Don't have an account?
Join the Best Live Fantasy Chat Community!

Lost password? [X]

Receive free daily analysis:

NFL    NBA    MLB

Already have an account? Log in here.

[X]

Forgot Password


[X]

Champ or Chump: Kyle Gibson & Eduardo Escobar


Most fantasy owners are searching for the latest toy from the minor leagues on their waiver wires, but sometimes it's better to invest in a player with a more extensive track record. For example, fantasy baseball experts have been touting Kyle Gibson's potential for years, and he appears to have finally figured something out in his age-30 season.

Likewise, Eduardo Escobar has gone from a draft day afterthought (ADP of 413.2 per FantasyPros) to a player owned in the vast majority of formats. Some early adopters might be tempted to "sell high," but you'll be hard-pressed to get anyone to give you more than Escobar will if you leave him be.

Spoiler alert: both players are Champs. Here's why.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off, with exclusive access to our season-long articles, 15 in-season lineup tools and over 200 days of expert DFS research/tools. Sign Up Now!

 

The Fantasy Jury is Out

Kyle Gibson (SP, MIN) - 28% Owned

Gibson has pitched to a solid 3.27 ERA this season, a figure that he nearly deserves (3.86 xFIP). His .248 BABIP against is probably unsustainable moving forward, but his repertoire is interesting enough to support more strikeouts and offset any regression.

Every fantasy pitcher is only as good as his repertoire, so let's begin with Gibson's five-pitch mix. His most-used offering is a sinker that handles its primary job of inducing ground balls with aplomb (57.9% GB%). It offers little in terms of strikeout potential (3.4% SwStr%) or zone presence (49.8% Zone%), meaning that Gibson is likely to remain walk-prone (10.6% BB% this season). Still, it's not terrible.

Next up is a straight 4-seamer. This is the pitch most responsible for Gibson's low BABIP to date, as it's been inducing a ton of harmless pop-ups (40% FB%, 40.9% IFFB%). Unfortunately, it's spin rate (2,218 RPM) isn't high enough to support that many pop-ups, and its career IFFB% is much lower (30%). It's never a strike (42.7% Zone%) and doesn't get many whiffs (5.2% SwStr%), so Gibson is probably right to favor his sinker.

It's a shame that neither fastball can consistently get Gibson ahead in the count because his off-speed stuff is excellent. His slider is his best pitch, offering an enticing 26.8% SwStr% and 41.4% chase rate to offset a 30.7% Zone%. It risks becoming predictable if Gibson turns to it every time he's ahead, but thankfully his change is nearly as good (18.4% SwStr%, 49.5% chase, 33.6% Zone%). His curve is a clear fifth pitch. It's solid by SwStr% (15.9%), but it isn't chased often enough (29.2%) to live outside of the zone (27.3% Zone%).

Gibson hasn't done anything dramatic to his pitch mix or velocity, so he's working with the same repertoire that has enticed fantasy owners for years. The primary difference is his BABIP, where he's currently besting his career marks on grounders (.165 vs. .222) and fly balls (.066 vs. .154). The fly ball BABIP is largely the result of the unsustainable pop-ups above, but it's worth noting that Minnesota's outfield defense is better than most (five Outs Above Average this season) even with Byron Buxton falling short of expectations (two OAA after leading baseball with 29 last year).

The Twins infield is more of a mixed bag. The 1B timeshare featuring Joe Mauer and Logan Morrison has combined for five Defensive Runs Saved, while Brian Dozier is above average at second with two. Eduardo Escobar is a scratch defender at third, but Miguel Sano was not (-4). When Escobar slides to short, he's a train wreck (-8 in 177 2/3 innings). Otherwise, Ehire Adrianza has been roughly average with the glove (one). Gibson himself has zero DRS this season, though he recorded five last year.

Overall, it seems safe to conclude that infield defense is not the reason for Gibson's low BABIP allowed on ground balls. An average exit velocity on ground balls of 84.9mph suggests that he doesn't possess any contact quality magic either. However, his two excellent wipeout pitches should provide a better K% than his current mark of 23.8% over the rest of the campaign. There is also a chance for Buxton to round back into 2017 defensive form, suppressing Gibson's BABIP on airborne balls even if his pop-ups dry up. Overall, a middle-of-the-pack fantasy team should roll the dice on Gibson's potential.

