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Is Alex Bregman the Next Jose Ramirez?

If I used this article title exactly one year ago today, you might think Bregman has a chance to lead all of fantasy in terms of overall value. As I write this today, the perception has a negative connotation. Jose Ramirez put together arguably two of the best back-to-back fantasy seasons in recent years from 2017 through 2018. Below are Ramirerz’s Roto numbers throughout 2017 and 2018.

Seasons Runs HR RBI SB AVG
2017-2018 217 68 188 51 .294

You don’t need to be a fantasy expect to realize the brilliance in those numbers. Ramirez averaged 200+ R/RBI, 34 homers, and 25 steals over those two seasons and combined for 13.5 fWAR. Meanwhile, Bregman is in the midst of following up his 2018 breakout where he had a 157 wRC+ and earned 7.4 WAR per FanGraphs (fWAR) with a very impressive 146 wRC+ and pacing for 6.4 fWAR in 2019. He’s on pace to best his 31 home runs from last year and other than a dip in stolen bases, the similarities to Jose Ramirez the previous two seasons are extremely similar. Let me explain.



It’s not just the small stature and elite production from these two players that make them alike. It’s also their plate discipline. Bregman is walking more than his did last season and is currently sitting with an elite walk rate of 17.3%! His plate approach is arguably the best in the league. Among qualified hitters, Bregman has offered at pitches outside the zone just 17.4% of the time which is nearly two percent better than the next closest hitter in Mookie Betts and almost four percent better than Mike Trout. Let’s do our first comparison since that’s basically what the title is inferring. Here are the key plate discipline metrics for each player (Ramirez 2017-2018 and Bregman 2018-2019).

Player O-Swing% Z-Contact% SwStr% BB% K%
Ramirez (17-18) 23.7% 92.4% 5.1% 11.8% 11.1%
Bregman (18-19) 19.1% 92.5% 4.4% 15.2% 12.5%

These numbers are extremely similar across the board but clearly, Bregman has the edge in terms of laying off pitches outside the zone. Still, you won’t find many players with better plate discipline over a two-year span than these two guys. OK, so what’s the point here. We have two elite level talents with similar approaches who are both below-average in stature. So they are little more similar, what’s next? How about the batted ball profile?

Neither Ramirez in 2017/18 nor Bregman in 2018/19 have shown great Statcast metrics. Take a look at their hard hit and exit velocity in the images below. The top image shows Ramierz’s metrics from 2018 and Bregman’s for this year.

Sure, those are fine and both have managed very solid xwOBA but that doesn’t quite jive with elite-level production. Back to the batted ball profiles. How can a hitter maximize his power without being able to regularly barrel balls up? How about pulling the ball with regularity? Yes, pulling the ball, but also pulling the ball in the air. A hitter’s bat speed is higher at the point where contact is made on pulled balls because the further along in the swing path, the faster the bat head is traveling. In addition, balls don’t have to travel as far as the fences are shorter down the lines. It seems obvious, but here is the evidence. In 2019, pulled fly balls are home runs 34.1% of the time in 2019 compared to just 11.1% and 6.0% on balls hit to center and the opposite field, respectively. In other words, by just pulling the ball in the air, a hitter’s probability of a home run is tripled compared to hitting a fly ball to center and the probability is nearly six times higher than hitting it the other way.


After knowing what we know about each of these players, you’d think that both players pull quite a few fly balls. Let’s find out if this is true.

Player Pull% Fly Ball% Pulled Fly Ball% HR/FB on Pulled FB
Ramirez 17-18 48.1% 42.8% 34.1% 34.2%
Bregman 18-19 47.7% 43.8% 33.1% 32.2%
League AVG 17-19 40.2% 35.5% 23.8% 33.4%

A few things jump out at first with this table. The first thing I notice is that Ramirez and Bregman once again have a very similar approach when it comes to batted balls. Both players clearly emphasize pulling the ball and getting the ball in the air. Both players pull the ball in the air about 10% more often than league-average. I can’t argue with their approach, both have had an insane amount of success pulling fly balls. You’ll also notice that both players are essentially league-average in terms of home runs per fly ball (HR/FB) on pulled fly balls. That’s because, as I discussed above, neither player has been able to generate elite exit velocities or above-average power metrics. Only hitters with elite power metrics and exit velocities can succeed with power to all fields. Ramirez and Bregman do not qualify in those respects. Both players have provided high-end power outputs with this approach but Ramirez has struggled to do so this year.

Now that we’ve seen both players have very similar plate approaches and batted ball profiles, I wanted to take a look at each player’s spray charts. Remember, Jose Ramirez is a switch-hitter, but his approach is the same regardless of which side of the plate he hits from. He wants to pull the ball and pull it in the air. So, for the sake of comparisons, I’m looking at Ramirez’s spray chart hitting from the right side between 2017 and 2018 and Bregman’s spray chart for just 2019.  This way, the number of plate appearances is a little closer (386 PA from Ramirez and 451 PA for Bregman).





Pretty damn close isn’t it? If you’re wondering about some of those short homers to left from Bregman, only a few were at home in the short Crawford Boxes as he’s hit 17 bombs on the road! He’s still taking advantage of wall scrapers even on the road. Now for the final item, popups or infield fly balls. With an increase in fly balls and pulled fly balls often comes an increase in popups. Popups and infield flys are essentially automatic outs. For this portion, I want to focus on Statcast’s popup metric because it’s an isolated batted ball type. Over a FanGraphs, the infield fly ball (IFFB%) is a percentage of the fly ball category. Typically, players with well-above-average popup rates will have suppressed BABIPs. Ah, there it is. The main reseason for Ramirez’s struggles this year and in the second half of 2018 were due to a very low BABIP. His BABIP since the All-Star break in 2018 is just .230. A big reason why is due to the number of popups Ramirez has hit. Since the All-Star break in 2018, he’s hit 66 popups which are over 12% of the batted balls he’s hit. Of those 66 popups, only one has fallen for a hit, a batting average of .015. 

League average batting average on popups since 2018 is just .022. In other words, if a batter hits a popup, he has a 2.2% chance of the ball dropping in for a hit. In addition, the league average popup rate is about seven percent. OK, so we understand why Ramirez has struggled with batting average and BABIP but if you remember in 2017, Ramirez hit .318 but curbed his popups that year near league-average at 7.7%. How does Bregman fair in the category of popups? Bregman hit .286 in 2018 with a popup rate of 10.7%. That’s relatively fortunate. Some people saw his .289 BABIP and thought Bregman could hit .300 this year. I projected him for a slight dip in BA because of the elevated popup rate. This year, Bregman has taken those lazy fly balls to a new level. He’s sporting a 13.4% popup rate this year which is nearly double the league-average. In addition, his fly ball rate is up a tad while line drives are down. Yes folks, Bregman’s current .242 BABIP is not an illusion, it’s real and it’s warranted. 

