ISO Leaderboard and 2017 Outlook

It’s a little early for a season review, but I was doing some early rankings for 2017 and figured I would share my findings. The first area I concentrated on was ISO, and while power is just one part to look at when setting player values, it is a big one. Isolated Power is defined by Fangraphs as the measure of a hitter’s raw power, and tells you how often a player hits for extra bases. The league average ISO for 2016 is .163, with first basemen leading the attack at .192 and shortstops pulling up the rear at .145.

I don’t suppose that ISO is all that valuable on its own, but it does do a great job of pointing out some unexpected names. I’ve broken this down by position using qualified at bats – I reduced it to 400 plate appearances for catchers – and made comments on some of the most noteworthy. I’ll continue on, looking at speed, plate discipline, and contact skills in my next segments.

All numbers are as of end of day September 15th.

Catcher
Name 2016 ISO Rank 2nd Half ISO Rank
Yasmani Grandal .251 1 .286 3
Evan Gattis .244 2 .290 2
Jonathan Lucroy .212 3 .258 5
Salvador Perez .191 4 .150 11
Wilson Ramos .191 5 .169 7
Gary Sanchez .369 N/A .369 1
Russell Martin .179 8 .282 4

Yasmani Grandal – Grandal really started elevating the ball and hitting it hard in the second half. If he can keep up those gains, he becomes a strong target for next year. His 25% HR/FB rate isn’t something he will sustain, but he had it at 22% last season before getting hurt. While I like Grandal, I actually think he may be overvalued heading in to next season.

Evan Gattis – It’s like the Prodigal Son has returned behind the plate and all is forgiven in the fantasy world. Gattis has done what he has always done, but while that provided nominal OF value, it sure does look good in the catcher slot. He’s gotten a nice boost with his .950 OPS in the second half, but I don’t look for his overall numbers to dip next year. Lock him in for 25-30 dingers.

Jonathan Lucroy – Lucroy’s power numbers have gone through the roof following his move to Texas, climbing from a .183 ISO in Milwaukee to a .285 mark with the Rangers. There has been no slip in his average and OBP either; both have remained the same. It’s been a long run for Buster Posey at the top, but we’re looking at a new #1 fantasy catcher in Jonathan Lucroy.

Gary Sanchez – We had Sanchez as our #1 catcher prospect and #47 overall heading in to 2016, and it almost feels like we undersold him. Sanchez has taken the baseball world by storm, hitting his 15th home run Saturday in just his 157th at bat. Obviously he won’t continue this torrid pace, but I can see him being valued as the 3rd catcher off the board in next years draft. I like him – just not sure I would reach that high. 

Russell Martin – Early warnings of Martin’s offensive demise look premature after a second half where he posted a .910 OPS. Forever undervalued, Martin will continue to make a great fallback option. He’ll return positive value as a late round choice – again.

First Base
Name 2016 ISO Rank 2nd Half ISO Rank
Edwin Encarnacion .274 1 .274 4
Chris Carter .265 2 .236 9
Freddie Freeman .261 3 .306 1
Anthony Rizzo .260 4 .217 11
Chris Davis .258 5 .255 6
Mike Napoli .239 6 .264 5
Miguel Cabrera .237 7 .275 3
Carlos Santana .226 8 .197 12
Joey Votto .211 9 .237 8
Mitch Moreland .209 10 .250 7
Hanley Ramirez .208 11 .304 2
Jose Abreu .183 16 .221 10

Freddie Freeman – Raise your hand if you had Freeman leading first basemen in power production in the second half of the season, and edging out Rizzo on the year. There’s nothing in his batted ball or discipline profile that makes any of this look unsustainable either. Just 27 years old, is it really any surprise that his power started to develop in this, his 6th season? Buy with confidence next year. 

Miguel Cabrera – After just 18 home runs in 2015 and a slow start to 2016, there were more than a few non-Tigers fans concerned about Cabrera. Tigers fans remained steadfast in their loyalty and Miggy has come through, topping 30 home runs while hitting over .300. He may not be the best first baseman in the league any more, but you would be hard-pressed to find (m)any better.

