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2019 FreezeStats Bold Predictions (Mid-Season Review) – Fantasy Baseball

Well, last year I hit on two out of eight bold predictions. I guess my prediction on Ozzie Albies wasn’t terrible. I projected 25 homers and 30 steals. I hit on the power, but he did not run as much as I hoped. I’m most proud of my long-shot (at the time) that Patrick Corbin would finish the season as a top 20 SP. I had him ranked in the low-40s and most sites had him between the 60th and 80th SP off the boards, so this was extremely bold. Yes, I’m bragging about my one really good bold prediction, but I also had some really bad ones like Delino DeShields over Starling Marte… Whoops. Alright, enough intro. I want to focus my bold predictions within the fantasy realm and write a quick blurb as to why I feel there’s a chance they come to fruition. Now that we are approaching the All-Star break, it’s time to reflect on where these predictions stand. I’ll review all my preseason bold predictions in this maroon color below. Remember, these were meant to be bold, so I am hoping to hit on a few of them rather than most of them.

2019 BOLD PREDICTIONS – FREEZESTATS

Michael Conforto leads the National League in home runs in 2019

Conforto ended 2018 with 29 home runs but spent a good portion of the first two months recovering and gaining strength from his offseason shoulder surgery. He showed us he was healthy in the second half by hitting 17 home runs in just 68 games. I don’t love the prorating game as much as the next person but that’s 40 home runs across a 160 game pace. Last year, Nolan Arenado led the National League with 38 home runs. The other candidates Conforto will have to overcome include Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Trevor Story, Rhys Hoskins, and I suppose my guy Hunter Renfroe (see below). The BAT projects Arenado to lead the National League with 40 homers. Can a healthy Conforto reach 40 this year? I think so, especially with power down across the board last year, Conforto is my guy this year and I’ve ranked him inside the top 60 overall.

OK, so Conforto has just 16 home runs when everyone and their mother is pacing to hit 30+ bombs this year. Conforto hasn’t really gotten hot in any month hitting 6, 4, and 6 homers each month thus far. If you remember, Conforto mashed nine home runs in Sept/Oct last year, so he still has a shot at reaching 40 home runs with a hot second half. However, I was not counting on a juiced ball this year and 40 home runs will fall well short of the home run leader this year. Christian Yelich already has 31 followed by Cody Bellinger with 29 and Pete Alonso at 28. All of which I expect to surpass 40. Conforto hasn’t shown any growth in the power department as his HR/FB rate is in line with last season. I give this prediction a less than 5% chance as it would require a ton of things to fall his way to come to fruition. 

Jackie Bradley Jr. is a top 100 fantasy asset in standard 5×5 Roto

Bradley Jr. has modified his swing and is working with J.D. Martinez. I’ve been putting my money where my mouth is grabbing JBJ pretty much everywhere. I’ve got him in my PitcherList Best Ball draft, TGFBI, and my 12-team home league. Bradley finished 2018 with just 13 homers and a .234 average. As a result, he’s being drafted around 230 overall. However, he stole a career-best 17 bags on only 18 attempts. Yes, he’s faster than you think. He’s likely to hit seventh or eighth in a stacked Red Sox lineup which isn’t great but not a death sentence in a deep AL lineup. Bradley’s hard-hit rates and exit velocities are up with the big boys and he was extremely unlucky on his barrels last year. This is a guy who is still in his prime and hit 26 home runs while hitting .267 in 2016. If he gets back to 25 homers and 15 steals with a .260 average, that should be right near Aaron Hicks just inside the top 100.

Not a great start. He’s currently ranked 575 overall in Yahoo! but I don’t trust Yahoo!. On the ESPN Player Rater, Bradley is ranked as the 166th best hitter to date. That doesn’t include pitchers. I would suspect that at least 75 pitchers are ranked ahead of him, so Bradley is well outside the top 200 overall. I’m not even going to check the Razzball Player Rater. The point is, this one is going well. Although, Bradley’s been hot of late hitting .315 with five home runs and three steals in June. I can’t say for sure what JBJ will do going forward but hitting five home runs and stealing three bases per month is not out of the question. Given that production and a solid BA, he could finish with over 20 HR and 15 SB. That puts him in the conversation as a top 100 overall fantasy asset. I give this one a 15% chance of coming true.

Hunter Renfroe becomes Khris Davis

I wanted to go extremely bold and have Renfroe finish the season ranked higher than Davis, but that would be nuts. Davis is so steady with 40+ homers and 100+ RBI. Unfortunately, I don’t think Renfroe will get the at-bats to reach 100 RBI. So, how can Renfroe become Khris Davis? First off, Renfroe hit 18 home runs in the second half of 2018, so we know he has elite power. I tweeted out a comparison of Davis from 2015 and Renfroe from 2018 back in January. Their results and Statcast metrics were nearly identical. The outfield in San Diego is crowded so something does have to give in order for this prediction to come to fruition. To qualify, Renfroe needs to hit over 35 homers and drive in 90 runs in 2019 and become a consensus top-100 player in 2020 drafts.

