Inside the April Numbers. and What They Mean
Here are the in-depth numbers and key insights behind some early-season Fantasy Baseball trends.
A player that should be getting sick of striking out is Yoenis Cespedes. Not typically a strikeout victim throughout his career, Cespedes has been fanned on 40% of his at bats. With those strikeouts the numbers haven’t been pretty for him, as he owns a .190 average and a .266 on-base percentage. With how good of a hitter Cespedes is you expect him to turn it around. The last two seasons he struck out just 19% of the time and was one of the best hitters in baseball. It might be a good opportunity to get Cespedes at a low price off any owner that is annoyed with his start to the 2018 season.
Jed Lowrie is having a power surge to open the season. Through 16 games, Lowrie has hit four home runs. That puts him on pace for roughly 40 home runs, which certainly is unlikely after hitting just 14 last season. His success seems to be due to an unsustainable home run production from his fly balls hit. He is actually hitting 4% less fly balls to start the season compared to last year. The number that really jumps out is a 21% home run to fly ball ratio. That seems quite unsustainable compared to his 6.7% home run to fly ball rate throughout his career. The home runs will inevitably slow down.
— Oakland Athletics 🌳🐘⚾️ (@Athletics) April 15, 2018
A player that is making his team happy for going out and getting him is Corey Dickerson. In his first season with the Pirates, he is showing improvements across the board. His K rate is down 12%, he is producing hard contact with a 38% hard hit rate, and his batted ball trends have been great with an MLB-leading 43%-line drive rate. A line drive is the best way to produce runs in baseball, so it will be interesting to see if Dickerson can keep it above the league average of 21%. Dickerson was a hitter that showed strides last year, and it looks like this might be his best season yet.
A player that is having some bad luck to start the season is Nicholas Castellanos. He currently has one of the hardest hit rates in MLB at 53% but has no home runs to show for it. Last year he showed solid power, hitting 26 home runs and he produced 10% less hard contact. Castellanos is entering his fifth season with the Tigers and needs to have a good year to show he can continue to be a part of the future. The bad luck will end soon, and the power and hitting numbers will follow.
A young player that has shown major improvements so far this season is Matt Chapman. His hard-hit rate is up to 49% from 36% last year and he hit five home runs through 16 games. Something that has helped him drastically is swinging at less balls out of the strike zone. The outside of strike zone swing percentage was 26% last season and it is down to 19% this season. That patience at the plate has given him better opportunities at more hittable pitches and he is now only striking 16% of the time compared to 28% of his at bats last year. If he keeps his discipline, Chapman will get the pitches he wants and approach 30 home runs on the season.
Marcus Stroman is having a less than ideal start to the season. However, looking at the numbers for Stroman, nothing really stands out that is concerning. He is still generating a lot of ground balls, and not giving up many home runs. His ERA through three games sits at 7.98, but his xFIP is at 3.64, which is on par with his career average. ERA can be variable, especially over three-game samples. Stroman has been worse against left-handed hitters this year, allowing a .317 average, but he is normally very good against left-handed batters, so he should see positive regression there. It is a good time to buy low on Stroman if you can.
One of the best pitchers so far in 2018 has been the young ace, Jose Berrios. He is striking out 32% of the batters he has faced and just 18% of batted balls against him have been hard hit. The biggest improvement from Berrios so far has been his command. He gave up 2.97 walks per nine innings last year. He has dropped that all the way down to 0.44 walks per nine innings. With his command in check, he should have a monster season and will continue to rack up strikeouts.
Edwin Diaz is having a historic season so far in 2018. In seven games, he has yet to allow a run and has given up one hit in 26 batters faced. He has generated a 43% swing rate on pitches outside the strike zone. That is 10% better than his career high. Both his 97-mph fastball and slider have been great so far, and he has opted to go to the slider a little more often this season. He has thrown his slider a career high 35% of the time, so hitters might be thrown off more from the unpredictability of the two pitches.
Ken Giles looked like the closer for the Astros at the start of the season, but a fantasy headache has presented itself now, as there might be competition for the role. Giles did not confirm his job security, as in his first three appearances of the season he gave up five hits and two runs. Then in the next game he gave up a hit and was pulled for Chris Devenski, who closed out the inning and received two closer opportunities in the last three games to Giles’ one. “Any given day, I feel the liberty to use any one of our guys,” said manager A.J. Hinch. He also added that there have been “extreme examples of matchups that we like”. This is not great news for Giles’ owners, but he still has the opportunity to get a firm control of the role if Devenski slips up. For now, it is a situation to monitor.
Corey Dickerson Featured Image: (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)