface it looks like a virtual lock that the Yankees will break this record in 2018.  It’s possible that Stanton, Judge, Sanchez and Bird all stay healthy for a full season giving 150+ games each and break the record but guys like Bird and Hicks haven’t proven to be healthy for a full season and Stanton has certainly missed his share of time. Sure, the 2018 Yankees could demolish the record by hitting 280 or something like that but if I’m putting money down on it, I’d bet against it. There’s too many variables and things that need to go right for the Yankees for this to happen.  That doesn’t mean I won’t be awed by the spectacle of every 500 foot bomb hit by Judge and Stanton and enjoying the chase for 265.

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.

2018 Starting Pitcher Rankings – Top 50

Here’s my Way Too Early 2018 Starting Pitcher Rankings for 2018.  Obviously this list will change some as free agents sign and Shohei Ohtani (Who is that?) finally gets signed.  I like to keep the pitcher rankings fluid basically up until the start of the season because preseason can change things for a lot of these pitchers.  In the preseason I look at velocities, injuries, and roster moves/transactions.  All of these things can play a roll in the final preseason rankings.  It’s different for hitter though, I don’t look at preseason performance for hitters as much or even at all really unless a player hits his way into a starting spot.  Alright, here’s the list:

2018 EARLY SP RANKINGS – TOP 50

Rank Name Team
1 Max Scherzer WAS
2 Clayton Kershaw LAD
3 Corey Kluber CLE
4 Chris Sale BOS
5 Stephen Strasburg WAS
6 Jacob DeGrom NYM
7 Carlos Carrasco CLE
8 Noah Syndergaard NYM
9 Luis Severino NYY
10 Zack Greinke ARI
11 Justin Verlander HOU
12 Madison Bumganer SF
13 Carlos Martinez STL
14 Yu Darvish FA
15 Masahiro Tanaka NYY
16 Aaron Nola PHI
17 Robbie Ray ARI
18 Chris Archer TB
19 Jose Quintana CHC
20 Jake Arrieta FA
21 James Paxton SEA
22 Zack Godley ARI
23 Luis Castillo CIN
24 Shohei Ohtani FA
25 David Price BOS
26 Sonny Gray NYY
27 Dallas Keuchel HOU
28 Marcus Stroman TOR
29 Luke Weaver STL
30 Rich Hill LAD
31 Alex Wood LAD
32 Brad Peacock HOU
33 Charlie Morton HOU
34 Jon Lester CHC
35 Gerrit Cole PIT
36 Michael Fulmer DET
37 Jeff Samardzija SF
38 Chase Anderson MIL
39 Danny Duffy KC
40 Trevor Bauer CLE
41 Kyle Hendricks CHC
42 Jose Berrios MIN
43 Jameson Taillon PIT
44 Dylan Bundy BAL
45 Lance McCullers HOU
46 Johnny Cueto SF
47 Garrett Richards LAA
48 Patrick Corbin ARI
49 Blake Snell TB
50 Mike Clevinger CLE

I won’t spend too much time on any real explanations at this point because as I mentioned these will change.  It’s clear on players who I love and are being undervalued like: Luis Castillo, Masahiro Tanaka, Aaron Nola, Zack Godley, Charlie Morton, Chase Anderson, and Mike Clevinger.  I already have sleeper posts on Castillo and Tanaka so you can bet I’ll have more coming out about the rest.  I should mention Ohtani but who the hell knows how things will work for him. If I’m ranking him as an SP only option I put him 24th.  His windup and throwing motion is almost identical to Darvish’s but he throws harder.  I think he’ll be very good but an innings limit of 150-160 is what I’m expecting, that’s why he doesn’t crack the top 20 in redrafts.

As far as SPs I’m not as high on include Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel, Alex Wood, Jon Lester, Gerrit Cole, and Lance McCullers.  I don’t like pitchers who throw a bunch of innings in the playoffs, it extends there innings (sometimes beyond where the club’s innings cap) and pitchers exert a lot more energy and throw much closer to their max velocities.  There will be some fatigue for some of the Astros and Dodger pitchers among others similar to what you saw this year with the Cubs.  Regarding Bumgarner, I don’t love how he looked after coming back from the injury and I just don’t feel he’s as dominant as the top 2 tiers.

 

Notorious D.I.D.i – One of “Brooklyn’s Finest” Fakers

Biggie Smalls had one of the best flows in the game.  His lyrics were top notch too and even though I have him a spot below Pac, I got nothin’ but love for ya.  Didi however, is not in the B.I.G.’s class, that park in Brooklyn  the Bronx though has made him into a star!  He’s what I’d call a Fortunate Son.

Steamer projects Didi Gregorious to hit 19 home runs in 2018 which is six less than he hit in 2017.  I agree with regression in general for Didi.  After some quick research (which didn’t actually require much) Didi has greatly benefited from hitting half his games in Yankee Stadium.  This is not new, left hand hitters have a significant advantage hitting at Yankee Stadium.  I mean, it’s 318 feet to the right field foul poll!  Below I’ve superimposed Didi’s home runs at both Yankee Stadium and Fenway (picking at random but also using a divisional opponent for context).

