Statcast Risers & Fallers: Week 11 (Fantasy Baseball)
Another week in the books means another round of Statcast Risers and Fallers. Let’s jump in!
Brandon Lowe had himself a week, going 7-for-20 and knocking two home runs while earning a .778 slugging percentage. Perhaps most impressively, Lowe only struck out three times. Despite a diminutive frame, he achieves outsized power figures by adopting a swing-for-the-fences mentality that prioritizes pulled balls in the air. The downside to Lowe’s approach is that he whiffs at a near league-leading 38% of pitches he swings at and strikes out at a 34% clip. While Lowe will go through peaks and troughs because of his style, he is a smart player to hold given his power profile and multi-position eligibility.
Tigers outfielder JaCoby Jones comes in second place with a .598 xwOBA showing as one of the more surprising inclusions on the leaderboard in recent weeks. He has teased a compelling power-speed combo since his days in the low minors with the Pirates, but he has never really put it together at the MLB level. That’s changing this year, as Jones owns 90th+ percentile showings in exit velocity and hard-hit rate while posting an impressive 12.7% barrel rate. He is currently on pace for 21 HR and 16 SB and is owned in less than 2% of ESPN leagues. Pick him up now.
Jay Bruce has more lives than a cat. With a career that’s looked like it was in the tank several different times, the 32-year-old keeps finding ways to stay relevant. Traded to the Phillies, Bruce acquitted himself well with his new team by smashing four home runs last week. He now owns an insane .366 ISO on the year and is on pace for 42 bombs. His xStats largely back up the box score showing, highlighted by a 17.9% barrel rate and .562 xSLG. Previously a pure fastball hitter, Bruce has become more well-rounded this year, sporting a .360+ xwOBA on fastballs, breakers, and offspeed offerings.
Miguel Cabrera sighting! Despite possessing a meager three long balls and .089 ISO on the year, Cabrera is still a good hitter who is spraying line drives all around the field and rarely making poor contact. His .142 xISO and declining ground-ball rate (49% in April, 47% in May, and 36% in June) suggests he’s due to hit more extra-base hits in the near future. Because of his name, Cabrera is still owned in roughly 50% of fantasy leagues. The owners that have stuck with him thus far should continue to hold, as improved production is around the corner. Those that don’t own shares shouldn’t necessarily rush out to pick him up, though.
If you want a great buy-low candidate, look no further than Justin Turner. Although he owns an xBA and xwOBA that both place in the 95th+ percentile of hitters, the third baseman’s six home runs, 31 runs, and 27 RBIs look fairly pedestrian. How’s that possible? Turner has been the recipient of a heaping dose of bad luck, with a .450 SLG that trails his xSLG by over 80 points. Check out Turner’s 2019 spray chart and marvel at all of the warning track fly outs and doubles off the wall. Some of those will turn into home runs in short order.
Michael Chavis has had a rough go of it recently. This is his third xwOBA trailers showing in the last five weeks. After a blistering start, the Red Sox second baseman’s free-swinging ways have caught up to him, with his astounding 39.5% whiff rate leading to a 32.6% strikeout rate. MLB pitchers have adjusted to Chavis, and now the onus is on him to adjust back. Given his impressive minor league credentials, I believe he can do it. It’s safe to drop him from your squad, but make sure to monitor his progress going forward.
Everyone seems to love Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado. And with a .329/.379/.605 batting line on the year, why wouldn’t they? Fortunately for Arenado, the thin air of Coors covers up some of his warts, such as a career-low 7.0% barrel rate and 37.8% hard-hit rate. Predictably, the lower batted-ball quality metrics have come with an improvement in contact skill, with Arenado lowering his strikeout rate to 11.2%. His profile now looks remarkably similar to the aforementioned Turner, just with the added benefit of a massive production boost in his home ballpark.
Trea Turner is a divisive player. Some fantasy owners love his speed and counting-stat accumulation atop the Nationals lineup. Others dislike his relatively average ability with the bat and fear that a lingering injury could sap much of his value. Fortunately, he seems to be making strides at the plate in 2019, owning the best exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and barrel rate showings of his career. If Turner can engineer 25-HR pop into his bat, he becomes a top-three fantasy asset. Let’s hope the batted-ball gains stick.
Combining data from the last two years gives Lourdes Gurriel Jr. a 9.2% barrel rate, .474 xSLG, and 44.7% hard-hit rate. Consider that each of those metrics ranks above Alex Bregman’s performance in that span, and you begin to see the potential Gurriel possesses at the plate. Of course, he also struggles to take a walk and whiffs at his fair share of pitches. But you could do a lot worse from a player with shortstop, second base, and left field eligibility.
Ryan Braun re-tooled his swing in the offseason in search of more fly balls. However, his 54.4% ground-ball rate on the season shows the changes haven’t manifested quite yet. Rarely does improvement occur in a linear fashion. Despite Braun’s worm-burner inclination, he owns 89th percentile displays in exit velocity and hard-hit rate. Moreover, he’s heating up in recent weeks with an impressive 98.4-mph exit velocity on flies and liners since mid-May. Perhaps most encouragingly, Braun looks healthy and is on pace for over 500 at-bats.
What’s gotten into Indians catcher Roberto Perez? After three seasons of posting a wRC+ in the range of 40 to 70, he is sporting a 116 mark in 2019 to go along with 11 home runs and a .261 ISO. He did much of his damage last week, smacking four taters while only striking out once in 19 plate appearances. I’m not sure what to make of this. On one hand, Perez is clearly a better hitter, as his 17 barrels on the year are already as many as he totaled in 2017 and 2018 combined. But on the other hand, the 30-year-old has never shown power potential in his career, even in the minors. If you’re in a deep league and desperate for help at catcher, give Perez a whirl. Otherwise, I’d hold steady.