by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Third base has become an exceptionally deep position, making it easy to overlook players or get trigger happy in cutting bait. Let’s take a look at two young options who have gotten plenty of hype over the years, but have gotten their 2017 campaigns started in vastly different ways. Do you Hold ‘Em? Do you Fold ‘Em? Let’s take a look:
Jake Lamb – Arizona Diamondbacks
He was a darling of the first half of ’16, before falling off a cliff in the second half (.197 with 9 HR). He’s once again off to a great start, hitting .315 with 4 HR, but can he actually maintain the production this time around? Just look at some of the underlying numbers:
- BABIP – .422
- Line Drive Rate – 26.5%
- Strikeout Rate – 30.1%
- SwStr% – 10.0%
While the strikeouts are up and his BABIP is obviously lucky, he’s actually hitting the ball harder (17.4% line drive rate in ’16) and swinging and missing less (11.9% SwStr% in ’16). He also hit the ball hard last season (39.4% Hard%, which placed him 15th in the league), which would’ve supported better than his .294 BABIP.
His biggest improvement is in his Whiff%, most notably against breaking balls:
His luck is going to regress, but an improvement in his strikeout rate will help to offset that. Even when he struggled last season he was showing power, and that’s going to also keep him relevant. Maybe he’s not quite this good, but he also shouldn’t be considered a must sell. If he can maintain the improved SwStr% he would profile as a .260ish hitter with 20+ HR.
Verdict – Hold ‘Em
Maikel Franco – Philadelphia Philles
Always hyped, Franco has consistently disappointed fantasy owners. The start of 2017 has been no different, as he’s opened hitting .171 with 3 HR over his first 18 games. Never one to swing and miss excessively, his 12.8% strikeout rate shouldn’t come as a surprise. Where he’s struggled is putting the ball on the ground (49.2% groundball rate) and with poor luck (.155 BABIP).
To an extent those two things go hand in hand, as he doesn’t have big-time speed so the more he puts the ball on the ground the worse his BABIP will be. He is hitting the ball reasonably hard (21.3% line drive rate), and that should yield an improved BABIP regardless. He’s also significantly cut down on his popup rate (17.1% to 5.6%) and that too should help him improve upon his batting average.
The power is for real, as he’s shown a similar HR/FB each of the past three seasons:
- 2015 – 15.9%
- 2016 – 14.7%
- 2017 – 16.7%
There are better days ahead for Franco, and while it would be easy to give up on him (considering he’s never lived up to the hype) now simply isn’t the time.
Verdict – Hold ‘Em
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
Make sure to check out our Preseason 2017 Prospect Rankings:
|Top 50 Prospects||1-50|
|Right Handed Pitchers:||1-10||11-20|
|Left Handed Pitchers:||1-10|