J.R. Murphy, Arizona Diamondbacks (3% Owned)
I’m a little bit surprised Murphy hasn’t gotten more love than he has been around fantasy baseball circles. With Avila’s struggles this season, it seems like the Diamondbacks are open to letting Murphy get more time behind the plate. This move isn’t surprising, however, as he has already hit nine home runs in his 172 plate appearances this season. Some may be skeptical of his success, but a look at his batted ball profile shows promising signs. With 111 batted ball events, 50% fly ball rate, 45.0% pull rate and 45.9% hard contact rate, Murphy’s home run total appears to be lower than expected. Now, it is worth noting that a quick trip over to Baseball Savant shows that he has only hit 34.2% of his batted balls with an exit velocity of 95 mph or higher, so expect some regression in his hard contact rate. If we take that 34.2% and make that his hard contact rate instead, then we still end up with a projected eight home runs based on his neutralized batted ball profile. This is only one less of his current total and would give him a total of 33 home runs if he played a full 700 plate appearance season.
When talking about Murphy’s success this season, it is also worth noting that he is due for some positive regression. Based on his past contact rates and strikeout numbers, his 29.1% strikeout rate will most likely drop at least 6.0%. In the majors, he owns a respectable 78.7% contact rate over his career and good contact numbers in the minors as well. Not only is his strikeout rate due for some positive regression, but his BABIP is likely to start to rise as well. With a 12.6% soft contact rate and 20.0% line drive rate, it is hard to believe that his .277 BABIP will stay at its current rate, even with all his fly balls. Murphy already plays at a shallow position, so anyone that can put up plus numbers is worth paying attention to going forward.
Other Notables: Tucker Barnhart (26% Owned), Elias Diaz (16% Owned), Tyler Flowers (3% Owned)
Greg Bird, New York Yankees (38% Owned)
The often hurt Bird has been somewhat of a disappointment this season as he is currently hitting .214 on the season. He does, however, have eight home runs in just 164 plate appearances. His power potential is undeniable as he owns a career 40.3% hard contact rate, 48.1% pull percentage and 50.2% fly ball rate. The thing that is encouraging about Bird is the 76.8% contact rate he owns on the season. Although he will likely strike out at an above average clip, he doesn’t own the contact rates many of his fellow power hitters do. With his contact numbers and swing rate, expect Bird to have a strikeout rate somewhere around 26.0% rest of season. With excellent raw power, a hitter-friendly home park, and one of the best lineups backing him up, Bird’s fantasy potential is enormous if he can stay healthy for the rest of season.
Other Notables: Mitch Moreland (46% Owned), Yonder Alonso (32% Owned), Wilmer Flores (7% Owned)
Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians (24% Owned)
There aren’t too many exciting options at second base, but Kipnis still offers more than his current .222/.312/.360 slash line suggests. With good contact skills, a 0.77 ground ball to fly ball rate and 36.6% hard contact rate, Kipnis looks like he can still be a 20+ home run threat at the major league level, even with a below average 37.4% pull percentage. While his paltry batting average the past two seasons is concerning, his 21.2% line drive and 18.1% soft contact rate suggest a BABIP around league average and not the .258 BABIP he currently owns. He still has the potential to steal 10 bags, making him a curious case rest of season. If you focus more on the peripherals than the results, Kipnis looks like a promising add from waivers.
Other Notables: Josh Harrison (25% Owned), Joe Panik (7% Owned), Devon Travis (2% Owned)
Hernan Perez, Milwaukee Brewers (2% Owned)
I’ve already talked a lot about Chapman and Moran this season, so to keep from being repetitive I thought I’d switch it up and talk about the Brewers’ current starting second baseman. With Villar currently on the disabled list and Orlando Arcia in the minors, Perez has been getting a good amount of playing time. With this excess playing time, Perez becomes an interesting fantasy option as he offers 20/30 potential. He has already shown this potential back in his 2016 breakout and has only helped his case by hitting career highs in hard contact (33.5%) and fly ball rate (37.8%). Perez does currently have a .248 batting average and poor plate discipline, which may warrant some fantasy owners to stay away from the 27-year-old utility player. His .289 BABIP is precisely what his neutralized batted ball profile projects, but his swing rate and contact rate project a strikeout rate closer to 19.0% rather than the 21.1% he currently owns. With his power and speed combo, Perez makes for an exciting fantasy option going forward.
