Valuing Rookie Hitters for 2018

With prospect week happening on the main website, I’m going to look at the hitting prospects ranked by their NFBC ADP (average draft position). This will be the batter’s value just in redraft leagues, not in keeper or dynasty leagues. I’ve included the player’s average, low, and high ADP values along with their Fangraphs prospect ranking.

Ronald Acuna (133 ADP, 88 min, 207 max, #2 prospect)

As the first rookie hitter off the board, his price is just a little too high for me considering the options available after him. He’s a talented ball player who is consistently ranked as either the #1 or #2 prospect in the game. He’s going to be good but how good in 2018 is the question. I have two reservations about him.

First, the no league has had a chance to adapt to his weaknesses and then have Acuna adapt back. Even pitchers found Mike Trout’s “weakness” and he had to adapt. Acuna will need to also. The question will be when the adaptation will occur and how long will it take. Will it happen in the minors and take a couple months? Or will happen in the big leagues and only be a week or two. This adjustment time could really frustrate owners.

Second, it’s tough to know when he’ll be called up. I ran a Twitter to get an idea from my followers.

Most people are taking the two middle choices. If an owner is betting on the two-month absence, they probably won’t end up with him as other owners will have him valued higher. I’m even a little worried be may get the Yoan Moncada treatment and only play around 60 games (owners expected a few more plate appearances from Moncada going into last season).

With is playing time up in the air, here is look at similar dual-threat players going around Acuna in drafts.

Comparing Acuna to Similarly Projected Outfielders
Batter PA R HR RBI SB AVG NFBC ADP
Acuna 400 400 44 13 50 19 .280 132
Acuna 600 600 66 19.5 75 28.5 .280 132
Lorenzo Cain 602 79 16 64 17 .283 99
Ian Desmond 610 77 23 84 16 .281 115
Ian Happ 560 71 26 78 10 .250 140
Manual Margot 560 64 13 50 19 .260 150
Kevin Kiermaier 630 78 19 64 21 .256 159

Truthfully, if an owner is banking on the 600 PA, his 132 ADP is about right. Now, if the owners are expecting only 400 PA, Margot’s projected season is a decent comp. Owners can bump up Acuna’s projections some as some replacement level player will be used depending on the league depth. For owners expecting call-up in April to early June, he is being valued correctly by NFBC drafters with a pick around 130 but any earlier is reaching.

Willie Calhoun (271 ADP, 82 min, 386 max, #46 ranked prospect)

All reports of Willie Calhoun point to some someone who makes lots of hard contact and that’s where his talent ends. He can’t run, defend, or throw at anything close to major league standards. Currently, he’s projected to be the Rangers full-time left fielder but should probably be the designated hitter (Shin-Soo Choo).

If Calhoun gets anywhere close to his full-season projections, he’s a steal down here around pick 270. Calhoun is projected for 28 HR. Similar players, all hit/no speed, are going about 100 picks earlier like Jay Bruce (28 HR, 164 ADP), Kyle Schwarber (26 HR, 185 ADP), Adam Duvall (28 HR, 170 ADP), and Nomar Mazara (25 HR, 160 ADP).

I think the reason he’s dropped is owners aren’t sure about his playing time since he has suspect defense. I’m not too worried with Shin-Soo Choo holding down the DH spot. If Calhoun is completely unplayable for the Rangers in left, they can move Choo back out in the field.

Calhoun looks like a steal at this point and I would look to possibly grab him around pick 230 to 250. Some possible risk exists, but it exists for every pick at the point he is being taken.

Gleyber Torres (281 ADP, 201 min, 406 max, #12 ranked prospect)

I was all in with Gleybar Torres and even more so since Todd Frazier signed with the Mets. For now, all signs point to the Torres being the Yankees fulltime third baseman as soon as he’s accrued enough minor league service time for the Yankees to control him an extra year. While I’m high on Torres, I wanted to see where I stood compared to the crowd.

A fairly even distribution of dates but, on average, people are expecting him up earlier than Acuna. Now his projection is not as good as Acuna’s but he is being taken 140 picks later.

Comparing Torres to Other Prospects
Batter PA R HR RBI SB AVG NFBC ADP
Acuna 600 600 66 20 75 29 .280 132
Torres 600 600 66 13 64 17 .247 271
Manual Margot 560 64 13 50 19 .260 150

His production is going to like Margot’s if he plays a full season. There’s not much downside to picking him near his ADP. I may look to grab him near pick 225.

