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Advanced Stat Pack – 3 Hitters to Target in Fantasy Baseball

Fantasy baseball is all about the numbers. At the end of the day, we are judged solely on the statistics that our fantasy baseball team generates. How and when they get there is always in flux. What we see on the surface is only part of the story. Those numbers lurking beneath could help to explain the present, predict the future, or a combination of both. With that being said, let’s dig a little deeper into Vladimir Guerrero, Andrew McCutchen, and Oneil Cruz. These are hitters to target for varying reasons, but all can bring value to your team.

3 Fantasy Baseball Hitters to Target Based on Advanced Stats

Vladimir Guerrero Jr, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays – 59.2% Hard Hit Rate

Let’s adjust our expectations here. Vladimir Guerrero Jr is never again going to hit 48 home runs in a season. There was a special set of circumstances in 2021, but is there really anything wrong with him being a 30-home-run hitter for the rest of his career?

When it comes with a batting average of around .300 and premium run production, the answer is a resounding no. Even if we are going to take things conservatively, .290/30/90/80 is very reasonable. What might need to be revisited though is where Guerrero is taken in drafts, but that is not a mid-season conversation. Instead, especially since the underlying metrics support his success, there could be a buying opportunity here. After an opposite-field home run on Thursday, Guerrero has seven home runs on the season with 30 RBI. It’s very possible that fantasy managers are underwhelmed by this and they could be looking to pivot.

And that is where the opportunity comes. As a unit, the Blue Jays are struggling, but they are bound to turn things around. Regardless of that fact, Guerrero hits the ball quite well and his production is sustainable on its own. After all, six of every 10 balls Guerrero hits qualify as being “hard hit”. In fact, that is above his career average of roughly 50%.

Additionally, Guerrero has an 11.9% barrel rate, .495 xSLG, and a 94.5 mile-per-hour average exit velocity. All of these metrics line up quite well to his career levels. In fact, Guerrero’s 5.6-degree average launch angle is better than his 4.3 mark in 2022 when he hit 32 home runs.

Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates – 14.2% Barrel Rate

There is some concern that, depending on your league, Andrew McCutchen is only eligible at utility. But at this point, productive bats have their value and if he’s eligible in the outfield then there is nothing to worry about. Now that doesn’t mean McCutchen is going to be a league winner, but he is also someone who should not be overlooked.

Through 53 games, the veteran has eight home runs and 20 RBI to go along with 32 runs scored. Thanks to the DH, he is also receiving regular at-bats in Pittsburgh’s lineup. While he isn’t going to turn back the clock 100% to his prime during his first stint in Pittsburgh, there is still some pop left in his bat.

That pop is very much evidenced by McCutchen’s 14.2% barrel rate. While the overall results might not truly be there, the veteran can still be a solid contributor. McCutchen’s .238 batting average might not stand out, but his .250 xBA could be worse and we really are just talking about a hit every week or so. Another disparity that works in McCutchen’s favor looking forward is his .482 xSLG compared to an actual mark of .381.

As you look to augment the back end of your roster, McCutchen still has something to offer. The quality of his contact certainly tells us there is something left in his bat.

Oneil Cruz, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates – 95.4 Mile per Hour Average Exit Velocity

No, it wasn’t intentional to have two members of the Pittsburgh Pirates listed here. Maybe, it was intentional to dig into Oneil Cruz as a redemption tour after I touted him prior to the season. What is clear though, is how explosive of a player Cruz really is.

When digging into Cruz, it’s important to remember that he only appeared in nine games last year due to injury. Additionally, he has been working on his confidence as of late along with tweaking his stance. The early returns are certainly positive, and Cruz appears to be finding his comfort level. What is even better news, is that the results are following. Any window to buy at a discount might be coming to a close.

Strikeouts are always going to be an issue, but Cruz has gotten it down to 33.5%. While he had 27 more plate appearances in April compared to May, his strikeouts decreased month over month from 45 to 29. However, Cruz does have a sufficient .247 batting average coupled with a .254 xBA. After two loud home runs last week, Cruz is up to nine on the season with 28 runs scored, 25 RBI, and five stolen bases. Based on his metrics, that can all be better, but Cruz is trending in the right direction, and it’s always best to bet on tools and talent.

Despite just five stolen bases, Cruz ranks in the 85th percentile with a 28.6 mile-per-hour sprint speed. It might seem underwhelming, but Cruz’s career high is 10 stolen bases maybe we are seeing slight progress here. Regardless, this has yet to be a tool that Cruz will master. What happens when he puts the bat on the ball though is what I can’t look away from:

Statcast Metrics

  • Average Exit Velocity – 100th percentile – 95.4 miles per hour
  • Bat Speed – 100th percentile – 77.9 miles per hour
  • Barrel Rate – 99th percentile – 18.9%
  • Hard Hit Rate – 96th percentile – 53.8%
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