As we exit the polar vortex and begin to dream of spring, the game of baseball returns. Usually our season-to-offseason cycle feels a bit different, but the hot-stove has remained cool. Despite this, fantasy owners everywhere are starting to warm up their brains for the new season.
In honor of getting warmed up, the first article for this season will not be focused on the upcoming 2019 season. The upcoming 2019 will of course be discussed, but this article is about the predictions that I made last year, and what we can reflect on from that.
Bargains and Busts
The 2018 Busts
Rhys Hoskins, 1B/OF, Philadelphia Phillies — Okay, granted this take didn’t turn out to be completely correct, but let’s also add the fact that I didn’t believe Rhys Hoskins would be terrible, and he did only hit .246. He may not have returned draft day value, depending on how high you took him. In my complete Guide last year, one particular player that I felt profiled similarly to Hoskins at a cheaper price was Khris Davis, who was a better value in the OF last year than Rhys Hoskins. What’s more, I actually feel similarly about Hoskins this year. His ADP is still really high, and while I like him, love the line-up and ballpark, and think he projects to have a strong outcome, I still believe that we’re projecting Batting Average growth that may not be there. Baked into Rhys Hoskins’ price is the idea that he can experience a large Batting Average growth due to his strong contact ability. But what I think gets lost in the picture is that the .241 and .272 BABIPs to me, while low, are just not flukes. He pulls the ball a lot, and hits a lot of fly-balls as well as pop-ups. It has been my comparison for over a year now, but he reminds me a lot of Jose Bautista, who was never a great BA hitter. I like Rhys Hoskins at an evaluation that puts his BA range at .245-.260, which to me makes the 41 ADP he’s going at in 2019 according to early Fantasypros ADP fairly steep.
Yasiel Puig, OF, currently Cincinnati Reds; formerly Los Angeles Dodgers — My concerns with Puig coming off of his 28 HR, 15 SB, 2017 season involved the playing time concerns that persisted during his Dodgers career. And for the most part, this held true in 2018. His SBs stayed at 15, but missing time throughout the year lowered his R, RBI, and HR production from the previous year. Puig wasn’t a highly drafted asset by any means, but he didn’t likely return much more than a headache with the occasional hot streak in 2018. However, unlike Rhys Hoskins, I’m on the other side of the fence with Yasiel Puig in 2019. And yes, a lot of that has to do with the move to the Cincinnati Reds.
I love the potential in Puig for the 2019 Season. The Reds purchased Puig to be an everyday player, which he will remain with health. The Reds love to run, and Puig has stolen 15 Bases in less playing time the past two years. But the real smoking gun for loving Puig is Great American Ballpark. By park factors, Great American ranks as one of the best HR parks in the entire MLB. Where Dodger Stadium is a roughly below-average Run and roughly neutral HR park (ESPN Park Factors) the last three years, Great American is average in Run production and far above average in HRs. If Puig sees a modest growth in his HRs based on either his playing time bonus or park bonus, he should be a great fantasy asset alongside 15-20 SBs. If he sees modest growth from both, then you could be looking at the upside of a .265/35/20 player. And Puig should be as motivated as he’s ever been, as this contract year could bring him a highly variable range of outcomes, depending on the year he puts forward in Cincinnati. I’ve baked durability concerns into my ranking of Puig, but I still have him as a value at ADP, and someone with a ton of upside in Cincinnati.
Adam Jones, OF, formerly Baltimore Orioles — While I think I could argue none of these three players returned value on their ADP, this is the only bust pick I made in 2018 that I feel truly lived up to that “bust” standard. And I say that as a huge fan of Adam Jones as a player and person both now and throughout his career, but I think he’s on a bad slope downward. I thought this before the 2018 season, and he had his worst power year (15 HRs) with a sub-1.0 WAR. The fact of the matter is that I truly believe that selective players age better. They are trying to manipulate the pitches they are swinging at, and I think that helps to combat the aging curve. Players who swing at everything are the ones that fall off the cliff. Look at Vladimir Guerrero’s Career after age 31 or at age 33. That’s a Hall of Fame baseball player who hit a cliff at a relatively young age after a career of success and health. And Adam Jones, while a respected player in his own right, has never been the hitter Guerrero was. Some pundits have pegged this a bounce back year depending on if Jones can find a good landing spot in free agency, but I think his days of fantasy value are truly over.
The 2018 Bargains
Ender Inciarte, OF, Atlanta Braves — This pick is hard to reflect on even after a complete year. Inciarte, through the early portion of the season, looked like the kind of bargain pick you dream of. He was hitting the ball, and started stealing bases like an absolute fiend. And then between call-ups, injury, and lack of performance, he was banished down towards the back half of the line-up, and started to see a decline in both BA and SBs. As a whole, the bump up to 28 SBs probably made the total line of 10 HRs, 28 SBs, and a .260+ BA worth the pick you got Inciarte at, but it isn’t the BA I would have projected and he got to that eventual conclusion in a very messy way. For 2019, a lot of Inciarte’s value is going to come down to the line-up spot. I think he’ll run a bit more if he’s at the top of it, and his skill set isn’t one to generate a high total of Rs or RBIs if he isn’t hitting near the top, where at least he can compete for 100+ Runs. That’s a large variable I will be keeping my eye on as we approach Spring Training.
Domingo Santana, OF, currently Seattle Mariners, formerly Milwaukee Brewers — Okay. This hurts. Domingo Santana was so bad (or non-existent) that even if this was the greatest reflection list in the history of baseball, this pick would sour it completely. I mean that’s how I felt the whole time writing this article: Why did I have to pick Domingo? Well the reason is because, despite numerous acquisitions, he had such an enticing batted ball profile in 2017. I mean Domingo showed just the rarest blend of Hard Contact, good LD%, good spread, few Pop-ups, and profiled to me to maintain a ridiculous BABIP. While he does strike out, I still believe he profiles as someone who may be able to survive this weakness. The beast David Stearns has built in Milwaukee sped past Santana, and if he were still a Brewer I’d be willing to write him off in 2019. But he got moved to Seattle where at least he should have a clear opportunity to earn everyday playing time, and at a current non-existent price, I’m willing to take the plunge.
Charlie Blackmon, OF, Colorado Rockies — Another pick that I do not believe ended up as a Bargain in 2018, Blackmon’s BA went from the realm of the spectacular to the far more ordinary. While plenty of hitters would love to work up to a .291 BA, the .320+ figure Blackmon had the last two years were a staple of why I wanted to pick Blackmon so highly. His BABIP was the worst it has been in three years, but I don’t believe the difference in any of the predictors to be so significant that it maintains at a new, lower threshold. While he is aging, I do think he is a relatively polished hitter who has a good shot of producing prime or near-prime numbers for at least a couple more years. I think Blackmon returns to at least .305+ next year, returning value on his current 2019 ADP.
And now that we’re warmed up, starting next week everything will be about 2019 and draft prep.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday February 10th, 2019 from 8-9:45pm EST for episode #136 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. Join us for our first Sunday night show of 2019. We will be breaking down the National League divisions over the next 3 Sundays. You can listen live on blogtalk, majorleaguefantasysports.com, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. This week we will break down the N.L. East.