High Performing Ottoneu Free Agent Hitters

When searching for free agents in Ottoneu leagues, my first stop is the Ottoneu search page. On any Ottoneu league page, you can find search via the “Players” link on desktop or the baseball icon on mobile. It has some nice functionality, including filters, sortable results, etc., that you can use to find guys who might be a fit for your team. To find free agents in my leagues, I use the “Free agents only” checkbox and then sort by things like points per game, total points, or even roster percent to find guys who are valued in other leagues but not rostered in mine.

For this article, though, I need to know free agents in your leagues, so instead of starting with the “free agents” checkbox, I used the filters to limit my results to players with a roster percent below 50. I then added a filter to limit to players with 25+ PA, and sorted by P/G. That brought up a list of seven players rostered in less than half of leagues putting up more than 6 P/G in 25+ PA.

High Performing Ottoneu Free Agent Hitters
Player Position P/G Roster %
Tucker Barnhart C 7.62 17.54%
Josh Harrison 2B/3B 7.07 9.06%
Jordan Luplow OF 6.91 10.53%
Phillip Evans 3B 6.66 42.11%
Seth Brown 1B/OF 6.35 0.88%
Evan Longoria 3B 6.16 28.65%
Andrelton Simmons SS 6.03 30.41%

Let’s take a quick look at these seven names and determine who, if any, are worth rostering:

Tucker Barnhart – The Reds are crushing the ball right now, particularly at home, and Barnhart is right in the middle of that. He’s got a .466 wOBA and the idea of grabbing a catcher who can put up more than 7 (or even 6) points/game is awfully attractive. But Barnhart also has a .542 BABIP and a 33.3% HR/FB rate (compared to a career 10% rate and a career-high 17.2% last year), neither of which are sustainable. He is striking out 32.6% of the time and walking 8.7% of the time, both of which are worse than he has had the past few seasons. Barnhart hasn’t historically been a good Ottoneu catcher and what he’s doing right now looks like fool’s gold to me. I am not taking a chance on Barnhart.

Josh Harrison – My immediate thought on Harrison is, “Don’t we know who he is?” But after having only two seasons over 5 P/G in the past, he is putting up big numbers in 2021. So is it worth gambling on an age 33 breakout? Harrison has increased his exit velocity and hard-hit rate, but both are still pretty weak. His insane BABIP is hard to explain, especially given his lack of hard contact. However, while he isn’t making hard contact, he is making a lot of contact. Harrison has significantly dropped his chase rate and increased his contact rate in the zone, leading to a career-high 86.9% contact rate. If you don’t chase and you make contact when you swing, you won’t strike out (2.8% strikeout rate), you will walk (11.1% walk rate) and you’ll give yourself plenty of balls in play. I don’t think Harrison can maintain this, but we’re getting to a point where that contact rate and that chase rate are telling us something. He’s playing more often than not right now and as long as he is starting for the Nats, he’s a viable option as infield depth for an Ottoneu team. He’s not going to keep up this pace, but if he can continue to control the zone and put balls in play, he can help your depth without killing your stats.

Jordan Luplow – Luplow’s line is misleading in a couple of ways. First, while he is third on this list, he has been the best hitter of the bunch. His points per game are deflated because he regularly gets PH appearances when he doesn’t start. On the other hand, he rarely plays against RHP. Of course, as I write this, Luplow is about to take his first PA on Thursday, leading off against a rightie. The simple analysis on Luplow is that he isn’t doing anything he hasn’t done before – he is one of the best in the game off lefties. The problem is, you can’t rely on him playing more than a third of the time and you risk him getting pulled for a PH and losing PA every time he does start. However, if his start against Domingo German on Thursday is a sign, Luplow might be getting a longer leash from Cleveland. He only has 280 career PA vs. righties and they have been marred by low BABIP and a lack of power, but his plate discipline has been fine. This year, in 6 PA against RHP (before Thursday) he had three strikeouts, but also had two HR and a double. If he can hit for some power vs. RHP and become an everyday leadoff guy, there is big upside here. It’s risky, but he is worth a gamble.

Phillip Evans – Maybe we should have seen this coming since Evans put up 6.35 P/G last year, but I, for one, did not. Over 111 2020-21 plate appearances, coming into play Thursday, Evans has a .402 wOBA, 9% walk rate and 17% strikeout rate. While his .356 BABIP is likely not going to continue, it doesn’t really have to – he can let that drop and still have an awfully good line if the rest continues. Last year, he didn’t have great Statcast numbers, but this year he has 85th percentile hard-hit rate, 61st percentile barrel rate 81st percentile exit velocity, and 73rd percentile max exit velocity. Pair that good (though not great) contact quality with good plate discipline, and you have a solid player. Given what he did last year, he isn’t a bad bet. He’ll also be adding OF eligibility soon, which helps even more. If I knew Luplow would play every day, I would rather gamble on Luplow, but Evans is close and I think he’s a better bet to stay in the lineup daily.

Seth Brown – Brown hit 37 HR in Triple-A in 2019, earned a call to Oakland, and then waited until 2021 to finally hit his first MLB HR. Then he hit two more in short order. That power is doing a lot of work for him in the early going – a 42.9% HR/FB rate isn’t something you can expect going forward but it’s driving a .333 ISO. The exciting thing about Brown is that the inflated HR/FB rate isn’t all he has going for him. In 2019-2020, he was striking out 28.4% of the time and walking 8.0% of the time. In 2021, the K’s are down (23.5%) and the BB’s are up (11.8%). He hasn’t played enough to read much into his hard-hit rates or exit velocities, but they are up, and his max EV is 90th percentile. Brown, like others on this list, suffers from playing time concerns, but I am intrigued and where I need OF help, he is a guy I am looking at. If he keeps hitting like this, the playing time will follow.

Evan Longoria – From 2008-13, Longoria was over 6.0 P/G every year. From 2014-2020, be broke 5.0 P/G only once. And now, at 35, he is crushing the ball. Niv Shah brought up his contact quality on the latest episode (#38) of the Ottobot Podcast and it is well worth a listen. Longoria actually made big strides in his Statcast data in 2020, but the results weren’t there. This year, he is hitting the ball even harder, and the results are finally starting to follow. If you are looking for some depth at 3B, someone to replace an injured 3B or Util starter, you could do worse than riding this Longoria hot streak. If he proves to have found a second life at 35, great. If not, you use him for now and drop him when you no longer need him.

Andrelton Simmons – Simmons is a different case than the others because he isn’t playing right now. Simmons tested positive for COVID-19 and is on the COVID IL, which means he is out until he is healthy and tests negative. That could be days or weeks and it is hard to know which. Prior to his positive test, Simmons was putting up impressive numbers. Known for his glove, not his bat, Simmons has never been a useful Ottoneu shortstop, but he started 2021 on fire, putting up 60.3 points in 10 games. To be blunt, there is nothing to see here. Simmons has always avoided strikeouts and drawn limited walks. This year he is drawing more walks and striking out more, but the biggest gain in his numbers is from a .440 BABIP. Once that corrects, even with the higher walk rate, Simmons is still a glove-first SS who brings no power. Maybe he improves his OBP enough to improve on his 4.30 P/G from 2020, but that isn’t enough to matter. He’ll be back eventually, but there’s no reason for you to be adding him.

A long-time fantasy baseball veteran and one of the creators of ottoneu, Chad Young's writes for RotoGraphs and PitcherList, and can be heard on the ottobot podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.

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civeng2345Chad YoungO'Kieboomer Recent comment authors
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Great article and very insightful.