Dallas Keuchel – 2018 Fantasy Outlook

Dallas Keuchel turned in a Solid bounce back campaign in 2017 after a down year in 2016. The 2015 Cy Young Award Winner did miss some time last year (two DL stints for a neck issue) but came back strong to finish with a 2.90 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP in 145.2 innings. The overall Ks were not great at 125 but that was offset by 14 wins. Unfortunately wins are the most difficult category to predict but luck is on your side when you have the offense of the Astros behind you.

Let’s talk about why Dallas will be overrated in 2018. His surface numbers look much closer to his 2015 Cy Young season numbers but I’d argue he’s closer to the guy he was in 2016. First, his K rate is nearly identical, 7.71 in 2016 and 7.72 in 2017 and his BB rate actually went up in 2017 to 2.90 from 2.57. Let’s look at BABIP which was a career low at .256 in 2017, his previous low was in 2015 at .269. Now, to be fair you can’t just say well a pitcher’s BABIP against is below the league average of .300, so he’s going to suppress because Keuchel does induce a lot of weak contact. So while I think he’s similar to Kyle Hendricks in this regard, I think a BABIP around .280 seems more comfortable. Along with the weak contact I love that he leads the league in ground ball rate at 66% and in turn limits home runs in an era where everyone and their great aunt Clare is hitting balls 425 feet. Wait, is this a LOVE post or a bust post, I’m getting confused.  

Take a look at the graph showing ERA, FIP, and BABIP.  BABIP and ERA basically are in line with each other with the exception of 2012 (partial year).  And his FIP had improved every year from 2012 – 2015 but in 2016 and 2017 it’s leveled off in the high 3s. The ERA stayed low and the BABIP stayed with it. As mentioned earlier, I expect that BABIP to bounce back up and the ERA will go with it. Also look at HR/FB which shot up in 2017 and now his margin for error is minimal with Keuchel, a few less GB and a few more HR with a rising BB rate = 4+ ERA and limited K upside.

I can’t deny that Keuchel is a good major league pitcher but I’m looking at his numbers regressing and I haven’t even mentioned his LOB % of nearly 80%! I do think his Ks will go up near 8.0/9 due to the fact that he does have a very good sinker/slider combo and mixes his pitchers very well. However, another issue arises when I look at his zone% which was only 37% and while he does get hitters to chase those pitches out of the zone over 32% of the time, I think hitters are going to start to be a little more patient with Keuchel and you’ve already seen some that with the increased walk rate. So I don’t expect a decrease in walk rate back to his career numbers.

Typically the margin for error with a pitcher that doesn’t have overpowering stuff (90 mph on his fastball) is so slim (Shady) a slight adjustment takes Keuchel from a 3.00 ERA guy to a 4.00 ERA guy. So to recap, Keuchel needs to do the following perfect to be successful: locate all pitches, get ahead in the count, get hitters to chase, suppress HRs, and get weak contact/ground balls. I don’t doubt he has the ability to perform on some of those tasks, but I’m betting he under performs on his projections especially since he’s had trouble staying healthy (he’averaged under 157 IP the last two seasons).

Projections for 2018: 170 IP, 13 Wins, 3.82 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 154 Ks

His early ADPs are around 64 overall, going as the 17th SP off the board. I’d rather have Aaron Nola, Jose Quintana, and Masahiro Tanaka among others.

Javy Baez Beware

This is a tough one to write as a life long Cubs fan but bias aside, Baez aside?  I have to go with what my eyes and the numbers tell me. Javier Baez had a bit of a breakout in 2017 with 23 HRs, 10 steals and managed a .273 average!  He chipped in with 75 runs and RBI apiece.  He did this with a career high 508 PAs and 145 games (though he only started 127 of them).  He’s an absolute wizard defensively that’s an absolute treat to watch and is far and away the best defensive 2B on the team and probably the best SS as well, though Addison Russell is no slouch.  Baez started 67 games at SS in 2017 mostly due to an injury to Addison Russell.  I don’t see Baez playing that many games at short this year, and if Zobrist is still getting playing time, it will be split between 2B and LF/RF.  In other words, Baez will most likely see the bench once or twice a week and will come in as a defensive replacement late in games when they have the lead.  In terms of playing time, I don’t see an increase in PA for 2018.

