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How Concerned Should We Be About Struggling Superstars?

This piece was inspired by a poll I held over the weekend on Twitter. I asked the question on Twitter regarding the slow starts for both Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger to get a feel for how fantasy owners were handling the stress of the extremely slow starts from their first-round picks.



Both players were no-doubt first-rounders with Yelich a consensus top-three while Bellinger fell somewhere between fourth and seventh overall. While just over half of the respondents aren’t worried at all, 35% are starting to get frustrated. Now, to be fair, we are just 21 days into the season and most teams have played between 17 and 19 games thus far. That’s like performing a full assessment of a player or your team in mid-April. It just doesn’t make sense. That being said, we are nearly 30% of the way through the season (for most teams)! Decisions must be made on the fly and adjustments need to happen now!

In this piece, I want to cover hitters off to slow starts who were top-end talents, AKA first or second-round selections. Before diving into the analysis, I wanted to cite a couple of pieces for two reasons. First off, the articles provide a ton of great information but also can help determine what we should be doing with players off to slow starts. The first is Rob Arthur’s piece which studied the drag on the 2020 ball. Conclusions are in! The ball has less drag than it did in 2019 and 2017.

It’s much closer to the ball we saw in 2018. I ran some numbers as well, looking at barrels per home run (BRL/HR%) and Blast Zone Barrels per Home Run (BZB/HR%), both were down significantly. We are currently well below the 2017 and 2019 levels and sitting between 2016 and 2018 levels. The crazy part is, we started in the dead of summer when balls fly farther, so our 2020 sample hasn’t factored in cold weather. 

With this information, we can reference Connor Kurcon’s piece from Six Man Rotation “Beneficiaries of the 2019 Dragless Baseball.” Save for Nick Castellanos, Kyle Seager, and Mike Yastrzemski, many of the players who benefited the most from the 2019 ball are struggling to start 2020. Now, since this is descriptive from 2019 data, changes in approach, exit velocity, and home park can attribute to how a player is performing relative to the information provided in Conor’s piece. Oh, and then there’s the sample size thing. Most statistics and metrics have not yet stabilized but metrics such as swing%, K%, exit velocity, and launch angle have. So, for this piece, let’s focus on those metrics.


All ADPs are from NFBC from 4/1/20 – 7/24/20

Christian Yelich (OF – MIL) – 2.05 ADP
.164 BA – 9 R – 4 HR – 9 RBI – 0 SB

Typically, the first round is about the floor but these players also have the highest ceilings. You’re not expecting this type of production from a player taken in the top three of nearly every draft. The first thing that jumps out to me is the ZERO in the stolen base category. The knee is a concern and it appears running may not be something Yelich will be doing this year. Bummer. The second thing that jumps out at me is his strikeout rate. He’s currently struck out 32.8% of the time. His career-worst K% in a full season is 20.7% in 2018. It’s odd because his chase rate as career-best 17.2% which backs his 14.1% walk rate. Yelich might be a little too passive to start 2020. He’s swinging at 10% fewer pitches but also seeing fewer pitches in the zone. That will happen to MVP-caliber players. 

His extreme passiveness doesn’t explain why his zone contact rate has dipped a whopping 20%! That’s my concern. I don’t think it’s an injury because his hard hit% and xwOBACON are very strong. Let’s take to the rolling average graph!

There’s some good news and some bad news here. In 2018, when Yelich won the MVP, he had three separate 15-game rolling averages where his wOBA was as low or lower than his current stretch. The good news is, they didn’t last long and he snapped out of it quickly. He’s also had two other stretches where his reach rates (O-Swing%) were as low as they currently are. The bad news is, those stretches coincided with fantastic results (spikes in wOBA). I’m concerned about Yelich but not a whole lot since his quality of contact is still great and his plate discipline is as good as ever. I think he’s a small tweak from busting out. I’d look to acquire him at 85 cents on the dollar.
Level of concern: 10% due to the lack of stolen base attempts

 

Cody Bellinger (1B, OF – LAD) – 4.08 ADP
.167 BA – 11 R – 2 HR – 6 RBI – 1 SB

Bellinger’s Roto line looks similar to Yelich’s but for different reasons. Bellinger made huge strides in terms of lowering his K% last year and he’s kept those gains this year. In fact, his strikeout rate is actually lower (14.3%) than it was last year./ That’s on top of cutting 7.5% from his K% between 2018 and 2019. He’s actually doing a great job of recognizing pitches in the zone. His swing% has gone up nearly five percent while his chase% is nearly identical to last season. Bellinger’s issues are not with zone recognition but with exit velocity.

His exit velocity and hard hit% are in the 18th and 14th percentile, respectively. Not good. His launch angle is the same as last year but that can be deceiving. Average launch angle does not tell the whole story. Let’s take a look at his 50 PA rolling average Sweet Spot% (balls hit between 8 and 32 degrees). 

He’s only been down this far once before and it was in his rookie year back in 2017. Limiting the percentage of balls hit in the Sweet spot range is going to limit his production on batted balls. Not surprisingly, his popup% is up over 5% this year as well. But, his ground ball% is also on the rise this year. That explains why his launch angle remains unchanged from a year ago. It’s difficult to hit the ball hard when your hitting popups and grounder at low launch angle but the lack of hard contact is concerning. Typically, it relates to an injury. But, his max exit velocity is decent at just under 110 mph which is right near where he’s been in the past. It’s possible he’s sacrificing hard contact for just plain contact which is why he’s hitting so many poorly hit balls. Either way, my concern for Bellinger is slightly higher than with Yelich because he could be masking a minor injury here.
Level of Concern: 25%



 

Rafael Devers (3B – BOS) – 23.09 ADP
.175 BA – 8 R – 2 HR – 3 RBI – 0 SB

Devers has missed the last couple of games with an ankle injury. Maybe that’s to blame for his slow start but I’m not buying it. He tweaked it on Sunday, so it doesn’t explain his poor performance to date. He’s nearly doubled his K%and is walking less compared to 2019. We have to remember, Devers is still just 23 years old and went from a league-average bat in 2018 to an MVP candidate in 2019. Regression back down a little should be expected. But, let’s try to figure out what’s wrong with the young third baseman. 

His hard hit% is down a massive 15% and he’s really been struggling against fastballs slugging just .259 against heaters. Contrast that with 2019 where he had a SLG of .545 against fastballs. Let’s check the two charts below. 

The first shows his in-zone swing and miss% by year. It’s not often you see a player with higher whiff rates on fastballs compared to offspeed or breaking balls, but that’s Devers. While his whiff% in the zone against offspeed pitches has increased by 10%, it’s up 14% against heaters! The second chart shows his average launch angle by pitch type. He’s pounding fastballs into the ground. So, not only is he making less contact against fastballs but he’s also been unsuccessful in elevating them. He’s not being pitched differently either. Most of the fastballs he’s seen are up in the zone or up and out of the zone. 

This looks like one of two things. Either he’s hiding a potential injury or he played a bit over his head last year. Either way, I’m concerned. The loss of Mookie Betts hurts this team’s productivity and word just got out that a humidor was installed at Fenway Park. Fenway was already one of the worst parks for home runs over the last three seasons. Devers and other Red Sox could see a power dip as a result. Additionally, he’s not running and now has a bum ankle. He’s known to go on some heaters but providing second-round value this year seems unlikely.
Level of Concern: 25% 

J.D. Martinez (OF – BOS) – 23.76 ADP
.222-7-1-4-0 (BA-R-HR-RBI-SB)

Martinez hasn’t changed his approach or batted ball distribution all that much. He’s essentially the same guy he’s been over the last several years but without much to show through the first three weeks. The difference is his hard contact. His barrel% is right in line where it’s been the last few seasons but his average exit velocity is way down. Like, bottom 35% down. This is a guy who has finished inside the top 10% in hard hit% each of the last five seasons. He’s also been in the top 10% in terms of exit velocity in four of the last five years. The only year he fell short was last season.


