Let’s Project 2018 Breakout Players

The best thing about Spring Training statistics for fantasy owners is that you can spin them whichever way is convenient for you, the owner. If you’re heavily invested in a certain player who is struggling in Spring Training, you can always say “It’s only spring, these numbers don’t count!” Or, on the other hand, you can use a hot spring to justify reaching for a player who you believe will breakout. So yes, largely spring statistics are meaningless. Except, Jeff Zimmerman wrote an article earlier this year highlighting batted ball data to spot potential breakouts. With limited Statcast data provided at many Arizona and Florida ballparks, the ground out-fly out ratio may be the best indicator for hitters to spot those breakouts. Luckily MLB.com provides the GO/AO ratio for all spring statistics, so we can put Jeff Zimmerman’s hard work to use now that 2018 Spring Training is in the books. Let’s look at three players that look poised to breakout in 2018. I’ll write a part-two portion including three or four players who had previously broken out (relatively speaking) in 2017 but are projected to regress some by the masses.

Let’s start with Brandon Nimmo, the young outfielder for the Mets. Nimmo had a hot spring and with Michael Conforto starting the season on the DL, Nimmo got the nod to leadoff and play centerfield for Opening Day. Conforto is progressing much quicker than expected and should be back before the end of the month. halting Nimmo’s playing time. Thanks to the Mets signing on Adrian Gonzalez, effectively blocking Jay Bruce from moving from right field to first base, Nimmo is left without a spot. I won’t speculate on injuries (too much) but Yoenis Cespedes rarely plays a full season and I don’t expect Adrian Gonzalez to be at first base all season.

Back to Nimmo, he hit .306 with three home runs and whooping nine extra-base hits in Spring Training. In addition to all those loud numbers, his GO/AO ratio sits at 0.87 for the spring. For context, his minor league ratio is 1.32 and so far in limited major league experience (250 at-bats) it’s 1.12. Based on Zimmerman’s conversion table, we are looking at a ground ball rate of between 42 and 43 percent. Throughout his minor league career his ground ball rates have ranged between 45 to 56 percent, let’s call it 50 percent. That difference in groundball rate could mean an improvement in fly ball rate to near 40%. Nimmo has never been considered a power hitter but he’s been graded with a 50 in raw power, so a change in approach may unlock 20+ home runs. His previous career high is 12 in 2016, mostly in AAA and one at the major league level. His plate discipline is already fantastic evidenced by his incredible minor league walk rates. If he were to unlock average to above average power, Nimmo could become a Matt Carpenter-type leadoff hitter for years to come.

Steven Duggar is a name I haven’t seen on many people’s radar this offseason. He performed well this spring and has impressed the coaching staff of the Giants. But alas, he was Optioned to AAA to receive everyday at-bats. The Giants believe he is the centerfielder of the future and given the health track record of players like Hunter Pence and the mediocrity of Gregor Blanco, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dugger by June (if not sooner). Duggar is a good athlete with a good hit tool and above average speed. His raw power is only graded out as average but I’ve noticed an approach change that began in High-A last year where he, like many others began elevating the ball more. He missed some time last year but also saw a solid HR/FB% at about 13% along with the increase in fly balls. This is a good sign. So let’s compare some numbers for Duggar.

In his first two seasons of minor league ball, his GO/AO ratio was 1.52 with fly ball rates typically below 30%. In 2017, again he dealt with injuries and only played in 42 games, but improved on his GO/AO ratio and fly ball rate to the tune of 0.82 and 43% respectively. This spring he’s continued elevating the baseball with a GO/AO ratio of 0.92 along with 4 home runs and six extra-base hits. His patience at the plate is incredible, much like Brandon Nimmo and his outfield defense is good enough to play centerfield for the Giants right now. He’s been a doubles machine in the minors and it’s possible those doubles start turning into home runs. I don’t see the upside in terms of home runs compared to Nimmo but I think Duggar can steal more bases, so both can be solid fantasy contributors, especially in OBP formats.

Based on all the hype in Ozzie Albies direction this offseason, you would be under the impression that he already broke out. However, he was only up with the Braves for all of 57 games and 244 plate appearances. In that short amount of time, he performed admirably with a triple slash line of .286/.354/.456 with six home runs and eight steals at the ripe age of 20 years old. Impressive to say the least, but before 2017 he had hit a total of eight home runs in 293 games. So, should we just chalk up the 15 he hit between AAA and the majors in 2017 to luck or an outlier?

How about neither, you know better than that! Ozzie was a ground ball machine in the minors which is typical for a speedster with 70-grade speed and five foot nine inch, 160-pound frame. Prior to 2017, Albies’ minor league GO/AO ratio was 1.5. Last year between AAA and the majors, it was 0.9 which matches his approach this spring at 0.85. Albies has hit over .300 with three homers and six extra-base hits this spring. I realize that Albies only played in 57 games in 2017 but I set some parameters for comparison sake to Ozzie Albies’ short time in the Majors, because why not? It’s fun. Take a look. Not bad, right? I set the walk rate above 8%, the K rate below 17%, the flyball rate above 39%, and the Hard contact above 33%. The player I want to highlight of this group is fellow five foot nine inch Mookie Betts. Let’s compare Mookie’s 200+ PA cameo at age 21 to Albies’ 200+ PA cameo last year.