Bregman might very well end up being the next Jose Ramirez. In fact, I think he already is the next Jose Ramirez. His pop up rate is up since the start of June. The home runs have continued but I don’t expect an increase in Bregman’s BABIP moving forward unless he curbs those popups. He’s already at a disadvantage when it comes to BABIP given his elevated fly ball and heavy pull rates. One point in Bregman’s favor is defensive shifts. He’s shifted on under 50% of the time despite a heavy pull rate on ground balls. Even when shifted on, his BABIP remains steady, so it doesn’t appear to be much of a factor. Ramirez, on the other hand, is being shifted on about 2/3rds of the time and his wRC+ against the shift is down 30 points.

Owners are obviously very happy with Bregman’s production, and while I don’t expect a complete collapse as we saw with Ramirez from July 2018 through June 2019, there is still some downside despite the elite plate skills. But what happens if he goes through a Ramirez-like slump with a sub-220 BABIP? Bregman doesn’t have the stolen bases to lessen the blow to fantasy teams (just four steals in five attempts this year). His power numbers are extremely inflated based on his home run per barrel rate (HR/BRL%) and lucky home runs. He’s carrying a 94% HR/BRL rate (league average is around 59%) and has hit 10, yes 10 non-barreled home runs or as I call them, lucky home runs. Given his heavy pull rate, Bregman has been known to hit these lucky homers, he did it 11 times last year but the difference is he barreled up 39 balls last season compared to just 17 thus far in 2019. You can see with his spray chart, there’s a fine line between a home run and an out with the majority of his home runs. Jose Ramirez is currently on the other side of that line in 2019. Bregman might just be the outlier and continue hitting for a respectable average with 30+ homers every year. But if he hits .235 with 18 homers and six steals next year, don’t be surprised.


Keep in mind, I don’t dislike Bregman, he’s a fantastic player. His plate discipline is elite and he plays on one of the best teams in the league. His floor is still pretty safe given his patience and surrounding cast. Where are you taking Bregman in 2020? First round, second round, thrid round? I’ll be slotting him in the third round as of now. There is just too much upside in the first two rounds to take the chance on Breggy.

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


Image Credit Shutter stock

 

 

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Starting Pitchers to Stream for Week 17 (7/22-7/28)

Welcome back to the FreezeStats weekly streamers article! You know the drill, I look at next week’s landscape and discuss the starting pitchers available in at least 75% of Yahoo/ESPN consensus leagues. I’ll tell you why the starting pitchers I discuss below have the best chance to provide positive values for your fantasy team. Let’s not forget where STREAM comves from, Starters Rule Everything Around Me


Chase Anderson (SP – MIL), 11% owned, home vs CIN, Monday, 7/22
Suggesting a streamer who gives up fly balls at a 43% clip in Miller Park seems like a risky proposition. However, Anderson has been pretty solid this year and I like the changes to his pitch mix. He’s throwing his cutter more often and has added some velocity to his fastball. Would you believe me if I told you he has three plus-pitchers via FanGraphs Pitch Values? His fastball, cutter, and changeup have been good which has generated a career-best swinging strike rate (SwStr%) of 11.6%. He’s only allowed more than three earned runs just twice over his 14 starts this season. He draws the Reds who have some thump in their lineup but have also struck out 23.1% of the time on the road this year. In addition, their 79 wRC+ away from GABP is tied for sixth lowest in MLB. Anderson is a fine deeper league stream.

Merill Kelly (SP – ARI), 25% owned, home vs BAL, Tuesday, 7/23
Kelly has quietly put together a solid first season back in States with a 3.77 ERA. All of his pitches have registered positive results per Pitch Values and while he doesn’t have any standout pitch, his repertoire is four pitches deep. He’s not likely to pile up strikeouts but averages about six innings per start which means he should qualify for a win and/or quality start. He draws the Orioles in Chase Field, so no DH for an already poor Baltimore lineup. The Orioles have managed just a 77 wRC+ away from Camden Yards with a 25.2% strikeout rate which is well above league average. I’m rolling with Kelly next week who also will carry his 2.83 home ERA into this start against the Orioles. STREAM

Zac Gallen (SP – MIA), 20% owned @CHW, Wednesday, 7/24
We’ve already seen some exciting flashes but also some struggles from the young rookie. However, he does have 26 strikeouts in just 22.1 innings pitched. Control seems to be the issue with Gallen as he’s already walked 14 batters which isn’t great. But, he clearly has great stuff given the high percentage of soft contact (22%) combined with the solid strikeout rate. I think his walks will come down as well based on his 60% first-pitch strike rate and 41% zone rate. Those are just a touch below league average but don’t warrant 5.64 walks per nine innings. He’ll get to face the White Sox who have been a below-average offense over the last month with a 25.6% strikeout rate. I’ll take my chances with the talented rookie next week and STREAM.


Reynaldo Lopez (SP – CHW), 9% owned home vs MIA, Wednesday, 7/24
After an extended multi-month break, Lopez and I may be back in speaking terms. Do yourself a favor and don’t look at his season-long numbers. Streaming is about what have you done for me lately. Lopez is coming off back-to-back quality starts with 15 strikeouts across 13 innings. More importantly, his fastball averaged 97 MPH in these two starts which is up two MPH on his season average. It’s helped boost his CSW% over 32% in those starts. Next week he gets the Marlins at home. I’d prefer this game be played in Miami for obvious park factor reasons but the Marlins are still a well below-average offensive club. They have struck out nearly 26% of the time as a team the last 30 days. If Rey-Lo has his stuff, he could reach 8 or 9 Ks. I’m streaming for upside here.

Griffin Canning (SP – LAA), 22% owned, home vs BAL, Friday 7/26
Griffindor Canning draws a weak Orioles lineup next week at home. I’m not sure how Canning is owned in fewer than 25% of leagues, but he is. I already discussed Baltimore’s poor 77 wRC+ and 25+% strikeout rate away from home earlier, so let’s talk Canning. He’s gone through a rough stretch but we have to keep in mind that the Angels are still grieving after losing Tyler Skaggs. It’s possible, that could be affecting his performance. Anyways, he got lit up against the Astros and the Rangers in Texas. Otherwise, he’s been very good. His slider is nasty with a 23.4% SwStr rate and a 56% groundball rate. He also has a good curve when he has the feel for it. Coming off a really nice start in Seattle, I’m betting on Canning to pitch well against a weaker opponent next week. STREAM

Felix Pena (SP – LAA), 7% Owned home vs BAL, Sunday, 7/28.
Last weekend Pena combined for a no-hitter against the Mariners where he went seven scoreless innings to close out the game. That’s the second time in five outings where Pena went at least six innings. That’s significant because he usually is used as a long man following the opener. Going deeper will give Pena a shot at a quality start. I don’t fully trust Pena’s 4.92 ERA, I tend to think his 1.19 WHIP and 17.3% K-BB rate is closer to his true talent. As discussed in Mr. Canning’s blurb, the Orioles are bad, especially away from home. I think Pena can pile up the strikeouts. Let’s take a look at his slider which he throws 39% of the time. He’s got a 40.7% K rate, 42.3% O-Swing, and a 23.1% SwStr rate, which has led to a .226 wOBA. I understand he was just taken for a ride against the Astros but the Orioles are not the Astros. I’ll be streaming Pena in 14-team and deep 12-teamers. 


