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2019 Top 25 Starting Pitcher Rankings

Early 2019 Rankings for Starting Pitchers

Very little introduction here. Pretty straightforward, I rank my top 25 starting pitchers and follow up below with a blurb about some of the players and rankings. I touch on a few players that are left off and why. I plan on spitting out positional rankings as soon as the new year flips. On with it!

RANKPLAYERTEAM
1Max ScherzerWas
2Chris SaleBOS
3Jacob deGromNYM
4Justin VerlanderHOU
5Trevor BauerCLE
6Aaron NolaPHI
7Corey KluberCLE
8Blake SnellTB
9Gerrit ColeHOU
10Carlos CarrascoCLE
11Patrick CorbinWAS
12Luis SeverinoNYY
13Walker BuehlerLAD
14Noah SyndergaardNYM
15Clayton KershawLAD
16Stephen StasburgWAS
17German MarquezCOL
18James PaxtonNYY
19Zack GreinkeARI
20Mike ClevingerCLE
21Jameson TaillonPIT
22Zack WheelerNYM
23Jose BerriosMIN
24Jack FlahertySTL
25Mike FoltynewiczATL

I’ve been flip-flopping on Jacob deGrom and Chris Sale in the #2 spot. Sale’s skills are so far off the charts, that all he needs to do it reach 170 innings to provide the second most fantasy value per my projections. I have him at 182 IP and deGrom at 203 IP, so Sale gets the nod. If Sale could grace us with 200 IP, he’d be ahead of Scherzer, but Max is such a bulldog and has a badass name, so there’s that. If you search FanGraphs pitcher leaderboard for 2018, Sale doesn’t even show up because he only threw 158 innings. I guess you need 160 to qualify? If you’re wondering, Sale ranked 64th overall in innings pitched last season. However, his 237 strikeouts were good for 6th in MLB. You read that right, his 38.4% K rate laughed in the face of Justin Verlander, who finished 2nd at 34.8%.

I have a feeling that some of you are sitting there with your mouth agape looking at Trevor Bauer at number five overall. Here’s the deal though, Bauer ranked 4th overall in ERA and 8th is K% last season. Remember, he basically missed the last month+ with a stress fracture in his right leg. If we remove his short outings upon his return in late September, Bauer averaged 6.64 Innings per start. This is important for a lot of reasons but mostly because Bauer would have finished with around 215 innings and ranked 3rd or 4th in value for 2018. The average number of innings per start in 2018 was under 5.4, so yes, 6.64 is fantastic. Check out his Twitter and his work ethic, he’s always looking to improve. Me like Bauer!

I’m down a bit on Luis Severino, check out my player profile I posted a few days ago. Basically, Severino lacks a third quality pitch. Also, when he doesn’t properly elevate his 98 mph fastball, he gets punished. He also doesn’t possess a strong putaway pitch outside of his slider, that my friends can limit his strikeout upside. Sure, a K/9 between 9.5 and 10 is solid but because he’s grooving too many pitches, his ratios may take a hit. I like him, but he’s a back-end ace for me.

Yes, Walker Buehler is over Clayton Kershaw. I’m not going to wait until Kershaw completely breaks down to put Buehler ahead of him like those big box sites. This kid is for real and shouldn’t be limited to much of an innings cap (if at all) for 2019. We saw his skills and strikeout potential improve as the season roared on. Kershaw, on the other hand, is seeing his skills deteriorate and injuries have sapped his innings upside. Here’s the trend on Kershaw. K% last three seasons: 31.6%, 29.8%, 23.9%. The contact rates against him have jumped by 8% in that timeframe as well. It’s not just the strikeouts though, his homerun rate has spiked the last two seasons and has been firmly above league-average. Kershaw is a gamer and has a badass curve that he needs to throw more than 40% of the time to be successful. He will be fine, but not an ace.

Starting Pitchers who just Missed

The newly signed Tampa Bay Ray, Charlie Morton landed in the number 26 spot on my list. I very much wanted to put him in my top 25 but Morton’s win rate the last two season with Houston will not stand. Morton tallied 29 wins in only 55 starts with the Astros. Tampa is a good team but Morton has averaged just 157 innings the last two seasons and just turned 35. I love his stuff and that’s why he’s inside my top 30 despite the low innings projection.

