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Positive & Negative Regression Candidates: Week 3 (2020 Fantasy Baseball)

by Mike Maher | @mikeMaher | Featured Writer
Aug 10, 2020

When you look around the league, you’ll see household names with strange numbers next to them through the first few weeks of the season. Trea Turner is batting .186 with zero stolen bases. Cody Bellinger? He’s slashing .167 / .231 / .283 with two home runs through 14 games.

Anthony Rendon, Christian Yelich, Ronald Acuna, Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado. The list of superstar sluggers off to slow starts is seemingly endless. If this were April, this would be less concerning because of the marathon in front of us.

But we’re in the second week of August, and we’re already almost a third of the way through the season.

But if you have any of the players mentioned above, you drafted them in the first couple of rounds and shouldn’t be ready to pull the plug and trade them just yet, unless you’re swapping for another stud off to a slow start. Instead, we need to focus on players without the pedigrees or track records like the ones above and identify if their early struggles or hot starts are likely to continue.

Let’s get started.

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Negative Regression Candidates

Randy Dobnak (SP  –  MIN)
At first glance, Dobnak looks like the perfect waiver-wire candidate in redraft leagues for this abbreviated season. He’s allowed just one earned run in three starts this season. His FIP is reasonable. His minor league numbers? Solid at every level. This isn’t someone who made a couple of spot starts and only ran into some luck.

BUT…there’s more. His fastball sits at around 91 MPH, and he doesn’t have great swing-and-miss stuff. And if you start looking at his advanced metrics, they’re well below average across the board. The main thing working in his favor is his 68.2% groundball rate, but he isn’t missing enough bats or even limiting enough hard contact for his success to continue.

Feel free to stream him for his two-start week against the Brewers and Royals in deeper leagues, but don’t fool yourself into thinking you’ve found a reliable starting pitcher for the rest of the season.

Daniel Murphy (1B, 2B  –  COL)
It almost feels strange to point out that a player batting .372 is headed towards negative regression, but it needs to be said in Murphy’s case. After all, this is a veteran who hit .347 with 25 home runs in 2016 and followed that up with a .322 and 23 home run campaign in 2017.

Murphy dealt with injuries during the last two seasons, and, at 35 years old, looked like he might either be done or facing a steep decline. Before the National League adopted the DH for the 2020 season, there were even some potential playing-time concerns for fantasy owners to consider.

He’s having what looks like a career revival to start 2020, but here’s the thing. His BABIP (.448) and HR/FB (27.3%  —  and it’s only three home runs, but still) are both unsustainable. His 23.4% K% is nearly double his career mark of 12.3%. And his batted ball numbers, specifically his Exit Velocity and Hard Hit %, aren’t great.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t expect him to turn into a pumpkin and bat .225 the rest of the way. Just don’t expect a .320 average and 10 home runs the rest of the way. Now that he’s hot, you should float him in trade offers and see if another owner desperate for some production might overpay with an arm you can use down the stretch.

Positive Regression Candidates

Tommy Pham (OF  –  SD)
Tommy Pham is currently batting .236. But he is also 1) Leading the pack with five stolen bases and 2) Sporting Statcast data that looks like this:

He is owned in just about every league, and most fantasy owners are likely shrugging at the .236 average because of those precious stolen bases. But Pham is also cold right now, and those same fantasy owners watched his average drop 70 points this week.

Frustration and impatience lead to many regrettable decisions, especially when it comes to fantasy baseball. Reach out to the Pham owner in your league with an offer and see what comes back.

Sean Manaea (SP  –  OAK)
The name with some of the worst luck and best advanced metrics is Luis Castillo, but that was too easy. Everyone likes Castillo, that fastball, and those strikeout numbers. And sometimes, the research does the legwork for you when you’re looking for players to feature.

Enter Sean Manaea. Manaea’s ERA is a grotesque 8.03 right now. His 1.46 WHIP isn’t very inspiring either. But let’s look a little deeper.

Manaea’s xERA is just 3.42, and the 4.61 difference between his ERA and xERA is the biggest in the big leagues among qualifiers. Matthew Boyd’s 3.74 difference is a distant second. His FIP is a similar 3.37, and his xFIP is an even lower 3.18.

His BABIP is .375, K:BB is a cool 12.00, and his xwOBA of .298 is a full 60 points lower than his .358 wOBA. And if that isn’t enough for you, his BA-xBA is .321-.263 (.058), and his SLG-xSLG is .547-.433 (.114). All of these signs point to good (or at least better) things to come. Grab him on waivers or make a lowball offer before his current owner cuts him.

If you want to dive deeper into fantasy baseball, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Baseball Tools as you prepare for your draft this season. From our Cheat Sheet Creator – which allows you to combine rankings from 100+ experts into one cheat sheet – to our Draft Assistant – that optimizes your picks with expert advice – we’ve got you covered this fantasy baseball draft season.

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Mike Maher is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @mikeMaher.

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