Will Byron Buxton Go 20/40 in 2018?

Expectations for Byron Buxton have been through the roof ever since he was drafted second overall by the Minnesota Twins in the 2012 draft. As he moved relatively quickly through the minors, the hype surrounding Buxton in 2015 was similar to that of Ronald Acuna coming into 2018. Buxton had never displayed significant power in the minor leagues (but it certainly was far from non-existent), many thought it would develop in his long lean body. What was clear is that Buxton was an elite athlete with high end speed. The long term projections of 30/30, 20/40 or even 30/40 were out there. Then his call up came during the summer of 2015… It did not not go well to say the least.

Buxton would be bounced between AAA and the majors in 2016 and never really got on track. He did finish strong but then 2017 started with a thud. This time, he was not sent back down, the Twins stuck with him, mostly due to his incredible defensive work in center. He was much better in the second half going .300/.347/.546 with 11 HR and 13 steals. His final line was still not all that impressive at .253/.314./.413 with 16 HR and 29 steals. Many critics claim it was the easy schedule in the second half that propelled Buxton much like the rest of the Twins roster; others say the second half is more of what Buxton is and will be. So which is he? Can he ever reach 30/40? I’ll set the sights a little lower and see if Buxton can reach 20/40 in 2018.

Let’s start with speed. Since the Statcast era began in 2015, Buxton has recorded the fastest sprint speed in both 2016 and 2017. The guys below him are Billy Hamilton, Dee Gordon, and Jarrod Dyson. Ok, so those are the best base stealers in the game. There’s a lot more to stealing bases than speed, there’s: how fast the pitcher is to the plate, catcher’s pop time, arm/accuracy, and of course the jump the runner gets. Buxton hasn’t reached the stolen base totals of the others on the list but he’s clearly fast enough and in his 30 attempts last year he was caught only once! In fact, hes 41 for 46 in the majors which is an d89% success rate!

To figure out how Buxton can get to 40 steals in 2018, I averaged the stels per plate appearance for all players with a minimum of 29.5 mph sprint speed since 2015 (these are the elite speed guys). It comes out to 0.0695 steals/PA. Last year Buxton was at 0.0568 steals/PA, so he’s below the average but it’s because he didn’t attempt enough steals. He also has had below average OBP. The average OBP for all the players in my study is .320. We aren’t talking about Joey Votto here but it proves you don’t need elite on base skills to steal (of course it helps though). Buxton was below that but at .314 he should have been able to run a little more.

Next we will look into his plate appearances. He only had 511 PA in 140 games and usually batted at the bottom of the order. Now, that may not change, but I think he will play more than 140 games. If he averages 3.8 PA/game in 150 games, that’s 570 PA for 2018. Let’s assume some positive regression in terms of OBP up to a reasonable .325 and given his success rate on the base paths, he should be granted the green light. Between the additional PA, OBP, and attempts, I think he can get over 45-50 attempts. An 80% success rate at 50 attempts gets him to 40 steals on the nose. To verify, let’s check the numbers. What will his SB total be if he improves on his SB/PA to meet the average of the top speed guys we mentioned in the previous paragraph. That average of 0.0695 SB/PA puts him at 39.6 steals in 570 PA. Let’s call it 40 steals. Ok, we are half way there!

Now to the power. Well the 16 he hit in 2017 isn’t too far off of 20 and we know Buxton is already getting an additional 59 PA from our projections. At a HR every 31 PA, that gives Buxton two more HR, can we just call it 20? Not so fast, let’s take a look a little depeer into his numbers. There were improvements in both K% and BB% in 2017 for Buxton which were backed by higher contact% and SwStr%. Still his 29.4% K rate is pretty atrocious. Let’s focus on the positive, the improvement of nearly 1.5% SwStr and 5% in K% from 2016 to 2017 show growth and optimism for that of a young player. Look at Kris Bryant and George Springer, both cut their K rates from near 30% to under 20% in less than three seasons. In the second half, Buxton cut is K% to 27.6%. Do I think he can be below 25% in 2018… No. But, the 27.6% in the second half is close to what I will project for 2018.

Consider Buxton’s batted ball profile and his 1st/2nd half splits: Fly ball% increased by 3% while cutting IFFB% by 6% and Hard hit % increased by 5%. What does it all mean? Well, it partially backs his 20% HR/FB in the second half. Not only did he hit more fly balls, but he hit them at a higher quality, that combined with a decrease in K rate means more balls in play and more home runs.  He did change his approach losing the leg kick and getting more contact. Check out Paul Sporer’s take on him at fangraphs. The problem is the increase in HH% went up to only 30% which is still below average. His average EV is 85 mph and his Brls/PA was a measly 3.5%. The only silver lining is that his average HR distance in 2017 was 403 feet.

Finally, the projection. I mentioned the 570 PA and the 27.6% K rate. I didn’t mention the BB rate or the FB%. His BB rate looks to go down (slightly) due to his increase in swing% and contact rate, I’l project at 7.0% down from 7.4%. I like his FB approach and based on the second half of 2017 and his minor league track record, I expect an increase to about 41% FB. Based on another slight improvement on hard contact, I can see Buxton maintaining a 14% HR/FB ratio which he achieved in 2017. After crunching the numbers, I come up with 21 home runs for Buxton and a 21/40 season!

Wow that would be a hell of a season if he could pull that off. So we proved that Buxton “could” go 20/40, the question of “will” Buxton go 20/40 is still out there. I proved he could do it if he makes positive progress in all facets of his offensive game along with health. All of that is very difficult to do. The answer to the title above for me is: no. My actual projections have him reaching the 20 HR mark but I don’t see improvements in BA, OBP and while I do see him attempting more steals, I’d expect a regression in the success rate of Buxton limiting him to around 30-32 steals in something closer to 40 attempts in 2018. That’s still a solid season but for me I need to see more improvement and consistency from Buxton in 2018 to project 20/40. The approach change and progress along with youth give me optimism for Buxton in the future. If his speed ages well,  he cuts the strikeouts below 25%, and muscles up a bit more in his late 20s, I could see a 30/40 season in Buxton’s future.

For 2018, I just don’t think I’m ready to make the jump for Buxton in the top 50. Id prefer A.J Pollock or Whit Merrifield to Buxton because Buxton is likely to be a BA drain and the strikeouts mean additional risk. Plus he will end up costing you more at the draft table.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.