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“The Cole Miner’s” Weekly Buying+Selling, Hitting+Pitching Trends and Outlooks

I’ll forego trying to do to much for the intro this week. The weekly piece is a bit long, covering Zach Eflin, Mike Montgomery, Max Muncy, and Eugenio Suarez in depth alongside previously outlooked players Andrew Suarez and Brandon Nimmo. I feel like I’m developing a sense of it being a cliche, but this is one of the last real points of the season, Roto leaguers at least, that adding a player gives you a large volume of stats over a significant portion of time. I slow down my adds in late April/May usually, but around June/July I personally kick it back up a notch, knowing that the time clock on the season is actively counting down.

New Outlooks

Pitchers

Zach Eflin

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Zach Eflin (64.4% Owned) is a recent hot commodity between his sub-3.00 ERA, near 1.00 WHIP, and 63 Strikeouts to 14 Walks. Eflin does check some of the primary boxes for fantasy intrigue just right there: the ability to generate a high number of strikeouts (8.91 K/9) while maintaining a lower walk rate (1.98 BB/9).

A pitcher who excels at missing bats while also excelling at keeping the ball in the strike-zone really allows us to focus on one specific area to see if we believe in Eflin: can he survive on the contact he does allow while living in the strike-zone. So far we’ve had some promising results in that regard. Certainly a 23.3% Soft% and 25.6% Hard% via Fangraphs does not suggest a player getting hit particularly hard in the zone, nor does his 7.0% HR/FB% or 0.71 HR/9.

My one area of concern in this batted ball profile is that he does not generate that many Groundballs. His GB% is about 7% below league average with those balls being elevated as Line Drives and Fly-Balls. Citizen’s Bank is also not the ideal ball park for a pitcher giving up the Flyball. I believe it was the worst park by HR Factor in the National League last year. Not keeping the ball on the ground in Citizen’s Bank is typically a bad strategy. That doesn’t mean Eflin cannot continue to execute it, but it isn’t the ideal situation.

For his Arsenal, we can focus on what he does well and where he generates the whiffs, but ultimately for Eflin, like so many other pitchers at this stage of their career and evaluation, it really just comes down to the generation of that third pitch. Eflin used the Curveball more (via brooksbaseball.net) in previous seasons of limited work and has featured a more traditional mix focusing on a primary Fastball/Slider with a peripheral Change-Up. Eflin’s Change-Up has generated a fair number of whiffs, and has shown strong in that regard for the first time in his career. However, it is also a pitch that carries what is by far the highest SLG% of any of Eflin’s individual pitches. While his Slider and Curveball carry SLG%’s of under-.300, Eflin’s Change-Up sits at a ghastly .581. That is a problematic figure even for a pitch being thrown just over 11% of the time. Now these pitch-specific numbers are obviously a lot of small sampling and bias in that regard, but as Eflin has never successfully thrown a Change-Up (or really thrown one at all in this volume), I believe the immediate results to be important.

It seems like a very bland commentary to make, but like most pitchers there are things that I like and things that I don’t like in this profile. There is nothing, even the K/BB, that sends me sprinting to a waiver wire for a successful hidden gem. But there are also a few things here that make me believe in some legitimate redraft upside for Eflin. The upside is an SP3 if he can continue to develop the Change-Up while also keeping the ball out of the stands an extraordinary amount.

Verdict: HOLD. 64.4% is too high for me to believe he’s an easy buy or a player you can just scoop up on a wire or from an owner “just because.” I like Eflin. Too much to try and get rid of him. Not enough to desperately spend my waking nights trying to figure out how to get him on my Fantasy Roster.

Mike Montgomery

The first thing to cover when it comes to Cub’s lefty Mike Montgomery is the potential roster crunch that surrounds him. And yes, Mike Montgomery is a player who has been bumped from the rotation in the past when people, fantasy analysts, and this writer all confidently proclaimed he was in the rotation to stay. But this time I really believe he’s in the rotation to stay. Is Yu Darvish coming back anytime soon? Maybe, maybe not, but ultimately it comes down to a basic decision still between 2017-2018 FA signing Tyler Chatwood and Mike Montgomery.

I’ll try to make the argument as briefly as possible for why Montgomery should stay over Chatwood: he doesn’t have a 7.97 BB/9. Next.

