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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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Revisiting xBABIP Outliers: 1st Half 2019 (Fantasy Baseball)

Today marks the much anticipated Opening Day for Major League Baseball. Unfortunately, there is no baseball. This is a sad day, BUT, it has allowed for more time to go back and research topics I otherwise would not have had time to revisit. Let’s first go back to the original piece I wrote at the midpoint of 2019 covering BABIP outliers.

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




In that piece, I covered both over and under-performers. I’ll cover the under-performers next week, but first, let’s recap the players with the largest discrepancy between xBABIP and BABIP through the first half of 2019.

2019 1st Half xBABIP Outliers - Over-performers

PlayerBABIP 1HxBABIP 1HxBABIP-BABIP
Rhys Hoskins0.3080.242-0.066
Omar Narvaez0.3240.249-0.075
Charlie Blackmon0.3490.285-0.064
Brandon Lowe0.3970.314-0.083
Nolan Arenado0.3170.261-0.056
Eduardo Escobar0.3070.250-0.057
David Peralta0.3500.297-0.053
David Dahl0.4100.367-0.043
Miguel Cabrera0.3610.312-0.049
Trevor Story0.3610.307-0.054
Christian Vazquez0.3210.272-0.049
Gleyber Torres0.3190.266-0.053
Eric Sogard0.3190.272-0.047
Corey Seager0.3220.273-0.049
Elvis Andrus0.3490.294-0.055
Christian Yelich0.3280.295-0.033
Brian Goodwin0.3550.313-0.042
Marcus Semien0.2920.266-0.026
Austin Meadows0.3680.332-0.036
Tim Anderson0.3720.329-0.043
Jorge Polanco0.3490.320-0.029
Jeff McNeil0.3800.340-0.040
Adalberto Mondesi0.3520.322-0.030
Xander Bogaerts0.3280.301-0.027
Juan Soto0.3650.323-0.042
Joey Votto0.3260.296-0.030
Difference0.3430.296-0.047

Most of us were likely able to identify many of these players as BABIP regression candidates for the second half. As a whole, these outliers had an average BABIP of .343 through June 26th, 2019, nearly 45 points above the league-average. In fact, xBABIP pegged the group as essentially league-average in terms of BABIP based on the batted ball data per Baseball Savant. The table below tracks how each player fared after June 26th. We can expect regression, but how much?


2nd Half Performance: 2019 1H xBABIP Outliers - Over-performers

PlayerBABIP 1HBABIP 2HBABIP 2H - BABIP 1H
Rhys Hoskins0.3080.228-0.080
Omar Narvaez0.3240.286-0.038
Charlie Blackmon0.3490.321-0.028
Brandon Lowe0.3970.278-0.119
Nolan Arenado0.3170.306-0.011
Eduardo Escobar0.3070.260-0.047
David Peralta0.3500.274-0.076
David Dahl0.4100.324-0.086
Miguel Cabrera0.3610.311-0.050
Trevor Story0.3610.3620.001
Christian Vazquez0.3210.291-0.030
Gleyber Torres0.3190.273-0.046
Eric Sogard0.3190.313-0.006
Corey Seager0.3220.286-0.036
Elvis Andrus0.3490.266-0.083
Christian Yelich0.3280.3900.062
Brian Goodwin0.3550.314-0.041
Marcus Semien0.2920.2990.007
Austin Meadows0.3680.300-0.068
Tim Anderson0.3720.4300.058
Jorge Polanco0.3490.306-0.043
Jeff McNeil0.3800.289-0.091
Adalberto Mondesi0.3520.3680.016
Xander Bogaerts0.3280.3480.020
Juan Soto0.3650.266-0.099
Joey Votto0.3260.308-0.018
Difference0.3430.308-0.036

19 of the 25 outliers regressed in the second half of 2019. Some of them saw heavy regression. Trevor Story essentially broke even, so basically, 80% of the over-performers finished with a lower BABIP in the second half. The average drop in BABIP from the group was 36 points. When compared to the average xBABIP-BABIP differential in the original table, the group collectively regressed about 77%. If we exclude the players who actually improved their BABIP in the second half, the differential between 1H BABIP and 2H BABIP is a whopping .052! We’ve got a small sample of outliers but it’s very telling that the first half xBABIP was a much better predictor of second-half BABIP. At least for this group of outliers. Let’s dive into the analysis on each player with some tidbits for 2020.

