Potential NL OF Bargain: Chris Coghlan

Chris Coghlan took the league by storm in 2009, posting a .372 wOBA and earning NL Rookie of the Year honors. Though his performance line was boosted by a rather high .365 BABIP, his skills were right in line with what he had been doing down on the farm. As such, expectations were high for a solid sophomore season, but unfortunately things did not pan out, as he finished with a disappointing .322 wOBA and his season ended prematurely after a knee injury.

Coghlan had always made strong contact, never having posted a strikeout rate above 14.6% in his minor league career, and whiffing at a 15.3% rate during his rookie season. In 2010 though, those contact skills abruptly disappeared, as Coghlan’s strikeout rate jumped to 23.5%. According to his plate discipline metrics, he swung at a lot more pitches outside the strike zone, but actually made a higher percentage of contact. The problem arose with pitches thrown inside the strike zone, as he made contact 2.2% less frequently than in 2009. Overall, Coghlan made contact 2.6% less often than he did his previous season and his swinging strike percentage spiked by nearly 22%. StatCorner’s TkS% tells us that Coghlan took called strikes at nearly the same rate he had in 2009, so that was not an issue.

Coghlan saw a slider 2.1% more frequently than the previous year, and his wSL/C run value reversed from positive to negative territory. It is possible that pitchers recognized a hole in Coghlan’s swing that was vulnerable to the slider and they increased its usage against him. Or, it was just a small sample fluke. He also saw slightly fewer fastballs and had somewhat less success against them, but nothing that should sound alarm bells. Though his Contact% and swinging strike percentage did move in the wrong direction, they remained better than league average, while his strikeout rate was worse than those metrics suggest it should have been. Along with a history of strong contact skills, we should expect Coghlan’s strikeout rate to rebound, allowing him to produce a batting average that helps fantasy teams once again.

The other issue worth monitoring is the health of his knee. Coghlan underwent surgery last August to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, but so far there have been no setbacks and he appears ahead of schedule in his recovery. In the minor leagues, he stole as many as 34 bases in one season, but he has yet to show that same type of stolen base prowess with the Marlins. It would be a surprise if he suddenly becomes more aggressive now after knee surgery, but it would be wise to remember that he has shown those skills in the past and there is always that chance they reemerge again. Even 20 steals would provide a nice boost to his fantasy value.

Chris Coghlan is currently being drafted 34th among NL outfielders according to Mock Draft Central’s expert league ADP. I like to use the expert drafts, rather than the regular mock drafts, because experts are much less influenced by MDC’s default rankings. Coghlan is slated to lead off in a decent, yet unspectacular, Marlins lineup, though it is one that has definite upside given the team’s youth. With expected improvement in contact rate leading to a helpful batting average, low double digit power and speed upside, Coghlan could contribute across multiple fantasy categories and be had quite cheaply at your drafts after his disappointing sophomore effort.

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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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He was really overrated going into last season but he might be underrated going into this one. He was nothing more than a fluke ROY though and since you are hoping he reaches 15 HR and 15 SB and not sure he’ll reach either mark he can’t be all that valuable.