Fantasy Baseball: Examining the hitters who control their BB/K rates
I often refer to K/BB rate as the water of baseball stats. It’s probably a little more important for pitchers, but it’s plenty important for hitters, too. You want to control your at-bats. It’s almost impossible to excel in this stat and not be a darn good baseball player, and someone we covet in fantasy.
As we enter May 13, there are nine full-time players who have at least as many walks as strikeouts. Here’s a quick hitter on this nasty nine:
The nine hitters who control the strike zone
• Jose Ramirez is the runaway leader in this stat, with almost twice as many walks as strikeouts. He’s an obvious superstar. It was impossible to draft him too early in the spring, even on an ordinary Cleveland roster.
• Yandy Diaz is a tricky call because the Rays are a pain in the neck — we know how Tampa loves to change the lineup on a daily basis. But maybe the Rays are making a deeper commitment to Diaz, as he’s slotted first in eight of the past 10 games. Diaz offers no speed and ordinary power, but he’ll hit for a plus average and score a solid amount of runs if he keeps this gig. At just 15-percent rostered, this might be a buying opportunity.
• Steven Kwan was a buzzy breakout from nowhere, to the point that the surprise story hit an analyst backlash in the second week. But Kwan still holds a playable .298/.396/.429 slash, and with 19 runs in 24 games.
He’s not going to be a category-juice maven, but he might be able to knock 6-10 homers and maybe steal a handful of bases. And that .298 average helps you more than you might think, given that the league average is a putrid .234, the lowest in history. (Warm weather, please take this sad song and make it better.)
• Alex Bregman hasn’t been a star so far, but with a WRC+ of 142, he’s still a plus offensive player. The wrist doesn’t seem to be an issue. He’s no longer interested in stealing bases, but he’s on pace for about 25 homers, and Houston’s lineup offers buoyancy for run production. Bregman’s final Yahoo ADP was 68.1; he’s poised to make a profit on that.
• Josh Bell looks like one of the right answers of the season, maintaining his strong walk rate while cutting down his strikeouts to a minuscule 11.2 percent. He’s settled into the No. 3 spot in the Washington lineup, right behind offensive god, Juan Soto. Good work if you can get it.
• Max Muncy is our first curious case, with a bizarre slash line of .144/.347/.300. He’s getting on base plenty, but where’s the power? Muncy’s line-drive rate has fallen apart, and his pull percentage is down. He’s also taking more called strikes than ever before.
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Here’s one instance where the fix might be more early count aggressiveness; don’t miss an early strike that could be the best opportunity you see in a particular at-bat. Fantasy managers probably need to hold Muncy, given his depressed trade value, but he can’t be seen as a sure rebounder, either.
• One plea for the fantasy baseball gods — please let Brandon Nimmo stay healthy. Nimmo is sparkling at the top of the Mets lineup, getting on base at a .413 clip and scoring 18 runs. He’s never going to be a power god, but three homers in five weeks isn’t nothing. After a decade of mishaps and "LOL Mets" moments, New York’s karma may have finally shifted.
• Juan Soto never needs much analysis; he’s a behemoth and only health can hold him back. But it’s interesting that he’s chasing more pitches this year, bumping his chase rate by eight percent. Soto’s hand-eye coordination is so good, I’d never suggest he should pass on the chance to attack a pitch. Perhaps he’s getting frustrated with how delicately he’s been pitched too.
I can’t imagine Soto ever being traded at a depressed cost, but we should at least point out he’s been unlucky in the Statcast expected metrics. His .264 average is 36 points below what he’s earned, and his .512 slugging should be 132 points higher. Soto hasn’t gone off yet in 2022, but it’s inevitable. He’s still a god.
• My colleague Fred Zinkie called Jesse Winker a buy-low on Wednesday, and as usual Fred’s right on the money. Although Winker has improved his walk rate, strikeout rate, and hard-hit rate from last year, his average is down 101 points. But again, Statcast knows the truth — Winker’s expected average is a strong .305.
Given that Winker is also stuck on one homer, it’s a perfect time to kick the tires on a trade. Go to his manager and let it be known that you’re “looking for a bat.” See if they offer you to Winker first. Don’t reveal your hand up front.