All it took was a few homers in a week for us all to realize that Joc Pederson (FAAB: 8-10%) is pretty, pretty, PRETTY good this year. Now on his third year of plate discipline improvements, the Los Angeles outfielder has cut the K% under 20% for the first time in his career. Not only is it below 20%, but it falls to a ridiculously low 14.5% to go along with higher contact%, lower SwStr%, and overall better pitch recognition. He is making more contact than ever on breaking and off-speed offerings. The specific contact Pederson is making this year shows more fly balls with a career-high FB% and Under%. (Baseball Savant) It is inspiring to see this 26-year-old finally make the jump, stop swinging and missing, and improve as a baseball player. Joc Pederson carries excellent power (Career ISO: .218) and a plus-approach (Career OBP: .345) that is improving in 2018 with a .255 ISO and .347 OBP, but the real marker of elevated batters-eye exists in the 14.5% K%. Below is an image of exactly how Joc battled to advance his pitch recognition into the realm of his power. It took a little while to get going, but these changes stem from last season which seemed like a down year for Pederson. At the end of 2017, he had his first ISO below-.200, first OBP below-.345, and his worst AVG. However, he also had his best K%, SwStr%, and Chase%. Joc Pederson continues to develop all of these statistics in his game which is why I’m buying this year, and I’m not afraid to pay up. Hopefully, he can find space in a healthy Dodgers lineup that includes a red-hot Max Muncy (also one of my favorite pickups for the past few weeks.)
FAAB Budget: 2-4%
It’s about time Joakim Soria gets some love for how he’s been pitching the past two seasons. He keeps trucking along in his 34-year-old season, even though the ERA hasn’t been stellar, Soria continues to push with a 26.5% K% and a career-best 3.9% BB%. This combination is resulting in a pretty nice WHIP to own, 1.18, and he is generating a ridiculous 21.4% IFFB%. Per xStats, Soria currently has 28.6% DB% and 17.1% PU%, which are acronyms for dribblers and pop-ups. These hits fall for outs roughly 100% of the time, barring outlier outcomes. Soria currently generates these types of hits 45.7% of the time. Factoring in the K% gives him a 72.2% pop-up + dribbler + K%. (A combination of statistics I would like to give @BatFlipCrazy credit for on Twitter.) There is upside in the numbers Soria is currently posting, and this goes without any mention of the fact that he converted the past three save chances for the Chicago White Sox. People still ignore Joakim Soria out on the wire despite being the best closer in that bullpen and owning 7 saves on the season. The South Side is not a coveted destination for save chances this season, but if Soria gets the majority on the way out, he could provide plenty of fantasy value.
FAAB Budget: 3-5%
While I do believe there will be some rough outings for Mike Soroka on the rest of the year, I also know there aren’t many pitchers on the wire with his upside and excitement. Rookie pitchers are always interesting, and sometimes painful, to roster throughout the season. Soroka possesses the talent to be a Top 50 pitcher in the league for the rest of the season if everything breaks right. In his brief sample, he has been able to hold his chase% and whiff% above league average. Batters are not comfortable in the box against the 20-year-old. It is way too early in the MLB sample to gather anything useful, but there have been sparks in him that intrigue. His slider is a wipeout pitch that he only pairs with a well-commanded fastball. Soroka has gotten a control/command tag as a prospect that dampers fantasy hype, but in this case that is a good thing. There is more upside than previously thought with Soroka, and I’ll be buying as he comes off an injury to rejoin the Braves rotation looking for another starter.
FAAB Budget: 1-3%
Alen Hanson popped up on my radar earlier this season in AAA by showing better plate discipline than ever. Moving up to the MLB, we now have some Statcast data to shed a bit more light on the situation. It turns out, Alen Hanson has completely revamped how he hits fastballs. His whiff% is a dramatically low 7.3% against FB, with a .405 xwOBA, .649 xSLG, and .299 xBA. These are explosive numbers for anyone, especially someone who has never proven to be able to catch up to heat. Hanson stands up a little straighter in the box with a lot less coil than he ever had before his swing. Watching him now, the bat looks like an everyday hitter who can generate the slugging percentage he is currently posting. The go-ahead home run from June 6th is a prime example of this swing change. Any view of him on his previous teams you see a lot of tightness, hunched over in the box during his stint for the Pirates. His swing was just not very good, to be blunt. Smoothing out the swing makes him all the more coveted because of his already plus-speed. Statcast places his sprint speed (ft/s) in the top 15% and 13th overall for his age (25-years-old.) He has been piling up the prospect fatigue for quite some time now, and savvy owners will buy-back-in and profit off the newfound power and top quality speed
FAAB Budget: 1-3%
Scott Schebler is interesting this week because here we have a guy who hit 30 HR last season, has non-zero speed, and is continuing to improve an already decent approach, but is not highly owned or coveted in fantasy. He has a .288 BA (.288 xBA), .482 SLG (.496 xSLG), .361 wOBA (.371 xwOBA). Not to say that Statcast is the “end-all-be-all” but all of these would suggest that he will not regress, and may potentially improve slightly. I’ll repeat it, this is intriguing because I was one that bought Schebler last season, but not this season based on the fact that I didn’t trust him to repeat. Adding to the Schebler’s match.com profile is his newfound experience in the leadoff spot. The Reds have led him off the past three games, and he has taken to it by providing 4 hits. He already has 8 HR and 2 SB, and the speed is decent ranked 16th for his age of 28 and 115th overall. For a 230 lbs. power hitting outfielder, Scott Schebler can provide another 30 bombs, 5-10 swipes, and potentially more BA in a season that is showing improvements in pitch recognition in certain counts. Schebler is taking his experience to the next level so buy in now while the price stays cheap.
LONELY ONLY-LEAGUE TARGETS
Jung-Ho Kang, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates (Power has always been special, if he stays sober he must be rostered)