The weather is beginning to turn for the better and a renewed sense of hope is in the air. Fantasy baseball is back and those of us who love the game couldn’t be more excited about it! The game has gone through many transformations over the years. We currently find ourselves in the early stages of unlocking the secrets behind advanced analytics. There are some intelligent people out there doing incredible work in the baseball community. Their innovation and willingness to share their gifts and support each other only continue to grow the game.
A difference between now and when I played my first league is the introduction of prospects to the game. It brought an entirely new element to fantasy baseball and opened the door for some intriguing dynasty leagues. To this day, there are mixed feelings about how to best utilize prospects in fantasy leagues. Some people see them as essential for long-term success. Others see them as nothing more than trade pieces to help them win right now. Regardless of what side of the fence you are on, there’s little doubt that prospects have become a big part of the fantasy experience. Becoming familiar with them can help you either way.
Like building a team through the draft, several different approaches can work with prospects. If your league values pitching, then consider bumping them up. If you value players that are closer but may not have as much upside, pay attention to ages and ETA. Prospects are mostly about projecting the future and figuring out how their skillsets could play a role in fantasy baseball down the line. It’s important to factor in your specific league categories as well. Certain prospects rise and fall depending on the categories being used. There are so many different ways to evaluate players making it such an interesting puzzle to try and put together.
I will be writing articles throughout the season discussing this list and the movement of players as more data becomes available. As a general guideline, here are some of the factors that go into this list…
1. I weigh upside over proximity to the Major Leagues. My approach is more tilted towards discovering future game-changing players. Someone who is on the verge of a promotion, or already has a job secured definitely gets a boost up the rankings. But the players with special skillsets get a lot of respect from me, even if their track record isn’t yet established.
2. While Minor League stats do have value, they are just a part of the process. There is so much development happening at this stage of their career that I don’t always find it to be an accurate way to gauge future fantasy value. Different leagues and parks also increase or suppress production, so it’s important to know the difference between legitimate improvements and being aided by offensive-heavy parks.
3. Age vs. Level is something I have used for many years to discover potential gems or avoid landmines. Simply put, a 19-year-old who is tearing through Double-A carries significantly more weight than a 23-year-old at the same level. Prospects who are much younger than their competition tend to have a lot of potential and upside, even if the statistics don’t necessarily look appealing.
4. Projecting positions for prospects can be tricky, as a lot of them end up moving to a different spot once they’ve been promoted. It is important to understand the general defensive skill set of the players. As we all know, there are certain positions that have more depth in the Majors. Prospects who can fill one of those spots have a higher floor and less pressure to reach certain statistical thresholds.
5. There is a long track record showing that hitting prospects are less risky than pitching prospects. While I’m not dismissing pitching as an important element of the game, I do take a more conservative approach with them relative to hitters. If you see pitchers ranked aggressively on this list, that should be taken as a sign I am particularly high on them.
Without further ado, I am pleased and honored to reveal the Top 300 dynasty prospects for RotoFanatic. I will be updating the list throughout the season, and we will expand it further and add more features. I appreciate your time and we hope you will bookmark this list and reference it for all of your dynasty needs.
Building on my expected batting average by type of pitch analysis from last year, I’ve decided to take a look at an advanced statistic that stabilizes faster and is more predictable than batting average, and tells us much more about a player. Enter the fastball barrel board. Looking at barrel rate trends over the last few years can tell us a lot about skills growth and decline, and which hitters to take notice of. To do this analysis, I’ve compiled a list of players who had at least one barrel in both 2018 and 2019/2020 combined – 477 hitters in total – into an interactive scatter plot:
Click the picture to go directly to the interactive trend analysis.
The x-axis shows the percent increase/(decrease) of barrel rates on fastballs from 2018 to 2019/20 combined. For example, you’ll see that Miguel Sano increased his barrel rate an absurd 13% in that timeframe. The y-axis shows the 2019/20 combined barrel rate on fastballs. Sano’s was 24%, nearly tops in the league. If you haven’t already looked, I bet you can’t guess who had a better barrel rate than him! If a player has a dark green circle, this means that the player has an elite barrel rate – we don’t care so much about the trend analysis. If the shade is light green, this player has an average or plus barrel rate, along with an increase in barrel rate from 2018 to 2019/20. If the shade is yellow, that player has an average barrel rate with a declining barrel rate. Finally, if you have a red circle, you should just go home, because this means the player’s barrel rate on fastballs is awful and/or they had a significantly declining barrel rate.
A few things that you should know. I’ve combined 2019 and 2020 into one data set, since 2020 was too small of a sample to analyze separately. When applicable, we can dive into massive differences between 2019 and 2020. Mystery man from above, could that be you?
I’ve decided to look at fastballs first, since fastballs have the highest barrel rate and are thrown the most (at least for now). For your reference, the average barrel rate in 2019/20 on fastballs was 8.55%, 7.18% on breaking balls, and 6.84% on offspeed pitches. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Fastballs are the fastest pitch, so if you hit one of those, the ball should leave the bat at a higher speed and create a barrel more often than typical secondary pitches.
