By: Matt Bishop (@bishphat on Twitter)

Sometimes in baseball, we have to step back and avoid taking a look at an entire season of work and hone in on smaller sample sizes to compare performance against the rest of the league. In most of these cases below, I focused in on second half performances more than overall seasonal slash lines because sometimes players catch fire down the stretch and may be undervalued based on their overall metrics. But why are sample sized important? Because most of these performances occurred during your fantasy playoff period or down the stretch in your roto league that may have helped push your team over the edge and finish in the money. Whatever the outcome, here are 5 performances that should not go unnoticed:

TOMMY PHAM, OF TB (59.6 ADP)

I don’t take much stock in storylines in sports, but redemption narratives can’t be ignored. After breaking out in 2017 to the tune of .306/.411/.520 (.931 OPS) with 23 HR 95 R 73 RBI, Tommy Pham disappointed in the first half of 2018:

TOMMY PHAM 2018 FIRST HALF (CARDINALS)::

.243/.326/.396 (.722 OPS) 13 HR 60 R 35 RBI

10.8% BB 25.5% K .316 wOBA 99 wRC+

26.0% Flyball 46.9% Hard Contact

After a few lingering injuries and built up animosity for the organization who kept him in the minors too long, Pham was traded on July 31 to the Tampa Bay Rays for pennies on the dollar. He returned the favor by going on an absolute tear and becoming one of the most productive hitters in baseball for the last 2 months of the season:

TOMMY PHAM 2018 SECOND HALF (RAYS):

.331/.433/.580 (1.013 OPS) 8 HR 42 R 28 RBI

13.4% BB 23.0% K .428 wOBA 177 wRC+

31.6% Flyball 51.1% Hard Contact

This is clearly one of the those performances that deserves your attention and can’t be ignored. Let’s put this into perspective:

.331 Average (5th in MLB)

.433 OBP (5th in MLB)

.580 Slug (10th in MLB)

.428 wOBA (4th in MLB)

177 wRC + (3rd in MLB)

2.8 WAR (8th in MLB)

51.1% Hard Contact (4th)

Pham is currently being drafted 59th overall as the 17th outfielder off the board. Outfield is deep this year and a position you can wait on. Pham is a great #1 option this year to build your OF around and one you will not have to reach for, while grabbing some elite talent at other positions. With a full season of health in 2019, Tommy Pham should crack the Top 10 at the position and far outperform his draft value.


MATT CHAPMAN, 3B OAK (111.9 ADP)

Matt Chapman is known more for his glove than his bat. Defensive Runs Above Average (DEF) measures a player’s defensive value relative to league average and in 2018, he ranked 4th in the league at 13.1 in regards to DEF. But in fantasy, defense doesn’t move the needle and has no bearing on fantasy implications.

Chapman would start slow in 2018, hitting .250/.342/.434 (.776 OPS) with 10 HR 48 R 29 RBI. This performance was good for a .338 wOBA and 116 wRC+, which is slightly above an average major league slugger.

But in the second half of 2018, Matt Chapman popped off in a big way, quietly slashing .309/.371/.591 (.961 OPS) with 14 HR 52 R 39 RBI. This was good for a .405 wOBA and 162 wRC+, which is completely unexpected from a guy known for his glove. If you compare his first half and second half numbers, you can see his strikeout and walk rates remained the same. But what sticks out to me is that he relied less on pulling the ball in the second half (44.1% to 36.5% Pull) and became a more balanced hitter by spraying the ball with power to all fields.   

MATT CHAPMAN 2018 FIRST HALF:

.250/.342/.434 (.776 OPS)

10.6% BB 23.6% K 338 wOBA 116 wRC+

44.1% Pull 33.2% Center 22.8% Oppo

44.1% Hard Contact

MATT CHAPMAN 2018 SECOND HALF:

.309/.371/.591 (.961 OPS)

8.0% BB 23.8% K .405 wOBA 162 wRC+

36.5% Pull 37.0% Center 26.6% Oppo

42.2% Hard Contact

This performance was good for a 3.9 WAR, which was the 2nd highest WAR after the All Star Break, only behind Christian Yelich. He also produced the 4th highest offensive ranking (OFF) at 22.6 in the second half. He was hitting the crap out of the ball with a 42.2% hard contact rate, which is within the Top 35 in baseball. But what are results without perspective, so let’s see how he fared against the rest of the league:

.591 Slug (8th in MLB)

.405 wOBA (9th in MLB)

162 wRC+ (7th in MLB)

.282 ISO (10th in MLB)

52 Runs Scored (4th)

24.2% O-Swing (20th in MLB)

3.9 WAR (2nd in MLB)

22.6 OFF (4th in MLB)

Matt Chapman clearly took a somewhat unexpected step forward last season and solidified himself as a third baseman with an elite glove and an explosive bat. He is currently going at 112th overall as the 15th 3B off the board. He clearly has the potential to crack the Top 10 at the position by year’s end and is an absolute steal on draft day.

