Four Players Who Pass the Eye Test

In my daily column, I’ll occasionally mention a specific player does/does not pass the eye test. When I say a player passes the eye test, it means I’ve watched him play and he “looks” like a fantasy stud. If I say someone does not pass the test, I’ve identified some worrisome factor.

In other words, I believe scouting has value in fantasy baseball. Unfortunately, I am not a scout. Nor am I a quant. I have a little of both skill sets due to my playing career through college, intense training program, thousands of hours of baseball watched, and academic background in Economics and basic Statistics. So it makes sense for me to try to combine both skill sets to better my fantasy rosters.

Through one month of play, we have our usual group of surprise performers. Here are five who have passed my eye test. If I don’t mention a player, it might be because I haven’t seen much of him. For example, I think I’ve seen Charlie Blackmon play a handful of times this year, and by “seen,” I mean he was on a muted four panel screen. So I have no scouting opinion to share about him.

Jesse ChavezComing off yet another great start, Jesse Chavez has a 1.89 ERA, 2.63 FIP, and 2.69 xFIP. Half his balls in play have been on the ground due to liberal usage of his sinker and cutter. His whiff rate stands at 9.1 percent while his strikeout and walk rates combine for an elite 5.13 K/BB. While Chavez has never shown an elite walk rate in the majors, he’s kept minor leaguers off the bases his entire career. It looks like the 30-year-old has finally put it all together.

When I watch Chavez, his command and control really stand out. With a five pitch mix, he has something for every occasion, and he knows how to hit his spots. ZiPS and Steamer project an ERA around 4.00 for the remainder of the season, I’m comfortable aiming at a 3.20 ERA. I do think he’ll strike out fewer batters, but I think he can sustain the rest of his game.

Anthony Rendon: I was planning to write about Rendon before he went all kinds of 4-for-4 yesterday. This is a guy who’s going to be a top fantasy pick for as long as he remains healthy. His swing can generate pop to all fields. A good comp isn’t coming to mind, but he’s kind of like a right-handed Joey Votto without the insane plate discipline. His swing is ideal to go with any pitch. If he focused on pulling the ball, he might hit more home runs, but the current version of Rendon profiles to be a high BABIP guy who can hit .290 to .330 in a give season.

To date, he’s whiffing just 5.7 percent of the time with a 33.7 percent ground ball rate. His .228 ISO is liable to regress, or so the statistically inclined part of me say. Watching him play, I can easily buy a .200-.250 ISO. It wouldn’t surprise me if he leads the league in doubles this season. He’s at 10 already.

Oh, here’s a spray chart from this season. Remember, he’s a righty.

Rendon Spray

Josh Donaldson: If anyone was doubting Donaldson heading into the season, he’s probably put your doubts to rest. He’s hitting for more power than ever before, thanks in part to some juicy matchups. The rest of his skill set has held steady, although he’s not hitting many line drives in the early going. Once his line drive rate increases from 12 to 20 percent, we should see his BABIP jump back into the .330 range.

Visually, Donaldson is one of the most imposing hitters in the league. In no way is he as good as Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout, but he has the same presence at the plate. You can watch him settle into the box and see this is a guy can hit. And then he swings and it’s so, so sweet.

Like Rendon, Donaldson can use all of the field, although he’s much more pull oriented with his ground balls.

Ervin Santana: With a start against the Marlins, perhaps today isn’t the best time to tout Santana. With the way Miami has mashed Braves starters, I could be mere hours away from looking silly.

Or how about real analysis. Santana has been snotting on the competition. He’s refusing to walk batters, nor are they allowed to put the ball in play. A full 29.3 percent of hitters have drawn “Go to bench. Go directly to bench. Do not pass first base. Do not collect 1.000 OBP.” His new changeup is filthtastic and it’s really opened things up for his other pitches. Check out these numbers:

Santana SABR

The sinker is being beaten into the ground on over 80 percent of balls in play. The change and slider are being whiffed about half the time. Some regression has to occur; these are Cy Young quality numbers. Visually, Santana knows exactly what he’s doing on the hill. He’s hitting his spots like a stud, and he’s remained one step ahead of the hitter. As teams get a better read on the changeup, he might need to work a little harder for his success. For the time being, expect more grounders and strikeouts.

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Brad is a former collegiate player who writes for FanGraphs, MLB Trade Rumors, The Hardball Times, RotoWorld, and The Fake Baseball. He's also the lead MLB editor for RotoBaller. Follow him on Twitter @BaseballATeam or email him here.

23 Responses to “Four Players Who Pass the Eye Test”

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  1. Sgt. Hulka says:

    Any thoughts about Rendon seeing a ton of fastballs in the strike zone? Like what would happen if that changes.

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      He hits breaking balls and offspeed pitches just fine, so I wouldn’t necessarily expect a big change. It’s not like he’ll stop getting all fastballs.