A couple of boring low-strikeout guys Miles Mikolas and Kyle Hendricks are slotted at 27 and 28 because they have some very solid consistent skills. These guys have incredible control and regularly induce soft contact. Let’s play a little game of who is it? Who is the pitcher with the 5th lowest ERA since 2016? Did I give it away? Yes, it’s Kyle “The Professor” Hendricks. I don’t love the strikeout trend for Hendricks (hint: it’s going in the wrong direction), but he seems to defy the sabermetrics that I love so much. Mikolas is just a stud when it comes to control and pairs his elite slider with a solid 94-95 mph fastball. He keeps the ball on the ground which is muy importante when it comes to a lower strikeout rate.

I’ll get into guys like Rich Hill and Luis Castillo when I finalize my SP rankings and player projections, but both hover around 30 overall. Stay tuned.

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

If you enjoyed this ranking and writeup, follow me on Twitter @FreezeStats

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Luis Severino Player Profile for 2019

Luis Severino (NYY – SP) – 2EarlyMocks ADP 33.3; NFBC ADP 38.2

In the #2EarlyMocks, Luis Severino is going as the 7th SP off the board on average and as the eighth pitcher in NFBC drafts. If you remember, Severino had a disastrous second-half with a 5.57 ERA after the All-Star Break. Prior to that, he looked like a Cy Young contender with a 2.30 ERA in the first half. What happened? If you remember during the ALDS against the Red Sox, there were reports and evidence that Severino was tipping pitches. The real question then, if Severino was tipping pitches in the playoffs, was he also doing it during the second half? It’s certainly possible and it’s also possible that he wasn’t. If he was, some teams may or may not have been able to pick up on it. There simply isn’t enough evidence to support his second-half struggles on tipping pitches at this point. Seriously though, what happened then?

Before we dive in, let’s see just how good Severino was before the second half of 2018. From the start of the 2017 season through July 1st of 2018 here are Severino’s numbers and MLB ranks associated with those stats

311.2 IP (6th)
2.60 ERA (4th)
1.00 WHIP T-4th)
368 SO (5th)
.245 wOBA (3rd)

Wow, that’s fantastic! Now let’s get into velocity because that’s Sevy’s bread and butter. Severino throws gas, typically near 98 mph and has a very good slider to pair it with. The problem is that his third pitch is the changeup that he throws less than 15% of the time. In other words, Severino needs both the fastball and slider to be working at their peak to be dominant. Let’s check his velocities per game for each pitch in 2018.


I’ve heard a lot about Severino losing velocity, but in reality, it’s really just a few games where the velocity dips down but then comes right back up. To me, this is not a trend or a major concern. Where I have a little more concern is the velocity differential between the fastball and the changeup. You can see early in the season the velocity difference between the two pitches is at, or greater than, 10 miles-per-hour. At the end of the season, it’s closer to eight mph. That velocity differential renders the changeup less effective and hitters can sit fastball more often without being completely fooled by the changeup. Per Fangraphs, Severino’s changeup in 2018 had a pitch value of -1.9 whereas in 2017 it was valued 9.8 (0.0 being average based on results of the pitch). So, it was worse than the league average in 2018. The change induced fewer swings outside the zone, gave up fewer ground balls, and was hit for line drives over 30% of the time. It’s not a killer because it’s not one his primary pitches, but it helps offset the blazing fastball.

Here’s where things get really concerning. Per BrooksBaseball, the percentage of “grooved pitches” in the second half nearly doubled for Severino. The definition of a “grooved pitch” is pitches thrown in the middle-middle of the plate, regardless of movement or velocity. This makes me think that Severino was NOT tipping pitches in the second half, the reason he was getting hit so hard was due to the location of his pitches. A 97 mph fastball down the pipe is very different than a 97 mph fastball high and tight. This explains the elevated BABIP and home run rate for Severino. So, what’s the solution? How about stop throwing pitches right down the middle Sevy!

