Starting Pitchers to Stream – Week 9

Back for another edition of streamers with candidates in Yahoo/ESPN leagues owned in 25% and under per FantasyPros.com. Now that we are 1/3 of the way through the season, small ample sizes start to go out the window. Last week I had a tough time choosing streamers as the options were limited so I ended up with three pitchers last week: Trevor Cahill, Ross Stripling, and Daniel Mengden. I don’t usually brag but I was more than impressed with the results from these three pitchers. I hope you stuck with me after a tough week 7, but here were the results:

2 Wins, 0.79 ERA, 0.62 WHIP and 18 Ks in 22.3 IP

No, those are not typos, Stripling and Mengden were ridiculous and Cahill fared well above average. I’ve got more options this week, unfortunately Stripling’s ownership has tripled and he’s over 25% owned in most leagues.

Marco Gonzales (SEA) 7% vs TEX at home Monday 5/28 & Home v TB Sunday 6/3
Two starts from Gonzales this week against below average opponents at home. Gonzales had some incredibly unlucky numbers early in the season but he’s started to turn things around in recent weeks. His BABIP is still at .352 so there’s still some regression there. He probably won’t get you a ton of strikeouts but he limits walks and gets a bunch of ground balls. The Rangers offensively ranks 22nd against lefties and has a 26% K rate as a team. The Rays aren’t as inept against lefties but since it’s a home start, I’m rolling with both starts. STREAM x 2.

Caleb Smith (MIA) 25% Away vs SD, Monday 5/28
Another lefty! Smith has seemingly come out of nowhere to become fantasy relevant. His strikeout rate is great, but his walk rate is terrible. I’ve seen him compared to Robbie Ray, so that can be good and bad. The Padres offense ranks 24th against lefties with a near 26% K rate. The Padres have a ton of young, free swingers so I believe Smith will limit walks and pile up the strikeouts. STREAM

Dan Straily (MIA) 6% Away v SD, Tuesday 5/29
Straily somehow has managed a 3.12 ERA to date with a 17% K rate and a 15.8% BB rate. His FIP is an unsightly 6.22 and he’s carrying a .200 BABIP and a 90% LOB. The match-up is good but Straily isn’t missing enough bats and did I mention his 49% hard contact against? No? Well, that’s terrible. This one is too risky, Straily is a ticking time bomb.  I could see Straily giving up 2-3 HR in this one. STAY AWAY.

Daniel Mengden (OAK) 23% v TB, Thursday 5/31
Do you realize Mengden’s ERA is below 3.00 this season? Yeah, pretty crazy. He’s not completely doing it with smoke and mirrors but a 16.2% K rate doesn’t provide much confidence. However, his 2.3% BB rate is pretty fantastic. Plus he has an 80-grade mustache, so there’s that. In all seriousness, Mengden is NOT a sub-3.00 ERA pitcher, he might not even be a sub-4.00 ERA but he’s using his meh stuff at an elite level, if that makes sense. His first pitch strike percentage is great and his secondary stuff is above average. Limiting home runs and walking nobody doesn’t hurt. He’s going to turn into a pumpkin at some point but I’m willing to bet he handles Tampa Bay next week. I’m on board for at least one more. STREAM

Jordan Lyles (SD) 19% Home vs MIA, Thursday 5/31
The Miami Marlins are hitting .230 as a team with a pathetic .112 ISO and a league worst .284 wOBA! That’s like rolling out an entire team comprised of Alcides Escobars. Yes, Jordan Lyles has a 5.34 career ERA but he was very young with the Astros and also pitched in Colorado. Let’s not hold that against the 27-year-old. This year, he’s got decent strikeout and walk rates but has been very lucky in terms of BABIP. He does give up too many fly balls but has career highs in SwStr, F-Strike%, and Z-Contact. I’m not buying into Lyles as a 12-team viable starts but in 15+ team leagues, I’d own him. For this start against the Marlins, I’d be all over it. STREAM

Trevor Cahill (OAK) 23% vs KC, Friday, June 1
Let’s see how many Oakland and Miami starters we can get on this list! Look, they both have soft AF schedules while the Astros test their skills against the Yankees and Red Sox, the Athletics get to feast on the Rays and Royals. The issue I’m having with Cahill is the Royals don’t strike out. As a team, their collective K rate is under 19%, which is 0.6% less than the next lowest team (the Pirates). The Royals also don’t walk and are in the bottom 10 in wOBA. Cahill is getting ground balls 60% of the time and his change and sinker have been decent. Hitters are chasing and he’s getting swings and misses. I like Cahill to go 6 IP with a handful of Ks and a bunch of ground outs. I’d STREAM

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Weekly Rundown – Bye-Bye Hanley Hello Moreland

So, Hanley Ramirez was DFA’ed by the Red Sox yesterday. He is due $15 Million if the Red Sox can’t find a trade partner.  Ramirez was 0 for his last 20 prior to being released but there could be more to the story. If I’m an owner in a shallow league, he’s gone but if I’m in a 15-team league or deeper, I’m holding until I know where he lands (and hopefully that happens soon).  This helps J.D. Martinez move to DH more often and gives Mitch Moreland more playing time. I’d pick up Moreland as a flyer, he’s hit 2 bombs in the last 2 games.

HOT Hitters
Remember how Mike Trout had a slow week in last week’s rundown? It was written is jest because we all know Mike Trout doesn’t slump. He takes a quick break and reals of 3 homers and 4 steals in a week. Trout must be getting jealous of all the Mookie Betts talk and now with 15 homers and 12 steals through 50 games and is on pace for 48 HR and 38 SB. Is that good?

Gleyber Torres has largely been regarded by scouts as a great MLB prospect but the fantasy community was luke warm on him. The buzz was all over Ronald Acuna and recently Juan Soto and for good reason. All Torres has done has hit 6 homers in the past seven days while driving in 12 runs and hitting .348. In this current home run culture, it’s difficult to predict how well a player’s minor league power production will translate to the big leagues. At this point, I’m adding about 30% on to whatever the projection system tells us. Torres looks like a top 12 player at the position ROS.

Jesus Aguilar has taken advantage of the Eric Thames and Ryan Braun injuries by blasting 4 homers and driving in 9 runs in the last seven days. Aguilar is 27 years old and has always had power, but struggled in 2017 with strikeouts. He’s below a 23% K rate this year. He doesn’t have great plate discipline, but has improved on his contact rate from last year. Braun is back but I would continue to own Aguilar until further notice. His average should drop, but he’s hitting a ton of valuable fly balls and hitting the ball harder than ever.