 

Basically, if he played all his games at Yankee Stadium in 2017, he would have 24 home runs but if he played all his games in Fenway, he’d have AT LEAST 10 LESS HRs!  Ok, well lucky for Didi, he doesn’t.  So he will benefit in half of his games with the way he swings the bat.  What else do you notice about this HR distribution?  They are all to right field.  Didi has no power the other way and doesn’t hit the ball hard enough to get it out in center field.  Here’s some statcast data: Gregorious averaged 377 feet on his 25 home runs in 2017.  It’s not hard to believe that he had the lowest average distance on home runs for players with at least 20 home runs in 2017.  The next closest player with over 20 HRs is Daniel Murphy; his average HR distance was 389 feet; 12 feet further by average!  Out of 291 players with at least 190 batted balls he ranks 213 out of 296 in Brls/PA and 261 in average exit velocity at 84.4 mph!  Those numbers are good enough to be sandwiched between Big Joe Panik (or as I call him BJP) and Cesar Hernandez.  He will luck into some HRs hooked down the line sure, but I think 14-16 is more in the cards for 2018.  Here’s a list of all of Didi’s HRs in 2017 with expected BA and wOBA values based on the how the ball was struck.  I’ve highlighted the six balls that had a much higher probability of being an out rather than a HR, but there are even more than that.  Yup, very lucky.

Enough about power, lets move on.  How about speed?  He doesn’t really have any.  His base running score is a plus but his speed score is terrible; in 2017 it was valued at 2.7 on a 0-10 scale.  His career high in steals is 7 and he had all of 3 in 2017.  Let’s say he gets up to 4 in 2018.  His approach at the plate is poor which is backed by career high O-swing% in 2017 at 40.8%.  That resulted in poor contact and a career high 11.4% SwStr.  Anymore career worsts?  I guess worsts is a word.  Anyways, the answer is yes, his Infield fly percentage was 15.5%, that’s not good friends.

The only thing he’s doing well is hitting and pulling more fly balls to take advantage of that short porch in right.  That’s great, but since he doesn’t hit the ball hard or far, any fly ball that isn’t right down the right field line is basically an out.  Therefore, I’m expecting BABIP regression even lower than his 2017 number of .287.  For 2018 I’ll give Didi: .257/.298 15 HR, 4 steal, 74 runs, 78 RBI.  His current Early ADP in mocks is around 100 overall.  A quick peek at xstats from 2017 has Didi’s expected triple slash at .257/.291/.401.  Looks like I’m pretty close here.  I wouldn’t take him in the top 200.  If you want better value at shortstop check out my Marcus Semien sleeper post.

 

 

Alex Wood Bust Post

Alex is not likely to give fantasy owners Wood in 2018.

Alex Wood had a great year in 2017, there’s no doubt about that.  It’s not as big of a surprise as you might think though.  Back in 2014, Wood posted nearly identical numbers in terms of ERA/FIP/xFIP, K and BB rates:

Season Age IP ERA FIP xFIP K% BB%
2013 22 77.2 3.13 2.65 3.18 23.6% 8.3%
2014 23 171.2 2.78 3.25 3.19 24.5% 6.5%
2015 24 189.2 3.84 3.69 3.90 17.4% 7.4%
2016 25 60.1 3.73 3.18 3.29 25.9% 7.8%
2017 26 152.1 2.72 3.32 3.34 24.6% 6.2%

So it’s not unprecedented, but the main differences are the win-loss record, BABIP and GB%.  Wood enjoyed a somewhat lucky .267 BABIP and 80% LOB in 2017 but for the most part, he earned his numbers.  So why am I expecting regression when his early ADPs indicate that he’ll be the 20th best SP in 2018 when he finished 10th in 2017?  Isn’t regression built into his 2018 ranking?  Yes, but I’d argue that not enough regression is built in.

Wood absolutely dominated in the first half going 10-0 with a 1.67 ERA and only 2 HRs given up in 80.2 innings!  That’s insane.  It gives you an idea on how pedestrian his 2nd half was to finish with the numbers he finished with above.  It wasn’t that he was unlucky in the 2nd half, his K rate drop from 10.8 to 6.8/9 and his BABIP and LOB% remained better than league average at .279 and 79.7% respectively.  He gave up more hard contact (10% increase) along with an increase in fly balls and as a result a huge bump in homeruns.  That huge bump was 13 HRs given up in 71.1 IP in the second half, good (bad) for 1.63 HR/9!  That’s scary.

This decline was directly related to his velocity dip from 93-94 mph in the first half to 90-91 in the second half.  Without his velocity on his fastball/sinker he turned into pre-2017 Charlie Morton.  I’ve broken down Contact % and SwStr% into 1st half starts (4/5/17 – 7/15/17) and 2nd half starts (7/21/17 – 9/26/17).