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


Photo Courtesy of Prospects Live

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Fantasy Baseball Rest of Season Rankings Update – July

Welcome back to the FreezeStats fantasy baseball blog! The All-Star break has come and gone and teams are looking to make their moves for their respective championships. Now is not the time to get lazy and start coasting. If you’re in first, you still need to get better! If you’re mathematically out of it, you need to work even harder to get back in. This rakings update will likely be my last for this season. Once we hit August, most leagues are past their trade deadlines. You’ll need to ride the hot hand because, in September, you won’t have time to wait for a player’s production to catch up with his skills. Right now though, there’s still time to find value whether it’s in a trade or in free agency.


Keep in mind, I’ll be ranking these players based on Standard 5×5 Roto scoring. It’s also important to note that what a player has done previously doesn’t matter in terms of their statistics to date. We are starting from ground zero. Well, of course, it matters but in terms of where I have players ranked in this update, it doesn’t. These are the items I look at when performing these mid-season rankings. All of which have value but are weighted differently

  • Rest of Season Projections: All systems but especially THE BAT
  • Proposed Playing time going forward
  • Trades: Not only players who may be on the move but also how the players not involved in the trades are impacted
  • Skills: look at a player’s metrics including pitch mix, velocity, plate discipline, quality of contact, approach changes, etc
  • Proposed playing time, innings limits, etc

OK, enough chatter, let’s get to it. Below you can sort by overall ranks, hitter/pitcher ranks, or position ranks. Note: The +/- vs ECR is against Expert Consensus Rankings, not my previous rankings.



Catchers – Compared to Expert Concensus (Preaseason)

Top Risers
8. Roberto Perez (CLE) +44
19. Travis d’Arnaud (TB) +31
7. Christian Vazquez (BOS) +23
22. Chance Sisco (BAL) +22
32. Pedro Severino (BAL) +22
17. Brian McCann (ATL) +15
38. Victor Caratini (CHC) +15
13. Carson Kelly (ARI) +10
Top Fallers
43. Francisco Cervelli (PIT) -27
44. Tucker Barnhart (CIN) -27
45. Nick Hundley (OAK) -11
16. Yadier Molina (STL) -10
21. Mike Zunino (TB) -9
23. Jonathan Lucroy (LAA) -9
24. Willians Astudillo (MIN) -9
20. Tyler Flowers (ATL) -7

First Baseman – Compared to Expert Concensus (Preaseason)

Top Risers
25. Ian Desmond (COL) +23
24. Nate Lowe (TB) +21
46. Colin Moran (PIT) +17
47. Ronald Guzman (TEX) +16
19. Eric Hosmer (SD) +14
50. Brandon Dixon (DET) +13
28. Yuli Gurriel (HOU) +12
43. Mitch Moreland (BOS) +10
Top Fallers
56. Travis Shaw (MIL) -27
59. Yonder Alonso (COL) -20
31. Matt Carpenter (STL) -15
38. Derek Dietrich (CIN) -12
37. Jay Bruce (PHI) -10
44. Kike Hernandez (LAD) -8
17. J.T. Realmuto (PHI) -7
18. Luke Voit (NYY) -7

Second Baseman – Compared to Expert Concensus (Preaseason)

Top Risers
13. Nick Senzel (CIN) +42
16. Cavan Biggio (TOR) +30
25. Franklin Barreto (OAK) +30
15. Keston Hiura (MIL) +19
32. Jason Kipnis (CLE) +19
36. Eric Sogard (TOR) +19
26. Chris Taylor (LAD) +17
19. Scooter Gennett (CIN) +16
Top Fallers
51. Adalberto Mondesi (KC) -48
53. Travis Shaw (MIL) -32
38. Tommy La Stella (LAA) -14
29. Rougned Odor (TEX) -13
21. Matt Carpenter (STL) -10
35. Niko Goodrum (DET) -10
23. Cesar Hernandez (PHI) -9
28. Dee Gordon (SEA) -9



Third Baseman – Compared to Expert Concensus (Preaseason)

Top Risers
40. J.D. Davis (NYM) +15
23. Yuli Gurriel (HOU) +12
31. Colin Moran (PIT) +12
11. Josh Donaldson (ATL) +11
44. Todd Frazier (NYM) +11
21. Scott Kingery (PHI) +10
45. Jake Lamb (ARI) +10
32. Brian Anderson (MIA) +9
Top Fallers
52. Travis Shaw (MIL) -28
27. Wil Myers (SD) -10
24. Matt Carpenter (STL) -9
15. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (TOR) -7
34. Tommy La Stella (LAA) -7
20. Austin Riley (ATL) -6
53. Jeimer Candelario (DET) -5
54. Jed Lowrie (NYM) -5

Shortstop Baseman – Compared to Expert Concensus (Preaseason)

Top Risers
29. Eric Sogard (TOR) +19
27. Chris Taylor (LAD) +17
28. Bo Bichette (TOR) +17
36. Kevin Newman (PIT) +12
8. Fernando Tatis Jr. (SD) +9
20. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (TOR) +9
22. Scott Kingery (PHI) +9
33. Gio Urshela (NYY) +8
Top Fallers
40. Adalberto Mondesi (KC) -34
37. Jose Peraza (CIN) -10
32. Asdrubal Cabrera (TEX) -7
38. Orlando Arcia (MIL) -6
41. Freddy Galvis (TOR) -6
44. Willy Adames (TB) -6
45. Tim Beckham (SEA) -6
24. Paul DeJong (STL) -5

Outfielders – Compared to Expert Concensus (Preaseason)

Top Risers
36. Nick Senzel (CIN) +97
45. Oscar Mercado (CLE) +88
21. Yordan Alvarez (HOU) +74
77. Manuel Margot (SD) +49
37. A.J. Pollock (LAD) +48
52. Alex Verdugo (LAD) +44
62. Chris Taylor (LAD) +44
59. Danny Santana (TEX) +40
Top Fallers
100. Gregory Polanco (PIT) -55
121. Dwight Smith Jr. (BAL) -46
88. Stephen Piscotty (OAK) -45
109. Billy Hamilton (KC) -45
104. Jay Bruce (PHI) -39
76. Wil Myers (SD) -37
114. Leonys Martin (FA) -30
78. Adam Jones (ARI) -25

