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Champ or Chump - Ian Kinsler and Marcell Ozuna

The last day of the Winter Meetings continued the same trends that had previously categorized them. The Angels added Ian Kinsler to capitalize on the contention window opened when Shohei Ohtani decided to sign there, and Miami continued their fire sale by shipping Marcell Ozuna to the Cardinals.

A change of scenery should result in positive outcomes for their respective teams, but it doesn't always lead to an increase in fantasy numbers for each player.

Both players have an All-Star resume and elite fantasy numbers on the back of their baseball cards, but what can fantasy owners expect in 2018?

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association including Baseball Writer of the Year, Football Writers of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year and many more! Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!


The Fantasy Jury is Out

Ian Kinsler (2B, LAA)

Kinsler was a shadow of his former self in 2017, slashing just .236/.313/.412 to go with 22 HR and 14 SB (five CS). His .244 BABIP provides reason for optimism, as a little regression would be enough to make the 35-year-old a solid all-around contributor in fantasy.

A comeback season is far from guaranteed for the veteran, however. His career BABIP is only .286, so anybody expecting a .300 mark is bound to be disappointed. His IFFB% also spiked last year (career worst 14.4% vs. 8.5% in 2016), a particular problem considering his extreme fly ball tendency (46.5% FB% last year, 44.3% for his career). That is a lot of pop-ups, likely dooming Kinsler to an extremely low BABIP moving forward.

Kinsler's contact quality is also pretty weak. His average exit velocity on ground balls has declined three years running (83.3 mph in 2015, 82.9 mph in 2016, 81.6 mph last year), indicating that he doesn't have the batspeed he used to. He doesn't have the footspeed he once did either, seeing his Statcast sprint speed decline to the MLB average of 27 ft./sec for the first time last season. Granted, he was only at 27.1 ft./sec in 2016 and 27.3 ft./sec in 2015, but it illustrates that he's no longer fast enough to meet his career .229 BABIP on ground balls (.209 last year).

He'll get 20 bombs by virtue of the sheer volume of fly balls he hits, but there isn't any power upside beyond that. His airborne exit velocity (91.3 mph) was actually higher than it's ever been in the Statcast era (90.6 mph in 2016, 88.6 mph in 2015), but remained league average. His rate of Brls/BBE is always low (4.9% last year, 4% in 2016, 2.9% in 2015), and he pulled fewer of his flies last year (27.3%) than he has over his career (31.1%). His 10.2% HR/FB is sustainable, but isn't really enough to excite fantasy owners in this age of the long ball.

Optimists may point to an improvement in K% (14% vs. 16.9% in 2016) to prove that Father Time hasn't caught up to Kinsler yet, but his underlying SwStr% was virtually identical over the two seasons (6.6% vs. 6.2%). Kinsler may be counted on to avoid the strikeout next year, but at his 2016 rate. No underlying plate discipline metric supports last season's three point improvement.

Kinsler's new ballpark is also less hitter-friendly than his previous one, as Detroit was better for right-handed singles (103 vs. 102), homers (108 vs. 103), and overall scoring (107 vs. 94) than Anaheim. At age 35, the steals could dry up as well. Kinsler seems locked into an everyday job, which has value in deeper formats. Just realize you're getting boring roster glue without star power or upside.

Verdict: Chump


Marcell Ozuna (OF, STL)

Ozuna set career bests in every fantasy category last year, slashing .312/.376/.548 with 37 dingers. That's the good news. The bad news is that none of it looks sustainable.

Let's start with his average. His plate discipline was no better than average (21.2% K%, 9.4% BB%) supported by average indicators (12.7% SwStr%, 33.1% chase rate). Ozuna never had a strikeout problem (18.9% K% in 2016), so there was no huge breakthrough on this front.

Instead, his batting average was rooted in a .355 BABIP that Ozuna has no chance of maintaining. He's allergic to line drives (19.3% LD% last year, 19.5% career), so he's not lining his way to an elevated mark. His grounders massively overachieved last season (.338 vs. .304 career) despite a sharp decline in exit velocity (86.7 mph vs. 89.5 mph in 2016), so that's probably not repeatable either. In fact, his career mark is probably inflated considering that true speed merchants seldom sustain a BABIP on ground balls of .300.

His liners also overachieved (.744) relative to their career performance (.701), completing the unsustainable BABIP trifecta. It would not be surprising to see his batting average fall by 40 points in 2018.

Ozuna accomplished one thing that can could boost his BABIP by cutting his FB% from 36.5% in 2016 to 33.5% last year, but that makes it very hard to forecast another 37 big flies. Ozuna's career mark is 33.7%, suggesting that 2016 was the fluke. He'll need a massive HR/FB to deliver the power numbers owners will likely expect from him with these FB% rates.

He had it last year with a 23.4% mark, but his career HR/FB is only 15.1%. True, his 96 mph average airborne exit velocity ranked 15th in all of baseball (min. 100 balls in play), heights he never reached previously (93.9 mph last year). He also set a personal best in rate of Brls/BBE (9.3%) and pulled more of his fly balls (24.7% vs. 21.7% career). Still, you have to bet on all of these indicators repeating just to approximate last year's power production. If he's treated as a star, is that a wise play?

St. Louis was also slightly less right-handed power friendly than Miami last year, posting a HR factor of 90 against Miami's 92. Both parks had identical 102 factors for right-handed singles, so the move shouldn't impact his batting average at all.

Ozuna's strong airborne contact quality indicators suggest that he could benefit tremendously by lofting the ball more often, but he hasn't shown any signs of doing so yet. As long as that's the case, he seems unlikely to live up to his draft day expectations.

Verdict: Chump


More 2018 Player Outlooks


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