Don’t look now but Alex Bregman is getting hot in May. Sound familiar? Well, he didn’t hit his first homer until mid-May last year. He’s hitting .400 with 2 HR and 2 SB this past week. Bregman’s batted ball profile is almost identical to 2017 except he’s hitting the ball little harder; that’s good! You know what’s even better? He’s walking at a 14.6% clip and striking out at an 11.4% clip. You read that right, his O-Swing is below 20%, which is elite, and his contact rate is nearly 88%, also elite. Little Breggy is about to go nuts the remaining four months and I’m buying everywhere (but you should have bought him on draft day).

Another prospect, Austin “Dewy” Meadows has been raking. We all have prospect fatigue with Meadows because he wasn’t great at age 22. Come on guys, prospect growth is not linear. Say it with me, JK, don’t. The kid is hitting .440 with 3 bombs and a steal since the call up. Obviously, super small sample but his exit velocity has been great and he’s making a ton of contact. He’s not a BUY yet, but I’d be holding him during this hot streak. Marte is back so wait to see how the playing time shakes out between Meadows and Polanco.

Jose Rondon has 2 homers and 2 steals in only 4 games this past week. Wait, who the hell is Jose Rondon? Is he a cross between Jose Ramirez and Hector Rondon? Does he throw 95 but also hit a billion extra-base hits? No, he’s actually a middle infielder for the White Sox. He’s hot right now, but has below average power and plate discipline, so you can move along once he cools off or starts seeing the bench.

Ronald “McDonald” Guzman is hitting .368 with 4 homers and 8 RBI in the last seven days plus he’s serving up double quarter pounders and Big Macs! Busy week. This is his second hot streak this year but I don’t expect it to last. His 23.4% HR/FB with a 31% hard contact rate will not last. He hits a ton of popups and strikeout too much, nothing to see here.

Hot Pitchers
I think people are leaving Jacob deGrom off of the list of best pitchers in the game. In his last 2 starts he’s given up 1 ER and struck of 21 batters in only 14 IP. This is his best season yet as he approaches 30, his K rate has risen the last 3 seasons while his walk rate remains stable. His velocity is great, he is inducing a career high IFFB%, and has 3 great pitches. He’s the only contender to Max Scherzer for the NL Cy Young, That’s right, no one else matters!

Ross Stripling or as I call him “The Stripler” has been strilpling batters of hits in his last two starts. He somehow has 19 Ks in his last 12.2 IP with only 1 ER and 2 W. Should you buy into this? Could you use a near 11 K/9 and a sub 2 BB/9, then yes, absolutely BUY! Most of Stripling’s numbers are legit, his soft contact is over 20% and he’s inducing a ton of popups. His fastball isn’t great but his slider and curve are very effective. The K rate may drop a little bit but his command and skills are solid.

Mmmm, what’s that smell? That’s the sweet aroma of Blake Snell who’s gone 14 IP, 2 ER 16 Ks and 2 W in his last 2 starts. I really wish I owned him everywhere and I’m surprised I don’t because I wrote a sleeper post on him coming into the year. Did you know Snell is averaging over 96 mph on his fastball and has 3 plus pitches? That fastball is up 1.5 mph from last year and his SwStr bump justifies the 9+K/9. His walk rate is down over 2%, there’s no reason Snell shouldn’t post a sub-3.50 ERA. Owners should enjoy the profit.

Tyson Ross took a few years off to help make chicken, but he’s back and looks like vintage Ross. I always thought his little brother Joe would be great, buuuut that hasn’t happened, so we will settle for big Tyson. In his last 12.2 IP, Ross has 2 W, 11 K 3 ER. He’s probably not going to boost your K rate; yes I know it’s currently over 9.5/9 but he’s got a high walk rate and his zone% is 37%. I think walks will be an issue and as the strikeouts go down, we may see some blowups. Either that or his arm falls off with a 44% slider%. I’d try and sell him as a top 35 SP.

Michael Wacha has seemed to right to ship after alternating good and bad starts. He’s strung together 4 very good starts capped off with his last two where he went 12.2 IP with 14 K, 3 ER 11 H+BB. That’s great but a 21.4% K rate and a 9% walk rate along with a 40% ground ball rate doesn’t get me excited. He’s done all that with a reduction in HR%. I think the HR rate jumps up and when that does, the walks wiil really come back to bite him. Oh, did I mention his velocity is down over 1 mph from last year? No, well I’d be selling. I think he should be rostered in 12 team and deeper leagues, but he’s not a top 40 SP.

The Dylan Bundy roller coaster ride continues. He has been good in his last two starts after being basically the worst pitcher in baseball for three straight starts. It’s all about Bundy’s fastball as to whether or not he will be sucessful. If he fastball has good command and his veloicty is over 92 mph, he can twirl gems like he did against the Chi-Sox. I understand that t was the White Sox and they are terrible, but I like what I’ve seen the last couple of starts. I’m trustung him until he crushes me again.

Freezing Hitters
Nelson Cruz is coming off an elbow injury where he missed a couple of games but he’s 2/14 in his last 5 games with no homers and 1 RBI. He’s not striking out more but he is walking less and his chase rate and swinging strike rates are both up which verifies those numbers. He’s also been hitting the ball into the ground more and popping it up a bit more. Again, he’s been dealing with injuries, so it’s certainly possible he bounces right back once he’s healthy. Then again, he’s also about to turn 38, so once he’s at that cliff, it’s a steep drop. I’m holding or trying to buy low right now though.

CJ Cron was one of my highlighted players last week as he was King Cron. Now it seems like he suffers from Cron’s disease. Ok, sorry for the off-color joke. Here’s the thing with Cron, he strikes out over 25% of the time and walks less than 6% of the time. He is hitting the ball a little harder but hits too many popups. He also isn‘t pulling the ball at a high rate so I dont believe he keeps up this home run pace. He’s probably a .260 hitter with 25 home runs.

Anthony Rendon is 6 for his last 26 with no homers, no RBI, no steals and one run. The production isn’t there but hitting in the middle of the Nationals lineup should provide plenty of opportunities. His approach is just fine, he’s walking almost as much as he’s striking out and he’s hitting the ball harder than last year. His BABIP and HR/FB should go up, I’d be buying if there’s an opportunity.

Xander Bogaerts is 2 for his last 18 after a scorching start to the season. He’s barreled nearly 15% of his batted balls which is fantastic. He’s just had a tough week, but should be just fine going forward. The only thing that concerns me a little bit, and I mean a very little bit, is his increased K rate and decreased BB rate. He’s chasing a little more out of the zone and his contact% is around 77% which is about league average. Nothing too crazy but if that continues he may be prone to a few more cold streaks than usual.

Rhys Hoskins is 3 for his last 27 with a HR and a double. This is not a week long slump, it’s been the entire month. This is not skill based, it’s more about making adjustments. He had a similar 3 week stretch to finish 2017, so I am hopeful he can get it back. He needs to get his timing back. It’s interesting because his high drive% (best type of batted balls per xStats) is double league average and his poor hit% is below league average. He’s been a bit unlucky in the power department. It’s the strikeout rate which is timing based and not skills based as I mentioned earlier.