Finally! I nailed this one. At the halfway mark, Renfroe already has 24 home runs which are only two fewer than his previous career-high. He’s also getting more playing time as he’s pacing out for around 520 plate appearances which would also be a career-high. He’s hitting .248 so I guess I missed on this one unless he finishes at .247. That was a joke. His strikeout and walk rates are almost identical to Khris Davis’ as he’s sitting at a 26.8% K rate and an 8.4% walk rate. He is pacing for just 90 RBI but the Padres don’t have high OBP players in front of him. My only concern is Renfroe being a top 100 overall player next year. If he hits 45 homers, then yes he will be, but if he slows down in the second half, he may not make it. Either way, I’m giving this one a 60% chance of coming true.

Victor Robles is more valuable than Vladimir Guerrero and Juan Soto in standard 5×5 Roto value.

The hype on both Soto and Guerrero is understandable. Soto, at age-19, looked like a 10-year veteran and by all accounts, Vlad has the best bat in the Minors since Mike Trout. Both are going inside the top 42 overall since February 1st. Robles, while has seen a massive jump in ADP, is still going just after pick 100. Here’s my thinking, coming into 2018, Robles was the second-ranked prospect after Ronald Acuña but a shoulder injury derailed his season. Robles has elite speed, like 40 SB-type speed. His power hasn’t quite developed as he’s just 21 but has been graded out with 50-raw power. We’ve seen plenty of low-to-moderate power hitters come up and increase their home run production. Robles’ high-Contact, high-BABIP profile gives him a solid batting average floor. A high-end, realistic projection for Robles is something like .290 18 HR 32 SB. That’s extremely similar to Starling Marte’s 2018 who finished 29th on the Razzball Player Rater. Vladitio is already dealing with an injury, but Robles over Soto would be extremely bold based on ADP. I currently have Soto at 39 overall and Guerrero at 60, so there you have it.

Robles is currently ranked 72 among hitters per ESPN’s Player Rater and that’s not bad, but not quite what I had hoped for. Meanwhile, Vlad is all the way down at 235 among hitters. Vlad could very easily go nuts in the second half and surpass Robles but I don’t see it happening with the speed component of Robles’ game. Then there’s Juan Soto. Mr. Phenom himself is ranked 33rd overall among hitters this year. Despite a low SB total, he’s just mashing hitting for average, power, and a ton of run production. The metrics don’t paint an optimistic picture for Robles going forward and it would be a long-shot for him the catch Soto. Assuming health from all three players, I give this one a 10-15% chance of coming true.

Anthony Alford is fantasy relevant in 12-team leagues in the second half.

That means, he’s either a top 260 overall player or a top 175 hitter in the second half of 2019. The Blue Jays have a stacked farm system, we know that. Before Vlad and Bo Bichette, there was Anthony Alford. He’s still just 24 years old with only 28 plate appearances in the big leagues. The outfielders currently on the Major League roster are Randal Grichuk, Kevin Pillar, Billy McKinney, and Teoscar Hernandez. I’m not sold on McKinney or Hernandez and the Blue Jays are rebuilding. They need to see what they have in Alford. He’s had a nice spring which is nearly meaningless unless you’re like Alford trying to fight for a spot on the roster. He’s going 750 overall in drafts and therefore undrafted in 99% of leagues; that’s what makes this bold. He has good speed and some pop and was a top 25 prospect once upon a time. With playing time, he could hit a handful of homers and steal double-digit bases in the second half to make this prediction a reality.

I understand that this one is a prediction for the second-half but I would have hoped that Alford would have at least been up at the big league level for a few weeks heading into the break. Alford is hitting .256 with five homers and 17 steals at Triple-A but his strikeout rate is just a hair below 30%. I was optimistic we would see a power spike given the Triple-A ball but it hasn’t shown up with Alford. The good news for Alford is McKinney (just sent to Triple-A) and Teoscar are not performing well even though Teoscar has picked it up of late. Only Lourdes Gurriel Jr is playing well in that outfield and given Alford’s double-digit walk rates in the minors, he could see quite a bit of play in the second half. Like I said above, if he can hit 6-8 homers and steal 12-15 bases in the second half, he should be owned in 12-team leagues. I’m still not sold, let’s give this one a 20% chance.

Lewis Brinson is more valuable in Standard 5×5 Roto than A.J. Pollock

Now, this is BOLD! Brinson hit .199 with a 30% strikeout rate last year. Yikes. He was the top prospect from Milwaukee in the Christian Yelich trade before the 2018 season. His 2018 was brutal, there’s no doubt but he was a top 20 prospect as recently as one year ago. Brinson is crushing this spring but I’m not putting much weight into that. He’s modified his swing to stay in the zone longer increasing his probability for contact. That’s a small adjustment but one that could help vault Brinson to the next level. Last year he’s was very unlucky with a .257  BABIP. His xBABIP was .301 and xHR was 14 per xStats.org. Keep in mind, that’s in just over 400 plate appearances. Per BaseballSavant, he was just inside the top third of hitters on average exit velocity on fly balls and line drives (EV FB/LD). Where things really get interesting is his speed. He hasn’t stolen many bases but regularly stole 20+ bags in the minors. His sprint speed is in the top 96% of the league. If he can hit 22-24 HR with 15-18 steals, he will provide more value than an often injured Pollock. I like Pollock and I think if he’s healthy, he’s a top 50 player. I just don’t expect more than 400 plate appearances from him and believe these two players are more similar than you think. I need quite a bit of help here, but Pollock’s injury history gives this prediction some life.

