Yelich Brings his Talents to…. Bradford Beach?

Full disclosure, I had this article written early in the off season before Christian Yelich was traded and even before Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton were traded. The reason I held off on posting it is because the Marlins began  gutting their entire team and it was looking like Yelich was going to be surrounded by  minor leaguers and league average veterans. Alas, Yelich got himself out of Miami up north to Milwaukee. The same day, the Brewers signed Lorenzo Cain and all of a sudden, the outfield is now crowded. I fully expect the Brewers to trade Domingo Santana for pitching because Ryan Braun has 5/10 rights and likely isn’t going anywhere. So how does the move from Miami to Milwaukee change Yelich’s value? Let’s find out.

Check out his new digs

I’ve always been a fan of Yelich.  He’s an athletic kid that does all things well on the baseball field.  He’s one of those guys who’s not exceptional at anything but good at everything, know what I mean?  Plus he’s entering his age 26 season and could be primed for a breakout. We have to be careful not to over value Yelich because of the trade. Just looking at park factors for home runs, (100 being neutral or average) Miami falls around 85 to 90 depending on the source and Milwaukee is around 105. Miller Park is typically known as a launching pad but in recent years the park factors show that it’s only slightly above average for home runs and Marlins Park hasn’t played as bad for home runs as it has in the past.  So while this should certainly help Yelich, it may not be as big of jump as some may think.

I know I said I didn’t want to over inflate his value due to the move to Milwaukee but I can’t help it! Yelich’s career road wOBA is .363 with a wRC+ of 128! We aren’t talking about good numbers on the road, those are perennial all-star type numbers. He’s even stolen more bases on the road 41 to 31 in his career (for whatever that’s worth), probably nothing. Speaking of stolen bases, Jeff Zimmerman of fangraphs recently wrote an article about how managers influence stolen bases. Would you look at that! Craig Counsell is one of the most aggressive managers in terms of sending runners while Don Mattingly is about 6% to 7% below average. Now, it’s important to note that Milwaukee is going all in this year and being ultra aggressive on the base paths is not a great strategy for winning ball games. So, he may dial back the green lights a bit but should still be more aggressive than the Marlins. Man, this is getting difficult to not get excited.

I mentioned that Yelich is entering his prime, and he already makes hard contact, takes walks, can run a little bit, and should hit somewhere in the top three spots in the batting order. Roster resource has his leading off. I don’t love that for his production but it makes sense.  His ONLY real problem is his GD Ground Control.  The kid beats baseballs into the ground to the tune of 59% for his career! That’s insane, but at least he hits line drives right?  Right guys…. Guys?  You there?  

I may have lost the extreme launch angle guys with that information. Ok, so a lot of people will argue that Yelich is who he is at this point in his career with over 2800 PAs and 4.5 seasons to his name.  I’m taking a leap of faith and saying that Yelich continues to evolve as a hitter and will continue to get better.  Maybe it’s because I’ve just always liked him as a ball player, but take a look at some batted ball info:

Season FB% Hard% Pull% wOBA
2013 13.8% 34.3% 32.0% 0.341
2014 17.8% 34.2% 27.8% 0.341
2015 15.0% 33.1% 31.7% 0.343
2016 20.0% 38.0% 36.0% 0.367
2017 25.2% 35.2% 33.3% 0.348

Now if can combine his increased FB% with a career high Hard% & pull%, we might have something! Nearly every year Yelich has increased his FB% (with the exception for 2014).  This seems like a conscious decision. We all know a pulled flyball has the best chance to get out, and Yelich’s pull percentage isn’t as high as you’d like for hitting home runs; but Yelich is a great hitter to all fields and can hit the ball out the other way better than most. What’s more, in the second half of 2017 Yelich hit 29.3% of his balls in the air.  So, now we are getting somewhere.  You can see that in 2016 Yelich had his best offensive season mostly due to his career high Hard% and HR/FB over 20%, but he also pulled more balls and continued his trend of hitting more fly balls.  If you’re wondering, Yelich almost never hits popups (2.5% for his career), so he can increase hs FB% without giving himself up with popups.

What’s your angle Bro?

