3 Burning Questions (Fantasy Baseball)
Welcome back to week two of burning questions! Wait… what’s that? Cody Bellinger just hit another home run? Probably. Seriously though, if you drafted that dude, congratulations. Of course he’s not going to hit .435 all year, but he has the talent to be an absolute superstar. He’s only 23 years old, and his early success hasn’t just been lucky. The young man is absolutely smoking the ball. Enjoy it, owners. Speaking of luck, however…
Who has gotten lucky thus far in 2019?
Tim Beckham (3B/SS – SEA)
It’s pretty easy to spot guys who have simply gotten incredibly lucky to start the season. Tim Beckham is one of those players. With a BABIP of .429 but a hard-hit rate of only 37.5%, regression is in store for this Mariner. The four home runs he’s hit might be at least a little more legit, as he has increased his FB% and is only 29. That, too, is probably just an anomaly. Top this off with the fact he got banged up with a hamstring injury on Sunday, and Beckham may very have already seen his best days of the entire 2019 season.
Kolten Wong (2B – STL)
The thing that sticks out the most about Kolten Wong is his 23.1% HR/FB rate. No way nearly one out of every four fly balls this diminutive second baseman hits will be a home run in the long term. Wong has hit the ball hard this year, but not enough to justify his .417 BABIP. Wong, however, did have a breakout year defensively last season at age 27. If he could do it with his glove last year, maybe he can do it with the bat this season. There’s no debating whether he has gotten lucky so far, but the controversy heats up when discussing just how far his numbers will really fall. Don’t be shocked if Wong is a useful player in mixed leagues all year.
Ketel Marte (2B/SS/OF – ARI)
Ketel Marte somehow sits in the top 10 of batters in the player rankings. Don’t believe this fluke for an instant. Marte has had four good games this year that have completely bloated his stats. In those contests, he has all three of his home runs and both stolen bases. In all of his other games combined? Marte has three total hits. He, like Wong, also has a very high HR/FB rate at 21.4%. He’s not going to be a 30-HR guy; he’s probably not going to be a 20-HR guy, and projections don’t even have him reaching 15. Luck has been on Marte’s side.
Matt Shoemaker (SP – TOR)
If you wondered how Marte currently sits in the top 10 of batters, you’re really going to wonder how Matt Shoemaker is the number two pitcher overall. It’s true, as he has been excellent through his first two starts. We could analyze his advanced stats and how his opponents’ BABIP is .138 so far (as compared to .291 for his career). However, the most telling thing for Shoemaker is quite simple: his schedule. He has faced the Tigers and the Orioles. Yawn. If he could face these two clubs every time out, I’d say to trade the farm for him. Too bad he’ll have to face the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rays in many of his starts.
Who has gotten unlucky thus far in 2019?
Paul Goldschmidt (1B – STL)
Kind of crazy that a player with five home runs in his first 10 games can be unlucky, but that’s most definitely the case with Paul Goldschmidt. The above section gives some good perspective here. The Cards’ first baseman has a 66.7% hard-hit rate in 2019. Bellinger’s hard-hit rate is 52.5%. Bellinger’s BABIP is .394. Goldschmidt’s? .105. Goldschmidt is absolutely locked in right now, and it’s only a matter of days before his .200 AVG is much closer to .300.
Gary Sanchez (C – NYY)
Yep, let’s just add a second guy to this list who has hit three home runs in a game this season! Gary Sanchez has a 51.7% hard-hit rate with only a .130 BABIP. Ouch. So far in 2019, he’s also reduced his strikeout percentage by 7.6 points (17.5%) from last year. Sanchez has had some pretty rough luck to somehow only be hitting .250. He could — and will if these trends continue — do much better.
Mike Moustakas (2B/3B – MIL)
Much like the above two players, Mike Moustakas has a fantastic hard-hit rate (55.2%) and other great peripherals, yet he’s stuck with a .154 BABIP and .194 AVG. Have no fear Moustakas owners: He’s doing everything right, so the numbers will come. In fact, many of his advanced stats look better than last year, when he hit 28 homers.