Verdict: Champ

Eduardo Escobar (3B/SS, MIN) - 84% Owned

Escobar has probably been the waiver find of the season for his current owners, slashing .305/.355/.586 with 12 bombs on the season. He's probably not a true talent .300 hitter, but he looks good for .280 with pop and a ton of R+RBI. That plays in fantasy.

Escobar's plate discipline isn't great, but it is sustainable. He chases way too many pitches outside of the zone (40.3% chase rate), but mitigates the damage by swinging often enough (53.6% Swing%) to end most PAs before seeing the minimum of three required to K. His 12.5% SwStr% is roughly average in this age of the strikeout, so his current 22.2% K% isn't likely to get much worse. In fact, he may be aggressive enough to bring it toward his 19.9% career average.

Escobar's .359 BABIP is higher than we should expect going forward (career .303), but he's better than the light-hitting utilityman he used to be. His LD% (26%) is way higher than his career norm (22.3%), explaining most of the difference between his current and career BABIPs. He's also been the beneficiary of fortuitous bounces on both ground balls (.278 vs. .246 career) and flies (.213 vs. .141 career).

That said, some of his gains in both areas look sustainable. His 83.6mph average exit velocity on ground balls is his highest in the Statcast Era (82.7mph last year, 82.8mph in 2016, 82.6mph in 2015), so his contact quality is a little better. Furthermore, his 55.6% Pull% on ground balls (60.7% career) means that Escobar is indifferent to the shift. He's hitting .366 against it (95 PAs) and .360 without it (89 PAs), so it literally makes no difference.

Gibson's airborne contact quality is also a Statcast Era high. His average airborne exit velocity of 92.2mph is much better than his marks from 2017 (90.7mph), 2016 (89.6mph), and 2015 (90.2mph). In addition, his rate of Brls/BBE (10.7%) is better than his previous marks (8.5%, 3.2%, 6.4%). His 13.2% HR/FB is only league average, and his contact quality supports it completely. Escobar hits a ton of fly balls (46.4% FB%) with a reasonable Pull% (20.9%), so he has the volume necessary to turn an average HR/FB into a fantasy-friendly HR total.

Using Baseball Savant's xStats, Escobar has deserved a .276 batting average and .542 slugging percentage based on his launch angles, exit velocities, and K%. The stat doesn't give him credit for his above average speed (27.7 ft./sec Statcast Sprint Speed), so it's safe to add a couple of infield hits to his projected average. That brings him over .280, making him a legitimate batting average asset even as slight regression is in order.

Escobar has been hitting third lately, giving him all of the R+RBI opportunities the Twins can provide him with. He also has 46 games at 3B and 20 at SS, qualifying at both in nearly all formats. His seven games at 2B last season may give him eligibility there as well, though it depends on your specific league's requirements.

Overall, there is no need to sell Escobar before the bottom falls out. He projects as a viable fantasy player for the rest of the season.

Verdict: Champ

 

More 2018 Player Outlooks




More Recent Articles

 

Wide Receiver Matchups To Target In Week 14

In Week 13, Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill were the high-end options that had great matchups. Adams had a huge two-touchdown game while Hill only came up with 55 scoreless yards, falling victim to game flow as the Chiefs led from start to finish, scoring a defensive touchdown in the process. Several of the wide receivers... Read More


Fantasy Football Starts and Sits: Matchups Analysis for Week 14

Welcome to our Week 14 matchup analysis and start/sit column for fantasy football. We'll be covering every single contest from the Sunday slate in one convenient location, helping you make the best decisions for your fantasy lineups. Be sure to check back regularly because this article will be updated as news comes in regarding injuries and other... Read More


Monday Night Fantasy Football Starts/Sits - Week 14

Finally, we had a good fantasy matchup last week. And now, as punishment, we get this. The Eagles against the Giants is a good rivalry game. But for fantasy? Not so much. Even key players Saquon Barkley and Carson Wentz have been severely disappointing in 2019. The game is not going to be something to... Read More


Playoffs Panic Room? Outlooks for Slumping WRs and RBs

As your fantasy football playoffs open, some of your projected starters have not performed up to expectations in recent weeks. But knowing their track records of production in the past and/or earlier this year, it may be hard to sit them. You want reassurance on some of these suddenly lackluster players before the postseason begins.... Read More


Fantasy Football Playoff RB Handcuffs: Add Them Now!