For me, I think he can put together the best season of his career in 2018. A stat I Iike a little more than FB% is average launch angle because it’s a little stickier” year to year because it encompasses all batted balls. Here are Yelich’s average LA (in degrees) since 2015: 0.0, 2.5, 4.5. Now those aren’t great for home runs but balls hit from 0-10 degrees are valuable. So this backs up his increased FB trends. And just to check in on his 2nd half increased FB%, I took his last 200 BBE and averaged his LA, which comes out to 6.3 degrees. At 200 batted balls, LA is more accurate, so this justifies his 2nd half FB% increase.  With that information, I believe he continues his FB trend and 28-30% FB is a reasonable expectation, that along with making more hard contact at age 26 is possible. The move to Miller Park is great for Yelich and the surrounding cast is also very solid. To keep expectations in check, we have to remember Yelich hit in the middle of a lineup that was stacked and had career years from both Stanton and Ozuna, so his production in terms of runs and RBI likely won’t improve from 2017.

PROJECTIONS

For 2018, assuming Yelich hits leadoff, I’ll give him: .289/.371 24 HRs, 15 steals, 98 runs, 69 RBI. If he hits 2nd, not much changes, a few less runs and a few more RBI. If he does hit in three hole, expect a couple less steals but close to a 90-90 in the R + RBI department. Basically, that’s Hosmer with speed! Here’s another good one, what’s the difference betweenYelich Andrew teammate Ryan Braun? Not peak Braun, mid-30s Braun. Nothing, except health, I’ll have Yelich ranked over Braun all day. Currently Yelich is going around 70th overall but I expect that to bump up 15 or so spots with this move. It will interesting to monitor as the season approaches. Around 55 overall you’ve got guys like Hoskins, Buxton, Cruz and Hamilton. That sounds about right to me. I’d take him over Buxton and Hamilton but probably not over Cruz or Hoskins.

Will Byron Buxton Go 20/40 in 2018?

Expectations for Byron Buxton have been through the roof ever since he was drafted second overall by the Minnesota Twins in the 2012 draft. As he moved relatively quickly through the minors, the hype surrounding Buxton in 2015 was similar to that of Ronald Acuna coming into 2018. Buxton had never displayed significant power in the minor leagues (but it certainly was far from non-existent), many thought it would develop in his long lean body. What was clear is that Buxton was an elite athlete with high end speed. The long term projections of 30/30, 20/40 or even 30/40 were out there. Then his call up came during the summer of 2015… It did not not go well to say the least.

Buxton would be bounced between AAA and the majors in 2016 and never really got on track. He did finish strong but then 2017 started with a thud. This time, he was not sent back down, the Twins stuck with him, mostly due to his incredible defensive work in center. He was much better in the second half going .300/.347/.546 with 11 HR and 13 steals. His final line was still not all that impressive at .253/.314./.413 with 16 HR and 29 steals. Many critics claim it was the easy schedule in the second half that propelled Buxton much like the rest of the Twins roster; others say the second half is more of what Buxton is and will be. So which is he? Can he ever reach 30/40? I’ll set the sights a little lower and see if Buxton can reach 20/40 in 2018.

Let’s start with speed. Since the Statcast era began in 2015, Buxton has recorded the fastest sprint speed in both 2016 and 2017. The guys below him are Billy Hamilton, Dee Gordon, and Jarrod Dyson. Ok, so those are the best base stealers in the game. There’s a lot more to stealing bases than speed, there’s: how fast the pitcher is to the plate, catcher’s pop time, arm/accuracy, and of course the jump the runner gets. Buxton hasn’t reached the stolen base totals of the others on the list but he’s clearly fast enough and in his 30 attempts last year he was caught only once! In fact, hes 41 for 46 in the majors which is an d89% success rate!

To figure out how Buxton can get to 40 steals in 2018, I averaged the stels per plate appearance for all players with a minimum of 29.5 mph sprint speed since 2015 (these are the elite speed guys). It comes out to 0.0695 steals/PA. Last year Buxton was at 0.0568 steals/PA, so he’s below the average but it’s because he didn’t attempt enough steals. He also has had below average OBP. The average OBP for all the players in my study is .320. We aren’t talking about Joey Votto here but it proves you don’t need elite on base skills to steal (of course it helps though). Buxton was below that but at .314 he should have been able to run a little more.

