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Analyzing Hitter’s Hard Hit Percentage With Whiff Rates

There are so many great metrics available at our fingertips when analyzing hitters. Certainly Barrel percentage is the best measure of a player’s power, O-Swing percentage or Chase rate is a measure of a hitter’s plate discipline. I could go on and on but while metrics like xwOBA attempt to be all-encompassing to a hitter’s value, I like to look at certain metrics in conjunction with other metrics to help draw conclusions about players. In this small sample season, not all metrics will stabilize. We cannot simply trust how a player performs this year and assume that’s his new baseline. 


The two metrics I’m looking at today are hard hit percentage and whiff rate. Hard hit% is simple. It’s the number of balls hit at or above 95 mph divided by the total number of batted balls. The league average is 34.8% this year. By itself, the metric is powerful. Just, take a look.

At under 95 mph, wOBA hovers around .200. Nothing special about that but also the harder or softer the ball is hit below 95 mph doesn’t really matter. So, obviously, we want players with a high hard hit%. The next metric I want to include is whiff rate (Whiff%). It’s simply the number of swings and misses divided by the number of swings. The league average is around 24.5%. While each of these metrics has a different denominator, together, they can tell an interesting story about a player. These metrics require approximately 80 batted balls for HH% and 100 PA for whiff% to stabilize. The league-average HH%-Whiff% in 2020 is 10.3%. Here’s the top-10 from 2019.


Hard Hit% Minus Whiff% - Top 10 2019

NameTeamHH%-Whiff%
Anthony RendonNationals34.50%
Mookie BettsRed Sox33.90%
DJ LeMahieuYankees33.50%
Justin TurnerDodgers26.90%
Michael BrantleyAstros26.70%
Rafael DeversRed Sox26.30%
Matt ChapmanAthletics26.20%
Mike TroutAngels26.10%
Tommy PhamRays25.80%
Francisco LindorIndians25.80%

Pretty good list, no? Of course, it includes Mike Trout and Mookie Betts, so that’s great. It also includes breakouts D.J. LeMahieu, Rafael Devers, and Matt Chapman. Let’s take a look at the largest surgers in 2020 among qualified hitters.

Hard Hit Minus Whiff% - Surgers

NameTeamHH-Wf% (2020)20192020-2019
Corey SeagerDodgers32.10%14.20%17.90%
Luke VoitYankees20.70%8.70%12.00%
Juan SotoNationals37.30%25.50%11.80%
Eloy JimenezWhite Sox28.50%17.30%11.20%
Mike TroutAngels35.10%26.10%9.00%
Freddie FreemanBraves28.50%19.80%8.70%
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.Blue Jays23.90%15.40%8.50%
Adam EatonNationals26.30%17.90%8.40%
Randal GrichukBlue Jays20.30%12.90%7.40%
Cesar HernandezIndians18.60%12.80%5.80%



Unsurprisingly, Corey Seager tops the surgers list. He’s very likely going to be a top contender for comeback player of the year. His hard hit% is an impressive 56.1% while carrying a league-average whiff rate. He currently leads the Majors in Barrel% and the only reason he’s not leading the league in homers is his launch angle. He hits a few too many ground balls, but I’m not going to complain if he continues to mash like he’s doing now.

An abdominal injury that occurred in late-July last year really hurt Luke Voit’s production down the stretch in 2019. Well, he’s healthy again and absolutely mashing. His Whiff% isn’t as bad as you’d think for a guy with a 25%+ strikeout rate at just 25.9%. If we remove his injury-riddled final two months of 2019, Voit has a .386 OBP and 47 homers across 712 plate appearances as a Yankee. This is what a healthy Voit looks like. That’ll do.

Juan Soto is tied with Fernando Tatis Jr. for the best HH-Whiff% in 2020. They are both just 21 years old! Along with Acuna, these are going to be the faces of MLB for the next decade-plus. As impressive as Soto was at age-20, he’s even better this year. At the plate, he’s the best comp to Mike Trout I’ve seen, in my lifetime. I wouldn’t be surprised if he outperforms Trout next season and should be drafted as a top-5 hitter in fantasy leagues in 2021.