As mentioned above though, I think one of the reasons so few people have bought into Montgomery this time around is because so many “fantasy experts” have been in people’s ear since the start of 2017 whispering “Add Montgomery… Add Montgomery… Add Montgomery…” that particularly the 2017 that was completely lacking in fantasy value has created a sour taste for Fantasy Owners— though not due to anything Mike Montgomery could control, but rather just the team’s unwillingness to move him into that role.

One of the many reasons that Mike Montgomery drew so much attention heading into 2017 was that the individual offerings from Montgomery (Curve, Change, Cutter primarily) all graded out well in a combination of metrics including GB%, Whiff%, and SLG% Allowed. Montgomery has gone away from the Cutter recently (down to 7.47% Usage from 11+%) but his Curveball and Change-Up have been, in a word, phenomenal.

Usage%

GB%

Whiff%

SLG%

Curveball

23.04%

48.39%

13.04%

0.167

Change-Up

18.94%

58.00%

21.15%

0.169

Taking that table one element at a time, the near 42% usage rate from Curve and Change-Up is substantial and makes those pitches both weapons being utilized as an arsenal more-so than many pitchers who have a peripheral, 10% usage on their 3rd pitch, particularly their Change-up. The elevated GB% on Change and Curve help to keep his overall GB% (54.6%) elevated. Perhaps even more notably is that those rates are still comparatively low based on some of the numbers he’s put up in his career recently. The Whiff%’s are very important because Montgomery hasn’t really struck out too many batters this seasons, but generating a good number of whiffs on curve and change certainly suggest that more Ks are coming. I wouldn’t call any of these particularly an “out-pitch,” in the sense of a killer put-away pitch, but they both can miss bats with decent frequency. The SLG% allowed is just something to be almost marveled at. Hitters have not gotten any degree of consistent damage off of the Curve/Change combination of Mike Montgomery, which again fills out almost 42% of his overall arsenal.

There’s a few things when it comes to Mike Montgomery that just don’t jump out of the box score at you. The Ks haven’t been there to date. He hasn’t locked down a starting spot during a season yet. He hasn’t shown the consistency. But unlike Eflin, who I have some legitimate performance related concerns for, I actually see Montgomery as a pitcher that I have an abundance of confidence in just in terms of his ability to make good, quality starts consistently for a good offense and team.

Verdict: BUY. Still drastically under owned to me. I like the safety for solid numbers and think that aspect is being underrated here. And I think he has upside on top of that too.

Hitters

Max Muncy

Another Outlook that, personally, I believe should be in the long-overdue pile. There’s certain players where you look into certain aspects of that player and you just really like a lot of what you find. Max Muncy is one of those players.

Let’s start with just some meat & potato basics. Firstly, the dude is going to play Second Base. I’m not the type to make a lot of positional scarcity based arguments, but Second Base has been one of the tougher positions to fill out or find above average value from this year. Secondly, the profile right now, especially in an OBP League, looks very productive on the offensive end. The BA is still a variable that is hard/hardest to judge (and more specific factors of that judgment will be below) but the power and even a kick of speed with R/RBI production look pretty guaranteed at this point. Of course I don’t expect the power to persist at quite this rate, but I do think there’s some legitimacy to the breakout in power here.

Muncy is successful at generating an elite-tier of Hard Contact (Fangraphs) while limiting his own Soft% to a low 11+%. While having a tendency to pull the ball, there is enough of an opposite field usage that, if I were to put a “flag” on it, it would be certainly yellow and not red. The LD% hasn’t been great, and despite good early results the IFFB% or Pop-Up% was a bit high in the minors, but as a whole there’s not a really good reason here for me to believe that he will just collapse into nothingness. At worst it says he might have a below average BABIP, and he does have a below average BABIP right now, as it sits between .270-.280.

What really impresses me about Max Muncy though is his absolutely special ability to generate contact and power against fastballs. Really it jumps off the page a bit for someone who looks at these sorts of numbers for players fairly regularly. A 3.98% and 4.24% Whiff% on 4-Seam Fastballs and Sinkers is pretty darn impressive. Now that number is deflated a bit because Muncy is a far-below-average swinger who does not take the bat off his shoulders very much compared to the rest of the league, but ultimately, contrasting with the problems written about a few weeks ago with Yankees First Baseman Greg Bird, Max Muncy is just a dead-on fastball hitter. Those 3.98% and 4.24% rates are impressive on their own. As in, if you were Erick Aybar, and every single hit you made was at best in a gap, and likely a single, these numbers would be pretty impressive. If you generate that much contact AND can generate a fair amount of power, you’re entering into some impressive and rarified air. Having those Whiff%’s alongside 10 HRs against Fastballs is something only a few hitters like the Betts’ of the world accomplish.

