HEAD-TO-HEAD: A Review of the 2019 Hitter Pools

Introduction

Our task in developing consistent head-to-head teams is becoming increasingly more difficult as we deal with rising strikeout rates, to the point where there were more strikeouts than hits last year! The average MLB team batting average was down to .248 in 2018—the lowest mark in 49 years. Not surprisingly, this means our H2H player pools are shrinking, which means that there will be less players with the skill makeup that we target. However, it also means that there is an opportunity to obtain a larger market share of these consistent players if we apply the right approach.

Background H2H Roster Building

The goal in building a successful H2H team is to assemble a consistent roster. As we have explained over the years, a homogenous lineup is more consistent than a lineup drafted with the aim of satisfying certain target numbers in each category. We have tweaked this plan over the years and created the concept of player pools which has helped expand the universe of rosterable players.

The player pools are not intended to be relied on as a strict ranking hierarchy. For instance, Ryan Braun (OF, MIL) is in Pool 1 this year. We are certainly not suggesting that you pick him over Mike Trout (OF, LAA), who is in Pool 2. Instead, the pools should be analyzed in conjunction with average draft positions (ADPs) to allow to identify targets and values. The pools merely group players together with similar skill-sets, which should inherently build consistency into your roster.

The Player Pool Metrics

We will summarize the 4 player pools below, and if you are interested in reading more about how they were created, please review this article.

Pool 1 consists of those players who met our original filters for assembling a homogenous team:

  • ct% greater than or equal to 80%
  • xBA greater than or equal to .280
  • PX  greater than or equal to 120
  • RC/G greater than or equal to 5

These metrics help generate some of the truly elite H2H targets. Their average 2018 quality-consistency score (QC score) was 72. Only 14% of MLB hitters had a positive QC score last year, and a QC score of 72 lands you in the top 3.5% of all hitters. You may only be able to land 1-3 players from this first pool, but those players will serve as your roster foundation. You can read more about QC scores and their use in H2H play here.

Pool 2 takes an alternative approach to generating consistency, and uses QC scores in lieu of xBA and ct%:

  • QC score greater than or equal to 50
  • PX  greater than or equal to 117
  • RC/G greater than or equal to 5

This profile also generates top-notch H2H players, as only 34 players had QC scores over 50 in 2018.

Pool 3 players are consistent, but do not possess the power of those players found in Pool 1 or Pool 2:

  • ct% greater than or equal to 80% or xBA greater than or equal to .280
  • PX greater than or equal to 100
  • RC/G greater than or equal to 5

Pool 4 players are intended to prevent a batting average fall-out in the later rounds of the draft, while still providing above average production in HRs, RBIs and runs:

  • ct% greater than or equal to 80% or xBA greater than or equal to .280
  • RC/G greater than or equal to 5

For a complete list of which players qualified for each pool, please see here.

Positional Analysis (min. 10 GP)

Catcher
We start with a special note about this year's catcher pool—it's truly putrid. Last year, our player pools generated five catchers with ADPs ranging from the fifth to 17th rounds. This year, only one catcher satisfied the requirements of any of the four player pools. As a result, we created a special catcher's only metric pool, which is satisfied by having an xBA of over .275. Essentially, these players are projected to have batting averages that will not cause your team's average to tank.

Player           Team   Pool    ADP 
==============   ====   ====   ======
Suzuki, K.       WAS    P3     311.06 
Astudillo, W.    MIN    xBA    235.83 
Kiner-Falefa, I. TEX    xBA    270.55 
Molina, Y.       STL    xBA    142.55 
Posey, B.        SF     xBA    142.46

The Value: Willians Astudillo (C, MIN) has a projected ct% of 95% and potentially late developing power as he smacked 10 home runs in the Venezuelan Winter League.  If he receives decent playing time, he makes for a great value given his 20th round ADP.

Notable Omission: Gary Sanchez (C, NYY). With a -55 QC Score and an xBA of .239 in 2018, let someone else reach for him in the 6th round.

The Unlisted But Just Might Work Option: Danny Jansen (C, TOR) has a plus hit tool and a career minor league Eye of 0.90. He should be available in rounds 18-20.

