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Champ or Chump: Bobby Bradley and Jordan Yamamoto


Last week, we looked at a couple of players who are likely to be on first division fantasy teams. This week, we're taking a closer look at players likely to appear toward the bottom of your league's standings. Bobby Bradley is a former third-round draft pick summoned by the Cleveland Indians in an effort to address their struggling offense. His best outcome would be fantasy-relevant, but it isn't very likely.

Similarly, Jordan Yamamoto has looked great over his first three MLB starts. His stuff actually suggests fantasy viability at some point, but that point almost certainly isn't 2019.

Keep in mind, our Champ / Chump conclusions are based on whether we think a player will outperform their expectations. For example, a pitcher we view as "Tier 2" can be a Champ if they're seen as a Tier 3 pitcher, or they could be a Chump if they're perceived as a Tier 1 pitcher. All ownership rates are from Yahoo! leagues unless otherwise noted. Let's take a closer look at Bradley and Yamamoto, shall we?

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Bobby Bradley (1B, CLE)

25% Owned

Bradley hasn't done much at the MLB level yet, but fantasy owners are intrigued by his 2019 MiLB stat line (.292/.359/.638 with 24 HR in just 284 PAs) and exceptional raw power (65 according to FanGraphs). There's definitely potential here, but the smart money is on Bradley taking a few years to figure it out if he ever does.

The reason why is as simple as looking at his scouting grades. Baseball Savant gives his pop a 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale, while FanGraphs assigns him a 50 game power grade today with the potential for a 55 in the future. He can't access his power potential because of a suspect hit tool (30/35 per FanGraphs, 40 per Baseball Savant) and completely nonexistent foot speed (20 according to both sites).

Scouts don't know everything, but Bradley's MiLB resume suggests that they're right about him. He first reached the High Minors in 2017, slashing .251/.331/.465 with 23 HR in 532 PAs. His plate discipline was solid (10.3 BB%, 22.9 K%), but his 35.8 FB% wasn't high enough for a pure slugger. A .287 BABIP also limited his batting average potential.

Bradley returned to Double-A in 2018, slashing .214/.304/.477 with 24 HR over 421 PAs. He hit more fly balls (44.8 FB%), but a sizable chunk of his improvement came out of his LD% (15.3 vs. 19.5% in 2017). As a result, his BABIP cratered to .226. His plate discipline metrics held steady (10.7 BB%, 24.9 K%).

Bradley probably didn't deserve a promotion to Triple-A last season, but he got one anyway and his suspect hit tool got exposed. He slashed .254/.323/.430 with three homers in 128 PAs and a terrible 33.6% strikeout rate. His batting average was propped up by a .377 BABIP rooted in a ludicrous 29.2% line drive rate, meaning his skills were probably even worse than his numbers suggested. Even his 8.6 BB% took a hit.

Bradley's .292/.359/.638 line at Triple-A this year has the same red flags. He struck out way too often (32%), didn't walk enough to make up for it (8.5%), and rode a 23.8 LD% to an inflated .359 BABIP. His FB% also regressed to 36.6% (40.3% the year prior), but a 40% HR/FB (!) masked it.

Bradley could go off based on his raw power, but it's much more likely that he struggles to make contact for the duration of his MLB stay. Cleveland has also been hitting him sixth or seventh in their lineup, capping his counting stat upside even if he were to succeed. Some team in your league should probably roster him hoping for a miracle, but the downside is too great for a broad recommendation.

Verdict: Chump (based on the likelihood that he struggles in his first MLB exposure)

 

Jordan Yamamoto

60% Owned

Yamamoto's big league debut couldn't have gone much better, as he has a 3-0 record and 0.95 ERA to his name. FIP isn't completely buying it with a 2.45 mark, and xFIP is fading him aggressively with a 4.59 mark. The reason for the discrepancy is the fact that Yamamoto hasn't allowed a homer yet, something that will almost certainly change considering his pedestrian fastball and the juicy baseball.

While Yamamoto's 11.6 BB% is higher than you'd like, his 27.5 K% makes him look interesting at first glance. Unfortunately, his repertoire just doesn't support it. His fastball is a strike more often than not (55.1 Zone%), but its 4.6 SwStr% is just sad. His slider's 21 SwStr% is better, but its combination of a low Zone% (27.4%) and low chase rate (31.1%) makes it an unreliable pitch moving forward. Yamamoto's cutter is probably his best pitch by results thus far (13.8 SwStr%, 51.7 Zone%, 42.9% chase), but it's not the wipeout pitch you generally need to post buckets of strikeouts.

He also features a curve, sinker, and change, but not one of them has posted a swinging strike at the big league level yet. Only the change (54.6 Zone%) is a strike often enough to set up something else, leaving Yamamoto with three different underwhelming offerings.

Three games worth of results can be misleading, and scouts like Yamamoto's arsenal more. FanGraphs sees a below-average heater (45 now and in the future), but a solid to plus slider (50/55), curve (55/60), and change (50/55) that could almost support a Collin McHugh profile. Baseball Savant tells a similar story (60 curve, 55 change), and they like his fastball more (50).

Notably, their scouting report mentions a heater that plays up due to above average spin, but Yamamoto's 4-seamer has averaged only 2,205 RPM thus far. His sinker has a higher spin rate (2,384 RPM), but more spin is generally bad for sinkers. While the sample size is small, you can't fake spin rate. The FanGraphs team probably has the more accurate assessment of Yamamoto's fastball.

Yamamoto only has one High Minors season with more than 20 IP, pitching 65 1/3 IP before his big league call-up this year. He was good but not great, posting a 3.58 ERA and 3.76 xFIP with middling walk (9.3%) and strikeout (23.7%) numbers. The Marlins don't figure to provide much support for wins, making Yamamoto a questionable streaming option at best. There's no need to roster him in fantasy.

Verdict: Chump (based on questionable peripherals and spotty MiLB history)

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