Monday Fantasy Notes: 5/22 Edition

For the several readers of the weekly fantasy notes column at Fungraphs, I apologize for the tardy delivery of this post, as fantasy notes are typically a Saturday event. Hopefully you didn’t do anything stupid with your fantasy teams in mean time. Let’s get back to business:

Buy, buy, buy!

Alex Avila / C & 1B / Detroit (Ownership: 19% ESPN / 19% Yahoo)

I have been circling Avila for the past several weeks, intrigued by his 2017 batted ball authority. Thus far, Avila has the best hard hit percentage in the majors and it’s not particularly close. He also has the highest ratio of barreled balls, balls hit at the ideal exit velocities and launch angles for hits and power, per batted ball event. As this blog previously explored, some of that performance is likely due to the wonkiness of Comerica Park’s tracking systems, however the sheer magnitude of Avila’s dominance indicates that something real is occurring.

The boxcar stats are pretty damn impressive too, with a 380 AVG / 494 OBP / 690 SLG triple slash that combines for a 1.184 OPS. Avila is the MLB leader in AVG and OBP, and is top five in SLG and OPS. His .489 BABIP is not sustainable, but if he continues crushing the ball like he is, something in the high .300s is realistic. Combine Avila’s new-found batted ball authority with his historically patient approach (a ridiculous 18.0%+ walk rate since 2015), and you have potentially one of the best hitters in the game.

The great thing about Avila is that, even if his numbers regress significantly, they will still be extremely solid for someone with catcher eligibility. The current hurdle for a good fantasy catcher is something like 75 R / 18 HR / 80 RBI / .270 AVG / .330 OBP, and Avila could put that up in his sleep right now.

The only issue with Avila will be playing time. Miguel Cabrera has first base on lock-down, while Victor Martinez, despite being decidedly average this season, seems entrenched at the DH spot. Avila has split catching duties with James McCann to date, and will likely continue to do so given the latter’s defensive prowess. With that said, if Avila keeps mashing, there is no way Tigers manager Brad Ausmus can keep him out of the lineup.

Luis Perdomo / SP/ San Diego (Ownership: 7% ESPN / 7% Yahoo)

I suspect some confused looks for this suggestion after Perdomo’s disastrous May 20th outing against Arizona: 3.0 IP / 11 H / 8 ER. One of the worst starts for any pitcher this season for sure. That performance ballooned Perdomo’s 2017 ERA to 5.79 and his WHIP to 1.50.

But there’s a lot to like after you take some time to explore under the hood. For starters, Perdomo is a true worm-burner, with a 69.0% groundball rate that is the best in the MLB. That aspect to Perdomo’s game was also evident last season, when he posted a 59.0% groundball rate through 146.2 innings.

The real step forward in Luis’ game this year is his strikeout ability, with a 22.0% strikeout rate in 2017 compared to 15.9% last year. The improvement seems sustainable given that he’s now inducing swinging strikes at a 10.1% rate, which is above average and a solid gain on his 8.6% rate in 2016. Perdomo also has decent control, with a serviceable 2.7 K/BB rate. All told, he gets tons of ground balls, a decent amount of punch-outs and surrenders few walks, all of which are the building blocks of a good pitcher.

Get out of dodge!

Corey Dickerson / LF / Tampa Bay (Ownership: 69% ESPN / 75% Yahoo)

Corey Dickerson has been murdering the ball as of late. A .347 AVG and .635 SLG rate while hitting atop the Rays lineup has resulted in fantasy gold, with 30 runs, 11 home runs and 22 RBIs over the first seven weeks of the season. Owners who drafted Dickerson, or invested early in the season, are reaping the rewards.

Despite the early returns, now is the time to offload Dickerson to the unsuspecting owners in your league. To start, Dickerson’s underlying plate discipline metrics are the worst of his career. He’s swinging at 46.6% of pitches outside of the strike zone (worst in the majors) and owns a swinging strike rate of 15.4% (ninth worst in the majors), which indicates that his currently reasonable 21.6% strikeout rate is going to spike soon.

On top of that, Dickerson is riding a crazy amount of batted ball luck. His .403 BABIP is the fifth best in the majors, and there is little in the underlying numbers to support that level of hitting ability. His hard hit rate is a good-but-not-great 37.7% while his barrels per batted ball is a pedestrian 9.2%. You don’t simply want to sell players based on high BABIPs, but Dickerson has never shown that ability outside of his time with the Rockies in Coors Field and is not doing anything this year to indicate that that’s changed.

Gio Gonzalez / SP/ Washington (Ownership: 88% ESPN / 84% Yahoo)

Gio Gonzalez is one of those players, kind of like a Felix Hernandez, who gets picked way higher than they should in drafts due to their name recognition despite consistetnly deteriorating ability.

Gonzalez’s skills have been eroding for several years, so I was shocked to see him on nearly 85% of ESPN and Yahoo rosters at this juncture through the season. Yes, his 2.86 ERA looks good, but his strikeout rate has cratered to 7.3 per nine while his walk rate has inched up to 4.5 per nine. His swinging strike rate is down, his velocity is down and his fly balls allowed are way up.

The only saving graces to Gonzalez’s performance thus far have been a career low BABIP of .260 and a career high strand rate of 90.8%, but those are metrics are not going to persist. Don’t be surprised if Gio puts up a 5.00+ ERA for the rest of the season. Get out now.

Previous Long Picks:
1B, Miguel Cabrera (DET) – 5/6
1B, Yonder Alonso (OAK) – 5/13
SP, Trevor Cahill (SD) – 5/6
SP, Nate Karns (KC) – 5/13

Previous Sell Picks:
1B, Ryan Zimmerman (WSH) – 5/6
1B, Mark Reynolds (COL) – 5/13
SP, Dallas Keuchel (HOU) – 5/6
SP, Robbie Ray (ARI) – 5/13

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