First Base

Player     Team  Pool   ADP 
=========  ====  ====  ====== 
Braun, R.   MIL   P1   220.37
Muncy, M.    LA   P2   104.91
Cabrera, M. DET   P3   162.35
Freeman, F. ATL   P3    21.49
Rizzo, A.   CHC   P3    36.95
Votto, J.   CIN   P3    77.26
Pearce, S.  BOS   P3   501.91
Murphy, D.  COL   P3   131.11
Santana, C. CLE   P3   219.75
Bell, J.    PIT   P4   252.22
Gurriel, Y. HOU   P4   191.28

The Value: Josh Bell (1B, PIT).  His HctX soared in the second half of the season from 83 to 120. As the Baseball Forecaster notes, he's a launch angle adjustment away from a breakout. He's worth a flier in the 21st round.

Notable Omission: Cody Bellinger (1B, LA). In 2018, one-quarter of his weeks were BPV disaster-rated. Joey Votto (1b, CIN) offers better value and consistency and is going some 30+ picks later.

The Unlisted But Just Might Work Option: Wilmer Flores (1B, AZ) posted an elite 89% contact rate in 2018. If he sees regular playing time, he could finally breakout.

Second Base

Player         Team   Pool    ADP 
===========    ====   ====   ======
Ramirez, J.    CLE     P1      3.82 
Bichette, B.   TOR     P2    489.92 
Murphy, D.     COL     P3    130.35 
Gurriel, Y.    HOU     P3    191.28 
Altuve, J.     HOU     P4     16.98 
Merrifield, W. KC      P4     30.88 
Pedroia, D.    BOS     P4    560.09 
Kendrick, H.   WAS     P4    593.71 
LeMahieu, D.   NYY     P4    233.06 
Marte, K.      ARI     P4    231.52

The Value: Ketel Marte (2B, AZ), who is going in the 20th round on average, owns a premium QC score of 93. He improved both his bb% (from 7% to 12%) and PX (87 to 102) in the second half of last season.

Notable Omission: Gleyber Torres (2B, NYY) needs to improve his ct% to become a more consistent option. He posted a .229 xBA in the second half.

The Unlisted But Just Might Work Option: If Jeff McNeil (2B, NYM) gets regular playing time, he could be an underrated option in the 25th round. In an 11-week sample size, McNeil had the 6th highest QC score in the league last year.

Shortstop

Player         Team   Pool    ADP 
===========    ====   ====   ======
Bregman, A.    HOU     P1     11.39
Lindor, F.     CLE     P1      4.73
Machado, M.    FA      P1     14.91
Bichette, B.   TOR     P2    489.92
Bogaerts, X.   BOS     P2     49.42
Gregorius, D.  NYY     P3    327.72
Seager, C.     LAD     P3     87.92
Marte, K.      ARI     P4    231.52
Turner, T.     WAS     P4     10.77
Escobar, E.    ARI     P4    170.06

The Value: There are a lot of high-end options at the shortstop position and not too many value plays. It's a gamble coming off his injury, but Corey Seager (SS, LA) in the 8th round is an intriguing option. For the risk-averse, Eduardo Escobar (SS, AZ) should provide a nice power boost (133 xPX) in round 15.

Notable Omission: Adalberto Mondesi (SS, KC) is currently being drafted in the 4th round. His QC score of -38 suggests that his production will come in peaks and valleys.

The Unlisted But Just Might Work Option: After a horrible start, Ahmed Rosario (SS, NYM) quietly put together very two solid months at the end of 2018.  At just age 23, with a 80% ct% and elite speed, he could easily provide more than 12th round value.

Third Base

Player         Team   Pool    ADP 
===========    ====   ====   ======
Andujar, M.      NYY   P1     66.21
Bregman, A.      HOU   P1     11.39
Ramirez, J.      CLE   P1      3.82
Arenado, N.      COL   P1      8.62
Machado, M.      FA    P1     14.91
Turner, J.       LAD   P1    109.55
Shaw, T.         MIL   P2    101.98
Muncy, M.        LAD   P2    104.35
Rendon, A.       WAS   P2     46.70
Senzel, N.       CIN   P2    228.94
Guerrero Jr., V. TOR   P3     38.30
Moustakas, M.    FA    P3    152.26
Gurriel, Y.      HOU   P3    191.28
Escobar, E.      ARI   P4    170.06

The Value: Miguel Andujar's (3B, NYY) rosy BHQ projection of .293/27 HR/93 RBI makes him more than worthy of a 6th round pick, and probably someone worth reaching for a round earlier.