Joey Votto – When Votto was hitting .213 at the end of may, I admit to thinking he was done. A .319 June was nice, but since then Votto has been ridiculous. It’s incredible that he hasn’t earned more attention, batting .417 in the second half, with a 1.150 OPS!! I will never doubt Mr. Votto again, and you shouldn’t either. 

Hanley Ramirez – Coming off of two disappointing seasons, our group was hesitant to rank Hanley Ramirez above #17 first basemen heading in to 2016. Fortunately I was doing prospect rankings so I missed out on this ranking, or I’d have likely been lower even. He has zero defensive value, but with Ortiz gone in 2017 Hanley could keep his spot in the top-ten next year. The biggest difference has been his ability to drive the ball hard (and in the air) in the second half.  

Jose Abreu – Much like Hanley, Abreu’s turnaround came in the second half as he started hitting the ball in the air more and with greater authority. Most of Abreu’s triumphant return has come since August, where he’s hit .374 with 13 home runs in just 42 games. Abreu is going to be undervalued next year after heading in to this season as a consensus top-five first baseman. Don’t let him slide too far as he’s just as likely to return to that mark in 2017.



Second Base
Name 2016 ISO Rank 2nd Half ISO Rank
Brian Dozier .300 1 .421 1
Daniel Murphy .250 2 .250 5
Rougned Odor .237 3 .268 4
Robinson Cano .222 4 .190 11
Jose Altuve .210 5 .226 6
Jonathan Schoop .196 6 .183 13
Ian Kinsler .196 7 .190 12
Neil Walker .194 8 .240 N/A
Jason Kipnis .192 9 .181 14
Logan Forsythe .192 10 .196 10
Ryan Schimpf .347 N/A .369 2
Jedd Gyorko .246 N/A .305 3
Jean Segura .166 12 .224 7
Starlin Castro .166 13 .208 8
Trea Turner .197 N/A .198 8

Brian Dozier – Just when it looked like Altuve was going to further distance himself from the rest of the pack, Dozier decided to hit 27 second half home runs. At 29 years old, the stolen base numbers are bound to start falling soon, but how do you not look for 35 home runs with 10 stolen bases in 2017? I never thought I’d see Dozier as a second round pick, but at this point it is harder for me to imagine him not going there. 

Daniel Murphy – I don’t think there’s anybody in baseball that I was more wrong about than Daniel stinking Murphy. Clearly the third best second baseman of 2016, I’ll likely continue betting against him until I am right – probably in 2021. At least I’ll be right eventually, even if it costs me a few titles in the meantime. 

Jose Altuve – Altuve was already the clear choice at #1 among second basemen, but he added nearly 20% to his OPS this year and should finish with 25+ home runs and 30+ stolen bases. He did sacrifice a bit of contact, but most of his gains were simply done by hitting the ball harder than he ever did before. I don’t think there was a better hitter in 2016 and I’d take him in the top-five next year with confidence. 

Ryan Schimpf – 19 home runs in 238 big league at bats is going to lead to more than a few reaches next year, but I’d hesitate to take more than a late round flier on the 28-year-old rookie. While he obviously has power – and power to all fields – his 64.5 FB% is 16 points higher than the highest qualified hitter. It’s just not sustainable. He can hit 20 home runs with a weak average, but with the influx of second base talent, I don’t see a spot for Schimpf among the top-15. 

Trea Turner – I never expected Turner to appear among the ISO leaders, but here he is with 11 home runs (and 27 stolen bases) in just 59 games. Turner is going to go very high next year, mostly because people (myself included) recognize this incredible talent has the potential to return insane numbers across the board. He could be one of baseball’s most exciting young talents.

Third Base
Name 2016 ISO Rank 2nd Half ISO Rank
Nolan Arenado .280 1 .274 3
Jake Lamb .275 2 .202 13
Josh Donaldson .271 3 .227 8
Kris Bryant .267 4 .230 7
Manny Machado .252 5 .254 5
Evan Longoria .245 6 .257 4
Matt Carpenter .241 7 .181 N/A
Kyle Seager .235 8 .209 12
Todd Frazier .235 9 .191 15
Justin Turner .231 10 .294 2
Adrian Beltre .219 11 .303 1
Anthony Rendon .184 13 .237 6
Alex Bregman .219 N/A .219 9
Ryon Healy .216 N/A .216 10
Miguel Sano .223 N/A .215 11

Jake Lamb – When we hummed and hawed over the top 4 third baseman for 2016 and beyond, none of us considered that Lamb would sit as the 2nd best slugging third baseman of 2016. He’s fallen off a fair bit in the second half, and I suspect this is closer to what we’ll see moving forward: 25 HR/.250 AVG/top-15 type third baseman. 