Next we will look into his plate appearances. He only had 511 PA in 140 games and usually batted at the bottom of the order. Now, that may not change, but I think he will play more than 140 games. If he averages 3.8 PA/game in 150 games, that’s 570 PA for 2018. Let’s assume some positive regression in terms of OBP up to a reasonable .325 and given his success rate on the base paths, he should be granted the green light. Between the additional PA, OBP, and attempts, I think he can get over 45-50 attempts. An 80% success rate at 50 attempts gets him to 40 steals on the nose. To verify, let’s check the numbers. What will his SB total be if he improves on his SB/PA to meet the average of the top speed guys we mentioned in the previous paragraph. That average of 0.0695 SB/PA puts him at 39.6 steals in 570 PA. Let’s call it 40 steals. Ok, we are half way there!

Now to the power. Well the 16 he hit in 2017 isn’t too far off of 20 and we know Buxton is already getting an additional 59 PA from our projections. At a HR every 31 PA, that gives Buxton two more HR, can we just call it 20? Not so fast, let’s take a look a little depeer into his numbers. There were improvements in both K% and BB% in 2017 for Buxton which were backed by higher contact% and SwStr%. Still his 29.4% K rate is pretty atrocious. Let’s focus on the positive, the improvement of nearly 1.5% SwStr and 5% in K% from 2016 to 2017 show growth and optimism for that of a young player. Look at Kris Bryant and George Springer, both cut their K rates from near 30% to under 20% in less than three seasons. In the second half, Buxton cut is K% to 27.6%. Do I think he can be below 25% in 2018… No. But, the 27.6% in the second half is close to what I will project for 2018.

Consider Buxton’s batted ball profile and his 1st/2nd half splits: Fly ball% increased by 3% while cutting IFFB% by 6% and Hard hit % increased by 5%. What does it all mean? Well, it partially backs his 20% HR/FB in the second half. Not only did he hit more fly balls, but he hit them at a higher quality, that combined with a decrease in K rate means more balls in play and more home runs.  He did change his approach losing the leg kick and getting more contact. Check out Paul Sporer’s take on him at fangraphs. The problem is the increase in HH% went up to only 30% which is still below average. His average EV is 85 mph and his Brls/PA was a measly 3.5%. The only silver lining is that his average HR distance in 2017 was 403 feet.

Finally, the projection. I mentioned the 570 PA and the 27.6% K rate. I didn’t mention the BB rate or the FB%. His BB rate looks to go down (slightly) due to his increase in swing% and contact rate, I’l project at 7.0% down from 7.4%. I like his FB approach and based on the second half of 2017 and his minor league track record, I expect an increase to about 41% FB. Based on another slight improvement on hard contact, I can see Buxton maintaining a 14% HR/FB ratio which he achieved in 2017. After crunching the numbers, I come up with 21 home runs for Buxton and a 21/40 season!

Wow that would be a hell of a season if he could pull that off. So we proved that Buxton “could” go 20/40, the question of “will” Buxton go 20/40 is still out there. I proved he could do it if he makes positive progress in all facets of his offensive game along with health. All of that is very difficult to do. The answer to the title above for me is: no. My actual projections have him reaching the 20 HR mark but I don’t see improvements in BA, OBP and while I do see him attempting more steals, I’d expect a regression in the success rate of Buxton limiting him to around 30-32 steals in something closer to 40 attempts in 2018. That’s still a solid season but for me I need to see more improvement and consistency from Buxton in 2018 to project 20/40. The approach change and progress along with youth give me optimism for Buxton in the future. If his speed ages well,  he cuts the strikeouts below 25%, and muscles up a bit more in his late 20s, I could see a 30/40 season in Buxton’s future.

For 2018, I just don’t think I’m ready to make the jump for Buxton in the top 50. Id prefer A.J Pollock or Whit Merrifield to Buxton because Buxton is likely to be a BA drain and the strikeouts mean additional risk. Plus he will end up costing you more at the draft table.

 

Will the Yankees Break the Single Season Home Run Record?

