Fantasy Baseball: Examining 4 Hot and Cold Players
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Week 10 Fantasy Baseball Hot & Cold Players
The MLB offensive environment has heated up in May and June. Although it's typical, it's wildly different from April 2022 while inching closer to past seasons.
Like me, if you have hitters underperforming in May and June, keep holding out hope if the skills look positive. Maybe that indicates positive regression incoming, or look to stream hitters where possible. Regardless, it might make us extra careful with streaming pitchers with questionable matchups, meaning keep an extra reliever or two to help fill a roster spot. We'll look at four hot and cold players to examine the underlying metrics and how to project their skills moving forward.
Hunter Greene (SP, CIN)
Although the ERA doesn't scream "hot streak" for Hunter Greene, the 27.1% K-BB% (No. 7) over the past few weeks popped. Even amongst the top-10 in K-BB% in the past two weeks, we find Gerrit Cole, Shane McClanahan, Shane Bieber, Aaron Nola, Luis Severino, and several high-end options. Greene has a 3.71 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 32.7% K%, and 5.6% BB% in 26.2 innings. The .262 BABIP and 74.8% LOB% align with the season-long numbers.
Unfortunately, home runs remain an issue for Greene, with a 2.25 HR/9 and 17.6% HR/FB% in 2022. Over the past four starts, the home run rate dipped to a 1.35 HR/9, and the 3.26 xFIP indicates what the ERA could look like with regression.
Greene's pitch mix hadn't changed much with the reliance on the fastball (47.1%) and slider (48.5%). However, Greene's 14.8% SwStr% and 69.2% F-Strike% increased four to five points from the season-long numbers. That is a helpful combo for a pitcher to get ahead of the count with more swings and misses.
Greene's Arsenal & Results
Although Greene's four-seamer boasts elite velocity at 98.5 mph (99th-percentile), it lacks the movement profile. Greene's four-seamer has 10.8 inches of break, translating into three inches versus the average. However, it also has less an inch more vertical movement than the average four-seamer.
With the four-seamer allowing a .339 BA, .678 SLG, and .468 wOBA, it seems that Greene should lower the usage or locate better. Although Greene's slider elicits a Whiff% north of 38% with a .246 SLG and .195 wOBA, it doesn't have above-average vertical or horizontal movement.
Greene possesses the strikeout ability with a double-digit SwStr% on the four-seamer and slider. However, Greene might hurt in WHIP with the walk rate around ten percent, though the strikeout upside can balance that out. The Reds likely monitor Greene's innings total in 2022 with peak inning totals of 65.1 (2021 at Triple-A) and 68.1 (2018 at Single-A). The overall 3.97 xFIP for Greene is the best-case scenario with an ERA around 4.00 with a 25-30% K%.
Marcus Semien (2B/SS, TEX)
In the first installment of our hot and cold series, I wrote up Marcus Semien as a cold hitter through a week's worth of data. At the time, I didn't expect Semien to struggle for nearly 1.5 months. Let's peek at Semien's numbers by month.
- April 2022: .157 BA, .217 SLG, 0 HR, 10 R, 6 RBI, 2 SB
- May 2022: .233 BA, .298 SLG, 1 HR, 11 R, 11 RBI, 4 SB
- June 2022: .292 BA, .625 SLG, 5 HR, 10 R, 7 RBI, 4 SB
Semien Heating Up
In the middle of May, we can point to Semien slowly picking up the pace after a brutal start. From April 8 to May 14, Semien posted a .154 BA with zero home runs and two stolen bases, yet 19 runs plus RBI. The .190 BABIP, 3% Barrel%, and 87.8% Z-Contact% concerned us.
Then from May 15 to June 11, Semien's numbers looked similar to our pre-season expectations, evidenced by the six home runs, 36 runs plus RBI, eight stolen bases, and a .302 BA. Unsurprisingly, Semien's .306 BABIP improved, with a 6.6% Barrel% and 91.1% Z-Contact% with a 7.9% SwStr% that decreased nearly five percentage points from earlier in the season.
Semien usually provided value via accumulation of plate appearances and counting stats with over 700 plate appearances in three straight seasons, not including 2020. If we use THE BAT X rest of the season projections, it would give Semien 23 home runs, 86 runs, 75 RBI, and 29 stolen bases with a .254 batting average. Although the runs plus RBI look less appealing compared to past seasons, the 29 stolen bases would finish nearly double his career-high of 15 in 2021. Hopefully, fantasy managers held onto Semien in most formats, but it's worth acquiring him if your trade partner hasn't realized the recent hot stretch.
Ian Anderson (SP, ATL)
With an NFBC ADP around pick 150, it's safe to say Ian Anderson has underperformed the expectations. Anderson's 4.53 ERA and 1.39 WHIP regressed from a 3.58 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 2021. The .287 BABIP and 72.4% LOB% regressed from last season, but the K-BB% struggles haven't helped either. It's not a healthy combination for the strikeout rate to drop with an increase in walks, translating into a 9.4% K-BB%.
Unfortunately, Anderson's home run rate increased with a 1.21 HR/9 in 2022 versus 1.12 in 2021, though the HR/FB% dropped two percentage points. Anderson's SwStr% at 12.1% remains similar to 2021, plus the changeup and curveball SwStr% improved by two to three points. The changeup elicits a 19.7% SwStr% with the curve generating a 15.8% SwStr%. Although the four-seamer SwStr% dipped three points to 5.3%, it's interesting to see Anderson's SwStr% on the secondary pitches performing better in 2022.