 

Easier said than done, obviously. My concerns going forward for Severino are not related to his fastball velocity. They are related to the location of his fastball and his velocity differential with his changeup. In other words, his changeup needs to be slower. Without an effective third pitch, Severino runs the risk of an elevated BABIP and that has implications that include prolonged innings and lower left-on-base rates. Think of Chris Archer, Luis Castillo, and Nick Pivetta. Now, Severino has had more success than all of these pitchers in the past, but I think the effective use of his changeup could right the ship for Severino. I can’t see ranking Severino inside the top 10 starting pitchers for 2019. For me, he might even be around 12 or 13, check my top 25 SP rankings. His strikeout rate is good but he does not have the strikeout upside of the top tier pitchers with only his slider getting punchouts followed by his fastball to a lesser extent.

For 2019, I’ll give Severino 15 Wins, 3.52 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 211 Strikeouts

Photo Courtesy of Al Bello/Getty Images

You can follow me on Twitter @FreezeStats

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Trevor Story Player Profile for 2019

Trevor Story (COL – SS) – #2EarlyMocks ADP 22.8; NFBC ADP 19

It’s been quite a roller coaster ride for Trevor Story and his owners through three Major Leagues seasons. Story busted onto the scene with guns blazing in 2016 blasting 10 home runs in April. While his pace slowed, he still managed 27 home runs in only 97 games. Sure, he struck out over 30% of the time, but his production and power had fantasy owners salivating going into 2017. Story was drafted between 25 and 30 overall in most drafts (late 2nd/early 3rd) where he almost completely flopped. He did manage to hit 24 homers and steal seven bases but with a .239 average from one of your first three picks can really sting. Naturally, Story’s draft value dipped to near 100 overall making him an intriguing option at Shortstop for 2018. I ranked Story around 70 overall coming into 2018 because I believed in his skill and projected him for 30 homers and 10 steals, well worth a top 70 pick.

So, I guess I missed on Story as he went gangbusters hitting 37 bombs with 27 steals in 2018. The power was always there but the speed!?! Maybe we shouldn’t have been all that surprised considering Story regularly stole 20-25 bases in the minors each year. Story ranked seventh (tied with Ronald Acuna Jr.) in terms of sprint speed in 2018, so his speed is also legit.  Could it be possible that a top 10 overall performer in 2018 be underrated in 2019? Right now, Story is going as the 24th player off the board in the 2 Early Mocks just before Andrew Benintendi and right after Javy Baez and Giancarlo Stanton. Let’s find out if Story’s lofty ADP is legit or are owners in for another disappointment.

Let’s start with Story’s most significant improvement, his decreased strikeout rate. A massive 8.8% dip in K rate was backed by an improved Z-Contact rate of 7.3% and a decrease in SwStr of 2.7%. In addition, Story became MORE aggressive by attacking pitches more frequently inside the zone up from 66% in 2017 to 71% in 2018. That’s huge! Story was able to recognize pitches inside the zone and attacked them resulting in a higher quality of contact. We see that with an improved batted ball profile, it allowed Story to get himself in fewer deep-ball counts resulting in fewer strikeouts. Take a look at the graph below compared to 2017.

The batted ball profile for Story was more balanced. He hit fewer fly balls that resulted in popups and more line drives. That’s about it. To give you an idea of how well Story’s quality of contact was in 2018, his value hits per xStats was 13.2% up from 9.2% in 2017 (league average is 9.1%). That 13.2% VH was tied with Mookie Betts in 2018 or tied for 10th best for players with at least 400 plate appearances. Here’s a short list of players that had value hit% lower than Story in 2018: Mike Trout, Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, Matt Carpenter, and Giancarlo Stanton among others. So yes, Story makes elite contact.

The final component that culminated in the success for Story in 2019 was keeping the strikeout rate in check. Story simply recognized pitches outside the zone more frequently in 2018 compared to 2017 and laid off those pitches. Going forward, keep an eye on his O-Swing (swings outside the zone). It’s crept up about 1.5% above league average when in 2016 it was about 2% below league average. It’s not significant yet, but if pitchers throw him fewer strikes, he needs to lay off and take his walks. That contradicts his aggressive approach from 2018 but Story appears to be making strides in his plate discipline. 

