Affinity Plus One: Statcast Sleeper Hitters for 2024

Ben Pernick identifies sleeper hitters with elite Statcast comps.

Judge people by the company they keep. Statcast’s affinity page gives a whole detailed explanation of how it’s complicated, but I’ll keep it simple and say it’s comps. It’s all based on an algorithm that analyzes the various batted ball types each player produces and also their strikeout and walk rates. Most players have top comps that are level, in that some are better and some are worse than them. There are a few outliers who have very few comps, such as Ronald Acuña Jr. (top comp of Corey Seager at only .66 correlation) due to simply being the best, and Richie Palacios (top comp of Luis García at only .65) due to … reasons.


Sean Murphy (C, Atlanta Braves): ADP: 140 

Top Comps: Matt Olson (.82), Bryce Harper (.80), Pete Alonso (.80)


I get that he burned many teams rostering him late into the year, but don’t dropkick Murphy. The collapse of Sean Murphy’s value and disastrous September certainly clouds our memory of Murphy, who for the first half of the season was arguably the best catcher in the NL. While the playing time cut midseason drove fantasy players crazy to no end, it was likely with the aim of keeping him fresh for the playoffs, since they had the alternative of D’Arnaud and easily coasted to the playoffs regardless. Still, Murphy is not a part-timer, and in fact, should be a star.

For one, he certainly seemed to suffer from some poor batted ball luck, as his xBA of .270, xSLG of .525, and other excellent batted ball metrics suggest. I’m sure he likes that his top comp is fellow former Oakland A Olson, who also didn’t dominate in his first year in Atlanta. All top three comps have easy 40-homer power, and given the fact that he is younger and better defensively than D’Arnaud who will open the season at age 35, I’d expect Murphy to earn a lot more plate appearances in 2024. I can certainly see him surpassing 30 homers with a strong average and tons of runs produced. Of course, Murphy is very slow, so that may weigh down the average projection and extra-base hits somewhat. Still, I think he’s one of the best value picks at catcher and worth reaching for after the top 125 picks.


Jorge Soler (OF, San Francisco Giants)  ADP: 150

Top Comps: Matt Olson (.86), Spencer Torkelson (.82), Austin Riley (.81)


When you see these comps and look at the ADPs, it almost makes you wonder why Soler doesn’t go nearly as high as his peers in drafts. Yes, I know a lot of it comes down to his injury history, but given he just had a season that was both mostly healthy and productive, that seems more than baked into the price. I mean, Anthony Santander (ADP 135) was significantly worse in every aspect and still going ahead of him!

Olson may seem like an aggressive comp, but don’t forget it wasn’t so long ago that Soler had his own monster season with 48 homers, and his peripherals haven’t changed all that much from that season. He still hits the ball very hard with a high barrel rate and has even cut down his contact rate. The comps of Torkelson and Alonso do suggest that he probably won’t help in batting average, and he’s no longer a stolen base threat with his 33rd-percentile sprint speed, but the power is still viable enough to get him to the 40-homer plateau if his body holds up.


Ryan Mountcastle 1B, Baltimore Orioles, ADP #234

Top Comps: Julio Rodríguez (.87), Fernando Tatis Jr. (.86), Gunnar Henderson (.83)


It’s rare that you see a castle that doesn’t like high walls. I was bearish on Mountcastle earlier in his career due to his poor plate discipline, but he’s improved his all-around offensive profile with a lower strikeout rate and a consistently high barrel rate. Granted, part of the problem is many of his barrels are hit to deep center field.

These comps likely seem quite exciting, but you also need to remember that speed and stolen bases are not factored into the hitter equation, and a Julio Rodríguez with no stolen bases and a lower BABIP (due to lower overall speed) isn’t exactly as interesting, especially when you also can’t factor in age-related growth (the comps are only related to their performance in 2023, not in any way projecting future performance).