Rhys Hoskins’ regression was obvious given his profile. Slow-footed hitters with 50% fly ball rates and high pull percentages rarely produce near league-average BABIP, let alone above-league average. Not only did he regress, but he also fell below his xBABIP from the first half. Despite a great eye at the plate, we can expect Hoskins to continue to carry a BABIP around .250 going forward.


Regression came but not as hard as xBABIP predicted for Omar Narvaez. He’s shown strong bat to ball skills and a tight launch angle variance which has helped him outperform his metrics over the last two seasons. It’s no surprise that he once again managed a league-average BABIP. He may continue to outperform his expected metrics going forward but I’m not betting on a .300+ BABIP. Coors Field is largely at play for Charlie Blackmon. Look no further than his home/road splits: .376 BABIP at home vs .296 BABIP on the road. Simply put, he’s a .325 hitter at home and a .275 hitter on the road.

This was an easy win with Brandon Lowe. A .397 BABIP is not sustainable (unless you ask Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson, and Fernando Tatis Jr.). My concern for Lowe is that his true talent is a .300-.320 BABIP hitter. We need a larger sample but if that’s the case, he’s going to hit .230. Once again, Coors Field is to blame for Nolan Arenado. No need to dig deeper. I’d expect him to hit .275 if he’s traded.

Man, I really expected a major collapse from Eduardo Escobar in the second half. While his BABIP almost completed regressed, his power did not. Besides, the BABIP dropping, his power remained strong in the second half despite extremely poor power metrics. Alas, his power sustained as he hit 17 home runs in the second half after clubbing 18 in the first half. Shrug emoji. Although he’s a major candidate for regression based on my eHR metric in 2020, he’s still a safe .260 hitter with low-to-mid-20s pop.

Injuries certainly played a role here, but David Peralta’s batted ball profile did not portend to anywhere near a .350 BABIP as his speed continues to diminish. I’m not one to project a resurgence to the 2018 version of Peralta but stranger things are happening at the moment. I really love that David Dahl was carrying such a lofty xBABIP through the first half of the season. It all came crashing down to a still solid .324 in the second half. His career BABIP is .369 and I think that’s close to his skill level given his batted ball profile, speed, and Coors Field. He was unlucky based on eHR, so health is really the only thing holding him back. A healthy Dahl could be a major breakout and a top-50 fantasy asset.


Almost nailed it! Miggy is a shell of himself but despite being 36 and one of the slowest players in the majors, he’s still posted better than average BABIP. Even xBABIP thinks so. But I digress, there’s no value here. He’s turning into empty batting average much like Joe Mauer circa 2015. Trevor Story put together a hell of a season. He outperformed his BABIP in the first half but managed to match his xBABIP in the second half. Despite posting back to back seasons with a batting average over .290, the projection systems and his xBABIP peg him as a 275 hitter. What do you think?

I’m not sure Christian Vazquez will maintain a .300+ BABIP again but it’s fun to look at 2019 as an outlier. Gleyber Torres only hit 5.7% of hit ground balls to the opposite field yet managed an above-average BABIP on balls hit on the ground. He was shifted on 33% of his plate appearances. I expect that to rise while his BABIP on ground balls plummets. Projections have his BABIP over .300 which I think is a mistake, especially if he continues to hit pop-ups at an above-average clip. What happens if Gleyber is a .250 hitter?

The second half metrics were strong for Corey Seager but xBABIP isn’t buying it. If he never fully develops into a 30-homer hitter, he could be another boring .280-20-HR type player that does very little for me. Elvis Andrus was dealing with an injury but even still, he was never going to maintain a BABIP near .350. He’s on the wrong side of 30 and his sprint speed is scary low for a player with 30 swipes in 2019. We may be looking at the beginning of the end for Andrus.

Christian Yelich: The un-regressionable candidate: Ideal launch angle for batting average, elite hard contact, great foot speed, the list goes on. He’s the s%$t. Hey, look! I nailed this one – Thanks for making me look good Brian Goodwin. Marcus Semien just keeps getting better. He bounced back spitting in the face of his first-half xBABIP crushing it in the second half. I think we saw the peak Semien season in 2019 but he should be a solid fantasy player going forward. Just not at his current price.