I haven’t touched on his steals save for the second paragraph but Story was 27 out of 33 in SB opportunities. At an 82% success rate, I believe Story has a great shot at 20-24 steals in 2019. My projections for Story are going to depend on whether or not he can lay off breaking pitches outside the zone which he struggled with this past postseason (I am aware that it was only four games). What I am confident in, is that Story is a smart baseball player willing to make adjustments and has successfully done so. Story will likely hit between 30-35 homers with 18-23 steals while maintaining an average in the upper-.270s (thank you Coors). Based on my analysis, I’d place him about 5-8 picks above Javy Baez and a top-20 overall pick going into the 2019 draft season.

Follow me on Twitter @FreezeStats

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Andrew Heaney 2019 Outlook

Andrew Heaney (LAA – SP) – Early ADP 185.9 

What if I told you that Andrew Heaney had a very high spin rate on his fastball? What does that mean? Well, I’m no physicist but I’ll do my best. Here’s what I do know, the spin of a fastball counteracts the force of gravity. The faster it spins, the less it drops. Hitters account for this drop when tracking a ball and if a fastball with a very high spin rate doesn’t drop as much as the hitter anticipates, it appears to “rise” AKA the rising fastball. That’s why a high spin rate fastball can be utilized more effectively up in the zone.  


You can see his sinker (orange line), which he uses as his primary fastball hits up to 2,500 RPM at the end of the season. Travis Sawchik of FiveThirtyEight Sports states the following in a recent October article:

“Leaguewide batting averages offer a snapshot into the importance of spin. When pitchers threw fastballs between 93 and 94 mph with an average spin range of 2,240 to 2,300 revolutions per minute, hitters posted a .279 average this season. But against the same velocity range with an increased spin of 2,540 to 2,600 rpms, batting average declines to .255. The more spin a fastball has, the more it appears to rise and resist gravity, and that creates more swings and misses, as demonstrated by Jeff Zimmerman of FanGraphs.”

This fits well with Heaney because he only throws about 92-93 mph on his two-seamer. As long as he can keep his spin rate up, he should be more successful. I’ll touch more on the two-seamer/sinker later.

In 2018, Heaney was finally healthy, threw 180 innings, struck out exactly 180 batters and walked only 46. That’s a 9.0 K/9 and a 2.25 BB/9, yup. That’s pretty, pretty, pretty good. Some people might not love his 4.15 ERA or only nine wins. However, I’ll point to the ERA estimators like SIERA and dRA and they tell me, he’s more of a 3.60 ERA type of pitcher.

Let’s take a look into Heaney’s repertoire. Heaney throws his sinker 56% of the time followed by his curveball 26%, and his changeup 17%. He’s mixed in a four-seamer less than 2% of the time as well. Based on results, his changeup was his best pitch is 2018 but for me, his curveball is where he makes his money. Heaney rocked a 41% O-Swing, a 57.7% Contact rate and a 19.9% Swinging strike rate on the pitch in 2018. That was good for a 41.2% K rate and a 65 wRC+. Heaney’s changeup is interesting because it actually induces more swings outside the zone than the curveball but without the strikeouts. The changeup induces ground balls over 50% of the time on batted balls, so I do love this pitch for Heaney. However, the sinker usage needs to be lowered (even with the aforementioned spin rate).

Heaney’s sinker doesn’t get the ground balls you’d expect from a pitch that’s meant to primarily have balls hit into the dirt. It doesn’t get whiffs, but what it does do and get thrown for strikes. Getting ahead in the count for a pitcher is important, something Heaney did 65% of the time in 2018. So, there is a use for the sinker, especially if he can continue to have a high spin rate. Personally, it should be lowered to just under 50% of the time and increase the usage of his secondaries. I trust the intelligent coaches and metric analysts with the Angels (if he stays there) to figure this out. If Heaney can utilize his curveball and changeup 4-5% more in 2019, I think we would see a few more strikeouts and his ratios may see a nice drop. 

