by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Last season Manny Machado burst onto the scene after getting his first taste of the Majors in 2012, entrenching himself as one of the elite young players in the game. While Xander Bogaerts didn’t get quite as long of a look in his debut season, he’s primed to open 2014 as a starter and has the talent to quickly emerge as one of the elite in the game himself.
The question is, which is the player fantasy owners should be targeting both for 2014 and over the long-term? Let’s take a look:
Machado – In his first full season in the Majors Machado hit .283 courtesy of a 15.9% strikeout rate, 20.6% line drive rate and .322 BABIP. There’s nothing unrealistic in those numbers and there is potential growth for more. For instance, look at his line drive split between the first and second half:
- First Half – 23.6%
- Second Half – 16.0%
He did hit just .268 at Double-A in 2012, but that was also as a 19-year old. The fact that he posted a 15.4% strikeout rate that season is a good sign and the potential is there to continue to develop in the average department assuming he can improve on his pop up rate (15.8%). Given the makeup, it appears like .280 is his floor.
While some will point towards a 4.1% walk rate, keep in mind that he was at 10.5% in ’12 at Double-A. He’s better than that and will improve.
Bogaerts – Over the past three years in the minors he owns a .293 average courtesy of a 20.3% strikeout rate and .339 BABIP. However, transferring to the Major Leagues there is going to be some concern.
Will the strikeouts rise against more difficult competition? He did improve in 2013 with his move to Double and Triple-A (18.4%), but against Major League pitching it could easily jump. While we don’t put much stock in it:
- Regular Season (44 AB) – 26.0%
- Post Season (27 AB) – 26.5%
It’s a major concern and could potentially lead to average “issues” in his first season. Of course, we’d expect him to improve and should be a .270+ hitter as soon as 2014, but there is definitely more risk.
Advantage – Machado
Machado – While he hit just 14 HR in 2013, he added 51 doubles and calls the ballpark that yielded the most home runs in ’13 home. As he gets older and adds power and experience, it’s easy to imagine the home run total growing. Expecting a jump to 30+ HR this quickly just isn’t going to happen, but seeing an increase isn’t unreasonable.
Ultimately we would like to see an increase in his fly ball rate (32.3% in ’13) for him to reach his ultimate potential in the power department. Figure he’s more of a 20ish HR hitter at this point, but he could easily develop into more moving forward.
Bogaerts – Like Machado before him, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Bogaerts closer to the 14-17 HR range with a full slate of AB in his rookie season. In 444 AB between Double and Triple-A he hit 15 HR, along with just 23 doubles and 5 triples. He simply didn’t put enough balls into the air, with a 25.8% OFB rate, to generate a significant amount of power.
Can he replicate a 16.5% HR/OFB rate in the Major leagues? Probably not, so this will likely limit him this season. Long-term the power is there, he just needs to grow into it.
Advantage – Machado, though they are similar
Machado – He’ll likely hit in the second spot of the lineup, putting him in a position to score some runs with Adam Jones and Chris Davis hitting behind him. Obviously he could be asked to move runners along a little bit more than we’d like, sacrificing himself, and also isn’t in a prime RBI spot. However, it’s not something that’s going to cripple him.
Bogaerts – Hitting lower in the lineup, runs scored could be harder to come by for Bogaerts. Can we really expect Daniel Nava or Jackie Bradley to consistently drive him in?
That said, he’s going to be in a better position in the lineup to drive in runs thanks to the potent offense ahead of him.
Advantage – Draw
Obviously, Machado’s injury does put a little bit of a damper on him for 2014 but all signs currently point to him being ready for the start of the season. With a year of experience under his belt, and the potential to improve in both the average and power departments, he is definitely the better option for this season. He’s proven he can do it in the Majors while Bogaerts could have some growing pains (strikeouts, limited fly ball rate).
Long-term? That’s going to be an extremely interesting debate and could change on a yearly basis. These are two of the brightest young players in the game and are both players you should be targeting in all formats. As of right now I would go with Machado, because of the upside in both the average and power departments. However, if Bogaerts adjusts and proves he can do it, the debate will be rekindled heading into 2015.
Sources – Fangraphs, Minor League Central
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Make sure to check out all of our 2014 rankings: