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ADP Rankings Debate - Cody Bellinger vs. Freddie Freeman


As with a number of ADP debates, Cody Bellinger and Freddie Freeman both offer the skills for success in 2018.

Each first baseman is going in the first two or three rounds of fantasy baseball drafts, but chances are you'll only be able to snag one. Which young slugger will deliver better value in 2018?

Brant Chesser and Chris Doyle debate the draft value of each player in the next of our rankings debate series.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off, with exclusive access to our season-long articles, 15 in-season lineup tools and over 200 days of expert DFS research/tools. Sign Up Now!

 

Cody Bellinger (1B/OF LAD)

(NFBC ADP 25, Rotoballer 1B5/25th overall)

Although most fantasy owners prefer to have a batting average cushion, power, and speed with their foundational players, Cody Bellinger offers two of the three. Many experts are pointing to the small 28 at-bat sample against the Astros to point to a glaring weakness in his swing. Yes, he does have an uppercut swing, which leaves him susceptible to curveballs, but he also has the thump and exit velocity (96.6 MPH on FB/LD in 2017-16th in MLB) to hit another 35 home runs in 2018.

As a few items were mentioned in the NL West column, Bellinger swung and missed (34.0 0-Contact% and 48.8 K%) on plenty of curveballs outside of the zone throughout the 2017 season. When he made contact, his power allowed him to post a 1.007 OPS and .341 ISO against curveballs. While it is another small sample, one could point to his 96.3 MPH exit velocity on fly ball results against curveballs. A counterpoint would be his .432 xSLG against benders.

Chasing sliders (40.4 O-Contact% and 41.1 K%) outside of the zone lowered his batting average, but a .359 ISO, .876 OPS, and eight home runs against sliders vouch for his ability to square up pitches. He hit sliders well, as he posted a .551 xSLG, .365 xwOBA against the offering. Even though owners should account for those strikeouts, Bellinger's ability to hit sliders and curveballs with authority (97.5 MPH exit velocity on SL/CB) provides a decent floor for his power.

While his ability to launch (47.1 FB%) hard-hit balls (43.0 Hard%) backs a 35 home-run season, carrying over his swings and misses against breaking balls may cut into his batting average. Even with a lower batting average (.252 projection from Steamer), drawing walks (11.7 BB%), stealing double-digit bases (10), and RBI chances in the middle of the Dodgers lineup says that he can provide close to the same value in 2018.

His power provides most of the value, but his lineup and speed boost his earnings. The Dodgers were a top-ten offense (.771 OPS) in 2017, and Bellinger was successful on ten of his 13 stolen base attempts. With his 2017 success on the base paths, expect him to see enough green lights for double-digit SB.

While he doesn't have the strong plate discipline of Freeman, he did take plenty of walks (11.7% BB%) for a rookie. Monitor to see if he can reduce his 26.6% K%, which would provide some batting average help and move him closer to the league-average BA (.262) that Depth Charts projects.

Even though Freeman's batting average will lead to more fantasy value in 2018, Steamer projects Bellinger to hit six more homers and drive in five more runs than Freeman. When drafting Cody Bellinger, owners are not drafting him for his batting average. Owners building on batting average at the first base position will turn to Joey Votto and Freddie Freeman.

Yes, Bellinger's Rookie of the Year season is inflating his price a bit; even if he falls a few home runs short of his 2017 totals, his power and speed can provide top-50 fantasy value.

 

Freddie Freeman (1B, ATL)

(NFBC ADP 21, Rotoballer 1B3/14th overall)

Freddie Freeman is a legitimate stud.

With a current ADP of 21, Freeman is solidly in the second round of drafts, and if you take a look at the players going ahead of him you could very well accept this. But Freddie Freeman is a potential top-five hitter in all of baseball. At his current ADP he’s actually a bit undervalued heading into 2018. Everything in Freddie’s profile points to a budding superstar.

His fly ball rates (40.5% in 2016 and 40.6% in 2017) and HR/FB rates (19.9% in 2016 and 2017) have held steady and are at neither the high or low end of the spectrum despite his excellent power production. His walk rate is 11.2% for his career after posting a 12.6% in 2017, while his strikeout rate dropped to a career-low 18.5%.

But perhaps the most impressive stat was in infield fly ball rate. In 2017, it was 0.0%. Yes, Freddie Freeman hit exactly zero infield fly balls last season, tops among qualified hitters and the only such player without a single pop up to the infield.

Freeman finished 2017 tied for 10th in barrels per plate appearance (Brls/PA) and posted a 152 wRC+, good for sixth in the majors behind only Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, Joey Votto, Jose Altuve and Giancarlo Stanton and ahead of first rounders Paul Goldschmidt and Charlie Blackmon.

Freeman had his coming out party after a rough start to 2016, and in the 600 or so plate appearances that followed (including the first month and a half of 2017 before he got hurt) he hit .340/.445/.688 with 39 HR, 110 R, 98 RBI and 8 SB for a 1.133 OPS.

The bat control, plate discipline and batted ball profile are all elite. There’s no doubt Freeman is on the cusp of superstardom, so why is he being drafted this “late”?

He’s got some proven commodities in front of him that have produced at an elite level year-after-year like Trout, Altuve and Goldschmidt. Votto is one of the best hitters in the game and Bryce Harper still has tantalizing potential after his tantalizing 2015 season.

But Freeman is right there with these studs and certainly worthy of a pick no later than 21st overall, or even earlier.

Cody Bellinger is going four picks later at 25, but the amount of risk being absorbed here is simply too much for a second round pick. Sure, he’s got 40-homer potential, but the swing-and-miss in his game can’t be ignored, and opposing pitchers will have a lot more information on him heading into his sophomore season.

With Freeman just hitting his prime - not to mention the talent he’s about to be surrounded by on an up-and-coming Braves team - don’t hesitate to pull the trigger inside the top-20. He may not have the speed of a Goldschmidt or the elite, proven plate skills of a Votto, but his relative youth and all-around hitting profile could vault him into the conversation for top first baseman in the major leagues as early as this season.

If not for a wrist injury that caused him to miss six weeks of the 2017 season, Freeman would have more than likely hit a career-number of home runs. Even with the time missed Freeman hit 28 home runs and drove in 71 runs. Even though the lefty slugger's new home park is a perfect fit for his swing, he ended up with 17 away HR and 11 home HR. While the injury may have affected his power (93.8 MPH on FB/LD in 2017) in the second half, Freeman's ability to make consistent contact should be a batting average asset on fantasy rosters. With a full season of at-bats, Freeman could easily return first-round value and has a higher floor that his counterpart.

 

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