I wrote him up as a faller on my Blast Zone Barrels (BZB) article when looking at three-year trends. As average exit velocities have increased league-wide, Martinez is slipping. There are several reasons for this. First, his age. He’s 32 years old and while not a dinosaur, we don’t typically see players improve their exit velocity in their 30s. Second, his ground balls have been hit weakly (76.6 mph). That’s fine because he can’t do damage with grounders. His AVG EV on FB/LD is 93 mph is in the top half but not quite the JDM we are used to. Lastly, that damn humidor news. It’s going to suppress exit velocity and power.

I think he’ll bust out but not to the 2017 and 2018 levels we are used to seeing. The humidor scares me as well. I’m not buying JDM unless I can get him for 80 cents on the dollar.
Level of Concern: 20%

Anthony Rendon (3B – WSH) – 31.82 ADP
.174 BA – 10 R – 3 HR – 7 RBI – 0 SB

Rendon seems to be pressing. A star player in a new home off to a slow start. Sound familiar Bryce Harper? First, let’s focus on the positives. He’s walking more than he’s struck out (17 BB: 12 K). That’s nothing new for Rendon who has nearly as many strikeouts as walks since the start of 2018. However, he’s swinging less often this year. His chase% is at a career-low 12.6%, so that’s great but he’s dropped over 6% on his zone contact rate. Additionally, he’s hitting everything in the air but not necessarily in a good way. His launch angle is dangerously high at 28.6 degrees. His popup rate has almost doubled since 2019.

Since he’s ultra-passive, he’s getting fewer opportunities to do damage. Most of the time he’s miss-hitting the ball getting under it a little bit. He made an approach change in 2016 to get more loft and it’s done wonders to his production. I think he’s just working through early-season timing issues. Most pitchers have been ahead of the hitters with the lack of spring/summer training. Hitters haven’t quite had the reps they are used to seeing before the season starts. I’d look to acquire Rendon on the cheap but he did blast back to back homers this week, so you may not get much of a discount.
Level of Concern: 5%

Gleyber Torres (SS – NYY) – 28.66 ADP
.154 BA – 4 R – 1 HR – 2 RBI – 0 SB

To get Torres in a 15-team format, you needed to get him right at the end of the second round or at the turn in the third. So far, his hard hit% and K% are better than a year ago but he’s been unable to barrel many baseballs. Just one to date, in fact. His batted ball profile looks identical to a year ago, so what’s the problem? Well, he’s being fed a ton of breaking balls, nearly 10% more than in 2019. He’s done absolutely nothing with them slugging a scant .043 against the bendy pitches. While he was passable against breaking balls in 2019, the expected metrics painted a different picture. His xSLG was 70 points lower versus breaking balls and his xwOBA was .282.


I think this is the league adjusting to Torres. The book is out and he needs to adjust back. He’s only 23 years old and in a similar boat to Devers. There’s plenty of time for him to figure it out and I think he’ll be a star but in a 60-game season, we don’t have time to wait for changes to take shape. On the plus side, he’s chasing less often, so he’s not far from making the necessary adjustment. Like Devers, I certainly love him longterm but feel like he’s going fail on turning any type of profit in 2020.
Level of Concern: 20%


Photo by: Stacy Revere/Getty Images)



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Fantasy Baseball Top Starting Pitchers – Last 30 Days

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

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



Top Ranked Starting Pitchers - Last 30 Days

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

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Week 6 Rundown: Buy/Sell/Hold – Fantasy Baseball

This article will be covering the last 14 days. What kind of weekly rundown covers the last two weeks? This one I guess. I ultimately wanted to get this out last week but the Home Run Park Factors article took a little bit longer than anticipated. Maybe I should have called this a bi-monthly Rundown? Anyways, here we are, one week into May and Jose Ramirez is still hitting below .200 while Cody Bellinger is hitting over .200 points higher. Let’s dive into who’s hot and who’s not. I’ll give advice on whether or not the players are buys, sells, or holds.

Blazing Hot

Michael Chavis (2B/3B – BOS)
Chavis is batting a smoking hot .320 with six homers, two steals and a combined 26 R+RBI over the last two weeks. His power is no doubt legit but I’ve got questions about Chavis going forward. Will he continue getting playing time when Dustin Pedroia returns? What does his batting average look like once his .344 BABIP comes down? Putting Pedroia aside for a second, Chavis is carrying a 47% fly ball rate and doesn’t have great speed. Fenway does inflate BABIP, but I’d still expect at least a 40 point drop in BABIP. His 73.3% contact rate and high swing and miss rate tells me a 25-30% strikeout rate is likely. Best case for Chavis is something like .260 with 25-30 homers. That’s nice, but dammit, I forgot about Pedroia. He’s never healthy but working back on a rehab assignment. Chavis could lose anywhere from 10 to 50 games to the oft-injured second baseman. Chavis is a moderate sell/hold at this point in redrafts.

Anthony Rizzo (1B – CHC)
After a slow start, Rizzo is hitting .327 with six bombs and an incredible 16 RBI over the last 14 days. Rizzo is a machine. His contact rates have been near an elite level for the last several years. His power appeared to be declining in 2018 but the juiced or modified ball should help Rizzo once again reach the 30 home Run plateau. However, we should temper expectations because he’s currently running a career-high 20% HR/FB rate despite a career-low pull rate. That being said, his .228 BABIP will come up and when it does, Rizzo should settle in around .280-.285 with an outside shot at his first .300 season. 

Adalberto Mondesi (2B/SS – KC)
One of the most polarizing players in the fantasy community over the offseason is smokin’ hot. He’s hitting over .320 with three bombs and three steals over the past two weeks while driving in 17 runs. During that stretch, he’s striking out just 20% of the time which is an improvement on his 26.8% rate to date. He’s proving that his second half last year was not a fluke. What’s most impressive to me is his six triples and 20 extra base hits through 36 games. That’s a pace of 90 total XBH over the course of the entire season. A quick check at his Statcast metrics shows that regression is coming, but mostly in terms of batting average. His xAVG of .246 is .034 points below his actual batting average. However, his barrel rate is a strong 14.2%, so he should actually have a few more homers. If I’m an owner, I’m holding. He’s going to swing a ton, strikeout a lot, hit homers and steal a ton of bases this year, that’s a fact.

Chris Paddack (SP – SD)
20.2 innings pitched, two earned runs, 25 strikeouts, and only 12 base runners. I’ll take what are Chris Paddack’s stats from his last three outings for $1,000 Alex. It’s almost as if Paddack is facing minor league hitters. He’s sporting a cool 1.55 ERA with an unthinkable 0.69 WHIP on the season. He’s great, I like him a lot but he should be sold in redrafts. In keeper and dynasty, obviously, he’s a hold and congrats! Here’s where regression is coming, a .176 BABIP and 5.3% HR/FB. In this era!?!  Look, his changeup is great, and his fastball is pretty good. His third pitch is a curveball that isn’t any good and only throws it 10% of the time. I foresee issues against teams he faces two and three times and the third time through the order. Besides, he likely won’t throw more than 140 innings. You’ve got ace production from him though this point, now flip him for a top 30 bat.