Starting Pitchers – Compared to Expert Concensus (Preaseason)

Top Risers
56. Brendan McKay (TB) +94
65. Dinelson Lamet (SD) +85
70. Jordan Yamamoto (MIA) +80
71. Corey Kluber (CLE) +63
33. Carlos Martinez (STL) +59
69. Chase Anderson (MIL) +55
99. Elieser Hernandez (MIA) +51
101. Andrew Cashner (BOS) +49
Top Fallers
123. Tyler Glasnow (TB) – INJ -50
107. Mike Foltynewicz (ATL) – MIN -41
110. Jerad Eickhoff (PHI) -39
77. Rich Hill (LAD) – INJ -38
68. German Marquez (COL) -36
85. Jose Quintana (CHC) -33
108. Dylan Bundy (BAL) -33
130. Carlos Carrasco (CLE) – INJ -32




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


Photo Credit: Getty Images

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Starting Pitchers to Stream Week 16 – 7/15-7/21

Welcome back to the FreezeStats weekly stating pitcher streaming article! I hope you enjoyed the All-Star break but now is not the time to relax, even if you have a strong lead in your league. We skipped week 15 because it was abbreviated with just the weekend series. 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 of course will be picking on the Giants, Marlins, and Tigers next week.

Adam Plutko (SP – CLE), 3% owned home vs DET, Monday, 7/15
I’m not the biggest Plutko fan but he’s walking just under one batter per nine innings (0.99 BB/9). He’s not striking many batters out and has given up far to many dingers. I would never think about streaming Putko unless he was going up against one of the weakest offensives in the Majors. Will you look a this. The Tigers are tied for the lowest wRC+ in the league with the Marlins and only the Marlins have hit fewer home runs than Detroit. The Tigers are also prone to strikeouts which they do at a 26% clip. Given Plutko’s fly ball tendencies and low walk rate, there won’t be many runners on base. Fly ball pitchers typically suppress BABIP, so as long as he keeps the ball in the yard, I feel comfortable streaming. If Zach Plesac gets the call for Tuesday’s start against the Tigers, I’d also stream him and actually prefer him to Plutko. However, he’s still in the Minors and as of this writing, the Indians haven’t named a starter for Tuesday. Either way, STREAM

Dylan Cease (SP – CHW), 24% owned @KC, Tuesday, 7/16
Cease was impressive after the first inning of his debut before the break striking out six Tigers in five innings. His command of his fourseam wasn’t great so there’s no doubt risk in streaming him. He draws the Royals in Kauffman Stadium next week. Kauffman suppresses home runs more than any other park other than Oracle Park in San Francisco. In addition, theRoyals have just an 86 wRC+ as a team at home (100 is league-average) with a walk rate of just 7.5%. That’s the 25th lowest walk rate among all teams in the league. The aggressive nature of the Royals combined with the cavernous confines of Kauffman Stadium makes Cease a high-risk, high-reward streaming option. I’m streaming him looking for strikeouts and the high probability of a win.

Jason Vargas (SP – NYM), 10% owned, @SF, Thursday, 7/18
Jason Vargas had a rough start coming off the All-Star break in Miami of all places. That does not provide a whole lot of confidence going into his start next week. But wait! The Giants (74 wRC+) are even worse offensively than the Marlins (79 wRC+) and the last time he faced the Giants, he pitched a complete game shutout with eight strikeouts. Like many pitchers this year, Vargas has struggled with the long ball giving up six homers in his last five outings. Pitching in Oracle Park should limit the probability of the long ball. In addition, Vargas has utilized his changeup over 35% of the time this year. The changeup suppresses wOBA more than any other pitch, so I think Vargas has a good shot at a W/QS and plus ratios. STREAM

Dinleson Lamet (SP – SD), 14% owned, @MIA, Thursday, 7/18
Lamet is a risky option despite the favorable matchup in Miami. Following such a prolonged absence, control is the last thing that comes back for a pitcher. Lamet could go six shutout innings with nine strikeouts or give up five earned runs in two innings. The good news is Lamet still possess elite swing and miss stuff evidenced by the 14 punch outs in 10 innings pitched. I don’t trust his 6+ ERA as he’s only allowed 12 base runners in those 10 innings. He’s also averaging over 95 MPH on his fastball. Unfortunately, he’s only a two-pitch pitcher which isn’t great long term but for this start against a weak Miami offense, I’m going Streaming.

Daniel Ponce de Leon (SP – STL), 14% Owned, home vs PIT, Wednesday, 7/17
My favorite explorer is rocking a 1.99 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP in just over 31 innings. OK, so a .175 BABIP and a 93.5% strand rate is not sustainable but Ponce is effectively pitching up in the zone inducing whiffs and popups at a high clip. His fourseam has a swinging strike rate of 13.2% which is nearly five percent above the League average for fourseamers. It’s helped him get strikeouts over 35% of the time with his heater. The Pirates have been better than advertised but have been carried by Josh Bell and Starling Marte. I think Ponce can neutralize them and I’m rolling the dice. STREAM

Anthony DeSclafani (SP – CIN), 16% Owned, home vs STL, Sunday, 7/21
Would I prefer this start if it was in St Louis? Well, of course, but Tony Disco is known for his hot stretches. His 24.1% strikeout rate would be the highest of his career along with his K-BB%. Some of those improvements are due to a career-best fastball velocity of 95.0 mph. Other than a six-run shellacking in Milwaukee in June, Disco has given up just five earned runs in his previous five outings. It cannot be overstated how bad the Cardinals offense has been. Over the last 30 days, they have a 79 wRC+ which would be the lowest in the Majors over that time if not for the Tigers. I think DeSclafani can go at least six innings and strike out six to seven batters. The Reds should provide enough run support to give him a good chance at a win. STREAM

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


Photo Credit: Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knghts

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Let’s Discuss the Biggest CSW% Movers (Part 2)

Back in mid-May, I looked at the biggest movers in terms of called strikes plus swinging strikes (CSW%) from 2018 to 2019. Now that we are past the mid-way point of the 2019 season, pitchers have larger samples. Larger samples are always better because there is less variance. A lower variance means less regression one way or the other. We can start really trusting the numbers we have seen from the pitchers below. The CSW% metrics developed by Pitcher List has shown to be more effective than using just swinging strike rate (SwStr%) in terms of a pitcher’s success and strikeout rate. Below is the updated table as of the All-Star break. A positive delta is an increase in CSW% this year compared to 2018 and a negative delta is a decrease of CSW%. All of the starting pitchers have at least 650 pitches in either season. 

