FACTS/FLUKES: Hader, Pederson, Flowers, J. Iglesias, Hellickson

Hader an elite option, regardless of role ... Control issues plagued Josh Hader (LHP, MIL) in the upper levels of the minors when he was a starter, but to say his transition to the pen has been a success would be an understatement. He put up a 2.08 ERA in 35 relief appearances following his call-up in 2017, and then was the most dominant pitcher in the game in 2018, when he whiffed 47 percent of the batters he faced. He now looks poised to record a higher percentage of saves in the Milwaukee pen, so let's check in on these absurd skills.

Year   IP  Sv   ERA  xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  FpK  SwK   Vel  FB%  H%  S%  BPV
====  ===  ==  ====  ====  ===  ====  ===  ===  ===  ====  ===  ==  ==  ===
2015* 104   1  4.07  4.06  3.2   9.0  2.8  N/A  N/A   N/A  N/A  33  72   89
2016* 126   0  4.01  3.52  3.9  10.1  2.6  N/A  N/A   N/A  N/A  34  70  104
2017^ 100   0  3.96  4.12  4.6  10.1  2.2  59%  18%  94.3  51%  26  77   67
2018   81  12  2.43  2.37  3.3  15.8  4.8  60%  20%  94.5  48%  24  77  202
*MLEs
^Includes MLEs

Hader's recent skills are off the charts:

  • He gets an insane number of swings and misses, despite throwing his four-seam fastball about 80 percent of the time. He's been dominant against batters from both sides of the plate, as RHB have a .547 OPS and 42 percent K% against him, while LHB check in at .384 and 46 percent, respectively.
  • He did a better job of limiting the walks in 2018, but his FpK remained below league average. It remains to be seen if the move to the pen will continue to suppress the walks, or if his Ctl will go up a bit in 2019.
  • A very high fly ball rate led to a 1.0 hr/9 for Hader in 2018, but he simply doesn't allow enough batted balls for home runs to become a major problem. 

Hader owns perhaps the most electric skills of any pitcher, as batters have a very difficult time making contact with his fastball, which induced a 20 percent SwK last year, and slider, which missed bats at a 27 percent clip. He may or may not stick as the full-time closer when Jeremy Jeffress comes back, but the elite ratios and high IP and strikeout totals should make him one of the most valuable relievers either way. If Hader does manage to save 30-plus games, he will have been a steal, even at his lofty draft day cost.

 

Pederson offers plenty of pop vs RHP ... Joc Pederson (OF, LA) has provided pretty solid power numbers as a strong side platoon option, reaching the 25 home run mark in three of the past four seasons. Should owners count on more of the same in 2019?

Year   AB  HR/SB    BA   xBA  bb%/ct%    G/L/F   h%  HctX  PX/xPX   hr/f  Spd
====  ===  =====  ====  ====  =======  ========  ==  ====  =======  ====  ===
2014* 473  22/19  .239   N/A   13/61      N/A    34   N/A  148/103   N/A   96  
2015  480  26/4   .210  .224   16/65   42/16/42  26   104  152/147   20%   84
2016  406  25/6   .246  .261   13/68   40/21/40  30   107  169/134   23%   77
2017* 338  13/5   .199  .258   11/77   47/19/34  22   100  110/101   15%   72
2018  395  25/1   .248  .261    9/78   39/17/44  26   122  156/134   18%   89
*Includes MLEs

Don't rule out another step forward for Pederson:

  • He has significantly cut down on the strikeouts over the past two seasons, and while he has a history of underperforming his xBA, finishing with an average over .250 seems well within reach.
  • As the strikeouts have decreased, so have the walks, which has brought his on-base-percentage down to .331 (in 2017) and .321 (2018) the last two years. He still boasts a .341 career mark, and his value gets a boost in leagues that use OBP instead of BA.
  • Outside of a down year in 2017, his power metrics have been both very strong and consistent. His inability to hit lefties (.574 career OPS) caps his PT upside, but if his fly ball rate sticks in the mid-40s, he's got a shot of hitting 30 homers.
  • Pederson averaged 28 steals per season in the minors between 2011 and 2014, but hasn't been very active on the base paths in the majors, and his below average Spd says that will remain the case.

Pederson can hit for a lot of power against right-handed pitchers, as shown by his identical 342 AB, 24 HR against them in both 2016 and 2018. He's also made strides in his contact skills, which should prevent him from being a batting average drain, as he's been at times in the past. There will be times you'll want Pederson on your bench, as a couple division foes (SD, SF) boast a lefty-heavy rotation. However, given his power potential and placement at the top of the lineup vs RHP, he has a chance to turn a significant profit on his draft day cost (366 NFBC ADP). 

 

Double digit homers within reach for Flowers ... Tyler Flowers (C, ATL) was a very useful number two catcher in 2017, when he hit .281 with 12 home runs in just 317 at-bats. But his numbers took a step back in 2018, when he connected for just eight home runs and hit for a poor .227 average across 251 at-bats. He's in a timeshare again in 2019, but which bottom line is more indicative of where we should set expectations for this year? 

