If you’re in a deep league and your free agent pool is barren, now is a good time to start perusing the minor league leaderboards for potential callups who could earn positive fantasy value. Today, I’ll start with pitcher SwStk% leaders. In my non-scientific observations, a pitcher’s minor league SwStk% better correlates with his MLB strikeout rate. That means that if I see a high strikeout rate without a high SwStk% in the minors (such as a 30% strikeout rate, but only 11% SwStk%), I’m not optimistic the pitcher will post a strong strikeout rate in the Majors. On the other hand, if I see a high SwStk%, but mediocre strikeout rate, I think there’s more upside, and won’t shy away.
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Yesterday, I discussed the five starting pitchers who have increased their fastball velocity the most over the last 14 days compared to the rest of the season prior. Let’s now review the starting pitchers who have suffered fastball velocity declines over the last 14 days.
Pitcher true talent changes more frequently than hitters, and one of the reasons why is because of fluctuating velocities. It’s helpful to monitor velocity changes as it could portend a change in performance. Of course, velocity isn’t usually very stable from start to start, but if a trend emerges, it could be a good or bad sign, depending on the direction of the trend. So let’s review the starting pitchers who have enjoyed a fastball velocity spike over the last 14 days, which likely equates to two to three starts.
Yesterday, I discussed the five starting pitchers that have enjoyed the largest SwStk% surges versus last year. Let’s now discuss the decliners.
Give me only one metric to evaluate a pitcher that isn’t an ERA estimator like SIERA and I’ll choose SwStk%. The ultimate validation of a pitcher’s stuff is his ability to make batters swing and miss. So let’s review the starting pitchers whose SwStk% marks have increased the most versus last year.
Let’s finish this week’s rundown of new everyday players and decide if they are worth rostering depending on your league format.
Let’s continue running down another collection of new everyday players and decide if they are worth rostering depending on your league format.
It’s hard keeping track of playing time situations, as seemingly every day, another hitter gets hurt or a team gives up on a struggling starter and demotes him to the minors or the bench. So let’s review some of the hitters that have been playing every day that you may not have realized. We’ll review new everyday starting hitters through the rest of my week’s posts.
Luis Rengifo | LAA
While it didn’t exactly happen the way I expected, Rengifo did eventually earn a starting job, though not at shortstop like I assumed during the preseason. David Fletcher’s injury has made him the Angels’ regular second baseman, as he has now started 11 straight games. Once again, he was hitting extremely well at Triple-A, essentially matching his strong 2021 performance from a wOBA perspective, but this year came with more home run power. So far over a small sample, he has performed admirably, posting a .339 wOBA, though his power once again hasn’t translated just yet.
You have to wonder if Rengifo’s power will ever translate, as he owns just a .109 ISO at the MLB level in just over a full season’s worth of plate appearances. Since he hasn’t shown a willingness to steal a lot of bases, he needs to carry over some of that seemingly newfound minor league power to be worth a roster spot. I’ll continue to hold in AL Tout Wars for as long as he’s starting every day and hope for the best.
Michael Harris II | ATL
Harris was ranked as the team’s fourth best prospect last year, but the team’s rankings haven’t been published this year yet to see if there has been any movement. Since being recalled from Double-A, he has started three straight in center field and only really needs to fend off one of William Contreras or Adam Duvall right now to continue playing every day. The 21-year-old enjoyed a nice power spike this season, boosting his ISO to just over .200, though his HR/FB rate remained flat at just 10%. The power surge was driven by a higher doubles rate, which is still a good sign, as one hopes those doubles eventually turn into dingers.
The real value might come from his speed, as he swiped 11 bases in about a third of a season and stole 27 last year, in just over half a season. I like that he doesn’t strike out too often, and has posted big BABIP marks at nearly all of his stops, so he could actually earn some positive value in batting average, which is a big deal in the current offensive environment.
There are two concerns here — he has been hitting ninth and there’s not much potentially to move up any higher than eighth, and he jumped from Double-A to the Majors without an a plate appearance at Triple-A. While some hitters could succeed after skipping the minors’ highest level, it’s a lot easier for a pitcher to be effective going from Double-A to the Majors than it is for a hitter. It’s something to keep in mind, as the Braves might not give him a very long leash and demote him to Triple-A if he struggles through a couple of weeks.
Nolan Gorman | STL
While we don’t know yet where Gorman ranks among Cardinals prospects since the list hasn’t been released yet, he sits 55th overall, making him one of the better prospects in the game. Since his recall, he has started six of eight games, as it appears the Cardinals will be playing him as part of the strong side of a platoon, benching him against left-handed starters.
Gorman’s calling card is power, as his Raw Power graded out at 65/70, which is elite. He had posted an insane 38.5% HR/FB rate and .368 ISO at Triple-A before his promotion, though his power before this year was merely good, not great. So was this a power breakout or small sample fluke? He has mostly been a fly ball hitter too, which should further boost his home run output, but could potentially hamper his BABIP. That hasn’t happened yet, but the defense in the Majors is far better than in the minors, so BABIP marks are higher in the latter than the former.
He has been swinging and missing a lot over his small sample debut performance, and he has always posted SwStk% marks in the mid-teens, so strikeouts could possibly be an issue. With only a touch of speed, his power is going to be key. We could easily see a generic low average, good power production level here, but he’s definitely worth speculating on to find out how real that Triple-A power spike is.
Brendan Donovan | STL
Injuries and the demotion of Paul DeJong vaulted Donovan to the Majors and he has been starting most days, playing a slew of positions. He has shown great contact skills in the minors, never posted a double digit SwStk% or a strikeout rate exceeding 19%. He has also been more than willing to take a walk, posting double digit walk rates at every stop except one over his minor league career. Usually when I hear such a profile, he’s either one of the best offensive prospects in baseball, or the catch is that the hitter has limited power.
Unfortunately, it’s the latter, as his HR/FB rates have sat in the high single digits at every stop except one, while his ISO typically finished well below .150. It’s been 66 at-bats so far, and his maxEV is just 104.5, so it seems pretty safe to say you shouldn’t be counting on him for home runs. While he has stolen a couple of bases here and there, he also isn’t expected to be a big steals contributor. Overall, this actually looks like an undervalued overall profile that includes something like 10/10 potential, a good OBP, and a respectable batting average. It’s definitely not exciting, but doing a little of everything does add up.
Yesterday, I reviewed the hitters that have most underperformed their Statcast xBA marks. Let’s now flip over to the overperformers.
While we have all acknowledged that Statcast’s xBA (expected batting average) isn’t perfect, and the reason I created my hitter xBABIP equation, it’s far better than taking a hitter’s current batting average or BABIP at face value. It’s also easy to use — no calculations required, just open the Statcast leaderboard on Fangraphs and you’ll see a bevy of Statcast metrics, including xBA. So as we’re getting close to the one-third point of the season, let’s check out the biggest underperformers. These are the hitters whose batting averages are most below their xBA marks. It’s a good starting list to research further for potential trade target opportunities.