My advice to you, the reader? Play around with it. Use the filters and have some fun. Go search for the Minnesota Twins with the “Team” filter on the right, and see how many players increased their barrel rate from 2018 to 2019/2020. Hint: it’s quite a bit. What was in the water in the Twin Cities? You can also use it to filter by position, to see where your favorite third base sleeper stacks up against the competition.
When you come back from messing around with the data, you’ll find three guys below who have high barrel rates on fastballs, and we tie them into the #DataMonster to see what helped drive that barrel rate, and then finally, look at their pitch mix to determine if, based on their results, they may see a change in pitch mix going forward.
Gary Sanchez (C – NYY)
2019/20 FB barrel rate: 25%
2018 vs. 2019/20 increase: 5%
The mystery man himself! Sanchez has a history of having trouble making contact, but absolutely mashing when the bat does meet the ball. The jump from 2018 to 2019/20 seems to be from a two MPH increase in average exit velocity. In fact, he averaged nearly 95 MPH off the bat on fastballs in 2020, which ranked tenth in all of baseball. He also dropped his launch angle from 24 degrees to 18 degrees, which is the recipe for a great barrel rate.
What doesn’t make sense is his .000 average on 30 fastballs down the middle in 2020, the chart on the left below.
I believe that Sanchez’s true colors are more in line with 2019 (on the right), which has over double the sample size of pitches. The #DataMonster shows us that Sanchez swings and misses a whole bunch, which we already knew. In fact, he ranks as one of the league laggards in that department, which we can see below. These are percentile rankings, not actual whiff rates.
On top of that, based on pitch location/type/count, he doesn’t swing at enough pitches in the zone, and swings at too many pitches out of the zone. His lack of controlling the zone resulted in a swinging wOBAcon of 9% better than all the pitches he saw, consistent with both 2018 and 2019. Unfortunately, this ranks in the bottom third of the league. Putting the finishing touches on, we can see that Sanchez’s xlwOBA (expected woBACon based on pitch location/type/count) was better than 2018 and 2019, but still ranked in the bottom quartile of the league. This solidifies his terribly low average, high slugging floor.
I’ve painted a relatively bleak picture for Sanchez. The one silver lining in his down 2020 is that perhaps as a result of having lower success on fastballs in a small sample, he saw a four percentage point increase in fastballs from 2019 (and a three percentage point increase from 2018). Based on his lack of success, this trend could definitely continue, and Sanchez could easily take advantage, since he crushes fastballs over a larger sample. Was his 2020 really bad? Yes, of course it was. However, it doesn’t seem like a true reflection of his talent, based on the underlying skills. If he continues to see an increase in fastballs, he could reemerge as a top-five fantasy catcher.
It’s important to note that Lowe had just 18 total barrels in 2018, but his monstrous fastball barrel rate is a talking point in itself. There’s a lot of controversy surrounding Lowe on Fantasy Baseball Twitter, ranging from pointing out his playoff struggles to his platoon splits. However, a barrel rate in the top two percent of the league, fueled by the 21% barrel rate on fastballs, should get him ample playing time to hit 35 bombs. He posted a 94.7 MPH average exit velocity on fastballs in 2020, the same as Sanchez. That means that, according to FanGraphs hard-hit rate, he hits a fastball hard nearly half the time. And we’re worried about playing time?
According to the #DataMonster, Lowe also struggles with whiffs, as he whiffs more than Sanchez overall. In fact, he’s been in the bottom 10% of all hitters in terms of Whiff Influence (In_Whiff) for his career. This fits his swing and miss profile, given that he whiffs more than we might expect.
However, 2020 was his best season by Whiff Influence, as he was in the 9th percentile. However, he also saw the highest xWhiff of his career (11th percentile). So this suggests that since xWhiff can fluctuate a decent amount, it could trend back towards league average. If he maintains his small Whiff Influence gains, we could see his actual Whiff rate continue to improve. Maybe there’s upside here that we aren’t considering, which would raise his batting average and provide even more upside to his tantalizing power.
Finally, Lowe doesn’t see a lot of fastballs – just 47.4% in 2020, which was consistent with 2019. Based on my research last year, the average major league hitter sees fastballs about 55% of the time. So, Lowe is likely to see more fastballs in his future than less. His minor league track record suggests he can continue to lower his strikeout rate. If he saw even more fastballs, potentially by lowering that whiff rate, he could develop into a top-30 overall player.
Harrison Bader (OF – STL)
2019/20 FB barrel rate: 16%
2018 vs. 2019/20 increase: 9%
This is one of the last guys I expected to see on this list. But, here we are. Similar caveats apply with Bader as they did to Lowe, as Bader only had 18 barreled balls in total in 2018. There’s also concern that he struggles severely on non-fastballs, as evidenced by his four total barrels on secondary pitches in 2020. However, the fact that he mashes fastballs is a great sign.
So, how did Bader get here? He upped his average exit velocity on fastballs nearly three MPH, and cut down on the whiff rate drastically. His 2019 was much better than his 2020, but after seeing just 286 fastballs in 2020, I’m looking more at his 2019 success on fastballs.
Diving into the #DataMonster, Bader’s relative lack of success stems from being too passive at the dish, which has been a problem throughout his career. This is one tweak he needs to work on to stay in the lineup. Given how hard he hits fastballs, he should be able to sustain success by making this adjustment.