Batted Ball Profile and Plate Discipline

In terms of talent, he’s got great power, some speed, and that’s where the positives end for Baez on the offensive side.  Now the negatives: a career high 28.3% K rate in 2017, an unsustainable .345 BABIP, typically bats 7th or 8th in the batting order, and the previously mentioned playing time issue. The reason for the unsustainable BABIP is the fact that he only had a 15.4% line drive rate which matches what he had done in the minors as well.  He hits about 10% popups which are essentially automatic outs, and home runs aren’t included when calculating BABIP.  So where does he get a .345 BABIP from?  Grounders?  Flyballs that don’t leave the yard?  xStats pegged Baez for a triple slash of .242/.317/.431 with a xBABIP of .304.

Let’s talk about those strikeouts. Last year he had a career high 144 Ks to go along with an 18.6 SwStr%!!  Just for reference, that falls somewhere between Aaron Judge and Joey Gallo.  Cool Max, but those guys hit 40 and 50 HRs last year Bro!  They are also the size of Lebron James and Baez is 6 foot 190 Lbs, soooo…..  Based on those numbers, I actually expect his strikeouts to go UP in 2018.  You don’t have to throw him a strike to get him out.  He swung at 45% of pitches out of the strike zone (2nd worst in MLB) and even his zone contact was under 80% (4th worst), I’m sorry but that’s rough.  Unless he makes major adjustments this year he’s not going to get over 450 PA and come close to his numbers from 2017.

Before I get to his projections, I haven’t even mentioned the most amazing Baez stat from 2017: Baez walked a total of 30 times in 508 PA good (bad) for 5.9% BB rate; how many of those do you think were intentional walks?  …Maybe 3 or 4?  No, try 15 of them!  Exactly half of them; that ties him for 2nd in the league with Goldschmidt and some guy named Trout!  The reason for that is because he usually hits in front of the pitcher more often than not.  If you take away his IBB, his BB rate is 2.95% when he’s actually asked to work an at bat.  Somewhere Rougned Odor is shaking his head.

For this season I’ll give Baez: 465 PAs, .251/.299, 20 HRs and 9 steals 61 runs, 66 RBI. Early Mock Drafts have his ADP around 123 per fantrax.  Those numbers in this day in age belong the waivers kids. Listen, I love watching Baez and his defensive wizardry and the occasional moon shot but watching at bat after at bat where he chases three sliders a foot off the plate and in the dirt is frustrating. Here’s to me being wrong though.

Buster Posey – 2018 Fantasy Outlook

This one’s too easy, his name almost spells out Bust Post! Just take away the ER and Y and you get Bust Pose, which actually sounds kind of erotic. Which I like, but what I don’t like is Posey’s fantasy outlook for 2018.  While he’s no longer the top catcher off the board for the first time in about 7 years, he’s STILL being drafted as a top 3 catcher behind Gary Sanchez and Willson Contreras.  Some sites will still have Buster Posey #2 behind Sanchez.  That is something I cannot endorse. 

I won’t take anything away from Posey, he’s been great over his eight year career but he hasn’t hit 20 HRs since 2014 and had a career low of 12 home runs in 2017.  Yes, he did hit .320 with a .400 OBP and still maintains a very low K rate with a solid BB rate. But that .347 BABIP tho, not happening again.  The power is almost completely gone and his home park doesn’t help him either.  In the 2nd half of 2017 he hit all of 2 HRs!!  Scooter Gennett hit twice that many in one game last year!

Listen, catcher is wasteland, I get that, but I’m not wasting a 5th or 6th round pick on a guy who won’t hit more than 15 HRs or drive in over 80 RBI.  But what about his 6 steals each of the last 2 years???  I can’t explain that because prior to 2016 his season high was 3 and he’s older and slower.  I’ll put my money on the under for 2018.  Let’s do a blind player comparison!