Freezing Pitchers
Zack Godley was absolutely demolished last time out with a 16.20 ERA and a 3.90 WHIP! I mean, if the WHIP was his ERA that would be ok I guess. Anyways, his outing before than was good, but 3 of his last 4 have been bad so color me concerned. Let’s see, velocity is down, barrels against are up, and ground balls are down (but not literally, his GB% his lower than last year). His Z-Contact is 92% right now which is very, very bad. If you’re in a 10 team league, he’s a drop, but in deeper leagues, keep him on your bench and see if he can turn it around.

Sean Manaea looks completely lost and he’s really had one good start since his no-hitter. What’s going on here? Well, if you remember, at the time of the no-hitter Manaea had a 100% LOB rate with a sub .150 BABIP. You had to know that wasn’t sustainable, right? RIght? He’s currently at a much more reasonable 74% LOB rate and a .225 BABIP which still may regress. I think Manaea is a 3.75 ERA guy, which is fine, so I’d hold him right now.

Rick Porcello started the year off like he was the 2016 Cy Young, HAHAHA. Yeah what a joke, but he’s been very bad recently. Bad is probably an understatement as he’s given up 19 runs and 17 ER in his last 4 starts. Sure, the BABIPs have been high in those starts but the walks have been up as well. Early in the season, he wasn’t walking anyone. Ok, so it doesn’t sound like I’m endorsing Porcello but I am. His GB% is nearly 50%, his soft contact against is over 22%, and his contact% has dipped under 80% for the first time in his career. I’m buying Porcello.

Julio Teheran has come back down to earth unlike his HR/9! Ohhhhh BURNNN!. His 4.20 ERA should go up even more in my opinion. His K rate is bad his walk rate is high, he’s giving up more than 1.5 HR/9. There’s literally nothing to like here. His average fastball is down below 90 mph. If you rode him early on and dropped him a couple weeks ago, that’s great for you. If you still own him, I’m sorry, you need to drop him and move on.

Lucas Giolito oh my goodness! He gave up 7 ER in 1.1 IP his last time out. Would you believe me if I told you his BB rate is 4% MORE than his K rate? He’s last among qualified starters with a 7.53 ERA and he hasn’t even been unlucky. If anything, he’s been lucky, his BABIP is .266 and his HR/FB is only 8.6%! LOL He actually could get worse. It looks like the White Sox will have to take the loss on this one. At least Reynaldo Lopez is pitching well. One out of two ain’t bad.

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Starting Pitchers to Stream 5/21 – 5/27

Another dominate start from Pivetta going 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 11K. I believe I’ve streamed him three times, but safe to say he won’t drop below the 25% threshold for the rest of the season. He’s needs to be much closer to 100% owned. Some good, some bad last week but we still Anderson going today against the Giants today so hopefully we can grab a third win this week. So far here are the numbers this past week: 2 W, 4.13 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 31 K in 28 ⅓ IP. Kind of meh, but the strikeouts are nice. Here’s the season stats thus far on the streamers I’ve selected:

8 W, 3.26 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 170 K in 179 ⅔ IP; now those are solid, stick with the plan. Ok, let’s get to the streamers for 5/21 through 5/27.

Trevor Cahill (OAK) 15% Home vs SEA Tuesday 5/22
Cahill returned from the DL last week after missing only one start and performed better than expected against the Boston Betts. He gets a Cano-less Mariners and Cruz has been banged up as well. The lineup is actually still solid with Seager, Healy and Segura hitting well but I like what Cahill is doing by throwing more change-ups and throwing less sinkers. His change-up is his best pitch, it’s allowing only a 0.091 batting average with a 45% whiff rate. He’s getting even more ground balls than last year and as long as he doesn’t elevate his sinker, he should go 6-7 innings with a strikeout per inning and good ratios. STREAM

Vincent Velasquez (PHI) 19% Home vs ATL Tuesday 5/22
So VV allowed a couple of home runs in his last outing but he also struck out 12! His best pitch is his fastball but he can get whiffs on just about all of his pitches. The dilemma with Velasquez is if the fastball is off, it’s really off. He’s already given up 6 home runs off the pitch but an average exit velocity against of only 88 mph. He’s already seen the Braves twice and hasn’t fared well at home. I get that he could rip off 10 Ks and a win, but I don’t think he’s worth the risk against the many very good Braves hitters. STAY AWAY

Luiz Gohara (ATL) 7% Away vs PHI Wednesday 5/23
With Soroka going on the DL, the Braves are giving Gohara a spot start. I liked Gohara coming into the year but the ankle injury prevented a rotation spot to start the season. Gohara has been used out of the pen and will face a Phillies offense on the road this week. His slider is great and he throws his fastball at 94-95 mph. He was stretched out to start in the minors but hasn’t started a game in over 2 weeks. His slider usage out of the pen has been 50% and I don’t see that happening in this start. I see limited upside in this one with a 5 inning maximum. I’m playing it safe for this start and STAYING AWAY. Note: I do like Gohara long term, keep an eye on him, if he gets more regular starts, I’d scoop him up.

Ross Stripling (LAD) 6% Home vs SD Friday 5/25
Well Rich Hill is out again (surprise)! He left after throwing only two pitches in Friday’s start, so it’s clear that Stripling will remain in the rotation, especially after dominating the Nationals with 1 ER and 9 Ks in 6 IP. How has he been so successful? Well his slider is very good and his change and curve have also registered as plus pitches. He throws those three pitches 63% of the time. He’s only had 3 ball barreled against him this year and an avg exit velocity against of 84 mph! He’s also possesses good control and a solid ground ball rate. Throw in a home start against a poor Padres team and boom, easy street. Stripling is my stream of the week STREEEEEEAM!

Daniel Mengden (OAK) 8% Home vs ARI Saturday May 26
Mengden has been a solid if unspectacular streamer thus far and has only given up 4 ER in his last three starts. It’s not like he’s doing it against cupcakes either, he’s faced Boston, Houston, and the Orioles. He doesn’t get a ton of strikeouts and his fastball isn’t good. He does do a great job with his off-speed and breaking pitches keeping hitters off balance. I’d like to see the fastball usage go below 50% but we are talking about a pitcher owned in less than 10% of leagues. I like the home start against the Diamondbacks without their best hitter in Pollock (yeah I said it). If he keeps the ball in the yard he could go 7 or more innings with decent ratios. STREAM.