The all time record for home runs in a single season is 264 held by the 1997 Seattle Mariners.  Some things that come to mind as I write this:  The team was comprised of peak Ken Griffey Jr., a hulking Jay Buhner who hit 40 bombs that year, a young stud shortstop named Alex Rodriguez, and this was of course during the steroid era. In fact, prior to 2017, eleven of the top fifteen home run hitting teams played during the steroid era.  There is some debate on when the era began and ended, I’m going with 1991 through 2003 for reference.  In 2017 however, The Yankees led the way with 241 home runs good for 9th all time! The Astros and Rangers were not far behind, both jumping into the top 15.  So naturally the team with the most power in 2017 adds even more power with Giancarlo Stanton in 2018.

The knee jerk reaction to the question in the title is yes, the Yankees will demolish this single season home run record. They added the best power hitter by HR/PA in this generation coming off a 59 home run campaign, so why wouldn’t they break the record?  To get to the answer we first have to look at batting order and plate appearances.  Based on the information above it may not surprise you to know that the Yankees led the majors in plate appearances with 6,354. That comes out to over 39 PA per game, 39.22 to be exact. The average for all teams in 2017 was about 38 PA/game, so it’s really only about 200 more PA over the course of the entire season above the league average.  For reference the Cubs led the league in PA in 2016 with 6,335.  So let’s go with a slight regression for the Yankees in 2018 based off this information to 6,340.  Here’s a table showing the  number of PA by spot in the bating order using our estimated 6,340 as a team in 2018.

Order GS PA % of PA PA Using
6,340
Batting 1st 4860 22678 12.24% 776
Batting 2nd 4860 22136 11.95% 757
Batting 3rd 4860 21632 11.67% 740
Batting 4th 4860 21153 11.42% 724
Batting 5th 4860 20621 11.13% 706
Batting 6th 4860 20110 10.85% 688
Batting 7th 4860 19581 10.57% 670
Batting 8th 4860 18978 10.24% 649
Batting 9th 4860 18406 9.93% 630
Total 185295

I rounded them to the nearest PA to make the math easier. Now we have to figure out the batting order and since we know the same 9 players won’t play all 162 games, we have to adjust for that.  Since this is theoretical, let’s assume 145 games played for all starters and 135 for Gary Sanchez at catcher (but can also DH). For second base I’ve combined Torres and Torreyes not only because their last names are so similar but the position is Torreyes’ until Glayber Torres is healthy and ready to be called up.  That could be in the first few weeks, it could be mid season, I don’t know.  I don’t expect Jacoby Ellsbury and Clint Frazier to be on the team all season, in fact, I expect one to be traded before the season starts, so those 250 PA are essentially for one player.  After all is said and done the total number of plate appearance has reached 6,340.

Projected Lineup  Position Plate App.
Brett Gardner CF/LF/RF 695
Giancarlo Stanton RF/DH 678
Aaron Judge LF/DH 662
Gary Sanchez C/DH 603
Greg Bird 1B/DH 632
Didi Gregorious SS 616
Aaron Hicks CF 600
Chase Headley 3B 581
Torreyes/Torres 2B 630
Bench
Ellsbury / Frazier OF 225
Romine C 200
Dustin Fowler OF 95
Tyler Wade SS/2B/3B 120
Total 6340

