The ROS outlooks for some Fantasy sources of frustration
While doing research for my 2018 Fantasy Baseball Biggest Busts and Best Values columns that will appear in the next two weeks, I had to look at season stats, pre-season and current positional rankings and Average Draft Positions (ADP) according to Fantasypros.com. Since those articles are going to be long ones I figured that I may as well put the data to good use by applying it to the draft in retrospect. Hindsight is always enlightening and gloating is always fun.
There have been a lot of players that have disappointed and impressed this season and it serves a positive purpose to look at what they have done, what their value might be as a result, and most importantly, what owners should expect going forward. This is an article intended to inform owners of whether it is time to buy low, sell high or stand pat.
One of the approaches I took to doing this article was to critique players ADPs. Just because a player has been a disappointment or a great value, it doesn’t mean they were originally drafted improperly or that they shouldn’t be drafted in the same area if owners were re-drafting now. Paul Goldschmidt has a .233 batting average, while Joey Votto has been disappointing with only eight home runs. However, I do not believe owners improperly drafted them and I can make an argument that Votto has the upside to bounce-back and justify drafting him in the same area as he was in pre-season. I wouldn’t make the same argument as convincingly for Goldschmidt, but my point still stands. Many players were improperly projected or pre-season helium got the best of even the smartest analysts. Or in some cases, irrational insanity came upon enough people to create a head scratcher or two. That’s what I am attempting to address in this column. Where was the pre-season draft day insanity or the incompetence and how owners should adapt to re-rankings now.
Early Season Disappointments
Clayton Kershaw, SP Los Angeles Dodgers
2018 Stats: 49 IP – 53 Ks – 2.76 ERA – 1.12 WHIP
I argued in an article for our draft kit that Kershaw could not fall far enough to make him draftable by me and he didn’t in a single league. I also argued that he shouldn’t be the first starting pitcher drafted because his performance hasn’t been dominant enough over his peers to overlook the injury risk. I was correct on both counts. Congratulations to Max Scherzer owners.
Owners are held hostage at this stage. Kershaw can’t be released and he can’t be traded because he has too much potential when he returns and his value is too diminished to justify selling.
Jose Altuve, 2B Houston Astros
2018 Stats: Four HRs – Eight Stolen Bases – .332 Batting Average
Any time a player is drafted second overall he has to produce at elite levels or your team is going to suffer. Four home runs and eight stolen bases is disappointing for any player drafted in the Top 50-100, nevermind second. That doesn’t mean owners were wrong to draft him second overall after his MVP 2017 season. That kind of ranking was fully justified at the time and it could be argued that it would be if owners were redrafting now.
Jose Altuve, who is 1-for-2 tonight after that RBI single, entered the game today with a .402 road batting average, tops in the AL. He also ranked fifth in the AL in road OPS (1.017).
— Alyson Footer (@alysonfooter) June 8, 2018
Altuve is fighting for a batting title with a ridiculous .332 average. Regardless of whether the home runs or the stolen bases are up to snuff or not, he has value purely from the elite contributions in that category. The potential “bounce-back” is upside at this point. I would drop him slightly if I was redrafting now, but I wouldn’t eat doubt those who think Altuve is going to be the second best player in Fantasy the Rest of The Season (ROS).
Gary Sanchez, C New York Yankees
2018 Stats: 12 HRs – 35 RBI – .201 BA
I scream at owners every draft season not to pay for catchers and every single year someone overdrafts Buster Posey and now owners were flying to the gates to overpay for Gary Sanchez. I even had a debate with an “Expert” who is employed as a full-time writer for a high profile Fantasy Baseball provider who claimed Sanchez could hit 42 home runs this season. He was either doubling down in an attempt to win an argument he was losing badly or committing professional incompetence with that kind of projection. That kind of helium feeds into the lunacy that results in a catcher, even one as talented as Sanchez, being drafted in the top two rounds. His ADP was a draft-day disaster at the time and his .201 batting average has proven it even more now.
