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Fire & Ice: Mister Anderson Is The One

Fire – Tim Anderson

Oh boy is it ever easy to bypass a generically named baseball player. Tim Anderson isn’t one in a million, he’s one of a million. Give me someone – anyone – from the 1931 Brooklyn Robins baseball team. Dazzy Vance! Sloppy Thurston! Pea Ridge Day! Van Mungo! Man, back in 1931 baseball names were baseball names. Now we have Tim Anderson. Sigh. On the bright side though, Mister Anderson (which can only be said like Agent Smith from The Matrix series) has been hot fire this year. There are currently only four players in MLB who have both double digit homers and steals: Mike Trout (shocker), Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, and…Tim Anderson. One of these things is not like the others.

Despite plenty of shortcomings, Anderson did provide plenty of value last year. He gave you 17 home runs and 15 steals over 146 games, which by itself is pretty valuable these days. However, his total lack of plate discipline led to just a .276 OBP and 72 runs scored. He was dead last among qualified hitters in 2017 in K/BB, with a 0.08 mark that made even Rougned Odor look like Joey Votto. Additionally, parsing out the power without the speed, 17 homers doesn’t do much these days. There were 117 players who hit 20-plus home runs in 2017, putting Anderson squarely behind the primary fantasy relevant players.

This year that power is way up. His ISO has gone from .145 last year to .209 in 2018. What’s behind this jump? His fly ball rate is up to 36.5% from his 28.5% career mark, and he is also pulling the ball more, with a 47.1% pull rate up from his 43.4% career rate. Despite those efforts and a friendly home ballpark, it’s hard to see him maintaining his 19.3% HR/FB rate. His hard contact is well below league average at 28%, so a return to his career 14.9% HR/FB seems more likely the rest of the way.

While the power should slow, the speed is very much for real. Last year he attempted just 16 steals despite being caught only once. So far in 2018 he is already 13/14 in stolen base attempts, and could easily push 30 by the time the season wraps up. Part of that success is aggressiveness, but another part is his improved plate discipline. He has more than tripled his walk rate to 7.8% while cutting his strikeouts down to 23.8%. That puts him on base more and gives him more chances to snag a bag. While the .304 OBP isn’t exactly ideal, it’s an improvement.

He has also improved his contact rate year over year. He’s gone from 71% in his rookie year in 2016, to 72% in ’17, to 75% this year. That’s more good news, especially keeping in mind he’s just 24 years old. He’s shown gains against same-sided pitching as well, improving his wRC+ against righties to 94 from a horrid 64 mark in 2017.

So while the power pace will slow, you’ll get plenty of speed out of him the rest of the way. That’s valuable enough these days, where steals are harder to come by than ever. He might only be a .250/.300/.425 hitter overall, but he has an outside shot at a 20/30 season in 2018. That needs to be owned in all formats.

Ice – Gary Sanchez

If you’ve been a Gary Sanchez owner over the past several weeks, this is how you’ve felt.


Ouch. Since May 21st, Gary Sanchez has a .128/.241/.170 slash line with 0 HR, 5 R, and 2 RBIs. Drafted as easily the best hitting catcher in baseball, few can say they saw a slump of this magnitude coming. To date on the season, his average is barely over the Mendoza line at .201. So what is behind the recent struggles at the plate?

Digging deeper into Sanchez’s recent production, or rather lack thereof, doesn’t immediately give you the warm fuzzies. His hard contact rate is an astonishingly low 12.5%. That alone tells you something is very much amiss, since this is a span of 54 PA’s over 13 games. A small sample to be sure, but enough to be alarmed. The other huge issue lies in his batted ball distribution, specifically his popup rate – 53.8%. That is ludicrous. He is getting under everything, perhaps in an effort to get the ball in the air to hit for more power. Clearly, this approach is far too extreme since popups are auto-outs, and his line drive rate is a paltry 12.5%. Line drives have the highest BABIP’s while popups give you a BABIP of zero, so this explains why he has a .188 BABIP over this span.

Why is he so out of it at the dish? Yankees hitting coach Marcus Thames indicated that Sanchez was pressing, trying to “get four hits with one swing.” It could definitely be a case of a young hitter trying to do too much. While he has been seeing more pitches outside of the zone and fewer fastballs overall, he has been able to lay off them well enough, with a 31% chase rate. The contact he’s making on them is just worse. Last year he slugged .451 on breaking pitches with a 37.5% whiff rate. This year those numbers are at .315/43.7%.

It’s hard to imagine Sanchez simply lost the eye for making hard contact. It’s hard to say for sure if it’s something mechanically off, if he was trying to alter his launch angle, or if he is just over-swinging and trying to do too much. Regardless, unless he’s hiding an injury, this looks like something that he will pull out of. He is still 19th in MLB on the barrels per plate appearance leaderboard. He’s still walking a lot and hitting for power on the season as a whole, with a 12.4% walk rate and .254 ISO. His xwOBA says he’s underperforming as well, with a .372 xwOBA compared to his actual .326 wOBA. The R+RBI will largely be there through thick and thin since the Yankees have such a great lineup (2nd in MLB in total runs scored). This represents the best opportunity you’ll have to buy low on the best hitting catcher in baseball.

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