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Weekly Rundown – King Cron & Macahdo Man

HOT HITTERS
Willson Contreras is finally heating up. I saw somewhere that in only four games he jumped from a .230 average and .669 OPS to a .281 average and an .868 OPS. A reminder that we are still in the small(ish) sample portion of the season. I may be cheating a bit because I’m including his two-homer game on 5/11 but he’s got 3 HR, 5 runs, and 11 RBI in the last 7 games he’s played.

C.J. Cron has been on fire and is sticking it to his old team by hitting .353 4 HR, 6 RBI, and throwing in a steal in the last seven days. King Cron was never given a full time job with the Angels and he’s making the most of his playing this with the Rays. Nothing in his profile screams regression, he is swinging and missing a little less and hitting a few more fly balls. However, his hard contact is down a bit and his .325 BABIP might be a touch high, so keep expectations in check.

The often injured Michael Brantley is starting to turn heads again with 3 homers and 10 RBI while hitting nearly .400 this past week. His K% is a crazy low 7.1% for the season! He’s also hitting the ball harder and in the air a little bit more. Putting the ball in play as often as he does with above average exit velocity basically gives him a floor of .290-.300 average with moderate power. It all comes down to health with Brantley, but ride this one out while you can. Buy him at a reasonable cost knowing the injury downside.

Brandon Belt makes his second appearance on this rundown because he’s killing baseballs and has 4 bombs this past week. Does anyone remember when Belt and Freeman were coming up, they were being compared to each other. Well until now, Freeman made a joke of that comparison and we may finally be getting peak Brandon Belt. Better late than never I guess. This is real and I’m buying but health (concussions specifically) is the concern with belt.

Manny Machado is making people forget about his .265 BABIP from 2017 and is tied with Mookie for the league lead in home runs with 14 and leads in RBI with 42. He’s also walking more and striking out less. This is more of who Machado is than what he did in 2017, but I actually think his .344 average is unsustainable based on his profile. But anything can happen because his .265 BABIP in 2017 also shouldn’t have been sustainable. Either way, I think he’s a .300 hitter with 35-40 HR upside and should smash his previous career high RBI of 96.

Khris Davis is quietly going about his business bashing 3 HR and 6 RBI in the last seven days. It’s not that he’s even been that hot, he’s already got 13 bombs on the season. Owners might roll their eyes at his .233 batting average but that’s driven by a low BABIP (even for KD). This is guy is like clockwork, you can always count n 40 HR and 100 RBI. He’s striking out a little less this year and I think he’s got a shot at 45 HR and 110 RBI with a .250 AVG.

Nick Goodrum is hitting .444 with 3 homers and 7 RBI in the past week. Where did this come from? i don’t care because I like good rum! Goodrum is 26 years old with almost no MLB experience prior to this year. The power does seem developing as he had moderate power in the minors. He does swing and miss a lot and typically very aggressive. I expect the walk rate to drop a bit and the K rate to sit around 30%. Ride this hot streak but can cut bait once he cools off.

I’ll close with the current AL MVP Mookie Betts (I heart).  He’s decided to stop hitting home runs in favor of stealing bases. He has an incredible 7 steals in a six game stretch including 3 on Thursday night! I’m convinced that Mookie will go 40/40, I tweeted about it over a week ago. He’s that good, if Mookie wants to go 40/40, he will do it. Oh an he homered last night for good measure.

HOT Pitchers
Justin Verlander has been the best pitcher in baseball since his trade to the Astros late last season. He reach 2,500 strikeouts last week by striking out Shohei Ohtani. That’s quite a milestone and I suspect he will reach 3,000 Ks by 2020. There’s not much more to say, if you grabbed Verlander outside of the top 10 SPs, good for you!

Charlie Morton (I promise these aren’t all Astros), has been damn good! If he wasn’t a high injury risk I’d rank him inside the top 12 overall for pitchers. Morton has gone 14 IP 2 ER 22 Ks in his last 2 starts. Yup, Morton is an Ace, deal with it. I don’t like the Win stat but it counts in fantasy and he’s 6-0. He might be a tad lucky in terms of BABIP and LOB% but he’s been unlucky with a 20%HR/FB. He’s also averaging 97.2 mph on his fastball, that’s up a tick from last year, he’s insane!

Luke Weaver started to have me a little concerned but he did turn a very good outing this past week and has only given up 1 ER in his last 12 IP. His SwStr% and contact against is very close to what he did in the 2nd half of 2017 so I’m starting to think the 10 K/9 was a bit overblown. He’s probably more of an 8.0 to 8.5 K/9 guy. His velo is up a tick and he’s inducing more IFFB, so that’s great but I’m not trusting him 100% of the time yet.

Andrew Heaney threw an absolute unexpected gem against the defending Champion Astros going 8 IP, 1ER, 4H, 1BB, 10K. That’s a pretty line and he gets the start today against the Rays and you should grab him for that start and hold him. His 21.4% K-BB is near elite and he’s been BABIP’d a bit with an unlucky LOB%. I expect his 3.93 ERA to drop and he’s a must own in 12 team leagues and deeper. There’s a big injury risk here and a possible innings cap, but ride this out while you can.

Kyle Freeland has quietly strung together a couple great starts with 13 IP, 9 H, 1 ER, 11 K. Is he worth a pickup? Well, I kind of believe he is, do you realize he has a 3.17 ERA and a near 50% ground ball rate? His K% is up 7% from 2017 and his fastball’s pitch value is ranked 6th in all of baseball right between Morton and Nola. Remember, he was a highly touted prospect and went 8th overall in the 2014 draft. I still don’t trust him against good hitting teams in Coors but he’s worth a look on the road.

Freezeing Hitters
Mike Trout on the freezing hitter list, BLASPHEMY. It’s true though, Mr. Trout has gone 2 for his last 23 with 1 HR (last night) and 1 SB. Is anyone concerned? No, I didn’t think so. Trout will be just fine, maybe his feelings are hurt because there’s talk of Mookie as the AL MVP. As great as Betts has been, I’m still taking Trout ROS, he’s somehow making more contact this year, so we could see a career year from Trout this year. I’m sure no Trout owner is panicking, there’s no selling and or buying opportunity here, move along.

Paul Goldschmidt on the other hand is a whole different can of worms? Ball of wax? Situation, there we go. Goldy hasn’t only been struggling this past week, it’s basically been all season. I wrote an in depth article on Goldy, take a look here! Basically, he can’t hit at home, he can’t hit righties, he’s striking out more, and he’s not hitting the ball as hard. So, any Goldschmidt owner is not going to get a good return on their investments. I’d sell him for a top 25-30 player if you can. Check out my write up

Nomar Mazara was on the hot list last week and now has gone 5/26 with no homers and 1 RBI. I mentioned that Mazara had made some positive changes but still lacks significant power upside due to his limited fly ball approach. Nothing’s changed, it’s the ebbs and flows of the season and with his decent contact rate, he should provide a solid average with 25 or so homers this season.