Finally, let’s get to the home run projections. I’ll fly through the “low power” hitters but will go into more depth for the Yankee Bombers: Stanton, Judge, Sanchez, and I’ll throw Bird in there as well.  The Bench:  Tyler Wade and Ellsbury are speed guys with minimal power; Wade hit a career high 7 in 2017 in 450 PA and Ellsbury has settled into a 7-10 home run hitter (outside of the 2011 season).  Fowler has some developing pop but is only above average based on Eric Longenhagen’s 50 raw power grade.  Frazier has a similar 20 home run power upside but neither of them will get much playing time with the already crowded outfield.  Catcher Austin Romine has never hit more than 7 HRs in a single season.  So, without much analysis I’ve projected this bunch of players to get 640 total PA (by this estimation); which is basically a full season for one player; should only get about 15 HRs.  Working our way up Torreyes; he has almost no power to speak of and Torres while having significant power upside, will only be 21 and has a season career high of 11.  I do expect Torres to get more of the PA, so I’ll put the home run total at 14 for the #9 spot in the order.  Headley, ugh. We have a 33, soon to be 34 year old third baseman with below average power.  He’s averaged 13 home runs over the last 5 years.  I’ve got him at 13, simple.  This isn’t looking good right now.  We are at 42, only 223 to go!  Aaron Hicks is a wild card, he’s a very good player but can’t stay healthy.  Luckily for me in this experiment, he does stay healthy!  Over the course of his career, he’s averaged 1 home run for every 38 PA but had 15 HR in only 361 PA in 2017 or 1 HR every 24 PA.  He’s in his prime and playing in a good hitter’s park, I’ll have him somewhere in between and give him 21 HR.  On to Didi Gregorious.  I don’t like his projections, check out my bust post about him.  In there I have him pegged for 15 HRs, so that’s what we’ll go with.  Brett Gardner was a surprising source of power in 2017 hitting over 20 for the first time in his career (21 to be exact). He did it with a career high 13.5% HR/FB which at age 34 seems high even for a lefty playing half his games at Yankee Stadium. I say he drops back down to around 11.0% and hits 17 home runs in 2018.

This is where things get interesting.  Greg Bird is a prototypical power hitting left handed first baseman. He’ll be 25 during the 2018 season so he’s entering his prime.  He’s not Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton in terms of power but who is?  Given his 24 HR in only 348 PA in the majors, you can expect big things from Bird given a full season of at bats. His 50% FB rate combined with hard contact and Yankee Stadium provides some high hopes. Yes, he will strikeout and hit popups limiting his batting average, but all we care about in this article is home runs.  All that being said, I’ll give Bird 32 home runs in 632 PA.
Gay Sanchez has been a monster since entering the majors in August of 2016 hitting 53 home runs in 177 games! His PA/HR almost matches Aaron Judge’s: 13.8 PA/HR to 14.2 PA/HR. In this experiment I’ve projected less PA for Sanchez due to the wear and tear catchers have to deal with day in and day out.  Now Judge does hit more fly balls and hits the ball harder and a result, his HR/FB% is higher as you’d expect (33.3% to 29.3%).  These are both elite. I do expect both to drop in 2018 because it’s difficult to improve on rates that high even for the best power hitters in the game.  I expect Sanchez to be around 25% and Judge to be around 28-29%. That brings us to 35 home runs for Sanchez and 44 home runs for Judge. 

We have 206 projected home runs for the 2018 Yankees with Giancarlo Stanton to go. He needs 59 to get the Yankees to 265 for the season. Isn’t that a coincidence, he he hit 59 in 2017 and will now be playing half his games at Yankee Stadium.  Although I’ve seen articles that overlaid Yankee Stadium over all his home runs from 2017 and it would have added between 1 and 3 home runs for the entire season.  Why?  Well, because a 475 foot fly ball is a home run anywhere. In 2017 Stanton changed his approach, he changed his stance to where his front foot is extremely closed.  It helps him see the ball better and limits his leg kick creating more contact. It helped cut his strikeouts down below 25% for the first time but did lower his hard contact. That’s OK though because Stanton, along with Judge, can hit a ball at 80% and it be a home run.  I have Stanton hitting 2nd giving him 678 PA which is 14 less than he had in 2017. His 34.3% HR/FB was a career high (not a surprise) but he did have a 32.1% HR/FB% in just under half a season in 2015, so it’s not insanely high for him. His FB% was under 40% and his IFFB% was a career high, so those are bad signs but I do believe in the decrease in strikeout rate.  He cut his SwStr% by almost 3% and his O-Swing% was below 28% for the first time in his career.  Ok, enough with analysis, what’s his HR total for 2018?

I’m going with 50 HR for Stanton in 2018. The Yankees fall 9 home runs short of breaking the record and 8 short of tying it with 256 home runs in 2018.  It’s interesting because on the surface it looks like a virtual lock that the Yankees will break this record in 2018.  It’s possible that Stanton, Judge, Sanchez and Bird all stay healthy for a full season giving 150+ games each and break the record but guys like Bird and Hicks haven’t proven to be healthy for a full season and Stanton has certainly missed his share of time. Sure, the 2018 Yankees could demolish the record by hitting 280 or something like that but if I’m putting money down on it, I’d bet against it. There’s too many variables and things that need to go right for the Yankees for this to happen.  That doesn’t mean I won’t be awed by the spectacle of every 500 foot bomb hit by Judge and Stanton and enjoying the chase for 265.

