Swingin’ on the Gallo’s Pole

The ultimate three true outcome hitter and the ultimate BOOM or BUST fantasy player. Joey Gallo is currently going just inside the top 100 after hitting 41 HRs in only 532 plate appearances in 2017!  That’s nuts. YARRR!  You know what else is nuts? Having 196 K and 75 BB in those 532 plate appearances. Calculating, calculating… that comes to 58.6% of his PA resulted in a HR, K, or walk in 2017. I’m not going to give the easy, lazy comparison of Gallo to former Texas Ranger Chris Davis because Gallo strikeouts more (hard to believe), walks more (that’s good), and actually hits the ball harder and in the air more than Davis ever has.  There is no single player comp for Gallo.

The closest comp I can find is that of Miguel Sano. He strikes out just about as much (36.8% for Gallo, 35.8% for Sano) and hits the ball just as hard as Sano (93.1 mph for Gallo, 92.4 mph for Sano). However, he’s a much better athlete than Sano and hits the ball in the air over 10% more often than Sano. That’s good for his home run totals but bad for his BABIP and batting average. But let’s go back to how hard he hits the ball. He actually hits the ball just about as hard as anyone.  Take a look at the 2017 Baseball Savant Statcast Leaderboard. Gallo is second only to Aaron Judge in Brls/BBE and 4th in Brls/PA! Notice anything interesting about the top five in Brls/PA? They all finished in the top five for home runs in 2017. That’s great, but you know the issue; Gallo strikes out way too much. His number of batted ball events is more than 100 less than any of the other top 5 HR hitters, which makes what he did in 2017 even more impressive.

So we know with all those fly balls his BABIP and batting average are going to suffer but a .250 BABIP is awfully low for a guy like Gallo. As a result of his frequent hard contact, I don’t think he’s a .209 hitter unless his K rate goes up to something like 43%. As crazy as that sounds, it’s actually possible with a guy like Gallo. That’s the downfall. If that happens, Texas may have to send him back to the minors. So the floor could look something like a sub .200 average and 20 HRs due to being sent to the minors for a half a season or so. Not good.

But, this young lumberjack of a man is 24 years old, 6-5 and 235 pounds. He improved his overall contact and lowered his swinging strike rates. They are still basically among the league’s worst rates but have I mentioned he hit 41 HRs with those contact numbers! Oh I did? Anyways, I’ll bet on talent and youth more often than not. I’m willing to gamble on him for 2018 not only because of the power, but because his career 13.9% BB rate which should help him through prolonged slumps. Also, his 123 WRC+ in 2017 ranked third on the Rangers behind only Beltre and Chirinos, neither of which played over 95 games in 2017. By production, he’s basically one of the top two or three hitters on the Rangers (Andrus and rookie Willie Calhoun should also be up there) and spent most of the season hitting between the number 5 and number 9 slots in the order.

When you break down the numbers, he’s not all that different than Aaron Judge. I’m expecting regression from Judge in terms on batting average and with a full season of at bats from Gallo, their numbers could be almost identical with about 80 picks between them. For 2018, I’ll give Gallo: .230/.340 43 HRs, 84 runs, 93 RBI, 7 steals. Look at his 2nd half splits where his batted ball luck was more neutral. Don’t sleep on his speed either, he had a 5.5 speed score in 2017 and is an above average base runner. Ten steals is not out of the question. That’s the Joey Gallo I expect in 2018 and he qualifies at 1B, 3B, and OF. Way Too Early ADP checks in around 98. With those projections he slides just inside the top 50 overall. The risk is too high to take him there but I wouldn’t let him get much further than 75 overall.

Snells Like Teen Spirit

Yes that title is a Nirvana reference from the early 1990s and this is a Blake Snell sleeper post.  My guess is some of you weren’t even born in 1991 when the song was released but that’s OK.  This is about the now!  I know most of us have had or streamed Snell in the past where he tied us to the WHIP-ping Postbut look for Snell to take another step forward in 2018.

On the surface Snell looks like he’s regressed from his rookie season in 2016 in terms of ERA, K%, and HR/9.  Oh cool, looks like a great sleeper Max!   Ugh.  I try not to give up on guys with pedigree and talent who are 25 and younger (Snell will be 25 in 2018).  Some positives include improvements in the most troubling part of his game and that’s BB% down 1.9% from 2016!  That’s a lot, but his walk rate is still too high at 10.8% but it’s a start.  Digging deeper, his Swinging strike % is still very good at 10.8%, so that K% of 21.8% is below where it should be.   He should be around 24% at least bringing that K/9 up between 9.0 and 9.5.  Ok, now we are getting somewhere.

