The MLB draft starts on Monday, and a whole new group of players are about to take the first step on a journey they hope ends with them playing in the show. Not everyone will make it, however. A SABR study of all draft picks from 1996-2011 reported that 66.7% of signed players drafted in the first round played in the major leagues. That success rate goes down as you review players taken in the second (49.4%), third (39.7%, fourth (35%) and fifth rounds (33.3%). This information and a whole lot more can be found in that report and I highly suggest reading it if you have the time.
Basically, not everyone taken in next week’s draft will have their dream of playing in the big leagues come true. This will occur for late-round prospects and highly rated talents alike, though we will not know the full extent of how well any team drafted for several years. While this is true, hope springs eternal. Fans and MLB executives everywhere are not expecting players like JJ Bleday, Adley Rutschman, and Bobby Witt Jr. to stall in the minors, and you would be hard pressed to find anyone drafted who would tell you they will be part of that percentage that does not make it to the majors. The draft is a fun, exciting time of year for fans and players everywhere and adds an interesting wrinkle to fantasy strategy for those who play in dynasty leagues.
While we wait to see where everyone will go in the draft, be sure to keep you eyes on those players who have already made the leap. As always, if you have a player you would like profiled or have a question about, feel free to post in the comment section or reach out to me on Twitter @hedenson18 with that or any other questions.
- Lance Lynn
Arlington is not the first place many would look for useful fantasy arms (Rangers rank 26th in ERA), though Lance Lynn is doing some things over the last two weeks of which you may want to take note. The veteran righty has struck out 38.9% of batters in those starts while walking only 7.4%.
Pitching against the strikeout-prone Mariners (league-leading 586 strikeouts) likely helped in that regard, though he is whiffing a respectable 24% of batters on the season (10.2% SwStr%). When you compare him to other pitchers with similar strikeout and walk rates and factor in his production over the past month (26.8% K%, 8% BB%, 3.87 SIERA), his sub-50% ownership rates (23.9% ESPN, 44% Yahoo) look a bit light:
- Tyler Mahle
Mahle has been a source of steady production over the past month, posting a 4.05 ERA in six starts over that period. Advanced looks at his performance are better (3.36 SIERA) and the 29.3% K% he has rocked for the past month help things as well. His overall numbers are solid (4.26 ERA, 3.67 SIERA, 26.2% K%) and he has yet to go less than five innings in any start this season.
Many would look at his raised strikeout rate and cry foul. This is a guy who has struck out more than 25% of batters only once in his career, not someone with a pedigree predicting high strikeout rates. Usually, I would agree with those nay-sayers if it was not for the two new pitches Mahle is flashing this year. After an up and down debut last season, Mahle ditched his slider and reworked his changeup into more of a split-fingered fastball.
Making those changes has made all the difference in 2019. Both pitches have been more effective than their predecessors, especially as it relates to strikeouts:
Their success has also increased the effectiveness of his four-seam fastball. A few aspects of his profile (90 MPH average exit velocity, 9.2% Barrel%, 40.7% Hard Hit%, 20% HR/FB%) stand out as reasons why he may not ever be more than a middle of the road fantasy starter, though other areas of improvement mitigate those issues (+4.2% GB%, 5.5% BB%). Either way, Mahle looks like a steal given his barely existing ownership rates (8.4% ESPN, 15% Yahoo).
- Kevin Kiermaier
Man, does Kevin Kiermaier love to play with your heart. Every year I tell myself to avoid temptation, to leave his sexy blend of power and speed to another owner who can experience the heartache his inevitable myriad of injuries will bring. Yet, here I go again. Kiermaier has come alive over the past two weeks, swiping four bases, slamming four home runs, and slashing .316/.381/.711.
His Barrel% (6%), average exit velocity (88.6 MPH), and Hard Hit% (37.3%) all represent career highs and he has managed to play in 50/56 of his team’s games this season. If he can manage to stay healthy, a 15/20 season is basically guaranteed. 195 missed games over the last three seasons makes that anything but, however. Still, he holds more potential than most other players with sub-20% ownership rates (17.7% ESPN, 17% Yahoo).
- Bryan Reynolds
Bryan Reynolds just keeps on hitting. He owns a .398/.482/.698 line over the last two weeks with three bombs. His overall numbers are not far off that (.345/.402/.569 with five home runs). Statcast is a big fan of his work so far (.290 XBA/.350 XWOBA/.451 XSLG), mostly due to a 48.2% Hard Hit% that rates in the Top 9% of the league.
His BABIP (.422) is a hard number to believe in, though it bears pointing out that his lowest ever BABIP in a season since becoming a professional is .362. He limits strikeouts (22%), hits lefties (.429/.459/.714) and righties (.309/.378/.506) well and walks at a solid rate (8.7%). All things in his favor. His limited MLB experience (36 games) and some aspects of his approach at the plate (36.6% O-Swing%, 13.3% SwStr%) are troubling, but the ride has been good so far.
- Daniel Murphy
If you cannot hit at Coors, where can you hit? Murphy has been one of the better hitters in MLB over the last several seasons and I do not remember anyone thinking a move to Denver was in any way a negative during the offseason. Yet, it has been a rocky (c’mon…you enjoyed it) start at the plate so far. Murphy is hitting .239/.311/.413 with three home runs in 2019.
Statcast is not impressed with his production at all (.219 XBA/.279 XWOBA/.329 XSLG), mostly due to a 2.2% Barrel% that rates in the bottom 7% of the league and a below average 28% Hard Hit%. This lack of production and Murphy’s age (34) are worrying traits, though the spectre of Coors makes it hard to let go of such a professional hitter.
- Yusei Kikuchi
The heralded Mariners off-season addition has been all sorts of ‘meh’ so far in his first MLB season, especially over his last two abbreviated outings. Kikuchi has lasted exactly 3.1 IP in each of his last two starts, serving up three home runs while striking one solitary batter. That lack of strikeouts is nothing new. Kikuchi’s 17.7% K% is not scaring anyone and neither are his chase rates (8.8% SwStr%, 27.1% O-Swing%, 69.4% O-Contact%).
The biggest issue is his fastball. That pitch is generating a putrid 9% K% (13.9% Whiff%, 12.8% PutAway%) and not fooling anyone who steps into the box against the righty (.299 XBA/.379 XWOBA/.515 XSLG). Eight of his 11 home runs allowed have come against that pitch as well. That is a problem given he throws that pitch 51.1% of the time. Taking a deeper look at the rest of his arsenal does not paint a much better picture as only his slider stands out as a legitimate weapon:
Unless Kikuchi is able to shift to another gear with his arsenal, this could be a long year for him and a long contract for the Mariners. Whispers are already circulating that he could be skipped over for his next start in order to help clear his head. Despite the red flags, I would give Kikuchi more time before moving on. Adjusting to a new league, team, and country is a difficult thing and he performed well enough in Japan to earn a longer leash than some. Keep Kikuchi on the bench for now and see how he responds to this rough patch.
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