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Starting Pitchers to Stream for Week 14 (7/1-7/7)

Welcome back to the FreezeStats weekly stating pitcher streaming article! You know the drill. I choose starting pitchers that are available in at least 75% of FantasyPros consensus leagues to help you win your matchup each week. The talent seems to be falling off a bit which means the fantasy community is really on their game. I’ve been able to uncover a nice blend of high ceiling and high floor streamers and will be picking on the Giants and Marlins next week.

Adbert Alzolay (SP – CHC), 20% owned, @PIT, Monday 7/1
With the injury the Cole Hamels, Alzolay now has a safe spot in the Cubs rotation. He’s got some pretty electric stuff but like many young pitchers has some issues with control. That being said, he does have nine strikeouts in 8.2 innings pitched. That’s over two starts but hasn’t gone five innings in either start. I know it’s a super small sample but his BABIP is currently .000 and his strand rate is 100%. That’s right, any ball that has been put in play has either been an out or a home run against Alzolay. This will change and his high walk rate could come back to bite him next week. The Pirates have been crushing the ball lately with a 123 wRC+ over the last 14 days. I don’t like his chances and I’m STAYING AWAY from Alzolay.

Matt Strahm (SP – SF), 22% Owned, home vs SF Tuesday, 7/2
I really was high on Matt Strahm coming into the season given his success as a reliever last season. He hasn’t quite lived up to my expectations but does carry a 17.4% K-BB rate which a good predictor of in-season success. He’s had two major issues, home runs, and fastball velocity. The good news for Strahm is that his velocity was up about one MPH in his last start and he struck out nine batters. In addition, his strikeout rate is 9.64 K/9 in the month of June. Now, he draws the Giants at home in Petco Park. As a team, the Giants have an 84 wRC+ (100 is average) over the last 30 days and are even worse on the road with a wRC+ of just 78! Home runs should not be an issue and Strahm walks fewer than two batters per nine innings. Easy stream here. 

Danny Duffy (SP – KC), 7% Owned, home vs CLE Wednesday, 7/3
It’s been a while since the Duff man has been fantasy relevant and his 4.43 ERA doesn’t exactly scream pick me up! However, he’s increasing the use of his slider and while the results haven’t been great on his slider, it’s the one pitch that induces swings and misses at an above-average clip. He’s also been bitten by an inflated BABIP with his slider, so it’s been better than FanGraphs Pitch Value indicates. Duffy’s also been better at home with a 4.12 ERA, no surprise there given the expansive confines of Kauffman Stadium. The Indians are much better offensively than they were back in April but are still a well-below-average team on the road with a 92 wRC+. Duffy is a deep league streamer (14 teams and deeper) given his lack of strikeout upside.

BONUS: Dylan Cease (SP – CHW), 5% owned, @DET, Wednesday 7/3
Yup, he’s finally gotten the call for the White Sox. I know it’s his debut and these starts can often go sideways. I’ll take my chances though against the Tigers who are arguably one of the worst teams in the league. As a team, they have a 76 wRC+ and a 26.1% strikeout rate which is tied with the Padres for the highest in the league. Cease has been fantastic at limiting home runs but does have a bit of walk issue. Luckily for Cease, the Tigers walk just 7.3% of the time, which is in the bottom five of the league. Cease gets a cupcake matchup in his debut, now let’s just hope he doesn’t blow it. STREAM

Eric Lauer (SP – SD), 12% Owned, home vs SF, Wednesday, 7/3

EDIT: Cal Quantrill, 5% owned, home vs SF, Wednesday, 7/3
Eric Lauer’s start has been pushed to the 4th against the Dodgers in LA, please don;t start him there. Instead Cal Quantrill has taken his place. Let’s keep picking on the Giants, shall we? I’ve already discussed how bad the Giants are offensively, so we don’t need to go over that again. I know that Lauer isn’t going to wow us with strikeouts but he does have a 4.22 ERA. On the surface, that doesn’t sound great but league-wide ERA for starting pitchers this year is 4.46! Last week, I mentioned Lauer’s struggles in Colorado and how his ERA outside of Coors Field is a steller 2.70. Last time I checked, Petco Park is not Coors Field and the Giants are not the Rockies. Lauer’s best asset is limiting home runs at just 0.95 HR/9. He’s also only given up two earned runs in his last two starts and only two home runs in his last six starts.  Quantril has been working out of the bullpen recently but after last night’s blow-up from Logan Allen, Quantrill could be back to stay. Quantrill has been averaging 95 MPH on his fastball and generates ground balls 50% of the time. His fourseam is his only plus pitch via FanGraphs pitcher value but he’s getting swings outside the zone 34.7% of the time with a 12% SwStr rate. He may struggle with walks but should be just fine limiting home runs against the league’s third worst offense. He should provide solid ratios and good strikeout totals. I’m a little concerned he only last five innings but a W is still in play. STREAM

Anibal Sanchez (SP – WAS), 25% Owned, home vs MIA, Thursday, 7/4
You need to go get Sanchez right now. His ownership is on the rise and he draws the Marlins at home next week. I didn’t realize how good Sanchez has been. He’s seemed like a disappointment but currently has a very usable 3.82 ERA. He’s been fantastic at limiting hard contact (29.4%) and a solid 20% soft contact rate. He looks a lot like he did last year with his cutter usage and inducing swings outside the zone at an above-average clip. Since 5/29, he has a 2.29 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP. Sure, the Marlins are improving but also have a 25.4% strikeout rate over the last 14 days which is 26th in the league. Don’t over think this one, it’s an easy STREAM.

Tyler Mahle (SP – CIN), 7% owned, home vs CLE, Sunday 7/7
Mahle at home does carry some risk, especially with the Indians playing better over the last month. However, Mahle has averaged over a strikeout per inning and I want those strikeouts. He’s also been surprisingly better at home this year with just a 2.96 ERA and 31 strikeouts across 27.1 innings. Despite the homer-friendly environment, Mahle must feel more comfortable in the GAB. The Indians obviously will be without the DH, so Mahle should be able to last at least five to six innings. While home runs are an issue for Mahle, he’s inducing more ground balls this year and has a walk rate under six percent which is almost three percent below league-average. It’s very possible he gives up a homer or two but given the low walk rate and good strikeout rate, it shouldn’t hurt him too much. I like Mahle in his last start before the break.  STREAM

Follow me @FreezeStats. Check out my work at FantasyPros and Pitcher List.


Photo Source: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

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Using xBABIP to Find Outliers – Players to Buy/Sell for the 2nd Half

Last season I ran a similar analysis using the now defunct xStats.org site. Andrew Perpetua, the creator of xStats is now with the New York Mets, so he knew what the hell he was doing. Here are the two articles from last year covering the players overperforming based on their xBABIP and the players under-performing based on their xBABIP. Below is a table showing you each player’s current BABIP, their xBABIP, and their BABIP for the rest of the season.

2019 xBABIP - 2018 Recap.

Through Mid-June, 2018 ROS 
PlayersBABIPxBABIPBABIPRegression (Y/N)
Bryce Harper0.2160.2960.341Y
Johan Camargo0.2220.2930.352Y
Anthony Rizzo0.2270.2870.315Y
DJ LeMahieu0.3010.3460.294N
Trey Mancini0.2780.3220.289MEH
Ian Happ0.3850.2970.358Not enough
Matt Kemp0.40.320.29Y
Starling Marte0.3520.2910.3Y
Albert Almora0.3680.3120.31Y
Domingo Santana0.3680.308.500*N/A*
Scooter Gennett0.3890.3410.333Y
Nick Castellanos0.4110.3560.329Y
*Only received 35 plate appearances since June 11th

So, pretty decent results. I suppose if a player was carrying a .400 BABIP, there is really nowhere to go but down. However, in the case of Matt Kemp, Scooter Gennett, Albert Almora, and Nicholas Castellanos, they both fell well-below even their xBABIP. Likewise, we saw massive positive corrections for Bryce Harper, Anthony Rizzo, and Johan Camargo. All three were fantastic buy lows and owners who were able to buy them at a discount were rewarded in the second half of 2018.

This year, I don’t have the luxury of utilizing xStats.org. Luckily for me, Baseball Savant has a search tool where you can basically come up with anything you want based on the features and settings. It does take a little more leg work, but we are able to get it done. It’s important to note that expected statistics are not predictive. They are descriptive and merely show what a player’s expected numbers should be based on the quality of contact, launch angles, etc from his past performance. So knowing that we can find the player’s on the far end of each spectrum (the largest difference between BABIP and xBABIP). The probability of regression for these extreme cases is much higher than the rest of the group. That’s what I’ll be focusing on in this article.

