by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
It’s easy to get caught up in the “allure” or “hype” of a young player who seems to have significant upside. Of course they aren’t all created equal and it’s easy to overvalue a player because of that. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few young hitters and try to determine if we should be buying or denying:
Albert Almora – Chicago Cubs – Outfielder
2018 Statistics – .324, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 29 R, 0 SB
It’s easy to argue that there’s a little bit of power potential, with 37 doubles, 3 triples and 13 HR over 553 career AB. While it’s possible he matures and develops that power this season is it something we are willing to bank on? He’s never shown that upside, and also has never stolen more than 10 bases in a season. Little power and little speed means his value lays solely in his average.
Considering he’s benefiting from a .386 BABIP (despite a 29.1% Hard%) and could also see his strikeout rate inflate (17.3% despite an 11.3% SwStr% and 35.2% O-Swing%) and the conclusion is obvious.
Verdict – Deny ‘Em
Byron Buxton – Minnesota Twins – Outfielder
2018 Statistics – .159, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 8 R, 5 SB
The fact that Buxton has disappointed this season doesn’t come as much of a surprise. For those who purchased our 2018 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide, you will remember we wrote this about him:
“Buxton seemingly came to life in the second half, hitting .300 with 11 HR and 13 SB over 207 AB. No one has ever questioned his speed, though his power and average had never truly shown up until now. Before we get overly excited we have to keep in mind his .378 BABIP, 20.0% HR/FB and 27.6% strikeout rate. Interestingly his SwStr% rose in the second half (13.9%) and he struggled overall against changeups (.222), sliders (.200) and curveballs (.250). Over the final three months of the season he saw hard pitches 61.76% of the time, a number that should drop moving forward. Can he adjust? That remains to be seen, but he can’t maintain the luck and needs to prove that he can cut his strikeout rate. Given the past hype that makes him an overdraft waiting to happen.”
The power has disappeared, he continues to struggle with swings and misses (14.7% SwStr%) and he’s chasing out of the zone significantly more (39.2% O-Swing%). Interestingly he’s not seeing significantly fewer hard pitches (60.12%), and if he does things may just get worse. It’s hard to buy into a big rebound coming.
Verdict – While he may be better than this, it’s closer to the “real” Byron Buxton so Deny ‘Em
(Update – Buxton has been placed on the DL once again, so maybe the toe injury has caused part of his problems. That said a regression was always expected so healthy or not it’s hard to get excited.)
Mallex Smith – Tampa Bay Rays – Outfielder
2018 Statistics – .297, 0 HR, 12 RBI, 17 R, 11 SB
Smith is never going to be confused with a power hitter, but there is no questioning his ability to steal bases. He continues to take a more groundball-centric approach (49.6%), though he could stand to improve upon his plate discipline (10.7% SwStr% leading to a 19.3% strikeout rate). Couple that with an unsustainable .377 BABIP, even with his speed, and a lackluster lineup behind him and there are going to be questions.
Sure he’s going to steal bases when he’s on, but will he produce enough AVG/R to truly make him a viable option? That may be a tough sell, and he could become the epitome of a one-trick pony (ala Billy Hamilton). Keep that in mind before overvaluing him.
Verdict – Deny ‘Em (unless you are desperate for SB)
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
Missed our Top 100 prospect rankings? Make sure to check it out by clicking here.