Player A      
Player B

Player A strikes out less and hits more fly balls while Player B walks more and hits more line drives. Their hard contact is about equal and both make a lot of contact in general. So Player A most likely hits more home runs while Player B looks like he might hit for a better average/OBP. You’re probably assuming one of the players is Buster Posey and of course you’re correct, Player A is Buster Posey. It might surprise you that Player B is Joe Mauer. I get that Mauer is no longer catcher eligible, but he’s basically fantasy irrelevant at this point in his career. It’s becoming more evident that Posey is going the way of Joe Mauer now that he’s over 30 years old, unfortunately he looks more like mid-30s Mauer and not mid-20s Joe Mauer. Remember, most catchers do not age well and unfortunately, it’s starting to look like Posey is not going to buck that trend.

If you still don’t believe in this comparison, go check xstats and look at Joe Mauer and Buster Posey’s 2018 projections. You won’t be able to tell the difference between the two. Both are projected for 11-12 HRs and a solid .290 average. Cool, not cool. I also don’t expect Posey to catch 150 games in 2018, maybe he plays some first base, but he’s not going to play 150 games in 2018. So ultimately, that’s good for his playing time but his surrounding cast leaves a lot to be desired. They missed on Stanton, Ohtani, and Santana. Now they are left with Jay Bruce or Eric Hosmer. I suspect Jay Bruce is more likely than Hosmer, but that doesn’t get me excited.  For 2018, I’ll give Posey: .287/.372 12 HRs, 61 runs, 69 RBI, 3 steals. His early ADP in Mocks sits around 65 overall. He’s still a top 5 Catcher for me, but I don’t think I’ll have him in the top 100. He’s right there with Realmuto and Lucroy, all should be between 90-110 overall.

Notorious D.I.D.i – One of “Brooklyn’s Finest” Fakers

Biggie Smalls had one of the best flows in the game.  His lyrics were top notch too and even though I have him a spot below Pac, I got nothin’ but love for ya.  Didi however, is not in the B.I.G.’s class, that park in Brooklyn  the Bronx though has made him into a star!  He’s what I’d call a Fortunate Son.

Steamer projects Didi Gregorius to hit 19 home runs in 2018 which is six less than he hit in 2017.  I agree with regression in general for Didi.  After some quick research (which didn’t actually require much) Didi has greatly benefited from hitting half his games in Yankee Stadium.  This is not new, left hand hitters have a significant advantage hitting at Yankee Stadium.  I mean, it’s 318 feet to the right field foul poll!  Below I’ve superimposed Didi’s home runs at both Yankee Stadium and Fenway (picking at random but also using a divisional opponent for context).


Basically, if he played all his games at Yankee Stadium in 2017, he would have 24 home runs but if he played all his games in Fenway, he’d have AT LEAST 10 LESS HRs!  Ok, well lucky for Didi, he doesn’t.  So he will benefit in half of his games with the way he swings the bat.  What else do you notice about this HR distribution?  They are all to right field.  Didi has no power the other way and doesn’t hit the ball hard enough to get it out in center field.  Here’s some statcast data: Gregorius averaged 377 feet on his 25 home runs in 2017.  It’s not hard to believe that he had the lowest average distance on home runs for players with at least 20 home runs in 2017.  The next closest player with over 20 HRs is Daniel Murphy; his average HR distance was 389 feet; 12 feet further by average!  Out of 291 players with at least 190 batted balls he ranks 213 out of 296 in Brls/PA and 261 in average exit velocity at 84.4 mph!  Those numbers are good enough to be sandwiched between Big Joe Panik (or as I call him BJP) and Cesar Hernandez.  He will luck into some HRs hooked down the line sure, but I think 14-16 is more in the cards for 2018.  Here’s a list of all of Didi’s HRs in 2017 with expected BA and wOBA values based on the how the ball was struck.  I’ve highlighted the six balls that had a much higher probability of being an out rather than a HR, but there are even more than that.  Yup, very lucky.

Enough about power, lets move on.  How about speed?  He doesn’t really have any.  His base running score is a plus but his speed score is terrible; in 2017 it was valued at 2.7 on a 0-10 scale.  His career high in steals is 7 and he had all of 3 in 2017.  Let’s say he gets up to 4 in 2018.  His approach at the plate is poor which is backed by career high O-swing% in 2017 at 40.8%.  That resulted in poor contact and a career high 11.4% SwStr.  Anymore career worsts?  I guess worsts is a word.  Anyways, the answer is yes, his Infield fly percentage was 15.5%, that’s not good friends.

