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Champ or Chump: Matt Adams and Freddy Peralta

By now, you've probably heard that the United States Supreme Court has opened the door to legalized sports betting outside of the state of Nevada. The issue has several complicated angles to consider, but I've long felt that fantasy owners should have a familiarity with how betting on baseball works. Each game's over/under numbers and starting pitchers are often displayed on sports betting sites, making it an easy way to follow the league as a whole.

Note that I am not advocating losing your house in a casino. Many sites offer free-to-play games that track your profits or losses with "units," calculated using comparable moneylines to those in actual sportsbooks. This lets you get a feel for how it all works without compromising your finances.

If you prefer to roll the dice on waiver wire pickups for your fantasy team(s), that's fine too. Matt Adams is probably over-owned relative to his projections moving forward, while Freddy Peralta could be the ultimate lottery ticket. Let's take a closer look.

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The Fantasy Jury is Out

Matt Adams (1B/OF, WAS) - 74% Owned

Adams has been rock solid thus far this season, slashing .268/.383/.629 with 10 HR over 115 PAs. His high ownership rate is probably a function of his power and low .250 BABIP, enticing owners with the prospect of a power-hitting batting average stud. It's incredibly unlikely to happen.

Let's begin with a closer look at that .250 BABIP. Adams is a fly ball guy (40.5% FB% this year) and always has been (41.4% career), making his .314 career BABIP difficult to expect. His 27% LD% is nearly certain to regress toward his 21.2% career mark, mitigating the impact of any favorable regression in his BABIPs on fly balls (.095 vs. .150 career) or line drives (.632 vs. .718 career).

The most troubling aspect of his BABIP is an extreme pull tendency. Adams hasn't pulled a ton of his ground balls historically (55.5% career), but that number is up to 70.8% this year. Opposing teams have noticed, shifting him in all but three opportunities this year. His current ground ball BABIP of .083 is considerably lower than his career mark (.239), but he wasn't always as vulnerable to the shift as he looks now. He lacks foot speed (26 ft./sec Statcast Sprint Speed this year and last), limiting the expected value of his ground balls further. Expecting regression to his career mark is a fool's errand.

Adams's plate discipline is also likely to hurt him moving forward. His 13.9% BB% is rooted in a dramatically improved eye (31.4% chase rate vs. 40.7% last year, 38% for his career), but it's still a shade worse than league average. As pitchers learn that Adams isn't chasing everything anymore, they are likely to start throwing him more strikes (35.8% Zone% is fourth lowest in MLB, minimum 50 PAs).

His 20% K% could also be due for a slight increase. His SwStr% (12.1%) is better than it was last year (14.8%), but still a little bit higher than the league's average. Seeing more strikes could erode his plate discipline gains as well, making a K% around 23% likely moving forward.

Adams's current power pace doesn't look sustainable either, but he made some gains. He is scorching the ball (97.6 mph average airborne exit velocity, 14.9% rate of Brls/BBE), easily outproducing last year's numbers (94.3 mph, 10.6%). His pull-centric approach has affected his flies as well (40% Pull% vs. 28.4% career), helping his raw power deposit baseballs over the fence. His 33.3% HR/FB is obviously headed south, but this new approach should produce a rate considerably higher than his career mark of 14.9%.

Overall, Adams is a .250ish hitter with 25 homer power. That's not terrible, but it's a profile that's relatively easy to find on most waiver wires. He's currently hitting cleanup every day, but playing time is not assured once the Nats get healthy, let alone a premium lineup spot. He's a fine stop gap, but not a long term answer.

Verdict: Chump


Freddy Peralta (SP, MIL) - 18% Owned

Peralta excited the entire fantasy community in his MLB debut: 5 2/3 IP, 13 K, 2 BB, H, and zero runs at Coors Field. Results that good are virtually unheard of at altitude, and Peralta really only threw fastballs (90.8% thrown) to achieve them. Is he actually this good?

An examination of his minor league career suggests that he might be. Peralta made it to Double-A for the first time last season, tossing 63 2/3 IP for Biloxi. He acquainted himself well, posting a 2.26 ERA and 2.70 xFIP with a 34.6% K%. His 11.8% BB% was a little higher than fantasy owners would like, but he gets enough Ks that we'll live with it.

Biloxi's ballpark allows a ton of homers, posting a ballpark factor of 1.200 in 2016. It didn't bother Peralta though, as he had a 3.8% HR/FB for his stay there. Three-year ballpark factors are more reliable than their one-year counterparts, but Biloxi's park opened midway through the 2015 season. The 2016 total is the best available data.

The performance inspired the Brewers to start Peralta at Triple-A Colorado Springs this season. He threw 32 2/3 IP before his MLB debut, posting a solid 3.63 ERA and 4.16 xFIP. He again struck out a bunch (31.1% K%) while walking too many (11.5% BB%). If the ERA number troubles you, you're probably not familiar with Colorado Springs.

Colorado Springs plays its home games 6,531 feet above sea level, roughly 1,000 feet higher than Coors Field. They use a humidor to keep the park somewhat honest, but the wind frequently gusts between 12 and 15 mph directly toward home plate. Beating a consistent wind that strong is incredibly challenging, making the park suppress HR (0.970 park factor) despite its elevation.

That does not mean it's a pitcher's park. Like Coors, they built a massive park to try to limit the impacts of altitude. The power alleys are both 350 ft. from home plate, while dead center is 410. That provides a lot of room for batted balls to become hits, giving the park a three-year ballpark factor for hits of 1.283. To put that into perspective, 28.3% more hits fall in at Colorado Springs than an average Triple-A park. This makes Colorado Springs the most hitter-friendly environment (1.430 factor for runs scored) in the notoriously hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.

Honestly, a 3.63 ERA there is probably better than a 2.26 ERA at Biloxi. Peralta mitigated the park effects with a high GB% (53.6%) and low HR/FB (2.7%), both skills that would be handy at Milwaukee's Miller Park. Combined with his minor league strikeout totals, Peralta seems to have earned a crack at big league hitters.

Succeeding in the major leagues with only a fastball will be tough, but Peralta might be up to the task. Its average velocity in Denver wasn't that impressive (92.6 mph), but he varied speeds on it a lot. His slowest fastball was clocked at 86.9 mph, while his fastest touched 95. The differential is significant enough to effectively be different pitches, helping Peralta keep opposing hitters off balance. Peralta also has a deceptive delivery that prevents hitters from timing his heater well.

Peralta is a spin rate guy, averaging 2,451 RPM on his heater in his MLB debut. That ranks 55th in MLB this season, but 30 of the guys ahead of him have thrown fewer fastballs than he did in one start. If you eliminate their small samples, Peralta's spin starts to look elite. High-spin fastballs generate Ks while limiting airborne contact quality, both traits that define Peralta's performance on the farm.

Trusting a major league hurler with one pitch is a scary proposition, but scouting reports suggest that he has a strong curve and mediocre change as well. Altitude wreaks havoc on breaking pitches, and its possible Milwaukee told Peralta to limit his curve usage at higher elevations. If he throws more curves on Saturday against the Twins, he'll have an effective three pitch mix if you count the heat as two.

Peralta's career high in IP is only 120 between two levels last year, so some type of innings limit is likely. The Brewers are a contending club with few sure things in the rotation though, so the team may be incentivized to push him.

There is definitely risk here, but Peralta looks worth owning in fantasy. He's not popular just yet, but any success in his second start will send owners racing to the waiver wire to add him after his debut. If you want him, you probably can't afford to wait for a larger sample size.

Verdict: Champ


More 2018 Player Outlooks

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