Statcast Risers & Fallers: Week 21 (Fantasy Baseball)
With fantasy playoff time on the horizon, it’s now more important than ever to find undervalued players for the stretch run. With that mind, let’s dig into this week’s Statcast risers and fallers!
Austin Slater, replete with a 90s Disney Channel TV name, is another young Giants outfielder making waves in 2019. Slater started the season in the minors and accrued an impressive 138 wRC+ in 70 Triple-A games. He has managed to best that since his early July MLB call-up, slashing .295/.408/.533 for a 145 wRC+ in 125 big-league plate appearances. His Statcast indicators largely back up this performance, highlighted by a .365 xwOBA and 53.7% hard-hit rate (third in baseball among hitters with at least 50 batted balls). In addition to solid batted-ball authority, Slater also has a bit of speed to his game, going 7-for-7 on steal attempts in an abbreviated season last year with San Francisco. Playing time is likely the biggest impediment for Slater, as the Giants have a surprisingly deep outfield. However, he spent nearly 40 games at first base in Triple-A this season and could supplant Brandon Belt if his struggles continue.
Largely forgotten in a deep Arizona infield, utility man Wilmer Flores broke out in a big way last week with four home runs, 12 hits, and no strikeouts in 20 at-bats. The performance increased his season-long slash to a robust .312/.353/.473. Unfortunately, the only reason he was able to accumulate so many at-bats last week was due to Ketel Marte’s nagging back issues. After smashing his 26th homer of the season Monday night, Marte seems back to full health, which will relegate Flores to a bench role once again.
Miguel Sano is logging one of the quieter bounce-back seasons in recent memory. After a lost 2018 that saw him produce a meager 83 wRC+ in an injury-depleted half-season, the hulking righty is bopping home runs at a career-best pace this year with 23 in only 77 games. Sano still has a lot of swing and miss to his game, evidenced by a 34.8% strikeout rate. However, his batted-ball metrics are arguably baseball’s best, with a 99th percentile showing in exit velocity, barrel rate, xwOBAcon, and hard-hit rate. Somehow Sano is still only 45% owned in ESPN and Yahoo leagues, so grab him if you want some extra power for the stretch run.
Despite playing half of his home games in Coors Field, where he’s produced a .305/.371/.568 slash line, Rockies infielder Ryan McMahon is still sitting on the wire in most leagues. Snag him up now if you have the chance. In addition to playing in a very favorable home environment, McMahon’s baseline hitting skills have improved considerably this season. He’s nearly doubled his barrel rate from 5.1% to 9.5% while improving his xwOBA from .281 to .336. With 19 home games on the docket for the rest of the season, McMahon is slated to provide fantasy owners plenty of playoff value.
Javier Baez is a frustrating player to roster. On one hand, he has one of the best natural swings in baseball to go along with extremely impressive bat-to-ball skills. On the other, he is one of the game’s most undisciplined hitters who swings at a shocking 42% of pitches thrown outside the strike zone. Baez’s raw talent combined with his lack of polish result in feast-or-famine runs. He is currently mired in an extended famine, posting a putrid .271 xwOBA over his last 100 plate appearances. But don’t panic — Baez had similar ruts last year (two separate low points of a .255 and .259 xwOBA over 100 PAs) and managed to climb out. Keep trotting him out there in the final weeks and expect a turnaround.
The Roberto Perez hype train has slowed to a crawl, as the Indians catcher has witnessed his OPS drop from a high of .874 in early July to a mediocre .772 currently. While he should be commended for a breakout season where he’s hit nearly as many home runs (20) as the previous five years combined (21), owners should consider looking elsewhere for catcher help at this point. Players like Francisco Mejia and Jorge Alfaro have more impressive underlying skill sets and are better bets to produce over the next several weeks.
Lost in all of the Aristides Aquino fanfare is the prolonged slump by teammate and former uber-prospect Nick Senzel, whose AVG is down to .268 on the year next to a middling .443 SLG. Senzel owners are certainly looking for more than the mere two home runs and four steals (two on Tuesday night) he’s earned since July 1. However, the Reds seem committed to playing him every day atop the order in center field. As a result, while the rate stats might continue to struggle, Senzel should provide some help in the counting-stat department sooner rather than later.
Milwaukee’s post-deadline call-up of 22-year-old prospect Trent Grisham slipped under the radar for most. However, the toolsy lefty hitter could be a boon for fantasy owners looking for a dose of power and speed in the season’s final weeks. Consider that across 97 Double-A and Triple-A games in 2019, he swatted 26 home runs and swiped 12 bases. Moreover, he has a 95th percentile sprint speed, according to Statcast, and the Brewers seem committed to batting him high in the order, with more than half of his starts (largely against righties) coming in the leadoff spot. Owned in only 10% of fantasy leagues, Grisham presents a potentially league-winning, under-the-radar pickup.