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3 Burning Questions (2018 Fantasy Baseball)

by Max Freeze | @FreezeStats | Featured Writer
Aug 8, 2018

Welcome back to another Burning Questions session! I’d love to write an entire article about Juan Soto and title it, “Why is Juan Soto the best?” I’m not sure I can remember a teenager who has the knowledge and discipline at the plate of Soto. Check that, not even a teenager, any young player with less than 100 Major League games to his name. I remember guys like Barry Bonds and of course Joey Votto and Mike Trout, but these guys are veterans. After yesterday’s doubleheader, Soto now has 49 walks and 51 strikeouts in 68 games. This, in an era where the average strikeout rate is 22.2% and the average walk rate is 8.5%. Soto’s walk rate is double the league average and his strikeout rate is five percent less than league average. I could go on and on, but I wanted to pay some respects to the Talented Mr. Soto.

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Which hitters will outperform their Streamer ROS projections?

Listed below are Steamer’s Rest-of-Season projects for the players I believe will outperform those numbers.

Name Team PA AB HR R RBI SB AVG
J.D. Martinez Red Sox 188 167 11 28 34 1 0.291
Nolan Arenado Rockies 201 178 11 30 34 1 0.289
Trea Turner Nationals 208 187 5 29 22 14 0.285
Ketel Marte Diamondbacks 168 151 3 18 18 2 0.278
Alex Bregman Astros 192 167 7 27 25 3 0.275
J.T. Realmuto Marlins 153 140 4 17 18 1 0.271
Matt Carpenter Cardinals 200 164 8 29 22 1 0.262
Jonathan Villar Orioles 134 120 3 15 13 7 0.254

J.D. Martinez has been an absolute monster in the last calendar year with a .324 average and 57 home runs. He leads the league in home runs over that time frame, nine more than Giancarlo Stanton. In addition, he’s racked up 144 RBI, which is 20 more than Khris Davis, who is second on that list. I understand he hasn’t been completely healthy over the course of his career, but if you’re giving J.D. 40+ games, I’m taking the over on all of Steamer’s projections.

Nolan Arenado has almost identical projections to JDM. Here’s the issue I have with these projections. The Rockies have 29 more home games compared to 21 road games to close out 2018. Arenado has hit 25 more home runs at home than on the road in his career with just about the same number of at-bats. He also hits about 50 points higher on his batting average in Coors Field. Given the fact that nearly 60% of his remaining games are at home, I’m betting Arenado crushes those rest-of-season projections.

Steamer projects Trea Turner to lead the league with 14 more steals this year, which would give him 45 at season’s end. Turner’s been on a stolen base binge lately with nine steals in his last 16 games. Turner’s capable of stealing four or five bags in a single game. I’m betting he runs wild in the next two months and ends up at or over 50 stolen bases. I like his ability to score more than 29 runs as well. Gimme the over!

The Alex Bregman projections seem low to me. Bregman has proven that he is an elite hitter even at age 24. He is running less but he’s also walking more and striking out less. He’s done that while increasing his fly ball rate, hard contact and pull percentage and decreased infield fly balls. I think his batting average and power numbers are low per the projections. Bregman could easily hit .300 with 8-10 home runs before the regular season is over.

J.T. Realmuto has officially surpassed Buster Posey in terms of fantasy value. I know JT has been cold this month, but he’s still hitting a very solid .297 with power. If you check my preseason rankings, you’d see that I was already on that train. Realmuto makes too much solid, consistent contact to hit only .271. He hasn’t run like he has in the past but if you’re in need of stolen bases from your catcher, your team may have other issues.

Matt Carpenter is projected for eight home runs and a .262 average. Is that home run total for next week? I’m half joking but since May 21st, Carp is hitting .328 with 27 homers and 59 runs. That’s in 69 games played. I’m confident Carpenter hits at least 10 more home runs (probably more) with at least a .280 average.

The reason I feel Jonathan Villar will out-perform Steamer’s projections is he’ll get plenty of playing time and should run wild with Baltimore having nothing to play for. I can see Villar stealing double-digit bases from this point to the end of the season and hitting a handful of home runs. He needs to be owned in all leagues, including 10-team leagues, for his upside.

Which hitters will underperform their Streamer ROS projections?

This one was a little bit more difficult than the previous section. I don’t like to wish poor performance, but I’ll just call ’em how I see ’em.

Name Team PA AB HR R RBI SB AVG
Buster Posey Giants 174 153 4 20 20 1 0.29
Marcell Ozuna Cardinals 187 170 8 23 28 1 0.286
Kris Bryant Cubs 186 156 8 28 25 2 0.278
Bryce Harper Nationals 199 162 11 31 30 3 0.275
Giancarlo Stanton Yankees 198 172 15 32 37 1 0.275
Adam Jones Orioles 200 187 8 24 26 1 0.271
Ronald Acuna Braves 217 197 7 27 24 8 0.268

It’s not that I don’t believe Giancarlo Stanton can go on a crazy homer binge and hit a boatload of home runs in the final 45 games, but he’s projected for four more home runs than anyone else, and that includes J.D. Martinez. Stanton can certainly maintain a 30+% HR/FB rate, but he’s hitting fewer fly balls this year. Currently, he sits at a career low 34% fly ball rate. I mentioned it above, but I’ll take J.D. over Stanton the rest of the season for both power numbers and overall fantasy production.

