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Fantasy Baseball Advice: Ronald Acuna Jr., Matt Olson, Corey Seager, Julio Rodriguez

Fantasy Baseball Advice: Ronald Acuna Jr., Matt Olson, Corey Seager, Julio Rodriguez

This article will be monthly and in two parts, one for Statcast risers and one for fallers. It will track trends for players in these categories throughout the 2024 MLB season and help managers target players for acquisition and identify players to avoid. The top Statcast value changers from the small sample that is the 2024 MLB season are below.

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The evaluation of fantasy baseball players has evolved with the introduction of more advanced statistics. In 2015, MLB installed Statcast in all 30 big-league parks. The modern Statcast, which has been in place since 2020, is run with Hawk-Eye technology commonly found in tennis to determine if shots are in or out of play.

Today, hitting stats like batted ball events (BBEs), average exit velocity (EV), barreled balls (BRLs) and hard-hit percentage (HH%) are available for players commonly used by fantasy managers. These categories help determine the quality of contact for MLB hitters, which is predictive of offensive production on the field and in fantasy lineups. For example, reigning National League MVP Ronald Acuna Jr. led MLB in barrels and was second in EV last season. Take a look here for details on Statcast categories.

Statcast Fallers

There are two sides to every coin. Unfortunately, most fantasy managers understand the hindrance of holding an underperforming player for too long. This edition of the top Statcast fallers will feature names not likely to return once more baseball is played. The trends discussed below are examples of things to look at during the 2024 MLB season as signs of hitting regression. The top Statcast fallers of 2024 so far are below.

Ronald Acuna Jr. (OF – ATL)

Ronald Acuna’s 2023 was unforgettable for his fantasy managers from a season ago. The now National League MVP led his league in total hits, was second in BA, fourth in HRs and swiped a fathomless 73 bags, 19 clear of second-place finisher, Corbin Carroll. Concerning Statcast, Acuna recorded the highest maxEV of any MLB player last year at 121.2. MaxEV is the fastest EV on record for each player. His EV of 94.7, or average exit velocity on batted balls, was second only to the 6-foot-7, 280-pound Aaron Judge. Acuna has struggled this year to make solid contact, recording zero BRLs and a receded EV of 92.0. Acuna led MLB with 86 total BRLs in 2023, which certainly contributed to his 41 HRs and 106 RBIs. He has yet to hit a HR with only two RBIs on 12 BBEs this season. With 12 BBEs, Acuna ranks 155th overall in the category after finishing fourth a season ago with 562. Acuna should return to form sooner rather than later but it is strange to think he has not landed the barrel on the ball through 23 PAs in 2024.

Matt Olson (1B – ATL)

Matt Olson took a significant leap production-wise in 2023 after appearing in all 162 games for the second consecutive season. Olson went on to lead MLB in HRs with 54 and RBIs with 139. These exquisite power numbers were fueled by his elite EV of 93.7, the third-best last year, and his ability to land the barrel consistently. The Braves’ 1B finished second only to his teammate Ronald Acuna Jr. in total BRLs with 73 and was seventh overall in Barrel%. Currently, Olson ranks 76th overall in EV at 91.2 and is yet to record a barrel. His hard hits (HH), a batted ball with an EV of 95+, are down as well. He has just six HHs and is 95th overall after tallying 245 a year ago, the sixth-best total in MLB. Olson will need to increase his pace with BRLs and HHs to duplicate his first-class slash line of .283/.389/.604 from last year.

Corey Seager (SS – TEX)

Baseball fans saw the best version of Corey Seager to date last year as the Rangers’ SS finished second overall to Shohei Ohtani in OPS at 1.013 and was also the runner-up for the American League batting title with a BA of .327. Seager’s Statcast metrics were also impressive. He was fifth overall in BRLs/PA%, sixth overall in EV at 93.3 and 12th in total BRLs. Seager’s EV is down to 89.0, which ranks 102nd in MLB, and he is still looking for his first BRL. Seager is lacking in extra-base hits as his SLG currently ranks 122nd at .353 after putting up the second-best (Ohtani) SLG across MLB last season at .623. Seager is pacing for BA at .353 early on. More BRLs will boost his SLG and get him back to doing the damage he is accustomed to.

Julio Rodriguez (OF – SEA)

Julio Rodriguez is the only player in MLB history to start his career with back-to-back 20 HR/20 SB seasons. At 6-foot03, 228 pounds, the 23-year-old CF appears to have the frame and skill set to be a top-end fantasy asset for the foreseeable future. Rodriguez’s size is a notable piece of the story when looking at his seventh-ranked maxEV of 116.7 alongside his 10th-ranked EV of 92.7 from last season. He also finished 20th overall in BRLs with 57. This all culminated in 32 HRs and 103 RBIs to go along with 37 SBs while slashing .275/.333/.485. Early 2024 has been a different story, however, with Rodriguez having zero BRLs and his EV down to 88.1. The Mariners’ CF is simply not hitting the ball hard. He finished third overall in HHs with 250 last year but currently ranks 138th with just five HHs so far in 2024 through 23 PAs. The volume of HHs is intriguing with Rodriguez but he will need to significantly improve his BA of .217 to produce premium fantasy output.

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