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Sometimes, you look at fantasy baseball ADP data and ask yourself, "why?" A deeper dive might reveal that your opinion on a given player has become outdated, or maybe you can see an argument that fails to convince you but might move the needle for somebody else. In either case, the price is justifiable.

However, sometimes a deeper dive brings you no closer to understanding a given player's valuation. For example, Garrett Richards is being treated as a fantasy afterthought despite the skills and supporting cast to compete for a Cy Young award. Likewise, Xander Bogaerts is being treated as a stud despite peripheral stats suggesting a future on the waiver wire.

Both assertions above are contrarian, but that doesn't mean that they are wrong. Read the analysis below and draw your own conclusions!

Editor's Note: Stay on top of our MLB off-season news and fantasy analysis all year round. Read our daily fantasy columns about MLB prospects, dynasty outlooks, player outlooks and much more. It's always fantasy baseball season here. Let's Go!


The Fantasy Jury is Out

Garrett Richards (SP, LAA) ADP: 173.3

Richards had a myriad of health issues that limited him to 27 2/3 IP last year, but he was pretty good in the brief sample (2.28 ERA, 25% K%). Injuries also limited him to 34 2/3 IP in 2016, but he was pretty good in that sample as well (2.34 ERA, 23% K%). Richards was more of a league-average type over a full season in 2015 (3.65 ERA and 20.4% K% in 207 1/3 IP), but the high innings total provides optimism that he can pitch a full season.

Analyzing a pitcher with so few IP the last two seasons is a little tricky, so all stats will be over Richards' career body of work unless otherwise noted.

Richards features a five-pitch mix: fastball, sinker, slider, curve, and change. His signature pitch is the heater, with a 44.8% usage rate, 96.1 mph average fastball velocity last year, favorable triple slash line against (.257/.345/.370), and 7.6% SwStr%. It's frequently a strike (56.4% Zone%) and induces ground balls at an above average clip (48.7% GB%). If an opposing batter manages to lift Richards's fastball, it's probably a harmless pop-up (26.8% IFFB%).

You might think that anybody with a fastball like that shouldn't bother with a sinker, but Richards threw his at 96.1 mph last year. Used 22.9% of the time, it generates nearly as many whiffs as his fastball (7.1% SwStr%) while inducing even more grounders (57.1% GB%). Its downward break leaves it in the strike zone less often than Richards's 4-seamer (43.4% Zone%), and it's hit a little harder (.278/.324/.403), but ultimately it's a worthy complimentary pitch.

Once Richards gets ahead in the count, he can put hitters away with a devastating slider. Used 29.5% of the time, it induces whiffs at a high rate (17.4% SwStr%) while being chased out of the zone (41.1% O-Swing%). It played up last year with a 21.8% SwStr% and 43.4% chase rate. Perhaps most impressively, Richards can throw it for a strike when he wants to (40.1% Zone%).

All three of the above offerings share the same secret: elite spin. His four-seamer averaged 2,513 RPM in 2015, ranking fifth among fastballs minimum 100 thrown. Last year it spun even more (2,587 RPM), again ranking fifth minimum 100 thrown. High-spin four-seamers are associated with high pop-up rates and above average K% numbers, both attributes of interest to fantasy owners.

Richards only threw 78 total sinkers last year, and Statcast decided to classify them as two-seamers. The nomenclature is irrelevant, what matters is that Richards's spun more (2,594 RPM) than anybody else's two-seamer. The benefits of a high spin rate for two-seamers are comparable to four-seamers.

Finally, Richards's slider spun at an incredible 2,911 RPM last season, second highest in the league. If you'd prefer a full season of data, the pitch's 2,724 RPM in 2015 led the league. Spin rate is strongly correlated with a breaking pitch's wipeout potential, so his slider's elite spin rate suggests that it is one of the best pitches of its type in the league.

The rest of Richards's arsenal is less impressive. His curve is thrown 8% of the time and gets the occasional whiff (11.4% SwStr%), but its Zone% (38.7%) and chase rate (23.9%) are both too low to rely on. Likewise, a show-me change offers an 11.3% SwStr% with a 38.7% Zone% and 25.4% chase.

