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10 Thoughts: Week 20 Edition

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fantasy baseball lewis brinson

In this edition of 10 Thoughts, we cover Lewis Brinson’s improbable resurgence, Trevor Story’s swing change, pitchers who are finally performing, and much more.

We love the game of baseball, and with so many players, it’s easy to think of 10 things every week. Here are our thoughts for week 20.

1) Lewis Brinson’s resurgence is one of the most improbable in MLB history.
Lewis Brinson went from a potential five-tool player who was a consensus top 20 prospect in the industry from 2016-2018, to a bust who was in danger of being released in 2020 and early in 2021. Brinson’s career MLB numbers are nothing short of awful. To this point in his career, Brinson has slashed a combined .201/.253/.332 with just 23 HRs in 914 ABs. For that reason, nothing was expected from Brinson this season, but everything changed from July onward. Brinson is finally making good on his talent at 27 years of age. Brinson’s line this season now sits at .261/.307/.471, and his performance at the plate is sustainable. Brinson’s 91 MPH average exit velocity, 12.5-degree launch angle, 45 percent hard-hit rate, and balanced spray chart all indicate that Brinson’s quality of contact is legit. Additionally, he’s cut his K rate down to a manageable 27 percent, and his 113.2 MPH max exit velocity makes it clear that the raw power scouts used to salivate over is still there. Brinson is worth rostering right now, but if he can start utilizing his speed on the basepaths (0 SBs this season) he could become a legitimate fantasy stud. 

2) Huascar Ynoa is back and he hasn’t lost a step.
After missing over three months with a fractured right hand he suffered from punching the dugout wall, Huascar Ynoa is back. Ynoa was one of the season’s most impressive breakouts prior to his injury, and his numbers (2.70 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and 9.7 K/9) prove it. A lot of times players, especially less established ones like Ynoa, fail to rediscover their form after a long absence, but Ynoa’s return was very encouraging. Ynoa held the Miami Marlins scoreless on Tuesday over 5.1 innings while striking out four. The fact that the Braves allowed him to surpass five innings pitched is a big plus. Ynoa’s velocity was also fully intact, as he was still regularly sitting at 96+MPH in the outing while utilizing his elite slider heavily. There’s no reason to think that Ynoa can’t pick up where he left off back in May.

3) Avisaíl Garcia is perpetually underrated.
Garcia can be streaky, and he’s been a bit of a journeyman as of late, but there’s no doubting that he can rake. Garcia’s .274/.338/.500 line this season is accompanied by 23 HRs, 72 RBIs, and 6 SBs in just 372 ABs. That per AB production is unbelievable, but when you look at the Statcast metrics it’s easy to see why Garcia is crushing. Garcia is 85th percentile or better in max exit velocity, hard-hit rate, xwOBA, xBA, and xSLG, and 73rd percentile or better in average exit velocity and barrel rate. The man should not be underestimated in any way going forward. 

4) Alex Cobb is the perfect example of why you buy underperforming players.
All year long Alex Cobb’s ERA has lagged far behind advanced estimators, and many people gave up on him around the all-star break because the actual numbers just weren’t catching up. Many people are now regretting that decision, as regression doesn’t always come when we expect it to. Cobb has allowed one run or less in five of six starts now, and he’s still sporting a healthy 9.7 K/9. For the year Cobb’s 3.82 ERA is still marginally worse than his 3.65 SIERA, but Cobb owners will continue to smile as the ERA creeps ever closer to matching it.

5) Trevor Story changed his swing and started crushing again. 
Trevor Story didn’t look right for a long time this season, but he sure is back to his old self as of late. If I had to speculate I would say that Story is either getting healthy, or he’s thriving without the trade deadline looming over his head. Either way, Story’s .352/.444/.667 August performance thus far has been impressive. There could be more to it than just injury or relief, as Story’s 10 degree August launch angle is far lower than his 16.3-degree mark — there may be a major swing change here. The more level swing has also resulted in much lower whiff (22.5%) and K rates (19%) compared to his season marks, so things are really looking up for Story just in time for him to showcase his market value before hitting free agency. 