For 2019 I’m projecting 175 IP 12 Wins, 3.73 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 181 K

Article Notes:

(Cover Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

O-Swing%: Swings on pitches outside the zone
Contact rate: How often a batter makes contact when he swings
Swinging Strike%: Swings and misses per pitch thrown

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Rankings: Top 30 Hitters for 2019

TOP 30 HITTERS FOR 2018

ANNNNNND WE’RE BACK!! FreezeStats is already pumping out player projections and rankings along with individual player profiles for our second season.  I want to start with early hitter rankings here in December for the upcoming 2019 season. Remember, it’s never too early for fantasy baseball. I’ve included the rankings on a simple table below.  I will be coming out with positional rankings as well as my full projections throughout January, February and into March (draft season).  I will touch on a few players at the bottom of this article including some surprise rankings and a few omissions. You won’t see any catchers here, sorry guys but I don’t see any catchers cracking my top 50 hitters. Ok, without further ado, I give you the top 30 hitters for 2019!

RankNamePositionTeam
1Mike TroutOFLAA
2Mookie BettsOFBOS
3Jose Ramirez2B/3BCLE
4Francisco LindorSSCLE
5J.D MartinezOF/DHBOS
6Trea TurnerSSWAS
7Christian YelichOFMIL
8Manny MachadoSS/3BFA
9Ronald AcunaOFATL
10Nolan Arenado3BCOL
11Freddie Freeman1BATL
12Jose Altuve2BHOU
13Trevor StorySSCOL
14Alex BregmanSS/3BHOU
15Aaron JudgeOFNYY
16Paul Goldschmidt1BSTL
17Bryce HarperOFFA
18Andrew BenintendiOFBOS
19Giancarlo StantonOFNYY
20Javier Baez2B/SSCHC
21Charlie BlackmonOFCOL
22Xander BogaertsSSBOS
23Anthony Rizzo1BCHC
24Anthony Rendon3BWAS
25Whit Merrifield2B/OFKC
26Starling MarteOFPIT
27Marcell OzunaOFSTL
28Eugenio Suarez3BCIN
29Khris DavisOFOAK
30Kris Bryant3BCHC

Mookie Betts is coming off his best offensive season hitting a career-high .346 with 32 HR, 30 steals, an MVP and a World Series ring. Oh, and he and his wife had a baby this offseason and Betts is an incredible bowler. There’s not much he can’t do, except make it to the number one spot on my fantasy baseball rankings. That spot goes to the incredible Mike Trout. To be fair, based on my projections, Betts would be my number one earner. However, on a per-game basis, that honor goes to Trout. These two are 1 and 1A. I couldn’t pull the trigger on Betts over Trout because if Trout plays 162 games, we are probably looking at a 45 HR 30 steal season, that’s something I can’t see from Betts. If you want Betts over Trout, I have zero issues with that.

I could see moving Bryce Harper up a little bit if he signs in Philadelphia or to another favorable park with a solid line up. As of now, his inconsistent batting average drops him down a bit. Harper followed up his poor first half with a second half that we all expected from Harper coming into 2018 but he was clearly hurt by the shift throughout the season. He’s still a solid bet for 35 homer and 10+ steals, so he still needs to be inside the top 20.

Andrew Benintendi may seem like a reach in front of Stanton, Baez, and Blackmon but I see the arrow pointing up with Benintendi. His power dipped a bit in 2018 but I think he was a bit unlucky and should drop a few more over the Green Monster next year. The move to the leadoff spot will hurt his RBI production but will help his run total, so it’s a wash. Besides, Betts, Just Dong, and Bogaerts (who I will discuss right after) are hitting behind him. He’s the favorite right now to lead MLB in runs, I’ll put him at 115 for 2019. Now, back to Xander Bogearts. I recently compared my projections for X to Alex Bregman on Twitter. I believe Xander’s hand injury lingered in 2017 which completely killed his power. His power returned in 2018 and he even missed about 20 games. Bogaerts has a solid approach, good contact skills, above average power, and some speed. What’s not to love? Oh and hitting behind three of the top 20 hitters in the game helps.

Left Out of the top 30

Some of you may be surprised to not see teenage phenom Juan Soto on this list. To be fair, I have him 31st, he just missed. I love the plate skills but the batted ball profile was far from elite. Yes, he’s so damn young and will be a stud, but there isn’t any speed (5 SB in 2018) where three came in one game. I’d bump him up a bit in OBP leagues but I think he’s around a .280 hitter with mid-20s power and a ton of runs. That’s great but I’ll take Kris Bryant just ahead of him, especially if he comes into the season healthy. It’s close and I don’t fully trust Bryant given how his last two seasons went, but for Soto to justify a top 30 spot without speed, he needs to really mash. He’s great, but I want to see how he responds to a full offseason of adjustments.