Martin Perez (SP – MIN)
Credit Dan Hayes for reporting on Perez’s increased velocity this spring. All he’s done in his last 21 innings is strike out 20 batters while giving up just one run compiling three wins. He can’t really keep this up, can he? Well, his BABIP and strand rates are neutral, so that’s a good sign. His walk rate is a touch high at 9.4%, so there’s a little concern there. He’s only allowed two home runs after giving up a whopping 16 in only 85 innings last year when he pitched for the Rangers. Sure, he won’t sustain a home run rate under 0.5 per nine innings but he’s not the same pitcher he was in 2018. The main reason for his success is his new cutter. He’s slinging it 35% of the time which has helped him raise his SwStr rate four percent from last year. He’s also getting a solid called strikes plus swinging strikes (CSW) rate of 29%. Perez should be owned in all leagues, so go ahead and add him. Some bumps will come along the road given his walk rate and some home run regression but he doesn’t have enough value to sell yet at this point.

Freezing Cold

Corey Seager (SS-LAD)
Coming off of the Tommy John Surgery, it’s no surprise that Seager is off to a slow start. Over the last two weeks, he’s hitting just .178 with no home runs and four RBI. I’m not all that optimistic that Seager is going to provide value given his ADP around 85-90 this year. The Dodgers feel content batting him second and he’s still taking walks, so runs should be plentiful. Seager’s strikeout rate is up and the lower contact rates reflect that. I think he will get his timing back, so strikeouts shouldn’t be a long term issue. Where I’m concerned is his batted ball profile. He’s increased his fly ball rate but not the quality of his fly balls. He’s increased his popup rate and hitting 58% of his fly balls to the opposite field. That’s where fly balls go to die. Batters want to pull their fly balls to hit home runs, something Seager is doing on under 10% of his fly balls. I’m selling Seager to an owner who still believes in a .300 hitter with 25-30 homer pop.

Wil Myers (1B/OF – SD)
Myers has managed to hit just .119 with one home run and three RBI over the last two weeks. His problem is more with strikeouts than anything. Myers has never been a guy to make a ton of contact, but he’s sitting at a career-worst 35.9% strikeout rate. Both his contact and swinging strike rates are at career-worsts. He’s not even expanding the zone either as he’s right around league average. Overall, the quality of his batted balls are fine but I can’t find any reason to buy Myers at this point. He does have six homers and two steals so it’s possible owners could float some offers out there.

Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF – BOS)
Bradley is hitting just .171 with no homers, one steal, and three RBI in the last two weeks. I led all of you astray with my JBJ love this offseason. He’s been flat out terrible this year hitting a miserable .147 on the season without a home run. It’s not just one thing either. His strikeout rate is through the roof, his hard hit rate is down over 10%, and he’s hitting more ground balls at the expense of line drives. While I don’t see him being this bad all year as his .224 BABIP is 70 points below his career BABIP, but he’s at risk of losing playing time. He is streaky, so if he continues to get playing time, grab him if he gets hot. You’ve ditched him in all shallow leagues and he’s even a drop in 15-team mixed at this point. Sorry, Fam.

Carter Kieboom (2B/SS – WAS)
Note: Kieboom was sent back to Triple-A yesterday, so this write-up while moot may still provide value going forward.
Kieboom is hitting just .128 with those two early home runs, four runs and only two RBI the last two weeks. A 37.2% strikeout rate is largely to blame, but so is a .143 BABIP. Kieboom does hit the ball hard but the expected metrics are not good for him. Against fastball this year, he’s 0 for 20 with eight strikeouts. How is that even possible? It’s too bad his contact rates are so poor because he has a solid idea of the strike zone. Look, Kieboom is just 21 years old, so he’s far from a finished product, I just don’t believe he’s ready for the show. Once Turner comes back, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kieboom was sent back down. Between Dozier and Kendrick manning second base, there will be no place for Kieboom.

Cole Tucker (SS – PIT)
Tucker is hitting just .184 with zero home runs, zero steals, zero RBI, and three runs the last 14 days. The difference between Kieboom and Tucker is playing time. The Pirates have no one else to play shortstop, so they should let Tucker ride this stretch out. Tucker isn’t used to seeing strikeout rates over 30% as he was regularly in the high-teens, low-20s in the minors. I think he could provide some value later in the year given his elite speed and adjustments. However, at this point, he can be dropped.

Kyle Freeland (SP – COL)
Freeland has a bloated 9.75 ERA with a 1.58 WHIP and five homers given up over his last two starts since coming off the disabled list. That WHIP has come on just a low .238 BABIP in that stretch. Freeland’s pitch mix is nearly identical to last year. So is his velocity and so are his strikeout and walk rates. The only difference is his home run rate has gone from one of the best in the league to 13th-highest at 1.82 per nine innings. 2018 was a dream season for Freeland and his owners but the reality is starting to set in. The fact that he is unable to generate whiffs at a high rate and carries a high walk rate just doesn’t provide much value. I think Freeland curbs the home run rate down to the 1.3 per nine range but he will not sustain the .238 BABIP. Go ahead and sell in deep league but he should not be owned in shallow mixed leagues.

Kevin Gausman (SP – ATL)
Kevin Gausman is riding a four-game run with a 7.71 ERA, a 1.84 WHIP, and nine walks. Gausman was looking like an ace through his first few starts but has really fallen apart recently. It’s interesting to note that Gausman has essentially eliminated his slider and has become a two-pitch pitcher with a fastball and a splitter. The splitter has seen most of the increase from the slider. That’s the main reason his swinging strike rate has increased by nearly two percent. A peek at Statcast shows Gausman has allowed some very weak contact and low exit velocities. I was not optimistic coming into this but Gausman may just be a buy. I’m a little concerned about his lack of a third pitch, so I hope he does add one going forward. If he does, he could provide very nice value going forward.

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


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Outfielder Analysis Using Statcast – Get with This or Get with That?

Let’s kick it back to the old school. It’s been a while since I went back to my 90s hip hop roots and tied in fantasy baseball. If you don’t get the reference, sit back, relax and kick it with Black Sheep. I’m going to compare a set of hitters who, on draft day, were over 100 spots apart. I will show two tables. The first will go over each players’ standard fantasy categories and the second will show the Statcast data. I’ll follow up with a discussion on how I feel about both players going forward in 2019. Let’s keep in mind, I do like both players and am not devaluing either of them going forward. I’m showing how impressive these slow starters actually are.

Rhys Hoskins or Franmil Reyes

PlayerAVGRHRRBISB
Rhys Hoskins0.273209250
Franmil Reyes0.23598140

OK, so both had eight home runs (Hoskins hit his ninth last night) but Hoskins has the clear advantage in runs and RBI as well as batting average. Is this really all that close? Hoskins actually has more than 30 plate appearances than Reyes which explains the advantage in R + RBI. The fact that both are tied in home runs tells me that Reyes has some massive power. But, he doesn’t play every day because the Padres have five outfielders. Hoskins, on the other hand, plays every day and hits cleanup for the Phillies. That’s a huge advantage for Hoskins. What if I told you that from this point forward, these two would provide similar value? Let’s check the Statcast numbers.