Sanchez has the raw power to hit 30-35 home runs if everything goes right in his season, but that’s why you don’t pay for catchers; everything NEVER goes fully right. Sanchez doesn’t steal bases and, as a catcher, is prone to inconsistent batting averages and injuries that make it almost impossible to consistently reach his full home run potential.
I understand the addictive draw of 30 potential home runs at a miserably bad position like catcher, but owners need to take on faith that even one of the best power hitting catchers of the last 15 years will rarely hit 30 home runs in a season and he is almost assuredly not going to do it two years in a row. Just accept it. It’s a historic reality that is immune even to physical enhancements and juiced balls.
Sanchez can hit bombs in bunches and he is much better than his early season .201 batting average suggests, so if he is available at a reasonable cost he is a buy low candidate. If owners were redrafting today, I would draft him higher than I would have on draft day, but there will never be a time when drafting him in the Top 25 makes any sense. If he bounces back from his slow start Sanchez has a chance to finish 2018 as 2017’s Mike Zunino (25 HRs – .251 BA). Would anyone draft Mike Zunino ahead of Jose Ramirez, J.D. Martinez, George Springer, Brian Dozier, Justin Verlander, Jacob deGrom, or Jose Abreu?
Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF Los Angeles Dodgers
2018 Stats: 10 HRs – Two SBs – .227 BA
The juiced ball era drives me bonkers because I have been following minor league prospects for over 15 years, and when players have better rookie seasons than they ever had in the minors it infuriates me. When a prospect significantly exceeds their physical projections because the ball flies off the bat it makes my evaluations look embarrassingly wrong and it distorts the projection process. Analysts like myself shouldn’t have to bump up a player’s projections, not based on any statistical evidence, but because the baseball is being manipulated to increase home runs it makes a farce of the process. We saw this in 2017 with Cody Bellinger and Aaron Judge, we are seeing it in 2018 with Ozzie Albies and we are seeing in back-to-back seasons with Didi Gregorius and Francisco Lindor.
It’s difficult to project regression for a player because of the reasons I outlined in the previous paragraph, but 39 home runs exceeded his ceiling while his batting average was only .267. Players that make the most consistent contact are going to benefit from the juiced ball the most and Cody Bellinger isn’t one of those guys. That’s why regression was a prudent call in 2018. Ozzie Albies, Francisco Lindor and to a similar degree, Aaron Judge, all have a history of making significantly more contact than Bellinger.
Bellinger is still a viable Fantasy player, but he isn’t a buy low. There have been rumors he could be demoted by the Dodgers and that would change my evaluation. He has a chance to hit 25 home runs and if he gets on a hot streak, 30 isn’t outside the realm of possibility. The .227 batting average is a problem and even qualifying in the outfield doesn’t diminish that kind of drain on your lineup enough to convince me that he is a buy low, especially in weekly, head-to-head leagues, but it does save his value. If he only qualified at first base owners would be justified in releasing him. He is on the edge of Fantasy relevance, but don’t release him yet.
Rhys Hoskins, OF Philadelphia Phillies
2018 Stats: Six HRs – Three SBs – .233 BA
In 2017, Hoskins, like Gary Sanchez in 2016, did a lot of long-ball damage in very little time, resulting in a draft-day stampede of excitement in 2018. That led to him being drafted right behind Andrew Benintendi and ahead of players like Christian Yelich, Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, Justin Upton, Starling Marte and Nelson Cruz.
It wasn’t outside the realm of plausibility that Hoskins could have a 30 home run season in 2018, but the reward didn’t warrant the risk at that ADP. The upside was eliminated by selecting him that high, ahead of those players. Justin Upton is a sure thing for 27-35 home runs and 5-10 stolen bases. Andrew Benintendi is a 20 home run, 20 stolen base, .275 batting average guy and even Nelson Cruz was a 25 home run sure thing entering 2018.
Hoskins BB% is very good (15.7%) while his strikeout rate (28.2%) is not outlandish in today’s swing-and-miss world. The fact that he walks almost as often as he strikes out (37 BB vs. 46 Ks) is extremely encouraging, in spite of his .233 batting average and six home runs. Hoskins is unstartable as he is currently performing, but the walk rate and the raw power would have me sitting and waiting for him to turn things around. Hoskins was grossly over drafted, but he is better than he has been in 2018.
