Baseball HQ: Batters - Lottery Tickets

by on March 19, 2013 @ 09:46:19 PDT


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Detroit Tigers C Alex Avila
Remember him?

By Dan Becker

Like many Americans, fantasy owners are fond of lottery tickets. Yet instead of hanging around checkout counters frantically scratching away at cards with convoluted premises, owners look for lottery tickets at the end of drafts. Each season, players that were afterthoughts in spring training are acquired either at the end of drafts or through waivers only to deliver extremely valuable production.

The beauty of this paradigm is that unlike the randomness of lottery games, there are some predictive elements in the form of BPIs to assist owners in identifying players with the skills to fuel a breakout/resurgence.

To demonstrate, below is the list of 2012's impact lottery tickets along with the skills that fueled their strong performances:

Name                bb%  ct%   PX  Spd   R$
================    ===  ===  ===  ===  ===
Jose Altuve          6%  87%   72  134  $24
Tyler Colvin         5%  72%  164  118  $19
Chris Davis          7%  67%  163   67  $20
Alejandro De Aza     8%  79%   88  119  $22
Carlos Gomez         5%  76%  128  128  $24
Bryce Harper        10%  77%  129  137  $21
Garrett Jones        6%  78%  152   88  $19
Jason Kipnis        10%  82%   76  102  $23
Adam LaRoche        10%  76%  157   68  $22
Alex Rios            4%  85%  125  118  $34
Carlos Ruiz          7%  87%  135   52  $20  
Mike Trout          11%  75%  151  145  $49

While the sample is intentionally small, it's also instructive. All of these players demonstrated at least one plus skill, but most displayed two or more of the following BPIs:

  • 10+ bb%
  • 80+ ct%
  • 100+ PX
  • 100+ Spd

Based on this information, the players that have demonstrated two or more of these skills prior to 2013 are hitters to target late in drafts. To rule out prospecting (Harper is an obvious outlier in every sense), we'll impose two additional criteria:

  • 100 or more career MLB at bats
  • 60% or better PT projection for 2013

Using the criteria established above, below are the players most likely to go from end-gamer to game-changer in 2013:

Before a shoulder injury wrecked his season, Chris B. Young (OF, OAK) had turned a strong spring training into a white hot start to 2012. Less than a year later, he finds himself on a new team in a new league, but Young will benefit from the same sturdy blend of bb% and PX that yields solid HR totals. His Spd tailed off in 2012, but he's still only one year removed from a 22 SB/118 Spd performance. Young faces lots of competition for ABs in Oakland, but he has the advantage of being the best defensive CF in the group, and the A's have indicated they intend to find ways to keep him in the lineup.

While he was a candidate for regression heading into 2012, the variety of ailments that plagued Alex Avila (C, DET) affected him as much or more so than statistical gravity. Now healthy, Avila isn't even being drafted in many leagues even though he's entering his prime and already has a $19 $R season on his resume. His poor ct% means owners should keep BA expectations realistic, but his terrific bb% and PX offer rare power upside from the C spot. 400 healthy ABs from Avila has the potential to yield a huge profit.

Until he fractured a hamate bone that required surgery in spring training 2011, it looked like Domonic Brown (OF, PHI) was on track to becoming the next big thing in Philly. He's struggled since, but the tools are there as Brown displayed plus bb%, ct% and PX in otherwise underwhelming stints in 2011 and 2012. He's flashed solid Spd in the past as well so it's just a matter of putting it all together. Just 25 years old, Brown has been having a fine spring while his primary competition (Delmon Young) is out until at least mid-April after ankle surgery. So the opportunity is now for him to realize his considerable potential.

Speaking of opportunities, an offseason trade to Houston has given Chris Carter (1B/OF, HOU) his as he's finally in line for some consistent PT. Carter's ct% keeps his BA grounded, but it's hard not to dream on the HR totals his bb%/PX combination could deliver in 400+ ABs. Carter's move from a negative HR environment in Oakland (-12% RH HR) to a positive one (+7% RH HR) in Houston only helps in this regard. Carter is far from a sure thing, but his price combined with his power potential makes him a risk worth taking.

Who else is on the list?

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