post

Fantasy Baseball – 2019 Rankings Recap: Hits and Misses

After each season comes to a close, I like to take a look back at my proverbial victory laps but also analyze where I missed on certain players and why. I use this time of reflection on my fantasy season to find flaws in my analysis to see where I can improve for next season. In some cases, there was nothing wrong with the process but rather an unexpected incident or variable that derailed a player’s season. One main variable was the ball. We were not privy to any information before the season starter that the ball would be more lively. From the limited information available, MLB does not plan on changing the properties of the ball for 2020 or at least to start the season. This means that valuing hit tool, high contact rates, and fly balls will be important yet again in 2020. It’s something I wish I had valued more in the preseason in 2019 but you’ll see below that I was able to identify players with these skills early on once data determined that the ball was extra bouncy.

I’ll have a complete assessment comparing my projections with the actual 2019 outcomes within the next couple of weeks. Of course, the juiced ball has really inflated offensive numbers while pitchers have taken it on the chin. I’m not expecting the results of the statistical analysis to be as close as they were last year, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. The list below is in no means to complete list of my hits and misses. If you’d like to check my preseason rankings, here’s the table. OK, let’s dive in!


Players I got right for 2020

Ketel Marte (2B, SS, OF)
I was extremely high on Ketel Marte coming into the season. I originally had him ranked around 150 overall until the D-Backs decided to sign veteran snoozer, Adam Jones to play Centerfield. I have nothing against Jones, he was a very good player for a long time and by all accounts a great guy. Marte was slated to play a lot of CF along with 2B and SS. That’s nice position flexibility which added to his overall value, especially in deeper formats. Assuming Jones would cut into Marte’s playing time a little bit, I knocked 10-15 games +/- off his projection which dropped him to 175 overall. Yahoo! Must have had a personal vendetta against Marte because they ranked him 274 overall!

When Marte was traded to Arizona in 2017, I was intrigued. His speed combined with high contact skills and developing power was too much to ignore. Going into his age-24 season and I noticed huge gains in hard contact, barrel rate, and extra-base hits in 2018. There was no reason to expect him to decline entering his age-25 season. High batting average and speed potential with moderate power were enough to skyrocket Marte up my ranks. I had him in over 50% of my leagues. I touted him all over, like here in the preseason, and here through two months of 2019, and here on Twitter. I love me some Marte! I’m most proud of this call if you can’t tell.

Xander Bogaerts (SS – BOS)
Don’t worry, the rest of my blurbs won’t be as in-depth as my Marte blurb. After a down year in 2018 due to a hand/wrist injury, Bogaerts was coming at a discount in 2019. Given his age and past performance, I compared Bogaerts to Bregman without the fanfare. Go ahead and take a look at both player’s final numbers. Not bad, right? I ranked Bogaerts 26th overall, which was probably higher than anyone (I think). Most big-box sites had him around 45 overall and he slipped to pick 50 in many drafts. On the Razzball Player Rater, he’s ranked 15th overall, so he was worth the lofty rank. I ended up with Bogaerts on many teams because I knew I could wait until the fourth round in most drafts.

Anthony Rendon (3B – WSH) and Eugenio Suarez (3B – CIN)
I’m pairing Rendon and Suarez together because they were both pushed down in the 3B rankings thanks to the helium of Vald Guerrero Jr. and the Kris Bryant believers. I had both Rendon over Bryant and Suarez over Guerrero. It sounds crazy now but almost everywhere you looked, both Bryant and Guerrero were ranked ahead of these guys. Rendon is ranked seventh on the Player Rater and Suarez is 32nd. Bryant is around 60 while Guerrero is much further down. I’ve always loved Rendon and he’s criminally underrated every year who also showed up on my HR/BRL underperformers this offseason. Well, he stayed healthy and finally delivered with an MVP-caliber 2019 season. Suarez just keeps getting better. I tweeted this last week. Players aren’t supposed to continue trending up like that! Can he do it again? I’d say no, but then again I have no idea. Either way, I’m just happy I Owned these guys in 67% of my leagues in 2019.


Trey Mancini (1B/OF – BAL)
I was encouraged by Mancini after diving deep into his Statcast Metrics after 2018. His barrel rate was fantastic but his results in power didn’t quite match up, especially with a favorable park for home runs. The Orioles had no depth on offense (or anywhere, really), so Mancini was going to be a fixture in the middle of their lineup. I thought we could see his first 30-homer season and here we are. Again, thanks in part to the juiced balls but Mancini has taken steps forward and ranks inside the top 40 on the Razzball Player Rater. However, he’s also improved his walk and strikeout rates along with his launch angle. His groundball rate has dropped nearly 10% boosting his expect batting average and home run totals. Sometimes guaranteed playing time and lineup spot matter. Also, in Mancini’s case, Camden Yards is a great place to hit. My analysis, while not all that analytical with Mancini but was correct for 2020.

