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Players with High Standard Deviation in their Rankings (2020 Fantasy Baseball)

Players with High Standard Deviation in their Rankings (2020 Fantasy Baseball)

Boom and bust variance. It’s a thing that rattles drafters every year, and this year is no exception. Plenty of players are generating buzz on Twitter and in draft rooms for how wide of an outcome their seasons could result in. I’ve targeted five players below to further understand why their standard deviation is so large and to see if we can get to some truth. I will also toss in my projections for good measure. There are plenty of other players to dive in on that can’t fit this article’s capacity, so feel free to shout at me on Twitter @carmsclubhouse if you have questions leading up to your draft!

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Hitters

Christian Walker (1B – ARI)
Standard Deviation: 34.7 (Best: 106, Worst: 255)

I first understood how good Christian Walker could be last May. Walker hits the ball really hard. Like, top-six percent hard. He also barrels the ball up at an elite rate, which resulted in an expected batting average (xBA) and slugging percentages (xSLG) in the top twenty percent. From there, he had Paul Goldschmidt’s exact season.

So, where does the standard deviation come in? It’s mainly due to playing time. None of the public projection systems on FanGraphs have him garnering more than 553 plate appearances. Jake Lamb is still around and slated to be a depth piece at the corners, and super-slugger Kevin Cron is waiting in the minors. He also struck out 26% of the time (not bad, but room for improvement) and fared better against lefties than righties. There is indeed a path to Walker getting under 600 plate appearances, but I don’t see it as particularly likely. For one, Lamb sported an 80 wRC+ over 226 plate appearances last year and has also hit righties much better in his career, so a platoon does not seem likely. Lamb has been injury-prone ever since he broke into the league, so even if Lamb starts out hot, it likely won’t last long.

My Projection: 31 HR/85 R/ 87 RBI/7 SB/ .258 AVG

Khris Davis (UT – OAK)
Standard Deviation: 27.3 (Best: 146, Worst: 290)

Earlier in the offseason, I wrote about Davis’s miserable 2019 campaign. Judging by that standard deviation, along with his ADP of 169, the doubts haven’t quieted throughout the offseason. His poor spring (three hits 17 at-bats) isn’t helping matters. Many in the industry are viewing Davis’s poor sabermetrics as a real decline:

Exit Velocity Hard Hit Rate Barrel Rate
2018 92.5 MPH 47.8% 17.2%
2019 90.1 MPH 40.2% 10.1!

 
The projection systems still believe in him, and so do I. I’m a firm believer that his injury played a crucial factor in his poor performance for the remainder of 2019, and with a full offseason to heal, he should be back to his old slugging self. Davis also hits in one of the best lineups in the America League, and he should have plenty of run-scoring and RBI opportunities. While he’s not a spring chicken, Davis is not someone to shy away from at 32 years old, especially as a designated hitter.

My Projection: 38/84/104/1/.239

Marcell Ozuna (OF – ATL)
Standard Deviation: 20.8 (Best: 29; Worst: 130)

One side of the aisle (the negative side) looks at Ozuna’s expected statistics and realizes that his actual batting average has never quite caught up to his xBA, with the exception of 2017.

Batting Average xBA
2016 .266 .278
2017 .312 .287
2018 .280 .291
2019 .241 .288

 
The same side of the aisle also sees that Ozuna has eclipsed double-digit steals just once (last year) and has only topped the 30-homer threshold once. The other side of the aisle (the one that I have sat down in) sees Ozuna still having untapped potential and not having his career year yet. He will bat in an elite lineup, he has a good chance at maintaining his steals rate now that his health has improved, and he hits the ball extremely hard, having an xSLG in the top ten percentile.

My Projection: 32/88/103/5/.304

Pitchers

German Marquez (SP – COL)
Standard Deviation: 23.7 (Best:116, Worst: 296)

Marquez was a darling of 2019 fantasy drafts on the heels of a sterling second half of 2018. He went belly-up in 2019, however, posting a 4.76 ERA, 20.1% HR/FB rate, and decreasing his strikeout rate nearly four percent. In particular, Marquez’s slider went from very good to very bad.

% Usage Slider xBA Slider xSLG Whiff%
2018 21.1% .181 .261 42.4%
2019 15.8% .261 .519 38.7%

 
The key to remember when drafting Marquez is the following:

Coors Field is undefeated.

Now, it seems that people are suddenly realizing that he pitches in the best offensive environment in the league and are over-correcting as a result. In reality, his value lies somewhere between what we thought of him leading up to 2019, and his actual 2019 performance. Also, he’ll benefit from a less juicy ball in 2020. Marquez maximizes his value in best-ball leagues, and he could be a worthwhile SP3 in that format. In most other formats, I’m not drafting him as anything more than an SP4.

My Projection: 185 IP/ 12 W/ 4.02 ERA/ 1.25 WHIP/ 191 K

Zac Gallen (SP – ARI)
Standard Deviation: 22.9 (Best: 71; Worst: 190)

I’ll let one of my peers explain why Gallen was so good last year.

Others are lower on Gallen because of his lack of prospect pedigree (just one pitch projected to be above league average), and the fact that manager Torey Luvullo said that he’ll be competing for the last spot in the rotation. However, I’m not buying this. Gallen is, at worst, the team’s fourth-most talented starter. Gallen also pitched over 170 innings between the majors and minors last year, so there’s no need for the Diamondbacks to take it slow with him. Combined with Luke Weaver’s workload concerns and Mike Leake’s injury, I’m expecting Gallen to stay in the rotation all year and be a top-45 starter.

My Projection: 170/11/3.79/1.28/190

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Carmen Maiorano is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Carmen, check out his archive and personal fantasy blog and follow him @carmsclubhouse.

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