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Champ or Chump: Shed Long and Tommy Edman

With 2019 basically in the books, a lot of fantasy baseball content is starting to focus on 2020: namely early picks in 2020. While a lot of owners agonize over whether to take Christian Yelich or Ronald Acuna Jr. with the second overall pick, the truth is that the decision isn't likely to matter so much. You would probably be ecstatic with either, barring a significant injury that there's no real way to predict beforehand.

While 2020 prep is important, it shouldn't center on the top guys but rather lesser talents with profit potential to help you win your league. In the same vein, you want to avoid 2019 "breakouts" that seem destined to fade into obscurity. Two interesting names to consider are Shed Long and Tommy Edman.

Keep in mind, our Champ / Chump conclusions are based on whether we think a player will outperform their expectations. For example, a pitcher we view as "Tier 2" can be a Champ if they're seen as a Tier 3 pitcher, or they could be a Chump if they're perceived as a Tier 1 pitcher. All ownership rates are from Yahoo! leagues unless otherwise noted. Let's take a closer look at Long and Edman, shall we?

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Shed Long (2B/OF, SEA)

15% Owned

Long has put up solid MLB numbers in 2019, but nothing spectacular: .286/.354/.496 with five homers and three steals (three CS) over 147 PAs. His scouting report suggests that his batting average might be a drag in fantasy, but he has power and speed potential that owners covet.

According to the FanGraphs team, Long's hit tool is mediocre (40 now, 45 future) while his game power is middling (40 now, 50 future). However, there is something to dream about: both his wheels and raw power earn grades of 55, giving him considerable fantasy upside even if he doesn't necessarily become a reliable big-league regular. Baseball Savant gives Long 50-grade hit, power, and running tools, noting that he could be Seattle's second baseman of the future despite considerable swing and miss in his game.

Statcast largely concurs with these assessments of Long's raw skills. He brings plus foot speed to the table (27.7 ft./sec Statcast Sprint), with roughly league-average airborne exit velocity (91.5 mph) and rate of Brls/BBE (7.1%). It is a small sample size, and Long is young enough that giant leaps forward are still theoretically possible.

Scouting reports are the reason to be interested in Long, as he doesn't have too much to hang his hat on in his MiLB resume. He first cracked the High Minors in 2017, slashing an unremarkable .227/.319/.362 with three homers and steals in 160 Double-A PAs. He walked a lot (11.9 BB%) while avoiding Ks (19.4 K%), but a .271 BABIP despite a relatively low 34.6 FB% doomed his season line. Long returned to the level in 2018 and put up his best professional season (.261/.353/.413 with 12 HR, 19 SB in 522 PAs) with similar plate discipline (10.9 BB%, 23.6 K%) and a better BABIP (.333).

The performance earned Long a shot at Triple-A in 2019, but he wasn't great when you factor in the extreme hitter's environment in the Pacific Coast League. He hit .274/.335/.460 with nine homers and a steal over 250 PAs, adding three CS for a terrible 25% success rate. He walked less (8 BB%) while striking out more (26 K%), and his FB% declined further (30.6%).

Long has flashed reasonable plate discipline in the Show (9.5 BB%, 23.8 K%), but his average has been buoyed by a high .355 BABIP. His 33.7% fly ball rate also suggests that Long will need a swing change to truly unlock his power potential. The 24-year old is raw, so you don't want to spend for him as if he's a sure thing. However, he is an intriguing upside play to consider later in your drafts.

Verdict: Champ (assuming you don't need to pay as though he's a sure thing)


Tommy Edman (2B/3B,  STL)

64% Owned

Every year, the Cardinals seem to wring quality production out of a total nobody who subsequently fades into obscurity (Allen Craig), mediocrity (Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty), or Tampa Bay (Tommy Pham). Edman differs from these players in that he's not primarily an outfielder, but he seems likely to be a fantasy afterthought as soon as 2021.

Edman's devil magic year has consisted of a .297/.337/.494 line with 11 HR and 14 SB (one CS) thus far, but it's fair to say that his season has come out of nowhere. His .338 BABIP is rooted primarily in a 24.5 LD% that he has no MiLB history of sustaining, so figure on some batting average regression. His average airborne exit velocity (91 mph) and rate of Brls/BBE (5.3%) are both below league average, so the under on his 12.9% HR/FB is a safe bet as well. Throw in a 34.1% fly ball rate that is neither high enough for power or low enough to inflate his BABIP, and you're left with a pretty bland offensive profile.

Scouts are even more pessimistic about Edman's fantasy future. FanGraphs sees a 50/55 hit tool and 55-grade speed, but 30 game power and 40 raw power that limit his offensive upside in today's game. Baseball Savant splits the difference with a 35 power grade plus 55 hit and speed, noting that he "probably profiles best as a utilityman" while stating that "a defense-minded regular isn't out of the question." Neither of those is a favorable outcome in our game.

This only gets worse if you consider his MiLB resume. Edman first reached Double-A in 2017, where he didn't strikeout (14.2 K%) but didn't do anything else fantasy owners would care about (.257/.338/.357, two homers, five steals) in 239 PAs. He returned to the level in 2018, slashing a much better .299/.350/.403 with six homers and 27 steals in 498 PAs. There was still no power, but at least he had a good SB success rate (five CS) and low strikeout totals (15.3 K%). Any successful fantasy seasons in Edman's future are likely to look like this.

The performance earned Edman a promotion to Triple-A, where he slashed .318/.382/.394 with a homer and three steals in 76 PAs. He began 2019 at the same level, and while his .305/.356/.513 batting line was good his steals plummeted considerably (nine in 218 PAs). Edman can fly (29.4 ft./sec Statcast Sprint Speed), but the steals won't come if he chooses not to run.

In short, Edman's 2019 numbers far exceed his likely value heading into 2020. This isn't a great place to put your fantasy dollars next year.

Verdict: Chump (based on zero power potential and questionable SB totals)

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