ADP Champs or Chumps: Andrew Benintendi & Charlie Blackmon

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The outfield can be a bountiful place for fantasy production. Speed demons, power bats, batting average studs, and even five category contributors are all available. Sometimes, this versatility fools owners into thinking that the position is deeper than it actually is.

If you play in a shallow mixed league, there are plenty of outfielders to go around. A deeper or only league, however, could force you to start a guy on the short side of a platoon if you wait too long to fill the position. One NL-Only team I drafted last year started Peter Bourjos as the third outfielder in a league with five OF slots. I don't recommend it.

Both Andrew Benintendi and Charlie Blackmon figure to be better than Peter Bourjos, but your expectations should be much higher than that. Let's take a closer look at them.

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The Fantasy Jury is Out

Andrew Benintendi (OF, BOS) ADP: 132.7

Benintendi did not play much in the majors last year (118 PAs), but he made a fantasy impression in the time he had: .295/.359/.476 with two big flies and a steal. Many are projecting him for big things this season, but I think the Prospect Hype Train out of Boston is going off the rails. Again.

Let's start with his speed. In 418 PAs split between High A and Double-A ball before his callup, Benintendi stole 16 bases while getting caught nine times. Boston will give him a red light if he can't post a success rate significantly better than that. Steals are therefore not a guarantee in 2017.

Benintendi was also limited to just nine homers in that minor league sample, so elite power should not be expected out of the gate either. His MLB debut benefited from a .367 BABIP, but he seems unlikely to sustain the 25 percent LD% that produced it. His minor league history lacks large enough samples to concretely suggest anything, but he had a BABIP of .308 in 263 PAs at Double-A last year. BABIP regression would hurt his batting average significantly.

Finally, I don't believe the talk that Benintendi will hit third this year. He generally hit ninth last year, so third would be a huge promotion that Benintendi has not earned yet. A spot later in the order will cut into his RBI and run opportunities, leaving him with nothing to fall back on with steals, homers, and batting average already off the table. Invest in him in dynasty and OBP (25.2 percent O-Swing% last year!) formats, but otherwise stay away.

Verdict: Chump

 

Charlie Blackmon (OF, COL) ADP: 15

Blackmon was sensational last season, posting a .324/.381/.552 with 29 dingers and 17 steals. Owners are buying roughly a repeat performance if his current ADP is any indication. Yet the power is brand new to Blackmon's game, while the steals represent a significant downturn from his prior performances. Should we really buy into him like this?

No, probably not. His marked decline in SBs is indicative of both a decline in success rate (nine CS) and significantly fewer SB attempts (56 in 2015 vs. 27 last year). Colorado plans to contend this year, so steals should not be expected if they come attached to a poor success rate. His power spike is the result of a surging HR/FB (9.3 percent in 2015, 16.2 percent last year), which may recede if he stops pulling fly balls so frequently (33.5 percent last year). This significantly lowers Blackmon's floor, a problem for a borderline first rounder.

His .350 BABIP also feels too good to be true, even for a Coors Field player. Blackmon's career BABIP is .330, and the only thing that performed differently last year was his line drives. He posted a 27.8 percent LD% against a career rate of 24.4 percent, so regression seems likely. He also posted a BABIP of .738 on his liners against a career rate of .700. Blackmon will be a batting average asset as long as he plays at Coors, but he is more of a .300 guy than .320. It's also possible he gets traded at some point to make the Ian Desmond move make sense, in which case his offensive value takes a huge hit.

Statcast did not love Blackmon last year, as both his 30 total barrels and 6.9 percent rate of barrels per batted ball event ranked in the middle of the pack. He willfully chose to stop stealing bases, and his HR/FB surged in a season where everyone else's did too. There is too much unknown here to justify such an early selection.

Verdict: Chump

 

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