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Three Up, Three Down: Dan Vogelbach’s stock is skyrocketing

Heath looks at players trending in opposite directions.

MLB: Spring Training-Seattle Mariners at Chicago White Sox Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

How about that one time when I just wrote “intro” and left it there instead of actually writing an intro? Good times. Side effect of too many road miles today. Never fear, I am safe and sound at my destination and ready to bring the goods with some fantasy baseball trends.

Three Up

1 Yandy Diaz, 1B/3B, Tampa Bay Rays (51% owned)

His current average launch angle is only six degrees, but I don’t hear anyone wailing over Bryce Harper’s 7.5 degree average launch angle right now, do I? For reference, the MLB average is 11 degrees, and the optimal launch angle for a ‘barrel’ begins at 98 mph and a launch angle of 26 to 30 degrees. So Diaz’s average launch angle well off of that mark. However, if you hit the ball harder than 98 mph, you have more “room for error,” as it were. Diaz already has three barrels to his credit this year, on 39 batted ball events—good for a 7.7% barrel rate. For reference, last year in Cleveland he had four barrels all year, in his limited playing time that gave him 90 batted ball events—and a below average 4.4% barrel rate. Put differently, Diaz is elevating the ball a little more this season. And he has one fewer batted ball than Anthony Rendon, a guy who has only one more at-bat to his credit. Diaz doesn’t have the swing-and-miss that other big guys have (career 17.3% strikeout rate) and that should allow him to have enough batted balls to continue to produce in the power categories.

Diaz is above average in every hitting category—exit velocity, hard hit rate, XWOBA, XBA, and XSLG. He has batted leadoff against left-handed pitching. Don’t overthink it. Use the guy who is getting a lot of opportunities, especially when his biceps are larger than your torso. Here’s a great piece by Mike Petriello of MLB.com that goes more in depth and I won’t attempt to imitate it. I am stoked to have drafted him with the 448th pick in League 1 of The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational. I love what Tampa is doing, taking risks on guys like Diaz. If you took the risk as well, your investment is paying off. Keep the faith.

2 Dan Vogelbach, 1B, Seattle Mariners (61% owned)

His ownership percentage is shooting up like crazy, and it may be too late to grab him in your league. He is batting .400 with six homers, and ranks 24th overall in the fake game despite only having 30 at-bats to his name. At this point though, Vogelbach should be owned everywhere. He won’t keep up with this pace, but it’s likely that his bat is in the majors for good. His 12.8% barrels per plate appearance rate ranks 18th in the majors, and his average exit velocity of 96.6 mph is second only to some guy named Aaron Judge. Furthermore, Vogelbach ranks inside the top 6% (or better!) in the MLB in XBA, XSLG, WOBA, XWOBA, XWOBACON, Hard Hit %, and Barrel %. In short, he is absolutely scorching the baseball right now. Maybe Seattle can afford to bench him on occasion, but you can’t. Still only 26 years old, Vogelbach is a universal add in my opinion—whether the 32-year-old Jay Bruce continues to siphon away at-bats or not. I’ll take a shot on Vogelbach’s upside everywhere I can.

3 Dansby Swanson, SS, Atlanta Braves (66% owned)

Can he keep up the hot streak? As a Braves fan, I certainly hope so. His scorching hot start (four dingers, .293 BA) has allowed him to creep up to sixth in the batting order, no small thing for a guy who could use the extra counting stats to help make him more relevant in the fake game. Swanson has played 13 games this year, and he has at least one hit in all but three of them. He’s high up on the Statcast leaderboards, too, with a Brls/PA rate of 11.8%, good for 25th in the MLB. That’s tied with Joey Gallo and ahead of Jose Altuve and Bryce Harper, for reference. Swanson’s average launch angle of 11.6 degrees is above average but actually down from last year’s 12.9 degree mark. The big difference is how hard he is hitting the ball, as his average exit velocity of 92.8 mph is shattering his career averages of 88.2, 86.8, and 86.8. His overall rate of barrels is 18.8% and ranks inside the top 9% of the league. In short, he plays at a crummy position, elevates the ball enough, is hitting it really hard, and his excellent defense will continue to give him at-bats. Buy, buy, buy.

Other somewhat available guys that stick out to me who have been en fuego: Matt Boyd, Matt Shoemaker, Max Fried, Jason Heyward, Mitch Moreland, Kevin Kiermaier, and Alex Gordon.

Three Down

Every pitcher you drafted that you KNEW you could count on in 2019? And that’s a wrap!

Really though, my pitching has stung me pretty good so far in 2019, either due to injury or ineptitude. So let’s pick on the hurlers for a few minutes.

1 Nick Pivetta, Phillies (66% owned)

Pivetta’s ownership is down 11% on Yahoo over the last 24 hours, as more folks are abandoning ship after his latest rough outing—a 3 23 stinker against Washington, against whom Pivetta granted seven earned runs. His average exit velocity is up nearly three full ticks from 2018 (87.3 mph to 90.0) and he’s allowing barrels at nearly twice the MLB average (14.0% Barrel %). That’s a side effect of a career-worst 42.0% hard hit rate (thus far) and an average launch angle of 12.2 degrees—which is tied for his career-worst mark two years ago. Pivetta’s fastball is getting pasted worse than normal (.444 BA, .382 ISO) and his normally reliable slider has allowed a .500 average in a small sample (8 AB). I’d feel better about Pivetta’s chances if his home park wasn’t a plus hitting environment—as is, I’m pretty happy to have missed out on Pivetta shares in 2019.

2 Kyle Hendricks, Cubs (82% owned)

I have no idea why Hendricks gets so much love in the fantasy community. Sure, when he’s “on” he’s a quality ratios guy. But when he’s off he’s getting pasted, and Hendricks isn’t fooling anyone with his changeup right now (.478 BA, .348 ISO). I didn’t take the risk heading into 2019, and I sure wouldn’t be looking to acquire the risk now—not for a guy who was also slow out of the gate in 2018.

3 Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox (99% owned)

To be clear, if I drafted Sale I’m probably holding him. Most fantasy owners are too savvy, and in my leagues I don’t think I could even get 80% on the dollar. But it’s hard to deny his value has taken a hit over his first three turns. It was encouraging to see the velocity up a tick in his last start—and good to know he entered that game with an illness. I think brighter days are coming, but for now you may want to “manage” your ace, unfortunately.