Votto went 0-3 with a pair of strikeouts against the Brewers on Wednesday. Votto has had a relatively forgettable 2019 campaign, and the 35-year-old is set to post his first major league season with an OPS below .800. Although some of Votto's relative struggles this year are likely due to luck (particularly his uncharacteristically low walk rate despite his plate discipline profile remaining in line with his career numbers), Votto's .343 wOBA is effectively equal to his .346 xwOBA, indicating that his contact quality profile has taken a significant step back this year. Concerningly, Votto's xwOBA on contact has now declined in each of the past two seasons, so age may be catching up with the star first baseman. Interestingly though, Votto's power peripherals are largely better than his career numbers (in 2019, he's posted an 88.9 MPH average exit velocity and 37.8% Statcast hard hit rate), and his real problem appears to be more related to his swing than his strength. Votto has mishit the ball by getting under it more than ever this year, and his mishits overall have gone up significantly as a result (this is clear in Votto's career worst IF/FB ratio as well as his unusually low BABIP and HR/FB ratio). Based on that issue, Votto's problems should be fixable over the offseason, and although he's unlikely to bounce back to his stellar 2017 numbers, an OPS back above .800 should be expected next year.
Doolittle picked up his 29th save of the year with a three strikeout, one hit, one inning performance against the Phillies on Wednesday. Injuries and diminished velocity have down year for Doolittle this season, but he's been playing well lately and has now allowed just one run in his last seven innings. Encouragingly, Doolittle has begun relying on his slider more frequently (at the expense of his fastball), and it's paid dividends, knocking his xwOBA down significantly while improving his strikeout potential. Closers are notoriously difficult to project (and Doolittle's slider success has come in a very small sample), but Doolittle's slider looks good so far, and his arsenal appears to be trending in the right direction even if his velocity continues to decline.
Eaton went 0-4 with a run and a strikeout against the Phillies on Wednesday. Eaton has played fairly well this year, and the 30-year-old took an .800 OPS into Wednesday's game. Fantasy owners should be optimistic about Eaton going into next year, as he's shown a couple of encouraging trends this season. Most dramatically, Eaton's GB/FB ratio is way down to 0.66 (1.08 career average, 0.94 last year), boosting his home run and extra base hit rates. More subtly, Eaton's swing rate against breaking and offspeed pitches is down significantly this year while his swing rate against fastballs is up. As a result, Eaton's contact numbers are better this year (his 6.8% swinging strike rate is his best mark since 2014), and his power numbers are up slightly from last year as well. If Eaton can maintain those trends into next season, fantasy owners should expect an improved year from the outfielder and invest in him as a result.
Stripling lasted just three innings against the Padres on Wednesday, allowing three runs on five baserunners while striking out seven. Stripling has pitched well this year in an injury-shortened season, and the 29-year-old took a 3.32 ERA into Wednesday's game. Although his fastball velocity is down this year (and that is worth watching going forward), fantasy owners should be generally optimistic about Stripling's 2020 outlook. Stripling took another step towards abandoning his generally ineffective slider for a curveball and a changeup this year, and if that trend continues into next season, then Stripling should see his performance continue to remain solid. Don't expect a huge amount of strikeouts from Stripling next year, but a low walk rate and a solid contact quality profile should keep him productive and allow him to produce an ERA in the mid-3.00's with some upside given his developing arsenal.
Stallings has had somewhat limited major league playing time this year but he's hit fairly well for a catcher and took a .737 OPS into Wednesday's game. With above average power (89.1 MPH average exit velocity, 38.1% Statcast hard hit rate) and a fairly strong 87.2% z-contact rate, Stallings appears to be an improved plate discipline profile away from having a significant fantasy impact. Stallings has chased pitches outside of the strike zone at a high 37.9% rate this season, pushing his strikeout rate up (though not particularly high) and likely hurting his contact quality. If Stallings can get his o-swing rate down to around 30% while maintaining his power and contact skills (and if he can get regular playing time) then he should be a middle to upper tier catcher with upside next year. As a result, fantasy owners should highlight Stallings as a potential sleeper for next season, and he could benefit owners at a thin position.
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