Evan Longoria – Longo has taken seven points off his GB% from the past two years and added it to his FB% in 2016. His HR/FB% looks sustainable – he’s just hitting more balls in the air (and deeper). The plate discipline has taken a slight hit this year, but I’m cautiously optimistic for 2017. 

Justin Turner – 31-year-old players who break 20 home runs for the first time aren’t generally great targets the following season. I’m not even sure that Turner is the exception. What I know is that he’ll be grossly undervalued again and should be a top-ten third baseman again, while being drafted deep outside of that range.  

Anthony Rendon – Rendon made significant strides in the second half of 2016, reminding us again of the kind of unique talent he really is. His second half line of .315/.379/.548 is quite a bit better than what he posted in his All-Star 2014 campaign. The difference is that now he’s a third baseman where the offensive bar is that much higher. I feel like he’s my #5 third baseman heading into 2017, though, based on his 2nd half numbers, including his 30% reduction in his strikeout rate. 

Alex Bregman – A hamstring injury that has Bregman all but shut down for the rest of the year, also will keep his stock a little lower than it should be heading into 2017. His poor start also helps our cause; but when you take out his first ten games, Bregman’s line looks like this : .310/.353/.582. Damn!



Shortstop
Name 2016 ISO Rank 2nd Half ISO Rank
Brad Miller .241 1 .275 1
Corey Seager .212 2 .192 5
Marcus Semien .202 3 .151 11
Troy Tulowitzki .196 4 .170 7
Asdrubal Cabrera .188 5 .240 N/A
Carlos Correa .182 6 .155 9
Addison Russell .182 7 .207 4
Didi Gregorius .178 8 .187 6
Zack Cozart .172 9 .089 N/A
Jonathan Villar .163 12 .214 2
Freddie Galvis .164 10 .213 3

Brad Miller – Nobody, I mean nobody, had Miller leading shortstops in home runs for 2016! A 26% HR/FB rate in the second half to go with a 29% strikeout rate raises some flags for next year. He’s also got a pretty high ground ball tilt and his contact rates have gone backwards from previous seasons. Am I impressed? Absolutely, but I’m not paying full price next year. There are nearly a dozen shortstops that I will probably prefer. 

Marcus Semien – I’m not terribly surprised with the 26 home runs that Semien put up this year. I just don’t think there are better years ahead. His second-half numbers are terrible: .226/.285/.382 and he’s a much better hitter against southpaws than he is against right-handers. I’d be selling if I could; though I’d have already sold him after he hit 19 home runs in the first half. 

Carlos Correa – Correa lost 50 points off of his ISO from his rookie season, but I’m not in the least concerned with him moving forward. Still just 21, Correa hit another 20 home runs this year while swiping double-digit bases. His hard-hit rate went up this year as did his line drive percentage. This is a 21-year-old kid playing a man’s game. I don’t think he deserves to be knocked out of the #1 slot for next year. 

Addison Russell – It’s nice to see the power growth from Russell, not only from last year but even as 2016 moved along. There were a lot of soft hit balls (23.6% and a 14% IFFB), but again this is a very young player who will only get better. I’ll probably still rank him quite aggressively, but his value will be limited somewhat by his lack of stolen bases, poor run-scoring opportunities, and a less-than-ideal strikeout rate. 

Freddie Galvis – I think Galvis is still on your waiver wire – go check while I wait. One of the coolest stories of the second half, Galvis has hit 11 home runs in his last 36 games. This from the guy who had 20 career home runs entering the year in nearly 1100 at bats. At the end of the day though, the BB/K of 0.20 is going to scare me away from ranking him too high. At 26-years-old, he’s the senior among the fresh young crop of shortstops. If he slips, I’m going to like him to return a profit though as he should be a lock for double-digit home runs and stolen bases. I guess he didn’t like the idea of J.P. Crawford being called the shortstop of the Phuture.