His arsenal consists of a fastball, change up, slider, and curve.  His change and curve are both plus pitches.  I like that he started throwing his change up more as the season progressed because that’s been his best pitch.  The other thing that intrigued me along with the curve, his fastball graded out as a plus pitch as well in 2017!  He throws it at 95-96 so if he can command it, he’ll get some swings and misses on that pitch; so now he’s got 3 plus pitches! This is starting to sound pretty good.

While his overall 2017 season numbers don’t on the surface display the changes I’m hoping for from Snell, his 2nd half splits look like he’s already made adjustments.  Here they are: 23.7 K%, 8.0 BB%, 12.4% SwStr, 3.49 ERA, with a 3.56 FIP to back it up.  That’s in 77.1 innings so it’s a good sample.   If I narrow his splits down to his final 11 starts of 2017 from August 1st on, he made significant changes to his pitch mix.  He increased the use of his curve and change by 5.2% and 5.9% respectively while decreasing his slider and fastball by 4.4% and 5.8% respectively.  He made a conscious change to throw his most effective pitches more often.  Decreasing the fastball usage actually increased its value (mentioned above as a plus pitch).  Remember, he’s still young with only 218 IP in the majors so he’s still learning how he can use his arsenal to his advantage.

All of the stats listed above happened after he was sent to the minors for poor performance in the 1st half so it seems like he’s ironed out the kinks.  He totaled 173 IP in 2017 so there shouldn’t be an innings cap on him for 2018.  That being said, he started 31 games between AAA and MLB so his IP/start is not great.  That’s why I can’t project 200 IP even if I think he’ll get 30-32 starts in 2018.  He’s going outside the top 200 right around SP 60.  There’s very little risk involved with Snell at that pick.  I think he should be inside the top 45-50 for starting pitchers.  For 2018 I’ll give Snell: 11 Wins, 3.82 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 182 Ks in 177 IP.  Early Mock drafts have him going around 212 overall.

Jameson Goes Down Smooth

Jameson Taillon Sleeper Post:

Listen, this guy’s been through quite a bit over the last 8 months or so, much more than most of us can relate to.  So I could be immature and tell you his stats during ONE BALL counts, but I won’t.  I’ve matured in my adulthood, kinda…

Jameson Taillon was a top tier pitching prospect but has been derailed with injuries throughout both the minors and now cancer.  It’s pretty amazing that he came back after less than 6 weeks but obviously he was not the same pitcher he was prior to the diagnosis/surgery (2.73 ERA in the 1st half, 5.96 ERA in the 2nd half).  Either way, this is a tough MFer or he has elite stuff, how about both.

But wait!  His June ERA which was just after the surgery was 2.42 in 22.1 innings.  So what’s the deal, why such sub-par 2nd half?  Was his body breaking down due to everything he was going through?  Nope, his Fastball velo averaged over 95 mph, same as the first half.  His Ks dropped by 1.5% but the BB% also dropped 1%.

The only thing that jumps out at me is the BABIP.  Taillon was unlucky all season based on a crazy high .352 BABIP, but check out the 2nd half, the BABIP ballooned up to .375!!  That’s almost as unbelievable as Avisail Garcia’s .392 BABIP in 2017.  Talk about a major fade in 2018, but I digress.  Taillon’s BABIP in 2016 was .287.  Maybe he’s not that good but somewhere around .310 sounds about right to me.  Due to that unusually high BABIP, his SIERA and xFIPs were consistently lower than his ERA, both sat around 3.50 and 3.75 respectively in both halves.  I believe those numbers to be accurate looking forward to 2018.

Looking at his profile, I love the ground balls which sits around 50% in 235 major league innings.  Limiting fly balls help limit his home runs, this is ground breaking stuff here guys!  His control is great, I expect his walk rate to hover around the low 2s/9.  The only thing he won’t do well is strikeout a high percentage of batters.  The 20-22% K percentage is what you will get which should translate to around 8.0 K/9.  That’s fine but slightly below the average fantasy starter in this era.  At least he’s got three of the four qualities I look for in a starter: Quality stuff, high ground ball rate, and low walk rate (Ks obviously being the 4th).   For 2018, I will give Taillon:

185 IP, 13 W, 3.51 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 164 Ks (going around 180 overall in Way to Early Mocks)

You’ve got a guy who has top 20 SP upside going in 15th-16th rounds. So pour yourself a SINGLE high-BALL with of Jameson in 2018.

Don’t Sleep on Marcus Semien

Tags: Marcus SemienJorge Mateo, Sleeper, 2018 Projections

Marcus Semien is often overlooked in fantasy baseball.  With the young talented crop of shortstops, it’s easy to see why.  It might seem like Semien has been around a while and that’s true.  He got his first taste of the bigs with the White Sox in 2013 but didn’t become a full time player until he went to Oakland in 2015.  Since then he’s played in 399 games where he has hit 52 HRs and stolen 33 bases.  I’ll do the math for you. That averages out to 21 HRs and 13 steals per 162.  That doesn’t sound all that bad for a shortstop going around pick 225.  I actually think he’ll surpass those numbers in 2018 and here’s why.

