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Statcast Hitter Studs and Duds - Exit Velocity for Week 2


Welcome to this year's first iteration of Statcast Hitter Analysis. Each week, I will select a different metric to evaluate unexpected names at the top and bottom of the Statcast Leaderboards.

Even if you aren't well-versed in Statcast, you know exit velocity. Even the crustiest of old-school baseball announcers have incorporated this term in his vernacular, if nothing else related to sabermetrics. To kick things off take another look at this important stat by examining the last month's worth of data to find risers and fallers for possible buy, sell, add or drop possibilities.

Many fantasy baseball owners are starting to see the value of MLB's Statcast advanced stats in order to help identify potential risers and sleepers. Just as we do for pitchers, this weekly series will examine a handful of hitters who are performing surprisingly well or poorly according to sabermetrics. This week, we look at exit velocity to see who is off to a hot start contact-wise and who is making weak contact as we get into the swing of things (pun fully intended).

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Surprising Chart Toppers

All stats current as of April 8, 2019 and display leaders among hitters with at least 10 BBE.

 

Daniel Vogelbach (1B, SEA)

98.8 MPH avg. exit velocity

It might be ironic that Vogelbach is finally living up to some of his potential, just as his opportunity for regular playing time disappeared. He had every chance in the world to win the starting first base job back in 2017 but was inconsistent and forced the M's to throw Danny Valencia in the lineup instead. 2018 was supposed to be different, but he instead struggled to a .207/.324/.368 line and spent much of the season in the minors. That allowed Ryon Healy to step up and claim the job as his own. Now, with Edwin Encarnacion holding down the DH job and Healy still hitting well, Vogelbach is just a part-timer hoping to stick on the roster as a lefty off the bench.

Still, he is making the most of his ABs. Over 15 at-bats, Vogelbach has four home runs and eight RBI with an otherworldly 1.400 Slugging percent. Now. here's the part where we remind ourselves it's barely been over a week of play and he's not getting regular playing time. While Vogelbach tops the exit velocity leaderboard and is 12th in Barrels per PA, chances are he'll slow down and still hasn't done enough to be more than a platoon bat. If Healy or E5 get injured, it might be wise to scoop him up quickly though.

Note: he homered again Monday night. This is getting serious...

 

Renato Nunez (3B, BAL)

97.5 MPH avg. exit velocity

The Orioles' early performance has been eye-opening, mainly because they actually won a couple of games. Don't look now, but they're playing .500 ball 10 games into the season! Players like Dwight Smith Jr. and Trey Mancini are putting together fantasy-relevant starts but Nunez is stroking the ball hard and may see better results soon enough.

Nunez is currently hitting .250 with one HR and five RBI - not something worth dropping FAAB for just yet. He is second among all hitters on the exit velocity board and hitting cleanup for the O's, so RBI opportunities should be at least adequate with Jonathan Villar at the top of the order and Mancini just ahead of him. Nunez is worth a look in AL-only leagues and deep 14+ teamers.

 

J.D. Davis (3B, NYM)

91.6 MPH avg. exit velocity

Another part-timer making the most of his chances, Davis' exit velo sits just ahead of Joey Gallo and Aaron Judge after a week and a half. He may want to screenshot that leaderboard because it likely won't last. Last year, he finished with a decent but modest 88.5 MPH average, third among the Davis clan (behind Khris and Chris, but thankfully well ahead of Rajai).

Todd Frazier should be back fairly soon to reclaim third base, so Davis' fantasy usefulness is all but up for now. The power looks to be present but he doesn't bring enough to the table to be worth monitoring otherwise.

 

Byron Buxton (OF, MIN) 

96.2 MPH avg. exit velocity

First, a confession that nothing warms my heart more than finding data to confirm my bias. I called it bold before the season, but now I'm convinced - Buxton will finally break out! He topped the leaderboard for Sprint Speed last season but finding him near the top of the exit velocity leaders is a pleasant surprise, small sample size be damned!

Buxton finished 443rd out of 480 players with a minimum of 50 BBE in 2018 at 85.7 MPH. But last year doesn't count anymore, does it? Buxton is certainly putting his past behind him but it can't be ignored that in 2017 he was at 85 MPH average velocity. He won't keep this up but we can at least conclude that he's seeing the ball a whole lot better and has raised his hard hit rate to 57.1% thus far. He still really isn't into the whole taking a walk thing (one so far) but it's good news that he's stuck out only five times in the first seven games. He hasn't gone deep yet but we know the power tool is there along with elite speed. Normally I'd say this is a nice buy-low candidate, but chances are the Buxton owner in your league is a believer too.

 

Alarming Bottom Dwellers

All stats current as of April 8, 2019 and display leaders among hitters with at least 10 BBE.

 

Daniel Palka (1B/OF, CHW)

78.8 MPH avg. exit velocity

Palka is only 5% owned in fantasy leagues so this isn't too alarming for anyone but those who pegged him as a preseason sleeper could be biting their nails if he doesn't turn things around. Palka's game is power, so if he's not crushing the ball then he's worthless. Not only is his exit velo pretty low for a slugger, but the problem is also far worse than a lack of homers. He has failed to gather a single base hit over 21 at-bats. That's right 0-for-21 to start the year. Apparently, Palka and Chris Davis have a running bet to see who can get into the record books first.

The Sox will give him a longer leash because they aren't contending for anything this year but this isn't Eloy Jimenez or Yoan Moncada who will be allowed to work through their struggles all year. At some point, Palka needs to improve his contact rate drastically in order to stay on the roster.

 

Charlie Blackmon (OF, COL)

82.1 MPH avg. exit velocity

Many fantasy owners felt Blackmon was being undervalued in 2019 drafts, as his bat skills showed no decline. The lone reason for concern might be a relative lack of steals compared to his prime but the rest of his profile doesn't scream decline. This is no exception either.

Blackmon registered an 87.2 MPH exit velocity in 2018 and 86.9 in both 2017 and 2016. He averaged 31.6 HR and hit over .291 in each of those three seasons. Bottom line, he's not going to mash every ball he contacts but the results will still be there.

 

Brian Dozier (2B, WAS)

82.6 MPH avg. exit velocity

Now here is something to worry about. Dozier's 2019 is off to about as bad a start as possible. In 25 at-bats, he has a pair of singles, nine K and one walk with not a single counting stat to reward his owners, or his new team.

Last year's second half scared a lot of people off, but his ADP of 137 made him the 14th second baseman off the board in fantasy drafts, so he's dragging down the fantasy value of rosters all over. We could give him a grace period to adjust to his new surroundings, but he should be benched for the foreseeable future.

 

Tyler White (1B, HOU)

83.2 MPH avg. exit velocity

White occupies the CI spot in many deeper leagues based on his power potential and semi-regular spot in a loaded Astros lineup. He's off to a decent start in terms of average (.250) but there has been a power outage thus far. This partly explains White's impressively bad -10.8° launch angle as well, which is pretty hard to do. Although he's not the next Eric Hosmer, White has yet to reward his team with a homer or an RBI for that matter.

Hitting primarily in the eighth spot and sitting against right-handers, White has become mostly useless in fantasy leagues. He hit .265 vs RHP last year, so it's not as if he is a liability but A.J. Hinch doesn't seem to have confidence that he is an everyday player as of right now so neither should we.

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