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Statcast is a fun tool, at least if you love stats. If you didn't, you wouldn't be reading this, nor would you spend hours poring through the waiver wire or farm system reports in search of the next big thing to hit the majors. Only baseball brings that kind of unbridled passion for a past-time (sorry NFL folk, but it's true). With the help of modern technology, we can do more than just study a statistic by rank order - we can pair it up with specific conditions that matter. In this case, I'll be looking at Expected weighted on base average (xwOBA) for hitters under the condition of runners in scoring position (RISP). What better way to spend a Monday morning?

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've done for pitchers, this weekly series will examine a handful of hitters who are performing surprisingly well or poorly according to sabermetrics.

Each week, we'll take a look at some key Statcast offensive metrics in order to assess risers and fallers. This time, we'll look again at xwOBA with the added condition of situations with RISP. This can determine which players are performing best when it matters most. In the NBA, this would be defined as "clutch time" but who's talking about basketball these days?

Editor's Note: Stay on top of our MLB off-season news and fantasy analysis all year round. Read our daily fantasy columns about MLB prospects, dynasty outlooks, player outlooks and much more. It's always fantasy baseball season here. Let's Go!

 

Surprising Chart Toppers

All stats current as of July 2, 2018 and display leaders among hitters with at least 30 PA w/RISP

It's no surprise that J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts top this list at .511 and .501 xwOBA w/RISP, as they do in pretty much every Statcast measure that matters. Another Red Sox star, Xander Bogaerts, checks in at five, followed by Eugenio Suarez, Mike Trout, then Freddie Freeman. We won't discuss those players because you already know they're good. Let's see which players don't belong up there, but insist on showing up anyway.

Francisco Cervelli (C, PIT) - 0.496 xwOBA w/RISP

A couple of months ago, I advised that Cervelli's hot start was sure to fade quickly. That proved true, although his May was still decent for a catcher. While Cervelli did in fact exceed his previous career high in homers already with nine on the season, he batted just .162 in June with one HR, three RBI, and four runs scored. Elias Diaz is now seeing regular time at catcher with Cervelli back on the disabled list for a concussion. This should be concerning, as Cervelli spent a couple of separate stays on the seven-day DL last season. His clutch stats in this case can be ignored, as they all came early in the year and his playing time for the remainder of 2018 is in doubt.

Niko Goodrum (1B/OF, DET) - 0.443 xwOBA w/RISP

He's got a solid .311 batting average with runners on second and third, but this tells us it could be even higher. A less-heralded prospect from the Twins organization, Goodrum has found a home in Detroit where he can play all around the infield. It's not an ideal situation, as he's not an everyday player per se and is on a struggling team without star Miguel Cabrera. Still, he's been batting fifth in the lineup most nights and should see enough RBI opportunities to capitalize on his clutch hitting. He doesn't need to be owned in mixed leagues due to a limited power ceiling, but he could help AL-only owners.

Jose Martinez (1B, STL)0.438 xwOBA w/RISP

The post-27 age breakout is real. Martinez is tied with Eddie Rosario (see below) for 23rd in the majors with 52 RBI. His strong numbers in this particular category show that he has been the most valuable Cardinal hitter, much more so than free agent addition Marcell Ozuna, although Matt Carpenter is working hard to catch up. He's hitting an even .300 and walking nearly 10% of the time, so there's not much else we can ask for. If you took a chance on him as a late-round pick based on last year's strong second half, pat yourself on the back.

Aaron Altherr (OF, PHI)0.427 xwOBA w/RISP

Uh, what? Altherr's batting average sits at .176, which is worse than any regular position player not named Chris Davis. Yet, Altherr is hitting an outstanding .347 with runners in scoring position, six points higher than J.D. Martinez. So, despite owning a horrible average and six HR, he's been able to drive in 32 runs. This must be why he's still on the Major League roster. Then again, Dylan Cozens has been called up and Nick Williams has seen a spike in playing time as Altherr has been used mostly as a pinch-hitter the last couple of weeks. Altherr hit .272 over 372 at-bats last year, so at some point he should snap out of his funk. Put him on your watch list as a potential second-half streamer.

 

Alarming Bottom Dwellers

These stats are about expected performance, so let's focus on players who were actually drafted in the majority of fantasy leagues. I also won't pick on poor Orioles anymore, even though Jonathan Schoop (.234 xwOBA) and Trey Mancini (.237 xwOBA) both ranked in the 300s on this list of 318 players. Yeah, it's that kind of season for them.

Brian Dozier (2B, MIN)0.252 xwOBA w/RISP

A notorious slow-starter, Dozier is really putting his owners' patience to the test. He has a measly .217/.304/.385 slash line that's resulted in a 89 wRC+. Fittingly, he's performing just as poorly with runners ready to score, rarely as that happens in Minnesota. If not for his 46 runs scored, he would barely be start-worthy in mixed leagues. Positive regression is sure to come, as he's one of the most obvious buy-low candidate prior to the All-Star break. In 2017 he posted a .322 xwOBA w/RISP, .319 the year before, and .300 in 2015. More RBI chances cashed in should roll in, but it would help if he had more lineup support on a team deplete of top-end talent.

Carlos Gonzalez (OF, COL)0.258 xwOBA w/RISP

OK, Gonzalez wasn't drafted everywhere, but he grew to be a popular late-round sleeper once we knew David Dahl wouldn't be ready for the season and has had deep-league value most of the season. As of right now, he is projected to put up the exact same numbers as last year. That is to say, he isn't the CarGo of old, he is an older version of CarGo. Seven home runs and 29 RBI as a semi-regular playing in Coors Field just won't cut it. The Rockies should let Raimel Tapia get regular playing time in his place and keep Gonzalez around for a playoff run, if they manage to make one this year. Either way, Gonzalez isn't worth a roster spot any longer.

Eddie Rosario (OF, MIN)0.277 xwOBA w/RISP

It's only fitting that we include a pair of Twins, right? Two things stand out here: Rosario is the only likely All-Star to be this far down the list (#256) and he is outperforming his xwOBA by the largest margin, rendering this stat somewhat useless. Rosario is actually batting .319 with RISP, which explains how he has driven in 52 runs already on an anemic offense ranked 23rd in runs scored this season that is missing two of its best hitters. Rosario doesn't care for the base on balls, as his 5.7% BB% shows. This drives down his on-base averages, but if he keeps putting bat to ball this efficiently, we shouldn't really care in standard 5x5 leagues.

Giancarlo Stanton (OF, NYY)0.279 xwOBA w/RISP

He finally brought his batting average up to .263, right in line with his .268 career average, but his 0.29 BB/K is the worst since his rookie season. Stanton's 46 RBI are fine, even if he's far off last year's pace. You didn't think he would do better than last year just because he was in New York, did you? Stanton is adjusting to the AL and his new park, so don't sweat the plate discipline as long as he keeps mashing homers.

 

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