Players We Wish We Drafted

daniel_murphy_on_march_182c_2016_28229
By slgckgc on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Last week I wrote a post about three players that fantasy baseball analyst missed the mark on by over valuing them coming in to the 2016 season. Today we look at players that everyone wishes they would have seen coming this season because they way over performed their draft day value.

Daniel Murphy, 2B Nationals

During the offseason the Washington Nationals shopped the market and added what at the time didn’t seem like a big piece to their team in Daniel Murphy. Murphy was coming off a hot stretch in the playoffs for the Mets where he found his power stroke to the tune of seven home runs in 14 games and hitting .328. As a whole, however, 2015 wasn’t all that different from any other year for Murphy finishing with 14 home runs, 2 stolen bases and a .322/.449/.770 triple slash line. Who would have thought that at 31 in 2016 he would have the break out season he has had? He came in to 2016 as the consensus 181st ranked player, but is currently ranked 5th. His power outburst that started in the playoffs has been followed up this season with 25 home runs and a career high .594 slugging. By the end of the year he should also set career highs in doubles, runs, RBIs, home runs and walks. Question will be for 2017 can he replicate this year’s performance.

Jonathan Villar, SS Brewers

Talent runs rampant in the Houston Astros system and because of that they had no place to play Jonathan Villar. That was good for the Milwaukee Brewers who traded for Villar in November. Coming in to 2016 he was ranked as the 414th player, more than likely not drafted in all but NL only leagues. Especially because he was seen as merely a place holder for the Brewer’s shortstop of the future Orlando Arcia. As the 6th ranked player so far in 2016 Villar has done nothing but impress with a full time role. He has played so well the Brewers delayed bringing up Arcia until much later in the year then we all expected. He is second in the majors, to Billy Hamilton, in stolen bases with 52 which has driven much of his value, but has also hit 13 home runs and is getting on-base in 38% of his plate appearances. Even with the promotion of Arcia, Villar is still seeing regular playing time at third base and is a staple at the top of Milwaukee’s order.

Jean Segura, SS Diamondbacks

In 2013 Jean Segura appeared to be on his way to a great career with a breakout season. He hit .294 with 44 stolen bases that year and fantasy owners thought they had their new great steals source. Then came 2014 and 2015 where his batting average dropped by 40 points and his stolen base numbers were cut in half. Those same fantasy owners were surely thinking what could have been. Coming in to 2016 Segura was fighting to make the opening day roster of his new club the Arizona Diamondbacks and on draft day no one was giving him much of a chance to do anything special as he was ranked 224th in preseason rankings. After an April where he hit .333 with four stolen bases and 4 home runs many owners began to take a second look at him on their waiver wire, but could he be trusted? The answer so far has been yes. He is hitting .317 on the season with 12 home runs, 30 stolen bases and 83 runs batting at the top of Arizona’s lineup. He is in the top 15 on the player rater for the season and looks to be the Segura of 2013. Many lucky fantasy owners who took a chance on this waiver wire pickup are jumping for joy with what he has done for their team.

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2016 MLB OBP Leader Surprise

In this day and age many baseball fans pay very close attention to on-base percentage as a measure of how good a batter may or may not be. I don’t know that we can say exactly why we follow it so much more now, but I blame it on the movie Money Ball. Great movie by the way, you must see it if your a baseball fan.

What is on-base percentage, or OBP? It is pretty simple, a measure of how often a player gets on base. To calculate the actual percentage you would use the following formula OBP = (Hits + Walks + Hit by Pitch) / (At Bats + Walks + Hit by Pitch + Sacrifice Flies). Ok, so why is this important in baseball. That is somewhat obvious, the more a player is able to get on base the more often he has a chance to score.

Looking around my favorite baseball sites today and deciding what I wanted to post about I looked up OBP leaders for 2016 and the top five included names I expect; Mike Trout, Joey Votto, Jose Altuve and Paul Goldschmidt. There was however one name that surprised me. Not sure why I didn’t realize this player was such an OBP machine, but he seems to be. Number four on the list of on-base percentage leaders is, can you guess, DJ LeMahieu. Surprised? Like I said, I sure was.

On-Base% 
1. Trout (LAA) .436
2. Votto (CIN) .431
3. Goldschmidt (ARI) .418
4. LeMahieu (COL) .417
5. Altuve (HOU) .412

DJ LeMahieu
By Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as “DJ LeMahieu”) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
LeMahieu currently has an OBP of .417 to go along with a batting average of .344 and slugging percentage of .499. He is quietly putting together a very decent season and is on pace for a career high in hits, average, on-base, and slugging. Already this season he has set his career high in runs, walks and home runs. He is the #4 ranked second baseman in fantasy baseball according to FantasyPros player rater ahead of Brian Dozier, Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler. Yet most analyst rarely talk about him.

Why is he such an under the radar player? There are a few reasons. First, he plays on a team with Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gonzalez and Nolan Arenado. Second, he lacks that sexy stat line that includes huge power numbers or stolen bases. Likely next year he won’t be drafted as the #4 second baseman because of these reasons. At least partially because of that as I would anticipate before the season is over some regression in his average and OBP since he currently has a .384 BAbip, roughly .084 points higher than league average. Which is actually good news if everyone else sleeps on him since that allows you to pick him up later in a draft and return really good value next year. One other thing you may want to consider, in 2015 he finished 3rd in roto rankings for second baseman.

