Statcast Review: Hitters to Target (2023 Fantasy Baseball)
There are many lenses to view statistics through. Statcast is one helpful tool for gamers to look at when ranking hitters. Exit velocity, barrel rate, hard-hit rate and expected stats can aid gamers in unearthing appropriately and potentially undervalued hitters. Yet, Statcast also tracks sprinting data. The following players stood out when looking at Statcast leaderboards on FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.
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Hitters to Target Based on Statcast Data (2023 Fantasy Baseball)
Jazz Chisholm (2B – MIA): 47.2 ADP & 51.6 ECR
Sadly, a stress fracture cut Chisholm’s 2022 season short after 60 games. Still, the toolsy middle infielder had an opportunity to show off his impressive combination of power and speed. According to FanGraphs, Chisholm hit 14 homers, stole 12 bases and had a .254 batting average.
A 27.4 K% hampered his batting average. Nevertheless, the power and speed are legitimate. Per FanGraphs, Chisholm had the ninth-highest Barrel% (16.6%) out of 469 players with at least 100 plate appearances last year. And, according to Baseball Savant, Chisholm’s 29.2 feet/second sprint speed was the 38th-fastest out of 582 players with at least 10 opportunities. Gamers searching for power and speed at the end of the fourth round or top of the fifth round can pull the trigger on Chisholm.
Corey Seager (SS – TEX): 51.0 ADP & 45.8 ECR
Seager was remarkably unlucky last year. According to Baseball Savant, the veteran shortstop had the ninth-highest negative difference between his actual batting average (.245) and expected batting average (.283 xBA) among players with at least 100 balls in play. Per FanGraphs, Seager had a .297 batting average and .336 BABIP in 2,710 plate appearances in The Show before 2022. Then, his batting average and BABIP cratered to .245 and .242, respectively. Drafters and rankers justifiably overlook Seager’s lousy luck on batted balls in 2022, and Zeile projects Seager for a .277 average. Seager’s average draft position (ADP) and expert consensus ranking (ECR) are in the right ballpark.
Oneil Cruz (SS – PIT): 74.4 ADP & 79.7 ECR
Cruz has prodigious power and blistering speed. Unfortunately, his swing-and-miss issues were reflected in a 34.9 K% in 361 plate appearances for the Pirates last year. Fortunately, Cruz had a 10.6 BB% and 22.8 K% in his final 549 plate appearances in the upper minors. So, if he can whittle his strikeout rate to a high-20% mark, Cruz can be a fantasy force.
Cruz’s power is Giancarlo Stanton or Aaron Judge-like. In fact, according to FanGraphs, Cruz’s maximum exit velocity of 122.4 mph was the highest among players who had at least 100 plate appearances in 2022, 2.6 mph higher than Stanton’s mark in second place. Cruz’s average exit velocity (91.9 mph) was tied for 29th, and his 15.5 Barrel% was 14th. So, the middle infielder’s power is off the charts.
He’s not some lumbering giant, though. Instead, Cruz has wheels. He had the 12th-fastest sprint speed (29.9 ft/sec). The youngster used his power and speed combination to jack 17 homers and stole 10 bases in 361 plate appearances last season. Cruz could surge to an early-round pick after this year if the light goes on for making more contact, making him a player worth aggressively pursuing ahead of his ADP.
Byron Buxton (OF – MIN): 87.4 ADP & 86.7 ECR
Buxton is the final of the power and speed dynamos in this piece. Unfortunately, the athletically-gifted outfielder dealt with various injuries last year, an unfortunate common theme for his career. As a result, Buxton had only 382 plate appearances and played in just 92 games.
He’s been a dinger-hitting machine when healthy in the previous three years, though. In his last 771 plate appearances, Buxton has clubbed 60 homers. During that stretch, he had a 16.4 Barrel% and 50.8 Hard%. Buxton’s power was on full display last year. He swatted a career-high 28 homers and had the gaudy Statcast data to support his power. Per FanGraphs, he was 10th in Barrel% (16.4%), tied for seventh in exit velocity (92.9 mph), 21st in Hard% (50.2%) and tied for 12th in Expected Slugging (.509 xSLG).
Buxton can still scoot as well. The speedy outfielder was tied for 43rd in sprint speed (29.1 ft/sec). Sadly, Buxton stole only six bases in 2022. He wasn’t caught stealing, though. So, Buxton still has the potential to swipe bags and could benefit from MLB’s rule changes that include a pitch clock and a limit of two pickoffs per at-bat. Don’t give up on Buxton yet.
Ryan Mountcastle (1B – BAL): 159.8 ADP & 134.1 ECR
Anyone glancing at Mouncastle’s stats might immediately chalk up his dip in slugging to the dimension changes at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 2022. Sure, the changes probably contributed to Mouncastle’s power slide. However, his batted-ball data indicates he was unlucky.
Mountcastle had the sixth-largest negative difference between his slugging (.423) and expected slugging (.509 xSLG). In addition, Mouncastle’s .250 batting average was 27 points lower than his .277 xBA. Thus, Mouncastle is a rebound candidate after an underwhelming 2022 season. Drafters are sleeping on Mouncastle and should consider selecting him any time after his 134.1 ECR.
Austin Meadows (OF – DET): 271.6 ADP & 257.8 ECR
Meadows’ first year on the Tigers was a nightmare filled with numerous obstacles. He had an inner-ear infection, vertigo, COVID-19 and soreness in both Achilles and dealt with mental health struggles. Meadows was also unlucky in his 36 games and 147 plate appearances in 2022.
Meadows had zero homers, a .250 batting average and .328 slugging. However, the Statcast data was more favorable. As a result, Meadows had the second-largest negative difference between his batting average and his .308 xBA and tied for the largest negative difference between his slugging and .460 xSLG. After an offseason to hit the reset button, Meadows is a worthy dart in the late rounds.
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Josh Shepardson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, check out his archive and follow him @BChad50.