Matt Boyd (SP – DET)
OK, so Boyd fell off in the second half thanks in part to an insanely elevated home run rate. The strikeouts certainly remained, so he wasn’t a total dud in the second half. While Boyd’s ratios did not improve from 2018, the league-wide ratios went up between 10-15%. Where Boyd improved was the whiffs. He struck out 238 batters this year after just 159 in 2018 with only 15 more innings. That’s a ton of value. He was being ranked between 70 and 90 on most sites and I placed him around the 60th SP. where is he in the Razzball Player Rater? The 43rd SP for 2019. Boom!

Matt Olson (1B – OAK)
Despite breaking a hamate bone in his wrist during the opening series in Japan, Olson has set a new career-high with 36 home runs.  Once again, Olson was yet another player I have interested thanks in part to my analysis on his unlucky home run per barrel rate. He had shown extremely promising Statcast metrics and was coming into his age-25 season. The surrounding lineup in Oakland was encouraging as well with improving stud Matt Chapman and Ramon Laureano combined with established veterans Khris Davis and Marcus Semien. Olson has 50-homer power in this environment and will likely be undervalued again in 2020.

Patrick Corbin (SP – WSH)
Corbin was a favorite of mine coming into 2018. I correctly projected him as a top 20 starter coming into 2018 based on past performance, pedigree, and being a second-year removed from Tommy John Surgery. His slider was the catalyst to his success in 2018 and he introduced a “slow slider” that was essentially a third pitch because of its change in velocity. The results against his slider were ridiculous. His chase rate on the pitch was over 50% with a swinging strike rate a hair short of 30% with whiff rates north of 50%! That’s crazy, over half the time hitter offered at his slider, they flat out missed it. While others were expecting regression, I didn’t see anything from 2018 that showed me that hitters were going to change their approach against his slider. And, they haven’t. His numbers are nearly identical in 2019 despite the league-wide jump in ERA.

Carlos Correa (SS – HOU)
Injuries. That’s the main reason for my skepticism on Correa, especially his back issues. I’ve always been a huge fan of Correa and it’s disappointing how injuries have derailed his last few years. Since the injuries started, he basically stopped running as well. In other words, Correa required the trifecta to provide value at his ADP of power, batting average, and health. I wasn’t going to risk spending a pick in the first four to five rounds on Correa given the low probability that all three would come to fruition. That and the depth at Shortstop was vast.

Matt Carpenter (3B – STL)
I highlighted Carpenter in the preseason as a third baseman to avoid coming into 2019 here at Pitcher List. Typically I stay away from older, established players coming off of career-years. Carp had a fantastic 2018 where he went nuts for about three months. He also was finally healthy. Previously, he had nagging injuries that either sapped his performance or forced him to miss time. I was not interested in betting on that to happen two years in a row given his age and history. This was kind of an easy call. However, you’ll see below when I discuss Josh Donaldson how this strategy backfired.




Brandon Nimmo (OF – NYM)
Fantasy baseball is funny because I was big on Nimmo’s breakout before the 2018 season. I tabbed his potential power riser after he began increasing his loft and fly ball rate in the preseason. Throughout the season his power played up and his patience made him a massive asset in OBP leagues. I noticed, however, that his contact rates were very poor to start 2019 and knew that he would struggle to keep his strikeout rate below 25%. I ranked him a touch lower than most big-box sites and quickly turned away completely after two weeks in 2019. I discussed how his elevated BABIP was not likely to remain and his contact rates continued to plummet. I didn’t own him anywhere but I recommended that all owners jump off the sinking ship early. 

Jurickson Profar (1B, 2B, 3B, OF – OAK)
The post-post-post hype sleeper finally delivered in 2018 with the Rangers. I, however, was not buying it. He popped up on my HR/BRL over-performers this offseason and was moving from friendly Globe Life Stadium in Texas to cavernous Oakland Colllusium. He also didn’t show great speed despite double-digit steals as well. His contact and K-BB rates were pedestrian and he didn’t have a position locked in with the Athletics. Ultimately, the juiced ball helped him reach decent power numbers but his batting average completely cratered. Besides, 20 homers aren’t as valuable as it used to be.

Early Season pivot due to performance

Austin Meadows (OF – TBR)
I wasn’t on Meadows in the offseason where I had him ranked between 150 and 200 but wasn’t completely out either. I realized early in the season that the Rays were not going to play games with platooning Meadows against lefties which was a concern coming into 2019.  Here’s what I said in a FantasyPros article on April 15th:

“He walked more frequently than he struck out last week, and his batted-ball profile is a thing of beauty. His hard contact via FanGraphs is 47.6%, and he’s hitting fly balls 42.9% of the time. His barrel rate (BRL%) is 17.9%, nearly triple his 6.4 BRL% from 2018.”

He was so hot at that point it would have been difficult to buy him from an owner but he lived up to the hype. He will be a target of mine in 2020 as I expect big things from Meadows for his encore. He’s an easy 35 homer 10-15 stolen base type of player hitting atop a good (not great) Rays lineup.

Eric Sogard (2B/SS – TOR)
I was able to identify Eric Sogard as a potential value through the first four weeks of 2019. It wasn’t his quality of contact or Statcast metrics but his elite contact rates and consistent playing time. He doesn’t even show up on the NFBC ADP list which covers nearly 1,000 players. The fact that Sogard was 15-team relevant for most of the season and even 12-team relevant for about half the season is pretty amazing. I think valuing guaranteed playing time and high contact rates are undervalued, especially in this era. Sogard was a huge plus in batting average without completely killing you in power and speed. It’s part of the reason I am interested in Luis Arraez next year.

