Mitch Haniger – Sleeper Post

Mitch Haniger was a popular sleeper going into 2017 when he was traded from the Diamondbacks to the Mariners.  He settled in nicely slotting in the two hole for the 21 games of the season hitting .342 with 4 HRs and 2 steals.  An oblique injury late in April caused him to miss nearly two months with a return to the lineup in mid-June.  It seemed to sap some of his power as he hit only three HRs through July.  Sure enough June and July is were he posted his lowest hard contact rates. He missed more time in August with a facial laceration before getting hot in September hitting seven dingers and stealing 2 bases.  Overall it was a bit of a lost year but the start and finish were encouraging and he’ll entering his age 27 season.

What’s interesting to me is that in the minors Haniger had solid K and BB rates but in the majors his 22.7% K and 7.6% BB rate left me wondering what was going on.  His O-Swing% was 24.7, Z-Contact% 88.6, and SwStr% 8.7.  All of those are quite a bit better than league average but the K rate and BB rate are just below average.  I’m expecting improvements in both BB and Ks meaning higher OBP and more balls in play.

In the past, Haniger hit well over 40% of the balls in the air but sat at 36.7% in 2017.  Now this may have helped his BABIP but in this day and age I think he goes back to his flyball ways and it’s possible that his injury changed his approach as well.  The elevated BABIP might drop but his power should improve as long as he can continue to elevate his pulled contact. His hard contact on fly balls is nearly 45% and his HR/FB on pulled fly balls was 48% last year!

He doesn’t have elite speed by any means but could easily steal 10 bases in 2018.  The additional walks will help.  His final numbers will come down to health and where he hits in the lineup. As of now  Roster Resource has him slotted in the six spot which I thinkis about right. The addition of Dee Gordon moves him down so his run total will suffer but his RBI numbers should be very good with Cano, Cruz, and Seager hitting in front of him.   I’ll take my chances with his current ADP per NFBC sitting at 210 overall around guys like Avisail Garcia and Odubel Herrera.  In a standard 12 team league, that’s around a fourth OF so he doesn’t cost much.

For 2018 I’ll give Haniger: .271/.343 24 HRs, 9 steals, 75 runs, 86 RBI
Remember, he was a hyped sleeper going into to 2017 and now he enters his prime at age 27, only injuries derailed what should have been a top 100 overall season in 2017.

Luiz Gohara Sleeper Post

Gohara is a large young man who turned only 21 in July of 2017.  What I mean by large is this:

He’s listed at 6-3 210 pounds LOL. Maybe when he was drafted back in 2013 at the age of 17. He’s easily 260 now. But so what, look at Sabathia and the ageless Bartolo Colon. Ok, enough about how large this man is, this is about his talents.

The Braves minor league system is absolutely stacked! Gohara is a top five prospect in the Braves system that includes Ronald Acuna and I’ve seen him ranked as high as second in the system. Gohara came up late in 2017 and threw 29.1 innings. Of all the rookie pitchers that will be called up in 2018, I think he might be the most valuable for fantasy. A couple rough outings skewed his numbers but the fact that he struck out over a batter per inning, walked less than 2.5/9 and only gave up two HRs tells me a lot. He also was unlucky with a .366 BABIP against and a 62% LOB. His small sample shows a low 35% ground ball rate but looking at his profile you’ll see that he’s consistently had ground ball rates around 50% which is huge if you combine that with swing and miss stuff. Speaking of swing and miss.

Looking at his pitch mix and let me tell you this guy throw gas. He averaged 97 mph on his fastball and has a wipe-out slider. He’s got plus stuff, above average command and went from high A ball into the majors all in 2017. I wouldn’t worry too much about workload because he threw 153 innings across the four levels last year.

The question is will he earn a rotation spot or start the year in Triple-A to be called up in June. The Braves did make a move to acquire Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir from the Dodgers. Talk about reliable starters, do you know how many innings these two pitchers threw the last two seasons combined? Nope, lower, keep going, 268 innings! That’s an average of 67 innings pitched per year. I believe he’s earned a spot but I’ll split the difference and say he gets 25 starts in the majors in 2017. Here are my 2018 projections: 10 Wins, 3.75 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 153 Ks in 145 IP. His ADP is around 260 to 275 overall, so he’s always my last round flier in shallow leagues.

