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Trend Tracking: Looking for Exit Velocity Upticks

It’s the home stretch, with many owners more aggressive on the wire than ever as the season winds down. With September upon us, the schedule and a player’s recent performance are more meaningful than at any other point of the season. With that in mind, I’d like to take a look at a few hitters who Statcast tells us have been amping up their exit velocity recently.

Ryan Zimmerman

Zimmerman may already be owned in your league- but if he’s not, he needs to be immediately. Since returning from the disabled list July 20, Zimmerman has slashed .311/.388/.598, offensive production that’ll play at any position. Zimmerman’s improved results have come with an improvement in the underlying metrics. Consider his average exit velocity by month.

He’s added nearly three miles per hour from his exit speed in May while simultaneously cutting his strikeout rate. What seems to be at the core of Zimmerman’s improvement? Pitch selection. Consider the pitches Zimmerman was offering at in the beginning of the season.

Ryan Zimmerman plate discipline

Versus the latter half.

Ryan Zimmerman plate discipline

Zimmerman’s become more discerning at the plate. In the beginning of the year, he was mostly offering at pitches on the outer half and at the bottom of the strike zone, if not below it. Since his activation, he’s done a better job of attacking pitches at the thigh and over the heart of the plate. Swinging at hittable pitches can improve a hitter’s contact rate, exit velocity and launch angle, and it seems that Zimmerman’s have. His swinging strike rate has decreased.

Ryan Zimmerman whiff rate

His exit velocity has increased, and his fly ball rate has as well.

Ryan Zimmerman exit velocity

Zimmerman’s always been a gifted hitter, and he continues to demonstrate a rare combination of average and power potential. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to find him on the wire, as he is in about 20% of Fantrax leagues still, you should grab him before it gets too late.

Under-the Radar Options

Let’s say Zimmerman is owned in your league already. Is there anyone a little more under the radar who’s shown a significant exit velocity uptick recently? The second half exit velocity leaderboards aren’t too dissimilar from what you’d expect, but there are a few notable players with strong batted ball skills unowned in a majority of Fantrax leagues. Aledmys Diaz offers shortstop eligibility, ranks in the top 35 leaguewide in average exit velocity since the All-Star Break and has cut back on some swing-and-miss problems that plagued him at the beginning of the season.

Aledmys Diaz whiff rate

Alex Gordon has hit for a little bit more power in the second half (boosting his ISO from .103 before the ASG to .153 after it), by ticking up his launch angle and batted ball speed. He’s still an underwhelming outfielder in a brutal home park for hitters, so pick your matchups wisely here, but he could be of interest in deep leagues with the Royals catching a mediocre collection of opposing pitchers the rest of the way.

Alex Gordon launch angle

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