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NL Impact Rookies

NL Impact RookieProspect361.com is celebrating our 5-year anniversary and during that time, I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about the talent graduating to the big leagues.  Sure, everyone knows about Vlad Jr, Forrest Whitely, and even Fernando Tatis Jr., but there is significant talent in both leagues that could play major roles for their team in 2019.

We have listed 14 players that we believe will get meaningful playing time throughout the year with three sleepers.  Candidly, the list could have easily pushed to 25 or more, but we wanted to keep the list short to highlight those players with the best shot.

Enjoy the list and please click on the baseball card to visit our partner amazon.com to explore additional information on each player.

The best of the best for 2019

Victor Robles (Was, OF)

It appears that Victor Robles will get his chance and I feel very good about his chances for success.  He has a great approach, make excellent contact and has double-plus speed.  I think his power is a couple of years away but long-term, he could a monster player with a chance to post a line of 15/40 .300/.380.  In 2019, it won’t be that, but it could be very, very good.

2019 Projected Stat Line: 550 AB, 6 HRs, 35 SB, .270/.350 AVG/OBP

Nick Senzel (Cin, OF/2B)

The Reds have decided to accelerate their rebuilding process…er. maybe better said…trash it, by signing several older players to help the team win, NOW.  Will it work?  Probably not.  However, the approach does benefit Nick Senzel.  They need a center-fielder and while he’s never been one, he’s looked awfully good there this Spring.  What they want is his bat in the lineup…and to that end, he can really hit.  He’s battled injuries throughout his professional career, but if he can stay healthy, he could be a fantasy monster.

2019 Projected Stat Line: 550 AB, 18 HRs, 21 SB, .280/.360 AVG/OBP

Francisco Mejia (SD, C)

Remind me who the Indians catcher is again?  The signing of Brad Hand is going to hurt as it cost the Indians Francisco Mejia.  While he’s not a great defender, what he can do is hit.  While I’ve always liked Austin Hedges, I think Mejia will be getting the bulk of the at-bats by the second half.

2019 Projected Stat Line: 250 AB, 6 HRs, .270/.330 AVG/OBP

Chris Paddack (SD, SP)

Quick…who did the Marlins receive in the trade that sent Chris Paddack to the Padres in 2015?  At the time, 39-year-old Fernando Rodney.  Rodney went on to pitch to a 5.89 ERA in 39 innings with a total of eight saves.  Ouch!  Sure, Paddack had Tommy John surgery two years ago, but prior to that and quite frankly afterwards, he has been one of the most effective pitchers in the minor leagues.  This spring, it’s been more of the same.  While his innings will be limited, Paddack appears to be in line for significant playing time in the majors this season.  He still needs to work on this breaking pitch, but his change-up is unhittable and that alone will give him value.

2019 Projected Stat Line: 130 IP, 10 Wins, 3.30 ERA, 125 K’s.

Touki Toussaint (Atl, SP)

With the return of Julio Teheran to the rotation, the calculus for Touki Toussaint to start the year in the Braves rotation just got more complicated.  However, his stuff is electric, and it shouldn’t take long for him to get the call.  He can still be wild at times, but long-term, Toussaint’s upside is tremendous.  I am tempering my expectations for 2019, but I always bet on the talent and wait for the control and command to arrive.

2019 Projected Stat Line: 110 IP, 6 Wins, 4.05 ERA, 120 K’s.

Fernando Tatis Jr (SD, SS)

Prior to the signing of Manny Machado, I firmly expected the Padres to keep Fernando Tatis Jr. in the minor leagues until at least mid-June, if not the entire season.  But, when a team makes that level of investment, things change…and one of those changes will be the arrival of Tatis Jr.  While he still can get fooled at the plate with good off-speed pitches, the talent is unquestionable and assuming he can make the adjustments, I believe he will put up a meaningful stat line for 2019.

2019 Projected Stat Line: 450 AB, 19 HRs, 18 SB .255/.330 AVG/OBP

Garrett Hampson (Col, 2B)

On his way to winning the NL ROY in February, fantasy players forgot that another excellent young player might get in the way of the fantasy train called Garrett Hampson.  At least this spring, Ryan McMahon is making a major case to win the second base job out of Spring Training.  In the end, I’m not sure it matters as Hampson is going to see a lot of playing time and with his speed, should be able to steal 25 to 30 bases with ease.  That gives him a lot of value in most leagues.

2019 Projected Stat Line: 400 AB, 6 HRs, 25 SB .270/.330 AVG/OBP

Pete Alonso (NYM, 1B)

Brodie Van Wagenen got the Mets General Manager job because he convinced ownership that the Mets could win now.  If Pete Alonso makes the team better, he will get the bulk of the time at first base this season.  I do and therefore think he will.  Will the Mets hold him back for two weeks to start the season and play Dom Smith?  Perhaps, but I’m betting on at least 550 at-bats.

2019 Projected Stat Line: 550 AB, 26 HRs, .240/.330 AVG/OBP

The next cut of players – playing time struggles

Kevin Newman (Pit, SS)

Kevin Newman is a solid prospect with a very good approach at the plate. While he stole 28 bases last season, he doesn’t have that level of speed.  Therefore, replicating that in 2019 in the big leagues will be difficult.  Still, he should get plenty of at-bats in Pittsburgh with a chance to contribute to your fantasy team.

Alex Verdugo (LAD, OF)

Rumors out of Los Angeles are indicating that Alex Verdugo could make the roster coming North.  If so, it’s likely to be a playing timeshare which will obviously limit his fantasy effectiveness.  However, when it all comes together, he should be able to post a .350+ OBP and the Dodgers value that greatly.  I maintain he will eventually hits 20 home runs annually but that will not be in 2019.

