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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

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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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Second Baseman Rankings for 2019

Let’s dig into one of the deeper positions in fantasy baseball for 2019. Yes, believe it or not, second base is deep this year. It’s not quite as deep as shortstop but the additions of Travis Shaw, Max Muncy, Yuli Gurriel, and Zack Cozart have certainly helped make this one of the deepest classes in recent history. It doesn’t hurt that Jose Ramirez retains 2B eligibility for at least one more year. My ranks are loosely based on my projections, but not completely. I also am using standard 5×5 roto scoring for my rankings as well. I’ll breakdown the tiers below and highlight a few interesting players for 2019. So, here we go!

Rankings Updated 3/13/19.

Second Base Ranking 2019

Pos RankPlayerTeamPositions
1Jose RamirezCLE2B/3B
2Jose AltuveHOU2B
3Javier BaezCHC2B/SS/3B
4Whit MerrifieldKAN2B/OF
5Daniel MurphyCOL1B/2B
6Adalberto MondesiKC2B/SS
7Robinson CanoNYM1B/2B
8Travis ShawMIL2B/3B
9Matt CarpenterSTL1B/2B/3B
10Max MuncyLAD1B/2B/3B
11Gleyber TorresNYY2B/SS
12Ozzie AlbiesATL2B
13Scooter GennettCIN2B
14Rougned OdorTEX2B
15Jonathan VillarBAL2B/SS
16Brian DozierWAS2B
17Jurickson ProfarOAK1B/2B/SS/3B
18Garrett HampsonCOL2B/SS
19Adam FrazierPIT2B/OF
20Cesar HernandezPHI2B
21Ketel MarteARI2B/SS
22DJ LeMahieuNYY2B
23Yuli GurrielHOU1B/2B/3B
24Lourdes Gurriel Jr.TOR2B/SS
25Yoan MoncadaCWS2B
26Jed LowrieNYM2B/3B
27Asdrubal CabreraTEX2B/SS/3B
28Marwin GonzalezMIN1B/2B/SS/OF
29Jonathan SchoopMIN2B/SS
30Starlin CastroMIA2B
31Ian KinslerSD2B
32Joey WendleTB2B/3B/OF
33Jason KipnisCLE2B/OF
34Luis UriasSD2B
35Jeff McNeilNYM2B
36Hernan PerezMIL2B/SS/3B/OF
37Joe PanikSF2B
38Niko GoodrumDET1B/2B/SS/3B/OF
39Enrique HernandezLAD2B/SS/OF
40Kolten WongSTL2B
41Zack CozartLAA2B/SS/3B
42Ben ZobristCHC2B/OF
43Devon TravisTOR2B
44Josh HarrisonDET2B
45David FletcherLAA2B
46Keston HiuraMIL2B
47Dustin PedroiaBOS2B
48Eduardo NunezBOS2B/3B
49Bo BichetteTOR2B
50Hernan PerezMIL2B/SS/3B/OF
51Jedd GyorkoSTL2B/3B

Tier one starts with Jose Ramirez and goes to Whit Merrifield. It consists of the only player to hit 35+ homers and steal 30+ bases in 2018. A poor second half where Ramirez hit just .218 has some experts left with a sour taste in their mouths. Despite the poor average, Ramirez still hit 10 HR and stole 14 bases in just 63 second-half games. For those wondering at home, that’s a 26 HR-36 SB pace over 162 games. The low average was partially due to some poor contact but also an unlucky .208 BABIP. Ramirez will either hit .270 with 30 homers and 30 steals or revert back to a line drive machine and hit .300 with 22-25 homers with 30 steals, both sound great to me! Yes, I like a bounce-back for Altuve, but more of an 18 HR – 22 SB type season with a .300+ average. Merrifield belongs in this tier. He hits for average, lead the league in steals last year and is not completely devoid of power.

Robinson Cano and Daniel Murphy are old and underrated. Hitting .300 has become a rare feat, just 16 qualified hitters reached that mark in 2018. Both Cano and Murphy should end up right around .300 with Murphy getting the edge thanks to Coors Field. Adalberto Mondesi is in this tier, but he already gets so much pub. I have him around 60 overall because he could go 20-45 but also go 10-20 with a .220 average and back in the minors #RISK. I love Travis Shaw and adding 2B is great for flexibility. I wrote about Shaw earlier this offseason and see him as a potential value pick coming into 2019. Give it a look.

