Let’s take a look at some advanced stats to try to help identify fantasy players to target. For this exercise, let’s use Barrels to help identify power, xwOBA to examine pitchers and Sprint Speed for stolen base shopping.
In simple terms, “Barrels” tell us how much a batter “levels” up a baseball, using both exit velocity and launch angle. Batters who connect with these types of hits (“Barrels”) at a greater percentage are going to hit for more power (a Barreled baseball produces a minimum 1.500 slugging percentage).
Joey Gallo led MLB in Barrel% (22.5) by a wide margin last year, with No. 2 (Max Muncy and Khris Davis tied) coming in much lower (16.9%). Gallo obviously struggles making contact, but when he does, few hitters can square a baseball like him (his average exit velocity (93.9 mph) tied for second last year). Muncy certainly played over his head in 2018, but it’s also clear he wasn’t just getting lucky.
Eric Thames would be a dark horse candidate for the home run crown should he ever be given 550 at bats, and his ADP sits outside 225…Shohei Ohtani won’t be ready for the start of the season, won’t pitch at all in 2019 and is only DH eligible, but he’s still getting overlooked in fantasy drafts. He can flat-out hit…J.D. Martinez is a Statcast darling, and he’s the No. 3 player on my board…Tyler Austin would be interesting if not for a career 36.6 K% (he’s out of options and the Twins just signed Marwin Gonzalez, so maybe another team gives him a chance), while Teoscar Hernandez and Daniel Palka are two others with high strikeout rates but possess legitimate power intrigue.
In 2015, Giancarlo Stanton had a 24.1 Barrel% with a 15.6 degree launch angle. Last year’s Barrel% dropped to 15.1 (still very strong) in part because of his trend of lowering his launch angle (11.6 degrees). To reiterate, Stanton hit 21 fewer homers last season compared to the year before despite getting more at bats and going from a park in Miami that’s suppressed homers by an MLB-high 27 percent over the last three years to Yankee Stadium, which has boosted HR for right-handed batters more than any park in baseball over that span. Stanton’s 2017 (23.6 K%) is looking more like an outlier, and his launch angle is a big reason why his ground-ball to fly-ball ratio has increased three straight seasons, including a career-high last year.
More reason to buy Gary Sanchez, as he’s coming off a disastrous campaign in which he posted a .197 BABIP despite a Barrel% that ranked top-20…Kyle Schwarber, Miguel Sano and Franmil Reyes are other names who jump out here as players to target in the middle rounds of drafts if you’re searching for power, as all three could easily hit 35-plus homers at a cost nowhere near that. In 2017, Sano finished top 2% in the league in Barrel% and top 1% in exit velocity as a 24-year-old. Reyes hit .315/.383/.537 with 10 homers over 162 at-bats after the All-Star break and had an average exit velocity (92.2 mph) that ranked top-15.
Dee Gordon finished last in Barrel% last year, although most of the bottom of the leaderboard consists of speedy guys just like him. Among those who rank on the bottom-100 on this list, Lorenzo Cain has the highest ADP. Cain’s launch angle dropped from 10.1 degrees in 2017 to 4.9 last year during his first season in Milwaukee, so fewer extra-base hits may continue in his future.
Expected Weighted On-Base Average (xwOBA) is a fancy way of telling us the kind of contact a pitcher has allowed by assigning each batted ball a hit probability (what should have happened based on the quality and amount of contact regardless of the actual outcome). The lower the number, the better for pitchers (and vice versa for hitters).
No big surprises among the top-10, although Chris Sale deserves so much credit for doing it while starting and with the A.L. East/Fenway Park going against him. Age is the only concern whatsoever with Justin Verlander at this point, while teammate Ryan Pressly looks plenty capable of stepping into the Astros’ closer’s role should that opportunity ever arise. The same goes for Taylor Rogers in Minnesota, as he ranked 11th, sandwiched between Max Scherzer and Wade Davis. Pittsburgh’s Richard Rodriguez is another deep sleeper setup guy.
Walker Buehler ranked fifth among starting pitchers, while teammate Ross Stripling ranked top-10, sandwiched between Gerrit Cole and Noah Syndergaard. Hyun-Jin Ryu wasn’t far behind either…More reason to like Joe Jimenez to take over as Detroit’s closer sooner rather than later.
Collin McHugh is one of the best starting pitchers to target now that he’s been given a role in Houston’s starting rotation (for the first time since Minute Maid became much more of a pitcher’s park). He finished in the top 5% of the league last year both in wOBA (.243) and K% (33.2) yet somehow has an ADP outside 220. Don’t be surprised when he ends 2019 as a top-30 fantasy starter. Teammate Brad Peacock is another worthwhile pick, especially with Josh James dealing with a quad injury.
Domingo German had the fifth-biggest difference between his wOBA (.332) and xwOBA (.293), making him one of the unluckier pitchers in the league last year (Blake Treinen had the sixth-biggest difference the other way). His 18.4 K-BB% would’ve ranked top-20 had he qualified, so ignore last season’s ERA and stash German, who would have plenty of fantasy value should he get a shot in the Yankees rotation.
This is a foot speed metric that simply measures how fast the player is in feet per second.
Byron Buxton finished first last year, and he’s off to a hot start at the plate this spring, so expect renewed buzz for one of last season’s biggest busts. The former No. 2 pick is the game’s fastest player, which he uses to his advantage with plus defense and hopefully by stealing more bags for fantasy teams in 2019.
Roman Quinn (he finished first in home to 1B speed), Magneuris Sierra and Adam Engel are sleepers for steals, while Billy Hamilton joins a Royals team that stole 40 more bags than the Reds last season…Trea Turner’s ADP is on the rise after manager Davey Martinez went on record saying he wanted him to attempt to steal 75-80 bases.
Delino DeShields is an afterthought in drafts for someone with a starting job who could easily approach 40 steals, while Garrett Hampson owners love seeing his name here, as if Coors Field wasn’t already enough going for him…It’s too bad Harrison Bader’s OBP is so low, because he has real SB potential with his speed…Trevor Story owners should feel confident he’ll continue to run like he did last season…Albert Pujols checked in dead last, ranking just behind catchers Brian McCann, Wilson Ramos, Yadier Molina and Jesus Sucre. I’m beginning to suspect his age might be older than listed.