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>> Read even MORE of RotoBaller's original 2013 fantasy baseball articles and analysis 

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...FANTASY BASEBALL RANKINGS

Updated Catcher Rankings (May) - 2018 Fantasy Baseball

We are a quarter of the way through the regular season for Major League Baseball, so our staff at RotoBaller has updated our rest-of-season fantasy baseball rankings. We are taking a look at catchers in this article. There is a clear divide at this position, which guys who can contribute a lot in the first couple of tiers, followed by players you must patch together the rest of the way. If you have been struggling to maximize your production from this position all year, it may be time to make a move. Our rest of season tiered rankings will give you an idea of who you should target. Don't forget to bookmark our famous Rankings Wizard where you can see all of our rankings for mixed leagues, points leagues, AL/NL only leagues, dynasty leagues, top 2018 prospects, dynasty prospects and more. You will also find our tiers, auction values, player news, stats, projections and more. You can easily download everything and it's all free!  

2018 Fantasy Baseball Tiered Rankings: Catcher (May)

Ranking Tier Player
1 1 Gary Sanchez
2 2 Willson Contreras
3 2 Buster Posey
4 2 Yasmani Grandal
5 2 Salvador Perez
6 3 J.T. Realmuto
7 3 Wilson Ramos
8 3 Mike Zunino
9 3 Evan Gattis
10 3 Yadier Molina
11 4 Welington Castillo
12 4 Chris Iannetta
13 4 Austin Hedges
14 4 Brian McCann
15 5 Robinson Chirinos
16 5 Matt Wieters
17 5 Jorge Alfaro
18 5 Francisco Cervelli
19 5 Yan Gomes
20 5 Kurt Suzuki
21 5 Jonathan Lucroy
22 6 Francisco Mejia
23 6 Austin Barnes
24 6 Tyler Flowers
25 6 Carson Kelly
26 6 James McCann
27 6 Alex Avila
28 6 Tom Murphy
29 7 Russell Martin
Tier 1 One man stands alone, and that’s Gary Sanchez. Even after a slow start to the season, Sanchez manages to find himself as the only player in the first tier. If you spent a very early pick on Sanchez, you have probably been mildly disappointed so far. Sanchez is dead last in batting average among qualifying catchers and fifth in strikeouts among all catchers. The good news is that his power is still there as Sanchez ranks first in home runs and RBIs among all catchers. The key for me is at-bats though. I will only spend a high pick on a catcher if I know he will be playing 5-6 times a week, especially in leagues that lock weekly lineups. Sanchez has the second most at-bats for catchers right now, behind only Willson Contreras. There was some worry that Sanchez may not get as many at-bats now that Giancarlo Stanton would be taking some at designated hitter. Last year Sanchez would spend off days as the DH. Even without those opportunities, Sanchez continues to be an essential cog. Tier 2 Before the season started, I wrote about a strategy that consisted of taking two catchers from the same team to offer the production of one elite catcher. While Austin Barnes hasn’t been as good this season as he was in 2018, Yasmani Grandal has been better than advertised. He is getting consistent at-bats right now with over 160 on the season. The strikeouts will always be there, but Grandal is currently posting his highest OBP and OPS since his rookie season. The Dodgers have been everything short of a mess this season, but Grandal has been a steady contributor. If he continues this throughout the season, he could finish top five at the position. Tier 3 One of my bounce back candidates for the 2018 season continues to stay healthy and play well. Wilson Ramos has been one of the bright spots for the surprising Rays. With several players performing much better than anticipated, including Ramos, the Rays find themselves flirting with the .500 mark. Ramos took some time last season to shake the rust off after recovering from an injury that cut his 2016 season short and ruined his free agency. I expect Ramos to be a prime trade candidate for the Rays come July. He has been playing very well and there are a few teams in the league that could use help at catcher. For fantasy owners, you don’t have many catchers hitting over .300 with the type of at-bats Ramos is getting. In fact, Ramos is the only qualifying catcher to be hitting over .300 right now. Tier 4 Austin Hedges sits in tier three right now, but for how much longer? A late round candidate that could provide some cheap home runs has been awful so far, this season. With only two home runs and a batting average that doesn’t even touch .200, he’s probably better suited for waivers right now. Keep an eye on him in case he heats up in the second half though. Chris Iannetta has been a popular waiver wire addition recently. In the last 14 days, he has hit .286 in 21 at-bats. He is appealing while playing in Colorado. If you play in a league that counts OBP, then Iannetta has some true value on the days he plays. If he had enough at-bats to qualify, he would be fifth in OBP. Tier 5 Francisco Cervelli has been one of my favorite surprises this season. A guy that was probably not drafted to start the season, he was an early season addition for those dealing with injuries. The hot start for Cervelli has lasted and he continues to reward fantasy owners with a .282 average, eight home runs and 43 RBIs. He doesn’t play as much as some of the top options in the game right now, but if you have a decent backup, he provides more than enough production. Kurt Suzuki is the same value as Cervelli. He’s not going to play as much as the top options at the position, but he’s offering some great value on the days he does play. If you play in a league that counts strikeouts, Suzuki will offer a little bit of punch with the bat without the negative side effects. His 14 strikeouts are the lowest for any catcher with more than 100 at bats this season. Suzuki is one of the least risky plays at the position this year. Tier 6 I have been waiting for Carson Kelly to get his shot, and he just hasn’t taken advantage of it. Yadier Molina has been out since the beginning of May and Kelly was unable to jump in at show the Cardinals why he is the catcher of the future. In limited at-bats this season, he is only hitting .083 and has struck out six times in 24 at-bats with no extra-base hits. Luckily, Molina continues to be an ageless wonder. Francisco Mejia has not gotten off to a good start at Triple A. Hitting under .200 has cut into any opportunity that he may have had in Cleveland soon. That is a shame though because the Indians have a huge hole at catcher and could use his bat. At this point, it will take an injury to force the Indians hand to bring him up and even then, he would need to get hot real soon. It is interesting to note that the Indians have started playing Mejia in the outfield more in hopes of accelerating his bat, but it would have been nice to see him grow behind the plate.  

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Outfield Prospect Rankings (June) - 2018 Impact Rookies

Welcome back, RotoBallers. I'll be breaking down impact prospects by position. Today I'm bringing you my updated top 10 outfielders - MLB prospect rankings for the 2018 fantasy baseball season. Outfield is typically one of the deepest list of impact prospects, but list of the top guys to own in redraft leagues took some hits to its depth with some pretty notable graduations. The top 10 at the beginning of the year consisted of players like Ronald Acuna, Shohei Ohtani, Dustin Fowler, Lewis Brinson, Austin Meadows, Jesse Winker, Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill, all of whom are currently up in the majors. Despite that, there are still several top guys to add. Prospects like Kyle Tucker, Willie Calhoun and Alex Verdugo all figure to have some value for the rest of this fantasy season and should have value. The depth starts to trail off after those guys, but there are still a couple players who could be useful to fantasy owners this season.  

Top 10 Outfield Prospects for 2018 Fantasy Baseball (June)

1. Kyle Tucker (HOU, AAA) Stats: 222 PA, .276/.355/.438, 5 HR, 6 SB, 11.3% BB%, 20.3% K% ETA: Mid-June The Houston Astros have few holes on their roster, but left field is currently one of them. With an injured Derek Fisher — who had been underperforming — a demoted Jake Marisnick, a disappointing Marwin Gonzalez and a serviceable Tony Kemp, the position lacks the star power of some of Houston’s other positions. However, Tucker has really hit well in his first taste of Triple-A and appears ready to start playing in the majors. His hit tool has improved with now a higher walk rate than he had at Double-A last year and a manageable strikeout rate. He is also hitting for some power with a little bit of speed. Tucker figures to be a Super Two deadline call up, at which point he will be worth owning in most redraft leagues. 2. Willie Calhoun (TEX, AAA) Stats: 211 PA, .270/.322/.393, 4 HR, 0 SB, 6.2% BB%, 13.3% K% ETA: Late June Calhoun was supposed to enter the season as the starter in left field for Texas, but the Rangers opted to keep him in the minors to add an extra year of control over him. Now, he’s being kept in the minors because he just hasn’t hit well. His slugging percentage is the lowest it has ever been in professional baseball and he’s not hitting for the same average he was hitting for last season. Calhoun is known for his bat and scouts are confident he’ll eventually snap out of this funk and start hitting again though, so fantasy owners should not yet be too concerned. He is still only 23 after all. If he can get it going and earn a promotion to the majors, he would be worth owning in most leagues for his promising middle-of-the-order bat. 3. Alex Verdugo (LAD, AAA) Stats: 114 PA, .308/.342/.458, 4 HR, 0 SB, 5.3% BB%, 15.8% K% ETA: Early July Verdugo has never been the most explosive player in the minors, but there is still plenty to like from a fantasy standpoint. He is a consistent hitter who makes plenty of contact and has a good understanding of the strike zone. Though he is not a slugger, he makes enough hard contact to possibly be able to receive a home run boost in the majors where it seems power is easier to find. He also is not a burner, but he could swipe a bag or two in the majors. Without Corey Seager, the Los Angeles Dodgers have moved Chris Taylor from center field to shortstop, leaving an opening in the outfield for Verdugo to claim. Right now, Los Angeles is using Cody Bellinger to fill in the gap, but Verdugo could eventually work his way back up and take the spot where spots believe he would be an adequate defender. His consistent bat would help make him a steady presence in 12-plus-team leagues. 4. Jake Bauers (TB, AAA) Stats: 196 PA, .293/.369/.454, 5 HR, 8 SB, 10.2% BB%, 21.4% K% ETA: Late June There is little left for Bauers to prove in the minors and there’s really no great reason why he’s not in the majors right now other than service time consideration. Bauers has been performing well above expectations in his second trip to Triple-A Durham, flashing both a plus hit tool with surprising speed and some power to go along with it all. The Tampa Bay Rays are a rebuilding club currently with a struggling Carlos Gomez in right field. It could be a Super Two thing for keeping Bauers down, so it will be interesting to see if he is called up around June 15 or if the Rays keep him down much longer. If he is able to reach the majors and see regular playing time, he would bring enough fantasy appeal to warrant ownership consideration in plenty of 12-plus-team leagues. 5. Christin Stewart (DET, AAA) Stats: 203 PA, .290/.374/.585, 13 HR, 0 SB, 11.3% BB%, 19.2% K% ETA: Late July Stewart has always had well above-average power, but just hasn’t made enough contact to be viewed as anything more than a future Quad-A player. Now he’s starting to put it all together at Triple-A, striking out less than he has since his 26-plate appearance sample size in Rookie League in 2015. He also is continuing to walk at a high rate and is hitting for his highest average since that 2015 sampling. Like with the Rays, the Detroit Tigers have little reason to keep Stewart in the minors, especially since he would be an improvement over JaCoby Jones who has cooled down after a hot start. It remains to be seen if Stewart can carry over his low strikeout rate and high batting average to the majors, but if he does get the promotion, he at least would represent a cheap source of power for owners in need of some home runs. 6. Austin Hays (BAL, AA) Stats: 185 PA, .224/.259/.374, 6 HR, 6 SB, 4.9% BB%, 23.2% K% ETA: Early August It has really been a season to forget for Hays after he had a season for the ages in 2017. Hays has not been able to string together any consistent production in his second trip to Double-A Bowie, and now has landed on the DL with an ankle injury. Scouts are not selling out on him just yet, though the concern with Hays has always been that he lacked patience and had to rely on a contact-heavy approach to succeed. Hays could easily take over in right field if he gets healthy and starts to produce, but those are pretty big ‘ifs’ right now. Keep him on your radar, but don’t go buying him in redraft leagues just yet. 7. Steven Duggar (SF, AAA) Stats: 212 PA, .255/.340/.356, 2 HR, 7 SB, 10.8% BB%, 29.7% K% ETA: Late June The San Francisco Giants need any outfielders who can hit anything. Hunter Pence and Austin Jackson have been abysmal for San Francisco, and Andrew McCutchen has not quite been himself this season either. Duggar is not exactly setting the world on fire at Triple-A, but at this point, the Giants would probably take anything. Duggar also would be a left-handed bat that could help what is a more right-handed heavy lineup. He is a reliable defender and has plenty of speed to also be able to help shore up their defense. His speed could translate into some stolen bases and scouts believe that eventually he will be able to hit for a solid batting average, but that last part sort of awaits to be seen. If nothing else, Duggar could be a solid piece in some deeper leagues if he is promoted. 8. Eloy Jimenez (CWS, AA) Stats: 165 PA, .333/.376/.613, 9 HR, 0 SB, 7.3% BB%, 17.0% K% ETA: September There’s no hitter on this list who really compares to Jimenez’s powerful bat. The right-handed slugger is viewed as one of the top prospects in the minors and he continues to prove he deserves to be treated as such. He has crushed Double-A pitching this season and could be in line for a midseason promotion to Triple-A. That still seems like somewhat of a long way off from the majors, but he if he continues to rake at Triple-A, he could earn a promotion to the majors for a cup of coffee in September so the White Sox can gauge if he’s ready for a bigger role in 2019. Even in a small sample size of at-bats, Jimenez would have the potential to impact fantasy playoff races in plenty of leagues for his power and overall hitting ability. It is very far from a certain thing that he will even receive that September promotion, but he is worth monitoring just in case. 9. Anthony Alford (TOR, AAA) Stats: 86 PA, .152/.221/.165, 0 HR, 3 SB, 7.0% BB%, 33.7% K% ETA: Early July A much less exciting prospect than Jimenez, Alford is someone with the tools to be a real solid fantasy contributor. Scouts have praised his hit tool in the past and his speed, while also adding that he at least might have 10-plus homer power. However, injuries have really hampered the toolsy outfielder and he now is sitting in the minors, trying to find a way to get his bat going again and earn a trip back to the big leagues. In theory, he would be an excellent platoon bat with Curtis Granderson and could even be a better option as the starter given the rebuilding direction the Blue Jays are headed in. But he needs to earn it. If everything clicks, he has the upside to be a real impact bat for the Jays and for fantasy owners. 10. Victor Robles (WAS, AAA) Stats: 15 PA, .385/.467/.385, 0 HR, 2 SB, 13.3% BB%, 6.7% K% ETA: September Robles has a very similar skillset to Alford with the only difference being that Robles has been able to put it together and sustain his success much better than Alford. He also had been able to stay healthier, at least until he injured his elbow earlier this season in Triple-A. Had he not, it is likely he would’ve been promoted to the big-league club and not fellow top prospect Juan Soto. Still, there’s a chance Robles is healthy again this season and could reach the majors. He might even be able to return before that September ETA. However, little is known about his status right now, so owners probably need to exercise caution before adding him in any redraft format.  

