Yoan Moncada, Chicago White Sox
Moncada has monstrous raw talent and he’s obviously a premium asset in dynasty leagues, especially with his speed and power combination. Moncada might be a 30/30 player someday if everything goes right. He is probably the best fantasy prospect in baseball, and I absolutely love him long term.
But for 2017 redraft leagues—Moncada is being taken in the top 230 in early ADP—I just am too worried about his swing and miss at the moment to invest in him this year. In 2016, Moncada had a 31% strikeout rate in the Eastern League. Part of it is because he works deep counts and is selective, but there is also considerable swing and miss in his game right now, and it was on full display during his cup of coffee in September. In the big leagues, Moncada struck out in an obscene 60% of his 20 plate appearances. He only made contact on 50% of his swings, and swung and missed on 23% of the offspeed pitches he saw.
What is encouraging is that Moncada has shown an ability to adjust to new circumstances. Moncada struggled badly in his first month in the Red Sox organization, posting a strikeout rate of 28% in his first 30 games in A-ball, coupled with a poor .229/.311/.321 slash line. But in his final 50 games after that, Moncada cut his strikeout rate down to 20% and hit an excellent .306/.415/.508.
So while I think Moncada has a great chance to be a stud down the road, I just don’t see myself investing in him in redraft leagues this year. —Tim Finnegan
Maikel Franco, Philadelphia Phillies
After an impressive rookie debut in 2015, Franco was a hot name heading into the 2016 season, even drawing comparison to future hall of famer Adrian Beltre. I get it. It’s fun to have new, shiny things. But one supremely meh season later, and we can probably pump the brakes on those comps. Franco hit .255/.306/.427 in his first full pro season, which is the generic corn flakes of offensive seasons.
It would be easy to point to Franco’s .271 BABIP and call his 2016 season an outlier, and it certainly could be to some extent. That said, Franco was one of the league leaders in infield fly balls last season. His 17.1 percent infield-flyball rate was nearly double the league average, and giving up that many free outs won’t do him any favors in the batting average category. He struck out a little more (still a solid 16.8 percent, though), walked a little less, and he his ISO dropped by over 40 percentage points. He still slugged 25 homers, but in today’s offensive climate, even that is a little less impressive.
Franco is still only 24 years old, so I’m not writing him off completely. It’s easy to picture a scenario where he improves with added big league reps. I’m just not sure if those improvements will move him into the conversation as a top 10 option at a loaded position, and I’m not really willing to pay to find out. –Mark Barry
Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks
You’ll hear a lot about first and second half splits as we try to evaluate and project players for the coming season. Jose Abreu, Justin Upton, and Billy Hamilton were all substantially better after the All-Star break, while Wil Myers, Jackie Bradley, and Gregory Polanco faded. Sometimes there are good reasons for divergence in performance on either side of a point in time: recovery from injury, change in position or role, mechanical tweak. Harder to spot are adjustments made by pitchers in the way they attack hitters, and vice versa. I try to spend a little extra time trying to untangle this dynamic when I notice ugly splits for young players. Players like, say, Jake Lamb.
After a first half in which Lamb hit .291 with 20 big flies in 85 games, he scuffled through a .197 second half, though to his credit he did manage to jack another nine homers. After living low and away through July, pitchers were far more willing to pitch up in the zone late in the year, and came inside more often when they did stay down. The result was weaker contract across all pitch types and a spike in Lamb’s fly ball rate. Whereas Lamb was pulling and driving balls in the early going, the late summer saw him lifting balls the other way and popping up pitches inside that he couldn’t get the barrel on. Complicating matters is that Lamb has been terrible against lefties and the Diamondbacks have a mess of young infielders that need reps. There’s no need to run Lamb out there versus southpaws when Drury can slide to the hot corner and Arizona can backfill up the middle without sacrificing much.
