Mixing Fantasy & Reality: Trades, Signings, & StatCast

Rays traded Logan Forsythe to the Dodgers for Jose De Leon

After looking over several factors (e.g. league, park, etc.), the biggest change for Forsythe will be the players surrounding him and his lineup position. Currently, we have the Dodgers projected for 4.6 Runs per games while the Rays are at 4.3 Runs per game. A better offense equates to more plate appearances, Runs, and RBIs.

My one worry is lineup position. In the games he started last year, he always led off. Right now, RosterResource.com has him again leading off. If he struggles, the Dodgers have better lineup replacement options than the Rays did. His value could plummet if moves down, especially to the eighth spot.

As for De Leon’s value, the key will be how many innings he throws. With the Rays not really contending this season, he could spend quite a bit of time in the minors or be up in a couple of weeks. No one knows for sure.

When he does get the call-up, limit expectations. Here are pitchers with similar grades to what Eric Longenhagen just put on De Leon.

Pitchers with Similar Prospect Grades to Jose De Leon
Name Year Report Publication Fastball Slider Changeup/splitter Control/Command
Jose De Leon 2017 FanGraphs 55 50 60 60
Aaron Nola 2015 MLB 60 50 60 60
Aaron Nola 2014 MLB 60 50 60 60
Luke Weaver 2014 MLB 55 45 60 60
Zach Eflin 2014 MLB 55 50 60 55
Jake Odorizzi 2014 BA 55 50 55 60
Jose De Leon 2017 MLB 60 50 65 60
Eduardo Rodriguez 2015 BA 60 50 60 55
Logan Shore 2016 MLB PreDraft 55 45 60 55
Rafael Montero 2014 MLB 60 50 55 60
Andrew Heaney 2015 MLB 55 55 55 60
Mark Ecker 2016 MLB PreDraft 60 50 55 55
Anthony Kay 2016 MLB PreDraft 55 45 55 55
Hyun-Jin 2013 BA 60 55 55 57.5
Erick Fedde 2016 2080 60 55 55 55
Andrew Heaney 2015 BA 55 60 60 60
Jose De Leon 2016 MLB 65 50 60 55
A.J. Cole 2015 MLB 65 50 55 60
Danny Hultzen 2013 MLB 60 60 60 60
A.J. Cole 2015 BA 55 50 50 55
Norge Ruiz 2016 MLB-International 55 55 50 60

There are some good pitchers, but nothing great.

Guarded use of Statcast data

On Monday, I stressed being open to new ideas and today I am going to stress caution when implementing StatCast data. I understand MLB Advanced Media’s push to make the data mainstream but context is missing. Here are two examples

The first involves the Twins Ryan Pressley and his high spin fastball. While more spin and velocity can be helpful, Pressley’s fastball is just not effective. Last season, his fastball generated a 5.9% SwStr% (4.8% in career) which is below the 6.4% league average. The fastball isn’t great and shouldn’t be treated as a plus pitch. In a vacuum, more fastball spin is better but in Pressly’s case, we have four years of data showing it is below average.

The second instance involves Ryan Zimmerman. He’s the poster child of hard hit balls, but bad results. MLB.com loves bringing it up. The truth is Zimmerman didn’t have a good season once the missing exit velocity values are taken into account.

  • In 2015, only 5% of his batted ball were not tracked. In 2016 the number jumped to 12%. With most of the untracked batted balls being weak hit balls, his performance dropped.
  • Using just the tracked balls, his average exit velocity jumped from 92.1 mph to 93.7 mph (13th highest). If the untracked balls are accounted for, his average exit velocity drops from 90.1 mph to 88.5 mph (44th highest) as expected after adding the weak contact.

Remember, when using exit velocity for calculations, please use the corrected values so these errors don’t continue.

Notes

• Todd Zolecki gave his Phillies lineup projection and has Freddy Galvis batting 8th. Even though Galvis had a decent 2016 season (20 HR, 17 SB), he shouldn’t be a rosterable option in most leagues. Marginal players like Galvis pop up every season (e.g. Jonathan Villar).

When rostering one of these marginal National League players, pay attention to the lineup. The 8th spot is a stolen base black hole because the pitcher is hitting next. With Galvis, he hit in the 8th hole for about 1/3 of his career plate appearances and only attempted stolen bases 5% of the time when on first base. When he’s hit in other lineup positions, he has attempted stolen bases 12% of the time once on first. I am not a huge lineup person as I think talent will rise to the top (of the batting order) but expect a stolen base drop for batters hitting right before the pitcher.

