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Contact Rate Risers and Fallers for Week 13: Buy or Sell?


Welcome to Contact Rate Risers and Fallers! Our premium tools allow us to get out ahead of trends in player performance, including contact rate. Every Wednesday, we'll be looking at some players that have seen an increase in contact rate and some that have seen it decline.

Contact rate can foretell a player's batting average and general hitting statistics, and any drastic change could signal a shift in performance. Contact rate shifts often act as a precursor to hot streaks and slumps.

Here is a breakdown of some of the biggest fantasy relevant risers and fallers in contact rate over the last seven days.

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!

 

Contact Rate Risers and Fallers - Premium Tool

Identifying top batting average surgers for each week can help you spot the best pickups before your competition. RotoBaller's Premium Contact Rate Risers and Fallers tool has you covered every day. As thoughtful fantasy baseball players, we won't lead you astray.

This type of data is available as part of our Premium MLB Subscription. Don't settle for basic stats and surface-level advice from other sites. RotoBaller brings you advanced statistics and professional analysis that you need to win your fantasy leagues and DFS games, because we're ballers just like you. We are your secret weapon!

Risers

Christian Villanueva (3B, SD): 88% contact rate last seven days (+19%)

Villanueva is not normally a good contact hitter, he has a 70.2% contact rate and 29% strikeout rate on the year, but last week he was locked in at the plate. Villanueva hit .300 with a .783 OPS and only four strikeouts in 21 plate appearances over the past seven days. It’s worthing noting that the Padres faced a left-handed starter in three of five games and Villanueva had 11 of his 21 plate appearances against lefties. He hit .300 against both right-handers and left-handers, but on the season Villanueva has been a monster against lefties (.324 AVG, 1.179 OPS) and putrid against righties (.184 AVG, .593 OPS). Because of Villanueva’s massive platoon splits and poor strikeout rate it’s tough to see this week as anything but a hot stretch and he’ll likely be a batting average liability. His overall batting average is .229 and even though he has a .256 BABIP a correction to league average isn’t coming. His 22.4 degree average launch angle is the third highest in the majors (among hitters that have seen at least 500 pitches) and he has an 18% infield flyball rate. That type of hitting is not conducive for batting average or BABIP. He is best used in DFS or daily lineup leagues exclusively against left-handed pitchers.

Billy Hamilton (OF, CIN): 86% contact rate last seven days (+18%)

Billy Hamilton is coming off a week where he hit .320 with an .894 OPS and only three strikeouts in 29 plate appearances over the last seven days. The increased contact rate is especially encouraging for Hamilton, since his biggest problem this season has been a dip in contact rate and increase in strikeout rate. Lumbering power hitters can get away with striking out a lot because they can do so much damage when they do hit the ball, but players with elite speed need to put the ball in play as much as possible. Hamilton’s 76% contact rate is a 6% drop from his career average, and his 28% strikeout rate is an 8% jump. That is unacceptable for the weakest hitting player in baseball. Hamilton has a 79.1 MPH average exit velocity, lowest among hitters that have seen at least 500 pitches. However, if he can reverse his negative strikeout trends we might see the best version of Billy Hamilton. He’s increased his walk rate to 11.2% and if he keeps hitting like this the Reds could move him back to leadoff. His overall stats are so bad there is still an opportunity to buy-low, and his speed could be season-changing.

Gleyber Torres (2B/SS, NYY): 91% contact rate last seven days (+18%)

Torres has been nothing short of fantastic since arriving in the majors, so his increase in contact rate didn’t translate into a big jump in production. Over the past seven days he hit .273 with an .860 OPS and three strikeouts in 25 plate appearances. That’s pretty pedestrian by his standards, but in a player so young it’s important to see if and how he makes gains in certain categories. Strikeouts and contact rate have been his worst attribute in the majors as he has a 70% contact rate and 25% strikeout rate in 213 plate appearances thus far. In Torres’ first stint at Triple-A in 2017 he struggled with contact and had a 27% strikeout rate in 96 plate appearances, but he cut that to 18% at Triple-A this season before his promotion. Young players with elite raw talent like Torres can make adjustments rapidly in season as they spend more time in the majors. It would be hard to imagine him getting better than he has been, but he had better plate discipline and contact rates as he advanced through the minors.