Rhys Hoskins is a guy I absolutely loved coming into 2018 and while he didn’t quite meet the lofty expectations, he didn’t disappoint either. Unfortunately, Hoskins’ batted ball quality took a pretty big dip last year and I think his batting average is capped around .270 given his fly ball tendencies. That being said, he’s probably going to end up around .250 with 30-35 HR and good counting stats. Of course, there’s no speed, so Hoskins is a guy I’m taking around 50 overall, but not any sooner.

Joey Votto not inside the top 30 may not be a surprise, but I do think he was dealt some very bad luck in 2018 in terms of power and RBI production. Votto is still Votto. What I mean by that is  he still take a billion walks, makes good contact and is just flat out smart. He should provide a very solid batting average with 20ish homers with well above-average run production. Unfortunately, that’s not top 300. He falls around 40 for me overall. A similar player going into 2019 is Baby Vlad. Vlad Jr. is projected to be a monster and I have him hitting .300 with mid-20s pop and that’s in under 600 plate appearances. If he was guaranteed to be up Opening Day, he might slot right in front of Soto and KB.

I’m looking to get the top 20 or 25 Starting Pitchers out next week along with more player profiles.

Follow me on Twitter @FreezeStats

 

 

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Catcher Rankings for 2019

CATCHER RANKINGS FOR 2019

The catcher landscape in 2019 looks relatively dreadful. As I was going through my projections, after the first seven or eight catchers, I got pretty depressed. Not really, but after that point, there were so many catchers that I projected to have sub-.250 batting averages with 10-15 homers and very low counting stats. The catcher position is really going to be a drain on most fantasy teams, especially in two-catcher formats. Even in 12 or 15 team single catcher formats, after Ramos, you’re looking at three to four categories that will hurt you in Roto leagues. Personally, I’m either grabbing someone in the Molina-Jansen range between picks 150 and 225 or waiting until my last pick to grab someone in the Chirinos to Mejia range.

RankPlayerTeamPositions
1J.T. RealmutoPHIC/1B
2Gary SanchezNYYC
3Yasmani GrandalMILC
4Yadier MolinaSTLC
5Buster PoseySFC/1B
6Wilson RamosNYMC
7Willson ContrerasCHCC
8Danny JansenTORC
9Welington CastilloCWSC
10Tucker BarnhartCINC
11Francisco CervelliPITC
12Robinson ChirinosHOUC
13Francisco MejiaSDC
14Mike ZuninoTBC
15Isiah Kiner-FalefaTEXC/2B/3B
16Willians AstudilloMINC
17Omar NarvaezSEAC
18Yan GomesWASC
19Jorge AlfaroMIAC
20Austin BarnesLADC/2B
21Tyler FlowersATLC
22Jonathan LucroyLAAC
23Austin HedgesSDC
24Kurt SuzukiWASC
25John HicksDETC/1B
26Christian VazquezBOSC
27Chris IannettaCOLC
28Grayson GreinerDETC
29Roberto PerezCLEC
30Jason CastroMINC
31Russel MartinLADC/3B
32Brian McCannATLC
33Alex AvilaARIC
34Martin MaldenadoKCC

J.T. Realmuto takes the top spot in 2019. I’ll have to give myself a small pat on the back from placing him #2 at the position prior to the 2018 season ahead of Posey and Contreras. Realmuto did not show his speed as much in 2018 but still possess a very good batting average floor with low 20s homers. He should chip in 4-6 steals which gives him the nod over Sanchez.

You may be surprised to see veteran red bird Yadier Molina at number three but he’s been consistent as any catcher the last several seasons. He’s really transformed himself into a very good hitter with well above average contact rates, good batting averages, and slightly above average power. The Cardinals improved their team offensively in the offseason with the addition of Goldschmidt. I see Molina hitting sixth, so his RBI opportunities should be plentiful.

