Is plate discipline a meaningful trait for fantasy baseball success?

Fred ZinkieYahoo Fantasy Contributor
Yahoo Sports
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/players/8861/" data-ylk="slk:Mike Trout">Mike Trout</a> is among the fantasy studs who also have great plate discipline. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)
Mike Trout is among the fantasy studs who also have great plate discipline. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)

We all know that strong plate discipline is a positive trait for a baseball player. After all, those who rarely strike out and collect plenty of walks are maximizing their opportunities to create positive outcomes for their team. And for years, I have been told by many experts that plate discipline is also a meaningful trait for fantasy baseball success. On the surface this makes sense, as those who put the ball in play and collect walks seem better able to collect counting stats. But does the theory match reality? Let’s find out.

Top-20 qualified hitters in BB:K ratio (Yahoo ranking in brackets)

Alex Bregman (13)
Carlos Santana (41)
Mookie Betts (15)
Mike Trout (6)
Cody Bellinger (4)
David Fletcher (305)
Joe Panik (992)
Anthony Rizzo (69)
Marcus Semien (53)
Justin Smoak (850)
Anthony Rendon (7)
Michael Brantley (50)
Juan Soto (14)
Yasmani Grandal (218)
Rhys Hoskins (191)
Robbie Grossman (860)
Jose Ramirez (111)
Tommy Pham (107)
Brandon Belt (562)
Freddie Freeman (8)

Bottom-20 qualified hitters in BB:K ratio (Yahoo ranking in brackets)

Tim Anderson (79)
Leury Garcia (215)
Freddy Galvis (236)
Javier Baez (47)
Kevin Pillar (127)
Starlin Castro (297)
Jose Abreu (56)
Randal Grichuk (445)
Eddie Rosario (70)
Avisail Garcia (223)
Amed Rosario (166)
Jose Iglesias (311)
Victor Robles (146)
Christian Vazquez (328)
Nomar Mazara (247)
Colin Moran (342)
Starling Marte (18)
Eric Hosmer (144)
Rougned Odor (391)
Hunter Renfroe (300)

Conclusion: Mixed bag presents opportunities

The average ranking for the top 20 is 223, in comparison to an average of 209 for the bottom 20. However, the star power leans heavily to the top-20 side. The top-20 group includes seven players who are ranked among the top-20 overall assets, which means that they are the true studs of fantasy baseball. Starling Marte is the only player who gets that lofty designation in the bottom-20 group. When we notice that 16 of the top 20 overall fantasy assets to this point in the season are hitters (the other four are pitchers), we realize that nearly half (7/16) have an elite BB:K ratio.

Going forward, owners should be aware of BB:K ratios and the occasions when players make meaningful changes in that area. And they should definitely make BB:K ratio a factor when targeting their early-round studs. But they shouldn’t dismiss a player because of his plate discipline. In fact, many of the least-disciplined players could come at a discount on draft day, as they are avoided by the owners who incorrectly believe that they are outsmarting the room.

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