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Updated Shortstop Rankings (May) - 2018 Fantasy Baseball

We are a quarter of the way through the regular season for Major League Baseball, so our crack staff at RotoBaller has updated our rest-of-season fantasy baseball rankings. We round things out with a look at where MLB's shortstops fall. A position that was once a fantasy wasteland now boasts some of the game's brightest stars, and owning a premier shortstop (or adding the right waiver wire guy) can make a huge difference over the course of the season. Don't forget to bookmark our famous Rankings Wizard where you can see all of our rankings for mixed leagues, points leagues, AL/NL only leagues, dynasty leagues, top 2018 prospects, dynasty prospects and more. You will also find our tiers, auction values, player news, stats, projections and more. You can easily download everything and it's all free!  

2018 Fantasy Baseball Tiered Rankings: Shortstop (May)

Rank Overall Rank Tier Player
1 8 1 Manny Machado
2 9 1 Carlos Correa
3 13 1 Trea Turner
4 16 1 Francisco Lindor
5 54 2 Xander Bogaerts
6 57 2 Alex Bregman
7 58 2 Jean Segura
8 66 2 Javier Baez
9 71 2 Didi Gregorius
10 90 2 Trevor Story
11 135 2 Tim Anderson
12 156 2 Chris Taylor
13 173 2 Asdrubal Cabrera
14 162 2 Andrelton Simmons
15 165 3 Elvis Andrus
16 168 3 Marcus Semien
17 197 3 Gleyber Torres
18 212 3 Yangervis Solarte
19 238 3 Jose Peraza
20 214 3 Zack Cozart
21 224 3 Addison Russell
22 227 3 Dansby Swanson
23 251 4 Paul DeJong
24 266 4 Eduardo Escobar
25 272 4 Orlando Arcia
26 320 4 Marwin Gonzalez
27 337 4 Tim Beckham
28 342 4 Amed Rosario
29 345 4 Daniel Robertson
30 364 4 Aledmys Diaz
31 398 4 Chad Pinder
32 372 4 Brandon Crawford
33 384 4 Freddy Galvis
34 403 4 Chris Owings
35 417 5 Eduardo Nunez
36 408 5 Jorge Polanco
37 418 5 Ketel Marte
38 426 5 Dixon Machado
39 431 5 Jose Iglesias
40 434 5 Nick Ahmed
41 436 6 Willy Adames
42 437 6 Alcides Escobar
43 443 6 Brendan Rodgers
44 478 6 J.P. Crawford
Tier 1 Still the usual suspects up to the usual tricks. Manny Machado is going to duke it out all season with Mookie Betts and Mike Trout for AL MVP honors, and we are all better for it as baseball fans. If anything, Trea Turner might be slightly disappointing fantasy owners with a .267 batting average and "only" six homers and 22 RBI, but he's still on pace for 30-40 steals. I fully admit I didn't buy into Frankie Lindor's power surge last year, but here we are on June 1st and the dude's got 12 jacks. He's a legit five-tool player and I am sorry for having ever doubted his greatness in any way. Carlos Correa hasn't even really heated up yet, and I fear for the rest of the American League when that does happen. With the warmer months upon us, I'm willing to bet we see him round into All-World form any day now. Tier 2 There are a ton of pleasant surprises in this tier, and I admit some are downright shocking to me. For example, if I told you in March that Asdrubal Cabrera would have the fourth-most total bases of any shortstop on June 1st, how quickly would they have stripped me of my logins? Or if I claimed it would not be Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo or Kyle Schwarber leading the Cubs in RBI, but Javier Baez? Baez has shaved 6.3% of his strikeout percentage, and is now whiffing at just a 22% clip, while somehow also cutting his walk rate in half (2.9% vs. 2017's 5.9%). This ultra-aggressive approach is yielding very positive results, particularly his career-high .291 ISO and the aforementioned RBI totals. Perhaps the most criminally underrated player in all of fantasy baseball (yeah, yeah, light up the comments with who I'm forgetting) though is Andrelton Simmons. The former defensive specialist has quietly--nay, SILENTLY--evolved into one of the best contact hitters at the position, if not the entire league. Simmons had a career year in 2017, posting a rock-solid .291 batting average while also setting career highs in RBI (69), runs (77) and stolen bases (19). In 2018 he's hitting an absurd .333 with a surprising .873 OPS, and he may very well match those aforementioned career highs in counting stats. I am here to let my Andrelton freak flag fly. Tier 3 This is probably too low for Gleyber Torres. Sure he's only been up for a month or so, but he's the GOAT AND I WILL FIGHT ANYBODY WHO SAYS OTHERWISE. For real though, Torres has been outstanding since being called up and would likely be fighting for AL ROTY if Shohei Ohtani wasn't excelling both at the plate and on the mound. Not to be the "tape guy", but watching Torres' at-bats you can see what made him such a highly sought-after prospect, and why he's legitimately MLB-ready right now. I imagine it's only a matter of time before we find him in the second tier of shortstops (let's say middle infielders, we know he plays second base). Yangervis Solarte came over to Toronto to be a utility player, but injuries (*cough*TULO*cough*) have allowed him regular playing time, and he has thrived in the friendly north. Solarte has displayed impressive power in 2018, and whether you want to blame it on the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre is irrelevant--he's got 11 homers already, and at the SS position that's hard to come by. His .257 batting average likely has some positive regression coming as well--his BABIP is an unsightly (and likely unsustainable) .255. Tier 4 and Beyond Brandon Crawford is known for his glove, sports fans, but usually not for his bat. The 31-year-old veteran has quietly surprised this season, hitting .307 with six homers and a handful of runs and RBI. There is almost definitely some regression coming (see: BABIP of .371) in the batting average, but Crawford is proving that you don't need to have one of the top guys to get an edge at the shortstop position. He's one of those value adds that can be great for a team dealing with an injury or an underperforming star, and should not be overlooked. He should be in the middle of Tier 3 IMO, ahead of guys like Addison Russell and Dansby Swanson. Eduardo Escobar deserves more love than he gets. He's just inside Tier 4, but like Crawford he should at least be in Tier 3, considered ahead of guys who are more name than production. Another seven-year veteran, Escobar enjoyed a career year in 2017, slugging 21 homers and setting career highs in RBI (73) and runs (62). While he may not reach those marks in 2018, he's pacing pretty darn close. He's another one of those guys you can stick in a lineup and get some middling production from while you wait for a guy like Paul DeJong to heal--or if you're still dealing with the heartbreak of losing Corey Seager.  

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Updated Outfielder Rankings (May) - 2018 Fantasy Baseball

We have made it to the end of May in fantasy baseball. Now is the time everyone starts to take a hard look at their roster to make improvements and changes. At Rotoballer we are going to help you out by reshuffling the deck and updating the outfield rankings as a tool in reshaping your squad. There have been several standouts in the early going who have made a steep climb up the rankings, as well as those who have had a similar fall. Rookies, injuries, and bounce backs have changed the preseason rankings in many ways. I am here to show you who the risers and fallers are, and why. These rankings were made before recent rookies (such as Austin Meadows and Juan Soto) were called up to the majors, so please keep that in mind as you peruse the article. Notes about injuries and missing prospects can be found in the player notes. You can find player analysis for each tier following the rankings chart, That being said, read on! * Rankings/Tiers made by Pierre Camus while Player Analysis was written by Matt Williams. Don't forget to bookmark our famous Rankings Wizard where you can see all of our rankings for mixed leagues, points leagues, AL/NL only leagues, dynasty leagues, top 2018 prospects, dynasty prospects and more. You will also find our tiers, auction values, player news, stats, projections and more. You can easily download everything - oh, and in case you’re curious, it's all free!  