I know he’s been hot since the break and just jacked another bomb yesterday, but I’m taking the under. With Bryce Harper, I feel that his batting average will stay around the .250 mark thanks to a heavy dose of pulled ground balls. The shift is killing Harper’s average, and he isn’t making the necessary adjustments. I don’t doubt that he can hit 11 homers, so I’ll push there. In terms of run production, I’ll take the under (slightly) on the RBI total as well to continue his streak of failing to reach the 100-RBI threshold.

With Kris Bryant, this is strictly injury related. I don’t think he plays enough games to reach the numbers Steamer has projected for KB. Even if he comes back in the next couple of weeks, I have a feeling he’ll be playing at less than 100%. It’s basically a lost year for Bryant. Dynasty owners have to hold but in redraft, I’d try to sell what’s left of his value.

Marcell Ozuna is not the same player he was in 2017 with the Marlins (oh, hi Giancarlo, didn’t see you there). The projections appear to believe Marcell is more 2017 than 2016 or 2018. I tend to disagree. Ozuna is hitting .269 with only 13 home runs this season. He’s not hitting more fly balls but has increased his number of infield fly balls. That’s not good. He’s also essentially a league average hitter in terms of value hits and a below average hitter in terms of poor hits (per xStats.org).

Ronald Acuna on the under-performers list? Blasphemy! I actually like his projection except for the steals. I don’t believe he will run enough to snag eight bags. That being said, I think he reaches or surpasses his projection of seven home runs. I think his power is more impressive than his speed. I’d love to see him hit 10 more homers and steal around five bases.

Buster Posey has transformed into Joe Mauer. Further proof that catching takes quite a toll on the human body. On the wrong side of 30, Posey is having a difficult time trying to reach double-digit homers this year. I understand the projections aren’t anything special, but I just don’t see Posey getting as much playing time down the stretch once the Giants are eliminated. He’s more or less empty batting average.

I’m not sure where Steamer is getting eight home runs from Adam Jones. He’s hit 11 in 106 games this year. Jones is 33 years old and has slowly been on the decline since he turned 30. This year may be the largest drop from previous seasons, and I don’t see a power resurgence from Pac-Man Jones.

Is it time to pay attention to Matt Boyd?
I’ve often used Matt Boyd along with a Sophomoric Flava-Flav joke while writing my weekly streamer article. I’ve found that he appears quite a bit on my 25% owned and under threshold for streaming options. Prior to Monday’s start against the Angels, I was going through the pitching leaders for the last 30 days and Boyd caught my eye. His 2.88 ERA with a 10.08 K/9 and a 1.44 BB/9 really jumped out at me and then there’s the 2.04 FIP to back it up. His 3.10 SIERA had him ranked inside the top 10 overall. Obviously, his numbers took a bit of a hit, but I figured, I better check on Matt Boyd to see what’s going on.

His 2018 season numbers don’t jump out at you, but I’ve noticed overall improvements to his strikeout and walk rates along with a huge drop in BABIP from .330 down to .263. OK, so he’s getting lucky. Well, not so fast. Boyd is giving up five percent more fly balls which does produce a lower BABIP, so that explains some decrease in BABIP. Then I noticed Boyd’s Pitch Values per FanGraphs. His four-seam fastball and slider were valued at -11.9 and -6.8, respectively in 2017. So far in 2018, the fastball is valued at 5.0 and the slider at an impressive 13.8! He’s also tripled his slider usage up to 32% this year. It looks like the Tigers have found something in Boyd’s slider. Unfortunately, Boyd only utilized his slider 24% of the time in Monday’s poor start and his changeup was used quite a bit more. That is not a recipe for success. 

Some other positive changes for Boyd include throwing his sinker eight percent less this year. In 2017, his sinker had an OPS of 1.005 against it, this year it’s down to .795. I mentioned the increased slider usage, and that’s his best pitch. In 2017, he dealt with some very bad luck with a .480 BABIP against the slider. How is that possible? The slider is his go-to strikeout pitch but also can be thrown for strikes with a 48% zone rate. It also has different movement this year and he’s throwing it six miles-per-hour slower on average than in 2017. Essentially, it’s a different pitch! The larger velocity differential between his four-seam and slider has allowed both the slider and the four-seamer to be more effective. 

What does all this mean? We know Boyd’s slider has turned into a hell of a pitch. It’s 13.8 Pitch-value mentioned above is tied for fifth in the league with Patrick Corbin. It’s actually not the worst comparison in the world. Both are lefties who throw around 90-91 mph with devastating sliders. The difference is that Corbin has been much more effective with his fastball than Boyd and has two variations of his slider. I think Corbin’s 2018 is Boyd’s ultimate (dream) ceiling. If you look at Corbin’s numbers from 2017, they are similar to what Boyd is doing this year. I don’t see consistent success in the remainder of 2018 for Boyd, but I’m very intrigued for going into 2019. With the offseason to work on things, I expect Boyd to make the necessary adjustments to take the next step.

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Max Freeze is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Max, check out his archive and follow him @FreezeStats.

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