Finally, Bader saw about the league average in fastball usage over the past three years. Based on his success on fastballs relative to secondary pitches, we should expect a decrease in fastballs moving forward. At least, that’s what I would do if I was a team game planning for him. A decrease in fastballs could mean a lower hitting floor, which is concerning given the existing holes in his hitting profile. With that said, his superior defense, baserunning ability, and knack for hitting fastballs hard should keep him in centerfield. He’s going past pick 500 in NFBC drafts since the calendar turned, meaning there is zero risk here. If Bader simply continues to show this success on fastballs while being more aggressive in the zone, he will likely be a value by the end of 2021.
We hope you identified some players who are making you dig deeper and up your fantasy baseball knowledge. Let us know who you want us to do a deep dive on next, based on your barrel board observations!
Every year, there are hitters and pitchers who report to Spring Training with what is initially deemed a “small” injury, only to have that injury linger throughout February, into March, and soon enough, they are out multiple weeks in April. In a season unlike any other, we got to see how players with those types of injuries recovered throughout the early summer in time to prepare for a shortened 60-game season. Below, we’ll take a look at how those players fared individually, along with some overall takeaways that we can use to prepare for 2021 drafts. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be able to easily identify if pitchers or hitters are better bets to bounce back after mild injuries.
Back in February, Paxton had a microscopic lumbar discectomy, and was slated to miss the start of the full 162-game season. With the delay, Paxton was able to get healthy and get in game shape. However, he went on the IL with a strained flexor in his left forearm on August 24th, and would not pitch again. While Paxton gave up three earned runs in every one of his five starts, two of them came with 20 strikeouts total. The writing was on the wall with this one, however, as his velocity dipped three miles per hour from 2019, as evidenced by the below graph from Baseball Savant.
Paxton’s agent, Scott Boras, was quoted recently as saying that Paxton “simply needed another few months to get back to his normal form.” This quote is confusing, since he was allotted additional time to rehab with the delayed season. If this was the case, why was he brought back in the first place?
While it sounds like Paxton should be ready for 2021, we’ve heard that song before. Paxton has eclipsed 150 innings just twice in his career, and one of those was 150.2 innings. With all the injuries the soon-to-be 32-year old has faced, I will be out on him next season.
Verlander was facing a lat injury and a groin injury in spring training, with the lat injury stemming from changing his mechanics as a result of the groin injury. Of course, we know that he suffered an additional injury, as he had Tommy John surgery and is out until 2022.
In hindsight, it was probably foolish to rank a 37-year old pitcher coming off of two injuries during Spring Training in the top five. Of course, Verlander would be the one pitcher to defy expectations, and we gave him the benefit of the doubt.
Clevinger, as he often does, adds an interesting twist to this exercise. Clevinger had surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus in mid-February, and was expected to miss six-to-eight weeks. He ended up returning on time in the shortened season. We don’t need to go too in depth on what happened next, but he missed three starts as a result of breaking team protocol.
After he was traded to the Padres, he then sprained his right elbow. After not pitching in the Wild Card Series, he was removed less than two innings into his NLDS start with the same issue. While we don’t know for sure, the initial elbow injury could have come about as a result of compensating for his knee injury. Pitching through the injury was not a good idea. Between Clevinger and and Verlander, we should give heightened attention to lower body injuries, as pitchers are not out of the woods just because their initial injury wasn’t an upper body one.
His status for 2021 is uncertain. Given that he said that it feels like “his bones are hitting the back of his elbow,” I will be out on him for 2021.
Hill underwent elbow surgery in November last year, and was slated to miss half of the season. With the shortened season, he was able to start the season on time. However, he then suffered from arm fatigue and missed a few starts in August.
Hill’s strikeouts disappeared, largely due to a velocity dip.
As a result of this lower velocity, he induced less whiffs, and his strikeout rate dipped nearly ten percentage points from 2019. While Hill has always been injury prone, he was able to rack up strikeouts when he took the mound. However, given that he’s going to be 41 in 2021, this is likely his new velocity. He won’t be more than a bench starter next year.
Adalberto Mondesi (SS – KC) My Projection: 220 PA’s, 28 R, 8 HR, 26 RBI, 15 SB, .257 average What Happened: 233 PA’s, 33 R, 6 HR, 22 RBI, 24 SB, .256 average
Mondesi’s status for the full 162-game season was up for debate during draft prep season, as he was still getting ramped up after recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Mondesi ended up doing what we expected, as he hit slightly above average due to his speed, stole a ton of bases, and showed some pop. Sure, he delivered most of his value within a three-week span in September, but he should be given a pass given the weird quirks of the season.
As a right-handed hitter, his left shoulder is a source of power, much like how Kris Bryant’s power was sapped in 2018 after a left shoulder injury. While Mondesi has always had contact issues, he increased his average exit velocity from 88.8 MPH in 2019 to 90.6 MPH in 2020, which shows that the shoulder is healed. Moreover, his max exit velocity of 111 MPH ranked in the top-100, as did his exit velocity on flies and liners.