Before we dive in, you’ll notice a bunch of Rockies on this list. The xBABIP equation does not account for Park Factors. Since Coors Field inflates BABIP as much as 20-25%, we can almost eliminate them from the regression list. If a Rockies hitter shows up on the positive regression list, that’s a completely different story. The other factor to consider is speed. xBABIP doesn’t include a speed component. So while guys like Elvis Andrus, Christian Yelich, and Tim Anderson show up the overperformers list, we need to consider that their speed could be playing a role that isn’t quantified. I won’t be expecting as much regression from those players with well-above-average speed. OK, enough rambling, here is the list of overperformers and I’ll discuss the negative regression candidates below.

Overperformers

2019 xBABIP Overperformers

player_nameBABIPxBABIPxB-BABIP
Rhys Hoskins0.3080.242-0.066
Omar Narvaez0.3240.249-0.075
Charlie Blackmon0.3490.285-0.064
Brandon Lowe0.3890.314-0.075
Nolan Arenado0.3170.261-0.056
Eduardo Escobar0.3070.250-0.057
David Peralta0.3500.297-0.053
David Dahl0.4100.367-0.043
Miguel Cabrera0.3610.312-0.049
Trevor Story0.3610.307-0.054
Christian Vazquez0.3210.272-0.049
Gleyber Torres0.3190.266-0.053
Eric Sogard0.3190.272-0.047
Corey Seager0.3220.273-0.049
Elvis Andrus0.3490.294-0.055
Christian Yelich0.3280.295-0.033
Brian Goodwin0.3550.313-0.042
Marcus Semien0.2920.266-0.026
Austin Meadows0.3680.332-0.036
Tim Anderson0.3720.329-0.043
Jorge Polanco0.3490.320-0.029
Jeff McNeil0.3800.340-0.040
Byron Buxton0.3130.282-0.031
Adalberto Mondesi0.3520.322-0.030
Xander Bogaerts0.3280.301-0.027
Juan Soto0.3650.323-0.042
Joey Votto0.3260.296-0.030

Negative Regression 

Brandon Lowe (2B – TB)
Surprise, surprise. No, not really. Lowe has by all accounts been a pleasant surprise for fantasy owners this season. He’s hitting for average, power, and chipping in with some speed. Anyone can look at Lowe’s BABIP and expect regression but what is interesting is that xBABIP is still .314. That means his batted ball quality has been great. His barrel rate is fantastic and he hits a ton of line drives and high-quality fly balls. It’s going to be difficult to keep up that quality of contact but even if he does, the expected metrics drop his BABIP by .075. That means his average goes from .279 to around .230. He’s a clear sell candidate but try and get a top 100 player for him. He’s ranked 71st on the Razzball Player Rater so it should be possible.

David Peralta (OF – ARI)
Peralta had an unexpected breakout last season at age-30 in terms of power. As we peek at his player page, we can see that his barrel rate, average exit velocity, and hard hit% are all down this year compared to 2018. On the plus side, his batted ball profile is similar to last season and while his exit velocity on line drives and fly balls (LD/FB) is down, it’s still pretty strong at 94.3 MPH. I don’t think Peralta is a complete lost cause, but there’s just no way he can maintain his .350 BABIP given his quality of contact. I don’t think he falls to the .250 range, but something around .270 with moderate power is what I expect going forward.

Eduardo Escobar (SS/3B – ARI)
Wait, did the Diamondbacks remove the humidor this year? What is going on? Escobar also showed up as a potential negative regression candidate on my home run per barrel (HR/BRL%) article earlier this month. His over-performance was largely due to a significant portionof his home runs were not barreled, aka lucky homers. It also appears he’s due for some BABIP regression. It’s not that his actual BABIP is that high but his quality of contact is awful. His hard-hit rate is just 29.2% and has just a .316 xwOBA. I would not be surprised if he hits around .250 going forward. In addition and as previously mentioned, he’s still vastly outperforming in terms of home runs. Just regressing his barrels to league-average HR/BRL% (I know, that’s lazy but hear me out), he should have between 10 and 11 homers. Sell him immediately for anything inside the top 200. He might very well hit .250 with 10 HR from here on out. You can find that on the waivers.

Joey Votto (1B – CIN)
Votto’s decline continues. As bad as he’s been, his xBABIP thinks he should be worse. Everything is out of whack with the future Hall of Famer. His strikeout rate is up, his walk rate is down, and the power is once again diminishing. While his .319 BABIP is right in line with his previous two seasons, his quality of contact is down. Votto has never been an elite Statcast guy except for the xwOBA metric. Since Statcast’s inception in 2015, Votto has finished the season with an xwOBA in the top two percent in every season except 2019. He’s not even close. His xwOBA of ,.326 is right at league-average. That’s not what we are used to seeing with Votto. The good news for owners is that his hard contact has been up in the month of June while his strikeout and walk rates are much closer to a one-to-one ratio this month. At this point, I’m not selling, you can’t get anything for him. I’m riding it out and this given the properties of the ball, he could partially turn his season around. I think Votto can finish around .275 with 20 homers. That’s not what you drafted him for, but is useful ROS.

Rhys Hoskins (1B/OF – PHI)
Whoa, looks like we are in for some steep regression with Hoskins. When looking at his metrics, he’s essentially the same player he was a year ago. The only differences are he’s hitting the ball a little harder, walking more, AND hitting more infield fly balls. So while hitting the harder with help with his BABIP and home runs, the increased popups will hurt his BABIP. In other words, his BABIP should mirror last season’s .272 BABIP. That’s a steep drop and I’ll take the under on THE BAT’s .259 BA going forward. He’s still a great source of power and RBI and of course a hold in OBP leagues but I’d sell him in BA leagues to someone who thinks he’s a third-round value.

Quick hit: Jeff McNeil has been so impressive in his brief career thus far. He’s carrying a .370 BABIP thus far in his career over 526 plate appearances. That’s not exactly a small sample. It’s hard to see how he’s able to maintain such elevated marks without the elite quality of contact and foot speed. Don’t get me wrong, his quality of contact is good and because of his very low strikeout rate, he’s also a threat to hit .300 but I can’t envision a .380 BABIP going forward.

Underperformers

2019 xBABIP Underperformers

player_nameBABIPxBABIPxB-BABIP
Yonder Alonso0.2000.2790.079
Justin Smoak0.2320.3040.072
Kyle Schwarber0.2680.3250.057
Robinson Cano0.2700.3230.053
Jason Kipnis0.2720.3220.050
Franmil Reyes0.2520.3000.048
Maikel Franco0.2010.2420.041
Nick Markakis0.2890.3290.040
Evan Longoria0.2660.3050.039
J.T. Realmuto0.3100.3460.036
Jose Ramirez0.2370.2730.036
Mike Trout0.3170.3510.034
Dansby Swanson0.2890.3230.034
J.D. Martinez0.3110.3430.032
Enrique Hernandez0.2350.2650.030
Lorenzo Cain0.2900.3200.030
Niko Goodrum0.3120.3420.030
Joc Pederson0.2040.2320.028
Albert Pujols0.2150.2430.028
Amed Rosario0.3110.3380.027
Marcell Ozuna0.2740.2990.025
Anthony Rendon0.3200.3450.025

Positive Regression 

Kyle Schwarber (OF – CHC)
Looking at the bottom of the list, you’ll notice a theme. It’s speed or lack thereof. So while I’m expecting quite a bit of positive regression for Schwarber, I don’t think he will manage a .325 BABIP going forward. That being said, he’s absolutely killing baseballs this year. His hard-hit rate is over 50% which ranks inside the top two percent of Major League Baseball. He doesn’t waste his balls in play as his soft contact rate is third lowest to only J.D. Martinez and Justin Turner, and right in front of Matt Carpenter. I mention Carpenter because I think Schwarber could have a stretch similar to what we saw from Carp last season. All the metrics are pointing to elite numbers but so far the surface stats are a little bit pedestrian. Schwarber’s limited by the shift but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him hit .260 with 16-18 homers the rest of the way.

Franmil Reyes (OF – SD)
Coming off a two-homer game, Franmil is not someone you will likely to be able to buy low on. Reyes reminds me of a right-handed Schwarber but without the elite walk rate. His power metrics are off the charts and the results have been there. In his 551 plate appearances to start his career, he has already racked up 38 home runs. That’s Aaron Judge/Cody Bellinger territory. OK, this isn’t about his power, it’s about BABIP. He’s hitting .247 but based on the xBABIP, he should be closer to .280. His strikeout rate near 28% will limit his batting average upside, but I’ll lean closer to .260-.265 the rest of the way with 40-homer power. That’s some good stuff right there.