The only thing he’s doing well is hitting and pulling more fly balls to take advantage of that short porch in right.  That’s great, but since he doesn’t hit the ball hard or far, any fly ball that isn’t right down the right field line is basically an out.  Therefore, I’m expecting BABIP regression even lower than his 2017 number of .287.  For 2018 I’ll give Didi: .257/.298 15 HR, 4 steal, 74 runs, 78 RBI.  His current Early ADP in mocks is around 100 overall.  A quick peek at xstats from 2017 has Didi’s expected triple slash at .257/.291/.401.  Looks like I’m pretty close here.  I wouldn’t take him in the top 200.  If you want better value at shortstop check out my Marcus Semien sleeper post.



Alex Wood Bust Post

Alex is not likely to give fantasy owners Wood in 2018.

Alex Wood had a great year in 2017, there’s no doubt about that.  It’s not as big of a surprise as you might think though.  Back in 2014, Wood posted nearly identical numbers in terms of ERA/FIP/xFIP, K and BB rates:

Season Age IP ERA FIP xFIP K% BB%
2013 22 77.2 3.13 2.65 3.18 23.6% 8.3%
2014 23 171.2 2.78 3.25 3.19 24.5% 6.5%
2015 24 189.2 3.84 3.69 3.90 17.4% 7.4%
2016 25 60.1 3.73 3.18 3.29 25.9% 7.8%
2017 26 152.1 2.72 3.32 3.34 24.6% 6.2%

So it’s not unprecedented, but the main differences are the win-loss record, BABIP and GB%.  Wood enjoyed a somewhat lucky .267 BABIP and 80% LOB in 2017 but for the most part, he earned his numbers.  So why am I expecting regression when his early ADPs indicate that he’ll be the 20th best SP in 2018 when he finished 10th in 2017?  Isn’t regression built into his 2018 ranking?  Yes, but I’d argue that not enough regression is built in.

Wood absolutely dominated in the first half going 10-0 with a 1.67 ERA and only 2 HRs given up in 80.2 innings!  That’s insane.  It gives you an idea on how pedestrian his 2nd half was to finish with the numbers he finished with above.  It wasn’t that he was unlucky in the 2nd half, his K rate drop from 10.8 to 6.8/9 and his BABIP and LOB% remained better than league average at .279 and 79.7% respectively.  He gave up more hard contact (10% increase) along with an increase in fly balls and as a result a huge bump in homeruns.  That huge bump was 13 HRs given up in 71.1 IP in the second half, good (bad) for 1.63 HR/9!  That’s scary.

This decline was directly related to his velocity dip from 93-94 mph in the first half to 90-91 in the second half.  Without his velocity on his fastball/sinker he turned into pre-2017 Charlie Morton.  I’ve broken down Contact % and SwStr% into 1st half starts (4/5/17 – 7/15/17) and 2nd half starts (7/21/17 – 9/26/17).

  Contact% SwStr%
4/5/17 – 7/15/17 71.7 13.6
7/21/17 – 9/26/17 80.5 9.4

For context if you’re ranking those numbers over the course of the entire 2017 season, the first half ranks: 6th and 7th respectively and the 2nd half ranks 37th and 40th out of 58 qualified starters.

I believe in the 2nd half more than the first half.  We can’t pretend that the first half didn’t happen but Wood is not an overpowering guy.  He’s not built like a work horse and had 2 DL stints in 2017 and has a poor injury history prior to 2017.  There are too many questions about durability and his second half to tell me that he’s a top 20 starter for 2018.

For 2018, I’ll give his: 11 W, 3.53 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 144 Ks in 155 IP. (Early Mocks ADP 93)

When healthy he may post top 25 SP numbers and he does limit walks but I wouldn’t count on 28-30 starts from Wood next year.  I can see the Dodgers limiting starters innings again in 2018 which could limit Wood’s win totals.  Don’t take him until after 125 overall.

