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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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Hitters to Buy in 2020 Using Earned Home Runs and Deserved Barrels

Earlier this offseason I introduced the earned home run metric (eHR). I explained it here and analyzed some of the largest outliers from 2019 here. The metric’s backbone is barrels but included other variables including directional fly balls, home park factors, and exit velocity on fly balls and line drives. I also ran some regression analysis from 2018 to 2019 to determine how well the metric correlated from year 1 to year 2. The results showed weak correlation so there’s more work to do, but that article can be found here. What I ultimately determined was that while the correlations were slightly better than using strictly home runs per fly ball and home run per plate appearance, the results, as a whole, are inconclusive. That is for extremely small samples and for the players where eHR and HR totals did not differ by a significant margin. Where the value lies in eHR is with outliers.

Alex Chamberlain of RotoGraphs developed a deserved barrel (dBRL%) metric this offseason which has been extremely helpful. His research is great and makes a lot sense so I found a way to use his analysis in conjunction with my earned home run metric. Chamberlain’s introduction to the deserved barrel metric can be found here. But, he refined the dBRL equation earlier this month and the results are much more reliable. In the second article, he explains that the adjusted r-squared (r^2) improved to 0.8 up from 0.68. That’s a huge bump in reliability. Please be sure you check the article out. He still uses a slight bit of caution in that the metric is more valuable when looking at outliers. The way I’ll be using the two metrics together is identifying players that extremely over or underperformed their actual barrel rate based on the deserved barrel percentage but also earned their home run total from 2019. OR, even better, in the rare instance when a player either over or underperformed both deserved barrel% and earned home runs.

That sounded confusing as I wrote it, so let me give you an example. Mookie Betts. His barrel rate in 2019 was 10.3%. Chamberlain’s dBRL metric pegged him for an 11.6% BRl% given his dBRL equation that includes exit velocity and launch angles (aka quality of contact). That’s great, so Betts deserved more barrels in 2019. More barreled balls mean better results. Looking at the earned home run metric, Betts earned an additional 4.68 home runs in 2019 compared to his actual total of 29 home runs. But, I use his actual barrels produced in 2019 in my equation, not dBRL. So Betts’ quality of contact did not directly reflect his bottom line so given his actual barrel rate he actually earned almost an additional five home runs. If the ball remains unchanged, Betts is a guy who could reach a new career-high in home runs in 2020.

Alright, let’s take a look at the players who have a nice buying opportunity in 2020 given this analysis. The second column is simply deserved barrel% minus barrel%. The third column is earned home runs minus home run. I’ve included each player’s HR/FB rate from 2019 as I’ll come back to this article to determine whether or not improvements were made.

Earned HR & Deserved BRL% Underachievers (Buys)

Up for 2020dBRL%-BRL%eHR-HRHR/FB%
Jose Ramirez2.50%0.9012.00%
Mookie Betts1.30%4.8613.10%
Byron Buxton2.60%5.7510.10%
Renato Nunez1.40%5.1516.70%
Shohei Ohtani-1.00%6.4626.50%
Matt Chapman1.20%3.9919.00%
Marcell Ozuna-0.50%7.4022.10%
Rafael Devers2.20%0.3417.70%
Lorenzo Cain2.40%0.629.90%
Andrew Benintendi0.40%5.767.90%
Josh Donaldson-1.30%10.3925.70%
Enrique Hernandez2.70%1.8412.20%
CJ Cron-2.70%14.4719.50%
Brandon Belt1.70%3.718.80%
Yoan Moncada0.30%6.5120.20%
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.0.20%5.8712.10%
Bryce Harper-1.80%10.9323.50%
Rhys Hoskins2.10%3.5214.30%
Aaron Judge0.40%8.2135.10%
Travis Shaw4.10%4.0510.10%
Howie Kendrick0.30%6.1817.90%
Matt Olson0.30%5.5423.70%
Jose Abreu-0.60%14.0921.00%

Source: Alex Chamberlain – RotoGraphs & BaseballSavant



2020 Players to Buy – Under-performed eHR & dBRL

If you’re looking for something positive in Travis Shaw‘s profile that might indicate a bounceback, this is it. Keep in mind, he only managed 270 plate appearances, so his sample is small and therefore, not as reliable. Even still, he maintained a high pulled fly ball rate and hit the ball. He needs to get his contact rate under control but if he gets 100% run at 1B in Toronto, he should get back to 25+ home runs. That’s a steal at his current ADP of 410.

