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Champ or Chump: Trent Grisham and Anthony Santander

With NFL training camps getting started, it can be easy to abandon an underperforming fantasy baseball roster and start looking toward different sports. Your rivals might also fall into this trap, giving you an opportunity to charge up the standings and salvage your fantasy baseball season.

Owners who stopped paying attention are unlikely to have even heard of the two players profiled below. Trent Grisham doesn't have guaranteed playing time, but he possesses a statistical profile that could work marvelously in fantasy. Anthony Santander looks like a lock for playing time, but he looks more like an emergency fill-in than a waiver add to get excited about.

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 Grisham and Santander, shall we?

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received five total writing awards and 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, tops in the industry! Congrats to all the award winners and nominees including Best MLB Series, NFL Series, NBA Writer, PGA Writer and Player Notes writer of the year. Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!


Trent Grisham (OF, MIL)

24% Owned

Grisham has hit .333 with a homer in his first 18 MLB PAs, but that's way too small a sample to judge anybody on. Grisham is interesting because he has a MiLB history of elevating the baseball, taking walks, and stealing bases.

He first reached the Double-A level in 2018, slashing .233/.356/.337 with seven homers and 11 steals (three CS) in 405 PAs. Yes, his OBP was actually higher than his slugging percentage. The reason why is a ton of walks (15.6 BB%) and a minuscule 6.1% HR/FB despite a 46.2 FB%. His strong fly ball profile brought his BABIP down to .292, limiting his batting average despite a perfectly reasonable 21.5% strikeout rate.

The Brewers asked Grisham to repeat the level this season, and he responded by posting a .254/.371/.504 line with 13 HR and six swipes (four CS) over 283 PAs. His FB% of 46.5 was nearly a carbon copy of what he did last year, but a 15.1% HR/FB allowed him to do much more with it. He also continued to walk (15.5 BB%) while improving his strikeout rate (17.7%), suggesting that he was ready to advance to Triple-A.

The Brewers concurred, and Grisham destroyed Triple-A pitching to the tune of .381/.471/.776 with 13 HR and six steals (one CS) in 158 PAs. He posted a 44.6 FB% and 26% HR/FB, taking his power to a whole new level. His 14.6 BB% also bested his 13.9 K%, suggesting complete mastery of the strike zone. He's unlikely to maintain his .384 BABIP at the level moving forward, but fantasy owners will take on a little batting average risk for speed and power.

Grisham is also a legitimate prospect, being taken 15th overall in the 2015 First Year Player Draft. His prospect status stalled somewhat in the lower minors, but a stance change designed to help him push his point of contact forward improved his performance significantly this season. Today, the FanGraphs scouting team gives his hit and game power tools a 30 (40 future) grade with 50 raw power and speed. Baseball Savant is more optimistic on his near-term performance, giving him 45-hit and 50-power and speed.

Grisham has led off in half of his starts but hit 9th and 7th in his other two games. This suggests that the team won't hand him reps on a silver platter, but is willing to play him if he deserves it. With strong fly ball rates, speed, walks, and a substantial prospect pedigree, it says here that Grisham will be worth owning the rest of the way.

Verdict: Champ (based on strong MiLB skills and a clear mechanical change supporting his pop)


Anthony Santander (OF, BAL)

32% Owned

The 24-year-old Santander has looked like a worthwhile fantasy asset in 2019, slashing .302/.348/.507 with nine homers and a steal in 225 PAs. He's also hitting third in Baltimore's batting order, giving him all of the counting stat opportunities the Orioles can muster. Unfortunately, his underlying peripherals suggest that he simply isn't any good.

Santander reached Double-A briefly in 2017, slashing .380/.458/.780 with five homers in 59 PAs. He also recorded 31 uneventful big-league PAs that season.

He logged 222 PAs at Double-A in 2018, hitting only .258/.293/.402 with five homers and four steals. He didn't strikeout (14.4 K%) but didn't walk either (4.5 BB%). He was also held to a .282 BABIP. Brief call-ups to Triple-A (.182/.213/.386 in 47 PAs) and the Show (.198/.250/.297 in 108 PAs) didn't go well either, providing an extensive track record of meh.

Santander sort of took advantage of the offense-friendly baseball at Triple-A this year, slashing .259/.311/.415 with five homers and three steals in 209 PAs. His walk rate (6.2%), strikeout rate (18.2%), and BABIP (.298) all ticked upward, and the resulting 80 wRC+ was bland. The dumpster fire Orioles called him up anyway, and here we are.

Santander chases outside of the strike zone far too often (37.2% chase rate), so the under on his current 6.2 BB% looks like a safe bet. His 69.9 Z-Swing% is fairly passive for somebody who chases this much, so an uptick for his 16.9 K% could be in the offing as well.

Santander's .329 BABIP is also more fortunate than it initially appears. His 39.6% fly ball rate is a little above the league average, but his 14.9 IFFB% means that he's hitting way too many pop flies to run a sustainably high BABIP. His 18.9 LD% is also low, and nothing in his history suggests an increase moving forward. His .343 BABIP on ground balls is also too high to sustain, even if he can run a little (27.5 ft/sec Statcast Sprint) and hits grounders hard (88.7 mph). Baseball Savant states that he has deserved a .280 batting average thus far, and even that seems aggressive in this author's opinion.

Santander's pop is bolstered by his home park and 31.3 Pull% on fly balls, but his average airborne exit velocity (93.8 mph) and below-average 6.4% rate of Brls/BBE suggest that he isn't a slugger. A 13.4% HR/FB just doesn't cut it in today's game, and Baseball Savant's xSLG (.459) says that he has been fortunate to post even that.

Scouts don't care for Santander either, with the FanGraphs team sticking him with 30-grades on both his hit and game power tools (with future scores of 50, to be fair). You can ride him while he's hot, but understand that Santander is just not that good by MLB standards.

Verdict: Chump (based on very poor peripheral stats that do not support worthwhile fantasy numbers)

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