Brendan Rodgers (Col, SS/3B)

Suddenly, Brendan Rodgers is the odd man out in Colorado.  Third base is locked up.  Shortstop is looking more locked up by the day and he’s behind Garrett Hampson and Ryan McMahon at second.  Where does he play?  I dunno, but he can hit with excellent power and at some point, I believe he finds playing time in 2019.

Tyler O’Neil (Stl, OF)

Chiseled with serious raw power, Tyler O’Neil is making a push to go North with the Cardinals.  Standing in his way though is Dexter Fowler.  However, Fowler fell off a cliff last year and is now 33-years-old and despite being owed $16.5 million a year for the next three years, he could be moved to a fourth outfielder role.  If that happens, O’Neil and his power could get a chance.  He’ll strike out too much but he could hit 20 to 25 home runs with consistent playing time.

Keston Hiura (Mil, 2B)

Keston Hiura needs an injury to get a chance in Milwaukee in 2019.  Does it happen?  I don’t know but given how last year went, I’m bullish on him seeing playing time in Milwaukee at some point.  When he gets his chance, you should expect a high batting average, some power, and stolen bases, particularly over the next couple of years.  He’s not fast and the speed will disappear, but long-term he could be a .300 hitter with 20 home runs.

Dustin May (LAD, SP)

Dustin May is all arms and legs and…hair when he delivers the ball.  He has great stuff and gets very good extension on his delivery.  His primary weapon is a heavy fastball that will generate a ton of ground ball. He’s had a great Spring Training and should see starts at some point during the year.  He’s flying under the radar in most leagues and a wise fantasy player should be investing now.

Sleepers

Bryse Wilson (Atl, SP)

Touki Toussaint has the better stuff but Bryse Wilson is the better current pitcher.  While nobody is talking about him, don’t be surprised if he gets the fifth starter job and doesn’t let go.

Tony Gonsolin (LAD, SP)

Drafted as a reliever out of college, Tony Gonsolin moved to the rotation and has excelled.  He’s throwing in the upper 90s now and fantasy owners need to take note.  Plus, the Dodgers have already hinted that he may be one of the early call-ups when injuries arise; and we all know how the Dodgers use the DL.

Tony Santillan (Cin, SP)

I’ve owned Tony Santillan over the years in Dynasty Leagues, but regrettably, I don’t own him anymore.  The stuff continues to be excellent and now he’s learning to control it.  The Reds have started the veteran movement, but Santillan could see time there this summer.  Granted, things have not gone well for most Reds pitching prospects, but few have had the stuff that Santillan possess.

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AL Impact Rookies

AL Impact RookieProspect361.com is celebrating our 5-year anniversary and during that time, I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about the talent graduating to the big leagues.  Sure, everyone knows about Vlad Jr, Forrest Whitely, and even Fernando Tatis Jr., but there is significant talent in both leagues that could play major roles for their team in 2019.

We have listed 14 players that we believe will get meaningful playing time throughout the year with two sleepers.  Candidly, the list could have easily pushed to 25 or more, but we wanted to keep the list short to highlight those players with the best shot.

Enjoy the list and please click on the baseball card to visit our partner amazon.com to explore additional information on each player.

The best of the best for 2019

Vlad Guerrero Jr. (Tor, 3B)

So much has been written about Vlad Jr. that I won’t bore you with more superlatives.  Assuming he’s healthy, he has the hit-tool to have immediate success in the big leagues.  I’m still not convinced that we will see the 30+ home run power in 2019, but it’s there.

2019 Projected Stat Line: 450 AB, 18 HRs, 2 SB, .290/.360 AVG/OBP

Eloy Jimenez (CHW, OF)

Eloy Jimenez is back in the minors working on well…something.  However, he should be one of the first call-ups in mid-April.  He’s got plus raw power and while I think there will be pressure on his batting average, long-term the hit-tool should be more than adequate to make him a perennial all-star.

2019 Projected Stat Line: 450 AB, 21 HRs, 3 SB, .255/.310 AVG/OBP

Jesus Luzardo (Oak, SP)

Jesus Luzardo could blow-up in 2019.  He has two plus pitches in his fastball and change-up and with some more work on his curveball, he has the arsenal to pitch at the top of the rotation. If healthy, he should see plenty of starts in Oakland.

2019 Projected Stat Line: 150 IP, 12 Wins, 3.45 ERA, 155 K’s.

Yusei Kikuchi (Sea, SP)

Yusei Kikuchi should be the odds-on favorite for the American League Rookie of the Year as he starts the year with the Mariners.  My problem is that I just don’t know how good he will be.  First, the Mariners will limit his innings and I’m projecting they limit him to about 160.  Secondly, and more importantly, his stuff is just average.  It’s good enough, and new to teams that he should start the season strong.  However, I believe the league catches up with him in the second half and consequewntly, he falls back to the number four, perhaps number three starter that his profile suggest.

2019 Projected Stat Line: 155 IP, 8 Wins, 3.75 ERA, 140 K’s.

Justus Sheffield (Sea, SP)

The Mariners will start Justus Sheffield in the minors to limit his service time.  Since he already has 13 days of major league service time, I’m projecting a May 1st Major League debut.  For me, he’s got better stuff than Kikuchi and I expect him to have an overall better year and a much better career.

2019 Projected Stat Line: 130 IP, 9 Wins, 3.60 ERA, 130 K’s.

Austin Hays (Bal, OF)

Austin Hays spent most of last season on the disabled list, but at least in Spring Training, he’s letting the league know he’s back.  There are plenty of opportunities in Baltimore and I expect Hays to take full advantage.  Don’t be surprised if he’s the surprise ROY candidate as we move in the second half.  One caution, if you play in an OBP League, Hays rarely walks.  In other words, plan accordingly.