Players I missed on for 2019 and why

Jesse Winker (OF – CIN)
I was really buying into the approach with Winker. He already had mastered plate discipline walking nearly as often as he strikes out. He was basically becoming a young Votto. Younger players with a good hit tool and approach can often develop more power as they age. I was expecting that jump in 2019 for Winker, but I was wrong. His hard contact rates dipped and he wasn’t walking as frequently. I think he’ll be dirt cheap and still young enough to improve. I’ll be back in is his ADP is after 250 for 2020.

Trevor Bauer (SP – CLE/CIN)
Trusting a pitcher with more than four years of MLB experience with one ace-level production was partially where I went wrong here. The other variable that clouded my judgment of Bauer was his constant tinkering. While I looked at his relationship with Driveline as a positive based on his performance in 2018, I failed to see it as a potential issue in 2019. Given his mentality, he’s always going to want to get better and improve even after a Cy Young caliber 2018. I think he’s also stubborn. My analysis of Bauer and his metrics was not wrong, but understanding the person behind the numbers is where I missed.


Jackie Bradely Jr. (OF – BOS)
I went in hard on JBJ this offseason and boy was I wrong. Sure, he improved on his power, but so did everyone! I fell in love with his power/Statcast metrics and figured it would translate into a huge bump in production. Combining 20+ homers with 15ish SB on one of the best offensive clubs in the league was intriguing to me this offseason. I failed to ignore the poor approach and contact rates and his slumps were just too deep to dig out of. After another sub-.230 season with under 10 steals, I’ll probably be out on JBJ next year. 

Jack Flaherty (SP – STL)
The youth of Flaherty is why I shied away. His walk rate was high, his BABIP was low, and his strand rate was high. I included those items in my negative regression article this offseason for FantasyPros. When comparing his season on a historical basis, he was bound for negative regression. So again, the process was not wrong. However, not realizing his true talent and youth/ability to improve was not factored into play. That’s my mistake. Flaherty was coming off an impressive season and was just 23 years old! To my surprise, Flaherty has cut his walk rate by over two percent, decreased his BABIP against, and increased the runners he’s stranded. Thanks in part to an increase in velocity and first-pitch strike rate, Flaherty has turned into an ace.

Josh Donaldson (3B – ATL)
The analysis of Donaldson was strictly injury based. Given his recent injury history and age, I was not expecting 500+ plate appearances in 2019 from JD. I also was put off by his increasing strikeout rate which was backed by a trend of decreasing contact rates. Those may not have been skills deterioration but rather a result of his nagging injuries. So, I missed on Donaldson but hit on Carpenter. I will bet against injury and age more often than not and when they are combined, I’ll bet against it nearly 100% of the time. I just have to face the facts that I will be wrong every once and a while.

Travis Shaw (1B, 2B, 3B – MIL)
Ugh. I couldn’t understand why everyone wasn’t higher on a guy in his prime coming off of two 30-homer campaigns with a shrinking K/BB ratio hitting in the middle of a very good Brewers lineup. It turns out, I was the idiot. Shaw was a disaster with contact rates as low as Joey Gallo without a fraction of the contact quality. He was a complete disaster. I’m not sure how I could have seen a 32.3% strikeout rate coming when his previous career-high was 25.1%. Aside from the extreme contact rates, his BABIP dropped to 0.060 points below his career rate and while a five percent jump in fly ball rate explains a portion of the decrease, it doesn’t cover it all. Either way, he’s a mess and I’m out on his next year.

Early Season pivot due to skills performance

Cody Bellinger (1B, OF – LAD)
So, as you can see in my preseason ranks, I was not a believer that Bellinger would recapture his brilliance from his rookie campaign. I had looked at Bellinger as a hitter with a hole in his swing which had been exploited, limiting him in batting average and some power. However, that assessment was wrong as he clearly made adjustments. After just two weeks of games, he had improved on his hard contact/barrel rates and saw massive improvements to his contact rate. Here’s what I said in April:

“We already knew he could mash but his plate discipline is on another level early this year. He’s swinging outside the zone less often and his contact rates have jumped up. As a result, his strikeout rate is down nearly 10%. If he can manage improved contact rates, Bellinger could provide first-round value and a huge profit for those who drafted him this offseason.”


Nick Pivetta (SP – PHI)
Like many “experts,” I don’t love that word, I was high on Pivetta coming into 2019 based on his K-BB rate and ERA-estimators. However, after just one start, I was able to identify an issue with Pivetta that carried over from 2019. His fastball location and pitch selection were poor. It was a little more clear to me that his elevated BABIP and possibly home run rate were going to continue to plague him. Here’s the blurb I wrote at FantasyPros in my Risers/Fallers article.

