Brennan Boesch, A Legitimate Sleeper?

When Brennan Boesch got off to a great start in 2010, I was one of the many who pointed out why he was certainly due for a regression in the largest way, and you probably were too. On July 9 that season, Boesch was hitting .345/.402/.600 with 12 home runs, 48 RBI, and 34 R. He was extremely useful in fantasy over that stretch, but most who follow advanced stats knew that the performance was bound to decline.

His BABIP at that time was .390, which was the first sign that the season seemed inauthentic. On top of that, Boesch was coming off of a season at double-A in which he posted a .318 OBP and a 5.8% walk rate. He had also never appeared on Baseball America’s list of top-10 Tiger prospects. He slowed down significantly after that date, hitting .166/.237/.227 for the remainder of that year.

Boesch showed some promise at the start of that season, but fell apart as many expected. His next season was not entirely different, as he a .306/.362/.494 line on July 9. He then went .220/.287/.364 over the course of the remainder of the year before succumbing to a torn ligament in his thumb that forced him to miss September and the playoffs.

Two seasons is not quite enough time to say that he’s a first half player, so while he has performed at an All-Star level in each of the past two first halves and subsequently struggled, it is not quite time to call this a recurring theme. A lot will ride on his BABIP, but a .275-.280 average is to be expected if it sits at his career rate of .306.

Entering this season, there have been a number of ups and downs in Boesch’s short two-year Major League career, but there is reason to like him going forward. For one, fellow RotoGrapher Jeff Zimmerman was bold enough to predict Boesch to be a top 30 fantasy player this year, and Jeff is one of the best around – not that you didn’t already know that.

He will likely bat second this year, which will put him in a great position to net over 100 runs with Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder following him. His ability against left-handed pitching should keep him in the lineup full-time and allow him to stay in the two-hole. Having just 237 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers is not enough of a sample size to say that he will be a career-long lefty killer, but sporting consecutive seasons with a wRC+ over 100 against southpaws and a career 131 mark is at least somewhat comforting.

Boesch netted a 119 wRC+ against right-handers and a 106 mark against lefties last year, which exemplifies that he is not the type of player you mix and match with in fantasy. His career BB/K ratio of 0.41 is right around league average, and that means a lot more when you consider that he posted a 0.26 mark in his only full season in the upper minors. The improvement in this ratio has been a big reason for the success he has had.

I don’t think I am as bold as Jeff in projecting Boesch, but I do feel that he is being undervalued on draft day. With an ADP of 220.6, he is being drafted behind perennial disappointers Alex Rios and Vernon Wells. His teammate, Austin Jackson, is going about 50 picks ahead of him on average. I am not quite sure that I would take Jackson ahead of Boesch if I had to make the decision. They obviously have two different skillsets for fantasy, but they should hit for a similar average and Boesch should hit over 20 home runs while Jackson will steal over 20 bases. Both should score a ton of runs at the top of the Tigers’ lineup, but I could see Jackson being moved off the leadoff spot before I see Boesch moving down in the order.

The projection systems on FanGraphs are all rather consistent with Boesch, with a wOBA range of .334 on the low end to .347 on the high end. His offensive upside is not tremendous, but he has a good opportunity to perform well in each fantasy counting stat. There is no reason to overdraft Boesch. Missing out on him in the draft will not be close to season threating, but keep an eye on him in the later parts of the draft for a cheap source of runs and power.

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Ben Duronio writes for Capitol Avenue Club, FanGraphs, and does the Sports Illustrated Power Rankings. Follow Ben on twitter @Ben_Duronio.

8 Responses to “Brennan Boesch, A Legitimate Sleeper?”

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  1. 322 says:

    will delmon young see the outfield???

    or will he be DH?? will inge be a DH too???

    raburn/dirks/delmon/boesch are 4 outfielders… delmon can be dh. inge needs to be a third base sometimes… even though he sucks.

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  2. lester bangs says:

    “There is no reason to overdraft Boesch.”

    When is there a reason to overdraft anyone? “Don’t overpay” is not fantasy advice. I know it’s kind of a throwaway line, but still, it says nothing.

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    • jimbo says:

      the context was clear to me that “overdraft” was vs his ADP.

      if you believe he’s 10th round value, but his ADP is 20th round…taking him in the 15th is a ‘value pick’ in terms of your expectations while still an overdraft compared to concensus.

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      • Ben Duronio says:

        Indeed, this is what I was aiming at.

        A quick example would be during my keeper draft on Sunday I was willing to overdraft Brandon Beachy to ensure I acquired him, but someone else grabbed him even before I was willing to. Looking back on it, I would take him even earlier to make sure I got him and my opponent didn’t. I would not say Boesch is this type of player, but he’s one to keep an eye on and target if you need OF help.

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  3. lester bangs says:

    I do agree that Boesch is a nice late target, though. Good piece.

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  4. Josh Shepardson says:

    Late to the party, but looking at Boesch’s splits yields some interesting nuggets of info. While he has hit for more average against LHP than RHP, regression may be in order in a big way. His ISO fell apart against southpaws last year, dropping below .100. More concerning to me is his 19.0 IFH% That’s not sustainable, not even close. His LD% is merely good against southpaws, not great, and he pops out against them a bit more than he does RHP while also striking out more against LHP than RHP. All-in-all, I’m beginning to think his early MLB success against lefties might be pretty flukey.

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