Statcast Risers & Fallers: Week 20 (Fantasy Baseball)
Let’s dig into this week’s Statcast leaders and trailers!
Weekly readers of this column will be familiar with Gio Urshela, whom I recommended as a pick-up two weeks ago when he was still only 10 to 20% owned in fantasy leagues. Since then, his performance has exceeded anyone’s wildest expectations, with the third baseman posting seven home runs and a 305 wRC+ (yeah, you read that right) across 51 August plate appearances. His season-long wOBA of .400 is higher than Alex Bregman’s while his .385 xwOBA mostly supports the box score production. His profile at the plate this year is akin to a right-handed version of Rafael Devers — someone who combines low strikeout totals with an ability to slash the ball hard all around the field. Snag him now if he’s somehow still available.
The 25-year-old Aristides Aquino has burst onto the scene after taking over in the Reds’ outfield. He’s blasted eight home runs in 11 games and taken the baseball world by storm. Many people are left wondering, “Where did this guy come from? Is it legit?” On the positive side of the ledger, Aquino hit 88 home runs across various minor league levels since 2016, including 28 in a mere 78 Triple-A games this season. As a further testament to his underlying power, he has already clocked in two hits above 110 mph, including a 118.3-mph blast that is tied for the hardest-hit home run of the year. However, strikeouts in the minors were a significant issue, and they already appear to be so in the majors with a 28.6% rate. Pick up Aquino and ride out this hot streak, but be prepared for pitchers to adjust by the end of the month.
After a stellar rookie season with the Cubs in 2017, things have gone south for Ian Happ, who spent a 99-game stretch in Triple-A this year. But the versatile Happ, eligible at 3B and all three OF positions in most fantasy leagues, is back and making noise with the big club. Last week, he hit four home runs and two doubles to go along with 10 RBIs while a .510 xwOBA backed up the performance. The main drag on his fantasy value is potential playing time, as the return of Ben Zobrist is on the horizon. Worry about that later, as Happ’s power-speed combo and positional flexibility will force himself into Chicago’s lineup if he continues to hit.
Perhaps the most under-the-radar breakout in 2019 is Mets’ LF/3B J.D. Davis. The former Houston prospect owns an impressive .307/.373/.519 slash on the year that is supported by some eye-popping Statcast figures. Davis ranks in the 93rd percentile or higher in the following: average exit velocity, xBA, xSLG, xwOBA, xwOBAcon, and hard-hit rate. In fact, his .319 xBA is the second-best in baseball behind only Cody Bellinger. With both Dominic Smith and Brandon Nimmo out until at least early September, Davis has a stranglehold on everyday at-bats. He is still only 20% owned in ESPN leagues, so act now before it’s too late.
After a blistering late July, a 5-for-41 stretch in August has thrown some very cold water on the Adam Duvall hype train. Things only appear to be getting worse, as his .087 xwOBA last week is the lowest weekly rate for any player this season. Austin Riley’s knee issues likely mean that Duvall has bought some extra time in the Braves lineup, but don’t count on much production from here on out.
Franmil Reyes, a typical Statcast all-star, has displayed some issues acclimating to his new home in Cleveland. The good news is that the slump shouldn’t last long. His new home confines at Progressive Field are much friendlier on fly balls to right and right-center than Petco Park. That should help Reyes, who does much of his damage to the opposite field, eke out some more extra-base hits.
The strange Statcast season for Daniel Murphy continues, with his season-long xwOBA down to a putrid .277 (sixth percentile). Everything about his profile looks decidedly worse this year, including lower exit velocities and barrel rates along with increased strikeouts. However, Murphy has managed to stay afloat with a .284/.330/.462 triple slash due to some combination of the Coors effect and fortunate batted-ball luck. While the offense-boosting traits of his home ballpark are very real, especially this season, it’s difficult to see him sustaining a +.062 differential between his wOBA (.339) and xwOBA (.277) long-term. Sell now if you have the chance.
Two weeks ago, I wrote about Victor Robles‘ struggles and suggested that owners in re-draft leagues get what they can for him. Since then, Robles has gone 8-for-40 with a mere three extra-base hits, bringing his 2019 OPS down to a meager .734. Meanwhile, his 80.7 mph average exit velocity is now the second-worst in baseball after Billy Hamilton. While Robles provides decent stolen base production, he’s average to below-average in every other relevant fantasy stat, and the underlying metrics don’t inspire confidence that he’ll improve. His issues at the plate are getting to the point where keeper league owners should consider cutties ties if the right offer comes along.
The fairytale rookie season for Fernando Tatis Jr. continues, as the 20-year-old now holds a .969 OPS and 149 wRC+. His 96.0 mph exit velocity on flies and liners for the year supports the production, placing him in the 90th percentile of hitters with at least 200 batted balls. However, Tatis’ high ground-ball and strikeout rates have resulted in a .349 xwOBA that considerably trails his .403 wOBA. While his elite sprint speed allows him to score infield singles on low-value batted balls, his current overperformance will be difficult to sustain. Don’t be surprised if Tatis slumps to end the season.
While his first season in Philly has registered as a disappointment for many due to a below-expectations .844 OPS, Bryce Harper is doing a lot of things right according to Statcast. His 97.2 mph exit velo on flies and liners ranks fifth in baseball while his 14.2% barrel rate and .379 xwOBA both rank above the 90th percentile of hitters. A combination of the infield shift and a propensity to direct hard-hit drives to deep center has led to Harper underperforming the expectations set by his xStats. However, he’s poised to go on a tear if he keeps scalding the ball. Watch out for a homer bonanza to end the season.