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Some fantasy owners prioritize upside over everything else in their draft. Upside wins leagues! Upside makes your team more exciting to follow! Upside encourages you to draft Byron Buxton and hold onto him until his lack of production has doomed you to the second division of your league!

Upside doesn't win leagues, profit potential does. Upside can produce profit potential, but so can an undervalued veteran, new pitch, new approach, an injury risk paying off, etc. Worse, the guys the fantasy community agrees have "upside" are often wildly overpriced on draft day. Sometimes, they reach their potential and still fail to break even.

Andrew Benintendi seems primed to disappoint relative to his ADP in 2018. By contrast, J.T. Realmuto offers significant profit potential despite lacking upside. Your fantasy team should be interested in only one of these players.

Editor's Note: Stay on top of our MLB off-season news and fantasy analysis all year round. Read our daily fantasy columns about MLB prospects, dynasty outlooks, player outlooks and much more. It's always fantasy baseball season here. Let's Go!

 

The Fantasy Jury is Out

J.T. Realmuto (C, MIA) ADP: 119.8

Realmuto had his best MLB season in 2017, slashing .278/.332/.451 with 17 homers and eight steals (two CS). He probably can't do any better than that, but a mere repeat would make him an elite option relative to the general malaise fantasy owners have to deal with from catchers.

Some owners are probably dinging Realmuto for the quality of his supporting cast, but the team will score some runs and even win a few games in 2018. Realmuto should also get a favorable lineup slot, helping to pad his counting stat totals. The team even plays him as first base occasionally (nine times last year), giving him a higher volume of PAs than most catchers can provide.

Realmuto's speed also sets him apart from his brethren. Getting any SBs at all out of the catcher slot allows you to prioritize needs elsewhere, and Realmuto's 80% success rate makes him a clear asset on the basepaths. Statcast Sprint Speed agrees, as Realmuto's 28.6 ft./sec was significantly higher than the league average of 27 ft./sec.

Realmuto's .278 batting average is also legitimately helpful in the modern game. Last year's .318 BABIP is supported by his career mark (.321), but he got there a little differently than he usually does. His grounders overachieved (.312 vs. .285 career), but his LD% plummeted (17.9% vs. 20% career). The safe projection is to regress both his BABIP on ground balls and LD% toward their career averages, likely keeping his overall BABIP constant.

Realmuto also brings some plate discipline to the table. Last year's 6.2% BB% and 18.3% K% were supported by an 8.5% SwStr% and 32.5% chase rate two years running, making Realmuto a strong bet to repeat his performance.

Finally, Realmuto's fly balls were legitimately hit better last season. He hit more of them (34.3% FB% last year, 30.3% career) while cutting his IFFB% dramatically (5.4% vs. 9.2% career), giving him more chances to go yard. His average airborne exit velocity fell slightly (91.8 mph vs. 92.4 in 2016 and 92.6 in 2015), but he more than made up for it with the best rate of Brls/BBE of his career (6.1% vs. 4.1% and 4.3%). Realmuto's Pull% on fly balls also increased to an impressive 27.9% (24.8% career). The result was an 11.6% HR/FB that seems perfectly sustainable moving forward.

Gary Sanchez is better than Realmuto, and his price reflects it. Otherwise, there isn't another catcher in the draft pool clearly superior to Miami's 27-year old backstop.

Verdict: Champ

 

Andrew Benintendi (OF, BOS) ADP: 42

Benintendi had a great rookie campaign in 2017, slashing .271/.352/.424 with 20 HR and 20 SB (five CS). His minor league history doesn't have any sample sizes large enough to determine whether those numbers are indicative of Benintendi's true ability, but his underlying metrics suggest that they are.

Benintendi's best skill is plate discipline. A league-average chase rate of 29% at age 22 is astounding, as is a SwStr% of 7.6%. If anything, his 71.2% O-Contact% may be too high, as it means Benintendi is putting unhittable pitches into play on a fairly regular basis. He covers the strike zone well (89.4% Z-Contact%) despite seeing relatively few strikes (42.3% Zone%).

All of that supports last season's 17% K%, but his 10.6% BB% smells funky. His eye is good, but he hasn't demonstrated the raw power suggesting that pitchers need to be careful with him. He's also a credible SB threat, the kind of guy that you do not want to put on base for free. It's unlikely that MLB pitchers let him walk so often again.

Benintendi's batting average was about average, supported by a BABIP (.301) that was around average. A .278 BABIP on ground balls seems sustainable for somebody with plus exit velocity (84 mph on the ground) and Statcast Sprint Speed (28.2 ft./sec.). His 47.1% Pull% on ground balls also makes the shift worthless against him.

However, Benintendi gives those BABIP advantages back with a fly ball profile (38.4% FB%) and a slightly elevated IFFB% (10.1%). His LD% was average (21.5%), making his .301 BABIP last year a reasonable projection going forward.

Benintendi's power production also seems likely to repeat. His raw power isn't great by either average airborne exit velocity (91.5 mph) or Brls/BBE (5.5%), but he pulls a lot of his fly balls (21.2%) and has a juiced ball to work with. The resulting 11.2% HR/FB was modest, but he hits enough flies to produce 20 bombs a year. He also hit 20 HR over roughly one season's worth of PAs in the minor leagues, further reinforcing that this is his level.

Benintendi swiped a total of 26 bags (12 CS) over his minor league career, again suggesting that last year's production is sustainable. His 68% success rate on the farm is somewhat of a red flag, so Benintendi seems unlikely to swipe 30+ any time soon.

Boston hit him second in the batting order last year, but new manager Alex Cora may not feel obligated to keep him there all season. Any change would likely be a detriment to Benintendi's counting numbers, but the Red Sox are light on legitimate middle-of-the-order bats.

Thus, we have a 23-year old who projects for league average power, speed, and batting average. That's a legitimate fantasy asset, but he's taken with elite players that define a roster. The only explanation is that fantasy owners look at last year's numbers, see his age, and project 20% more of everything. A more nuanced view reveals that last year is what Benintendi is: a good, but not great, offensive player. Paying for his upside as if it is inevitable is a great way to give up any profit potential he may have had.

Verdict: Chump

 

MoreĀ 2018 Player Outlooks





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