Yonder Alonso has been going nuts for the Athletics, and it’s no secret. Jed Lowrie has been operating in his shadow, yet he’s off to a solid start with some impressive batted ball numbers. Like Lowrie, Brad Peacock has been playing at an impressive level in the shadow of another teammate. Chris Devenski has earned the attention he’s gotten with his brilliant play, but Peacock hasn’t been a slouch.
Jed Lowrie (OAK – 2B): CBS – 22%, ESPN – 21.8%, Yahoo! – 9%
The 33-year-old switch-hitting second baseman isn’t posting the eye-popping numbers Alonso is, but six homers with a .300/.368/.488 slash, 8.9% BB% and 14.2% K% is nothing to sneeze at. In addition to his half-dozen long balls, he’s smacked 14 doubles. Overall, he has a .188 ISO. He hasn’t shown this kind of power since 2013, but his batted ball profile supports the surge in thump.
Among qualified hitters, Lowrie ranks 16th in FB% (45.5%) and tied for 33rd in Hard% (39.6%). Lowrie is hitting just .250/.318/.275 against lefties, but his 37.5% Hard% is excellent, and his 9.1% BB% and 18.2% K% aren’t bad, either. He’s a career .282/.345/.422 hitter against southpaws, so I’m optimistic there’s room for improvement. More importantly, he’s raking against righties.
In 146 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers, Lowrie’s hitting .315/.384/.554 with a 8.9% BB% and 13.0% K%. The veteran’s numbers are far less impressive against righties throughout his career, but the fact he’s joined the elevate-and-celebrate crowd largely supports his pummeling of righties. Against right-handed pitchers this year, he owns a 25.2% LD%, 47.7% FB% and 40.2% Hard%. The 33-year-old’s Hard% against righties is his highest mark ever, his FB% is his highest since 2012 and his 27.0% GB% is his lowest since 2009.
The veteran second baseman has earned fantasy-friendly slotting in the A’s lineup. He routinely hits second or third for the A’s, and both lineup spots are conducive to piling up run production numbers. He’s a complete non-threat on the bases with zero stolen-base attempts this year and zero last year, too. He should be owned in leagues as shallow as 12-team mixers using a middle infield position.
Brad Peacock (HOU – SP/RP): CBS – 13%, ESPN – 7.1%, Yahoo! – 17%
Is this what a post-hype sleeper looks like? Maybe. The shine has long worn off of Peacock’s star, but the 29-year-old righty has quietly been lights out in the bullpen for the Astros. He earned a spot start against the Tigers in place of injured Dallas Keuchel on Monday, and he clowned the Tigers spinning 4.1 innings of scoreless baseball allowing one hit and two walks with eight strikeouts. The showing might have earned him another start, and with Mike Fiers and Joe Musgrove both sporting an ERA north of five with ugly fielding independent marks to match, there’s definitely room for improvement at the back of Houston’s rotation.
I’d previously considered writing about Peacock as a deep-league option, but I ultimately passed for two reasons, primarily. The first is that Peacock was working in lower leverage situations out of the bullpen. The second was his inability to get hitters to fish out of the strikezone. Prior to his first start of the year, Peacock netted just a 21.5% O-Swing%. Hitters simply weren’t being coaxed into hacking at pitches out of the strike zone. His start on Monday did result in him bumping his O-Swing% up to 23.0%, but that’s still low. Even with his low chase rate, there’s a ton to like about Peacock.
For starters, when hitters are chasing out of the zone, they’re not making contact often (41.3% O-Contact% compared to 62.9% for the league average this season). Also, even though hitters are chiefly swinging at pitches within the strike zone against Peacock, the 29-year-old still ranks tied for 11th among pitchers with a minimum of 20 innings pitched with a 15.2% SwStr%. The righty’s arsenal of pitches has been lethal this year.
Peacock’s lowest whiff percentage by pitch is 9.7% on his fourseam fastball, per Brooks Baseball. That’s followed by a 13.33% whiff percentage on his sinker, 17.39% on his change, and his curve and slider have been downright filthy with 24.24% and 24.56% whiff percentages, respectively. The PITCHf/x leaderboard at Baseball Prospectus helps put his bat-missing ways by pitch into perspective. Out of 375 fouseam fastballs thrown a minimum of 50 times by a reliever or starter, Peacock’s ranks 31st in Whf/Sw (30.77). He hasn’t thrown the lowest minimum available for sorting at Baseball Prospectus of 50 pitches with either his sinker or curveball, so using no minimum, he ranks tied for 38th out of 357 in Whf/Sw (25.0%) with his sinker and eighth out of 334 in Whf/Sw (63.64%) on his curve. He’s thrown his slider more than 100 times in 2017, so using a 100-pitch minimum, he ranks tied for first out of 117 with a 56.25% Whf/Sw on his slider. All of these sample sizes are tiny, but his ability to miss bats has been exceptional, and he’s showcased multiple offerings to get the job done this season.
Peacock hasn’t gone to Devenski’s extreme, but he’s heavily leaned on his secondary offerings throwing his fastballs just 53.4% of the time this season. The slider has been a devastating offering, and he’s ramped the usage up to a career high 31.6%. The curve has also been very good, but it’s been used sparingly at 8.9%. The lagger in his pitch mix is his changeup, thrown just 6.0% of the time this year. In his only start this year, he scaled back his fastball usage even further throwing his fouseamer 12.9% of the time and his two-seam fastball at a 24.3% clip. He ramped up the usage of all of his secondary pitches with the slider leading the way at 41.4% followed by the curve (14.3%) and the changeup (7.1%).
In 20.2 innings this year, Peacock owns a 0.87 ERA (2.02 FIP, 3.26 xFIP and 3.19 SIERA), 0.97 WHIP, 14.6% BB%, and 36.6% K%. The walk rate is alarming, but he’s starting hitters off with a strike at a higher percentage (61.0% F-Strike%) than the league average (59.9%), and his Zone% (42.5%) isn’t a train wreck in comparison with the league average (45.1%). He has plenty of room to regress and still be useful. He’s fringe ownable as a dice roll in 12-team mixers, but he should be scooped in any leagues larger than that for an extended audition on your fantasy roster — even if you’re only comfortable keeping him on your bench until he makes another successful start.
You can follow Josh on Twitter @bchad50.