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A slow week might not even get noticed in August, but right now it is all of the data you have to work with. That forces you into a balancing act, as you need to determine if a hot guy on waivers is worth giving up somebody you believed in on draft day. As always, the specifics of the players involved determine whether you should make the switch.

We don't know who is currently hurting your team, but we know the identities of the season's inaugural waiver wire darlings. Matt Davidson turned fantasy heads by clubbing three home runs in one game. Christian Villanueva also turned fantasy heads by clubbing three home runs in one game. It seems more significant than it actually is due to the small sample size, but it'll do as an excuse to take a look at two unheralded players.

Without further ado, let's get to work!

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The Fantasy Jury is Out

Christian Villanueva (3B, SD) 16% Owned

Villanueva was greeted with a collective "who are you?" in the wake of his monster game, and it's easy to see why. He is the proud owner of 51 career PAs at the MLB level, obviously too small of a sample size to draw any conclusions from. Therefore, we're treating him like a 27-year old prospect.

At first glance, Villanueva looks like something based on last season's Triple-A numbers. He slashed .296/.369/.528 with 20 HR in 454 PAs, with favorable plate discipline metrics (9.5% BB%, 18.3% K%). Unfortunately, the Triple-A affiliate of the Padres is in the Pacific Coast League, notorious for inflating offensive statistics. Those solid numbers become meh when this context is considered, forcing us to dig deeper to determine Villanueva's true worth.

He missed the 2016 season entirely due to a broken right fibula, so that's no help. In 2015, he slashed .259/.313/.437 with 18 HR over 508 PAs at Triple-A. He was Cubs property at the time, so those numbers are believable... and not terribly exciting from a fantasy perspective.

He split 2014 between Double-A (259 PAs) and Triple-A (248 PAs). At Double-A, he slashed .248/.310/.385 with four homers. At Triple-A, he hit .211/.283/.372 with six homers. Add them together, and fantasy owners don't care.

In 2013, Villanueva slashed .261/.317/.469 with 19 HR over 542 PAs. He's had plenty of opportunities to make an impact in the High Minors and simply hasn't done it. He managed an impressive FB% last year at Triple-A (48.3%), but his entire minor league track record consists of comparable rates. The fact that he's lifting the ball this often to produce league-average power numbers at best suggests that he's not an MLB-caliber performer.

Villanueva swiped 32 bags at A ball in 2011, but it was a one-year fluke. His next highest total was 14 between two levels in 2012, and it has only trended downward since. The presence of Chase Headley on San Diego's roster also jeopardizes Villanueva's playing time, so there's really no reason to add him in any format.

Verdict: Chump

 

Matt Davidson (3B, CWS) 75% Owned

Davidson was an afterthought during the draft thanks to a disappointing 2017 season. He hit 26 HR in 443 PAs, but they came attached to an awful slash line (.220/.260/.452) and even worse plate discipline metrics (4.3% BB%, 37.2% K%). He's off to a hot start (.318/.444/.909 with four homers), but can he keep it up?

The short answer is that the power is real but the batting average is not. Davidson hit a ton of fly balls last year (46.5% FB%), a number in keeping with his minor league track record. This gives him the volume of fly balls necessary to hit around 20 HR in his worst case scenario, but his contact quality supports many more homers than that.

Last year's 22% HR/FB was supported by a high career Pull% on fly balls (28.7%), impressive average airborne exit velocity (94.9 mph, 51st in MLB), and an elite rate of Brls/BBE (15.4%, 10th). Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago also inflates right-handed power (105 park factor last year), and he apparently has a juiced ball to work with as well. Given health, Davidson should have no trouble smashing 30 bombs this season.

That projection could increase if Davidson can improve his plate discipline, and his minor league history suggests that he can. Last year's 33.4% chase rate was considerably worse than the league's average, but his minor league BB% marks suggest that he has a reasonable eye. He walked 12% of the time at Double-A in 2012 (576 PAs), 9.2% in 2013 at Triple-A (500 PAs), 9.1% in 2014 (539 PAs), 10.3% in 2015 (602 PAs), and 9.8% in 2016 (302 PAs). That is a lot of PAs suggesting that Davidson can walk, making last year a potential blip.

His strikeout numbers aren't quite as promising, with K% rates of 26.8%, 30.4%, 31.7%, and 26.4% in the Triple-A campaigns cited above. Still, any of those would be a substantial improvement over last year's 37.2% K%. His chase rate (17.7% vs. 33.4% in 2017) and SwStr% (7.3% vs. 16.3% in 2017) are both much better so far in 2018. It's still early, but his minor league numbers suggest that at least some of the improvement is sustainable growth.

Still, Davidson is likely to strikeout too often moving forward. Thankfully, his .285 BABIP last year appears to have room to grow. His 17.3% LD% was on the low side, but he managed league-average rates in the minors. Any regression would work in his favor. He also doesn't care about the shift, having faced it in only 35 of 290 career opportunities. It's strange to say about a power hitter, but his 62.7% career Pull% on ground balls simply doesn't support shifting him that often.

That said, his extreme fly ball profile hurts his BABIP potential, likely capping it at around .300 with luck. His 8.5% IFFB% is also damaging considering how many flies are in play. Between this and a strikeout problem, you're probably hoping for a .240 batting average.

If your roster has the batting average stalwarts to offset an extra player like Davidson, his power may be able to help you. The White Sox also hit him fourth on a consistent basis, giving him all of the counting stat opportunities the team's young lineup can muster. He's not the right fit for every roster, but he can help at least one team in every league.

Verdict: Champ

 

MoreĀ 2018 Player Outlooks





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