Anthony Rendon (3B – WAS)
Wow, really? Rendon is already hitting .314 but based on his xBABIP, he should be closer to .340! I’ve discussed Rendon at nauseam because I think he’s an MVP candidate and doesn’t get enough love. He showed up on my HR/BRL underperformers from about a month ago and is still underperforming. This is a guy who could honestly his .350 with 20 home runs the rest of the way and I wouldn’t be surprised. There’s not more I can say, he’s great!

Jose Ramirez (2B/3B – CLE)
Ugh, I just traded Jose Ramirez, Domingo Santana, and Chris Paddack for Nolan Arenado and Kyle Gibson in a 12-team league. I thought it was more important to get an elite player for a bunch of mid-tier options in a shallower 12-team league. Part of me wanted to hold on to Ramirez to see if he could turn it around. He’s been better of late but even if he improves to his actual talent this year, he’s still a .250 hitter. I am a believer in that his power will increase with the weather heating up. If he hits .250 with 10 homers and 12-15 SB, owners should take it. I would have as well but with Arenado dangling, I couldn’t resist. 

I won’t go into too much detail with the top two names: Yonder Alonso and Justin Smoak. Both have been very disappointing and typically underperform based on their xBABIP but not to this extent. Neither player is fleet of foot so I wouldn’t expect full positive regression from either. Still, both players have good power and if healthy could hit around 15 home runs in the second half. If their BABIPs come up 30 or 40 points, both are useful in 12-team leagues and a CI or utility spot. In 15-team leagues, I’d look to acquire them (Smoak over Alonso) as a throw-in to a bigger deal.

Mike Trout, LOL

Dansby Swanson (SS – ATL)
We are in the midst of Swanson’s breakout. If you missed out, that’s OK because I don’t think he’s being fully appreciated. Maybe it’s prospect fatigue and the fact that he didn’t bust out in his first couple seasons. I don’t know, either way, I think there’s more upside here. He’s still just 25 years old, already has a career-high in home runs and has more barrels through the first half of this season that he has in his last two seasons combined! In addition to huge gains in hard contact, he’s swinging at pitches outside the zone less often and smoking line drives and fly balls. There’s no reason his batting average should be in the .250s. I think he will comfortably sit around .275-.280 going forward with good power numbers and a prime spot in the Braves offense. Don’t sleep on his speed either, 10-12 SBs plays in today’s fantasy game.

Amed Rosario (SS – NYM)
This one snuck up on me a little bit. After a decent audition in the second half of 2017, he was pegged as a potential breakout in 2018. He didn’t quite live up to the hype but was serviceable, especially for a 22-year-old. He’s already matched his home run total from 2018 with nine but his batting average is right in line with last year. He’s improved his exit velocity by 2.5 MPH on average and is a few more line drives and fly balls while hitting fewer popups. That will boost ones BABIP for sure yet his current BABIP matches what he did last season. He makes enough contact and has great speed so I’d expect something closer to his xBABIP for the second half. He also has an outside shot a going 20-20 which is rare in today’s game.

Follow me @FreezeStats. Check out my work at FantasyPros and Pitcher List.


Photo Courtesy of the Sun Times

Starting Pitchers to Stream for Week 13 (6/24-6/30)

I’m a little late with this streaming post today, so I’ll spare you the introduction. The good news is, I have a plethora of streaming options for next week, seven to be exact! Remember, all of these options are available in at least 75% of FantasyPros Consensus leagues. Here we go!

C.C. Sabathia (SP – NYY)  13% owned, home vs TOR, Monday 6/24
The Blue Jays are typically a nice option to stream against. As a team, they have a strikeout rate of nearly 26% over the last two weeks. They also have to travel to New York (albeit from Boston) so typically teams are a little sluggish following a traveling day. Meanwhile, the Yankees are currently at home for their current series against the Astros, so no traveling. Both Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have returned, so run support should be plentiful. Sabathia has also been great at home this season with a 2.18 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. Also, as a left-handed pitcher, he negates the short porch in right field by limiting LHB to a .152 BA and a .211 wOBA. The Blue Jays will likely stack righties against CC but I’ll take my chances. I expect two to three earned runs, five to six strikeouts and a great chance at a QS/W. STREAM but stay away from his 6/30 start in Boston.

Adam Plutko (SP – CLE), 5% owned Home vs KC, Monday 6/24
This is a matchup play for sure but Plutko has limited walks to just under one per nine innings this season. The Royals are without one of their most dangerous hitters in Adalberto Mondesi who hit the IL this past week. Hunter Dozier has returned, but overall, the Royals lineup lacks elite power bats. Over the last 14 days, the Royals have just a 79 wRC+ well below league-average of 100. In addition to limiting walks, Putko has managed to give up six earned runs over his last three starts (2 in each start) and has boosted his strikeout rate in his last two outings. He’s been fantastic at getting ahead of hitters which he’s done 69% of the time and that’s allowed him to induce swings outside the zone over 35% of the time. Plutko’s issues are with home runs, and it’s been ugly at just under three home runs per nine innings. However, four of them came against the Rays in one start. A quick peek at BaseballSavant shows me he’s been unlucky. His xwOBA is just .318 compared to his .340 wOBA and his eight barrels against should have yielded five to six home runs rather than the nine HR he’s given up. I think Plutko is able to limit damage to just one home run in this outing which should provide positive results. STREAM

Chris Bassitt (SP – OAK), 23% owned, @STL, Tuesday 6/25
The 30-year-old veteran right-hander has managed a very respectable 3.64 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP on the season. There’s nothing special I can see in regards to his pitch mix but he’s improved his average fourseam velocity by 1.2 MPH from last year. By increasing his velocity, he’s been able to effectively pitch up in the zone with a 40% strikeout rate and a 22.2% infield fly ball rate on his fourseamer. It has really complimented his cutter that he throws low and out of the zone. The Cardinals are not the offensive juggernaut I thought they would be after acquiring Paul Goldschmidt. They have managed just a 92 wRC+ (100 is league-average) this season. Normally I don’t love OAK pitchers away from home but Busch Stadium actually scored lower on the HR/BRL home run park factors. Bassitt’s also carrying an 8.81 K/9 so facing the pitcher’s spot a couple of times could yield at least a strikeout per inning. I’m streaming here.

Dylan Bundy (SP – BAL), 19% owned, home vs SD, Wednesday 6/26
On the surface, Bundy looks similar to last season’s disaster and his 17% K-BB rate this year (17.3% in 2018) proves this point. However, Bundy’s BABIP against is down .033 at .283 which is closer to his career .294 mark. He’s also decreased hard contact against which is down almost seven percent. While his home run rate is only down a slight margin, Bundy’s luck has normalized a little bit. His changeup which I thought had some very bad luck last year is now a plus pitch by FanGraphs pitch value. Paired with his slider and Bundy has a nice one-two punch. Over the last month, Bundy has a 3.86 ERA with a 10.44 K/9. The Padres have been better of late but still carry a high strikeout rate as a team. This is the ultimate high-risk/high-reward play. I’m feeling lucky with Bundy pitching better and the Padres traveling across the country. STREAM

Anibal Sanchez (SP – WAS), 24% owned, @DET, Friday 6/28
Streaming against the Tigers has been a consistent theme for me this year. For Ss and Gs, let’s look at the Tigers numbers at home this season: 35 games, 22 HR, 25% strikeout rate, 6.5% walk rate, 70 wRC+. The 70 wRC+ for the Tigers is tied with the Giants as the worst home rate in the league. Home runs go to die in centerfield at Comerica, so Sanchez should be safe. In regards to Sanchez, one number intrigues me, 27% cutters. That’s how often he’s throwing the pitch this year but it’s up to over 30% in his last four starts where he’s sporting a 1.54 ERA. As a result, his usage of his fastball (his worst pitch) continues to diminish. Sanchez is a nice play for decent ratios and a win. I’m Streaming.

Eric Lauer (SP – SD), 13% owned, Home vs STL, Friday 6/28
Lauer’s not the most exciting option but he’s been effective outside of his two blow ups at Coors Field. Subtracting these two starts from his season ERA, we get 3.11 for an ERA outside of Coors Field. Next week’s game is not at Coors Field. If you don’t love that math, Lauer has a very rock-solid 2.70 ERA at Petco. Lauer has also increased the usage of his curveball which is his best pitch. I’ve already discussed the Cardinals and their below-average offensive performance to date, so Lauer seems like a nice option. I’d love to pair Lauer’s safe floor with Bundy’s high but volatile ceiling next week. Stream.