Injuries. That was part of the selling point for this one though. Even with Pollock missing 90% of the season so far, he still holds more value than Brinson. This one is a 50-50 toss-up but if I don’t want it that way.

Robbie Ray Wins the NL Cy Young

Ray’s walk rate was brutal in 2018 at 13.3% and over five walks per nine innings. Walks always seem to be an issue for Ray. Even in his breakout of 2017, his walk rate was over 10%. What he can do and always has been able to do is strike batters out at a high clip. Do you know who else had issues with walks but transformed into a Cy Young winner? How about Blake Snell? Snell’s walk rates the years prior to 2018 were 12.7% and 10.8%. Both pitchers throw hard and have good breaking balls. Snell ramped his fastball velocity up in 2018 averaging over 96 MPH. Ray, on the other hand, saw a slight dip in his velocity last season. I think for Ray, velocity is key because his fastball used to be a plus pitch for him with a 12.3 pitch value in 2017 but down to -3.2 in 2018. Obviously, Ray needs to get his walks under control as well but if his velocity looks good and he cuts down on the walk rate, we are a lucky BABIP away from a Blake Snell-type season.  

A 4.10 ERA and 1.36 WHIP. Boo. However, 129 strikeouts in 98.1 innings are pretty nice though! The O-Swing is good and his Z-Contact is a career-low. In 2017, he had a 2.73 ERA with a 1.04 WHIP in the second half. He’s not that far away from those numbers if the BABIP and LOB% fall his way. Given those ratios and about 110 strikeouts, he would at least be in the NL Cy Young conversation. The problem for Ray though is Max Scherzer. He’s running away and hiding in the NL despite Ryu’s insane first half. This one is down to a 5% chance.

Matt Strahm is a top 50 Starting Pitcher

It’s finally happening, Matt Strahm is likely joining the Padres starting rotation. He was a starter in Royals system in 2015 and 2016 and has never thrown more than 125 innings in a single season. But, Strahm put on a bunch of weight in an unorthodox way to help build strength to hold up over the course of a full season. He’s reportedly hitting 96 MPH on the gun this spring. He throws four pitches and has a great fastball and curveball. If he can develop either his change or curve, he could not only have great strikeout rates but go deeper into games. I’d only expect a maximum of 150 innings this year but with 160+ strikeouts and good ratios, that’s easily top 50. Now for part two.

Strahm is currently 131st among starting pitchers per the ESPN Player Rater. That’s not good and he was just blown up by the awful Giants. At this point, I don’t see Strahm turning it completely around to finish inside the top 50 for starting pitchers. His velocity and strikeouts are down as well as a starter, so I’m essentially burying this one giving it a 2% chance.

The Padres have 3 starting pitchers that finish inside the top 50 for SPs

This is a spin-off if the Matt Strahm bold prediction because I had the Strahm prediction, pegged about a month ago. Now, he’s being drafted just outside of the top 50 SPs. This is bold because the Padres don’t have a single pitcher drafted as a top 50 starter. Lucchesi is the closest at 55 and 195 overall. I love Lucchesi this year who was successful last year with two pitches and is adding a cutter this spring. The other possible top 50 options include extreme riser Chris Paddack (441), Matt Strahm (386), and Robbie Erlin (577). Paddack has had massive inflation with a dominant spring. He looks like a prime candidate to make the rotation out of spring. He’s just 23 years old and coming off of an injury. Don’t expect more than 125 innings, but he might just be good enough to sneak into the top 50.

Well, Strahm is basically out. That leaves us with Chris Paddack and Joey Lucchesi. Paddack is ranked 26th and Lucchesi is at 41 on the ESPN player rater for starting pitchers. That’s great and I believe both can maintain top 50 status, especially Paddack. We already discussed how far down Strahm is and the next Padre starter is Eric Lauer currently the 98th SP. That’s followed by Strahm at 131 and Cal Quantrill at 162. Lauer doesn’t possess the strikeout upside required to make that jump into the top 50 but at least he has an outside chance. Also, Dinleson Lamet returns to action this week but given his lengthy layoff, his innings will be limited. I also don’t believe his command will be consistent going forward in 2019. So while both Paddack and Lucchesi will likely exceed expectations, I don’t have the third SP to complete this bold prediction.

Zach Eflin outperforms everyone’s favorite sleeper and teammate Nick Pivetta

While I had this prediction drafted up about two weeks ago, I’ve got to give some credit to @BatflipCrazy for throwing this out first on his podcast this week. Great call! I get the hype on Nick Pivetta, I’m not even low on him as I have him as my 35th SP. His K-BB% is fantastic. He seemed to be unlucky in terms of ERA and BABIP last season based on all ERA-estimators. The Phillies had one of the worst defenses by Fangraphs DEF metrics last year. They upgraded by adding Jean Segura at shortstop and replacing Rhys Hoskins in left field with Andrew McCutchen and the aforementioned Hoskins moving over to his natural position, first base. So while I expect both to improve, let’s compare the two by the numbers.  