Muncy does have relative struggles against Curveballs (.143 BA, .357 SLG), but as a whole, his ISOs and Whiff%’s across the board, including his .214 ISO and 7.09% Whiff% against Curveballs, suggest to me that our early evidence does suggest he’ll be pretty good outside of the fastball.

If I had to peg one area of concern, it would be something similar to what I’ll be writing about Brandon Nimmo down below: the patience causing Muncy to get behind in counts, and then quickly lose in 2-Strike counts when the pitcher can pitch to the opposing hitters’ weakness a bit more. For example for Muncy, his highest Swing% and Whiff% by far is on Change-Ups, presumably suggesting that he’s seeing fastball still a little late in the delivery of the pitch, and chasing that “fastball” which slows down and fades away. The potential for that to be made into a weakness will be far greater if pitchers are getting into 2-Strike Counts with a bit too much ease.

Verdict: HOLD. Like I said up-top, I’m a little late to the party. So it’s hard to go with “BUY” over “HOLD” here, even though I’m greatly tempted. But ultimately, the point here is that I really believe in a lot of what Muncy is doing, even if I’m not sacrificing limbs to get him on my fantasy team. Maybe it comes with 12-15 HRs rest of the season instead of another 20+, but Muncy is now a flexible infield piece with a lot of upside.

Eugenio Suarez

Despite a DL stint that lowered his counting numbers early in the season, Eugenio Suarez has been an unstoppable wrecking machine for fantasy owners who currently leads National League Third Baseman in BA, OBP, OPS, RBI, wRC+ and wOBA, as well as every National League hitter in the latter four categories. The hard thing about Suarez is that, at least to me, this argument is a bit different. Suarez has been around for a while now. We’ve seen him get better, progress, and be a good, solid ballplayer before. The question isn’t if Suarez is good, or a top 10 Third Baseman anymore. I think if you’re still asking that question, you’re way off course. But just how good is Suarez, and what are the driving forces that got him there?

First important thing is to make sure we don’t have some misconception that Suarez wasn’t a very good player last year. Hitting .260 with 26 HRs doesn’t put your name up in lights on ESPN, but it does net you a 7 years, 66 Million dollar commitment. And while .260 alone isn’t great, the above average BB% put Suarez’s OBP last year at .367 alongside a below-career-average BABIP.

Suarez’s first and perhaps most obvious change comes from the moderate improvements in his K%. While it may not jump off the page, an improvement from a 23.3% K% to an 18.0% K% is substantial. It doesn’t make it hard to see how just that simple change and a slight adjustment in BABIP could jump Suarez’s BA so high. While I don’t ever think it is smart to project what a player is doing when it defies his career norm, I do think even in a general case there’s reasons to split the difference somewhere between 23% and 18%. And this isn’t a general case. More-so than improving his K%, Suarez improved his Contact, jumping from the 77% Contact% range every year up to 80+% this year. Again while this might not be substantial enough to buy into completely, this is a metric that creates a large sample size very quickly, and Suarez’s metrics have been completely uniform up until this season, his 26-27 Year Old season.

So you can put the Contact% / K% a bit between what he’s doing now and what he’s done his entire career, but improvements on Contact alone are not nearly as impressive as what Suarez has done this season: the increase of contact without the sacrifice of power. Suarez has shown his generation of power increase by various metrics despite his improvements to making contact. Suarez’s Hard% skyrocketed to over 50%, a truly elite metric. His HR/FB%, which was a career high in 2017, is a new career high in 2018. There is no shred of evidence, at least that I’ve seen, that he’s generating this contact by “cheating” or “sacrificing” the potential of harder contact. A Contact+Power increase is the best combination you can possibly have.

One specific aspect of Suarez’s game that has seemed to improve alongside this increase of contact and power is his ability to hit breaking balls particularly in a way that generates power.