SeasonNameAgePABB%K%FB%IFFB%HR/FBHard%
2014Mookie Betts212139.914.638.611.58.235.8
2017Ozzie Albies202448.614.840.31.48.233.2

I should point out that Betts didn’t strike out as much as Albies in the minors but it’s impressive, to say the least. New SunTrust Park plays much better in terms of power for left-handed batters and yes Albies is a switch hitter but should bat from the left side at least 65% of the time which should also help his power production. The infatuation with Albies continues to grow and if he builds on his success from 2017, there’s nothing in his batted ball profile that would prevent him from hitting 20+ home runs as he reaches his peak. The kid’s a star! I envision multiple seasons of 20 home runs and 30 steals with a great average for Albies.

Eight Bold Predictions for 2018

Delino DeShields (ADP 190) outperforms Starling Marte (ADP 49) in Standard 5×5
I’m not the biggest fan of Starling Marte coming into 2018 and the hype train is once again full steam ahead for Delino DeShields aka “The Dentist” (just like in 2016). On the surface, it’s easy to see DeShields pulling this one off because he’s finally been given the leadoff spot and there isn’t much competition for his job in center field. Obviously, he has to perform and get on base for the Rangers to keep him there. What I see is six home runs and 29 steals in only 440 plate appearances in 2017. Given 600 to 650 PA this year he could hit 10 home runs and steal 35-40 bases and while I don’t think he will hit for as high of an average as Marte, the run total should be around 90 given his 10% walk rate. My projections for Marte are .275-9-33, I just don’t believe in the power and he’s never been a great run producer.

Ozzie Albies hits 25 home runs, steals 30 bases and is a top 25 player
I’ve seen a lot of people ridiculously high on Albies, but not many are predicting 20 home runs let alone 25; that’s what makes this one bold. I threw in the top 25 player ranking even though almost anyone who goes 25/30 is likely a top 25 player. The steals aren’t as crazy because he stole 29 bases in 154 games in 2017 (AAA and MLB) and 30 in 2016 between AA and AAA plus scouts have tabbed him at 70-grade speed out of 80. Here’s where it gets bold; he is being projected for between 10 and 15 home runs, so where do I get 25? Albies changed his approach early in 2017 to try and elevate the ball more which he accomplished upping his fly ball rate from about 30% in 2016 to 39% in 2017. He ended up hitting 15 home runs between AAA and the Majors which was 9 more than in 2016. He’s continued this trend in the spring with a ground out/air out ratio of 0.73, meaning he’s hitting only about 40% ground balls and 60% LD+FB. Let’s assume 41% FB rate for 2018 with 650 PA for Albies (hitting 2nd for 150+ games) with a 17% K rate and an 8% BB rate. That comes out to about 485 balls in play at 41% FB rate with a HR/FB rate of 12.6% comes out to 25 HR. I believe.

Patrick Corbin is a top 20 Starting Pitcher
Here are the statistics from the 20th best SP in 2017: 10 Wins, 3.86 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 209 strikeouts. That’s Yu Darvish if you’re wondering. Kind of a mixed bag, low win total, high(ish) ERA, low WHIP and a lot of strikeouts. My projections for Corbin this year are 13 Wins, 3.65 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and 179 strikeouts. More wins and a better ERA but fewer strikeouts and a higher WHIP, but that would definitely be good for a top 30 stater for sure. I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch to assume more wins (he did win 14 games in 189 innings in 2017) and maybe a few more strikeouts given 200 innings pitched (I have him projected for 190) to put him right around the top 20. He’s got a 50+% ground ball rate, a Swstr rate of 11% last year, the humidor should help with some of his HR issues as well as the high BABIP effectively lowering his projected ERA and WHIP.

Lewis Brinson Outperforms Byron Buxton in Standard 5×5
Brinson should be given every opportunity to show his skills this year in Miami because let’s face it, there’s really no else that should take his spot. He’s mashing this spring to the tune of .339/.377/.607 triple slash line and RosterResource has him leading off! Brinson doesn’t have the speed Buxton does (not many do) but I feel that Brinson will be the better hitter long-term and takes a step in that direction in 2018. I think given a full season, Brinson is more than capable of hitting 20 homers and stealing 15-18 bases while hitting .260-.275. That’s good enough to keep him in the leadoff spot (if he can walk a little) and with Castro, Realmuto, and Bour hitting behind him, I can see 85+ runs. Buxton, on the other hand, may hit 8th or 9th so that’s a killer for run production. I can see Buxton struggle to hit for average again and while I like his ability to hit 15-20 homers with 30 steals, I think Brinson has a chance to outperform him.

Joey Gallo leads the majors in home runs with 50 AND Hits .245 with 10 steals
At first, I thought about just doing 50 homers and 10 steals, but he’s such a beast, if he’s given 650 plate appearances, 50 homers is basically a lock. However, given his 37% K rate, a .245 average is a long shot. He did cut his K rate to under 35% in the second half last year and his BABIP, which was .250, had a xBABIP of about .275. Using a 34% K rate and a BABIP of .275, I still fall short of a .245 batting average, so this prediction needs a bit of luck to something like a BABIP of .290, now that’s possible! For the HRs, he needs to keep his 52% FB rate with his 30% HR/FB rate and 615 plate appearances. Steals can be fluky but he did steal seven bases in only 532 plate appearances, so three more in 85 more PA is certainly possible.

