It feels like fantasy draft season sneaks up on me every year. This year, in particular, with an actual spring training and an on-time start to the regular season feels especially rushed.
Like the recurring dream where you’re in high school and forgot to study for the big test, I always enter my drafts feeling underprepared. Luckily, PL8 has you covered. As I’ve begun preparing for my home league draft that’s moving to auction for the first time, I’ve been exploring our site’s newest and best resources, and want to share the ones I’ve found most helpful, along with some players I’m high on after digging more into the tools.
Hunting for Pitcher Breakouts Using PLV
The most exciting new addition has to be PLV– you can read the primer here. If you haven’t heard, it essentially measures the quality of a pitch using the pitch’s stuff, location, and situation. From there we can better determine if a hitter just had an exceptional swing, or if it’s more likely the pitcher just missed his spot.
There are a million different applications for PLV (and the apps for it are free for just a couple of months before it’s only available to PL Pro subscribers!), but I’m especially intrigued by the idea of a pitcher who’s just “one pitch away” from a breakout. I’ve written before about pitchers that have scrapped pitches that just weren’t working to improve their overall arsenal as well as pitchers who come in with a new wrinkle to their repertoire.
I love the color-coded PLV app to quickly hunt for pitchers who have good stuff but may just have one or two adjustments that could portend a breakout.
Take Shane McClanahan‘s 2021. McClanahan was already on his way to a breakout in 2021, as he was 19th in PLA (Pitch Level Average, the value of all pitches on an ERA scale) among pitchers who threw at least 1,000 pitches. The lone blemish was a changeup featuring a PLA of 4.93.
Then, in 2022 McClanahan fixed the change, with a PLA of just 2.46, and shot all the way up the PLA total leaderboard to second overall among pitchers. There was no guarantee McClanahan would make the adjustment, but seeing that one “blue” flag in the PLV leaderboard might’ve clued us in that McClanahan was close to the big breakout we saw in 2022.
In fact, McClanahan’s 2022 changeup was much better by Statcast measures. McClanahan was able to throw it a tick and a half slower, and get more drop on it than in 2021. For his part, McClanahan relied on it heavily, throwing it a quarter of the time after throwing the change just 8% of the time in 2021.
Looking at 2022’s PLA leaderboard, who else might be just a pitch away?
PLA looooooves Hunter Greene. Among pitchers with 1,000 pitches thrown in 2022, Hunter Greene had the 28th-best PLA (3.24), with one huge blemish:
That 5.65 PLA is his changeup. If he can harness that, Greene could be poised to make the jump this season. It’s true enough that nothing is guaranteed here, and it’s maybe not news that a more effective changeup could help Greene’s overall arsenal. But the quick scan of the PLA leaderboard is helpful in identifying potential breakouts to study further.
Likewise, I’m fairly intrigued by Mariner reliever Penn Murfee, who was fourth overall in the 2022 PLA leaderboard at 2.77 (minimum 1,000 pitches). Like Greene, there’s just one pitch that sticks out on the leaderboard for Murfee:
The 4.70 PLA is Murfee’s sinker, which got crushed even though he threw it just 8% of the time. It’s a prime candidate for a pitch to be scrapped. Even if it’s used more as a pitch to keep hitters off his other excellent offerings, Murfee was successful with the entire repertoire last year and is in a Mariners bullpen where he could move up the pecking order fairly quickly. Our own Ben Rosener wrote about Murfee’s sleeper status earlier this year, as well. I’ll likely target him as a flier in my deeper home league auction, and in shallower leagues would be ready to pounce on the waiver wire if there is any uncertainty in the M’s bullpen during the season.
Improved Player Pages
When you’re in an auction, or on the clock for your draft, the worst possible outcome is feeling extremely confident in your next pick, only to miss out because your draft got lost in tab Valhalla in your browser.
Come draft day, I’m going to only have four tabs open: the draft itself, the draft assistant tool (more on that below), Google News to Google a player’s name before drafting just to make sure I didn’t miss out on any news in the past 24 hours, and a tab for Pitcher List player pages.
What I like most about the player pages is their quick, clean look as a final last-minute check on what I can expect out of the player. I love doing research and digging into Statcast data on Savant, but it’s a lot of scrolling and loading time during a live auction. The player pages here at Pitcher List give one at-a-glance look at where players stack up and include their position on the overall pitcher or hitter lists.
For instance, I’m pretty high on Brandon Drury this year. I love positional flexibility and am betting on Drury having figured something out with regard to tapping into his power. His player page gives me one quick last look at his 2022 before I make that bid:
I know I’m not getting speed, but Drury being a typically high-average hitter and above-average in his number of hard-hit balls per plate appearance gives me more confidence that the 28 homers last year couldn’t have been a total fluke.
As a bonus, right under the player page header, you can see articles that have mentioned the player in case you want to dig deeper. (My apologies in advance to anyone frantically drafting right now and is 1,000 words into this piece.)
PL Draft Assistant Tool
This tool is just for PL Pro members, which just launched late last month. If you’re not sure about it just yet but want to see the tool itself, I’d recommend you check out the tutorial video on how to use it. It’s a way to preview what I think is the best fantasy draft board tool available.
I set up my draft assistant in just under 10 minutes, and now I have a rough list of rankings and a tool to organize my targets during the draft. There are so many customizable options, and I smiled to myself when I saw this detail, which is really crucial and shows the thought that went into the options:
Instead of merging various sheets and toggling between that and the list of who is still available, I have an all-in-one sheet to help keep me organized during the draft. The customizable league settings are much more helpful, especially if you’re in a league with non-standard or “weirder” rosters or categories that won’t be captured with a more general player ranking list. Even rule changes as simple as OBP vs AVG can make a huge difference in a player’s value, so having categories like SLG, OPS, or HD that aren’t always captured in a general fantasy ranking are tools I’m glad to be able to incorporate into my draft strategy.
If you can swing it, I’d recommend taking a closer look at PL Pro. For everyone though, the new PL8 has a lot of resources available that have already freed up a lot of my time to go more in-depth into players I’m interested in and to identify late-round targets and potential breakouts.
Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)
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