Patrick Corbin – 2018 Fantasy Outlook

Patrick Corbin is a post hype sleeper who is one of many pitchers to lose significant time to Tommy John surgery.  He lost all of his 2014 season and half of 2015 to the recovery.  Pre-surgery, he went 14-8 with a 3.41 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 2013 at only 24 years old. When he returned in the second half of 2015, he pitched very well but completely fell apart in 2016.  In 2017, he had a bit of a bounce back with a 4.03 ERA but still a high WHIP of 1.42!  I love that his ERA finished above four and his WHIP was so high.  He will be overlooked in many leagues due to his final numbers and even may go un-drafted in shallow leagues.  That would be a mistake.

I’ll stop talking about all the negatives and get to why I think you should draft him.  He’s got one of the best sliders in the game, in fact, his slider ranks 9th in all of MLB sandwiched between Carlos Martinez and Carlos Carrasco!  That’s good company. The bad news, his fastball is in the bottom three for qualified starters.  OUCH Bro!  However, he’s increased his slider usage (2nd most by % thrown in 2017) and decreased his fastball usage as well.  

Let’s do a little digging into Corbin’s profile. In 2017 he turned in a career high Swstr % at 11% but it’s not as if he didn’t have solid SwStr rates previously (10.8% in 2015, 10.7% in 2013). Plus his velocity is back up near 93 mph which won’t blow anyone away but it’s another indicator that he’s fully healthy and the Tommy John surgery is behind him. Another aspect he’s been able to bring back is the ability to induce popups which were back up to 10%. That combined with a near elite 50% GB rate means the home runs should decrease. Home runs have been his Achilles heel but at under 30% FB rate, I’m expecting his HR/9 to drop for the 3rd straight year to around 1.1/9. Ok, so he’s getting ground balls and popups, increased his K rate by 3% and decreased his BB rate from 9% to a respectable 7%. 

He’s clearly trending in the right direction and now three years removed from the surgery, and should have no restrictions on innings. Can we talk BABIP? In2017, his BABIP was .328, that’s pretty high. Here’s why: he was tied to the WHIPing Post a few too many time last season.  Two of them he was BABIP’ed to death by the Brewers on the road and the Padres (of all teams) at home; the other two were road games against the Rockies and the Cubs where he gave up the gopher ball.  Now I hate kicking out stats especially since he can’t avoid the Rockies at home because they are division foes but you’re likely benching him there and against the Cubs in Midsummer at Wrigley.  Taking out those two games, his ratios for 2017 look like this: 3.35 ERA, 1.36 WHIP.  Not too bad!  Now the WHIP is high but again the BABIP should come down closer to league average couple that with a decrease in home runs and walk rate and now he’s looking like #3!

Here are my projections for 2018:

195 IP, 14 Wins, 3.62 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 184 Ks; he’s going around 250 overall and SP #70! That’s absolutely nuts especially since he did throw 189 IP in 2017 and could be a candidate to be a 200 inning horse and a #3 on your fantasy team.  I’ll have to mention the humidor which would certainly help reduce home runs but no one knows if that’s actually happening this year. If it does go in, it’s only going to help Corbin.

Chad Kuhl Story Bro – Fantasy Outlook

There are several types of sleepers, the early to mid-round guys who have the upside to be top 25 players, the mid-late round guys (200ish overall) who have a chance to be top 100+/- and the guys who are basically going undrafted in all but 16 team or 30 man roster leagues.  AKA guys that make you fall asleep faster than watching afternoon golf of tv.  Chad Kuhl is that guy! But maybe he can be more than that.

Because he’s either undrafted or a late-late flier, you don’t need much to get value from him.  Quick overview about Mr. Kuhl. His name alone is worth it.  You could name your team something like Kuhl’s Out for the Summer or Kuhl Hand Luke.  You probably have to be over 45 to get those references.  Anyways, back to Kuhl.  He’s 25, he’s a sinker / slider guy and mixes a change and curve; he averages nearly 97 MPH on his fastball.  This sounds like Charlie Morton, but not young Charlie Morton, he never threw that hard.  The old/current Charlie Morton who is good now and World Series Champ.  So that’s good but he hasn’t quite gotten the swings and misses you’d expect from a pitcher with that profile.  Some scouts say his fastball is too straight and maybe that’s part of the problem. Another take that I saw on Twitter from Eno Sarris is the heatmap below of his sinker: 

(courtesy of Eno Sarris on Twitter) Basically, it’s not a bad pitch but his location of the pitch is way too middle-middle. It appears he’s got consistent control with that pitch, he just needs to control it down in the zone. That tells me it can and should be discovered and that he can correct it.

