Daily Fantasy Baseball: Positive Batted-Ball Regression Candidates for Week 8
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.
Ronald Acuna, OF, Atlanta Braves
Ronald Acuna carries a top-five hard-contact rate among eligible MLB hitters over the last two weeks, though you wouldn't know it from his middling .737 OPS over that span.
The Atlanta Braves' outfielder has ace metrics across the board over his last 55 plate appearances, with a slender 5.9% swinging-strike rate, a robust 24.3% liner rate, and a barely-there 7.3% soft-hit rate. The young stud hasn't quite turned his quality at-bats into stand out production (.281/.372/.480 triple slash on the season), though, leaving his FanDuel salary to dip below $4,000.
That's a miracle of a discount for one of the most dynamic hitters in the league, especially as he's poised to tee off on some suspect pitching on the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals in Week 8.
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, Texas Rangers
A model of unsexy-but-consistent production, Asdrubal Cabrera is easy to overlook, particularly when the base hits aren't falling.
Such has been the case over the past two weeks, with the 33-year-old scratching out an unremarkable .216 batting average and .661 OPS over his last 42 plate appearances. But that sample finds the Texas Rangers' infielder squaring up the ball quite well, stinging 44.4% liners and 37% hard contact on a 40.7% pull rate.
Keyed in at the dish despite the lackluster results, Cabrera and his low-$3,000s FanDuel salary make for a sneaky play in Week 8 as the Rangers square off against beatable pitching of the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels.
Max Kepler, OF, Minnesota Twins
It's been one step forward, two steps back for young slugger Max Kepler. The Minnesota Twins' outfielder came out of the gates hot in 2019, slashing .278/.353/.567 over his first 102 plate appearances. He's hit a major rut of late, though, limping to a .186/.263/.314 slash line since the calendar turned to May.
There's clearly some poor batted-ball luck here, with Kepler's .188 BABIP in May masking gains in line-drive rate and a paper-thin 11.3% strikeout rate over that sample. Kepler and his mid-$3,000s FanDuel salary should provide a cheap piece of one of the more prolific offenses in baseball, and he usually hits leadoff versus righties.
Kyle Schwarber, OF, Chicago Cubs
Kyle Schwarber's tepid overall batting line (.225/.344/.395) might confirm our suspicions that the once-fashionable slugger has faded from fantasy usefulness. Yet over the past two weeks, the Chicago Cubs' outfielder has looked quite confident at the dish, working a 25% walk rate against a 22.9% strikeout rate and lacing 41.7% hard contact and 29.2% line drives.
Turns out there's plenty of reason to be bullish on Schwarber: his slim 9.3% swinging-strike rate on the young season would mark a career best, while Statcast credits him for a .259 expected batting average (xBA) and .477 expected slugging percentage (xSLG) based on his quality of contact.
With FanDuel pricing yet to catch up (he's still trending under $3,000) and Schwarber hitting near the middle of a dynamic Cubs lineup, the 26-year-old slugger makes for an upside-rich roster filler when the shaky rotation of the Cincinnati Reds visits Wrigley over the weekend.
Niko Goodrum, 2B, Detroit Tigers
While his unremarkable batting line (.204/.306/.350) and poor lineup context keep him on the fringes of daily fantasy consideration, Detroit Tigers infielder Niko Goodrum continues to be one of MLB's improbable Statcast darlings. His xBA of .268 and xSLG of .472 hint at a looming breakout, while 24.1% liners and 44.8% hard contact over the last two weeks have been masked by poor results (.146 batting average, one lone extra base hit) and lousy batted-ball luck (.207 BABIP compared to a career .295).
Goodrum has hit out of the leadoff spot in each of Detroit's last eight games, so the 27-year-old's sub-$3,000 FanDuel salary could be a cheap ticket to some bulk at-bats and sneaky upside as the Tigers square off against the inconsistent arms of the New York Mets and the back end of the Miami Marlins' rotation in Week 8.