Daily Fantasy Baseball: Positive Batted-Ball Regression Candidates for Week 16
Recent batted-ball data can be very useful in MLB DFS, allowing us to notice the players who are seeing the ball well and hitting the ball with authority yet coming up short on results.
Remember, your fantasy opponents may only be paying attention to counting stats like homers and RBI and ratios like batting average and slugging percentage, which hardly tell the complete story of a hitter's performance. This is a major market inefficiency in daily fantasy, and one that is easy to exploit with a look at the underlying stats.
In this article, we'll examine recent batted-ball data to highlight players whose surface results are lagging behind their actual skills metrics (per FanGraphs and Baseball Savant), potentially putting them right on the edge of a productive hot streak that could pay huge dividends for daily fantasy players who roster them at a relative discount.
Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves
Freddie Freeman looked absolutely unstoppable in June (1.065 OPS), but the pendulum has swung the other way for the 29-year-old slugger in the first half of July, with Freeman slashing .200/.263/.429 across 38 plate appearances, with just four extra-base hits and six RBI on the month.
July is Freeman's worst month yet for hard contact (34.6%), but it looks like the star lefty is just missing balls he would otherwise crush, as most of the dip in hard hits is translating to medium contact (50%) rather than soft (15.4%), while his liner rate remains steady (26.9%). We should expect some give back on Freeman's super low July BABIP of .208; he managed a .337 mark in the first half, and his career BABIP is .342.
If Freddie's FanDuel salary continues to trend in the low $4,000s, daily players should take the discount and run, especially with the Atlanta Braves visiting hitter-friendly Miller Park to start Week 16.
Nelson Cruz, OF, Minnesota Twins
It's never safe to assume that Nelson Cruz is cooked. Despite middling surface stats in July (.207 average, .172 ISO), the Minnesota Twins' slugger remains a hard-contact metronome, with his 65% mark in July the third-best hard-hit rate on the month.
One of the sturdiest home run tickets in daily fantasy, Cruz carries a modest high-$3,000s FanDuel price tag into Week 16 matchups with the New York Mets and Oakland Athletics, with pitchers like Steven Matz and Mike Fiers particularly prone to serving up long balls.
Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago White Sox
Eloy Jimenez appeared to be finally breaking out after posting a .284/.340/.602 slash line in 88 June at-bats, though his surface stats might indicate another step back to start July.
Indeed, the Chicago White Sox' phenom has been something of a feast-or-famine option on the current month, struggling to a .222 batting average yet cranking a season-high .333 ISO. Most intriguing, though, is the identical 14.7% walk and strikeout rates in July, a major improvement on the 21.1% strikeouts-minus-walks that the rookie posted in the first half.
Still, the bugaboo for Jimenez appears to be getting under the ball with consistency: an outsized 60.9% grounder rate is a major factor in his .150 BABIP in the small July sample.
Provided that Jimenez's plate-discipline gains can be translated to better quality contact, the young power prospect could ready to put it all together in the second half, starting with a matchup against a soft Kansas City Royals pitching staff in Week 16.
Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco Giants
By now we're used to Brandon Belt falling short of his power pedigree, but the .108 ISO he's posted in July seems especially dire. Belt is certainly putting himself in a position for much better power production, stroking identical 44.4% line-drive and fly-balls rates on the month, underwritten by a 48.2% hard-hit rate.
Of course, the veteran lefty slugger is perennially hamstrung by a hitter-hostile home park, but Belt and the San Francisco Giants can look ahead to a four-game set at Coors Field to start Week 16. Even with the Coors bump in play, it's hard to see Belt's salary rising too far out of the mid-$3,000s on FanDuel, making him a very interesting upside play for the coming week.
Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins
Oh no! Is Byron Buxton regressing in the wrong direction? The post-hype Minnesota Twins' outfielder is in the midst of his weakest stretch of surface results in 2019, carrying a .161/.235/.290 slash line through 34 July plate appearances.
We might wonder if a mid-June wrist injury has sapped some of Buxton's burgeoning power, yet July is also Buxton's very best month in terms of contact metrics, with the dynamic outfielder stinging 31.8% liners and 54.6% hard contact despite producing a .129 ISO over that span.
Provided that Buxton's all-out fielding doesn't keep him out of the lineup too much longer, the 25-year-old and his low-$3,000s FanDuel salary make for a very promising play in Week 16. The Twins play all six of their games at Target Field this week, where Buxton carries an .853 OPS, compared to a .755 mark on the road.
Tom Whalen is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Tom Whalen also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username whalentc. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.