PLV Weekly: Mining for Gold with PLV

Using PLV to find and validate under-rostered players.

We’re back with another week of the PLV report. This series will use the PLV metrics to contextualize player performance. Now that we’re decently into the season, we’ll be using our PLV model (Nick’s primer on PLV from last year can be found here) to mine for some under-rostered gold. We’ll be looking for players with promising characteristics who are less than 25% owned on Yahoo! (as of Monday, May, 20th) Note that PLV Hitter metrics are normalized to 100 (with 15 points being a standard deviation above or below that). The metrics are:

Swing Aggression: How much more often a hitter swings at pitches, given the swing likelihoods of the pitches they face.
Strikezone Judgment (SZ Judge): The “correctness” of a hitter’s swings and takes, using the likelihood of a pitch being a called strike (for swings) or a ball/HBP (for takes).
Decision Value (DV): Modeled value of a hitter’s decision to swing or take, minus the modeled value of the alternative. These are also broken into “Zone” (zDV) and “Out-of-Zone” (oDV) components.
Contact Ability (Con): A hitter’s ability to make contact (foul strike or BIP), above/below the contact expectation of each pitch.
Power: Modeled number of extra bases (xISO on contact) above a pitch’s expectation, for each batted ball.
Hitter Performance (HP): Value added by the hitter (including swing/take decisions), after accounting for pitch quality

Regular starters are starting to reach my preferred stability points for all of our PLV hitting metrics: 400 pitches for Decision Value, 200 Swings for Contact Ability, and 75 Batted Balls for Power. Some of these hitters have started off hot, and PLV validates their start, while others may have some upside that hasn’t been realized yet.

Note: PLV metrics listed are current through Monday, May, 20th.

C – Danny Jansen 


He hasn’t quite met my stability thresholds, but it’d be remiss of me not to include Danny Jansen. With five HR and a .441 wOBA, Jansen has been a tremendous value for anyone trying to stream the catcher position or anyone in 2C leagues. PLV is fully in on Jansen, with average-to-above-average metrics across the board. His only issue may be that he’s been a bit too patient, as he’s let too many middle-middle pitches go by.

His Contact Ability and Power are coming back to Earth a bit, but they’re still solidly above average. The Blue Jays lineup appears to be waking up, so hopefully that leads to more counting stats for Jansen in the future.


1B – LaMonte Wade Jr.


Wade is another extremely patient hitter, but it serves him even better than Jansen. I don’t need to tell you that a 20.4 BB% is incredible, and that’s validated by our Decision Value metrics. Wade gives up a little bit in terms of Contact Ability and Power, but this is a very high floor profile.

The fly in the ointment of Wade’s profile is that the Giants have been pretty aggressively platooning him. He only has 18 PA against LHP (though he’s put up a 175 wRC+ in that limited sample!), so that will restrict how he can be used in fantasy. If there’s a week where San Francisco is slated to face a ton of RHP, or if you’re in a daily moves league where you can move him in and out, then Wade is absolutely someone who can help your team and provide a good UT/CI/4-5th OF option, especially in OBP leagues.


2B – Davis Schneider


We don’t have a PLV metric for style (yet), but Schneider would certainly rate at the top of the league with that rec specs & mustache combo. For the metrics that we actually do have, Schneider still rates well. He’s a patient power hitter and he’s significantly improved his Contact Ability this season (from an abysmal 60 Contact+ to a pretty bad, but much more palatable, 83 this season). He still struggles to hit pitches up in the zone, but improved contact has allowed his Power to play much more often in-game, which has been desperately needed by the Blue Jays.


3B – Josh Rojas


He’s been in a bit of a slump recently, but our PLV metrics still believe in Josh Rojas. The most notable feature of Rojas’ profile is his combination of very good in-zone Decision Value and above average Contact Ability. This means that he is swinging at pitches that are easier/better to hit and he’s adding contact to the already elevated expectations of the pitch. That’s a great pairing for making useful contact, which Rojas has been great at, whiffing only 8.4% of the time.

Something to keep an eye on (using MLB’s new bat tracking data!) is Rojas employing a longer swing to get more bat speed. Adding bat speed generally leads to adding Power (because exit velocity is a function of bat speed), so it’s worth monitoring his profile for any gains there (or losses to his contact from the longer swing).

SS – Zach Neto


Neto is buried at the back of the Angels’ lineup, but he should really be hitting higher up. He’s been running a league-average hitting line (106 wRC+), but I think he can be even more useful in fantasy. He has an aptitude for stealing bases (28.9% Stolen Base Attempt rate and a 72nd percentile sprint speed, though he’s running a terrible 54.5% Stolen Base Success rate), but what’s most interesting to me is his burgeoning power. He’s been progressively improving his Power as the season has gone on and is currently hitting at a 125 Power+.

Hopefully, the Angels can see the strength that Neto is showing and hit him in a spot where he can do the most damage.


OF – Andrew McCutchen


McCutchen has a long and illustrious career, and his plate discipline has been a calling card for him. With a career .369 OBP across nearly 9,000 PA, his decisions are above reproach. I’m here to tell you that he is back at it, with elite decisions, which are helpful to him both in and out of the zone. Those decisions give him a very high floor (sure enough, he has a 103 wRC+ despite underperforming his xwOBA by over 40 points), and his Power gives him upside to pair with it.

McCutchen has been really hammering the ball this season (130 Power+). His contact is pretty suspect this season, but with how valuable his swings are (both when he decides to swing and when he makes contact), he can afford to miss a couple of pitches here and there.


OF – Alec Burleson


Alec Burleson swings early and swings often. He sits comfortably above the 90th percentile in Swing Aggression and is happy to jump on pitches, especially if they’re middle-middle.

That’s a good strategy to have, as pitches over the Heart of the plate are the only pitches that average a positive value on swings. Fold in very good Contact Ability and slightly positive Power and you have a hitter who can easily maintain above-average results, even with a terrible 4.5 BB%.


OF – Tyler Freeman


Freeman’s worst PLV hitting metric is still roughly league average, which gives him many avenues to providing value. His Decision Value gives him a strong base (both out of the zone and especially in the zone), while he folds in more contact than expected while applying essentially average Power. The Power has dipped recently, while his Bat Speed has been rising. I’d bet on the latter winning out over the former so I wouldn’t be too worried.

The Guardians are obviously aware of Freeman’s many talents, as they’ve starting hitting him leadoff. Freeman’s combination of good underlying metrics, a great lineup spot, some stolen base value, and eligibility at 2B/3B/SS/OF makes him the Swiss army knife that has a spot on nearly any fantasy roster.


Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire | Featured Image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)

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