Max Muncy Is A Must-Add in Fantasy Baseball
The Los Angeles Dodgers have had a rather interesting 2018 season. They did not find their footing out of the gate, as they struggled to play up to expectations as last year's National League Champions throughout the early part of this season. They have begun to turn a corner, however, going 8-2 in their last 10 games to bring their record to 35-32, placing them 2.5 back in the NL West.
They have received a lot of their contributions from strange place, and perhaps the most notable of those is Max Muncy. Muncy is leading the Dodgers in wRC+ (172) and fWAR (2.2), something that was as unexpected as it could get before the season began.
And it seems as though he can continue playing at this high level. What tells us that, and why should he be owned in all leagues going forward?
While it is hard to imagine Muncy -- a guy with a wRC+ of 80 and 61 in 2015 and 2016, respectively (as well as spending the entirety of 2017 in the minors) -- having anything in common with this Muncy -- sporting a 172 wRC+ (158 plate appearances) -- the similarities are absolutely there, and they help to explain why his breakout is sustainable.
While his BABIP has increased, he is not riding some massive BABIP wave that is destined to fall. A .291 mark is right around the league average of .293, making it a perfectly sustainable number. And he continues to walk at a nice rate as well. Not shown here is the fact that his contact rate of 78.1% this season is very similar to his 78.3% rate for his career.
While this shows signs that Muncy's hitting success is unsustainable, it does not explain why he is suddenly one of the best hitters in baseball (his wRC+ trails just Mookie Betts, Mike Trout and J.D. Martinez of all hitters with a least 150 plate appearances).
What helps explain that is the kind of contact he is making.
The difference in 2018 Max Muncy from all the other Max Muncys lies in an improved batted-ball profile. He has a 45.7% hard-hit rate, nearly 10% higher than his previous career-high. He is also limiting the soft contact, as that comes in at just 13%, which is the lowest of his career as it stands. He is hitting the ball in the air nearly half of the time (47.8%), and that is hardly a new thing from Muncy, who had a 54.9% fly-ball rate during his rookie year.
But the results are much better in the power category. Muncy's isolated power (ISO) has ballooned to .354, which is significantly higher than anything else he has done in the majors (he had a .186 ISO in 2015 and just a .071 ISO in 2016).
Overall, Muncy's combination of sustainable contact and walk rates, as well as developing power, make this breakout look like something that will stick. For fantasy purposes, he is a slam dunk mid-season pickup. In fact, he is the most added player in ESPN leagues over the last seven days. But, for what he offers, he's still not owned in enough leagues (un-owned in 33.9% of ESPN leagues).
The Dodgers need to trot him out there on a daily basis, and he has positional versatility -- he has played first base, third base, and the outfield, and is eligible in all three in some leagues. And, on top of that, there has been some rather recent talk of him seeing time at second base as well. While that has hardly happened thus far (he has a grand total of six innings at the position this year), it is something to keep an eye on.
If he's still available to you, Muncy looks like a a huge boost as a mid-season pick-up, and he has the potential to provide big value for the rest of the 2018 season.