Chad Kuhl outperforms Gerrit Cole in all fantasy categories other than wins
This is more about Kuhl taking a big step forward than significant regression for Cole. The categories I’m referencing in my prediction are ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts. Cole’s numbers last year were 4.26/1.25 with 196 strikeouts; Kuhl last year: 4.35/1.47 with 142 strikeouts in 157 innings. Cole has a career K rate of 8.44 and will no longer get to face the pitcher two or three times a game. I’m expecting a slight K rate drop to 8.2. His innings should go down with all the able body long relievers/spot starters (Peacock, McHugh), the 10-day DL, and his ratios should be around 4.00 and 1.25. I do believe Kuhl is a much better pitcher than his numbers indicated last year and a significant walk rate decrease is in order to keep his WHIP in check. I could see a 4.00 ERA and 1.25 WHIP from Kuhl but how about the strikeouts? Kuhl throws 96 mph with a nasty slider that he only threw 20% of the time last year. If he throws that more and can locate his fastball, he could be around a 9.0 K/9. With that rate, he would only have to throw about 175 innings to Cole’s 190 IP.

The Phillies make the playoffs
Hoskins, Kingery, Santana, Arrieta! Other than 50 games from Hoskins, those are all new ML players for the Phillies this year. All of them should be worth between 2.0 WAR to 4.3 WAR. I also think Nola takes a step forward as well and you lose the likes of Tommy Joseph who was worth -1.1 WAR (yuck) in 2017 and Michael Saunders who was worth -0.7 WAR. I also believe Maikel Franco (-0.5 WAR) improves this year and Odubel Herrera takes a step forward. Now, this is all very unscientific and you can’t just say all of these players/improvements are worth 20+ wins this year (which would put them at 86 wins). Right now they are projected for 75 wins, good for 11th best in the NL. To reach a top-five spot in the NL makes this prediction bold.

Tim Beckham outperforms Justin Upton in Standard 5×5
Yeah, even this one is hard for me to believe. Upton is coming off a career year hitting 35 home runs, stealing 14 bases and driving in 109 runs and now he gets to hit behind Mike Trout. It’s not that I think Beckham will put up those numbers but I think Upton is a bit of a letdown in 2018 after signing a big contract with the Angels. I think Upton’s batting average goes back to the .255 range and his power falls back to around 27-30. At age 30, his speed will continue to dwindle and an 8-10 steal season is likely. Now, for Beckham, he needs to build on his second half of 2017 and now with a full season in Baltimore and an increase in fly ball percentage indicated by his Spring Training GO/AO ratio tells me he can hit 30 home runs. That’s his ground out/air out ratio which is under 1.0 during Spring Training. He’s also not a zero in terms of speed so 8-10 steals is possible. If he hits .260, he’s right on par with Justin Upton. This is a longshot, but that’s what makes it bold.

Comparing Yahoo! ADP to my Ranks

Over on FantasyPros, I compared some players that I had ranked much higher than Yahoo! ADP and some that I ranked much lower based on Yahoo! ADP. Check the links to the articles for some in depth analysis a select list of players. Check me out at FantasyPros, I’ll be writing a weekly article and follow me on Twitter @FreezeStats. Stay tuned for a ton of in season content coming up soon!

On this post, I am including the complete list for both over/undervalued players for your last minute draft preparation. This upcoming weekend is the last big draft weekend, so gathering as much up to date information is key. CRAM, CRAM CRAM! Keep in mind, the table defaults to 10 cells, but you can expand it or cycle through the remaining cells or just search for your favorite player. Without further ado, here’s the overvalued bunch.

Players I'm lower on than Yahoo! - No Thanks!
PlayerYahoo ADPFreezeStat Rank
Clayton Kershaw (LAD - SP)416
Kris Bryant (CHC - 3B,RF)1223
Aaron Judge (NYY - RF)1525
Corey Seager (LAD - SS)3037
Starling Marte (PIT - LF,CF)4158
Buster Posey (SF - C,1B)56111
Robinson Cano (SEA - 2B)58103
Dallas Keuchel (HOU - SP)67102
Xander Bogaerts (BOS - SS)68137
DJ LeMahieu (COL - 2B)87157
Didi Gregorius (NYY - SS)109200
Matt Carpenter (STL - 1B,2B,3B)114189
Kyle Seager (SEA - 3B)115187
Javier Baez (CHC - 2B,SS)117212
Gio Gonzalez (WSH - SP)146215
Greg Bird (NYY - 1B)152185
Cole Hamels (TEX - SP)167280
Taijuan Walker (ARI - SP)186255
Blake Parker (LAA - RP)187260
Brian McCann (HOU - C)198254
Julio Teheran (ATL - SP)207272
Jason Kipnis (CLE - 2B,CF)210252
Dansby Swanson (ATL - SS)247296

Now, for the longer list of players I like more than Yahoo!, there’s so much talent late in yahoo leagues.

