Statcast Risers & Fallers: Week 12 (Fantasy Baseball)
Week 12 was perhaps the most interesting in terms of Statcast risers. We have a great mix of old and new names atop most of the leaderboards. Let’s dig in!
I wonder what the odds on Howie Kendrick having a .600+ slugging percentage in mid-June would have been back in February. Maybe 1000-1? Nevertheless, the soon-to-be 36-year-old is in the midst of his best season as a pro, owning a 149 wRC+ and .986 OPS as an infield utility man for the Nationals. The scary thing is that it looks incredibly real, with Kendrick posting 97th-percentile or higher showings in xBA, xSLG, xwOBA, and hard-hit rate. Kendrick is still only 60% owned in Yahoo and ESPN leagues, so grab him now if he’s still available.
Scott Kingery quickly became an afterthought after a disappointing rookie season and an offseason that witnessed the Phillies add loads of talent across their lineup. But the 25-year-old post-hype prospect is getting another shot due to a variety of injuries and is currently making the most of it. Kingery smacked four home runs and three doubles last week, a surface-level performance backed by a .539 xwOBA. His batted-ball authority on the year is much improved over 2018 while his whiff figures are largely in line. Scoop him up and enjoy a player with 20/20 potential along with eligibility at multiple positions.
The much anticipated MLB debut of Yordan Alvarez went about as well as he and the Astros could have hoped. He dropped four home runs in his first five games, with three of them coming last week. What’s most impressive? He isn’t, like most call-ups who enjoy a hot streak, just a fastball masher. Two of Alvarez’s homers came off breaking pitches with the other two on changeups. Alvarez is one of the best hitting prospects in baseball and might even challenge for AL Rookie of the Year honors despite his late start.
Don’t look now, but after a sluggish start Max Muncy has dragged his 2019 rate stats up to last season’s levels. His batting line on the year now reads .285/.383/.552 and is supported by an xStats equivalent of .279/.377/.519. The biggest improvement the stout Dodgers lefty has made this year is a more patient approach against breaking pitches, shaving his whiff rate from 47% to 40% on the bendy stuff. Muncy is an underrated natural hitter who is capable of taking the balls to all fields for power. People should start appreciating him for what he is — one of baseball’s best hitters. His 156 wRC+ since the start of 2018 is higher than Alex Bregman‘s and all but four hitters with as many plate appearances.
It took a while for the uber-prospect to get going, but it looks like Eloy Jimenez has finally arrived at the MLB level after a three-home run, .493 xwOBA week. Harkening back to great righty hitters like Manny Ramirez, the rookie outfielder is able to take what the pitcher gives and inflict serious damage on the baseball to center and right-center field. Among hitters with at least 10 homers on the year, Jimenez’s 424-foot average home run distance leads MLB hitters. Impressively, none of Jimenez’s homers have been to the pull side, a sign of the 22-year-old’s prodigious natural power and advanced hitting technique.
Cesar Hernandez might be a tempting option given that he occasionally hits atop a strong lineup. However, his batted-ball authority metrics, measured by xwOBA on contact, have cratered for the second straight season in 2019. Moreover, Hernandez, normally a lock for 15+ steals, has only stolen four on the year. Managers in deep leagues that need steals could do worse than keeping him around for a little longer, but keep him on a short leash.
One of the quieter but still substantial fantasy disappoints in 2019 has been Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain. After racking up 90 R, 10 HR, 30 SB, and a .308 BA in 2018, he is hitting a mere .248 this season and is on pace for only 15 steals. Two principal issues are at play: Cain’s average exit velocity has retreated by almost 1.5 mph while his whiff rate has edged up. Most of his other batted-ball metrics, including his ground-ball rate and share of pop-ups and topped balls, have stayed the same. It’s difficult to assess whether the 33-year-old outfielder has entered a decline or this is just a momentary blip. Since the Brewers still seem intent on trotting out Cain as the leadoff hitter on a daily basis, I’d exercise some patience.
2019 is the year of revivals with the aforementioned Kendrick, Hunter Pence in Texas, and Pablo Sandoval in San Francisco. After starting the year mainly in a pinch-hitter capacity, Sandoval has worked his way into more consistent at-bats and has rewarded the Giants with a .290/.323/.572 triple slash. His xStats back up these figures, highlighted by a .286 xBA and .523 xSLG. However, as he has throughout most of his career, Sandoval owns a heavy righty-favoring platoon split. Most owners probably won’t have much use for the third baseman, but he’d be a good streaming option if the Giants are facing a slate of righties in a given week. Think about him in DFS as well.
Bryce Harper has attracted his critics after back-to-back seasons of heavy whiff and strikeout increases. However, his exit velocity, barrel rate, and xwOBAcon are all at four-year highs in 2019. Although Harper only has 12 homers on the season, Dan Richards‘ pHR metric suggests he should have 15 based on the quality and direction of his batted balls. Expect to see Harper begin to rack up long bombs as the summer air continues to warm.
Few hitters are as hot as the Padres’ Hunter Renfroe, who has smashed eight home runs already in June and 23 on the year. This binge also stretches back through last season, as his 45 home runs since July 1, 2018 rank second in baseball. However, there are definite reasons for concern. Renfroe’s .395 wOBA in 2019 is more than 50 points above his .344 xwOBA. Moreover, he is doing almost all of his damage off of fastballs given his .130 BA and .126 xBA on breaking pitches. Thirdly, he leads all of baseball by a healthy margin in fly-ball pull percentage. This combination of factors doesn’t seem very sustainable long-term. Renfroe owners should appreciate the success they’ve had and look to trade him.