Speaking of young talent, enter Eloy Jimenez! He already has 42 home runs in 162 career games. The only thing he hasn’t shown yet is patience. AKA, the ability to take a walk. That seems to be a philosophy with the White Sox, especially with their young hitters. His improvements this year are solely with his hard hit% but his batted ball quality is elite. He’ll be another exciting young player to watch this decade.

The only thing keeping Mike Trout over Juan Soto is the fact that Trout is still getting better! It’s insane. He’s 29 years old, so at some point, he’s going to plateau/decline. But, 2020 is not that year. Trout is still the King.

Freddie Freeman may be having the best season of his career. He’s walking more, striking out less, and has a career-best OPS (1.016) this season. Unfortunately, we won’t get to see him perform for 162 games this year. I’d like to see a little more loft to boost those power numbers but I don’t think owners are complaining.


You may want to check in on impatient Vlad Gurrero Jr. owners to see if they are willing to part ways with him. Not every top-tier prospect becomes a star immediately despite the recent success of several phenoms mentioned in this article. He’s only seen slight improvements in ISO and wRC+ but a closer look into his underlying metrics shows major skills growth HH%, exit velocity, and BRL% despite hitting the ball on the ground more frequently. He’s also walking at a higher clip which is a good sign. He’s so close to breaking out. If he works this offseason to adjust his launch angle, I think we’ll see the .300-35 HR player we’ve all envisioned.

Adam Eaton is an odd name to this list. He’s hitting the ball surprisingly hard but they are all on the ground. He’s actually improved his HR/FB% which reflects his gains in terms of this metric but again, a 10% jump in ground ball rate kills any power gains he might have. He’s hitting a measly .215 but I think he’s extremely unlucky in terms of BABIP that sits a .252 (career-.332). I’m not buying Eaton and he’ll be 32 years old without ever really showing much power in the past.

Randal Grichuk’s gains this year are less related to quality of contact and more about making more contact. During his Cardinals career, he struck out 30% of the time. Since joining the Blue Jays, it dropped to a more respectable 26%. This year, however, he’s sitting at 21.5%. On the surface, it looks good. But, he’s still chasing pitches outside the zone at a similar clip and making the same amount of contact on pitches in the zone. That means he’s able to make contact on more ball outside the zone. So, he’s figured out a way to increase his plate coverage which explains his decrease in strikeout rate. Typically, contact on pitches outside the zone isn’t great for a hitter. That’s why I think his BABIP will regress. I think this is a positive sign for Grichuk but not sure how much I will trust him going into 2021.

Cesar Hernadez is definitely hitting the ball harder this year but it hasn’t shown up in his results. He’s pounding the ball into the ground. Even with his improved HH%, he still falls below league average. At age 30, I don’t think there’s much to see here.

Hard Hit% Minus Whiff% - Fallers

NameTeamHH-Wf% (2020)20192020-2019
Shin-Soo ChooRangers1.00%20.70%-19.70%
Yoan MoncadaWhite Sox1.10%18.50%-17.40%
Josh BellPirates6.70%22.90%-16.20%
Rafael DeversRed Sox10.30%26.30%-16.00%
Ryan McMahonRockies2.70%17.50%-14.80%
Anthony RendonAngels20.30%34.50%-14.20%
Marcus SemienAthletics8.20%20.50%-12.30%
Charlie BlackmonRockies9.00%21.20%-12.20%
Xander BogaertsRed Sox13.00%25.10%-12.10%
Starling Marte- - -3.70%14.60%-10.90%



Noooo, my beloved Shin-Soo Choo. At age-37 least year, Choo was a monster with a HH% in the 95th percentile. Despite his advancing age, he had improved his HH% for three straight seasons prior to 2020. He was due for regression, but, it’s not just HH%. He’s also whiffing about 4% more often. I hate to say it about one of the most underrated fantasy assets over the last decade, but it may be time to move on from the Choo Choo Train.