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      • Will says:

        Yeah, there was a reason he was considered the best pure hitter in his draft class. The only reason the Nats got him at 6 was because of his shoulder injury, but that doesn’t appear to be an issue. I have almost never seen anyone so fast to the ball so he can wait if he starts to need to more. I would like him to learn to walk more, as he did in the minors, but then that is just me being greedy.

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      • Brad Johnson says:

        When he’s getting those breaking balls, he’ll probably walk more.

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    • MLB Rainmaker says:

      It looks like Will above beat me to the punch here, but yeah, the guy is a legit pure hitter and the best hit tool in the organization — if you read that article on the high correlation between WAR and that distinction.

      I don’t think there was ever a doubt about his ability to hit for average at the MLB level, rather is true offensive value if he doesn’t develop 20+ HR power given his lack of speed. The concern is that he turns out to be a version of Neil Walker with 15pts more AVG and 5 less SBs. That’s not to bag on Walker, but he’s isn’t exactly a huge offensive force or a Top 10 2B in fantasy – and that sort of production certainly doesn’t profile if Rendon moves to 3B permanently.

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  2. baltic fox says:

    Derek Norris: I know he’s currently just a platoon player, but he’s killing lefties. I’ve lost track of how many multi-hit games he’s had recently.

    If you have room on your bench, stash for starts against lefties. Or check the A’s schedule, as I do in my AL only league (where the bench is small)and pick him up from the waiver wire when you see 3 or more lefties lined up against the A’s in the next few days–this works best in leagues with daily transactions.

    With Jaso being oh so mediocre, there’s a good chance Norris will see more ABs against right handed pitching as the season goes on.

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  3. steve says:

    Thoughts about Chavez vs. Drew Hutchison?

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  4. Spa City says:

    I know this comment is only marginally related to the article, but for whatever it’s worth… Has anybody been watching Stetson Allie this year? He passes the eye test as an imposing hitter, and he seem to be killing the ball this year. I get that he has no defensive value, and he will strike out a ton. But he has been walking a lot and crushing the ball. Just saying.

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  5. batpig says:

    On Rendon, you write: “To date, he’s whiffing just 5.7 percent of the time with a 33.7 percent ground ball rate.”

    Did you flip his K and BB rates? On his player page I’m seeing a 5.7 percent WALK rate and a 14.8% K rate.

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  6. Lenard says:

    I know Eno just wrote about Dallas Keuchel, but how does he look this year? I haven’t had an opportunity to see one of his starts yet, but just grabbed him off of waivers.
    His stats all look good except for the lack of fastball velocity and HR%, which I figure will always be elevated a bit because of that velocity and home park.
    For fantasy purposes, is it reasonable to expect about 7.5 k/9, slightly above average WHIP, and roughly a 3.6-3.75 ERA?

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    • MLB Rainmaker says:

      You really need to read that article from last week on Keuchel….but yeah, he seems legit for fantasy purposes.

      Eno pointed it out last year, that sometime in August, Keuchel developed a slider that was getting whiffs. It was a big deal because previously Keuchel arsenal sorted by quality went — Change-up, Fastball, Curveball, where only the Change-up was Plus. But when he added the Slider, that flipped to Slider, Change, Fastball, and he scrapped the curve. So now you’ve got a guy with good fastball command, and two secondary offerings that get whiffs rates above league average and induce a lot of groundballs. On paper that makes for a pretty solid mixed league SP.

      I think its reasonable to expect his current stat line is not a fluke. He’s got the talent to sport a K/9 close to 9 and ERA near 3.5

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      • Brad Johnson says:

        Whoops, this one slipped through the cracks. I haven’t watched him particularly closely, but I think he’s safe enough to use based on the PITCHf/x data.

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  7. Chippchipp says:

    Hey, would you take Pujols or Ellsbury for the rest of this season? Thanks

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  8. Ol' Abner says:

    Can anyone give some insight to Colabello? Is he passing the eye test?

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  9. BloodStripes says:

    Look up Rendon hitting a Wacha curveball for a home run a week or two back. Beautiful. He can hit whatever is thrown.

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  10. Bags says:

    Does Chavez get a full workload this season or will Oakland start reeling him in as the season progresses? He only pitched 87 innings last season and 129 the season prior. I think that has the potential to be the biggest problem with his value to a fantasy manager this season. In my opinion he’s probably the perfect sell high candidate as a result of this concern.

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  11. MaineSkin says:

    Rendon has hit since he was a toddler and always will while 6ft abv. My only concern is his ankles and in total 3 lower body injuries. I’d love him in AL, but I just don’t think his bad injury history should be ignored in long-term leagues. In a NL only I have him since it’s salary based w/ownership concluding after 4yrs, but in dynasty, I may test the waters. Thoughts?

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