Daily Fantasy Baseball: Positive Batted-Ball Regression Candidates for Week 7
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.
Yasiel Puig, OF, Cincinnati Reds
Those who expected big things out of Yasiel Puig in his first season with the Cincinnati Reds have been thus far left in the cold, with the outfielder struggling to a .217/.265/.392 slash line across 155 plate appearances to open 2019.
Yet the advanced metrics on Puig show his barrels, hard contact, and exit velocity all in line with (or better than) career norms, with a solid .458 expected slugging (xSLG) suggesting more robust production should be on the horizon. And indeed, the dynamic outfielder has begun to shake out the cobwebs in recent weeks, posting a .231 ISO over his last 31 plate appearances.
Puig and the Reds draw a full week at home at the hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark this week, albeit against some challenging pitching on the staffs of the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers. Those matchups should keep Puig's recent success from spiking his FanDuel salary too far above $3,000, making him a strong value option for daily players.
Ian Desmond, 1B, Colorado Rockies
And indeed, there's nothing pretty about the 10th-year slugger's .214 batting average and 24.8% strikeout rate. But under the hood, Desmond isn't exactly flat-lining. His 14% barrels rate and 43% hard-contact rate are very respectable, and his current .476 xSLG would mark a five-year high. As for the strikeouts, there's nothing particularly alarming in Desmond's profile in terms swinging strikes or out-of-zone swings -- those marks appear slightly improved, actually.
A pair of road series might dent Desmond's prospects for daily players this week, but that also means no Coors Field price bump, while venues in Boston and Philadelphia offer a reasonable facsimile of Colorado's hitter-friendly confines. Poised to kick out of his early-season funk, Desmond looks like a sneaky upside play in Week 7.
Matt Carpenter, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals
Is this deja vu? Through the second week of May last season, Matt Carpenter has struggled to an awful .145/.294/.282 slash line through 136 plate appearances. Of course, we all remember what happened next, with the St. Louis Cardinals' infielder looking like the hardest out in baseball for portions of 2018, pounding an ungodly .952 OPS from June 1st on.
We have reason to believe that Carp's whimpering start to 2019 (.201/.314/.336) will be similarly repaired in the weeks to come. The 33-year-old's soft-contact rate is a paper-thin 5.6%, with 41.7% hard contact and 25.5% liners showing that he's still hitting the ball with authority. And of course, he remains an on-base machine, offering at balls out of the zone at a mere 20.1% clip while working a typically excellent 14.8% walk rate.
With Carp's FanDuel salary wallowing in the low $3,000s, the veteran slugger looks like a terrific value play, particularly later in the week against a shaky Texas Rangers rotation.
Justin Smoak, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays
Once a post-hype poster boy for the fly-ball revolution, Justin Smoak has lagged behind the offensive firestorm that is the 2019 MLB season, with his five long flies so far this season putting him more on pace with his modest 2018 output than with his eye-popping 38-homer campaign in 2017.
Yet, in many ways, Smoak has never looked more assured at the plate. The 32-year-old is working a career-best 16.9% walk rate, with ace marks in hard contact (53.3%) and line drives (24.5%). Some correction on his subdued 12.2% homer-per-fly rate is sure to come, even if he doesn't reach the heights of his gaudy 19.7% mark from 2017. At the very least, we might expect his current .384 slugging percentage to inch towards his .490 expected mark, per Statcast.
The weak Toronto lineup will surely cap Smoak's upside for daily fantasy, but it just so happens that the Jays are facing one of the softest pitching schedules of Week 7, with the ramshackle rotations of the San Francisco Giants and Chicago White Sox on tap.
Marwin Gonzalez, 3B, Minnesota Twins
It would appear that 2017 was the true outlier for Marwin Gonzalez, whose .907 OPS during that seemingly breakout campaign sticks out like a sore thumb amid flagging production and a ballooning strikeout rate.
Indeed, Gonzalez's rough .231/.318/.325 triple slash across 127 plate appearances this season hardly inspires confidence that he can reclaim some of that 2017 magic. But there are some silver linings in his contact profile, with the 30-year-old posting an average exit velocity of 91.2 miles per hour and a robust 48.8% hard-contact rate.
He'll need to correct his waning launch angle to turn that power into extra-base production, but with the thriving Twins lineup set to chew up the suspect pitching staffs of the Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners, Gonzalez could make for an intriguing lineup filler who is priced near the minimum salary.
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/her personal views, he/she may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his/her personal account. The views expressed in his/her articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.