2018 K-BB% FIP SwStr% Soft% HR/9
Nick Pivetta 19.7% 3.80 12.0% 18.7% 1.32
Zach Eflin 15.7% 3.80 10.3% 20.5% 1.13

Pivetta has the better strikeout upside, that’s evident in the K-BB% and SwStr%. However, Eflin’s FIP matched Pivetta’s thanks to inducing more weak contact and limiting hard contact/home runs. Elfin has a good slider and changeup to go with a 95 MPH fastball. That sounds similar to Pivetta’s repertoire, doesn’t it? I actually think Eflin has some more strikeout upside in that arm as well. Given his well-above-average control and ability to limit hard contact, I think the strikeout rate could push Eflin over the top of Pivetta in 2019. I’ll add to this prediction that Eflin will be drafted above Pivetta in 2020 drafts as well.

Eflin 39th SP on ESPN Player Rater, Pivetta 173 SP. I give this one a 90% chance of coming true. Eflin would have to fall flat on his face in the second half and Pivetta would have to become Chris Sale. Eflin hasn’t quite had the strikeout ceiling I had hoped for but he’s also pitching with great command. I think he should limit terrible outings and maintain success even if he’s unable to keep such a low ERA. Pivetta has the skills to go on a second-half run but will still have the occasional outing that kills ratios. I don’t see him catching Eflin and Pivetta will not carry any inflated love going into the 2020 drafts. This one is close to being in the books.

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


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Starting Pitchers to Stream for Week 14 (7/1-7/7)

Welcome back to the FreezeStats weekly stating pitcher streaming article! You know the drill. I choose starting pitchers that are available in at least 75% of FantasyPros consensus leagues to help you win your matchup each week. The talent seems to be falling off a bit which means the fantasy community is really on their game. I’ve been able to uncover a nice blend of high ceiling and high floor streamers and will be picking on the Giants and Marlins next week.

Adbert Alzolay (SP – CHC), 20% owned, @PIT, Monday 7/1
With the injury the Cole Hamels, Alzolay now has a safe spot in the Cubs rotation. He’s got some pretty electric stuff but like many young pitchers has some issues with control. That being said, he does have nine strikeouts in 8.2 innings pitched. That’s over two starts but hasn’t gone five innings in either start. I know it’s a super small sample but his BABIP is currently .000 and his strand rate is 100%. That’s right, any ball that has been put in play has either been an out or a home run against Alzolay. This will change and his high walk rate could come back to bite him next week. The Pirates have been crushing the ball lately with a 123 wRC+ over the last 14 days. I don’t like his chances and I’m STAYING AWAY from Alzolay.

Matt Strahm (SP – SF), 22% Owned, home vs SF Tuesday, 7/2
I really was high on Matt Strahm coming into the season given his success as a reliever last season. He hasn’t quite lived up to my expectations but does carry a 17.4% K-BB rate which a good predictor of in-season success. He’s had two major issues, home runs, and fastball velocity. The good news for Strahm is that his velocity was up about one MPH in his last start and he struck out nine batters. In addition, his strikeout rate is 9.64 K/9 in the month of June. Now, he draws the Giants at home in Petco Park. As a team, the Giants have an 84 wRC+ (100 is average) over the last 30 days and are even worse on the road with a wRC+ of just 78! Home runs should not be an issue and Strahm walks fewer than two batters per nine innings. Easy stream here. 

Danny Duffy (SP – KC), 7% Owned, home vs CLE Wednesday, 7/3
It’s been a while since the Duff man has been fantasy relevant and his 4.43 ERA doesn’t exactly scream pick me up! However, he’s increasing the use of his slider and while the results haven’t been great on his slider, it’s the one pitch that induces swings and misses at an above-average clip. He’s also been bitten by an inflated BABIP with his slider, so it’s been better than FanGraphs Pitch Value indicates. Duffy’s also been better at home with a 4.12 ERA, no surprise there given the expansive confines of Kauffman Stadium. The Indians are much better offensively than they were back in April but are still a well-below-average team on the road with a 92 wRC+. Duffy is a deep league streamer (14 teams and deeper) given his lack of strikeout upside.

BONUS: Dylan Cease (SP – CHW), 5% owned, @DET, Wednesday 7/3
Yup, he’s finally gotten the call for the White Sox. I know it’s his debut and these starts can often go sideways. I’ll take my chances though against the Tigers who are arguably one of the worst teams in the league. As a team, they have a 76 wRC+ and a 26.1% strikeout rate which is tied with the Padres for the highest in the league. Cease has been fantastic at limiting home runs but does have a bit of walk issue. Luckily for Cease, the Tigers walk just 7.3% of the time, which is in the bottom five of the league. Cease gets a cupcake matchup in his debut, now let’s just hope he doesn’t blow it. STREAM

Eric Lauer (SP – SD), 12% Owned, home vs SF, Wednesday, 7/3

EDIT: Cal Quantrill, 5% owned, home vs SF, Wednesday, 7/3
Eric Lauer’s start has been pushed to the 4th against the Dodgers in LA, please don;t start him there. Instead Cal Quantrill has taken his place. Let’s keep picking on the Giants, shall we? I’ve already discussed how bad the Giants are offensively, so we don’t need to go over that again. I know that Lauer isn’t going to wow us with strikeouts but he does have a 4.22 ERA. On the surface, that doesn’t sound great but league-wide ERA for starting pitchers this year is 4.46! Last week, I mentioned Lauer’s struggles in Colorado and how his ERA outside of Coors Field is a steller 2.70. Last time I checked, Petco Park is not Coors Field and the Giants are not the Rockies. Lauer’s best asset is limiting home runs at just 0.95 HR/9. He’s also only given up two earned runs in his last two starts and only two home runs in his last six starts.  Quantril has been working out of the bullpen recently but after last night’s blow-up from Logan Allen, Quantrill could be back to stay. Quantrill has been averaging 95 MPH on his fastball and generates ground balls 50% of the time. His fourseam is his only plus pitch via FanGraphs pitcher value but he’s getting swings outside the zone 34.7% of the time with a 12% SwStr rate. He may struggle with walks but should be just fine limiting home runs against the league’s third worst offense. He should provide solid ratios and good strikeout totals. I’m a little concerned he only last five innings but a W is still in play. STREAM