The Mondesi hype will be in our faces once again in 2021, and it looks like the hype will be worth it.
Eugenio Suarez (3B – CIN) My Projection: 240 PA’s, 36 R, 14 HR, 38 RBI, 1 SB, .267 average What Happened: 231 PA’s, 29 R, 15 HR, 38 RBI, 2 SB, .202 average
Suarez also had a shoulder injury, but on his right shoulder. He was able to rehab in time for the full 60-game season. His average exit velocity held constant, and like Mondesi, posted top-100 ranks in exit velo on flies and liners, along with max exit velo. Also like Mondesi, Suarez has some contact issues. He swung at balls slightly more than last year, and made less contact on strikes as well. While not a dramatic change, it was evident enough that he wasn’t able to make contact on pitches that he could drive. His injury likely didn’t have an impact on this part of his game. We know what Suarez is, and he will likely be a top-65 selections in next year’s drafts.
Aaron Hicks (OF – NYY) My Projection: 175 PA’s, 24 R, 8 HR, 24 RBI, 3 SB, .242 average What Happened: 211 PA’s, 28 R, 6 HR, 21 RBI, 4 SB, .225 average
Hicks had Tommy John surgery right after the 2019 season ended, and was expected to return mid-season over a full length schedule. The 60-game schedule afforded him the extra time to fully return for the 60-game season. The problem, however, was that he wasn’t very good.
Sure, he stayed healthier and played more as a result of other injuries (see below), but he wasn’t able to match the mild homer, RBI, and average that I expected. The main reason appears to be that he wasn’t hitting the ball as hard. Let’s take a look at how his small-sample 2020 compared to his last full season, in 2018.
Hicks was quoted as saying that he started to feel better towards the end of the season. Indeed, he had a strong postseason, going 8-for-26 with six walks to five strikeouts. His average exit velocity also improved over 2 MPH from August to September. With a full offseason to to rest, Hicks could come at a value in 2021 drafts.
Aaron Judge (OF – NYY) My Projection: 155 PA’s, 28 R, 10 HR, 22 RBI, 2 SB, .279 average What Happened: 114 PA’s, 23 R, 9 HR, 22 RBI, 0 SB, .257 average
Judge’s rib/lung issue was well-documented as we headed into Spring Training and even into Summer Camp. He promptly started 2020 murdering baseballs, hitting seven homers in a seven-game span early in the season. He then had two separate IL stints for the same right calf injury. He wasn’t very good upon his return, posting a 65 wRC+ in 43 September plate appearances. His struggles carried into the postseason, collecting just five hits (but four homers) in seven games while striking out ten times.
Judge is certainly his own case study, and applying him and his teammate below to this type of exercise isn’t particularly meaningful. Judge has demonstrated that he is injury prone, and yet drafters are excited for his potential in 2021. He has gone as early as 33rd in the #2EarlyMocks, conducted by Justin Mason. I will happily let him get scooped up by others at that price.
Giancarlo Stanton (OF – NYY) My Projection: 201 PA’s, 30 R, 13 HR, 31 RBI, 1 SB, .266 average What Happened: 94 PA’s, 12 R, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 1 SB, .250 average
Stanton was dealing with a calf injury of his own back in February. With the time off, he was able to return for the start of the 2020 season. He then suffered a hamstring issue that sidelined him from August 8th-September 15th.
Judging by his Statcast profile, nothing really changed, even in a small sample. Stanton put on a laser show in the postseason, and hit the second-longest homer of the season. He’s healthy…for now. The fact of the matter is that Stanton is injury prone as well, and will be discounted in 2021 drafts. The interesting thing is that he is going well after Judge, right around picks 80-110. I would much rather have Stanton 50 picks later.
Alex Verdugo (OF – BOS) My Projection: 200 PA’s, 24 R, 5 HR, 25 RBI, 2 SB, .291 average What Happened: 221 PA’s, 36 R, 6 HR, 15 RBI, 4 SB, .304 average
Verdugo had back injuries during Spring Training, and was expected to miss the first couple weeks of the season. He recovered to start in right field as a result of the delay.
Verdugo largely did what we expected him to do, shifting some of his RBI to runs as a result of batting leadoff full-time beginning August 18th (I had him projected to hit in the middle of the order). While this was his first “full” campaign, he saw a similar number of pitches in 2019. The trends show that he got significantly lucky, at first glance.
Average Exit Velo
While his 2020 numbers seem lucky, his extraordinary plate discipline means that he almost always will put up a great batting average. For purposes of this study, let’s examine how that back injury could have affected his play. Carlos Correa knows all too well what a bad back can do to exit velocity, as demonstrated by Eno Sarris. Verdugo’s max exit velocity (109.5 MPH) was 2 MPH slower than his 2019 max, as was his exit velocity on flies and liners (93.1 MPH in 2019 to 91.2 MPH in 2020). While this small dip could suggest his back was not fully healthy, the Red Sox would not have allowed him to get 220+ plate appearances on a tanking team without him being healthy.
He should fit somewhere into the 125-150 range in next year’s drafts, buoyed by that average and hitting atop a good lineup.