I’m disappointed to see my Dark Horse AL MVP Yoan Moncada on the decliners list. He’s never had a HH% or average exit velocities this low in his career. Personally, I think he’s hurt. Prior to August 12th, his HH% was over 40%. He then missed a game on 8/12 due to “nagging body aches.” Since then, his production has suffered. I can’t say for sure but I know a healthy Moncada would not be hitting the ball so poorly. I’ll be buying back in next season at a discount.

Josh Bell is having a miserable season after his 2019 breakout. His HH% is down a bit from last year but it’s still strong. It’s not the main culprit for his plummeting numbers. He’s simply struggling to make contact. It’s not just one pitch type either. His whiff% is up over 10% against all pitch types (fastballs, offspeed, and breaking balls) from a year ago. This will end up being a lost season for Bell. He’s still in his prime and hitting the ball with authority, so I could see him as a bounceback depending on the price in 2021.

Not even the backdrop of Coors Field can salvage Ryan McMahon’s batting average. He’s hitting just .214 with an xBA one point below the Mendoza Line. He’s been completely useless against breaking balls (0.183 xwOBA) with an insane 53.7% whiff% against the bendy pitches. His quality of contact is simply not good enough to maintain a 36% K-rate. I’m out on McMahon until he improves his contact.

Anthony Rendon showing up on the fallers list just shows how amazing he was last year. After topping the HH%-Whiff% list last season, he’s fallen some, but still in the top 80th percentile. We witnessed his best season in 2019 and now he’s just back to his baseline performance, which is still great. I don’t have any concerns here.


Speaking of one’s best season, Marcus Semien had his in 2019. He showed steady progress over the last several years only to fall back to a 2017 version of himself this year. He’s at a league-average whiff% but was 6% better than league average last year. It’s led to a jump in K% by nearly 8%. It’s not just the strikeouts either. He’s not hitting the ball hard. It doesn’t help that his surrounding cast isn’t playing like they did in 2019. I’m beginning to think 2019 will be the outlier in Semien’s career.

Charlie Blackmon is 34 years old. At this stage of his career, his power metrics are pedestrian at best. The only thing keeping him from being Jeff McNeil is Coors Field. (Psst, I’m not a believer in McNeil’s power despite the recent outburst). He hasn’t stolen bases since 2018 and now his power appears to be declining. He’s dangerously close to being an average/runs play in fantasy. I’ll be fading him next year.

Like many Red Sox hitters, Xander Bogaerts has struggled to match his success from 2019. However, his numbers are still very good. Other than a slight dip in HH% and a small increase to his K%, he’s essentially the same hitter as he was in 2019. Much like Devers, I’m not concerned at all.

After back to back 20 homer seasons, Starling Marte‘s power metrics look more like 2017 than the previous two seasons. I was really impressed with how he improved his exit velocity on fly balls last season but it’s just not there this year. With an average exit velocity of 90.6 mph, he’s in the bottom 25% of all qualified hitters. His number one asset is his speed but he’ll be 32 years old next month his value could slip significantly if he’s unable to provide a rebound in the power department next season.


(Getty Images)

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Blast Zone Launch Angle – Climbers and Fallers

In the introduction to Blast Zone Barrels (BZB), I determined the parameters for the metric based on barreled balls that result in home runs at the highest frequency. I ran correlations and concluded that while it certainly (and quite obviously) has a strong correlation to power, it also has a moderate correlation year over year. I also took a look at outliers over the last three seasons. While Part one covered the genesis of the metric, part two will expand the metric by looking at all batted balls hit within the Blast Zone launch angle band (23-35 degrees). It’s a similar concept to what my colleague, Dan Richards wrote over at Pitcher List last season. Give the article a read, it’s very intriguing. 

Part Two of this series will hopefully provide a little more value for the upcoming fantasy baseball season. First, a quick reminder of the parameters of a BZB. It’s a barreled ball hit between 23 degrees and 35 degrees of launch angle. But, what it ignores is the balls hit at those launch angles that do not qualify as a barrel. In other words, balls that are hit at ideal launch angles for home runs without the extremely high exit velocity. The table below displays the league-wide average exit velocity of all batted balls between 23 degrees and 35 degrees.