Still, I think those considering Mountcastle a “boring” first base option are perhaps overlooking the fact that he has excellent hard contact metrics nearly across the board, and more often than not that will result in production even with the tough home park. It’s worth noting the Pitcher List xAVG which accounts for directionality only gave him a .259 xAVG last year (compared to his .272 xBA), but his 30% ideal-plate-appearance rate is strong and the 31% hard-contact rate, while not amazing, is decent. He did post a career-best 75% contact rate and still has elite raw power with a 115 mph MaxEV, so the question is if he can tap into it more often. I’ll admit that out of the players on this list, he’s the one I’m least jazzed about and have the fewest shares of (0) in my drafts, but mostly because I hoped he’d fall a bit further.


Nelson Velázquez (OF, Kansas City Royals) ADP:  271

Top Comps: Shohei Ohtani (.65), Yordan Alvarez (.59), Adolis García (.58)


On the one hand, it’s wild that Velázquez’s top two comps are arguably two of the best hitters in the game (well aside from the consensus 1-1 pick, obviously). On the other hand, it’s wild that nobody really compares to him much at all. A correlation of .65 is below the generally accepted .67 mark for a strong correlation, and after Ohtani, it’s a big jump even further down. Well, I guess not that many other hitters smacked 17 homers in just 179 PA.

I don’t often include players with small samples since a great small sample could be not much more than a hot streak. But I think here it’s worth the shout-out, given his ADP of 271, which is the last-round pick for many shallow drafts. Every single one of these comps is a top 150 hitter, with 31 homers the smallest homer total (only due to Yordan’s lack of playing time). The main reason for these comps is likely from Velázquez’s superlative 21% barrel rate, which is pretty insane and also probably due for regression given his 111 mph MaxEV is strong but not elite. Still, he kept his strikeout rate under 30%, and Ozuna is a good example of how you can hit for a high average even with a higher strikeout rate just by hitting the ball super hard.

The crazy thing is that the Royals announced their projected outfield for 2024, and guess what, Velázquez isn’t listed as one of the starters. Right when I was ready to forgive them for the Alcides Escobar signing. This will likely cause his ADP to careen towards 300 as fear sets in, but I just see this as a buying opportunity, as I don’t see the team entering May running out Kyle Isbel over him. They tried to part-time him last summer too, but a homer every game changes plans really fast. With the chance for some stolen bases on the side, it’s at least worth rolling the dice on and hoping he’s the reincarnation of Nelson Cruz.


Tommy Pham, OF, FA, ADP #304

Top Comps: Fernando Tatis Jr. (.82), Christian Yelich (.82), William Contreras (.81)


I call him Tommy P because last year he went HAM. His draft day cost of #304 I consider to be a massive bargain even with the uncertainty of team and playing time, since I think he’s one of Statcast’s biggest underperformers of 2023, and Statcast affinity apparently thinks so too. But unlike many other Statcast darlings, this one is still standing in the corner at the dance, and not just because he gets too competitive about fantasy football.

For one, he still hits the ball super hard, with a 92 mph average eV and 48% hard-hit rate, backed by an above-average 11% barrel rate. Unlike many other sluggers with this profile, he does it with a league-average strikeout rate of 22% and an above-average walk rate of 10%. I think the comps with Tatis and Yelich are actually somewhat fitting in that Pham also provides a lot of value with his stolen bases, of course, he’s falling over 200 picks later.

Yes, there is the fact that he’s “old” at 35 and just going on 2023 numbers ignores that he could fall apart at age 36. But you’re only as old as you feel, and the fact he actually set a career-high MaxEV of 114 mph and also a career-best xBA of .284 suggests that he still has plenty left in the tank, and hitters of his type age well as long as they can stay on the field. There’s also the risk of team context, or lack thereof, given the fact that Spring Training is underway and he remains unsigned. That I admit is more worrying, but I doubt he’d be assigned to a backup or platoon role given his offensive and defensive skills, and even if he were, could rise to the top of the depth chart in no time.

I believe that the risk is more than baked into the price given the considerable five-tool production, nd I’d still be buying even his his ADP went all the way up to #250. Look at Christian Yelich’s Statcast page and look at his, and you’ll understand. So please give him a chance, just don’t take a stab at him.


René Pinto (C, Tampa Bay Rays)  ADP: 369

Top Comps: Luis Robert Jr. (.75), Teoscar Hernández (.70), J.D. Martinez (.68)


Much like my mom’s old Ford car, this Pinto has a chance to explode. While these comps aren’t very high correlation, a match with one of the top power sluggers in the game as a no-name catcher (at least in mainstream fantasy circles), will likely turn some heads, raise some eyebrows, and maybe scratch a rear end. How can this be?

