With the first two months of baseball behind us, let us take a look at 5 players who have surprised baseball fans with their outstanding numbers in the months of April and May. I plan to get another list for pitchers out soon, but let us know below if their is anyone else you would like us to take a look at. Now, let us start off the list with possibly the best hitter in all of baseball in this two month stretch.
Ryan Zimmerman, 1B, Washington Nationals
The Nationals have featured one of the scariest lineups this season with players like Daniel Murphy, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman all swinging hot bats. Zimmerman has caught a lot of people of guard this year with his extraordinary numbers through the months of April and May, but if you look at his numbers from past seasons his 2017 success should not be that surprising. Yes, his .218/.272/.370 slash line was easily one of the worst in baseball last season, but those are not the numbers I am talking about. In 2016, Zimmerman had the fourteenth best average exit velocity for anyone with at least 35 batted ball events. The only problem was his launch low angle, which was at 7.6 degrees last season. Having a teammate like Daniel Murphy, who cares so much about launch angles, it should not surprise anyone that Zimmerman was able to fix this problem in 2017. In 2017, his exit velocity has actually dropped a little bit, but his average launch angle has now risen to 9.8 degrees. Looking at Zimmerman’s numbers in 2017, it should be noted that he has the second highest BABIP behind only Miguel Sano. Zimmerman has also seen his swinging strike rate rise over the past three years, so look for Zimmerman’s batting average to decline a little bit as the season continues on into June. With that being said, I would still look to buy into Zimmerman’s power as there are not many other players in the league that hit the ball harder than the Nationals’ first baseman.
Zack Cozart, SS, Cincinnati Reds
Cozart’s .347 batting average this season is one of the best in baseball, and nearly .100 better than his batting average from last season. Cozart’s .398 BABIP is also the fifth highest in baseball this season, so I expect to see some regression as the season continues. He owns a career .253 AVG, and I would expect his batting average to drop down closer to that by the end of 2017. With that being said, if you are playing in a league that counts on-base percentage then take note that his O-Swing% this season is 4.4% lower than his career 29.4%. This helps us know why his 2017 BB% has more than doubled his career BB%. Now Cozart is in a shortstop class that really is not that deep once you get past the superstars at the position, so do not throw Cozart to waivers yet as there is probably not that many other options on the free agent market right now.
Scott Schebler, OF, Cincinnati Reds
If I told you in March that Scott Schebler would have 16 homers going into the month of June, you probably would have laughed in my face. Well June is here the Reds’ outfielder has done exactly that. He does not offer much else besides his power, so I will focus primarily on that. His 41.3 Hard% this season is the twenty-third best out of all major league hitters, but that is nowhere close to his 33.9 Hard% he has accumulated the two seasons prior. Because of this, I would not expect him to continue hitting home runs at the rate he is, but he could still finish the season in the high twenties or even low thirties. With the lack of contact and walks, I would recommend keeping the 26 year old on the free agent market as there are probably better options for your fantasy team in the outfield.
Tommy Pham, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
This 29 year old has not had much time in the major leagues, but he is sure making some noise this year in the Cardinals’ outfield. First off a BABIP of .380 is obviously going to warrant some regression, but do not worry too much about it as Pham hits the ball with serious power. He had one of the highest exit velocities last year, and this year his exit velocity is still over 90 mph. Oh by the way, did I mention that over his career 447 PA he has a very impressive .219 ISO? He is also great at drawing walks walks at the big league level as his career 11.0 BB% would suggest, but he is also great at striking out as he holds a 30.4 K% and an 11.7 SwStr% over his career. Look for Pham to provide your fantasy team with some extra base hits, but do not be shocked if you start to see that batting average dip a little bit in June.
Justin Smoak, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays
Smoak has turned it on in the month of May by hitting .280 with 8 home runs. He has hit a .296 AVG with 14 HR over 241 PA in the month of May the past 3 years, but over that same period comes a .178 AVG with only 4 HR over 112 PA in the month of June. Now that really does not mean much, but I just wanted to show how streaky of a hitter Smoak can be. It is worth mentioning that Smoak’s BABIP and AVG are actually quite close to each, so this could mean that his decent AVG is here to stay. We can also see that he has lowered his 32.8 K% from last season to a respectable 17.5 K% this season. This is a great sign for fantasy owners as Smoak’s main problem over the years has been his high strikeout numbers. The only reason I could find for his lower K% is that he is making more contact on balls in the zone. His swing percentage is relatively close to his career average, but his SwStr% is down 4.6 points from what it was last season. Smoak has always swung a powerful bat, the only question was if he would be able to make enough consecutive contact to be productive at the plate. If his low K% and SwStr continue into the month of June then Smoak could very well be a great sleeper pick for your fantasy team in 2017.
Who do you think will have the best numbers going forward?
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