Didi Gregorius is now on here for the second straight week. Where did all the Didi backers go? HELLO, ARE YOU THERE? He’s gone 1 for his last 17 and the Yankees have even starting sitting him for a game or two trying to get him right. I guess when you perform head and shoulders above your talent, this is what happens. I’m kidding obviously, but here’s what I see, the BABIP is extremely low, that’s going to come up. He’s still walking more and his K rate is fine. A HR/FB around 12-15% is what you should expect ROS. So is he goes .260-25-85 will you be disappointed as an owner?

Marcell Ozuna is 3 for his last 25 with no home runs. I also could have written about Altuve but I want to do a deep dive on Jose later this month or in early June. Back to Ozuna, with only 3 HR and 8 XBH this season gives me cause for concern. This was supposed to be a middle of the order power bat. Instead he’s hitting under 30% fly balls and has a 50% ground ball rate. He’s never been a big fly ball guy and he’s actually hitting the ball harder this year. I think his BABIP goes up and he can still hit 25-28 HR. I’d be buying his from a frustrated owner for cheap and holding if I was an owner.

Dee Gordon hasn’t stolen a base this past week and is only hitting .161 the last seven days. Obviously Speedy Dee (no one calls him that) needs to get on base to steal, and I don’t see anything that will prevent him from this in the near future. The suspension to Cano is a concern for runs but if Haniger, Seager, or Healy can step up in his place, I wouldn’t be all that concerned, you got him for steals and he will get you plenty of them. Stick with Dee.

Freezing Pitchers
Oh hi there Kevin Gausman! Just when he was giving owners some confidence in starting him, he rips your heart out. He’s given up 8 ER in his last 12 IP but it’s come with a .358 average against. That’s not sustainable. What is sustainable is Gausman being inconnsistent. I can’t recommend him unless you really want an ulcer. Watch, next time he’ll throw complete game shutout. That’s the Gaus-Man.

Sonny Gray owners need to cut bait if they haven’t already. His velocity is fine so there probably isn’t an injury but his walks are way up, hard contact is up, and his strikeouts are down. Long hot summer nights in Yankee Stadium are not going to be kind to Gray. Don’t let your ego get in the way, there’s a lot better options on the wire.

Danny Duffy may have had one too many Duff Beers before he gets on the mound to pitch. Sorry, that was a low blow. Duffy should not be owned, I hope owners have moved on from Duffy, there’s something wrong, his velocity is down (similar to last year when he struggled) and his slider is trash. There could be some human factors at play here. He may need a DL stint or some time off before we can think about even streaming him.

Ugh, Drew Pomeranz is not very good this year. HR are up, walks are up, ground balls are down (literally), and hard contact is up. I’m sure owners have moved on but he’s probably hurt. His velocity is down over 2 mph and his curve ball has been bad. I wouldn’t be surprised if he hit the DL in the next week or so. He’s a safe drop.

Jason Hammel, how are you still in the league. Hammel hasn’t been effective since the first half of 2016 with the Cubs. He’s usually a first-half pitcher, and now, he’s not. Nothing to see here, don’t even think about streaming him.

So Chad Bettis has come back down huh? I think we all saw that coming. He can safely be dropped and forgotten about. I mean it, don’t even think about streaming him in the future, he’s not good. No strikeouts, too many walks, too many extra base hits. Leave him be.

Mining for Goldschmidt and Coming Up Empty

Paul Goldschmidt has been a fantasy stalwart for the better part of six seasons. His 162-game average is .295/106/30/106/20. There’s something satisfying about Goldy having the same number of runs and RBI but also the clean 30 HR, 20 SB average. That 162-game average is the definition of a five category fantasy stud. The news of the humidor managed to drop Goldschmidt’s average draft position from around fourth overall to between 10-14 overall. That’s a still a first round pick in most cases, so owners are growing tired of this sluggish start. So, what’s wrong with Goldschmidt? Is his performance a result of the humidor or are there more factors at play here?

At this point in the season, we can’t ignore Goldschmidt’s poor numbers at home and immediately blame the humidor. I can’t deny that the humidor at Chase Field is playing a huge roll in suppressing power. In 2017, the Diamondbacks averaged 1.51 home runs per game at home; thus far in 2018, Diamondbacks hitters have averaged 0.68 home runs per game at home! How about on the road? To date in 2018, the DBacks have averaged 1.53 home runs per game, or 225% more dingers on the road. Not surprising, the DBacks are slugging .737 on the road and only .645 at home.  Goldschmidt is feeling it more than anyone, here’s his home/road splits this year.

 AVGOBPSLGBABIPHRK%BB%
Home0.1400.3210.2090.231031.219.3
Road0.2940.3510.5590.372428.48.1

Yeah, that’s bad. The main effects of the humidor will add weight to the baseball by adding moisture to the ball and will decrease exit velocities. Lower exit velocities and heavier baseballs is going to significantly reduce the distance balls travel, relatively speaking. Hmm, I guess science is winning out on this one.

With this information, let’s compare Goldschmidt’s exit velocities between 2017 and 2018. His average exit velocity is down 2.2 mph from 2017 (91.4 mph) to 2018 (89.2 mph). That’s certainly concerning, but the majority of that may attributed to the effect of the humidor, especially since the Diamondbacks have played nine more games at home than on the road so far this year.  However, his exit velocity against fastballs is down a whopping 4.2 mph this year. Goldy typically mashes fastballs, his slugging against fastballs in 2017 was .660; in 2018 it’s down to a still solid but un-Goldschmidt like .487. While the humidor is clearly having an effect on Goldschmidt’s production, his struggles actually started in the 2nd half of2017.  His increased swing and miss rate and decreased hard contact began in late June of 2017, save for the month of August. 

Keep in mind Goldschmidt sees a much higher percentage of fastballs (red line) than any other pitch type. The bump up in swing and miss% on the fastballs is more dramatic than the graph shows. 

An incredibly hot month of August partially masked a sub-par 2nd half for Goldschmidt. The struggles and poor approach from July and September of 2017 mimic Goldschmidt’s 2018 to date. Since July of 2017, Goldschmidt is riding a 4.5 month stretch of poor exit velocity and increased swing and miss rate with only one positive month within that timeframe. Yes, Goldy’s SwStr rate has increased 1.3% since 2017, but that’s not all that concerning and doesn’t explain the nearly 8% jump in his strikeout rate. The real culprit is the first-pitch strike percentage which currently is 69% (nice). That’s a 10% increase from 2017 and 11% over his career F-Strike%. When a pitcher can get ahead that often, it puts the hitter, Goldschmidt in this case, at a disadvantage. Goldschmidt’s patient nature has kept a strong walk rate but at the expense of everything else.

