Just as Greg Wellemeyer did in looking at two catcher prospects, second basemen, and shortstops, I'm back to offer an in-depth look at a pair of outfielders as a companion to Bret Sayre's dynasty-focused look at the position, in the same format as I did in looking at our first-base matchup of Trey Mancini vs. Bobby Bradley and our third-base matchup of Rafael Devers vs. Ryan McMahon. We hope that you're enjoying the series, as it's aimed at helping dynasty league owners in the decision making process that quite often occurs when trying to differentiate between two players, whether it be during draft time or trade talks.
Today, we take a look at two outfielders, both entering their age-24 seasons, who feature prominently in Bret's Dynasty League Rankings and have yet to fulfill the monster expectations of dynasty owners to this point in their brief major league duty, particularly in the power department.
Polanco hit for a .285 AVG in exactly 2,000 minor-league plate appearances and has hit for a .249 AVG in his first 963 major league plate appearances. Polanco's TAv has been slightly better, coming in at .258 over his first two big league seasons, with his first major league action coming in June 2014–conveniently after the Super-Two cutoff.
Yelich smashed his way through the minors, hitting .311 over his 1,318 career minor league plate appearances. Yelich reached the majors in July 2013, skipping Triple-A along the way, and has hit a .290 AVG in the majors, along with a .288 TAv. Yelich's career BABIP is .365, but he seems to be a better bet (in both the short term and long term) in the average department.
There likely won't be a 40-point difference in batting average as Polanco gets more big-league experience, but Yelich could challenge for batting titles as he matures and the Pirates outfielder likely settles in as a .270-.280 hitter with the potential to approach .300 in his prime.
Polanco has seen his 9.5 percent minor-league walk rate dip while in the majors, but not by all that much, as he's drawn a free pass in 8.8 percent of his plate appearances as a Pirate. His .315 OBP in 242 major-league contests is a 40-point dropoff from his minor-league numbers.
Yelich, who already has a nice headstart on Polanco in the category due to his superior batting average, has walked in 10.2 percent of his major-league plate appearances, which is just below his 10.6 walk rate in the minors. Yelich's career OBP as a Marlin is .365 and his OBP of .364 over the last two seasons places him eighth among outfielders (just ahead of A.J. Pollock's .363 mark) over that period, giving his value a good-sized bump in OBP leagues.
Both Polanco (16 HR) and Yelich (15 HR) totaled their career-best home run output in the Low-A South Atlantic League, and have both seen their power numbers dwindle at each higher level since. Polanco's 16 home runs came with West Virginia in 2012 and he added 12 homers in 2013 between High-A Bradenton and Double-A Altoona. At Triple-A Indianapolis, Polanco hit seven home runs in 69 games while posting a .175 isolated power mark–his best since a .197 ISO in his Sally League days. Since reaching the majors, Polanco has struggled to hit the ball over the fence, hitting 16 home runs in his 963 PA. His ISO of .120 is tied for 77th (with Jake Marisnick) among outfielders and puts him in Denard Span (.119 ISO) and Gregor Blanco (.118 ISO) territory. The very next player at 81st overall among outfielders is Yelich, who checks in at a .117 ISO.
That they rank so similarly in isolated power since Polanco's arrival in the majors illustrates the main complaint that dynasty owners have had with each since their arrival in the majors: the lack of pop coming primarily out of an outfield corner player.
Yelich has hit 20 home runs as a major-leaguer in just under 1,458 plate appearances. It should be pretty clear at this point that both of these outfielders have hit for the same amount of power in the majors; the real question is who will hit for more power as they age. Both hitters were much better in the second-half of 2015, with Polanco hitting for the most power that either has shown over an extended amount of time in smacking six home runs in 69 games after the All-Star break and posting a .150 ISO.
