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Champ or Chump: Greg Allen and Kendrys Morales


By this point in the season, some roto leagues have effectively been decided. Most of the field is almost certainly thinking about next year, but it's possible that a few teams are still competing for a money spot. If there is still a battle going on, it almost certainly boils down to one or two categories.

For example, my Rotoballer Challenge league on RT Sports is likely to come down to whether I can find the stolen bases and batting average to catapult my second place roster to the top spot. Likewise, my hold on second place in Kyle Bishop's home league (he's probably going to win, again) will depend on if my team hits enough homers to compete in HR and SLG.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, identify the category that will decide the contest and get as much of it as you can off waivers, before your rivals think to do the same. If you need steals, Greg Allen of the Cleveland Indians is worth a look. If you seek power, Kendrys Morales may offer the boost you need.

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The Fantasy Jury is Out

Greg Allen (OF, CLE) - 19% Owned

Allen appeared to be out of a job once Cleveland traded for Leonys Martin, but the latter's gastrointestinal issues have opened the door to playing time. Allen is slashing .255/.292/.330 with two homers and 13 steals (one CS) over 216 PAs, which prorates to over 40 steals in a full season. Allen has swiped as many as 46 bags in a single MiLB season, so that could represent his 2019 potential.

Of course, his 2018 season is currently more important to the fantasy community. Allen rarely walks (3.7% BB%, 31.5% chase) or strikes out (19.9% K%, 8.3% SwStr%), meaning that his BABIP determines his slash line and SB opportunities. His .314 BABIP seems high for somebody hitting .255, but a closer look reveals that he can probably sustain it.

Allen is faring well on grounders, hitting .284 on them. He can run (29.1 ft./sec Statcast Sprint), so we should expect Allen to beat the league average on the ground. As anybody who drafted Jonathan Villar or Dee Gordon after their career years can attest, BABIPs on ground balls rarely stabilize above what Allen is currently doing. Still, he's in the top end of the sustainable range right now.

Allen is also hitting a lot of line drives (current LD% of 24.3%), but regression should be muted by the fact that his liners haven't done much by line drive standards (.622 BABIP). Allen's airborne contact quality is awful (88.2mph average exit velocity, 1.9% rate of Brls/BBE), but surprisingly that has almost no correlation with LD%.

Power indicators correlate with power numbers, and Allen is a shockingly poor add if you need pop (4.2% HR/FB). He doesn't hit many fly balls (31.6% FB%) and pops up an elevated portion of those he does (10.4% IFFB%), making his power potential almost completely nonexistent.

Lest you think that commentary is making too much of an admittedly small sample size, Allen's MiLB resume supports the idea that this is who he is. He debuted for Double-A Akron in 2016, slashing .290/.399.441 with three homers and seven steals (against six CS) over 174 PAs. He hit a bunch of fly balls (44.4% FB%) but didn't do anything with them (5.8% HR/FB), instead producing value by avoiding strikeouts (15.5% K%) and beating out base hits (.336 BABIP). He also drew a ton of walks (10.9% BB%).

That wasn't enough to earn a promotion, so he spent 2017 at the same level. He slashed .264/.344/.357 with two homers and 21 steals (two CS) across 303 PAs. His FB% (32.8%) and HR/FB (3%) decreased relative to his first stint with the club, and he managed to walk less (7.3% BB%) while striking out more (18.2% K%) as the book got around. He earned a cup of coffee in September, but didn't see Triple-A until this year.

Triple-A Columbus is a power-friendly ballpark (1.398 HR factor from 2014-2016), marking a stark contrast from Akron (0.863). Allen still didn't hit for power, posting a 4.8% HR/FB and 33.9% HR/FB. On the bright side, he took advantage of Columbus's propensity for base hits (1.059) and raised his BABIP to .389. That brought his slash line to .298/.395/.409 with two homers and 12 steals (six CS) over 205 PAs. His K% increased again (to 21.5%), but at least his BB% went with it (9.3%).

Cleveland has a solid lineup that often plays against terrible pitchers, but the fact that Allen is generally buried in the ninth spot means that he's almost a pure speed play. His Statcast xBA is .252, so he shouldn't hurt you there even if he's unlikely to help either. Overall, he's your guy if you need someone to steal 10 bags over the rest of the season.

Verdict: Champ

Kendrys Morales (1B, TOR) - 50% Owned

Morales has largely disappointed fantasy owners in 2018, slashing .263/.341/.477 with 20 HR in 393 PAs. He has been better lately (.300/.386/.564 in the second half), so the 35-year old is trending in the right direction. Still, you should probably look for his season-to-date production rather than his second half numbers in September.

Let's start with the positives. Morales hits a reasonable number of fly balls (37% FB%) with authority (19.8% HR/FB), giving him a rock solid power floor. His career HR/FB is "only" 16.3%, but it's been at least 19% in each of the last three years. His Statcast numbers also support his pop (95.5mph average airborne exit velocity, 12.8% rate of Brls/BBE), giving him the potential for a crazy power month in September. He also hits in the heart of Toronto's batting order, giving him RBI and runs scored to go with his HR production.

Statcast-savvy analysts might try to tell you that he's a good bet for average too because his .307 xBA is much higher than his actual .263 average. He's only hitting .189 on ground balls versus a career mark of .215! He's hitting .301 against the shift! Surely his luck will turn around!

Unfortunately, Morales is one of the slowest players in the major leagues (23.5 ft./sec Statcast Sprint). His xBA of .281 was much higher than his actual average of.250 in 2017. Likewise, his .302 xBA was much higher than his .263 batting average in 2016. Metrics like xBA don't take speed into consideration, and it certainly seems as though Morales is destined to underperform it as a result.

Morales also doesn't hit many line drives. His 18.5% LD% this season is almost identical to his 18.6% career mark, so positive regression doesn't seem likely. His .708 BABIP on line drives is also close enough to his career rate of .714 that any regression to his career rate won't matter that much over a month.

Thus, we probably shouldn't expect much more than Morales's current BABIP of .281 moving forward. He doesn't strikeout (19.6% K%) despite a career-low Swing% (43.4%), so he shouldn't drag down your average too much even with a low BABIP. If you need homers and have a Util slot available, add Morales and don't look back.

Verdict: Champ

 

 

MoreĀ 2018 Player Outlooks