This article is designed to point out some interesting trends that may be affecting how we evaluate fantasy hitters at this point in the season. For every blurb below, assume the qualifier “Since the beginning of May…” precedes each statistic. I tried to focus on underlying stat categories that are relevantly influencing fantasy production at this point in the season.
Since the beginning of May…
The highest K% in the majors are as follows:
- Wil Myers – 35.1%
- Brandon Lowe – 34.8%
- Michael Chavis – 34.4%
- Javier Baez – 32.6%
- Yoan Moncada – 32.1%
Brandon Lowe has a .393 BABIP and has a major league worst contact percentage over the course of the season. RUN!
Yoan Moncada has a .385 BABIP and a 6.3% BB rate. I was skeptical of the breakout, and this is not helping. Not to mention he has had several nagging injuries of late.
Michael Chavis – we expected this. The .431 Slugging percentage is particularly bad. He’s chasing, and pitchers are finally not throwing him offspeed pitches in the zone which buoyed his early power success.
The top 5 in BABIP include 3 Rockies
Well this is obvious. David Dahl has a ridiculous BABIP of over .430 for the season! Desmond leads this list since May and Blackmon is second. All 3 are over .400. This is just your friendly reminder to CHECK THE SCHEDULE. The Rockies are unstoppable at Coors but are the second worst Road offense. Be aware of this in your weekly leagues in particular.
Some notably low BABIP totals include:
Edwin Encarnacion has a .202 BABIP since May 1, but he’s only striking out 18.6% of the time in that span. If you need power check in with his current owner. Yankee stadium and the lineup around him-as well as BABIP correction-will make Encarnacion an incredibly valuable source of HR and RBI down the stretch.
Alex Bregman has just a .216 BABIP. Guys, he has a .311 ISO and a 16 to 12 % walk to strikeout percentage. This is Mike Trout plate discipline with a Gary Sanchez BABIP. You won’t be able to trade for him, but if you own him; just understand there is nothing wrong with Bregman so don’t panic. The BABIP will correct, but even if it doesn’t come all the way back, the plate discipline will provide such a high on base floor.
Paul Dejong has a .241 BABIP. So, this is actually encouraging. His owner was waiting for this, but the skills that suggested a breakout have not really changed since May 1. A 19.2% K rate and a 13% BB rate has kept a .345 OBP despite the low BABIP in this stretch. If anything, I think this inevitable swing in BABIP luck is creating a possible buying opportunity. Now, SS is the deepest position in fantasy this year so you probably don’t have a need for Dejong. If you do, however, I would not hesitate to offer a mid-level player at another position.
Mookie Betts has a .261 BABIP. He’s hitting .244 on the year which could be alarming to some Roto owner. However, he has Bregman plate discipline and we’ve seen this before. This was the story of two years ago and it doesn’t make a ton of sense. You’re obviously not trading Betts and not trading for him, but maybe it’s encouraging that you can chalk this up to bad luck?
Jose Ramirez has a .239 BABIP. Bregman and Betts are studs who should see their form return when their batted ball luck changes. I’m not so sure luck will fix Ramirez. In that same stretch, in spite of stellar plate discipline, he has a .119 ISO. 3 HR and 7 SB in 183 PA is just not good enough for a top 5 pick. I think you may have missed your window to sell low on Ramirez also. In a Categories league that uses OBP, I offered Hoskins for Ramirez a month ago and it was turned down. I would not make the same offer today.
If you own him, you’ve read all the theories. He’s being pitched differently, he’s not making the same level of contact, he’s selling out for power, etc., But, for me, the most important thing is we can trace this back to August of last year. Since August 15th, Jose Ramirez has THE WORST BABIP in baseball at .204. He has 8 HR, 23 steals and is slashing .190/.300/.305 in that stretch. Yikes.
Some Hard Hit Rate Standouts
I’m going to skip the usual names for this section.