The third tier goes from Matt Carpenter to Brian Dozier and is actually pretty exciting. I’m a little lower on Matt Carpenter than most because he had a career year at age 32 and has dealt with back issues in the past. Carpenter’s metrics are off the charts, but then again so are Max Muncy’s. Muncy is five years younger and not getting the same love. My projections have Muncy outpacing Carpenter but Muncy’s playing time is not guaranteed. He’ll get 450+ plate appearances, but needs close to 600 to surpass Carpenter, hence the rank. Gleyber Torres and Ozzie Albies seem to be overrated this year thanks to outpacing their projections in 2018. I was all over Albies last year (here) and (here), so I was able to benefit, but he will regress in the power department in 2019. Once his value drops, I’ll be back in.

In the fourth tier, which goes from Ketel Marte to Starlin Castro, there is some solid value. The ADPs in this group range from the low-100s to around 250 overall. The players I love from this tier are Ketel Marte, Cesar Hernandez, Adam Frazier, Jed Lowrie, and Asdrubal Cabrera. If I’m playing in a 15-team league or deeper, I might wait to grab one of these guys as my starting second baseman and get depth elsewhere. In shallower formats, these guys are great middle infielders, especially with some of the multi-position eligibility. Marte is going to earn OF eligibility early in the season as the Diamondbacks will try him out in center field. 

Tier 5 goes from Marwin Gonzalez to Keston Huria. There are a few old veterans in this tier who can still be fantasy relevant. That’s why they are in this tier. I’m not interested in many players beyond this tier. You’ll also notice a bunch of young guys/prospects in this group. Keston Huria might be my favorite of this group longterm because I think he has 20-25 HR power with 15 steal speed and high-end batting average. For this year, I think he gets the call around June 1st, which limits his value. Garrett Hampson is now partially blocked by Daniel Murphy who will likely slide over to second base against righties to get Ryan McMahon playing time at first base, limiting his upside. However, an early-season injury ( I hate projecting injuries) could provide massive value for Hampson. Keep an eye on him, he’s got 10+ HR power with 30 steal speed given the opportunity.

I’ve made the last tier extra long and will make this quick because you’re either bored, left the site already, or don’t play in a 20-team AL/NL Only League. Bo Bichette is awesome, I love him, but the Blue Jays have no reason to call him up. He might just be a September call-up, but keep him on your watch list if the Blue Jays change their mind. Niko Goodrum has an interesting power/speed combination and is eligible at a million positions, so I like him as an injury and deep-league fill-in. RIP Dustin Pedroia, it’s been a hell of a run. Even if he’s relatively healthy, don’t expect any power or speed. The next time we talk about Pedroia will involve whether or not he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

Peace out Fam! Do people still say peace out?

Hit me up on Twitter @FreezeStats

Photo Credit: (Getty Images)


Weekly Rundown – Finding Nimmo at a Stripling Club

Jose Altuve is back to doing MVP type things. I’ll be honest, I was worried for a minute. He’s going to be fine but he is making slightly less (but still elite) contact and hitting a ton of extra-base hits. I still think he finishes the season around 20 homers and 25 steals with a .310 batting average. It’s not quite the 25/35 you had hoped for but if you don’t win your league, it won’t be Altuve’s fault.

Christian Yelich’s ground ball rates have looked like this since 2015: 62.5%, 56.5%, 55.4%, and 50.7%. That last one is this year. That’s good, but I still think his best GB% should be around 45%. That being said, he’s hitting the ball harder along with the improved launch angle. What’s also intriguing is his pull percentage on fly balls is up from last year and matches his 2016 output when he had a career high 23.6% HR/FB. That’s probably his upside in terms of HR/FB rate, but we could be looking at 22-25 HR for Yelich this year if he keeps this up. Oh by the way, he’s got 3 steal this past week, so 15-18 steals with that power and average is fantasy gold.

Tim Anderson isn’t going to win the batting title but he’s one of three players with 10+ HR and 10+ steals. The other two are Mike Trout and Mookie Betts, so there’s that. Anderson has 4 HRs and a steal while hitting nearly .400 this week. He’s going to be hot and cold but get this, his pathetic 2.1% BB rate from 2017 is up to 8.2% this year! He’s also been unlucky in terms of BABIP. If the BABIP comes up and he continues to walk, he might start be hitting 1st of 2nd for the White Sox and be a 20/25 type player with a .260+ average.

Yairo Munoz is the starting catcher for the Cardinals with Yadier Molina out. Just kidding! Just because his initials are YM, he plays for the Cardinals, and he’s Hispanic, you assume he’s the catcher! Anyways, no he’s playing shortstop but I’ll get back to Munoz in a sec. I also wanted to write about Harrison Bader because he’s been on fire hitting .435 with 2 homers and 2 steals in the past week. The Cardinals sent Tyler O’Neill back down to Triple-A, so Bader should get plenty of playing time as long as he performs. Anyways, back to Munoz. He’s got a couple of homers and driven in 9 runs in the last 7 days. Munoz has surprising speed, he stole 22 bases in AA last year and has above average pop. He’s striking out a lot but kept it under 20% in the minors. Consider grabbing him in 14 team leagues and deeper in your MI slot.

