Sometimes the regression does not align with under the radar players, but with the stars. This proves to be one of those weeks. Starting in Boston, J.D. Martinez will get three games in Camden Yards then three at home versus the Mariners. Baltimore and Seattle represent two of the three worst staffs in terms of weighted fastball value, according to Fangraphs. Martinez not only should hunt fastballs this week but feast on them with a 94.5 MPH average exit velocity against the pitch this year with a .825 expected slugging percentage.
Add in his overall numbers of a .336 batting average with an expected .360, his .500 slugging residing 163 points below his actual and 69, nice, points of potential growth in his weighted on-base average (xwOBA) through his first 139 plate appearances. Since Mitch Moreland received some love last week in this column, keep him in mind as well since he owns 61 points of positive regression to the mean in his expected slugging still and his xwOBA sits 57 points above his weighted on-base average (wOBA) so far.
Bryce Harper, Washington
Perhaps getting out of Philadelphia will be exactly what Harper needs to clear his head and rebound. Harper’s only hitting .235 but with a .256 expected average. Over the last seven days, his .252 wOBA pales in comparison to his xwOBA of .334 by 82 points. It’s interesting to note Harper’s barrel percentage in 2015, when he hit 42 home runs, of 13.2 percent almost mirrors his 13.5 barrel rate this year. In interleague play, Harper owns a .273/.374/.498 slash line with a .225 isolated power. When visiting Kansas City, Harper’s accrued 25 at-bats with a double, two home runs and a .320/.370/.600 slash. No guarantees, but, Harper could get hot on this trip.
Jose Ramirez, Cleveland
Frustrating his owners to this point, Jose Ramirez needs a big week to get back on track. With the White Sox in town for a four-game set before heading to Oakland, the time may be now. Noting the point about weighted fastball value for Martinez above, only the White Sox staff ranks below Baltimore and Seattle, sitting dead last in the metric with a negative 35 value. Add in injuries to the starting rotation and a tired bullpen upon their arrival.
Versus fastballs this year, Ramirez currently has a .165 batting average with a .278 slugging percentage. But, his expected average of .260 and expected slugging .504 could come to roost early this week. With his barrel percentage, average exit velocity and launch angles all in line with last year, Ramirez should be primed for positive regression to the mean which would calm his owners. There’s a double dong game in this four-game set at the onset of the week for him.
Justin Smoak, Toronto
While most of the attention will fall upon Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the Blue Jays, Smoak’s on the precipice of a nice week. From a week ago Sunday to last Saturday, Smoak’s .206 wOBA does not seem enticing, but his xwOBA of .342 put him among the leaders of potential regression candidates. Upon investigation, Smoak’s hitting .248 with a .264 expected average, slugging .429 with a .495 expected slugging and his wOBA sits 28 points below his expected rate.
Versus fastballs, Smoak’s walking (21.3 percent) more than he’s striking out (16 percent) with a .326 expected average and .619 expected slugging percentage. Matching up early in the week against the Twins could be less than optimal, but over the weekend, the White Sox will arrive to boost the Blue Jays hitter values with Smoak lying in wait to ambush fastballs. And, guess what, Guerrero Jr. could two for some nice mini stacks in the future.
Ian Desmond, Colorado
With his playing time dwindling, Ian Desmond needs to take advantage of Colorado slated to face five left-handed pitchers in their next six contests. Armed with the 16th best xwOBA from the seven-game polling period referenced above, Desmond will need it to gain positive regression to the mean. Presently, Desmond’s hitting .186 versus a .248 expected average and his expected slugging sits 100 points above his actual. It’s a small sample, but he’s walked three times with no strikeouts in 16 plate appearances at home against southpaws. Going back to last year, Desmond slashed .300/.352/.500 with a .200 isolated power and a .339 BABIP in home games versus left-handed pitching, but, with a 64.6 ground ball rate.
Desmond’s improved his launch angle to 9.8 degrees this year and traded ground balls for line drives along with more fly balls. There’s no guarantee he will cash these in for more power, but, he will need to in the days ahead to assure playing time going forward. No one really feels great about using Desmond in daily contests, however, if there’s a week to do so, this should be it.
Bonus player of the week, the mercurial Kole Calhoun. The Angels will only play half their games this week against right-handed starters, but, Calhoun stands to gain 38 points from his expected batting average, 43 points from his expected slugging and he owns a .270 average with a .515 slugging, .243 isolated power and 55.2 hard hit rate on the road. Los Angeles will play in Detroit and Baltimore this week. Take note and use Calhoun as a cheap lottery ticket, especially in Camden Yards.
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Been writing about fantasy baseball since 2012. Hit the Moonshot in 2016 without a fancy computer algorithm, just blood, sweat and tears, thanks to home runs by Ryan Flaherty along with Preston Tucker. So, each homer matters. Entered three 12-team NFBC leagues last year with a first and second place finish. Complete fantasy grinder, so check out the regression hitter articles weekly for cheap pivots or depressed sluggers due to pay dividends. My work also appears for free and behind the paywall at Fantasy Alarm, the Bullpen Reports on Rotographs and here. Thanks for all the support.