by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Last season as we headed into draft season our rankings had Rhys Hoskins ranked ahead of Cody Bellinger. Fast forward 12 months and arguably a pair of somewhat disappointing campaigns later you have to wonder if things have changed. First, let’s take a look at the actual numbers that they put up last season:
Obviously the season’s were disappointing for different reasons, as Bellinger fell far short of the power many had hoped would continue (39 HR in ’17) while Hoskins limped to an uninspiring average. The question is which player has the better opportunity to rebound and re-establish himself in 2019? Has the pendulum swung away from Hoskins and towards Bellinger?
Seeing Hoskins producing power and driving in runs was nice, and no one is going to question his 16.0% HR/FB or the fact that there could be a little bit more upside (20 HR and a 19.2% HR/FB after the All-Star Break, after debuting with a 31.6% HR/FB). He’s going to be a middle of the order thumper, so the sole question comes down to his average and if he can recover.
The problem didn’t lie in his approach, as a 7.9% SwStr% and 22.8% O-Swing% show that he has a very good idea when he steps into the batter’s box. That said it doesn’t mean that it’s a lock that he improves his average in ’19 given these metrics:
- Fly Ball Rate – 51.7%
- Oppo% – 18.9%
He’s clearly taken a home run-centric approach, putting himself prone to shifts (81.1% of his batted balls are either pulled or up the middle) and the elevated fly ball rate is going to help to suppress his BABIP. In fact he had just one month with a fly ball rate below 50% and that doesn’t help the outlook.
He obviously doesn’t have speed, further hurting his BABIP upside, and suddenly we are looking at a .260ish hitter at best. That doesn’t knock him down far (and with his walk rate he’s a great option in OBP formats), but there is a lot of risk that he ultimately has an AVG in the same range as last year.
While Bellinger too is prone to shifts, it is slightly less extreme (22.7% Oppo%). That said he’s shown a greater ability to hit the ball hard since making his MLB debut (41.4% career Hard%) and while he does swing and miss a little bit more (12.3% SwStr%), he does stay within the strike zone (28.3% O-Swing%) and his Whiff% against any one type of pitch wasn’t horrific:
- Hard – 12.67%
- Breaking – 12.77%
- Offspeed – 16.29%
While the rate against Hard pitches is a little bit of a disappointment, over the final three months he had it down to 9.89%. All that comes together to more of a .280ish hitter, especially with a little bit of speed and an ability to steal bases (10+).
Then it comes down to the power, where he did disappoint a bit last season. Seeing him take a step backwards shouldn’t have been surprising (19.4% HR/FB in the second half of ’17 makes the 15.2% mark last season seem more believable). Just a little step up closer to the second half of ’17 is going to yield a 30+ HR season.
Where that improvement should come is against southpaws, who he slashed .226/.305/.376 against last season. He’s not going to be a platoon player, and his 25.7% strikeout rate and 41.8% Hard% against them tells us there’s more upside. He should take that step, and with it comes significant success.
Let’s just look at the comparison of who gets the advantage in each category:
- Average – Bellinger (if you play in an OBP format it’s likely a draw, given Hoskins’ walk rate)
- Power – Hoskins (but not by much)
- RBI – Draw (both should push for 100 RBI)
- Runs – Draw (both should score around 90 R, hitting in the middle of good lineups)
- Stolen Bases – Bellinger
While Hoskins has the advantage in power, with a rebound for Bellinger it may only be 5-6 HR. That isn’t enough to offset the AVG (which could be a .020+ advantage) and SB, making Bellinger the better option. In OBP formats it’s a near wash, though the SB would still push Bellinger just slightly ahead. In other words, regardless of the format we’re going Bellinger for 2019.
How about you? Which player are you targeting for 2019?
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
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