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This article is part of a series we’re running that’s showcasing the best Fantasy Baseball articles submitted in each round of the 2017 Fantasy Baseball Writing Contest. This article comes from one of the four writers that made it past Round 1 of this three-round battle royal, with the overall winner getting a $200 cash prize! 

As we slog through the Fantasy dead zone of January and February, Fantasy Baseball players embark on the annual winter tradition of draft preparation.

Integral to a successful draft is identifying players outside the top tier, or even the second tier, who will provide value and production that exceeds their draft position or auction value (sleepers).

In addition, players whose expected value and production will be lower than their draft position or auction value (busts).

With that in mind, I submit a sleeper and bust for your consideration.

Progression vs. Regression; The Tale Of A Sleeper And A Bust

Sleeper – Oh You Didn’t Know? He’s Manuel Margot 

Manuel Margot, OF, San Diego Padres

In 2016, there were 111 players with at least 20 home runs, but only 28 players with at least 20 stolen bases. Holy schnikes! This means that when draft time rolls around, speed is at a premium in 2017.

If you’re looking for a draft flyer in the middle-to-later rounds, it had better be a speed guy because everyone is hitting home runs, and one or two of the right guys can give you the stolen base category week in and week out. With that in mind, allow me to introduce Manuel Margot.

One of the crown jewels of the Padres’ farm system, the center field job is his to run with (pun intended) after the Padres cleared the decks for their outfield prospects least season. Margot should hit at or near the top of the lineup, which will provide some runs. But the reason you want to say hello to Margot this season is that he has speed, and there’s not a whole bunch to go around in baseball right now.

The Padres will let him run (the fact that Travis Jankowski had 30 stolen bases for the Padres in 2016 is proof of that), and he should be part of the now-exclusive 20 stolen base club in 2017. It is important to have proper expectations, however.

Manuel Margot is a rookie in a Padres lineup with some question marks, and while he has plus contact skills and should hit for a decent average, he needs to take more walks. But as I said, speed is at a premium this year. Margot has it, and YOU CAN’T TEACH THAT (thank you WWE random catch phrase generator).

In a recent mock draft, I saw Margot selected as the 264th player overall. If you can snag him at that draft position, you should be in a position to lock down the stolen base category at a great value.

 

Bust – BABIP’s Revenge on Rick Porcello

Rick Porcello, SP, Boston Red Sox

Let’s look at Rick Porcello’s record the last five seasons: 10-12, 13-8, 15-13, 9-15, 22-4. One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn’t belong. BABIP (or Batting Average on Balls In Play, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing) is the subject of a long-running debate between me and a good friend who is part of the Fantasy  Baseball community.

I believe that BABIP is a useful statistic in a specific situation, and he believes BABIP is as dumb as Brick Tamland, who loves lamp. This is because BABIP can be used to determine whether a player was lucky or unlucky in a given season, which my friend believes is impossible.

This is how it works (or at least I think so): BABIP essentially computes a batting average against a pitcher whenever batters put a ball in play that is not a home run. If a pitcher’s performance greatly improves or declines in a given season and their BABIP is out of whack with their BABIP in prior seasons, it likely means that player was either lucky or unlucky.

Now let’s apply this analysis to Mr. Porcello. Here again is his record for the last five seasons, with his approximate BABIP in each season: 10-12 (.350), 13-8 (.320), 15-13 (.300), 9-15 (.340), 22-4 (.280). Looking at these numbers, why did the batting average against him drop so sharply last year?

His strikeout numbers were virtually identical to the year before (less than a strikeout per inning), and he also gave up a greater percentage of fly balls. So here you have a pitcher whose skills essentially remained the same from 2015 to 2016, yet goes from 9 to 22 wins (he also had the best run support in the AL last season, which he has no control over).

The significant decrease in BABIP tells you that Porcello got lucky in 2016, and you should not expect last year’s numbers again. This is not to say Porcello will have another 9-15 season, because Boston’s offense should get him some wins. It’s just that his 2016 BABIP screams regression in 2017, and he will likely be drafted too high by someone expecting a repeat of last year’s performance.

As Jeremy Piven said in PCU, “Don’t be that guy.” There’s an adage when it comes to evaluating pitchers: “Chase skills, not wins.” Rick Porcello does not strike out a ton of guys, and the relevant numbers say he had a lucky season last year. If you draft up or spend high on Rick Porcello, you’re chasing wins.

 

Keep in mind that I am not saying Manuel Margot will be an All Star, or that Rick Porcello will be an absolute dumpster fire. Instead, as part of my draft prep, I believe Rick Porcello will likely be drafted or bidded to high relative to the numbers he will produce, and that Manuel Margot likely will be drafted or bidded too low.

When it comes to drafting, identifying sleepers and busts lets you know how to draft wisely by avoiding overvalued players and saving on those that are undervalued. And in the wise words of G.I. Joe – “Knowing is half the battle.”

 

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