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


Photo by Fred Thornhill / The Canadian Press via AP

Comparing FreezeStats Rankings vs Yahoo! Rankings (Fantasy Baseball)

Earlier this week I covered players I was higher/lower on compared to ESPN rankings. Today, I’m looking into Yahoo! rankings and comparing where we differ. After reviewing both sets of rankings, I think Yahoo! is a little bit more accurate with their rankings compared to ESPN. I’ll be highlighting a few players on each end of the spectrum to help you prepare and find values in your draft this weekend. First, let’s start with players I’m higher on and the guys I’m targeting in Yahoo! leagues.

FreezeStats vs Yahoo! Rankings - Players I'm Higher On

PlayerFreezeStats RankYahoo RankDifference
Jose Ramirez, CLE3107
Francisco Lindor, CLE12219
Manny Machado, SD132310
Xander Bogaerts, BOS263913
Trevor Bauer, CLE254621
Patrick Corbin, WSH486113
Marcell Ozuna, STL406424
Adalberto Mondesi, KC516514
Justin Upton, LAA597415
Matt Olson, OAK639128
Luis Severino, NYY529644
Michael Conforto, NYM589739
Joey Gallo, TEX719827
Matt Chapman, OAK8910314
Robinson Cano, NYM7011141
Aaron Hicks, NYY8211230
Max Muncy, LAD8711932
Eloy Jimenez, CWS10512015
Craig Kimbrel,6212159
German Marquez, COL8412945
Stephen Piscotty, OAK10913627
Travis Shaw, MIL7714063
Yadier Molina, STL13516126
Nick Pivetta, PHI13616226
Ryan Braun, MIL12017050
Kenta Maeda, LAD16018222
Max Kepler, MIN15018838
Domingo Santana, SEA16620337
Jackie Bradley Jr, BOS14920455
Hunter Renfroe, SD16120948
Jesse Winker, CIN16821446
Ramon Laureano, OAK15421763
Shohei Ohtani, LAA13923293
Tyler Skaggs, LAA17423965
Joe Musgrove, PIT147250103
Ketel Marte, ARI17527499
Trey Mancini, BAL19028393
Danny Jansen, TOR20428480
Jimmy Nelson, MIL191291100
Anibal Sanchez, WAS201N/R-

This is the second straight year Yahoo has disrespected Jose Ramirez. He was WAY down in the 60s last year believe it or not. I guess a jump to 10th overall is an improvement. There’s a lot of talk about his second half because he hit .218 on a .208 BABIP. I’m sorry, but that BABIP won’t happen again. He might not reach .300 but a .275-.280 BABIP makes a lot more sense. Besides, even with the poor BABIP his full season pace using his second-half numbers comes out to 25 homers, 35 steals, 104 runs, and 88 RBI! You know I love Trevor Bauer, no surprise there, but Yahoo doesn’t seem to like Patrick Corbin either, gimme that slider! Marcell Ozuna and Justin Upton are guys who are slipping in rankings but shouldn’t be. They have not shown any signs of decline in their profiles, I’ll take both as my number two OF but could finish borderline top 12. Maybe Yahoo is devaluing power a little bit with their rankings of Matt Olson, Michael Conforto, and Joey Gallo. Did they know that power was down across the board last year? Kimbrel is low because he doesn’t have a job, so I’ll gladly grab him at his ranking.

I will gladly take 220 strikeouts from German Marquez at pick 129 overall. Thank you! Looks like I’m waiting until Ryan Braun through Ramon Laureano to grab my third outfielder. There’s a ton of talent there with power and/or speed there. I have another question. Why does Yahoo! hate players with multi-position eligibility who hit cleanup for one of the best lineups in the league and have back-to-back 30 homer seasons? Hi Travis Shaw. If you think I hate catchers, just look at Yadier Molina and Danny Jansen. Looks like those guys are my catchers in Yahoo leagues!

FreezeStats vs Yahoo! Rankings - Players I'm Lower On

PlayerFreezeStats RankYahoo RankDifference
Nolan Arenado, COL936
Javier Baez, CHC24177
Corey Kluber, CLE32257
Juan Soto, WSH392712
Starling Marte, PIT39309
Carlos Correa, HOU573522
Vladimir Guerrero Jr, TOR674918
Jack Flaherty, STL1005149
Corey Seager, LAD975443
Jameson Taillon, PIT865531
Jose Berrios, MIN986335
Gleyber Torres, NYY856817
Eddie Rosario, MIN916922
Matt Carpenter, STL79709
Jonathan Villar, BAL957817
Josh Donaldson, ATL1247945
David Price, BOS1068719
AJ Pollock, LAD1079512
Dee Gordon, SEA14110635
Tim Anderson, CWS17710968
Cesar Hernandez, PHI18413252
Kyle Schwarber, CHC23113893
Miguel Cabrera, DET245143102
Willson Contreras, CHC18814444
Billy Hamilton, KC23914891
Eric Hosmer, SD17914930
Dallas Keuchel,20815256
Buster Posey, SF18215527
Rick Porcello, BOS25516392
Jonathan Schoop, MIN24316578
Byron Buxton, MIN25417678
Jake Arrieta, PHI24618363
Odubel Herrera, PHI293187106
Gregory Polanco, PIT26019466
Jon Gray, COL29519798
Kyle Seager, SEA26720265
Alex Colome, CWS325222103
Arodys Vizcaino, ATL30822583
Miguel Sano, MIN28923851
Brandon Morrow, CHC340240100
Chris Paddack, SD30524758
Julio Teheran, ATL34127764