Pitchers - Largest CSW% Changes 2019-2018

player_nameTeamDelta (2019 CSW-2018CSW%)
David HernandezCIN7
Lucas GiolitoCHW6.3
Ariel JuradoTEX6
Amir GarrettCIN5.8
Luke JacksonATL5.4
Wander SueroWAS5
Emilio PaganTB4.9
Jake DiekmanKC4.9
Matthew BoydDET4.5
Roenis EliasSEA4.4
Frankie MontasOAK4
Drew PomeranzSF3.9
Lance LynnTEX3.6
Jake OdorizziMIN3.6
Caleb SmithMIA3.5
Tyler GlasnowTB3.4
Martin PerezMIN3.4
Felipe VazquezPIT3.3
Scott ObergCOL3.2
Noe RamirezLAA3.1
Tyler MahleCIN2.9
Kyle GibsonMIN2.8
Kirby YatesSD2.7
Mike MinorTEX2.6
Kenley JansenLAD2.5
David PriceBOS2.4
Blake SnellTB2.2
Derek HollandSF2.2
Luke WeaverARI2.2
Matt BarnesBOS2.2
Jeff SamardzijaSF2.2
Stephen StrasburgWAS2.1
Trevor WilliamsPIT1.9
Sonny GrayCIN1.8
Homer BaileyKC1.7
Jalen BeeksTB1.7
Cole HamelsCHC1.6
Noah SyndergaardNYM1.6
Brad HandCLE1.5
Charlie MortonTB1.4
Luis CastilloCIN1.4
Shane BieberCLE1.4
Trevor BauerCLE-1.6
German MarquezCOL-1.7
Jon GrayCOL-1.8
Masahiro TanakaNYY-1.8
Matt StrahmSD-1.9
James PaxtonNYY-2
Zack GreinkeARI-2.2
Jhoulys ChacinMIL-2.2
Hyun-Jin RyuLAD-2.2
J.A. HappNYY-2.2
Collin McHughHOU-2.3
Michael WachaSTL-2.3
Rick PorcelloBOS-2.4
Sandy AlcantaraMIA-2.4
Carlos CarrascoCLE-2.5
Dereck RodriguezSF-2.6
Zach DaviesMIL-2.6
Jason VargasNYM-2.7
Vince VelasquezPHI-2.7
Patrick CorbinWAS-2.8
Julio TeheranATL-3.1
Mike FoltynewiczATL-3.1
Jacob deGromNYM-3.3
Zack GodleyARI-3.4
Brad PeacockHOU-3.4
Reyes MorontaSF-3.6
Nick PivettaPHI-3.7
Edwin DiazNYM-3.8
Zack BrittonNYY-3.8
Max FriedATL-3.9
Dan StrailyBAL-4
Hector RondonHOU-5.4
Jeremy JeffressMIL-6.2
Blake TreinenOAK-6.4
Sean DoolittleWAS-7.3

Risers

The complete table and Goolge sheet can be found here. League-average CSW% is 28.6%. I have included some relievers to this list that provide some interest for the second half. Notice the number of Cincinnati Reds on the list of CSW% improvers. That’s a credit to the new Pitching Coach Derrek Johnson. If Raisel Iglesias continues to struggle, I could very easily see David Hernandez (34.8%) or Amir Garrett (35.3%) fill in given their elite CSW rates. I realize Hernandez hasn’t been great this year but a .380 BABIP and a crazy-low 56.6% strand rate are to blame. Garrett has the elite velocity we look for but throws from the left side. Iglesias is still the closer but if he loses his job, a committee could be formed in Cincinnati where both Garrett and Hernandez should be owned. 

You’ll notice from the Google Sheet that the elite closers have CSW% that is typically north of 32-33% ala Felipe Vazquez (33.7%), Kirby Yates (33.8%), and Brad Hand (37.4%). Kenly Jansen has surprisingly shown up on the CSW improvers list sitting at a 33% CSW rate. He was bad last year so it’s nice to see this improvement. I think he’ll be just fine going forward and will be a top 8-10 closer this year. This brings me to Brandon Workman, Emilio Pagan, Jake Diekman, and Noe Ramirez. All have improved their CSW rates this year and could be potential closers before the 2019 season is over. In deep leagues, I’d grab them because, at a minimum, they should provide solid strikeout numbers with a vulture save or two.

Now to the starters. No surprise here, Lucas Giolito still tops the list and he’s actually improved since the mid-May article! His boost in strikeout rate is for real but as I mentioned two months ago, his control and command could cause some issues. We’ve seen this come to fruition as Giolito has struggled with walks in his last five outings. He’s struggled to find the zone and get ahead of hitters consistently. I’m a believer in his improved strikeout rate but think he’s more of a 3.50-3.75 ERA pitcher going forward this year. Given the rise in home runs and ERA across the board, he’s still a top 25 starter even as regression sets in.

Matt Boyd is back near the top of the list in terms of starting pitchers. He was essentially league-average in 2018 and now he’s among the elite starters. The metric that’s most impressive to me is the fact that he improved K-BB rate by 12.3% from 2018 (15.2% to 27.5%)! Yup. His K-BB rate is higher than his strikeout rate from last season. Improvements of that significant typically yield better results than an improvement of just 0.50 on his ERA. The rise in home run rate is partially to blame but so is an elevated BABIP. Given the fact that Boyd allows fly balls over over a 40% clip, I’d expect Boyd to lower his ERA in the second half. I’m buying this breakout. He’s a possible trade candidate, so hopefully he ends up in a better situation if that happens.

Remember how I discussed the Reds bullpen, well, they also have a bunch of starters in the improvers list including Sonny Gray, Tyler Mahle, and Luis Castillo. All of these Reds starters have CSW% well over league-average. In fact, both Castillo and Mahle are just over 31% and Gray at 30.9%. The new pitching coach, Derek Johnson has done wonders for that staff. Unfortunately, their home park is brutal for home runs. However, each of these three starters have increased their ground ball rates by at least four percent to counteract the Park and elevated home run rates. Castillo is a top 12 SP going forward while Gray settles just inside the top 30 and Mahle around 50.

Speaking of teams with three starters on the plus list, we have the Twins and Rangers. To be fair, Ariel Jurado is only in this list because his CSW% was a paltry 21% in 2018. So his current 27% CSW% is still below average. I’m not buying. I’m not as impressed with Martin Perez as he sits about one percent below-average in 2019. However, I am impressed by the rejuvenated veterans in Mike Minor, Lance Lynn, Kyle Gibson, and Jake Odorizzi. Among these four I actually like Lynn and Gibson the most out of this group. I think both Minor and Odorizzi are a due pretty steep correction in their numbers. 