Outside of Verdugo and Suarez, every other player that we were concerned about during Spring Training in this exercise could be labeled as “injury-prone.” So, the main takeaway is to avoid injury-prone players. Duh. But, that’s not the point of this exercise.
Interestingly, Suarez, Mondesi, Hicks, and Verdugo had more of the “normal” years that we expected from them, while most of the others continued to have injury problems throughout the season. None of the pitchers stayed healthy. For 2021, that means I am going to be out on pitchers that get injured in the offseason and in Spring Training.
In 2021, I’m expecting even more injuries during the offseason and Spring Training as a result of the chaotic 2020 season. Players’ routines are out of whack, and it’s uncertain the types of facilities that players will have access to over the offseason. Keep this in the back of your mind as we navigate through offseason prep work!
Hader remains the best in the business. Hader has seven saves and 13 strikeouts in nine innings. He is elite, and he is continuing to use his slider more. Rumor has it that Milwaukee is listening to trade offers for him, but they would need to be blown away to move him.
Hendriks looks fine right now with a 12.7 K/9 rate. Hendriks has a firm grip on the job with ten saves, a 1.10 ERA and a .67 WHIP. He’s completely locked in for a terrific Oakland team. Deploy him daily/weekly, whatever. He’s elite.
Hand is locked in with ten saves and has quieted the critics. Use him in every league. Hand is throwing his four-seamer slightly more, and the slider less (54-47%), while adding in his sinker (from 3% to almost 9%) a little more. The results have been solid.
Emilio Pagan, Drew Pomeranz, Trevor Rosenthal, San Diego Padres
What a mess. Yates goes down with the elbow injury last week. Pomeranz takes over and the Padres don’t miss a beat. Then Pomeranz goes to the IL last week with a shoulder strain. Pagan had some opportunities for a streaking Padres team. We told you to add Pagan. Pomeranz was activated from the IL last night, but the big news was the acquisition of Trevor Rosenthal from the Kansas City Royals. Expect Rosenthal to be the closer with Kirby Yates out for the year even though Pomeranz was very good when he had the chances. This move should bump Pagan and Pomeranz back an inning and solidify the Padres bullpen.
Ryan Pressly, Houston Astros: moving up this week
While the team waits on Roberto Osuna’s possible rehab, Pressly continues to do the job, earning his sixth save this week, getting the save in both ends of yesterday’s doubleheader. He’s quietly settling in and his ERA is down to 4.22. I think he’s going to continue to get better results.
Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees: moving down
Britton was terrific before hitting the IL with a strained hamstring. A day later, Aroldis Chapman was back for the Yankees. In Game One of a doubleheader on Friday night, Chapman gave up a walk and a home run to lose the game. It seems reasonable to believe that Chapman is still shaking off the rust from his Covid battle, and will regain mastery status as he gets his legs under him. It’s also important to remember that the Yankees hadn’t won a game in more than a week, limiting his chances to get work. Chapman did get a win last night for the Yankees, halting their skid.
Montero earned a save this week and continues to hold the top spot in Texas. The role is still his, but could he be moved at the trade deadline? The Ranges are 12-19 and said to be listening on their players. Remember Jonathan Hernandez? Stash him if you can. If Montero gets traded, the job should be his.
Daniel Hudson, Washington Nationals
Daniel Hudson has six saves this season in eight tries, though he didn’t have any over the last week. Sean Doolittle was activated Wednesday off the IL but he hasn’t pitched in a game yet. Hudson is the guy for now but keep an eye on Doolittle just in case Hudson implodes.Which is possible. In his two blown saves on the year, Hudson has given up seven earned runs. When he blows a save, he really blows it.
I truly feel for Phillies fans. This bullpen has been a disaster all season, contributing to their mediocre 14-14 record this far. Workman did get two saves this week despite looking shaky. If we look to the usage, we see that Hector Neris and Tommy Hunter continue to work the eighth in tandem. Looks like manager Joe Girardi is going with Workman now. Workman did pitch a clean inning last night to get his seventh save. If you are contending for a championship, I would look elsewhere as this situation may induce your gag reflex from day-to-day.
Melancon has five saves and two wins in Atlanta. The rumors of his demise may have been exaggerated. Melancon gave up a walkoff home run on Friday night to Scott Kingery. Lefty Will Smith is rounding into shape and could become a threat here. Keep an eye out here. Shane Greene also lurks in the background.
Taylor Rogers/Sergio Romo/Trevor May, Minnesota Twins: a conundrum
Rogers got a save Monday night but he has had zero opportunities since then due to cancellations. This is still an iffy one; we should know more after watching some games this weekend. Sergio Romo was lit up like a pinball machine on Wednesday. Some disarray here, but look for Rogers to get opportunities to keep the ninth…for now. Manager Rocco Baldelli is not afraid to play hot hands. Stay tuned.
Committee, but leaning Diego Castillo, Tampa Bay Rays
This bullpen has been decimated by injuries but looks to get back a key piece soon in Nick Anderson. The Rays are gonna Ray; they are 22-11 and never make excuses, and just keep winning. Don’t look now but Diego Castillo has two wins and two saves and a filthy slider. In the chart below, you will see (albeit in a small sample size) that he’s using the slider almost 70% of the time:
The slider generates lots of swings and misses as well as soft contact for him. But who knows what happens when Tampa is back at full-strength in their bullpen? Who knows?