Oh my goodness Juan Soto! Yahoo! is extremely high on Soto expecting him to finish inside the top 30 overall. For reference, last season on the Razzball Player Rater, Paul Goldschmidt finished as the 28th player overall. Goldy hit .290 with 33 homers, 7 steals, and over 170 combined runs + RBI. Do we really expect Soto to pull that off this year? I’m out on Soto (for this year at least). So Jack Flaherty is an ace now? There are way too many question marks with Flaherty and quite a bit of regression in his numbers. He managed a .257 BABIP with a 9.6% walk rate, 79.3% strand rate, and a 1.19 HR/9. His zone rate was only 41.8% nearly four percent below league average and he didn’t induce swings outside the zone at an above-average rate. I don’t see a decrease in his walk rate and once the BABIP and strand rate stabilize, those home runs are going to hurt a lot more. Other 2nd & 3rd tier pitchers like Jameson Taillon and Jose Berrios are also being inflated in Yahoo’s rankings, I’ll be passing there as well. I’d much rather have Trevor Bauer and Patrick Corbin in the 4th and 6th rounds and basically have two aces.

Josh Donaldson and Miguel Cabrera are two old/broken veterans that I will be avoiding in my drafts. I think they both still have some of their skills intact but I just can’t trust them to stay healthy at all. Cesar Hernandez is a guy I really like but with the additions of Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen, he’s likely relegated to the bottom of the lineup where his counting stats will take a big hit. Tim Anderson is simply too high. He will be at the bottom of a not so great White Sox lineup. He should provide solid power and speed, but I’d rather have Yoan Moncada at a cheaper price. I mentioned how I don’t like the rabbits the other day and again, I’m the low man on them.

I’m not buying back into Byron Buxton this year. Hitting ninth is not good, I don’t care if he has a ton of homers this spring. Why is Gregory Polanco ranked inside of the top 200 overall? He’s out at least through May and likely to be sluggish upon his return. I’m not paying top 200 for a player who might just give you three months of production. Yahoo! has clearly bought into the Chris Paddack hype but is he going to give more than 100 innings?  I doubt it. I like him a ton and he’s shown his skills this spring but give me teammate Matt Strahm or Joe Musgrove instead.

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



post

2019 Top 25 Starting Pitcher Rankings

Early 2019 Rankings for Starting Pitchers

Very little introduction here. Pretty straightforward, I rank my top 25 starting pitchers and follow up below with a blurb about some of the players and rankings. I touch on a few players that are left off and why. I plan on spitting out positional rankings as soon as the new year flips. On with it!

RANKPLAYERTEAM
1Max ScherzerWas
2Chris SaleBOS
3Jacob deGromNYM
4Justin VerlanderHOU
5Trevor BauerCLE
6Aaron NolaPHI
7Corey KluberCLE
8Blake SnellTB
9Gerrit ColeHOU
10Carlos CarrascoCLE
11Patrick CorbinWAS
12Luis SeverinoNYY
13Walker BuehlerLAD
14Noah SyndergaardNYM
15Clayton KershawLAD
16Stephen StasburgWAS
17German MarquezCOL
18James PaxtonNYY
19Zack GreinkeARI
20Mike ClevingerCLE
21Jameson TaillonPIT
22Zack WheelerNYM
23Jose BerriosMIN
24Jack FlahertySTL
25Mike FoltynewiczATL

I’ve been flip-flopping on Jacob deGrom and Chris Sale in the #2 spot. Sale’s skills are so far off the charts, that all he needs to do it reach 170 innings to provide the second most fantasy value per my projections. I have him at 182 IP and deGrom at 203 IP, so Sale gets the nod. If Sale could grace us with 200 IP, he’d be ahead of Scherzer, but Max is such a bulldog and has a badass name, so there’s that. If you search FanGraphs pitcher leaderboard for 2018, Sale doesn’t even show up because he only threw 158 innings. I guess you need 160 to qualify? If you’re wondering, Sale ranked 64th overall in innings pitched last season. However, his 237 strikeouts were good for 6th in MLB. You read that right, his 38.4% K rate laughed in the face of Justin Verlander, who finished 2nd at 34.8%.

I have a feeling that some of you are sitting there with your mouth agape looking at Trevor Bauer at number five overall. Here’s the deal though, Bauer ranked 4th overall in ERA and 8th is K% last season. Remember, he basically missed the last month+ with a stress fracture in his right leg. If we remove his short outings upon his return in late September, Bauer averaged 6.64 Innings per start. This is important for a lot of reasons but mostly because Bauer would have finished with around 215 innings and ranked 3rd or 4th in value for 2018. The average number of innings per start in 2018 was under 5.4, so yes, 6.64 is fantastic. Check out his Twitter and his work ethic, he’s always looking to improve. Me like Bauer!