Hunter Renfroe is 4th at 53.1%. Getting regular playing time has allowed Renfroe to rack up some impressive power stats of late. I don’t think this is a breakout, but there is something interesting here. Since May 1, Renfroe is pulling the ball 56.3% of the time which is the 4th highest rate in the majors. We’re still trying to fully understand the correlation, but it’s likely that this combination of hitting the ball extremely hard to the pull side increases HR/FB rates and possibly BABIP. A 51% FB rate and 34% HR/FB rate suggests this is exactly what is making Renfroe successful. As you analyze trends, look for a combination like this if you’re searching for a power breakout.
Marwin Gonzalez has a Soft Contact rate under 10%. With his positional eligibility and the lineup he’s in, I like Marwin as a 2B and backup everywhere else in my lineup. 29.6% of his balls in play have been line drives which is also encouraging. I think you can get more than a straight up deal for these two, but I’d rather have Marwin than Brandon Lowe. *After this article posts, note that Gonzalez was placed on the IL by the Twins*
Shohei Ohtani is breaking back out. I don’t know what the phrase should be, but he was a little slow out of the gate since coming off the IL in May. Rehabbing his arm from Tommy John surgery and only experiencing extended spring training at bats led to a May slash line of .250/.330/.363. So, when I tell you his 49.5% Hard Hit rate since May 1 is top 20 in the majors and includes that mediocre May, the signs are clearly showing lately. In June, the Hard Hit rate is over 55%, and 2 of every 3 fly balls are leaving the yard. He doesn’t hit many fly balls, but his opposite field line drives leave the yard, and his speed should support a strong BABIP. Even in weekly leagues, I’m buying in despite his Utility only status.
Who’s Chasing? Outside of the Zone Swing% Trends
Nick Castellanos is 3rd worst in the league at a rate of 46.2%. It’s been a dreadful season, and you would be pressing too if you were on the AL’s worst offensive team. I’m fine dropping him in some formats if you have to, but you’ll want to monitor what his role will be on whatever team he is traded to in 6 weeks.
Tim Anderson and Eduardo Escobar are in a virtual tie for the 6th worst chase rate since May 1. I lump them together because their batted ball profiles say they are exactly who they’ve always been. Despite a hot start from Anderson and a big power surge from Escobar, the sustainability of those trends looks unlikely. This chase rate supports that caution. Sell high if you still can.
Rafael Devers is 11th on this list at 41.7%. He swings at a ton of pitches and is chasing A LOT more than he did in April. But, he’s also capitalizing on pitches in the zone. He’s swinging more often and chasing more often, but he hits the ball extremely hard. This is not a sign that the breakout is in question, but it does seem like April displayed a more concerted effort to take pitches. In fact, the version since May 1 may actually be optimal for fantasy purposes.
Who are pitchers afraid of? Lowest Zone % Trends
Pete Alonso tops the list. He has seen just 35.1% strikes since May 1. He’s only chasing 34.8% of them and has a very respectable contact rate. With the way he hits the ball and the assumption he will improve slightly on his plate discipline, this guy is a monster. I am selling high on Riley and Chavis, but I’m buying high on Alonso.
Gary Sanchez is 3 on this list at 36.5%. He leads the majors in Barrels per Plate Appearance and is displaying a lot of patience. He’s actually only swinging 41.9% of the time since May 1. He may not have an exceptional OBP, but this guy is doing exactly what you’d hoped for when you drafted him. More importantly, the league is clearly taking notice and trying to avoid Gary’s (cue John Sterling) scary exit velocity results.
Advice: I think exercises like this are valuable in self-evaluation. Can you explain why your player’s numbers have improved or fallen off? Are plate discipline trends suggesting they are being pitched differently? Know what you have before you get too invested in the trade market or waiver wire. It’s a long season and there’s a lot of small sample size pieces of data, but trust your process and continue to look at stats like these to accurately value what your players have done and what they are poised to do.
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