Committee, but leaning Daniel Bard, Colorado Rockies
The Rockies have run across hard times: 2-12 in the last two weeks. However it looks like Daniel Bard may have supplanted Jairo Diaz, who has been hit hard recently. Bard is an amazing story, out of baseball before mounting a comeback. Check out his pitch mix below:
Bard has always thrown with great velocity, and his four-seamer still hits 97 on the radar gun, but Bard has also relied more on his slider this year, throwing it almost as often as the fastball. The pitch that is pure filth is the sinker, thrown at 97 MPH and inducing tons of popups and weak contact. Bard is a great story with good production too, earning three saves for a struggling Rockies team.
Committee, Kansas City Royals
Rosenthal has been terrific: seven saves, 13.9 K/9. Then he got traded to the Padres yesterday afternoon. Who will close in KC? Good question. Odds are it will not be Ian Kennedy and his 9.00 ERA. Could Greg Holland be the pick? Jesse Hahn got the save Saturday afternoon, but I think that was an emergency go-to in light of the trade. They could take a look at Josh Staumont, who has 27 strikeouts in 13 innings and a sparkling .66 ERA. Scott Barlow has also been good for the Royals. One to watch this week.
Iglesias hurts to own; the stuff is amazing but he has four saves with a bloated 5.59 ERA. Based on his usage, it looks like he continues to be in the chair, but that seat is hot. Saving him is that Cincinnati has not had good results from anyone not named Lucas Sims. Iglesias should get far better results than he does. See below:
Gosh this is crazy situation. In the first game of a doubleheader in Cincinnati yesterday, manager David Ross used Jeremy Jeffress to close the Reds out in the seventh, earning his fourth save. In the nightcap, the Craig Kimbrel reclamation project added another chapter. Kimbrel walked three and gave up two runs on only one hit. A wild pitch ended the game; it was his third of the inning. The Cubs are 19-14 and in the thick of the playoff race. Ross cannot continue to rebuild Kimbrel while contending. Jeffress has done the job before and could hold it down; perhaps the Cubs make a move before tomorrow’s trade deadline?
Miller hit the IL this week. Gallegos has great stuff and it looks like the Cardinals will continue to play matchups, but that can go out the window now with Miller out. I would go Gallegos. Look at this K rate on his slider:
The veteran has six saves with a 2.92 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. He’s holding steady for a surprising Miami Marlins squad. They don’t really have anyone else. The 5.2 K/9 rate could spell trouble down the road.
Committee, Detroit Tigers: moving down
Jimenez has been terrible. Manager Ron Gardenhire aimed to use Buck Farmer in the ole earlier this week, and Farmer did not take advantage of his opportunity, getting blown up on Wednesday. Committee here, with Farmer, Gregory Soto and maybe Jose Cisnero getting chances. Avoid unless you want indigestion. Soto did pick up the save last night. If you must have one, Soto is the one I would try.
Matt Barnes, Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox have not anointed a new closer to replace Brandon Workman, but we would bet on Matt Barnes. Barnes is being sought after in trades, but no contending team would use him as a closer, merely a setup role. Barnes did get his third save last night.
Buttrey has been good in the role, but the Angels are awful and have begun moving parts via trade. He has given up runs in his last three outings. Mixed bag this week: earned a loss, then earned a save Friday night despite giving up a run. The 3.4 K/9 rate is not good, so Buttrey may actually hurt you more than he helps.
Edwin Diaz, New York Mets: trending up?
I want to love Diaz, don’t you? Friday night he struck out the side to earn his second save, and first since week one. The ERA is down to 2.25, but walks continue to lead to a higher WHIP than you would like in a closer: 1.42. A 21.0 K/9 rate? That’s insane. Results should improve; I said last week buy low, and I still would.
Sulser had a brutal week: three walks in an appearance last weekend, and a two out walkoff homer last night against Toronto. The grip has loosened. However manager Brandon Hyde continues to use Sulser exclusively in the ninth. The Orioles are better than expected, so he will get opportunities; the question is, do you want them? I am not so sure. Sulser has been featuring an improved change-up about 26% of the time, up from 9% last year. The four-seamer is his main pitch and he also throws a slider to right-handed hitters. See below:
Kela is back on the IL after one outing. Good grief. The Pirates are 7-19. Who closes? Do you care? If you do, bet on Richard Rodriguez, who earned his second save despite giving up a run Friday night. He then gave up a walkoff home run to Eric Sogard and the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday night.
Committee, San Francisco Giants
Someone buy Gabe Kapler some Tums. Trevor Gott now has a 12.46 ERA, and that is not a typo. Jarlin Garcia has been decent. Tony Watson has no saves but has been the best out of the bullpen. Tyler Rogers earned a save last night. Just avoid this. Do it.
Anthony Bass (for now), Toronto Blue Jays
So it seemed the job belonged to Romano, and then he left Friday night with a finger injury. He was replaced by Anthony Bass. He hit the 10 day IL with numbness in his right middle finger. Romano had earned a save earlier in the week. Romano has 20 strikeouts in 14 innings and was looking to lock down the role. Bass probably seizes the role back…for now. Ken Giles is scheduled to face live hitters on Tuesday, and the hope is that he can ramp up quickly and reclaim his old job.