Players I'm higher on than Yahoo! - GIMMIE GIMMIE!
PlayerYahoo ADPFreezeStat Rank
Freddie Freeman (ATL - 1B,3B)1810
Francisco Lindor (CLE - SS)2012
Anthony Rendon (WSH - 3B)5334
Alex Bregman (HOU - 3B,SS)5428
Tommy Pham (STL - LF,CF)7342
Lorenzo Cain (MIL - CF)9261
Adrian Beltre (TEX - 3B,DH)10364
David Price (BOS - SP,RP)10784
Luis Castillo (CIN - SP)12290
Chris Taylor (LAD - 2B,SS,LF,CF)12483
Travis Shaw (MIL - 3B)12696
Joey Gallo (TEX - 1B,3B,LF)13073
J.T. Realmuto (MIA - C,1B)135110
Nick Castellanos (DET - 3B,RF)13787
Ian Happ (CHC - 2B,LF,CF,RF)148107
Jeff Samardzija (SF - SP)170125
Chase Anderson (MIL - SP)192136
Ronald Acuna (ATL - CF) NRI195127
Ozzie Albies (ATL - 2B)19677
Eugenio Suarez (CIN - 3B)230150
Dinelson Lamet (SD - SP)231179
Bradley Zimmer (CLE - CF)251176
Tanner Roark (WSH - SP)262207
Delino DeShields (TEX - LF,CF)299205
Patrick Corbin (ARI - SP)316152
Tim Beckham (BAL - 2B,SS)319124
Luiz Gohara (ATL - SP)332181
Jordan Montgomery (NYY - SP)349178
Michael Wacha (STL - SP)354163
Orlando Arcia (MIL - SS)358199
Shin-Soo Choo (TEX - RF,DH)362164
Mitch Haniger (SEA - RF)375190
Michael Taylor (WSH - CF)377202
Cesar Hernandez (PHI - 2B)379191
Logan Morrison (MIN - 1B)381269
Marcus Semien (OAK - SS)384131

Now, many of these guys being drafted very late in Yahoo drafts may begin to creep up as more and more sleeper posts and research is done so you may need to grab these guys a few rounds earlier than their ADP suggests. Also, make sure you know your league and the players in your league, are there sharks in your league? What types of players do your league-mates like, etc.

Good luck with your drafts, I plan on writing a couple more articles before the season starts then ramp up with in season content.

Second Base – The Choice is Yours

I am going to round out the infield with second baseman as the regular season is literally eight days away! Some people have already had their drafts but this upcoming weekend is the last big time-frame for fantasy baseball drafts. I’d like to get the starting pitcher “The Choice is Yours” but I’ve been busy writing a few articles for draft preparation over at FantasyPros, so go check it out. If I can’t get to it, I’ll post all the pitchers I’m way higher/lower on than Yahoo ADP. Today I’m looking at five mystery second baseman using ZIPS projections and NFBC ADP. Second base is similar to shortstops in that I can’t believe how deep the position is compared to years past. There’s just so much offensive talent in today’s game, I wouldn’t put extra weight on positions like 2B and SS like in the past when they were considered shallow. Get your guys and get your numbers, catcher is the only shallow position in my opinion. Let’s look at our 2B mystery players.

2B ZIPS Projections   NFBC
PlayerAVGHRRRBISBADP
Player A0.283207484284
Player B0.25421637112103
Player C0.25629868614104
Player D0.25528778511128
Player E0.26116835811184

Player A looks like a safe bet to at least contribute in four categories but clearly has no speed. However, he’s doesn’t appear to excel in any single category. This AL veteran has long been considered one of the best second basemen of the last decade and has made eight All-Star appearances. Ok, this one is pretty easy, Player A is Robinson Cano. He’s not a bad “safe” pick but he’s 35 years old and his home runs totals the last four seasons are 14, 21, 39, and 23. The 39 in 2016 appears to be an outlier for an aging veteran who never really had elite power. Cano has always been a high contact guy with elevated BABIPs which typically were justified. However, his BABIP is trending in the wrong direction from .334 in 2014 and on a steady decline to .294 last year. Cano is no longer a .300 hitter and I expect the batting and average and power to continue their downward descent. DON’T GET WITH THIS.

Player B is one of the more exciting players to watch. He’s a wizard defensively and can hit some moon shots (when he connects). He’s on my hometown team so I get a lot of exposure to him, he’s only 25 years old and has over 360 games played in the majors. Player B is Javy Baez. Yes, he did have a solid season last year with a .273, 23 HR and 10 steals in only 508 plate appearances. If you’ve been visiting my site, you know I’m not a huge fan, here’s my bust post I wrote back in January. Click bait! Anyways, the keys points are that he swings at everything, doesn’t make a lot of contact, and doesn’t hit the ball hard constantly. Playing time could be an issue with Joe Maddon and the Cubs if he doesn’t kick the old habits. His stat line was just fine last year but xStats pegged Baez for a triple slash of .242/.317/.431 with a xBABIP of .304. If that isn’t bad enough, Javy was second to last in both O-Swing% and SwStr% which means he chased pitches out of the zone and swung and missed almost as much as anybody in the league. DON’T GET WITH THIS.

