Constructed like a freak of nature, Tyler O'Neill comes from a powerlifting background thanks to his father and during this third season in the majors, utilizing his tremendous skill with aplomb to the delight of the fantasy community. Currently in the midst of a nine-game hit streak during which he's slashing .400/.432/.943 with seven runs, five home runs and 10 RBI, his one walk versus 14 strikeouts needs to be factored in. Good news, he's launched four home runs his last six games off the injured list and made this game saving catch in a win over the Dodgers on Tuesday night: 

Despite missing 11 games with a finger injury in May, he finished fifth in the National League in home runs (5), tied for 10th in RBI (18), third in slugging percentage (.691), fifth in on-base plus slugging percentage (1.020) and fourth in home runs per at-bats (9.71). So now the tough part, parsing out if this rates as a hot streak or a potential breakout. 

Overall, O'Neill's played in 36 games accruing 133 plate appearances with 22 runs, 12 home runs, 26 RBI, five stolen bases and a .278/.308/.619 slash line. He's one of 13 major league hitters with at least 100 plate appearances, 10 or more home runs and at least five stolen bases. While most focus on his power, and rightly so, many overlook his speed: 

Although he's a work in progress at the plate, O'Neill recorded two hits during a win on Tuesday night with a stolen base and this catch preserving the game:

Transitioning to his batted ball data, he's registered 80 such events this season with 18 barrels (22.5 percent), an average exit velocity of 92.7 MPH and a 50 percent hard hit rate (exit velocity of 95+ MPH). Normally a player with a 2.3 walk percentage does not possess positive expected statistics but O'Neill appears to be a unicorn. His .290 expected batting average sits 12 points above his actual as does his expected slugging (.665) almost 50 points higher and his expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA) comes in 17 percentage points over his actual. 

Luck? Not necessarily. To this point, O'Neill's improved quality of contact reflected in his 46.3 sweet spot percentage insulates his results to this point. Producing batted ball events with higher exit velocities also accomplishes this task evidenced by his 101.8 MPH average exit velocity on line drives and fly balls. Through his first 36 contests, he's reduced his ground ball percentage compared to last year by almost six percent while generating more fly balls (up four percent) and line drives (up over seven percentage points). 

Better news, he's not selling out for power by pulling the ball with a 38.8 pull percentage, a 32.5 straight percent and 28.7 opposite field rate. Check out his hit spray chart from this season courtesy of Statcast: 

Red in terms of all his home runs in the spray chart along with the Statcast percentile indicators in the first chart excite fantasy players. Of course, the realists see the blue marks in plate discipline and focus on pending regression, but how much? 

First, the good news. O'Neill ranks fourth in the majors in expected slugging while placing second among hitters with at least 50 batted ball events in barrels per batted ball event percentage (22.5) and third in barrels per plate appearance (13.5 percent). These rates along with the surge in sweet spot percentage provide enough quality of contact to prevent a total collapse in batting average or production. 

There's no denying his preset 35.3 strikeout percentage with a swinging strike percent of 19 and only a 63.9 contact rate. Despite these warts he's hitting .273 with a .341 isolated power and a .390 weighted on-base average (wOBA). It's not likely he morphs into a high walk percentage type of player and it may be palatable if the power and speed continue. 

Delving into his plate discipline metrics, he's seeing more pitches in the strike zone this year (52.1 percent) and improved his zone swing percentage by over five percent. However, his chase percentage is also higher than last year but his chase contact remains down by 17 percent. With more swings and misses than 2020, he needs to maximize pitches in the strike zone. To this point, O'Neill's accomplished this feat: 

Major league pitchers will adjust, so he will need to do the same. Noting 30 percent of his contact rates as solid or barreled, the talent lies within O'Neill to keep producing in terms of power. In fact, eight of his 12 home runs grade out as no-doubters, or out of any major league park. Before tying this together, here's his rest-of-the-season projections from four different sites:

These models work off of the last three years of data accrued by O'Neill and do not account for his improved production within the strike zone this year. Hope lies in the 7.4 walk percentage combined with the surge in quality of contact offset the pending batting average migration to the mean. Still, a power hitter with speed who plays terrific defense for a contending team grades out as a breakout candidate. If he finishes this season with an average at or above .260 in the present hitting environment with 30-plus home runs becomes a fourth or fifth round draft pick next year. 

There's reason to believe in the seeds Tyler O'Neill 's sowing right now. Now it's up to him to carry this over through the next four months. 

Statistical Credits:

THE BAT and THE BAT X courtesy of Derek Carty

ZiPS courtesy of Dan Szymborski