The "30 Over" Series Part One

About The 30 Over Series

The SP Streamer “30 Over” series will be about 30 players who I think will outperform their ADP and current market value. This idea actually stems from high-stakes player Phil Dussault. In a Twitter thread discussing accountability for analysts, he suggested that a good analyst should be able to come up with 30 to 50 players that they like more than the market. They also should be right on about 60% of them. This was an interesting idea so I decided to test myself this year to see how I do.

This series will be multiple parts because I would like to dive into each player and provide as much evidence I can to support my thought process. There will be both pitching and hitting and I will likely list closers last due to a lot of pending free agents. Here we go!

1) Yusei Kikuchi, SEA: ADP 356

Yusei Kikuchi had yet another disappointing season in 2020 and this is certainly a risky pick. In nine starts he produced a 5.17 ERA, 3.30 FIP, and 4.34 SIERA. What stands out instantly is the ERA and FIP being almost two full runs apart. Whenever you see this it causes intrigue and is the main force behind diving into Kikuchi as a pitcher. Let’s compare his 2019 to 2020.

A lot of good stuff going on here, essentially he improved in every facet of his game. For now, let’s ignore that walk rate and get back to it later.

Kikuchi made two major changes in 2020 and the first one was his velocity. Dating back to the end of 2019 Kikuchi started raising his fastball velocity from 91/92 MPH to 93/94 MPH. Then he came out balling in 2020 throwing his fastball at 95 MPH. Here were the results:

Much better results! This mainly stems from his velocity increasing his four-seam’s vertical movement. It increased from 8.64 inches to 9.71 inches leading hitters to swing at it more in the zone while making a lot less contact.

Besides higher velocity leading to a better fastball, Kikuchi also experienced a pitch mix change. Here comes another chart, consider Kikuchi “Mr. Chartable.”

Two takeaways here. He dropped the fastball usage which we like because it clearly helped his sequencing but he also added a cutter. The cutter was pretty good last year as it posted a 3.2 Barrel%, 63.8 GB%, and 10.5 SwStr%. He loves to put it low and in on right-handed hitters where it tends to break down towards their knees. With an already great slider in his arsenal, Kikuchi improved his fastball and added a viable cutter.

You know that moment in high school where you are talking to the person you “like” and everything is going so well and you feel awesome? But then you both say goodbye to each other and end up walking the same way down the hallway, so then you speed walk to make it not so awkward. Well this is like that, this is where it gets awkward.

Yusei Kikuchi might have literally the worst command in the league. That high walk rate we mentioned earlier of 10.3% is pretty bad. But what is really bad is his Command+. For Command+ average is around 100 and Kikuchi’s number is 77. Among qualified pitchers he ranks 522nd. Let that sit in for a minute. Now check out his fastball heat maps.

This is obviously a major crutch, one that we will have to see if he can overcome. The stuff is clearly there and with a 3.81 dERA, 3.50 CRA, and 3.30 FIP it seems like he should have had better results last year and should have better results next year. I’m willing to dance with the devil and bank on him improving.

2) Ke’Bryan Hayes, PIT: ADP 135

Welcome to my first ever hitter breakdown! Of course, I decide to pick a player with a small sample size. Hayes jumped onto the scene in 2020 hitting .376 with five home runs, a .442 OBP, and a .682 SLG. In other words, he flat out dominated in his short playing stint.

In the minors between 2018 and 2019 Hayes notably made a jump in terms of power. He went from hitting two home runs in 2017 to hitting seven in 18’ and then ten in 19’. Always being a speed guy adding power to his profile made Hayes really intriguing and left us with some curiosity as to whether it would stick. Well in 2020 he ended up hitting five home runs in 95 plate appearances. While I don’t like to extrapolate, that would mean in 500 PA’s he would have hit around 25 home runs. The issue is his barrel rate of 9.2% and max exit velocity of 110.3 scream mediocracy. Can he be a 20/20 guy? Possibly, but I wouldn’t expect more.

What you should like most about Hayes is that he can flat out hit. In September he held a 195 wRC+ which was ranked fourth in the league. In AAA he had a 92 wRC+, so besides a 195 wRC+ being unsustainable, this means that will clearly regress. He did have a 129 wRC+ in AA though so it might be somewhere in between which means he will be making quality contact.

No matter what pitchers threw at Hayes he seemed to be able to handle it all. Against breaking and offspeed pitches, he had a .379 wOBA which was the 23rd highest in the league. Against fastballs, he had a .502 wOBA which ranked 6th in the league. So what about different areas of the plate? I’m glad you asked. On pitches at the edge of the plate, he hit well above average proving he can cover the plate. But what he did so well was punish pitches that were left in the middle of the zone where he had a .697 wOBA (3rd highest) and .529 ISO. This all has to do with Haye’s good plate discipline. In 2020 he had a 28.9 O-Swing% (30.6% league average) and 7.1 SwStr% (11.3% league average).

Hayes will likely always be a high OBP hitter with the potential of being a 20/20 type player. Something that is extremely valuable for fantasy baseball. His steamer projections paint a similar picture tagging him for 567 plate appearances, 18 home runs, 71 runs, 70 RBI, and nine stolen bases.

3) Aaron Civale, CLE: ADP 182

Mr. Civale was like a six flags rollercoaster last season with a lot of ups and downs. He had five starts where he let up four runs or more but he also had five starts where he let up two runs or less. Overall he finished the season with a 4.74 ERA, 4.03 FIP, and 4.11 SIERA.

There is a lot to unfold when it comes to Civale so let’s try to do this in the simplest way possible.

Right off the bat, Civale started the season with a pitch mix change. In 2019 he primarily went to his sinker but in 2020 it was his new cutter.

As you can see he also upped his curveball. With the cutter acting like a breaking ball Civale did what all Indians pitchers do. Cut down the fastball and shift towards the breaking stuff. This was indeed smart and in fact, it increased his strikeout rate and SwStr%. By the time September hit the slider usage diminished to just seven percent. So let’s hone in on his three main pitches in the sinker, cutter, and curveball.

In 2019 Civale had a 2.34 ERA in 57.2 innings and was very successful compared to his 2020 season. The decline stems from his sinker. A pitch that took a major step back.

In terms of movement the numbers are still the same compared to the year prior. What does seem to be the cause of his sinker taking a step back was his command. In 2019 he left it in the heart of the zone 28.8% of the time resulting in a .208 wOBA and .049 ISO against. Meanwhile in 2020 that rose to 30.5% with a .316 wOBA and .143 ISO against. While the percentage seems small the results really show how significant it is. The good news is overall Civale had a Command+ of 106 as well as an elite walk rate leading me to believe this is fixable. If he can just raise it up more in the zone we could see a much improved Civale.

The key to his success is that sinker and if he can rebound like I think he can, especially since he has shown us that he typically has great command, he can certainly outproduce his ADP and projections.

One last thing worth noting is Civale’s tendency to have a long leash and go deep into games. Last season he had the 6th most innings pitched, 12th most innings pitched per game, and 7th most pitches per game. That means even if he only pitches his way to a high three/low four ERA the counting stats will still rack up and make him more valuable for fantasy baseball.