Player C looks like the best combination of power and speed based on ZIPS projections. He’s also one of the three players clumped in a tight ADP window that includes Baez and Player D below. Based on his projections, there’s no reason he should be drafted at the same ADP as Baez and I already wrote about my displeasure for the Baez ADP. The issue is that Player C hit an atrocious .204 last year! Ok, so Player C is Rougned Odor. Yes, the strikeout rate went up to a career-worst 24.9% and his plate discipline is poor, but it’s not as bad as Baez’. He still managed to hit 30 home runs and steal 15 bases which were nearly identical to 2016 and he’s only 24 years old. Bottom line is his BABIP won’t be .224 again and the power is legit justified by a 37% hard contact rate. A .250-30-14 season is much more likely for Odor is 2018. GET WITH THIS. 

Player D looks almost identical to Odor with a little less speed and maybe that’s why his ADP is a little lower. Player D is also very young (only 23), has a lot of swing and miss to his game, but actually has an above average walk rate, unlike the rest of this list. He also has a playing time issue similar to Baez but is eligible in the outfield as well. Player D is Ian Happ. I really like young players with good walk rates, it shows maturity and potential upside. His 30+% K rate is bad but his profile looks good in that he hits about 40% fly balls and only had a 3.2% IFFB rate, meaning he’s getting good value out of his fly balls, hence the 25% HR/FB rate. I don’t think he will repeat that but he did hit 24 home runs in only 413 plate appearances. So he has a little more power than Baez and a little less speed with a better walk rate, I’ll take my chances with Happ two rounds later. GET WITH THIS.

Player E is the other old man of the group. He had one of the worst seasons of his career and is now playing for a new club. To me, his poor season was fueled by a poor BABIP because his walk rate improved, his hard contact was the highest of his career, and his approach remained well above average. Player E is Ian Kinsler. Yeah, lots of Ian talk today. Kinsler is 35 years-old but I think the projection by ZIPS is a bit low. He’s averaged 25 home runs the last two seasons and will be leading off in front of Mike Trout. His SwStr rate and K rate remaining near elite and the improvement in walk rate mean plenty of runs. I can easily see 20 homers, 10 steals with 95-105 runs. His ADP needs to be inside the top 150. GET WITH THIS.

First Base – The Choice Is Yours

As I continue my ADP analysis, we move from one side of the diamond to the other. Today I’m going to discuss four power hitting mystery first baseman. I suppose most first baseman are big-time power threats but that’s beside the point. There are some intriguing names and projections on this list and again I’ll be using ZIPS projections and NFBC ADP for all these players.

1BZIPS Projections    
PlayerAVGRHRRBISBADP
Player A0.2649634121549
Player B0.2387633882125
Player C0.2407429757200
Player D0.2556225724290

Um, OK so Player A is basically a beast, right? Is it Edwin Encarnacion from 2016? No, but that’s what the projections say. This polarizing figure burst on the scene in August of last year belting 18 home runs in ONLY 50 games. You already know who this is based on ADP and the sentence prior; it’s Rhys Hoskins MFer! I love Rhys but this projection seems out of whack. It’s funny because I love his approach and patience, he’s going to draw walks and his strikeout rate should be at or below average, combine that with a ton of fly balls and hard contact and you’ve got a 40 home run hitter. I have him projected for 37 home runs but I can’t figure out where the 121 RBI are coming from. Cesar Hernandez should be leading off and Carlos Santana takes a lot of walks but it’s not like Mike Trout and Joey Votto are hitting in front of him. Maybe he can reach 100 RBI but I can’t go higher than that, is he worth a top 50 pick? Barely, so GET WITH THIS, but let him come to you.

Player B appears to have similar power numbers to Hoskins but appears to have a major average drain. However, that’s built into the price as his ADP is over 75 spots after Hoskins. I don’t think Player B has a great walk rate either based on the projected run total; that or he hits sixth in a sub-par lineup. Player B actually had a better HR/PA than Hoskins did in 2017. Player B is Oakland’s Matt Olson who blasted an amazing 24 home runs in only 216 plate appearances. Olson will take plenty of walks, hits 45+% fly balls and hits the ball hard. The only he doesn’t do as well as Hoskins is limit strikeouts, that’s where the batting average drop comes into play. He’s never hit for a good average, even in the minors and his park doesn’t play as well for power as Citizens Bank Park in Philly. However, if you miss out on Hoskins early or play in an OBP league, jump in on Olson at his current price and reap the benefits. GET WITH THIS.

Player C basically looks like Olson light, which makes him look like Hoskins extra light and fluffy like Fluffernutter. The good news is that he’s being taken around pick 200, so it’s not like you are spending much to get him. This NL first baseman is also OF eligible and came out like gangbusters early in 2017 looking like Babe Ruth! If that didn’t give this one away, I don’t know what will. Player C is Eric Thames. After killing it in Korea, Thames came back to the States and showed that he belonged. The power is legit evidenced by a 41.5% hard contact rate and a 24.6% HR/F rate last year. However, the strikeouts are high and the contact rate is poor, he also has playing time concerns with the additions of Cain and Yelich pushing Braun to play some first base. Including Broxton, there are six players to fill four positions (3 OF, 1B) and I think Broxton and Thames see the least playing time of the group. Between playing time issues, pitcher’s starting to figure him out, and similar players (like player D below) who are going even later in drafts, I’m out on Thames except maybe in OBP leagues. DON’T GET WITH THIS.

