Daily Fantasy Baseball: Positive Batted-Ball Regression Candidates for Week 10
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.
Matt Olson, 1B, Oakland Athletics
Matt Olson got a late start to 2019 after a hand injury cost him a month of regular season time, and the Oakland Athletics slugger finds himself lost in the MLB's power-crazed shuffle upon his return to action, with a .458 slugging percentage in 109 PAs that all of a sudden seems solid but unremarkable in the current hitting environment.
Are we reckoning with a daunting batting average floor for the up-and-coming slugger? Olson's .208 average and 28.7% strikeout rate are a bit concerning, but nothing in his whiffs or reach rate metrics spells a major lapse in plate discipline. Meanwhile, his 55.4% hard contact rate is one of the very best in the majors, with Statcast tabbing him for a robust expected slugging percentage (xSLG) of .568.
Olson figures to steady himself as he knocks the rust off in the weeks to come, and with his FanDuel salary trending near $3,000, he makes for a tremendous value against righties Griffin Canning, Adrian Sampson, and Lance Lynn in Week 10.
Josh Donaldson, 3B, Atlanta Braves
There's no denying that Josh Donaldson is very much in decline. The once-mighty Atlanta Braves infielder carries a 28.4% strikeout rate and .179 ISO through 225 plate appearances this year, both his worst marks since before his 2013 breakout with the Oakland Athletics.
Yet, looking at the 33-year-old's underlying metrics, it's hard not to wonder if this decline shouldn't be a little less steep. Despite an unremarkable .267/.357/.395 slash line through 98 plate appearances in May, Donaldson smoked the ball for 29.8% liners and 47.4% hard contact over that span. Meanwhile, Statcast tracks Donaldson's average exit velocity at 92.8 mph on the season, a top 4% mark in the majors.
If there is indeed a bit more gas in the veteran's tank, it won't cost daily players much to fill 'er up. Donaldson and his low-$3,000s FanDuel salary square off against some shaky pitching from the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins staffs in Week 10.
Yandy Diaz, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays
There appeared to be a breakout star behind the Tampa Bay Rays' early season surge, with Yandy Diaz clubbing 13 extra base hits and notching 36 total runs and RBI over his first month of playing time. May, however, saw a considerable downturn for Diaz, who slashed .194/.255/.322 in 66 plate appearances on the month before landing on the IL with a hand injury.
But Diaz's pre-injury dip in surface results coincided with some promising contact trends, namely a 50% hard hit rate with 22% line drives. The 27-year-old's FanDuel salary was waning into the mid-$3,000s before his injury, and if that trend continues, he could be a sneaky DFS play this week now that he's been activated from the IL and slotting right back at the top of a productive Rays lineup. The Rays line up to face four lefties, and Diaz carries a .828 career OPS against southpaws.
Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals
Kolten Wong's .510 OPS in May was one of the lowest among everyday players. Over that span, some of his other metrics were notably low as well: strikeout rate (16.5%), soft contact (19.5%), and BABIP (.183).
Whatever the St. Louis Cardinals utility man lacks in power upside (his tepid .152 ISO this season would mark a career high) he makes up for with strong plate discipline, with swinging strike rates and reach rates that are perennially below league average.
Of course, when the batted-ball gods frown upon him as they did in May, he tends to look like just another guy, but with his FanDuel salary trending below $3,000, Wong has low key value for daily players in a Cardinals lineup that can score in bunches. To boot, Wong is a perfect 9-for-9 on stolen base attempts already this season after swiping no more than eight bags in any of his previous three campaigns.
Kendrys Morales, DH, New York Yankees
It's been new team, same story for Kendrys Morales. Traded last month from the Oakland Athletics to the New York Yankees for the rather unglamorous "cash considerations", the veteran slugger remains mired in a surface-results slump while maintaining a tantalizing advanced-stats profile.
Indeed, the .205/.326/.274 slash line in 86 plate appearances across two squads in May was pretty miserable, but with a mere 11.6% strikeouts and a .068 BABIP in that span, we seem to be looking at a real bad-luck funk here, especially with the 35-year-old stroking 22.2% liners and 39.7% hard contact on the month.
Barring an outright benching, things are bound to turn around for Morales. He carries a salary near the minimum on FanDuel, making him an interesting roster filler as the Yankees look to gobble up some bottom-tier starters at the back end of the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians staffs this week.
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.