For Jake Odorizzi, he’s giving up a ton of fly balls. At an over 50% fly ball rate, he’s been fortunate to have a home run per fly ball rate of just 8.9%. In 2017, the last time the balls were juiced, his HR/FB rate was 15.5%. His expected slugging percentage (xSLG) is .411 compared to an actual .335 SLG. He’s averaging 93.0 MPH on batted balls between the launch angles of 20 and 39 degrees compared the league-average rate of 91.3 MPH. Best case scenario, he might carry a league-average 15% HR/FB rate going forward. For Minor, he’s been great in terms of limiting fly ball exit velocities at just 88 MPH. However, his strand rate is at 86.5% which is over 11% higher than his career rate. With a 15.5% K-BB rate, he’s due some negative regression. To be clear, both of these guys have improved from previous years, but are not sub-3.50 ERA type pitchers. 

Decliners

Starting with the relievers, I had no idea Sean Doolittle was struggling that much in his CSW rate. He’s currently at 24.8% CSW%, so I’m extremely concerned. His walks have doubled from last year and his strikeout rate is down 10%. He’s not in danger of losing his job but I would not look to acquire him as a top 10 closer going forward. Blake Treinen is out as the Athletics’ closer and his dip in CSW rate is a huge reason why. He’s below league-average at 27.8%, and I don’t expect him to get his job back. It’s amazing how fickle closers are. He was a consensus top three closer coming into this season and is essentially devoid of value at the All-Star break. Jeremy Jeffress and Hector Rondon were considered options as potential closers as recently as last season. Both have been respectable but are pitching over their heads thus far. I can’t see either having any value going forward. As much as I like Reyes Moranta for the Giants, given his youth and decrease in CSW%, I don’t believe he becomes the closer when Will Smith is dealt. I think it will be either Sam Dyson or Mark Melancon, whomever remains after the deadline. 

Now to the starting pitchers. Try not to freak out about seeing Jacob deGrom at -3.3%. His 2018 Cy Young season was not likely repeatable. He was able to dominate with a very good but not elite 32.7% CSW%. He is a great pitcher and his strikeout rate is only 1.5% lower than it was last season. He’s going to be fine and a top five SP ROS. For Patrick Corbin, he’s still sitting at a very solid 30.2% CSW% and the only difference is he isn’t getting as many swings outside the zone. That just means his walk rate has gone up a tick and his strikeout rate is down a bit. I’m also not budging on Corbin as a top 15 SP going forward.

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Here are some pitchers I will not be buying back into fo the second half. Nick Pivetta, Mike Foltynewicz, Rick Porcello, JA Happ, and Michael Wacha to name a few. All of these pitchers had at least a small amount of varying success last season with above-average to average CSW rates. This year, all have dipped to below the league-average CSW rate. I was definitely off of Michael Wacha, and Rick Porcello coming into the season but was completely wrong about Folty and Pivetta this year. You win some, you lose some, but you’ve got to know when to jump off the train.

I’ve discussed my concerns with Masahiro Tanaka in my most recent FantasyPros article here

I wanted to say how impressive it has been for Carlos Carrasco to maintain a 31.1% CSW rate even after being diagnosed with Leukemia. I’ve enjoyed watching him pitch for half-a-decade now and wish him all the best. Get well soon Cookie!.

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2019 FreezeStats Bold Predictions (Mid-Season Review) – Fantasy Baseball

Well, last year I hit on two out of eight bold predictions. I guess my prediction on Ozzie Albies wasn’t terrible. I projected 25 homers and 30 steals. I hit on the power, but he did not run as much as I hoped. I’m most proud of my long-shot (at the time) that Patrick Corbin would finish the season as a top 20 SP. I had him ranked in the low-40s and most sites had him between the 60th and 80th SP off the boards, so this was extremely bold. Yes, I’m bragging about my one really good bold prediction, but I also had some really bad ones like Delino DeShields over Starling Marte… Whoops. Alright, enough intro. I want to focus my bold predictions within the fantasy realm and write a quick blurb as to why I feel there’s a chance they come to fruition. Now that we are approaching the All-Star break, it’s time to reflect on where these predictions stand. I’ll review all my preseason bold predictions in this maroon color below. Remember, these were meant to be bold, so I am hoping to hit on a few of them rather than most of them.

2019 BOLD PREDICTIONS – FREEZESTATS

Michael Conforto leads the National League in home runs in 2019

Conforto ended 2018 with 29 home runs but spent a good portion of the first two months recovering and gaining strength from his offseason shoulder surgery. He showed us he was healthy in the second half by hitting 17 home runs in just 68 games. I don’t love the prorating game as much as the next person but that’s 40 home runs across a 160 game pace. Last year, Nolan Arenado led the National League with 38 home runs. The other candidates Conforto will have to overcome include Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Trevor Story, Rhys Hoskins, and I suppose my guy Hunter Renfroe (see below). The BAT projects Arenado to lead the National League with 40 homers. Can a healthy Conforto reach 40 this year? I think so, especially with power down across the board last year, Conforto is my guy this year and I’ve ranked him inside the top 60 overall.

OK, so Conforto has just 16 home runs when everyone and their mother is pacing to hit 30+ bombs this year. Conforto hasn’t really gotten hot in any month hitting 6, 4, and 6 homers each month thus far. If you remember, Conforto mashed nine home runs in Sept/Oct last year, so he still has a shot at reaching 40 home runs with a hot second half. However, I was not counting on a juiced ball this year and 40 home runs will fall well short of the home run leader this year. Christian Yelich already has 31 followed by Cody Bellinger with 29 and Pete Alonso at 28. All of which I expect to surpass 40. Conforto hasn’t shown any growth in the power department as his HR/FB rate is in line with last season. I give this prediction a less than 5% chance as it would require a ton of things to fall his way to come to fruition. 

Jackie Bradley Jr. is a top 100 fantasy asset in standard 5×5 Roto

Bradley Jr. has modified his swing and is working with J.D. Martinez. I’ve been putting my money where my mouth is grabbing JBJ pretty much everywhere. I’ve got him in my PitcherList Best Ball draft, TGFBI, and my 12-team home league. Bradley finished 2018 with just 13 homers and a .234 average. As a result, he’s being drafted around 230 overall. However, he stole a career-best 17 bags on only 18 attempts. Yes, he’s faster than you think. He’s likely to hit seventh or eighth in a stacked Red Sox lineup which isn’t great but not a death sentence in a deep AL lineup. Bradley’s hard-hit rates and exit velocities are up with the big boys and he was extremely unlucky on his barrels last year. This is a guy who is still in his prime and hit 26 home runs while hitting .267 in 2016. If he gets back to 25 homers and 15 steals with a .260 average, that should be right near Aaron Hicks just inside the top 100.