Dakota Hudson (SP – STL), 25% owned @SD, Saturday 6/29
Hudson has looked great over his last seven starts and now owns a 3.36 ERA on the season. He won’t pile up strikeouts but has somehow managed to induce ground balls nearly 62% of the time when everyone is trying to elevate. He pairs a 94 MPH power sinker with a cutter which is where he can generate whiffs. Manny Machado and the Padres are heating up but Hudson hasn’t given up more than three earned runs since April 15th! He’s totaled eight straight quality starts. He might tie you to the WHIPping Post but should limit runs and has great shot at a win. Of course, he’s a must stream in QS leagues. Either way, I’m streaming.

Follow me @FreezeStats. Check out my work at FantasyPros and Pitcher List.


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Starting Pitcher Rest of Season Rankings Update (June 2019)

It’s nearing the end of June and we are rapidly approaching the mid-point of the 2019 season. I can’t believe had quickly the first half has gone! It doesn’t matter whether you are in first place or in the bottom third of your league, you should still be competing. Two years ago, I was in a head-to-head league where I was in 10th place (out of 12 teams) at the end of June and managed to make a couple of trades and key waiver wire pickups where I vaulted all the way to third place by September. I ended up staying hot and winning the league after three weeks of playoffs. I understand that in Roto formats, this is much more difficult to do, but even if you’re in the middle of the pack, you have a chance. Below are my rest of season rankings for starting pitchers and relief pitchers for standard roto 5×5 leagues. If you have questions regarding specific players in the format in which you play, please feel free to comment. Keep in mind the vs ECR and +/- ECR is based on the expert consensus rankings, not my previous rankings. Click here to see my May update.


 

Risers

Dallas Keuchel (SP – ATL) +44 (93 to 49)
After a long layoff, Keuchel has finally signed with the Atlanta Braves. It’s a sweet spot to land given the soft schedule in the NL East, the quality of the ballclub as a whole, and the pitcher-friendly environment at SunTrust Park. Plus, the infield defense for Atlanta has been pretty good which compliments Keuchel’s extreme ground ball approach. Yes, Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies have not been great per FanGraphs Defensive metrics but it’s not a great measure of success in smaller samples and both ranked in the top five at their respective positions in 2018. Keuchel won’t pile up the strikeouts but he should limit walks and home runs. The projection systems have him at an ERA just under 4.00, so he should provide fantasy teams in 12 and 15-team leagues with plenty of value going forward.

Lucas Giolito (SP – CHW) +19 (39 to 20)
Giolito once again is a big mover as he pushes the top 20. Maybe I was a little reluctant to fully buy-in after only one month of success. However, since 4/17, he’s basically been the best pitcher in baseball with eight wins, a microscopic 1.25 ERA, a 0.82 WHIP, and 77 strikeouts in 65 innings (last night excluded). Everything I said last time applies to this update with Giolito with the exception of the elite strikeout rate. Since my late-May update, he’s had a nasty 18.6% swinging strike rate (SwStr%) and has a 33.6% strikeout rate. I still think the home run rate and BABIP will rise which is the reason for my hesitation in putting in the elite class. Regression can hit hard like it did last night against the Cubs. Still, owners have hit the jackpot with the soon to be 25-year-old.

Griffin Canning (SP – LAA) +30 ( 76 to 46)
Despite the hype of many other young pitching prospects, it’s Canning who has come out and been unexpectedly successful. So, his .244 BABIP is likely to rise but all of the other metrics seem to be in line with his surface numbers. Besides, he’s rocking a 21.5% K-BB rate that’s tied for 20th among pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched. Canning is an extreme fly ball pitcher, so home runs will occasionally be a problem but keeping his 94+ MPH fastball up in the zone while keeping his changeup and breaking pitches down has helped boost his strikeout rate. His 16% SwStr rate is absolutely insane. I’m riding Canning but know that an innings cap could be in order especially once the Angels are out of the playoff race.



Lance Lynn (SP – TEX) +- (unranked to 40!)
I never thought I’d be ranking Lance Lynn in the top 40 starting pitchers, but here we are. Lynn’s career-low walk rate in a full season is 8.6% way back in 2012. He’s currently sitting on a walk rate of just 6.1% which he combines with a current career-best 26% strikeout rate. K-BB rate is one of the best in-season measures of future success and Lynn’s 19.8% K-BB% ranks 16th among qualified starters. No, I don’t trust his 4.16 ERA because his .345 BABIP is sure to come down based on his career .305 BABIP. He’s also throwing harder with an average fastball velocity of 94.6 MPH (up 0.6 MPH from 2018 and up 2.0 MPH from 2017)! I think I trust his xFIP of 3.85 more than anything. Let’s call it 3.75-3.85 going forward which is pretty solid given the current landscape of pitching.

Kyle Gibson (SP – MIN) +19 (64 to 45)
While others are salivating over prospects such as Zac Gallen or Dylan Cease, Kyle Gibson is out there slinging it with a career-best K-BB rate of 19.3%. Gibson is already dealing with a home run issue evidenced by his 19.3% HR/FB rate that’s nearly five percent over the league average and he’s still managing a 3.70 ERA and a sparkling 1.17 WHIP. Gibson might be the definition of a boring veteran. But that’s OK. The issue with rookie pitchers, especially for ones on non-contending teams is an innings cap and inconsistencies. I’d rather roll with a veteran like Gibson who is showing the best skills of his career and plays for a contender in a weak division. Besides, his metrics are all trending in the right direction despite a subpar outing last night.

Yu Darvish (SP – CHC) +11 (46 to 35)
OK, so it’s not like we can fully trust Darvish but take a look at his numbers over the last four starts: 2.96 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, a 25.5% strikeout rate, AND just a 7.5% walk rate. That includes a four ER start in Coors Field. I’m focused more on the walk rate that was north of 14% just a couple weeks ago. Darvish is throwing his cutter more and his slider less. He seems to have better control and command of the pitch and its yielded very solid results. In fact, his cutter is a Money Pitch (42.1% O-Swing, 50.4% Zone%, and 20.6% SwStr%) and has a minuscule .198 wOBA against the pitch compared his career .301 wOBA. Compare that to the .360 wOBA against the slider this year. I think Darvish is headed in the right direction, so he gets a bump. Although, he does have top 20 upside, so there’s still a ways to go.


Zac Gallen (SP – MIA) +13 (98 to 85) and  Dylan Cease (SP – CHW) +16 (117 to 101)
After slighting these two in the Kyle Gibson blurb, I’ve gone ahead and moved up both Cease and Gallen. Both will have their limitations as I previously discussed but both are nearing promotions with Gallen getting called up with Pablo Lopez hitting the 10-day IL. Gallen at least has the backdrop of Marlins Park to soften his inconsistent starts, so I prefer him to Cease for the rest of this season. In addition, the projection systems prefer him to Cease. That being said, both are very talented prospects and given the starting pitcher options ranked below, I’ll roll the dice on these top prospects for the upside alone. 

Fallers

German Marquez (SP – COL) -11 (21 to 32)
We knew Coors Field would make for rocky starts but now Marquez has begun to struggle on the road as well. His K-BB rate remains solid at 18.5% but his ERA has ballooned to 4.57. Even in a year with the inflated league-wide ERA, that stings a little from one of your top two or three pitchers. I’m not completely discouraged because the ERA-estimators still show solid skills, but we can’t trust them as much as we would like given the Coors backdrop. There are some positive signs, he hasn’t lost any velocity and he’s throwing his curve and slider more than ever. The issue is with his slider. It’s not performing well after it basically saved his 2018 season. After checking the movement of his slider, he’s lost about an inch of drop and a half inch of horizontal movement. As a result, it’s getting hit hard when he leaves it in the zone.

Based on the heatmap, he’s either burying it off the plate or leaving it center cut. Fortunately, the results against his slider in terms of O-Swing, O-Contact, and SwStr are still great. It’s about location. He’s not far off which is why I didn’t drop him further. If an owner is giving up on him, I’d go buy him on the cheap.

Joe Musgrove (SP – PIT) -18 (36 to 54)
Musgrove was one of my favorite mid-tier starting pitcher targets this year. I landed him on a couple of teams and was feeling good after the month of April. Since then, Musgrove has been a different guy. His strikeouts are down, walks are up, and while he’s getting unlucky with his low strand rate, his home run rate looks like it’s due to elevate a bit. I believe in Musgrove’s talent but between his velocity dip and Ray Searage’s pitch-to-contact philosophy, I feel the need to drop him in the rankings. It’s too bad because his slider is getting better results than it ever has in the past. In addition, his curveball has seen an increase and it’s also yielded great results. The problem is his fastball and he’s throwing it over 60% each of the last two outings. I’d like to see it under 50% and see something like 25% sliders, 15% curveballs, and 12% changeups.