PlayerLALD/FB EV (MPH)BRL/PAAVG HR DistxwOBA
Rhys Hoskins23.895.15.50%377 Ft0.344
Franmil Reyes15.997.314.30%402 Ft0.441

Depending on how you interpret these Statcast numbers, Reyes gets the clear advantage in all metrics. Some might argue that Hoskins gets the advantage in terms of launch angle but a portion can be attributed to an elevated 12.7% popup rate. Meanwhile, Reyes has done a great job of avoiding the near-automatic out by popping up just 3.1% of the time. In fact, Reyes’ fly ball rate per BaseballSavant is actually two percent higher than Hoskins (34.4% for Reyes and 32.4% for Hoskins). Regarding approach and plate discipline, Hoskins is by far the better option. In OBP leagues, Hoskins is the clear winner. However, if Reyes and Hoskins were to receive the same number of plate appearances going forward, there’s no doubt Reyes would have more home runs. Unfortunately, there’s the playing time issue is San Diego. I am hoping this plays itself out in the upcoming months and the Padres trade at least one of their current outfielders. Either way, here my thoughts on Reyes.

Franmil is one of the most dangerous hitters in the game. He’s in the top 6% in exit velocity, xwOBA, and xSLG. He’s in the top 10% in hard hit% and more surprisingly, in the top 10% in xBA. Given his current .233 average, one has to wonder what’s going on? It’s the BABIP which sits at a lowly .200. He has increased his FB% by a whopping 17% (nearly 11 degrees on his average launch angle since 2018). It’s a valuable increase in elevating the ball as he hasn’t hit an infield fly ball (per FanGraphs) and the aforementioned 3.1% PU rate.

This approach should provide Franmil with plenty of home runs. I’d put his ceiling at 45 HR given 600 PA this year. No, that’s not a joke but given the depth in the Padres outfield and his poor defense, he’ll probably reach somewhere around 475-500. That should still yield close to 35 homers for big Fran. He’s also changed his approach. He’s swinging at everything. His swing rate is up 10% and he’s swinging outside the zone 38.8% of the time up from 31.7%. It’s not all bad because his zone-swing percentage is up 11% To 81%! His overall contact rates remain relatively steady. The aggressive approach has helped cut his K% because he isn’t getting himself into as many deep counts. That’s great for his overall production but pitchers will adjust. Unfortunately, luck has dug him into a batting average hole but I think he can hit .250-.260 with huge power upside. If he finds himself in an everyday role, he could be a top 75 player this year.

David Peralta or Jesse Winker

PlayerAVGRHRRBISB
Daivd Peralta0.315194200
Jesse Winker0.234178130

I know what you’re thinking, why are you choosing these boring hitters without any speed? In fantasy baseball, the players with power + speed tools are always scooped up while the Peralta-types get left on waivers and are devalued. I’m of course talking about Peralta prior to last season’s breakout. Thus far in 2019, Winker has shown more power but Peralta gets the clear edge elsewhere. Both players are hitting in top third of their respective lineups but the Diamondbacks have gotten off to a better start. In both the preseason and likely right now, most fantasy owners would prefer Peralta to Winker. Let’s take a look at the Statcast metrics.

PlayerLALD/FB EV (MPH)BRL/PAAVG HR DistxwOBA
David Peralta8.194.83.70%407 Ft0.297
Jesse Winker10.3945.60%384 Ft0.381

Honestly, they aren’t all that different until you get to the last row. Winker’s expected wOBA is nearly .090 points higher! Walks are factors into wOBA, so Winker gets the edge there but he’s only walking 4.6% more often than Peralta, so there’s something else at play here. Oh, there it is. Peralta’s BABIP is currently an unsustainable .391. He’s also been a little more aggressive this year but mostly on pitches outside the zone. That’s caused his strikeout and walk rates to go in the opposite directions. Peralta is still a very good contact hitter and has shown that he can muscle up with some power. I just think Winker is the guy that should be hitting .315 while Peralta should be closer to .275. Going forward, Peralta is a bit of a sell and of course you know Winker is a buy.

Here are my thoughts in Winker from the preseason. Here are my thoughts now.

Winker is trading some patience for power this year. He’s seen his walk rate dip by four percent while his strikeout rate has increased by about the same amount. He’s only increased his swing rate by four percent and it’s all going to pitches inside the zone (which is great). His swinging strike rate and contact rates are nearly identical to 2018. I’d expect Winker’s walk rate to rise a little based on this approach. He’s also stinging the ball with hard contact rate of near 50% and his line drive rate is a healthy 26%. Even with his poor foot speed, you’d expect an elevated BABIP. Instead, his BABIP sits at a measly .200.

Winker is being shifted on more in 2019, up to 40% of the time this year compared to just 19% in 2018. His batting average and wOBA have taken a hit thanks to the shift. What doesn’t make sense is his 0.063 BABIP on fly balls and an extremely low .368 BABIP on liners. For reference, his career BABIP on line drives is .681 which matches closely with league-wide average. If we only regress his BABIP on line drives back to his career rate, he’d be hitting .293, LOL. That doesn’t factor in the unlucky BABIP on fly balls. Look, Winker is about to go nuts, he’s already proven that the power is real, although he won’t maintain anything near a 33% HR/FB going forward. Winker likely ends the year near .300 with 25+ homers with a possibility of 30 long balls. Isn’t that what you were hoping for from Corey Seager this year?

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


(AP Photo)

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Hot/Cold: Mid-Week Buy/Sell/Hold (Fantasy Baseball)

This series is going to be a little bit different than your typical buy/sell/hold article. I’ll be categorizing players as either HOT or COLD based on their performance over the past week. I won’t just be covering players that are available on the wire or can be bought for cheap. While those players will be discussed from time to time, I will also discuss the early round players who are showing improvements and could outperform their ADP or vice-versa. I’ll be referencing FanGraphs, BaseballSavant, etc showing metrics that back up my claims. Let’s get to some polarizing players over the last week.

Hot

Hunter Dozier (1B/3B – KC)
Would you believe that Hunter Dozier is hitting .300 with four homers and has dropped his strikeout rate by 11% from last year? His metrics back it up, he’s in the top seven percent in terms of average exit velocity, expected wOBA, and expected slugging. Dozier had a solid barrel rate last season but his high strikeout rate killed his batting average. Now that he’s improved his contact rate by six percent and his O-swing (swings outside the zone) by a whopping 12.8%, he’s become a complete hitter. He hasn’t even sacrificed his power or hard contact.

That tells a nice story there. What’s also interesting is that his speed is above average. He only stole two bags on five attempts last year but given the Royals aggressiveness, I wouldn’t be surprised if Dozier chipped in with 5-8 stolen bases this year. I don’t think he’ll sustain a .300 BA but I’m BUYING here.

Jose Altuve (2B – HOU)
Well, it’s official, the juiced ball is back! Altuve was hampered by injuries last year and now has blasted six bombs in the last week+. This is more than just the juiced ball though. Altuve has increased his launch angle to 16.2 degrees, an jump of nearly seven degrees from the last two seasons. He’s also hitting the ball harder, which is great given his new fly ball approach. Now, his contact rate is down a bit, so he might be selling out for power. That’s OK, because we have seen what it has done for Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez in previous seasons. Maybe Altuve’s average drops to .285-.290 but he has a legit shot at 30 homers if he can carry this approach through the entire season. I’d BUY him as a top 10 player but I doubt his owners are selling.