Taking a look at the plate discipline since his call up in 2016, he threw 70 IP in 2016 (+83 in the minors) and 157 IP in 2017 (all in the majors).  His K rates improved but his walk rates regressed.

Season Age O-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% SwStr%
2016 23 26.4% 65.7% 87.5% 80.3% 8.9%
2017 24 27.7% 63.4% 86.3% 78.5% 9.5%

Keep in mind the MLB average contact% is 80%. These are marginal improvements but they seem to justify the improvement in K rate and I think there is room to improve.  Not shown here, but his Zone % and F-Strike % both increased in 2017 so I have no idea how his BB rate jumped over 10% when his previous career high at any level was 6.7%! I’m thinking the BB rate will drop back down below 10% and settle around 8.5% this year. If you combine a K% near 22% and a BB% around 8.5% you’re looking at a potential #3 fantasy starter.

Back to the negatives. He’s been bad against lefties but some of that is bad luck with an elevated BABIP but it could also be that lefties can time up his fastball judging by the nearly 40% hard hit rate off of it in 2017.  Yikes!  All we really need is a slight improvement against lefties to justify a top 60 SP price.  I’ll bet on young talent as there have been some positive adjustments already from year one to year two.

2018 Projection: 10 W, 4.06 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 162 Ks in 175 IP. He’s an afterthought going as late as 400 overall or SP 110 around guys like Jose Urena and Brandon Woodruff. He might not be super exciting but the numbers I project would have been the SP 65, 225 overall in 2017. Any 14+ team leagues or expanded roster leagues need to jump all over him.

Swingin’ on the Gallo’s Pole

The ultimate three true outcome hitter and the ultimate BOOM or BUST fantasy player. Joey Gallo is currently going just inside the top 100 after hitting 41 HRs in only 532 plate appearances in 2017!  That’s nuts. YARRR!  You know what else is nuts? Having 196 K and 75 BB in those 532 plate appearances. Calculating, calculating… that comes to 58.6% of his PA resulted in a HR, K, or walk in 2017. I’m not going to give the easy, lazy comparison of Gallo to former Texas Ranger Chris Davis because Gallo strikeouts more (hard to believe), walks more (that’s good), and actually hits the ball harder and in the air more than Davis ever has.  There is no single player comp for Gallo.

The closest comp I can find is that of Miguel Sano. He strikes out just about as much (36.8% for Gallo, 35.8% for Sano) and hits the ball just as hard as Sano (93.1 mph for Gallo, 92.4 mph for Sano). However, he’s a much better athlete than Sano and hits the ball in the air over 10% more often than Sano. That’s good for his home run totals but bad for his BABIP and batting average. But let’s go back to how hard he hits the ball. He actually hits the ball just about as hard as anyone.  Take a look at the 2017 Baseball Savant Statcast Leaderboard. Gallo is second only to Aaron Judge in Brls/BBE and 4th in Brls/PA! Notice anything interesting about the top five in Brls/PA? They all finished in the top five for home runs in 2017. That’s great, but you know the issue; Gallo strikes out way too much. His number of batted ball events is more than 100 less than any of the other top 5 HR hitters, which makes what he did in 2017 even more impressive.

So we know with all those fly balls his BABIP and batting average are going to suffer but a .250 BABIP is awfully low for a guy like Gallo. As a result of his frequent hard contact, I don’t think he’s a .209 hitter unless his K rate goes up to something like 43%. As crazy as that sounds, it’s actually possible with a guy like Gallo. That’s the downfall. If that happens, Texas may have to send him back to the minors. So the floor could look something like a sub .200 average and 20 HRs due to being sent to the minors for a half a season or so. Not good.

But, this young lumberjack of a man is 24 years old, 6-5 and 235 pounds. He improved his overall contact and lowered his swinging strike rates. They are still basically among the league’s worst rates but have I mentioned he hit 41 HRs with those contact numbers! Oh I did? Anyways, I’ll bet on talent and youth more often than not. I’m willing to gamble on him for 2018 not only because of the power, but because his career 13.9% BB rate which should help him through prolonged slumps. Also, his 123 WRC+ in 2017 ranked third on the Rangers behind only Beltre and Chirinos, neither of which played over 95 games in 2017. By production, he’s basically one of the top two or three hitters on the Rangers (Andrus and rookie Willie Calhoun should also be up there) and spent most of the season hitting between the number 5 and number 9 slots in the order.

