Here, we’ll take a look at four outfielders I’m avoiding on draft day. For reference, you’ll see their NFBC ADP from February to date.
Starling Marte – #38 ADP
This one is pretty simple. You’re really drafting Starling Marte for his speed. Entering his age 30 season, he may be starting to slow down and if he doesn’t hit that 30 steal mark you’ll be left pretty disappointed. Keep in mind too that his 70% success rate last year was the lowest of his MLB career. I think it’s fair to wonder if Marte will choose to be less aggressive if his success rate continues to dip. Maybe his stolen base rate recovers next year, but it’s not really a gamble I’m comfortable making with a player at this lofty of an ADP whose value is so reliant on steals.
Marte’s walk rate has long settled in at around 6%. His ability to get on base is a little more BABIP driven, which is less than ideal when you realize his BABIP and xBABIP have declined each of the past three seasons. Maybe that reverses course, but it’s still something worth noting for a player who doesn’t walk a whole lot.
I would rather get Lorenzo Cain a little later at pick 65 as the 19th OF off the board as opposed to Marte at 38. You might be thinking,”well you just said you were worried about Marte and age-related decline, yet Cain is even older. What gives?” Cain’s stolen base success rate has been very good the past two years at 93% in 2017 and 81% last year, so that helps alleviate at least a little concern. Also, Cain has actually made some improvements to his game over the past couple seasons, as our own Daniel Port went over them earlier this offseason. It’s well worth a read if you missed it. Cain’s 11.5% walk rate last year was a career-high, as was his .395 OBP, and he also increased his Oppo% last year too. Who said you couldn’t teach an old dog new tricks?
Cain is also, in my estimation, a noticeably better bet for batting average. Below, you’ll see the pull rate and expected batting average (xAVG) of both Cain and Marte the last three years.
|xAVG||Pull %||Oppo %||OBP||xAVG||Pull %||Oppo %||OBP|
|Cain 2016||.288||34.1||28.1||.339||Marte 2016||.300||35.8||26.9||.362|
|Cain 2017||.317||28||27.2||.363||Marte 2017||.273||29.4||29||.333|
|Cain 2018||.311||28.2||32.2||.395||Marte 2018||.285||37.4||24.9||.327|
Cain’s noticeably lower pull and higher opposite-field rate (particularly last year) make his batted-ball profile a little friendlier for batting average. xAVG confirms that.
Also note that both players’ OBP has been trending in opposite directions the past three seasons. I’ll gladly take the player whose OBP floor is higher and going at a cheaper price with Cain.
Now to be completely fair to Marte, I have to acknowledge he is the better bet for home runs, as most projections have him in the 18-20 range, whereas Cain is most likely going to settle around 12 or so. But for me, the gap in power is more than baked into the ADP difference between the two, and in general I think it’s easier to find power late in drafts.
Eddie Rosario – #81 ADP
Earlier this offseason, I took a closer look at Eddie Rosario and why I thought he may be overvalued a bit. The quick recap is that Rosario has overall a fairly weak batted-ball profile that features a close to average hard-hit rate of 33.2%, an exit velocity of 87.3 MPH and a surprisingly bad xwOBA of .299. Part of the reason is that Rosario makes a lot of contact (17.6% K rate last year) and has incredibly poor plate discipline (42.9% O-swing last year), so you’ll see lots of dribblers and weak contact in his profile.
That’s another reason why I’m not a huge fan of Rosario. I like hitters with good plate discipline because in general, they tend to be the better hitters overall and it’s harder for pitchers to exploit them. I can look the other way in some cases if a hitter brings extreme speed to the table, but Rosario is not that type. He’s going to steal most likely around 10 bags or so, which is perfectly fine, but not enough to justify drafting him just for speed. The most appealing thing to Rosario’s fantasy stock is his batting average, as he’s hit .288 and .290 the past two seasons.
