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7 “Late Bloomer” Hitters for 2020

Last year saw some really remarkable breakouts from unexpected candidates. Ketel Marte had a power explosion, Tim Anderson collected hits at an obscene rate, Hunter Dozier reminded everyone why he was a top 10 pick back in 2013, and Marcus Semien transformed into one of the game’s best players with offensive and defensive improvements. All four of them were in their mid-to-late 20s which made the surges even more surprising as we had locked these guys in at a certain level.

We’ve all heard the phrase that “growth isn’t linear” but given how much we lean on the previous season when studying for drafts, it’s easy to look for that linear improvement. That can leave some players overlooked and make breakouts more unexpected than they should be if we took a broader view.

Here are 7 hitters in their mid-20s poised for a breakout (though a half season mucks things up quite a bit):

Dansby Swanson | SS, ATL

If he doesn’t get hurt last year, the former #1 overall pick probably doesn’t make this list. Swanson was pacing toward a 28 HR/11 SB season with a .265/.330/.468 line before a late-July injury cost him a month. He returned with a .552 OPS and 0 HR in his final 114 PA. There were improvements on the whole, but still netted just a 92 wRC+. He has back-to-back double-double campaigns with top-flight speed and burgeoning power. There’s a .285/25/15 season in here, but he’s overlooked at the insanely deep shortstop position.

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National League Pitchers Value Down With the DH

One of my Launch Angle Podcast partners, Rob Silver, brought up how if there is a universal DH, the NL pitcher will no longer face ineffective bat-wielding pitchers. Simply, pitchers can’t hit. Last season in 4789 PA, National League pitchers hit for a combined .126/.157/.160. Our own Dan Szymborski continued the discussion to see if dominating pitchers hitting was a repeatable trait. I’m going to go a different route to investigate, using Dan’s information, how a pitcher’s projection would change going to an American League team (effectively including a DH) and this number affects a pitcher ranking.

I’m going to start off saying to not take any of the following information as the gospel truth. I’m trying to achieve a better projection that’ll be closer to the final outcome. Each stat and step in the process can be nitpicked along the way. I’m not even sure if the following method is the best way but it’s a way. I’m trying to move the discussion from “The DH will be a try breaker for me when drafting” (quote from a podcast I heard) to actually putting some number behind the possible changes.

Also, I’m not here to argue on why Jacob deGrom started out as the 8th ranked starter and he’s now 9th. I just collect a projection set. Anyone who uses stats to generate their projections will have their own secret sauce. I have my own. I just need a projection framework and live with it. Here is how I set it up.

I downloaded the 2020 ZiPS projections from here at FanGraphs. I used the ZiPS values since Dan created them and I’ll be using the inter-league adjustments provide in his article.

Then I changed each pitcher’s stats using Dan’s 2019 variables.

Variable: Change

  • BB%: +4%
  • K%: -5%
  • AVG: +.007
  • RC/G: +13%

I just adjusted the pitcher’s projected stats by the above values and created a hits estimate from the AVG with few assumptions.

NL pitcher innings projections have two offsetting values that could also be in play. The worse results could lead to fewer innings thrown (i.e. early hook) and the pitcher’s value could drop. On the other hand, the times a pitcher nearing his pitch limit will be replaced by a pinch batter will disappear. One of the two factors will likely dominate

Next, I used the 2019 12-team SGP (Standings Gain Points) formula from The Process to create pitcher valuations. The SGP value is the expected jump in the standings if that pitcher’s stats are added to a team’s stats. Here are results from the final top-40 starting pitcher using the SGP formula and ZiPS projections (I’m not sure why the TJS pitchers are still included but I don’t get paid the big bucks to know such things).