Anibal Sanchez (SP – WAS), 25% Owned, home vs MIA, Thursday, 7/4
You need to go get Sanchez right now. His ownership is on the rise and he draws the Marlins at home next week. I didn’t realize how good Sanchez has been. He’s seemed like a disappointment but currently has a very usable 3.82 ERA. He’s been fantastic at limiting hard contact (29.4%) and a solid 20% soft contact rate. He looks a lot like he did last year with his cutter usage and inducing swings outside the zone at an above-average clip. Since 5/29, he has a 2.29 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP. Sure, the Marlins are improving but also have a 25.4% strikeout rate over the last 14 days which is 26th in the league. Don’t over think this one, it’s an easy STREAM.

Tyler Mahle (SP – CIN), 7% owned, home vs CLE, Sunday 7/7
Mahle at home does carry some risk, especially with the Indians playing better over the last month. However, Mahle has averaged over a strikeout per inning and I want those strikeouts. He’s also been surprisingly better at home this year with just a 2.96 ERA and 31 strikeouts across 27.1 innings. Despite the homer-friendly environment, Mahle must feel more comfortable in the GAB. The Indians obviously will be without the DH, so Mahle should be able to last at least five to six innings. While home runs are an issue for Mahle, he’s inducing more ground balls this year and has a walk rate under six percent which is almost three percent below league-average. It’s very possible he gives up a homer or two but given the low walk rate and good strikeout rate, it shouldn’t hurt him too much. I like Mahle in his last start before the break.  STREAM

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


Photo Source: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

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2019 Bold Predictions – Fantasy Baseball

Well, last year I hit on two out of eight bold predictions. I guess my prediction on Ozzie Albies wasn’t terrible. I projected 25 homers and 30 steals. I hit on the power, but he did not run as much as I hoped. I’m most proud of my long-shot (at the time) that Patrick Corbin would finish the season as a top 20 SP. I had him ranked in the low-40s and most sites had him between the 60th and 80th SP off the boards, so this was extremely bold. Yes, I’m bragging about my one really good bold prediction, but I also had some really bad ones like Delino DeShields over Starling Marte…. Whoops. Alright, enough intro. I want to focus my bold predictions within the fantasy realm and write a quick blurb as to why I feel there’s a chance they come to fruition.

2019 BOLD PREDICTIONS – FREEZESTATS

Michael Conforto leads the National League in home runs in 2019

Conforto ended 2018 with 29 home runs but spent a good portion of the first two months recovering and gaining strength from his offseason shoulder surgery. He showed us he was healthy in the second half by hitting 17 home runs in just 68 games. I don’t love the prorating game as much as the next person but that’s 40 home runs across a 160 game pace. Last year, Nolan Arenado led the National League with 38 home runs. The other candidates Conforto will have to overcome include Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Trevor Story, Rhys Hoskins, and I suppose my guy Hunter Renfroe (see below). The BAT projects Arenado to lead the National League with 40 homers. Can a healthy Conforto reach 40 this year? I think so, especially with power down across the board last year, Conforto is my guy this year and I’ve ranked him inside the top 60 overall.

Jackie Bradley Jr. is a top 100 fantasy asset in standard 5×5 Roto

Bradley Jr. has modified his swing and is working with J.D. Martinez. I’ve been putting my money where my mouth is grabbing JBJ pretty much everywhere. I’ve got him in my PitcherList Best Ball draft, TGFBI, and my 12-team home league. Bradley finished 2018 with just 13 homers and a .234 average. As a result, he’s being drafted around 230 overall. However, he stole a career-best 17 bags on only 18 attempts. Yes, he’s faster than you think. He’s likely to hit seventh or eighth in a stacked Red Sox lineup which isn’t great but not a death sentence in a deep AL lineup. Bradley’s hard-hit rates and exit velocities are up with the big boys and he was extremely unlucky on his barrels last year. This is a guy who is still in his prime and hit 26 home runs while hitting .267 in 2016. If he gets back to 25 homers and 15 steals with a .260 average, that should be right near Aaron Hicks just inside the top 100.

Hunter Renfroe becomes Khris Davis

I wanted to go extremely bold and have Renfroe finish the season ranked higher than Davis, but that would be nuts. Davis is so steady with 40+ homers and 100+ RBI. Unfortunately, I don’t think Renfroe will get the at-bats to reach 100 RBI. So, how can Renfroe become Khris Davis? First off, Renfroe hit 18 home runs in the second half of 2018, so we know he has elite power. I tweeted out a comparison of Davis from 2015 and Renfroe from 2018 back in January. Their results and Statcast metrics were nearly identical. The outfield in San Diego is crowded so something does have to give in order for this prediction to come to fruition. To qualify, Renfroe needs to hit over 35 homers and drive in 90 runs in 2019 and become a consensus top-100 player in 2020 drafts.