Lamb’s current price necessitates a counter-adjustment and a full-time role. Perhaps he’s capable of both, but I’m not going to pay full sticker to find out when I could wait several turns and grab Castellanos or Moustakas. –Greg Wellemeyer
Eduardo Nunez, Giants
I know that Giants Devil Magic is second only to Cardinals Devil Magic, but I don't believe 2016 Eduardo Nunez is the real Eduardo Nunez. His BABIP was elevated. He didn't hit the ball on a line more. His approach didn't approve. And while his HR/FB rate jumped, his overall ISO didn't. Nunez should be in for a solid chunk of at-bats once again in 2017, but I expect him to regress across the board when it comes to fantasy stats. You can use him as a solid source of steals, but don't expect any of his other counting stats to remain at 2016 levels. —Ben Carsley
Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians
To be honest, I wanted to take either Todd Frazier or Jake Lamb—two guys who I really do think will disappoint fantasy owners this year given their cost. However, by the time I got to the spreadsheet, they'd been claimed (smartly). So I'll settle for being the guy to throw cold water on a super enjoyable player to watch on a super enjoyable team to watch.
Ramirez has always made contact. In fact, he's struck out 138 times in his major league career spanning 332 games. The problem is kinda everything else, at least from a fantasy standpoint. Reduced to third base eligibility, there's a higher bar now for the former middle infielder, and he's going to have to max out almost across the board in order to turn a profit. He's not likely to hit in a great spot in that lineup, even though the lineup will be strong. He's not likely to steal much more than 20 bases. So his paths towards returning value are either to hit .320 or take another step forward in power—neither of which is likely.
Right now, Ramirez is going in the top-100 picks (early ADP alert), ahead of fellow third basemen Evan Longoria and Justin Turner. I am not interested in that for someone who's most likely outcome is a relatively empty .290-.300 average and a non-impactful number of steals. —Bret
Todd Frazier, Chicago White Sox
Bret Sayre, Mike Gianella, and I have already roasted Frazier on this week’s Flags Fly Forever podcast, but I think another Festivus-style airing of grievances, in the form of a podcast for your eyes, is certainly warranted. Let’s kick this off with a little blind player comparison, pitting the 32-year-old slugger against a rising star at the hot corner.
- Frazier: (666 PA) .225/.302/.464 89 R, 40 HR, 98 RBI, 15 SB ($17)
- Player X: (618 PA) .311/.363/.462 84 R, 11 HR, 76 RBI, 22 SB ($25)
The mystery man, Jose Ramirez, hit nearly 30 fewer home runs, but finished as the more valuable fantasy option last year. Per BP’s retrospective player valuations, Frazier earned just $17 in 15-team standard mixed leagues, finishing outside the top 10 at the position. Conversely, Ramirez was worth just one dollar less ($25) than reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson, and finished as a top five third baseman. This exercise highlights the diminishing value of home runs in fantasy, and also illustrates the incredible depth at the position. So, why is Frazier still being drafted in the fifth round (74th overall) on average in early 2017 NFBC drafts? Seriously, he’s going ahead of four players (Adrian Beltre, Anthony Rendon, Evan Longoria, Justin Turner) that our staff designated as superior options our tiered rankings, and a pair (Alex Bregman and Ramirez) that I like considerably more, at the position.
You don’t have to be an expert in behavioral science to understand what’s going on here. The Frazier phenomenon is a textbook case of the availability heuristic, which simply means that people assess the frequency or probability of an event by the ease with which instances or occurrences come to mind. Fantasy owners are accustomed to seeing a player who hits 40 home runs and steals 15 bases as an extremely valuable commodity. Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case given the current fantasy landscape. Not to get too Darwinian right now, but it’s time to adapt.
All of this is before we even address the glaring red flags in Frazier’s profile. It’s troubling that the New Jersey native’s strikeout rate was higher (24.5 percent) than his favorite Taylor Swift song “22” last season. In addition to trading contact for power, his fly ball rate has slowly ascended to a 49 percent peak in 2016. Those primary factors eliminate almost any hope of a rebound in batting average. The double-digit steals are also in jeopardy as he enters his mid-thirties. There’s a ton of downside here.
There is a high degree of probability that Frazier hits 30-plus home runs in 2017. Unfortunately, those round-trippers are handcuffed to a likely .240 batting average. Unless the league-wide uptick in power over the past two seasons regresses, he has very little chance of returning a profit. It’s that simple. —George Bissell