2019 Projected Stat Line: 550 AB, 19 HRs, 9 SB, .270/.300 AVG/OBP

Christin Stewart (Det, OF)

Christin Stewart will be the left-fielder for the Tigers in 2019 and I think 20 home runs is doable.  In fact, he has the power to hit a lot more.  The swing is not great and he’ll strike out a ton, but his ability to work a walk will make him a better asset in OBP leagues than AVG leagues.  While not relevant this year, he’s not a good defender and at some point, the Tigers will need to think about a move to first base.

2019 Projected Stat Line: 550 AB, 25 HRs, .230/.320 AVG/OBP

Danny Jansen (Tor, C)

Russell Martin is gone, and Danny Jansen is penciled in as the starting catcher in Toronto.  I think he’ll have a fine season, but I don’t see a star.

2019 Projected Stat Line: 325 AB, 14 HRs, 2 SB, .260/.310 AVG/OBP

Brandon Lowe (TB, 2B)

After a terrific 2019 season, Brandon Lowe is poised to get considerable playing time in Tampa Bay in 2019.  He has a little bit of pop; a little bit of speed and his plate patience will make him a better player in OBP than AVG leagues.

2019 Projected Stat Line: 500 AB, 16 HRs, 12 SB, .260/.350 AVG/OBP

Jonathan Loaisiga (NYY, SP)

If Jonathan Loaisiga can stay healthy, he has the stuff and control to be effective pitcher for the Yankees.  The problem is he’s never stayed healthy.  I have taken that into consideration in his projection.  However, if he can solve that, there is big upside.

2019 Projected Stat Line: 90 IP, 7 Wins, 3.50 ERA, 100 K’s.

The next cut of players – playing time struggles

Richie Martin (Bal, SS)

I am still surprised that the Athletics did not protect Richie Martin, but their loss is the Orioles gain.  The good news is he must stay on the big-league roster or be returned.  While he’ll likely hit at the bottom of the order, his plus speed should give him value in deeper leagues.

Kyle Tucker (Hou, OF)

First, Kyle Tucker is better than AJ Reed and Derek Fisher, so I can’t imagine him ever being riding the Quad-4 bus.  But he needs something to happen in Houston to get a shot and my guess is that will be Josh Reddick.  I think you can expect him around July 1st and this time, I think he stays.

Forrest Whitley (Hou, SP)

I saw Forrest Whitley last Fall and again this Spring and the stuff is elite.  He’s got at my last count, five quality pitches that he’ll eventually need to pare down, but for now, it’s nasty stuff.  The problem for 2019 is how many innings will he pitch?  I’m expecting between 120 to 150, and that might be a stretch.  Count 20 to 30 innings before getting called up and another 20 to 30 in September and the postseason and you see the problem.  How much will he pitch for Houston in the regular season?

Bo Bichette (Tor, SS)

While all the love is being given to Vlad Jr., Bo Bichette has a chance to be an exceptional major league player as well.  Plus, with his speed, he might even be a better fantasy asset than Vlad Jr. over the long haul.  However, he needs more seasoning but expect to see him in the second half.

Sleepers

Oscar Mercado (Cle, OF)

Longtime readers of our site understand our affection for Oscar Mercado.  While we might have been early on the speedy outfielder, the Indians have got to be excited about what he has done this Spring.  Sure, they just signed Cargo and have HanRam in the stable, at some point, Mercado will get his shot and with his speed and growing power and hit-tool, he should open eyes quickly.

 

Luis Rengifo (LAA, 2B)

If you’re looking for speed Luis Rengifo could provide a source of cheap stolen bases at some point during the season for the Angels.  He’s also a tough out at the plate, walking as much as he struck out in 2018.  He needs David Fletcher to struggle, which doesn’t seem that out of line, and he could get a shot.

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Digging Deep Series: Players to draft for On-Base Percentage Leagues

Digging DeepAverage Draft Position or ADP is commonly used to assist fantasy players in determining where to select batters and pitchers as they go through their draft. However, most ADP’s are derived from standard 5×5 categories and that presents challenges when leagues use another category such as OBP instead of batting average.  To assist those fantasy owners, we have analyzed the hitters who get the biggest boost in their value in OBP league.  Conversely, we have also listed the players who take the biggest hit.

Instead of picking a specific projection system, we took 2018 actual stats for hitters (batters > 140 Plate Appearances (PAs)) and calculated their z-scores for BA and z-scores for OBP, weighted for the number of plate appearances. We believe weighting for PAs is a more accurate reflection of how much the hitter would affect your team.  In essence, if you have a player who bats .200 with 600 PAs, he will pull down your team’s batting average much more than if only has 200 PAs.

After calculating the weighted z-scores for BA and OBP for the 405 qualified hitters, here are some of the hitters who had the biggest increase in z-score when going from BA to OBP.

Hitters with the biggest improvement in z-score when going from BA to OBP:
D-3a

Looking at the names above, there are no real surprises. Everyone is already picking Mike Trout, Jose Ramirez, and (hopefully) Bryce Harper in the 1st round regardless of what type of league they’re in – and we already know that Brandon Nimmo and Joey Votto are OBP machines. (But did you know that Andrew McCutchen, even at the ripe old age of 31, still has an OBP tool which would be given a 70 grade?)

The value of these lists is highest when players emerge who were unexpected. Instead of merely subtracting the raw z-scores, I decided to compare the change in rankings – which is after all that ADP is. If we compare the z-score ranking of a hitter in terms of Batting Average with the z-score ranking of the hitter’s OBP, perhaps more interesting names emerge:

Hitters with biggest RANK improvement when going from BA to OBP:
D-3b

We all know that Carlos Santana is much better in OBP leagues than in BA leagues but did you know that he had the 53rd best OBP in the league among hitters with > 140 PA’s last year? Those who are being swayed by his 199 ADP should realize that he is probably being drafted that late because of his poor Batting Average. In fact, in the Roto-Regs (OBP) league that I’m in with Rich, I had Santana ranked in the top 100 (as the 8th best 1B).

