We’re almost 90 games through the 2018 MLB season, so we know who’s playing well and who isn’t, right? Maybe not.
For those that just look at slash lines, HR, and RBI, you might not be getting the full story. There is so much that goes into determining who is and isn’t having a bad season.
For example, Matt Olson is leading the Major Leagues with a 53.1% hard hit ball percentage. Generally speaking, this would lead to a player having a good statistical season, probably high on the leaderboard in average and extra base hits. This isn’t the case for Olson as he is only slashing .236/.324/.454. Not good numbers for someone who is seemingly barreling the ball every other time he makes contact. What’s causing this? BABIP (batting average on balls in play) can be a very telling stat. This number virtually removes strikeouts from your average. What is your average on only the balls that you put in play? In Olson’s case, his BABIP is just .272, which is very low when you see the league average is .293. This tells you he’s running into some bad luck, hitting line drives right at people, making outs on well-hit balls.
I wouldn’t necessarily put Olson on my “buy low” target list as I see his Hard% coming down more than his BABIP skyrocketing, but you get the picture.
Here are 3 pretty recognizable names that may be available via trade in your leagues as the casual baseball fan gets frustrated with the lack of production:
Bryce Harper, OF (Washington Nationals)
The production from Harper this year is truly baffling to me. I’m not a big supporter in Bryce and believe him to be very overrated and still getting his appraise and attention for the SI hype when he was in high school. But, even I can admit he will not hit .210 for the entire season. Like Olson mentioned above, Harper is hitting into a lot of bad luck in 2018. He has a Hard% of 41.0% which is a career high, telling me that he’s not really “slumping”. He’s still making solid contact with the ball. The .220 BABIP is unbelievably low. He’s still providing power with 21 HRs and 50 RBI, and getting on base at a good clip of .363 even with the low average. The balls he puts in play just aren’t finding holes. That’s going to change. Bryce has a career BABIP of .314 and, unlike Olson, I believe his BABIP will rise and his Hard% will remain fairly constant. He’s slowly getting it together with 3 2Bs and a HR in his last 4 games, and he’s a prime candidate to get on a hot streak and get his average back up to roughly .250 by season’s end. I can see him finishing the year with 35-38 HRs, 90-100 RBI and an OBP flirting with .400 (health being the main variable).
Living in D.C., everyone and their mother talk about Bryce nonstop around here, and fans are growing restless with the statistical struggles this season. I can see fantasy owners feeling the same way and ready to send him off for some marginal talent; jump on him now!
Marcell Ozuna, OF (St. Louis Cardinals)
Marcell Ozuna is a very unique type of disappointment thus far in 2018. His advanced metrics on the surface look solid, yet he’s not producing at the same rate as he did in his breakout 2017 campaign. So, the question is whether he is the .312, 37 HR, 124 RBI guy he was in 2017; or the .266, 23 HR, and 75 RBI guy he was in 2016? Personally, I believe he is closer to the former. I think he is a very underrated star in this league. He has a current BABIP of .325, which looks great, but it is a tick below his career average and well below the .355 pace last season. So, what’s causing the dip in production? I believe he is trying to do too much in his first year on a new team brought in to be “the guy” after a stellar season last year. He was swinging at a much higher rate in the beginning of the season causing his K% to rise and BB% to drop. That doesn’t tell the whole story. What you can’t see with numbers is the effect this has on production. Swinging at pitches is a good thing, can’t hit if you don’t swing, right? But, you need to be swinging at the right pitches. Free-swinging hitters tend to be low-average, power heavy types (unless your name is Vladimir Guerrero), but Ozuna hasn’t been that type of player in the past.
Over the past 3 weeks, we’ve seen him turn this around. It certainly looks like, on the surface anyway, he’s getting more comfortable in his new surroundings. He’s more relaxed at the plate, being more selective with his swings, and the batting average is coming up. He’s hit another dry spell over the past 10 days, hitting .130 with 0 HRs, but I’m confident he’s getting it together and will begin another very hot streak very soon. While not a sexy, household name, casual fantasy owners may be more inclined to move him for more help in other positions while OF is pretty deep. But, Ozuna will soon be one of the most productive OF in the league, so if you have the chance to steal him for a relatively cheap price, do it.
Carlos Carrasco, SP (Cleveland Indians)
Carlos Carrasco is your typical “filthy stuff pitcher” that doesn’t always produce the best results from start to start, a la Stephen Strasburg, Yu Darvish, AJ Burnett (time warp, wow), etc. But, he’s certainly underperforming even more than usual this season. He’s got some of the best stuff in the league when he’s on, and when he’s off, he’s very hittable with flat fastballs and uncontrollable curveballs. What is baffling thus far this year is most of his standard statistics are right on par with his career averages, except for his ERA. The difference in my opinion is that his K/9 is down a bit from his average since becoming a full-time starter at 9.46. Pair this number with his BABIP of .306 and he’s bound to have more baserunners scoring more runs. The average BABIP across MLB is .291 so he’s having some tough luck behind him in the field. The Indians were struggling mightily out of the gate this year which contributed to the high BABIP and higher ERA. But all in all, his raw pitching numbers are the same as they’ve always been, which makes me believe he will improve his fantasy statistics (W, ERA, WHIP, QS?) and become a very effective SP in the second half of the season as we approach the Fantasy Baseball Playoffs.
On a staff that features Corey Kluber and a, so far, much improved Trevor Bauer, Carrasco can go a bit unnoticed. This is the time to pounce. The hot, young SP (Caleb Smith, Nick Pivetta, Mike Soroka, etc.) are beginning to cool off so SP help could be very important as we head down the stretch of the fantasy season. Make an offer for Carrasco and you might be surprised just how cheap he might be right now.
This time of year, one move can make or break a chance at a Fantasy Baseball Championship. This is the perfect to sit back and evaluate your team to find the strengths and weaknesses to see what players may be best to unload due to overpopulation at specific positions. Find who is expendable on your team and make an offer for one of the guys listed above!
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