Undervalued OBP Sources: Texas Two Step (Bregman, Kiner-Falefa)

On Base Percentage. A metaphor for life. How often do we thrive, how often do we falter? Either way, there is Isiah Kiner-Falefa.

(Photo by Juan DeLeon |Icon Sportswire)

There are currently fourteen Major League baseball players with an On Base Percentage north of .400.

Of those fourteen, one is Joey Votto (.401) and three are Nick Markakis (.419), Brandon Belt (.413), and Daniel Robertson (.413). Hair champion Odubel Herrera sits proudly at .401, and former glove-only shortstop Andrelton Simmons sits just south at .399. It’s a mad, mad world.

Quickly ascending the ranks is discipline demigod Alex Bregman, who has struck out seven fewer times than he has walked (33:26) and in his second full season is demonstrating prodigious plate discipline skills. His .259 ISO in May is a massive jump from his slow-brewing .102 ISO in March/April. Similarly, his OPS has jumped from .741 in March/April to .962 this month, and while his BB% has dropped exactly 2% (15.5% to 13.5%) his K% has also dropped exactly 2% (12.4% to 10.4%). In redraft leagues, the opportunity to buy Bregman low has come and gone, but as a hyper-talented player in a hyper-talented lineup, he is still a fantastic ‘buy’ target. In dynasty, while many think of him as the infield version of Benintendi, I liken him more to a smaller, less powerful Kris Bryant. His elite plate discipline and keen understanding of the game make him a near can’t-fail player. The biggest question mark is the extent of his power upside, but even if he is capped around 18-22 home runs per season, his well-rounded game makes him a golden asset.

Out in Philadelphia, Rhys Hoskins BB% has dipped from 20.7% in April/March to 11.6% in May, while his K% has ballooned to a Moncada-esque 32.6% this month. It’s been a brutal stretch for Hoskins and his fantasy owners, and it’s worth questioning if Hoskins’ true talent is more in line with his torrid Minors+Majors run in 2017, or his middling May. While I still stand proudly atop the Hoskins wagon, it’s not inconceivable that the scouts who doubted his pedigree have proved prophetic. It’s worth noting that Hoskins BABIP in May is a cold .222, which suggests some positive regression is in the works. But on the whole, Hoskins true ability as a baseball player is very much in question. I’m still betting that the skills are elite and he is going to rebound in a big, big way. Stay tuned.

Up north, “the next Mark Teixeira” continues to flex the on-base skills that he evolved last season. While Justin Smoak’s seven home runs are light years off his 38-homer pace from a season ago, he continues to show strides with plate discipline, reaching base at a .375 clip with a dreamy 30:46 BB:K ratio, and a 15% walk rate, up from his 11.5% mark in 2017. I’m still championing the “Smoak is legitimate” campaign, and once he regains his power stroke, elite fantasy production will follow. For a team desperate for pitching, I like the sneaky-shrewd move of flipping an Anthony Rizzo caliber first-baseman for Smoak + a top-20 pitcher and bolstering your staff while wagering that Smoak can replicate 85% of rest-of-season Rizzo. Then again, Rizzo stock isn’t exactly surging at the moment.

The term “undervalued” is relative. In this context, I think we can agree that Daniel Robertson (22.7% owned) is an undervalued OBP player, given his gaudy .413 mark through 155 plate appearances. Robertson’s walk rate sits at a warm 18.7% and his tri-position eligibility (2B/SS/3B) makes him a unique fantasy player, and a valuable middle infielder in deeper leagues.

Out in Texas, the one they call Isiah Kiner-Falefa is one of my favorite buy-low candidates in baseball. He has shown limited power, an allergy to walking, a gopher-killing 8.88 launch angle (MLB average is 12.49), and a feeble exit velocity (68mph). Oh, and he’s been caught stealing twice in six attempts.

Additionally, his hot/cold zones seem to have been breathed on by a White Walker.

So… does he have a great personality or something?

Can’t say I know the guy.

But – and allow us to pull away from the graphs and the numbers for a second – Isiah flashes a special hit tool, that rare quick-twitch coordination and approach that allows players like Jose Altuve and Padres prospect Luis Urias to thrive.

Examine him here, lashing a double down the left-field line

Hit tool on display 

4-hit night

I don’t expect much power, and Kiner-Falefa isn’t a burner in the traditional sense, but Kiner-Falefa’s BB% has risen 4% in May, while his K% has decreased by a shocking 21.3% (26.9% to 5.6%). And while his monthly BABIP has dropped by more than 85 points, his OBP has jumped from .303 to .360 for the month. He has good bat speed and hits the ball to all fields, and Jeff Bannister is consistently slotting him 3rd in the Rangers lineup, which should provide ample run and RBI opportunities (especially considering his newfound allergy to striking out). Despite the pedestrian power stats, I believe we are seeing a young player adjusting, and what comes next is the ascension. Not every relevant fantasy player has light-tower-power or blazing speed. Some sneak up on you with a genuine knack for hitting. Keep an eye on Isiah Kiner-Falefa.


Hot/Cold zones courtesy of MLB.com

Tim Acree

A former Little League all-star, Tim Acree peaked at age 9. Now in the twilight of his life at 28, Tim enjoys laying low with his two cats while listening to podcasts. Sometimes he holds his laptop up to the mirror to see what players would look like from the opposite side. Tim worries that his obsession with baseball prevents him from doing other meaningful things, but the heart wants what it wants. When Tim is not professing his adoration for Trea Turner he teaches at an elementary school near Yosemite. He also wrote this in the third person and it's making him uncomfortable.

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