Interestingly, there are a couple catchers on this list: Robinson Chirinos and Chris Iannetta. As we have already made clear in our rankings, the Catcher position is challenging. However, there might be some sunlight peeking through the clouds in OBP leagues where taking Iannetta or Chirinos can give some sneaky value.

A couple of Cubs make it on this list as well: Ian Happ and Kyle Schwarber. Although Joe Maddon likes to play match-ups and platoons all season, even with their reduced playing time (compared to full-time regulars), these two Cubs still make it into the top ten for largest improvement in OBP compared to BA. Unsurprisingly, Rich has Happ (and I have Schwarber) in the Roto-Regs league.

The two (2) other names on the list are known for having significant platoon splits Justin Bour, with a career 77 wRC+ against LHPs (129 wRC+ against RHPs) and Michael Conforto, with a 90 wRC+ against LHPs (134 wRC+ against RHPs). Luckily, both are on the strong side of the platoon and also, despite being platooned – or perhaps because of the platooning – their OBP still ends up being in the top 100 in the league.

The “avoid” list.

In drafts, fantasy players are always looking for the sleepers.  We have provided several of those for your consideration above.  However, the opposite is also true.  You want to avoid those players who put up poor on-base percentage but are listed by the draft software much higher than they should be.

Below are the hitters we are suggesting you give a second thought to drafting if your league has OBP as a category. They have reasonably high ADPs – but keep in mind this is most likely influenced by the fact that the ADP is being driven by leagues still using Batting Average as a category.

Hitters who have the biggest drop in Z-score when going from BA to OBP:
D-3c

Wow, there are some top 100 ADP names on this list: Javier Baez (17th), Jean Segura (60th), Eddie Rosario (77th), Miguel Andujar (79th), Jose Peraza (83rd), and Dee Gordon (97th). Although they do offer value in other categories, be aware of how much worse they are in OBP leagues.

You’ve heard it before…but, draft accordingly.

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Digging Deep Series: Pitchers to avoid at the Draft Table

Digging DeepOf all of the ERA indicators (FIP, xFIP, SIERA), I’ve found through experience that SIERA (“Skill-Interactive ERA”) has been the most predictive.

One simple way to find pitchers to avoid before your draft then is to subtract a pitcher’s 2018 ERA from their 2018 SIERA and find the largest negative discrepancies between what their results actually were vs what they “should have” done.

To help refine the list, I looked for pitchers in 2018 who met the following criteria:

  • Threw more than 70 IP (to remove the pitchers who barely pitched)
  • K-BB% rates below “average” (12.1%)
  • Swinging Strike % below “average” (9.7%)
  • Had batters make Hard hit% above average (36.2%)
  • ERA better than 4.30 (because if their ERA was worse, these pitchers are probably already being avoided); and a
  • SIERA that is higher than their ERA.

Below is the list of pitchers who met the above criteria, with their statistics from last year and their current ADP (via NFBC). Note that Sean Manaea made this list but he was removed due to the fact he won’t pitch in 2019. Edwin Jackson also made this list but is still a Free Agent at time of writing so he is not being drafted highly anyway.

There are a few interesting names in here.

avoid pic

As sad as it is to hear it, Madison Bumgarner’s storied career appears to be on a downward slope. Those having hope that his 3.26 ERA last year was evidence that he was on his way back to vintage MadBum will likely be disappointed this year. His SIERA was 1.16 runs worse than his ERA and his Hard hit% and Swinging Strike rate were also below average. With an ADP of 75, you are essentially drafting the same profile as Ian Kennedy (ADP of 651).

Jhoulys Chacin was a surprise in 2018, pitching to a 3.56 ERA for the playoff-bound Milwaukee Brewers. There was a reason it was a surprise though: his peripherals show a pitcher who should have had an ERA closer to 4.57, which is around what most projection systems are actually expecting for him in 2019. Those owners defying the projections and taking him at pick 254 because of his 2018 campaign, will likely be disappointed.

The most interesting name may be Wade Miley. No one in their right minds is expecting a performance in 2019 nearing the 1.21 WHIP and 2.57 ERA numbers he put up last year. That is, no one …except the Houston Astros?? The analytics masters see something with Miley. I’m not interested in taking him – but I’m definitely intrigued. Tyler Chatwood was supposedly a sleeper pick for similar reasons when the Cubs signed him and we all know how that turned out. Did the Astros find another Charlie Morton?

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Digging Deep Series: Sleepers – Pitchers

Digging DeepOf all of the ERA indicators (FIP, xFIP, SIERA), I’ve found through experience that SIERA (“Skill-Interactive ERA”) has been the most predictive.

One simple way to find sleepers before your draft is to subtract a pitcher’s 2018 ERA from their 2018 SIERA and find the largest positive discrepancies between what their results actually were vs what they “should have” done.

To help refine the list, I looked for pitchers in 2018 who met the following criteria:

  • 40 IP (to avoid small sample sizes)
  • K-BB% rates above “average” (12%)
  • Swinging Strike % above “average” (9.7%)
  • O-Swing% (which is the rate at which a batter swings at a pitch that is out of the zone – which is an example of “the ability of a pitcher to get a batter to chase a bad pitch”) above “average” (30.0%)
  • Kept the batter’s Hard hit% below average (36.2%)
  • ERA worse than 3.77 (because if their ERA was better than 3.77, they’re not sleepers); and
  • SIERA that is lower than their ERA.

