Notable Second-Half Performances For Three Veteran Hitters (2022 Fantasy Baseball)
Throughout a long fantasy baseball season, players experience natural ups and downs. While first and second half performances can feel arbitrary, it provides us with a glimpse into the peaks and valleys of a player’s performance. This week, we’ll look at notable second-half performances from three hitters that improved throughout the season. With the rise in fantasy production, we’ll examine the underlying metrics to see what changes or improvements they made. Then, of course, how to value them moving forward in 2022.
In the first half of 2021, Yasmani Grandal struggled with 14 home runs, 42 runs, and 38 RBI. Although the counting stats look solid, the .188 batting average stunk. However, Grandal thrives in OBP leagues with a .388 OBP and 24.4% walk rate with a 26% strikeout rate. Grandal’s batting average struggled based on the .189 BABIP, but he consistently showed elite patience with a 17.4% O-Swing%. He still crushed the ball, evidenced by a 14% barrel rate in the first half.
Meanwhile, Grandal’s batting average skyrocketed to .337, and the OBP jumped even higher to .481 with a 20.9% walk rate. Although the nine home runs, 18 runs, and 24 RBI rank lower, it came via 129 plate appearances compared to 246 in the first half. Grandal’s batting average jumped due to the .329 BABIP, and he showed a tad more aggressiveness with a 21.5% O-Swing% and 35.6% Swing%. Overall, it’s silly that Grandal went from a .363 wOBA and 132 wRC+ to a .476 wOBA and 209 wRC+.
Grandal’s 2022 Value
Throughout Yasmani Grandal’s career, he boasted quality walk rates and on-base skills, so it’s hard to expect much in the batting-average department. However, Grandal finished with career bests in barrel rate (83rd-percentile) and wOBA (97th-percentile). Meanwhile, Grandal’s 28.4% HR/FB% ranked as a carer high after under 20% the past three seasons (2017-2019), not including 2020. Regardless, we know Grandal possesses the power to hit 20-25 home runs with near full-time playing time.
Early STEAMER projections have Grandal with 26 home runs, 73 runs, and 72 RBI with a .235 batting average. The projected 536 plate appearances align with previous seasons, outside of 2020 and 2021. A couple of notable catchers nearby in early Draft Champions leagues include Dalton Varsho and Willson Contreras. Grandal and Contreras have similar profiles with 20 home run power at the catcher position. However, we’ve observed a longer track record for Grandal. Varsho remains the ultimate wildcard, with STEAMER projecting him for 16 home runs and eight stolen bases. However, there’s a chance Varsho doesn’t compile as many plate appearances if we have a healthy Grandal and Contreras in 2022.
Some of the best fantasy baseball players state to avoid drafting power early because we find it later. That’s especially the case with corner infield and first base, which we often see on the waiver wire even in deep 15-team leagues. Brandon Belt dominated in the second half with 18 home runs, 35 runs, and 31 RBI in 180 plate appearances from August and beyond. Belt had a .297 batting average, .394 OBP, and .690 SLG, plus a silly .444 wOBA and 183 wRC+. The barrel rate boomed to 18.8% in the second half, with the season-long rate at 17% – a career-best in the Statcast era.
Several folks have touted Brandon Belt so far, and the stats look silly.
HR/PA 2021 – 7.61%
HR/PA 2015-2019 – 3.07%
HR/PA Career – 3.49%
Career-bests in HR (29), HR/FB% (26.9%), & Barrel% (17%).
— Corbin (@corbin_young21) January 17, 2022
In the first half, Belt didn’t play poorly. Belt had 11 home runs, 30 runs, 28 RBI, and three stolen bases with a triple slash of .253/.363/.512 in 201 plate appearances. Even the 15.1% barrel rate in the first half looks solid, but Belt went scorching hot down the stretch. The main changes involve the plate discipline, with Belt’s Z-Contact% jumping to 83.8% from 75.9% in the first half.
The same trend applies with the overall contact rate from 72.7% to 79.1% Contact% in the second half. More loud contact helped him produce in the second half with wild HR/FB% of 25% and 28.1%. Like Yasmani Grandal, Belt’s 2021 HR/FB% ranked as a career-best, so we expect some regression in 2022.