NL Starting Pitcher Adjustments
Initial Adjusted
Rank Name IP W K ERA WHIP SGP Rank W K ERA WHIP SGP Difference
1 Gerrit Cole 200 16 280 3.11 1.01 18.5 1 18.5 0
2 Justin Verlander 190.3 16 243 3.22 0.98 17.5 2 17.5 0
4 Lucas Giolito 176 14 235 3.22 1.07 15.4 3 15.4 1
3 Max Scherzer 174 13 236 3.00 0.98 16.0 4 13 224 3.39 1.02 13.8 -1
7 Chris Sale 164.7 13 216 3.12 1.01 15.0 5 15.0 2
5 Jack Flaherty 189.7 13 236 3.13 1.05 15.4 6 13 224 3.54 1.09 13.2 -1
6 Stephen Strasburg 184.7 15 221 3.22 1.09 15.2 7 15 210 3.63 1.13 13.0 -1
9 Shane Bieber 195.7 13 213 3.63 1.11 14.1 8 14.1 1
8 Jacob deGrom 184.3 12 223 2.88 1.04 14.7 9 12 212 3.26 1.08 12.5 -1
10 Luis Severino 166.3 14 201 3.52 1.12 13.9 10 13.9 0
11 Walker Buehler 167.7 11 201 3.27 1.07 13.3 11 13.3 0
12 Clayton Kershaw 166.7 12 176 3.24 1.04 13.1 12 13.1 0
15 Zack Greinke 179.7 13 172 3.91 1.12 12.7 13 12.7 2
13 Trevor Bauer 190.3 13 222 3.74 1.25 13.0 14 13 211 4.22 1.29 10.7 -1
14 Aaron Nola 194 12 213 3.57 1.2 11.4 15 12 202 4.04 1.24 10.7 -1
20 Charlie Morton 159 12 185 3.34 1.18 10.6 16 10.6 4
21 Jose Berrios 190 13 193 4.17 1.25 10.6 17 10.6 4
16 Luis Castillo 175.3 12 198 3.59 1.19 11.0 18 12 188 4.06 1.23 10.3 -2
24 Lance Lynn 173.3 14 193 4.05 1.33 10.2 19 10.2 5
17 German Marquez 180 12 190 4.00 1.18 10.8 20 12 181 4.52 1.21 10.2 -3
18 Noah Syndergaard 186.7 11 197 3.33 1.17 10.8 21 11 187 3.76 1.21 10.1 -3
19 Patrick Corbin 182.3 12 205 3.80 1.24 10.7 22 12 195 4.30 1.28 10.0 -3
26 Mike Clevinger 146.7 11 175 3.62 1.19 9.8 23 9.8 3
28 Matthew Boyd 173 10 193 4.37 1.24 9.6 24 9.6 4
29 Blake Snell 135.3 11 173 3.33 1.2 9.6 25 9.6 4
23 Zac Gallen 159 12 185 3.62 1.22 10.3 26 12 176 4.09 1.26 9.6 -3
22 Robbie Ray 164.3 11 222 4.00 1.3 10.3 27 11 211 4.52 1.35 9.6 -5
25 Chris Paddack 159 10 174 3.68 1.11 10.1 28 10 165 4.16 1.15 9.5 -3
31 James Paxton 143.7 11 169 3.82 1.21 9.5 29 9.5 2
34 Jake Odorizzi 149.7 12 158 4.09 1.26 9.1 30 9.1 4
27 Yu Darvish 154.3 8 190 3.56 1.13 9.7 31 8 181 4.02 1.17 9.1 -4
30 Sonny Gray 158 11 171 3.82 1.21 9.6 32 11 162 4.31 1.25 8.9 -2
37 Eduardo Rodriguez 174.3 12 177 4.28 1.34 8.9 33 8.9 4
38 Carlos Carrasco 131.3 10 152 3.97 1.16 8.9 34 8.9 4
39 Mike Minor 172.7 12 161 4.48 1.29 8.9 35 8.9 4
32 Mike Soroka 176 11 154 3.32 1.16 9.5 36 11 146 3.76 1.20 8.9 -4
33 Kyle Hendricks 169.3 12 143 3.67 1.18 9.4 37 12 136 4.14 1.21 8.8 -4
41 Corey Kluber 144.7 11 145 3.98 1.2 8.8 38 8.8 3
42 Masahiro Tanaka 168 11 150 4.34 1.23 8.8 39 8.8 3
43 Tyler Glasnow 119.7 9 162 3.53 1.19 8.7 40 8.7 3

The changes are significant once all three factors (WHIP, ERA, strikeouts) are factored in. While the rank changes by just one or two with the top-10 or so arms, the difference becomes significant around pick 20 with moves of four spots. Maybe this change is a tie-breaker for some owners, but if an owner gains an extra ~1 SGP from all nine pitchers, it becomes nine spots in the standings. I think every owner would take those extra spots.