Below is the list of pitchers who met that criteria, with their statistics from last year and their current ADP (via NFBC). Note that Lance McCullers Jr. and Brent Suter also made this list but they were removed due to the fact they won’t pitch in 2019. Jose Berrios was also on the list but because his ADP is already 71, he wasn’t considered “sleepy” enough.

Pic 1

The player with the biggest discrepancy between their ERA and SIERA was Dylan Bundy whose SIERA was 3.94. Blessed with big tools and a monster slider, the former top prospect has never been able to put it all together. This is the first year that his SIERA has (a) been this low and (b) been lower than his ERA…so is this the year he figures out how to pitch to left-handed batters and meets his potential? The numbers suggest he could – and that his profile is very similar to Chris Archer who is being taken at pick 129:

Pic 2

The industry has been talking up Nick Pivetta and consequently, he’s been rising up draft boards. Therefore, we will move our attention to his teammate Zach Eflin? The former second-round pick is still only 24 years old and might be able to stick in the rotation. If he does, he can take advantage of the revamped Philly offense featuring the recent additions of Bryce Harper, JT Realmuto, and Jean Segura. He has an ADP of 333 but looks a lot like David Price, who is being taken at 91.

Pic 3

Finally, the pitcher on this list with the lowest ADP is Jason Vargas of the Mets (and currently penciled into the rotation as the 5th starter). The well-traveled 36-year-old might not get a huge workload so he may not be as influential as some of the other names. However, considering he has an ADP of 582 but resembles Kevin Gausman (who is being picked with an ADP of 196) makes him likely worth a flier:

Pic 4

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Digging Deep Series: Sleeper Positional Players (Power)

Digging DeepWe continue our two-part series to analyze positional players who are outliers from a power standpoint.  Last week we reviewed seven players that might give you pause as you are drafting and this week, we look at another seven who should be targets.  Since most of these are being drafted well into the draft, I would consider them sleeper and, in some cases, deep sleepers.

What are we looking for?

As with players to avoid, we reviewed 2018 production to see if the stat line matched their underlying analytics and swing mechanics.  Four signals were reviewed: hard-hit rate (Hard%), fly ball percentage (FB%), Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP), and home run to fly ball ratio (Hr/FB).  Launch Angle and Exit Velocity were also used as secondary signals to add fidelity to the four primary factors.

Our hypothesis is that if you hit the ball hard with a high launch angle that creates a high fly ball rate, then power should follow.  Home park factors do play a role, but in general, we would expect those players to be power hitters.  While the data proves that point very well, the draft value is where one following is true:

  1. The player’s batting average is causing a rightful pause at the draft table. You can call this the Joey Gallo factor.  You’re going to get big power but at a cost of batting average pressure.  Of course, with Gallo, the math changes considerably in on-base percentage leagues.
  2. The players Hr/FB is below average suggest that there could be more over-the-fence power in the cards.

The Data

We reviewed 247 players in the analysis with the averages and min and max as follows

Signal

Average Min

Max

BABIP

.299

.406

.196

FB%

36.22%

16.50%

51.70%

Hard%

36.46%

19.19%

49.00%

Hr/FB

13.33%

2.10%

35.00%

Just because it’s fun, the owner of the highest BABIP is Jorge Alfaro with the lowest BABIP going to Logan Morrison.

Rhys Hoskins owns one of the highest leveraged swings in the league and the highest fly ball percentage while light-hitting Jon Jay has the lowest FB%.  Interestingly, Eric Hosmer has the second lowest FB% and when you combine that with his well above-average Hr/FB ratio, the data suggest his over-the-fence power should be significantly questioned.

Christian Yelich owns the highest Hr/FB ratio at an amazing 35% which is nearly a full standard deviation away from the next confluence of hitters.  While not the point of this article, this is a meaningful signal and points to a potential major regression in home run power in 2019.  Mallex Smith owns the lowest Hr/FB%.

Finally, the hardest hit rate belongs to Matt Carpenter while the lowest belongs to Billy Hamilton.

The List

While we didn’t want to include every name, we did highlight eight names for your consideration plus two who made the dataset but have big flaws that we just couldn’t recommend, at least not yet.  The current ADP’s are provided by the NFBC.

Enjoy the list and please click on the baseball card to visit our partner amazon.com to explore additional information on each player.

1. Max Kepler (Min, OF, ADP=233)

I’ve been beating the drum for Max Kepler all preseason as the data suggest he is on the cusp of a breakout.  His low .236 BAPIP is not supported by his strikeout rate and his high hard-hit rate and fly ball rate suggest there is another grade in his power.  His Hr/FB rate is nearly a half standard deviation below the norm.  There is a 30-home run, .280 batting average bat waiting to emerge and I have no idea if it will be this year.  However, the growth and confluence of data suggest it will be soon.

2. Manny Margot (SD, OF, ADP=297)

This was is a bit of a shocker.  Manny Margot hits strongly on all signals with a hard-hit rate that is .5% standard deviation above normal, a low BABIP that should see some correction and a very poor Hr/FB ratio.  The Hr/FB ratio does give you pause as the analysis does not include park factors and we all know where Manny plays half his games.  But he is only 24 years old and as he matures, he’s gaining strength.  While I doubt, he’ll ever a 30-home run threat, don’t be surprised if he pops 15 plus home runs in 2019 with a dozen stolen bases and a .275 batting average.

3. Jackie Bradley Jr. (Bos, OF, ADP=225)

It might be getting late to acquire Jackie Bradley Jr. at a discount as the work he did with JD Martinez hitting coach, Craig Wallenbrock is starting to show benefits.  We saw it in the playoffs and so far in Spring Training.  His launch angle has changed, and consequently, the fly ball rate is increasing.  He hits the ball very hard with a hard-hit% at nearly one standard deviation above the norm.  He has a little bit of speed and his defense will keep him in the lineup.  I’ve targeted him in my draft and suggest you look hard as well.