I’m down a bit on Luis Severino, check out my player profile I posted a few days ago. Basically, Severino lacks a third quality pitch. Also, when he doesn’t properly elevate his 98 mph fastball, he gets punished. He also doesn’t possess a strong putaway pitch outside of his slider, that my friends can limit his strikeout upside. Sure, a K/9 between 9.5 and 10 is solid but because he’s grooving too many pitches, his ratios may take a hit. I like him, but he’s a back-end ace for me.

Yes, Walker Buehler is over Clayton Kershaw. I’m not going to wait until Kershaw completely breaks down to put Buehler ahead of him like those big box sites. This kid is for real and shouldn’t be limited to much of an innings cap (if at all) for 2019. We saw his skills and strikeout potential improve as the season roared on. Kershaw, on the other hand, is seeing his skills deteriorate and injuries have sapped his innings upside. Here’s the trend on Kershaw. K% last three seasons: 31.6%, 29.8%, 23.9%. The contact rates against him have jumped by 8% in that timeframe as well. It’s not just the strikeouts though, his homerun rate has spiked the last two seasons and has been firmly above league-average. Kershaw is a gamer and has a badass curve that he needs to throw more than 40% of the time to be successful. He will be fine, but not an ace.

Starting Pitchers who just Missed

The newly signed Tampa Bay Ray, Charlie Morton landed in the number 26 spot on my list. I very much wanted to put him in my top 25 but Morton’s win rate the last two season with Houston will not stand. Morton tallied 29 wins in only 55 starts with the Astros. Tampa is a good team but Morton has averaged just 157 innings the last two seasons and just turned 35. I love his stuff and that’s why he’s inside my top 30 despite the low innings projection.

A couple of boring low-strikeout guys Miles Mikolas and Kyle Hendricks are slotted at 27 and 28 because they have some very solid consistent skills. These guys have incredible control and regularly induce soft contact. Let’s play a little game of who is it? Who is the pitcher with the 5th lowest ERA since 2016? Did I give it away? Yes, it’s Kyle “The Professor” Hendricks. I don’t love the strikeout trend for Hendricks (hint: it’s going in the wrong direction), but he seems to defy the sabermetrics that I love so much. Mikolas is just a stud when it comes to control and pairs his elite slider with a solid 94-95 mph fastball. He keeps the ball on the ground which is muy importante when it comes to a lower strikeout rate.

I’ll get into guys like Rich Hill and Luis Castillo when I finalize my SP rankings and player projections, but both hover around 30 overall. Stay tuned.

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

If you enjoyed this ranking and writeup, follow me on Twitter @FreezeStats

Weekly Rundown – Here’s the Story with Machado

HOT HITTERS
Paul Goldschmidt has finally broken out of his two month slump and is hitting .448 with six homers in the past eight days. If you visit the site, you know that back in mid-May I wrote a post about Goldschmidt’s struggles. There was a point in mid-May where Goldy had a .171 wOBA, a 20% hard contact, and a 42% K rate. The wOBA was the lowest of his career and his K rate was its highest since 2012. I haven’t dug deep yet into the numbers but this appears to have been a mental block with Goldy. Good for the owners that stuck it out, hopefully he didn’t dig you in too big of a hole.

Trevor Story is hitting a blistering .500 with three dingers, nine RBI and a steal this past week. He’s actually started to hit on the road for the first time this year and that could be dangerous. Story is making strides in the contact department now with a 6% jump from 2017, a career low SwStr rate and that has helped cut his K rate down below 27%. He’s basically looking a lot like his rookie season with a lower strikeout rate. He’s been a little unlucky in terms of power and he just stole his 9th base of the season, a new career high. His sprint speed is in the top 98 percentile. Add Coors to the mix and he could be a .270-35-18 type player this year.

Max Muncy continues his onslaught on the league mashing .350 with four bombs in the last seven days. Muncy is an OBP league’s dream. I recently compared his 45 games stretch (now 47 games) to Hoskins’ 50 game run at the end of 2017 and they are nearly identical. Muncy’s patience and great plate discipline makes him a viable option in all leagues. Sure, regression is coming but his clear swing and approach change makes him a solid .250-ish hitter with good power. Injuries and poor performance has given Muncy an everyday role and he can play almost anywhere.

Future 2018 NL MVP Freddie Freeman is hitting .409 with four homers and a steal this past week. Freddie keeps getting better, he’s cut his K rate for the third straight year and he continues to steal bases 6 for 8 on the season. He’s everything you hoped Paul Goldschmidt would be this year. Combine that with a career high hard contact and pull% and Freeman’s HR rate may actually improve. I can envision Freeman going .330-35-120-14 this year.

The Seattle Bombers Ryon Healy, Nelson Cruz, and Mitch Haniger have combined for 12 HR and 18 RBI this past week. What, only 18 RBI? Haha, that’s right, they kept hitting back-to-back bombs so no one was on base. Anyways, I read a comment on Twitter @bdentrek that the Seattle hitters busted into Cano’s medicine cabinet. LOL, that’s joke but damn, the ball seems to be flying out of Safeco. Cruz’s early season struggles are behind him, I’m convinced he can hit 40 homers until he’s 50 at this point. I love Haniger and the Diamondbacks have to be kicking themselves right now. Healy is on a hot streak, but I don’t love him in shallow formats. If I’m ranking them ROS, I’m going Cruz at 1A, Haniger at 1B, and Healy in a distant third.

