Isn't it amazing? We spend the entire offseason hatching grand plans about how we are going to dominate our leagues. No detail is left unexplored. When Opening Day comes around, we are mentally prepared to treat it as the first step in our inevitable march toward fantasy immortality.
Then, a few games are played and all of our preparation goes out the proverbial window. Tanaka got rocked! Stanton didn't hit a homer! My year is over! As much as we seem to enjoy fretting about our stars, we also take more notice of strong performances on Opening Day than we would on some random date in June.
Four different players hit two homers in their club's opener. One of them was a pitcher whose offensive statistics don't matter in fantasy. Another was Khris Davis, who I offered an opinion on during the offseason. That leaves catcher Yasmani Grandal and second sacker Rougned Odor for the analysis below. Let's get started!Editor's note: Get 50% off any MLB Premium Pass. Draft guide, cheat sheets, 200 days of DFS access, and over 20 premium tools. Dominate your leagues all year long! Sign Up Now!
The Fantasy Jury is Out
Yasmani Grandal (C, LAD) ADP: 147.5
It would be pointless to analyze a one game sample, so I'll use 2016 data until 2017 numbers become more relevant. Grandal's .228/.339/.477 triple slash line in 2016 wasn't spectacular, but 27 bombs in just 457 PAs caught everyone's attention. Grandal always flashed power, but he was more of a 25 homer guy until last year. What happened?
He did a lot to improve his power profile, actually. He hit a few more flies (37.3 percent FB% in 2015, 39.2 percent last year) and made them count with a HR/FB surge (16.3 percent in 2015 to 25.2 percent last year). HR/FB can be difficult to trust, but Grandal's spike seems mostly real. It is easiest to pull home runs, and Grandal pulled a lot more flies (27.1 percent) than he did the previous year (18.4 percent). Statcast also trusts his power, as Grandal's 13.9 percent Brls/BBE ranked 20th in all of MLB last year. He may not have a 25 percent HR/FB again, but Grandal seems to have taken his power game to another level.
Grandal's .228 average last year was poor, but the underlying .250 BABIP may inspire some to bet on a rebound. Don't. Grandal is vulnerable to the shift (.227 when shift was on, .289 when it wasn't), allergic to line drives (17.9 percent career LD%, 16.1 percent last year), and runs like the catcher he is. His career BABIP is .274, and I'd be shocked if it is even that high in 2017. He also struck out 25.4 percent of the time last year, further dragging down his average.
Thankfully, that stat should regress in his favor. Grandal has an excellent eye, posting a 14 percent BB% backed by a 23.3 percent O-Swing%. He is so patient that he frequently watches strike three go by, dooming him to a higher K% than his SwStr% seems to support. Still, his 10.1 percent SwStr% is nowhere near bad enough to sustain a K-rate over 25 percent.
Grandal hit seventh on Opening Day, suggesting that LA's endless depth may rob him of the counting stat opportunities a hitter of his caliber would get on another team. The net result is a talented, yet flawed, fantasy asset. Most of his owners paid for him accordingly, so he gets a Champ tag.
Roughned Odor (2B, TEX) ADP: 43.3
I had no idea Odor was this popular on Draft Day. His 33 bombs and 14 steals combined for a nice fantasy package, but his .271 average wasn't special, his .296 OBP was terrible, and his seven CS took a big bite out of his value in leagues that use Net Steals. His 66 percent success rate also means that he probably won't run as often in 2017, especially if Texas stays in the race. If that is the case, all he has is power.
Odor's power seems similar to Grandal's at first. He had a modest increase in FB% (39.7 percent to 42.2 percent) relative to the year before, making most of his gains in the HR/FB department (11.8 percent vs. 17 percent). Unlike Grandal, however, nothing in his profile supports the spike. He pulled an impressive number of fly balls (31.4 percent), but he did that in 2015 too (27.2 percent). Statcast was also unimpressed, as Odor's 8.4 percent Brls/BBE was very meh. The fly ball-heavy profile supports 20 HR or so, but his price requires a lot more to make up for the expected loss of speed.
Did I mention he's a batting average risk? Last year's .297 BABIP was close to the league average despite a low 17.6 percent LD% (career 15.9 percent). He also kept his IFFB% under control for the first time in his young career (8.2 percent last year, career 13.7 percent). Both figures could regress, turning him into a .250 hitter before his atrocious plate discipline is even considered.
His 3 percent BB% was horrific, and the underlying 41.8 percent O-Swing% suggests that it is a fairly accurate representation of Odor's ability. His 21.4 percent K% was league average despite this, but his SwStr% (12 percent) was not as fortunate. His aggressiveness at the plate (54.3 percent Swing%) can help him end PAs before he has a chance to strikeout, but this is the kind of profile that surges to an unacceptable K% in a hurry.
Odor hit 5th on Opening Day, the last batting order slot with any real fantasy value. If he hits like I think he will, he'll lose it before June. Heck, Jurickson Profar may even force him to the bench so speedster Delino DeShields Jr. can play everyday. If you own Odor, all is not lost. His two-homer opener should allow you to trade him for value before everyone realizes just how shaky his profile really is.