2019 Risers and Fallers: Outfield
New year, same series. Still Grinding through each position analyzing players whose stocks are up or down. Identifying guys who should be risers or fallers, and players you should know about as you gear up for drafts and trades during this non-existent off-season. This week we’re looking at outfield!
These articles are intended to help you find value. The stocks of these players are based on their performances in 2018. However, that does not reflect whether you should buy or sell the player. For instance, many buying opportunities tend to be in the “faller” sections, while sometimes selling options tend to be in the “riser” sections of these articles. Here’s hoping that you find your dynasty Cinderella.
Franmil Reyes 23, MLB SD
I love me them thicc, big boys! Franmil Reyes is all 6’5″ and 275 pounds of pure smashing baseball skills. The rookie outfielder came up to the majors and had mixed success, batting a terrible .222 in the first half, then a robust .315 in the second half.
Much was made of the adjustment of Reyes’ leg kick, as his second-half success came about after a leg-kick adjustment was made in August. I’m not sure that the leg kick had much to do with Reyes’ success, but I can see that his plate discipline did, going from a BB/K of .15 in the first half to .46 in the second.
Franmil also saw a slight uptick in his line-drive rate, which I enjoy seeing. However, it didn’t take away from Reyes’ ground ball rate. Thus, there’s probably a cap on how many home runs the beefy boy can hit. I think he can get into the mid-to-upper 20s in home runs. He’s an OF3 with upside. I’m team beefy, so he’ll be on as many of my squads as possible.
Aaron Hicks 29, MLB NYY
Anyone who was top 3% in walk-rate will likely steal my heart, or at the very least cause my eyes to wander. The twenty-nine-year-old is near dynasty death (30 years of age), but since he’s arrived at Yankee stadium his fantasy stock has grown. In the span of three years, Hicks has transformed himself from an OF4 to a potential OF1.
The short porch in right-field has been Hicks’ best friend. He hadn’t shown significant power in the past, but he smashed 27 homers in 2018. Considering that Hicks only hit the ball to the opposite side of the park 17.1% of the time, it’s no wonder that Yankee Stadium and Hicks make such a strong pairing.
Surprisingly, his power was pretty evenly split between home (15) and away (12). That suggests this is a change that came in his approach and something the Yankee coaching staff had to do with.
Not to take away from the dingers, but power has not been the biggest change in Hick’s profile since he’s come to Yankee Stadium. What’s allowed him to hit those pitches is his new-found ability to get the pitches he needs to do it. Last year he saw his pitch-per-plate appearance climbed to 4.28 (the highest of his career).
As with a lot of players I find myself analyzing, he’ll be more valuable in OBP than average leagues, as it’s his patience rather than his ability to make contact that’s driving his success. Those of you in contention should draft the 29-year old for a strong OBP, 25-30 homers, and double-digit steals. I’m buying.
Mitch Haniger 28, MLB SEA
Haniger is a tough player to figure out. He’s capable of smashing baseballs in the heart of the plate, but it’s difficult to find why he gets them. Part of the answer is that he’s just plain patient: Haniger had a swing rate 4.8% below league average, and he capitalized on mistakes. He doesn’t do anything else too crazy, batted-ball-wise, but he makes pitchers work, and they don’t try throwing to him outside the zone.
The dude has significantly improved his ability to make contact off the plate, and the result has been more fastballs in the zone that he can punish, and even some outside of the plate.
Combine that patient plate approach with an improved ability to make contact, decent bat skills (home run distance, exit velocity, and launch angle), and the results are a pretty damn good player.
What we saw out of Haniger in 2018 was a lot of what we saw out of him in 2017. We all would have taken notice of him a year prior if we had prorated the stats out, and taken his injury into account, something Jeff Zimmerman of Fangraphs wrote about in great detail here. At the end of the day Haniger possesses above-league-average skills and if he remains healthy should produce similar seasons for the foreseeable future.
Lewis Brinson 24, MLB MIA
You can’t fall much lower than poor Lewis Brinson. Back in May of last year, I wrote about Brinson’s need for playing time. Throughout the minors, he has consistently battled injuries and missed massive amounts of time. His first full year in the majors was no different.
