Contact Rate Risers and Fallers - Week 12

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Welcome back, RotoBallers! We are now in the midst of the MLB season, so it's a good time to look at some key offensive trends. Among those trends we will follow each week is contact rate. A sudden increase or decrease in contact rate could signal the beginning of an extended hot or cold streak, leading to important waiver wire choices or start/sit decisions for fantasy baseball managers.

Each week we will look at a few players on each side of the coin and compare their previous week's contact rate with their actual performance over the course of the 2017 season. We do this because we care about you, the fantasy player.

Here are some of the top contact rate risers and fallers for Week 12 of the fantasy baseball season.

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Contact Rate Risers

Ben Gamel (OF, SEA) 93% contact rate last seven days (+15%)

He's back at it again. After a torrid start to the season, it seemed Gamel would cool off and possibly even lose playing time altogether once Mitch Haniger returned from the DL. Instead, Gamel has been even hotter and looks like a must-add waiver wire pick if you need batting average help (who doesn't?) Gamel has a league-high 93% contact rate over the last week and is hitting .403 in the month of June. You won't get any power here, but he'll score enough runs to compensate as a fourth or fifth outfielder in deep leagues.

Trevor Story (SS, COL) 82% contact rate last seven days (+14%)

When you think Trevor Story, you don't think high contact rate, but he's climbed by 14 points this past week to bat .421 in that time. Disappointingly, the power just isn't there. His approach isn't much different, but the fact he's making 10% less hard contact than last season could be a factor in his diminishing returns. Story has now faced lengthy absences due to injury twice in his brief MLB career, so it could be a physical issue. Either way, this slight increase in average is encouraging but not nearly enough to provide a decent ROI for his owners.

Andrew McCutchen (OF, PIT) 92% contact rate last seven days (+12%)

Cutch is back. You can try to throw cold water on this comeback story all you want, but the numbers are undeniable. McCutchen homered again on Tuesday, giving him 14 this season and raising his average to .268. Since moving to the sixth spot in the lineup, Cutch is slashing .400/.475/.765 with more homers (eight) in almost a hundred fewer at-bats than he registered in the third spot earlier this year. The buy-low window has been firmly shut for almost two weeks now. Let's just see how long he keeps up this pace.

Raimel Tapia (OF, COL) 94% contact rate last seven days (+11%)

Talk about lighting it up in terms of contact, Tapia is batting .579 over the past week. He's only struck out three times in his last 29 at-bats and collected multi-hit games in each of his last four starts. The problem is those starts don't happen every day. Tapia is useful as a streamer in leagues with deep benches and daily lineup changes, but may be limited to NL-only usage if no injuries occur to the regular starters in Colorado. He could even find his way back to the minors if David Dahl ever gets healthy.

 

Contact Rate Fallers

Yasmani Grandal (C, LAD) 58% contact rate last seven days (-18%)

Last season, it wasn't until July hit that Grandal started becoming fantasy-relevant. Hopefully that's the case again this year, as Grandal only has six homers and 26 RBI in 211 at-bats. By comparison, Welington Castillo, who was taken later on average in fantasy drafts, has nearly identical power numbers in 50 fewer at-bats. Grandal had been swinging and missing a whole lot lately - nine K in the last five games to be exact - until he went deep this evening as part of a three-hit game. This could be a great buy-low candidate if you're looking to upgrade at catcher on the cheap.

Elvis Andrus (SS, TEX) 68% contact rate last seven days (-11%)

Andrus was hot throughout May, putting up 20 runs, 20 RBI and a .316 average. As always, what comes up must come down eventually. Andrus is batting .200 over the past week and has dipped to a 68% contact rate in that time. What may have gone unnoticed during his hot streak is that Andrus continues to change his approach by becoming a pull hitter. His pull rate is up to 47.7% - 10 points higher than his career average. He's also striking out more than ever, even though it's still fairly low at 18%. Seven home runs is nothing special, but for Andrus it's one shy of last year's career high and there's still more than half a season to go. Fortunately, the steals are still there (15 so far) so he could be on his way to becoming a 20/20 guy if he keeps this up. The average may not follow, however.

Chris Carter (1B, NYY) 51% contact rate last seven days (-11%)

The Yanks are finally getting what they paid for at a discounted slugger price for Carter this offseason. In the last two weeks, Carter has mashed four homers and driven in nine runners. He's also struck out 17 times in 45 at-bats, which is par for the course. After stringing together four multi-hit games in that span, he's now gone hitless in three straight contests. Despite the occasional power, Carter is striking out more than he ever has over a full MLB season (36.5% K%) and has an unspectacular .136 ISO that is a career worst. Although he'll keep playing as long as Greg Bird is out, which could be a while, expect more of the bad Carter than the good in the coming days.

Aaron Judge (OF, NYY) 60% contact rate last seven days (-8%)

OK, Judge barely makes our list this week but he's on there nonetheless. I bring up his eight point drop not to imply that he is slumping (he's clearly not, especially since he homered this afternoon as I'm writing this) but to highlight the fact that his BABIP this season is .431. Let that sink in for a minute. When every other ball he strikes lands 465 feet away from home plate, there's a pretty good chance it's going for a hit but you've still gotta wonder how long he can keep up the league-leading average. Judge didn't even bat so much as .290 since his first stop in Single-A ball and he is still striking out almost 30% of the time. I'm not going to be the one to advise you to sell high (yet), but don't be completely flabbergasted if he doesn't end the season as the batting champ in addition to 40 taters.

 

More Risers and Fallers