The end of most drafts is filled with quality, yet flawed talent. Chris Carter could hit you 30+ bombs when he's not torpedoing your batting average, while there seems to be a never ending supply of jackrabbits who can steal a bunch of bases if they can figure out how to hit a single. The best way to tap into this talent base is to have a strong team batting average that can absorb a weak performance or two.
Batting average can be difficult to invest in, however, as the BABIP gods make it more prone to fluctuate than any other offensive fantasy stat. Colorado's DJ LeMahieu won the NL batting title last year with a .348 mark, while Boston's Xander Bogaerts posted a very solid .294. Either creates a good batting average foundation for you to build upon, but is that worth their current price tags?
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The Fantasy Jury is Out
DJ LeMahieu (2B, COL) ADP: 87.7
LeMahieu's batting title was not without controversy, as he sat out the last week of games in order to preserve it. Still, his .348/.416/.495 triple slash line with 11 HR and 11 SB was very useful to fantasy owners last year. His seven CS were decisively less helpful. The resulting success rate suggests that he should not be counted on to produce much in the way of speed again.
His batting average was boosted by a .388 BABIP that seems unlikely to repeat even in Coors Field. His 26.6 percent LD% seems extremely high despite a similar rate in 2015 (26 percent), creating space for regression. He also enjoyed batted ball luck on grounders, which posted a .304 BABIP last season against a career mark of .264. Coors boosts BABIP because its spacious outfield leaves plenty of space for airborne baseballs to drop in safely, but this does not help grounders at all. LeMahieu seems likely to regress to his career BABIP of .352.
LeMahieu almost never strikes out (12.6 percent K%, 4.1 percent SwStr%), which when combined with his still-plus BABIP figures to produce a very strong AVG floor. The problem is that he does not really produce anything else. His HR/FB spiked to 10.2 percent last year to produce the 11 homers, but his career rate is only half that figure (6.4 percent). His 22.8 percent FB% (21.4% career) would not be enough to make anything of even a strong HR/FB, so power is a lost cause.
The second sacker offers no power or speed, meaning that batting average and runs scored are all he brings to the fantasy table. Effectively, this means that he is a top 100 draft pick because he plays at Coors, which heavily inflates both stats LeMahieu is strong in. Shouldn't a top draft choice have something going for them other than home park?
Xander Bogaerts (SS, BOS) ADP: 28.3
Boston's SS is generally taken in the second or third round of most drafts, not surprising when last year's .294/.356/.446 line with 21 HR and 13 SB is considered. He finally muscled up in 2016, adding pop to the plus BABIP profile owners have come to expect from him.
He appears to have done this by selling out for power. He increased his FB% to 34.9 percent from 25.8 percent the year before, allowing an 11.4 percent HR/FB to produce decent power numbers. He also pulled more of his fly balls (28.1 percent) than in 2015 (16.7 percent), making it easier to believe in the sustainability of his increased HR/FB. His pop-ups spiked to an IFFB% of 17.8 percent while his strikeouts increased (17.1 percent K% last year vs. 15.4 percent in 2015) to complete the look of a guy who was trying to hit for power.
It sort of worked, as Bogaerts cracked 20 bombs for the first time last year. It also didn't, as that was a meh performance in 2016. The league average HR/FB was 12.8 percent last year, a number someone with the talent of Bogaerts should have crushed if he was concentrating on nothing else. While he still posted a .335 BABIP, the number may not be sustainable if he continues to hit pop-ups and fly balls at 2016 rates. We may have seen this regression in the second half, as his BABIP fell to .290 for a 92 wRC+.
Bogaerts's 13 steals were nice, but nowhere near enough to justify his current price tag if his average goes down with only middling power to compensate. Position scarcity is not much of a factor for shortstops anymore, either. Add in a Boston offense that looks much weaker than it did a year ago, and Bogaerts seems like a huge bust candidate.