Notable Omission: Jacob Lamb's (3B, AZ) ct% issues (69%) and -92 QC Score make him an avoid.

The Unlisted But Just Might Work Option: Matt Chapman (3B, OAK) continued to make better contact in 2018 (peaking at 78% in July and following up with a .306 xBA in August), before dealing with a shoulder injury down the stretch. He's currently being drafted as the 15th third baseman off the board in the 10th round.

Outfield

Player         Team   Pool    ADP 
===========    ====   ====   ======
Betts, M.       BOS    P1      1.79 
Blackmon, C.    COL    P1     26.02 
Pollock, A.     LAD    P1    118.21 
Braun, R.       MIL    P1    220.37 
Martinez, J.D.  BOS    P2      6.35 
Pederson, J.    LAD    P2    313.05 
Trout, M.       LAA    P2      1.30 
Muncy, M.       LAD    P2    104.35 
Soto, J.        WAS    P2     30.20 
Jimenez, E.     CHW    P3    107.65 
Piscotty, S.    OAK    P3    145.77 
Peralta, D.     ARI    P3    129.58 
Puig, Y.        CIN    P3    119.11 
Dickerson, C.   PIT    P3    213.71 
Winker, J.      CIN    P3    203.23 
Yelich, C.      MIL    P3      7.29 
Rosario, E.     MIN    P3     86.08 
Robles, V.      WAS    P3     99.68 
Tapia, R.       COL    P3    460.67 
Benintendi, A.  BOS    P4     30.26 
Brantley, M.    HOU    P4    118.47 
Eaton, A.       WAS    P4    211.88 
Marte, S.       PIT    P4     38.94 
Martinez, J.    STL    P4    179.05

The Value: Keep an eye on the Reds' OF situation in spring training. Jesse Winker (OF, CIN) posted astounding Eye ratios in May, June and July of 1.29, 1.13 and 1.33, respectively. During this same 3-month period, Winker scorched the ball with a 151 HctX and 122 xPX. He's worth targeting a round before his 17th round ADP.

Notable Omission: Justin Upton (OF, LAA) is baseball's version of a roller coaster. He had a -123 QC score in 2018, and while the numbers tend to be there by the end of the season, the ups and downs will make you nauseous. 

The Unlisted But Just Might Work Option: 67% of David Dahl's (OF, COL) weeks were BPV-dominant in 2018, good for 17th best in the league. His ct%,HctX, PX and BPV all surged in the second half of last season.

Targets Round-By-Round

Lastly, we will summarize player pool targets on a round-by-round basis so that you have a sense of when you need to target these ideal H2H options.  

Round 1: Trout, Betts, Ramirez, Lindor, J.D. Martinez, Yelich, Arenado, T.Turner, Bregman
Round 2: Machado, Altuve, Freeman
Round 3: Blackmon, Soto, Benintendi, Merrifield, Rizzo
Round 4: S. Marte, Guerrero, Jr., Rendon, Bogaerts
Round 5: None
Round 6: Andujar
Round 7: Votto
Round 8: Rosario, Seager
Round 9: Robles, J. Turner, Muncy, Shaw, Jimenez
Round 10: Pollock, Brantley, Puig
Round 11: D. Murphy, Peralta
Round 12: Molina, Posey
Round 13: Moustakas, Piscotty
Round 14: M. Cabrera
Round 15: E. Escobar, Jo. Martinez
Round 16: Gurriel
Round 17: Winker
Round 18: Dickerson, Eaton
Round 19: Senzel, Santana, Braun
Round 20: Astudillo, K. Marte, LeMahieu
Round 21: J. Bell
Rounds 22-30: Kiner-Falefa (23), Suzuki (26), Pederson (27), Gregorious (28)
Rounds 30+: Tapia (39), Bichette (41), Pearce (42), Pedroia (47), Kendrick (50)

Concluding Thoughts

The round-by-around analysis is tremendously helpful in outlining a pre-draft plan, including identifying targets and potential rounds to select starting and relief pitching. Because of the ground work that we have done in creating our player pools, drafting from this board will build consistency into your 2019 lineup.


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