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Early MLB Outliers To Pay Attention To


Early in the fantasy baseball season, it’s exceedingly tough to gauge whether someone is solely off to a hot start or if they’re truly breaking out as a legitimate must-start fantasy player.

You hate to miss out on a true breakout player, but with only a finite amount of roster spots, you have a limited amount of shots you can take and have to pick and choose your targets wisely.

In this piece, we’ll be looking at six hot-starters who appear to be offering more than just a flash in the pan, and who should be held onto and valued more than an average waive wire find going forward.

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Teoscar Hernandez (OF, TOR)

2020 Stats: .278 BA, .974 OPS, 4 HR, 6 RBI, 6 Runs, 2 SB

Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Teoscar Hernandez first entered fantasy radars in 2018, when he hit 22 home runs in 134 games for a dreadful Blue Jays offense. Then last year, he took a step forward, becoming a more reliable low-tier outfielder in deep leagues as he hit 26 home runs in 125 games. Yet there were two commonalities in those two seasons that greatly limited his value. First, he failed to reach a .240 batting average either season. Second, he struck out over 30% of the time both seasons.

So far this year, Hernandez has been getting on base more consistently. Not only is his batting average significantly higher at .278, but it’s backed up by his xBA of .274. He’s also striking out 28.2% of the time so far this year, which is a slight, but promising drop-off from the previous years.

Still, those facts on their own aren’t enough to support Hernandez’s breakouts. It’s the increased amount of hard contact he’s been making that leads us to believe Hernandez has now become a fantasy mainstay.

Hernandez’s 57.7% hard-hit rate so far this year is elite, ranking amongst the top 4% of the league. He’s also ranking in the top 10% of the league in barrel rate (15.4%) and among the top 5% in xSLG (.637).

If he can keep up anything close to those metrics, he’ll certainly become worthy of owning in all leagues as a reliable power hitter who won’t kill you in batting average.

 

Randy Dobnak (SP, MIN)

2020 Stats: 2-1, 0.60 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 4.8 K/9

Through 12 major league appearances dating back to last season, Minnesota Twins pitcher Randy Dobnak has proven he can succeed in the big leagues with a similar approach to what made him successful in the minors.

Dobnak excelled in the minors by limiting base runners and limiting hard contact. Last year, Dobnak through 135 innings in the minor leagues, spread across multiple levels. He went 12-4 with a 2.07 ERA and 0.99 WHIP. He only struck out 109 batters along the way, but he also only surrendered 28 walks, making for a solid K/BB ratio of 3.89. His K/BB ratio this year is 2.0, which certainly suggests he has room to grow if he can get his walk rate closer to his minor league numbers the rest of the way this year.

Dobnak has been extremely resourceful in his three starts this year, throwing under 75 pitches in two out of three occasions. In his most recent start, he only needed 71 pitches to get through six scoreless innings against the Pirates.

Dobnak’s ability to limit his pitch count and get deeper into games will provide him with ample opportunities for wins with the vaunted Twins offense supporting him. He won’t provide sturdy strikeout numbers this year, but expect for him to be a valuable contributor in wins, ERA and WHIP.

 

Christian Vazquez (C, BOS)

2020 Stats: .308 BA, .966 OPS, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 6 Runs

Boston Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez had his first power breakthrough in 2019, but it was still nothing compared to the hot start he’s off to this year. Vazquez has been absolutely crushing the ball in 2020 and appears to be emerging as a legitimate top-end catcher.

Vazquez is hitting in the heart of one of the league’s top lineups, which has a lot of value in and of itself. He’s started 10 of the team’s first 12 games of the year, which is an extremely high playing percentage for a catcher. One of those starts came at designated hitter, which shows the team highly values his bat right now.

Vazquez’s pace will certainly slow down at least a little as the season goes on. But he’s established that last year was no joke and that he deserves to be considered at a comparable value with the second-tier of fantasy catchers, alongside Yasmani Grandal and Willson Contreras, but still behind J.T. Realmuto and Gary Sanchez.

 

Tyler Chatwood (SP, CHC)

2020 Stats: 2-0, 0.71 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 13.5 K/9

Through two games this year, Chicago Cubs pitcher Tyler Chatwood has been a strikeout machine, posting a strikeout rate of 40.4%, nearly double his 22.8% strikeout rate from 2019.