Jimmy Nelson (SP – MIL) -33 (60 to 93)
Coming off a devastating shoulder injury and surgery, Nelson has clear rust to shake off. It’s been nearly two years since he last pitched prior to his first start earlier this month. This is not someone I’m taking a risk on given the length of his layoff. I think we will see flashes of brilliance from Nelson but those starts will not outweigh the rough outings where he can’t find his control. In addition, the feel for some of his pitches may go in and out as well. This is not a roller coaster I want to get on. I will very likely be back in on Nelson in 2020 as long as he can stay healthy. 

Yusei Kikuchi (SP – SEA) -35 (44 to 79)
After showing some flashes in April, Kikuchi has proved to be unusable in 12 team leagues. He now has an ERA above 5.00 and a strikeout rate below 7.0 per nine innings. He has been absolutely crushed by the long ball giving up 17 home runs in just 80.1 innings pitched. He’s already given up 10 homers off his fastball and a .406 wOBA against the pitch. It’s evident that he needs to reduce his fastball usage that is just north of 50% usage to date. His slider and curve have been decent and the slider can get plenty of whiffs. That’s the reason I haven’t completely buried him because I think he has a chance to be a somewhat successful junkballer. If that happens, his strikeout rate should improve and he could be useful. I’ll be monitoring his pitch mix going forward.

Kevin Gausman (SP – ATL) -62 (45 to 107)
I know Gausman landed on the IL, but that’s not why he has dropped in the rankings. It’s because of his 6.21 ERA and 1.51 WHIP. Now, his K-BB rate isn’t all that bad at 14.1% and I think his .339 BABIP and 57.6% strand rate are due for some positive regression, but he’s become a two-pitch pitcher. He throws is his fastball and splitter over 95% of the time. The increased use of his splitter is the reason for his bump in strikeout rate but also has hurt his walk rate. Given the fact that hitters can just sit on the fastball, he’s been crushed the second time through the order with an 8.14 ERA! I’ll be monitoring his pitch mix upon his return but if he continues throwing two pitches, I’m not even giving him a look despite his second-half success in the past.

Follow me @FreezeStats. Check out my work at FantasyPros and Pitcher List.


Photo Courtesy of  JAE C. HONG AP


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Starting Pitchers to Stream for Week 12 (6/17-6/23)

Welcome back to the weekly starting pitcher streaming article. It’s a special Father’s Day edition! Well, there’s nothing really all that special about it other than I’m posting it on Father’s Day. So, Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there. Hopefully, this article gives you a leg up on the competition next week. Let’s get to it!

Note: All pitchers are available in at least 75% of FantasyPros Consensus ownership leagues.

Mike Fiers (SP – OAK) 22% owned, home vs BAL, Monday 6/17
Mike doesn’t exactly throw fire but he’s been streamable at home this season. He’s carrying a 3.60 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and a .262 wOBA in Oakland Coliseum this year. Yes, he’s been extremely fortunate with a sub-.200 BABIP but he’s only given up six homers at home compared to nine of the road in about the same number of innings. The Orioles, while respectable offensively at home are tied for 26th with a .293 wOBA on the road. They are also prone to strikeouts with a 0.26 BB/K rate. You’re not getting Fiers for the strikeouts but if the Orioles are going to give him a few extra, I’ll take it! I’m streaming for ratios and a win/quality start.


Merrill Kelly (SP – ARI) 19% Owned, Home vs COL, Tuesday 6/18
I haven’t had luck streaming Kelly this season. Every time I use him, he blows up. When I don’t use him, he does well. I want to flip the switch this time. First off, the matchup is great. The Rockies are one of the worst teams on the road with a .283 wOBA and a 27.3% strikeout rate away from Coors Field. Both are 29th in MLB. The ball moves differently in altitude and it’s difficult for the Rockies hitters to adjust, especially after the last two series were in Coors. Kelly’s also been on fire going at least seven innings in each of the last three outings giving up only two earned runs across those starts. He’s seen an uptick in strikeouts thanks to throwing the curve and cutter more often. It might not be a coincidence that his velocity is up about one MPH over his last four starts. Kelly is my STREAM OF THE WEEK

Pablo Lopez (SP – MIA) 25% Owned, @STL, Thursday 6/20
Lopez struggled through the first three innings in his last start against the Pirates where I streamed him. Then, he threw four shutout innings and earned his fourth win and a QS. He’s not an elite strikeout pitcher but limits walks and hard contact. Among pitchers with at least 200 batters faced, he ranks 30th in expected wOBA (xwOBA). I mentioned this before, but he has three pitches that generate strikeouts at least 24% of the time. So while I don’t think he’ll dominate with 10 Ks, he won’t hurt you there either. Sure, this is a road start, so that’s not great but the Cardinals are ranked 28th in wRC+ (76 where 100 is league average) over the last to weeks. Also, Busch Stadium suppresses home runs evidenced by its home run park factors and the Cardinals have only hit 39% of their home runs this season at home (35 at home, 55 on the road). I’m STREAMING here.

Eric Lauer (SP – SD) 17% owned, @PIT, Friday 6/21
Lauer just stood up the Nationals and fared pretty well. He lasted seven innings giving three earned runs (4 runs total), striking out five. He draws the Pirates in PNC Park which isn’t too bad. I know the Pirates have been hot lately but it’s partially a mirage given their elevated .344 team BABIP. At home, the Pirates are slightly below-league-average offensively with a 97 wRC+. I’m not going to try and sell you that Lauer is a great pitcher because he’s not. Lauer has limited damage by keeping his walk and home run rate low. He’s improved his first-pitch strike rate and zone% which allows him to go deeper into games. He gets a boost in QS leagues and I’m expecting at least six innings with solid ratios. He’s a STREAM in 14-team leagues and deeper.

Jalen Beeks (SP – TB) 6% owned, @OAK, Friday 6/21 or Saturday 6/22
Beeks has been coming into games in the second or third inning following an opener. So, quality start leagues may need to look elsewhere. He typically goes four-plus innings and puts himself in a nice position to earn a win. In fact, he’s got five wins already in just 53 innings pitched and should pitch today (Sunday) which lines him up for next Friday or Saturday. The Athletics are scary powerful but I prefer to stream against them where they are in Oakland. Here are the splits:

Home/Away HR Hit wRC+
Home (O.Co) 47 94
Away 59 106

Beeks just faced the Athletics at home and held them to zero earned runs (1 unearned) and three base runners. In fact, he’s only given up two earned runs in his last three appearances. If you’re looking for a win and low ratios, go ahead and STREAM. Make sure you grab him in advance of Friday’s game in case they decide to use him then instead of Saturday.


Michael Pineda (SP – MIN), 10% Owned, @KC Sunday 6/23
Is it time to jump back in on Pineda? I think the time is right. The Royals have not been great offensively this year and have been even worse over the last 14 days with an anemic 61 wRC+! Over that time, their strikeout rate has ballooned to 28.8% as a team and have walked just five percent of the time. That’s brutal. The team lacks power and while getting Hunter Dozier back will help, it’s still a dream matchup in the deep confines of Kauffman Stadium. Pineda’s control seems just fine as he’s walking under two batters per nine innings but as usual, he’s struggling with the long ball. That’s OK because that’s the Royals weakness. Here’s the real reason for Pineda’s recent success. His fastball velocity, after averaging 92 MPH early in the season is up over 94 MPH over his last three starts. In each one of those games, it’s generated a positive pitch value. Great control and increased velocity have me at least somewhat intrigued. STREAM!

Follow me @FreezeStats. Check out my work at FantasyPros and Pitcher List.


Photo Credit: Jasen Vinlove / USA Today

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Fantasy Baseball Top Starting Pitchers – Last 30 Days

After I went through the top starting pitchers over the last 30 days, I noticed quite a few veterans who were previously not highly touted coming into this year. I’ll try to stay away from the Max Scherzer’s, Justin Verlanders, and Walker Beuhler’s because we know they are great. And they are. Yes, Buehler has turned the corner, the slow start may have been lingering fatigue from several stressful playoff innings in 2018, but he looks every bit like an ace over the last month. A quick note on the Braves signing of Dallas Keuchel. I’m typically not a fan of Keuchel but given his extreme ground ball tenancies and landing in a great spot with the Braves, he could have some SP3/4 value in 12-team mixed leagues the rest of the way. I’ll be interested to see how his control metrics look because he has to keep walks down to be successful. The schedule for the Braves going forward is light and SunTrust Park is moderately friendly for pitchers.

Note: These numbers do not include statistics from last night.