Here’s a Lump of Cole in your Stocking: Hamels Bust Post

A Christmas reference!  It’s the day before Thanksgiving tho!  Blackout Wednesday!!  True, but the radio’s been playing Christmas music for the past month and every store is like “F” Thanksgiving, here’s two isles full of Christmas sh*t.

Ok, back on task.  It’s been a pretty steep decline for Cole Hamels the last couple of years and if you’re hoping for a rebound at age 34, you’re going to be disappointed.  Cole was never an overpowering guy but has always had an elite change up and good secondary pitches.  His command was very good and could induce swings and misses out of the zone with regularity.  While his strikeout numbers were never elite, they were good and he was great at inducing weak contact, limiting walks, and stranding runners on base (over 77% of the time prior to 2016 for his career).  I think it’s safe to say he no longer has those skills.

Just look at his numbers from 2015-2017.

Season Age BB% Hard% Soft% LOB% ERA
2014 30 7.1% 26.8% 20.0% 81.9% 2.46
2015 31 7.1% 27.0% 21.6% 75.3% 3.65
2016 32 9.1% 32.0% 20.4% 79.1% 3.32
2017 33 8.6% 36.0% 13.7% 70.2% 4.20

The four year trend of increasing hard contact stands out the most but the other categories are all trending in the wrong directions.  The only reason for a 3.32 ERA in 2016 was due to high LOB% which IMO was very lucky.  His skills are eroding quickly.  He also posted his first ever SwStr% below 10% in 2017 and I just don’t see any swing and miss upside going into his age 34 season.

So, we have an aging pitcher who pitches to contact, gives up hard contact, has an elevated walk rate, and coming off a career low LOB%.  Sounds terrible and I haven’t mentioned the extremely low BABIP from 2017 of .251, which believe or not is a career LOW for the HAM man.  Ok, terrible nickname, sry.  But how ITF is this possible because he gives up a ton of hard contact and doesn’t have a crazy high HR rate?  A lot of times you see bad pitchers with low BABIPs due to abnormally high HR/9 such as Jeremy Hellickson who had a BABIP of .246 and a HR/9 of 1.92!  Damn, that’s awful!  Hamels HR/9 was only 1.09, so basically he’s Max Scherzer OR the one of the luckiest pitchers for 2017.

This one seems like a slam dunk but IMO C. Ham; Cam? has gone full MEMORY LOSS.  He’s exactly who the big box sites will peg for a rebound due to the name value.  I could see ESPN projecting Hamels inside the top 40 for SPs with something like a 3.80 ERA by lazily averaging his ERA from the previous two seasons which would be ridiculous of course!  Don’t fall for that.  I think he will be even worse in 2018 and essentially undraftable. If you’re wondering, undraftable is a word, I’ve added it to my dictionary in Microsoft Word, so there.  So for 2018 I’ll give Cole:

  • 155 IP, 9 Wins, 4.41 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 125 K (Way to early mock drafts have him around 195).  There are so many pitchers around 200-225 that I want much more like Chase Anderson
  • So have a Merry Christmas  Thanksgiving!

Star(t)ling ADP for Marte in 2018

Tags:  Starling Marte , Bust, A.J. Pollock, Ender Inciarte

Another speedster suspended for PEDs (Gordon in 2016, Marte in 2017).  Starling Marte has more pop than Gordon obviously but will this hurt what power he has left?  I can understand the scarcity of steals in today’s game but a top 35 pick for Marte?  Naw Bro!  Marte’s career high in HRs is 19 back in 2015 (possibly PED aided).  He’s great source of steals with a high of 47 in 2016 and still managed 21 in only 77 games in 2017.  So maybe he can still get 40.  Yeah but Dee Gordon can get 60 at about the same price.  Quick update 60>40.

Digging into Marte’s profile, you’ll notice he’s a bit of a hacker.  He doesn’t walk much, swings at a lot of pitches out of the zone, and makes slightly below average contact.  He’s needed crazy high BABIPs to hit over .290 in the past and he hit .275 last year with a .324 BABIP.  I think that’s about where he will be for 2018.  I’ve already touched on his lack of power and part of that is his low FB% and the other is the below average exit velocities. In 2017 his average exit velocity was 83.21 mph which is terrible and even in 2016 he averaged only 86.3 mph.  That’s Still in the bottom third.  So in my opinion his days of hitting .300 with 20 HRs are gone.