When you break down the numbers, he’s not all that different than Aaron Judge. I’m expecting regression from Judge in terms on batting average and with a full season of at bats from Gallo, their numbers could be almost identical with about 80 picks between them. For 2018, I’ll give Gallo: .230/.340 43 HRs, 84 runs, 93 RBI, 7 steals. Look at his 2nd half splits where his batted ball luck was more neutral. Don’t sleep on his speed either, he had a 5.5 speed score in 2017 and is an above average base runner. Ten steals is not out of the question. That’s the Joey Gallo I expect in 2018 and he qualifies at 1B, 3B, and OF. Way Too Early ADP checks in around 98. With those projections he slides just inside the top 50 overall. The risk is too high to take him there but I wouldn’t let him get much further than 75 overall.

Str8 No Chase(r) Anderson Sleeper Post



Listen, I understand that Chase Anderson has been a boring starting pitcher that just turned 30 and I’m sure we’ve all streamed him in the past.  You’re probably aware that he had a career year in 2017 but greatly out performed his peripherals: 2.74/3.58/4.33 (ERA/FIP/xFIP).  Looks like Mad Max has some digging to do (Not Scherzer, he’s already got a job).  Wouldn’t that be bad-ass if I got Scherz to do my research tho?  

Let’s start with this plot via fangraphs: plotting HR/FB, SwStr%, Hard%, and K/BB since 2014. I realize it’s difficult to see, you can click the link to get a better view.

 

 

 

 

 

So you can see the three subtle improvements including a career high 10.2 % SwStr rate, hard hit % decrease and as a result; a lower HR/FB %.  The three minor improvements along with a decrease in BB% resulted in a huge improvement in K/BB by nearly 1.0 from 2.3 (bleh) to 3.2 (oh hi there)!  That’s the big spike in light blue on the plot.  How did this happen?  Did 29 year old boring Chase turn into a #2 starter overnight? Well, almost.  


First he improved his fastball velocity by about 1.5 MPH to 93.7 (AVG).  Of course 93.7 mph isn’t exactly blowing hitters away, but that’s a career best for Anderson.  Second, he wasn’t good in 2016 at getting first pitch strikes at only 57.7%.  In 2017 is went up to 61.2%, so at least he’s getting ahead of hitters more often.  Getting ahead allowed him use his secondary stuff which in the past has not been great.  His O-Swing % was over 30% for the first time in three years and he graded out with three plus pitches! So his secondary stuff is good now?  Kind of.

What happened is that Old Boring Chase (OBC) learned how to pitch.  The Brewers have a pretty solid pitching coach in Derek Johnson who also helped Jimmy Nelson turn things around prior to his injury. What Johnson helped Anderson do is locate his fastball (which is good especially with increased velocity) and set him up to utilize his average secondary stuff effectively.  Also, that 1.5 mph velocity bump helps Anderson attack up in the zone for swings and misses as opposed to throwing 91-92 MPH and missing on his locations allowing hard contact.

So what are we looking at in 2018?  I’m not going to go crazy because his LOB % was high in 2017 and his HR/FB mentioned earlier was low which is difficult to do when since he plays half his games a Miller Park. OK, we are looking at some regression there.  But the early mocks have his ADP regressing (morphing) back into OBC (Old Boring Chase) mentioned above.  For 2018, I’ll go with:  13 Wins, 170 IP, 163 Ks, 3.72 ERA, 1.26 WHIP.  Early mock drafts have his around 212 overall but I suspect that to rise a bit as we move closer to the 2018 season. There’s value here and you can grab him as your 4th or 5th starter.

Snells Like Teen Spirit

Yes that title is a Nirvana reference from the early 1990s and this is a Blake Snell sleeper post.  My guess is some of you weren’t even born in 1991 when the song was released but that’s OK.  This is about the now!  I know most of us have had or streamed Snell in the past where he tied us to the WHIP-ping Postbut look for Snell to take another step forward in 2018.

On the surface Snell looks like he’s regressed from his rookie season in 2016 in terms of ERA, K%, and HR/9.  Oh cool, looks like a great sleeper Max!   Ugh.  I try not to give up on guys with pedigree and talent who are 25 and younger (Snell will be 25 in 2018).  Some positives include improvements in the most troubling part of his game and that’s BB% down 1.9% from 2016!  That’s a lot, but his walk rate is still too high at 10.8% but it’s a start.  Digging deeper, his Swinging strike % is still very good at 10.8%, so that K% of 21.8% is below where it should be.   He should be around 24% at least bringing that K/9 up between 9.0 and 9.5.  Ok, now we are getting somewhere.

