Fantasy Baseball MLB

FACT OR FICTION: THEM IS FIGHTIN’ WORDS

ScoreCrow Team | June 21, 2019

The Scorecrow MLB writers got together to collaborate on a full list of players that are for real and others who may be playing over their heads. Let us know what you think. Enjoy.

MIKE MOUSTAKAS IS GOOD AT HITTING – FACT

Kody Clawson (@kodyclawson)

The real fact of the matter is that Mike Moustakas has been good at hitting for a few years now. The move from Kauffman Stadium to Miller Park for his home games has finally given him the chance to show off his power. I was concerned that the move to second base would affect his hitting in some capacity, but this was an arbitrary hypothesis anyway. The only fantasy effect has been positive, as the added positional flexibility has only aided fantasy owners.

DAN VOGELBACH IS FOR REAL – FACT

Johnnie Black (@Jball0202)

Before this season, dating back to 2016, Dan Vogelbach had all of 146 PAs in the majors across three seasons. He had 25 hits, 4 HRs, and a 17/41 BB/K rate. In that same time frame in AAA, he had 1,482 PAs, 353 hits, 60 HRs, and a 250/258 BB/K rate. He was looking like your classic AAAA player. A guy who hit well in the minors, but didn’t get it done in the Show. This year Vogelbach got his opportunity for regular playing time and has shown up. He has 17 bombs in just 269 PAs with a .389 wOBA and 152 wRC+. This production is definitely sustainable as he has a HH% of 40.1 and has even taken to hitting the ball the other way at a 24.2% clip. His FB% is 52.2 with an HR/FB% of 20.7. For someone who has shown a propensity in the minors for taking what the pitcher gives (48/59 BB/K rate this year), the 25-year-old Vogelbach is finally translating it to the majors in his first consistent go around.

MIKE MINOR IS A TOP-10 AL STARTER – FICTION

Johnnie Black (@Jball0202)

Mike Minor is currently sitting fifth in ERA in the American League at 2.63. A few things in his profile worry me. For one his SIERA is 4.13 which tells me he will regress but if we look more into his profile we see that he is allowing a HH% of 37.0 and has a soft contact rate of 19.7%. These aren’t far off of last year’s stats (respectively) when he had a 4.18 ERA. One of the main stats that screams regression is LOB%. Minor is currently at 87.6% which is third best in the majors among qualifies starters. That type of strand rate only lasts for extreme strikeout pitchers and Minor, while increasing his K rate, is still just over a K per inning. While I do think Minor is serviceable, people looking to grab him in a trade should be wary as he will likely finish with a 3.50-3.75 ERA. This means he will be over 4.00 the rest of the year and that’s not what you need down the stretch.

TREVOR BAUER WILL WIN THE CY YOUNG – FACT

Daniel Corrigan (@Corrigan_Tweets)

After a rough stretch of starts, Trevor Bauer has finally settled back in. He just pitched his first career complete game shutout against the Tigers. Bauer has been known for his stamina, his wide variety of pitches he can throw, and his confidence to throw any pitch, at any time. With this comes a high strikeout number (117) which is good for fourth in the AL. Bauer currently has a 3.41 ERA which is not bad but is inflated due to a rough stretch of play. Bauer has a long hill to climb to get his numbers back to Cy Young levels. But Bauer is ready to finally break out this season and never look back.

CHRISTIAN YELICH IS THE BEST PLAYER IN THE NL – FICTION

Daniel Corrigan (@Corrigan_Tweets)

Now don’t get me wrong, Christian Yelich has been unbelievable this season. One of the better players I’ve ever seen. But Cody Bellinger has had an unbelievably outstanding season. He currently has a 6.2 WAR, a .355 BA, 23 HR, and 58 RBIs. Yelich is putting up similar numbers, but when I see a 6.2 WAR from Bellinger compared to a 4.2 WAR from Yelich, that just says a lot to me. Also, notice how I said “This Season.” I think Yelich is the better player, Bellinger is just having an all-time breakout season. It’s the Mike Trout and LeBron James effect. They both are the best players in their leagues and should win the MVP every season.

DJ LEMAHIEU HAS BEEN THE BEST FREE AGENT SIGNING – FACT

Mike El-Far (@mikeelfar)

In an off-season that had Bryce Harper and Manny Machado sign free-agent deals of at least $300 million, the best acquisition made by an organization was a measly two year, $24 million contract for DJ LeMahieu.