Not a great start. He’s currently ranked 575 overall in Yahoo! but I don’t trust Yahoo!. On the ESPN Player Rater, Bradley is ranked as the 166th best hitter to date. That doesn’t include pitchers. I would suspect that at least 75 pitchers are ranked ahead of him, so Bradley is well outside the top 200 overall. I’m not even going to check the Razzball Player Rater. The point is, this one is going well. Although, Bradley’s been hot of late hitting .315 with five home runs and three steals in June. I can’t say for sure what JBJ will do going forward but hitting five home runs and stealing three bases per month is not out of the question. Given that production and a solid BA, he could finish with over 20 HR and 15 SB. That puts him in the conversation as a top 100 overall fantasy asset. I give this one a 15% chance of coming true.

Hunter Renfroe becomes Khris Davis

I wanted to go extremely bold and have Renfroe finish the season ranked higher than Davis, but that would be nuts. Davis is so steady with 40+ homers and 100+ RBI. Unfortunately, I don’t think Renfroe will get the at-bats to reach 100 RBI. So, how can Renfroe become Khris Davis? First off, Renfroe hit 18 home runs in the second half of 2018, so we know he has elite power. I tweeted out a comparison of Davis from 2015 and Renfroe from 2018 back in January. Their results and Statcast metrics were nearly identical. The outfield in San Diego is crowded so something does have to give in order for this prediction to come to fruition. To qualify, Renfroe needs to hit over 35 homers and drive in 90 runs in 2019 and become a consensus top-100 player in 2020 drafts.

Finally! I nailed this one. At the halfway mark, Renfroe already has 24 home runs which are only two fewer than his previous career-high. He’s also getting more playing time as he’s pacing out for around 520 plate appearances which would also be a career-high. He’s hitting .248 so I guess I missed on this one unless he finishes at .247. That was a joke. His strikeout and walk rates are almost identical to Khris Davis’ as he’s sitting at a 26.8% K rate and an 8.4% walk rate. He is pacing for just 90 RBI but the Padres don’t have high OBP players in front of him. My only concern is Renfroe being a top 100 overall player next year. If he hits 45 homers, then yes he will be, but if he slows down in the second half, he may not make it. Either way, I’m giving this one a 60% chance of coming true.

Victor Robles is more valuable than Vladimir Guerrero and Juan Soto in standard 5×5 Roto value.

The hype on both Soto and Guerrero is understandable. Soto, at age-19, looked like a 10-year veteran and by all accounts, Vlad has the best bat in the Minors since Mike Trout. Both are going inside the top 42 overall since February 1st. Robles, while has seen a massive jump in ADP, is still going just after pick 100. Here’s my thinking, coming into 2018, Robles was the second-ranked prospect after Ronald Acuña but a shoulder injury derailed his season. Robles has elite speed, like 40 SB-type speed. His power hasn’t quite developed as he’s just 21 but has been graded out with 50-raw power. We’ve seen plenty of low-to-moderate power hitters come up and increase their home run production. Robles’ high-Contact, high-BABIP profile gives him a solid batting average floor. A high-end, realistic projection for Robles is something like .290 18 HR 32 SB. That’s extremely similar to Starling Marte’s 2018 who finished 29th on the Razzball Player Rater. Vladitio is already dealing with an injury, but Robles over Soto would be extremely bold based on ADP. I currently have Soto at 39 overall and Guerrero at 60, so there you have it.

Robles is currently ranked 72 among hitters per ESPN’s Player Rater and that’s not bad, but not quite what I had hoped for. Meanwhile, Vlad is all the way down at 235 among hitters. Vlad could very easily go nuts in the second half and surpass Robles but I don’t see it happening with the speed component of Robles’ game. Then there’s Juan Soto. Mr. Phenom himself is ranked 33rd overall among hitters this year. Despite a low SB total, he’s just mashing hitting for average, power, and a ton of run production. The metrics don’t paint an optimistic picture for Robles going forward and it would be a long-shot for him the catch Soto. Assuming health from all three players, I give this one a 10-15% chance of coming true.

Anthony Alford is fantasy relevant in 12-team leagues in the second half.

That means, he’s either a top 260 overall player or a top 175 hitter in the second half of 2019. The Blue Jays have a stacked farm system, we know that. Before Vlad and Bo Bichette, there was Anthony Alford. He’s still just 24 years old with only 28 plate appearances in the big leagues. The outfielders currently on the Major League roster are Randal Grichuk, Kevin Pillar, Billy McKinney, and Teoscar Hernandez. I’m not sold on McKinney or Hernandez and the Blue Jays are rebuilding. They need to see what they have in Alford. He’s had a nice spring which is nearly meaningless unless you’re like Alford trying to fight for a spot on the roster. He’s going 750 overall in drafts and therefore undrafted in 99% of leagues; that’s what makes this bold. He has good speed and some pop and was a top 25 prospect once upon a time. With playing time, he could hit a handful of homers and steal double-digit bases in the second half to make this prediction a reality.

I understand that this one is a prediction for the second-half but I would have hoped that Alford would have at least been up at the big league level for a few weeks heading into the break. Alford is hitting .256 with five homers and 17 steals at Triple-A but his strikeout rate is just a hair below 30%. I was optimistic we would see a power spike given the Triple-A ball but it hasn’t shown up with Alford. The good news for Alford is McKinney (just sent to Triple-A) and Teoscar are not performing well even though Teoscar has picked it up of late. Only Lourdes Gurriel Jr is playing well in that outfield and given Alford’s double-digit walk rates in the minors, he could see quite a bit of play in the second half. Like I said above, if he can hit 6-8 homers and steal 12-15 bases in the second half, he should be owned in 12-team leagues. I’m still not sold, let’s give this one a 20% chance.

Lewis Brinson is more valuable in Standard 5×5 Roto than A.J. Pollock

Now, this is BOLD! Brinson hit .199 with a 30% strikeout rate last year. Yikes. He was the top prospect from Milwaukee in the Christian Yelich trade before the 2018 season. His 2018 was brutal, there’s no doubt but he was a top 20 prospect as recently as one year ago. Brinson is crushing this spring but I’m not putting much weight into that. He’s modified his swing to stay in the zone longer increasing his probability for contact. That’s a small adjustment but one that could help vault Brinson to the next level. Last year he’s was very unlucky with a .257  BABIP. His xBABIP was .301 and xHR was 14 per xStats.org. Keep in mind, that’s in just over 400 plate appearances. Per BaseballSavant, he was just inside the top third of hitters on average exit velocity on fly balls and line drives (EV FB/LD). Where things really get interesting is his speed. He hasn’t stolen many bases but regularly stole 20+ bags in the minors. His sprint speed is in the top 96% of the league. If he can hit 22-24 HR with 15-18 steals, he will provide more value than an often injured Pollock. I like Pollock and I think if he’s healthy, he’s a top 50 player. I just don’t expect more than 400 plate appearances from him and believe these two players are more similar than you think. I need quite a bit of help here, but Pollock’s injury history gives this prediction some life.