His arsenal consists of a fastball, change up, slider, and curve.  His change and curve are both plus pitches.  I like that he started throwing his change up more as the season progressed because that’s been his best pitch.  The other thing that intrigued me along with the curve, his fastball graded out as a plus pitch as well in 2017!  He throws it at 95-96 so if he can command it, he’ll get some swings and misses on that pitch; so now he’s got 3 plus pitches! This is starting to sound pretty good.

While his overall 2017 season numbers don’t on the surface display the changes I’m hoping for from Snell, his 2nd half splits look like he’s already made adjustments.  Here they are: 23.7 K%, 8.0 BB%, 12.4% SwStr, 3.49 ERA, with a 3.56 FIP to back it up.  That’s in 77.1 innings so it’s a good sample.   If I narrow his splits down to his final 11 starts of 2017 from August 1st on, he made significant changes to his pitch mix.  He increased the use of his curve and change by 5.2% and 5.9% respectively while decreasing his slider and fastball by 4.4% and 5.8% respectively.  He made a conscious change to throw his most effective pitches more often.  Decreasing the fastball usage actually increased its value (mentioned above as a plus pitch).  Remember, he’s still young with only 218 IP in the majors so he’s still learning how he can use his arsenal to his advantage.

All of the stats listed above happened after he was sent to the minors for poor performance in the 1st half so it seems like he’s ironed out the kinks.  He totaled 173 IP in 2017 so there shouldn’t be an innings cap on him for 2018.  That being said, he started 31 games between AAA and MLB so his IP/start is not great.  That’s why I can’t project 200 IP even if I think he’ll get 30-32 starts in 2018.  He’s going outside the top 200 right around SP 60.  There’s very little risk involved with Snell at that pick.  I think he should be inside the top 45-50 for starting pitchers.  For 2018 I’ll give Snell: 11 Wins, 3.82 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 182 Ks in 177 IP.  Early Mock drafts have him going around 212 overall.

Jameson Goes Down Smooth

Jameson Taillon Sleeper Post:


Listen, this guy’s been through quite a bit over the last 8 months or so, much more than most of us can relate to.  So I could be immature and tell you his stats during ONE BALL counts, but I won’t.  I’ve matured in my adulthood, kinda…

Jameson Taillon was a top tier pitching prospect but has been derailed with injuries throughout both the minors and now cancer.  It’s pretty amazing that he came back after less than 6 weeks but obviously he was not the same pitcher he was prior to the diagnosis/surgery (2.73 ERA in the 1st half, 5.96 ERA in the 2nd half).  Either way, this is a tough MFer or he has elite stuff, how about both.

But wait!  His June ERA which was just after the surgery was 2.42 in 22.1 innings.  So what’s the deal, why such sub-par 2nd half?  Was his body breaking down due to everything he was going through?  Nope, his Fastball velo averaged over 95 mph, same as the first half.  His Ks dropped by 1.5% but the BB% also dropped 1%.

The only thing that jumps out at me is the BABIP.  Taillon was unlucky all season based on a crazy high .352 BABIP, but check out the 2nd half, the BABIP ballooned up to .375!!  That’s almost as unbelievable as Avisail Garcia’s .392 BABIP in 2017.  Talk about a major fade in 2018, but I digress.  Taillon’s BABIP in 2016 was .287.  Maybe he’s not that good but somewhere around .310 sounds about right to me.  Due to that unusually high BABIP, his SIERA and xFIPs were consistently lower than his ERA, both sat around 3.50 and 3.75 respectively in both halves.  I believe those numbers to be accurate looking forward to 2018.


Looking at his profile, I love the ground balls which sits around 50% in 235 major league innings.  Limiting fly balls help limit his home runs, this is ground breaking stuff here guys!  His control is great, I expect his walk rate to hover around the low 2s/9.  The only thing he won’t do well is strikeout a high percentage of batters.  The 20-22% K percentage is what you will get which should translate to around 8.0 K/9.  That’s fine but slightly below the average fantasy starter in this era.  At least he’s got three of the four qualities I look for in a starter: Quality stuff, high ground ball rate, and low walk rate (Ks obviously being the 4th).   For 2018, I will give Taillon:

185 IP, 13 W, 3.51 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 164 Ks (going around 180 overall in Way to Early Mocks)

You’ve got a guy who has top 20 SP upside going in 15th-16th rounds. So pour yourself a SINGLE high-BALL with of Jameson in 2018.