Max Scherzer (SP – WAS)
This one will be nice and quick. While Max Scherzer still has a 3.32 ERA, over half of his runs allowed have scored either after he left the game or due to somewhat flukey scenarios. He could easily have an ERA around 2.00. Oh yeah, he also lost his first two starts while pitching 12.2 innings of three-run ball. Better games are coming for Scherzer.
Aaron Nola (SP – PHI)
Yes, Aaron Nola kind of made his own fate in his last start, but managers should definitely relax. His opponents’ BABIP is a measly .211, which puts him good for 26th among starting pitchers thus far. He has walked a few more batters than normal, and then opponents have hit inopportune home runs. Nola has gotten unlucky, but he’ll be just fine.
What unlikely players are poised to alter leagues?
Domingo Santana (OF – SEA)
I’ve tried to scream it from the mountaintops since before the season began. This guy is a stud. The only downside for the Brewers acquiring Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain was that it came at the expense of Domingo Santana. It’s easy to forget, but his 2017 batting line included 30 homers, 15 steals, and a .278 AVG. If he continues in the ballpark of his current pace — which he is capable of doing — he’ll easily surpass those numbers in 2019.
Rhys Hoskins (1B/OF – PHI)
I think all fantasy analysts alike, including myself, neglected just how good this Phillies’ offense really might be this season. From top to bottom, it’s stacked. Hitting in the four hole, Rhys Hoskins is going to have a ton of RBIs this season. Not to mention, he’s going to score plenty of runs with a solid group hitting behind him. Couple that with the fact that he could easily hit .260+ with 35 homers and you’ve got yourself a league-altering pick from outside the top couple rounds.
Mallex Smith (OF – SEA)
Injury concerns, playing time questions, and a genuine lack of knowledge of this player all pushed Mallex Smith outside of the top-10 rounds of most drafts. Turns out, he’s healthy and leading off for what’s currently been the second-best offense in baseball. Smith tops the batting order while Dee Gordon has hit ninth, which tells you how the Mariners feel about Smith. He very well could lead the league in steals.
Yandy Diaz (1B/3B – TB)
Just look at his arms! One look at Yandy Diaz’s biceps is enough to scare most pitchers away. On a serious note, there’s been a lot of talk about Diaz increasing his FB rate, which he has successfully done thus far. If that trend can continue, he could put his power to use and put up a monster year. He’s leading off for a completely undervalued first-place Rays team. If he’s somehow unowned in your league, change that. Diaz has the potential to be a pickup who totally shakes things up.
Trevor Bauer (SP – CLE)
Next season could be the year that we see some of the regular pitchers drafted in the first two rounds swapped out for new names. Trevor Bauer is going to be one of them. If you were lucky enough to snag him in the third or fourth round, rejoice. Getting a Cy Young Award winner that late could be huge.
Josh Hader (RP – MIL)
This guy is just nasty, in all the best ways. My gut, along with many other experts, says that Jeremy Jeffress will eventually assume the closer’s role in Milwaukee. Josh Hader, however, is so good that it might not even matter. As of Tuesday, he has given up one hit and walk each with 13 strikeouts in 7.2 innings. I guess you could say that is good. Regardless of how the Brewers’ bullpen shakes, Hader is invaluable for fantasy owners.
Kirby Yates (RP – SD)
The Padres are actually good, and so is Kirby Yates, who sits only behind Hader and Shane Greene on the player ranker among RP. While Hader will inevitably fall some if Jeffress takes over the closer’s role, Greene just isn’t that good. Yates could very well find himself as the game’s best closer this year. Not too shabby for a mid-round pick.
And of course, Bellinger, whom I think we’ve talked enough about. His numbers simply speak for themselves.