2018 Fantasy Baseball Tiered Rankings: Outfield (May)

Staff rankings/tiers by Bill Dubiel, Nick Mariano, Pierre Camus while player analysis was written by Matt Williams
Ranking Tier Player Position
1 1 Mike Trout OF
2 1 Mookie Betts OF
3 1 Bryce Harper OF
4 1 Charlie Blackmon OF
5 1 Aaron Judge OF
6 1 J.D. Martinez OF
7 2 Kris Bryant 3B/OF
8 2 Giancarlo Stanton OF
9 2 Starling Marte OF
10 2 George Springer OF
11 3 Cody Bellinger 1B/OF
12 3 Dee Gordon 2B/OF
13 3 Justin Upton OF
14 3 Tommy Pham OF
15 3 Rhys Hoskins 1B/OF
16 3 Khris Davis OF
17 3 Nelson Cruz OF
18 3 Christian Yelich OF
19 3 Lorenzo Cain OF
20 4 Andrew Benintendi OF
21 4 Marcell Ozuna OF
22 4 Yoenis Cespedes OF
23 4 Ronald Acuna OF
24 4 Mitch Haniger OF
25 4 Ender Inciarte OF
26 4 Nick Castellanos 3B/OF
27 4 Andrew McCutchen OF
28 4 Shohei Ohtani SP/OF
29 5 Ryan Braun OF
30 5 Michael Brantley OF
31 5 Whit Merrifield 2B/OF
32 5 Eddie Rosario OF
33 5 A.J. Pollock OF
34 5 Joey Gallo 3B/1B/OF
35 6 Nomar Mazara OF
36 6 Nick Markakis OF
37 6 Adam Jones OF
38 6 Gregory Polanco OF
39 6 Matt Olson OF/1B
40 6 Corey Dickerson OF
41 6 Jose Martinez OF/1B
42 6 Odubel Herrera OF
43 6 Michael Conforto OF
44 6 Yasiel Puig OF
45 6 Byron Buxton OF
46 6 Brett Gardner OF
47 6 Billy Hamilton OF
48 6 David Peralta OF
49 6 Delino DeShields OF
50 6 Chris Taylor 2B/SS/OF
51 6 Kyle Schwarber OF
52 7 Jay Bruce OF/1B
53 7 Brandon Belt 1B/OF
54 7 Trey Mancini 1B/OF
55 7 Shin-Soo Choo OF
56 7 Adam Duvall OF
57 7 Matt Kemp OF
58 7 Domingo Santana OF
59 8 Scooter Gennett 2B/3B/OF
60 8 Jorge Soler OF
61 8 Kevin Pillar OF
62 8 Stephen Piscotty OF
63 8 Max Kepler OF
64 8 Adam Eaton OF
65 8 Steven Souza OF
66 8 Mallex Smith OF
67 9 Ian Happ 2B/OF
68 9 Teoscar Hernandez OF
69 9 David Dahl OF
70 9 Dexter Fowler OF
71 9 Avisail Garcia OF
72 9 Franchy Cordero OF
73 9 Josh Reddick OF
74 9 Manuel Margot OF
75 9 Eric Thames 1B/OF
76 9 Ian Desmond OF/1B
77 10 Aaron Hicks OF
78 10 Michael Taylor OF
79 10 Leonys Martin OF
80 10 Carlos Gonzalez OF
81 10 Bradley Zimmer OF
82 10 Travis Jankowski OF
83 10 Jason Kipnis 2B/OF
84 10 Scott Schebler OF
85 10 Lewis Brinson OF
86 10 Dustin Fowler OF
87 10 Aaron Altherr OF
88 11 Brandon Drury 3B/OF
89 11 Randal Grichuk OF
90 11 Jose Pirela OF/2B
91 11 Mark Trumbo OF
92 11 Marwin Gonzalez 1B/2B/3B/SS/OF
93 11 Denard Span OF
94 11 Jackie Bradley OF
95 11 Mac Williamson OF
96 11 Jesse Winker OF
97 11 Howie Kendrick 2B/OF
98 11 Carlos Gomez OF
99 11 Ben Zobrist 2B/OF
100 11 Kevin Kiermaier OF
101 12 Derek Fisher OF
102 12 Chad Pinder SS/2B/OF
103 12 Chris Owings 2B/SS/OF
104 12 Curtis Granderson OF
105 12 Eduardo Nunez SS/3B/2B/OF
106 12 Jose Bautista OF
107 12 Kole Calhoun OF
108 12 Joc Pederson OF
109 12 Kyle Tucker OF
110 12 Alex Gordon OF
111 12 Nick Williams OF
112 12 Cameron Maybin OF
113 12 Hunter Pence OF
114 12 Hunter Renfroe OF
115 12 Harrison Bader OF
116 12 Jarrod Dyson OF
117 12 Gerardo Parra OF
118 13 Clint Frazier OF
119 13 Raimel Tapia OF
120 13 Jason Heyward OF
121 13 Mikie Mahtook OF
122 13 Albert Almora OF
123 13 Austin Hays OF
124 13 Brandon Nimmo OF
125 13 Andrew Toles OF
126 13 Preston Tucker OF
127 13 Ben Gamel OF
128 13 Alex Verdugo OF
129 13 Brian Goodwin OF
130 13 Jon Jay OF
131 13 Steve Pearce 1B/2B/OF
132 13 Lonnie Chisenhall OF
133 13 Jorge Bonifacio OF
134 13 Eloy Jimenez OF
135 13 Tyler Naquin OF
136 13 Enrique Hernandez OF
137 13 Austin Jackson OF
138 13 Nicky Delmonico OF
139 13 Matt Joyce OF
140 13 Melky Cabrera OF
  Tier 1 Mike Trout and Mookie Betts are technically in Tier 1-A, as they are in a class by themselves. Trout is up to his usual tricks in 2018, batting .303/.448/.672 with 18 home runs and 12 stolen bases. The Angels superstar currently has a career high 20.2% BB rate, while maintaining a ridiculous .462 wOBA. The man is amazing and will occupy the top spot in all of fantasy baseball for the foreseeable future. Mookie Betts owners may have something to say about that though. The Red Sox' center fielder is having a breakout after a breakout in 2018, doing his best Mike Trout impersonation. Betts is carrying his own impressive slash line of .359/.437.750 with 17 home runs and 13 stolen bases this season and has been the fantasy MVP so far. Still, it was not enough to dethrone Trout for the top spot in the outfield. That will take a bit more of a track record by Betts, and also a bit of a decline from Trout himself. The rest of tier is rounded out by mainstays Charlie Blackmon and soon to be free agent Bryce Harper. Nothing special to report here, they are both great players and are locked into Tier 1-B. Tier 2 The second the tier is filled with all of the slugging outfielders that can't quite produce enough in all five categories to move into the top tier. Players like Aaron Judge, Kris Bryant, J.D. Martinez, and Giancarlo Stanton settle in to this "next best thing" tier. They are all performing the way we expected, to a degree, and should remain locked in this tier for the season. The surprise of the tier is our first big "climber" so far in the rankings, Starling Marte. The five-tool stud from the Pirates has been working his reputation back from the stigma of a PED suspension last year, and Marte has not disappointed. The Pittsburgh outfielder is hitting .309/.361/.514 with seven home runs and 10 stolen bases. Marte. like Trout, is earning the highest walk rate of his career and is shaping up to be one of the best early round value of fantasy drafts. Tier 3 Tier three is a group filled with a power hitter, a speed threat, and a power/speed hybrid. Headlining the group is Astros' star George Springer, followed by Cody Bellinger and Dee Gordon. The Houston outfielder may be the last true "five-category player" with the talent to hit into the top-10 in fantasy drafts. Springer is just not stealing enough anymore to make that a reality. He has still collected three stolen bases to go with 11 home runs and .284 batting average so far. If Springer can bring his walk rate back to his career norm he should be able to climb back up into tier two. Cody Bellinger has been a bit of a disappointment in 2018. The reigning NL Rookie of the Year is batting just .235/.307/.431 with eight home runs and a 102 wRC+. Fantasy owners are worried about the slugging first baseman, and with his below waiver wire performance it's easy to see why. While he is carrying a career low .278 BABIP, it is hardly enough reason to suspect it will impact a turnaround of noticeable measure. Bellinger's hard contact rate in down 6%, while his ground ball rate is up 7% so far this season. Gains in his chase rate and erased by a small spike in his swinging strike rate. The kid has all of the talent in the world to turn it around this year, which is why he remains so high in the rankings. However, if Bellinger does not find a way to reverse his current approach he will continue to slide down the tiers all year. Dee Gordon is Dee Gordon. He is going to bat .300, steal 60 bases, and score between 90-100 runs. Tier 4 Rhys Hoskins was out on the disabled list with a broken jaw after these rankings were finished and he should be dropped. The Phillies first baseman is not going to require surgery, but he should still be out for a while. No official timetable has been announced. Injuries are never a good thing, but it's possible that the young slugger could use some time off to clear his head. Hoskins was coming off an amazing rookie campaign that saw him put up 18 home runs in just 170 at-bats last year. 2018 has been a horse of a different color with the Hoskins hitting just .233 with a spike in his swinging strike rate and significant dip in hard contact. He did manage to hold onto a modest .182 ISO and decent .340 wOBA during his struggles, so maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel. Fantasy owners can hope that this time off gives Hoskins a chance to adjust and come back fresh and motivated. Tommy Pham was a but of a polarizing player in the offseason when it came to projections and predictions. Could the out of nowhere Cardinal repeat his 2017 season? Or was it just a metric mirage? So far, so good for Pham who is putting up a .271/.372/.476 slah line with nine home runs and eight stolen bases. The St.Louis outfielder is holding a strong .367 wOBA and 134 wRC+ that helps solidify the legitimacy of the effort as well. The main issue for Pham this season has been injuries. He has missed games with a groin injury and almost cut his head open because his helmet was too tight. If he can avoid these types of mishaps he should be in for a strong season. You can't go wrong with Khris Davis, he is about as consistent as they come. What you see is what you get, and what you get is 40 home runs. On the other hand. Justin Upton is a grab bag. Will he be good Justin or bad Justin? In roto leagues you don't have to worry as much through his streaky nature because at the end of the year he is going to put up his typical .260 25-20 home runs 85-95 RBI. In head-to- leagues is where Mr.Upton can cause some headaches. The veteran outfielder can either win you the week or be flat out useless. Still, the Angels power hitter is enough of  a dynamic threat to remain entrenched near the top of the rankings. Tier 5 Marcell Ozuna fell in the rankings after coming out with a disappointing start after his breakout 2017 campaign. Acquired from the Marlins in the off season, Ozuna was poised to pick up where he left off playing for the Cardinals. Instead he stumbled hard out of the gate and never really recovered, batting a disappointing .260/.305/.337 with a .284 wOBA and 78 wRC+. Ozuna's troubles have been compiled by off the field issues that have led to the outfielder being benched on more than on occasion for being late. All is not lost for the St. Louis slugger though, as he holds a solid 44.5% hard contact rate while also improving up his strikeout rate, chase rate, and swinging strike rate this season. Andrew Benintendi joins Ozuna of those who fell down to this tier. However after a disappointing start, the Red Sox outfielder has caught fire and is looking like the guy everyone thought they drafted. Benintendi is batting .340 with six home runs and three stolen bases over the last 30 days, bringing his season slash line to .294/.376/.517 with a .378 wOBA. He is a stud dynasty plaer who should finish the season higher in the rankings as we go further into the summer. Tier 6 Ronald Acuna was just as advertised before going down with an ACL sprain. The 20-year-old rookie was hitting .265/.326/.453 with seven doubles, five homers, 13 RBI, 19 runs and two steals in 29 games this season. The good news is that Acuna will likely be out only weeks instead on the months many feared. If you saw the play he was injured on, you would understand. These rankings were done prior to the DL stint, so downgrade him accordingly. Mitch Haniger and Ender Inciarte are two of the highest climbers in the updated outfield rankings. Haniger should not have been a big surprise to those who followed him last season. The Seattle outfielder proved that he belonged in the major leagues in 2017 hitting .282/.352/.491 with 16 home runs. Haniger also proved to have solid  plate discipline, carrying a 27.9% O-swing% (% of balls chased outside the zone). In 2018 he seems to have gotten even better, slashing .276/.361/.520 with a .373 wOBA, 11 home runs and three stolen bases.  A well earned bump in the rankings. Inciarte is an interesting player. He is consistent, yet always undervalued. Well we see you Ender, and we appreciate your efforts. The Braves' leadoff hitter has stolen 18 bases to lead the majors, hitting on top the one of the better hitting lineups in the National League. He is striking out a bit more than we would like, but he has proven to provide tremendous value in the speed department. Tier 7 In case you did not get the memo, Shohei Ohtani is pretty good. We are just going to zero in on the imports hitting ability for the purposes of this article though. The Angels "rookie" is batting an a solid .291/.376/.533 with a .394 wOBA and six home runs through 103 at-bats. He loses a bit of value due to the fact that he doesn't play everyday, but what he lacks in quantity he makes up for n quality. Ohtani hits the ball hard almost every time, holding a 42.5% hard contact rate to just a 9.5% soft contact rate. The kid is legit, but you know that by now. Michael Brantley has seen a resurrection of sorts in 2018. Everyday is the day we expect him to get injured, but here he stands. Brantley may not be the player he used to be, especially in the speed department, but he has contributed amazing value for an end of draft or possibly waiver wire add for fantasy owners. The Indians outfielder is hitting a fantastic .343/.383/.569 with nine home runs, a .405 wOBA and 156 wRC+. Honestly, he would be a lot higher in these rankings if he were anyone else. The injury bug follows Brantley around like a hungry puppy and it seems like just a matter of time. *This would be the tier Juan Soto would likely fit in today, maybe even tier six. Tier 8 A.J. Pollock fell pretty far in the rankings following a tremendous start due to an unfortunate thumb fracture that sent him to the disabled list. Pollock was one of the hottest hitters in baseball going down, but just like Michael Branltey, he is snake bit when it comes to injuries and setbacks and it's tough to see from such a talented player. He is currently due back from mid-to-late June. Nomar Mazara is a hitting machine and one of the more underrated players in baseball. After a year in which Mazara hit 100 RBI, he came into the 2018 season as an afterthought in fantasy drafts. Even now, hitting .272/.343/.500 with a .360 wOBA and 12 home runs, Mazara remains an underappreciated fantasy asset. The Texas outfielder is just 23 years-old and should continue to hone is craft. Don't sleep on Nomar Mazara, he is a star, you just don't know it yet. Tier 9 Nick Markakis is having a bit of a resurgence this season, batting .332 with seven home runs for the Braves. The veteran is getting all sorts of help in the BABIP department (.344), but is nonetheless worthy of this huge bump in the rankings, Markakis has always been a professional hitter and has cut way down on his strikeout rate in 2018. Corey Dickerson was cut by the Tampa Bay Rays this offseason. Corey Dickerson is batting ..308/.344/.492 with five home runs and three stolen bases for the Pirates. I repeat, Corey Dickerson was CUT by the Tampa Bay Rays this offseason. (insert rolling eyes .gif) Tier 10 plus Byron Buxton. We have seen this movie before. He is awful. We cut him. He comes back, We pick him up. He is awful. We cut him, He gets injured, Someone else picks him up. They cut him. Then he has a monster end to the season. It's just hard to see that happening again considering how lost he looks at the plate. That being said, he would be a good player to target once July rolls around. Until then, he will remain buried in the rankings. Billy Hamilton may finally be on his last life. The speedy outfielder has been permanently planted in the nine hole in the Reds lineup. It looks like only a matter of time before he is seeing the bench or maybe the minor leagues. Jay Bruce singed with the Mets this offseason with both of them knowing he had plantar fasciitis. This has bothered him all season long so far. Could we see a bounce back from Bruce and witness a wild hot streak? Sure. But this foot injury is not going anywhere and makes him a worrisome addition on a fantasy roster in 2018. Matt Kemp was supposed to be released wasn't he? He sure didn't think so. The former MVP is back and looking great in the Dodgers outfield, batting .345/.372/.554 with a .393 wOBA and seven home runs. If he continues this trend going into June we may have to consider giving him a much larger jump in the rankings than we already have. Domingo Santana was playing with fire in 2017, carrying a 30.9% HR/FB ratio. That is roughly double the league average. This season he has that rate down to a more sustainable 10.3%, which should go up actually. The Brewers outfielder has been picking it up lately but aside from his struggles at the plate, the additions of Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich in Milwaukee have put a playing time strain on Santana. He will need something to change to recapture his preseason hype. Adam Eaton was the best hitter is baseball when he went down with an ankle injury in April. The Nationals center fielder was slashing ..343/.424/.655 with a .456 wOBA and 192 wRC+ to start the year. Unfortunately, injuries and Adam Eaton go together like peanut butter and jelly. Jelly being what his bones are made of. I kid,I kid. For what it's worth, Eaton is nearing his return and should be back in action sometime in early June. He could be an amazing asset if healthy and leading off for the Nationals, but how many at-bats will fantasy owners get out of him? We will have to see.  