Player D has a pretty solid line considering his ADP is sitting all the way up at 290. Here’s another guy who had a massive breakout near the age of 30. Player D changed his approach like many others by increasing launch angle, hit the ball harder, but sacrificed average and struck out more. His current ADP is unfair because he only signed about two weeks ago. Player D is Logan Morrison. While his strikeout rate increased, it wasn’t a complete killer at 25%. Although when you combine it with a high fly ball rate and slow foot speed, you’re going to be low BABIPs and a low batting average. I’ll take the under on a .255 average but I will take the over on 25 home runs. He should sit firmly in the middle of the Twins lineup and drive in 80-85 runs. As long as the ADP stays below 240, I”m gonna GET WITH THIS.

Third Base – The Choice Is Yours

Moving on the the hot corner, I’ve done the outfielders and shortstops with speed. I’m going in a different direction as the hot corner nearly has the depth of first base and is littered with power bats. We are going to focus on power and run production in this article from third base. This won’t be your high end talent at third baseman, I’ll be digging into players taken outside of 125 overall. These third baseman are your 16+ league starters or CI guys. So, take a look at the mystery players below with ZIPS projections and I’ll do a little dive into the numbers and ADP so we can find out who to get with and who stay away from.

3B Deep LeagueZIPS Projections  
RunsHRRBIAVGSBADP
Player A7728960.2713139
Player B8125830.2577192
Player C7525960.2661234
Player D7426870.2449284

Player A looks solid, maybe this guy should be inside the top 100 with those numbers. There’s good and bad with Player A, first the good. The last three seasons he’s averaged 28 HR, 87 RBI, a .264 BA and he’s only 30 years old coming into 2018. Based on those numbers, the projections look good except maybe a little high in BA and run production. Here’s the bad news for this AL corner man, he has increased his K% each of the last three seasons and hit a career low .249 in 2017 fueled by an insane 51.6% FB rate. Increased fly ball rates lead to more HR though, right? Well he hit 27 in 2017 down from 30 in 2016, so no. Player A is steady Kyle Seager. Here’s the problem, he’s selling out for power increasing his FB% by 10% but not actually improving on the power numbers. It’s impossible to hit for a high average with an over 50% FB rate, just ask Matt Carpenter and Joey Gallo. Therefore, I disagree with ZIPS high average (for Seager) along with the 28 HR. For me, it’s one or the other. He either hits 28 HR with a .245 BA or he hits .270 with 23 HR. The run production is too high as well, he’ll end up around 80-85 RBI. For me at this price, I’m saying DON’T GET WITH THIS.

Player B has pretty similar projections to Seager with a lower BA, a few less HR but more steals. He’s being taken 55 spots later so it appears he might be better value than Seager especially with what I believe to be true about Seager. I like Player B, he’s 26-years-old, has increased his power numbers and walk rate for three straight years and is slated to hit fourth in a hitters ballpark. This NL 3B is Eugenio Suarez. I love Suarez, you can read my thoughts on Suarez on FanGraphs Community way back in November. I can’t figure out how he’s only projected for 83 RBI which is basically identical to 2017 except he’ll be hitting fourth directly behind OBP machine Joey Votto and last year he spent over 130 games hitting 5th or 6th. I can easily see 90+ RBI with the 80+ runs. He’s a clone of Seager but 55 picks later and throw in a few extra steals for good measure, I have him ranked higher than Seager. GET WITH THIS.

Based on ZIPS, Player C has incredible value. He’s actually projected for better numbers than Suarez but with no speed and identical projections to Seager with nearly 100 picks between them! To be fair, ZIPS projection is the most favorable for this player especially in the RBI department. This NL third baseman is only 25 but has 2.5 seasons of major league experience. His offensive production has decreased each year and there is risk he could lose his job during the season. Player C is Maikel Franco. It would take great starts to the season from J.P. Crawford and Scott Kingery to push Franco to the bench. Personally, I’m torn on Franco. I love the power, age, and contact skills but I hate the crazy high IFFB% and his hard hit contact is not reminiscent of the power hitter. As bad as he was in 2017, he still hit 24 HR and drove in 74 runs. Don’t ask me where ZIPS is getting those RBI numbers because Franco likely isn’t higher than sixth in the order. I don’t believe in the .234 BA last year but .270 might be too high considering the popup issue. I like him at this cost but think he’s more of a .255 25-80 guy until he kicks those his popup problem to the curb. GET WITH THIS, but don’t reach.

Player D has been a steady power source over his career and has averaged 155 games a year since 2013. He’s a bit over the hill but there’s value in a guy who plays everyday and can hit for power. To me, the projections are laughably high. It’s not that I don’t think this mystery player can hit .244 with 9 steals but that’s more of a 75-80% outcome. This third baseman has hit below .235 three of the last four seasons. Player D is Todd Frazier. There’s proven power with Frazier but even that is dwindling. He hits a ton of fly balls and even more popups than Franco. In fact, about 9% of Frazier’s batted balls are popups which as we know are automatic outs. Combine that with his 22% K rate and he’s a guaranteed out 31% of the time. His line drive rate is below average and his speed is basically gone, so a BABIP over .250 isn’t happening. So he’s a .220-.230 hitter like Gallo but without the 50 HR upside. If you’re CI spot is weak and you need power I can see grabbing Frazier but make sure you have some high batting average guys to supplement. Personally, I not touching him. DON’T GET WITH THIS.

