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Examining Hot Starts (2019 Fantasy Baseball)

May 8, 2019

We’re buying Chapman’s hot start.

With April ending and over a full week into the month of May, we’ve now reached the point where we can start to more accurately examine hot and cold starts around fantasy baseball. This week, we’re going to dig deeper into a few hot starts and ask our writers which players they are buying into and which ones they view as frauds through the early going.

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What is one hot start that you are buying?

Yoan Moncada (2B – CWS)
“Moncada’s breakout is supported by a tangible change in approach — he is being more aggressive earlier in counts. As a result, he is finding his pitch to mash. And by mash, I mean mash — he ranks in the top three percent in all of baseball in exit velocity. Exit velocity is one of the few stats that stabilize quickly, so we can trust its reliability in supporting this breakout. He has earned his .294 average, and his expected slugging percentage of .542 is actually higher than his current .496 slugging percentage. I’m expecting Moncada to finish as a top-five second baseman, easy, if he continues this approach.”
– Carmen Maiorano (@cmaiorano3)

Alex Verdugo (OF – LAD)
“Despite seemingly being around the Dodgers organization forever, the former top prospect is a mere 22 years old and is finally staking his claim to everyday at-bats after the injury to A.J. Pollock. Verdugo is off to a scorching start this season, with a .326/.366/.570 batting line across 93 plate appearances. Verdugo brings elite contact skills, with a near league-leading 10.3% whiff rate, to go along with above average batted ball ability, highlighted by a 90 mph average exit velocity. While some might find fault in Verdugo’s lack of barrels and an xwOBA that trails his actual wOBA by 60 points, they’re missing the big picture. The owner of a career .309 batting average in the minors, Verdugo is an extremely advanced hitter for his age with an approach that will lead to more sustainable power in the near future. Owners in both re-draft and keeper leagues should roster him as the aforementioned Pollock is out for at least the next six weeks.”
– Nick Gerli (@nickgerliPL)

Matt Chapman (3B – OAK)
“Chapman had a mini-breakout in 2018 hitting .278 with 24 home runs and scoring 100 runs. He cut his strikeout rate from his rookie campaign while boosting his overall exit velocity. He’s maintained strong power metrics through the first six weeks of this season and has increased his barrels per balled ball event (BRL/BBE) to 12.5%. That’s all great, but the reason I believe Chapman will take his game to the next level is his plate discipline. He’s swinging at pitches outside the zone less often and has increased his overall contact rate by seven percent this year. It’s resulted in a minuscule 5.5% swinging strike rate and a career-best 12.6% strikeout rate. Chapman has vastly improved his approach without sacrificing quality of contact. By next draft season, we may be talking about Chapman as a top 30 overall pick.”
– Max Freeze (@FreezeStats)

What is a different hot start that you are selling?

Tim Anderson (SS – CWS)
“Moncada’s infield partner, Tim Anderson, is on a tear that simply won’t keep up. Unlike his teammate, Anderson is sporting an exit velocity in the bottom 27 percent of MLB. There is nearly a 50-point gap between his batting average and expected batting average, and nearly a 90-point difference in his slugging and expected slugging percentage. His 3.3% walk rate is almost dead last among qualified hitters, and he sees fewer pitches in the zone than most. In short, with the shortstop landscape so deep, you can afford to sell high on Anderson to shore up another area of your roster.”
– Carmen Maiorano (@cmaiorano3)

Rhys Hoskins (1B – PHI)
“Hoskins is a controversial player to pick as a “not buying” candidate, so let me explain. I’m not suggesting that Hoskins owners should go out and trade him — his baseline skillset makes him a valuable fantasy player. However, they should temper the expectations laid by his 10-HR, 31-RBI start and be open to dealing him if they receive a good offer. Despite a .612 SLG on the season, Hoskins’ xSLG rests at a measly .435, with the +177 point differential between the two registering as the highest in baseball. Moreover, Hoskins’ mediocre xStats performance is a trend that goes back well into last season, with his .441 xSLG since July 1st, 2018 ranking below names like Maikel Franco, Jorge Alfaro, and David Bote. As I said, Hoskins is a strong fantasy asset no matter what, but if owners are swept off their feet with a trade proposal it might be smart to pull the trigger.”
– Nick Gerli (@nickgerliPL)

Victor Robles (OF – WAS)
“As much as I love Robles and believe he will be a fantasy stud for many years to come, I just don’t trust him keeping this pace going forward. He’s already hit six home runs and stolen eight bases for the Nationals. That power/speed combination is fantasy gold. He’s slashing .262/.302/.476 with a .335 wOBA but his expected metrics paint a different picture. His xwOBA is just .268 and his average exit velocity sits just under 80 MPH which lands him in the bottom one percent of the league. His weak contact combined with an elevated popup rate does not support his current .342 BABIP despite his speed. By the way, his speed is legitimate, but he’s managed just a 3.6% walk rate. Given an expected decline in batting average and an elevated strikeout rate (29.9%), it’s going to be difficult for Robles to reach his stolen base potential. In dynasty leagues, I still absolutely love him but redraft owners may want to cash in on Robles.”
– Max Freeze (@FreezeStats)

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