While most of the big names of the New York Yankees have been injured this year, DJ has done nothing but have an unbelievable first season in the Bronx.  LeMahieu is on pace to have career highs in home runs and RBIs, as well as playing gold glove caliber defense at second base.

What makes this contract the best signing is the consistent output that LeMahieu has provided the Yankees. With all of the injuries to their stars, it would be understandable to see the Yankees falter. But, from the efforts of him as well as other players (Gary Sanchez, Luke Voit, etc.), they are one of the best teams in baseball. For that, the $24 million price tag has already been paid.

CLAYTON KERSHAW IS WASHED UP – FICTION

Mike El-Far (@mikeelfar)

Gone are the days where Clayton Kershaw is a legitimate MVP candidate. You can probably say the same about his potential to win the Cy Young Award. With that being said, the future Hall of Famer still is producing at a high level and should be viewed as such.

Baseball, like everything else in life, is results driven.

Clayton Kershaw has toed the rubber eleven times for the Los Angeles Dodgers this year. Of those eleven, only once did the Dodgers not come out with a win. Also, ten of those eleven starts resulted in a quality start. Clearly every time Clayton Kershaw is on the mound, the Dodgers feel good about coming off the field with a win.

Also, one thing Kershaw has done his entire career is limit base-runners. In 2019, he is continuing that trend. Of all 80 pitchers who have pitched at least 72 innings, Kershaw is tied for 14th in WHIP (1.08). The WHIP of 1.08 must be popular by elite pitchers because Max Scherzer shares that with Kershaw. One reason Kershaw has kept the WHIP down is continuing to pound the strike zone and stay aggressive on batters. Using the same sample size as mentioned earlier, Kershaw is 2nd among pitchers with only 12 walks on the season. If that’s not dominance, I’m not too sure what is.

FRANKIE MONTAS WILL CONTEND FOR A CY YOUNG – FACT

Michael Simione (@SpStreamer)

Frankie Montas seems to be a pitching ace in the making and may very well become one this season. He currently is 9-2 with a 2.85 ERA, 2.90 FIP, 3.44 xFIP, and 3.71 SIERA. Montas features a slider and split-finger that both posts an above average Whiff%. His biggest strength is getting batters to swing outside of the zone as he really knows how to fool pitchers with his breaking pitches. He is also 84th percentile in xwOBA, 81st in xSLG, and 72nd in Exit Velocity. Going forward, Montas can definitely be a top 10-15 pitcher and I think he can be top five in CY Young votes.  

HYUN-JIN RYU WILL CONTEND FOR A CY YOUNG – FICTION

Michael Simione (@SpStreamer)

Hyun-Jin Ryu has been the most dominant pitcher this season. He is 9-1 with an 8.23 K/9 and a 1.26 ERA. The crazy thing is his numbers support that ERA as he has a 2.53 FIP, 2.86 xFIP, and 3.26 SIERA. We all know he won’t stay below a two ERA but even a mid-two ERA is CY Young worthy. Ryu is interesting because he doesn’t create a crazy amount of strikeouts and his pitches aren’t above and beyond. The highest Whiff% on any of his pitches is only 29.8. He throws five pitches and just mixes them up so well where it confuses batters and creates weak contact.  So, with all these positives why won’t he contend for a CY Young? Simple. His health. The most Ryu has ever pitched in a season was 192 innings and that was in 2013. Since then he has only hit 150 innings once. Since 2013 his innings output has been 152, 0, 4.2, 126.2, and 82.1. Ryu just cannot stay healthy and I firmly believe he will get injured and it will ruin this wonderful season he is having.

HUNTER RENFROE HAS CEMENTED HIMSELF AS ONE OF THE PREMIER POWER HITTERS IN BASEBALL – FACT

Frank Ammirante (@FAmmiranteTFJ)

Hunter Renfroe has always been known for his power, with 70-grade raw power and 26 HRs in each of his first two seasons. He’s been held back due to inconsistent playing time, resulting from the glut of talented outfielders in San Diego. This year, his bat has kept him in the lineup, as he’s slashed .254 AVG/.303 OBP/.654 SLG with 22 HRs in only 64 games. He’s made some improvements at the plate which is encouraging for his fantasy value going forward.

Renfroe is absolutely crushing the baseball, with a Barrel% of 14.7%, an increase from 12.4% in 2018.

His 9.6 Barrels/PA% ranks 29th in MLB.

Renfroe is making more contact, as his Whiff% has decreased from 30.5% to 25.5%.