Marcell Ozuna (OF – STL)
Any chance I get to write about Ozuna, I do it. I loved Ozuna coming into the season and he has not disappointed hitting .293 with seven homers and even chipped in with two steals. His batted ball profile looks great, his launch angle is up nearly four percent and his barrel rate is at an impressive 15%. BUT, yes there’s a but, his contact rates are bad. Like, really bad. His in-zone contact is down 12%! That’s a big problem. Part of what made Ozuna so good was his ability to hit for power and limit the strikeouts. If his K% jumps to 25-26%, then he’s more of a .250-.260 hitter rather than a .290 hitter. The good news is, if he maintains his elevated fly ball rate, he could reach 30 to 35 homers. I’m holding and hoping his contact rate improves, if it does, he’s a HUGE BUY.

Joe Musgrove (SP – PIT)
Last night, Musgrove just gave up his first runs of the season in his third start and his ERA sits at a cool 0.81. His control is simply fantastic evidenced by his 21:4 K:BB ratio. Keeping walk rates down and inducing weak contact is how Musgrove thrives. I’m intrigued by his maturation as a pitcher but I have two concerns. One, his injury history, he’s never thrown more than 150 innings in a single season (including minors) and never more than 115.1 innings in a Major League season. The second concern is pitching to contact. The way the ball is flying, I have some concerns that his normally fantastic HR rate will jump up. That being said his slider and changeup have both generated a ton of swinging strikes and combined for 12 in last night’s start. I believe in his upside and can foresee around a strikeout per inning, he just needs to stay healthy. HOLD/BUY

Marcus Stroman (SP – TOR)
Wait, Marcus Stroman is striking out more than a batter per inning?! It’s true and he’s really increased his slider usage at the expense of his sinker. The good news is he hasn’t sacrificed much in terms of ground ball rate. His slider is a  very good pitch, it’s getting more horizontal movement and is allowing less contact on the pitch. Unfortunately for Stroman, the only other pitch that generates a swinging strike rate over 10% is his cutter at just over 11%. I like the pitch mix change but once the home runs start flying, his ERA is going to inflate. You likely got him on the cheap so I’d hold while he’s pitching well and flip him after a few more starts.

Cold

Mookie Betts (OF – BOS)
This really pains me to write this about my beloved Mookie Betts but he’s off to a very slow start. He’s currently hitting just .212 with three homers and only one stolen base. What’s going on, a slow start or something else? Well actually, Betts’ O-Swing 13.6% with a swinging strike rate of 4%, both would be career lows. His swing rate sits at just 33.3%. He’s being ultra-patient and his contact rates are off the charts but it hasn’t translated into success. His walk rate is great but his BABIP is a paltry .220. That’s not going to last but it’s thanks to an extremely low 13.7% line drive rate. Let’s all sit back and relax, this is Mookie Betts we are talking about. He’s, of course, a BUY/HOLD. I’d buy him for $0.95 on the dollar if possible. Maybe you can flip Yelich for him? Then again Yelich is out of his mind right now with four homers in two games.

Jose Peraza (2B/SS – CIN)
Peraza turned a nice profit for owners last year who invested hitting for average, stealing bases and providing unexpected mid-teens power. The expectations were that he would hit atop an improved Reds lineup but the Reds have realized that getting on base is more important than speed. I discussed how I believed Peraza’s power was a mirage last season, here. This year, he’s hit one homer and stolen just one base while batting near the bottom of the Reds lineup. What’s really concerning is his plate discipline. He’s offered at pitches outside the zone over 50% of the time and has not drawn a single walk. His in-zone contact is still very good but he’s gotten behind in the count nearly 75% of the time and it’s lead to an uncharacteristic 26.4% strikeout rate. His contact rates are weak and his fly ball rate is 50% which is not ideal for a weak hitting speedster. I’d SELL for 85 cents on the dollar but wouldn’t give him away because I think he bounces back to give 80% of his production from last year.

Aaron Nola (SP – PHI)
Aaron Nola has now given up five earned runs in three straight starts and owns a 7.66 ERA with a 1.66 WHIP. Scanning his metrics, his velocity looks good, pitch mix is fine, BABIP is neutral, so what is it? Well, his first-pitch strike rate is an abysmal 48.3%, down 21% from last year! Yes, 21%! Instead of getting ahead of batters nearly 70% of the time, he’s working from behind far too often which has elevated his walk rate. Combine that with a 60% strand rate and a home run rate three times higher than last year and here we are. Nola’s zone rate is OK, so I’d expect him to improve his F-Strike% and lower those walks. Given the juiced ball and his home park, Nola will likely end up with a HR/9 slightly over 1.0, so if you’re expecting a sub-3.00 ERA, you may be disappointed. I think something closer to 3.40-3.50 is where he ends up with a little over a strikeout per nine innings. I’m holding Nola unless you can’t get close to 100% of his preseason value.

Corey Kluber (SP – CLE)
I could write about a dozen top 20 starters having poor starts to the season but let’s discuss Klubot. His 6.16 ERA and 1.84 WHIP are very ugly but his walk rate sits at a career-high 10.8%. He’s never had a walk rate higher than 6.6% in any full season in the Majors. His skills look fine to me but his zone rate is down five percent. The difference between Kluber and Nola is that Kluber is still getting ahead of hitters over 65% of the time. He’s suffering from an inflated BABIP (.390) and a low strand rate (60%). Both metrics will stabilize at some point and Kluber should get back to his low-3s ERA with a great WHIP. I’d probably slot him just ahead of Nola going forward and call him a moderate BUY candidate.

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


Photo Credit: John Sleezer

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Low-Ownership Hitters to Add – Ramon Laurea-(k)no(ws) Best

All right fam, this is it! In many leagues, next week is Championship week or at last the Semi-finals. It’s now or never!  This will likely be my waiver wire article for hitters this season. I will be posting another starting pitcher streamer article on Sunday, so stay tuned. Also, follow me on Twitter @FreezeStats for helpful tidbits I’ll be throwing out there the final week of the season. Last week, I highlighted some guys and some of which are still widely available like Adalberto Mondesi (available in 70% of leagues), Harrison Bader (82%), Francisco Mejia (85%), Brandon Lowe (94%), and Ryan O’Hearn whom I lead with below.


Analyzing Low-Ownership Hitters – Last 30 Days

Ryan O’Hearn (KC – 1B)
I wrote about O’Hearn last week and his ownership has only jumped 3% from 7% to 10% in the past week. All he’s done in the last 30 days is hit .291 with 8 homers and 18 RBI. The Royals have 7 games next week, @PIT and @DET, not exactly the mecca for starting pitchers.  There’s no reason O’Hearn should be sitting on waivers for teams who are competing. I believe in this run for O’Hearn for a few reasons. As a young player, I love the patience, his 14% walk rate is fantastic and he’s providing plenty of power with a .365 ISO backed up by a 49.3% hard contact rate. It makes his 27% K rate more palatable. He’s a must add in all OBP leagues and should be owned in Standard 12-teamers and deeper.

Billy McKinney (TOR – OF), 7% owned
McKinney hasn’t been as hot lately, but over the last month, he’s been a hit machine batting .333 with 4 homers and 11 RBI.  McKinney likely won’t hit for a ton of power or steal many bases but all he does is hit. He’s sporting a 90% contact rate at balls in the zone (85% league average) and has always posted high line drive rates in the Minors. McKinney should provide a solid BA with great OBP and run into a few home runs. As long as the Blue Jays keep him near the top of the lineup, he’ll provide good run totals as well.