Injuries. That was part of the selling point for this one though. Even with Pollock missing 90% of the season so far, he still holds more value than Brinson. This one is a 50-50 toss-up but if I don’t want it that way.

Robbie Ray Wins the NL Cy Young

Ray’s walk rate was brutal in 2018 at 13.3% and over five walks per nine innings. Walks always seem to be an issue for Ray. Even in his breakout of 2017, his walk rate was over 10%. What he can do and always has been able to do is strike batters out at a high clip. Do you know who else had issues with walks but transformed into a Cy Young winner? How about Blake Snell? Snell’s walk rates the years prior to 2018 were 12.7% and 10.8%. Both pitchers throw hard and have good breaking balls. Snell ramped his fastball velocity up in 2018 averaging over 96 MPH. Ray, on the other hand, saw a slight dip in his velocity last season. I think for Ray, velocity is key because his fastball used to be a plus pitch for him with a 12.3 pitch value in 2017 but down to -3.2 in 2018. Obviously, Ray needs to get his walks under control as well but if his velocity looks good and he cuts down on the walk rate, we are a lucky BABIP away from a Blake Snell-type season.  

A 4.10 ERA and 1.36 WHIP. Boo. However, 129 strikeouts in 98.1 innings are pretty nice though! The O-Swing is good and his Z-Contact is a career-low. In 2017, he had a 2.73 ERA with a 1.04 WHIP in the second half. He’s not that far away from those numbers if the BABIP and LOB% fall his way. Given those ratios and about 110 strikeouts, he would at least be in the NL Cy Young conversation. The problem for Ray though is Max Scherzer. He’s running away and hiding in the NL despite Ryu’s insane first half. This one is down to a 5% chance.

Matt Strahm is a top 50 Starting Pitcher

It’s finally happening, Matt Strahm is likely joining the Padres starting rotation. He was a starter in Royals system in 2015 and 2016 and has never thrown more than 125 innings in a single season. But, Strahm put on a bunch of weight in an unorthodox way to help build strength to hold up over the course of a full season. He’s reportedly hitting 96 MPH on the gun this spring. He throws four pitches and has a great fastball and curveball. If he can develop either his change or curve, he could not only have great strikeout rates but go deeper into games. I’d only expect a maximum of 150 innings this year but with 160+ strikeouts and good ratios, that’s easily top 50. Now for part two.

Strahm is currently 131st among starting pitchers per the ESPN Player Rater. That’s not good and he was just blown up by the awful Giants. At this point, I don’t see Strahm turning it completely around to finish inside the top 50 for starting pitchers. His velocity and strikeouts are down as well as a starter, so I’m essentially burying this one giving it a 2% chance.

The Padres have 3 starting pitchers that finish inside the top 50 for SPs

This is a spin-off if the Matt Strahm bold prediction because I had the Strahm prediction, pegged about a month ago. Now, he’s being drafted just outside of the top 50 SPs. This is bold because the Padres don’t have a single pitcher drafted as a top 50 starter. Lucchesi is the closest at 55 and 195 overall. I love Lucchesi this year who was successful last year with two pitches and is adding a cutter this spring. The other possible top 50 options include extreme riser Chris Paddack (441), Matt Strahm (386), and Robbie Erlin (577). Paddack has had massive inflation with a dominant spring. He looks like a prime candidate to make the rotation out of spring. He’s just 23 years old and coming off of an injury. Don’t expect more than 125 innings, but he might just be good enough to sneak into the top 50.

Well, Strahm is basically out. That leaves us with Chris Paddack and Joey Lucchesi. Paddack is ranked 26th and Lucchesi is at 41 on the ESPN player rater for starting pitchers. That’s great and I believe both can maintain top 50 status, especially Paddack. We already discussed how far down Strahm is and the next Padre starter is Eric Lauer currently the 98th SP. That’s followed by Strahm at 131 and Cal Quantrill at 162. Lauer doesn’t possess the strikeout upside required to make that jump into the top 50 but at least he has an outside chance. Also, Dinleson Lamet returns to action this week but given his lengthy layoff, his innings will be limited. I also don’t believe his command will be consistent going forward in 2019. So while both Paddack and Lucchesi will likely exceed expectations, I don’t have the third SP to complete this bold prediction.

Zach Eflin outperforms everyone’s favorite sleeper and teammate Nick Pivetta

While I had this prediction drafted up about two weeks ago, I’ve got to give some credit to @BatflipCrazy for throwing this out first on his podcast this week. Great call! I get the hype on Nick Pivetta, I’m not even low on him as I have him as my 35th SP. His K-BB% is fantastic. He seemed to be unlucky in terms of ERA and BABIP last season based on all ERA-estimators. The Phillies had one of the worst defenses by Fangraphs DEF metrics last year. They upgraded by adding Jean Segura at shortstop and replacing Rhys Hoskins in left field with Andrew McCutchen and the aforementioned Hoskins moving over to his natural position, first base. So while I expect both to improve, let’s compare the two by the numbers.  

2018 K-BB% FIP SwStr% Soft% HR/9
Nick Pivetta 19.7% 3.80 12.0% 18.7% 1.32
Zach Eflin 15.7% 3.80 10.3% 20.5% 1.13

Pivetta has the better strikeout upside, that’s evident in the K-BB% and SwStr%. However, Eflin’s FIP matched Pivetta’s thanks to inducing more weak contact and limiting hard contact/home runs. Elfin has a good slider and changeup to go with a 95 MPH fastball. That sounds similar to Pivetta’s repertoire, doesn’t it? I actually think Eflin has some more strikeout upside in that arm as well. Given his well-above-average control and ability to limit hard contact, I think the strikeout rate could push Eflin over the top of Pivetta in 2019. I’ll add to this prediction that Eflin will be drafted above Pivetta in 2020 drafts as well.

Eflin 39th SP on ESPN Player Rater, Pivetta 173 SP. I give this one a 90% chance of coming true. Eflin would have to fall flat on his face in the second half and Pivetta would have to become Chris Sale. Eflin hasn’t quite had the strikeout ceiling I had hoped for but he’s also pitching with great command. I think he should limit terrible outings and maintain success even if he’s unable to keep such a low ERA. Pivetta has the skills to go on a second-half run but will still have the occasional outing that kills ratios. I don’t see him catching Eflin and Pivetta will not carry any inflated love going into the 2020 drafts. This one is close to being in the books.

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


Image credit:Alex Gallardo; AP
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