FANTASY PLAYS: Hard hit balls, fly balls show clues to HRs

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              Oakland Athletics' Khris Davis swings on a pitch from Texas Rangers' Bartolo Colon in the fifth inning of a baseball game, Monday, Aug. 20, 2018, in Oakland, Calif. Davis' jersey is signed by Anthony Slocumb, a child from the Make A Wish Foundation, seen on Davis' left shoulder. Davis hit his 37th home run of the season wearing the signed jersey. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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It’s no surprise that power for hitters is the result of hard-hit aerial contact. And as a player’s hard-hit percentage rises, we see rises in their isolated power (ISO) and home run to fly ball (HR/FB) rate as well. We similarly see rises in ISO and HR/FB rate as a player’s fly ball percentage rises.

The math is ugly, but a quick and dirty way to identify power hitters is to simply add together their hard-hit and fly ball rates. The top 5 qualified hitters this season for that sum are Matt Carpenter of St. Louis (fourth in home runs), Joey Gallo of Texas (sixth), Khris Davis (third) and Matt Olson (28th) of Oakland, and Mookie Betts of Boston (16th).

Understanding the link between contact quality and power output allows us to spot potential breakouts, as short-term HR/FB rate variance might mask improvements in batted ball data. For example, Matt Kemp has a 47.6 percent hard-hit rate and, coincidentally, a 47.6 percent fly ball rate over the last 30 days. However, an unlucky 5.6 HR/FB rate has netted him just one home run in the month of August. Kemp is the type of player you want to buy low on given the vast power potential moving forward if his recent hard-hit and fly ball rates hold while his HR/FB rate inevitably normalizes.

Looking at the leaders in hard-hit plus fly ball rate over the last 30 days, we see some familiar names in Davis, Indians infielder Jose Ramirez and Gallo — all likely to continue their stellar power seasons. We also see players like Teoscar Hernandez, Jean Segura, Jose Peraza, Yulieski Gurriel and Alex Bregman who have made large improvements in hard-hit aerial contact as the season has progressed and could provide more power than expected over the rest of the season.

GOLF

The Northern Trust kicks off the FedEx Cup Playoffs as the PGA Tour heads to Paramus, New Jersey, where Ridgewood Country Club hosts an event for the first time since the 2014 Barclays. Hunter Mahan won that year with a final score of 14 under while the cut settled at 2 over. While it is often dangerous for fantasy golfers to lean on small samples, it is worth noting that strong putting and scrambling was required from the top of the 2014 Barclays’ leaderboard and many of the strongest players tee-to-green still finished outside of the top 10. With the course expected to play similar to the 7,319 yard, par 71 version from 2014 it will be interesting to see if those course fit trends remain or if it reverts back to a more traditional course.

DailyRoto has Dustin Johnson as the most likely golfer to win the event, but at a price of $11,600 he is not the top fantasy value this week.

That honor belongs to Justin Rose, who offers 51 percent odds to finish inside of the top 20 at $10,000. Rose has now strung together high-end finishes in every event dating back to The Masters, including top 20 finishes at each major during the 2018 season. Rose offers a balanced golf game that should suit Ridgewood and has gained strokes on the season off of the tee, on approach, around the green and with the putter. Rose has the upside to win and at a $10,000 price he allows you to build with other high-end golfers, making him a strong play for all fantasy golf formats.

To win large field tournaments on Fanduel and DraftKings, sometimes you have to go off the board with a pick that can separate you from the field, balancing high upside with low ownership. Alex Noren fits the bill this week and projects to be less than 10 percent owned in daily fantasy tournaments, but offers 75 percent odds to make the cut and the 15th highest fantasy projection in the field. With Ridgewood not being a course where top end distance is key, the Swedish ball striker offers a decent course fit that will carry low ownership off of a missed cut at The PGA Championship. Most casual fans overlooking Noren won’t realize that the European tour staple has seven victories worldwide since the 2015 season. While a victory is still unlikely in this small field, capturing upside at low ownership is a profitable long-term strategy.