Dansby Swanson (ATL – SS), 18% owned
Swanson is not living up to his prospect hype early in his career but he’s made some positive changes recently. He’s been more aggressive at the plate attacking mistakes early and increasing his hard contact rate. In the last 30 days, Swanson has joined my 40-40-45 club. (That’s a club I’ve made up, still working on the name). That’s a 40% fly ball rate, 40% pull rate, and a 45% hard contact rate. That’s great and he’s produced 6 of his 14 home runs on the year in the last month. He’s also chipped in with 4 steals. Anyone in need of SS or MI help should add him immediately, especially with the Braves 7-game schedule next week. The power is starting to develop and the speed is a nice bonus. Swanson could be a potential sleeper next year with 20 HR 15 SB upside.

Ramon Laureano (OAK – OF), 15% owned
This previously unknown outfielder for the Athletics has a pretty solid .304 average with five homers and four steals over the last 30 days. His 49% hard contact in that span ranks him inside the top 15 in MLB. In the Minors, Laureano’s best skill was his speed, the power was just moderate but has really improved this year. His plate discipline is actually above-average despite a high-strikeout rate. His patience should provide some walks which is likely to lead to a few steals. Laureano is a great power/speed option I could see hitting a few homers and stealing a few bases down the stretch.


Greg Allen (CLE – OF), 6% owned
This is strictly a deep league speed option. Allen has stolen seven bases in the last month, tied for fourth in baseball. Allen is a very good defensive center fielder, but because of his below-average stick, he may only play 4-5 games a week. That’s OK, just add Allen to your bench for depth and throw him in there if you have the need for speed in your weekly match-up. Remember, with expanded rosters, teams are giving more players opportunities which means more days off for all players. I think it’s goidmove to expand your bench on the offensive side.

Adam Frazier (PIT – 2B/OF), 7% owned
Frazier is a high-contact hitter and has begun showing a bit of power with 4 home runs in his last 89 plate appearances with eight HR on the season. Over the last month, Frazier has displayed fantastic ball striking with a 49% hard contact rate, same as our man Laureano above. Personally, I prefer Laureano thanks to the speed but Frazier is eligible at 2B. If you’re looking for MI help, Frazier has a nice batting average floor and is showing some serviceable pop.

Statistics Last – 14 Days

Ji-Man Choi (TB – 1B), 5% owned
Choi is another first baseman owned in far too few leagues, but all he’s done is hit .324 with 4 homers and 12 RBI in the last two weeks. Choi is currently on the strong side of the 1B platoon with ice-cold Jake Bauers flanking the short side. The Rays have a 7-game slate next week against the Rangers and the Blue Jays who both offer weak pitching staffs and should see at least four to five matchups against righties next week. I don’t love Choi’s contact rates, but he’s another guy that hits the ball hard (45%) when he does make contact. Choi is hitting .296 with a .397 wOBA against RHP, so make sure he’s in your lineup against them next week.

Kevin Kiermaier (TB – OF), 26% owned
Has everyone forgotten about the power/speed combo of Kiermaier? He hasn’t shown the speed since he’s been back off the DL but he’s hitting a blistering .452 with 3 homers and 8 RBI in the last two weeks. Forget the season stats for KK, it’s been a lost year but he’s actually healthy coming off an illness this week that has caused him to miss a couple games. But, he’s back, hitting his fourth triple in the last month. He’s being ultra-aggressive, so watch him and make sure he doesn’t start getting out of control with his strikeouts. If that happens, go ahead and drop him. I’ve already mentioned the seven-game slate next week for the Rays, so he’s a great add.

Alex Gordon (KC – OF), 4% owned
This is a blast from the past! Gordon has been nearly useless for about two seasons now. Yet, he’s hit 2 homers and has 4 steals in the last two weeks with 8 steals in the last month! He’s only hit .230 the last month, but he’s been sporting a near 47% hard contact rate this month. Is this for real? I believe that it is, kind of, at least for the rest of this season. He’s actually been a bit unlucky with a .254 BABIP despite the consistent hard contact and a 29% line drive rate. With his strikeout and walk rates looking healthy, there’s no reason he shouldn’t hit .275 the rest of the way. The Royals are obviously letting him run wild and are batting him in the #3 spot behind Merrifield and Mondesi who have been on fire. Gordon is my favorite deep-league add next week.




Robbie Grossman (MIN – OF), 1% owned
This is more of a speculative add for super-deep 15-team and AL-Only leagues. He’s hitting .359 with a 20% walk rate and only a 6% strikeout rate in the last two weeks. He’s also been playing every day, good things are coming. His 36% hard contact in that period isn’t anything special (still just above league average), but it’s an improvement from his 32% hard contact thus far in 2018. If you’re in contention, and the waiver wire looks barren AF, give Grossman a look, he could turn a nice profit down the stretch.

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September Moves for the Stretch Run

No, this isn’t a weekly rundown, but I feel that this type of article is more valuable to fantasy owners at this point in the season. Let’s jump right in to some hitters that I think can help you win your league.  I also cover some hitters who’s ownership’s are too high and can be let go. I will have an article out on Sunday highlighting starting pitchers to stream for the upcoming week. Don’t worry, pitchers won’t be left out.

Hitters Under 40% Owned to Add

Trey Mancini (BAL – 1B/OF), 39% owned
Mancini is literally the same player he was last year just without the BABIP luck. The difference in BABIP from 2017 to 2018 is a drop of 70 points. However, since the All-Star break, Mancini is hitting .292 with nine home runs with a more respectable .320 BABIP. He’s also bumped his hard contact up to nearly 40% without changing his approach. Unfortunately, Mancini does not provide speed and hits too many balls on the ground for significant upside. He’s a solid batting average/power replacement for someone like Yonder Alonso whom I’ll discuss later.

Colin Moran (PIT – 3B), 3% owned
OK, so the launch angle increase I predicted from Moran didn’t exactly happen, or did it? It’s actually somewhere in between, sorry to be so anticlimactic. Moran’s ground ball rate has dipped to 45% and his line drive rate is up. He’s also a guy who makes a lot of contact with an 88.5% zone-contact rate. Previously, Moran was on the strong-side of the 3B platoon with my brother from another mother David Freese, but Freese has been shipped to LA. Moran should get just about every start at the hot corner moving forward with a prime lineup spot. Unfortunately, Moran isn’t hitting for power, but has hit .329 since August 1st and should help in batting average, runs, and RBI the rest of the way. Moran is strictly a deep 15-team and deeper league add.

Adalberto Mondesi (KC – 2B/SS), 18% owned
Finally, someone who is actually exciting!  Mondesi is somehow owned in under 25% of leagues and is capable of power and elite level speed. Mondesi is a guy I’ll be all over in drafts next year because of the upside he possesses. For the final month of the season, taking a chance on a guy who could win you the stolen base category without hurting you in the power department is gold. I realize he hasn’t been overly productive recently, but with six home runs and 18 steals in less than 200 at-bats, what more do you need to see? I liken him to a Jonathan Villar-type player whose ownership finally got his well-deserved Mass Appeal, so here’s the next best thing! There’s going to be a ton of helium going into 2019, so keeper league owners should be all over him now because, in dynasty, he’s long gone.

Ryan O’Hearn (KC – 1B), 7% owned
Another Royal, come on now! I’m going with O’Hearn over Brian’s brother Hunter Dozier (they are not brothers) for these reasons: the walk rate and the plate discipline. Both O’Hearn and Dozier have very good power with strikeout issues but O’Hearn does not expand the zone as much as Dozier. I can actually envision a strikeout rate drop to below 25% for RO. Combine that with an 11% walk rate and an incredible 50% hard contact rate and you have…. Rhys Hoskins from 2017! Sure, Hoskins has come down to earth and I don’t expect O’Hearn to go full 2017-Hoskins, but we are talking about only three weeks of baseball. If he stays hot, he could help boost average, home runs, and RBI before the season is over.

