Daily Fantasy Baseball: Positive Batted-Ball Regression Candidates for Week 21
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.
Jorge Polanco, OF, Minnesota Twins
Jorge Polanco is enjoying a breakout season for the Minnesota Twins, but his production has been largely front loaded. The 26-year-old switch hitter made quite an impression with a .312/.368/.514 run over 395 plate appearances to start the year. He's been a below-average contributor following the break, however, putting forth a .748 OPS, a far cry from the .882 mark that he maintained before the All-Star break.
A notable increase in ground-ball rate (37.5% in the second half compared to 25.8% in the first half) is a likely culprit in Polanco's precipitous power decline, but his advanced metrics since the break still peg Polanco as a hitter who understands the strike zone (7.6% strikeouts-minus-walks) and hits the ball with authority (41.1% hard contact, 27.7% liners).
Polanco could be an adjustment away from reclaiming his first half form. With the Twins drawing one of the softest upcoming schedules (they're facing the dregs of the Chicago White Sox rotation to start the week and an iffy Detroit Tigers stable over the weekend), Polanco's mid-$3,000 FanDuel salary looks like a relatively cheap share of one of the most productive offenses in the league.
Justin Upton, OF, Los Angeles Angels
With his first half scrapped thanks to a toe injury, Justin Upton is clearly still working his way up to MLB speed. Since returning to the lineup in late June, the veteran Los Angeles Angels has notched 55 strikeouts against 33 base hits, with a modest .422 slugging percentage that hardly makes a dent in the current power environment.
Contact woes aside, Upton's bat clearly has some charge left. The 31-year-old has made 41.8% hard contact in his short season sample. Meanwhile, his 48.5% fly ball rate and 43.7% pull rate suggest no real concerns regarding launch angle and bat speed. A notoriously streaky power hitter, Upton could have some late-summer fireworks in the offing, with the potential to clear a major profit on his low-$3,000s FanDuel salary.
Most daily players will rightly stay away as the Angels face the Houston Astros aces over the weekend, but Upton makes for an interesting dart throw when the Halos visit the hitter-friendly Globe Life Park in Arlington to start the week.
Ji-Man Choi, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays
Reduced to part-time work since the All-Star break, Ji-Man Choi has nevertheless made some major strides in the second half.
Mind you, the Tampa Bay Rays outfielder doesn't exactly jump off of the box score. Choi's .759 second-half OPS is a tick down from his .774 mark in the first half, this despite notable increases in walk rate, fly ball rate, and hard contact across those two samples.
Statcast has been high on Choi all year, noting his 73rd-percentile average exit velocity and consistently marking him for a higher expected than actual slugging percentage.
Choi's part-time status might hide him from daily consideration, but he's a worthy stick when he's in there, and he usually hits in the top half of the lineup. Look to Choi and his low-$3,000s salary if and when he makes the cut, as the Rays visit the bandbox at Camden Yards over the weekend.
Matt Carpenter, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals
Is Matt Carpenter in on the joke? The veteran St. Louis Cardinals utility man has spent the last few seasons toggling between utterly washed and totally dynamic, with his recent two-month-long homer drought bordering on self-parody.
There was, of course, a month of injury time mixed in to pad that cold streak. Still, what makes Carpenter's awful results so baffling for smart fantasy players is his consistently excellent underlying stats. Consider the mind-boggling dissonance between his .637 OPS since the start of June and his 42.4% hard contact and 22.5% liners over that span.
No one could blame season-long players for not wanting to be left holding the bag on an aging Carpenter, but daily players need only make a small investment to see if he can turn things around in the final weeks of the season. With Carp's salary trending below $3,000 on FanDuel, he makes for an interesting flyer as the Cardinals face some spotty pitching from the Milwaukee Brewers and Colorado Rockies this week.
Curtis Granderson, OF, Miami Marlins
His days as a steady power contributor well in the rear view, Curtis Granderson isn't even a replacement-level bat with the Miami Marlins, toting an ugly .186/.280/.373 slash line with just 11 long flies in 318 plate appearances.
Old habits die hard, though, as Granderson is still clearly swinging for the fences. The 38-year-old has tallied 44.7% fly balls in the second half, along with 22.5% liners, and a surprisingly impressive 42.5% hard contact since the break. That's good for a .239 second-half ISO, which might not help pull Granderson above the Mendoza line, but it should raise some eyebrows among daily players.
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 personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.