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FANTASY BASEBALL SLEEPERS

Contact Rate Risers and Fallers for Week 12: 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.  

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

Jesus Aguilar (1B, MIL): 94% contact rate last seven days (+22%) Aguilar was a faller in last week’s article but he turned this around quickly with a .313 average, two home runs, and just one strikeout in 17 plate appearances over the last seven days. Perhaps Aguilar felt Eric Thames breathing down his neck, because now that Thames has returned Aguilar will need to keep mashing to stay in the lineup regularly. Even with a mini-slump Aguilar wasn’t in danger of losing his job, but Domingo Santana is the perfect example of how a slow stretch can snowball into a permanent bench role. So much would have to go wrong for Aguilar to end up where Santana is, but that is the reality of being on a crowded team that’s contending. At this point there is no reason to doubt whether Aguilar is legitimate. Aguilar’s season-long contact rate improved 5% over last season and his zone-contact rate improved by 8%. His 91.5 MPH average exit velocity is a 2.5 MPH jump compared to last season and .395 xwOBA is All-Star level. The only suspicious peripheral stat is his 21.6% HR/FB ratio over the last two seasons, where he hit .276 with 29 HR in 522 PA. The power pace may slow down a hair, but Aguilar is the real deal. Matt Duffy (3B, TB): 100% contact rate last seven days (+19%) Duffy didn’t whiff all week and hit .290 with three walks and no strikeouts in 35 PA over the last seven days. He also hit two home runs and had two steals during that stretch, doubling his total in both categories. When looking at Duffy’s profile what stands out is the .372 BABIP, a number that will certainly drop over the course of a full season. Even with such a high BABIP Duffy is not just getting lucky. He improved his line-drive rate to 26.1% and his average exit velocity to 88.3 MPH. He was actually rather misfortunate over the last week when he hit .290, because Duffy had a .241 BABIP despite a 29% line-drive rate. The problem with Duffy is that he is hollow batting average. He won’t hit many home runs because he has a 21.7% flyball rate, which is the fourth lowest among qualified hitters. He has four steals, but has also been caught three times in seven attempts. Duffy should be a safe source of batting average, but he won’t provide much else. Josh Reddick (OF, HOU): 95% contact rate last seven days (+17%) It was a good week for Josh Reddick, who hit .364 last week with one strikeout and one walk in 24 plate appearances. Even with this performance boost Reddick wasn’t all that valuable over the last week, as all eight of his hits were singles. His overall stats aren’t very encouraging either. He has an 81.3% contact rate, a 4% drop from last season and a five year high. His strikeout rate also climbed to 18.3%, a 5% increase from last season and another five year high. He’s not striking the ball hard with an 85.5 MPH average exit velocity and he has a .245 xBA, his worst since Statcast was introduced. Reddick needs to hit for a high average because he doesn’t have the power to be mixed league relevant while hitting below .270. He’s only 31% owned in Yahoo leagues as of writing this, and he’s not someone worth adding despite a hot week.

Fallers

C.J. Cron (1B, TB): 18% contact rate last seven days (-51%) This is the worst week I’ve seen while doing this weekly article by a significant margin. Cody Bellinger’s -30% drop from two weeks ago was bad, but this is a new level of futility. Over the last seven days C.J. Cron is 0-for-22 with 18 strikeouts and three walks in 28 plate appearances. He put four balls in play during the last week. Four. This season has been a mixed bag for Cron, because he has posted a career high .207 ISO and is only one home run from tying a career high, but he also has career worsts with a 72.4% contact rate, 82.1% zone-contact rate, and 27% strikeout rate. We might be seeing why the Angels were always reluctant to make Cron their regular first baseman. His home run totals are puzzling since he has hit more groundballs than ever before, and his average launch angle is six degrees lower than it was last season. His .444 SLG and .330 wOBA are perfectly in line with his career averages so Cron is basically the exact same player that he was in Anahiem, he just had an extended hot stretch fueled by a 21.7% HR/FB ratio. He’s on the border of rosterability in standard mixed leagues, but should provide moderate power when this cold stretch ends. Joey Gallo (1B/OF, TEX): 35% contact rate last seven days (-23%) How much are home runs worth? Gallo is testing our need for power with another rough week. He hit .130 with 15 strikeouts and two walks in 26 plate appearances over the last seven days. His one home run and five RBI don’t make up for that. The funny thing about Gallo is that he has a career high contact rate at 62%, though that is still pitiful and the lowest in the majors among qualified hitters. There are some things to like about what Gallo is doing this season. His 94.6 MPH average exit velocity is the second highest in the majors (min. 100 batted ball events). He also has a .230 xBA, .556 xSLG, and .370 xwOBA which would mean Statcast suggests at least a 15% improvement in production based on how he’s hit. It’s been a tough ride for Gallo owners, who have watched him hit .128 in June with a 47% strikeout rate. Even with this horrific June it’s hard to give up Gallo. He possesses as much raw power as anyone in baseball and if he reaches his expected stats he’d be a superstar. Buy low if you can afford the batting average drain. Javier Baez (2B, CHC): 53% contact rate last seven days (-20%) Despite being a faller Baez hit .333 last week, though he struck out seven times in 19 plate appearances and it took a .625 BABIP for him to get there. Despite a hot first two months Baez is in the midst of a June swoon, as he is hitting .175 with a .519 OPS and 38% strikeout rate this month. He still has made improvements in contact rate overall, as his 69.2% contact rate is a 4% increase over last season, and he made that improvement despite a jump in swing rate. Baez was already a free-swinger, but this season he has a 60.4% swing rate, the highest in the majors. Players like Baez that swing at everything and have poor contact rates will be prone to wild swings in production throughout the season. It’s the nature of this type of approach, and since Baez doesn’t walk much his production will live and die by home runs and his BABIP. He’s certainly been frustrating to own this month, so he’s a buy-low target if his owner’s patience is growing thin.  

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2018 Prospects: Top 30 Impact Rookies for Fantasy Leagues (Week 12)

Hello everyone, and welcome to my weekly Top-30 Fantasy Rankings for Impact Rookies! In this series, I will be going over the top prospects in baseball and discussing which ones figure to have an impact for the rest of this fantasy baseball season. The Juan Soto hype train has seemed to gone off the rails — and justifiably so. The 19-year-old phenom has just continued to crush big-league pitching and is establishing himself as one of the best young outfielders in the game. For Washington Nationals’ fans concerned over the prospect of losing Bryce Harper, it should serve as some consolation that both Soto and Victor Robles will patrol the team’s outfield for years to come. Soto and Robles are not alone in this wave of young talent. There seems to be this constant group of exciting young players like Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Nick Senzel, Eloy Jimenez and many others coming up that seem to be one of the best group of prospects the game has seen in a while. These next two years are going to be very fun to see what these talented youngsters are able to do.  