Evan Gattis is hitting .320 with four homers and an amazing 15 RBI in the last seven days! Jesus man, slow down. A week like that from a Catcher will vault you into the top 5. Searching….searching…and he’s the number 1 ranked catcher. OMG, that’s hilarious. Rounding out the top 3 is Grandal and Cerevelli. Realmuto is 4th and I think by season’s end, he’s top 3. This is case and point why you never draft a catcher inside the top 100 overall.

Hot Pitchers
Trevor Bauer seems to be a regular on this list, he’s got 24 Ks in his last two starts with a 2.30 ERA and 0.89 WHIP. If you didn’t believe he was an ace before this week, you should now. If I told you in Mid-May that Bauer would end 2018 with better numbers than Gerrit Cole, you would have punched me in the face and laughed. Sure, the win totals are down for Bauer, but come on, luck can change on dime, all other numbers are almost identical between the two. It’s not a long-shot anymore. Bauer Power!

Anibal Sanchez has somehow managed a 1.46 ERA with a 0.73 WHIP with 2 wins and 11 strikeouts in his last two starts. On the season he’s below 2.00 for an ERA! I think you know just like everyone else, he’s regressing. A near .200 BABIP with a below average K rate means you need get out now before your left rostering him when that blow up happens. I did see that he’s inducing 28% soft contact, so maybe his cutter has improved. Something to watch but he’s still a streamer.

Dylan Covey of the White Sox has put together several solid starts including 2 W with a 1.38 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP in his last two. Covey has dropped almost 5.50 off his ERA from last year. Yup, you read that right. It’s odd because his WHIP is 1.30 which doesn’t jive with a 2.29 ERA. Listen I like 61% GB rate and increased velocity but I’m setting the over/under ROS at 4.15. I mean Covey hasn’t even given up a HR yet after allowing, get this 20 HR IN ONLY 70 IP last year. I’m take big the over.

Mike Clevinger has 16 strikeouts with a 1.98 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP in his last two starts. Cool but what’s up with his sub-8.0 K/9 though? Yes, he’s around the zone a little more and sacrificing some swings and misses for called strikes and weak contact. He’s another Indians pitcher without a good fastball but has an ELITE slider. He’s finally throwing it over 20% of the time. His change up is pretty good too, if he ups his slider usage, I think his K rate settles in around 9.0/9. Me like

Jhoulys Chacin has managed to grab a couple of wins along with solid ratios and 14 strikeouts in his last two starts. Chacin is so boring, but you know what, he’s been useful with his ratios and has provided 6 wins. That’s about to change, I’d be moving on quick at this point. Everything is pointing in the direction. When your K rate is less than twice your BB rate, we have problems. When the BABIP and HR rate come up, he’s donzo.

The Dodgers Ace Ross Stripling, yeah I said it! Who else can claim that title thus far in 2018? I’m getting tired of writing about him on these rundowns, HAHA JK, it’s great! A near 30% K rate with a 4.2% BB rate, what!?! If I were to tell you a Dodgers pitcher has those ratios at the start of the season, Stripling would probably have been the 7th or 8th choice. Sure, there’s some luck with L-O-B% and I’m still down with O-P-P. However, that BABIP looks just fine, I don’t see regression there. Every pitch he throws has registered a positive pitch value, which is crazy. I said it before, the K rate may drop 3-4% but he’s still a top 30 SP if he keeps this up.

Freezing Hitters
Tim Anderson is 2 for his last 20 with no homers and a steal but somehow has 3 runs. That’s because he’s actually walking! An 8.3% BB rate up from an abysmal 2.3% in 2017, allows him for more stolen bases opportunities to weather these cold streaks. He’s still likely a .240-.250 hitter but with his change in approach (increased patience and increased fly ball rate), he should have no problems reaching 20 HR and 25 steals.

Giancarlo Stanton is 3 for his last 21 with no homers. If I’m being honest, I think Stanton is kind of a jackass but damn he can hit the ball hard. Yes, he’s in a funk right now but his 24% K rate from 2017 is up to nearly 32% this year! He’s also got a career worst 16% SwStr rate and a career low contact rate to back up the elevated strikeouts. Stanton has also decreased fly ball% and is pulling the ball less. So, less contact, lower fly ball rate and less pulled balls equals no where near 58 HR. I’m sorry, the people claiming “this is exactly where he was last year” are wrong. He never has contact issues like this last year. Expect a .250-35-40 HR season from Stanton.

Matt Kemp, what happened? After going nuts this past month, Kemp got old and fat quick, hitting .188 with one homer this past week. Damn, just last week I had him back with Rihanna and now he’s dating one of the Kardashians (and not the good ones). His K rate keeps heading north and his hard contact has dipped a bit. If this is a younger hitter, I’m not concerned but shizz can go sideways with Kemp in a hurry, so I’m keeping a close eye on this one. Another week like this and HE GONE!