However, this is where I’m not entirely convinced he’s a great asset. Keep in mind his pull rate last year spiked to a career-high 40.6%, which isn’t what you’d like to see for maintaining a higher BABIP. And for someone who is a supposed batting average asset, his xAVG has been pretty mediocre at .256, .272 and .248 the past three years. In addition, his xBABIP has been noticeably below average the past two years at .277 in 2018 and .288 in 2017. League average xBABIP in 2018 was .306.
Maybe he’s just a guy who routinely outperforms the expected statistics. That’s certainly possible, and most projections have him in the high .270s, but at his ADP, I’m not thrilled with the overall profile. Considering the really subpar plate discipline/OBP, I’m just not sure there’s much growth potential and I’m still not exactly eager to hitch my wagon to a batting average supported by poor batted-ball data.
Byron Buxton – #156 ADP
He’s a polarizing pick and I understand the power/speed allure, but I refuse to chase this waterfall. Last year was a catastrophe for Byron Buxton, highlighted by really poor plate skills, including a 39.4% o-swing and a 14.7% swinging K rate that culminated in an ugly 29.8% K rate across 94 big league plate appearances. There were warning signs in his profile even after his breakout in 2017, most notably a K rate that was still an ugly 29.4%.
I like walks and plate discipline so naturally, Buxton’s .285 career OBP gives me the chills. I’d rather not pay the “what if he’s good” tax at around pick 150 on a guy whose floor is a bottomless pit and should also figure to be hitting at or near the bottom of the lineup.
If speed is what you covet than I’d strongly consider Ramon Laureano, whose ADP is lower at 185, and unlike Buxton, he’s actually shown the ability to carry a double-digit walk rate above A-ball and he’ll be in consideration at least to hit leadoff, which is always nice.
Nomar Mazara – #153 ADP
I’m sure I’ll get some grief for this one. And I get it—Nomar Mazara is an impressive hitter who could certainly advance entering his age 24 season. But my thinking with Mazara is that for fantasy purposes, his ceiling may be capped right now in that he’s not going to steal bases and he’s hit exactly 20 home runs each of the past three seasons. However, it’s certainly possible that he hits another gear entering his age 24 season and it’s worth noting that the BAT has him making a pretty noticeable jump next year. Let’s take a look.
|Mazara 2019 The BAT||638||.272||.346||.198||112||26||80||85|
Mazara did show a bump in average exit velocity from 89 in 2017 to 90.5 MPH last season, so I have to point that out in his favor. But one thing that’s also worth noting with Mazara is that his average launch angle last year dropped from 11.3 to 5.3. Basically, we saw a lot more ground balls last year and in particular, his dribbler rate spiked to 30.1% (24.6 % was league average last year). He once more reached the 20 home run plateau, but he needed a 20% HR/FB rate to get there, which was the highest of his career at any level. He could get to 25 home runs or so, but if this current batted-ball profile sticks, it’s going to have to happen on the tails of an elevated HR/FB rate.
The other part of Mazara that I’m not sure there’s a ton of upside with is his batting average.
League average BABIP was .295 last year, so Mazara was very close to that mark and has been for the past three seasons. The past three years, his average and expected average (xAVG) have been very close to each other. Basically, you’re looking at an average somewhere around the .260 mark and I think it’s difficult to see much room for improvement as is. There is nothing wrong at all with a .260-.265 average, but when you consider that the power may be capped right now too and that he lacks speed, it’s hard to envision a huge ceiling for fantasy purposes. I see Mazara as more of a floor pick, and that’s certainly fine for some, but I find myself looking for more upside at his ADP.
The floor with Mazara is perfectly fine but, but I think you can find a reasonable approximation of his production far later in drafts. He’s coming off a down year but consider Trey Mancini (234) as a bounce-back candidate who I compared to Mazara earlier this year. They have surprisingly similar batted-ball profiles.
(Photo by David Berding/Icon Sportswire)