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Tommy Pham Player Profile

Tommy Pham (TB – OF) – #2EarlyMocks ADP 78; NFBC ADP 62

After Tommy Pham was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays at the end of July of 2018, he was one of the best hitters in the league. In the second half, Pham hit .331 with a .433 OBP, eight homers and six steals, good for a wRC+ of 177! That was only in 50 games. Pham doesn’t get the notoriety he deserves because of a late break in the big leagues and a slow start to 2018. Even given that slow start, Pham carries an impressive 138 wRC+ the last two seasons which is tied for 16th among qualified hitters. He hits for average, hits home runs, steals bases, and takes walks. So, why isn’t he being drafted like a top 20 hitter? Players like Adalberto Mondesi, A.J. Pollock, and Eddie Rosario have gone ahead of Pham in the 2 Early Mocks but is gaining steam in the NFBC drafts. I’d take Pham over all three players just mentioned, and here’s why.

Starting with plate discipline because I love a player who commands the zone. His O-Swing (or chase rate), zone-contact, and swinging strike rate are all above league average. In fact, his O-Swing is nearly 8% lower than the league average, which is in the top 10% of all players. Pham doesn’t get beat by pitches outside the zone. Some might look at his 24.6% K rate, which is worse than the league average, and think he’s a bit of a free swinger. It’s the actually the contrary, Pham is patient and sees a ton of pitches putting him deep counts. The downside is a higher strikeout rate, the upside is an elevated walk rate. It also allows Pham to wait for his pitch which is verified in his 48.5% hard contact rate! The elevated walk rate allows Pham additional stolen base opportunities. It’s a trade-off Fam (Pham?)

Speaking of hard contact and batted quality, Pham does not discriminate when it comes to hitting the ball. He sprays balls to all fields. Let’s take a look at his hard-hit rate to all fields compared to the league average. 

Hard Hit Percentage by Batted Ball Direction

 Pull SideCenterOpposite Field
Tommy Pham46.7%52.8%43.8%
League Average39.5%37.3%25.9%

I challenge you to find a player with a similar quality of contact to all fields. I’m mostly kidding, I should just do the work myself but I’m feeling lazy. Just kidding, no one compares, I just checked. Christian Yelich and Shin-Soo Choo come close with hard contact to center and the opposite field but fall short when including the hard-hit pulled rate. What this does is allow Pham to avoid shifts and will result in an elevated BABIP. Pham’s batted ball distribution is very diverse as well hitting just over a third of his batted balls to both the pull side (37%)  to center (35%), and over 25% the other way. What also contributes to a higher BABIP is his high line drive rate and his foot speed. So, his .342 BABIP from 2018 doesn’t seem out of place, especially when you consider his career .351 BABIP!

Pham does possess a near-50% groundball rate which will limit his home run upside, but he’s average 23.5% HR/FB the last two seasons. Pham is not all that different than 2018 MVP Christian Yelich, he just hasn’t been as healthy. If you miss out on Yelich, don’t sweat it. Just wait five rounds and grab ya boy Pham! I’ve projected Pham for 23 homers and 17 steals but that’s in just 574 plate appearances. Therein lies the discount when it comes to Pham. I anticipate Pham’s ADP to drop in Yahoo, ESPN, and CBS leagues as we approach draft season in full force the next couple months. If I had to guess, Pham’s ADP settles in around 78 overall where he was drafted in the #2EarlyMocks. If he can stay healthy for 650 PA, I could see a 25/20 season with over 100 runs and a solid batting average.

via Gfycat

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Weekly Rundown – Finding Nimmo at a Stripling Club

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tommy Pham Validating Fantasy Star Status

The fantasy community was split on Tommy Pham coming into 2018 and for good reason. You had a 29-year-old career minor leaguer coming off monster 6.1 WAR season per FanGraphs when his previous most valuable season was 2016 with a 1.6 WAR. Pham has been plagued by injuries, vision, and just plain poor performance in the past, so the skepticism was valid. I was on the side leaning on the optimistic side mostly due to the correction in his vision evidenced by his plate discipline improvements I’ll highlight later, but also due to his immense tools.

In 2017, his plate discipline improvements were a direct result and confirmation that his vision issues were in the past. Take his O-Swing (swings outside the zone) of 19.0% in 2017 which is 11% lower than league average. His swing strike rate was nearly cut in half from the previous season down to a career-best 7.6% (league average is around 10%). I suppose injuries are still a concern and the inflated HR/FB rate which sat at 26.7% in 2017 seemed unsustainable, which I did agree with. So, the skeptics remained firm on their assessment of Pham as they searched for other outliers such as the .368 BABIP. Surely that comes down and he won’t hit .300 again.

So far in 2018, Pham’s BABIP sits at .386! His career BABIP in the majors is a robust .360 in just over 1000 plate appearances. I think it’s safe to say that Pham is going to carry and sustain an elevated BABIP throughout the season. How though? Well, he hits a lot of ground balls and his average sprint speed is 28.5MPH which is in the top 14% of the league. In addition, Pham has a knack for hitting a high quantity of balls that fall within the low drive (LD%) and high drive (HD%) per xStats. As you can see, these batted ball types are by far the most valuable in terms of batting average but also in terms of SLG, wOBA, etc for high drives. In 2018, Pham has hit an incredible 40% of his batted balls within these two categories (LD+HD). The league average is 28.0%. This justifies not only his ability to yield an elevated BABIP but to also provide solid power numbers despite a low fly ball rate.

Simply put, Pham squares up a lot of baseballs. I mentioned his low launch angle previously which currently sits at 6.9 degrees which is up 0.4 degrees from 2017; that’s almost negligible. Most players that have that average launch angle are hitters with low power numbers. Checking BaseballSavant, his expected batting average is .318, and his expected slugging is amazing .611! Compare that to Christian Yelich who also has a low launch angle but hits the ball extremely hard. His expected slugging is currently a still solid .496 but still over 100 points lower than Pham. Essentially, Pham is a beast. His current wOBA is .417 but Statcast thinks that’s low as his xwOBA currently sits at .443 AKA Mike Trout territory. 

The last skill Pham possesses, is his ability to avoid chasing pitches out of the zone and smoke balls inside the zone. His O-swing (or chase rate) is 21% while his zone contact is nearly 92%! This has led to a career-low swinging strike rate of only 7.4% (league average is about 10%). To me, this verifies that his vision issues are behind him as they were last year as well. His 20% strikeout rate would also be a career low and his 17.5% walk rate would be a career high.

Unfortunately, the injuries continue to pop up as Pham has currently missed a couple of games due to a groin injury this week. Which is a shame of course because I’d love to see a full season of health from Pham. Maybe he can get through these minor injuries and find his way to 145+ games in 2018. If that happens, you may be looking at a top 20 fantasy player at year’s end to the tune of something like .300 BA, 25 HR, 30 steals while scoring 100 runs hitting in the two-hole for the Cardinals. I’m going to have to back off in terms of stolen bases because of the groin issue, but a 25-20 season is well within reach for Pham. It starts and ends with health.