Victor Robles is more valuable than Vladimir Guerrero and Juan Soto in standard 5×5 Roto value.

The hype on both Soto and Guerrero is understandable. Soto, at age-19, looked like a 10-year veteran and by all accounts, Vlad has the best bat in the Minors since Mike Trout. Both are going inside the top 42 overall since February 1st. Robles, while has seen a massive jump in ADP, is still going just after pick 100. Here’s my thinking, coming into 2018, Robles was the second-ranked prospect after Ronald Acuña but a shoulder injury derailed his season. Robles has elite speed, like 40 SB-type speed. His power hasn’t quite developed as he’s just 21 but has been graded out with 50-raw power. We’ve seen plenty of low-to-moderate power hitters come up and increase their home run production. Robles’ high-Contact, high-BABIP profile gives him a solid batting average floor. A high-end, realistic projection for Robles is something like .290 18 HR 32 SB. That’s extremely similar to Starling Marte’s 2018 who finished 29th on the Razzball Player Rater. Vladitio is already dealing with an injury, but Robles over Soto would be extremely bold based on ADP. I currently have Soto at 39 overall and Guerrero at 60, so there you have it.

Anthony Alford is fantasy relevant in 12-team leagues in the second half.

That means, he’s either a top 260 overall player or a top 175 hitter in the second half of 2019. The Blue Jays have a stacked farm system, we know that. Before Vlad and Bo Bichette, there was Anthony Alford. He’s still just 24 years old with only 28 plate appearances in the big leagues. The outfielders currently on the Major League roster are Randal Grichuk, Kevin Pillar, Billy McKinney, and Teoscar Hernandez. I’m not sold on McKinney or Hernandez and the Blue Jays are rebuilding. They need to see what they have in Alford. He’s had a nice spring which is nearly meaningless unless you’re like Alford trying to fight for a spot on the roster. He’s going 750 overall in drafts and therefore undrafted in 99% of leagues; that’s what makes this bold. He has good speed and some pop and was a top 25 prospect once upon a time. With playing time, he could hit a handful of homers and steal double-digit bases in the second half to make this prediction a reality.

Lewis Brinson is more valuable in Standard 5×5 Roto than A.J. Pollack

Now, this is BOLD! Brinson hit .199 with a 30% strikeout rate last year. Yikes. He was the top prospect from Milwaukee in the Christian Yelich trade before the 2018 season. His 2018 was brutal, there’s no doubt but he was a top 20 prospect as recently as one year ago. Brinson is crushing this spring but I’m not putting much weight into that. He’s modified his swing to stay in the zone longer increasing his probability for contact. That’s a small adjustment but one that could help vault Brinson to the next level. Last year he’s was very unlucky with a .257  BABIP. His xBABIP was .301 and xHR was 14 per xStats.org. Keep in mind, that’s in just over 400 plate appearances. Per BaseballSavant, he was just inside the top third of hitters on average exit velocity on fly balls and line drives (EV FB/LD). Where things really get interesting is his speed. He hasn’t stolen many bases but regularly stole 20+ bags in the minors. His sprint speed is in the top 96% of the league. If he can hit 22-24 HR with 15-18 steals, he will provide more value than an often injured Pollack. I like Pollack and I think if he’s healthy, he’s a top 50 player. I just don’t expect more than 400 plate appearances from him and believe these two players are more similar than you think. I need quite a bit of help here, but Pollack’s injury history gives this prediction some life.

Robbie Ray Wins the NL Cy Young

Ray’s walk rate was brutal in 2018 at 13.3% and over five walks per nine innings. Walks always seem to be an issue for Ray. Even in his breakout of 2017, his walk rate was over 10%. What he can do and always has been able to do is strike batters out at a high clip. Do you know who else had issues with walks but transformed into a Cy Young winner? How about Blake Snell? Snell’s walk rates the years prior to 2018 were 12.7% and 10.8%. Both pitchers throw hard and have good breaking balls. Snell ramped his fastball velocity up in 2018 averaging over 96 MPH. Ray, on the other hand, saw a slight dip in his velocity last season. I think for Ray, velocity is key because his fastball used to be a plus pitch for him with a 12.3 pitch value in 2017 but down to -3.2 in 2018. Obviously, Ray needs to get his walks under control as well but if his velocity looks good and he cuts down on the walk rate, we are a lucky BABIP away from a Blake Snell-type season.  

Matt Strahm is a top 50 Starting Pitcher

It’s finally happening, Matt Strahm is likely joining the Padres starting rotation. He was a starter in Royals system in 2015 and 2016 and has never thrown more than 125 innings in a single season. But, Strahm put on a bunch of weight in an unorthodox way to help build strength to hold up over the course of a full season. He’s reportedly hitting 96 MPH on the gun this spring. He throws four pitches and has a great fastball and curveball. If he can develop either his change or curve, he could not only have great strikeout rates but go deeper into games. I’d only expect a maximum of 150 innings this year but with 160+ strikeouts and good ratios, that’s easily top 50. Now for part two.

