A Look at Recent Trends and How to React to them
As the sample sizes of 2018 grows, we are starting to get a better idea of what to expect going forward. There are still players that are due for regression, but changes at the plate and the mound are starting to come to fruition for players like Brandon Belt and Eduardo Rodriguez. Also, are Fantasy owners getting overly excited with breakout players like Nomar Mazara and Ozzie Albies? The numbers contain the answers.
Belt, who never had a season with 20-plus home runs, seems ready to change that. He has 11 home runs and a career-high 50 percent fly ball rate. The increased fly balls has led to MLB’s lowest ground ball rate of 20.5 percent. Those are great trends for power ability and his batted balls have great value, as he is sixth in MLB in barrels per plate appearance. Belt has made all the right adjustments, and will cruise to a career season. We will still see some regression, as his home run to fly ball rate has been a tad higher than his normal percentages. He seems to really be adopting the launch angle craze among hitters, and Fantasy owners are reaping the rewards. I would hold on to Belt and ride his hot bat this year.
One of the likeliest victims of regression is Mazara. He currently owns an unsustainable 33 percent home run to fly ball rate, and is hitting ground balls 55 percent of the time. If Mazara is going to continue his power production this season, he needs to hit more fly balls. That makes me very willing to explore trade options for Mazara, as owners might be drooling over his upside in his potential breakout season. Also, he needs to cut down on his 22 percent strikeout rate. An unsustainable start and improvements still to be made has me ready to sell high on Mazara.
After a slow start to the 2018 season, Benintendi is having a stellar May. He has a .338 batting average with four home runs in 18 games. He is getting it done on the bases as well. He has eight steals and has yet to be caught on an attempt. His speed score on Fangraphs is actually fifth in MLB. After a 20 home run and 20 stolen base campaign last year, he is on his way to another. He is still struggling versus left-handed pitchers, but his production against right-handed pitchers has made up for it. Batting at the top of one baseball’s best lineups, Benintendi will have plenty of opportunities to provide Fantasy production. He will continue his success from this month into the rest of the season, and will fly somewhat under the radar in Boston’s lineup.
Is it crazy to say it is a good time to trade Albies? He is off to one of the best starts in MLB, but his trade value will never be higher. In his second season and at 21 years old, he could easily go through a hitting slump or hit a wall, as we have yet to see him dominate for an extended amount of time. Coming up in the minors, Albies did not show anywhere close to the power he has displayed this season. His Isolated Power was never above .160 in four years in the minors, but sits at .297 this season. His home run to fly ball rate was eight percent last year, but has jumped to 18 percent so far this season. There is going to be regression to his home runs. However, he does have the ability of being a high batting average hitter that can stay around .280 to .290 this season. I am willing to sell off Albies at a high trade value, and get a proven top asset for him.
Hall of Famer Jim Thome breaks down the swing of 21 year old phenom Ozzie Albies. A must watch video for all hitters! 👀💯 pic.twitter.com/YYkj1ioFFK
— Donkey Hack™ (@DonkeyHack) May 22, 2018
Dozier is having an up-and-down start to the season, yet he is a perfect trade target before he starts turning it on. In May, he is hitting just .205 with an OPS of just .655. The main issue has been 43% of his batted balls being grounders and just eight percent of them being line drives in May. His career ground ball rate is 37 percent and career line drive rate is 19 percent. This has led his Isolated Power to be the lowest it has been since his rookie season in 2012. With how consistent he has been over the past few years, I expect him to see positive regression, and the power will return. A slow start from Dozier gives a good opportunity to try and trade for him at his lowest value.
Rodriguez is doing some of his best work in 2018. He is generating more ground balls with a seven percent increase from last year, and striking out a career high 28 percent of batters. He has been less predictable with his pitches, not throwing one more than 50% of the time and having five different pitches. The biggest change has been a 13 percent decrease in his fastball, and the reintroduction of the cutter. In 2016 Rodriguez threw his cutter only 2.8 percent of the time, and then did not throw it at all in 2017. This season, he has opted to throw it 12.8 percent of the time. Using the cutter has helped his fastball and gives him more deception. His 12.1 percent swinging strike rate is a career high for him. If Rodriguez can stay healthy, he will have a career year with his positive changes on the mound and will see good run support. I would trade for him in your Fantasy leagues.
I would not feel confident in Jake Arrieta. Struggling to fool anyone at the plate, he has generated just a 15.6 percent strikeout rate, and has MLB’s second lowest swinging strike rate of six percent. Keeping him afloat is a career high ground ball rate, and a five percent home run to fly ball rate. Both will see regression, and his ERA will start rising. On the surface it appears Arrieta might be getting back to form, but I am not buying it. I would trade Arrieta before regression hits.
Brian Dozier Featured Image: (AP Photo/Jim Mone)