• When the season starts, Glen Perkins will likely not be available to close.

Perkins, though, has been working hard to make a comeback, as he’s been rehabbing at the club’s Spring Training complex in Fort Myers since early January. They’re hopeful he’ll throw off a mound by early-to-mid February with a chance to get into Spring Training games in mid-March. If he’s not ready to open the year, Kintzler is the natural replacement at closer.

It seems like the coveted Twins closer’s role will be Kintzler’s to lose.

Elvis Andrus dealt with a sports hernia last season and had it operated on after his season ended.

Andrus never went on the DL and played in 147 games. But it was revealed after the season Andrus had been dealing with a sports hernia since mid-May, and he underwent surgery in October.

Andrus said the injury didn’t affect his swing. He said it bothered him more in the field and running the bases, but there was never any thought of going on the DL or taking extra time off.

The injury didn’t seem to bother him offensively, but his defense suffered after posting his worst defensive rating (-15 UZR) of his career.

• A few days ageo, SiriusXM hosted its Experts league draft (results). I find the names in the early rounds to be the same so instead, I collected my thoughts on the six reserve rounds (24th to 29th).

  • Middle-infield speed options existed with Ketel Marte, Kolten Wong, Raul Mondesi, and Cesar Hernandez going late. I would not be surprised if one of this group ended up as this season’s Villar.
  • The pitching options really thinned out right before the reserves but some names stood out. The pitchers fit into two groups: injury prone (Lance Lynn, Greg Holland, Carter Capps, Jordan Zimmermann, Jamie Garcia) or young with limited MLB success (Lucas Giolito, Tyler Skaggs, Robert Gsellman, Jose Berrios, Mike Montgomery, Luis Severino).
  • With the outfielders available in these rounds, I am going to wait until the last few rounds of the regular draft to fill up my last outfield spot and get a couple more in the reserve rounds.
  • With six reserve round options, I will likely get a couple starters, one middle infielder speedster, a couple outfielders, a third base (depending on how I filled corner infield and utility), and maybe take a chance on one or two on some high-end rookies like Lewis Brinson or Joey Gallo.

Signings and Trades

• The Cubs signed Brett Anderson to a one-year deal. It’s Brett Anderson and expect him to be on the DL for half the season. If he returns, his production will be limited. I think he is a bench option, at best.

• The Reds traded Dan Straily to the Marlins for Luis Castillo, Austin Brice, and Isaiah White. This move was a salary dump by the Reds who ended up with three prospects who are currently untalented and fantasy irrelevant.

Straily’s value jumps with the move. He is a heavy flyball pitcher (32% GB%) which led to his 1.5 HR/9 last year. The park in Miami is larger and will contain some of those fly balls. His extreme flyball nature will help to maintain a low BABIP (.255 in his career) and an ERA lower than his estimators (career numbers: 4.24 ERA, 4.78 FIP, 4.79 xFIP).

• The Brewers brought in Neftali Feliz to help with the back end of the bullpen. With the signing, it is unclear if Felix or Corey Knebel will close. I could see both getting Saves at some point during the season.

• The Giants signed Jae-gyun Kwang from the KBO. Brian Cartwright provided an projection on Kwang.

Other third basemen who put up similar values are Maikel Franco (.255/.306.427) and Chase Headley (.251/.329/.383). Hwang is a deep league option only.

• The Rangers are going to give Josh Hamilton another shot to show everyone his knees are worthless.

 

Relevant Material From: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalaniti

When Breath Becomes Air bring to life the author’s struggles as he faces cancer and its certain death. Because of the book’s heavy material, it not applicable to fantasy baseball but this quote got me thinking:

Leave some room for a statistically improbable but still plausible outcome – a survival just above the measured 95 percent confidence interval?” Is that what hope was? Could we divide the curve into existential sections from “defeated” to “pessimistic” to “realistic” to “hopeful” to “delusional”? Weren’t the numbers just the numbers? Had we all just given into the “hope” that every patient is above average?

Why don’t distribution labels match up with our actual thoughts? Here is an example for hitters (I know the graphics could use some work).

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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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Saying any of those middle infielders could pull a Villar is to underappreciate what he did last year. I’d say there is an infinitesimal combined chance any of those names match his 2016 value (all the while acknowledging he has a pretty slim chance of doing it himself).