Well, in his small sample last year, he did hit the ball hard. It’s likely his excellent barrel rate of 16%, which could rate above just about every other MLB catcher, is likely to regress, as it was just 4% in his 2022 debut. Still, his 111 mph MaxEv does make it clear he hits the ball hard … just as much as his 32% strikeout rate makes it clear that it’s not so often he actually hits the ball. Robert brings a lot of his value with his excellent speed, something which Pinto doesn’t have as a catcher, but Martinez had excellent batted ball metrics and is also slow and defensively limited so there’s an interesting comp. Martinez abandoned his typical disciplined approach and sold out for power, which does seem to be Pinto’s skillset too.

No, I don’t think that Pinto will hit for a viable batting average, nor will he slug 30 or even 25 homers like the players above, but again, this is pick 369 … and catcher. He’s considered a plus defender, and given how many times the Rays ran a terrible Zunino out there, I would not be at all surprised to see Pinto approach 400 PAs while helping savvy deep leaguers out with surprising pop. While he’s not likely to be considered in single catcher leagues, don’t overlook him as a rare post-300 catcher with both opportunity and upside, and beans.


Seth Brown (OF, Oakland Athletics), ADP: 474

Top Comps: J.T. Realmuto (.83), Max Kepler (.80), Shea Langeliers (.79)


Sure he fell on his face last year, but it’s time to turn that Brown upside-down! While I’ll admit these top comps aren’t exactly eye-popping, as Langeliers is all-power no-average, and Realmuto’s value is mostly derived from catcher eligibility and stolen bases, it’s actually the comps AFTER these guys that get my attention. After those top three, his next closest comps are, in order, Melendez, Jung, Torkelson, Casas, Raleigh, Riley, and Royce Lewis. Those last few are elite hitters, and more importantly, all of them are first-division starters.

I believe Brown may be one of the more underrated sleepers of this year. He’s not a youngster but he’s also not a washed-up vet at age 31, he still posted a mighty 12% barrel rate, and he actually set a career-high hard-hit rate at 46% this year. The fact that he hit only 14 homers this year after last year’s 25 is due partially to missed time due to injury and also bad luck … his xSLG of .454 is not only much better than his .405 actual mark, it’s also better than his slugging percentage last year. He also didn’t strike out more, and someone who barrels frequently with a sub-30% strikeout rate should be an easy pick for a 25+ homer season with health … maybe even in Oakland’s cavernous climes. Especially given that he stole some bases in 2022 before stealing was cool again, he’s the kind of “boring” pick that can win you a championship in a deeper league.


Dominic Canzone (OF, Seattle Mariners)  ADP: 668

Top Comps: Bobby Witt Jr. (.88), Yainer Diaz (.82), Francisco Lindor (.78)


Now that’s one spicy meatball calzoni! Yes, I know Canzone is on the outside looking in in terms of playing time, arguably even more so after Jerry DiPoto’s roster-fu. But if you’re in a 50-round Draft-and-Hold or deep dynasty, these comps definitely may be enough for you to spin the wheel that he gets a foothold and can work his way into the lineup from there. In case you think maybe these comps seemed lucky, the next one was Rafael Devers. Crazy, right?

While it may seem odd for him to match with three top-30 picks, a quick look at his profile does highlight some underrated assets. He displayed a surprising amount of raw power with a 111 mph MaxEV and 12% barrel rate, and he did impressively manage a low strikeout rate of just 18% (granted, it’s not supported by his peripherals and affinity doesn’t see that). Still, this was also his first cup of coffee and while old for a prospect, he hit for great contact in the minors. Following the Raley acquisition, his playing time will be sparse at least initially, but can he still be a great value in AL-only and Draft and Hold? I still think he can. So get in the zone, CanZone.

Ben Pernick

I've been writing for Pitcher List since the beginning, and have been a fantasy baseball addict now for 20 years. I grew up as a Red Sox fan in New York, but now I declare allegiance only to my fantasy teams.

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