  Contact% SwStr%
4/5/17 – 7/15/17 71.7 13.6
7/21/17 – 9/26/17 80.5 9.4

For context if you’re ranking those numbers over the course of the entire 2017 season, the first half ranks: 6th and 7th respectively and the 2nd half ranks 37th and 40th out of 58 qualified starters.

I believe in the 2nd half more than the first half.  We can’t pretend that the first half didn’t happen but Wood is not an overpowering guy.  He’s not built like a work horse and had 2 DL stints in 2017 and has a poor injury history prior to 2017.  There are too many questions about durability and his second half to tell me that he’s a top 20 starter for 2018.

For 2018, I’ll give his: 11 W, 3.53 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 144 Ks in 155 IP. (Early Mocks ADP 93)

When healthy he may post top 25 SP numbers and he does limit walks but I wouldn’t count on 28-30 starts from Wood next year.  I can see the Dodgers limiting starters innings again in 2018 which could limit Wood’s win totals.  Don’t take him until after 125 overall.

Top 25 Hitter Projections 5×5 Using OBP

5×5 Using OBP in Place of AVG
RANK NAME POS Runs HRs RBI SB OBP
1 Mike Trout OF 114 40 108 23 0.429
2 Paul Goldschmidt 1B 96 32 97 16 0.410
3 Bryce Harper OF 103 34 98 7 0.408
4 Jose Altuve 2B 101 20 86 27 0.383
5 Joey Votto 1B 100 30 93 4 0.433
6 Freddie Freeman 1B/3B 101 35 98 7 0.394
7 Carlos Correa SS 94 32 105 10 0.380
8 Mookie Betts OF 102 27 89 24 0.366
9 Trea Turner SS 110 16 68 58 0.345
10 Nolan Arenado 3B 101 37 115 2 0.365
11 Giancarlo Stanton OF 102 47 112 2 0.364
12 Aaron Judge OF 95 45 98 8 0.371
13 Anthony Rizzo 1B/2B 100 32 103 7 0.382
14 George Springer OF 112 31 86 5 0.385
15 Charlie Blackmon OF 104 30 80 11 0.367
16 Alex Bregman SS/3B 100 26 82 14 0.365
17 Kris Bryant 3B/OF 105 31 84 5 0.377
18 J.D. Martinez OF 88 39 102 2 0.360
19 Francisco Lindor SS 102 27 89 18 0.350
20 Jose Ramirez 2B/3B 95 23 87 19 0.360
21 Cody Bellinger 1B/OF 89 40 100 9 0.344
22 Anthony Rendon 3B 94 24 80 6 0.402
23 Manny Machado 3B 98 35 95 9 0.335
24 Gary Sanchez C 80 33 93 2 0.332
25 Josh Donaldson 3B 95 35 90 4 0.365

I previously put up my top 25 hitter rankings for 2018 using average in place of OBP.  Personally I like OBP better, I’ve been playing in a lot of OBP leagues the last few years and it changes the game little.  Think back to when Adam Dunn was hitting .240 but also hitting 40 HRs and 100 RBI.  He was like a 5th rounder in standard 5×5 leagues, but using his .380-.390 OBP, he would have been a 2nd rounder.  The game has changed a little bit, more guys are hitting for more power, lower average and being more patient (like Dunn).  It’s all about getting on base.  I use to hate looking at the box score seeing my guy going 0-2 with 2 BB and getting nothing for it.

Ok, enough ranting!  Here are the biggest risers in terms of using OBP in place of AVG: Aaron Judge (10 spots), Joey Votto (8 spots), Freddie Freeman, Kris Bryant, and Josh Donaldson (all jumped 6 spots). Donaldson and Rendon were not ranked in my top 25 but have fantastic plate discipline boosting their OBPs.  Votto is a machine who is always one step ahead of the pitchers.  He’s likely to lead the league in OBP again possibly by a wide margin.  Freeman and KB are similar because they hit for a relatively high average but also walk at 12-15% clips elevating their OBPs.  Judge is different though.  I don’t project him to hit over .250 in 2018 but despite the high strikeout rate, he actually has a pretty good approach at the plate.  Pitcher’s don’t want him to beat them and he isn’t chasing like he was in 2016 and in the minors.  His upside combined with the ability to lessen the negative affects during a slump by taking walks, scoring runs and possibly stealing a few bags makes him a top 12 pick in OBP leagues.

The fallers include: Manny Machado (9 spots) and Francisco Lindor (7 spots).  A few others dropped a couple spots, but not enough to talk about.  Dee Gordon and Jose Abreu dropped out of the top 25.   Both Lindor and Machado are great, they make a ton of quality contact without striking out much and I’d love to have them in my leagues.  The problem is the lack of patience, more so with Machado than Lindor.  Machado had a terribly poor and unlucky first half but turned in around hitting .290 15 HR, 48 RBI and 5 steals in only 73 games in the 2nd half.  That’s great!  Then look at his BB rate at 5.8% and a .326 OBP, he goes from a top 10-15 hitter to top 25 hitter with that low OBP.

More projections are coming.  I’ll be focusing on pitching next.