Anderson's Arsenal & Results
The results against Anderson's four-seamer and changeup regressed in 2022, with a slight change in velocity and spin rate.
- 2022 Four-Seam: .268 BA, .392 SLG, .341 wOBA, 90.8 mph EV
- 2021 Four-Seam: .216 BA, .349 SLG, .284 wOBA, 87.2 mph EV
- 2022 Changeup: .238 BA, .429 SLG, .318 wOBA, 88.3 mph EV
- 2021 Changeup: .197 BA, .370 SLG, .291 wOBA, 83.3 mph EV
Although the results look worse in 2022, the average exit velocity draws our attention. Sure exit velocity isn't everything, but it's a noticeable change when hitters boast higher contact quality with better results for opposing batters.
Unfortunately, none of Anderson's pitches pop via the movement profiles in 2022. However, Anderson seems to have reverse splits with the results against the four-seamer and changeup against righties.
Against righties, hitters have a .339 BA, .475 SLG, and .393 wOBA on the fastball. The results versus right-handed hitters on the changeup look even worse, evidenced by the .326 BA, .652 SLG, and .436 wOBA. Meanwhile, Anderson allowed a .309 SLG against the fastball and .393 SLG against the changeup versus righties in 2021.
When Anderson's 4.51 FIP, 4.26 xFIP, and 4.51 SIERA align with the season-long ERA, it's less exciting to buy low in trading leagues. With offense heating up in runs and home runs per plate appearance, Anderson's skills look similar to a streaming pitcher. THE BAT X projection system expects a similar strikeout and walk rate, with similar BABIP and LOB%. Opposing teams likely identified the reverse splits for Anderson, meaning he'll need to make several actionable changes. Outside of the two pitches with a double-digit SwStr%, we have more reasons for concern than optimism, given Anderson's top-150 ADP.
Javier Báez (2B/SS, DET)
In NFBC leagues, Javier Báez held an ADP around the top 50-60 picks with consistent power and speed. Báez has three home runs, 28 runs plus RBI, and one stolen base with a .200 BA through 191 plate appearances. After an average of 29 home runs and 15 stolen bases over the past four full seasons, Báez projects for 17-18 home runs and ten stolen bases with a BA below his career norms.
Báez's BABIP fueled the batting average with a career BABIP of .331 and .261 BA. Unfortunately, Báez's .260 BABIP concerns us since the plate discipline metrics raise red flags. Interestingly, Báez's strikeout rate dropped to 26.2%, down from 33.6% in 2021, with a 4.7% walk rate identical to his career rate of 4.8%.
The chase rate for Báez jumped to a career-high just under 50%, aligning with a career-worst 21.8% SwStr%. Although Báez's Z-Contact% at 79.2% remains near the career average, the overall contact rate at 61.5% dropped four percentage points from the career norms.
Báez's Batted Ball Profile
Typically, Báez hit a ton of groundballs at 52.3%, which ranks a career-high, partly fueling the BABIP given the plate discipline metrics. Báez rocks a pull-heavy approach with a 43.1% Pull% in 2022, two points higher than the career norms.
- wOBA vs. Shift (2022): .277
- wOBA vs. Shift (2021): .475
- wOBA vs. Shift (2020): .251
- wOBA vs. Shift (2019): .344
The wOBA versus the shift dropped to a career-low during the Statcast era, not including 2020. Although it's a smaller sample of plate appearances in 2022, hitting ground balls into the shift with poor plate discipline seems worrisome.
He boasted above-average barrel rates, evidenced by the 12.6-13.4% Barrel% and 7.9-8.7% Barrel/PA over the past three full seasons. However, Báez has a 7.7% Barrel% and 5.2% Barrel/PA, with the 33.8% hard-hit rate aligning with the drop in contact quality metrics.
Throughout Báez's career, he performed well against fastballs and breaking pitches. However, Báez has struggled in 2022 with a .233 BA, .411 SLG, and .293 wOBA versus fastballs. The same trend applied against breaking pitches, evidenced by the .157 BA, .205 SLG, and .170 wOBA.
Career vs. Fastballs: .279 BA, .482 SLG, .343 wOBA
Career vs. Breaking: .247 BA, .457 SLG, .304 wOBA
In the Statcast era, Báez performed decently versus fastballs and breaking pitches, which aligned with the career-low numbers in other categories.
When several underlying metrics don't look optimistic, it makes us hesitate in buying low on Báez in redraft and dynasty leagues. Unfortunately, the Tigers' home ballpark ranks 26th with a 0.81 HR Park Factor per EV Analytics. Even Báez's 93.1 mph EV on FB/LD (No. 132), down from 95.8 mph (No. 40) in 2021. With several red flags in the plate discipline, batted ball profile, and exit velocity metrics, each week makes it harder to hold onto Báez in deeper formats.
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Corbin is passionate about fantasy baseball and football. He loves diving into and learning about advanced metrics. Corbin is a Mariners and Seahawks fan living in the Pacific Northwest. Corbin's other hobbies are lifting weights, cooking, and listening to fantasy sports podcasts.