BA

ISO

SLG

pre-2018 v. Curveball

0.201

0.149

0.351

2018 v. Curveball

0.333

0.476

0.810

pre-2018 v. Slider

0.210

0.126

0.337

2018 v. Slider

0.265

0.353

0.618

So common disclaimer about Small Sample Biasing aside, what we’ve seen in 2018 from Eugenio Suarez against breaking balls is a complete and utter change from what we’ve seen from the rest of his career to date. And while some of those numbers above may just seem like simple sampling, let’s put another figure into the sampling: Suarez has hit 6 HRs in just 55 ABs against breaking balls this year and has hit just over twice as many HRs (13) in almost 9 times as many ABs (463). Unless he’s gotten an incredibly disproportionate amount of his “Breaking-Ball-HR-Luck” out of the way already this season, I have to imagine that we’re seeing a notable and at least somewhat sustainable improvement from a player who is, again, just shy of turning 27 Years Old.

To conclude, I think it is important to note that, just like the Dodgers are getting credit for finding “another” player like Max Muncy (Justin Turner, Chris Taylor), Suarez’s improvements actually do closely mirror those of teammate and fellow infielder Scooter Gennett. These two have had incredible improvements recently on breaking ball performance and both deserve to be commended for the strides they’ve made to go from being decent, middling hitters to each competing for a spot in the top 5 in their respective positions.

Verdict: The true Verdict is where is Suarez ranked. He’s currently #6 on the player rater. I’d take him over Baez I think, which might draw the ire of many, but I still don’t like to buy into bad plate discipline when I don’t have to. I’d likely rank a healthy Kris Bryant over him. But for the most part, I think he’s pretty legitimately the 6th or 7th best fantasy third base option at this point. Better in OBP leagues.

Updated Outlooks

Andrew Suarez

There’s a point in time with a player when you just get to a crossroads. The specific crossroads I’m talking about is the point in which, as a fantasy analyst, you want to scream at people, bashing their heads into the keyboard while rhythmically shouting “WHY. IS. HE. SIX. POINT. ONE. PERCENT. OWNED.”, but are also aware of the fact that you may be sticking your neck out really far for someone that everyone else just might have a better picture of. But I’m passed that crossroads and I’m willing to bash heads into keyboards telling owners to add Suarez and I’m comfortable with the consequences if it turns out I’m wrong— because I’m pretty darn sure I’m not.

I was appalled last week when Suarez, who is now 6.5% owned, was dropped from about 10% of leagues to 5% of leagues simply because he had @Colorado on the horizon. I’m more appalled now, after not just surviving Colorado, but thriving in Colorado (7 IP, 1 ER, 6 Ks, 0 BBs), Andrew Suarez still sits as an almost completely unowned commodity in the vast majority of leagues.

His ERA is finally under 4.00. He’s given up 2 ERs or fewer in 5 straight starts and 6 of his last 7. He made it at least 5.2 IP in 5 of the 7. Over that 7 start stretch he has a 2.40 ERA, as well as 35 Ks to only 7 BBs. His home ERA has been good all season. He throws four pitches. When I say things like “It sounds simple, but there are things that I just don’t like about Eflin,” the contrast is Suarez, where the vast majority of things I find I like.

Are there things I don’t like? Sure. I think his fastballs a bit straight and he needs to utilize the depth of that rotation, particularly the Cutter/Change, to make the fastball work and live up to its above average 93+ MPH velocity from the left side. But I also LOVE AT&T as a neutralizer for that fear. If Suarez and Eflin changed parks, maybe we change the tune a little bit. But they aren’t going to change parks, or at least that isn’t something this fantasy analyst is going to base his assessment on. Suarez plays in a better park and will keep playing in a grand, spacious ball park for his home games, including a two start week this week against the Cubs and Athletics.

Verdict: BUY. Freaking BUY. BUY! There’s times where you just say “I don’t get it.” Suarez’s 7 Start Stretch getting absolutely no love in combination with his park situation and K/BB on the season make NO sense to me. He had a tremendous 2-Start week a couple weeks ago, and then followed it up with strong starts @ ARI and @ COL. Don’t wait until AFTER another 2-Start Week (both home) before taking a shot on Suarez. Do keep an eye on information regarding any potential innings limitations as we move into the later months.**

Brandon Nimmo

This one will be a brief analysis of one problem in particular. I don’t have any exact figure on hand, but over the course of the last few weeks, Nimmo has been really struggling particularly with being sent down on strikes. While I don’t necessarily see things like this and immediately jump up and say “Red Flag! Problem! Run Away!”, I am generally of the opinion that things like this happen for a reason.

