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In what has become something of a South Florida tradition, the Miami Marlins are again selling everything on their roster in an effort to reduce costs. The team is unlikely to have any established names when the 2018 season starts, setting it up as a land of opportunity for fantasy owners searching for gems on the waiver wire in April.

That's still a few months away, but the players they moved can already be analyzed from a fantasy perspective. Dee Gordon is apparently moving from second base to the outfield for Seattle, and you've probably heard that Giancarlo Stanton is on his way to the Bronx.

How will these moves impact their fantasy stock?

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The Fantasy Jury is Out

Dee Gordon (2B/OF, SEA)

Gordon was back to being Dee Gordon in 2017, slashing .308/.341/.375 with 60 SB (16 CS) as Miami's leadoff hitter. It was a bounce-back campaign for the roto stud, but his underlying indicators suggest that it was more luck than anything else.

Let's start with his batting average. His .354 BABIP appears right in line with his .345 career mark at first glance, but its underlying components are completely different. Gordon is traditionally a ground ball base hit machine with a career BABIP on the ground of .286. He only hit .266 on his grounders last year, losing over two mph in average exit velocity (76.1 mph) compared to both 2016 (78.2 mph) and 2015 (78.3 mph). He doesn't need to hit the ball that hard thanks to his legs, but he probably needs at least an MLB-caliber swing to succeed.

His total BABIP doesn't reflect this because of more productive airborne balls, but Gordon's contact quality doesn't suggest that it is sustainable. He had a .146 BABIP on fly balls versus a career mark of .117, but his average airborne exit velocity was unchanged compared to 2016 (85.7 mph vs. 85.3). Likewise, his line drives were over 20 points better last year (.705) than they usually are (.681), and he also hit more of them (22.8% LD% vs. 21.4% career). His 0.2% rate of Brls/BBE is laughably low, so Gordon's airborne batted balls are likely to regress substantially in 2018.

Gordon will remain a plus-BABIP guy as he hits few flies (19.6% FB% last year) and pops up even less (2.9% IFFB%), but his average will be closer to .280 than .310. He never walks (3.6% BB%, 36.6% chase rate) and while he struck out less often last year (13.4% K% vs. 15.9% in 2016), there was no change in his underlying SwStr% (6.9% vs. 7.1%). This means that a lower BABIP will severely impact his SB attempts, likely making him more of a 40-bag guy than the 60 he swiped last season.

The move to Seattle could backfire as well. Robinson Cano's presence on the roster could have Gordon in a backup role if the outfield experiment goes awry, and the Mariners may not value Gordon's history as a leadoff guy if he starts slumping. Furthermore, Seattle's stadium had a lower Ballpark Factor for left-handed singles (97) than Miami's did (99), potentially taking another bite out of Gordon's batting average.

Gordon has no power at all (2.5% career HR/FB), so he's tough to use a roster spot on without elite batting average and SB marks. His game-changing steals frequently drive up his draft day price as well. Allow somebody else to roster his risk in 2018.

Verdict: Chump

 

Giancarlo Stanton (OF, NYY)

Everybody saw Stanton carry his elite rate stats to an entire season of playing time in 2017, as he crushed 59 long balls to go with a .281/.376/.631 line. Common wisdom suggests that it was Stanton's career year, but advanced metrics suggest that the 28-year old might have upside beyond what he did last year.

The naysayers cite Stanton's .268 career batting average  as an obvious regression indicator, but they're not paying enough attention to the slugger's massive strides in plate discipline last year. He cut down his prodigious strikeout rate in 2016 (29.8% K%) to a nearly league average mark of 23.6% last year, with SwStr% (15.2% to 12.5%) and chase rate (32.3% to 27.4%) improvements to match. If Stanton isn't striking out 30% of the time, it's only logical for his batting average to jump significantly.

Stanton also has a reputation as a lumbering slugger, but it's completely undeserved. He actually has slightly above average speed according to the Statcast sprint speed metric (27.5 ft/sec when 27 is league average), helping him compile a .317 career BABIP. His BABIP last year was only .288, so any BABIP regression would boost, not hinder, his final batting line.

Let's take a deeper look at Stanton's batted ball distribution. His career 18.1% LD% is low, but still high enough to forecast some improvement for his 16% LD% last year in 2018. Stanton also underachieved on his liners with a .750 BABIP against a .765 career rate. He hit just .221 on grounders last year vs. a career mark of .272, a problem that cannot be explained by the shift since Stanton hit .284 against it last year (.323 career). He doesn't pull too many of his grounders either (56.9% Pull% on grounders), so the shift doesn't even beat him in theory.

Stanton's average exit velocity on ground balls was down last year compared to 2016 (86.8 mph vs. 94 mph), but that's more indicative of 2016's mark being outrageously high than a problem with his 2017 performance. Yandy Diaz led all of baseball with an average exit velocity on grounders of 90.8 mph last year, and he only had 122 batted ball events. Aaron Judge had the highest total (88.6 mph) among everyday players.

Anybody citing Hard% as evidence that Stanton's contact quality failed to support his 34.3% HR/FB is overlooking this fact. Yes, his Hard% fell from 42.9% in 2016 to 38.9% last year. However, his average airborne exit velocity (99.8 mph vs. 97 mph) and rate of Brls/BBE (17.4% vs. 16%) were both better last year. In fact, he had the second highest average airborne exit velocity in the league. The lower Hard% is rooted entirely in ground balls, and not even Stanton gets homers on those.

Stanton's career HR/FB is already 26.9%, so it wouldn't take a ton of contact improvement to surpass the 30% threshold. In addition to the Statcast metrics above, he pulled way more flies last year (32.6%) than he did in 2016 (26.1%). It is always wise to project some regression in a HR/FB rate this high, but his new ballpark should help mitigate it.

Some are saying that no park holds Stanton so the change in ballpark won't matter, but fly balls that he just missed are about to leave the yard too. Marlins Park had a 92 HR Factor for RHB last year, actively curtailing their star player's best asset. Yankee Stadium is kinder to lefties thanks to the short porch (124 HR Factor), but righties benefit at the park too (111). Yankee Stadium is something like 38 percent better for right-handed power hitters than Miami is, and Stanton has the opposite-field power (11 HR last year) to take aim at the short porch as well.

Finally, Stanton should not be considered an injury risk despite his relatively low number of games played. All of his DL trips have been the result of freak accidents (such as a HBP) instead of lingering back concerns or a bad hamstring, and he's only 28 years old. Stanton is a generational talent that should be enjoyed while he's in his prime. Owning him in fantasy is worthwhile, even with his first-round price tag.

Verdict: Champ

 

More 2018 Player Outlooks

 

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