Fallers

Teoscar Hernandez (OF, TOR): 50% contact rate last seven days (-23%)

It was a rough week for Statcast Superstar Teoscar Hernandez. Over the past seven days Hernandez hit .222 with a .630 OPS and twelve strikeouts in 27 plate appearances. He also didn’t take a walk and it took a .357 BABIP to keep him from totally bottoming out. Contact has been an issue for Hernandez in the majors, and his 68% contact rate this season is in line with his contact rate over the past two seasons. These types of stretches are bound to happen with players that struggle with contact like Hernandez. Exit velocity and barrel rate don’t matter when you can’t hit the ball. He’s at least improved his strikeout rate from 37% last season to 25% this season, which stems from a 6% jump in zone-contact rate. He still has a below average 79% zone-contact rate, but it’s an improvement. Hernandez had strikeout problems in his early minor league seasons, but he reigned in the strikeouts as he advanced through the minors. It’s too early to worry about Hernandez and he is probably going to be streaky all season.

Kyle Seager (3B, SEA): 55% contact rate last seven days (-22%)

Seager has been a little disappointing all season but the past week was especially tough to swallow. He hit .192 with a .660 OPS and 11 strikeouts in 29 plate appearances. This week is just a low in what is already a concerning trend for Seager, his big increase in strikeouts. Seager’s career strikeout rate is 17%, but he’s striking out 22% of the time this season. His contact rate is down slightly at 81% compared to an 82.3% career average, but he’s experienced a 3% drop in zone-contact rate along with a 5% increase in zone-swing rate. So even though his overall contact rate hasn’t dropped too much, his whiffs on pitches in the zone have added up to an increased strikeout rate. Like Cody Bellinger, Seager has struggled with high zone fastballs and outside fastballs season. Here is a comparison of his fastball whiff rate prior to this season (left) and this season (right).

 

Seager’s only 30 and it seems unlikely that this decline is age related. It looks more like pitchers are attacking him differently and he hasn’t adjusted yet. Still, a big increase in strikeout rate and a drop in walk rate (down 3% from his career average) is worrying. It’s possible he turns it around, and his power numbers are already around his career averages, but it might be time to lower the bar just slightly for Seager, at least in the batting average department.

Tommy Pham (OF, STL): 50% contact rate last seven days (-22%)

Pham’s season has been all over the place in terms of production, and last week we got bad Tommy Pham. He hit just .105 with a .368 OPS and nine strikeouts in 19 plate appearances. His struggles have extended far beyond last week. After posting a .341 AVG and .964 OPS in April Pham is hitting .213 with a .652 OPS and 29.5% strikeout rate over the last two months. Pham has long had issues with strikeouts, stemming from a degenerative eye disease that affects his vision. It’s the reason he struggled to carve out a full-time role for himself until last season at age 29. Pham had a corrective surgery going into last season, which increased his contact rate to 80% and led to a breakout season. Since his performance has cratered so badly, we have to wonder whether it’s vision related. Pham insists that it’s not, and attributed his struggles to mechanical issues and flu-like symptoms. Does the flu last two months? Because that's how long we've had to endure him whiffing at everything. With Pham’s power and speed we can absorb a bad batting average, but he is really testing our limits. He’s basically been Ian Desmond over the last two months. Unfortunately, if you own Pham there isn’t much you can do. His value is too low to trade him now, and he is certainly not droppable at this point. He’s a decent buy-low target if you’re willing to shoulder legitimate risk. He's got 30-30 potential, he just needs to hit the dang ball.

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