AVERAGE EXIT VELOCITY ON BALLS HIT WITHIN BLAST ZONE BARREL LAUNCH ANGLE (23 -25 DEGREES)

2017 (AVG EV) 2018 (AVG EV)

2019 (AVG EV)

90.6 MPH 90.9 MPH

91.3 MPH

As a whole, balls are being hit harder at ideal launch angles over the last three seasons. Part of that can be attributed to the juiced ball. It’s also likely that players are “swinging for the fences” more often which has increased power production but has attributed to the league-wide elevated strikeout rate. Knowing this, let’s look at some three-year trends. I set the parameters for at least 40 batted balls hit within the launch angle band of 23 and 35 degrees for each of the last three seasons. To be fair, I relaxed the qualifying threshold to 25 BBEs for a single season if a player qualified with 40+ BBE in the other two seasons. 

What trends would we expect in regards to average exit velocity on balls hit in this range based on age? Well, naturally, we would expect the trend for aging veterans to be declining, right? You also might expect younger hitters to improve their exit velocity. If that’s what you assumed, then you’d be correct. Shocker! Of the sample I conducted, the list featuring the largest fallers had an average age of 34.7. The List featuring the largest climbers were a hair younger than 30 at 29.7 years to be exact. Below is the list of climbers with over the last three seasons and their current age.

Average Exit Velocity of Balls Hit at Launch Angles Between 23 - 35 Degrees - Climbers

PlayerAge2017 (MPH)2018 (MPH)2019 (MPH)Diff (19-17)
Yoan Moncada2594.890.995.91.1
Starling Marte3187.092.796.89.8
Shin Soo Choo3791.394.995.84.5
Nick Castellanos2892.693.194.01.4
Nelson Cruz4096.397.399.93.6
Mike Trout2893.894.095.31.5
Kyle Seager3290.691.495.14.5
Kole Calhoun3290.891.993.42.6
Josh Bell2791.094.294.53.5
Eugenio Suarez2889.992.093.63.7
Anthony Rendon3091.992.094.72.8
Alex Bregman2690.692.694.13.5
Christian Yelich2890.793.996.45.7
Didi Gregorius3087.288.892.45.2
D.J. LeMahieu3187.59295.58.0
Jason Jeyward3086.987.690.33.4
Kris Bryant2890.991.293.82.9
Matt Chapman2794.493.998.84.4
Xander Bogaerts2785.193.7948.9



A couple of quick points. Mike Trout continues to be the best player and baseball AND is still getting better! There isn’t much he can’t do. Nick Castellanos is my boy! I covered him extensively in Part 1 and love his new landing spot. He’s going to ball out in Cincy and is essentially a J.D. Martinez clone. I included Yoan Moncada because of his huge boost in exit velocity from 2018 to 2019. Was he hiding an injury in 2018? He smoked the ball in his debut back in 2017 but fell way back in 2018. Either way, he absolutely crushed the ball at all launch angles last year and is still just 25 years old. He’s my dark horse to win the AL MVP.

Can we talk about Nelson Cruz and Shin-Soo Choo for a second who appear to be defying the aging curve? Without these two old heads, the average age of the climbers falls to 28.7 which sounds more reasonable. Now, we all know Cruz is a monster and lights up the Statcast page but how has he gotten even better from age 37 to age 39? Averaging a tick under 100 mph within the blast zone launch angle puts him third behind only Joey Gallo and Miguel Sano (both averaged over 100 mph). If you’re expecting a decline from him this year, don’t. Only an injury or God forbid COVID could stop him from crushing in the shortened season. I bet you didn’t expect to see Choo here. On average, he actually hits the ball harder at ideal launch angles than Mike Trout! Think about that for a second. Given the short season, maybe move him up a few spots. He’s certainly is not finished just yet.