Austin Meadows xBABIP was a solid .332 in the first half and he came all the way down to .300 in the second half. Do we have enough data on Meadows to know what kind of hitter he is? I’m not so sure. For those expecting batting average as one of Meadows’ major assets could be disappointed in 2020. I see him hitting anywhere from .250 to .290. Hi Tim Anderson! Major shrug emoji here. He did hit the ball harder, at lower launch angles, plus he’s got great speed. Even still, Anderson is likely to hit .270 next year and that’s just fine given his power/speed combo.

Yeah, we didn’t believe you either Jorge Polanco. He is like a poor man’s Jeff McNeil. There’s value here but also no need to reach at all. What type of fantasy player is Jeff McNeil if he has a .289 BABIP? Well, he hit .276 in the second half. His power did jump up, but I don’t believe it’s fully sustainable. The good news is, I actually believe he can carry a .330 BABIP going forward based on the data from a majority of two seasons but expecting 23 homers again is a fool’s errand.

We have to accept that Adalberto Mondesi is always going to outperform his xBABIP. It’s likely due to his batting average on ground balls. His batting average minus expected batting average (BA-xBA) on ground balls was .035. I don’t think Statcast fully takes into account the elite speed aspect of his game. He will always outperform his xBA on grounders. However, he was fortunate on line drives by about 100 points, so expecting a BABIP of .350 again is not wise.

For Xander Bogaerts, here’s my explanation. His continued overperformance is a little bit of luck and a little bit due to his home park, Fenway. His BA-xBA on balls in play was .012. So, a little lucky, but nothing crazy. However, if we isolate his balls in play in Fenway Park, his BA-xBA is .059! We should anticipate another BABIP north of .310 from Bogaerts but with neutral luck, we are looking at something close to .320.

Overcorrection much? Juan Soto may have been lucky on his BABIP in the first half but it came all the way back and then some in the second half. I know Soto is a lefty but he sprays balls all over the field and rarely pops up. He’ll continue to carry a .300+ BABIP while smashing 30+ homers. He’s still just 21. I think before he’s 26, we will see a .325-40-120 season from Childish Bambino. One can dream. Joey Votto is kind of in the same camp for me as Miguel Cabrera. After an extended period of greatness, their time has passed. Stay tuned for the underperforming list next week.


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




(Photo credit: Andy Marlin, Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports)

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Hitters to Fade in 2020 Using Earned Home Runs and Deserved Barrels

In my last article, I summarized both earned home runs and deserved barrels. Alex Chamberlain of RotoGraphs devised an equation that factors exit velocity and launch angle in the equation to determine a hitter’s deserved barrel rate. He shows that his revision is very reliable and therefore a great tool to use. You can check out his analysis here. Additionally, I look at overperformers using my earned home run metric that factors barrels, non-barrels, FB/LD exit velocity, directional fly balls, and home park factors. My analysis of earned home runs can be seen here.

What I’m doing is combing the data and research from both metrics to find potential values and, for lack of a better word, busts for 2020. The way I think about it is like this. I use a player’s actual barrel rate in addition to other factors to determine how many home runs a player earned (eHR). However, if a player deserved a lower barrel rate (dBRL) and I plugged dBRL into my eHR equation, his earned home run total would be lower. I’m looking for players who were fortunate in both metrics. I reference what each column is telling us below the high profile fades table.


 

The High Profile Fades for 2020

Deserved Barrel% (dBRL%) and Earned Home Runs (eHR)

PlayerdBRL%-BRL%eHR-HR
Alex Bregman1.80%-14.39
Freddie Freeman-3.20%-1.03
Jose Altuve-3.40%-2.65
Gleyber Torres-1.80%-1.65
George Springer-4.70%0.54
Kris Bryant-0.80%-4.29
Eugenio Suarez-2.70%-0.61
Max Muncy-2.70%-3.25

Second column: dBRL%-BRL% is Chamberlain’s deserved barrel percentage minus barrel percentage. For example, Jose Altuve had an actual barrel rate of 8.1% in 2019 but his Deserved barrel rate was just 4.7%. So, his dBRL%-BRL% is -3.4%. The same concept applies to earned home run (eHR) minus home runs (HR). I’ll use Altuve once again. Altuve earned 28.35 eHR in 2019 based on his actual barrel rate. He actually hit 31 HR in 2019. So, 28.35-31 is -2.65 is the third column.

Based on Chamberlain’s deserved barrel%, Alex Bregman earned about nine additional barrels in 2019. That brings him up to 35 BRL on the year but still well short of explaining his 41 home runs. His ability to pull well-hit fly balls is unmatched, so while he’ll typically outperform my earned home run metric, I’m still calling for regression for somewhere between seven and 10 homers in 2020.