Time Missed Due To Injury|
The amount of time he’s missed has likely messed with his growth, specifically the development of his hit tool. That’s caused a lot of problems, including a slash-line of .190/.240/.338.
There’s still a small amount of hope for Brinson. You’ve got to really squint and maybe use your imagination a bit to see it, but it’s there. Specifically, if we switch from complaining about the amount of contact Brinson didn’t make, to the quality of contact Brinson does make, we start to see signs of life. For instance, his average exit velocity was higher than league average in 2018, and he also barreled baseballs at a 2.6% higher clip than the rest of the league. He still makes quality contact, and for this formally high touted prospect, it’s a pulse.
The upside here is a less-versatile 2017 Jurickson Profar. 20 homers, 10 steals, and a decent, but not great, (.320) OBP. That’s valuable in dynasty, but it’s nowhere near all the hype that was poured on the toolsy outfielder. Unfortunately, Brinson doesn’t stay healthy enough and didn’t develop the hit-tool necessary for his grandiose mythos. The reality here is the upside of an OF3. Sorry, Brinson owners.
Manual Margot 24, MLB SD
Margot’s got a balanced approach at the plate, but can’t hit the ball for a damn. In fact his batted-ball data is close to elite. He reminds me a lot of Jorge Polanco, but with less patience (not the strongest of endorsements). The kind of player who if they ever were able to increase their ISO would be fantasy gold. Yet as you can see it’s a rather flat swing that covers a lot of the zone.
Last season is indicative of the kind of player Margot is. Scrappy. He doesn’t have elite speed or power skills, but he’s got a little of each, and he swings often. Margot was actually a bit unlucky with his swing though, posting a .281 BABIP that is likely to bounce back a bit. That’ll mean a better-but-not-great average and a better-but-still-pretty-bad OBP.
Fangraphs has Margot graded with 70/70 speed, but he failed to be all that efficient in 2018. Last season the young outfielder stole bases at only a 53% success rate. A continued lack of efficiency may lead to fewer green lights, as the Padres begin their transformation from a rebuilding club to a competing one. He was much more effective on the base paths in 2017 (70% success rate). Still, it warrants keeping an eye on in 2019.
There’s a lot of potential with the 24-year-old outfielder. Margot has an elite batted ball profile, and he did manage to increase his average exit velocity by 4 MPH from 2017 to 2018. If he can continue to add some needed thump to his bat, we could be looking at a very valuable player. Still, with his lack of efficiency on the bases, lack of power, and poor ratio numbers I can’t recommend buying him unless you’re pretty desperate, i.e. your league’s cellar-dweller.
Domingo Santana 26, MLB SEA
Buried by the Brewers acquisitions of Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich in 2017, Domingo Santana failed to get regular at-bats in 2018. Hard to believe for someone coming off a 30/15 campaign with a .278/.371/.505. However, when you have an embarrassment of riches in the outfield, even that stat line can’t save your playing time.
Santana’s playing time fortunes have likely turned though. Recently the Seattle Mariners traded for Santana. While positions appear to be a bit crowded as of now, there’s little doubt in my mind that Santana will be a starting outfielder in 2019. What can we expect from the formerly-exiled 26-year-old?
Due to his swing-and-miss tendencies, Santana is unlikely to repeat his .278 average from 2017, but should provide more value in OBP due to his sheer amount of patience. Throughout his career, he averages a walk-rate of 11%, a K-rate of 31.9%, and an ISO of .197, and I think we can look for more of the same.
ZIPS has Santana projected for only 22 home runs in 2018, but I think that’s a bit conservative. While, certainly, he won’t have the friendly confines of Miller Park to boost his power, Seattle was middle of the pack for home runs last season. An above-average launch angle and exit velocity combined with a .200 ISO and there’s definitely a case for 30 home runs.
The new Mariners’ outfielder is a power and speed provider. Considering the current landscape of stolen bases, anyone that contributes provides your team with an advantage. I would assume that he finishes 2019 with 10-15 steals. Combine that with mid-20s homers and a strong OBP and you’ve got yourself a pretty sexy outfield option for OBP leagues.