2nd Half Fly Ball Escalators – Part 1

The fly ball revolution is upon us.  We all know this; it’s been happening since the second half of 2015 and has continued through 2017.  This doesn’t seem to be a fluke or blip on the radar.  Until MLB changes the ball or does something to shift the favor to the pitchers, fly balls aren’t going away.  The ratings are up and there’s a great young crop of major league players who play with a ton of passion and they are embracing this revolution.

First let’s start with the parameters I set for this statistical analysis.  It’s easier to see which hitters change their approach year to year but I wanted to focus on players who have increased their fly balls in the 2nd half of 2017.  I split the data between the 1st half and the 2nd half of 2017 with a minimum of 200 PA in each half.  I was only going to include hitters who increased their fly ball % by 4% of more between the 1st half and 2nd half but it would have excluded Byron Buxton (2.4% increase) and Giancarlo Stanton (3.4%).  I want to talk about both of them, so I went a little lenient to include those two.

Now that I have my crop of fly ball escalators, I also included Infield Fly%, BABIP, HR/FB, and Hard Hit %.  I wanted to see the changes in all of these statistics in addition to the FB increase and see whether of not they make sense or if luck played a roll.  Keep in mind, not everyone is benefiting from hitting more fly balls.  Here’s the table of players I believe should benefit in 2018 with the increase fly balls if their approach remains the same via google docs.

Eugenio Suarez

Suarez had a nice little breakout year in 2017 with a wRC+ of 117.  In the 2nd half of 2017 he significantly increased his FB% while decreasing his IFFB%.  That’s huge because of course infield fly balls are essentially an automatic out.  He did all that while increasing his LD% and Hard hit%!  This to me looks like a conscious change for Suarez coming into 2018.  While his overall numbers look pretty good in 2017 with a triple slash of .260/.367/.434 with 26 HRs (career high) and he’ll be entering his age 26 season.  All that being said, I think there’s still upside there.  Here is his slash for the 2nd half of 2017: .268/.378/.490 with a wRC+ of 126!  For reference, here are few players with similar wRC+ in 2017: Gary Sanchez (130), Nolan Arenado (129), Domingo Santana (126), and Chris Taylor! (126); more on him later, and Brian Dozier (124).  You get the idea.  But can Suarez do it for a full season?  If he does, we are looking at a 30-100 player in 2018 hitting 4th or 5th behind Joey Votto and Adam Duvall.  In my opinion, he’s a better hitter than Duvall and should be slotted behind Votto.

Of this group of 2nd half fly ball surgers, Suarez is one of the more intriguing for fantasy purposes.  Suarez is and has been the starting 3rd baseman for the Reds, but he’s also one of only two players on the roster who have logged significant time at SS within the last three seasons (the other being Jose Peraza) now that Zach Cozart is gone.  Nick Senzel who finished the season in AAA, is knocking on the door and 3rd base is his main position, but they are giving him reps at 2nd (which should tell you they like Suarez at 3rd).  This creates a logjam at 2nd with Scooter Gennett but still doesn’t solve the shallow SS position.  Maybe the Reds address it or maybe Suarez plays some shortstop and on those days, Senzel moves to 3rd.  If this happens and Suarez gains SS eligibility, he could be at top 8-10 shortstop right behind Corey Seager.

Manuel Margot

Coming into 2017 Margot was a consensus top 50 prospect and was ranked 24th overall by Baseball America.  Eric Longenhagan of fangraphs graded him at a 70 speed score out of a possible 80. So far, it checks out per baseballsavant as he ranks 8th in average sprint speed in all of baseball.  Something else you may notice on Margot’s fangraphs page is the potential for a 55 raw power grade.  You can’t totally ignore the 40 game power grade but these are the types of guys who have proved to benefit the most from the “juiced ball.”  Keep in mind that Margot played all of 2017 at age 22.  This kid is still learning the game and developing power.

