Fantasy Baseball: What do we make of four lucky starts?

·4 min read

Often times we point to the unlucky leaderboards, asking them to find good buy-low candidates for fantasy baseball. Kyle Tucker regularly owns that list every April.

But we also have to consider what’s on the other side of that coin. Who have the fantasy gods smiled on so far?

Andrew Benintendi, OF, Kansas City Royals

If you do a good-luck query on the indispensable site Baseball Savant, Andrew Benintendi percolates to the top. I mention Benintendi with some sadness, as his quiet-but-broad set of skills had him on my target list before the season, and so far, so good with the results. But the Statcast data suggests Benintendi’s .388 average should be 136 points lower, and it also shoots holes in his slugging and wOBA. Somehow Benintendi is maintaining a .450 BABIP (an obvious, old-school outlier) while his line-drive rate has cratered to 12.2 percent.

We have to be realistic with this — I doubt Benintendi managers are fielding dozens of trade offers daily. And I still think Benintendi’s final haul last year is attainable and useful. But we go where the luck leaderboard takes us, and we’re wise to consider the data.

Seiya Suzuki, OF, Chicago Cubs

Seiya Suzuki is the next name on the most-fortunate list, at least per batting averages. He’s currently at .354, while Statcast suggests .240 is the right number. Suzuki’s hard-hit rate is surprisingly low, and his HR/FB rate checks in at a robust 22.2 percent.

Here’s where I’m willing to be more patient, and more of a believer. Suzuki is walking 20.6 perfect of the time and is among the leaders in take-percentage on pitches outside the strike zone (only Alex Bregman is ahead of him). If you want to get Suzuki out, you have to do it around the plate. He also shows outstanding sprint speed, and although that’s resulted in just one steal thus far, I still see 8-11 bags likely as he gets around the league and learns the pitchers.

I’d need a major package to consider moving Suzuki off my rosters, and yet I still have a bit of Suzuki FOMO permeating through me. Perhaps I need to start up another Yahoo league or two.

Some data suggests Seiya Suzuki has been lucky, but if he starts running more that could offset drops elsewhere in his fantasy baseball value. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
Some data suggests Seiya Suzuki has been lucky, but if he starts running more that could offset drops elsewhere in his fantasy baseball value. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

Zack Greinke, SP, Kansas City Royals

A couple of my favorite pitchers show up on the good-luck pitcher leaderboard. Zack Greinke has built a possible Hall of Fame case, and Cal Quantrill’s breakout last season was a fantasy boon.

Let’s tackle Greinke first. The 2.25 front-door ERA doesn’t mix with the 7.40 xERA. Greinke’s fastball wouldn’t get stopped for speeding on the highway — his velocity has been in the 80s for three straight years. Despite a rise in line-drives allowed, he’s currently enjoying an acceptable .281 BABIP, and he’s yet to allow a homer (after a 17.4 HR/FB rate last year). And while Greinke almost never walks anyone, he also doesn’t miss many bats — he has two strikeouts in 16 innings.

Seasoned fantasy players know a fluke when they see one. Greinke’s fantasy usefulness could collapse at any second.

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Cal Quantrill, SP/RP, Cleveland Guardians

Quantrill was one of my draft targets in the spring, feeling that the Regression Police might go too far and expect his ERA to collapse when a mere correction could still result in a playable number. Thus far, that’s been close to the story. Quantrill’s 3.94 ERA and 1.19 WHIP aren’t bad in a mixed league, though the ERA estimators don’t trust the secondary stats. Statcast says Quantrill’s ERA should be over seven, while FIP (4.63) and xFIP (5.35) also spit out suspicious numbers.

The xFIP story is easily explained — Quantrill’s been lucky to allow just one homer in 16 innings. Perhaps more troubling to me is the seven walks against just six strikeouts — we need Quantrill’s K/BB rate to be in the neighborhood of last year’s 2.57. He’s also allowing fewer ground balls this year, and more line drives.

Quantrill missed one start due to a short stint on the COVID-19 list, so perhaps he’s not at full strength yet. He’s the type of pitcher I’m still content to roster in a medium or deeper mixed league, but it’s as a bench option. I’d like to see more results on the field before I consider Circle of Trust privileges again.

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