Byron Buxton really surprised me here. His approach completely changed last year as his launch angle jumped seven degrees. Additionally, his exit velocity shot up while cutting his strikeout rate. That’s huge. But, fewer ground balls portend to a lower BABIP and fewer stolen base opportunities, especially with his five percent jump in popup rate. The health cloud is always surrounding him, so he’ll remain an enigma for me.

Annnnnd just like that I’m back in on Rhys Hoskins. His stock has dropped like a rock after being taken inside the top 50 in 2019. He’s all the down at 115 but still has 35-40 homer power (given the juiced ball). Plus, the Phillies lineup is still very good. He’s not going to help in BA or stolen bases but 35 home runs with 200 R+RBI is gold.

It looks like Jose Ramirez is coming in at a discount in 2020 with an NFBC ADP of 18 as of today. Using dBRL%, he earned 10 additional barrels bringing him up to 36 barrels in about 3/4 of a season. While eHR only has him adding about one home run, he still deserved at least six to seven additional home runs in 2019. Assuming the ball remains unchanged and a full season, I’d expect 30-32 home runs from Ramirez in 2020.



I’m inclined to grab Renato Nunez as my corner infielder in all of my 15-team formats. His ADP is currently 277 after players like David Peralta and Joey Votto. He hit 31 home runs last year and actually earned 36. Chamberlain’s dBRL says he should have had five additional barrels. We are creeping dangerously close to 40 homers given these two metrics. His park is extremely favorable and the lineup is not as bad as advertised. I won’t project him for 40 home runs in 2020 but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a .250-35-95 season from him.

Based on my quasi-scientific calculation, Mookie Betts earned approximately 36 home runs in 2019. His stolen base total dropped but his power is as strong as ever. He was the same steller hitter, just unlucky. Fenway Park doesn’t help either and he’s staying put for this season. Unfortunately, the fantasy community is not buying Mookie’s “down” year as he’s the 4th player off the board in 2020. I would not be surprised if he finished 2020 hitting over .300 with 35+ homers, 20 steals and vying for the number one fantasy player next season.

As if we needed another reason to be giddy about the 23-year-old Rafael Devers, he deserved 12 more barrels in 2019. My eHR metric was neutral but go ahead and add those barrels onto his season total and you’ve got another eight homers! Now, remember, Fenway is difficult for power, so maybe his earned total is closer to 38 but still fantastic! Here’s a fun one for ya. Devers hit his first home run on May 3rd last year. From that point forward, here’s his line: .314/.357/.593 112 R, 32 HR, 105 RBI, 4 SB.

It’s nice to see that Jose Abreu, earned home run’s second-largest underperformer, deserved all but 2-3 of his barrels. He’s on the wrong side of 30, so expecting some performance decline is inevitable based on age. However, given these results, I don’t see why he can’t repeat his 2019 statline with maybe a few extra homers and natural regression in RBI.



Aaron Judge is still among the top one percent in all of baseball in terms of crushing baseballs. A healthy Judge can still hit 50 home runs and would be a lock for 40 bombs if he can manage at least 600 plate appearances. Nothing flashy, just simple analysis here.

Marcell Ozuna has under-performed his Statcast metrics two years running making his 2017 breakout seem like an outlier. Ya boy Max doesn’t see it that way. His home parks combined with some poor luck have held Ozuna’s numbers down the last two seasons. He remains unsigned this offseason and it looks inevitable that he’ll be back with the Cardinals. I’ll hold out hope that he goes elsewhere because Busch Stadium is one of the worst parks for offensive production.

Earned home runs pegged Matt Chapman for just about 40 homers in 2019 and his quality of contact was BETTER than his barrel rate indicates. Oakland Collusiem performs relatively neutral for home runs despite conventional thinking. I love Chapman and his price is reasonable. My only concern is his high variance in launch angle tightness. This high variance could mean a wild swing in production. A few of those deep fly balls could turn into popups or low line drives. That being said, the power is legit and I have no issue expecting a repeat of 2019 while adding a few points in batting average.

