Keeper leagues, auction leagues, points leagues, roto leagues, weekly leagues, daily leagues, tattoo leagues … you name it, you can find it in a fantasy baseball league. Baseball’s Rule 34, if you will.
No matter the format, fantasy owners are always on the hunt for one thing – value. Getting first-round-production out of an eighth-round pick is finding value. When your $3,000 shortstop on Draftkings hits two bombs, that’s value.
The truth is that most people do not dig deeper than the 5 main hitting stats – AVG, HR, RBI, R, and SB. This gives those who think outside the box a bit of an edge.
Over the next several days, I will break down what I look for in an undervalued hitter. They are out there, we just need to find ‘em.
Hitters Who Hit the Ball Hard
Back in the stone ages (anytime prior to 2010) we had to listen to the sound of a ball off the bat or watch how quickly a line drive homer left the yard to determine how hard guys were hitting the ball. In the Statcast era, we now have exit velocity recordings and hard hit ball rates easily accessible to the average fan.
My baseball stat website of choice is Fangraphs.
This time of year, Fangraphs starts appearing on my front page of Chrome because I am constantly on this site for baseball research. Fangraphs really has it all.
Want to know how many home runs Jose Altuve has hit this year? Of course they have that. It’s 7. Want to know which National League rookie outfielder makes the most contact on pitches outside of the zone? Fangraphs has that, too! It’s Mark Zagunis.
One of my favorite stats to look at is the percentage of balls that batters hit hard. Under the “Batted Ball” tab, this stat is labeled “Hard%”. Hard% simply divides the number of hard hit balls by the number of total balls put into play.
For example, say a player had 4 plate appearances in a game. He lined out hard once, had two soft singles, and then struck out. He only put 3 balls into play, 1 of which was hard. His Hard% would be 1 out of 3, or 33.3%.
Often times, a hitter’s numbers will not properly reflect how he is hitting the ball. Someone who has gotten lucky with infield singles and Texas Leaguers might be hitting .400 in April but will soon regress once their shallow well of luck runs dry.
We want to avoid these types of hitters. Their offensive numbers are inflated because of their luck. These hitters are overvalued.
We want to focus on the guys who are mashing the ball but not getting the results they deserve. These hitters are valuable.
The Unlucky Hitters of 2019
To wrap up, I want to give an example of an undervalued hitter.
Diamondbacks’ first baseman Christian Walker is hitting .291 this year with 5 home runs. These numbers are good but not great.
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) April 17, 2019
Walker’s Hard% is out of this world! 69.4% of his batted balls have been hit hard. That’s second in the major leagues right now. This is a sign that although Walker has not posted elite stats, his swing is elite right now.
Softly batted balls do not fall for hits very often in the Major Leagues. One of the best predictors of future success is solid contact. Hard hit balls are the key to determining whether a player is raking or just benefitting from bloop hits.
Expect plenty more on undervalued players later. See you on top!