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ADP Champ or Chump - Justin Turner and Max Muncy

We're heading to the sunny destination of Los Angeles. The Dodgers are coming off back-to-back World Series defeats and are not short of big names in their ranks. However, the success of their hitters is often overshadowed by their pitching. Last year the Dodgers went all-in and had a massive excess of hitting talent across the board. Due to contracts expiring, some of that has eased but there are still some interesting situations, and with that, some interesting discussions to be had about the value of some players for fantasy.

A near constant fantasy presence from Los Angeles has been Justin Turner, who went from zero to hero after arriving in Los Angeles around five years ago. Turner is now one of the most widely recognized names at the third base position for fantasy owners, but injuries have been a hindrance to him over the last couple of years. On the other side of the diamond, we have a player who before last year was in exactly the same situation as Turner was before coming to Los Angeles. Max Muncy had struggled to make a mark in Oakland early in his career but became a household name for Los Angeles Dodgers fans in 2018. Can he now demonstrate the consistency for fantasy owners that we have seen from Turner since his breakout and show he deserves to be taken among the top-12 at the 1B and 3B positions? Can Turner overcome injuries and outperform his current ADP?

Let's take a closer look at these two teammates.

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Justin Turner (3B, LAD) ADP: 107.51

Since Turner's breakout years in 2014 and 2015 with the Dodgers, he has been a fascinating fantasy option at the third base position. It is not often that a player who breaks out at age 29 is able to sustain that level of success. However, generally, Turner has been consistent when he has been on the field.

Injuries have been the problem for Turner in the last two years. After playing 151 games in 2016, he played just 130 in 2017 and then 110 in 2018. However, despite those injuries, Turner has still been able to put up fantasy relevant numbers when on the field. In those last two years, his ISO has remained consistently over the .200 mark and his batting average has been over .300 in both years.

Unfortunately, we do not have Statcast data from Turner's time in New York, so we cannot look at what changed with the Dodgers. However, what we can look at is the jump in power we saw from 2015 to 2016. In 439 plate appearances in 2015, Turner hit .036 home runs per PA (HR/PA). However, in 2016, that jumped to .043 HR/PA.

Launch angle was a major part of the change. In 2015, his launch angle was 13.7 but in 2016 that increased to 16.8. When you then add on a slight increase in exit velocity, that is always going to lead to a home run boom. However, the last two years the exit velocity has decreased slightly, but the launch angle has actually increased. Turner is not suddenly going to become a 30-homer hitter, but last year he was on pace to reach the 20-homer mark if he had 600 PA.

An interesting statistic to watch out for this year is Turner's hard hit rate. According to Fangraphs, he had a career-high 45% hard hit rate in 2018. If he can combine that with his launch angle, then we could be set to see Turner reach that 25-homer mark once again. The caveat here is that according to Statcast data his hard hit rate was the lowest of his last four years at 36.7%. The difference for me is between predicting him to hit 20 or 25 home runs if he has 600 PA, so the difference is small but not insignificant.

Another promising thing for Turner has been that he has been among the top eight percent of the league in strikeout rate the past two years. That has contributed to the boom we have seen from his BA the past two years. When you have a hitter who has been consistently among the leagues best in xBA and xwOBA, and then you combine that with the ability to hit 20 home runs, it is a recipe for a nice fantasy return. If you then add in hitting third in the Dodgers batting order, you come away with a hitter that has the potential to give you good numbers in three categories (R, RBI, HR) and elite numbers in another (BA).

Verdict: ADP Champ


Max Muncy (1B/3B, LAD) ADP: 108.58

I am now going to look at a player who is hoping to repeat the sustained success we saw from Turner following his power breakout. Muncy's breakout was even more startling than Turner's. In his first two years with the Athletics, Muncy had a combined five home runs in 245 PA, with batting averages around just .200. In 2018 with the Dodgers, Muncy had an incredible season, with 35 home runs and a .263 batting average. The question is whether 2018 will be a one-year blip or the start of a great career? Muncy has been playing professional baseball since 2012 and is now 28. It's the prime of his career power-wise, so there is a real chance he can repeat those numbers. However, any time you see a major jump like the one Muncy had you need to treat it with some skepticism.

Muncy ranked in the top one percent of the league in barrel % and in the 90th percentile for hard hit rate. In his previous two stints in the majors, he had a barrel % of 4.2% and 3.4% respectively. He also had a hard hit rate of just 29.2% and 27.0% in those two seasons. To suddenly jump 14% or more in barrel % and over 15% in hard hit rate is an incredible increase. However, the sustainability of such a jump is questionable.

There is no denying Muncy has an incredible ceiling. 30-35 home runs with a potential of 40 in full-time PA is an exciting prospect. However, we have already seen if things do not go perfectly, he has the batting average floor of Joey Gallo. Additionally, right now, Roster Resource has Muncy in a platoon with David Freese, meaning that we may only see him in the 400 PA region. He hit 35 home runs in 481 PA last year but that rate is unlikely to be sustained. In fact, his HR/FB rate was the fourth-highest among hitters who had at least 300 PA, only falling behind Christian Yelich, Shohei Ohtani and J.D. Martinez. He is right there alongside the names of Aaron Judge and Joey Gallo.

The issue with Muncy is that all of his numbers scream regression. He has gone from relatively nowhere to among the best in the league at those categories. Given that he has only had three stints in the majors, to this point, it is hard to really judge which way he might go. If he can remain the power threat he was in 2018, and retain the average then this ADP could look like a steal. However, the biggest likelihood is we see regression in a lot of places. Therefore, if we see both a power regression and BA regression, Muncy could quickly become a black hole on your roster. In that situation, this ADP will look like a massive overpay and become a gamble you are kicking yourself for making.

Verdict: ADP Chump

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