Harrison Bader (STL – OF), 19% owned and Brandon Nimmo (NYM – OF), 25% owned
I will forever link these two players who have similar skill sets. Both and high energy athletes who are all-out maximum effort. Bader certainly has more speed and but I think Nimmo can provide more power and OBP. Nimmo has missed a little time in August, but since the beginning of the month (August), Nimmo has been on fire. He’s slashing .351/.432/.636 with 3 homers, a steal, and 14 extra-base hits in only 88 PA! Bader hasn’t been as hot but has the higher SB upside. He’s compiled 10 homers and 13 steals in only 349 plate appearances. Depending on your team needs, grab at least one of these guys.

Francisco Mejia (SD – C), 15% owned
His ownership is sure to jump up after a two-homer performance last night. In Yahoo! Leagues, he does not have catcher eligibility yet, but in ESPN league, he does. Fear not! Only four more starts at catcher will earn him the big “C” next to his name in Yahoo leagues which should happen by early next week. If you’re rostering Tucker Barnhart or Robinson Chirinos, go ahead and make the switch. Mejia projects to be a high contact, high average hitter with moderate power. These days, moderate power means around 20 homers over the course of a full season. I do not see how he doesn’t perform as a top 12 catcher ROS.

Brandon Lowe (TB – 2B/OF), 5% owned
There are three Lowe’s in the Rays system and Brandon isn’t the one I’m most excited about, that would be Nate. However, he’s the only one up with the big club. B. Lowe has been hot hitting .414 with three homers and two steals in the last two weeks. Lowe graded out moderately across the board with slightly above-average power and speed. He’s patient which is great for OBP leagues but may elevate his strikeout rate a bit. I like him in deep leagues to help out with runs and provide some power and speed. OBP leagues, he’s a must add down the stretch.

Over 50% owned: hitters to drop

Eric Hosmer (1B – SD), 75% owned
Depending on what type of scoring your league has, Hosmer likely falls outside the top 300 overall. Most 10 to 12-team leagues roster less than 300 players. Do yourselves a favor and let him go. Hopefully, you’ve been able to find a viable replacement and are still in contention for the championship. I won’t bore you with all the poor numbers on Hosmer, but I will list off the areas where he’s under-performing compared to previous years: walk rate is down, strikeout rate is up, ground ball rate is up, soft contact is up, infield fly rate is up, chase and Swstr rates are up, and contact rate is down. Yup, that’s a lot. Stop owning him for name value, I’d even take teammates Mejia or Franmil Reyes over him right now.

Yonder Alonso (CLE – 1B), 50% owned
Coming into the season I thought Yonder Alonso had some solid value with an ADP well after pick 200. I projected Alonso to provide solid power numbers with a solid batting average as a floor while hitting 5th or 6th in one of the better lineups in the league. While the power has been relatively consistent, his batting average has fallen off the map which currently sits at .241 and is .214 since the All-Star break. It has nothing to do with a change in launch angle, his 22% line drive and 42% fly ball rates in that time frame mirrors his profile over the last 2 years. The issue for Alonso is his lack of hard contact, just 27.3% since August 1st and his chase rate, 35% in the month of August. Alonso will continue to be a batting average drain while providing poor power upside given his recent poor batted ball profile and plate discipline.

In redraft leagues, it’s safe to drop Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Eloy Jimenez as the team’s brass have decided to hold both down for the remainder of the season. No, they are not owned in over 50% of leagues, but in the playoffs, you need all the roster spots you can get. It’s unfortunate, but maybe they will both come at a bit of a discount next year. Clearly, both are ready to be up with the big club and no longer need refinement. Depending on service time, both could be held down for a couple weeks to a month to start the season similar to Acuna this year and Kris Bryant a few years ago. This would further decrease their ADP and I think they can both provide between 5th and 7th round value next year. It’ll be interesting to see their ADP’s coming into 2019 and I still see them as Star-Boys.

Odubel Herrera (PHI – OF), 70% owned
Over on the Sports Degens, I told you to sell Herrera back in early July before the All-Star break. At the time, he was on fire and ranked inside the top 75 overall. Since then, he’s hit .237 with seven home runs and 1 steal in 186 plate appearances. The power numbers are OK, but the lack of stolen bases and batting average has really hurt his value. Herrera’s hard contact is only 25% since July 5th and his plate discipline is a mess. The weak contact combined with an aggressive approach is the reason I was staying away from Herrera in the second half. There’s no reason for him to be owned in so many leagues. Drop him for one of the outfielders I highlighted above.

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Weekly Rundown – The Germans Are Coming!

Hot Hitters
Gleyber Torres is making his push for rookie of the year (Ohtani is glaring in his direction) hitting .481 with 3 homers, 7 RBI, and 2 steals in the last 7 days. For a 21-year-old rookie, his numbers on the season are fantastic with a .282 average, 21 homers and 5 steals. The power is surprising, but it’s backed up by a near 40% hard contact rate, a 42% fly ball rate, and a 40% pull rate. Triple 40s for the dinger! The strikeout rate is high and his contact rate sits below 70%, so that’s not great, but again he’s only 21! I like Gleyber, but his plate discipline and tendency to swing and miss make him a candidate for a Sophomore slump.

Christian Yelich is going HAM with 5 homers and 12 RBI and a steal this past week including hitting for the cycle and going 6 for 6. After the move to Milwaukee, I moved Yelich inside my top 50 overall. I knew 25 homers was in reach, combine that with a .300 average and 15-18 steals, and BOOM, top 50. This kid is near the top five in hard-hit rate and he’s looking more like a 30-20 player and is still just 26. Next year, there’s no reason to doubt him as a 2nd round talent. This might be his ceiling year, but his floor is still very high. Even if he hits .280 with 22 homers and 15 steals next year, he won’t hurt you as a 2nd round pcik.

Tyler “Post-Post-Post Hype Sleeper” White has been on fire blasting 3 home runs and driving in 10 this week. Is White this year’s Hoskins who was last year’s Gary Sanchez? A 19.6% strikeout rate and an 11.9% walk rate sure looks like Hoskins. However, a near-25% soft contact rate and 15% infield fly rate, don’t bode well for White moving forward. Hs hard-hit rate is league average, but he’s making a lot of contact. So no, I don’t think he’s this year’s Hoskins but could hit 5-6 more homers given the playing time. If he slumps, the Astros have depth to bench him which loses all his value. Ride him, but don’t be afraid to drop him after a couple O-fers. 

Jonathan Villar is still under-owned in fantasy leagues and he’s hitting over .300 with a homer and 4 steals this week. Since being traded to the Orioles, he’s been a top 50 player. The Orioles normally don’t run much as a team but they certainly are letting Villar run wild as he’s 7 for 8 since coming over last month. His power is moderate, but moving from Miller Park to Camden Yards isn’t a downgrade, so look for another few homers to go along with 5 to 6 steals the rest of the way from Villar. Yes, that makes him a top 50-75 option going forward.

Can we talk about Luke Voit for a minute? He’s the new Yankee’s first baseman (bye-bye Greg Bird, fly away) and he has 4 home runs and 9 RBI while hitting .458 this week. Is Voit someone you should grab? Eh, I’m not loving it. He’s got a sub-70% contact rate and an unsustainable 30% line drive rate. He does have above average power but will probably hit around .240-.250. If he gets regular playing time, he could have some value down the stretch, otherwise, he can be left on waivers.