My proposed reason for the Brandon Nimmo scouting report is that Nimmo actually struggles a bit more with heat then I think it appears by looking at even some of the specific brooks baseball and single pitch performance metrics that I look at. Like with Muncy, Nimmo’s Whiff%’s are effected and lowered not because of an incredible ability to make contact, but rather because the denominator in that function is “Total Pitches” and not “Swings,” so simply not swinging improves your Whiff%. For a further and more extreme example, I could, not just theoretically, play professional baseball and generate a better Whiff% than Mookie Betts. Now I wouldn’t be swinging ever. Not saying I would be a good baseball player. But keeping the bat on your shoulders at a rare proportion, like Nimmo does, indeed effects Whiff%’s.

Nimmo Whiffs at about twice the rate of fastballs as the aforementioned Muncy does. That alone isn’t a huge problem— as I pointed out earlier Muncy is above average here— but the somewhat appalling part of the figure is that Nimmo has K’d in 30 of the 84 ABs that have ended in a 4-Seam Fastball. That’s a pretty high proportion.

If I had to theorize where these resulting Ks are manifesting from, Brandon Nimmo’s patience, while drawing walks, also opens him up to a lot of deep counts, specifically counts with 2 strikes. In baseball, you get there opportunities. But you only get one guaranteed opportunity once you get to that point where you have two strikes. I believe pitchers are getting him to that 2 strike opportunity far too easily, and after they get there they can save their best pitches (considering Nimmo’s weaknesses) for those two strike counts.

Verdict: HOLD. It’s a pretty easy hold for me. Concerns are not equivalent to “Reasons to Drop.” For a hitter with a supreme Batter’s eye and pitch recognition, I like Nimmo’s ability to continue to improve on both how he sees pitches and how he hits them. Now if only he could not look so ridiculous trying to stick his elbow out to catch a HBP once every few games.

Final Notes: The Added and Dropped

Only one brief final note for this long piece: most added and most dropped. The aforementioned Eflin is actually the most added. I think he deserves it, but again am also not so stoked on him that I’m blowing my wad to make sure I’m one of the 23.6% jumping him into my roster. Nathan Eovaldi has looked better recently, but that’s a burn that’s going to need some special-extra-strength aloe if it doesn’t work out for you. Matt Harvey’s actually having a bit of an impressive streak. For me this isn’t saying much, but I’d take a shot on the Dark Knight over Eovaldi.

Avisail Garcia finds himself sitting atop the most added player list. Maybe I’m just wrong on this one and this guy is a baller. I still don’t believe in it personally though. Kyle Tucker needs to be owned quite literally everywhere. Maybe the PT doesn’t come through, but ultimately young players can represent a hugely volatile stock market, and five good games of Kyle Tucker and you have yourself not just a shiny new toy, but a hot young commodity. And it should be implied by the above outlook, but if you’re somehow in a preposterous league where Max Muncy isn’t owned, you need to rectify it, and can do that at the expense of a 1B, 2B, or 3B (or CI, or MI).

Until next week,

Cheers

 


Are you looking for a better experience? Fantasy Football League Openings 2018

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday July 8th, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #128 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will discss the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.

Our guest this week is Kyle Klinker. Kyle has been an owner in MLFS baseball, and basketball leagues for over 5 years. He also has a couple of championships under his belt over that span in some tough leagues. We loving refer to him as “The Red Rocket.”

Major League Fantasy Football Radio Show: Join host Corey D Robertsand Kyle Amore live June 21st, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #83 of Major League Fantasy Football Radio. Call in number is 323-870-4395 press 1 to speak with the host. We will hit free agents, rookies, and fantasy football as a whole for each team for 2018. This week we will discuss everything  AFC North!

Kyle is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com going on his 5th year. He focuses primarily on baseball, but is a fantasy football fan and analyst as well.

Bachelors in English and History from Indiana University. Borderline-Obsessed Fantasy Baseball Writer who also dabbles in Football, Basketball and Combat Sports.

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