His current patient/”wait for his pitch” approach is clearly not working as pitchers continue to attack him early in the count. He needs to adjust and be more aggressive on first pitch fastballs. Goldschmidt has had the most success in his career, like most hitters, against fastballs. The difference in 2018, instead of pitchers working from behind in the count grooving fastballs on 2-0, 3-1 counts, they are now getting ahead 0-1 and can now throw off-speed/breaking pitches putting Goldschmidt at a disadvantage.

I took a quick inventory of instances in both 2017 and 2018 where Goldschmidt was in an unfavorable count of 0-1, 0-2, 1-2, or 2-2. In 2017 he was in an unfavorable count just under 42.6% percent of the time. In 2018, he’s been in an unfavorable count 49% of the time. Typically batting average takes a jump of over .100 points and slugging is about .300-.400 points higher in favorable counts. That’s an old article but it’s principles remain the same as today.

Continuing with his plate discipline or lack thereof (yes there’s more), you can see that his zone contact (which is contact percentage on balls swung on in the zone) is down 5%. The league average for Z-Contact is near 83%, Goldy’s Z-Contact is at 75.5%; it’s odd to see him that far below the league average. What’s interesting, is his O-Contact (contact on balls swung on outside the zone) is the same as last year and in year’s past. What this essentially means other than he’s making less contact, a higher percentage of balls he’s making contact with are out of the zone.

Again, the results bare this out. Goldschmidt’s career BABIP is an incredible .354; in 2018, it’s an even .295. In addition to the contact outside the zone, his infield fly ball percentage is up to 11.4% and his soft contact is more than double what it was in 2017 (22.0% in 2018 vs 11% in 2017). Again, this justifies a decrease in BABIP among other statistics.

It’s not all doom and gloom; xStats paints a little bit brighter picture with some of the underlying numbers. xStats shows both his high-drive percentage remains strong  and poorly-hit balls are down 5% from previous years and currently half of the league average. So, that’s where there should be some positive regression but it’s not enough data to show that Goldy is the same player he’s always been.

Do you want more bad news Goldschmidt owners? Do you know how well (poorly) Goldy has performed against right-handed pitchers in 2018? No, well I’ll tell you. He’s hit .174 with 1 HR and 40 strikeouts against righties this year. That’s nearly a 32% K rate and a .277 BABIP, which doesn’t scream significant positive regression. Goldschmidt is a career .284 hitter against right-handed pitching. Luckily for him, he’s still murdering (not literally) left-handed pitchers.

As I approach 1200 words on why Goldschmidt owners should be panicked, save for the small xStats blurb, the question remains, what to do with Goldy? As I mentioned, you drafted Goldschmidt as your first round pick, you can’t just sell him for a top 75 player or lower. At that point you’re taking a complete loss because you’ve got next to nothing from him this year. I’m at least somewhat optimistic that the veteran All-Star can make the necessary adjustments to improve on his poor start to 2018. However, those approach changes I discussed are required before I am confident that Goldschmidt will post top 10 numbers at the position. With those adjustments, owners can at least feel confident the partially salvage the season even if the net result is not what was expected on draft day.

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Starting Pitchers to Stream – Week 8

Well last week wasn’t great but Hellickson dominated and we did get that huge strikeout performance from Vincent Velasquez against the suddenly strikeout-prone Giants. What’s interesting is that the Giants, previously known for putting the ball in play (only 19.6% K rate as a team in 2017), are now striking out 25% of the time as a team. They’re also in the bottom third of the league in wOBA. It’s becoming apparent that we need to move the Giants into the “stream against” category, especially with their home park being as pitcher friendly as any in the league. Some other teams in the bottom third in both K rate and wOBA: Padres, Orioles, Rockies (surprise), and Rangers. I’d throw the Marlins in there as well as they are last in the league in wOBA and middle of the pack in K rate. I don’t expect the Rockies to stay there, and obviously you’re not streaming in Coors.

Tyler Anderson (COL) 8% away vs SD 5/14 and away vs 5/20 SF
Anderson gets two starts next week both on the road against the Padres who are 2nd to last in wOBA, and against the Giants who are 23rd in wOBA. Anytime a pitcher is throwing outside of Coors he gets a bump. Anderson is no exception and he’s increased his K rate and swinging strike rates. Both teams he faces this week are in the bottom five (or top five depending how you look at it) in strikeout rate, meaning they strikeout a lot. I’m not a fan of Anderson’s new sinker but his change up and cutter have been pretty good. I’m starting him with confidence in both starts. STREAM

Sal Romano (CIN) 1% Away vs SF 5/14
Romano has been getting it done with smoke and mirrors thus far in 2018. His K rate and walk rate are much too close for my liking. In an era when everyone strikes out, Romano can’t even muster a K/9 of over 6.0. His fastball has not be effective like it was in the minors and while the Giants don’t scare me at all, I think the veteran hitters like Posey, McCutchen, and Longoria get to Romano in this one. I see a short 4 inning start with crooked numbers in a bad way. STAY AWAY

Nick Pivetta (PHI) 25% Away vs BAL on 5/15
I’m not sure how Pivetta is only 25% owned in Yahoo and ESPN leagues. He’s had a couple of rough starts where he’s been BABIP’ed to death but his HR/9 remains stellar at 0.92/9. He still sports a 9.7 K/9 and a 2.3 BB/9, those are fantasy #2 type numbers. Now, I’m not calling him a #2 but he should be owned in all leagues. I don’t love this one on the road where he has to face a DH but the Orioles are not good you guys. The only teams with lower wOBA are the Marlins and Padres. They also are in the bottom five in walk rate. As long as Pivetta can avoid Machado, he should go 6-7 IP with 6-7 Ks and solid ratios. STREAM

Chad Kuhl (PIT) 13% at Home vs SD 5/17
I had hopes for Kuhl to have a solid season and so far it’s more of the same. He’s very inconsistent start to start. I’m not worried about the Padres as a club, it’s more about can we trust Kuhl? The walks are down, the strikeouts are up a hair, his velocity is 96+ mph, but he’s been killed by the long ball. His curve and his slider are his two best pitches but he only throws them 29% of the time. It’s hard to feel confident in this one, but he is pitching at home where he’s been better and again, against a weak opponent. I’m going with this one if I’m desperate hoping for 5+ Ks, 3 ER and a win. STREAM but with caution.

