2018 Second Half Changes: 10 Players to Watch Early in 2019

	

by Mac Squibb

April 9, 2019

	

	
    Right now, we as fantasy owners are in this awkward period where all of the stats count, yet there isn’t enough data to accurately draw any conclusions. Instead of trying to analyze the small samples, which likely contain more noise than signal, I think that it would be more worthwhile to identify players that made adjustments in the second half of 2018. This group of players needs to be closely watched early in the season as their end of year stat line doesn’t accurately represent the player that they finished the year as. Some of these changes didn’t yield dramatic results and thus were easy to overlook, however, they have the potential to make a large impact if carried out over the duration of 2019. Being the first to identify a profile change will allow you to buy low on a player with potential or sell high on someone that is overperforming. Below is a list of 10 players whose profiles changed for better or worse during the second half of 2018 and need to be monitored early in 2019. All the graphs are cutiousy of Minor Graphs, Baseball Savant, or Fangraphs.

	

Brock Holt

	

What to Watch: FB%, FB Pull%, FB/LD Exit Velocity

	
   Brock Holt has been the Red Sox main utility player for the last five years and will likely fill that role again in 2019 with the return of Dustin Pedroia. However, Holt dramatically increased several underlying metrics that point to improving power and overall value. During the statcast era, Holt has had a below league average xwOBA of .306. In the second half of 2018, his xwOBA improved to .370, which was the 35th best among hitters with 100 plate appearances.

	
1st Half 2nd Half
FB% 18.4% 34.4%
FB Pull% 17.9% 33.3%
FB/LD EV 89.6 mph 92.6 mph
	
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Jackie Bradley Jr.

	

What to Watch: FB%

	
    In 2018, JBJ set a career high in fly ball and line drive exit velocity, 96.3 mph, which was the 30th best in the MLB. He typically has a league average fly ball rate, but improved his mark in the second half and maximized his power output given the improved exit velocity.

	
1st Half 2nd Half
FB% 34.1% 39.6%
	
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Tommy Pham

	

What to Watch: GB%

	
    Pham was the 4th most productive hitter in the second half of 2018 according to his .424 xwOBA, trailing only Christian Yelich, Luke Voit, and Mike Trout. Pham’s overall production was nearly a mirror opposite of his ground ball rate, which he put a major dent in after the All-Star break.

	
1st Half 2nd Half
GB% 52.9% 39.8%
	
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Jose Ramirez

	

What to Watch: FB Pull%

	
    Jose Ramirez was an MVP candidate for much of 2018 and set a career high in home runs (39), but struggled late in the season. His fly ball and line drive exit velocity is approximately league average so he depends on a high fly ball Pull% to maintain his power numbers.

	
1st Half 2nd Half
FB Pull% 38.4% 31.2%
	
	

Marwin Gonzalez

	

What to Watch: FB Pull%, FB/LD Exit Velocity

	
    Marwin’s overall numbers were a disappointment to many as it was a step back from his breakout 2017 season. However, in the second half of 2018, Marwin increased both his fly ball Pull% and fly ball and line drive exit velocity, which was the 12th best in baseball (minimum of 50 batted balls). Those improvements helped him raise his xwOBA from .289 in the 1st half to .364 to finish the season.

	
1st Half 2nd Half
FB Pull% 18.4% 26.9%
FB/LD EV 91.2 mph 96.8 mph
	
Image #1
	
	

Jorge Alfaro

	

What to Watch: GB%, K%

	
    While coming up through the minors, Jorge Alfaro was given an above average power grade and he finally began tapping into it in the second half of 2018. Alfaro has always hit the ball with near elite exit velocities, but has maintained a ground ball percentage north of 50% for most of his professional career. In the second half of 2018, he cut into both his ground ball percentage and strikeout rate which helped him increase his xwOBA to .344.

	
1st Half 2nd Half
GB% 51.1% 41.7%
K% 38.3% 33.6%
	
	

Matt Carpenter

	

What to Watch: GB%

	
   Matt Carpenter had a phenomenal season in 2018, but he’s actually on this list for a negative reason. Despite him hitting a career high in home runs, Carpenter’s performance actually took a dive late in the season likely due to an increase in his ground ball rate. While he was still productive with a higher ground ball percentage, he is being valued as the player he was early in the season.

	
1st Half 2nd Half
GB% 24.0% 29.7%
	
Image #1
	
Image #1
	
	

Adam Frazier

	

What to Watch: GB%, FB Pull%

	
   Frazier was sent down in the middle of 2018 and made some adjustments to his swing. After returning to the majors on 7/25, Frazier displayed a different approach that yielded positive results including a 33 point increase in xwOBA. He cut down his ground ball rate while also raising his fly ball Pull% from well below league average to well above.

	
1st Half 2nd Half
GB% 57.4% 42.7%
FB Pull% 12.5% 29.4%
	
Image #1
	
	

Harrison Bader

	

What to Watch: FB%, FB Pull%

	
   Harrison Bader is known for his defense, but he might have some under the radar potential. While Bader has a below league average exit velocity on fly balls and line drives, in the second half of 2018 he maximized his power by increasing his fly ball percentage and fly ball Pull%. His FB Pull% specifically needs to be watched as it rose to a near elite level.

	
1st Half 2nd Half
FB% 25.4% 41.4%
FB Pull% 25.0% 34.0%
	
	

Hunter Renfroe

	

What to Watch: FB Pull%

	
   Hunter Renfroe has always had light tower power, but he took it to another level in the second half of 2018 when he hit 19 home runs. During that period, Renfroe had the 6th highest exit velocity on fly balls and line drives (98 mph) and the 18th highest fly ball Pull%. He has the potential to hit a home run to any part of the park, but maximizes his power when pulling the ball.

	
1st Half 2nd Half
FB Pull% 18.8% 36.3%
	

	
   These changes could very well represent the typical variance in a players profile, which is why we need to be watching them early in the season. However, the adjustments have the potential to make a large impact on the players value in 2019 if they are sustainable.

	
	
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