Let’s touch on a couple of other veterans who could be sleepers in 2020. Kyle Seager and Kole Calhoun have both steadily increased their exit velocity on ideal launch angles. Calhoun’s playing time could be spotty and news recently came out that he tested positive for COVID. At this point, he’s slight fade until we have more information. However, Seager should hit third or fourth in Seattle, albeit in an awful lineup. Even still, he should provide pop with decent run production. Did you notice Jason Heyward in the mix here? I almost fell asleep writing his name. His metrics aren’t great but he’s shown steady improvement over the last three years. He improved his walk rate and ISO last year and his defense should keep him in the lineup most days. Maybe he can put it together for two months in 2020?

Christian Yelich is just ridiculous. At age-28, he should continue to be an MVP candidate for the next three to five years. He’s my top pick going into the abbreviated 2020 season. Would you look at Alex Bregman? His barrel rate may be brutal and he scored poorly on my Blast Zone Barrels metric, but here we are. The reason he’s been so good in addition to his unbelievable plate discipline is this. He has improved on consistently hitting batted balls at ideal launch angles with authority. He doesn’t need to hit the ball 105 mph to hit a home run. I’m fading him less as a result of this research. 

The steady growth from Eugenio Suarez over the last four seasons has been fun to watch. He’s been successful in a similar manner to Bregman but without elite plate skills. Still, given his home park and this metric, I’d expect another great season from him. Josh Bell has arrived! He didn’t quite put it all together in 2019 but had an MVP-like first half. I’m a believer that he’s closer to the first half Bell than the 2018/second half Bell we saw. I’m buying and might jump him over an aging first baseman I’ll cover below.

Finally, can we talk about the elephant in the room? Starling Marte, WTF!?! His average exit velocity on balls hit between 23 and 35 degrees jumped nearly 10 mph from 2017! That was the year he was busted for PEDs. Hmmm? Unfortunately, his ground ball rate continues to hover around 50%. But, his career-best 18.5% HR/FB rate in 2019 was certainly justified. Even with some negative regression, Marte could still provide plenty of pop. Will Marte transform into a power hitter late into his career? It would require a launch angle adjustment but could certainly prolong his career as his speed declines. Xander Bogaerts’ presence on this list is largely due to a wrist injury in 2017 that sapped his power. He’s essentially been the same guy the last two seasons and at age-27, it doesn’t appear anything is going to change. Oh, hello there D.J. LeMahieu! The research I’ve done on D.J. points his results from 2019 being mostly sustainable. Bet against him if you will but he hits the ball as hard as Trout at ideal launch angles and has the short porch in right field.

Below is a graphical representation of the largest risers covered above.

Average Exit Velocity of Balls Hit at Launch Angles Between 23 - 35 Degrees - Fallers

PlayerAge2017 (MPH)2018 (MPH)2019 (MPH)Diff (19-17)
Daniel Murphy3591.088.485.9-5.1
Yuli Gurriel3689.689.788.4-1.2
Yadier Molina3793.391.290.3-3.0
Whit Merrifield3191.790.687.8-3.9
Paul Goldschmidt3297.393.493.3-4.0
Justin Smoak3394.894.093.0-1.8
Josh Reddick3388.589.286.9-1.6
Joey Votto3691.393.490.1-1.2
J.D. Martinez3296.396.094.3-2.0
Albert Pujols4092.493.690.3-2.1
Kurt Suzuki3693.891.186.7-7.1

This is a shorter list. I won’t spend too much time on these guys because many of them aren’t fantasy relevant outside of deeper formats. Kurt Suzuki had a nice run in his mid-30s, but he may just be cooked. Yadier Molina isn’t far behind. He may be able to contribute with moderate power this year but after 2020, I think his career is just about over. Same for Albert Pujols and potentially Joey Votto. Everyone knows about Pujols but the metrics on Votto are just as ugly. Even in the favorable home park, I will not be betting on bounceback. FREE KYLE TUCKER! It’s getting embarrassing with Josh Reddick and the Astros. He’s hardly a plus defender anymore and can’t hit with a 94 wRC+ and a .134 ISO last season. Come on Astros.

