Five Under 50%: May 23, 2017

Back in early April, I wrote a Five Under 50% post in which I implored fantasy owners to invest in the likes of Nick Franklin and Dan Altavilla. I urged readers to steer clear of Marwin Gonzalez, and promised that Edwin Diaz’s job was as safe as they come.

Naturally, Franklin has a 38 wRC+, Altavilla has a 6.60 ERA, Gonzalez has a .419 wOBA, and Diaz is no longer the Mariners closer. Sorry about that.

Before you quit reading this post because, really, why should you trust me, just know that my predictions weren’t all terrible. I also forecasted success for Scott Schebler (.365 wOBA), Mark Reynolds (.419 wOBA), and Ryan Zimmerman (.469 wOBA), who have been among the best hitters in baseball this year.

Not every gamble will pay off. But when it does, it can transform a fantasy team. It’s been about a month and a half since my last Five Under 50% post, and with renewed confidence, I’m prepared to do it again now.

Below are five (actually seven; I cheated) players owned in less than 50% of Ottoneu leagues whom I think may be worth an add in most leagues. There’s no need to jealously yearn for these players later when you can win them now for pennies on the dollar.

1. Chris Taylor (2B/SS/3B; 39%)

Taylor has batted 101 times this season, and he has a .333/.446/.583 line, good for a .439 wOBA and 176 wRC+. After hitting a mere one home run through his first 318 career plate appearances, Taylor has five already this year. He’s also walking 16.8% of the time, which is ninth-best in baseball among those with at least 100 plate appearances. Steamer projects a 100 wRC+ ROS, albeit in just 166 more plate appearances. In terms of playing time, as Nicolas Stellini wrote yesterday, Taylor is filling in for the injured Logan Forsythe, who’s expected to return today. Justin Turner is also banged up, so for now, Taylor can move over to third. However, when Turner comes back, that’s when things get murky. Stellini opined that if Adrian Gonzalez gets injured, Cody Bellinger may move to first base, clearing a spot for Taylor in the outfield. In other words, long-term playing time is a legitimate reason for concern for Taylor. Also, he’s running an unsustainable .411 BABIP and hitting ground balls at a higher rate than he has in the past, so count him out as a new member of the fly ball revolution. However, his hard-hit rate is about 6% above his career average, and his percentage of balls in play 95+ mph is 32nd-best in baseball, directly behind Tommy Joseph, Bryce Harper, and Kendrys Morales, and ahead of Matt Holliday, Michael Taylor, and Eric Thames. While playing time and the small sample represent legitimate risk, Taylor seems worthy of a speculative add in most formats.

2. James Hoyt (RP; 32%), Joe Smith (RP; 29%), Josh Fields (RP; 25%)

Yeah, I cheated. I lumped three players together under one number. If you can find it in your heart to forgive me, I will kindly note that Hoyt has 19 strikeouts in 10 innings, the projections like him, and manager A.J. Hinch recently said that Hoyt has earned the right to pitch in high leverage situations. Despite his dominant numbers and elevated role, Hoyt, who’s 30 years old, probably won’t see too many save opportunities. As such, his ownership should likely be limited to holds leagues.

Joe Smith, meanwhile, is running a strikeout rate that’s about 16% above his career average. He’s done so by increasing his O-Swing% by about 10.5% and cutting his contact rate by 7.5%. With Joe Biagini now in the Blue Jays starting rotation, Smith slots into the set-up role behind the closer Roberto Osuna, and is worth owning in all holds leagues.

Josh Fields may be the one of the three to avoid, if only because of how he’s being used. Despite his 32% strikeout rate and 0.96 ERA/1.91 FIP/2.95 xFIP, Fields pitched in the fourth inning of a game the Dodgers were losing 8-0 this past Saturday, and for one out (with two outs and nobody on) in the seventh inning of a game the Dodgers were leading 6-1 on Sunday. Fields has exciting peripherals, but he certainly doesn’t represent a threat to closer Kenley Jansen, and there’s no guarantee he’ll get the chance to rack up holds, either. If he ever does find a consistent role in the late innings, he’s worth a look in holds leagues.

3. Justin Smoak (1B; 23%)

It appears as though Jeff Sullivan may have been right about Smoak. Using a unique approach that looked for comparable players based on exit velocity, launch angle, and contact rate, Sullivan found that Smoak’s mixture of qualities as a hitter put him in elite company, with his closest 2016 comp being Freddie Freeman. Count yours truly among those who just couldn’t get excited about Smoak and his career .309 wOBA and 95 wRC+ in about 3,000 plate appearances. Smoak, however, has made Sullivan look like a genius by batting .278/.340/.542 with a .372 wOBA and 135 wRC+ in 159 plate appearances this year. The career numbers still look ugly, but the offensive profile Sullivan outlined is hard to ignore. Smoak’s worth a speculative add in most formats in case he keeps this up, and Sullivan probably deserves a promotion or something.

4. Lonnie Chisenhall (OF; 18%):

Chisenhall had a .294 xwOBA last season to go along with an actual .327 wOBA. He ran a .328 BABIP that was 26 points better than his career average, despite showing no noticeable differences to his offensive profile (the point being, perhaps the xwOBA was onto something). This season, however, Chisenhall boasts a .374 wOBA and .360 xwOBA that slots him just behind Justin Upton, Josh Bell, and Brandon Belt, and ahead of Jose Ramirez, Cody Bellinger, and Giancarlo Stanton. Before we get carried away, Chisenhall is hitting grounders at the same rate as he has in the past, and his average launch angle in 2017 (15.9 degrees) is actually 1.7 degrees lower than it was in 2016. His average exit velocity this year (86.2 mph) is also just 0.5 mph higher than it was last season. In the aggregate, Chisenhall looks like the same player he was last year, but broken down at-bat per at-bat, something’s clearly been different. MLB.com’s xwOBA is based on exit velocity and launch angle, and Chisenhall’s 2017 xwOBA is 66 points higher than it was last season, and his actual wOBA has been up as well. Chisenhall is worth a cheap bet in deeper leagues.

5. Chad Pinder (2B/SS; 1%)

Admittedly, Pinder pretty much only made this list because he has five home runs, including this 460-foot moonshot, in 54 plate appearances, and he’s 2B/SS eligible. He figures to play mostly (only?) against left-handed pitching, if he’s even in the major leagues. He’s there now, and thriving in a minuscule sample: his .447 xwOBA is fifth-best in baseball (min. 40 ABs), he has the ninth-highest rate of balls in play hit 95+ mph, and his average exit velocity is the second-highest in baseball. Suffice it to say, Pinder is on a role right now, but it’s also safe to assume that those numbers won’t last: Steamer projects a .295 wOBA and 86 wRC+ ROS. On the off chance that he can continue to display light tower power on a consistent basis, Pinder may be worth a cheap add in the deepest of formats.





Ben Kaspick is the host Locked On Giants, a daily podcast focused on the San Francisco Giants. He began writing for FanGraphs' RotoGraphs in 2016, and also contributes for SB Nation's Beyond the Box Score. Follow him on Twitter @BenKaspick.

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Francis C.
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Francis C.

In this small sample, Pinder has actually fared better against right handed pitching. 18.5% K vs RHP and 40.7% K vs LHP. 261 wRC+ vs RHP and 94 wRC+ vs LHP. Anyway, you can’t really fake power, and Pinder has got lots of it according to Statcast. I’m buying in hopes of more consistent playing time.