Oh no. My earned home run metric essentially justifies what Freddie Freeman did last year smashing a career-best 38 home runs. However, dBRL% cuts his rate by about 20%. It’s not a total disaster but Freeman will likely regress back to the 30-homer, line-drive machine we are used to. That’s just fine and the addition of Marcell Ozuna makes him a virtual lock for 220 combined runs+RBI.

Jose Altuve managed a career-best 31 home runs in only 548 PA in 2019. It’s not difficult to project him for significant negative regression in 2020. His dBRL rate is an extremely weak 4.7% and I have him with 2.65 fewer home runs given his actual barrel rate. His park will help aid in a handful of additional home runs, but I think he settles back to 20-22 next year.

Gleyber Torres doesn’t seem to be a major regression candidate if the ball remains unchanged. However, he was still fortunate in the power department and is probably closer to a 30-32 home run hitter. I can’t understand his ADP inside the top 30. There’s no real speed to speak of and his batting average is decent but doesn’t move the needle. With just 26 combined doubles/triples compared to 38 HR, I would anticipate that ratio being closer to 1:1 in 2020. Torres will not be on any of my redraft teams in 2020.

George Springer: Why are there so many Astros on this list? Look, cheating scandal aside, many Astros hitters overperformed their power metrics, especially right-handed pull hitters. Springer hit a career-high 39 home runs in only 556 plate appearances. Don’t pay for that power spike in 2020.

As a lifelong Cubs fan, this one hurts but I’ve been one of Kris Bryant’s biggest critics since the close of 2017. The injuries have mounted and even in a seemingly healthy season, Bryant was good but not great. Both eHR and dBRL% were not on board in 2019 pegging him closer to 25-26 HR on the season. He has been known for outperforming his metrics but expecting 35+ home runs in 2020 is a mistake.

Eugenio Suarez earned his 49 bombs in 2019 but did not deserve such a high barrel rate. Based on my rough calculations, he should have ended up closer to 39 homers in 2019 rather than the sure to be career-high of 49! I like Suarez but he’s selling out for power which has bumped up his K% while lowering his batting average upside. He’s closer to a .250-.260 hitter with 35-37 home runs.

This is sad because I do love Max Muncy. He backed up his out-of-nowhere 2018 breakout but without elite power metrics. Thanks to the juiced ball, his numbers were essentially repeated. He’s still a strong play but maybe owners should expect something closer to 28-30 homers instead of 35.

 Youthful Breakouts, what to expect for 2020

Deserved Barrel% (dBRL%) and Earned Home Runs (eHR)

PlayerdBRL%-BRL%eHR-HR
Austin Riley-2.20%-1.67
Michael Chavis-3.80%-0.45
Mike Yastrzemski-0.70%-2.61
Daniel Vogelbach-0.90%-3.41
Lourdes Gurriel Jr.-2.30%-1.01
Tim Anderson-0.10%-5.58



Austin Riley certainly has power but I think he’s going to take his lumps in the Majors before figuring it out. I won’t be buying in for 2020 but would love to see some improvements with his contact rate. If he displays some minor improvements in 2020 I might be interested in Riley as a potential breakout in 2021. Riley is the type of player that typically takes time to adapt to the next level. Same with Michael Chavis, I’m going to pass on him for 2020. The playing time is not guaranteed and his swing and miss tendencies have me worried. His power is real but not elite. I’m not risking his floor in 2020.

No, Mike Yastrzemski isn’t young, but he hasn’t had much experience in the big leagues. As a left-handed hitter in Oracle Park, it’s rough, just ask Brandon Belt. The fences will be moved in a little bit, so that should help but still won’t make it a hitters park. Yaz is a really nice story but I don’t expect much of a step forward in 2020 if any at all. At least on a per plate appearance basis.

Dan Vogelbach: Both earned home runs and deserved barrels views the large first baseman as more of a low-to-mid 20s home run type of hitter. His contact rate plummeted while his quality of contact decreased. His average exit velocity is near the 50th percentile. He’s also likely to lose playing time to Evan White who signed a new contract this offseason, so I’m 100% out on Vogelbach in 2020 except maybe in OBP formats.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is still very young and also talented. He’s one of the few under-performers that I’m not all that worried about. Based on his overall improvements, I think he’s still growing as a player. He managed 20 homers in just 84 games which is a 162-game pace of 39. Using eHR and dBRL, it’s closer to 32 which is still impressive. With everyday at-bats, I expect close to 30 homers from Gurriel in 2020. That can certainly play if he hits in the middle of an improving Blue Jays lineup.


Tim Anderson‘s barrel rate is justified but he did not earn his home run total in 2019. His home park is favorable but I also include a factor for that in my eHR equation. He’s still young and has now shown decent power in two straight seasons. I won’t peg him as a complete regression candidate, especially if he’s fully healthy for 2020 but his value lies mostly with stolen bases.

Veterans and Catchers to Fade in 2020

Deserved Barrel% (dBRL%) and Earned Home Runs (eHR)

PlayerdBRL%-BRL%eHR-HR
Eduardo Escobar-0.60%-7.17
Roberto Perez-3.80%-3.12
Willson Contreras-3.50%-2.07
Mitch Garver-5.00%-2.72
Matt Carpenter-1.00%-2.55
Mark Canha-1.90%-2.55
Carson Kelly-0.90%-4.22
Dexter Fowler-2.60%-2.30
Tim Beckham-3.50%-0.97
Nick Ahmed-3.00%-2.35
Tommy La Stella-0.80%-6.27
Brett Gardner0.00%-10.42
Omar Narvaez0.50%-9.26
Christian Vazquez0.50%-5.72

Eduardo Escobar is another hitter with a tight launch angle variance. Regression is coming but maybe he’s developed into a 25-27 homer hitter as opposed to the 20-22 homer hitter he was in Minnesota. So in a sense, I’m partially buying into his new approach to maximize his fly balls by pulling them at a career clip. However, it’s not a stable profile year-to-year so I won’t be drafting him expecting 90% of his production from 2019.

Yikes, Chamberlain’s bDRL% has Roberto Perez at about 10 fewer barrels in 2019 docking him approx six-seven homers. My eHR metric has him earning three fewer home runs giving him an earned/deserved HR total of a measly 13 home runs last season. His history of extremely low batting average has me concerned making him borderline top-20 catcher for 2020.


Another reason to not be a slave to Statcast metrics. My eHR metric has Willson Contreras earning only two fewer HR in 2019 bringing his total to a still-solid 22. However, his dBRL% cut his barrel rate in half. He’s another catcher who was a beneficiary of the juiced ball. He’s shown power in the past so I trust him more than Perez but 20+ homers in 2020 is not a projection I feel confident about.

Mitch Garver crushes the ball, there’s no doubt but 31 homers in 359 PA is just crazy. Of course, he’s due some major regression as dBRL docks him 11 barrels! Even given a bump in plate appearances, I’d project him for 20-22 home runs in 2020. That’s in about 450 PA+/- for a catcher. He still should provide solid value but I’m not reaching. I’m actually thinking about dropping him in my ranks.

I tried to tell you not to pay for a career year from a player in his early-mid 30s. Did you listen? I hope so. Despite a massive drop in ADP, I’m still not buying back in on Matt Carpenter. He dealt with injuries in 2019 but that’s nothing new for Carpenter. Expect more of the same with inconsistent results in 2020.

Mark Canha‘s 26 home runs in about three-quarters of a season is solid power production. However, he earned closer 20 homers last year. He’s a nice story and probably batting sixth in a stacked lineup, so he holds some value this coming season, I’m just not a believer in him as a 30-homer bat.

I love Carson Kelly but he might not be the 20-25 home run hitter I was hoping for. He’ll be in the backend of my top 10 catchers and I expect a decent batting average with 15-18 home runs in 2020. Nothing sexy but solid production.

Dexter Fowler is just about done in my opinion. He is morphing into a 10 homer, five steal player. Busch Stadium in St Louis is a tough park for home runs and the Cardinals have so many young outfielders, it feels like Fowler will be in a four-man rotation. There’s nothing to see here.

Anyone expecting a bounceback from free agent Tim Beckham can stop dreaming. He managed a 20.5% HR/FB rate despite a 33.5% hard-hit rate (bottom 31% of the league). He will likely be signed as a backup, so even in deep leagues, I’m staying away.

Nick Ahmed put together a solid overall season and it’s likely going to be the best of his career. The 19 home runs were a career-best but so was his plate appearance total. I’ll set the over/under for home runs at 13.5 in 2020. Is that exciting in today’s game or no?

Tommy La Stella‘s quality of contact was actually decent and his extremely high contact rate provides a nice batting average floor. That being said, anyone expecting 30 home runs across a full season from La Stella will be sorely disappointed. I don’t honestly think anyone out there is expecting 30 homers but I’d be hard-pressed to project him anything more than his total of 16 home runs across 550-600 PA. Maybe the Angels feel comfortable with La Stella as their leadoff hitter and that would be great for his value. Otherwise, he’s just a .280-15 hitter without any speed.


If Brett Gardner played in a neutral park to right field without the juiced ball, he’d be hardpressed to surpass 10 home runs. As it stands, he set a new career-high in home runs at 28 in 2019 at age-35. His HR/FB rate was six percent higher than his previous career-best back in 2017, the last time the ball was juiced. Nobody is expecting a repeat in 2020 but projection systems aren’t fully fading him. I’ll take the under on 15 home runs in 2020.

Omar Narvaez receives a park upgrade in Milwaukee but can he continue to outperform his metrics? He’s done it two years running and his hit tool seems to be his best asset offensively. I’m not fully fading him in 2020 but would not expect 20 home runs. I’m comfortable projecting around 15 homers with a .260 batting average. You could do much worse at catcher. Ditto, what I said about Narvaez for Christian Vazquez. The only difference is Vazquez has only done it for one year, where Narvaez has proven to be more reliable. I’ve ranked Narvaez 10th in catcher rankings with Vazquez at 13 if you’re curious.

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


Image credit: Scott Cunningham

Weekly Rundown – Bye-Bye Hanley Hello Moreland

So, Hanley Ramirez was DFA’ed by the Red Sox yesterday. He is due $15 Million if the Red Sox can’t find a trade partner.  Ramirez was 0 for his last 20 prior to being released but there could be more to the story. If I’m an owner in a shallow league, he’s gone but if I’m in a 15-team league or deeper, I’m holding until I know where he lands (and hopefully that happens soon).  This helps J.D. Martinez move to DH more often and gives Mitch Moreland more playing time. I’d pick up Moreland as a flyer, he’s hit 2 bombs in the last 2 games.

HOT Hitters
Remember how Mike Trout had a slow week in last week’s rundown? It was written is jest because we all know Mike Trout doesn’t slump. He takes a quick break and reals of 3 homers and 4 steals in a week. Trout must be getting jealous of all the Mookie Betts talk and now with 15 homers and 12 steals through 50 games and is on pace for 48 HR and 38 SB. Is that good?

Gleyber Torres has largely been regarded by scouts as a great MLB prospect but the fantasy community was luke warm on him. The buzz was all over Ronald Acuna and recently Juan Soto and for good reason. All Torres has done has hit 6 homers in the past seven days while driving in 12 runs and hitting .348. In this current home run culture, it’s difficult to predict how well a player’s minor league power production will translate to the big leagues. At this point, I’m adding about 30% on to whatever the projection system tells us. Torres looks like a top 12 player at the position ROS.

Jesus Aguilar has taken advantage of the Eric Thames and Ryan Braun injuries by blasting 4 homers and driving in 9 runs in the last seven days. Aguilar is 27 years old and has always had power, but struggled in 2017 with strikeouts. He’s below a 23% K rate this year. He doesn’t have great plate discipline, but has improved on his contact rate from last year. Braun is back but I would continue to own Aguilar until further notice. His average should drop, but he’s hitting a ton of valuable fly balls and hitting the ball harder than ever.

Don’t look now but Alex Bregman is getting hot in May. Sound familiar? Well, he didn’t hit his first homer until mid-May last year. He’s hitting .400 with 2 HR and 2 SB this past week. Bregman’s batted ball profile is almost identical to 2017 except he’s hitting the ball little harder; that’s good! You know what’s even better? He’s walking at a 14.6% clip and striking out at an 11.4% clip. You read that right, his O-Swing is below 20%, which is elite, and his contact rate is nearly 88%, also elite. Little Breggy is about to go nuts the remaining four months and I’m buying everywhere (but you should have bought him on draft day).

Another prospect, Austin “Dewy” Meadows has been raking. We all have prospect fatigue with Meadows because he wasn’t great at age 22. Come on guys, prospect growth is not linear. Say it with me, JK, don’t. The kid is hitting .440 with 3 bombs and a steal since the call up. Obviously, super small sample but his exit velocity has been great and he’s making a ton of contact. He’s not a BUY yet, but I’d be holding him during this hot streak. Marte is back so wait to see how the playing time shakes out between Meadows and Polanco.

Jose Rondon has 2 homers and 2 steals in only 4 games this past week. Wait, who the hell is Jose Rondon? Is he a cross between Jose Ramirez and Hector Rondon? Does he throw 95 but also hit a billion extra-base hits? No, he’s actually a middle infielder for the White Sox. He’s hot right now, but has below average power and plate discipline, so you can move along once he cools off or starts seeing the bench.

Ronald “McDonald” Guzman is hitting .368 with 4 homers and 8 RBI in the last seven days plus he’s serving up double quarter pounders and Big Macs! Busy week. This is his second hot streak this year but I don’t expect it to last. His 23.4% HR/FB with a 31% hard contact rate will not last. He hits a ton of popups and strikeout too much, nothing to see here.

Hot Pitchers
I think people are leaving Jacob deGrom off of the list of best pitchers in the game. In his last 2 starts he’s given up 1 ER and struck of 21 batters in only 14 IP. This is his best season yet as he approaches 30, his K rate has risen the last 3 seasons while his walk rate remains stable. His velocity is great, he is inducing a career high IFFB%, and has 3 great pitches. He’s the only contender to Max Scherzer for the NL Cy Young, That’s right, no one else matters!

Ross Stripling or as I call him “The Stripler” has been strilpling batters of hits in his last two starts. He somehow has 19 Ks in his last 12.2 IP with only 1 ER and 2 W. Should you buy into this? Could you use a near 11 K/9 and a sub 2 BB/9, then yes, absolutely BUY! Most of Stripling’s numbers are legit, his soft contact is over 20% and he’s inducing a ton of popups. His fastball isn’t great but his slider and curve are very effective. The K rate may drop a little bit but his command and skills are solid.

Mmmm, what’s that smell? That’s the sweet aroma of Blake Snell who’s gone 14 IP, 2 ER 16 Ks and 2 W in his last 2 starts. I really wish I owned him everywhere and I’m surprised I don’t because I wrote a sleeper post on him coming into the year. Did you know Snell is averaging over 96 mph on his fastball and has 3 plus pitches? That fastball is up 1.5 mph from last year and his SwStr bump justifies the 9+K/9. His walk rate is down over 2%, there’s no reason Snell shouldn’t post a sub-3.50 ERA. Owners should enjoy the profit.

Tyson Ross took a few years off to help make chicken, but he’s back and looks like vintage Ross. I always thought his little brother Joe would be great, buuuut that hasn’t happened, so we will settle for big Tyson. In his last 12.2 IP, Ross has 2 W, 11 K 3 ER. He’s probably not going to boost your K rate; yes I know it’s currently over 9.5/9 but he’s got a high walk rate and his zone% is 37%. I think walks will be an issue and as the strikeouts go down, we may see some blowups. Either that or his arm falls off with a 44% slider%. I’d try and sell him as a top 35 SP.

Michael Wacha has seemed to right to ship after alternating good and bad starts. He’s strung together 4 very good starts capped off with his last two where he went 12.2 IP with 14 K, 3 ER 11 H+BB. That’s great but a 21.4% K rate and a 9% walk rate along with a 40% ground ball rate doesn’t get me excited. He’s done all that with a reduction in HR%. I think the HR rate jumps up and when that does, the walks wiil really come back to bite him. Oh, did I mention his velocity is down over 1 mph from last year? No, well I’d be selling. I think he should be rostered in 12 team and deeper leagues, but he’s not a top 40 SP.

The Dylan Bundy roller coaster ride continues. He has been good in his last two starts after being basically the worst pitcher in baseball for three straight starts. It’s all about Bundy’s fastball as to whether or not he will be sucessful. If he fastball has good command and his veloicty is over 92 mph, he can twirl gems like he did against the Chi-Sox. I understand that t was the White Sox and they are terrible, but I like what I’ve seen the last couple of starts. I’m trustung him until he crushes me again.

Freezing Hitters
Nelson Cruz is coming off an elbow injury where he missed a couple of games but he’s 2/14 in his last 5 games with no homers and 1 RBI. He’s not striking out more but he is walking less and his chase rate and swinging strike rates are both up which verifies those numbers. He’s also been hitting the ball into the ground more and popping it up a bit more. Again, he’s been dealing with injuries, so it’s certainly possible he bounces right back once he’s healthy. Then again, he’s also about to turn 38, so once he’s at that cliff, it’s a steep drop. I’m holding or trying to buy low right now though.

