Sometimes secondary stats and batted ball data nuggets can be found in some places and can help you draft potential sleepers. It’s not always the case but it’s useful to know so you have some knowledge rather than predicting these guys in the dark. It helped me draft Marcell Ozuna and Nick Castellanos last season, two guys who carried me in the first half. Sometimes these can help you weed out players who may be over or undervalued or “sleepers and busts” for reasons that may include luck, trends, or adjustments.
- Some top prospects who are almost major league ready or may start in the bigs include (excluding the big guys that everyone knows will be drafted early): Robert Gsellman, Yoan Moncada, J.P. Crawford, Cody Bellinger, Tyler Glasnow, Lewis Brinson, Jorge Alfaro, Francis Martes, Clint Frazier, Luke Weaver, and David Paulino. I’d call the top prospect who isn’t projected to start the season in the majors but could have an impact Cody Bellinger. Nabbing a guy when they come up could secure you a fantasy title. Alex Bregman was huge in 2016, as was Gary Sanchez. Noah Syndergaard is a great example from 2015.
- Kendrys Morales finished sixth in the league in hard contact per FanGraphs. This paired with him moving to a hitter friendly ballpark could mean an increase in homers
- Line drives result in hits the most often. Freddie Freeman had over 29% of his hit balls categorized as liners, which means he could be a safe bet to hit .300 and that his career high in homers is fully supported
- Ryan Braun got kind of lucky last year as almost 30% of his fly balls were homers. That’s an abnormally high rate even for a superstar. I’d consider him a candidate to hit for less power, especially since he hit 2.22 grounders for every fly ball he hit.
- Patience is a sign of a good hitter because they’re waiting for a good pitch to hit. Numerous studies done have backed this up. Joe Panik had 1 walk for every strikeout and showed he could hit for average in the past, so you can add him to a sleeper list of yours.
- wOBA was developed by Tom Tango and it follows the simple concept that certain results are worth more runs than others. It uses linear weights based on real data from major league games on how many runs an average result is worth. It’s not really a fantasy stat but it’s a good measure of the best hitters and who hits the most extra base hits. Josh Donaldson is consistently among the best along with Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout and Joey Votto. Those guys are the consistently good hitters. This is a good stat to use to track at the start of the draft
- Daniel Murphy and George Springer hit the fastball the best according to pitch F/X run value data that FanGraphs provides. Murphy had an exceptionally great year and a little regression is expected but he’s established himself as a solid player. Springer is interesting because he has a lot of power and if he can hit the fastball well and plays in Houston, he’s a real breakout candidate to become elite.
- Jean Segura had a .353 BABIP last year, some guys can maintain a higher BABIP but you aren’t drafting the 2016 version of him. D.J. LeMahieu is also in that boat with a .388 BABIP, it’s not fair to say he’s going to hit way worse but regression from him is a likely outcome. J.T. Realmuto likely won’t repeat his breakout campaign. The one interesting to me is J.D. Martinez because he had a .378 BABIP and he’s sat between .340 and .380 since he’s been in Detroit and he has sound hitting mechanics and hits the ball hard, in fact he just said he always tries to elevate the ball. So expecting him to hit .320 may be unfair but .290 to .300 seems realistic to me.
- On the other side of things Bryce Harper had very low BABIP, it’s more likely he’s the 2015 version of himself than 2016. Joe Panik and Todd Frazier are also due for some batting average gains. A super low BABIP suggests veterans Curtis Granderson and Jose Bautista could hit around .250-.260 in 2017 if everything else stays the same.
- The guys who lead in Statcast’s average exit velocity data are pretty predictable with Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Nelson Cruz, Miguel Cabrera, Matt Holliday, Mark Trumbo, Giancarlo Stanton and the newly retired Big Papi. Some surprises? Keon Broxton is in there. If he can get hits and power to go with his speed, he could be a coveted fantasy player. Ryan Zimmerman is coming off a career worst season but he’s still hitting the ball hard, which leads to some hope for a rebound and he was among the best hitters in baseball not too long ago. Domingo Santana has always been known for his power and his exit velocity might finally result in some power emerging, similar to Marcell Ozuna last year.
- Statcast also now accurately tracks average fly ball distance, which can be a good indicator for power too. Miguel Sano was among the leaders and we know many other measures say he has mammoth power, he had an average distance of 249 feet. Ryan Schimpf led the league with an average fly ball distance of 266 feet, so if nothing else he has some big league pop. Nicholas Castellanos shows up here again with an average distance 249 feet. He was nicknamed Kid Linea by Gabe Kapler for his line drive swing and was in the midst of a breakout season until a hit by pitch ended it in August.
