Statcast Risers & Fallers: Week 7 (Fantasy Baseball)

by Nicholas Gerli
May 15, 2019

Ronald Acuna Jr. is making strides despite a seemingly mundane start.

Week 7 introduced some major shakeups to the Statcast leaderboards, with year-to-date staples Cody Bellinger and Gary Sanchez finally producing off weeks. Meanwhile, several high-profile, slumping players snapped out of their funks.

Let’s explore Week 7’s Statcast Risers and Fallers.

Astros outfielder George Springer tops the xwOBA charts for Week 7, reminding us of the dominant fantasy force he was back in 2017. Springer now boasts an AL-leading 16 home runs to go along with a .329/.410/.671 triple slash on the season. Both marks are backed by xStat readings that rank in the 95th+ percentile across the board. His 2018 was mired by nagging injuries, likely playing a hand in his subdued power output last year. However, he looks healthy as an ox in 2019 and seems poised to finish as a top-15 fantasy player.

Josh Bell is in the midst of a breakout that started last season, as his .398 xwOBA since July 1 is the seventh highest in baseball. An extremely well-rounded hitter, he combines strong plate discipline with a burgeoning power profile. Impressively, Bell has managed to spike his barrel rate and exit velocities this season while keeping his whiff rates largely in line with previous seasons.

Kudos to the owners that stuck with Justin Turner after a March and April where he garnered a mere four extra-base hits. The Dodgers third baseman rewarded your patience in a big way last week with five home runs to go along with a .569 xwOBA. Turner is one of the few Dodgers to possess an everyday role, an enviable position within one of baseball’s best offenses. He is also one of baseball’s most underrated hitters, with a .392 wOBA since 2017 that’s fifth best in the MLB.

One of baseball’s most notoriously streaky hitters, Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco is hitting his stride after battling injuries to open the season. Still only 32% owned in ESPN leagues and 49% in Yahoo, Polanco is a terrific injury replacement or medium-term stream. Ride him while he’s hot, especially against right-handed pitchers.

What to make of Hunter Pence and his 152 wRC+ to start the season? Frankly, I’m not quite sure. All of his xStats say that the performance is legit. And despite only one stolen base on the year, Pence still possesses upper-echelon sprint speed so double-digit steals could be in the cards. However, it’s difficult to buy into an injury prone 36-year old rejuvenating his career. Pence’s ownership levels are still in the 30-40% range, so take a flier so long as you aren’t dropping anyone of value.

Rafael Devers, who is still only 22 years old, finally seems to be coming into his own. His .331 batting average is third in the AL and supported by a .310 xBA that sits in the MLB’s 94th percentile. Devers is hitting the ball harder this season with a 92.3 mph average exit velocity, while also making more contact with a reduction in whiff rate from 27.6% to 22.9%. Owners in keeper leagues should hold Devers, but those in re-draft should think about selling high since he’ll likely struggle with power output. His 25.4% fly-ball rate is toward the bottom of the league, leading to a below average 4.7% barrel rate.

It’s not surprising that the Yankees placed Miguel Andujar back on the IL after a pitiful .102 xwOBA for the week. Andujar is currently contemplating season-ending shoulder surgery, a painful decision but one that is probably best for his long-term development.

It’s interesting how few owners latched onto Dan Vogelbach after his torrid start. His current ownership levels rest in the low-40% range in both ESPN and Yahoo. Thus, not many are in a position to sell high. Vogelbach’s .184 xwOBA in Week 7 could be a sign that he’s coming down to earth. Start thinking about a replacement.

While Michael Chavis capped off the week with tasty five-RBI effort on Sunday, his 17 wRC+ and .200 xwOBA during that span paint a bleaker picture. Chavis is a great piece for keeper leagues but is a sell-high candidate in redrafts given the helium surrounding him and the Red Sox offense right now. Don’t be surprised if his strikeout rate trends above 30% considering how little contact he makes.

Mike Moustakas owners are surely pleased with the 10 home runs and 26 RBIs he has on the season. Yet they should also get used to some protracted slumps. His 20.6-degree average launch angle and above-average pull rates will ensure 30 home runs by season’s end but will leave him exposed to stretches like the .220 average and .246 on-base percentage he’s posted since May 1st.

This is the third straight week that Javier Baez has finished in the top two in exit velocity on fly balls and line drives. Few other players in baseball possess his ability to hit any pitch in any location to any part of the ballpark. All of his xStats are improved over last season, indicating that his elite batted-ball authority can sustain his free-swinging ways.

Quick — who are baseball’s top five leaders in wRC+ in 2019? Bellinger, Austin Meadows, Christian Yelich, Springer, and … Mitch Garver? Surprisingly, the Twins catcher is sporting a 202 wRC+ and .747 slugging percentage on the year with an impressive nine homers in 91 plate appearances. But Garver is achieving his success by selling out for pulled fly balls, a tactic that likely won’t work long-term given how players like Zack Cozart, Brian Dozier, and Jonathan Schoop squandered after adopting a similar strategy.

While J.T. Realmuto’s .270/.333/.418 batting line looks mediocre, it is supported by an xStat equivalent of .305/.365/.517. Unfortunately, his traditional stats are weighed down by some poor luck on liners and fly balls. Realmuto will likely break out soon given a career-high 12.5% barrel rate and 90.9 mph average exit velocity.

Ronald Acuna Jr.’s eight barrels is the highest for any weekly review period this season and an indicator of a forthcoming surge. His .840 OPS to date is solid, but ultimately significantly below expectations given his 14.3% barrel rate and .398 xwOBA. At only 21, Acuna has accomplished the rare feat of significantly cutting his whiff rate (26.7% to 21.3%) while improving his already elite batted-ball authority metrics. The guy is simply a stud and is set to go off.

Reds outfielder Nick Senzel made quite the impression in his first full week of MLB action, smacking five barrels to go along with two home runs. While Senzel was always a highly rated prospect, there were questions about how much power potential he would possess at the MLB level. A 21.9% barrel rate to start his career answers that question.

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Nicholas Gerli is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Nicholas, check out his archive and follow him @nickgerliPL.

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