The Buyer’s Guide is a weekly column designed to help fantasy owners assess a player who sees an increased level of interest during a given week. This column will focus on players who generally have lower than 40 percent ownership rates across various leagues.
It’s always fun to get on leaderboards early in a season and see unexpected names at the top of a list. The current MLB home-run leaderboard offers plenty of surprises. Ryan Zimmerman is leading the league in home runs? That’s unexpected. Yonder Alonzo has hit eight homers? That’s already the second-highest total he’s hit in any major-league season.
One of the players who’s made a somewhat unexpected push up the leaderboard is Scott Schebler. The Reds right fielder currently has eight home runs, which has him tied for the 14th-highest total in baseball. He happens to be tied with players such as Giancarlo Stanton, Manny Machado, Mike Trout and Nolan Arenado.
So, what should fantasy owners do with a player like Schebler? Clearly, some owners have started to take notice of the power surge. In ESPN leagues, his ownership rate jumped from 19.7 percent to 40.8 percent. Owners in CBS leagues were even more excited about Schebler this week. He saw the biggest spike in ownership rate of any player in baseball (12 percent to 55 percent). In Yahoo leagues, he was the eighth-most added outfielder, and his ownership rate currently sits at 41 percent.
The power potential is tantalizing, but will he provide enough value in other categories to be worth a pickup? How should you handle Schebler if you’re in the 60 percent of leagues where he’s available? Let’s try and answer that question in this week’s Buyer’s Guide.
Clearly, the biggest positive Schebler offers in terms of fantasy value is his power. During his time in the minors, he showed the ability to hit 20-plus home runs with the potential to flirt with 30-plus. That potential has been realized to some degree early in the 2017 season. No one expects him to stay on a 45-50 home-run pace, but at this point it’s hard to believe he won’t reach 30 by the end of the season. If you’re in need of power on your fantasy roster, he’s a player who can help you.
Part of the reason for the bump to Schebler’s home-run total is the fact that he’s increased his fly-ball rate by 15 percent. It appears he’s made it a priority to get the ball in the air more, and this has helped fuel a 9 percent jump to his HR/FB rate. His home-run pace might not hold, but he’s doing everything he can ensure that it does.
One of the other pluses that comes with Schebler is frequent playing time. Bryan Price has shown a commitment to playing Schebler regularly, and it’s unlikely he’ll be moved out of right field any time soon. Late in April, Schebler was struggling and Bryan Price was asked about moving Schebler down in the order. Price told C. Trent Rosecrans: “I have as much confidence in him being a great player, probably more confidence in him being a great player, than maybe even he does…” Scott Schebler is going to be in Cincinnati’s lineup regularly this season.
One knock against Schebler from a fantasy perspective is that he’s likely to hurt you in batting average. This is a fair criticism, but part of his struggle this season stems from the fact that he’s running an uncharacteristically low BABIP (.246). If a few more batted balls start to fall in for hits, he wouldn’t really be hurting you in that category (he wouldn’t really be helping either).
The Reds offense has been surprisingly good this season, but you have to wonder how long they’ll be able to keep it up. This will have a major bearing on Schebler’s ability to contribute in other categories. He’s likely to stay in the back half of the batting order (which already limits his opportunities), and this makes him very dependent on Adam Duvall, Eugenio Suarez, Tucker Barnhart/Devin Mesoraco, and Jose Peraza for runs and RBIs. There’s some potential with that group, but it’s hard to put too much confidence in them.
We addressed the batting-average issue above, but it’s worth bringing up here as well. While there are reasons to believe that Schebler’s batting average will rise, he’s still not likely to hit much higher than .260. Again, that won’t kill your fantasy totals, but it’s not really helping you win that category either.
This is Scott Schebler’s fantasy value in a nutshell. The power can be a plus, but in every other category you’re likely to shrug your shoulders at the production. Is that a player worth investing in?
Buyer’s Guide: If you’re desperate for power buy. Otherwise, sell.
On a recent episode of Flags Fly Forever, George Bissell and Ryan Bloomfield discussed the explosion of home runs in MLB. This discussion was prompted by a Tweet from BP alum Ben Lindbergh, which noted the historic pace the league is on in terms of fewest plate appearances per home run. Power does not seem to be in short supply in MLB this season. This means, the value of a player who can only offer you power production has gone down for fantasy purposes.
For example, I went and looked at the players available in a 15-team league that I’m playing in made up of Baseball Prospectus writers. Currently, there are 20-plus players available as free agents who are projected to hit double-digit home runs by the end of the season. Is it possible that Schebler could out-slug all those players? It’s possible, but in the end how much do a few extra home runs actually help you in the current fantasy climate?
Because power is so readily available, fantasy owners should be looking to invest in free agents who are likely to help in categories where production isn’t as easily acquired. If you happen to need a Scott Schebler-type player, that player will be there this season. It’s the players who can help in other ways who, likely, are more deserving of your attention at this point.