- Sano also had a linear weighted power over 20 by my calculation, which Ron Schandler says top sluggers have one of 17. His biggest issue is to cut down his strikeouts.
- Barrels are considered to be well-struck balls that have an estimated average of .500 and slugging over 1 per Baseball Savant. Miguel Cabrera led the league in those, he’s still got it folks. The homer leaders (Trumbo, Stanton, Carter) and the second half homer machine (Gary Sanchez) appear among the barrels per batted ball data to nobody’s surprise. Yasmani Grandal led all catchers not named Gary Sanchez, so if it’s late in the draft and you’re looking for a catcher you know where to go.
- Per Bill James Handbook, Josh Donaldson had the best OPS versus the fastball in 2017. Mike Trout and Khris Davis were 1-2 versus the curve. Tyler Naquin had the best OPS versus the change and Didi Gregorius was second against the slider among AL players. This may not help the player every time, but it certainly means they’re hitting one pitch well. Daniel Murphy and Kris Bryant had the highest OPS against the fastball, Bryant had the highest against the curve, Braun killed the change, and Cesar Hernandez got the edge in highest OPS versus the slider, Rizzo was second. So can Kris Bryant be stopped? The next stop of his might be 40 longballs.
- On the pitching side of things guys with a really good K/9 that you might not expect were: Michael Pineda, Robbie Ray, Jon Gray, Drew Pomeranz, Danny Duffy, Carlos Rodon, Kevin Gausman and Gio Gonzalez. If you’re thinking strikeouts late, then these are the guys to target.
- Chris Archer had a lot of bad luck last year, he could have an all-out breakout in 2017. He gets strikeouts and was struck with a lot of bad luck last year. He just needed to work a bit on his command this off-season and that’s the last step.
- Noah Syndergaard is going to be even better next season if he’s allowed to reach 200 innings. His FIP was 2.29, he had over 10 K/9, he’s nasty AND he had bad luck with balls in play last season. He might be the next guy to be right under Kershaw like Jose Fernandez did last season.
- Michael Pineda and Robbie Ray were highly touted prospects and we’ve seen they’re getting guys via the strikeout and they also had a lot of bad luck last season. They both had sub-4 FIPs and look like strong candidates to become solid fantasy options
- Felix Hernandez looks like he might be at the stage of his career that Justin Verlander was at in 2014-15. Now that he’s older he needs to pitch more and rely on his heat less, his FIP took a huge hike last year and at where he keeps getting drafted, he’s a huge risk.
- Marcus Stroman is actually kind of underrated. He went through a nasty stretch, but his FIP also suggests he’s ready to be a good pitcher. Don’t expect an ace, but he’s right in that tier of solid options
- Lance McCullers could be a top 10 pitcher if he can get his walks under control, his FIP and K/9 support a fantasy ace.
- Ken Giles slider was worth more runs than Andrew Miller’s last season according to the pitch f/x run value. Given the fact he’s on a great team, he could rack up saves and become the next dominant reliever
- Looking up changeup values shows us why Kyle Hendricks and David Price are aces, but we can see Matt Shoemaker and Jeremy Hellickson’s breakouts could be the real deal with their change-ups being used as their out pitch.
- Sliders being used by Verlander, Kershaw, and Archer are among the best, but Tom Koehler’s is up there too, he didn’t have many other favorable secondary stats, but if he can get his fastball working for him, he has some fantasy potential
- David Price’s fastball velocity went down 1 MPH last year, Arrieta’s went down 0.8 MPH, Felix’s went down over 1.5 MPH. Meanwhile Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander saw increases despite being on the “wrong” side of 30.
- Rick Porcello got more than 7 runs of support on average per start, so I wouldn’t bank on 20 wins again
- Michael Fulmer developed the change after being called up and had the lowest OPS against it in the AL after that. He certainly seems like a budding pitching star.
These are just some of the nuggets you can pull out, obviously there’s so much research you could write millions of words, but these are some of the more useful things I utilize.
Data compiled from FanGraphs, MLB.com Statcast, Baseball Savant, Bill James Handbook for OPS data, and Linear Weighted Power was introduced to me by Ron Schandler’s Forecaster, you can buy the latter two books, which are great buys.