4. Leonys Martin (Cle, OF, ADP=404)

Leonys Martin was off to a nice start in 2018 until a life-threatening bacterial infection ended his season early.  He just turned 31 and with a FB% that is 1.5 standard deviations above normal as well as a hard-hit rate that is above-average.  He’s healthy and having a great spring and should be drafted higher than where he is going.

5. Brian Dozier (Was, 2B, ADP=139)

In 2016 and 2017, Brian Dozier was arguably the best second base asset in fantasy baseball.  His home runs slipped to 21 last season with granted, an ugly .215 batting average.  That dropped him his draft position to the 13th second baseman off the board.  Justified?  Based on last seasons production, probably, but the analytics tell a different story.  His FB% is one standard deviation above norm while his hard-hit% is still slightly above average.  However, the real problem was his .240 BABIP last year.  That drove everything.  Perhaps he’ll never see 40 home runs again, but based on his swing, 25 is more than doable.  Plus, there should be a correction to a .270 batting average to go along with 15 stolen bases.  That’s still a really good player and one that should provide value in the mid rounds.

6. Brandon Belt (SF, 1B, ADP=438)

Brandon Belt continues to be my Kryptonite.  The data supports that if played anywhere but San Francisco, he would be at least hitting 25 home runs annually.  His hard-hit rate is nearly a full standard deviation above the norm and his fly ball ratio is one of the best in the entire league.  But, AT&T Stadium gobbles up left-handed power and therein lies the problem.  He’s a trade away from a breakout.  Until then, there will always be upside in those 18 home runs he hits annually and in our opinion, is a great low-cost option for your corner infielder, particularly in an OBP League.

7. Kyle Seager (Sea, 3B, ADP=265)

Kyle Seager has been forgotten in drafts.  Part of that is justified as his production has been dwindling over the past two seasons and he now enters 2019 at 31-years-old.  However, he was one of the original launch angle guys and is still ranked 28th in the league.  His hard-hit% is slightly above-average and a .251 BABIP suggests there is some opportunity for improvement.  As with many players on this list, he’s a sneaky pick if you get caught out at third base in a deep league or just want to add some depth.  In either case, there’s a strong likelihood that he will out-earn his draft position.

8. Albert Pujols (LAA, 1B, ADP=593)

Yes, he’s 39 years old and has lost a step…ok, three, but he still hits the ball extremely hard with a better than league average FB%.  He’s still has a plus hit tool with a strikeout rate of 13%.  The problem over the past several years is he can’t run – not steal bases…I mean…run.  That has crushed his BABIP and overall production.  He’s a lot healthier now and with better luck, he could still hit 20 to 25 home runs with a .270 batting average.  That’s far from elite, but he should provide enough production to be drafted and currently, he’s falling outside most mixed 15-team league formats.

Two interesting players that I JUST couldn’t include

Joc Pederson (LAD, OF, ADP=356)

Joc Pederson nearly ruined our hypothesis as he was off the chart in most of the signals we were tracking.  Unfortunately, all the damage is down against right-handed pitchers.  In fact, he’s a full standard deviation above the norm on both his hard-hit% and FB%.  The problem is he can’t hit lefties and it appears he will not be given the chance.  However, if that changes at all, he has monster power potential.

Hunter Dozier (KC, 3B, ADP=634)

Hunter Dozier also scored well across our signals, but his poor contact rate is holding him back.  He’s got the leverage swing and great exit velocity.  He just can’t make enough contact.  Unfortunately, he hasn’t shown the kind of plate patience he did in the minor leagues, so he’s not even a target for OBP League.  However, if the walk rate does improve or the BABIP goes his way, he could become relevant in a hurry.  He’s one to watch.

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Digging Deep Series: Positional Players to avoid at the draft table (Power)

Digging DeepWith the plethora of publicly available baseball stats, fantasy owners can have a field day digging through data to try and find undervalued or overvalued players.  In this series, we will test several hypotheses to see if we can discover some opportunities as you prepare for your drafts.

With the ability to measure the velocity in which a ball exits the bat, we decided to combine that with ground ball rates and Batting Average of Balls in Play (BABIP) to see what fell out.  Finally, we also used HR/FB ratio as a fourth signal, but it was a secondary indicator.

What are we looking for?

We wanted to see if a player ending stat line from 2018 matched their ability to make hard contact with leverage.  Said another way, if a player doesn’t hit the ball hard AND constantly hits that ball into the ground, their power should be questioned.  Furthermore, their batting average should be questioned if they have a high BABIP.

The initial cut of the data revealed 43 players.  Many of these players though had above-average, if not plus speed.  That makes sense given the signals we explored.  In general, players with above-average speed will use their legs to get on base.  This drives a higher than league average BABIP.  Plus, while Mike Trout not only has double-plus speed, he also has double-plus power, most of these speedsters do not.  Net-net, these players were eliminated from our analysis as they were predictable.  A few prominent players that fell into this group included: Mallex Smith, Jose Altuve, Jean Segura, Cesar Hernandez, and Trea Turner.  Altuve and Turner have shown good power in the past, but their game is about great bat control, getting on-base and causing havoc on the basepaths.

The data

We reviewed 247 players in the analysis.  The averages and min and max are as follows:

Signal

Average Min

Max

BABIP

.299

.406

.196

Ground Ball Rate

42.21%

24.00%

62.00%

Hard hit Rate

36.46%

19.19%

49.00%

Just because it’s fun, the owner of the highest BABIP is Jorge Alfaro with the lowest BABIP going to Logan Morrison.  The highest ground ball percent goes to Ian Desmond and the lowest goes to P361 Hall of Famer, Brandon Belt.  Since AT&T park (now Oracle Park), suppresses left-handed power, it’s why we’ve also suggested that Brandon Belt would be a significant player if he played nearly anywhere else.  The hardest hit ball rate honor does not go to Joey Gallo, but instead to Matt Carpenter.  The lowest hard-hit rate goes to…drum roll…Billy Hamilton.