Top MLB Prospects - Fantasy Baseball Power Rankings

To be clear, this list is not the top 30 prospects in baseball. This is a list of the top 30 prospects who are likely going to rise to the major leagues and provide fantasy baseball value this season. The qualifications are simple: a player must not be on an active roster, they must have a clear path to the majors, and while they may have played in seasons prior to 2018, they must still have rookie eligibility. If a player is moved to the active roster of their team, they will be removed from this power rankings list and replaced.   1. Kyle Tucker (OF, HOU, AAA) Stats: 301 PA, .294/.365/.485, 9 HR, 11 SB, 10.3% BB%, 19.3% K% ETA: Early July Tucker has done everything in his power to show he’s ready for a promotion. He is walking at a high rate, has cut his strikeouts to below 20 percent, is hitting for a high average with power and stealing some bases. He’s clearly MLB ready and is almost certainly the best left field option Houston could ask for internally, even with Tony Kemp having a strong season. It should not be long until Tucker is promoted and while he might compete with others for playing time, expect him to establish himself as a starter early. 2. Nick Senzel (2B/3B/SS, CIN, AAA) Stats: 180 PA, .302/.372/.478, 4 HR, 8 SB, 10.0% BB%, 21.1% K% ETA: Early August It’s almost as if the comments from the Cincinnati Reds’ front office that Senzel is ready, but they can’t find a place for him really resonated with Senzel. Since June 9, he is slashing .447/.462/.658 at the plate with seven consecutive multi-hit games until that streak was snapped on June 17 when he recorded just one hit. There’s little doubt Senzel belongs in the majors, but with the Reds’ current infield, there’s just no where for him to play. It seems like Scooter Gennett could be moved at the deadline and if he is, Senzel should be the immediate replacement. Have Senzel stashed for when that time comes because he could be a serious boon for fantasy owners. 3. Austin Riley (3B, ATL, AAA) Stats: 222 PA, .308/.369/.552, 10 HR, 1 SB, 8.1% BB%, 29.7% K% ETA: Early July Like with Senzel, the general consensus around Riley is that he is ready to help his team. Senzel is the more complete prospect, but Riley has the easier path to playing time. His team both has a need for him at third base and is competitive right now, both making it seem more plausible that he will be called up before Senzel. Riley swings and misses a fair amount, which is an issue that could plague him when he reaches the big leagues. However, his power should allow him to provide owners with plenty of home runs and he should have no problem driving home runs in a loaded Atlanta lineup. Riley would be a strong addition for teams seeking power or third base help. 4. Christin Stewart (OF, DET, AAA) Stats: 273 PA, .275/.348/.513, 13 HR, 0 SB, 9.9% BB%, 20.5% K% ETA: Early July Stewart has cooled off a little bit in June, slashing just .255/.271/.345 without any homers so far this month. He does, however, have a hit in all but three games. Also helping Stewart’s case is that he has been having a career year at the minors’ highest level, striking out at a lower rate with still plenty of pop. It doesn’t hurt that the Detroit Tigers don’t really have a great option in left field and are entering a rebuild where someone like Stewart could play a key role. Stewart seems poised for a mid-summer call-up and even if the strikeouts return and keep him from hitting for a high average, the power should still be there enough to help owners out. 5. Alex Verdugo (OF, LAD, AAA) Stats: 194 PA, .350/.392/.522, 6 HR, 3 SB, 6.7% BB%, 10.8% K% ETA: Late July Verdugo has very little left to prove in the minors, if anything. He’s currently riding a 13-game hitting streak with home runs in each of his past two games and a .404/.451/.558 slash line in the 25 games since he was sent down on May 12. Verdugo could help the Los Angeles Dodgers right now if they decided to promote him, but he could also be their most valuable trade chip. One way or another, Verdugo has been one of the most productive hitters in the minors this season and should find his way to the big leagues at some point this season for a more extended period of time. 6. Tyler O’Neill (OF, STL, AAA) Stats: 169 PA, .309/.361/.651, 15 HR, 3 SB, 7.1% BB%, 23.1% K% ETA: Mid-July For all the prodigious power O’Neill seemed to hit for, he somewhat bucked the typical profile of young sluggers in that he never really took a walk in the minors. That had been a knock on him and was one reason he has struggled in the majors. However, in the 11 games since returning to Memphis, he has walked at an 18.4 percent clip, nearly nine times the 2.5 percent clip he had walked at before he was promoted to the big leagues in mid-May. If O’Neill can put together the plate discipline, it would be a huge plus for his value, which is already considerably high because of the power. He doesn’t have a clear path to playing time at the moment, but he could be a trade chip at the deadline and is the next man up if any outfielder is injured. 7. Peter Alonso (1B, NYM, AAA) Stats: 287 PA, .310/.436/.556, 15 HR, 0 SB, 15.7% BB%, 18.8% K% ETA: Late July Dominic Smith was promoted in the wake of Adrian Gonzalez’s release from the New York Mets, and just as he did last season in his MLB stint, Smith has struggled. He is striking out 35 percent of the time with a mere .211/.250/.421 slash line across his first eight games. He hadn’t been showing much more promise in hitter-friendly Las Vegas either, leaving this to be more of a trend rather than an adjustment period. Alonso, on the other hand, demolished Double-A before being promoted to Triple-A to serve as Smith’s replacement on the roster. While Alonso is not off to a fast start through his first three games, there is much more reason to believe he will get it going than Smith based on Alonso’s track record of hitting in pro baseball. If Smith should falter for too long, the rebuilding Mets might opt to take a look at a guy increasingly believed to be the franchise first baseman in Alonso. If he is given the call up, his power and overall reliable bat would be extremely welcomed by plenty of fantasy owners. 8. Willie Calhoun (OF, TEX, AAA) Stats: 289 PA, .277/.322/.413, 6 HR, 0 SB, 5.5% BB%, 11.4% K% ETA: Mid-July Calhoun has continued to swing a hot bat, carrying a .367/.392/.612 slash line with just two strikeouts over his past 11 games. He was off to a slow start to being the year — really through the first two months of the season — but the slugging left fielder has seemed to find his footing at Triple-A. The path is fairly clear for him to force his way into left field in Texas, and now that he is hitting, he should be able to join the lineup before the end of the summer. He will need to keep this hot-hitting up, but Calhoun has the bat that could be a real force in the outfield for fantasy owners in 12-plus-team leagues. 9. Michael Kopech (SP, CWS, AAA) Stats: 62.1 IP, 5.20 ERA, 3.98 FIP, 29.3% K%, 15.0% BB%, 7.1% HR/FB ETA: Early August Kopech had another disastrous outing that spiked his ERA and FIP even more. He went just three innings and walked eight batters with only two strikeouts, allowing a total of five runs on two hits. Owners only have to look at his strikeout and opponent’s batting average of .210 to see Kopech is one of the most overpowering starters in the minors, but his inability to get out of his own way has really hurt him this season. The walks seemed to be getting better, but outings like that last one don’t help his case for a call up. He is extremely talented and could force a promotion later this year, but he will need to string together a couple starts where he doesn’t walk nearly the entire starting lineup. 10. Jalen Beeks (SP, BOS, AAA) Stats: 63.1 IP, 2.42 ERA, 2.77 FIP, 34.7% K%, 5.6% BB%, 13.0% HR/FB ETA: Early July It’s challenging to find flaws on the Boston Red Sox right now, but if there was one, it might be their lack of a true fifth starting pitcher. Drew Pomeranz has been awful before he was injured and no one else has been able to adequately fill in. Beeks, though he struggled in his MLB debut, has been nearly spotless in Triple-A this season, posting a sterling 6.21 K/BB ratio and sub-3.00 ERA and FIP. Beeks is not an overpowering pitcher and has never been viewed as a top prospect, but the results don’t lie and he could be starting to figure things out. If Beeks is given another chance to pitch out of the rotation, he has the chance to establish himself as the No. 5 starter and provide solid strikeout numbers to owners in 12-plus-team leagues. 11. Nick Kingham (SP, PIT, AAA) Stats: 42.2 IP, 2.32 ERA, 2.28 FIP, 23.8% K%, 6.6% BB%, 0.0% HR/FB ETA: Early July Kingham has pitched like he belongs in a big-league starting rotation, but there just isn’t the space for him in Pittsburgh right now. Kingham is clearly the next man up in the event of an injury, but that doesn’t do him much good so long as there are still five arms ahead of him. He has shown he can miss bats and won’t hurt himself too much in the big leagues with solid peripherals (3.35 FIP) to back up the respectable ERA (3.82). He should find his way back to the big leagues at some point this season, and when he does, he will be worth owning in some mixed leagues. 12. Kolby Allard (SP, ATL, AAA) Stats: 75.0 IP, 2.28 ERA, 3.36 FIP, 17.2% K%, 6.7% BB%, 3.8% HR/FB ETA: Late July Allard is not going to dazzle anyone with his strikeouts — which have been underwhelming this season. But he has proven he knows how to get batters out with a solid mix of pitches and plus control of his repertoire. The Braves don’t have a dire need for pitching even with Luiz Gohara’s struggles, but injuries are part of the game and Allard stands to benefit more than any other Braves’ prospect still in the minors from one. If promoted, his lack of strikeouts makes him less valuable in shallower leagues, but he could be worth owning in some 12-plus team leagues. 13. Matt Thaiss (1B, LAA, AAA) Stats: 279 PA, .296/.355/.522, 11 HR, 3 SB, 7.9% BB%, 16.8% K% ETA: Late July With the injury to Shohei Ohtani, the Los Angeles Angels’ best left-handed bat in their lineup, there is an added emphasis on a need for a left-handed bat. The team already needed one before his injury and that has only been amplified now. Thaiss has found some power in the minors this season and hasn’t sacrificed the batting average to get to it, posting ISOs above .200 with strikeout rates below 20 percent and a batting average above .300 at Triple-A. If he has truly turned the corner, Thaiss could be a strong first base option for owners who guarantees a decent average with the chance for decent power numbers, making him valuable in plenty of leagues. 14. Cedric Mullins (OF, BAL, AAA) Stats: 286 PA, .287/.344/.471, 7 HR, 12 SB, 7.3% BB%, 13.3% K% ETA: Early August The Baltimore Orioles are heading for the absolute bottom of the pit and should — if they are smart — begin the fire sale by dealing away Adam Jones and Manny Machado. Even if Jones is not dealt, the Orioles have an opening in right field with no one really making a serious push at the position. Mullins is not as exciting as someone like Ryan Mountcastle or Austin Hays, but he has a top-of-the-order approach with some sneaky pop and some speed that could benefit owners in some 12-plus-team leagues. 15. Danny Jansen (C, TOR, AAA) Stats: 212 PA, .297/.408/.469, 4 HR, 4 SB, 12.3% BB%, 12.7% K% ETA: Early August Russell Martin has been abysmal at the plate this season and it’s tough to see the Toronto Blue Jays dealing him away for the simple fact of no one would want to acquire him at this point, even if he is still a solid defender. He remains under contract until the end of 2019, so his best role could be just to help the next young catcher in Jansen transition into the role. Jansen has the bat, but needs to improve his catching ability. He has hit enough to prove he deserves the call up this season and could see at-bats this year, which would make him a valuable add in two-catcher leagues, possibly shallower leagues if he were to take over starting time. 16. Dakota Hudson (SP, STL, AAA) Stats: 80.1 IP, 2.13 ERA, 3.84 FIP, 17.9% K%, 9.0% BB%, 1.7% HR/FB ETA: Early August Hudson doesn’t dazzle with his stuff like Alex Reyes might have, but since the flame-throwing right-hander is now out for the season, Hudson now is one arm closer to a spot in the majors. In his second trip to Triple-A, Hudson has been able to keep the ball in the yard and miss enough bats to produce a respectable 2.13 ERA. His stuff should miss more bats than it does, but it just hasn’t turned into strikeouts. Still, if he is promoted or traded to a team where he gets a chance to make some starts, his stuff should help him remain a solid starting option for owners in deeper leagues. 17. Francisco Mejia (C/3B/OF, CLE, AAA) Stats: 232 PA, .243/.294/.395, 6 HR, 0 SB, 5.6% BB%, 20.3% K% ETA: Early August Mejia was up in the majors for only a brief glimpse of Progressive Field before he was sent back down to the minors without an appearance. Mejia had been on an absolute tear at Triple-A, recording hits in 14 of his last 15 games with a .414/.444/.707 slash line while striking out just 12.5 percent of the time. When everything is clicking, Mejia is an exceptional fantasy prospect, providing one of the best bats to a catcher where few talented bats exist. He might need an injury to break out into the majors, but his upside at catcher can’t be ignored. 18. Forrest Whitley (SP, HOU, AA) Stats: 12.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1.37 FIP, 39.1% K%, 6.5% BB%, 0.0% HR/FB ETA: September Whitley has been near untouchable since returning from his suspension and looks to be a classic September call-up who could eat up some innings down the stretch. He might mostly pitch out of the bullpen, but he could grab a start or two. Even as a bullpen arm, Whitley’s talent would be enough to consider owning for teams in the playoffs. The strikeouts with plus control make him a potentially valuable asset to owners in plenty of leagues in need of pitching. 19. Enyel De Los Santos (SP, PHI, AAA) Stats: 73.1 IP, 1.47 ERA, 3.28 FIP, 26.2% K%, 7.9% BB%, 7.1% HR/FB ETA: Early July Flying under the radar in a solid Philadelphia Phillies’ farm system has been De Los Santos. Though the right-hander is not of the same caliber as Sixto Sanchez or Adonis Medina, he has dazzled at Triple-A this season, putting on display his plus fastball/changeup combination with a solid walk rate. De Los Santos’ lack of an above-average breaking ball might prevent him long-term from being a starting pitcher, but he could be someone to be called up in the event of an injury or just as extra relief help for a bullpen that has struggled. He might not be a future ace, but if called up to the rotation, De Los Santos could be a solid source of strikeouts. 20. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3B, TOR, AA) Stats: 235 PA, .407/.457/.667, 11 HR, 3 SB, 8.5% BB%, 8.9% K% ETA: Early August (if at all) It awaits to be seen how Guerrero’s injury will affect his likelihood of a call-up. Most seem to be speculating that his chances of a promotion are gone. Others continue to hold out hope that it is possible once the Blue Jays trade Josh Donaldson. His talent means he should remain on fantasy radars, but owners probably don’t need to rush to stash him right now. 21. Luis Urias (2B/SS, SD, AAA) Stats: 284 PA, .265/.380/.403, 6 HR, 1 SB, 14.1% BB%, 19.4% K% ETA: Early August 22. Griffin Canning (SP, LAA, AA) Stats: 54.1 IP, 1.66 ERA, 3.06 FIP, 28.5% K%, 10.3% BB%, 4.5% HR/FB ETA: September 23. Nick Gordon (2B/SS, MIN, AAA) Stats: 287 PA, .303/.341/.458, 5 HR, 7 SB, 4.9% BB%, 16.7% K% ETA: Mid-August 24. Eloy Jimenez (OF, CWS, AA) Stats: 228 PA, .317/.368/.556, 10 HR, 0 SB, 7.9% BB%, 17.1% K% ETA: September 25. Sandy Alcantara (SP, MIA, AAA) Stats: 79.0 IP, 3.76 ERA, 4.49 FIP, 17.7% K%, 9.2% BB%, 6.8% HR/FB ETA: Mid-July 26. Victor Robles (OF, WAS, AAA) Stats: 15 PA, .385/.467/.385, 0 HR, 2 SB, 13.3% BB%, 6.7% K% ETA: September 27. Myles Straw (OF, HOU, AA) Stats: 309 PA, .335/.417/.406, 1 HR, 39 SB, 11.3% BB%, 14.6% K% ETA: Early August 28. Carson Kelly (C, STL, AAA) Stats: 132 PA, .281/.371/.447, 3 HR, 0 SB, 12.1% BB%, 12.1% K% ETA: Early August 29. Steven Duggar (OF, SF, AAA) Stats: 283 PA, .282/.360/.433, 3 HR, 11 SB, 10.6% BB%, 29.3% K% ETA: Early July 30. Ryan Mountcastle (3B/OF, BAL, AA) Stats: 141 PA, .268/.333/.423, 5 HR, 0 SB, 7.8% BB%, 16.3% K% ETA: September  