Freezing Cold Hitters
What a 180 for Khris Davis. After looking like Babe Ruth the last two weeks, Davis is hitting .074 with no home runs and 1 RBI this week. Should we be concerned? Absolutely not. Davis has been about as hot as anyone since the All-Star break, with a 25% K rate, it was only a matter of time before he hit a slump (not literally). Davis will be just fine as he competes with JDM, Jo-Ram, and Joey Gallo for the home run title. He’s not .275 hitter, so don’t be disappointed if he finishes at .247 again, still with 45 homers and 120 RBI, yes please!

My favorite punching bag Eric Hosmer is hitting .222 with no homers or steals this past week. Wait, you still own him? Why tho? He has 13 home runs and 6 steals with a .253 average. Players ranked ahead of Hosmer this year include Todd Frazier, Scott Schebler, and Jesse Winker who has been on the DL for a month and only has 281 at-bats. It’s simple, Hosmer has a career-worst strikeout rate, a career-high ground ball rate (which is bad), and his second highest soft contact rate. Owners, please do yourselves a favor and drop his ass.

Nolan Arenado is 3 for his last with no homers, 1 run and 2 RBI this week. Let me just check the schedule and yup, the Rockies have been on the road. No surprise there. Arenado is a very good player on the road but he’s a top 5 talent (if not higher) at home. The good news for Arenado owners is that 17 of the Rockies last 28 games are at home. This is a mere speed bump for Nolan, but just wait, his next three series are all in the hitter’s haven of Coors Field. Relax friends.

A.J Pollock is hitting just .077 with no him runs, no steals and only one run in the last 7 days. Unfortunately, Pollock is not the same player he was in the first month and a half where he looked like a potential MVP candidate. His strikeout rate is up 5% and his walk rate has dwindled to a below average 6.7%. He’s still stinging the ball with av47% hard contact rate but the results just aren’t there. Humidor anyone? I don’t know, it’s possible but because of his stellar batted ball profile, I’m holding out hope down the stretch.

Hot Pitchers
You know I’m kicking it off with the German’s are coming Marquez! But, but, but, he doesn’t have any wins in his last two starts. Here’s the reason wins suck. Marquez has given up 5 hits, 2 earned runs, and 2 walks with 22 strikeouts in his last 2 starts (15 IP). That’s a 1.20 ERA, 0.47 WHIP, and a 13.2 K/9. No wins though. It might seem like Marquez only has one plus pitch (his slider), but that’s wrong. His curveball has basically been graded out as average (0.5) per FanGraphs pitch value but that’s because he’s given up 5 homers and a .316 BABIP against it in only 546 thrown. Get this, batters are hitting .169 on the pitch with a 51.4% K rate. The luck has turned around and Marquez has two elite pitches, making him a potential fantasy stud.

Jason Vargas has 14 strikeouts in his last two starts with only 1 earned run and 9 baserunners. That’s great, remember Vargas’ great 1st half last year? Do I think he has some magic left for the month of September?  NO! Vargas is throwing 87 mph on his fastball and his changeup is only 6 mph slower. That’s not enough to be effective. His SwStr% actually looks good but it’s a small sample and I don’t trust it. Vargas is going to have a 3-4 HR outing soon and you’re going to wish you never picked him up.

Lucas Giolito has really looked good in the month of August. In his last two starts, Giolito has given up just 2 earned runs, 9 baserunners, and struck out 14 in 13.1 IP. I actually do believe in what Giolito is doing. His fastball velocity has gone from 91 mph to start the season to around 94 mph. He’s also throwing the fastball up in the zone more since the beginning of July. Take a look – on the left is through July 3rd and on the right is since July 3rd.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition, his ground ball and soft contact rates are up, While I don’t think he’s all of a sudden a must own, I’d think about grabbing him in deeper leagues and am intrigued for next year.

Robbie Ray has had rough season following his 2017 breakout but had 16 strikeouts and a 1.74 ERA in his last two starts. Then there’s the issue with his 1.45 WHIP and lasting only 10.1 innings in those two starts. OK, so he doesn’t totally belong here because of the poor WHIP but at least he’s keeping the runs down and the strikeouts up. However, his walk rate is up 2% this year to an ugly 12.7% with an elevated home run rate. The elevated walk rate is supported by a sub-40% zone rate (4% lower than 2017), and his elevated HR rate is supported by a 3% increase in hard contact. I cannot recommend Robbie Ray, it’s like combining Tanaka’s HR rate with Newcomb’s walk rate. NOPE!

Jameson Taillon has a 2.08 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, and 15 strikeouts with 2 wins in his last 2 games. There’s no doubt that Taillon has been better since the introduction of his curveball but his K rate remains just OK. The 15 strikeouts between 2 starts are nice but as a whole, we are looking at an 8-8.5 K/9 pitcher with really solid ratios. Remember what I said about Robbie Ray? How could you not, you read it 8 seconds ago. Taillon is the opposite, he doesn’t give out free passes and suppresses home runs. I like Taillon coming into the year because his .352 BABIP was sure to regress and sure as shit, it sits at .298 this year. Taillon is the perfect number 3 for your rotation, a mid-3s ERA with a 1.20 WHIP and good enough Ks to not hurt you.

Freezing Cold Pitchers
Jake Arrieta has had an interesting season, to say the least. In his last two starts, his ERA is 8.00 and he’s issued 6 walks along with 8 hits, 4 of which are home runs. It’s funny, his 3.54 ERA on the season just about matches his ERA last year with the Cubs and the ERA estimators say he’s more of a low-4s ERA guy. His K-rate is downright Devlish at 6.66/9 (not good) and his zone contact is over 90% with a swinging strike rate below 7.5%. I know he’s been fine as a number 4 starter on your fantasy team, but I just don’t trust him down the stretch.

Joe Musgrove can’t seem to get on track with the Pirates. His 8.10 ERA and 1.70 WHIP in his last 2 starts are starting to worry me. His strikeout rate is on the rise, but Musgrove can’t seem to get into a Mus-Groove. Looking at Musgrove’s peripherals, he’s doing a good job of inducing soft contact and getting batters to chase pitches outside the zone. Musgrove typically has a high floor because of his lack of walks and his first-pitch strike rate. With the swings and misses outside the zone, I wish he wouldn’t throw so many strikes. It sounds crazy but I think he can be more effective that way. I’d still own him 12-team leagues and deeper.

Michael Fulmer looked great in his first start off the DL but only went 4.2 IP. In his second start against the weak Royals, he’s really got punished giving up 7 ER in only 3.2 IP. UGH, I had high hopes for Fulmer coming into the year but I can’t recommend him at all going forward. A start like that against the Royals tells me that I can’t trust him against any opposition. On a positive note, his strikeouts are up a little bit but so are his walks. His velocity has been great, he just needs to develop a better secondary pitch. I’m still going to be interested in Fulmer next year because he’s only 25 and should be dirt cheap. I won’t reach for him, but he could make a jump forward next year.

It appears the trade for Nathan Eovaldi has not worked out well for the Red Sox. Eovaldi has given up 9 earned runs with a 1.83 WHIP and 5 Ks in his last 2 starts (6 IP). He’s been bad for an entire month now. So, Mr. 99 MPH fastball has still not learned how to get strikeouts. Eovaldi still sports a sub-20% K rate with an 81.3% contact rate which is a couple percent worse than league average. His 51% zone rate is one of the highest in the league and hitters are teeing off. He won’t get hurt by walks but clearly, the long ball has stung him. There’s just not enough upside with Eovaldi this year. Maybe next year E.

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