JUSTIN TURNER, 3B LAD (107.8 ADP)

Justin Turner is elite and we need to stop pretending he’s not. Everyone is well aware of the injury baggage he carries, but a full season of health for Justin Turner is a scary thought. Turner was sidelined for 59 games in 2018 and would miss the first month and a half of the season due to a fractured hand from a wild pitch in spring training. He would start slow, only hitting .258/.354/.393 (.747 OPS) with 5 HR 21 R 19 RBI. This was only good for a .329 wOBA and 110 wRC+, which is slightly above league average.

But in the 2nd half of the 2018 season, Turner went on an epic tear that made his fantasy owners rejoice and would help solidify him as one of the best third basemen in baseball. He slashed .356/.447/.619 (1.066 OPS) with 9 HR 41 R 33 RBI in 237 plate appearances. This was also capped off by a historic August, where he hit .402/.491/.722 (1.213 OPS) in 114 plate appearances. His .402 average was the best in baseball by almost 50 points and his OPS was 72 points better than anyone in the league in August, finishing ahead of David Peralta (see below). But let’s put his second half into perspective:

.356 Average (2nd in MLB)

.447 OBP (2nd in MLB)

.619 Slug (3rd in MLB)

1.066 OPS (2nd in MLB)

.449 wOBA (2nd in MLB)

190 wRC + (2nd in MLB)

3.4 WAR (4th in MLB)

50.3% Hard contact (6th in MLB)

Here’s another eye popping stat. Justin Turner had a 50.3% hard contact rate in the second half last season.  In his entire career, he has never had a hard contact rate over 40.2% in any half of any season. Justin Turner is currently going 107th overall as the 14th third baseman off the board and is being criminally undervalued for his injury concerns. With a full season of health out of Justin Turner and at least 600+ plate appearances, he has the potential to crack the Top 25 next season and we could see him as a late 2nd or early 3rd round draft pick. Take him now.

BRANDON NIMMO, OF NYM (173.1 ADP)

Brandon Nimmo burst on to the fantasy scene in 2018 and now we can’t look away.  He started out with the Mets as a part time player and didn’t get everyday at bats until the beginning of May.  He would make the most of his opportunities and rake into the summer:

APRIL, MAY, JUNE (247 PA)

.264/.381/.538 (.919 OPS) 12 HR 38 R 25 RBI

11.3% BB 28.7% K .392 wOBA 154 wRC+

39.3% GB 42.2% FB 42.3% Hard Contact

He remained consistent throughout his entire 2018 campaign and a pleasant surprise to both the New York Mets and fantasy owners alike.  He was dominant down the stretch and showed flashes of a hitter with an elite plate approach:

AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER 2018 (180 PA):

.288/.450/.504 (.954 OPS) 4 HR 25 R 16 RBI

20.0% BB 18.9% K .414 wOBA 168 wRC+

52.4% GB 23.8% FB 35.2% Hard Contact

While his decrease in Flyball rate and hard contact are concerning, he was clearly able to take a step forward in his development with a more disciplined plate approach.  Brandon Nimmo is currently going at a 171 ADP and I am all in.

DAVID PERALTA, OF ARI (134.6 ADP)

David Peralta flew under the radar in 2018 hitting 30 Homeruns and winning his first Silver Slugger Award.  While his .293/.352/.516 (.868) slashline seems decent, his 17% increase in hard contact rate to 48.6% from 31.8% in 2017 has got me salivating. What’s more impressive are 2 of his best months:

JUNE 2018 (115 PA):

.327/.391/.683 (1.074 OPS) 8 HR 15 R 22 RBI

8.7% BB 18.3% K .443 wOBA 180 wRC+

50.6% Pull 26.5% Center 22.9% Oppo

48.2% Hard Contact

AUGUST 2018 (105 PA):

.361/.410/.732 (1.141 OPS) 10 HR 18 R 21 RBI

7.6% BB 21.0% K .476 wOBA 202 wRC+

37.3% Pull 34.7% Center 28.0% Oppo

62.7% Hard Contact (WTF!)

If this isn’t enough to change your mind on David Peralta, he slashed .310/.364/.551 (.915 OPS) in the second half of 2018, which was good for .388 wOBA and 143 wRC+. So again, when comparing any emerging slugger, let’s put this in context:

.310 Average (17th in MLB)

.551 Slug (14th in MLB)

.388 wOBA (16th in MLB)

143 wRC + (20th in MLB)

54.6% Hard Contact (1st in MLB)

I know these stats aren’t like the others above, but these are elite numbers for a player who has been on your waiver wire or drafted as a deep flyer for the past few seasons.  Again, look how the decrease in pull percentage led to a more balanced profile to all fields. His 27.6% flyball percentage in the second half paired with his 6.7° launch angle compared to a league average 10.9° is concerning, but there is untapped potential here. And being drafted at 134th overall as the 37th OF off the board, I am grabbing him everywhere I can and you should too.