Champ or Chump - Brandon Kintzler & Yasiel Puig

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Regular readers may notice that "ADP" is no longer in the title. The first week of the season has come and gone, so if you still have not completed your fantasy draft, it is looking likely that you are not playing fantasy baseball this year. That said, I liked the idea of ADP conveying how available and/or costly a given player is, so I'm replacing it with ownership rates. They should give you a rough idea of if a given guy is on your waiver wire or his cost to acquire via a trade.

This week, we look at two players whose current ownership rates are way out of line with their fantasy value. Minnesota closer Brandon Kintzler is owned in just 19 percent of leagues despite clearly holding the closer role. Yasiel Puig is owned in 69 percent of leagues despite having the talent and future playing time of a fourth outfielder.

Let's take a closer look at how I reached the above conclusions.

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The Fantasy Jury is Out

Brandon Kintzler (RP, MIN) 19% Owned

Kintzler has three 2017 saves as of this writing to go with the 17 he compiled with a 3.15 ERA last season. He doesn't get many Ks (15.6 percent K% last year), but plenty of pitchers get those in bunches. Only 30 generate saves at any given time, and most of them are costly to acquire after the season starts. Kintzler's ERA is good enough to not hurt you, allowing his saves to help you compete in the category.

Many owners expect Kintzler to lose the gig because of his lack of Ks, but I don't think he will. Kintzler throws his sinker a whopping 82.2 percent of the time, relying on its 63.8 percent GB% to induce easy grounder after easy grounder. This extreme ground ball tendency (61.9 percent GB% last year, 62.5 percent in 2015) protects Kintzler from allowing a dramatic late-inning home run, the event most likely to push a manager to make a change. He'll still blow the occasional opportunity, but three singles aren't as traumatizing as a big blast.

It may also be possible for Kintzler to up his K% a little. He features a slider (18.2 percent SwStr%, 45.7 percent chase last year) and changeup (15.6 percent SwStr%, 53.9 percent chase), both of which seem to offer considerable K upside. It is possible that these pitches succeed only because batters are not expecting them, as Kintzler threw just 55 sliders and 32 changes all of last season. Still, they should enable Kintzler to get a strikeout when he really needs one.

Finally, replacing Kintzler would force the Twins to name a successor to the role. The rookies most frequently cited as possibilities would receive significantly higher arbitration salaries if they could point to saves, an expense that the rebuilding Twins have no reason to take on right now. Ryan Pressler looks more like a closer than Kintzler does, but his 3.70 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, and 20.4 percent K% last season seem unlikely to force a move. That leaves only uninspiring options like Matt Belisle and Craig Breslow in Minnesota's pen. Kintzler's job, and roto value, are safe.

Verdict: Champ

 

Yasiel Puig (OF, LAD) 69% Owned

I have consistently panned Puig since I started contributing to RotoBaller, but his ADP of 218.5 this year had me convinced that fantasy owners finally realized his early career success was luck-based and never coming back. Then he hit three homers in two days, causing everyone to assume he made a Justin Turner-style adjustment to finally tap into his limitless potential. He has not.

Justin Turner went from 25th man to All-Star slugger by elevating the ball more, allowing him to hit fly balls that offered a much higher slugging percentage than his grounder-heavy profile was previously generating. Puig's FB% is 33.3 percent so far in 2017, a little lower than last year's 35.1 percent mark. I also question the common wisdom that Puig has a ton of untapped power potential, as his 6.7 percent Brls/BBE was well below average last year. Puig hit for some power because Jered Weaver threw him BP during a game. Trevor Cahill, Puig's other victim, isn't exactly an ace either.

If Puig has to face MLB-caliber pitching, he will revert to the uninspiring .263/.323/.416 line with 11 homers and five steals he posted last year. That's not enough power or speed to interest fantasy owners, and he needed a favorable 20.1 percent K-rate to produce that average. In all likelihood, his 13.5 percent SwStr% will produce more Ks going forward. It would take much more than last year's .306 BABIP to prevent Puig's average from being a negative in that case.

LA's enviable depth could also rob Puig of a starting gig. The team has the makings of two strong outfield platoons with Andrew Toles and Andre Ethier as lefties and Franklin Gutierrez and Scott Van Slyke from the right side, which is a full outfield after Joc Pederson is considered. Puig started out the 2017 season by hitting eighth, suggesting that the team had less confidence in him than all of their other Opening Day players. They've also tried to trade him at every opportunity. Puig spent a portion of 2016 in the minors, and will return there this year if the Dodgers are again unable to trade him.

Trade this clubhouse cancer if you can, but you'll probably need to dump him for nothing if you bought into his hot start. At least you'll get the roster spot back, right?

Verdict: Chump

 

 

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