Just eyeballing the differences, it’s ~0.40 increase in ERA and 0.04 bump in WHIP to go with the 5% drop in strikeouts. The near half run increase in ERA will scare off quite a few owners by itself. Other owners will get blow off the possible changes, but in my current opinion, they will be playing catch up if they ignore them.

Again, don’t take my word for it … I’m still coming to grips with Lance Lynn possibly jumping Patrick Corbin. I could be wrong with these calculations but hopefully, some other analysts will step up and perform the calculations. The possible change in production is likely the biggest valuation change with half the pitchers facing legit MLB hitters instead of the irrelevant pitcher.


2020 Prospect Opportunities — Yankees

Today, we complete the American League East teams in our 2020 Prospect Opportunities series as I finish the division with the Yankees.

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2020 Prospect Opportunities — Red Sox

Today, our 2020 Prospect Opportunities series moves on to the Red Sox. Naturally, a strong team means fewer at risk players.

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The Sleeper and the Bust Episode: 813 – Pitcher Fallout for Universal DH

05/26/20

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NOTABLE TRANSACTIONS/INJURIES/RUMORS

  • 2020 Season Outlook

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Jeff Zimmerman Fantasy Baseball Chat

3:00
Jeff Zimmerman: Let’s light this fire.

3:00
Franchy Cordero: With the possibility of universal DH do I benefit the most in San Diego?

3:01
Jeff Zimmerman: I’m not sure with SD. I think it may be Wil Myers since he’ll finally have a defensive position.

3:01
Smoking aces: My Stras and Yandy for his Jram. 8×8, 15 keeper. Stras is expensive, jram is moderately priced and Yandy is as cheap as our league allows. Smell fair?

3:02
Jeff Zimmerman: Yea, I like the JRam side for sure.

3:02
Billy: Assuming we get a 80 game season, has the option of going later into the fall been discussed? I feel relegating games solely in FLA, Ari, and indoor stadiums, perhaps we could stretch out the “season” to say 120 games

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Batter Injuries and Future Performance

Predicting hitter injuries has been a fool’s errand for me. Besides players with chronic injuries (e.g. Albert Pujols and Ryan Braun), others and myself have made little headway in the field. With few guidelines, many fantasy analysts and owners handle hitter injuries differently. Previously, I focused on a hitter’s recent injury history. This time I attempted a different approach and used the hitter’s career IL days. In the end, I found a useful and easy to remember injury threshold.

For the study, I examined hitters from the 2010 to 2018 seasons. I have IL data going back to 2002, so I hoped the preceding eight years of data would get most of the hitter’s 2010 career total. Additionally, I needed the next season (e.g. 2019) to compare results. Additionally, I set a minimum hitting threshold (100 PA) to include at least some semi-regulars. I know I may miss a hitter who is out the whole season, but the two-week callups were diluting the results. In all, I ended up with a sample of 2365 player seasons.
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Texas Red Bulls: A Return to Prominence

If you follow me on Twitter, you’re aware of why last week’s article reviewing 2027 and updating on 2028 never got posted. Let’s take a quick look back at the ’27 season before diving deep into ’28.

2027 REVIEW

After an ugly 74-88 in 2026, we were demoted from Iron back to Stone and we took advantage of moving down a level with a robust 96-66 record. Unfortunately, it was only good for a 2nd place finish behind a 102-60 ballclub. In fact, the 96 wins would’ve only won one of the six divisions and not only did it fall a game short of the wildcard in my conference, but it would’ve been three games shy in the other conference, too!

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2020 Prospect Opportunities — Rays

Today, our 2020 Prospect Opportunities series moves on to the Rays. As a reminder, I’m not listing every position or every possible replacement at the positions I do list. I’m only listing positions with players at risk of losing their job due to potential poor performance and replacements that have a chance of earning positive fantasy value. If there’s a potential replacement who could get a shot if the incumbent fails, but I expect him to stink up the joint, he won’t be included here.

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Every Team Draft

In this time of uncertainty, we have seen fantasy players do some unorthodox activities in order to scratch the itch of not having fantasy baseball in their lives. Whether it is KBO DFS, OOTP Baseball, Retro Drafts or MLB the Show, fantasy players are doing their best to fill time. Read the rest of this entry »