Daniel Murphy’s 2019 can be attributed to a finger injury, but even the metrics from 2018 are pretty scary. Coors Field could help but I’m not betting on a power resurgence. Then again, if health is on his side for the short season, I could envision Murphy putting together a fortunate .350 BA – 7 HR type season. Yuli Gurriel’s Statcast metrics have never been great and at age-36, his exit velocity is declining. He was unbelievably fortunate in 2019 and I’d be surprised if he hit more than seven homers in 2020. Justin Smoak is interesting. He’s 33 years old and has shown natural regression in terms of BZ launch angle exit velo. However, 93.0 mph is still well-above the league average. He’ll get a boost with the DH and with his new home park, so I wouldn’t give up on him just yet, just don’t expect much in 2021.


Now to the fantasy-relevant players. J.D. Martinez went from being elite to very good. Should we be concerned? He’s 32 years old and there’s some evidence of player’s declining at that age. The Red Sox are still stacked even without Mookie Betts, but that means fewer RBI opportunities. Remember how I mentioned earlier that Nick Castellanos was J.D. part two? Well, if the trend continues, Nicky C could outperform JDM in 2020. Bold or not? Paul Goldschmidt falls into a similar category as JDM. They are the same age and have shown signs of declining. Not only has Goldy’s BZ EV fallen quite significantly since 2017, but he’s also a full mile per hour lower on average than JDM. I absolutely hate Busch Stadium for home runs and will very likely dock him given this information. I mentioned Josh Bell earlier and could see Bell outpacing Goldy in 2020. To Bell’s dismay, his surrounding lineup is awful, so I think Goldy bests him in run production. That being said, I’ll take Bell in batting average and home runs.

Finally, there’s Whit Merrifield. The late bloomer who helped players win championships in 2017 and 2018. He came out of nowhere in his late twenties to hit 19 homers and steal 34 bags back in 2017. Then as an encore, hit 12 bombs and stole 45 bags with a .304 BA in 2018. In 2019, the average stayed and the power returned (somewhat to 16 HR) but his steals were cut in half. The trend in the table above is extremely worrisome. He was saved by the juiced ball last year but now at age-31, I don’t think his power will play. His sprint speed is still in the top 15 percentile but is clearly falling. Over a full 162, I’d be hard-pressed to project more than 10 homers and 20 steals. What does that mean over 60 games? How about 4 homers and 8 steals. Yikes. He’s teetering very close to contributing an empty batting average. I’ll go out on a limb and say he’s nearly undraftable in 2021.




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Rankings: Top 30 Hitters for 2019

TOP 30 HITTERS FOR 2018

ANNNNNND WE’RE BACK!! FreezeStats is already pumping out player projections and rankings along with individual player profiles for our second season.  I want to start with early hitter rankings here in December for the upcoming 2019 season. Remember, it’s never too early for fantasy baseball. I’ve included the rankings on a simple table below.  I will be coming out with positional rankings as well as my full projections throughout January, February and into March (draft season).  I will touch on a few players at the bottom of this article including some surprise rankings and a few omissions. You won’t see any catchers here, sorry guys but I don’t see any catchers cracking my top 50 hitters. Ok, without further ado, I give you the top 30 hitters for 2019!

RankNamePositionTeam
1Mike TroutOFLAA
2Mookie BettsOFBOS
3Jose Ramirez2B/3BCLE
4Francisco LindorSSCLE
5J.D MartinezOF/DHBOS
6Trea TurnerSSWAS
7Christian YelichOFMIL
8Manny MachadoSS/3BFA
9Ronald AcunaOFATL
10Nolan Arenado3BCOL
11Freddie Freeman1BATL
12Jose Altuve2BHOU
13Trevor StorySSCOL
14Alex BregmanSS/3BHOU
15Aaron JudgeOFNYY
16Paul Goldschmidt1BSTL
17Bryce HarperOFFA
18Andrew BenintendiOFBOS
19Giancarlo StantonOFNYY
20Javier Baez2B/SSCHC
21Charlie BlackmonOFCOL
22Xander BogaertsSSBOS
23Anthony Rizzo1BCHC
24Anthony Rendon3BWAS
25Whit Merrifield2B/OFKC
26Starling MarteOFPIT
27Marcell OzunaOFSTL
28Eugenio Suarez3BCIN
29Khris DavisOFOAK
30Kris Bryant3BCHC