First off, remember how I said it seemed like he’s been around for a while?  He’s ONLY going to be 27 in 2018.  So he’s right in the middle of his prime.  He did only hit 10 HRs in 85 games last year but missed a lot of time due to a wrist injury.  That wrist injury sapped a lot of his power when he came back off the DL hitting only 1 HR in August but bounced back with 5 in September.  That was backed up by his increased fly ball% to 43% in the 2nd half and his hard hit% back up over 30%.  The wrist injury is no longer a concern going into 2018.  Oh and did I mention he hit 27 dingers in 2016?  So there’s clearly power in his bat.

That brings us to his approach.  His K rate hovers around 22% but in 2017 his walk rate jumped to a career high 9.8%!  That’s good, he’s being more selective not chasing pitches out of the zone as much and as a result making better contact.  The increase in walks seems like it will stick, he had shown patience in the White Sox minor league system so his OBP should be on the rise. This is necessary because he doesn’t hit for a high average partially due to the elevated FB%.  I do think he got a little unlucky with his BABIP which was .300 in 2017.  He’s got good speed and hits line drives at an over 20% clip.  I mention the speed and while his 12 steals were a career high in 2017, it was only in 85 games and he’s efficient AF on the bases stealing 22 bases in his last 25 attemptsThat’s like 88%!  I’m thinking more like 15-18 in 2018.

I know Jorge Mateo is waiting to take over and he’s one of the more exciting players in the minors right now.  He came over from the Yankees in the Sonny Gray deal.  He’s got Billy Hamilton speed with developing power!  Scary.  Semien though, is under control through 2020 with the A’s and I don’t see Mateo up in 2018 except maybe in September for a cup of coffee as he’s only played 60 games above high A ball.  So playing time shouldn’t be an issue for Semien who batted almost exclusively in the #1 or 2 spot in the lineup last year.  He’ll have to keep up the walk rate to secure one of those spots for all of 2018.  The good news is, the A’s don’t really have anyone else to hit atop the order.  So, here’s what we are looking at for 2018:

.260/.337 22 HRs, 15 steals, 90+ runs and 68 RBI.  He’s going around pick #225 in Early Mocks.

Ozzie Albies 2018 Sleeper Post

Tags: Ozzie being Ozzie, Starboy, Francisco Lindor

Love me some Ozzie!  He’s got a ton of energy and plays with passion a little bit like Lindor…  I’m not gonna go that far to say that comparison but then again he’s only going to be 21!  Did you hear that? The kid is going to play the entire season at age 21!  I call these kinds of talented youngsters Starboys. I do think his upside will be similar to what 2016 Lindor did but with more speed.

So we know he has speed, typically around 30 steals per year in the minors, and he had 8 in 244 PA in the majors.  But let’s look at some other numbers from his two-month audition in 2017. You’ll notice that he flashed a little power hitting 6 HRs in 244 PA.  He also hit 9 in AAA before being called up.  His previous high was 6 in 2016.  You might think that 15 is more of a ceiling but digging deeper into his approach, his FB% jumped from around 30% in 2016 to 40% in 2017 (38% in AAA).  That isn’t by accident.  A jump of 2-3% might be, but not 10%.  In his small sample, he hit the ball relatively hard, especially for an undersized 20-year-old and he pulls over 40% of his batted balls while rarely hitting popups.  I like this approach, it’s very similar to what Lindor and Jose Ramirez are doing in Cleveland.  If the ball remains the same in 2018 (and why wouldn’t it, the ratings are up), expect the HRs to keep coming for Albies.

Whatever is going on with the ball is helping the 8-10 HR hitters more so than the Stanton / Judges of MLB.  See the table below published by The Ringer about Alan Nathan’s trajectory calculator and the aforementioned NCAA seam-height study.

Now again this is just a study on NCAA balls but it at least gives us an idea about how extra distance can be added to the ball within the legal parameters.

That extra 5-10 feet turn those warning track fly outs into dingers.  “Just enough” HRs count the same as Judge’s 495-foot blasts.  Expect a few ups and downs throughout the year because remember, he’s only 21!  Did I say that already?  The steals will be there as well, he was very efficient in 2017, at nearly 90% success rate at should be slotted 1st or 2nd in an underrated lineup with a better than average Suntrust home park.  Unfortunately, with his new approach I don’t think he’ll hit for as high of an average as originally expected, but you’ll take the HRs as a trade-off.

My 2018 Projections are: .277/.339, 90 runs, 16 HRs, 70 RBI and 27 steals (ADP around 171 in the Way Too Early Mock Drafts)