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xwOBA Leaders - Statcast Hitter Studs and Duds (Week 12)

Today, we will revisit xwOBA to find out who is putting together strong at-bats though Statcast's idea of contact quality as well as plate discipline. I will highlight players who are either vastly outperforming or underachieving on their wOBA compared to expected stats.

As a reminder, xwOBA utilizes exit velocity, launch angle and, on certain types of batted balls, Sprint Speed. It's an attempt to measure skill rather than simply looking at outcomes. While not a perfect science, it could help us determine who is performing at high levels and who should be doing better. Owners in points leagues should be especially interested, as walks and strikeouts are an important part of the scoring system.

Now, let's examine the Statcast data in order to find possible buy/sell/add/drop candidates for 2019 fantasy baseball leagues as we head to the 12th week of the fantasy baseball season.

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xwOBA Underachievers

All stats current as of June 16, 2019 for players with at least 100 plate appearances.


Willians Astudillo (C/3B, MIN)

-.053 xwOBA-wOBA in 121 PA

Astudillo was sent down to Triple-A once Mitch Garver returned from injury due to Miguel Sano's presence at third base. No team needs to carry three catchers, fun as he may be to watch run the bases. Did he get a raw deal though? Astudillo was batting a respectable .250 but walked only 1.7% of the time. That's right, he drew a total of two free passes in 33 games. That explains the low wOBA obviously.

Then again, we have to consider that he only struck out five times. The man made contact on 96.4% of pitches in the zone and swung at more than half of the first pitches he saw. He's not leaving any outcomes up to the umpire. This may be admirable but doesn't move the needle either way in points leagues if free passes aren't a part of his game. This also lessens his run-scoring opportunities, which is a shame considering how well the Twins are playing this year. Astudillo could draw interest in two-catcher formats if he returns but the lack of real power or speed aren't enough to overcome his bad luck on xBA even if he were to crawl up toward the .300 mark.

Meanwhile, Garver is the second-highest overachiever on the leaderboard. His .249 xBA compared to his .316 average could predict regression soon enough. It may not be enough to change the playing time situation but it's still worth noting that Garver isn't an automatic buy with Astudillo out of the way.


Jose Martinez (1B/OF, STL)

-.052 xwOBA-wOBA in 194 PA

I had Martinez outside the range of draft-worthy players this preseason because of playing time concerns. I've never doubted his ability to hit (his fielding is another matter) but the Cards had a logjam in the outfield with younger options like Harrison Bader and Tyler O'Neill vying for the third outfield spot while Paul Goldschmidt holds down first base. With O'Neill swinging and missing at everything early on and Bader spending time on the IL, Martinez has found his way to nearly 200 plate appearances already. His production hasn't done much to spark interest across fantasy leagues, which explains his 25% ownership rate.

Martinez has been solid with a .281 average and .348 OBP but the .393 SLG underscores the fact he has just four homers. This comes as a surprise to Statcast, as his xSLG is in the 81st percentile and his exit velocity hasn't really dropped since the last couple of seasons. His pull rate is a bit down though, which may explain the lack of Barrels. In this era of juiced balls, he seems to be the rare player that is selling out for contact rather than power. His .382 xwOBA is exceptional, as it was last year, but his usefulness extends to points leagues only at the moment unless he starts sacrificing his on-base skills for homers.


Robinson Cano (1B/2B, NYM)

-.040 xwOBA-wOBA in 183 PA

Cano was just reactivated from the injured list, so fantasy owners have to decide whether he is worth immediately re-inserting into lineups. He wasn't exactly on fire before his injury, going 3-for-23 in the preceding games. He didn't homer at all in May - he hasn't done that since April 21st. Cano is one of several Mets who had been underachieving, although the team seems to have righted the ship offensively. Will he jump back in and produce as he did to start his tenure in New York?

The main problem has been lack of plate discipline. Cano is still hitting the ball hard (44.1% Hard%) but his 5.5% walk rate is his lowest since 2009 and he's on pace for the highest strikeout rate of his 15-year career at 19.7%. The idea that at 36 his eye may not be as sharp is a legitimate concern. I'd say he's lost a step but that would assume he takes one out of the batter's box to begin with. Cano isn't producing as expected, based on last year's results at least. It's best to take a wait-and-see approach on him even if his expected stats say he should be doing better. In related news, Dominic Smith, who has gotten more playing time than expected thanks to Cano's injury, is one of the highest overachievers at +.071 differential between expected and actual wOBA. If the pendulum swings back in the veteran's favor, then Smith could be rendered useless soon enough.


xwOBA Overachievers

All stats current as of June 16, 2019 for players with at least 100 plate appearances.


Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS, SD)

+.082 xwOBA-wOBA in 147 PA

The Padres offense has been on fire, although they won't be playing in Coors Field again the rest of this season so maybe let's temper expectations a bit. Tatis has been a hit machine since returning from IL, batting .436 in June. He has raised his season average to .338 as a rookie and finds himself at the top of the lineup most nights. Do we really have to talk about regression? Hey, I'm just doing my job.

Tatis is outperforming his expected stats so much, it's hard to fathom he won't start dropping like an anchor any day. Remember that .338 average? His xBA is .239 and his xSLG is .460, 149 points below reality. Considering that he has elite Sprint Speed in the 95th percentile, Tatis' batted balls must really have eyes. Beginners luck only goes so far - consider dealing Tatis soon enough if you can get fair value in return.


Daniel Murphy (1B/2B, COL)

+.073 xwOBA-wOBA in 171 PA

All is forgiven after Murph's wretched start to 2019 in Colorado. He's batting .377 in June and has multi-hit games in four of his last six contests. He hasn't taken a walk since May 30 but since when does that matter in fantasy? A lot if you're in a points league and it does have potential to affect his run total if the hits stop falling.

As someone who's posted an average over .280 each season since 2009, Murphy should get the benefit of the doubt. It doesn't inspire confidence that his .262 xwOBA ranks 302nd among batters with at least 100 PA this season. His average is climbing but his on-base percentage won't if he stops taking walks altogether. Murphy's recent hot streak could be the spark that reignites him. Then again, he is a player who has been injury prone of late and may not keep his hot-hitting ways going.


Bryan Reynolds (OF, PIT)

+.069 xwOBA-wOBA in 180 PA

The Pirates rookie has been a pleasant surprise, batting .361 with five HR, 23 RBI and 28 runs. Most of this came as he filled in for Corey Dickerson but guess who's back? Dickerson's return and Melky Cabrera's presence make it difficult to keep Reynolds in the lineup on a consistent basis, so playing time is already an issue. On top of that, throw in a trio of overachieving xStats and you have a drop candidate on your hands everywhere outside of NL-only leagues. Reynolds' .352 xwOBA isn't terrible but it won't be enough to justify owning his once the average regresses. If he had more power or the potential to steal at least a handful of bases, things might be different. They're not - let Reynolds go for now.

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