Outfield
Name 2016 ISO Rank 2nd Half ISO Rank
Mark Trumbo .271 1 .233 10
Yoenis Cespedes .269 2 .242 N/A
Khris Davis .267 3 .325 1
Adam Duvall .261 4 .194 20
Nelson Cruz .260 5 .257 6
Jay Bruce .250 6 .223 14
Yasmany Tomas .240 7 .314 2
Mike Trout .239 8 .230 11
Charlie Blackmon .233 9 .303 3
Michael Saunders .231 10 .190 21
Ryan Braun .229 11 .269 5
Mookie Betts .227 12 .238 9
Jackie Bradley Jr .224 13 .184 25
Matt Kemp .223 14 .271 4
Carlos Gonzalez .222 15 .195 N/A
Curtis Granderson .221 16 .224 12
Corey Dickerson .220 17 .213 15
Carlos Beltran .219 18 .172 29
Gregory Polanco .216 19 .222 13
Bryce Harper .207 20 .160 36
Justin Upton .183 24 .247 7
Joc Pederson .240 N/A .240 8
Christian Yelich .179 27 .206 16

Bryce Harper – Trading line drives for ground balls isn’t generally a winning strategy, and that’s what Harper has done this year. He’s still hitting a huge number of fly balls, but they’re going to center field instead of being pulled, causing his HR/FB rate to collapse. His exit-velocity is down and his soft-hit balls have nearly doubled over his 2015 season. It sounds like panic time until you see his improved strikeout and contact rates, coupled with an exciting 21 stolen bases. Throw in the fact that he’s just 23 years old, and did manage 19 first-half home runs, and it’s a buying opportunity if nothing else. Always bet on talent. Always.

Christian Yelich – Three years ago I was offered my choice of Christian Yelich or Yasiel Puig in a deal and I chose Yelich. I would like to pat myself on the back, except my patience ran thin in 2014 and I moved him. The point is that players who make hard contact and hit plenty of line drives are very likely to grow into their power. Yelich has nearly doubled his career HR total in less than half of his previous at bats. Couple that with a .300 batting average, and this 24-year-old has a very bright future indeed. 

Khris Davis – Davis is the type of player I generally undervalue. There’s something about players that strike out four times as often as they walk that make me shudder and walk away. What Davis has though is power, and even the Coliseum was unable to contain it. I don’t see a reason his power numbers should drop off next year. And when I squint I can see the BB/K ratio move from 0.13 in the first half to 0.37 in the second (0.67 in September). I’m buying for 2017. 

Gregory Polanco – With Polanco we see a player who is hitting the ball harder than ever before. He’s pulling the ball more leading to the increase in his HR/FB ratio. It’s all sustainable growth from what I can see and at just 25 years of age, there will be more to come. It’s been a great season as his power numbers have gone up while he’s kept the average and OBP in line. There are better seasons ahead. 

Joc Pederson – Pederson’s ISO never moved from the first half to the second, but in fact it was a tale of two halves for the young Dodgers outfielder. After the break, Pederson started hitting the ball hard! I mean really hard, 44% of the time (52% in September) This is why ISO can never be looked at on its own, as his OPS went up nearly 70 points after the All-Star break. The power was always there, but his inability to hit left-handed pitching is going to be the big step he needs to overcome to reach the next level. I’ll be very cautious in my ranking. 

Adam Duvall – While he may have exceeded eligibility, 28-year-old rookies tend to really irritate me. I doubt them and then watch them hit 23 first-half home runs on someone else’s club. A second half line of .226/.304/.427 is about 10% below average for an outfielder this year; little consolation to the ground I had lost not grabbing him right away. On the plus side, I feel pretty good about ignoring him next year. 

Yasmany Tomas – Not many had Tomas being the top-ranked Cuban hitter of 2016. In fact, six of us ranked the top 200 players for 2016, and only one included Tomas. Now we see the same recipe for power production here; more hard-hit balls and more ground balls turned to fly balls (specifically pulled). Tomas has done little else different, as his contact skills haven’t improved at all. I won’t be all-in next year, but I guarantee a better placement from all of us for Tomas in 2017.

 

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Paul Hartman
Fantasy Baseball player since 1987. Creator of Fantasy Assembly, yet just fortunate enough to be a part of it.
Paul Hartman

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