Anthony Rendon, 3B Washington Nationals
2018 Stats: Six HRs – .268 BA
Rendon has been a disappointment by any standard and should be owned in all leagues and benched by all owners. He is a very talented player who has always struggled to stay healthy. How he was drafted in the mid-40’s on draft day is more about what owners “think” he is rather than what he actually is. He isn’t a five-tool talent, he doesn’t steal bases and while he has an above-average hit tool, he isn’t an elite hitter, nor is he an elite slugger either. 20 home runs and 10 stolen bases doesn’t make him a Top 50 player at third base before you add the risk of injury. He has only played 150 games or more twice and 100 or more three of his five seasons.
Rendon has the tools and approach to contribute to all of the Fantasy categories, but at his best the ceiling isn’t extremely high and the likelihood he reaches the one he has isn’t all that high either. He was an overdraft candidate that is now a sunk cost. He should be owned, but he isn’t a buy low and Fantasy owners know it. If you own him, you’re stuck with him.
Byron Buxton, OF Minnesota Twins
2017 Stats: 16 HRs – 29 SBs – .253 BA
2018 Stats: Zero HRs – Five SBs – Three BBs – .156 BA – .183 OBP
There might not be a more disappointing player than Buxton based on the tools he brings between the white lines and how miserable his stat line has been. In a bad year where he hits .230-.250 Buxton should still hit at least 15 home runs and steal at least 20 bases. In 2018, he has zero home runs and a .156 average. He is a mess.
His performance justifies release and if he was any other player he would be owned in zero percent of leagues rather than 58% like he is on Yahoo. However, Buxton is so physically gifted that I understand why owners are sitting and hoping and I agree with them. Unless I absolutely cannot afford to occupy the roster spot with an unstartable bust like Buxton has been, I am stashing him and hoping he can improve enough to be at least viable, if not an impact contributor.
Billy Hamilton, OF Cincinnati Reds
2018 Stats: 10 SB – Two HR – .195 BA – .285 OBP – 27 Runs Scored
Hamilton might be the most disappointing of all of the early season strugglers. Owners draft him knowing he is going to be the major reason reason they contend in the stolen base category. He doesn’t contribute to home runs and his batting average is a drain, he doesn’t even get on base at a high level, but he has run enough in the past anyway. In 2018, he hasn’t. A .195 batting average is an unstartable trade-off for only 10 stolen bases in 60 games played.
In 1986, Vince Coleman stole 107 bases with an OBP of .301 and a batting average of .231. In 1994, he batted .240 with an OBP of .285 and stole 50 bases. Fantasy owners would jump for joy for either of those seasons from Hamilton and as things look now, they aren’t going to get it. Hamilton’s skill set is too explosive to cut bait with or target in trades, while his current performance is too heinous to make him a starter in head-to-head leagues and it’s a reach in rotisserie leagues until he starts to show signs of improvement. Sit and wait on the rabbit.
Zack Godley, SP Arizona Diamondbacks
2018 Stats: 65 IP – 62 Ks – 5.12 ERA – 1.57 WHIP
Godley became a Fantasy darling in spring training after a mini-breakout in 2017. He struck out more batters than any season prior, allowed fewer hits and therefore had career best ratios, but his BB/9 and HR/9 were in line with career norms.
Godley looks like a flavor that was craved in March and has gone sour since. He hasn’t pitched better recently, his FIP and xFIP are both worse this year than last season and his WHIP makes it look like he has pitched worse than his ERA suggests. It doesn’t look like the humidor is helping him and there isn’t anything to point to suggest things are going to turn around. The strikeouts are plentiful enough to warrant a longer look if you have the roster space and aren’t ready to give up on Godley, but he looks like a bust. Lance McCullers (#115.2 ADP), Trevor Bauer (128.7 ADP), Charlie Morton (#171.2 ADP), and Dylan Bundy (#179.8 ADP) were all available when Godley was selected on draft day. That was a mistake then and looks like a more significant one now.
Anthony Rendon Featured Image: (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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