Kyle Gibson (MIN) 25% at Home vs MIL 5/18
Right on the cusp of being owned in too many formats, but Gibson gets the Brewers at home in this one. Milwaukee gets to add a DH but with Thames out, they area little thin offensively. Surprisingly, the Brewers are in the bottom six in terms of team wOBA. I mentioned this last week, Gibson is good and needs to be owned, it’s just going to take a while for the fantasy community to come around on the 30-year-old. Every single one of his pitches have seen increased swing and miss percentages with the exception of his four-seamer. But he’s essentially eliminated that pitch as its usage is under 10%. He’s got to get his walks under control but a high ground ball rate and limiting barreled contact should keep this start within 3 ER or less with 6 to 7 strikeouts. STREAM

Andrew Heaney (LAA) 5% at Home vs TB on 5/19 or 5/20
Heaney has always had trouble staying healthy and I’m not touching him for his first start on Monday against the Astros but if he comes out of that one in tact, I like him in the start against the Rays. His surface numbers aren’t great but he’s rolling with a high BABIP of .347 and a low LOB rate of 64%. His strikeout rate is over 25% and his walk rate is 7%. He’s also inducing a lot of weak contact at over 10% which is over his 8% barreled contact. For the first time in his career he’s getting more weak contact than barreled balls. The Rays offense is better than anticipated but they don’t hit for a lot of power. I think Heaney rolls against the Rays next weekend. STREAM

Weekly Rundown – You Can’t Spell Goldschmidt without Old Shit

Hot Hitters
Nomar Mazara is only 23 years old and already has more than 1300 plate appearances in the Majors. He’s got power in his bat but has always struggles against lefties and hits far too many ground balls. Mazara is hot right now mashing .350 with 3 homers in the last seven days. After hitting 20 HR in his first two MLB seasons he’s got 10 before mid-May. I’m kind of buying in to Mazara as he’s hitting the ball harder than ever and barreling up over 10% of his batted balls up from 6%. His launch angle is trash if you want big power and he’s probably the slowest 23-year-old in the league but I think he could be a .300 hitter with 25 homer power.

Justin Upton is on one of his binges as he’s mashed 5 bombs in the past week and now has 10 HR on the season. This is Upton, you know there are going to be highs and lows. Enjoy this one because a three week slump is around the corner. In the end, he’s a .260 hitter with 30 homers and 100 RBI with 8-10 steals. If you can sell high and get a top 30 bat, do it, otherwise just sit and chill with a little J-Up.

Odubel Herrera is hitting a blistering .500 with 3 bombs, 10 RBI and a steal in the last 7 days! He also leads the league in batting average at .360. Herrera is good hitter you guys! He’s a career .293 hitter in just under 2,000 PA and is only 26 years old. He’s not this good based on his elevated BABIP but he’s regularly had .350+ BABIPs in his career. He’s also cut his K rate, so high contact plus low Ks equals a really good batting average. Throw in 15 HR & 15 SB, he’s a moderate buy/Hold for me.

Odubel’s teammate Carlos Santana has 3 dingers and a boat load of RBI (13 to be exact) in his last seven games. I discussed Santana a few weeks ago as a buy low candidate and I’m still buying. He’s taking the launch angle thing to the extreme but squaring up the ball with regularity. I think he gets hot and hits 30+ homers this year while driving in over 100 RBI but an increase in fly balls and popups brings a low batting average. He may hit only .240 this year but he’s under .200 right now, so could hit .255 the rest of the way. Go ahead make a SMOOTH trade offer for Carlos Santana.

I’m glad I wrote about how Kris Bryant was struggling last week. Since then, he’s gone 9/24 with 4 HR and 7 RBI. Bryant doesn’t hit for much power in April but heats up in May. In 79 career April games, he’s hit 10 home runs; in 90 career May games, he’s hit a whopping 26 homers! KB has somehow cut his strikeout rate again and looks to be a legit .300 hitter with 30 homer power. He’s cut his flyball rate which could limit his HR upside but he’s pulling the ball again. He’s 0-1 on the bases and the Cubs run less than anyone in the National League, so anymore than 5 steals would surprise me from KB.

Delino DeShields, AKA the Dentist is getting on base at a .500 clip this past week and is walking more than he’s striking out. He’s got a homer and 3 steals in the past 7 days and is starting to look like the breakout player I hoped he’d be. He’s making more contact and while it’s not quality contact, the spring speed, which ranks 2nd in all of baseball, along with his ground ball approach should yield great results. He should stay atop the Rangers lineup with his improved OBP. I’d be buying, he could still reach 10 homers and 30 steals this year.

Freezing Hitters
What is going on with Bryce Harper? With only 2 hits in his last 25 ABs without a run, RBI, or steal. He had a similar stretch last May when the Cubs decided to walk him in about 90% of his ABs during a series in May. The success to stopping Harper, walk him for an entire series and watch him struggle, got it. Obviously, I’m kidding y’all! Harper has been extremely unlucky recently. If an owner is frustrated by the recent poor performance try to BUY him for $0.90 on the dollar.

Christian Villanueva came out like gangbusters blasting 3 homers in a single game early in April. To his credit he carried his hot streak across three weeks and still has a impressive nine homers on the season. However, he’s gone 0 for his last 21 with just one walk, and one run. Villanueva appears to have issues hitting righties as he’s hitting .162 with one homer in 84 plate appearances. Yes, he’s been murdering lefties but here’s the problem, only about ⅓ of the pitchers in MLB are left handed. He’s even been lucky per xStats, his swinging strike rate and approach are both terrible. You should have listened when I told you to sell this MFer about three weeks ago. He’s a drop in shallow formats.

Didi Gregorius is finally coming back down to earth. No one expected him to keep up his April pace (at least I hope), but he doesn’t have a hit in his last 22 plate appearances. Regression is a bitch! You know what’s going to happen right? Watch Didi become the player we all thought he’d be, check out my Didi bust post way back in the offseason, going something like .260 with 14 homers the rest of the way. The problem is, he started off like Babe Mantle and will finish the season above expectations. Actually, he has made adjustments by improving hard contact, launch angle, and pull%. So he should be just fine as a borderline top 100 player the rest of the way. I’m holding.

The Oakland Matts (Chapman and Olson) have combined to go 4 for their last 44 with 1 homer which came off the bat of Matt Chapman last night. What’s going on? Both have been a little bit unlucky because they both hit the ball hard and hit it in the air a lot. I expect Olson’s power numbers to go up based on his batted ball data where I think Chapman’s numbers are about right. The problem is, Olson’s plate discipline is trash and Chapman’s is great! It’s odd that they have similar strikeout and walk rates. I’d be buying Chapman right now and holding Olson. The power will come in bunches with Olson, but it will come at a .220 average and 30+% K rate.

Paul Goldschmidt is having his worse start to a season ever.  What’s going on, did he just get old fast? The power is down (humidor), the speed in down, and the strikeouts are up. There’s a lot to look at with Pauly, I’m going to do a deep dive, but right now he’s looking like Joey Gallo without the power, not good. Hold tight for now, but this could be a major sell or a hidden injury. Stay tuned.