From Chris Sale to Rick Porcello, and two other Boston teammates mentioned below, many starters who pitch deep into the playoffs appear to have trouble maintaining their workload the following year. Our early research shows that this increase is emphasized even more if the pitcher had a 20 inning increase, or 15 percent increase, in the year they pitched deep into the playoffs. We will fully flesh out the underlying research in the offseason, but here’s a taste of what we’ve identified as the “danger zone.”
Historical Context: 2018
That Red Sox championship seems forever ago, but a key part of their playoff run was the rotation. As we have seen the last couple of postseasons, teams are leaning on their top-tier starters more than ever. As a result, these players potentially run a higher risk for injury the following year. Take these two pitchers:
2017 Total iP
2018 Playoff IP
2018 Total IP
2019 Total IP
2018-19 Inning Diff
2018-19 Inning Diff %
After not pitching a whole lot in 2017, these pitchers had drastic increases in their innings in 2018, only to get injured the following year. We know what happened with Eovaldi. He had surgery to remove loose bodies from his right elbow for the second time in April 2019, came back in July, and posted a 5.99 ERA in 67 and 2/3 innings. One of the main drivers in his decline was his cutter. Let’s take a look at his spin rates and velocity on the pitch over the last three years:
Cutter Spin Rate
No doubt that some, or all, of his poor performance has been caused by this injury. While he maintained his spin rate and velocity in 2019, he couldn’t handle the workload of his high-stress 2018. We also know that Eovaldi is an injury-prone pitcher, but we should have known better to think he could be a top-50 starting pitcher heading into 2019. Now, he’s lost his velocity and spin rate, and I am going to be out on him for however long he lasts in the league.
Taking a quick look at David Price, he went on the IL with left elbow tendonitis in May 2019, and back on and off the IL after that with a cyst on his left wrist. I am certainly not an injury expert, but WebMD says that a cyst on the wrist can form from the following:
“One theory suggests that trauma causes the tissue of the joint to break down, forming small cysts that then join into a larger, more obvious mass. The most likely theory involves a flaw in the joint capsule or tendon sheath that allows the joint tissue to bulge out.”
Considering the innings jump that Price saw and the elbow tendonitis he had before, it’s not a surprise to see that he had tissue breaking down in his left arm, causing the cyst. Alex Cora was also quoted as saying that the cyst caused him to adjust his offspeed grips, which caused him to struggle. He threw the change the same amount in 2019 as he did in years’ past, but just look at the results!
xwOBA on Changeups
Clearly, the cyst impacted his ability to throw the changeup. With Price sitting out the 2020 season, he might actually be a buy low heading into 2021. But still, the lefty will turn 35 shortly and would have to be significantly discounted to take a flyer on him.
Despite 2020 being the oddest year of our lifetimes, the 2019 World Series should still be relatively fresh in our minds. Here’s the complete list of pitchers that pitched at least five innings in the playoffs and had over a ten percent increase in total innings from 2018. Any jumps over 30 percent are shaded in red to better separate the biggest jumps.
2019 Playoff IP
2019 Total IP
2018 Total IP
IP % Diff
Of the 14 pitchers on this list, five are currently on the non-COVID Injured List: Strasburg, Verlander, Doolittle, Morton, and Osuna. That’s over 35 percent of the list! Let’s dive a little deeper into a few of the names on this list. We will ignore Cardinals for now, since they are only 12 games into their season.
2019 Playoff IP
2019 Total IP
2018 Total IP
IP % Diff
Charlie Morton’s story is pretty straightforward – just look at the below table.
Big arrow down here. Morton’s 36-years old, and the velocity decline was expected – but the severity of the decline is even more dramatic than expected. In fact, every pitch has suffered a 1-2 MPH drop over the last two years. Given that he is on the IL with shoulder inflammation, we have potentially seen the last of Morton as a fantasy ace. Unfortunately, selling him low may be the best option at this point.
2019 Playoff IP
2019 Total IP
2018 Total IP
IP % Diff
While he is not one of the players currently on the IL, Sanchez had a hamstring issue in 2018, causing him to miss six weeks, which makes up most of this IP difference from 2018 to 2019. He also had a hamstring issue with the other leg in 2019, but was still able to pitch 35% more innings. Again, this looks like a velocity issue.
Sanchez’s velocity decreased on all of his pitches, which has resulted in his strikeout rate dropping 3.8 percentage points from 2019-2020 in the early going. His barrel rate has doubled, and his hard-hit rate is up five percentage points. Sanchez was valuable due to being an innings-eater with decent ratios, but he’s not pitching deep into games nor posting good ratios, so he is droppable in all formats. As Matt Williams said on a recent podcast – no thank you.
2019 Playoff IP
2019 Total IP
2018 Total IP
IP % Diff
Corbin has not been as sharp in the early going as he has been the past couple years. A lot of it appears to be a velocity issue (surprise, surprise), but also spin rate.
