Mixing Fantasy & Reality: Straily and LeMahieu

Dan Straily2017 Projection

Dan Straily was an interesting pitcher in 2016 as seen by the number of FanGraphs articles written about a journeyman 5th starter. Mark Sheldon at MLB.com summed up his entire season with data from a bunch of sabermetric websites.

What helped Straily perform well enough to earn one of those coveted spots? First, it was his effort over the previous offseason. He spent time in Washington working out at Driveline Baseball, a facility that emphasizes pitching data in training programs and uses — among other things — throwing with weighted baseballs to build shoulder strength.

“I literally can say after 31 starts that I never came in one day and was sore,” Straily said. “That’s not supposed to be that way. You’d have the little lingering stuff, but there was never a day where I didn’t want to pick up a baseball. I felt good the entire season.”

……
According to Statcast™, Straily had a very low spin rate on his changeup — the average of 1,444 RPMs ranked 80th out of 90 pitchers who threw at least 250 changeups in 2016. Changeups and fastballs with less spin generally have more downward movement. According to the heatmap, Straily was good at locating his changeup down and away to lefty hitters.

The heatmap on Straily’s slider demonstrated he could consistently locate it down and away to righty hitters. According to Fangraphs, the right-hander’s slider was worth 11.3 runs above average, making it his most valuable pitch.

I dove a bit into Straily’s yearlong results and came up with a different pitcher than the one who started the season. The big change happened after his May 25th start when he basically shelved his two-seam fastball (sinker) for the season.

Looking at his pERA values (article and spreadsheet explaining pERA), his 2-seamer was producing at a 5.51 ERA level (way below league average) while his 4-seamer’s pERA was at 4.41 which is league average for the pitch. His four-seam fastball is an extremely now groundball heavy pitch (19%) which will lead to some easy fly outs and a suppressed BABIP. Pairing the league average fastball with a league average changeup and slider, he should be a league average starter.

In 2016, he was even better than league average with his ERA at 3.76 and the league average at 4.34. With is an extremely low groundball rate, we should expect him to underperform his ERA estimators which hovered just below 5.00. I don’t think he will be able to suppress his runs allowed by over a run. By using the pERA values (removing the 2-seam values), I calculated his ERA at 4.43, which is almost right at the league value for a starter. An average pitcher is useful in most leagues and he is no exception. Here is where I will put his 2016 projection at:

2017 Projection: 200 IP, 4.20 ERA, 1.2o WHIP, 170 K

 

DJ LeMahieu2017 Projection

Fantasy owners aren’t giving LeMahieu much respect even though he finished as the 7th ranked 2B this past season. He comes with a trend which people may not believe in, a constantly improving eye with his BB/K going from .28 to .34 to .47 to .83. It is both his walk (4% to 10%) and strikeout (15% to 13%) rate improving, so he is seeing gains across the entire spectrum of his stats. The main gain has been with his on-base percentage going from .311 to .416. With the high OBP, he now hits at the top of the Rockies lineup where he has more plate appearances and can score more runs (104 this past season). Also, don’t consider him just a play at home player. While his OBP was insanely high at home (.473), it was shabby on the road (.353).

While LeMahieu is getting known for his batting average, he is starting to show some power with 11 home runs this past season. The home runs paired with double-digit stolen bases means he will contribute some in all categories with his RBI totals suppressed because he hits leadoff.

While he has shown some gains, I don’t think he will keep them all as his .388 BABIP will likely fall some. The BABIP drop will likely regress the rest of his stats alos, but he is a good bet to be a nice fantasy value again.
Truthfully, I am not going to go into a draft or auction targeting LeMahieu. He is not a game changer, but he is great balance play for a team who has a bunch of high power, low OBP guys (e.g. Mark Trumbo).  Additionally, he isn’t just a one tool player and can help in several categories.

2017 Projection: .320 AVG, 100 Runs, 60 RBI, 10 HR, 10 SB, 620 PA

Notes

Greg Holland will hold a showcase for teams next week after missing last season recovering from TJS.

Former Royals closer Greg Holland will take the next step in his return to the Major Leagues with a scheduled showcase for scouts next week, the New York Post reports.

Holland, who is a free agent, missed the entire 2016 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on Oct. 2, 2015. He has thrown off a mound three or four times during his rehabilitation, according Boras, reportedly hitting the low 90s with his fastball on the radar gun.

The low 90’s velocity reading will scare me off from expecting much from him. Holland was most effective when his fastball averaged 96 mph during the 2012 to 2014 seasons. When it droppd to 94 mph in the 2015 season, he went from a 2.00 ERA pitcher to a 3.50 ERA pitcher. Hopefully, he may be able to add additional velocity, but we will have to wait and see.

• In a Mariner’s mailbag, Greg Johns, states the team is not set on using Ketel Marte as their everyday shortstop.

The fact they tried hard to acquire Zack Cozart from the Reds at the Trade Deadline spoke volumes. They haven’t given up on Ketel Marte, but the 23-year-old had a disappointing year and could be in line for the sort of “step-back” approach used last year with Mike Zunino and Paxton. A veteran like Cozart or someone similar could help anchor the infield and make the difference in a team knocking on the door, so I think that is a definite possibility.

Marte disappointed in 2016 with the biggest decline being in his OBP (.351 to .287) which was driven by his walk rate (10% down to 4%). With Marte not getting on base, the number of stolen base opportunities decline as he went from eight stolen bases in 247 plate appearances to just 11 stolen bases in 466 plate appearances. In deep or AL-only leagues, I would be looking fill my shortstop void with someone besides Marte with his playing time in question.

• The Marlins rotation has several holes in it and Joe Frisaro goes through several options.

Internally, it appears three spots are set — left-handers Wei-Yin Chen and Adam Conley and right-hander Tom Koehler.

David Phelps offers versatility to start or relieve, but the club may be leaning to keeping him in the bullpen. Jake Esch, Justin Nicolino and Jose Urena each have experience starting.
….
Three of Miami’s top pitching prospects are lefties Jarlin Garcia and Dillon Peters and right-hander Luis Castillo. According to MLBPipeline.com, Garcia is ranked as the Marlins’ third-best prospect, while Castillo ranks fifth and Peters is 14th. Garcia had injury issues in 2016, and he currently is pitching in the Arizona Fall League. Castillo and Peters are considered middle-of-the-rotation-type talents who are close to being big league ready.

With the loss of Jose Fernandez, the Marlins rotation options are slim pickings. I am not sold many of the possible options. Garcia seems interesting, but one report puts him as a #5 starter or bullpen arm.

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Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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