Buying Opportunities – Will Myers and Zack Wheeler

Buying Opportunities – Will Myers and Zack Wheeler

My first post on the SportsDegens was a sort of deep dive into a couple players, one Jesse Winker who was on the verge of a breakout before injuring his shoulder and is now out for the year. The other, Nick Pivetta, who remains to be an enigma. His strikeout rate since June 18th is an incredible 32.9% but carries an ERA over 6.00 in that time. I enjoyed the setup of that article and I’ll be covering one hitter and one pitcher that should provide great value in these last two months. You will have to make a trade for the hitter I discuss by in shallow league, you may be able pickup this pitcher on waivers.

Wil Myers (SD) – 1B/OF
Per xStats has the lowest DB% (dribblers) + PU% (popups) at 28% of his batted balls for batters with over 150 plate appearances. For context, dribblers have a batting average of .123 in 2018 with a slugging of .133. So they are basically outs and if you’re lucky enough to get a on a dribbler, it’s almost always a single. That’s not good, but popups are even worse! With a batting average of .025 and a slugging of .035. So, yes you want to avoid those types of batted balls. The other hitters with such a low percentage this year include Aaron Judge (29.1%), Matt Carpenter (29.3%), Nick Castellanos (31%), J.D. Martinez (30.6%), and Christian Yelich (30.9%). You can see, this is a class of elite ball strikers.

Myers has missed much of the season with nerve irritation in April and a wrist injury in May. Missing time due to injury is nothing new for Myers and fantasy owners likely spent a top 60 pick in 2018 to acquire him. As frustrating as it’s been for Myers, since returning on June 21st, Myers is hitting .282 with eight home runs and four steals. That’s solid but not spectacular. However, this is where things get interesting and the buying opportunity comes in.

Since that June 21st return, his hard contact is over 51% with a 29% line drive rate. His 30.8% HR/FB rate isn’t out of place when you consider the hard contact and the 54% pull rate. Myers is doing a good job of pulling nearly 33% of his fly balls compared to a 23% rate over the course of his career. While Myers’ current 26.5% HR/FB on the season would be by far a career best for him, he’s never had a pull rate over 50% while hitting the ball with the authority at the clip he is now. I feel confident, the home run rate continues to remain over 20%.

What’s more impressive is the fact that his hard contact is over 50% to all fields! That’s fantastic and shows that Myers does not a weak spot pitchers can exploit. Combine that with his high line drive rate and Myers’ elevated BABIP is likely to stick. I realize the risk in buying an injury prone player like Myers, but he’s a rare power/speed talent that is hitting the ball with more authority than he ever has before.

The one aspect I wish he’d improve on is his contact rate. He currently sits under 74% contact and an 82% zone contact rate which both are below average. Myers has cut his swings outside the zone since the June return but it hasn’t improved his contact skills. The contact is really the only thing, other than heath, that’s holding Myers back from being an elite offensive fantasy stud. The fact that he’s offering less outside the zone is showing me that there’s improvement even if he isn’t making more contact. I think that will come. Owners are likely fed up with the injuries and concerns of another DL stint could mean a bit of a discount on Myers.

Zack Wheeler (NYM) – SP
It feels like recommending a Mets pitcher is like setting myself up for failure. I suppose I could point to Jacob deGrom as the one successful pitcher who hasn’t been bit by the injury bug or dealt with under-performance. In other words, GET OUT NOW JACOB! Anyways, believe it or not, Wheeler is already 28 years old. It felt like he was an up and coming prospect a couple years ago. Prior to 2017, Wheeler hadn’t throw a pitch in the Major Leagues since 2014. It’s not a surprise that he struggled with velocity, command, and endurance after the lengthy recovery period from Tommy John surgery. Let’s take a peek at the velocity of Wheeler’s pitches since his return along with his ERA since 2017.

Throughout 2017 and early this year, his fastball sat around 95 mph with the slider sitting at about 88 mph. Since the middle of this year, his fastball has averaged almost 97 mph while the slider is averaging over 91 mph. You can see the importance of velocity for Wheeler. Wheeler’s fastball is of course, his primary pitch which he utilizes 58% of the time with his slider as a secondary at just about 25% usage. He does throw his curve and change at just about 10% each. To get a better idea of how the velocity has helped, here are Wheeler’s numbers in his last eight starts; 2.96 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 25.5% K rate, 12.1% Swinging strike rate, and a 35.5% chase rate. He’s also gone seven of more innings in four of those seven starts.

Wheeler doesn’t have a put away pitch within his secondaries like many pitchers. That’s why velocity is his key to success. As a result of his increased velocity, his SwStr% and O-Swing% on the pitch have gone up significantly from 2017. He induces a ton of weak contact, at 26% which ranks second in baseball to only Chris Sale. I love his ability to get weak contact, especially for a guy who doesn’t have a high ground ball rate.

Speaking of ground balls, Wheeler’s slider is interesting because it has a 60% ground ball rate but doesn’t get a ton of swings and misses relative to other sliders in the game. The batted ball profile of the slider acts more like a sinker but avoids getting punished like sinkers do when they miss their location. It’s such a hard slider at over 91 mph, its likely being picked up as a fastball and being beaten into the ground. It’s really his only pitch that can induce ground balls consistently. Wheeler’s curve has also been valued as a plus pitch due to it’s extremely low 63.4% contact rate.

After analyzing the data on Wheeler, it’s clear to me that he’s turned the corner from Tommy John. His velocity is back and his control is just fine at a near league average 8.3%. The fact that Wheeler can utilize three pitches that he can throw for strikes and induce weak contact will keep hitters off balance and guessing. I was very much into buying Wheeler prior to Sunday’s start against the Pirates where he had six innings of shutout ball and seven strikeouts. Owners better act quickly and grab him in shallow leagues or make an offer in deeper leagues. Per, his combined ownership is up to 30%, I expect that to shoot up this week. His velocity and pitch mix from Sunday’s against the Pirates was near perfection and he continues to improve as a pitcher. Get on the wagon now before it’s too late.

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