Hot Pitchers
Aaron Nola just keeps getting better. I’ve already anointed him ACE status. He’s given up 1 ER in his last 14.1 innings striking out 19 batters! But I thought he didn’t have a good K rate? How about a 4th straight season with an increase in SwStr rate up to 11.9%. The 8 K/9 is a mirage. He managed a 9.8 K/9 in 2017 with a lower SwStr rate in 2017. I’m buying him as a top 12 SP ROS and believe he ups his K rate to around 9.5 K/9 and should be a sub 3.00 ERA with a WHIP around 1.05.

Sean Newcomb has been a man possessed with 2 wins, 14 Ks, 0 ER in 13 IP in his last 2 starts. His stuff is really good, it really is, he can get swings and misses on his slider, change and sometimes his fastball. However, looking at his heatmaps, he’s all over the place with his command. He’s out of the zone far too much and pep this, his fastball velocity is down a tick while the change up velocity is up 1.6 mph. That means that the difference between the two pitches is less than 6 mph which tells me that the changeup won’t be as effective as an off-speed pitch. That being said, I’m riding this out until he loses control again. Right now, he’s effectively wild.

Gio Gonzalez is doing it again. I’m just going to have to ignore what the peripherals tell me with Gio and just trust he’s a pretty decent pitcher. The walks are up and the zone% is down, so don’t expect a pretty WHIP but the whiffs and Ks are up as well. He’s given up 2 ER and struck out 21 in his last 18 innings. Gio may be doing this with smoke and mirrors but he’s a nice guy to have at the back end of you rotation.

Freezing Pitchers
How could I not write about Dylan Bundy after his last outing. Literally anyone in the world could have done what Bundy did last time out as he failed to record an out, gave up four bombs and seven ER! What to do with Bundy because he looked so good the first five starts of the season. His last three have been disasters. In deep leagues you have to hold him but keep him on the bench. He’s not own-able in 10 or 12 team mixed leagues. I’m hoping it’s an injury because the velo is down and he was looking like a top 20 SP the first month of the season. But right now I’d rather be owning Ted Bud Bundy.

Brandon McCarthy is actually healthy but can’t seem to get many outs. That’s too bad, maybe he is hurt? He used to put up solid numbers when healthy and now he’s not giving you anything. Without being able to count on 100 IP from McCarthy, he’s a hard drop.

Yu Darvish, what the hell bro? The Cubs just DLed him because he has the flu. Yeah, ok we are all sick of your pitching Yu but you don’t see us on the DL! Whoops sorry for the rant, the only positive thing I can say is that his strikeouts remain high but so is everything else, in a bad way. Walks are up, HR are up, fly balls are, hard contact is up. Of course I’m stashing him for now, but he’s no longer a top 30 SP going forward. I need to see what he looks like when he clears his head or whatever.

Jeff Samardzija has not looked good since coming off the DL. What’s worse is that his previous ability to limit walks has apparently stayed on the DL. Guess what, maybe his command was all an act and his command/control is actually trash. Just ask Eno Sarris of The Athletic and that dude is smart! Here’s the main problem, his sinker is way up. By way up I mean it’s way up in the zone and he’s decided to nearly double its usage. Therefore fly balls have skyrocketed and many of them go over the fence. STOP THROWING YOUR SINKER JEFF! I’m dropping him in shallow leagues because he’s going to continue to hurt your ratios without helping your strikeout numbers.

Tommy Pham Validating Fantasy Star Status

The fantasy community was split on Tommy Pham coming into 2018 and for good reason. You had a 29-year-old career minor leaguer coming off monster 6.1 WAR season per FanGraphs when his previous most valuable season was 2016 with a 1.6 WAR. Pham has been plagued by injuries, vision, and just plain poor performance in the past, so the skepticism was valid. I was on the side leaning on the optimistic side mostly due to the correction in his vision evidenced by his plate discipline improvements I’ll highlight later, but also due to his immense tools.

In 2017, his plate discipline improvements were a direct result and confirmation that his vision issues were in the past. Take his O-Swing (swings outside the zone) of 19.0% in 2017 which is 11% lower than league average. His swing strike rate was nearly cut in half from the previous season down to a career-best 7.6% (league average is around 10%). I suppose injuries are still a concern and the inflated HR/FB rate which sat at 26.7% in 2017 seemed unsustainable, which I did agree with. So, the skeptics remained firm on their assessment of Pham as they searched for other outliers such as the .368 BABIP. Surely that comes down and he won’t hit .300 again.

So far in 2018, Pham’s BABIP sits at .386! His career BABIP in the majors is a robust .360 in just over 1000 plate appearances. I think it’s safe to say that Pham is going to carry and sustain an elevated BABIP throughout the season. How though? Well, he hits a lot of ground balls and his average sprint speed is 28.5MPH which is in the top 14% of the league. In addition, Pham has a knack for hitting a high quantity of balls that fall within the low drive (LD%) and high drive (HD%) per xStats. As you can see, these batted ball types are by far the most valuable in terms of batting average but also in terms of SLG, wOBA, etc for high drives. In 2018, Pham has hit an incredible 40% of his batted balls within these two categories (LD+HD). The league average is 28.0%. This justifies not only his ability to yield an elevated BABIP but to also provide solid power numbers despite a low fly ball rate.

Simply put, Pham squares up a lot of baseballs. I mentioned his low launch angle previously which currently sits at 6.9 degrees which is up 0.4 degrees from 2017; that’s almost negligible. Most players that have that average launch angle are hitters with low power numbers. Checking BaseballSavant, his expected batting average is .318, and his expected slugging is amazing .611! Compare that to Christian Yelich who also has a low launch angle but hits the ball extremely hard. His expected slugging is currently a still solid .496 but still over 100 points lower than Pham. Essentially, Pham is a beast. His current wOBA is .417 but Statcast thinks that’s low as his xwOBA currently sits at .443 AKA Mike Trout territory. 

The last skill Pham possesses, is his ability to avoid chasing pitches out of the zone and smoke balls inside the zone. His O-swing (or chase rate) is 21% while his zone contact is nearly 92%! This has led to a career-low swinging strike rate of only 7.4% (league average is about 10%). To me, this verifies that his vision issues are behind him as they were last year as well. His 20% strikeout rate would also be a career low and his 17.5% walk rate would be a career high.

Unfortunately, the injuries continue to pop up as Pham has currently missed a couple of games due to a groin injury this week. Which is a shame of course because I’d love to see a full season of health from Pham. Maybe he can get through these minor injuries and find his way to 145+ games in 2018. If that happens, you may be looking at a top 20 fantasy player at year’s end to the tune of something like .300 BA, 25 HR, 30 steals while scoring 100 runs hitting in the two-hole for the Cardinals. I’m going to have to back off in terms of stolen bases because of the groin issue, but a 25-20 season is well within reach for Pham. It starts and ends with health.