Shortstop – The Choice Is Yours

The first article I did for ADP value picks was for outfielders with speed. This one is going to be similar but for shortstops in that most of these options at short will have some speed. As a reminder, I’m using ZIPS projections for 2018 and NFBC ADP for all the players. So how this works is, I display ZIPS projections for four or five similar mystery players at the same position and we figure out whether you should (to quote Black Sheep – The Choice is Yours) “get with this or you can get with that.” Yes, old school rap is the inspiration for this segment. Ok, here’s are the mystery players.

SS     NFBC
PlayerAVGHRRRBISBADP
Player A0.2731380522577
Player B0.28811586024131
Player C0.2737574727206
Player D0.25119676111230
Player E0.2599615120236

Based on the projections, Player A looks to be the most productive in terms of run production, has good speed and a little bit of power. The average is fine, but I’ll be honest, I don’t understand why this player’s ADP is up at 77 based on the projections. The 80 runs and 52 RBI tells me this player hits near the top of the lineup. That’s true, this player is slotted to hit second in a solid AL lineup with a couple of notorious veteran run producers hitting behind him. Yup, this is Mean Jean Segura. I actually agree with the power and speed production but can’t understand the low runs and RBI numbers given a full season of at-bats, especially with Cano and Cruz behind him and Dee Gordon in front. The .273 average appears a alittle low as well, Jean has hit .309 the last two years combined and will be 28 this year. His BABIP is high but matches his good speed, high GB% profile. Despite the low projections by ZIPS, I’d expect a .290 AVG with 90+ runs and around 60 RBI along with the power and speed. He’s a clone of Elvis Andrus 20 spots later, GET WITH THIS.

Player B looks a lot like Segura but with very low run production. Interesting, a player like this should hit near the top of the lineup and not at the bottom. The issue appears to be his almost non-existent walk rate (3.7% in 2017) and utility-type role. I may have given him away but if I didn’t he’s also only eligible at shortstop if your league requires 15 or fewer games played at a position. Yup, this veteran is Eduardo Nunez. I would love Nunez more if he wasn’t on Boston. I know that sounds odd because Boston has a stout AF lineup. Normally that’s great for production but Nunez will hit 8th or 9th when he plays. He’ll start at 2nd while Dustin Pedroia is out then fill in as a utility role player. So, 500 PA is going to be tough to get. The other issue is the fact that Boston doesn’t run much. If he was in San Diego for instance, I’d love him because he would start every day and hit first or second in the lineup while running wild. While I’d take a shot on him because Pedroia is going to have trouble staying healthy, he needs another position player to get injured for him to see nearly a full season of ABs. DON’T GET WITH THIS. Unless he slips into the 160-170 range.

Player C
Wow, more steals and even LESS run production than Nunez! He still provides a solid batting average but isn’t taken until after pick 200. This player’s SHIT-uation doesn’t look great. He looks to be slotted near the bottom of the lineup and could possibly be on the strong side of a platoon. However, this 23-year-old NL player clearly has some speed considering the playing time issue. Player C is Jose Peraza, everyone’s favorite speedster sleeper from 2017. Now, everyone is hating even though he’s been handed a starting gig. I understand the risk especially with the news that Nick Senzel is taking reps over at short. While I love Senzel, he isn’t a shortstop and I believe it will take him the first half of the season in the minors to get comfortable with the new position. At that point, Peraza would be a utility player at 2B, SS, and OF. He’s still a good bet to get 500 PA. The high contact rate and speed should give him a .270-ish batting average but you won’t get much power. So if you need speed around pick 200 GET WITH THIS. I don’t love him before pick 200 though.

Player D
Player D is my beau. If you haven’t read a lot of my stuff or follow me on Twitter (plug) you may not know who this guy is. Clearly he the most power out of this group but the least amount of speed. His run production is second to Segura but I actually think it’s a joke. My projections for this AL LEAD-OFF hitter are 22 HR, 14 SB with 80+ runs and 60 RBI. Player D is Marcus Semien. How ZIPS projects 67 runs from a lead-off hitter, I have no idea. Also, Semien stole 12 bases (yes it was a career high) last year but in less than 90 games and is now projected for only 11? The power is legit as well, his full-season projection for home runs last year was 19 BUT he missed significant time with a wrist injury which sapped his power upon his return in July and August. It’s all good though because he clubbed five HR in September to prove the wrist is no longer an issue. Did I mention that he’ll be 27 this year and already has a season where he hit 27 home runs? I didn’t? Oh, well he does and he’s being drafted as the 20th ranked shortstop. GET WITH THIS ALL DAY!

Player E
Being draft six picks behind my boy is Player E. The numbers here aren’t too bad as projected by ZIPS. He’s one HR shy of a 10-20 season with a near .260 BA. This is an NL SS with elite talent defensively and well above average speed. He basically going to be given the job because of his defense but needs some work offensively and there are veterans there to take his spot if he falters. Player E is Amed Rosario, previously the Mets’ number one prospect in 2017. Rosario had an awful debut hitting .248 with an atrocious .271 OBP and K-BB rate of 27%! Yes, you read that right. After last season, I did not like Rosario coming into 2018; I worry about the plate discipline and I’m not sure the power shows up this year. He also needs to get on base to steal and he will be batting at the bottom of the lineup, so he won’t have a ton of opportunities. I do think he will be a solid hitter in a few years something like .275-15-25, but not now. DON’T GET WITH THIS!

