Good morning to everyone! Welcome to the fantasy baseball marketplace, where we are buying and selling away.
Today I picked players that I’ve yet to make up my mind on—mostly because they weren’t on a lot of my teams for one reason or another. And the criteria is the same: no player over 60% owned (at the time of the writing). So hopefully some of the buys are still available to you.
SP Joe Musgrove, Pittsburgh Pirates (60% owned)
Musgrove has rebounded nicely over his last two starts, and yours truly is going on the record as buying in for the rest of the season. Musgrove has above-average marks in O-Swing% (34.3%), Zone % (44.2%), and Swinging Strike % (11.4%). With PNC Park as his backdrop, I’m just fine with those skills. Don’t jump off the hype train just yet.
SP Matt Strahm, San Diego Padres (56% owned)
Are people still lukewarm on Strahm? I don’t understand his ownership percentage, especially when you consider how many starters have let us down so far in 2019. Since his first debacle of a start to the season (2.2 IP, 5 ER), Strahm has tallied at least five innings in every start and not allowed more than two runs in any start. His 19.9% strikeout rate is pretty average, but his 3.9% walk rate is elite. Strahm throws strikes at an above-average rate, ranking fourth in the MLB in zone percentage. Only Yusei Kikuchi, Miles Mikolas, and Chris Paddack have higher zone rates. And Mikolas is a nice segway—Strahm is a better version of Mikolas so far in 2019, especially with regard to contact rates and swinging strike rates. Both guys live in the zone, but hitters make less contact overall and less contact in the zone against Strahm (who obviously has a higher swinging strike rate). And yet, Mikolas is 80% owned...
OF Hunter Pence, Texas Rangers (54% owned)
I needed to make up my own mind about Pence. I don’t currently have any shares, but he’s a guy I could potentially use in some MLB DFS. So what sticks out? First up, his fly ball rate is the highest it has been since 2013. This is supported by his 10.3 degree average launch angle, which is more than double Pence’s career average of 5.1 degrees. Sounds like a conscious effort to me. Additionally, Pence is swinging at pitches in the zone 76.2% of the time, continuing a three-year trend of improvement in this regard (and he is a whopping 10% above-average, too). He does have some swing-and-miss in his game, but with his zone recognition and above-average contact rate on pitches out of the zone, it hasn’t mattered a great deal. If I was forced to use him in a season-long league to cover for an injury or some ineptitude, I’d keep on riding his bat for now. It’s scalding, by the way. Pence is 90th percentile or better in exit velocity, hard hit rate, xwOBA, xSLG, and xBA. And he’s 88th percentile in sprint speed. He might be 36 years old, but he’s still got some tools.
1B Justin Smoak, Toronto Blue Jays (43% owned)
Sure, he only has a .221 batting average. But over his last two years he has managed marks of .270 and .242. His current .236 BABIP is the lowest mark of his career, so there’s some room for positive regression here. Also, Smoak has homered in back-to-back games, so if you’re in need of power for a CI or UTIL spot, the time to act is now. What you’re getting is a lot of fly balls (42.4%) and a lot of hard contact (51.7%). Smoak is also quietly pretty disciplined at the plate, as this year’s career-best 21.0% chase rate shows. He’s also posting the best zone contact and overall contact rates of his career. For reference, his 7.1% swinging strike rate is well above the MLB average (11.0%) and is the best mark of his career.
SS Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers (94% owned)
Is he bad? Nope. Is he good right now? Nope! There are 33 guys ranked ahead of Seager...at the shortstop position! Seager’s career-high 44.4% fly ball rate may be the culprit. He’s also toting a career-high 16.6 degree average launch angle—well higher than his career mark of 11.0 degrees. This has NOT been a good approach for Seager, who ranks poorly by every Statcast metric pertaining to quality of contact. He’s 28th percentile in exit velocity, 33rd in hard hit rate, 24th in xwOBA, 22nd in xSLG, and 16th in xBA. For a guy who used to lead all shortstops in hard hit rate and soft contact rate, this is a noticeable difference. Fly balls are good if they are hit hard enough to turn into home runs...but not if they don’t. I’d take Jorge Polanco over Seager in a split second, but Polanco is only 77% owned. Weird.
SP Joey Lucchesi, San Diego Padres (55% owned)
I bought in heading into the season, but I don’t like what’s under the hood right now. Lucchesi is throwing far less strikes this year than last, including his F-Strike% (down almost four percentage points) and his Zone% (down almost five percentage points). His chase rate has bumped from 28.1% to 32.5%, but that 32.5% mark isn’t crazy good (2 points above average). Lucchesi doesn’t have a lot of swing-and-miss to his game, either—a 10.7% swinging strike rate is a hair below average. In summation: Lucchesi is beginning fewer counts with a strike, is throwing less strikes overall, has a little less than normal swinging strike rate, and a little above average chase rate. His skill is generating ground balls, and his new approach has resulted in a depressed strikeout rate (only 22.4%, down from 26.5% last year). Lucchesi has yet to find a third pitch that works for him, and I’m afraid we’re looking at the best he can offer right now. If he twirls a gem against the Blue Jays tonight (who aren’t great vs. LHP) I’d try to sell high.
SP John Means, Baltimore Orioles (35% owned)
I hate to say it, but I’m not buying Means. And I wanted to like him, for my cousin’s sake (who is an Orioles fan). But there’s some regression coming here. Means’ 2.68 ERA is not backed up by other measures (4.48 FIP, 5.07 xFIP, 4.63 SIERA). He’s been lucky in the BABIP department, at only a .234 batting average on balls in play. Even his 80.3% strand rate is a bit lucky. His 18.8% strikeout rate is below average, and he’s below average in zone rate and chase rate. His 11.3% swinging strike rate IS a hair above average, but it’s not enough to carry him moving forward. And since his home park is ridiculously unfriendly, that makes him someone to “manage” on the bottom of your roster. I’m not buyin’.
And that’s about it for me. It’s time to start plotting my MLB DFS Wars lineup for tonight. Yours truly has found a way to be very relevant after six weeks of competition. We’ll see how it all shakes out...