His slider is also interestingly slower, has less spin, and not getting as many whiffs. His slider not being as dominant as in years’ past is a clear driver of his ERA going up, along with a lower strikeout rate.
Corbin’s lesser stuff has dropped his strikeout rate from 28.5% in 2019 to 22.9% in 2020. A part of that lower stuff could potentially be from pitching so many more innings in 2019. Small sample aside, Corbin may not be the top-15 pitcher we were expecting in 2020. However, with a full offseason of rest and a guaranteed lower amount of innings in 2020, he may start going lower in 2021 drafts, allowing him to be grabbed at a nice value.
2019 Playoff IP
2019 Total IP
2018 Total IP
IP % Diff
Strasburg is the poster boy of this exercise. We know that he has been injured throughout his career (he’s the same age as Clayton Kershaw, which is simply nuts). We should have seen an 89% increase in innings from the year before as a warning in big red flashing lights. Given that he had extra time to rest during the long layoff, we overestimated his ability to stay healthy.
He is now on the IL with a nerve issue in his right hand. Similar to the other Nationals’ pitchers on this list, his velocity was down a couple of ticks in the limited time that he has pitched. You can’t trade him at his low point in redraft leagues, but I would look to unload him after he comes back and has a good outing in dynasty leagues. A 90% increase in innings does not bode well for his future.
2019 Playoff IP
2019 Total IP
2018 Total IP
IP % Diff
For a reliever, Osuna pitching 31 more innings is astronomical. We know that he didn’t pitch a lot in 2018 due to his suspension, so it’s a bit of a surprise as to why the analytically-minded Astros let Osuna run up his pitch count. The Astros won the West by 10 games, so they could have relaxed him a bit down the stretch. Based on this substantial increase, Osuna’s fastball decreasing 2.5 MPH from 2019 and his subsequent Tommy John surgery shouldn’t be a massive surprise. Osuna won’t make a fantasy impact until 2022, but these are the types of analytics to pay the utmost attention to in offseason draft prep.
Big news out of San Francisco today as the Giants are promoting their highly ranked catching prospect Joey Bart to the big league club.
Just a few years ago, the Giants had one of the worst farm franchises in all of baseball, but have since rebuilt their list of prospects to become quite a promising group of talent. Now, their top prospect gets the call to join the big league club and show them that he is their future and it is bright.
Bart comes to the Giants with an average hit tool, but some nice power in his bat. He’s someone who has done well with the bat, but with the potential for even more. Last season, over two levels of A+ and AA ball, Bart posted a .278/.328/.495 line with 16 home runs, 48 runs batted in and five steals. While most of his offensive damage was done in A+, he held his own in AA, batting .316 with four home runs over 87 plate appearances.
– the above chart displays Bart’s numbers over his four levels of professional ball: Rookie, A-, A+, AA
More specifically, Bart shows decent plate discipline during his at bats with a nice strikeout rate, showing that he puts a good amount of contact to the ball. While his K% – BB% rate in AA is promising, he wasn’t there long enough to see any sort of possible regression. If there is going to be regression with respect to that, it will unfortunately have to be while with the Giants in 2020.
I do like the fact that he can spread the ball around the field, specifically with those high rates towards Center Field and Right Field. The Park Factors for Oracle Park show that it is primarily a pitcher’s ballpark, but it plays well to those that can hit the ball all over the field. Just look at what it’s doing for Mike Yastrzemski and his .351 home batting average. I’m not comparing the two by any means, but I am saying that the ability to spread the ball all over the place can be helpful at Oracle Park.
Who’s Stopping Him?
In 2020, the Giants have started the following players at catcher at some point or another over 89 combined at bats:
Chadwick Tromp – .178/.188/.333, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 16 K Tyler Heinemann – .195/.283/.220, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 6 K Rob Brantly – .000/.000/.000, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0K
Needless to say, there’s not much standing in the way of Joey Bart and some consistent playing time. His bat should be much better than any other option the Giants have instead, so he should slot right in there and play. Added to that is his defense. If the above scale rating is to be believed, and I would dare say it is, he’s got the ability to be an even better catcher behind the plate than anyone else on the Giants too, meaning he should get the most amount of playing time going forward. Needless to say, he’s ready for this.
What about fantasy teams?
Bart needs to be added, especially in two catcher leagues where playing time is golden. With the catcher landscape being so wide spread speculative and volatile, picking up and starting a catcher that looks guaranteed to play with an offensive hitting tool such as his seems logical. There’s potential for greatness here, and, though it may not happen in 2020, his worst case scenario is probably better than their other options. Right now, I would put him in my Top 15 overall at the position, given the opportunity, the talent and the defense.
Words of Advice
If you own Yadier Molina, Jorge Alfaro or Francisco Mejia, and are waiting for a return, I wouldn’t hesitate to make the switch for Bart.
If you own Roberto Perez, Jason Castro or Danny Jansen, I would make the switch in an effort to rejuvenate your lineup instead of waiting for things to click for the scuffling catchers.
Go out and pick him up now. If he’s available in FAAB, I would see which other teams might need a catcher too, and would spend 25% of my remaining FAAB budget on him.
In dynasty leagues, he is a must own right now but is probably already owned.