Similar to Abreu, Josh Donaldson is an aging veteran who had a very nice 2019. He was finally healthy and finished as one of seven players to surpass 60 barrels last season. Deserved barrels docks him five or so barrels and given his age and health history, it’ll be tough to repeat. Luckily for early drafters, his ADP hasn’t changed much over the last year (105 overall in NFBC drafts). I’m grabbing him at that price but it’ll be interesting to see how his value rises now that he’s with the Minnesota Juggernauts.

Deserved barrels dropped Bryce Harper BRL% to 13% which is still very impressive. Including dBRL to earned home runs cuts his eHR difference in half but 5-6 additional home runs in 2019 setting his home runs total at 40. Given Citizen’s Bank Park’s favorable right field, I am fully on board with Harper reaching the 40-homer plateau in 2020.

C.J Cron’s 15% barrel rate last year seemed to good to be true. As it turns out, it was. But, a 12.3% barrel rate is still among the elite. When we combine the two metrics, Cron should have eclipsed 30 homers for the second straight season instead of finishing with just 25. The move to DET is not great but he should play every day in the middle of that lineup, so he’s another nice late-round flier.



Yoan Moncada’s elevated strikeout rate may keep him from hitting .315 again but I’m projecting a power breakout in 2020. While his 2019 strikeout rate was high at 27.5%, it was a 6% improvement from the previous year. Growth from a young player is always a very good thing. As a prospect, his hit tool was rated well-above-average, so if he can continue to improve his contact rate the sky is the limit. Unless Moncada’s ADP settles inside the top 50 (currently at 68), I’m going to be all over him. Don’t be surprised if he reaches 35 home runs in 2020.

Nothing to see here. Matt Olson just earned 40 home runs in just 127 games! Look, Olson is being hyped by just about everyone. His ADP is soaring because of it, but as is he’s going 30 picks after Pete Alonso. I think they are very similar, so give me Olson over Alonso every time given the discount.

Despite a 50+% ground ball rate, Vlad Jr. still earned nearly six additional home runs last year. He just crushes the ball evidenced by hitting the hardest ball of 2019. Check out my piece at Pitcher List on his power potential. I can understand the lofty ADP. His combination of exit velocity and high contact could yield 35+ homers with a .300 batting average in the future.

Unfortunately for Kike Hernandez, the Dodgers have so much positional depth making him a utility option; a part-time option at that. Even still, he should have finished closer to 23-34 homers in 2019 instead of 17. The power breakout we saw in 2018 is real and he’s a nice option in NL-Only and deep-leagues for cheap power.

Normally, I’d been in on Lorenzo Cain with this data but he’s going to be 34 years old. His speed is dwindling and so is the power. While he deserved better in 2019, I don’t expect 15+ homers in 2020.

Here we go again with Brandon Belt. Oracle Park is brutal for left-handed power. Moving the walls in a bit could help but I’m still not buying unless he’s traded. Plugging in dBRL into my eHR equation, he still would have finished with 24 home runs in 2019 across 616 PA. That’s the first time he’s surpassed 600 PA since 2016 so the probability of a repeat is low. Besides, 24 homers in this era does not move the needle.

Andrew Benintendi needs to go back to what he does best. Using his elite hit tool and driving balls all over the field. The dream of 30 home runs for him may likely never come to fruition but eHR shows that he still has some pop. If he can get back to hitting .290 with 20 homers in the Red Sox lineup, he’s a good value at pick just after 100 overall.

Howie Kendrick’s age-35 season was so impressive when you consider his career. His zone contact rate was the best of his career while posting the second-best HR/FB rate. He’s still just a part-time player so his value will lie in NL-Only leagues and for streaming purposes.

Pitching every sixth game is going to limit Shohei Ohtani‘s value as a hitter. Then again, Joe Maddon claims he could use Ohtani as the team’s DH when he pitches. So, there’s that. Ohtani is a unicorn. If he managed 600+ PA, he would hit 35 home runs and steal 12-15 bases. If he threw 200 innings, he’d be a top 10 arm. Neither will happen but we can still enjoy his talent wherever he’s at on the field.

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





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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Tim Anderson – Player Profile

I want to start doing some deep dives on player profiles as the season progresses. Now that we are in our fourth week of the season, many statistics begin to stabilize.  We can start weeding out some players who had hot starts and find out whether you can drop, hold, or buy these players. The first player I’ll write on is Tim Anderson.