Richards has allowed a .282 career BABIP against thanks to his high-spin arsenal and an ability to limit line drives (19.7% LD%). He should be able to do even better in 2018 thanks to the otherworldly infield defense the Angels have put together. Andrelton Simmons is well-known for his glovework, compiling a ridiculous 32 Defensive Runs Saved last year. Newcomer Ian Kinsler was excellent as well, though his six DRS at 2B pale in comparison to Simmons.  Zack Cozart had two DRS at SS last year, though his eight in 2016 may be more indicative of his defensive ability at third base.

First base is up in the air, but the other three infield positions are manned extremely capably. Richards is a ground ball guy (52.8% career GB%), so he should take full advantage of his teammates. The team's outfield defense isn't as good (-8 Outs Above Average, 24th in MLB last year), but anybody can catch a pop-up.

In short, Richards has K% potential combined with BABIP suppression skills. He's definitely an injury risk, but a full season of this arm at his current price could potentially win leagues outright.

Verdict: Champ


Xander Bogaerts (SS, BOS) ADP: 74

Bogaerts gave his fantasy owners virtually nothing last year, slashing .273/.343/.403 with little power (10 HR) or speed (15 SB). The little value he provided was the R+RBI accumulated by virtue of remaining the three-hole hitter all season, but new manager Alex Cora is already trying other people in that spot. Roster Resource currently projects Bogaerts to hit sixth, a role with little fantasy value.

Without the three-hole as a crutch, Bogaerts will have to hit for power or average to justify his current cost. He can't do either. He's allergic to fly balls (30.5% FB% last year, 32.5% career), forcing him to run an elevated HR/FB to contribute any power. His career HR/FB is only 8.1%, a number supported by last season's mediocre average airborne exit velocity (90.7 mph) and pathetic 1.5% rate of Brls/BBE. That last number was lower than notable sluggers such as Mike Leake (2.4%), Taijuan Walker (2.9%), and Jon Lester (5.7%). Those are all pitchers!

Some people want to give Bogaerts a pass on last year's atrocious power numbers due to a thumb injury he sustained midway through the campaign. Thumb injuries can definitely sap power, but Bogaerts never hit enough flies before last year's thumb injury. His contact quality was better in 2016 (92.5 mph average airborne exit velocity, 5.3% Brls/BBE), but 2015 was just as bad as last year (90.7 mph, 2.5% Brls/BBE).

If you blame injuries for 2015 and 2017, you have to consider that Bogaerts will play hurt to the detriment of his final stat line moving forward as well. Such "grinders" are often quite popular with their local fan base, but represent a real risk when rostered in fantasy.

Bogaerts has slightly better prospects to hit for a high average, but they're still iffy. He's a slightly below average LD% guy (20.6% LD% last year, 20.8% career), but makes up for it by hitting so few fly balls. However, an above average number of the flies he hits are pop-ups (13.7% IFFB% last year, 13.5% career).

His overall BABIP (.335 career, .327 last year) is still favorable thanks to extremely productive ground balls (.299 career BABIP, .300 last season) backed by impressive exit velocity (86.4 mph last year, 88 in 2016) and above average foot speed (28.3 ft./sec Statcast Sprint Speed last year). However, it is very hard to sustain a .300 BABIP on grounders even when peripheral stats are in your favor. Some regression seems likely, bringing Bogaerts's overall BABIP closer to .300 than .320.

Bogaerts also has a strange plate discipline profile. He swung at only 41.9% of pitches last season, making him passive enough to quickly fall behind in the count. However, he also chased pitches outside of the strike zone slightly more often than the league average (32.8% O-Swing%). His 8.2% SwStr% last year was strong, and his surface plate discipline numbers look fine (8.8% BB%, 18.3% K%). However, the passive yet aggressive approach he employs is unlikely to produce long term results.

Bogaerts was only caught stealing once last year, so his handful of bags seem safe. However, we're talking about a guy with 10 bombs over an entire campaign who needed a .327 BABIP to hit .273. There is zero upside at his current price, and might not be any 100 picks later either.

Verdict: Chump


More 2018 Player Outlooks

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