The List

While we didn’t want to include every name, we highlighted seven players that we thought were meaningful and might give fantasy owners pause before selecting them in their upcoming drafts.  Their current ADP’s are provided by the NFBC.

1. Juan Soto (WAS, OF, ADP=31)

Juan Soto is a ground ball machine with a GB% of 53.7%.  This is a 1.5 standard deviation above the norm.  If we were scouting Soto, we would say he has a plus ground ball percentage – a 65.  That is significant.  He only has average speed and when you couple that with a hard hit rate of 34.8% and a BABIP of .338, there is clearly warning signals.  Granted, you can argue that he’s 20 years old and the future is extremely bright.  However, the data doesn’t lie.  He lacks leverage in his swing and just doesn’t hit the ball hard.  If it weren’t for one of the highest HR/FB ratios in the league, I doubt he would be going as a top outfielder.

2. Javier Baez (CHC, SS, ADP=13)

Javier Baez does have plus speed but does make our short list because the other signals are significant.  First, with his plus bat speed, I would have expected a very high hard-hit rate.  At 35.8%, it was below average.  He also had an above-average GB% at 45.6 and when you combine this with the sixth highest BABIP in the league, the 13th highest HR/FB ratio, a regression in 2019 seems inevitable.

3. Charlie Blackmon (COL, OF, ADP=26)

Charlie Blackmon is a curious case.  As he gets older, his speed has regressed but the power has expanded.  However, it appears to be all Coors Field driven.  The surface stats show a .567 SLG in Coors but a more pedestrian .439 SLG away from Colorado.  While his hard-hit rate is below-average, his hard-hit rate decreases in away game and is a meaningful half an Std. Deviation below average.  Bottom line: as he gets older and stops running, his fantasy value has already taken a hit.  What happens when he’s no longer able to take advantage of Coors because his skills have diminshed.  It’s coming and do you want to be holding the bag when it does?

4. Buster Posey (SF, C, ADP=145)

This one seems obvious but it’s still worth noting.  Buster Posey has had a three-year decline in HR/FB ratio and is now posting a below-average hard-hit rate and an above-average ground ball rate.  The contact rate still says there is a solid batting average, but the power appears to be gone.  Obviously, Oracle Park does not help.

5. Willson Contreras (CHC, C, ADP=135)

Willson Contreras had a down year, but when you look at the data, it looks even worse.  His 52% ground ball rate is 1.3 Std. Dev. higher than normal and his hard-hit rate is 1.47 Std. Dev. below average.  As with Juan Soto, he’s still young, but he lacks leverage in the swing and just doesn’t hit the ball hard.

6. Josh Bell (Pit, 1B, ADP=255)

Many fantasy owners are expecting a bounce back from Josh Bell this year.  However, a high ground ball rate (48%) and his low hard-hit rate (33.8%) say the swing mechanics are not there for him to be a true power hitter.  The only good news is that he’s nearly a full standard deviation lower than normal on his HR/FB ratio statistic.  That does at least give hope that he will improve on the 12 home runs he hit last season, but the 26 he hit in 2017 could be an outlier.

7. Eric Hosmer (SD, 1B, ADP=167)

Eric Hosmer’s production regressed last year and many simply chalked it over to playing half his games in Petco.  However, he’s never had a home run swing.  He’s always been a ground ball hitter and in 2018, it was really notable.  His 60% ground ball rate was one of the worse in the league and puts in him into the double-plus category.  He’s also never hit the ball hard.  What’s always saved him is his HR/FB ratio which has always been one of the best in the league.  With a dip last year though, it really showed, but if you dig into the stats, it was always there.

Conclusion

That is our list of notable players you might want to think twice before drafting them early.  Next, we will look at the reverse – players with high hard-hit rates and low ground ball rates who were also unlucky.  There’s one name that leads all the rest and if you are an avid listener to our podcast, you’ll know who that is.

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2019 Relief Pitcher Fantasy Rankings

RP rankings artworkOur 2019 fantasy rankings for relief pitching is now available.

You can find the list here.

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Dynasty League Rookie Drafts ADPs

HOT PROSPECTS 1At Prospect361.com, we host four 15-team Dynasty Leagues.  Each league is a rotisserie format with 23 starters, seven bench slots, and 20 minor leaguers.  Not including players on the DL, there are a total of 750 players owned across all teams.

Last Monday, February 18th, we conducted our annual 10-round Rookie Draft where owners can select any player not owned in the Player Pool.  The eligibility rule is simple – a player must be signed by a Major League organization.  Therefore, players still in college, high school or playing outside the US are not eligible.  To make the player pool richer, a player MAY not be added by a Dynasty League owner after last year’s draft commenced.  This ensures that players selected in the June draft, as well as players signed as part of the July J2 signing period, are all eligible.

The results of the drafts were interesting in that there was no real pattern.  Yusei Kikuchi was drafted number one overall in two drafts, number two in a third but fell all the way to the number nine slot in the final draft.  Nick Madrigal was the most consistent player taken – number one overall in one draft and third in the other three.

Remember, these drafts are not limited to first-year players or even minor leaguers.  If they are available in the player pool, they can be drafted.  In fact, Jazz Chisholm somehow was available in one league and was taken number one overall in that league.  I took Nathan Eovaldi at 1:13 in one draft because I needed a pitcher and I’m in my window to win now.  These selections do skew the drafts results.  But for the most part, the players taken early in the draft are last year’s June draftees or recently signed J2 players.