As both hitters mature, it's likely that the hitter who hits the ball in the air much more frequently will see more balls fly over the wall, and that's been Polanco to this point, by a pretty good margin. Polanco owns a career groundball rate of just under 47 percent, whereas Yelich has hit the ball on the ground 62 percent of the time. Yelich's flyball rate checks in at 16 percent, while Polanco hits a flyball twice as frequently (33.8 percent). Yelich has a slight edge in line-drive rate (22 percent to 20 percent for Polanco) to this point in their careers, but not enough to offset the difference. Advantage: Polanco
|It shouldn't come as a huge surprise that both Polanco and Yelich have spent more of their time in the majors at the top of the batting order, with Polanco hitting first in 460 (71 percent) of his 652 PA in 2015 and Yelich hitting first or second in 72 percent of his career plate appearances. Hitting in front of Andrew McCutchen and Giancarlo Stanton are generally good positions to score runs, but the Pirates offense was much more productive in 2015, finishing fourth in the National League in runs scored, with the Fish finishing 14th , in part due to injuries to Stanton, who missed basically half the season, and Yelich, who missed roughly 30 games to injuries to his back and knee.
Advantage: Polanco, very slightly
Yelich has stolen 47 bases in 332 career games, a pace of one per 7.1 games, with a success rate of 80 percent. Polanco has swiped 41 bags in 242 games, one per every 5.9 games, and has been successful on 73 percent of his attempts. Polanco also ran more frequently in the minors, stealing 143 bases (in 479 games) compared to Yelich's 60 stolen-base total in 309 games. Dynast- league owners usually don't care about whose success rate is higher, just who is stealing bases more frequently, and that's been Polanco.
Polanco's nickname is "El Coffee," which for those of you who don't hablo Espanol, means "The Coffee." Rather disappointingly, there isn't a cool story as to why Polanco goes by this nickname, as he reportedly was dubbed "El Coffee" as a 15-year-old in the Dominican simply because another player that looked similar to him also went by the same nickname.
Yelich doesn't have a nickname that has stuck to this point, with teammates unoriginally dubbing him "The Natural" and "The Truth" prior to his big league debut. As was astutely pointed out on Twitter, Yelich spelled backwards is "Chiley," but that hasn't made any waves as of yet.
Advantage: Polanco, by default
Yelich had two separate stints on the disabled list in 2015, one caused by back spasms early in the year and a knee contusion landed kept him out of action in August. Both injuries were relatively minor in nature, but the results did cause him to miss a month cumulatively. Polanco played in 153 games in 2015, but did receive a platelet-rich plasma injection in his left knee after the season. Advantage: Neither
These guys are about as similar in overall fantasy value as two players that play the same position and are the same age can be. They even peaked at similar positions on our Top 101 list before reaching the majors, with Polanco coming in at no. 24 prior to the 2014 season and Yelich at no. 23 prior to the 2013 season.
It will certainly be interesting to see how the fences being moved in this season at Marlins Park affects Yelich's power as he matures, but with the differences in approaches, I do feel comfortable in projecting Polanco for more home-run power as they approach their peak years, particularly with PNC Park being historically a much better place for left-handed power. For reference, there was a 17 percent difference between the two parks for lefties in 2015, and I don't imagine that Marlins Park will change enough to make a huge difference, but it is worth noting that Yelich has hit 17 of his 20 career home runs away from Miami, so any changes made will likely help.
In standard 5X5 dynasty leagues, Polanco's likely edge in steals and home runs offset the difference in batting average that Yelich should provide, making the Pirates outfielder the better overall value. On-base percentage is used as a category much more frequently in dynasty leagues, and while Yelich rates much more highly in leagues that do use OBP, I'd still lean towards Polanco overall, particularly if I'm betting on one of the two to have more 20-homer seasons at his peak. Although I project for Polanco to hit with a bit more power than Yelich down the line, I'd only estimate the difference at five or so home runs as they both mature. We're not talking about either morphing into a prototypical corner masher as they reach their peaks. As has been pointed out throughout our positional looks, speed is down throughout the league and Polanco's stolen-base prowess (his 27 steals were eighth overall) gives him the (slight) edge for me over Yelich.
And the winner is…….. Polanco.
Thank you for reading
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Yelich may indeed become the better hitter overall, but that doesn't mean he's the more valuable fantasy property.
My larger point was that if you're judging these two by wRC+, you're missing most of their respective values.
Pirates seem to think he will hit more towards the middle of the order later in his career.
No, it is not. Yelich spelled backwards is "Hciley"