Top Ranked Starting Pitchers - Last 30 Days

NameTeamWSOERAWHIP
Julio TeheranBraves2220.681.05
Hyun-Jin RyuDodgers4230.800.92
Lucas GiolitoWhite Sox5430.970.65
Jake OdorizziTwins4351.301.01
Max ScherzerNationals2471.361.06
Charlie MortonRays5421.460.78
Rich HillDodgers3381.501.07
Mike SorokaBraves4261.510.73
Sandy AlcantaraMarlins2241.691.00
Trevor RichardsMarlins3281.740.94
Pablo LopezMarlins2271.880.87
Adrian SampsonRangers5301.991.07
Dakota HudsonCardinals3201.991.14
Eric LauerPadres3222.030.97
Justin VerlanderAstros3422.230.61
Walker BuehlerDodgers3392.250.91
Mike MinorRangers2402.271.37
Zack GreinkeDiamondbacks2252.350.95
Brad PeacockAstros3332.431.08
Chris SaleRed Sox1642.450.79
Griffin CanningAngels1282.700.83
Lance LynnRangers3412.781.11
Kyle HendricksCubs5402.810.94
Stephen StrasburgNationals4352.910.94
Frankie MontasAthletics4372.931.08
Sonny GrayReds2302.931.23
Clayton KershawDodgers3282.971.11
Wade MileyAstros3353.091.23
Brandon WoodruffBrewers3363.380.91
Dylan BundyOrioles2303.381.13
Gerrit ColeAstros1443.411.00
Matthew BoydTigers1423.411.19
Blake SnellRays1363.411.28
Noah SyndergaardMets2343.601.05
Kenta MaedaDodgers3333.670.74
Robbie RayDiamondbacks3463.861.44

Robbie Ray (SP – ARI)
Ray doesn’t quite belong on this list but he’s piled up the strikeouts and compiled three wins over the last month. What’s interesting to me is that his walk rate over the last 30 days is under 10%. It’s 9.9%, but still, that’s an improvement for Ray. His FIP is a 2.81 and his strikeout rate is a robust 32.8%. One reason for his success recently is getting ahead of hitters. Over the last 30 days, his first-pitch strike rate is 63.8% but only 56.1% thus far in 2019. This is huge for Ray. He’s also throwing his slider more often which is great for his strikeouts. He’s been able to throw his curveball for strikes (Zone% 46.3% this year compared to 37.9% in his career). I’m monitoring Ray because if he can maintain a 64% F-Strike% and bump his zone rate over 40%, he could get back to 2017 results, or better! Maybe I’m biased for throwing Ray out there as the NL Cy Young winner in my Bold Predictions article.

Julio Teheran (SP – ATL)
Teheran is MLB’s ERA leader over the last 30 days. But, how? How about a .181 BABIP, and an 87.1% strand rate? Oh, and he hasn’t given up a home run over the last month! He has seemingly done the impossible. Based on his embarrassingly low 6.2% K-BB%, he’s due for some major regression. But how much and why am I asking so many questions? Well, his 3.52 FIP shows quite a bit of regression but his 5.26 xFIP and 5.47 SIERA show that he’s been one of the worst pitchers over the last month. Regression is going to hit Teheran hard, very hard. If you’ve owned him through this stretch, congratulations, now flip him for almost any player that could help your team.

Lance Lynn (SP – TEX)
Am I just focusing on boring veterans here? Well, kind of, but, Lynn’s metrics are the opposite of Teheran’s. Lynn has been very good over the last month and his xFIP and SIERA are right in line with his 2.78 ERA. Plus, his FIP is way down at 1.75! A 28.6% K-BB rate will do that for you. Along with a nice boost in his strikeout rate, he’s also suppressed home runs. While the metrics are showing that his elevated strikeout rate should continue, I don’t expect the home run suppression to continue given his home park. That being said, Lynn looks like a nice option going forward. He’s throwing more strikes and increased the usage of his cutter/slider at the expense of his sinker. I have no issues with Lynn performing like an SP 4 the rest of the way.


Charlie Morton (SP – TB)
The 35-year-old has had a hell of a year and a hell of a second half to his career. He’s been fantastic and while his ERA-estimators expect some regression, they fall between 2.65 and 3.33. His velocity is starting to decline but he’s adjusted by throwing his curveball more frequently, introducing a slider, and reducing his fourseam/two-seam fastballs. This pitch mix change has resulted in a career-best strikeout rate of 30.2%. As with most pitchers who increase their usage of breaking balls, he may find himself in more deeper counts which could lead to additional walks. He’s held them at bay thus far. He’s also top 10 in the league among qualified starters in allowing the lowest quality of contact. I don’t fully trust his home run rate that’s almost been cut in half, so there should be some regression. Still, let’s enjoy this and I would expect something close to his xFIP of 3.33 the rest of the way. In this era, that’s a top 20 SP with an elite strikeout rate.

Mike Minor (SP – TEX)
Minor is another Texas Ranger and previously a boring veteran who is succeeding. The ERA and strikeout numbers are good but that WHIP stands out like a sore thumb. I’ll address the WHIP right away. He’s carrying an inflated .365 BABIP over the last 30 days. Obviously, that’s extremely high and won’t last but he’s managed to strand those runners 89% of the time. That explains the elevated WHIP and a low ERA. On the season, he’s carrying a .298 BABIP, so that seems just about right. So, does that mean I trust his current 2.52 ERA on the season? No, not quite. The strikeout gains are real given a 12% swinging strike rate (SwStr%) and 30% called strikes plus swinging strike rate (CSW%). Minor could be a trade candidate if the Rangers don’t compete this year. If he goes to a contender in a better park, he could provide top 30 value the rest of the way. If he stays in Texas, there will be a few long hot nights that are going to make you wish you kept him on your bench.

Brandon Woodruff (SP – MIL)
Woodruff just stood up to the Astros in Houston and escaped with a no-decision. The Astros are missing a bunch of pieces but a WHIP of 1.00 and six strikeouts is pretty impressive. His fastball has been great and he slings it 95+ MPH. Prior to last night’s game, his pitch value is 14.2 on the fourseam and sinker combined (10.7 on the fourseam). In addition, his 12.2% Swinging strike rate and 40.1% strikeout rate off his fastball are among the best in the league. Here is Woodruff’s heatmap on fastballs when ahead in the count.

Some other pitchers who succeed throwing 95+ MPH with elevated fastballs are Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. Walker Buehler is getting there as well. Having that foundation is strong and can sustain success. I might actually be buyiug high on Woodruff.

Mike Soroka (SP – ATL)
Soroka saw some regression last night giving up 10 hits and five earned runs against the Pirates. Coming in he was carrying some crazy extreme numbers including a 17.6% infield fly ball rate, 58.4% ground ball rate, and a 2.9% HR/FB rate. In an era where the sinker is fading, Soroka throws a power sinker over 40% of the time and hitters have struggled against it. He’s getting ground balls almost 70% of the time on it! That’s Dallas Keuchel territory in terms of overall ground ball rate. Can he succeed pitching to contact though in this era or with hitters adjust? The ceiling isn’t as high with Soroka but I could see him with similar results to Kyle Hendricks as a best case scenario. Worst case, let’s not go there. I think he will be good but let’s not get carried away.


Dylan Bundy (SP – BAL)
Last year’s home run leader (in a bad way) has pitched well recently. His HR/9 over the last 30 days is down a respectable 1.23 compared to his ugly 2.13 HR/9 from last season. How is he doing this? Well, he’s throwing his changeup more frequently (10% more frequently) and while it was a negative pitch by pitch value last season, it’s neutral so far in 2019. It’s actually a solid pitch with a chase rate over 40%, a zone rate over 40%, and a SwStr rate over 16%, which is a Money Pitch per Nick Pollack of Pitcher List. The results were atrocious last year on the change with a 220 wRC+. He’s got it down to 102 wRC+ or essentially league average. He’s also managing to get ground balls nearly 60% of the time compared to 49% last year. So, the changeup is better and the slider is still very good. However, his fastball is awful and regression is coming in terms of BABIP. He won’t keep a .255 BABIP and home runs will always be an issue as long as he calls Camden Yards home. He will be better than last season but I still can’t fully buy in.

Follow me @FreezeStats. Check out my work at FantasyPros and Pitcher List.


Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

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Starting Pitchers to Stream Week 11 (6/10-6/16)

We followed a great week in week 9 with a poor week in terms of streaming. It’s been up and down over the last few weeks after an incredibly hot start. I’m looking to begin a streaming run starting next week. You know the streaming rules. Only pitchers that are available in 25% or fewer of leagues per FantasyPros Consensus ownership rates are eligible to stream. That include Yahoo, ESPN, and CBS leagues. We have a bunch of pitchers to cover, so let’s get started.

