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Champ or Chump: Tommy Pham and Brian Dozier


The Trade Deadline has passed, but the dust is yet to settle for fantasy purposes. The Brewers acquired Jonathan Schoop to apparently share two positions with Travis Shaw and Mike Moustakas. You probably don't want to count on anybody in the timeshare until it's clear how often everyone will play. Jonathan Villar figures to get playing time in Baltimore, making him a potential SB play in fantasy.

Brandon Kintzler, Keone Kela, Brad Ziegler, and Jake Diekman join the ranks of speculative saves plays who may safely be returned to the waiver wire. The Astros gave up Ken Giles and some stuff for the right to deal with the media circus surrounding Roberto Osuna's ongoing criminal proceedings. Giles should be a safe play as Toronto's new closer, but I wouldn't touch Osuna in 2018. Leonys Martin and Cameron Maybin are bringing their competent yet unexciting stat lines to new homes as well.

Several other interesting players moved as well, including Adam Duvall, Wilson Ramos, Kevin Gausman, Ian Kinsler, and Chris Archer. However, this column will focus on Tommy Pham and Brian Dozier. Both have disappointed fantasy owners thus far, but only one has a noticeable decline in skills to match.

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The Fantasy Jury is Out

Tommy Pham (OF, TB) - 90% Owned

Pham went from 2017 MVP candidate to a .248/.331/.399 line with 14 HR and 10 SB (six CS) in 2018. Ouch. His batted ball profile suggests that his current power numbers are more ceiling than floor with his current approach, but his average should increase dramatically with the Rays.

Both of those trends have the same root cause: a microscopic fly ball rate. Only 26.4% of Pham's batted balls are classified as fly balls, limiting his power potential even with a 20.9% HR/FB (24.3% career). It's a shame, because Pham murders the few flies he does hit. They're averaging 95.4mph this season, a very comparable mark to 2017 (94.7mph), 2016 (98.7mph in 89 batted balls), and 2015 (95.7mph in 113). If he ever tried to join the fly ball revolution, Tampa could have an MVP candidate. Fantasy owners shouldn't look at Pham that way until it shows signs of happening, though.

That said, his tiny FB% should translate to a higher average than it has thus far. Flies have the lowest BABIP of any batted ball, and Pham barely hits any of them! He's especially adept at avoiding pop-ups (4.5% IFFB% this year, 4.8% career), the worst kind of fly for BABIP purposes. Yet Pham's .303 BABIP falls well short of his .339 career mark.

Part of the reason is what's going on with his grounders. They are underperforming their career averages (.241 vs. .264) despite a career high in ground ball exit velocity (91.4mph) and no particular vulnerability to the shift (57.1% Pull% on grounders this year). The only other reason would be a loss of foot speed, but his Statcast Sprint readings are virtually the same this year (28.6 ft./sec) as they were last season (28.7 ft./sec). League average is 27 ft./sec, so a BABIP rebound seems likely.

Pham's LD% is normal at 21.3%, but again he's underperforming his career BABIP (.630 vs. .702). There's nothing wrong with his average airborne exit velocity, and while his rate of Brls/BBE (8.2%) is down a bit relative to last year (9.3%) it's not terrible. Positive regression seems likely on both grounders and liners.

Baseball Savant's xStats agree with this conclusion. Pham's xBA (.279) and xSLG (.498) are both significantly higher than his totals to date, and neither gives him any credit for his above average speed. Pham's 24.5% K% also seems high based on his low chase rate (23.7%) and SwStr% (8.9%), though he is patient enough (40.9% Swing%) to strikeout more often than he should. At least he gets more than his fair share of walks (10.6% BB%).

Roster Resource currently projects Pham to hit sixth for his new team, but it's possible Tampa likes their new acquisition more than that. I see him hitting second, a position that would provide all of the counting stat opportunities the team can muster. The ballpark switch is a wash, with both venues registering as pitcher-friendly. All told, Pham should be able to hit .290 with at least some power for his new team. If you've held on this long, now is not the time to jump ship.

Verdict: Champ

 
Brian Dozier (2B, LAD) - 96% Owned

Unlike Pham, Dozier's disappointing .224/.305/.402 line is the result of an across-the-board loss of skills. There is no way he needs to be universally owned.

Dozier's .252 BABIP seems like an obvious candidate for positive regression, and it will probably improve to an extent. However, he hits a ton of fly balls (44.9% FB% this year, 43.4% career) with consistently high IFFB% marks (16.9% this year, 15.3% career). As a result, his awful .079 BABIP on fly balls is in keeping with his career mark of .090.

Dozier's swing is also allergic to line drives. His 15.2% LD% this season is simply not good, but his career rate of 19.2% isn't that much better. Regression to his career rate isn't a guarantee either, as he managed a rate of 15.9% across the entire 2016 campaign. His BABIP on line drives is significantly higher than it has been over his career (.750 vs. .668), so diminished batted ball luck is likely to offset any LD% increase with the Dodgers.

Dozier's .230 average on ground balls falls short of his career .252 mark, but he is no longer the player who earned that career number. Once upon a time, Dozier was fast. He had an above average Statcast Sprint Speed as recently as 2016 (27.8 ft./sec). However, it fell to 27.2 ft./sec last season before cratering to 26.6 ft./sec in his age 31 season. Furthermore, his 69.1% Pull% on ground balls dictates that he faces the shift more often than not. His current production is probably the new normal.

Fantasy owners could live with a spotty average if it came with 40 homers, but Dozier's pop has evaporated. Prior to this season, his average airborne exit velocities were decent in 2015 (92.5mph) and strong in both 2016 (94.1mph) and 2017 (94.4mph). It's fallen all the way to 91.1mph this season though, placing him among the likes of Jordy Mercer and Yangervis Solarte on the leaderboards. His 6% rate of Brls/BBE is also down precipitously compared to 2017 (8.2%) and 2016 (8.3%), while his Pull% on fly balls is down from his career average (33.1% vs. 37.1%).

Again, Baseball Savant's xStats concur with the conclusions above. As bad as his .224 average is, his xBA is even worse at .208. Likewise, his .402 slugging percentage looks good compared to his xSLG of .368. xStats don't ding him for being shift bait or losing speed either, so his true talent is likely lower than even their pessimistic totals.

Dozier has a reputation as a second half guy, but his career splits don't support it. He hits for a higher average in the second half (.242 vs. .256), but he has more homers in the first (91 vs. 76).

The only position at which Dozier would be an offensive upgrade for the Dodgers is pitcher. Roster Resource has him batting third for LA, but it wouldn't be surprising if he got swallowed by the Dodgers Depth Monster and just stopped playing altogether. You don't need to keep holding onto him.

Verdict: Chump

 

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