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With fewer data points to go off of, younger players have always been more challenging to project than their more veteran counterparts. Unfortunately, the game is getting younger. Fantasy owners need to roster at least a few young studs if they hope to compete.

Danny Jansen may not have impressed in his brief MLB debut last season, but his minor league resume and the fact that catchers are terribad in fantasy makes him a potential top-five option at his position. Nobody seems to have told NFBC drafters, as he's consistently taken outside of the top-200. The fantasy community is very high on Ozzie Albies, but this writer has serious misgivings about considering him a top-50 asset.

Keep in mind, our Champ / Chump conclusions are based on whether we think a player will outperform their current ADP. For example, a pitcher we view as "Tier 2" can be a Champ if they're being drafted as a Tier 3 pitcher, or they could be a Chump if they're being drafted as a Tier 1 pitcher. Let's take a closer look at Albies and Jensen, shall we?

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Danny Jansen (C, TOR) - ADP: 243.92

As noted above, Jansen did little with his MLB debut (.247/.347/.432 with three homers in 95 PAs). Those are the numbers you're staring at in most draft clients, so it's understandable why owners might prove hesitant to add him to their roster. Jansen's MiLB career suggests that avoiding him is a mistake though.

Jansen first reached Double-A New Hampshire in 2017, slashing .291/.378/.419 with two homers over 210 PAs. His plate discipline was beyond elite (10.5% BB%, 9% K%), and his BABIP was a perfectly sustainable .311. His 3.3% HR/FB was garbage, but his 37.7% FB% suggested some ability to elevate the baseball. While not a finished product, the then-22 year old flashed enough potential to earn a call-up to Triple-A Buffalo.

Jansen only got 78 PAs at the higher level in 2017, but he made them count: .328/.423/.552 with three homers. He again walked (14.1% BB%) more often than he struck out (9% K%), and his BABIP climbed to .333. While his FB% fell a little (35.1%), Jansen more than made up for it with a 15% HR/FB. It was a small sample, but the signs were encouraging.

Jansen started in Buffalo last year, ultimately slashing .275/.390/.473 with 12 HR over 360 PAs before his big league debut. His K% (13.6%) was higher than his BB% (12.2%), but keeping them close is still excellent. He also upped his FB% substantially (41.9%) while maintaining most of his power gains from Triple-A the year before (11.5% HR/FB). Jansen probably matured as a hitter to accomplish this, as New Hampshire's HR factor (1.185 from 2014-16) is considerably higher than Buffalo's (0.982).

Most encouraging of all, Jansen's peripherals at the MLB level support his MiLB work. He walked a lot (9.5% BB%) while striking out infrequently (17.9% K%), suggesting that his plate discipline will immediately translate into a solid batting average floor. He also hit a ton of fly balls (47.7% FB%), meaning that he could put up 20 bombs this year without any improvement in his 9.7% HR/FB. Considering how bad catchers are, a .270 average with 20 bombs qualifies as elite production at the position.

Toronto traded Russell Martin to make room for Jansen, so he should receive everyday PAs from Opening Day forward barring something unforeseen. His ADP has become more expensive in January (222.32), but he still represents a tremendous value for owners searching for upside at the position.

Verdict: Champ (based on ADP of 243)

 

Ozzie Albies (SS/2B, ATL) - ADP: 52.12

Many analysts expected Albies to be productive in 2018, and indeed he was (.261/.305/.452 with 24 HR and 14 SB). However, the shape of that production was very different from what most anticipated. Albies literally homered more often last season than he had in his entire minor league career plus his brief MLB call-up in 2017 (22 total). Meanwhile, he had swiped between 29 and 30 bases from 2015-2017, making his 14 bags in 2018 seem disappointing relative to what was expected of him.

What happened to Albies' steals is a question with no easy answer. Statcast Sprint Speed clocked him at 28.7 ft./sec, suggesting that his raw foot speed remained well above average. He was also efficient on the basepaths with only three CS all season, so the Braves had no obvious reason to give him a red light. The only satisfying conclusion for this writer is that Albies chose not to run, something that could damage his fantasy value moving forward.

While fantasy owners can rely on a slugger to try to hit a homer in every PA, base thieves can choose not to run for a myriad of reasons. If they have become a power hitter, the injury risk may no longer be worth it (think Alex Bregman in 2018). If Freddie Freeman is up, the risk of a CS may not make sense even if Albies has good success rates. Albies definitely has the physical talent for 30-steal upside, but his willingness to reach it is called into question by last year's effort.

Make no mistake: Albies will not be a fantasy asset based on his power again. He posted a 39.9% FB% last year and backed it up with a solid 25.5% Pull% on fly balls, but middling airborne exit velocity (91.7 mph) and a below-average rate of Brls/BBE (4.7%) limited him to an 11.5% HR/FB. It could have been even worse, as Baseball Savant's xSLG metric suggests that Albies "deserved" a slugging percentage of just .396 based on his contact quality.

Albies' MiLB career also supports the conclusion that he offers little power potential. He slashed .321/.391/.467 over 371 PAs for Double-A Mississippi in 2016, but he failed to lift the ball (32.6% FB%) or put oomph behind it when he did (4.6% HR/FB). His debut with Triple-A Gwinnett that year was a disaster (.248/.307/.351 with two homers over 247 PAs), again categorized by an inability to both lift the ball (29.3% FB%) and hit with authority (3.7% HR/FB).

Albies seems to have tried to join the fly ball revolution in 2017, as he slashed .285/.330/.440 with nine homers over 448 PAs on the farm. His 37.9% FB% was much higher than it had been, and his HR/FB doubled to 7.6%. Unfortunately, neither number is that impressive. Worse, Albies struck out a lot more often (20.1% K%) than he had at either Double-A (15.4%) or Triple-A (15.8%) the previous year. Some players shouldn't sell out for power, and Albies might be one of them.

Judging from his MLB FB%, Albies was trying to hit homers last year. Hitting nine long balls in April probably convinced him that it was a good idea. The result was more pop-ups (9.6% IFFB%) than somebody with Albies' legs should be hitting and a depressed BABIP of .285. His 21.3% LD% was higher than anything Albies had in the minors, so regression might not automatically work in his favor. Going back to Baseball Savant's xStats, Albies only deserved a .247 average last season.

Likewise, solid surface-level plate discipline (5.3% BB%, 17% K%) masks an undisciplined approach (38.2% chase rate) that could give pitchers holes to exploit in 2019. The Braves had no qualms about demoting Albies to sixth and then seventh down the stretch last season, so counting stats aren't certain either.

At his current ADP, you can choose a pitcher with ace-level upside (James Paxton 55.58 ADP, Stephen Strasburg 59.28 ADP), a reliable power bat in Eugenio Suarez (52.13 ADP), or the best catcher in baseball (JT Realmuto 56.90 ADP). If you want to lock down speed, Lorenzo Cain is available a full round later (67.11 ADP) and has a better-projected batting average and lineup spot. Albies might be a strong fantasy asset in 2019, but his price should be much closer to the 130-150 range than his current ADP of 52.

Verdict: Chump (based on current ADP of 50)

More 2019 Fantasy Baseball Advice