Hitters to Avoid in 2017

Yesterday we highlighted pitchers that, due mostly to injury concerns, we will be avoiding in 2017 drafts. Today we thought it only fair to pay attention to the other side of the game and name some hitters we won’t be drafting.

Yasiel Puig, OF Dodgers

There is a big hole in the outfield when it comes to quality fantasy players, one of the slimmest crop of usable players in a while. Even with that we will be avoiding Yasiel Puig. It is highly probably Puig will be traded in the offseason and a lot of people believe it will be to the Brewers, we agree with that by the way. Even if that happens and opens up his playing time we still believe he is too risky. He has not shown that he can be consistent nor stay healthy. He won’t go high in drafts likely, but still we want to stay away.

Jay Bruce, OF Mets

Again, we know there are not a lot of great outfielders to choose from, but Jay Bruce is not someone you want next year. Since his trade to the New York Mets Bruce had been horrible. In 36 games he has a slash line of .192/.271/.315, with only 4 home runs. Question has been asked is he trying to prove too much to his new team or is this simply regression to the mean for him. We believe it is that latter. Last time Bruce his over .250 was in 2013 and it is clear to us that his hot season in Cincinnati was not the new norm for him, but just an extended hot streak.

Jose Bautista, OF Blue Jays

Maybe we should have tried a little harder to find players outside of the outfield, but it is just where we found players we don’t want for 2017. Jose Bautista has his lowest batting average since 2005 when he hit .143. Next year he will be 36 years old and has progressively been showing signs of aging with declining performance and increasing time injured. He is still valued by most fantasy players as a high end option, but is not returning what you have to pay for him. He is likely going to finish the regular season with his first sub-25 home run season since 2009. If he isn’t knocking the ball out of the park, isn’t hitting for a good average and isn’t driving in 100+ runs then he just doesn’t provide enough value for where he will be drafted.

Daniel Murphy, 2B Nationals

Finally, a non-outfielder and probably a pick that has you scratching your head. Daniel Murphy has been a major break out star in his age 31 season and has given owners plenty to celebrate. However, is it really something he can do again next year? We predict that many fantasy owners will be drafting Murphy in the first three rounds and he will not return that value. It is very unlikely that at 32 Murphy will be able to repeat his 2016 season. He has made it known that he made changes to his batting stance to increase his power production, but even if that sticks next year he will more than likely fall off in batting average as he has his highest BABIP since 2008 at .350 that is not going to be repeated. He will be a very useful fantasy player in 2017, but not worth where you will have to draft him.

There are without a doubt a lot more players that will be on our do not draft list for 2017 like Miguel Sano, Joe Mauer, Mark Trumbo and Billy Hamilton, but we didn’t have room to talk about them all here. Be on the lookout during the offseason however for more on why these players won’t be on any of our fantasy baseball teams in 2017.

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2 Start Pitchers for Week 23

This week we focused in on three, two start pitchers, that could help you in week 23. Two of the three are widely available and one of those pitchers could be the best two start pitcher of all those available.

Ubaldo Jimenez, Orioles 12% Owned

If the site of Ubaldo Jimenez’s name makes you cringe then you probably have had him on your fantasy team one of the past two seasons and we feel your pain. However, in a two start week where he will be at Tampa Bay and at Detroit you may want to roll the dice. Tampa Bay has a team batting average of .243 against righties and an OBP of .307. Yes, Detroit is a tough match up for any pitcher, but the Rays may give you enough upside to offset the Tigers game. Not to mention over his last seven appearances Jimenez has been much better with a 3.51 ERA and a .223 batting average against.

brandon_finnegan_on_may_252c_2015
By Arturo Pardavila III on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Brandon Finnegan, Reds 66% Owned

Finnegan is leaning more and more in to the category of must start in a two start week. He had been red hot in his last three outings, including a 12 strikeout game against Arizona. In his last seven starts he as a 2.28 ERA, .187 batting average against and 46 Ks in 43.3 innings. He will be facing a Mets team that has been offense deficient and a Pirates club that has been up and down this season.

Chad Kuhl, Pirates 33% Owned

Most fantasy baseball fans focused on the Pirates two young pitching prospects Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon and I can’t blame you, but Chad Kuhl is a guy that may have slipped under the radar. Kuhl is only 23 years old and made his MLB debut earlier this season. He will face the Cardinals and Reds this week, both starts on the road where Kuhl has a 2.76 ERA in 29.3 innings. In his last outing at the Cubs he held that powerful offense to only 3 earned runs in 5 innings. He has a good overall WHIP at 1.17 and walk rate at 2.40 BB/9 and is a very sneaky pick to have a big week.

Should You Add Alex Cobb?

Alex Cobb
By Keith Allison from Owings Mills, USA (Alex Cobb) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
September is here and that means rosters in the major leagues are expanding. Dugouts will be packed with players as minor leaguers around the country are promoted to the show. No more 25-man rosters as now clubs can have as many as 40 players on the big league roster. For fantasy baseball players this means there will be a lot of young guys being added to fantasy teams in hopes that they see enough playing time to contribute, but one player making his 2016 MLB debut today isn’t a young prospect as he is already 28 years old. That would be Alex Cobb.

Alex Cobb will make a return from Tommy John surgery today and start for the Tampa Bay Rays. Cobb hasn’t seen time in the majors since 2014 as he has battled his way back from the procedure and the complications he has faced after it. Question is should you be adding him to your fantasy roster in advance of his start or wait and hope you can get him later if he performs well? He is available in over 60% of leagues, but do you want to run the risk of it staying that way?

Over his four seasons in the majors Cobb amassed a 3.43 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.7 K/9 in 498.7 innings. Not bad if you could get those ratios this year, especially considering what the landscape has looked like in the starting pitcher market this season. His best year of the four was 2014 where he had a 3.23 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9 and 8.1 K/9. In his 2016 minor league rehab he has started 8 games and pitched 21.7 innings, with 15 of those innings at Triple-A Durham. His performance in those starts has been less than stellar (6.65 ERA and 1.8 WHIP) which is somewhat expected considering the long layoff he has had, but will a jump to the majors change that?

Tampa Bay has nothing left to play for in 2016 and are bringing Cobb up is strictly to get him time in the majors again before the 2017 season. His control is not there yet and he has been very hittable in his rehab assignments. Rays’ management will likely be cautious with him, yet at the same time they want to get his inning count up regardless of the score to prepare him for next season. He likely will not win you a fantasy title this year, but could kill your ratios if he can’t find his former self by the end of the season. Expectations should be low after such a long time out of competitive situations and because of that I would stay clear of him unless you are a big risk taker and can afford to stash him away in hopes that he does the unexpected.

Instead of adding Cobb I would look to guys like Andrew Triggs (still only owned in 10 % of leagues), Kendall Graveman, Brandon Finnegan, or Alex Reyes. With Triggs being my favorite of the bunch and most available.

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.