MLB Rookie Rankings

1. Gleyber Torres (2B/3B, NYY) 2. Juan Soto (OF, WAS) 3. Walker Buehler (SP, LAD) 4. Ronald Acuna (OF, ATL) 5. Austin Meadows (OF, PIT) 6. Jack Flaherty (SP, STL) 7. Miguel Andujar (3B, NYY) 8. Josh Hader (RP, MIL) 9. Colin Moran (1B/3B, PIT) 10. Willy Adames (SS, TB) 11. Fernando Romero (SP, MIN) 12. Dustin Fowler (OF, OAK) 13. Jake Bauers (OF, TB) 14. Ryan Yarbrough (SP, TB) 15. Caleb Smith (SP, MIA) 16. Christian Villanueva (3B, SD) 17. Harrison Bader (OF, STL) 18. Mike Soroka (SP, ATL) 19. Jesse Winker (OF, CIN) 20. Brian Anderson (3B, MIA)

NL-Only Waiver Wire Team of the Week: MLB Week 12

Every week in baseball, a significant player will hit the disabled list, slip into a slump, or get traded out of a good spot. How fantasy owners adapt to these situations can make or break the season as a whole. One lousy add might not hurt the long-term standing of a team, but failing to take advantage of breakouts or impact bats before others sure can. The primary challenge of playing in an NL or AL-only league is often the lack of options regarding adding and subtracting players when needed. In mixed leagues, the players on the waiver wire are usually starting for an NL-only staff. So then how does one wade through the names of players that even regular fantasy players have never heard of, and that often will not even start for their teams to begin with? That is where this series comes in. Instead of owners spending time digging the waiver wire of 0% owned players, this article will give owners a player at each position to fill the gap, or at the least, keep an eye on to add or stash. Not all of these players will replace that injury, but offer the best option off the scrap heap. Often the players advocated for here are long shots due to the nature of shallow leagues. No quick fixes, but some upside that could turn into much more.  With that onto the island of misfit fantasy toys.

NL-Only Team of the Week

C - Nick Hundley (C, SFG) - 3% owned While not the starting backstop in San Fransisco, Hundley has shown that he can produce for fantasy teams in limited opportunities. 39 games so far have resulted in a line of .257/.294/.531 which puts him in the top half for most catchers this season. In addition to the slash, Hundley has eight homers and has driven in 23. Both are good counting numbers which show that he is taking advantage of that high slugging mark. The strikeout rate hits a bit high at 26.9%, but that is only slightly higher than last year’s 26.7% mark. When overall the numbers are better than last year's production, owners can stick with this punch-out rate, and still expect a good offensive catcher to roster. 1B - Peter Alonso (1B, NYM) - 1% owned This should be a name known to most fantasy owners, as Alonso has quickly emerged as one of the top prospects in the Mets’ system, if not the majors as a whole. Profiling as a power-hitting corner bat, Alonso has shown marked growth at fielding the position as well. If he can be an average fielder, this could be the making of a building block for the Mets. Recently promoted to Triple-A by the team after a top offensive season at Double-A, Alonso should be up before the end of the year. In 2018 Alonso is slashing .314/.440/.573 with 15 homers, adding to a strong track record in pro ball. Now, all rookies are risks regarding what they will do in their first shot at the bigs, but this is the profile that should translate quickly. Besides, with Adrian Gonzalez leaving the team, and Dominic Smith struggling in his second stint with the team, expect Alonso to be the next option. When the position is weak on the waiver wire, use that roster spot to grab a potential break-out player before others. 2B - Jose Pirela (2B/OF, SDP) - 14% owned While perhaps owned is most mixed leagues, Pirela is making a case to be owned in all NL-only competitions as well. First, the position flexibility makes him a great play at MI knowing that he will play more than that in the Padres lineup. Second, while not the breakout 122 WRC+ from last season, this campaign has shown the average and runs will keep up at the very least. So far he is slashing .274/.326/.361 with one homer and four steals. Focusing on the runs is critical for this profile and Pirela's value. Last season in 83 games he had 43 runs scored, and this season in 73 he already has 40. Not only is he on pace for more this season, but should be able to add 80+ to most rosters with a full season of playing time. That being said, the most significant drop has been the RBI count, with a decline from 40 last year to 22 this year, in almost the same amount of games. Do not expect power, but celebrate the odd steal when it comes. 3B - David Freese (1B/3B, PIT) - 0% owned Freese is not a starter on most teams but is also not the 0% owned player so far this season. Through 49 games this season he is slashing .269/.339/.423 with four homers. Not bad production for a bench bat on this team and owners should expect that this is the low end of playing time. Either Freese is dealt at the deadline or sticks around to replace those who are. A few other numbers stand out. First, the K% is down three points, but the walk rate is also down a few points which drops the overall OBP. This limits some of the positive gains Freese is showing this year, but again, some hints in the right direction. Second, with Freese, owners either get singles or homers. Of this 28 hits, 20 have been singles, four have been doubles, and four have been bombs. With the FB% ticking up as the season progresses, owners can expect a few more homers to add to the stable profile. Freese looks to be a better fantasy option than expected and should be at worst a decent injury replacement in the short term. SS - Kike Hernandez (2B/3B/SS/OF, LAD) - 4% owned Owners should not let one big hit change their opinion of a player, but in this case, it could be a sign of much better things moving forward. 2017 and 2018 have been rough for Hernandez with a combined .217 batting average. At the same time, he still looks to be league average sitting at a 100 WRC+ over that time as well. Back to the homers. Last season, in 140 games Hernandez had 11 homers. This season, in 63 games, he already has 10 bombs. What might be leading to this production? The FB% is way up from the 39.7% line last season, to 52.9% this season. The increase in fly balls has led to a three-point bump in the HR/FB%, which makes sense, but also shows that this is not just a small sample, but a real trend this season. If Hernandez can hit .220 with 25+ HR owners should get excited and use him all around the fantasy diamond. OF - Jesse Winker (OF, CIN) - 4% owned Winker was expected to play a prominent role in the Cincinnati offense this season after a strong end to the 2017 campaign. One of the limiting factors many noted this season was a four-way split in the outfield playing time, but with the strong 2017 season, Winker was expected to still play enough to make him worth a roster spot. This led to him being drafted later than the value, and to be honest; the timeshare has played out as predicted. To date, 2018 has been a solid but not spectacular for the contact first player. Even with a brief demotion to Triple-A, Winker has managed to play in 61 games and in those appearances has slashed .255/.361/.352 with three homers. Not the power hitter that typically patrols the outfield, Winker does offer a higher than average floor for OBP boosted by a 13.4% BB/9 rate. In fact, his walk totals are the highest for outfielders on the waiver wire and shoot provide that necessary boost for teams in need. Winker has played better than the start of the season shows, and the ballpark should push up the power numbers. OF - Cameron Maybin (OF, MIA) - 2% owned Moving to Miami must have been a shock for Maybin after winning the World Series with Houston. Not much winning happening in Miami, and some of that has to do with the slow start for this player’s season. So far in 2018 Maybin is slashing .226/.306/.302 with no homers and three steals. What is the good news in the batting line? First, the K rate is down two points even when the walk rate is also down. Much of this can be tied to the weak lineup giving little or no protection to a struggling hitter. Second, while the lack of homers is shocking, down all the way from 10 last season, the GB% is down almost 12 points. To add to this, the Hard% is up to 33.9% from 27.4% last season. While the production has not been there, the supporting numbers show that Maybin perhaps has been a bit unlucky and is worth a dart the rest of the season. In an NL-only league, is he can contribute to two or more categories, he is well worth the bench spot. OF - Lewis Brinson (OF, MIA) - 7% owned Another struggling Marlin outfielder to make the list, Brinson has been dealing with a tough first season in the majors. At the same time, he is one of the only power sources available on the waiver wire for most NL-only leagues right now. With nine bombs through 69 games, Brinson is showing the power that most prospect analysts liked with his profile. At the same time, the batting average sits at a putrid .176 well below both what was expected of him and his minor league track record. Much like Matt Joyce is the previous column, Brinson should be targetted by owners willing to sell-out for homers and power, but who expect a bounce-back in the other numbers. The .216 BABIP is hurting the overall batting line, and with more time in the bigs, this should improve if Brinson continues to work on his approach. The season cannot get much worse, and if the upside is still there, owners should jump on now. Just remember, owners are not buying what he has produced, but what he will produce. If he is better moving forward, this could be a bargain. P - Steve Cishek (RP, CHC) - 7% owned When Carl Edwards hit the DL last month, Cishek was the next in line to take on crucial late innings for the Cubs. So far in 29.2 innings, Cishek has posted a 1.82 ERA with a career-high 10.31 K/9. The FIP sits at 2.86 giving some context but also supports what the pitcher has done this season. The significant trend driving the great season is the HR/FB rate which is down to 5.3% from the 10% line last season. With an increased fastball usage this season, perhaps there is something to be said in connecting the two numbers, but maybe the better hint is the overall swing and miss that Cishek is getting this season. Next in line for saves after Brandon Marrow until Edwards is back, owners do not need to rely on saves to keep this Cub reliever. The ratios alone will give him a spot on most rosters. Owners should grab him while they can. P - German Marquez (SP, COL) - 6% owned Avoiding Colorado pitchers is usually a good plan for fantasy owners, but when looking at the waiver wire, bucking the trend seems to be a good idea with this pick. Even while posting a four and seven record, Marquez has seen his K/9 jump to 9.04 from an 8.17 mark last season. The ERA is admittingly high at 5.13 but with an xFIP at 4.12 expect that number to come down as he gets more changes to toe the mound. One small note, but a point that might add some context to the season, Marquez has only thrown two wild pitches this season, compared to six last season. When he is halfway to his 2017 mark regarding starts, this is a move in the right direction, and while not a factor in the overall line, a run here and there can add to the numbers moving forward. Admittingly a risk with Coors, Marquez does have the most K upside of any pitcher on the wire and should be worth at least a bench slot. P - Jordan Lyles (SP/RP, SDP) - 6% owned While slowing down a bit since his hot start to the season, Lyles should still be on most fantasy radars in leagues where pitching is scarce. Compared to last season, the walks and strikeouts are moving in the right direction, and Lyles is giving up fewer homers. The 4.46 ERA is also an improvement over the past seasons, and if owners toss out lousy outings against the Dodgers and Braves, the ERA drops well below four for the season. The most significant change this season is that Lyles is throwing fewer fastballs, all the way down to 48.3% from 55.5% last season, and at the same time increasing his change-up usage. In 2017 Lyles threw 5.3% change-ups, and this season that number is up to 15.1%. Owners should keep an eye on the approach, and with an increasing strikeout rate, this could be due to the changing approach. At the same time, if batters can adjust this will be a real test for Jordan Lyles 2.0.

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Statcast Pitcher Risers/Fallers - Fastball Quality (Week 12)

Welcome back to RotoBaller's series using Statcast to extrapolate, dig into, and commiserate over data to examine pitching performances. The weekly series will be dynamic as we fine-tune our findings and enlighten ourselves on the information and tools at our disposal. Chicks dig the fastball. At least that's how this pitching-friendly column remembers the classic commercial. But seriously, fastballs are critical to a pitcher. Most rely on it for over 50% of their pitches. At worst it's a table-setter and at best it's a knockout punch. Since its efficacy is so important, fastballs likely impact the remaining pitch selection for a given plate appearance. This week, we'll look at fastball effectiveness on two metrics, expected wOBA (xwOBA) and contact quality. The median fastball xwOBA for a pitcher is .367. For contact quality, the best pitchers like Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Jacob deGrom surrender well-hit fastballs at a 20-22% clip. The worst pitchers have a well-hit fastball rate north of 30%. Looking at these two criteria will determine our risers and fallers for Week 12.  

