Is Ender Inciarte A Viable 2016 Sleeper Or Will He Now Be Overdrafted?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

We all know by now that the Braves received an absolute haul for Shelby Miller:

  • OF Ender Inciarte
  • RHP Aaron Blair
  • SS Dansby Swanson

Swanson, the top pick in the 2015 draft, could (and likely will) ultimately be the biggest acquisition and Blair should quickly rise and make an impact, though maybe not on Opening Day. It’s Inciarte, however, who should provide the most immediate return. Likely set to open in the outfield and hit atop the lineup, could he provide fantasy value? Let’s take a look…

Inciarte was pressed into a bigger role than expected last season and did produce, hitting .303 with 6 HR, 45 RBI, 73 R and 21 SB over 561 PA. He’s never going to be a source of power and hitting atop the lineup wouldn’t give him ample RBI opportunities. So the question is going to be if he can produce enough in the other three categories.

Average
He has proven capable of making consistent contact, with a 10.3% strikeout rate in ’15 and impressive SwStr% over each of his first two seasons in the Majors:

  • 2014 – 5.6%
  • 2015 – 4.9%

When coupled with his speed and line drive rate (21.7% in ’15), which should allow him to maintain an elevated BABIP, there’s every reason to believe in a significant average. Is he a .300 hitter? Maybe not, but at worst we’d be looking at .285ish with the potential to routinely top .300.

Stolen Bases
He had 46 SB in ’12 and 43 in ’13 while in the minors, so there obviously is ample speed. It would be surprising to see him reach that type of level in ’15, but the Braves should allow him to run and the could’ve actually gotten to the 30+ level last season, though he struggled with his efficiency (he was caught 10 times). An improvement there alone would bring his number up and seeing him in the 27-32 range is a realistic expectation.

Runs
Of course being slotted at the top of any order, especially someone with the potential to hit for a strong average, would give us reason to think that a significant number of runs would be possible. Of course he spent 437 AB hitting in the leadoff spot for the Diamondbacks last season, with Paul Goldschmidt waiting to drive him in, and managed just 64 R in those AB.

Who would you rather have hitting behind you, Goldschmidt or Freddie Freeman?

Conclusion
You throw in the dramatic split, which could lead to a bit of a platoon, and things get even more questionable:

  • vs. LHP – .227/.253/.277
  • vs. RHP – .332/.369/.457

There’s reason to believe in Inciarte and his potential to be a three category performer, but there also are a lot of questions. Is he a sleeper? Absolutely, but chances are the attention this trade brought will likely make him rise more dramatically then he should. He’s someone who we’d monitor, but not overreach to obtain.

Sources – Fangraphs, CBS Sports

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