I’ve had a bit of a man-crush on Brandon Nimmo since late last year. I wrote about him as a potential breakout player this year in the preseason on FanGraphs Community. After the Mets jerked him around a bit, he’s finally playing everyday and leading off. On the year, he’s slashing .294/.436/.597 and has 4 homers and 2 steals this past week. He’s the latest adopter of the flyball revolution evidenced by his 18.1 degree launch angle (up from 9.6 last year) and his ground ball rate is down 12%. He’s now got 18 XBH in only 148 PA and should be owned in all leagues. Yes, I said all leagues, what are you waiting for? He’s a monster in OBP leagues as well with his 14+% BB rate.

David Dahl is hitting .333 with 2 homers and a steal despite not starting in 3 of the last 6 games. I really think the Rockies just need to keep him in the lineup. Between Cargo, Parra, and Desmond, Dahl should be able to start at least 5 games a week. He’s going to go through slumps with his K rate, but there’s 25/15 upside there.
UPDATE: Dahl was placed on the DL last night. This guy appears to be made of glass, unfortunately, he may not get the playing time this year given his injury track record.

John Ryan Murphy has too many first names and he’s a catcher. Yes, super boring, but I’ll make this quick. He’s one of three catchers on the Diamondbacks rosters but easily the most productive. Given the injuries, suspensions, etc at the shallow position if catcher, given JR (Not Smith, gross) Murphy a spin in 12 team and deeper leagues.

HOT Pitchers
How could I not lead with Ross Stripling? He’s struck out 19 batters and given up one ER in his last two starts. The time to grab him was a week or two ago, he’s long gone now. A 30% K rate and 23% soft contact rate means hitters are rarely making good contact against Stripling. His curveball/slider combo has been awesome (yeah I said awesome) and his F-Strike is 70%! That’s fueling his K rate. He can’t keep a 30% K rate but I don’t think I’m selling just yet.

Joe Musgrove has notched a couple of wins with a sub-1.00 ERA and WHIP with 12 strikeouts in his last two starts since coming of the DL. There’s no easing him back into action. There’s only 2 starts of data from Musgrove so I can’t take much stock in that. What I do love is his average fastball velocity is 95 mph up 1.5 mph from last year. His success out of the pen last year saw a jump in FB velo, so I’d stick with Musgrove or scoop him up if he’s available unless the velo drops.

Eduardo Rodriguez has 14 Ks with a 2.92 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP in his last two starts. He’s slated for two starts next week and I’m buying him right now. His peripherals look identical to last year when he was a bit unlucky. He’s throwing his fastball less but it’s yielded better results. Go figure. Just throw less fastballs everyone!

Daniel Mengden continues to confuse hitters with his fantastic mustache since he walks no one and strikes out very little, he’s been able to go deep into games. He’s gone 17 IP in his last two starts with a 1.59 ERA and a 0.59 WHIP! What to do with DM? Look, it’s a good story but Mengden probably ends the season with an ERA near 4.00 and with a K rate around 6/9 (nice), there’s little value outside of deep leagues. I’d be selling if I’m an owner.

Aaron Nola, is great, we all know this. I just want him on here because I love me some Nola! His “low” strikeout rate took a jump with 17 Ks in his last two starts with 2 ER and only 7 base runners. I mentioned this on a previous rundown, his SwStr is up about 1% from last year when he had a 26% K rate. I feel like Nola is going to end up with a 2.50 ERA and 200+ Ks this year along with something like 16-17 wins. He’s only 24 and I think he could be a top 10 SP for the next 6-7 years.

Freezing Cold Hitters
Things have not gone well for Jake Lamb since coming off the DL. He may have caught whatever Goldy has, JK. He actually homered last night, no not Goldy LOL, Lamby. Ok so Lamb probably just needed to get his chops back, tehe. We know he can’t hit lefties, but if he can crush righties like he’s done in the past he should be owned. If someone dropped him in your league, you need to grab him.

My boy Tommy Pham has somehow scored 4 runs with 2 RBI while going 3 for his last 26. He’s even hitting the bench now and then with hit Master Bader hitting well. So what’s going on? I’ve always loved Pham for his ability to not expand the zone and crush balls in the zone. The past couple of weeks he’s expanding the zone and his O-Swing is over 25% for the first time since 2016. His contact rate is below 80% the last month and his hard contact while still great is down a bit. He had a couple blips like this in 2017, so normally I wouldn’t be concerned but can I trust Mike Matheny to keep him in there to work out of it? I hope Bader’s hot streak doesn’t affect Pham’s playing time.