Belt’s 2022 Value
We know the story with Brandon Belt – health and injuries. Although Belt only compiled 381 plate appearances, he smashed a career-high 29 home runs backed by the barrel rate. Sure, Belt suffered injuries in the past, but he still averaged 546 plate appearances per season from 2015-2019.
Usually, the ADP market reflects the player’s production from the previous year, but Belt’s Draft Champions ADP sits at 242 near Nathaniel Lowe and Bobby Dalbec amongst the first baseman. Overall, it feels like a fair ADP for Belt with an argument for Lowe based on possible plate appearances. STEAMER seems optimistic with Belt, evidenced by the 25 home runs, 77 runs, 69 RBI, and four stolen bases with a .243 batting average. If you align with STEAMER, eat up Belt at that ADP all day.
What if we said we could find a third baseman with over 600 plate appearances in 2021 that performed well in the second half. That’s the case with Jeimer Candelario, who finished with 11 home runs, 38 runs, and 48 RBI with a .282 batting average. Candelario finished the second half with a .882 OPS (No. 49) amongst all qualified hitters.
Throughout the entire season, Candelario totaled 16 home runs, 75 runs, and 67 RBI with a triple slash of .271/.351/.443. Those numbers look almost identical to Candelario’s 2018 season with 19 home runs, 78 runs, and 54 RBI. However, the main difference involves the three stolen bases with a dreadful .224 batting average.
Candelario’s Batted Ball Profile
So what changed for Candelario? The batted ball profile changed with a career-best 26.4% line drive rate in 2021 compared to a career rate of 22.4%. Candelario’s improved line drive rate boosted the BABIP to .333 to help the batting average compared to a BABIP of .279 in 2018 with a brutal 17.7% LD%.
Meanwhile, Candelario’s 9% barrel rate remained respectable in the 56th-percentile. As a prospect, Candelario’s hit tool stood out. That said, it’s positive to see that line drives and batting average improved, plus the continued above-average contact rates.
First & Second Half Changes
Outside of the counting stats and batting average improvements, Jeimer Candelario lowered the strikeout rate from 23.8% to 18.8% in the second half. Although Candelario’s strikeout rate improved, the contact rates slightly got better, evidenced by the 88.5% Z-Contact% and 80.5% Contact%. It’s only a slight increase via the 87.1% Z-Contact% and 76% Contact%.
The HR/FB% improved to 15.9% from 6.7% in the first half, likely based on the barrel rate jump from 7.2% to 11.1%. All that aligns with the power in the second half. Interestingly, Candelario’s line drive rate went from 27.9% in the first half to 24.9%. Even Candelario’s rolling xwOBA remained above the league average for most of the season.
Candelario’s 2022 Value
We have to point out the below-average Park Factors for Jeimer Candelario in Detroit. According to EV Analytics, the Tigers home park ranks 24th in wOBA at 0.98 and 29th in Home Run Park Factor at 0.83. That said, we shouldn’t expect much power from Candelario anyway, more in the neighborhood of 15-20 home runs.
Early STEAMER projections have Candelario with 19 home runs, 74 runs, and 75 RBI with one stolen base. They project the batting average to dip to .253 based on the .302 BABIP dropping. However, if the line drive rate sustains, which it should, Candelario could boast a higher BABIP.
Over the past couple of weeks, Candelario’s Draft Champions ADP sits right outside the top 200 picks at 212 near teammate Jonathan Schoop, plus interesting pitchers in Alex Wood and Anthony DeSclafani. Some folks say third base looks ugly in drafts, so look for Candelario as a corner infielder, not a starting third base spot in 15-team leagues.
Assuming a rotisserie format, make sure to target speed early if you select Candelario. However, we have two third basemen going right after Candelario that provide more power in Eugenio Suárez and Josh Donaldson. Although Candelario doesn’t possess the raw power skills, he’ll give us a better batting average with roughly 140-150 runs plus RBI.
Whether you’re new to fantasy baseball or a seasoned pro, our Fantasy Baseball 101: Strategy Tips & Advice page is for you. You can get started with our Sabermetrics Glossary or head to a more advanced strategy – like How to Make Custom Fantasy Baseball Rankings with Microsoft Excel – to learn more.