Anthony Rendon has never really got on track this year; he’s 4 for his last 20 and no homers and no steals. He’s driving in runs because he’s in a great Nationals lineup, but what’s going on here? Rendon has really taken the launch angle Revolution (is that what’s it’s called now?) to heart the last two years. There are too many popups but he’s still stinging the ball when he doesn’t pop it up, his barrel% is up 5% and he’s nearly doubled league average for value hits. He still makes a ton of contact but he’s expanding the zone a bit which could be the reason for the elevated popups. It don’t matter, I’m buying Rendon right now. DO IT NOW!

Edwin Encarnacion is only 1 for his last 16 and he’s even seen the bench a couple games. I believe he’s harboring an injury. Either that or he’s finally aging and it’s showing. His fly ball rate has increased along with his K rate, but it’s become a detriment to his batting average. His hard contact and HR/FB rate still looks great but if he continues to sell out for power, his value will drop. The walk rate is also no longer elite and his O-Swing and SwStr rates are at career highs. He still might hit 35+ HR but it may come at a .230 AVG and a .310 OBP. I’d sell, but not at a draft day discount.

Speaking of high strikeout rates, Joey Gallo has a measly two hits this past week although one of them was a bomb last night.  All of that talk of him lowering his strikeout rate is out the window as he’s back above 36% on the season. This makes me sad and I thought Gallo was going to take a step forward this year. He still can and I do believe his 0.088 BABIP of fly balls and 0.171 BABIP on ground balls should rise, but he’s still pulling too many balls into the shift. I guess Gallo is just a .210-.220 hitter with 40+ homer power. Sigh

I was going to write about Kris Bryant and Nolan Arenado but they both hit bombs last night and had multi-hit nights, so…. Let’s talk about Manny Machado. Machado is only 3 for his last 18 with no homers, runs, RBI, but 1 steal! I guess you’re the only top tier 3B that sucks Machado! Totally JK obviously. Machado is still killing it this year. The K rate and BB rate are at career bests and his BABIP normalized from last year’s outlier. I don’t love his batted ball profile, he’s hitting too many popups as he continues to increase his fly ball rate, so a 40 homer season is a possibility but not at a .300 average. Although a 91% zone contact rate goes a long way in terms of batting average. Machado will be on the move before the deadline, so a lot will depend on where he goes. Either way, I think he can be around .285 with 40 bombs with his first 100 RBI season. 

Freezing Pitchers
Vincent Velasquez is here mostly due to his 10 ER outing against the Brewers last weekend. He actually fired a solid 6.2 IP with 2 ER this week. Point is, his 12 ER in the past 10+ IP does not look pretty. These past two starts are great examples of VV’s volatility. Come to think of it, VV stands for very volatile. However, there are improvements, his K%-BB% is 20%, a career high. He’s also allowing less hard contact, his 1.2 HR/9 isn’t great, but it’s playable. If his LOB% and BABIP normalize just a little, he’s a 3.50 ERA guy with a great K rate.

Zack Greinke has given up 8 ER in his last two starts. He’s uncharacteristically given up 6 walks and 3 HR in that span. Greinke is averaging under 90 mph on his fastball. In the Spring, Greinke messes around and throws mid-80s but I think this lower velocity is real. Stinky Greinke is crafty AF but as the velocity continues to drop, his margins are razor thin. I’d look to move him while his K rate and BB rates are still fantastic. I think you can get 100 cents on the dollar for him (yes, that’s the same thing, I know that) but it needs to be done now. Try to get a Tommy Pham or Christian Yelich for him.

Luke Weaver, everyone’s second favorite young starter coming into the 2018 (first being Luis Castillo The question is, where did the strikeouts go? His Contact, SwStr, and O-Swing match last year’s number but his K/9 is down almost 3.0 to a sub-par 7.8 K/9. I think you can move on from Weaver this year, he’s still only 24 years old and I do like him long term to be a solid #2 on your fantasy team in the future. See if you can get anything for him, but if not, he’s safe to drop.

Jake Arrieta got absolutely blown up last night giving up 8 run but only 4 ER in 3.1 IP. In his last three starts, he’s given up 13 ER while striking out only 9 batters. That’s not good. His K rate sits at a career low 16.2% combined with an 8% walk rate. I don’t see anything in his profile that tells me that his K rate will rise much. He’s probably going to be around a 17-18% K rate guy while limiting homers. I just don’t see him being successful giving up that much contact, especially if he doesn’t have a great walk rate.

Whoa James Paxton, what happened? I don’t want to use the “I” word but how can you not when he’s always hurt and usually super effective when healthy. Big Maple has given up 8 ER in his last two starts but what’s also concerning is the 20 hits he’s given up in his last 17 IP. Well, let’s check his velocity, uhoh, it’s down about 2 mph in his last start. Ok, that could explain the ineffectiveness. If I’m the mariners, I’m putting him on the DL to skip a couple starts and give him some rest. You don’t keep going down this road with Paxton. Keep a close eye on his velocity in his next start if they don’t put him on the DL. Look for 95.5+, if it’s 94, we’ve got problems.