by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Paul DeJong burst onto the scene in 2017, which surprised many considering the presence of 2016 All-Star Aldemys Diaz. A year later Diaz is now a reserve for the Toronto Blue Jays and could start the year at Triple-A (especially after the addition of Yangervis Solarte) while DeJong is primed to fill a spot in the middle of the St. Louis lineup. With numbers like these, there only appears to be positives as we head into 2018…
417 At Bats
.285 Batting Average (119 Hits)
25 Home Runs
1 Stolen Bases
.325 On Base Percentage
.532 Slugging Percentage
.349 Batting Average on Balls in Play
The question is if he can maintain, or even improve upon, this type of line. Looking at 2017 tells us that there are warning signs that can’t be ignored. Look no further than the Rockies’ Trevor Story and let us ask, is DeJong primed to be the 2018 version? Is he destined to be an overdraft? Let’s take a look:
DeJong totaled 38 HR between Triple-A and the Majors last season, while adding 35 doubles and 1 triple. The HR/FB was reasonable at both levels (22.0% and 19.8%, respectively). He hit at least 5 HR per month from June on, including 8 HR in July. That would make it seem like he can maintain the power, though he may slow down a little bit (think 25-29 HR over a full season). This becomes more likely given the possibility that he sees fewer fastballs (19 of his HR came against fastball variations in ’17), but we’ll talk about that more shortly.
While Story has the benefit of playing in Coors Field, the numbers seem similar don’t they (27 HR over 372 AB in ’16, 24 HR over 503 AB in ’17)? This isn’t the question, and with power growing across the game the positive isn’t as great as it once was.
Story hit .272 in his rookie season, but he tumbled to .239 in 2017 as the strikeout rate became a significant issue (34.4% in ’17 courtesy of a 14.1% SwStr%). When it comes to DeJong, a very similar fate could be in store.
Last season DeJong posted a 28.0% strikeout rate, though there’s a good chance that the number balloons as he showed terrible plate discipline:
- SwStr% – 13.3%
- O-Swing% – 33.6%
It’s not a new issue, as he posted a 14.3% SwStr% at Double-A in 2016. It’s also possible that both metrics get worse, as opponents throw him fewer fastballs considering these Whiff%:
- Hard – 10.65%
- Offspeed – 18.18%
- Breaking Balls – 20.24%
Throw in .349 BABIP, which could regress (Story went .343 to .332), and the parallels are obvious.
DeJong doesn’t offer much speed and if the strikeouts grow he’s going to lose his spot in the middle of the lineup. That obviously would have an impact on his ability to chip in R/RBI and further cause the snowballing loss of value. It doesn’t mean that DeJong won’t be a productive option, it just means that there is more risk than you may want to believe. Let Story be the warning sign and be prepared for a disappointing campaign for 2018 (that doesn’t mean he should be written off long-term). Don’t overreach to obtain DeJong on draft day.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
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