Mookie Betts is coming off his best offensive season hitting a career-high .346 with 32 HR, 30 steals, an MVP and a World Series ring. Oh, and he and his wife had a baby this offseason and Betts is an incredible bowler. There’s not much he can’t do, except make it to the number one spot on my fantasy baseball rankings. That spot goes to the incredible Mike Trout. To be fair, based on my projections, Betts would be my number one earner. However, on a per-game basis, that honor goes to Trout. These two are 1 and 1A. I couldn’t pull the trigger on Betts over Trout because if Trout plays 162 games, we are probably looking at a 45 HR 30 steal season, that’s something I can’t see from Betts. If you want Betts over Trout, I have zero issues with that.

I could see moving Bryce Harper up a little bit if he signs in Philadelphia or to another favorable park with a solid line up. As of now, his inconsistent batting average drops him down a bit. Harper followed up his poor first half with a second half that we all expected from Harper coming into 2018 but he was clearly hurt by the shift throughout the season. He’s still a solid bet for 35 homer and 10+ steals, so he still needs to be inside the top 20.

Andrew Benintendi may seem like a reach in front of Stanton, Baez, and Blackmon but I see the arrow pointing up with Benintendi. His power dipped a bit in 2018 but I think he was a bit unlucky and should drop a few more over the Green Monster next year. The move to the leadoff spot will hurt his RBI production but will help his run total, so it’s a wash. Besides, Betts, Just Dong, and Bogaerts (who I will discuss right after) are hitting behind him. He’s the favorite right now to lead MLB in runs, I’ll put him at 115 for 2019. Now, back to Xander Bogearts. I recently compared my projections for X to Alex Bregman on Twitter. I believe Xander’s hand injury lingered in 2017 which completely killed his power. His power returned in 2018 and he even missed about 20 games. Bogaerts has a solid approach, good contact skills, above average power, and some speed. What’s not to love? Oh and hitting behind three of the top 20 hitters in the game helps.

Left Out of the top 30

Some of you may be surprised to not see teenage phenom Juan Soto on this list. To be fair, I have him 31st, he just missed. I love the plate skills but the batted ball profile was far from elite. Yes, he’s so damn young and will be a stud, but there isn’t any speed (5 SB in 2018) where three came in one game. I’d bump him up a bit in OBP leagues but I think he’s around a .280 hitter with mid-20s power and a ton of runs. That’s great but I’ll take Kris Bryant just ahead of him, especially if he comes into the season healthy. It’s close and I don’t fully trust Bryant given how his last two seasons went, but for Soto to justify a top 30 spot without speed, he needs to really mash. He’s great, but I want to see how he responds to a full offseason of adjustments.

Rhys Hoskins is a guy I absolutely loved coming into 2018 and while he didn’t quite meet the lofty expectations, he didn’t disappoint either. Unfortunately, Hoskins’ batted ball quality took a pretty big dip last year and I think his batting average is capped around .270 given his fly ball tendencies. That being said, he’s probably going to end up around .250 with 30-35 HR and good counting stats. Of course, there’s no speed, so Hoskins is a guy I’m taking around 50 overall, but not any sooner.

Joey Votto not inside the top 30 may not be a surprise, but I do think he was dealt some very bad luck in 2018 in terms of power and RBI production. Votto is still Votto. What I mean by that is  he still take a billion walks, makes good contact and is just flat out smart. He should provide a very solid batting average with 20ish homers with well above-average run production. Unfortunately, that’s not top 300. He falls around 40 for me overall. A similar player going into 2019 is Baby Vlad. Vlad Jr. is projected to be a monster and I have him hitting .300 with mid-20s pop and that’s in under 600 plate appearances. If he was guaranteed to be up Opening Day, he might slot right in front of Soto and KB.

I’m looking to get the top 20 or 25 Starting Pitchers out next week along with more player profiles.

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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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