CJ Cron was one of my highlighted players last week as he was King Cron. Now it seems like he suffers from Cron’s disease. Ok, sorry for the off-color joke. Here’s the thing with Cron, he strikes out over 25% of the time and walks less than 6% of the time. He is hitting the ball a little harder but hits too many popups. He also isn‘t pulling the ball at a high rate so I dont believe he keeps up this home run pace. He’s probably a .260 hitter with 25 home runs.

Anthony Rendon is 6 for his last 26 with no homers, no RBI, no steals and one run. The production isn’t there but hitting in the middle of the Nationals lineup should provide plenty of opportunities. His approach is just fine, he’s walking almost as much as he’s striking out and he’s hitting the ball harder than last year. His BABIP and HR/FB should go up, I’d be buying if there’s an opportunity.

Xander Bogaerts is 2 for his last 18 after a scorching start to the season. He’s barreled nearly 15% of his batted balls which is fantastic. He’s just had a tough week, but should be just fine going forward. The only thing that concerns me a little bit, and I mean a very little bit, is his increased K rate and decreased BB rate. He’s chasing a little more out of the zone and his contact% is around 77% which is about league average. Nothing too crazy but if that continues he may be prone to a few more cold streaks than usual.

Rhys Hoskins is 3 for his last 27 with a HR and a double. This is not a week long slump, it’s been the entire month. This is not skill based, it’s more about making adjustments. He had a similar 3 week stretch to finish 2017, so I am hopeful he can get it back. He needs to get his timing back. It’s interesting because his high drive% (best type of batted balls per xStats) is double league average and his poor hit% is below league average. He’s been a bit unlucky in the power department. It’s the strikeout rate which is timing based and not skills based as I mentioned earlier.

Freezing Pitchers
Zack Godley was absolutely demolished last time out with a 16.20 ERA and a 3.90 WHIP! I mean, if the WHIP was his ERA that would be ok I guess. Anyways, his outing before than was good, but 3 of his last 4 have been bad so color me concerned. Let’s see, velocity is down, barrels against are up, and ground balls are down (but not literally, his GB% his lower than last year). His Z-Contact is 92% right now which is very, very bad. If you’re in a 10 team league, he’s a drop, but in deeper leagues, keep him on your bench and see if he can turn it around.

Sean Manaea looks completely lost and he’s really had one good start since his no-hitter. What’s going on here? Well, if you remember, at the time of the no-hitter Manaea had a 100% LOB rate with a sub .150 BABIP. You had to know that wasn’t sustainable, right? RIght? He’s currently at a much more reasonable 74% LOB rate and a .225 BABIP which still may regress. I think Manaea is a 3.75 ERA guy, which is fine, so I’d hold him right now.

Rick Porcello started the year off like he was the 2016 Cy Young, HAHAHA. Yeah what a joke, but he’s been very bad recently. Bad is probably an understatement as he’s given up 19 runs and 17 ER in his last 4 starts. Sure, the BABIPs have been high in those starts but the walks have been up as well. Early in the season, he wasn’t walking anyone. Ok, so it doesn’t sound like I’m endorsing Porcello but I am. His GB% is nearly 50%, his soft contact against is over 22%, and his contact% has dipped under 80% for the first time in his career. I’m buying Porcello.

Julio Teheran has come back down to earth unlike his HR/9! Ohhhhh BURNNN!. His 4.20 ERA should go up even more in my opinion. His K rate is bad his walk rate is high, he’s giving up more than 1.5 HR/9. There’s literally nothing to like here. His average fastball is down below 90 mph. If you rode him early on and dropped him a couple weeks ago, that’s great for you. If you still own him, I’m sorry, you need to drop him and move on.

Lucas Giolito oh my goodness! He gave up 7 ER in 1.1 IP his last time out. Would you believe me if I told you his BB rate is 4% MORE than his K rate? He’s last among qualified starters with a 7.53 ERA and he hasn’t even been unlucky. If anything, he’s been lucky, his BABIP is .266 and his HR/FB is only 8.6%! LOL He actually could get worse. It looks like the White Sox will have to take the loss on this one. At least Reynaldo Lopez is pitching well. One out of two ain’t bad.

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