Bound to Pop

All stats as of June 18 for 112 pitchers that have thrown over 1000 pitches. Well-hit balls include all batted-ball results not classified as poor/weak by MLB.com. Vince Velasquez, Philadelphia Phillies (5-7, 4.74 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 10.82 K/9) Vince Velasquez made an early appearance in the Statcast series and he finds himself back in the discussion nine weeks later. He's given up well-hit fastballs at a solid 21.8% and his xwOBA of .306 is 17th-best. Prior to a 10-run implosion on June 8, Velasquez had pitched well in 6-of-7 outings. Dependability has been an issue, with seven quality starts mixed in with five clunkers through 14 starts. Velasquez has leveraged his mid-90s fastball to generate a strong whiff percentage around 15%. More importantly, he's refined his slider to an excellent normalized pitch value of 1.43 and finally developed a coveted tertiary pitch, mixing in a useful changeup for the first time in his career. Velasquez has also upped his sinker usage from 4% in April to 17% in June. With a loaded arsenal in 2018, Velasquez has been able to peel back on the four-seamer, enhancing its overall effectiveness. Unfortunately, Velasquez has been reluctant to abandon his awful curveball (.900 opponent slugging in June), which he still serves up 19% of pitches. Despite consistency being his Achilles heel, Velasquez is a worthwhile weekly streamer for the strikeouts and ongoing evolution of his repertoire. For what it's worth, he's significantly better away (2.79 ERA) than at home (6.88).   Tyler Mahle, Cincinnati Reds (5-6, 3.96 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 8.16 K/9) Rookie Tyler Mahle has gradually improved as the season's progressed, riding a 1.10 ERA and 1.22 WHIP through three June starts. Mahle ranks just behind Velasquez with a .312 xwOBA, giving up well-hit contact on 22.0% of heaters. Mahle is a straightforward three-pitch pony, utilizing his fastball on 68% of pitches. It's also been his strongest pitch, with a sub-.300 BAA and a whiff percentage of 11%. Mahle's chief improvement in June has been his slider. In April, batters were whiffing, but they also clocked a healthy .308 ISO off the pitch. Mahle's flipped the script in June, pitching to contact with much better results (.000 ISO). Mahle's endured his share of speedbumps in 2018. A 41.6% Hard%, 2.43 K/BB and 4.73 FIP confirm his downside. But he appears to be making the right adjustments throughout the season with encouraging results. Minimally owned, Mahle's worth a test drive over his next handful of starts. If he keeps capitalizing on the fastball and maintains his slider touch, his fantasy value could be upgraded for longer term. Other possible risers: Ross Stripling (LAD, .260 fastball xwOBA), Eduardo Rodriguez (BOS, .285), Miles Mikolas (STL, .304)  

Due to Drop

Zack Godley, Arizona Diamondbacks (7-5, 4.77 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 9.08 K/9) The first fantasy relevant player with a poor fastball xwOBA is Zack Godley in ninth-worst position (.432), ceding well-hit fastballs at 29.2%. However, unlike most pitchers, Godley isn't heavily reliant on a fastball, using his cutter just 23% of pitches. While not having a traditional four-seamer isn't a problem outright, it is when your substitute is alarmingly losing velocity. Godley entered the league with a cutter hovering around 91-92 MPH. This season, it's plummeted to 88.8 MPH. The deceleration may not seem material on the surface, but line drives on his cutter have increased from 28% to 34% year-over-year. Opponent slugging has lingered above .429 all season, with an unsightly .643 in June. Godley hasn't been good in 2018, but his ownership remains stubbornly high. He does have strikeout appeal, and his BABIP (.318) and LOB% (71.3%) suggest some fortunes may turn his way. But his batted-ball metrics are not encouraging, and for someone that can barely touch 90 MPH on the radar gun, selling at a discount appears wiser than holding and hoping.   Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles (5-7, 3.81 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 10.04 K/9) Dylan Bundy, on the other hand, loves his heater. He's increased its usage from the low-40% in April to 56% in June. His returns in June have been marvelous through three starts (1.71 ERA, 0.86 ERA), but that doesn't diminish the fact that his fastball suffers from the 10th-worst xwOBA (.430) and a 34.5% well-hit rate. Bundy is currently on a career-best strikeout pace, but it's not from the fastball. His four-seamer is generating a whiff percentage below 10% and the punch outs are mostly coming from his slider and changeup. Then why the focus on the heater? Possibly because despite the strikeouts, the only pitch that grades positively for Bundy is his slider. While he generates swings-and-misses for the changeup, it's mashed upon contact. It makes sense for Bundy to use the fastball to setup his knockout slider, but overemphasizing it seems counterintuitive. We lowlighted his unflattering off-speed pitch, but results from the heater aren't much better (30% LD%, .450 SLG). With his strikeouts down in June (7.29 K/9), the fastball proportion is arguably to blame. Whether the pitch selection is intentional, mechanical or psychological, Bundy's spectacular June doesn't appear supported by strong fundamentals. Other possible fallers: Jake Junis (KC, .451 fastball xwOBA), Aaron Sanchez (TOR, .427), Luis Castillo (CIN, .426)  

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Using Sabermetrics For Fantasy Baseball Part 15 - Minor League Stats

Once you've grown accustomed to having advanced tools to help make fantasy decisions, it can feel disorientating to be without them. Prospects are increasingly becoming a focal point in both real and fantasy baseball, but the minors simply do not have all of the data available for MLB players. For example, advanced plate discipline stats, Pitch Info, and anything Statcast-related are all currently unavailable for minor league campaigns. Does this mean we go back to looking at ERA and batting average as the only indicators of future performance? Of course not! Instead, we do our best to work with what we have. The process begins by looking at the environment. Higher levels of competition result in more accurate data, so you should start by excluding anything lower than Double-A if a player's track record allows it. Here's how to effectively use this data to give you an edge in your fantasy baseball league throughout the season.  

How to Interpret Minor League Stats

The first point to remember is that the baseline for certain predictive metrics is different on the farm. Mike Podhorzer of FanGraphs.com has an excellent article detailing the specifics. For example, Double-A hitters collectively posted a .306 BABIP last year, while their Triple-A counterparts managed a .317 figure. Both marks are significantly higher than MLB's .300 BABIP, making a performance that looks fluky actually league-average. Another common sticking point is IFFB%. Double-A batters posted a ludicrous 21.6% IFFB% on their fly balls last year, while their Triple-A counterparts were only slightly better (20.8%). This leads many fantasy owners to conclude that EVERY minor league prospect has a massive pop-up problem, but this is not the case. The stat is calculated differently on the farm, and you need to halve it to get something approaching an MLB projection. Like MLB, each minor league and ballpark also has its own unique quirks and tendencies. For example, the Pacific Coast League is a Triple-A league notorious for inflating offensive statistics. Imagine if an entire league played in Coors Field every game. That's basically the PCL. For PCL players, a batting line may look good at first glance, but really represent only an average performance. Likewise, pitchers may put up dreadful numbers even after they are ready for the Show. For instance, a certain PCL pitcher put up a 9-7 record with a 4.60 ERA in 133 IP in 2014. His K% was a robust 24.9%, but none of his other stats screamed MLB ready. However, some fantasy owners noticed that his BABIP against was a ludicrous .378, a number that would almost certainly regress in a different environment. The pitcher never ran a BABIP that high in any other minor league stop. His LOB% of 67.2% would likely climb as the BABIP dropped. We have FIP for minor leaguers, and this pitcher's was 3.70--still not great, but much better than his ERA. Despite ugly Triple-A results in 2014, this pitcher pitched in the majors for 150 innings in 2015. His 9-7 record repeated itself, but his ERA fell to 3.24, right in line with a FIP of 3.25. The K% he flashed in the PCL translated to the majors, where he posted a strong 27.5% rate. His name is Noah Syndergaard, and he definitely had owners kicking themselves by the end of 2015 for trusting minor league surface stats. Nothing changed in 2016, as Syndergaard went 14-9 with a 2.60 ERA and 29.3% K%. Injuries limited him last year, but he was still elite in his 30 1/3 IP (2.97 ERA, 1.31 FIP, 27.4% K%). If memorizing each league's tendencies is too overwhelming for you, you can look at Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) as a shortcut. This metric sets 100 as the league's average offensive output, with each number higher or lower representing a one percent difference in either direction. This means that a wRC+ of 95 is five percent worse than league average, while a mark of 110 is 10 percent better. While the formula does not directly translate to fantasy value, park and league adjustments are already included in the calculation. Another common problem with minor league statistics is sample size. It is easier to run an unsustainable BABIP or HR/FB in a small sample than a larger one. The minor leagues compound this problem by allowing a healthy player to be called up or demoted multiple times in one season, leaving us with two or more partial season samples instead of one full season of statistics. Astros shortstop Carlos Correa illustrates this, as he had a grant total of 246 PAs at Double-A and Triple-A combined before his MLB call up in 2015. Due to the small sample, Correa's BABIP was unreliable. In this situation, I like to examine the player's plate discipline numbers because they stabilize (or become predictive) more quickly. At Double-A, Correa had an 11.3% BB% against an 18.8% K%, indicating a strong knowledge of the zone. Triple-A saw his BB% drop slightly to 10.6%, but a drop in K% to 12.4% made his overall plate discipline profile stronger. Correa posted a 9.3% BB% and 18.1% K% en route to his Rookie of the Year award in 2015. Correa was even more willing to walk in 2016 (11.4% BB%), but struck out a little more often as the league adjusted to him (21.1% K%). These trends held steady last season, as Correa posted a 11% BB% and 19.1% K%. Plate discipline is harder in the majors than the minors, and we don't have the additional information provided by metrics such as O-Swing%. Still, Correa seemed to possess strong discipline in the minors and managed to take it with him as soon as he was called up to the bigs. In general, a player won't be completely overmatched in the majors if he had strong plate discipline numbers in the minors. The examples above were chosen because they now have more than one season of MLB data confirming their minor league trends, but this methodology could have helped you in 2017. For example, Rhys Hoskins combined stellar BB% marks (13.5% at Triple-A last year, 12.1% at Double-A in 2016) with sky high FB% (48.6%, 51.6%) and HR/FB (18.2%, 19.9%) rates to profile as an impact power bat with enough plate discipline to avoid hurting your batting average. Owners who took a chance on him got a .259/.396/.618 line with 18 HR in 212 PAs. By contrast, blindly believing minor league surface stats could have pointed you in Dominic Smith's direction. He slashed .330/.386/.519 with 16 HR at Triple-A Las Vegas before his MLB debut. However, Las Vegas is the Coors Field of the PCL, helping him compile a 28.3% LD% and .380 BABIP nobody could sustain in New York. He was also allergic to fly balls (26.2% FB%), making power difficult to project. He ended up slashing .198/.262/.395 with nine dingers, burning owners who counted on him for the stretch. Stealing bases is easier in the minors, but elite success rates are still something to look for when projecting fast players. Age is also a factor for minor leaguers, as a 28-year-old dominating a bunch of teenagers at Rookie ball isn't really that impressive.  

Conclusion

To conclude, the fact that we do not know a minor leaguer's average airborne exit velocity or BABIP on ground balls does not prevent us from analyzing minor league players for fantasy purposes. We have tools such as BABIP and BB% for hitters and FIP and LOB% for pitchers. We can still place these numbers into context by examining any given league's tendencies. Finding rookie breakouts before they happen is still challenging, but that's what makes it a worthy endeavor.  

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Approaching Rookies and Prospects in Redraft Leagues for Success

Everyone wants to be the guy to say they hopped on the bandwagon of the next up-and-comer before he comes up and breaks out. This often causes younger players to be overvalued, particularly in single-season leagues where some youngsters may not even see meaningful playing time. Identifying the rookies that will actually get playing time, though they may not have as much potential as guys in the lower minors, is a necessary skill for managers in redraft leagues. The first thing you have to do is forget that any player below Double-A exists. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Brendan Rodgers are all very interesting prospects with high upside but you’re better off letting a foolish league mate stash them until they inevitably realize that none of those guys are going to be making an impact in the majors in 2018.  