Yoan Moncada has gone 4 for his last 25 with a steal and no homers. Would you be surprised to know that Moncada hasn’t hit an infield fly ball all year according to FanGraphs.com? That’s pretty crazy. His typically below average contact rate was on the upswing nearing 75% before this cold streak. I’m more concerned about his dip in hard contact the last 15-20 games. It doesn’t show up on his season numbers because he was sitting around 50% hard contact the first month. The past few weeks, it’s been near 30%. Again, he’s been on the DL, so don’t panik, just watch to make sure the hard contact and exit velocity go back up or there could be another DL stint on the horizon.

Justin Upton is no longer hot and his hot/cold streaks can flip on a dime. He’s only 3 for his last 22 without a HR or steal.  This is J Up you guys. Nothing to see here, he just was on a 3 week tear so naturally he flips the script and will go on a three week slump. I’ve said this before, as much as Upton fluctuates in season, he’s one of the most consistent guys to own in Roto leagues. He’s going to hit .260 with 30 HR and 10 steals with 100 RBI.

I’m old enough to remember Jed Lowrie’s 2018 hot start. His overall numbers are still good but he’s 6 for his last 33 without a homer and only 2 RBI! He somehow scored twice and drove in a run going 0 for 3 last night because the Athletics put up a 16 spot on the depressing Royals. Other than Pinder, he’s the only player without a hit in that one. Ok, here’s what I see, he saw a massive dip in hard contact and his contact rate has dropped. His contact remains down but his hard contact is rebounding. If I’m an owner, I’m holding tight, he might be on the verge of a rebound

Gary Sanchez and Giancarlo Stanton have combined to go 4 for their last 45 without any ding dongs! Meanwhile Judge continues to be the best player on the Yankees, sorry Didi. I don’t want to alarm you but Stanton’s recent O-Swing% and SwStr% are higher than at anytime in 2017. If you are expecting 2017 numbers from Stanton, you’ll likely be disappointed. Just be happy with a .250-.260 average and 45 homers. Sanchez has weathered a terrible stretch of contact rate and looks to have rebounded. His ground ball rate is down and his fly ball rate is up but it has come with a dip in hard contact. If the hard contact rebounds along with the launch angle increase, he could go on a huge run.

Freezing Cold Pitchers
Sean Manaea is not on FIYA. Sorry fam, but Manaea  has given up 10 ER in 8.2 IP last two starts. His K% has dipped below 20% which is basically the threshold for fantasy relevance. His walk rate is sub-5% so that’s great but his .225 BABIP means there’s still some regression. He’s still giving up a ton of hard contact, so basically Manaea is Mengden without the mustache?!? Not quite, I like him a little more than Mengden and maybe you can flip Mengden for Manaea, but I doubt it.

Oooooh that smell, can’t ya smell that smell. That terrible smell is Jake Odorizzi  who has given up 10 ER in 9 IP last 2 starts with 4 HR given up! You can move on in shallow leagues, he’s giving up 2 HR/9 and has a B.B. rate that’s flirting with 10%. Even deep mixed leagues, he’s going to be a drag, which is the opposite when batters hit off of him, it’s like there’s not drag on the ball. That was a joke, not funny I know. Anyways, does a 4.50 ERA and 1.30 WHIP interest you? I didn’t think so.

Lance McCullers 9 ER in 10.1 IP last two starts with 3 HR given up and only 6 Ks. Oh Lance, WTF bro?! Can you be more consistent like your pitch by teammates? His batting average against is great and his Z-Contact is down 6%. That’s great but why the blowups? It’s almost like when his zone% is low, he’s better. What’s also interesting is McCullers curve, which was basically the best curve in Baseball last year, has a negative pitch value. His change up is his best year itch this year. This is something to monitor this year, but don’t be selling.

Reynaldo Lopez had another blowup giving up  9 ER in 9.2 IP with only 5 Ks and 4 BB, all without giving up a HR. I like Lopez, but he can’t be trusted. I still think Lopez can be a top 40-50 SP long term, but he’s too volatile to be owned. So make like the All American Rejects and Move along.

Jon Gray 8 ER in 9.1 IP with 6 BB but 13 Ks. Oh Mr. Gray. There probably isn’t a pitcher who is more unlucky than Gray. Then again, there’s Coors. Ugh. If Gray played for a team like the Giants, he’d be a top 25 SP, but the reality is, he doesn’t. As much talent as he has, the Coors starts make it difficult for owners to start him. It sucks because a .376 BABIP should be due for significant regression, but it may end up near .340-.350 because of Coors. He’s also dropped his contact against by 8%. His skills are too good to drop in 12 team leagues, but h need to be benched at home. Here are his ER given up at home this season: 7, 6, 0, 0, 6, 4, 4. A couple zeros but your risking ratio killing more often than not.

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