Last year, Chatwood was primarily used out of the bullpen, only making five starts over 38 appearances and he had a decent, but certainly unspectacular season with a 3.76 ERA and 1.33 WHIP with 8.7 K/9.

This year, Chatwood has excelled by perfecting his pitch distribution. He’s thrown his sinker 44.4% of the time this year, up from 39.5% last year and it’s resulted in the pitch generating a higher whiff percentage, up from 14.7% in 2019 to 22.2% this year.

He’s also increased the usage of his curveball from 11.4% in 2019 to 15% so far in 2020. The pitch has generated a remarkable whiff rate of 71.4%. It’s averaged a vertical drop of 54.1 inches, which is 4.4 inches over league average.

Chatwood is a must-own in all formats right now. He certainly won’t continue to boast 13.5 K/9 throughout the year with a 0.71 ERA, but he will be a very valuable member of your rotation and should have an opportunity to earn a number of wins with a strong Cubs offense supporting him.

 

Mike Yastrzemski (OF, SF)

2020 Stats: .304 BA, 1.088 OPS, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 12 Runs

29-year-old San Francisco Giants outfielder Mike Yastrzemski took a while to make it to the show, but through 120 games dating back to last year, he’s certainly started to make a strong impression.

Despite hitting in one of the league’s worst lineups last year, Yastrzemski still managed to perform modestly well, slashing .272/.334/.518 with 21 home runs in 107 games. But this year, he’s been on an even more impressive run.

Beyond the headline numbers, Yastrzemski has shown a much-improved plate discipline this year. He’s walked 13 times compared with 14 strikeouts over his 13 games so far this year. Last year, he totaled just 32 walks alongside his 107 strikeouts. His chase percentage has gone down from 27% in 2019 to 17% in 2020, which suggests that his strikeout rate, which is down to 23.7% this year from 26% last year, could stand to drop even more.

Yastrzemski’s wOBA so far this year is .443, which ranks amongst the top 5% of the league. Even though the Giants still have one of the league’s worst offenses, Yastrzemski will see plenty of at-bats from the top of it, and that will result in a lot of trips to the base paths for his fantasy owners.

 

Kyle Freeland (SP, COL)

2020 Stats: 2-0, 1.50 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 6.8 K/9

Ah, how easily we’re prone to recent biases in the fantasy world.

Colorado Rockies pitcher Kyle Freeland was an exciting mid-round draft pick in 2019, coming off a breakout 2018 where he went 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. But last year was an absolute train wreck as Freeland posted a 6.73 ERA and 1.58 WHIP in the majors while also spending time at Triple-A, where he was similarly pummeled to the tune of an 0-4 record and 8.80 ERA. Clearly something just wasn’t right with him last year.

This year, Freeland’s looked far more like his 2018 self so far.

In 2018, Freeland excelled by reducing hard contact. He allowed a hard-hit rate of just 29.2%, which ranked amongst the top 10% of the league. Last year, that number ballooned all the way up to 40.1%. This year, it’s down to just 26.7%.

The same trend persists with his strikeouts. This year, he’s posted a strikeout rate of 20.9%, slightly higher than his 20.5% clip from 2018 and far superior to 2019’s 16.7% rate.

The Coors Field factor will continue to limit his upside. He passed his first test there this year, throwing six scoreless innings against the Padres, but he’ll certainly be victim to the stadium’s trends at points throughout the year. Regardless, he needs to be owned in most leagues at this point. If he’s indeed back to his 2018 form, he’ll be a great option to have at the back of your rotation.



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Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 17th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 17th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


2021 Early Mock ADP Values & Reaches: WPC+ Videocast

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut prepare for the 2021 fantasy baseball season with a look at early mock draft results from the RotoBaller Expert mock. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well! Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller... Read More


Statcast Season Review: 2020 Barrel Leaders (Hitters)

The 2020 MLB season will always be one for the record books, even if everything that took place will have multiple asterisks attached to it. Evaluating Statcast numbers is a nice way to find hot and cold hitters, as well as underachievers and overachievers. Now that the regular season is over, let's reflect on the... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 16th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 16th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 15th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 15th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 14th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 14th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 53: 2 Early Mocks APD Trends & More - Benched with Bubba (Episode 315)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They dig into trends, some interesting risers/fallers, and much more. They also go over some listener questions at the end to keep the Fantasy Baseball information coming even in the offseason. Be sure to subscribe... Read More