The fantasy football postseason has begun, so it’s time to re-evaluate your depth, especially at running back. With only three weeks left on most fantasy scoreboards and each matchup possibly being your last, there is no more time for stashing players for potential contributions later. You also cannot waste roster space on guys who will... Read More


Key Starters and Tough Calls - Lineup Spotlights for Week 14

Welcome to Week 14, RotoBallers! Below you will find some of my spotlight plays and tough lineup decisions for the upcoming week of the fantasy football playoffs. These player selections are based on my Premium Weekly Lineup Rankings, available as part of the RotoBaller's NFL Premium Pass. Enter promo code KING at checkout for a... Read More


Red Zone Usage Risers and Fallers - Week 14

We are at a crucial point in the season. Either your league is in playoff season, or it's just about to begin. Now is the week to get your team in shape before that final push! On a personal note, some of the fallers may have caused me some fantasy pain this season, see if... Read More


QB vs Pass Rush Matchups To Watch - Week 14

Week 14 is here, and the fantasy playoffs are rolling. Some people are on byes for the week which can help if you've got key players in bad matchups, but others are scrapping to keep their season alive. Real teams start at quarterback, and they're pretty important for fantasy as well. Quarterbacks have changed the... Read More


Inside the Tent - Week 14 NFL Injury Insight

At RotoBaller, we can't stress enough the importance of keeping up with injuries and playing your best lineup week after week. Players are going to get injured, that's an unavoidable fact. What's avoidable though is making the wrong roster decisions based on the injuries surrounding your fantasy squad. If you want to dominate your leagues... Read More


Fantasy Football News and Injuries - Running Updates

Below is a quick-hit list of running notes on relevant injuries and player news, including pre-game reports and live in-game updates. Stay tuned for updates all throughout the week and on Sunday morning game day:   Week 14 Le'Veon Bell (illness) has officially been ruled out for this week. Evan Engram and Daniel Jones have been... Read More


Week 14 Fantasy Football Staff Rankings

Below you will find all of RotoBaller's fantasy football weekly rankings, tiers, player news and stats for the 2019 NFL season. Our Ranking Wizard displays our staff's rankings for various league formats, all in one easy place. Here's what you'll find: Weekly PPR Rankings Weekly Half-PPR Rankings Weekly Standard Rankings Dynasty League Rankings     Fantasy... Read More


Fantasy Football IDP Rankings for Week 14 (Top 100)

The fantasy playoffs are here for most of us, so every position matters that much more. IDP spots often become an afterthought or a set-it-and-forget-it situation but it could be that linebacker who has a monster game or that key interception that makes the difference between winning or going home. Look to our streamer suggestions... Read More


Week 14-16 Playoff Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2019 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

The playoffs are here, and that means we're going to do things a little differently. I want to take a look at the playoffs as a whole (and in this case we are considering Weeks 14-16) and determine which DSTs you can ride all the way through and which ones you should stream this week.... Read More


Star Players Who Might Miss the Fantasy Playoffs

As we head into the playoff weeks of fantasy football, you'll hear many experts preach (correctly) the need to stash high-upside handcuffs or backups at quarterback or tight end. You'll inevitably hear about looking ahead three weeks for favorable playoff schedules and thinking less about what the player has done up until now or whether... Read More


Week 14 Busts? Players To Consider Avoiding

It's finally here... The fantasy playoffs for most leagues. Hopefully you have a chance to win a fantasy championship in the next few weeks. If you're lucky, you have a first-round bye and won't have to worry about anything this week except for picking out a Christmas tree and setting up all your holiday decorations.... Read More