With fewer than two weeks left in the season, your trade deadline has likely passed and your fantasy team probably isn’t going to change too much. That said, it’s not too early to start tying to make sense of some out-of-the-blue standout performances and revise our outlook for next season. Of the list of overachievers below, who is most likely to maintain his success in 2021?
A draft day afterthought, Kwang-Hyun Kim has been outstanding in 2020, holding opponents scoreless in four of his five starts and posting a 0.83 ERA and 0.92 WHIP on the season. Through September 10, Kim also shows up as the number two pitcher in all of baseball by Ethan Moore’s stuff metric (Quality of Stuff+, or QOS+), which attempts to rank the effectiveness of a pitcher’s arsenal based on factors such as movement, velocity, and extension, among others. I am admittedly a novice to this statistic, and I find it difficult to discern how Kim is scoring so well when a scan of his Baseball Savant page uniformly shows him to be at or below average in the velocity and movement on each of his pitches. While he has been very effective at limiting hard contact, where he ranks in the 91st percentile, and features a relatively broad arsenal (four pitches thrown at least 8.6% of the time), Kim has also relied on some fortunate batted ball luck, especially considering how little swing-and-miss he and generated this season. Batters have an 88.1% contact rate against his fastball, but are hitting just .128 against it, despite a .270 xBA. His 9.0% swinging strike rate indicates that he could have higher than a 13.3% strikeout rate, but when top starters are posting a strikeout rate north of 25-30%, it shows how far he has to go to deliver plus production in that area.
Verdict: Not legit. Kim’s standout QOS+ number warrants more inspection, but when you look at the breadth of his underlying statistics, it feels more like a outlier. Without much semblance of dominance, he looks like a pitcher whose outcomes will ebb and flow with errant gusts of wind and the bouncing of the baseball. I’d let him go undrafted in 12 team leagues or shallower going into 2021, preferring to take a flyer on a pitcher with more strikeout upside.
After Dylan Moore’s hot first month, he was sidelined by a wrist injury for a few weeks and it seemed like it could have easily scuttled his season, but then came back and picked up as if nothing had changed. He plays all over the field for the Mariners, hits the ball hard in the air, and is running wild on the bases right now—attempting seven steals in the nine games he’s played in September. He doesn’t have any crazy platoon splits, and he’s been batting leadoff. He’s clearly athletic and still young enough to deliver another season of a plus power-speed combination in what will be his age-28 season next year. Moore feasts on fastballs and doesn’t do much with off-speed or breaking pitches, so there’s some volatility these with his plate approach, but he reaches and swings less than average and has a slightly better than average swinging strike rate.
Verdict: Legit. Moore is a great example of a player who is a solid real life player, but could be an under the radar star in fantasy. He has just enough plate discipline and contact skills to unlock his speed, and he’s one of those mid-round, unsung players who could be a key player on a championship-winning fantasy team next season. Depending on your league’s rules, he could add several positions and give you roster flexibility as well. An impact player for the rest of 2020 and 2021.
While Donovan Solano’s nickname, “Donnie Barrels,” has a nice ring to it, his skills are actually much more conducive to delivering sweet spots than barrels. Solano currently ranks seventh among qualified hitters in sweet spot percentage, which is any batted ball with a launch angle between 8 and 32 degrees, on his way to a .349 batting average. Going into his age-33 season, Solano is unlikely to see a significant surge in power, but he is maximizing his skills with a contact-focused and line-drive happy approach, and should continue to be a batting average boon next year. Combined with his positioning in the middle of a surprisingly effective Giants offense, he could have real value in deeper mixed leagues in 2021. Solano is no Michael Brantley or Tommy La Stella—he doesn’t have great plate discipline in addition to his excellent contact skills—but he’s also no Hanser Alberto, who chases more than half the pitches out of the zone. Additionally, he hits lefties and righties equally, and he’s excelled against every pitch type this season. As the Giants progress with their rebuild, Solano should continue to hit in a favorable spot in the lineup while also benefiting from dramatically changing park factor in San Francisco. I’m honestly not sure how starting the season in July rather than late March affected these numbers, but it’s clear that moving the fences in has helped promote offensive production at Oracle Park this season.
ESPN Park Factors For Oracle Park
If Oracle Park continues to play as a run-friendly environment in 2021, it could help boost the outcomes for all Giants hitters next season.
Verdict: It depends. Sorry for the cop-out answer, but Solano is a strange tweener player for fantasy in that, without big power or speed, he’s not giving you the breadth of production you’d want in a 12 team league or smaller. In deeper leagues, his ability to deliver a plus batting average and log counting stats while adding 12-15 homer pop can definitely help.
(Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)