Fantasy Baseball: 4 Early-Season Batted-Ball Observations
We're all fans of small sample sizes, right? Where else are you going to see a .633 wOBA out of a rookie in the Houston Astros' Tyler White?
Technically, Babe Ruth almost got there in 1920, but he was no Jeremy Hazelbaker.
Even though these sample sizes are small, we still might be able to draw some conclusions from them if we're looking at the right information. Specifically, we're talking batted-ball data, which is the bee's knees of the statistical world.
Now, it's still too soon to assume this data will stick, but there are a few bits of information that may grab your attention. Here are four things of which we should be taking note as the young season gets cracking.
Steven Souza's Non-Existent Soft-Hit Rate
Of the qualified hitters, there are only six so far who have yet to record a soft-hit ball. Some of the names won't be surprises as Carlos Gonzalez, Miguel Cabrera, and Alex Rodriguez are all among the baddest mamma jammas in the game. But the Tampa Bay Rays' Steven Souza? There's a bit of a surprise.
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) April 6, 2016
Maybe it shouldn't be.
Souza finished his 2015 rookie season with a 33.8% hard-hit rate, but that was spoiled a bit by his higher-than-average 20.3% soft-hit rate. When you toss in his 33.8% strikeout rate, the dude was about as boom-or-bust as they come.
This year -- although the strikeout rate is still scary at 32.0% -- the soft-hit balls aren't there yet. He has put only 16 balls in play, giving him 8 hard-hit balls and 8 medium-hit, but that's a positive step, regardless. He's already owned in 73.8% of ESPN leagues, but you'll want to keep an eye on this, as he could be an interesting buy-high candidate if things keep up.
Rougned Odor's Increased Fly-Ball Rate
It's April 13th, so if you aren't freaking out about that second baseman you selected in the eighth round, you clearly aren't living right. That's what a lot of Rougned Odor owners (slowly raises hand) are doing. It might be okay to cool the jets for a second.
Odor's triple slash of .188/.257/.344 will make you grimace, but his fly-ball rate should perk you right back up. Odor finished last year with a 45.8% ground-ball rate, which was right around the league average of 45.3%. Through the early part of this year, he has zapped that down to 26.1%. Almost all of that has shifted to the fly-ball variety, where he's camped at a cool 60.9%. That doesn't necessarily mean immediate success, but it does mean he can do more things like this.
— Texas Rangers (@Rangers) April 9, 2016
If Odor keeps that fly-ball rate elevated while maintaining his hard-hit rate, his power numbers could start to creep upwards. That's why I'd be reaching out to frustrated Odor owners to see if they'd be interested in dumping their prospective breakout star for less than what his future value may warrant.
Trevor Story's Power-Hitter Profile
Trevor Story likely won't hit the 150-ish home runs he's on pace to notch (likely being the key word there), but that doesn't mean homie can't pop it.
Sure, the 34.4% strikeout rate is a concern, but his hard-hit rate and fly-ball rate are those of a hitter who will go deep often. He currently has a 55.0% hard-hit rate and 65.0% fly-ball rate, ranking third and fifth respectively in those two categories among qualified hitters. Those numbers will come down, but even then, that's a tasty profile.
If I own Story, I'd probably try to keep him even though he screams "sell high." At the end of the day, he's a potential solid power hitter batting second for a team that plays its home games without the hindrance of gravity. I'm fine with keeping that on my roster.
Tyler White's League-Leading Hard-Hit Rate
A'ight, I'm not saying Tyler White will eventually break that aforementioned Babe Ruth wOBA record. I'm just saying dude is in the business of mashing baseballs.
White currently leads the league in hard-hit rate at a jaw-dropping 60.0%. For a guy who was supposed to be a placeholder until top prospect A.J. Reed was ready, that's pretty dope, to say the least. White is a slightly older prospect, breaking into the big leagues in his age-25 season, but he posted solid on-base and slugging numbers throughout the high minors. Maybe this is real?
White is now up to 70.3% ownership in ESPN leagues, meaning he's likely not available on waivers. But if you've already got him, don't drop him at the first sign of trouble. These batted-ball numbers are impressive, and if he keeps hitting, the Astros will find a spot for him in the lineup even when Reed is ready for a promotion.