Approaching Prospects in Redraft

Players in the high minors are another story. Any blue-chip prospects in Triple-A can be stashed, but they might not make an impact in the majors right away. Whether you should be targeting these players late in the draft, scooping them up via free agency, or not touching them at all depends on whether you are playing in a H2H or Rotisserie league. In H2H leagues, the goal should not necessarily be to dominate the regular season, but to make the postseason with the best roster of any postseason team. If this means getting in as the last playoff team, so be it. In H2H leagues with a playoff at the end of the year, teams generally have a lot more leeway to stash prospects so long as their team is on track to make the playoffs. The fortunate part about playing in H2H leagues is that teams can draft guys like Nick Senzel, who probably will not begin the year in the major leagues and stash him. If your team is succeeding without Senzel in the big leagues then there is no reason to not hold him, but if your team is struggling and he’s close to being promoted, attempting to deal him to a team near the top of the standings who can afford to harbor a prospect in return for an asset that would be of more immediate help is a wise strategy. Down the stretch, stashing prospects becomes more imperative in leagues that have playoffs. Blue-chip prospects that are in Triple-A often make their debuts in the middle of the summer and these are guys that you do not want to miss out on. Stashing them a few weeks prior to their eventual call up will bolster your team down the stretch for playoff runs for a relatively cheap price. In Rotisserie leagues, stashing prospects is an entirely different ballgame. Since there is no playoffs, prospects that do not get called up until mid-August have relatively minimal impact and can be ignored for the most part; if you can afford to stash a prospect until he comes up in the last two months of the season, you probably do not need the help. On the other hand, if you scoop one of the prospects hoping to hit a home run in mid-to-late August and rocket up the standings, chances are that it’s going to be too little too late. In H2H leagues, stashing prospects is a far easier and safer game than in Roto.  

Handling Rookies

Rookies and prospects aren’t that different; the fundamental distinction between the two is that prospects are not yet in the majors and rookies are more guys who are being drafted and will be starting the season in the bigs. For example, Austin Hays is being drafted as a rookie whereas a guy like Kyle Tucker is being drafted as a prospect. Tucker has an outside shot at making an impact this season and Hays is guaranteed some playing time due to starting the year in the majors. This brings me to my next point: sometimes, opportunity is more valuable than skill. There are very few people that will tell you that Hays is a better ballplayer than Tucker, but that does not necessarily mean you should be scooping up Tucker in your redraft leagues. Guys who are guaranteed to start the year in the majors and get decent playing time like Hays, Lewis Brinson, Ronald Acuna, and Willie Calhoun, to name a few, are far better draft targets than the Vlads and Eloys of the world. So what about pitchers? In general, I like to invest in rookie pitchers that are pitching well and try to flip them near the deadline for guys who will pitch down the stretch. Yes, you might have to take a discount for them, but in H2H leagues compiling the best roster for the playoffs is your end goal. Guys like Jake Faria and Luis Castillo were far less impactful in last season’s playoffs than pitchers like Trevor Bauer, Mike Leake, and CC Sabathia. The latter names are not pretty, but pretty doesn’t win you fantasy championships (which, by the way, doesn’t stop me from drafting Kris Bryant and Kevin Kiermaier in every league of mine. If I got points for best eyes I’d have every league locked up). In Rotisserie leagues, rookie pitchers are more valuable because you can start them while they are pitching and dispose of them once the innings limit passes in favor of a wire arm. H2H leagues do not afford you this luxury, so be sure to know your league settings heading into the year so you can best strategize how to approach rookies and prospects. Being active on the waiver wire is a crucial aspect of winning a fantasy championship, and understanding how to manage rookies and prospects goes hand-in-hand with that, so stay vigilant for youngsters who can help your team throughout the season.  

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Dollar Day Auction Targets for Fantasy Baseball Drafts

The latter part of an auction draft is arguably the most fun part. All of the obvious players to own are long gone, and now owners must go searching through the coal to find the one diamond that will make the difference for their team. Owners were patting themselves on the back after finding $1 steals like Eric Thames, Yuli Gurriel, Domingo Santana and Drew Pomeranz last season, and now it's time to search for the next batch of draft day steals. None of these players should go for more than a dollar or two in auction drafts. If someone is bidding them up, it's best to let them go and look for value elsewhere. But if you can get any of them for a dollar, they should become solid contributors to a championship fantasy team.  

I'll Buy That For a Dollar!

Scott Schebler (OF, CIN) — $1 Taking over as a full time starter in 2017, Schebler had a breakout year with 30 home runs — third-most for Cincinnati — and a .791 on-base plus slugging percentage — fourth-highest on the team. His batted ball tendencies show that he was hitting more fly balls and fewer ground balls, while also hitting the ball harder than he ever had in his career. The two biggest concerns for Schebler right now are his low batting average and his lack of a consistent track record. After hitting .265 in 2016, Schebler's average dropped to .233 last season — the lowest of his professional career — although his .248 BABIP does suggest his average will trend upwards this year. At this point there is no guarantee that he will repeat his breakout performance in 2018. But if Schebler can put up similar numbers he could end up being a solid contributor at $1. German Marquez (SP, COL) — $1 Coors Field and pitchers — two things that to most fantasy owners do not mix. However, Rockies starter German Marquez is worth taking a look at late in auction drafts after he finished fifth in the NL Rookie of the Year race in 2017. Bringing with him a career 7.9 K/9 in the minors, Marquez went 11-7 last year, with a 4.39 ERA and 8.2 K/9 over 162 innings pitched. With a 21 percent strikeout rate and 14 percent strikeout to walk rate, Marquez was ranked among the top 40 qualifying starting pitchers in 2017. Obviously his 4.39 ERA as well as pitching half the time at Coors Field drops Marquez's value quite a bit. Looking at his 4.40 FIP and 4.18 xFIP doesn't provide much comfort to fantasy owners either. But for those who are looking for strikeout upside and are willing to take a hit on their ERA, Marquez will be a perfect fit for any team at a dollar. Yonder Alonso (1B, CLE) — $1 Alonso will be a perfect fit at a corner infield spot or as a first baseman for owners who want to wait to draft one. Alonso finished 2017 setting career-highs in several categories with 28 HR, 67 RBI and 72 runs scored to go along with a .266 average and an .866 OPS. While he did post a career-high 22.6 percent strikeout rate, he also posted a career-high 13.1 percent walk rate — his second time in the past three seasons with at least a 10 percent walk rate. Alonso will prove himself to be most valuable in OBP leagues, as he is a lock for at least a .300 OBP — hitting that mark in six of the past seven years. The big question will be if he can repeat the power display that he showed in 2017. His 28 HR last year matched his home run total from the previous four and a half seasons, and his 19.4 percent HR/FB rate is more than double his career rate of 9.2 percent. But while he will likely see a regression in his home run output, joining the potent Indians lineup that averaged 5.05 runs per game last year — sixth most in MLB — will likely see his runs scored and RBI totals hit career-highs in 2018.  Of the first basemen ranked around Alonso, he probably has the best chance at giving owners the most bang for their buck (maybe two). Mike Clevinger (SP/RP, CLE) — $3 Yes, he's not technically a "dollar" player, but he's close enough and he has a shot at providing a lot of value to fantasy owners this year. First things first: Indians manager Terry Francona has said that Clevinger will start the season in the rotation. So now that Clevinger has a lock on playing time at least for the start of the season, what does he bring to the table? Last season over 27 appearances and 21 starts for Cleveland, Clevinger compiled a 12-6 record with a 3.11 ERA and 10.1 K/9. Those numbers closely resemble his career line in the minors, where he has a 3.35 ERA and 8.8 K/9 over seven seasons. All those numbers look good on paper, so what's the catch? Walks. Over 17 games in 2016, Clevinger averaged 4.9 BB/9 and he followed that up by averaging 4.4 BB/9 in 2017. Among pitchers with at least 120 innings pitched last season, Clevinger's walks per nine innings rate was fifth-worst while his 12 percent walk rate was tied for third-worst. At this point though Clevinger has had less than 200 major league innings under his belt. It's not hard to believe that with a full season in Cleveland, Clevinger could improve his command, cut down on the walks and become an absolute steal in auction drafts. These are just four of the many bargain players out there in auction drafts that can benefit any team. Most dollar players will likely not contribute anything worthwhile in 2018, but those that do can end up being crucial to a team taking home a league championship, and these four guys have a good shot at being those kind of players.  

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Using Sabermetrics for Fantasy Baseball Part 14 - Statcast For Pitchers

Previously, we looked at Barrels, a stat combining exit velocity and launch angle to measure how often a batter makes quality hard contact. As much as batters want to hit a Barrel every time, pitchers want to avoid them at all costs. Yet there is some evidence that pitchers do not have the same influence over Barrels as a batter does. While Aaron Judge led all of baseball last year with 86 Barrels, Rick Porcello led all pitchers by coughing up 52. Neither performance was an outlier, so it seems to take fewer Barrels to lead pitchers in Barrels given up than it does to lead hitters in Barrels hit. This fits well with DIPS theory, which states that batters can do more to influence batted balls than pitchers can. It's also not fantasy-relevant, as Porcello's 2016 was a fluke by any predictive metric. Ian Kennedy allowed the second most Barrels with 51, but fantasy owners don't care about him. Matt Moore came in third with 48, but he hasn't been fantasy-relevant in years. Fourth place Ricky Nolasco (46) is bad, and four arms tied for fifth with 45 Barrels allowed. Kevin Gausman, Jason Hammel, and Ariel Miranda are blah, but Gerrit Cole is interesting. Let's start with him.  

How to Interpret Batted Ball Statistics

Cole allowed hard contact in 2017, but nothing in his history suggested that he would before the season started. In 2016, he allowed only 11 Barrels all season. In 2015, he allowed 26. Cole's high number of Barrels allowed may partially explain why he disappointed his fantasy owners last year, but his Barrels allowed look like they came out of a random number generator. There's nothing predictive here. The rate stat, Brls/BBE, might seem like a better option. Jered Weaver tied for the league lead in rate of Barrels allowed with 11.8%, and he's obviously terrible. The person he tied with was Craig Kimbrel, one of the best relievers in baseball. The Barrels hardly hurt Kimbrel's final stat line, as he posted an elite 1.43 ERA (1.50 xFIP) with 35 saves last season. Kimbrel had previously been great by Brls/BBE, posting a 5.8% mark in 2016 and 4.7% in 2015, so nothing in his track record should have raised a red flag. Indeed, there's no need for a red flag even in retrospect. Maybe we need to simplify this and just use average airborne exit velocity? Cesar Valdez (97.2 mph), Sam Dyson (96.1 mph), Brett Anderson (95.5 mph), Scott Alexander (95.4 mph), and Chasen Shreve (95.3 mph) top this list, but none of them are on the fantasy radar. Nate Karns kind of is (also 95.3 mph), but he didn't really struggle with average airborne exit velocity in 2016 (93.3 mph) or 2015 (92.6). Again, there is nothing predictive about these Statcast metrics. Last year's version of this article cited Chris Archer and Justin Verlander as case studies for the value of these metrics. Archer under-performed his peripheral stats in 2016, posting a 4.02 ERA against a 3.41 xFIP. I speculated that the quality of contact he allowed (46 Barrels, 8.4% Brls/BBE) may be the reason why. Last season proved this to not be the case, as Archer improved both Statcast metrics (29 Barrels, 5.4% Brls/BBE) while still posting an ERA (4.07) above his xFIP (3.35). Archer has some kind of issue, but Statcast metrics are not the way to quantify it. Likewise, Verlander's 2016 xFIP (3.78) was considerably above his ERA (3.04). He allowed a ton of Barrels (45) and a high rate of Brls/BBE (7.7%), metrics I used to forecast regression. Nothing changed in 2017, as he again allowed a ton of Barrels (40, 7.2% rate of Brls/BBE) while posting an ERA better than his xFIP (3.36 vs. 4.17). The statistics seem to have been proven worthless in both cases. Ultimately, Statcast metrics such as Barrels and average airborne exit velocity should probably just be ignored for pitcher analysis. These metrics are great for evaluating batters, but I can't get anything out of them for pitchers even with the benefit of hindsight.  

Conclusion

That conclusion may make this seem like a worthless article, but it isn't. Every fantasy analyst uses contact quality to credit or penalize pitchers, either through the Statcast numbers above or an approximation such as Hard%. This type of analysis may explain a pitcher's performance after the fact, but it seems to have zero predictive value. Therefore, there may be a competitive advantage to be gained by ignoring this type of analysis completely. Score it as a win for DIPS theory.  

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