Danny Jansen, the rookie catcher of the Toronto Blue Jays gets the nod over highly touted prospect Francisco Mejia because of his advanced plate discipline. While I think Mejia has the long-term upside, Jansen showed very impressive contact skills in his limited plate appearances in 2018 but also showcased them in the minors. His ability to take walks and developing power means, he should be a decent source of batting average and moderate power from a position that seriously lacks batting average upside.

Everyone’s favorite sports hero, Willians Astudillo comes in at 15 and therefore, is draftable in all 15-team leagues. Maybe it’s his dad-bod or his resemblance to Bartolo Colon. Either way, Astudillo is anything but ordinary. His contact rates are absolutely off the charts with incredibly low strikeout rates. The only thing he does less than strikeout and is walk. His minor league strikeout rates typically sat between three and four percent and in 97 plate appearances in the majors, struck out just three times! He doesn’t have much power but in addition to catching, the Twins put him at 2B, 3B, and the outfield. Unfortunately, the Twins, signed Nelson Cruz, so DH is off the table. Astudillo is not guaranteed 400 plate appearances but should hit around .290 given his contact skills and around 10-12 homers. You can do much worse 15 catchers deep.

Hit me up on Twitter @FreezeStats w/ any Fantasy Baseball questions.

(Photo Courtesy of MARK CUNNINGHAM / GETTY IMAGES)

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Jesse Winker Player Profile

Jesse Winker (CIN – OF): Early ADP 211- #2EarlyMocks; ADP 214 NFBC

If you’re in a moderately competitive league, Winker may be left for dead on draft day. Lucky for you, reading this article will put a sticky note in the back of your mind as the late rounds roll through. Now, Winker is starting to gain some traction, so get your drafting done early this year. I know what you’re thinking, why would people want a player with literally no speed and a total of 14 home runs in nearly 500 plate appearances? Um, well, that’s my job, I’ll figure something out….

OK, just kidding around, I love Winker’s profile. In 334 plate appearances in 2018, Winker struck out just 46 times and walked 49 times. For those at home, 49 > 46. Clearly, this kid has great plate discipline evidenced by his 22.2% O-Swing, 92.4% Z-Contact, and 5.8% SwStr rate. Among the 278 players with at least 300 plate appearances in 2018, Winker ranks between 20th and 30th overall in all three of those metrics. In other words, he’s in the top 10% in all of Major League Baseball in terms of plate discipline. I love that start, getting on base a ton and putting the ball in play at the frequency Winker is able to is rare in a young player. Let’s see what his batted ball profile looks like.

The first thing I’ll say is negative. Of the 237 balls Winker has put in play, he’s only barreled 15 of them. That’s only 6.3%. Looking at his hard-hit rate and average exit velocity, we get a brighter picture. Winker’s hard-hit rate is up significantly from 2017 and his average exit velocity is 90.2 mph, putting him inside the top 20%. I’m actually putting less stock into “average exit velocity” and looking at line drive/fly ball exit velocity and maximum exit velocity. These are measures of peak performance and velocity off the bat on balls that create the most damage (or have the most value). Winker ranks inside the top 13% for both FB/LD exit velocity (95.4 mph) and maximum exit velocity (114.1 mph). His launch angle improved in 2018, especially in second half. Fewer ground balls hit at high exit velocities will result in more valuable batted balls. I’ll show you in the graph below how he’s a very small tweak away from significantly increasing his barrel percentage.


Take a look from game 100 to the end of the season. His hard contact and wOBA are in relation, combined with elite Z-Contact rates and fewer ground balls have his rolling wOBA up near .500 at the end of the season! Winker will be given every opportunity to start in the outfield for a bad Cincinnati Reds ball club. The one aspect Winker hasn’t mastered is his pulled fly ball rate. It sat just over 16% in 2018, typically I like to see around 25% for pulled fly balls.  Whatsmore, his HR/FB% on pulled fly balls was only 15.4% which is nearly 15% below league average. On the bright side, 46.4% of his pulled fly balls are hit “hard” so I anticipate that rate to jump up significantly. 

I understand he’s more Paul Konerko than Billy Hamilton on the base paths, but his incredible on-base skills SHOULD put him in the two hole in front of Votto and Suarez. Winker does need to improve against left-handed pitching, so I’ll project him for 135 games in 2018. No, Winker will not be the most exciting player in 2019, but it’s difficult to find very solid average/OBP with 20+ power potential and solid run production after pick 200.

