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25 Facts to know for the 2019 fantasy baseball season (so far)

Heath spends some time scouring Fangraphs and Baseball Savant to bring you the goods.

MLB: All Star Game-National League at American League Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

First off, shouts to Fangraphs and Baseball Savant for existing. As a fantasy sports player who hates numbers, I’d be lost without sites like these.

Secondly, this effort isn’t meant to be predictive. Can we draw a few conclusions? Sure! Is some of it noisy? Maybe! Only time will tell. I tried to highlight whatever stuck out at me as I took a macro look at this fake baseball game.

1 Only ONE player in the MLB is greater than 50% with regard to fly ball rate, pull rate, and hard hit rate against left-handed pitching. His name is Matt Olson. Maybe your DFS lineups could tolerate the LvL split on occasion, eh?

2 No MLB hitter is a member of the 50/50/50 club against right-handed pitching. Matt Olson is the Highlander. There can be only one.

3 Against righty pitching, only three MLB hitters are 50% or higher with regard to pull rate AND hard contact rate. They are: Cody Bellinger, Hunter Renfroe, and Justin Smoak. Bellinger and Smoak would obviously be hitting from the left side against a righty pitcher, but Renfroe gives you some RvR love if you are again trying to be slightly sneaky when building DFS lineups.

4 Back to lefty bashing. The same feat, a 50% pull rate and 50% hard contact rate (or higher). They are: Peter Alonso, Matt Olson (duh), Josh Donaldson, Cody Bellinger, Anthony Rendon, Xander Bogaerts, and Eugenio Suarez.

5 Now that homers are out of the way...Freddie Freeman is fourth in line drive rate in the MLB, at 29%. Ahead of him are: Whit Merrifield, Cody Bellinger, and Niko Goodrum. Goodrum has a pretty average slash line of .248/.323/.403, but is up to eight homers and 11 steals so far. With an eligibility list as long as your arm (1B-2B-3B-SS-OF), that’ll play in larger leagues.

6 Speaking of line drives, did you know that Dexter Fowler ranks top-10 in line drive rate, at 27.9%? He also has a 40.1% hard contact rate, which isn’t shabby. He has a .263 BABIP against lefties, which might rise a tad given his 46.3% hard hit rate in that split. Sure, there are plenty of ground balls by Fowler vs. lefties (51.2%) but with a tad more luck his average would be .260 or higher. Nothing to be all hot and bothered over, but he is a name that surprised me. Something to file away at least, especially if Fowler gets a little more fortunate.

7 Among qualified MLB hitters, Adalberto Mondesi has the HIGHEST swinging strike rate, at 19.6%. Sure, it is working out for you if you drafted him. The speed alone is killer for those of us who avoided him. But I can sure see why the arguments against him were made...yikes.

8 Adalberto Mondesi also has the fifth-highest swing percentage (57.4%) in the MLB, as well as the 7th-highest chase rate in the MLB (42.9%). For reference, noted free-swinger Javier Baez checks in at 11th in swing rate, at 55.2%.

9 The lowest (read: best) swinging strike rate in the league belongs to an Angel, and it ain’t Mike Trout. David Fletcher’s 2.6% swinging strike rate is better than noted elite contact hitter Michael Brantley, who checks in at No. 2 with a 3.8% rate.

10 Speaking of Angels, if Tommy La Stella can get healthy before the season’s end, the Angels might have three hitters inside the TOP EIGHT with regard to swinging strike rate. La Stella is currently fourth overall at 4.2%, while (you guessed it) Mike Trout checks in at No. 8 with a 5.3% rate. Annually left for dead Albert Pujols checks in at 19th overall with a 6.8% rate. This looks like a philosophical thing by the Angels organization, as those of us who play DFS know full well—the Halos don’t strike out a whole lot.

11 David Fletcher has the second-lowest swing rate (34.3%) in the MLB. He leads the league in contact rate (92.1%) and ranks 14th in chase rate (23.7%). In short, the man’s plate discipline and contact numbers are ELITE, even if he is what I would call a bit passive. Also, on 295 batted ball events, Fletcher has a mere TWO barrels. He ranks inside the bottom 6% of the league in exit velocity, and inside the bottom 1% for hard hit rate. His xBA of .298 is inside the top 5% of the league, which makes sense given his decent launch angle and high line drive rate. With a modest five homers and five steals so far and a .298 batting average, Fletcher looks like a good source for batting average and OBP—but not a lot else, so don’t go crazy for him.

12 Jeff McNeil has an 82.3% contact rate, in case you were wondering how Fletcher stacked up with regard to contact. Not nearly as high a rate for McNeil as I would have thought.

13 McNeil also leads the MLB in Z-Swing%, at 85.0%. Makes sense to see Freddie Freeman right behind him at 82.9%. However...