Year   AB  HR    BA   xBA   vR   bb%  ct%    G/L/F   h%  HctX   PX  xPX  hr/f
====  ===  ==  ====  ====  ====  ===  ===  ========  ==  ====  ===  ===  ====
2014  407  15  .241  .223  .679    6   61  48/24/29  36    82  137   88   21%
2015  331   9  .239  .194  .627    6   69  42/21/37  32    93   88   85   11%
2016  281   8  .270  .217  .781    9   68  42/19/39  37   120  113  153   11%
2017  317  12  .281  .255  .821    8   74  42/24/33  35   111   99   99   15%
2018  251   8  .227  .215  .540   12   70  41/21/38  29   126   86  132   12%

Don't count on a major BA rebound from Flowers:

  • A career best contact rate in 2017 proved unsustainable, and his run of inflated hit rates came to an abrupt halt in 2018 as well. A history of high HctX suggests he can boost the hit rate some in 2019, but counting on a return to 35-plus percent is pushing it.
  • As noted above, he does make a lot of hard contact, and his xPX has been very impressive in two of the past three seasons. An even 50/50 timeshare behind the plate could yield double digit home runs.
  • He has become a much more patient hitter in recent years, and his 24.2% O-Swing% (per FanGraphs) in 2018 was more than five points below his career mark. He has quietly put up a .360 on-base-percentage over the past three seasons, which certainly adds to his value in OBP leagues.
  • Flowers appeared to be making strides vs RHP in 2016-17, but really struggled against them again in 2018, when he hit .184 with a 63 PX across 185 at-bats. He made up for it with a .348/.511/.606 line in 66 at-bats vs lefties, though his career OPS against southpaws is an unremarkable .755.

Flowers isn't a very exciting option, but does offer some intriguing qualities, as he hits the ball with authority and gets on base at a very high rate, especially when to compared to other catchers. Last year's ineptitude vs righties is somewhat concerning, and is something he'll need to improve upon if he's going to be relevant in 2019. Still, the plus power, improved plate discipline, and history of respectable batting averages point toward a rebound to decent number two catcher status in deeper mixed leagues.

 

What can Iglesias do with opportunity? ... Jose Iglesias (SS, CIN) was expected to serve as a depth piece for the Reds, but an injury to Scooter Gennett has opened the door for consistent playing time in the early going. Is he worth a look for those in need of middle infield help?

Year   AB  HR/SB    BA   xBA  bb%  ct%    G/L/F   h%  HctX  PX  Spd  SBO/SB%   
====  ===  =====  ====  ====  ===  ===  ========  ==  ====  ==  ===  =======
2015  416   2/11  .300  .273   6    89  56/21/23  33   65   46  135  15%/58%
2016  467   4/7   .255  .271   5    89  51/21/28  28   65   53  109   9%/64%
2017  463   6/7   .255  .287   4    86  50/23/26  29   99   71   77  11%/64%
2018  432   5/15  .269  .279   4    89  44/23/34  29   88   73  105  22%/71%

Iglesias may be a somewhat useful stopgap option:

  • His ability to make consistent contact means he won't kill your batting average, but the lack of hard contact has likely been a factor in his below average hit rates the past three seasons. Getting up to the level of his recent xBA is possible, but he's more likely to end up with a BA in the .250-.270 range.
  • Any power he provides is just an added bonus, as he doesn't hit the ball with much authority. In fact, in 2018, Statcast data shows that Iglesias ranked in the 5th percentile in exit velocity, and 3rd percentile in balls hit 95 MPH or harder.
  • One area where he is a potential asset is in the running game, as he does offer plus speed. However, his 12 steal first half in 2018 looks like an aberration, and the combination of his low SB% history and batting in front of the pitcher make it unlikely he'll run that much in Cincinnati.

Iglesias isn't a very exciting option, but is at least getting regular at-bats, which has value in many formats. Even at the bottom of the order, he should provide some counting stats once the lineup around him gets going, he's not going to kill your batting average, and may chip in a couple steals a month. Iglesias could be worth a short-term pickup in 15-team mixed leagues and deeper if you need to fill a hole, but there will likely be a better option coming along in the near future, so be ready to move on.

 

Hellickson won't duplicate his 2018 ERA ... In between injuries, Jeremy Hellickson (RHP, WAS) recorded his lowest ERA since 2013 in 19 starts with the Nationals in 2018, and they saw enough to bring him back on a one-year-deal. Can fantasy owners rely on him to put up similar numbers again this season?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  FpK  SwK   Vel  FB%  H%  S%  hr/f  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ===  ===  ===  ====  ===  ==  ==  ====  ===
2015  146  4.62  4.22  2.7  7.5  2.8  63%  11%  90.1  36%  31  69   13%   83
2016  189  3.71  4.03  2.1  7.3  3.4  61%  11%  90.1  34%  28  72   13%   93
2017  164  5.43  5.40  2.6  5.3  2.0  59%   9%  90.2  44%  25  63   15%   38
2018   91  3.45  4.04  2.0  6.4  3.3  66%   9%  89.7  33%  26  72   12%   86

Hellickson's skills indicate his ERA is headed back up:

  • He hasn't gotten many swings and misses the past two seasons. Of his five pitches, his change-up is his best at generating whiffs, but the velo gap between that pitch and his fastball is closing, and his 15 percent SwK on the pitch in 2018 was the lowest of his career.
  • He typically does a pretty good job of limiting the walks, and was even better than usual in that regard in 2018, with full support from a strong FpK.
  • A fly ball rate spike led to a sky high 1.9 hr/9 in 2017, but he managed to cut down on both numbers in 2018. He also benefited from his defense turning a high percentage of balls in play into outs, which helped keep his ERA well below his xERA.

Hellickson was fortunate to post such a low ERA last season, and can't reasonably be expected to duplicate the feat in 2019. He's not going to be much help in the strikeout category, either, as he punches out very few batters on a per inning basis, and doesn't work very deep into games, as he averaged under five innings per start in 2018, and lasted six innings just twice. Deep league owners may want to consider Hellickson as a matchup play, but even the Marlins roughed him up for 14 runs (11 earned) in 8.2 innings last year. It wouldn't be at all surprising if his ERA jumps a full run this season, so roster him at your own risk.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.