Anibal Sanchez (SP – WAS) 10% owned, @CHW, Monday 6/10
Something has happened with Sanchez recently and I like it! It’s his cutter. He’s thrown it over 30% of the time over the last two starts and managed 14 strikeouts in just 11.1 innings pitched. He’s also only allowed one earned run in those two starts. I’m not fully back in on trusting Sanchez but the White Sox aren’t the most intimidating team in the league. They are a league-average team at home and are susceptible to the strikeout (over 26% in the last 14 days). I’m not expecting Sanchez to go more than six innings but could provide good strikeout numbers and solid ratios as long as he sticks with the cutter. STREAM.

Dakota Hudson (SP – STL) 10% owned @MIA, Tuesday 6/11
Hudson has gone at least six innings in each of his last five outings. He also has been a lot better over the last month with a 2.64 ERA and has only given up two earned runs in his last two starts. Unfortunately, Hudson doesn’t have much strikeout upside (under 7 K/9) but should have a great shot at pitching into the seventh inning. The Marlins have been better over the last two weeks but still, lack power. At home this year, the Marlins have the second lowest wOBA at .269. Only the Giants are worse. Given the favorable park and matchup, Hudson is a great quality start/ratios play next week. STREAM.

Cal Quantrill (SP – SD) 1% owned @SF, Tuesday 6/11
I’m actually really excited about this start for Quantrill. I think we are finally going to see a great start and drop his season numbers. He gets a dream matchup against the league’s worst offense in the best park for pitchers. The Giants have managed a pathetic .260 wOBA at home this season and have hit just 18 home runs at Oracle Park in over 950 plate appearances! Quantrill has successfully been able to induce swings and misses evidenced by a 13.7% swinging strike rate (SwStr%) which is 2.5% higher than the league average. He also gets swings outside the zone at a high clip thanks to a very good changeup and slider. His only major issue is his control. He doesn’t throw enough strikes. The good news is the Giants have a below-league-average walk rate as a team at eight percent. I like Quantrill next week in SF, I’m Streaming.

Tyler Mahle (SP – CIN) 11% Owned home vs TEX, Friday 6/14
The Rangers are without their most valuable hitter this year in Joey Gallo. The rest of the Rangers lineup has been below-league-average with a 94 wRC+ and have hit just five home runs over the last week. Great America Ballpark is a launching pad, so I have to be careful here. Mahle has been great against right-handed batters with a .279 wOBA and 1.09 WHIP. He does struggle against lefties, so an injured Gallo is an even biggest boost for Mahle. The Rangers still have several lefty bats but some of their better hitters to date (Andrus, Pence, and Forsythe) are right-handed. Without the DH, the Rangers are likely to lose either Choo or Guzman who are both left-handed. I’m talking myself into Mahle but I trust his 19.9% K-BB and 32%CSW rates. I’m STREAMING in 12-team and deeper leagues.

Pablo Lopez (SP – MIA) 12% owned Home vs PIT, Saturday 6/15 and Trevor Richards (SP – MIA) 12% Owned vs PIT 6/14 Friday
Two Marlins pitchers! What a bonus! Lopez loves his home games but he had his first successful road start this week in Milwaukee of all places. He shut out the Brewers in six innings getting seven strikeouts. Well, he’s back at home where he carries his 1.84 ERA with him against the Pirates. The Pirates have been pretty solid offensively but have just a 16.8% strikeout minus walk rate (K-BB%) on the road (league-average 14.2%). This is less about the matchup and more about the quality of Lopez. He was bombed for 10 runs against the Mets over a month ago that really inflated his numbers. I know you can’t just take those stats away but let’s do it for fun! He would have a 3.26 ERA with a 1.01 WHIP without that start against the Mets. That’s how good he’s been over his remaining 11 starts. I’m not only STREAMing him, but I own him in a couple of places. To touch on Richards, his surface numbers are better than his metrics but he is getting above-average swings and misses and has only given up three earned runs in his last four starts. His changeup has been dominant with just a .228 wOBA against. I’m streaming but trust Lopez just a little more if I had to choose between the two.
Note: The Pirates best hitter, Josh Bell finally hasn’t homered since 5/29 where he’s hitting just .242 with a .302 wOBA.

Chase Anderson (SP – MIL) 16% owned @SF, Sunday 6/16
Let’s go back to the Bay area, shall we? First the good with Anderson, he’s throwing 93.7 MPH (up from 92.9 MPH last year), getting swings outside the zone at a 35.5% clip and has resulted in a very solid 12% swinging strike rate (SwStr%). Now the bad, a 1.72 HR/9 and an 82.9% strand rate that is sure to regress. Anderson was bitten by the longball at home against the Marlins of all teams this past week but also was plagued with a .400 BABIP. He was on fire though with a 20.9% SwStr rate and was inducing swings outside the zone nearly 50% of the time! Talk about unlucky. Next week, he gets the Giants who are starved for power as I discussed previously and Oracle Park is a pitcher’s dream. In addition, prior to this week’s start against the Marlins, Anderson had given up just one home run in his last six starts. I don’t expect Anderson to go deep in this one, but he’s a great bet to strikeout more than a batter per inning and limiting the damage against the league’s worst offense. STREAM

Follow me @FreezeStats. Check out my work at FantasyPros and Pitcher List.



Photo Source: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy Baseball Hitter Rankings Update – Early June

I’ve finally completed my second in-season rankings update here in early June. There has been a shakeup at the top of the list and for good reason. Over the last two seasons, I’ve only considered Mookie Betts as the potential heir apparent to Mike Trout. That’s not the case. The new leader in the clubhouse is on pace for over 50 home runs and over 30 steals. You guessed, it’s Christian Yelich. Nothing in his profile shows that he will slow down. He’s currently sporting career-bests in K% and BB%, has increased his fly ball rate while maintaining an insane 35% HR/FB rate. That’s unheard of! He’s been able to do this with an increase in pulled fly balls and thanks to a more favorable home park. OK, let’s dig into the rankings, you can sort them by position or overall hitters. The +/- in the ECR column is my rankings compared to the Expert Consensus, not my previous rankings. If you want to see my update from late-April, here it is. Also for reference, here is my update before the season.

 

Catcher

Up

Jason Castro (C – MIN) +25 from 45 to 21
Previously, I had Castro buried in the catcher rankings to start the season. At the time of my previous update, he was hitting under .200 and was splitting time with Mitch Garver and Willians Astudillo. Since Garver went down. Castro really shined in his absence. Unfortunately for Castro, Garver is back and at best, there will be a 50/50 time split. That’s the reason he’s only up to 21st overall for catchers.

Will Smith (LAD) Unranked to 36, Mitch Garver (MIN) +10, Jonathan Lucroy (LAA) +9

Down

Francisco Meija (C – SD) -15 from 20 to 35
Well, 2019 does not appear to be the year of Francisco Mejia. He’s only playing a couple of days a week, doesn’t have a home run, and hitting below the Mendoza line. Why isn’t he lower on this list then? The Padres are playing well but I have a feeling they fall out of contention before August 1st. I think Meija gets a boost in playing time after the All-Star break (hopefully sooner) and produces like a top 15 catcher. A solid second half could boost Meija’s value going into 2020. NOTE: Mejia was sent to the minors, I might drop him a few spots, but not much. 

Wellington Castillo -7; Danny Jansen -7

First Base

Up

Josh Bell (1B – PIT) +16 (23 to 7)
What do you think of this ranking? Not high enough or too high? There seems to be split decisions in regards to Bell from the fantasy community. Bell quieted down his batting stance in the box to eliminate some inconsistencies from past seasons. He’s barreling up balls at an elite rate and is pulling more fly balls than ever. The gains are real and he’s earned his production to date. Then there’s his .372 BABIP which prior to this season had never been higher than .305. Yes, he’s hitting the ball harder and hitting more line drives. The increase is justified but he’s also carrying a BABIP on fly balls that’s almost .100 points higher than league-average. Same with his line drives. So, those are coming down, but so what, he’s not a .330 hitter. That’s OK. I think he finishes around .300 with 35-40 homers, so that means ROS he may hit .285 with 20 homers.

Matt Olson +21 coming off of injury & showing power, C.J. Cron + 17, Miguel Sano +13

Down

Jake Bauers (1B/OF – CLE) -11 (31 to 42)
Bauers looked like a potential sleeper coming into 2019 given his advanced approach and improving quality of contact. He also has above average speed, so envisioning a 20 HR/10 SB season with upside from there was not difficult. He’s managed to hit just .218 this year but has fantastic contact skills. The projections are still bullish on him going forward, he just needs to improve his quality of contact. He’s already going to be a sleeper for me going into 2020. He’s only 23 years old and I think his power will start to develop. Maybe he’s more of a 25 homer, 10 SB guy next year. I don’t know, but I’m still monitoring him.

