Peripherals are statistics that don’t mean anything in real life, but are valuable indicators of future performance. A bump in a player’s FB% won’t help you in your fantasy league unless that’s actually translating into more home runs, but it can give you a leg up on identifying potential sources of cheap power on your waiver wire.
Peripherals provide us with metadata—data about data—that we can use to take educated shots in the dark statistical noise. Every week, I’ll be taking a look at two players whose peripherals are either screaming “overperformer” or “underperformer”. Sometimes it’ll just be a player whose peripherals are straight up weird and unprecedented. In any event, you’re gonna have a good time.
There have been a few screwed dudes and one steady Jew for the Brew Crew over the past few years, and at times it has looked like a lewd zoo. But in my view things are at least going to pull through for Domingo Santana.
My main source of optimism is a super casual chart from this Fangraphs article by Dave Cameron about Manny Machado.
Over a small sample size, this data is saying that Santana’s has been hitting his line drives and fly balls harder than anyone else in baseball this season. The average exit velocity of his “air balls” has been 101.6 MHP over 35 at-bats.
The free-swinging youngster debuted with the Astros before being traded to Milwaukee in his rookie season, where he posted a 110 wRC+ with eight homers and an impressive .238/.337/.431 line. This season, his batting average continues to be a drag, but the peripherals are pointing to a potential breakout.
Santana has been compared to George Springer for his low contact, high strikeout, all-in approach at the plate. But so far in 2016 he has been able to shave almost 10% off his K%, lowering it from 33.7% to 25.4%. This improvement is largely do to his gains in plate discipline across the board, especially with regards to his Contact% and SwStr%.
If he can maintain his plate discipline improvements, he should be able to unleash his raw power with better results and make meaningful contributions both at the major league level and in fantasy. Playing time shouldn’t be an issue in the sparse Brewers outfield, so I see him slashing .260/.330/.450 to go with around 25 homers on the season.
The Blue Jays sometimes first baseman is slashing .222/.481/.278 through 18 at-bats. This is his slash from last season: .226/.299/.470. It looks like somebody hacked his Baseball Reference player page and switched around the OBP and SLG as a prank. It took him 132 games to reach 29 walks in 2015. He already has eight walks.
Over an admittedly tiny sample size, Justin Smoak is taking the three true outcomes approach to another level. He’s struck out 48.1% of the time, walked 29.6% of the time, and has a .800 BABIP the 22.3% of the time he’s actually put the ball in play. With no speed to write home about, Smoak is singlehandedly making Jays fans rethink the value of OBP.
Honestly it’s not even worth getting into peripherals with this small a sample, but Smoak is an interesting name given Chris Colabello’s recent 80-game PED suspension. Left platoon-mate-less, Smoak’s value gets a huge boost as he will likely be the team’s primary starting first-baseman and hit seventh in the loaded Toronto lineup. We know more or less what Smoak does at this point, and it’s not spectacular, but his power and increased patience combined with regular playing time will produce a decent amount of runs scored and RBI opportunities.
One name to look out for if Smoak falters in a starting role—or if you’re monitoring the Jays’ first base situation—is Rowdy Tellez. To be honest, it’s a name to look out for regardless of your interest level. It’s a name that demands your attention. The 21-year-old first baseman rocketed through three Minor league levels last season and impressed as a non-roster invitee at Spring Training. Tellez has advanced plate discipline for his age, gap power, and excellent control of the strike zone. His value is 100% tied up in his bat, but that seems to be the type of 1B the Jays like.
You cain’t stop Rowdy Tellez!