Outfield – Speed

This is a new feature I’m doing for the month of March since draft season is in full swing. I’m comparing similar players at the same position using ZIPS Projections. The feature is called “The Choice is Yours.”For those of you who were either born in the 90s (or later) may not be familiar with the Hip Hop group Black Sheep or the song The Choice is Yours. Go ahead and give it a go, the lyrics are often giving you the option to either “get with this or you can get with that.” Of course, I’ll reveal the players in the table below and also give my personal analysis and thoughts on each player. So without further ado, I give you group of five relatively similar outfielders whose primary asset is speed.

ZIPS Projections      
OFNFBC
PlayerAVGHRRRBISBADP
Player A0.2781165522851
Player B0.2831476592268
Player C0.291989482291
Player D0.23415605625200
Player E0.2448722133210

Clearly, players A, B, and C are the most complete in terms of all-around talent with high batting averages 9-14 HR power and 20+ steals. Players D and E while don’t hit for a very good average, still provide similar power numbers and as much or more speed than the first three. The difference is you can wait 110 to 150 picks later to grab them. So who are these mystery players? Remember ZIPS is a little bit conservative with their projections and I’ll be sure to let you know where my projections are for each player after I reveal them.

Based on the ADP, you probably can figure out that Player A is Starling Marte. If you’ve read my blog, you know I’m not touching his this year. He was busted with PEDs last year and his 19 HR season back in 2015 seems to be an outlier. I know power wasn’t likely the reason Marte was taking PEDS, but it may have helped him stay on the field, now at age 29, without PEDs (probably), and coming off a year where is hard contact was a career low 26% and his soft contact at an even higher rate at a whopping 29%, I don’t think he hits more than 10 HRs this year. I have him at 9 HR in about 135 games. I wrote a sleeper post about him back in December, the ADP has come down since, but not far enough. Don’t get with this.

On to Player B, I believe this player provides the most value in terms of fantasy this year. He’s 31 and has got a new team this year where his home park is a significant upgrade from where he was in 2017. Ok, so that gave it away, it’s Lorenzo Cain. Cain has played 133 or more games in three of the last four season and 103 games in 2016. Cain has never stolen 30 bases in a year but here is a look at his 162 game averages since 2014: .300 AVG 14 HR and 30 steals. He’s now going to a team that has added Yelich and is looking to contend in 2018. Craig Counsell, the Manager, is known for his aggressiveness on the base paths and Miller Park is one of the most hitter-friendly in the league. In my opinion, both HR and SB projections by ZIPS are low, I have him around 16-18 HR and 28 steals for 2018 and should much more value than Marte this year. Get with this

Player C has a little less power but the highest projected batting average and run total. Based on this information, he must hit in one of the top two spots in the lineup. My projections are very similar to what Zips projects, and I think his ADP is about right (maybe a touch high). Player C is Ender Inciarte. Inciarte won’t provide the power upside that some of the other players on this list can provide, in fact, I think 12 HR might be somewhat of a ceiling for Inciarte. However, the high contact rate and speed will keep his batting average high and run total up hitting in front of Ozzie Albies (probably) and Freddie Freeman. He doesn’t profile as a player with elite speed either so I can’t see him reaching 30 steals. So the upside is limited but certainly has one of the safer floors in this group. Get with this (kind of), but don’t reach, I like him after pick 100.

Player D is projected for the lowest batting average from this group but also the most home runs. His current ADP is at 200, so the low batting average is baked into the price. Would you believe me if I told you that Player D had the third highest sprint speed in the majors last year behind only Byron Buxton and Billy Hamilton and one spot ahead of Dee Gordon! Well, I guess clicking the link gave this one away. Bradley Zimmer is not only a great athlete, he’s also 6’5″ and 220 pounds. He’s like a leaner more athletic Kris Bryant. I’m really just kidding with that comparison, Bryant and Zimmer are very different as ballplayers, they only have similar body types. Ok, so the K rate is terrible and his contact rates don’t lead to much optimism but Zimmer had shown patience in the minors so I expect his OBP to improve; combine that with a high GB%, elite sprint speed, and above average hard-hit rate. These abilities should lead to an improved OBP and a good amount of SB opportunities. His elite defense will keep him on the field, an OBP around .325 is possible and I could see 35+ attempts over the course of an entire season. Don’t sleep on his power either, 20 HR upside is in his bat down the road. Get with this.

Player E looks a lot like Zimmer but with more speed and less power. What’s confusing to me is how ZIPS projects him for 72 runs but a measly 21 RBI! How is that even possible? It sounds like a strong-side platoon leadoff hitter. if you haven’t guessed this player yet, you will after this comment; he was sixth in sprint speed in 2017. Yes sir, the son of one of my favorite childhood speedsters Delino DeShields. Jr. profile is almost identical to Sr. except he’s a little shorter and a little thicker. Jr. strikes out too much to have a good batting average but his patience will keep him on base and hopefully in the lineup. His defense should keep him in the lineup as well, but there is the risk for a platoon here but even with only 440 PA in 2017, he still stole 29 bases. The risk after pick 200 is going to be there for almost any player but if you need 30-40 steal upside at this point in the draft, then Get with this.