That being said, his batted ball profile leaves a lot to be desired.  He made a lot of soft contact and of course, not a whole lot of hard contact.  However, based on the 1st half / 2nd half splits, he made adjustments with not only more fly balls and line drives but harder contact.  That’s a good sign but yet his BABIP dropped in the 2nd half.  Sure, a speedster like Margot can benefit from weakly hit groundballs (part of the reason Billy Hamilton doesn’t hit below the Mendoza line), but the increase in line drives should have certainly increased his BABIP.  The point is, even with the slight improvement in wRC+ between the 1st and 2nd halves, he was still unlucky.

I expect Margot to continue to make improvements with the bat in 2018.  I don’t expect him to reach the 55 raw power grade, but he’s moving in the right direction.  I also expect him to improve on the bases and utilize his speed a little more while he’s still at his peak (as far as speed in concerned).  There’s an intriguing window with young players who possess speed and untapped raw power where the speed is still at (or near) it’s peak and the raw power begins to materialize.  Margot will be approaching that window in 2018 at age 23, so you need to jump in now before he’s fully reached that window and becomes a premier power/speed threat that is so rare in fantasy baseball these days.  Jump in now while he’s ADP is around 200 and you could be rewarded with around 15-18 HRs and 20+ steals in 2018.  His upside could be somewhere around Mookie Betts’ 2017 without the runs + RBI numbers.  Will he ever reach those heights?  I can’t say for sure, but it’s intriguing.  In keeper/dynasty leagues, he’s a great asset to have at his current cost.

Logan Forsythe

Forsythe was hampered by injuries in 2017, he broke his toe in April of 2017 and only appeared in 119 games.  In those games he had 439 PA, hit .224 with 6 HRs and 3 steals.  Woof, why is he a thing for fantasy baseball in 2018 at age 31?  Well, first the Dodgers traded Jose DeLeon to the Rays for him last offseason and exercised his option for 2018. With Utley now gone, second base is his to keep or lose.  So playing time is there unless they sign another 2nd Baseman this offseason.  On a plus side, he walked at a career high 15.7% and had some big at bats in the post season carrying at least some momentum into 2018.

You would expect Forsythe’s numbers to improve in the second half due to the toe injury in April and the numbers in the 2nd half look awfully good.  Yes line drive rate did drop by only 2.8% but the net positive on FB% + LD% is 12.6% and his hard hit rate increased by 10.9% in the 2nd half!  That massive BABIP drop of 0.082 seems way out of whack to me.  That’s the reason he hit .201 in the 2nd half.  Now, I’m not saying he’s going to go nuts, but he also cut is SwStr% to 6.6% and his O-Swing to a career low 18.7%.  So there are a lot of potential positives with Forsythe in both the average and power departments based on my research.  I expect the K% to go back down to about 20%, the BABIP to go up about .020 points and the HR/FB% to be back in the double digits.  His value is going to depend on playing time.  If he platoons, he’s an NL only bat.  If he doesn’t and gets say 550 PA, he could go something like .258/.339 14 HRs, 7 steals and is a solid deep league MI.

Jacoby Ellsbury

Over the last year or so I had left Jacoby Ellsbury for dead until this research piece.  All of his batted ball data in the second half of 2017 point to improved results. While his 2nd half 107 wRC+ was an improvement on his 95 wRC+ in the 1st half, I’d argue he was extremely unlucky and it should have been much higher.

Let’s look at the positives, his K% dropped, BB% went up, FB% went up, IFFB% went down, and Hard Hit% went up.  So then why did his BABIP, HR/FB, and BA (albeit minimally) all go down?  I don’t know.  How’s that for an answer.  In my opinion, it can be chalked up to straight up bad luck.

Since the Yankees are clearly moving in another direction, Ellsbury may not have a starting spot with Judge, Gardner, and now Hicks listed as starters with Clint Frazier ready to be a full time major league starter when healthy and possible a brief stint in AAA to start the season.  The best chance for Ellsbury is to be traded where he can start.  Of course with his huge contract, that could prove to be difficult.  Hypothetically, though if it happens, he’s good for 20+ steals; he was 22 for 25 last year so his speed is still there and steals are becoming more and more infrequent.  For fantasy in 2018, he could be a solid 4th or 5th outfielder going .270 10-20 next year.