Here we go, we have real data to work with! If you missed the series’ introduction article last week, I recommend you go back and give it a look here. Our goal is use statcast data to dive deeper into interesting trends we can act on in our fantasy leagues. Identify players trending up or down, and get in when the price is low and cash out when the price has peaked.
- Kenley Jansen’s early velocity readings are very slightly concerning. I hesitate before drawing conclusions from a pitcher’s first start, but relievers are a different animal given they have been working all spring at their expected workload. The “ramping up” explanation doesn’t hold up the same as it does for starting pitchers who rarely go beyond 60-70 pitches in Spring Training. Don’t sell in a panic, but pay very close attention to his next few outings. If the fastball doesn’t consistently sit 93-94 again, it might be time to move quickly.
- Cole Hamels could be a great buy-low candidate after a rough first start. The velocity appears down, but he gained strength as the game on and he started out with some excellent results until a collision with Joey Gallo in the second inning. The chart below shows Hamels’ velocity by inning and he clearly was getting better as the game wore on. It was a tough draw against the defending Houston Astros, and I expect him to bounce back nicely. Use these small sample size results to your advantage and see if you can get Hamels on the cheap.
- Alex Claudio is the only other name I’m paying close attention to on this list. I was skeptical he could continue his success at his 2017 velocity levels and if he has lost another 2 mph on a fringe fastball, it could be a very tough year. The Texas bullpen is still sorting itself out, but I’m going heavier on Kela and Jepsen shares and fading Claudio.
Launch Angle Shifts
- I love when a resulting list ends up being a hit list of player’s you’re excited about. Up and down this list are players I am high on, and early results seem to back up my excitement. Now an increased launch angle itself isn’t a recipe to success, too extreme of growth means the player is hitting too many fly balls, especially if it isn’t paired with an increase in Exit Velocity. So the right context is necessary when looking at this list.
- Gregory Polanco could be in for one heck of a 2018 season. His power dipped in 2017, but many projected his 6’5″ frame to add more power and his swing adjustments could bring it to fruition this year. If he continues to hit more fly balls and fewer ground balls we will see him surpass his 22 home runs from 2016 and set a new career high.
- The Tim Anderson breakout is looking legit. He’s hitting far fewer grounders, and pairing it with an 8.2 mph increase in average exit velocity. This could be a special season for the emerging White Sox as Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada form one of the best up-the-middle combos.
- Xander Bogaerts is showing improvement in the power department similar to Tim Anderson. If there is 20+ home run upside in the bat, he becomes one of the best values in fantasy this year.
- Leonys Martin is someone to keep an eye on during this next waiver period. He has been making great contact atop the Detroit lineup, but it has only resulted in one double in 11 plate appearances as of this data pull. He had a two-hit day on Monday and is someone to absolutely buy into now for a high-upside play.
Exit Velocity Improvements
- Jason Heyward is the biggest surprise on this list. For two straight winters we heard about Heyward’s re-tooled swing, and maybe he’s finally starting to see better results. It’s an incredibly tiny sample size this early, but if you look at the far right of this graph, you see his fly ball percentage is starting to creep up. If he can keep this up, he may be able to put up some big numbers in that Chicago Cubs lineup.
- Miguel Rojas is an intriguing name in deeper formats. Playing time is guaranteed in Miami and his early success against a studly Cubs pitching staff is encouraging. I highly doubt it lasts all year, but anyone looking for some infield flexibility could look Rojas’ way in NL-only formats.
- Robinson Cano and Mitch Haniger are crushing in the middle of the Seattle lineup. If Haniger is still hanging around in any format, he’s worth an add while he’s batting 4th and 5th for Seattle behind Dee Gordon and Jean Segura setting the table.
That’s all for now. I hope this data points you in the right direction on your early season hunches. Again, this will evolve and continue to become more valuable as we get a larger sample size for 2018. If you have any questions or suggestions for improvement, please don’t hesitate to reach out on Twitter (@BrianCreagh) or via email ([email protected]).