This week’s fantasy baseball analysis finds us at the half-way point of the 2017 baseball season. We’ve now established a large enough sample size of data to make educated decisions about whether our favorite fantasy baseball players are living up to their pre-season projections.
Our data tables below provide us with on pace numbers for our basic 5X5 fantasy baseball league scoring format. For many players, it’s easy to see that their increased production is due to an increase in playing time. This is evident in counting stats like homeruns, runs, RBI’s and stolen bases.
However, if we want to see if a player is really performing better than what was originally projected, we look to the batting average and compare it to core skill metrics where we’re able to measure true improvement. The Fantasy Baseball Report has compiled data on all the hitters who are on-pace to get at least 250 plate appearances. We’ve separated batting average performance into 5 distinct categories:
- Plus 25 or more points above projected.
- Between 10 and 24 points above projected.
- Within +/- 10 points of projected.
- Between 10 and 24 points below projected.
- Minus 25 or more points below projected.
Before going on, we should qualify a couple things when it comes to our original projection data. For our fantasy baseball analysis, we used ZIPS pre-season projections for the entire season as our baseline. Our calculations took the players’ actual performance to date and prorated the numbers into their on-pace values. Now this was necessary for counting stats but not so much for our baseline batting average.
For the record, I’m not impressed with ZIPS performance. Of the 314 batters on pace for at least 250 plate appearances, ZIPS projections accuracy is a dismal 25% for batting average. With that said, let’s move on to the actual fantasy baseball analysis part of the article.
This, our first in a series of 3 articles, focuses on categories 1 and the fantasy baseball players hitting well above their projected batting average. While we’re not able to analyze each hitter in this week’s fantasy baseball analysis, we will highlight the top skill improvement players along with a look at those who seem to have improved their luck over their skills. We’ll also take a brief look at a couple players where I feel ZIPS just missed the mark on as well.
Fantasy Baseball Hitters Exceeding Projected
Batting Average by More Than 25 Points
Top Skill Improved Hitters
Justin Turner (3B LAD)
Hitting 102 points above projected Justin Turner tops my list of overall core skill improvements. Turner has cut his K% in half while doubling his BB%. This alone is huge when it comes to improving your batting average. Turner’s always been a high contact hitter, but when you improve your BB/K rate two-fold, an increased batting average usually follows suit.
PREDICTION: Expect more of the same for the rest of the season
Tyler Flowers (C ATL)
It took a little digging to uncover whether Flowers was the result of true improvement or just some added luck, but in the end, I’m concluding that there is some true improvement here. Most of which, is plate discipline improvement. Over the past 4 seasons, Flowers has cut his out-of-zone swing rate by 10% while improving his in-zone contact rate by 11%. Additionally, this added discipline has taken his overall swinging strike rate down from 17% in 2013 to 8.6% this season, with each year in-between showing improvement. While Flowers is by no means a superstar at age 31, his improved batting average and so-so pop, makes him more than a viable catcher. Particularly in deep, 2 catcher fantasy baseball leagues.
PREDICTION: Expect more playing time for Flowers which will make him a good pick in deeper leagues
Jedd Gyorko (2B STL)
Improvement? Yes. Significant improvement? Not really, but improvement in skill nonetheless. So, I’m always looking for fantasy baseball players that show core skill improvement and cutting your K% rate while improving your BB% rate counts for me. Gyorko is in only his fifth full season and plays one of the weaker positions in baseball. He exhibits fair power so if I’m seeing his core skills moving in a positive direction, he has at least a little of my interest.
PREDICTION: He’s on track for decent season. I’d look more at him in future fantasy baseball seasons to come.
Marwin Gonzalez (HOU)
Notice that I didn’t put a position down for Gonzalez. This is because he’s what I call a super-utility player which makes him even more valuable than his improving skills suggest. Gonzalez has cut his out-of-zone swing rate by almost 10% over the past couple seasons. This is good; However, he’s also improved his out-of-zone contact rate which means he’s becoming quite a smart selective hitter. Combine this with his near 90% in-zone contact rate and you get a pretty smart batter at the plate.
PREDICTION: More of the same good batting average with some good counting stats that come from his super-utility status.
Top Luck Based Hitters
Ryan Zimmerman (3B WAS)
Alex Avila (C DET)
Avisail Garcia (OF CHW)
Howie Kendrick (2B PHI)
Freddie Freeman (1B ATL)
I’ve decided to group all the luck based hitters into one summary to avoid simply repeating myself five times. Fact is, with all the above players, there is simply no statistical evidence that their increase performance is skill related. Their contact rates are fair to acceptable while their BB/K rates are less than good overall. When I see this, I tend to think negative regression as the season goes on.
PREDICTION: Sell High because my guess is that you probably won’t see them at the top of this list come end of season.
ZIPS Missed It Totally Hitters
Jean Segura (SS SEA)
Zack Cozart (SS CIN)
Although I don’t see any skill improvement, I think ZIPS overestimated previous season slumps to be a trend in the negative direction. As a result, the gaps here are bigger than they should be, but that’s only because they should have initially been higher.
PREDICTION: Not much to say here. I think both will regress backwards a bit, but overall, they’re both worth having on your fantasy baseball team.
As always, your comments and feedback is always welcome, so feel free to comment below or share this content with others. We will be featuring further fantasy baseball analysis on players who are beating, meeting and not living up to their projections in the coming days, so stay tuned.
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