Old Guy Buy Lows

Hope you listened to me last week and dealt Johnny Cueto as an appointment with Dr. James Andrews is rarely good news.  I feel like I’ve had a bit of an SP bias so far this year given my affinity for analyzing pitchers.  To help even that out, here are four old bats that are worth trying to buy low on.

Andrew McCutchen

Cutch was once a first round staple, a good bet for a well-rounded five-category performance, and a perennial MVP threat.  Cutch was even more of a monster in points given his great approach. A disappointing 2016 and an uneven 2017 led myself and many others to write him off a bit coming into 2018.  He had nice overall numbers in 2017, but much of the value was gained during one sustained hot streak in the middle of the season. I wasn’t too worried about the move to San Francisco as PNC already played like Yellowstone.  The issue was more to do with age and performance. I might have underestimated the former MVP a bit too much, though, as there’s a lot to like about his peripherals and batted ball data to date.

So far this year McCutchen is hitting the ball hard a whopping 50% of the time.  This is with an elite 25% line drive rate and a solid 36.9% of his balls hit in the air. He also has a career high 16.3% walk rate while maintaining a very manageable 20.1% K rate.  His average exit velocity is 93 MPH, which is the best it’s been in the Statcast era. That number is also virtually tied with Mookie Betts’ 93.2 MPH average to give some context. His xwOBA is also .399, which is .057 higher than his current results.

There’s some really interesting developments happening with Cutch. It’s a small sample but he’s hitting the ball better than he has in years, if not maybe ever.  There’s still some name brand value attached to McCutchen, but many of your league mates might still smell some stink on him from 2016 or large parts of 2017. The Giants, their large park, and McCutchen’s age might give you a discount as well. I would pay top 50 price for him with the hope that he has, for the most part, reverted back to vintage McCutchen, although you can probably get him for a little less than that depending on the owner.

Matt Carpenter

This is another older guy off to a bit of a slow start.  My feelings here are not purely statistical and it is worth reminding you that Carpenter is usually more valuable in points and OBP leagues.  He was off to a superstar start back in 2016 before a core injury derailed him. And last year he was up and down, but still gave you some respectable stats in 145 games.  Carpenter has also already earned dual eligibility at first and third base, which is always useful.

The main reason I’ve always loved Carpenter is the approach.  He is staying true to that with an incredible 18% walk rate, which is even better than the 17.5% he sported last year.  His 18% clip is good for 5th best in the league so far. According to Fangraphs, Carpenter is still hitting the ball hard 38.8% of the time, and hitting the ball soft a mere 6% of the time.  The line drive rate of 25.8% is excellent and the fly ball rate is up at 45.5%, which is “fly-ball revolution” status. xStats suggest he should have a woBA of .404 which is .117 off of where he is.  The only thing that gives me any pause is Carpenter’s K rate has spiked. He’s up at 26.2% which would be a career worst. His plate discipline stats do show that he’s swinging and missing more as well.  This could be related to the previous injury, but I’m choosing to chalk this up to small sample size for now.

Like many players, Carpenter’s valuation varies widely across different leagues and formats.  He was legitimately dropped in one shallow points league that I play in. That’s a mistake to me.  Carpenter is worth buying low on as he still looks like a top 100-125ish overall player to me. The dual eligibility, xStats, walk rate, and lineup he resides in leave me with a lot to like.  There’s a chance you can steal him as he’s another player advancing in age and has developed a bit of a reputation as an injury guy.

Carlos Santana

I thought about not including Santana as he felt a bit too obvious. Santana is a notoriously streaky hitter and he’s definitely known to be a second half player, but I always recommend buying low in the here and the now.

Santana has had a miserable start, but all the data suggests that he’s the same guy we thought coming into the year.  His walk rate of 15.7% is good for 16th best in the bigs. The best part, it’s exactly the same as his 15.7% K rate – the guy walks as much as he strikes out.  He’s hitting the ball hard 35.8% of the time and putting 48.9% of his balls in the air. The fly balls partially explain a reduced .174 BABIP, but definitely not all the way.  Also, hitting that many balls hard in the air should lead to some more power in a park like the one in Philly. xStats also like him as his xwOBA is .386, which is .104 off what luck has given him thus far.  It’s also identical to one Didi Gregorious. Talk about a tale of two seasons between those two.

The top of the Phillies lineup is pretty good and Santana should heat up.  I would nab him soon. As seen with guys like Lindor and Encarnacion, it just takes one hot streak to restore faith.  I think Santana is in for a really nice season with the Phils and basically every metric backs that up.

Ryan Zimmerman

It’s interesting because Zimmerman felt a bit fluky to me last year.  Always liked him in his younger days as a third baseman, but year after year he disappointed with injury, and last year he absolutely blew up. So far this year – not so much.

A .204 BABIP explains some of what’s gone wrong so far.  There’s a lot to like with Zimmerman’s batted ball and underlying numbers though.  He’s hitting the ball even harder than he did last year with a 44% clip. Much like Carpenter, he’s also not hitting many soft shots with just a 15% soft hit rate. Zimmerman’s walk rate is nothing to write home about at 6.8%, but a 20.5% K rate is very good for someone with his power potential.  His xwOBA is .378, which is .099 points better than his actual rate. Zimmerman is also tied for the second highest average exit velocity along with Miggy and Nelson Cruz and behind just Aaron Judge.

The metrics for Zimmerman actually look better this year than they did last year.  I would scoop him in most shallow leagues where he has likely been dropped. I would also recommend sending some nice low ball offers in your medium and deep leagues.  As the Nats add other good bats back into their lineup, you might see Zimmerman start to heat up. The guy hits the ever-loving crap out of the ball.

*****

Hopefully you’ll be able to buy low on some of these oldies but goodies.  Old guys off to a slow start are always a great way to enhance your team. So many owners are ageist and panic over slow starts.  Sometimes old guys do fall off the cliff, but if the peripherals and batted ball data look as good as they do with these guys – I say go get em!

 

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Mike Sheehan

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Comedian, Powerlifter, and most importantly a Cum Laude graduate of the fantasy baseball school of hard knocks. Double major in points and categories with a minor in roto. Happy to be doing my Postgraduate work here at the Fantasy Assembly.

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