14 KHRIS DAVIS is third in the MLB in zone swing rate, at 82.3%. This isn’t abnormal for Davis, either, who has consistently been above the MLB average at swinging at pitches in the strike zone. Add in his prodigious power, and it is easy to see why he has been so consistent over the past few years. Davis is also making more contact overall and more contact in the zone than he has since 2014. A hip/oblique contusion and a bruised left hand have hobbled the slugger recently, but as he returns to full health I expect the home runs to start falling again. Davis said he felt healthy coming out of the break. I think the time to buy is now if you need help in the power department.

15 As for seeing pitches in the zone, the MLB average is somewhere around 45%. Peter Alonso has the lowest mark in the league, at 35.6%. Pitchers not giving Alonso anything to hit probably has something to do with him murdering baseballs, as Alonso’s 44 barrels ranks second in the MLB behind only...

16 Mike Trout. Duh! Trout’s 50 barrels at the midway point is noteworthy, as the best baseball player on the planet has a chance to break the record for barrels in an MLB season. Here are the leaders since 2015 (when Statcast became a thing):

2015: J.D. Martinez 74 (Trout 2nd with 69)
2016: Miguel Cabrera 77 (Trout 7th with 61)
2017: Aaron Judge 87 (Trout 28th with 42)
2018: Khris Davis 70 (Trout 7th with 58)

Soooooo, the only year Trout isn’t top-10 in barrels is the year he only appeared in 114 games. Got it. Anyway, it will be a tight race, but if Trout stays healthy he is within striking distance of Judge’s record of 87 barrels in a season. Get your popcorn ready, as Trout’s 17.4% strikeout rate is the best mark of his pro career. The man is the best in the business and he is STILL getting better. Nuts.

17 Hot waiver wire pickup Tyler O’Neill is a powerful dude, but did you know he is also fast? His sprint speed of 29.6 ft/sec ranks 13th in the MLB, just two spots behind one Adalberto Mondesi (29.9 ft/sec) and ahead of guys like Billy Hamilton (29.5), Mallex Smith (29.5), and Victor Robles (29.5). Early returns on average exit velocity have O’Neill well above the MLB average of 87.5 mph...O’Neill is sitting pretty at 91.6 mph this year. His barrel rate and launch angle numbers are above average, too. Intriguing add in deeper leagues.

18 Shouts to the 35-year-old Brian McCann for being the slowest player in the MLB, at a sprint speed of 22.1 ft/sec. No surprise there. What did surprise me was...

19 Scooter Gennett, checking in at a sprint speed of only 24.7 ft/sec. You see “second baseman” and just assume a guy is fairly quick, but that isn’t the case with Gennett. I checked back two seasons prior, and Gennett was a bit faster at 26.4 ft/sec in both seasons. So if you are adding him hoping for a large second half, just know you almost definitely aren’t getting any speed out of the deal.

20 Who generates the most soft contact in the league? I’m talking MLB starters now, by the way. The answer is Kenta Maeda, at 24.5%. Doesn’t seem like a huge surprise. However...

21 Jack Flaherty ranking second in generating soft contact (23.3%) was a surprise. He ranks just ahead of Jacob deGrom, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Rick Porcello. So we can’t just look at this and think it means something good, right? Especially given that Porcello’s name popped up. I just thought it was interesting.

22 Jack Flaherty may get a lot of soft contact, but he also allows a lot of hard contact. How do I know? He has the LOWEST amount of medium contact in the league, at only 36.2%. His hard contact rate is 40.5%, for those who don’t like math. To recap: Flaherty ranks second in soft contact allowed, but also ranks 17th in hard contact allowed. He is dead last in medium contact. My man is the definition of boom-or-bust in this regard.

23 Dakota Hudson is a worm-killer, leading the league in ground ball rate at 60.1%. I guess that gives him something of a safe “floor” for the rest of the season. PUN INTENDED. I’ll show myself out soon, don’t worry.

24 Justin Verlander still leads the MLB in fly ball rate, at 46.7%. What sticks out like a really sore thumb is Verlander’s 17.7% HR/FB rate, though. Verlander has a CAREER mark of 9.0%, and has never posted a HR/FB rate over 11.5%. Similarly, he has never had a hard contact rate over 34.5%, and his career average is 27.9%. This year, however, he is allowing a whopping 40.6% hard contact rate. At age 36, it might be easy to chalk this up as an age thing and a skills eroding thing. However, Verlander’s 15.8% swinging strike rate is the highest mark of his career and his 69.6% overall contact rate allowed is the lowest amount of contact he has ever allowed. His 38.2% chase rate is also a high water mark, as hitters are chasing his stuff out of the zone more than ever before. So you guys tell me...are the skills eroding or is the ball maybe—juuuuuuust maybe—a little bit juiced?

25 Only Tony Watson and Julio Urias have higher chase rates than Sergio Romo’s 41.1% rate among qualified relief pitchers. Romo also has a solid 13.9% swinging strike rate, too. Long expected to be on the move before the trade deadline, perhaps Romo might actually retain some value based on wherever he lands. We shall see.

Okay, some of this was written a day ago so a percentage or two might be slightly off, but you get the idea. I hope something above made you think about a player or two a little more. Good luck out there in your fake games, ladies and gents!