I have to start this post off with a caveat: Tim Anderson’s value takes a major hit in OBP leagues (his BB rate last year was 3%) so take that into account if you play in one of those leagues. Having gotten that out of the way, I love Tim Anderson for 2017. In 431 PA in 2016 Anderson logged a solid fantasy line of 9 HR, 57 R, 30 RBI, 10 SB and a .283 AVG. Tim Anderson will be an up and down player in 2017 but he is virtually guaranteed to be the full-time SS and may end up in a very favorable lineup situation. Overall Anderson has a solid shot at being a top 15 or even top 10 SS and can be had at a late round price.
In 2016, Maikel Franco finished as the 19th 3B (according to ESPN’s player rater) with a fantasy line of 25 HR, 67 R, 88 RBI, 1 SB and a .255 AVG. Not bad but certainly not cracking the top 10 at 3B with that line. Franco is a near-zero in steals but has upside in every other category. Franco definitely needs to make some adjustments but the foundation is there for a 2017 breakout.
These three pitchers aren’t exactly sleepers but they are three guys I expect to own in a lot of leagues next year. All three have an elite K rate, an average to poor BB rate and an HR problem. Sounds like three guys to really get on board with right? However, if we look at year to year correlations for these stats it might start to make sense.
What this chart shows is that in terms of year to year correlation, K rate is strong, BB rate and HR rate are moderate and HR/FB has no correlation. Based on that we can reasonably assume that these players will maintain their elite K rates and will potentially see fluctuations in their BB and HR rates (with HR rate having the highest chance at fluctuation). FIP and xFIP are the best metrics we have that combine these three stats. Given that these are the three stats that the pitcher controls the most, FIP and xFIP should always take precedence over ERA. The main difference between FIP and xFIP is that xFIP takes the league average for HR rate because it assumes (as mentioned above) that HR rate tends to fluctuate and typically regresses back to the mean. What we have are three pitchers who should continue to strike out batters, and might see some positive regression in the HR and BB department. The three pitchers I’m talking about are Jon Gray, Robbie Ray and the SP I can’t quit Michael Pineda.
Statcast is pretty new to the larger sabermetric scene but it’s uses are already becoming relevant, in particular to the fantasy baseball world. The vast amount of data can be intimidating to parse and draw conclusions on. Luckily, there are others much smarter than myself who have already done the grunt work. Drawing from their work, can we identify potential HR sleepers for the 2017 season?
From Alan Nathan’s excellent analysis, we know that the ideal launch angle is between 25 and 30 degrees. Angles lower typically don’t have the loft to get out of the park and angles higher are typically flyouts. Alan also found that 95 mph seems to be the starting point for when batted balls in this launch angle range start turning into home runs. Using the fantastic search tool at BaseballSavant, we can now return some data within these ranges and run some numbers.
Way too early, certain to change positional rankings for standard leagues. Continue reading
All rankings based on ESPNs Player Rater.
1) Brandon Crawford finishes outside the top 20 at SS.
This one came close but ultimately a miss. Crawford finished as the 17th ranked SS. My main argument in the preseason was that Crawford was very lucky in the HR department and that forecast came true. His HR total dropped from 21 all the way down to 12. What kept Crawford inside the top 20 was 7 SBs and a .275 average. The average seems to be driven by a BABIP increase to .322 so I’m not very confident that he’s a .270+ hitter moving forward.
2) Gregory Polanco finishes as a top 15 OF.
A frustrating one as Polanco was the 11th OF going into the ASG with a fantasy line of 12 HR, 50 R, 50 RBI, 9 SB and a .297 AVG. Polanco paced pretty well in the counting categories but absolutely tanked in AVG hitting only .220 in the second half. His overall AVG finished at .258 which rated as a negative value on ESPN. Polanco’s 22 HR, 79 R, 86 RBI and 17 SB are all great. The average is what hurt him and there are signs that point to him being unlucky. His BABIP was .291 which is in line with his career numbers but a .291 BABIP with a 24% LD rate (league average in 2016 was 20.7%) and a 35.7% hard hit rate (league average in 2016 was 31.4%). Given Polanco’s speed, hard hit rate and line drive rate, I would expect his BABIP to be much higher. It’ll be interesting to see where Polanco ends up in the 2017 rankings but I will be buying him again.