The Padres have 3 starting pitchers that finish inside the top 50 for SPs

This is a spin-off if the Matt Strahm bold prediction because I had the Strahm prediction, pegged about a month ago. Now, he’s being drafted just outside of the top 50 SPs. This is bold because the Padres don’t have a single pitcher drafted as a top 50 starter. Lucchesi is the closest at 55 and 195 overall. I love Lucchesi this year who was successful last year with two pitches and is adding a cutter this spring. The other possible top 50 options include extreme riser Chris Paddack (441), Matt Strahm (386), and Robbie Erlin (577). Paddack has had massive inflation with a dominant spring. He looks like a prime candidate to make the rotation out of spring. He’s just 23 years old and coming off of an injury. Don’t expect more than 125 innings, but he might just be good enough to sneak into the top 50.

Zach Eflin outperforms everyone’s favorite sleeper and teammate Nick Pivetta

While I had this prediction drafted up about two weeks ago, I’ve got to give some credit to @BatflipCrazy for throwing this out first on his podcast this week. Great call! I get the hype on Nick Pivetta, I’m not even low on him as I have him as my 35th SP. His K-BB% is fantastic. He seemed to be unlucky in terms of ERA and BABIP last season based on all ERA-estimators. The Phillies had one of the worst defenses by Fangraphs DEF metrics last year. They upgraded by adding Jean Segura at shortstop and replacing Rhys Hoskins in left field with Andrew McCutchen and the aforementioned Hoskins moving over to his natural position, first base. So while I expect both to improve, let’s compare the two by the numbers.  

2018 K-BB% FIP SwStr% Soft% HR/9
Nick Pivetta 19.7% 3.80 12.0% 18.7% 1.32
Zach Eflin 15.7% 3.80 10.3% 20.5% 1.13

Pivetta has the better strikeout upside, that’s evident in the K-BB% and SwStr%. However, Eflin’s FIP matched Pivetta’s thanks to inducing more weak contact and limiting hard contact/home runs. Elfin has a good slider and changeup to go with a 95 MPH fastball. That sounds similar to Pivetta’s repertoire, doesn’t it? I actually think Eflin has some more strikeout upside in that arm as well. Given his well-above-average control and ability to limit hard contact, I think the strikeout rate could push Eflin over the top of Pivetta in 2019. I’ll add to this prediction that Eflin will be drafted above Pivetta in 2020 drafts as well.

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


Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

FreezeStats Rankings vs ESPN Rankings – Fantasy Baseball

Part of my draft preparations involves comparing my rankings with the big box sites like ESPN and Yahoo!. Many fantasy players don’t expand their research beyond some of those big box rankings and as a result will only draft off of those cheat sheets. This is where you as an owner can gain an edge. In this article, I will compare ESPN’s site rankings with my rankings. If you want to see my complete rankings, just CLICK HERE! I just updated my Top 300 and positional rankings for the final time. Later this week, I’ll do the same with Yahoo’s rankings.

PLAYERS I’M HIGHER ON FOR 2019 – DRAFT AWAY!

FreezStats vs ESPN Rankings - Player I Like More

PlayerTeamPositionsFreezeStats RankingESPN RankingOverall Difference
Trea TurnerWSHSS6104
Ronald AcunaATLLF,CF10188
Aaron JudgeNYYRF,DH16215
Freddie FreemanATL1B14228
Trevor StoryCOLSS18279
Andrew BenintendiBOSLF,CF233512
Anthony RendonWSH3B273811
Carlos CarrascoCLESP36404
Xander BogaertsBOSSS254318
Eugenio SuarezCIN3B456015
Tommy PhamTBLF,CF407131
Jose AbreuCWS1B,DH497526
Michael ConfortoNYMLF,CF,RF597920
Robinson CanoNYM2B709121
Joey GalloTEX1B,LF,CF,RF719726
Aaron HicksNYYCF749925
Andrew McCutchenPHILF,RF8810012
Travis ShawMIL1B,3B,2B7810527
Adalberto MondesiKC2B,SS5111463
German MarquezCOLSP8411935
Matt OlsonOAK1B6212260
Stephen PiscottyOAKRF10913223
Max MuncyLAD1B,2B,3B8714760
Eloy JimenezCWSLF,RF10714942
Nomar MazaraTEXRF11615337
Shane BieberCLESP15416713
Andrew HeaneyLAASP14016929
Kenta MaedaLADSP16119029
Jackie Bradley Jr.BOSCF,RF14919344
Ketel MarteARI2B,SS17521439
Ross StriplingLADSP,RP15921758
Tyler SkaggsLAASP17421844
Hyun-Jin RyuLADSP19722831
Joe MusgrovePITSP14723184
Adam FrazierPIT2B,LF,RF18523348
Danny JansenTORC21224028
Ramon LaureanoOAKRF15525095
Domingo SantanaSEARF167282115
Garrett HampsonCOL2B,SS167294127
Anibal SanchezWSHSP190318128
Forrest WhitleyHOUSP213319106
Jesus LuzardoOAKSP201322121
Zach EflinPHISP,RP23932889
Julio UriasLADSP27133059
Welington CastilloCWSC26333673
Chris PaddackSDSP304414110
Matt StrahmSDSP,RP272N/R-
Steven DuggarSFCF,RF,DH269N/R-