Victor Robles (312, min 193, max 417, #4 ranked prospect)

In the few games I saw Robles play in the Arizona Fall League, he stood out. The 21-year-old is full of athleticism. The problem is that he has no starting role. His path to the majors means one of the three Nationals outfielders (Adam Eaton, Bryce Harper, or Michael Taylor) gets hurt or underperforms. It will be tough for an owner to count on Robles for any at-bats this year but if called up, he is a must own.

Lewis Brinson (333 ADP, min 246, max 451, #13 ranked prospect)

I’m a little surprised he’s this low. He’s likely to be the Marlins centerfielder for most of the season. While the Marlins won’t score a ton of runs, he should be hitting in the middle of their lineup accumulating counting stats. Players who are being drafted around him are Brandon Crawford, Gerardo Parra, Raul Mondesi, and Mikie Mahtook. Brinson is the only one with talent and a full-time role.

Francisco Mejia (345 ADP, min 253, max 418, #17 ranked prospect)

Mejia has the talent for the majors but he’s missing the opportunity. The team is stacked right now. And any open paths will be first filled by Jason Kipnis and defensive versatility. His best option is if Roberto Perez or Yan Gomes gets hurt at catcher. Even then Mejia would just be a part-time role.

Chance Sisco (347 ADP, min 233, max 500, honorable mention)

I guess around pick 350 is when 2nd string catchers get taken. There is no reason to take Sisco at this point in the draft.

Scott Kingery (349 ADP, min 278, max 512, #25 ranked prospect)

If a player pulls off the 2017 Whit Merrifield and becomes a stolen base machine, I believe it will Kingery. In AA and AAA last season, he was a combined 29 for 34 in stolen base attempts with a 70 for his speed grade. The numbers could have even been higher if he hadn’t hit 26 home runs.

Kingery’s second base defense is borderline elite so that won’t hold him back. One issue will be his ability to hit will be one.

He comes from the Adam Jones/Rougned Odor mold hacking at everything and hoping to make contact. The plan has worked OK for him with a near .300 AVG in the minors last season. Additionally, he seems to be hitting more flyballs which have helped his home runs numbers with his groundball rates dropping under 40% last year (32% in AA, 37% in AAA) for the first time. Even with the hitting improvements, his projected OBP barely tops .300.

The other issue is Cesar Hernandez. Hernandez is an above average major leaguer (4.3 WAR in ’16, 3.3 WAR in ’17). Hernandez isn’t headed to the bench. Either a trade or a complete implosion will bring Kingery to the majors. It’s tough to bet on either.

Austin Hays (361 ADP, min 266, max 646, #90 ranked prospect)

It’s a little weird seeing Hays this low. He’s got a starting job in Baltimore and just destroyed minor league pitching last season (33 HR across all levels). He does swing at nearly everything so major league pitchers are likely to attack him near the edges of the strike zone. With a low walk rate, be careful of rostering him in OBP leagues.

J.P. Crawford (379 ADP, min 221, max 552, #29 ranked prospect)

While Crawford is still considered to be a nice real-life prospect, his fantasy value is limited. While his shortstop defense is plus, he has not developed an offense caring trait.

In a full season of plate appearances, he’s probably going to hit 15 HR and steal 10 bags at his best. His superb eye has allowed him to post double-digit walk rates. At his current cost, owners might as well take a chance on him and hope his home runs and steals go up.

Colin Moran (503 ADP, min 348, max 727, #53 ranked prospect)

Projections don’t know about his swing changes so he may not be getting much love. Additionally, many drafts may have started before his trade to Pittsburgh. Either way, 503rd is way too late for him to be going. I would not be surprised to see his ADP rise to his minimum ADP value around 350th.

Austin Meadows (514, min 406, max 623, #47 ranked prospect)

Another low ADP which may see a correction now that Andrew McCutchen has been traded away. After dealing with injuries last season, he looks poised to take over in left field for the Pirates. If given a full season of plate appearances, he has 20/20 potential.

Bonus material

Here’s one final Twitter poll on four of the outfielders.



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Jeff writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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southie
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southie

Sisco as starting C is bargain. Catcher is pathetic.