If you slept on Tim Anderson this off-season, please do yourself a favor and check out his category juice to date. I wouldn’t worry about the 5 RBI total, focus in on the power-speed combination. He’s currently ranked second in the league in combined HR + steals with 11 with Mike Trout (of course) leading the way with 14. Not bad for a guy drafted after 175 overall in most drafts this off-season. I was guilty of being off Anderson coming into 2018 mostly due to his 24.6% K-BB rate. No, that’s not his strikeout rate, it’s his strikeout rate after you subtract his walk rate! What’s changed with Anderson this year? The guy who only stole 15 bases in 2017 in over 600 plate appearances now has eight in less than 20 games.

Anderson did steal 49 bases back in 2015 in Double-A and totaled 95 steals in 331 minor league games. That’s about one steal every 3.5 games. Anderson only attempted 16 steals in 2017 and was successful on all but one. Ok, so a 94% success rate is pretty good. The White Sox aren’t winning this year (and most likely next year) so why not get aggressive on the bases? I like the aggressive approach from Manager Ricky Renteria with some of the young athletes the Sox have, that includes Yoan Moncada who is getting hot of late. It’s clear that Anderson has been given the green light evidenced by a stealing a base when down by four runs in the ninth inning of a ball game. Or when he attempted to steal third in a five-run game with Justin Verlander on the mound. This one is just funny. Fantasy owners are going to be just fine with this aggressive approach.

Let’s check out Statcast speed scores. Anderson is tied for 9th best in the league with the usual suspects near the top like Buxton, Hamilton, Gordon, Trevor Story….. Wait, what?? I better dig deeper on Story, but that’s for another day. Part of the issue in 2017 with Anderson was his lack of on-base skills. His .276 OBP was the worst for any leadoff hitter and ranked third from the bottom among qualified hitters. This year, that awful 2.1% BB rate currently sits at 9.0%. Now, that’s only seven walks, but that’s just six less than all of 2017. Is this walk rate for real?

Tim Anderson Plate Discipline  
SeasonZone%Swing%O-Swing%F-Strike%
201643.950.336.467.5
201745.354.741.366.3
201845.753.137.668.0

Not quite. He’s simply swinging just about as much as ever, he has cut down on his O-Swing (or chase rate) a bit but has actually seen more first-pitch strikes. So he’s working from behind more often than he has in the past. The only reason I can muster is the fact that he’s swinging and missing more which of course means his contact rate is down. In reality, this could help his walk rate but should also be a hindrance to his strikeout rate which is actually down about 5% this year. Based on this information, I expect a steep decline in walks going forward, which is bad for his stolen bases.

We haven’t talked about the power yet. In those 331 minor leagues games mentioned earlier, Anderson popped a total of 19 homers. He’s already got 29 bombs in 260 Major League games and three early this year. I believe in his power production, he’s increased his fly ball percentage each of the last three seasons. He currently has an average exit velocity of 93.8 mph on his fly balls and line drives and has barreled nearly 7% of his batted balls. Compare that to last year’s 91.4 mph EV on his FB+LD and only 3.6% of his batted balls were barreled. I know it’s early, but Anderson looks a lot like a 20 homer hitter to me.

This is where shizz gets sexy!  We now know that the 20 homer pop is legit based on the increased fly ball rate, increased hard contact, and his pull percentage which currently at 54% (typically around 42%). This leads me to believe that an improvement from his 14.4% HR/FB rate in 2017 should improve to somewhere between 15-18%. Given about 600 plate appearances, I see 21 dingers from Timmy. Oh, and those steals. Well, given a high ground ball rate and his foot speed, the .294 BABIP should jump up little to somewhere between .325-.335 giving him a .260-.270 batting average. The OBP should sit around .300 which isn’t great but better than 2017.

The positive outlook for Anderson in terms of steals is there because he’s attempting a steal about 30% of his possible opportunities. That’s a blistering pace to keep up, it’s basically a Billy Hamilton-type pace. Even if we drop that to a more realistic 20%-22%, he should push 35-42 SB attempts, call it 38. At a 75% success rate, that’s 29 steals to go along with his 21 HR. Ok, so we have Byron Buxton from 2017 with these projections.

While these are clearly realistic projections, I tend to believe they are more in the range of a 75% projection. That being said, those numbers push top 50 overall and even something similar to last year’s 17 homers with an uptick to about 25 steals means a solid bargain for what owners paid on draft day. I’d be buying for a reasonable price especially if you need speed.