- FanGraphs Fantasy Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy -

Mike Stanton Versus Jay Bruce

Mike Stanton has a ton of power, and if component hitter aging curves are to be believed, the 22-year-old should be able to improve his strikeout rate — and therefore his batting average. With power down across baseball, he’s a stud.

24-year-old Jay Bruce also has gobs of power. His strikeout rate is better than Stanton’s, and with neutral luck, he should have a better batting average. Last year, he hit two fewer home runs than the Marlin, and he’s entering his prime years in a hitter’s park. He’s a stud.

So why is Mike Stanton going more than a round before Jay Bruce in most snake drafts?

That’s right. Sort for ADP on our projections page, and you’ll see Stanton clock in 16 picks before his Red counterpart. This, despite some similar projections.

PA AVG HR R RBI SB OBP
Mike Stanton Bill James 605 0.273 39 88 103 5 0.366
ZiPs 643 0.267 37 87 97 6 0.361
Jay Bruce Bill James 599 0.270 32 85 88 7 0.349
ZiPs 626 0.260 28 81 90 8 0.340

Okay, so Stanton still comes out on top. But if you compare a more optimistic projection of Bruce to a more pessimistic version of Stanton, you’re looking at a handful of home runs separating the two.

And then you can return to the ages of the respective sluggers. In a keeper league, the two years that Stanton has on Bruce are absolute gold. If they are similar now, and Stanton is two years younger, that means you definitively want the massive Marlin. He’ll give you two more years of production and he’s two years further away from his peak (on the good side). His peak will be much better than Bruce’s peak.

But in a redraft league? Suddenly the age factor reverses course. Stanton is two years away from the peak age for most sluggers, and Bruce is right in the thick of it. If you follow that above link, most components peak around 25 and 26, meaning Bruce — who turns 25 before the season starts — could see the best strikeout rate and ground-ball rate of his career. This year.

Aging curves are not gospel. Each player has his own road to travel. Stanton has more power than Bruce, and it’s unlikely that Bruce will sport a nice enough batting average to equalize the distance between them completely.

But are we sure that Stanton is worth a round and a half on Bruce?

Look at Derek Van Riper‘s LABR mixed draft team — a conversation with Derek about his team actually spawned this post — and you can see the results of deciding to wait for Bruce instead of picking Stanton in the second. Instead of taking Stanton and Michael Bourn in that alternate universe, he took Bruce and Andrew McCutchen in this actual universe. Bourn and Stanton would have gotten him 39 home runs, 62 stolen bases and a batting average under .270 (by ZiPs projections). His actual duo netted him 47 home runs, 36 stolen bases, and a similar batting average by ZiPs. If you were going to bet on one pairing to outdo the other in batting average, however, you’d have to take the players he actually chose.

Obviously the example shows that this is no slam dunk decision. On the other hand, if the ‘true talent’ difference between Stanton and Bruce is actually five or six picks, and the observed difference is 20, then Bruce is the sneaky play in snake drafts this year. Even if Stanton is a gorgeous gigolo.