Let me throw out some (freeze)stats for you regarding Marte’s power.  First, we understand that fly balls to the pull side yield by far the most homeruns than to other fields.  In 2017 Marte had 238 Batted ball events.  He pulled 36.3% of those batted balls but only 7% of those balls to the pull side were fly balls!  That’s a total of 6 fly balls hit to the pull side!  Luckily half of those were hit for HRs, that’s a total of 3 folks!  Here’s another one. 47.9% of Marte’s fly balls hit in 2017 were to the opposite field for a total of 36 batted ball events in that category.  Of those 36 fly balls the other way, he hit ZERO HRs!  In case you’re wondering, in 2016 (full season of PA) he also hit zero HRs to the opposite field.  2015 was the last time that happened!  That’s over 860 PA fam, let that sink in.  It wouldn’t surprise me if he ended up with 5-10 HRs in 2018.

Let’s wrap this up!  Listen, I love his speed and he should have no problem getting 30+ steals in 2018.  The Pirates have hit him anywhere from 1st to 4th in the order.  4th makes no sense to me so I’ll say he hits 2ndFor 2018, I’ll give Marte: .274/.325 9 HRs, 33 steals, 83 runs, 51 RBI.  Go ahead and wait 30 picks and get A.J. Pollock (who I have ranked ahead of Marte) or better yet wait 80 picks and get Inciarte. (Marte’s Early ADP sits in the mid-30s, don’t be silly).

Here’s to you Mrs. Robinson – Robinson Cano Bust Post

Tags: Robinson Cano, Bust, 2018 Projections  Whit Merrifeld, Ian Happ, Ozzie Albies, Rougned Odor

Robinson Cano is one of the all-time great 2nd baseman, he’s going to the Hall of Fame in 10 or so years and he’s been one of the most durable and reliable top tier fantasy players for over a decade.  That being said, I’m the kind of guy who would rather get out on a guy a year early than a year too late.  I think memories of 2016 where Cano went nuts hitting 39 HRs and combining for over 210 runs + RBI are still hanging around with some people.  And maybe he can be like his teammate Nelson “40 HR till I’m 40” Cruz but I doubt it.  To me, the decline began in 2014 when he came to the Mariners.  Last year was the first time since 2008 that he failed to reach 650 PAs!  Now, that stat is amazing on its own for the durability over the last decade plus.  Cano needs that type of volume to compile his stats.  I believe the decline in PAs and games played continues at age 35 in 2018.

Let’s dig into the STATS!  Cano’s BABIP has slipped from .335 in 2014 to .294 in 2017.  He has absolutely no speed to speak of and doesn’t run hard to first or around the bases (maybe that’s how he stays so healthy).  Plus, he’s no longer hitting 24-25% line drives, he’s been below 20% each of the last two seasons.  Now, he still hits the ball hard but either way that BABIP will continue to decline.  So his once elite average drops to around .270-.275.

Over to his power.  He barely hits 35% fly balls and has only once posted a HR/FB over 20% and that was back in 2012 with the Yankees.  He’s typically around 13-15% which is fine if you hit 40% fly balls or you have over 700 PAs.

Cano is a professional hitter.  He doesn’t strikeout much but he also doesn’t walk much so his OBP isn’t likely to be over .330-.340.  With everyone and their mother hitting 20 HRs, even at 2nd base like Scooter Gennett hitting 27, the value of Cano dwindles.  So if you’re drafting Cano just remember you need perfect health from a 35 year old with moderate power and no speed.  ESPN and Yahoo will rank way too high, no doubt about it.  If you’re smart, you won’t listen to them.  You can wait a couple rounds and grab Whit Merrifeld or Ian Happ in rounds 8 or 9.  Or wait even longer and grab my guy Ozzie Albies (Teaser: sleeper post coming soon) or bounce back candidate Rougned Odor.

For 2018, I’ll give Cano: .272/.336 19 HRs 1 steal, 79 runs, 88 RBI

(Way Too Early Mock Drafts have him at an ADP of about 63 overall)