DeSclafani Spins His Way to a Victory

Last night Anthony DeSclafani threw a four hit shutout against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Normally this wouldn’t catch my attention, but it did because of the disappointing performance DeSclafani had in his last outing against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Against the Dodgers on August 21st DeSclafani went 7 IP, 8 Hs, 1 BB, 6 Ks and 4 ERs. Not a bad start but against a better offense in the Diamondbacks last night he went 9 IP, 4 Hs, 1 BB, 9 Ks and 0 ERs, a remarkable start for any pitcher and especially for DeSclafani. After seeing last night’s results, I dug deeper in to the data to see what I could find that was different.

Before I get in to that let me say how wonderful it is to have the data we have from games these days. Within minutes of a game being finalized anyone can look up how many of each pitch a pitcher threw, what the velocity of those pitches were, how many were strikes versus balls and a host of other information. One of my favorite sites for this data is BrooksBaseball.net and that is where I did the bulk of my research for this post.

After looking over the pitch data from the two games in question one big difference jumped out at me. That difference was the amount of rotations DeSclafani was getting on his pitches in last night’s start compared to the August 21st start. Below are charts that show the RPMs of his pitches from both the August 21st and 27th starts.

Data and charts courtesy of BrooksBaseball.net

As you can see from the charts not one pitch had an RPM level of 2400 or above on the 21st, while several pitches on the 27th had over 2500 RPM. What does that mean though?

In very simple terms an extreme spin rate, one way or the other, equates to a harder pitch to hit. The average major league fastball has a spin rate of between 2,000 and 2,200 RPM. Major league hitters see that spin rate and are able to track where that pitch will end up crossing the plate easily because they see it so often. However, if a pitcher has an extremely high spin rate, or extremely low, the ball acts differently from what the hitter is use to seeing. In the case of a high spin rate a fastball tends to stay higher in the zone for a longer period of time. If a pitcher has a below average spin rate, Dallas Keuchel for example, then the ball drops out of the zone sooner than a hitter is use to. Either way a fastball is harder to hit if it doesn’t end up in the strike zone where the hitter is use to it being. A breaking pitch, such as a curve or slider, that spins faster will have more vertical and horizontal movement. Again, making it much harder to hit.

In DeSclafani’s case you can see that his pitches on the 21st had an average to below average spin rate leading to less horizontal and vertical movement on his pitches. On the 27th his spin rate was above average and lead to more vertical and horizontal movement on his pitches. A perfect example is the movement on his slider. Against the Dodgers his slider had a horizontal break of 2.54 and a vertical break of 0.37, whereas against the Diamondbacks the same pitch had a horizontal break of 2.83 and vertical break of 1.72. It is easy to see that the faster a ball rotates the more movement it will have and therefore the harder it would be to hit. Because we know this now we better understand why the outcome of last night’s game was so much better than the August 21st game.

Need to Replace Stanton, How About Haniger?

If you images_5_orighaven’t heard the name Mitch Haniger, you may not be alone. Haniger is a 25-year-old prospect who made his MLB debut last week for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He didn’t get much in the way of hype in the minor leagues this season and when he received his promotion on August 16th there wasn’t much in the way of fanfare. With all that being said it may be a good idea to put Haniger on your radar.

Mitch Haniger is an outfielder who was drafted in the first round, pick 38, of the 2012 draft out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo by the Milwaukee Brewers. Haniger played in Milwaukee’s minor league system until part way through 2014 when he was traded to Arizona. In his two plus years as a Brewers farm hand he didn’t do anything all that impressive. His average was in the mid .200s, he had one season between Low-A and High-A that he hit 15 home runs and stole 10 bases, but again not any eye popping numbers. In 2015, his first full season in the Diamondbacks minor league system something changed however. That year he had a .310/.368/.515 slash line, hit 13 home runs in 104 games and stole 12 bases between High-A and Double-A.

As a minor leaguer in 2016 Haniger spent time at both Double-A and Triple-A before being called up. During that time, he played in 119 games, had an even better slash line of .325/.423/.588 with 24 home runs, 10 stolen bases and 86 RBIs. Some may point out that he was a little old for the levels he was playing at, but I choose to look at the glass half-full. Haniger may have just needed a little more time to grow in to his skill set, remember he was the 38th pick in 2012 and not a late rounder.

In Haniger’s six games since being called up he has a .304/.385/.478 slash line with three walks and eight strikeouts. Yes, it is a small sample size, but the fact that he is maintaining his batting average success and putting the ball in play 58% of the time is a good sign. His home run power hasn’t yet made an appearance, but he has had two doubles and a triple in those six games.

Haniger is not the guy you run out and get on your fantasy roster while dropping a usable player, but if you were the Giancarlo Stanton, Shin-Soo Choo, or Matt Holliday owner then you may still be looking for a bat to plug in to your outfield. If Keon Broxton, our favorite widely available outfielder isn’t available in your league, then Haniger may be a good speculative add. As of right now he is available in 90% of CBSSports.com leagues.