Champ or Chump: Neil Walker & Jonathan Villar

Don't have an account?
Join the Best Live Fantasy Chat Community!

Lost password? [X]

Receive free daily analysis:

NFL    NBA    MLB

Already have an account? Log in here.

[X]

Forgot Password


[X]

Neil Walker's recent relocation to Milwaukee proves that fantasy relevant names can still be moved after the Trade Deadline. He debuted for his new team as a cleanup hitter playing third base, suggesting that the Brewers intend to shuffle their pieces around on a nightly basis to give their Cinderella season a fairy tale ending.

The move muddies the outlook for Jonathan Villar, who went from a first round fantasy selection to a second baseman his team felt could be upgraded by a trade in August in less than a year. He can't be as bad as he's looked this year... can he?

Ownership rates provided are from Yahoo! leagues.

Editor's note: Purchase an NFL Premium Pass (including Draft Kit + DFS), and get MLB Premium for free! Whoa. Check out our NFL and MLB Premium tools, and crush your leagues. Sign Up Now!

 

The Fantasy Jury is Out

Neil Walker (2B, MIL) 20% Owned

Walker has been a mediocre fantasy option when on the field this season, batting .268/.343/.441 with 10 HR in 307 PAs. He hit .282 with 23 homers as recently as last season, however, so it would be foolish to write him off completely.

Walker's less attractive fantasy results appear to be the result of a loss of contact quality. His average airborne exit velocity has decreased from 92.7 mph a year ago to 89.7 mph this season. He is also barreling the ball less frequently, 7.3% Brls/BBE last season to 5.3% this year. These trends are not what owners are generally looking for in the heat of a race, but Walker's profile stands to benefit a lot from the move to Milwaukee.

Walker may not hit the ball as hard as he did last year, but he still strikes plenty of airborne baseballs (42.5% FB%, 43.3% last year) while pulling a fair number of them (27.1% against 31.7% last season). Miller Park is among the best home parks in the majors to try to hit a home run, so nearly anyone in the Brewers lineup has some fantasy intrigue. Walker's approach seems ideally suited to his new ballpark, potentially allowing him to produce at last season's pace over the rest of the 2017 campaign.

His .290 BABIP also seems to have room to grow (.305 career). He is hitting .238 on grounders against a career average of .247 with no particular vulnerability to the shift (.281 this season), so a few more singles could be headed his way. His average exit velocity on ground balls is down (84.5 mph last year, 81.6 this), but the metric doesn't seem as predictive as its airborne counterpart. A slight uptick in IFFB% (9.9% to 11.5%) has also decreased his BABIP on fly balls to .092 (.117 career), but the change is small enough that it isn't too concerning.

Walker has also displayed strong plate discipline this season with a 15.3% K% and 9.1% BB%. His 7.4% SwStr% would be a career best, though most of his gains are outside of the strike zone (68.1% O-Contact% last year, 74.7% this). Still, a middle infielder who hits for power without striking out should not be available on waivers this time of year.

Walker is a switch hitter, but his .211/.300/.296 triple slash line against LHP this season suggests that he should be platooned. Outside of that one weakness, Walker should be a godsend to any team struggling to find consistency from the 2B or MI slot.

Verdict: Champ

 
Jonathan Villar (SS/2B/3B, MIL) 65% Owned

If you invested a first round pick in Villar, you are undoubtedly disappointed with his .223/.282/.349 batting line this year. He still has nine homers and 22 steals (seven CS), giving him some roto value despite a poor average. If you've stuck with him all season hoping to catch a rebound, advanced stats suggest that there may be one in the offing.

The change in results has been dramatic, but the underlying exit velocity numbers are virtually unchanged. Last season, Villar's airborne batted balls averaged 94.4 mph. This year, they're averaging 94.4 mph. His grounders had an average EV of 84.2 mph last season, a number that has declined all the way to 84 mph in 2017. He is barrelling the ball less frequently (6.6% Brls/BBE last year, 5.6% this season), but that was never really his forte anyway. Villar's contact quality is just as good as it was last year.

He barely hits any fly balls (21.5% FB% this year), so Villar needs a very high HR/FB to contribute in the power categories. Last season's 19.6% HR/FB seemed like a massive outlier, but he has largely repeated it with an 18.4% mark this season. The home park helps, and his average airborne exit velocity rates well above the MLB average. He is also learning how to pull his fly balls, increasing his airborne Pull% from 16.5% last year to 24.5% in 2017. Villar could gain a lot from joining the fly ball revolution, though it would be a mixed bag for fantasy owners as his average and steals would likely decline in the process.

Speaking of batting average, Villar is neither as good as he looked last year nor as bad as he has been this year. His .313 BABIP on grounders last year was easy to believe in because Villar is obviously fast, leading many fantasy experts (including myself) to conclude that he would keep it up despite a lower career BABIP on ground balls (.264). Using speed to consistently generate ground ball base hits is a skill that speedsters need to learn, it doesn't come automatically. That said, there is still every reason to believe that Villar can improve upon his current BABIP on grounders (.250) even if the heights of 2016 were unsustainable.

Villar has also experienced poor fortune on his other batted balls. Villar's flies have a BABIP of .100 despite impressive exit velocity, so they should have no trouble regressing toward his .176 career mark. Likewise, there is no reason his .660 BABIP on line drives shouldn't increase to his career rate of .686 over the rest of the season.

Of course, Villar deserves some of the blame for his poor showing this year. His K% has shot up to an unacceptable 31% with a SwStr% increase to match (10.6% last year, 13.7% this). Worse, the additional whiffs are coming almost exclusively on pitches inside the strike zone (83.1% Z-Contact% last year, 78.2% this). Villar's eye also isn't as good as it was last year (24.1% chase rate last season, 28.8% this), but it remains above average overall.

Villar's current fantasy stats don't suggest it, but there are multiple elite players hiding here. Elite speed gives Villar a higher floor than many other players, and his airborne exit velocity suggests that he could be a viable slugger if he hit more fly balls. Milwaukee's player shuffling has prompted Villar to log time in the outfield, potentially adding versatility to a guy who already qualifies around the infield. He may not be the first rounder he was drafted as, but Villar should be owned in all formats.

Verdict: Champ

 

More Player Outlooks

 

Premium Tools & DFS Research

Get a free trial of our powerful MLB Premium Tools. Our famous DFS Optimizer & Lineup Generator, daily Matchup Ratings, expert DFS Lineups/Cheat Sheets, and more.

Sign Up Now!