When examining the statistics for the last calendar year, Renfroe’s numbers are impressive:

149 Games, .250 AVG/.298 OBP/.560 SLG, 44 HRs.

Only Christian Yelich (54 HRs), has gone yard more often than Renfroe during this span. While his plate discipline (6.9 BB%, 27.5 K%) is unimpressive, it’s clear that Renfroe is on his way to 40 HRs this year. He’s very similar to Khris Davis in Oakland: a free-swinging power hitter that does not walk often. There are also rumors that Renfroe could be on the move to a contender this summer, which would only increase his fantasy value.

2019 Final Forecast: .244 AVG/.302 OBP/.550 SLG, 43 HR, 100 RBI

PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT IS STILL AN ELITE FIRST BASEMAN, READY FOR A SECOND-HALF SURGE – FICTION

Frank Ammirante (@FAmmiranteTFJ)

There was a lot of hype over Paul Goldschmidt after he was dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals this winter. So far, the results have been disappointing, as Goldie has slashed .262 AVG/.353 OBP/.433 SLG with only 13 HRs. Goldschmidt is also no longer a stolen base threat, with 0 SB so far this year, after stealing 7 bases last year and 18 in 2017. There are some discouraging signs in Goldschmidt’s profile so far this season.

His plate discipline statistics have declined, with his 11.1 BB% (down from 13.0%) being his lowest walk rate since 2012.

Goldie is not hitting the ball nearly as hard, as his Barrel% has declined from 13.6% to 8.5%.

Busch Stadium ranks 24th in MLB for HRs, so he’s no longer in the bandbox that was pre-humidor Chase Field.

Historically, Goldschmidt has been a better hitter from June onwards, so he’s earned the reputation of a “second-half hitter.” But this year, he came roaring out of the gate, with 4 HRs in his first 4 games of the season. Since then, he only has 9 HRs in 66 games. Goldschmidt is still an asset in OBP leagues, but he’s become more of a mid-tier 1B for the rest of the season.

2019 Final Forecast: .277 AVG/.375 OBP/.490 SLG, 28 HR, 90 RBI

JOEY VOTTO IS WASHED UP – FACT

Matt Bishop @Bishphat

Joey Votto currently has an 11.8% walk rate (16.1% career). The last time Votto had a walk rate under 12.0% was in 2008, his 2nd year in the league. In Votto’s 13 year career, he has never had a strikeout rate of over 20.0% (17.8% career). He has a 23.3% strikeout rate this season. And last but not least, Joey Votto has never had a wRC+ under 124 in his entire playing career. He has a 97 wRC+ this season.

It is a harsh reality to think that Joey Votto may never regain his 2017 form, where he hit .320/.454/.578 (1.032 OPS) and finished 2nd in MVP voting. But before you write it off and say he still may find his stroke, here are his numbers from the last two full seasons vs his career stats:

2018 and 2019 (902 Plate Appearances)

.275/.397/.412 (.809 OPS) 18 HR 101 R 83 R

15.6% BB 18.4% K .355 wOBA 120 wRC+

CAREER (7043 Plate Appearances):

.309/.424/.524 (.948 OPS)

16.1% BB 17.8% K .405 wOBA 153 wRC+

You can make the call for yourself, but you’re smarter than this and I think you can tell where this is going.

RAFAEL DEVERS IS A TOP 5 THIRD BASEMAN REST OF SEASON – FICTION

This is in no way a knock on Rafael Devers as I think he is a budding superstar in this league. He is finally living up to that prospect pedigree, hitting .307/.360/.503 (.864 OPS) with 12 HR 54 R 47 RBI 8 SB. He has shaved 8% off of his strikeout rate (16.7%) and I love to see a +7.5% increase in his line drive rate.

But Devers has a 56.4% first-pitch strike rate (f-strike%), which is way down from 64.3% last season. Having a low first-pitch strike rate means he is getting ahead in counts more, where his results are favorable, hitting .319/.478/.601 (1.079 OPS) for his career.

But if his 56.4% f-strike% resorts back to his 64% from previous seasons, he will be getting behind in more counts, where he is hitting .215/.217/.370 (.586 OPS) for his career. His BABIP is also violently high at .342 and should revert closer to his .281 BABIP in 2018.

I know his Statcast data is through the roof on hard-hit rate (49.8% – Top 7%) and exit velocity (92.6% – Top 5%), but regression is coming and Devers has a career 50%+ hard-hit rate when he’s ahead in the count versus a 30%+ career hard-hit rate when is behind in the count. Statcast is cool, but not super helpful if you can’t hit.

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