2019 Projections: .295/.383 22 HR 1 SB 80 R 75 RBI

Follow me on Twitter @Freezestats

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Kyle Freeland 2019 Outlook

Kyle Freeland (COL – SP) – NFBC ADP 120

Kyle Freeland turned in one of the most improbable seasons in 2018 finishing with the lowest qualified ERA by a Rockies starter in team history. He pulled that off while giving up more fly balls up from 27.6% in 2017 to 34.5% 2018. For a pitcher with a below-average strikeout rate and league-average walk rate, and calls Coors Field home it sounds like a disaster. On the contrary, Freeland rolled to 17 wins with a 2.85 ERA and threw over innings. Freeland doesn’t throw hard averaging just under 92 mph on his fastball and throws three other pitches over 12% (Fourseam 40%, Slider 29%, Change up 14%, Sinker 13%) and occasionally mixes in a curve. I know what you’re thinking, Freeland is a lot like Kyle Hendricks. But, he’s not. Hendricks only throw two main pitches and mixes in a 3rd only about 10% of the time, plus Hendricks can’t even muster 90 mph.

The first thing that jumped out to me with Freeland is how successful he was with his fastball and sinker. As I mentioned, he doesn’t have elite velocity or high spin rates but take a look at the locations on the chart below to right-handed batters.

The fastball chart against right-handed hitters is a thing of beauty. A left-handed pitcher that can throw up and inside to righties is special. BaseballProspectus has Freeland ranked 19th overall in command score above pitchers like Miles Mikolas and Cole Hamels. Here’s the deal with the fastball up and in thanks to Michael Augustine of Pitcher List, it appears to be “effectively” faster to the batter. In other words, a 92 mph fastball up and it can seem like a 96 mph fastball down the pipe. Freeland has mastered this and keeping his fastballs inside to right-handed hitters and mostly up which has allowed him to utilize his secondaries much more effectively. Yes, I’ve said effectively a million times in this paragraph, but that’s exactly how Freeland pitched this year. Anyways, the fastball can set up an 85 mph changeup low and away that seems like 81 mph to the batter or vice-versa. The “effective” velocity difference seems more like 14 or 15 mph to the hitter than 7 mph.

The chart above shows the exit velocities on batted balls off of Kyle Freeland. Many of those low exit velocities are the result of well-located fastballs and sinkers up in the zone or inside to righties. Fastballs and sinkers are the two most hardest hit pitches in all of baseball averaging about 89.8 mph (in terms of average exit velocity). Freeland’s FB+SI on inside pitches averages just under 87 mph. That’s fantastic. The rest of his arsenal isn’t anything special, however. So yes, in this regard Freeland is crafty like Kyle Hendricks. What’s holding Freeland back from being a top 20 starting pitcher is the lack of a strikeout or put-away pitch. His changeup, which is only utilized 13% of the time generates the most swings outside the zone and the most swings and misses in general. The slider gets more swings and misses inside the zone, but didn’t generate many offerings outside the strike zone. Then there’s the sinker which had a positive pitch value in 2018 but it’s a pitch he threw 23% less than the previous year. It’s not a great pitch despite what the pitch value tells us, it generates ground balls but is crushed when not located correctly. The pitch does have value to keep the ball in the yard but has a thin margin for error. I hope the trend of the sinker continues for Freeland in 2019.

So what do we do with Freeland in 2019? I think he needs to develop either the slider or the changeup into a put-away pitch. We know he has incredible command of the fastball and because of that, it’s his best pitch. He just needs to generate more swings a misses. Without any changes to his pitch mix, I am going to have to project regression. Combine that with the increase in fly balls (which actually was a result of throwing fewer sinkers) in Coors Field, I believe a 3.60-3.75 ERA is in the cards with an elevated WHIP with his slightly above average walk rate. The high walk rate tells me he doesn’t give into hitters which will hurt his WHIP but help the home run rate. This is a necessity in Coors Field because sometimes giving in can lead to a three-run homer. For 2019 I’ll project Freeland to go:

12 Wins 3.72 ERA 1.29 WHIP 166 K in 190 IP

(Photo Courtesy of ESPN)

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