Why We Missed: Jesus Aguilar

Looking back, Jesus Aguilar had so many forces working to hold down his pre-season value, I’m amazed some teams rostered him (566th in NFBC ADP). While he had the tools for a breakout, it’s tough to find actionable pre-season moves to prevent similar players from slipping through the cracks. Once he got the opportunity to play, owners should have jumped in to roster him.

The first item to consider in the miss is that Aguilar’s projections weren’t glowing. Of all projected hitters in our pre-season depth charts, he came in at 245th by OPS. Not the best ranking for a 1B, especially compared to his teammate Eric Thames.

Here are the pair’s various OPS projections coming into the season.

Thames & Aguilar’s 2018 OPS Projections
ZiPS Steamer ATC The BAT Average Actual
Eric Thames 0.855 0.834 0.865 84% 85% 78%
Jesus Aguilar 0.734 0.728 0.818 77% 76% 89%

Besides the projections being against Aguilar, the narratives were also. I went through my 2018 preseason material and got the following quotes on Aguilar:

  • “… nothing more than Thames insurance in NL-only leagues …”
  • “… marginal hacker still waiting for a full-time spot …”
  • “… added insurance for Eric Thames …”
  • “… bench bat …”

So, Aguilar is Thames’s insurance, as just a first baseman. He had nowhere to go on the defensive spectrum. But Aguilar’s recent results point to a power potential. In 2015, he hit 30 home runs (all levels). In 2016, it was 30 Triple-A home runs. In 2017, he hit 16 homer in 311 NLB plate appearances. All the signs pointed to him being a 30 home run hitter.

Some experts acknowledged his power and guessed he would be a platoon option.

  • “… demolished lefties …”
  • “… worked his way into a platoon …”
  • “… right-handed half of the Brewer first base platoon …”
  • “… nice first-base platoon partner …”

At best, a platoon bat. One issue I had was reading and hearing about this platoon all preseason. I figured he had issues against righties and never check myself. It was not the case at all with a career .867 OPS versus lefties and .827 OPS versus righties. Thames was the one with a career split (career .643 OPS vs LHP, .826 vs RHP). Still, coming into the season, Aguilar was at best on the short side of a first base platoon and that’s not playable in a 15-team or shallower league.

Over the first 25 games of the season, Aguilar started seven of them, appeared in 20, and accumulated 43 plate appearances while hitting an outstanding .421/.465/.605. Then on April 25, Thames went on the DL with a torn UCL in his thumb and Aguilar never looked back hitting .274/.352/.539. with 35 dongs in 566 plate appearances.

Owners were a little slow to pick up Aguilar. Using this last season NFBC Main Event FAAB moves (34 leagues). During the next FAAB cycle after Thames’s injury, Aguilar was only picked up in five leagues even those the news on Thames was grim.

Most the leagues woke up the next week with 22 leagues jumping in with an average bid of $39. Three owners didn’t buy into the breakout, dropped him (for Jose Bautista, C.J. Edwards, and Miguel Rojas). After been last dropped in week eight, his price had jumped to $207 in week nine’s bidding. He never hit the waiver wire again.

At CBS, which as shallower leagues, it took until week 14 for his ownership to go over 90%.

Ownership increased to just 11% after Thames’s injury.

Looking back, there were a few items owners could have moved on but a lot was unknown. To start the season, he was on the short side of a platoon with another hitter with better projections. In all fairness, he probably wasn’t ownable

Narratives placed him as possibly needing a platoon but he didn’t. With platoons, fantasy owners need to determine which player(s) need to be platooned. Sometimes only one is weak against an opposite-handed pitcher. Owners should not be afraid to roster hitter with no platoons.

The big mistake was owners not jumping in right after Thames’s injury news. He was tagged as Thames insurance and the 30-homer slugger, who was doing great the plate, had his dream chance. The 30 home runs were there for the taking and few took the hook, including myself in several leagues. Hopefully, a few owners will learn check splits and the injury report to own Aguilar once news broke about Thames’s injury. That’s all or Thames. It’s time to move onto Christian Yelich and David Peralta.



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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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Will Mitch Haniger be featured in this series?