Travis Shaw, -12;  Jesus Aguilar -12; Joey Votto -8

Second Base 

Up

Tommy La Stella (2B/3B/OF – LAA) (Unranked to 23trd)
The former pinch-hitting specialist for the Braves and Cubs has finally found a home. The Angels are not a deep team offensively so La Stella is getting every day playing time. I recently wrote a piece about power over/underperformers and La Stella topped the list. His power won’t likely continue but he’s made significant gains in contact rate. His 91.4% contact rate is near the top of the leaderboard and it’s helped him cut his strikeout rate in half. All of the stars are aligning for La Stella right now and he’s even underperforming his current BABIP (.287 BABIP vs .302 xBABIP). He’s getting playing time, making a ton of contact, and the properties of the ball are favoring hitters. This season is not repeatable for La Stella but ride it while you can.

Gleyber Torres +8; Cesar Hernandez +8; Brandon Lowe +10; DJ LeMahieu

Down

Ozzie Albies (2B – ATL) -4 (6 to 10)
I had originally moved Albies up after another hot start in April. Since May 1st, he’s slashing just .230/.289/.311 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with one home run and one steal. That’s not great friends. His approach still needs some refinements but his strikeout rate remains solid. He’s due some positive BABIP regression (.321 xBABIP vs .289 BABIP), so I expect at least a modest bump in his batting average. His stolen base potential has also been disappointing. He doesn’t have elite speed and the Braves aren’t giving him the green light. I think he has the ability to steal 25 bases but given what we’ve seen, he’s more of a 10-15 SB guy. .275-20-12 in 2019’s landscape is not something I’m chasing in redrafts.

Jonathan Villar -5; Brian Dozier -7; Kike Hernandez -14

Third Base

Up

Rafael Devers (3B – BOS) +7 (18 to 11)
It’s clear that Devers has worked hard this offseason to improve his game and it’s showing on the field this year. You have to remember, Devers is still only 22 years old. Most players are in Double-A (if they are lucky) at that age. He’s hitting .316 with nine home runs and his exit velocity has jumped more than two MPH from last year. He’s also stolen eight bases to date which is surprising and far from insignificant. He’s not fast by any means but he did steal 18 bases in Single-A back in 2016, so 15 SB is not out of the question. He’s also improved his contact rates which is something I love to see especially when the quality of contact improves. That’s the reason for his elevated BABIP as well. When I see improvements in both quality and overall contact, it means he’s maturing and taking his game to the next level. I think he maintains a near .300 average and pushes 25-30 homers while stealing double-digit bases.

Kris Bryant +7; Carlos Santana +9; Nick Senzel +12, Austin Riley Unranked to 14th

Down

Jose Ramirez (2B/3B – CLE) -7 (from 2 to 9)
It’s time to move Jo-Ram down. I left him at number two overall in my late-April update expecting a rebound. He started slow in April 2018 and ended up hitting 39 homers and stealing 34 bases. This year, however, he has not flipped the switch. We are beyond the point when Matt Carpenter and Paul Goldschmidt turned their seasons around last year, so the clock is ticking. Ramirez hasn’t completely been useless thanks to stealing 14 bases but he’s on pace for only 11 home runs and is still hitting just over the Mendoza line at .204. He’s never been a Statcast stud, but given elite plate approach and contact skills, he was able to maximize his abilities.

He’s been unlucky for sure, but his expected metrics are still well below where they were in 2018. He’s traded valuable pulled fly balls for pop-ups which are automatic outs. His heavy pulled fly ball approach has lessened this year. Not only is he hitting fewer pulled fly balls but he’s not hitting them as hard either. He’s also yet to homer to centerfield, something did seven times last season. As the weather heats up, I’d expect a power boost given the metrics but he probably finishes closer to 15-18 homers and 30 steals with a .240 average. That’s still top 100 but you drafted him in the top 10 and in many cases, top 5.

Jurickson Profar (1B/2B/3B/OF – OAK) -12 (22 to 34)
I was relatively low on Profar coming into the season as the move from hitter-friendly Globe Life Park to Oakland Coliseum had me concerned about his power output. Then, the ball’s properties changed and balls started flying out at record rates. Alas, fly balls and home runs remained but his profile has killed his batting average. He’s not going to carry a sub-.200 BABIP all season but a 20% infield fly ball rate (IFFB%) and a low line drive rate will suppress BABIP. Just ask Rougned Odor. He’s also been lucky with nine home runs on just 10 barrels. Profar is a deep league utility bat only.

Matt Carpenter -5; Josh Donaldson -7; Maikal Frano -10

Shortstop

UP

Ketel Marte (2B/SS/OF) +8 (18 to 10)
If you follow me on Twitter, you know I love Marte. I’ve been on Marte since he was traded from Seattle to the Diamondbacks. He’s always had great contact rates and is a great athlete. His speed has never factored in much in terms of stolen bases but he’s really bulked up this past offseason. He’s already reached his home run total from a year ago and the power metrics back up his bump in power. He’s in the top 20 overall in terms of most balls hit over 95 MPH and has the longest home run on record in 2019!He’s legit and I think he can reach 30 home runs or more this year. I wish he ran more, but I’ll settle for .280-32 HR-8 SB with a ton of counting stats.

Gleyber Torres (2B/SS – NYY) +7; Tim Anderson (SS – CHW) +4; Didi Gregorius +16

DOWN

Jonathan Villar (2B/SS – BAL) -6 (10 to 16)
It’s not that my projections for Villar have changed much at all. He’s essentially on pace for my preseason projection of 16 home runs, 34 steals, and a .250 average. The homers might actually be a little light but I doubt he reaches 34 SBs. It’s more about his peers passing him in the rankings. Gleyber Torres, Ketel Marte, Tim Anderson, and Jorge Polanco have all jumped him in the rankings. Nothing is really different about Villar. He’s still hitting near the top of a poor offensive Orioles club, hitting for some power and providing speed.

Manny Machado -3; Jean Segura -7; Tim Beckham -10

 

Outfield

UP

Austin Meadows (OF – TB) +24 (from 43 to 19)
Every month this year Meadows has hit over .300. That’s not by accident. Since the trade from Pittsburgh to Tampa Bay, Meadows has thrived. He’s making more contact and his overall quality of contact is near elite. He’s a fixture in the top third of the Rays lineup, so he should compile a fair share of counting stats. Given his skills, I’d expect around 25 homers and 15 stolen bases to go with a .300 average. That’s a hell of a deal from a guy who was draft between 150 and 200 overall.

Franmil Reyes (OF – SD) +27 (24 from 51)
Do you realize how impressive Reyes’ start to his career is? He has 19 home runs in only 211 plate appearances (PA) this year. But, in his brief career that spans 496 PA, he already has 35 home runs! That’s a 42 home run pace over 600 PA. The kid is still just 23 years old. He does have some major contact issues but so does Peter Alonso. In fact, they are very similar players and Alonso is actually older than Reyes by seven months. They even have nearly identical expected wOBAs (.389 for Alonso and .390 for Reyes). It’s just that Reyes is carrying a .240 BABIP which 75 points lower than his xBABIP. From this point forward, I think Reyes has a great shot at outproducing Alonso the rest of 2019.

Max Kepler +24; Kyle Schwarber +10; Joc Pederson +15; Byron Buxton +13; Jorge Soler +22; Avisail Garcia +36

DOWN
Wil Myers (1B/OF) – SD) -8 (from 31 to 39)
Myers has provided nice category juice with 11 home runs and six steals thus far but he’s whiffing more than ever before. His strikeout rate of 36.2% is in the bottom one percent in the league. He’s been absolutely brutal against curveballs (62.5% K rate) and changeups (47.4% K rate). Both of which he’s somehow managed BABIPs over .500, so expect regression there. Oh, and he has a .233 batting average with a .333 BABIP, so if you’re expecting an improvement in BA, it’s not coming. He is sporting solid hard hit rates and expected batting average on contact (xBACON) but also 27.8% HR/FB rate that seems very unlikely to maintain. Not only would it be a career-high for Myers, it would be nine percent higher than his previous best HR/FB rate. That’s hard to believe considering an infield fly ball rate that is the worst of his career.

Nicholas Castellanos -7; Ryan Braun -11; Delino DeShields -12

Follow me @FreezeStats. Check out my work at FantasyPros and Pitcher List.


Photo Credit: Milwaukee Brewers Facebook