Later this week, I will publish a list of really young players I targeted in the drafts – some I got, and some I didn’t.

Enjoy the list and please click on the baseball card to visit our partner amazon.com to explore additional information on each player.

1. Nick Madrigal (CHW, 2B, 2.50 ADP)

I honestly thought that Kikuchi would go number one overall, but the selection of Madrigal is controversial.  While he has an elite hit tool with plus speed, there is no power.  While the speed and the ability to get on-base are fantasy friendly, his lack of power might limit his upside as a Major Leaguer.

2. Yusei Kikuchi (Sea, LHP, 3.25 ADP)

While I’m not the biggest fan of Kikuchi, he was the safe pick at number two.  He’s Major League ready and will play in a good pitcher’s environment.  However, the upside for me is only a number three starter and with a history of Japanese pitchers arm injuries, you do worry.

3. Casey Mize (Det, RHP, 4.00 ADP)

He was the number one overall pick in last June’s draft and while I don’t generally like drafting pitchers high in a Rookie Draft, I too Mize number two in one of the drafts.  He’s got a quality arsenal with an upside of a number two starter who should move quickly.  Sure, he might blow out, but at some point, you have to get on the pitcher-train as they are half of our team in the game.

4. Nolan Gorman (Stl, 3B, 5.00 ADP)

I knew that Gorman would go high but I did not have him this high on my pref list.  Sure, he has double-plus raw power but it will come with a ton of strikeouts and batting average pressure.  As opposed to Joey Gallo, he also doesn’t walk a ton.

5. Victor Victor Mesa (Mia, OF, 5.50 ADP)

When Victor Victor was signed two months ago, I thought he would go 1:1 in our rookie drafts.  However, while the speed is plus, there became a lot of concern about his hit-tool and lack of power that whispers of a fourth outfielder stated to emerge.  Clearly, owners were worried about this, so he fell.

6. Jonathan India (Cin, 3B, 6.75 ADP)

India is a solid pick and those who selected him should feel good about the selection.  He has solid power with a little bit of speed that will play half his games in a premium ballpark.

7. Jarred Kelenic (Sea, OF, 7.75 ADP)

I had Kelenic very high on my pref list but unfortunately, I didn’t get him on any of my teams.  He’s a great athlete with great makeup and a chance to develop into a premier outfielder.

8. Trevor Larnach (Min, OF 8.25 ADP)

This one surprised me.  I like Larnach but see him more as a solid major league regular – not a guy with star potential.  At a single-digit selection, I’m looking for a star.  He has good power with the ability to hit but is a 30-grade runner with questions about where he will play defensively.

9. Joey Bart (SF, C, 11.25 ADP)

Since our Leagues are two-catcher leagues, I thought Bart would go higher – surely higher than Larnach.  However, he fell to an ADP of 11 and I believe there was good value for those who grabbed him.

10. Travis Swaggerty (Pit, OF, 11.75 ADP)

I had Swaggerty high on my pref list but with an asterisk – he’s a Pirate.  Let’s face it, they have an inconsistent history of developing prospects and Swaggerty is by no means a sure thing.  The talent is there but he needs some development.

11. Nico Hoerner (CHC, SS, 14.00 ADP)

I’m assuming Hoerner rose due to his participation and solid performance in the AFL last fall.  He’s a solid player but really doesn’t have the speed and power to make him all that fantasy-friendly.

12. Jordan Groshans (Tor, 3B, 14.75 ADP)

Groshans is a solid pick at the back of the first round.  He can hit with a little bit of power and if you are comparing him to Larnach, is more athletic with a chance to maybe even steal of few bases.

13. Alec Bohm (PHI, 3B, 15.00 ADP)

Based on where Bohm was selected in the MLB Draft (3), you can argue that owners got a huge bargain.  As we’ve written before, let’s just hope his poor showing in his debut was just due to fatigue and adjustment and not something more disconcerting.

14. Marco Luciano (SF, OF, 17.25 ADP)

I really wanted Luciano on my teams, but when he went number five overall in one draft, I knew others had the same idea.  I thought I could get him in the third round but had to snag him in the second to finally land him on one league.  If you throw out pick number five as a reach, he went pick 20-22 in the others.  FOMO – Fear of Missing Out is definitely at play here.

15. Jordyn Adams (LAA, OF, 18.50 ADP)

Adams might have the highest upside as anyone of this list and owners knew this and went early.  If he can hit, he has star potential.

16. Matthew Liberatore (TB, LHP, 19.00 ADP)

By talent, Liberatore should have gone higher but he’s a high-school pitcher drafted by the Rays and you have to take that into consideration in a Rookie Draft.  I really like the upside but you’re going to have to wait for five-years.

17. Grant Lavigne (Col, 1B, 22.00 ADP)

I really wanted Lavigne but didn’t get him on any team.  He’s a good athlete with a nice swing and plus power potential.  There’s something here.

18. Julio Pablo Martinez (Tex, OF, 26.00 ADP)

I was a little surprised when JPM fell this low.  Clearly, the fear of a fourth outfielder potential is in the mind of Dynasty League owners.

19. Alek Thomas (OF, Ari, 27.50 ADP)

Who?  Well, this one is driven by me.  I love Alek Thomas and grabbed him three out of the four leagues.  Sure, I reached but I wanted him on my team and with a nice power-speed combination and the ability to hit – sign me up.

20. Ryan Weathers (SD, LHP, 29.00 ADP)

This is a great value pick in the back of the second round. Weathers is polished with good stuff that should only get better through repetition.

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2019 Starting Pitcher Fantasy Rankings

SP rankings artworkOur 2019 fantasy rankings for starting pitching is now available.

You can find the entire list here.