by Connor Henry
Every fantasy season there are a couple of breakout players who have the ability to propel your team from an early season disappointment to eventual champions. In 2017 we had Aaron Judge, Cody Bellinger, Zack Godley and Luis Castillo who all began the year either on your bench or on the waiver wire and eventually carried you to a title. This year we have guys like Jesus Aguilar, Max Muncy, Patrick Corbin and Jack Flaherty who have all outperformed their ADP.
While there’s no way to determine who’s going to burst onto the scene, it’s very important to determine which break-outs players will continue to produce and which may eventually fade. Let’s take a closer look into the aforementioned batters to draw some conclusions about their future.
Max Muncy – Los Angeles Dodgers
The unheralded prospect burst onto the scene this year after playing just 9 games with Dodger’s Triple-A affiliate to begin the season. With the Dodger’s once injury-decimated infield, Muncy was able to secure regular at bats and since that point has hit an incredible 28 HR in just 373 PA. So where did this power come from? His batted ball data could answer that exact question.
|LD%||GB%||FB%||HR/FB%||Soft %||Hard %|
Muncy is elevating the ball at an incredible rate and avoiding ground balls like Joey Gallo. He is also making hard contact at an absurd rate which makes his 29% HR/FB rate very believable. For comparison, Aaron Judge has a 48% hard contact rate on the year which is buoying his 30% HR/FB rate. I’m not trying to say Muncy is the next Aaron Judge, however all the signs point to his power being for real. In addition his BABIP of .279 also looks sustainable considering his lower line drive rate and incredibly high fly ball rate. Let’s see what can we conclude about his plate discipline?
Muncy is what I would call a patient hitter. On the year he has only swung at 37% of pitches, near the lowest mark in the league. While this may lead to more strikeouts because he tends to work deep into counts, it also allows him to walk at nearly a 16% rate. I also want to point out his contact percentage. While the swinging strike rate looks average, I caution against saying that he makes contact at an average rate. A 73% contact rate is not ideal and that absolutely confirms his 27% K rate.
Verdict: Overall the stats back up exactly who Max Muncy has been thus far in 2018. He’s a power hitting infielder who will walk at an above average rate but will strikeout at an above average rate. At the moment of writing this he is out of the lineup on Sunday but has started the last three games and hit 2 HR probably quelling the concerns of many Muncy owners. However, if there is still a Muncy owner panicking I would look to buy in almost all formats. He may not play 7 days a week but you should expect him to be in the lineup at least 5 times while hitting plenty of home runs.
Jesus Aguilar – Milwaukee Brewers
The 28-year old first baseman has made quite the impact for the Brewers this year. Starting the year he seemed destined to platoon at first base with Eric Thames and Ryan Braun but over the course of the season has forced his way into an everyday role. The powerful righty, who has only garnered 413 PA thus far in 2018, has hit 29 HR while batting .280 and driving in 89 runs. Let’s see how much of this looks legit.
|LD%||GB%||FB%||HR/FB%||Soft %||Hard %|
Aguilar has an incredibly impressive batted ball profile. He is hitting line drives at a high rate while also elevating the ball to take advantage of his power. His 26% HR/FB rate, much like Muncy’s, looks sustainable due to his 45% hard contact rate and his very favorable home ballpark. He is also sporting a slightly above league average BABIP of .310, which looks believable based on his high line drive rate and his minuscule 6% IFFB rate. But does his plate discipline backup his performance thus far?
Aguilar is certainly not a contact oriented batter. Much like Muncy his contact rate of 72.2% confirms his high strikeout rate but he manages to offset that with an above average walk rate. Since he swings at more of a league average rate than Muncy he tends to only work deep in counts when he needs to. While this may cap his ability to take walks it has also allowed him to keep the strikeout rate at a reasonable level without a contact oriented approach.
Verdict: Jesus Aguilar is showing plenty of good signs. His batted ball profile confirms that he is a power hitter who can actually sustain an above average BABIP and therefore a respectable batting average. While I’m slightly concerned about his plate discipline, he has shown the ability to take a walk and can therefore maintain a respectable OBP through any slumps he may experience. Just like Muncy, I’m buying Aguilar in almost all formats due to the high power ceiling and his ability to get on base even if the strikeout rate leaves something to be desired.
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Savants