I don’t need to go into my love for JBJ, I’ve gone on and on about him. I understand that we are only off by four picks with Trea Turner, but I’m not passing on Turner given his 60 stolen base upside. He showed his power hitting 19 homers last year and was unlucky with BABIP. His walk rate is improving and his contact rate and speed tell me he’s more of a .280-.290 hitter. I think ESPN is underselling Andrew Benintendi, which is odd because Red Sox and Yankees are usually ranked higher. His power will come back and his all-around skill set is perfect for a top 25 pick. Why does ESPN hate Tommy Pham? I get that he’s not the most healthy player but even in 130 games, Pham provides value inside of the top 50. What is going on with Adalberto Mondesi? I’m not even his biggest fan given his floor, but 114 overall? At that price, he could hit .220 with 10 homers and 25 steals and basically break even. Mondesi surpassed those numbers in half a season last year. I guess they believe he will struggle and be sent down to the minors at some point. Give me all the Max Muncy and Matt Olson in ESPN leagues. It seems like ESPN is devaluing power based on my analysis. Some other players with power I like more include Michael Conforto, Travis Shaw, and Domingo Santana. Then there’s Eloy Jimenez. ESPN has Vlad extremely high but a guy like Eloy who has more power at this point and great contact skills ranked near 150? I just don’t get it. Eloy could come up and hit .280 w/ 30 homers.

Over to pitching. ESPN is overvaluing pitching early. To some extent, I agree. I like to grab an ace and sometimes two top 15 pitchers in the first four rounds. However, ESPN has a ton of starting pitchers in the mid to late rounds that are ranked way too low. I can understand the German Marquez ranking because of Coors, but he’s a nice value and can be had as your number three or four SP in some cases. Some of my favorite pitcher values include Shane Beiber, Andrew Heaney, Ross Stripling, Kenta Maeda, and Joe Musgrove. These guys will most likely be on my teams in ESPN leagues. So will Chris Paddack and apparently they forgot about Matt Strahm, but I won’t. I’m a big fan of Zach Eflin and I have a feeling he might show up in my Bold Predictions.

PLAYERS I’M LOWER ON FOR 2019 – NO THANKS!

FreezeStats vs ESPN Rankings - Players I like Less

PlayerTeamPositionsFreezeStatsESPNOverall Difference
Corey KluberCLESP301911
Juan SotoWSHLF39318
Noah SyndergaardNYMSP473710
Cody BellingerLAD1B,CF48399
Carlos CorreaHOUSS664620
Ozzie AlbiesATL2B814833
Gleyber TorresNYY2B,SS855332
Clayton KershawLADSP1055451
Matt CarpenterSTL1B,2B,3B796118
Eddie RosarioMINLF917021
Corey SeagerLADSS977225
David PriceBOSSP1108228
Mike FoltynewiczATLSP1189226
Madison BumgarnerSFSP1489355
A.J. PollockLADCF1139419
Dee GordonSEA2B,CF1419546
Michael BrantleyHOULF,DH11410311
Willson ContrerasCHCC19411183
Buster PoseySFC,1B19211775
Carlos SantanaCLE1B,3B22112992
J.A. HappNYYSP18613353
Eric HosmerSD1B17813642
Rick PorcelloBOSSP256143113
Dallas KeuchelSP20915455
Billy HamiltonKCCF23916178
Jon LesterCHCSP23416866
Kyle SchwarberCHCLF24017169
Jonathan SchoopMIN2B24218755
Odubel HerreraPHICF29220389
Miguel SanoMIN1B,3B,DH28823454
Julio TeheranATLSPN/R249-
Jonathan LucroyLAACN/R281-
Tim TebowNYMLFN/R342-
Adam WainwrightSTLSPN/R361-
Kyler MurrayOAKCFN/R367-

As I mentioned, ESPN is very high on the elite starting pitchers which is why Corey Kluber, Noah Syndergaard, and Clayton Kershaw show up here. With Carlos Correa, I’m starting to come around on a bit now that he looks healthy, but I still likely won’t end up with him this year. If you scrolled to the bottom, you probably noticed that Tim Tebow and Kylar Murray are both inside ESPN’s top 400. WHAT!?!? Talk about lazy. It’s almost like the ESPN is using college football analysts to complete their fantasy baseball rankings. Either that or they ranked their top 300 and one guy decided to go to 400 overall but only plays in 12-team leagues. Come on ESPN, you’re better than this! Eric Hosmer is still being ranked because of name value, I will almost never draft him. ESPN is still valuing the rabbits (or speed only guys) like Dee Gordon and Billy Hamilton. I just can’t draft any player that high while they will hurt me in three to four categories.

I suppose I should touch on Ozzie Albies. I was extremely high on Albies last year expecting a power/speed breakout. He showed more power but less speed than I expected but overall, my ranking was solid. The metrics don’t support 25 homer power for Albies, if he can’t take a step forward in speed and struggles to take walks, he could be dropped in the lineup. I am seeing more of a 20 homer, 16-steal season without great counting stats. That’s good but not top 50. Wow, do I hate old boring veteran pitchers without strikeout upside. Im not surprised that ESPN likes them, again the name value slides them up rankings. Enter Rick Porcello, Jon Lester, and Dallas Keuchel. These guys are over-the-hill and their past success is boosting their draft price. I won’t be owning any of them this year (or probably any year going forward).

Thanks for checking out these ranking comparisons. Make sure you refer back to this article when you draft in your ESPN league this weekend.

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