6) Triston McKenzie is a new pitcher since his return to the majors.
The Triston McKenzie we saw over the first half of the season was nearly unrecognizable. The pitcher that displayed elite control and elite results throughout his time in the minors and during his rookie season in 2020 was gone. Instead, he was replaced by one that walked over five batters per nine innings, which resulted in an ugly 6.11 ERA prior to August. Well, something changed and the version of Triston McKenzie with elite control is back — and he’s dominant again. McKenzie’s 2.14 ERA, 0.52 WHIP, and 20 Ks in 21 IP this month tell the story. Talented young pitchers lose their way at times, but never bet against them, especially when they’re being developed by Cleveland’s extraordinary coaching staff. 

7) Rowdy Tellez is the latest Brewer to benefit from a change of scenery.
What is it with hitters thriving after being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers? Luis Urias turned himself into a quality MLB player after coming over from San Diego, Willy Adames has crushed all year since arriving from Tampa Bay, and now Rowdy Tellez is mashing since coming over from Toronto. Tellez is slashing .325/.400/.590 with 6 HRs in just 83 ABs since coming over in the trade. Tellez is every bit of what you want in a first baseman on your fantasy team. Rowdy combines legit pop (92.4 average exit velocity, 13.7-degree launch angle, and 11.8% barrel rate) with a surprisingly low K rate (18.3%). Unlike most 1B only lefty mashers, Tellez is not only playable against lefties, he crushes them! On the year Tellez is hitting .306 and slugging .472 against southpaws. This is a young slugger on the rise, and I fully expect him to continue being a startable first baseman. 

8) Marco Gonzales is back in a big way, and baseball is weird.
Sometimes baseball is weird. Marco Gonzales had a 5.48 ERA leading up to August. In August Marco Gonzales has a 0.67 ERA. After being one of the worst starters in the game for most of the season Gonzales will likely end up being who he was drafted to be… a 3.80-4.20 ERA guy with a low K rate. What changed? Two things. First, Gonzales’ sinker usage jumped way up to 56.8% in August after his highest usage in any month prior was 43.5% in June. Secondly, Gonzales’ BABIP against is .205 in the month of August after he posted a .294 BABIP against in the first half. Baseball is a game of ups and downs, and sometimes it takes a whole season for variance, regression, and tinkering to even things out, but usually, a player’s true talent level is reflected when the dust settles.

9) Kenta Maeda is redeeming himself after a poor first half.
Kenta Maeda had high expectations this season after he nearly won the Cy Young in the shortened 2020 season, but his first half was rough. Maeda endured shoulder and groin injuries, and when he was healthy he only mustered a 4.66 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP. It’s possible that injuries impacted Maeda’s performance when he was on the mound, but his command was totally off and it resulted in tons of loud contact. Fast forward to now and Maeda has pitched to a 2.98 ERA in July and August combined. He’s likely healthy now, but I also noticed that he stopped throwing his (bad) sinker at all and he bumped up splitter usage. Maeda isn’t likely to approach the heights he did in 2020 ever again, but he’s better than he’s shown the majority of this season. 

10) Vladimir Gutierrez can build on his strong August.
Vladimir Gutierrez has been a mixed bag since being called up in late May. On one hand, he’s been solid, especially for a rookie, pitching to a 3.87 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 86 innings pitched. However, a 5.10 SIERA clearly illustrates that he’s had a massive amount of luck along the way. Oddly enough, in August, his best month thus far, Gutierrez hasn’t had much luck, he’s just pitching well. His August BABIP is over .300 and his FIP sits at 3.09 for the month. In August Gutierrez has shunned his curveball and slider in favor of his changeup, and it’s really paid off. Gutierrez bumped his changeup usage up to 18.6% in August, which is almost double his 9.9% mark in July. The changeup has been elite, so it’s not surprising to see the bump in usage leading to better results. On the year batters are hitting just .136 BA and slugging .295 against it on the year. Gutierrez may be fortunate to have an ERA in the threes, but he can keep it there if he keeps leaning on his terrific changeup. 

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