Author Archive

Alex Chamberlain’s Five Bold Predictions for 2022: A Review

Here’s the original post. No dilly-dallying, let’s dive in.

1) Steven Kwan is a top-30 outfielder.

Kwan walk more than he stuck out, and while he only hit six home runs, he stole 19 bases and slashed .298/.373/.400 (124 wRC+). Only five qualified hitters had a better strikeout-to-walk ratio (K/BB), and only Luis Arraez had a lower swinging strike rate (SwStr%). Ultimately, Kwan finished the season 19th among outfielders on Razzball’s Player Rater. The haters will point to volume (he accumulated 622 plate appearances) but Kwan finished 20th among qualified outfielders on a per-game basis—that is, ignoring volume.

You may remember Kwan started the season scorching hot, then predictably fell back to earth, which entailed a somewhat grueling slump. Da Haters pointed to this slump as an indication of Kwan’s lack of viability as a Major Leaguer rather than simple gravity. The slump actually cost Kwan some starting time—he could’ve notched 700 PA if the Guardians didn’t lose faith in him in May, like everyone else did—but he rebounded by showcasing his tools. More excitingly, his counting stats increased as the season wore on, and he compiled three home runs, seven steals, and a .309 average in September alone.

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Reckless Fun with Pitch Comps for New Pitches

Using my Pitch Leaderboard, I identified every “new” pitch* thrown during MLB’s glorious first weekend. Then, using my Pitch Comps tool, which uses pitch specs (like velocity, spin rate, movement, and release points) to compare pitches to one another, I wanted to see if I could make any quantifiable declarations about the quality of these pitches in small samples. I can’t write about everyone, so I’ll select the most interesting ones (in my humble opinion).

(*Including existing pitches from rookies for whom we now finally have MLB statcast data as well as existing pitches thrown by players who missed all of 2021 due to injury. It will be interesting to see if the latter group looks measurably different post-injury than they did pre-injury.)

At the end of the season, I’ll revisit to find out these comps were actually indicative (i.e., “predictive,” in a sense) of quality, but it’s also strongly possible the comps will change as samples grow. This is very experimental, but it’s something I’ve wanted to try in the past but hadn’t found the motivation to do.

Why pitch comps? I know I am prone to bias watching a handful of pitches from a pitcher. I can’t scout because I can deceive myself into just about any conclusion (and I think the same can be said for most of us, whether we like it or not).

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10 More Starting Pitchers, Just Because

Yesterday, I published 15 starting pitcher blurbs, just because. It involved a long prologue behind the what, when, and why of the matter. In short, I spent much of the offseason secluding my digital self from outside noise (fantasy baseball articles, Twitter opinions, etc.), forcing myself to develop opinions on as many relevant players as possible. I isolated my brain from outside analysis and biases, leaving me with only my own. I wanted to document my thoughts, both to have a point of reference during drafts and to have a record of those thoughts for accountability’s sake. If nothing else, be accountable to yourself.

At the end of yesterday’s article, I solicited recommendations from readers for more pitchers to feature. That, my friends, was an enormous mistake. Although I alleged I would pick names at random, instead I combed through 85 comments (and counting) and tallied up the most combined recommendations and up-votes. Those are the ones I’ll present here.

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15 Starting Pitchers, Just Because

This offseason I set out on a personal journey. Sentences like that usually precede stories of enlightenment, and I suppose this story features some enlightenment of its own. We won’t know how much enlightenment until after the 2022 season concludes.

I’m not asked this question often, but I have been asked it often enough to have a stock answer for it. It’s some variation of, “What’s the best thing someone can do to improve as a fantasy baseball player?”, to which my answer is some variation of, “Develop an opinion about every player—well, not every player, but you know what I mean.”

This is something that, when I had more time on my hands, I used to do. But in 2020 I became a work-from-home/stay-at-home father navigating a pandemic, and I burned out. Although I managed sporadic success and positive returns on investment in the 2020 and 2021 seasons, I was lucky to escape unscathed—I was all but flying blind. I was, and still am, fortunate to have years and years of watching baseball and playing fantasy baseball to have built an encyclopedic knowledge about most players.

It’s easy, however, to miss the big changes—the breakouts, the fall-offs, the rookies. It’s easy to dismiss them, and easier yet to enter a draft room and ignore them all together. Indeed, you can build a winning team without deeply investigating these types of players, instead relying on existing knowledge about existing players. You can do it, but it’s difficult, and it’s foolish.

So, I dedicated myself to the task of developing opinions about nearly every player.

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Alex Chamberlain’s Five Bold Predictions for 2022

No prologue, just bold predictions. Bold, but not stupidly bold, and actionable in a way that can tangibly affect your fantasy season (for better or worse). Let’s go.

1) Steven Kwan is a top-30 outfielder.

The marquee peripheral prospect hitter for 2021, Kwan comes from a long line of peripheral prospects who boast elite contact skills (José Ramírez, Jeff McNeil, Jake Cronenworth, Josh Rojas) and a smattering of other fantasy-relevant skills, be it a little bit of power, speed, or both. Kwan looked David Fletcheresque, hitting only three home runs in his first 600ish professional plate appearances, but boasting the minor leagues’ best plate skills, bar none.
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2022 Draft Recap: Tout Wars (15-Team Auction)

On Friday, Tout Wars’ mixed salary cap (auction) league completed its draft. It’s a 15-team league that uses a 5-by-5 rotisserie scoring convention, except it replaces batting average (AVG) with on-base percentage (OBP). I transitioned into this league last year—and got absolutely eviscerated (I finished 14th of 15). I can make excuses—it was my first time playing in an OBP league and also my first time participating in a 15-team salary cap draft—but at the end of the day, the blame falls at my own feet. I planned very poorly for last year’s draft. In fact, I planned very poorly for all my drafts last year. I was a new stay-at-home/work-from-home father navigating parenthood and a pandemic. I was burned out! Fantasy baseball was not the reprieve it should’ve been; it felt like a chore.

