Champ or Chump: Amed Rosario & Ozzie Albies

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Relying on the waiver wire can be a dicey proposition this time of year. All of the season's surprises have already been claimed, leaving you with your choice of the guys that nobody else wants. Outside of a closer switch, the only way for an impact player to be available on waivers now is a high-upside rookie getting a shot at the Show.

Rookies Amed Rosario and Ozzie Albies fit that bill for owners needing a boost in SBs. If you play in a dynasty league, both guys are easy Champs and unlikely to be available to you for free. Therefore, this analysis will focus exclusively on their viability in redraft leagues and keeper formats with too few keeper slots to hang onto untested prospects.

Ownership rates provided are from Yahoo! leagues.

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The Fantasy Jury is Out

Amed Rosario (SS, NYM) 40% Owned

Rosario is hitting .267 with a steal in his first 15 MLB PAs, far too small of a sample to reasonably conclude anything. He hit .328/.367/.466 with seven homers and 19 swipes (six CS) in 425 PAs at Triple-A before his MLB debut, effectively following up his Double-A tenure (.341/.392/.481 with two homers and six stolen bases in 237 PAs) to close out last season. Unfortunately, he is probably not as good as these numbers make him look.

Rosario has tremendous raw speed, but it hasn't yet translated into the SB totals fantasy owners are looking for. He swiped only six bases against two CS at Double-A, suggesting that he wasn't concentrating on his running game. He went 13-for-19 on SB attempts at High-A before making it to Double-A, a 68% success rate that barely justifies running. His success rate at Triple-A this year was a little better (76%), but he's still not running as often as other speedsters. In fact, the 20 bags he swiped this year between Triple-A and the majors are a professional best. Owners need more than a 20 SB pace if they want to gain ground in the category.

His minor league batting lines also feel a little fluky. His strong batting average at Double-A was predicated on a .433 BABIP, a number almost certainly bound for significant regression. His LD% spiked to 26.1% at the level, the only time in his professional career that he managed an above average rate. He also hit a lot of fly balls (40% FB%) for somebody trying to BABIP their way to success, especially since he did almost nothing with them (4.1% HR/FB).  Rosario's plus wheels could make him a plus-BABIP guy at the MLB level, but a lack of line drives and too many pop-ups (16.3% IFFB% at Double-A) will probably prevent him from being a BABIP monster.

His Triple-A performance should also be taken with a grain of salt. Las Vegas is among the most hitter-friendly stadiums in professional baseball, so it is wise to discount the surface stats any player produces there. Rosario's seven homers in roughly two thirds of a season mean that he is unlikely to contribute any power this season, a point reinforced by his low FB% at Triple-A (27.1%) and 8% HR/FB. The reduction in FB% did not solve Rosario's pop-up problem, as his 17% IFFB% is way too high for somebody who isn't swinging for the fences.

Rosario displayed reasonable plate discipline in the minors (21.5% K%, 8% BB% at Double-A, 15.8% K% and 5.4% BB% at Triple-A), but he looks overmatched by MLB hurlers so far. His 38.7% chase rate is too high to overcome the aversion most pitchers will have to putting him on base, while his 22.8% SwStr% is just ugly. Rosario will need a dramatic improvement in his plate discipline if he wants to succeed in the big leagues.

The Mets have hit Rosario seventh since his call-up, a slot that does not inherently offer any fantasy value. His questionable batted ball distribution and plate discipline cap his average, and he appears to have no power whatsoever. This leaves him as a pure speed play, but he's not as aggressive on the basepaths as previous prospects with the same profile. At age 21, Rosario appears to be too raw to contribute in fantasy right away.

Verdict: Chump

 
Ozzie Albies (2B, ATL) 13% Owned

Albies has a big league home run, but his 14 MLB PAs mean that we're looking at minor league numbers again. Albies is only 20 years old, but he has two full campaigns in the upper minors to Rosario's one and a half. His .285/.330/.440 line with nine homers and 21 steals in 448 PAs at Triple-A this year is much better than his first taste of the level last season (.248/.307/.351 with two homers and nine steals in 247 PAs). He mastered Double-A (.321/.391/.467 with four homers, 21 SB over 371 PAs) before his first Triple-A tenure as a 19-year old, hinting at real offensive upside.

Albies's calling card in fantasy is speed, an area where he's been much more consistent than Rosario. His 21 swipes at Triple-A represent a 30 SB pace, while his two CS produce an excellent success rate of 91%. His 70% success rate (30-for-43) between Double-A and Triple-A last year wasn't quite as impressive, but at least proves that he can swipe 30 in a season.

Albies also seems better positioned to post a strong BABIP. Like Rosario, Albies lacks home run power (4.6% HR/FB at Double-A, 7.6% at Triple-A). His FB% at Double-A was low (32.6%), and the flies he did hit were rarely pop-ups (6.9% IFFB%). He tried to join the fly ball revolution at Triple-A this year (37.9% FB%), but nearly all of the new flies were pop-ups (15.1% IFFB%). A IFFB% surge is often the result of a guy trying to increase his FB% when he shouldn't, so hopefully Albies accepts that fly balls aren't his forte. He doesn't have a line drive swing (19.7% LD% at Triple-A this year), so hitting it on the ground and using his legs is likely his best option.

This approach won't produce the .342 BABIP he had at Triple-A this year, but Albies can hit .310 or so on balls in play. While his minor league plate discipline numbers are similar to Rosario's (20.1% K%, 6.3% BB% at Triple-A, 15.4% K%, 8.9% BB% at Double-A last year), his MLB indicators have been much stronger. His 10% SwStr% is exceptional for a 20-year old, while his 25% chase rate borders on elite for a player of any age. The sample is ridiculously small, but the early signs are encouraging.

Albies is still only 20 years old, so there is plenty of risk in adding him to your fantasy roster. He might not hit for a great average right away, especially if he gets anxious and his plate discipline collapses. The Braves are hitting him seventh or eighth, so his lineup slot isn't adding any value either. Still, he is the player to own if you need a  waiver wire pickup to make an impact.

Verdict: Champ

 

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