Other Notables: Matt Chapman (34% Owned), Jedd Gyorko (10% Owned), Colin Moran (7% Owned)
Aledmys Diaz, Toronto Blue Jays (2% Owned)
Diaz struggled to repeat his 2016 All-Star season with the Cardinals, but his peripherals so far this season look quite promising. With a high amount of batted ball events, a career high 34.7% hard contact rate, 38.3% fly ball rate, and 46.4% pull percentage, Diaz has the profile of a 30-homer hitter. His contact skills are undeniable as he has yet to post a strikeout rate above 14.0% at the major league level, but with that low strikeout rate comes an aggressive approach that will lead to a below average walk rate. He does have below-average line drive and soft contact rates, so expect him to have a BABIP around .280-.290. With his low strikeout rate, however, this will be good enough to post a batting average of at least .260. Diaz has been for the most part forgotten since his breakout season in 2016, but don’t be surprised if he starts to heat up in the second half.
Other Notables: Addison Russell (41% Owned), Marcus Semien (38% Owned), Jorge Polanco (10% Owned)
Kyle Tucker, Houston Astros (41% Owned)
Tucker is one of the best prospects out there, and to me is among the Top 5 prospects in the game. He has shown the ability to hit fly balls and line drives throughout the minors, while also showing good plate vision. These numbers added with his raw power will most likely result in someone who can hit for a high batting average while also hitting 30+ home runs. With that remarkable ability at the plate also comes the potential for stolen bases. At 41% owned, Tucker is being vastly undervalued and should be owned in most every fantasy league.
Max Kepler, Minnesota Twins (27% Owned)
I was big on Kepler coming into the season, and I’m not giving up hope yet. He is currently slashing .227/.317/.407, but he has excellent peripherals. He has shown tremendous plate vision this season, which is evident by a 0.75 walk to strikeout rate. He has also shown some power potential as he has set new career highs in hard contact rate (38.7%), pull percentage (45.9%), and fly ball rate (45.5%). When we add all this up together, you are looking at a batter with the potential to hit 30+ home runs in a season. He does have a low line drive rate, which should hurt his BABIP. With his newfound ability to make consistent contact, however, his low BABIP could still lead to a decent batting average.
Tony Kemp, Houston Astros (1% Owned)
Kemp is one of the more intriguing options on the Astros as it looked like his playing time would be severely cut after they called up Kyle Tucker. Surprisingly since Tucker’s call-up, Kemp has continuously found a way into the lineup. Kemp reminds me a little bit of a poor man’s Mookie Betts as they are both all around hitters, and come from my hometown of Franklin, Tennessee. Now I’m not saying Kemp will be the next Mookie Betts, but he does have good plate discipline, excellent contact abilities, decent power and the ability to steal 30+ bags. With Kemp’s skill set, he needs to be added to your watch list rest of season.
Other Notables: Brandon Nimmo (40% Owned), Michael Conforto (36% Owned), Josh Reddick (35% Owned), Adam Duvall (31% Owned), Jesse Winker (28% Owned), Enrique Hernandez (28% Owned), Joc Pederson (21% Owned), Manuel Margot (20% Owned), Jake Bauers (18% Owned)
Which player under 5% owned are you most excited to watch ROS?
This poll is closed
J.R. Murphy, C, Arizona Diamondbacks
Hernan Perez, 2B/3B/SS/OF, Milwaukee Brewers
Aledmys Diaz, SS, Toronto Blue Jays
Tony Kemp, 2B/OF, Houston Astros