I am rejuvenated this year. I didn’t want to embarrass myself again. I studied and wrote unique comments for more nearly 350 players (I wish I could have done more in time). I recalibrated my internal encyclopedia of player knowledge to better understand players’ OBP tendencies rather than their AVG tendencies. I was as prepared as I could possibly be given the limitations and constraints of daily life.

I will say up front: my draft went OK. I feel a lot better about it than I did last year, but I’m still not thrilled. I think that is a side-effect of drafting in a 15-team league. The pool of worthwhile players exhausts itself at just the right time in a 12-team league. In a 15-team league, you feel like you’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel. It feels… not great!

An eternal pessimist, I may be underselling the quality of my team to myself, not allowing me to get my hopes up, lest I implode gloriously for a second year. ATC projections like my team, and I drafted guys I like because I think they are projected accurately or even slightly bearishly, allowing for upside. I didn’t really draft anyone who left a bad taste in my mouth. That’s a minor victory in and of itself. Of course, if my team sucks, then maybe the lesson learned is not that my team didn’t leave a bad taste, but that I simply have bad taste.

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2021 Peripheral Prospect Shortlist: Pitchers

Recently I published my Peripheral Prospect hitters for 2021. In a perfect world I would have published my thoughts on a wider array of hitters periodically throughout the season. Alas, this is not a perfect world, so I settled for a year-end catch-all post.

Rinse and repeat for pitchers. The rules: (1) They pitched in the high minors (Double-A or Triple-A) but not the MLB level, and (2) they cannot be featured on any prominent top-100 list. Top-100 updates count (and all due respect to those updated lists, because revising your priors is not a bad thing!).

Brace yourselves: I’m kicking this off with three Cleveland farmhands with whom I implore you must familiarize yourself. Eight Peripheral Prospect pitchers for your fine Wednesday:

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2021 Peripheral Prospect Shortlist: Hitters

In a former life, I had the time and energy to keep up with Peripheral Prospects on a semiweekly basis. That dream hibernated in 2020 when the pandemic killed the minor league season and died for good this year when I simply failed to uphold my end of the bargain.

But I love Peripheral Prospects and the inexact science/exact art of digging up breakout fringe and non-prospects with potential to make waves at the big-league level despite lacking the requisite hype. These breakouts make for feel-good stories, but for fantasy baseball purposes they’re market inefficiencies that can change the trajectories of dynasty (or even redraft) teams.

So, I want to spill at least a little bit of digital ink in honor of my favorite Peripheral Prospect hitters (and pitchers, coming in a separate post). A year-end catch-all post loses the dynamics of the ebb and flow of player performance; I benefit from these slash lines being etched in stone. But that hindsight should make the selections here a bit tighter than might have normally been picking five fresh names every other week for six months.

Anyway, here’s my list of top-8 Peripheral Prospect hitters from 2021 (because 10 was too many—this is rarefied air, y’all). The only rules: (1) They played in the high minors (Double-A or Triple-A) but not the MLB level, and (2) they cannot be featured on any prominent top-100 list. I’m going to rank them loosely from favorite to least-favorite. Let’s go!

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Peripheral Prospects of 2019, but for 2021: A Review

Back in 2019, Brad Johnson and I co-authored a weekly series called “Peripheral Prospects” that was extremely fun to write and (in my opinion) dropped some genuinely good nuggets on unloved fringe- and non-prospects. Because many of the players featured throughout the series did not debut in 2019 or even in 2020, I wanted to publish a post dedicated to keeping an eye on some of those circa-2019 peripheral prospects this past season.

That’s pretty much it. In the coming weeks, I’ll post lists of my favorite peripheral prospect hitters and pitchers for the 2021 season. Until then, let’s review how some of my favorite peripheral prospects from 2019 performed in 2021.

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Alex Chamberlain’s Seven Bold Predictions for 2021: A Review

It’s cliché to say “you know the drill,” but you do! You do, indeed, know the drill! The one thing about bold predictions that gets me up on my soapbox every year is what it means to be bold. There’s bold for shock value, bold to be bold. (Or, not bold enough—its own problem.) And then there’s sufficiently bold (per market sentiments) but readily achievable.

Much of this is qualitative, so “sufficiently bold” and “readily achievable” are eye-of-the-beholder types of descriptors. But we can at least measure sufficient boldness using average draft position (ADP) data. All fantasy baseball websites use them; I use National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) data because it involves high-stakes players. (Let it be known that high-stakes does not always equal high-talent, but that’s altogether another soapbox.) Moreover, we can filter NBFC ADP by date range, so I can leverage ADP specifically from the final week of spring training by which time ambiguous spring training storylines have solidified.

I’m proud of my success this year. I hope a few of these picks were worthwhile for you, if you happened to heed them exclusively because of this post. That’d be quite brave of you!

(“Year-end rank” courtesy of Razzball’s player rater.)

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