3) Yan Gomes finishes as a top 3 C.
What a shit show. Gomes was hurt much of the year and only logged 264 PA but he was awful when he played with a triple slash of .167/.201/.327. He finished as the 74th best catcher in a season where the bar for catchers could not have been lower.
Result: 0/3 (this one should probably count for multiple 0s)
4) Billy Hamilton steals 80+ bases.
If only Billy Hamilton could stay healthy. After a disappointing first half in which Hamilton only stole 22 bases and looked like he was incapable of adapting his game, Hamilton took off in the second half with 36 SBs and a .293 AVG. Much of the second half AVG rise is due to a .378 BABIP but Hamilton also walked a lot more (10.7%) so maybe it’s not all luck driven. Hamilton was only able to log 460 PA this year but 58 SBs and a .260 AVG is more or less exactly what you’re looking for from him. Unfortunately it seems like he will never be healthy enough to make a run at even 70 steals.
5) Aaron Hicks goes 20/20
……8 HR and 3 SB…..killed it.
6) Either Max Scherzer or Carlos Carrasco win the Cy Young this year
Carrasco has no shot at this due to injury but was good when healthy with a 3.32 ERA, 3.72 FIP, and 3.32 xFIP. The drop in K rate is concerning as well as his injuries, but I’ll still be in on Carrasco in 2017. Scherzer has an outside shot at the Cy but it will likely end up elsewhere. Scherzer led the league in Ks (by 30) and WHIP, led the NL in Wins, and was 8th in ERA. It’s hard to ask for too much more out of Scherzer but there are two other candidates (Thor and Fernandez) with very strong cases.
7) Mookie Betts beats either Mike Trout or Bryce Harper on the player rater this season
Should have went for it and said Betts would beat both Trout and Harper. Betts finished as the #1 player on ESPNs player rater beating Trout (3rd) and crushing Harper (93rd). Mookie Betts is damn good. He finished with an insane line of 31 HR, 122 R, 113 RBI, 26 SB and a .318 AVG. His BABIP of .322 and HR/FB of 13.2% both seem reasonable. Betts should be one of the first players off the board next year and it’s very likely he will be a top 10 pick for the foreseeable future.
8) Xander Bogaerts hits 20 HRs
Xander Bogaerts almost doubled his previous career high of 12 HR with a 21 HR season. Bogaerts increases his average flyball distance from around 270 ft in 2014 and 2015 to 287 ft in 2016. His 11.4% HR/FB is likely a direct result of the increased distance. I’m not comfortable calling 20 HRs the new baseline for Bogaerts until we see another season like this, but Bogaerts is now a solid 5 category contributor and owners who have been patient with him were finally rewarded.
9) Cory Spangenberg finishes as a top 15 2B
Spangenberg only managed 53 PA in 2016 and finished as the 96th 2B. Nailed it.
10) Jake Arrieta and Zack Greinke finish outside the top 10 SPs.
Barely got this one with Arrieta finishing as the number 11 SP. Greinke was never a threat and finished as the 60th SP. Arrieta was on average the 3rd SP off the board and Greinke was the 8th. Bottom line is be careful with early SPs. It’s a fickle position. Everyone knew Greinke was due for regression but I’m not sure anyone thought the fall would be this severe. Greinke’s K rate fell and his BB rate rose leading to a 4.37 ERA. His 4.12 FIP and 3.98 xFIP don’t inspire much confidence in the future. Greinke is skilled enough to turn it around, but I’ll be avoiding him completely in 2017 without a heavy discount. Arrieta was disappointing as well. His K rate fell below 27% for the first time since 2013 and his BB rate jumped all the way up to 9.6%. A .241 BABIP and the great Cubs defense kept his ERA down and his 3.1 mark doesn’t look bad at all. However the 3.52 FIP and 3.68 xFIP are concerning for the future. Maybe the walks will be better next year, but if Arrieta pitches this way in 2017 we are going to see a much worse result. I’d be trying to move Arrieta in a keeper league as soon as possible.
Summary: 3/10 isn’t terrible. I had some really big misses (looking at you Aaron Hicks) but nailed my predictions on Betts, Bogaerts, Arrieta and Greinke.