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This series will attempt to help fantasy baseball owners make informed opinions on players whose ADP may not be in line with their value for the 2018 season.

As fantasy owners, we can fall into a "group think" mentality and start to overlook certain teams and players. If we aren't careful, those ideas can turn into blind spots in our search for value during our auctions and drafts.

To examine some possible scenarios that could differentiate from our pre-season viewpoints, we will debunk possible myths from teams and players in the NL West.

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Myth 1: Hunter Renfroe will receive full-time at-bats for the Padres

Hunter Renfroe (OF, SD) and Franchy Cordero (OF, SD)

With the Eric Hosmer signing, the Padres will shift Wil Myers to a corner outfield position. In deeper leagues, the Padres have at least two options that could offer some value at the other corner outfield position.

While some think that Renfroe will see 500 at-bats in San Diego, Hunter Renfore and Franchy Cordero may end up in an OF platoon. What do both players offer?

Hunter Renfroe's power capability has the slugger going much higher (ADP: 294) than Cordero in NFBC drafts. After the Hosmer signing, there were rumors that Renfroe could be traded, which could potentially provide full-time at-bats.

Although Renfroe hit 15 home runs versus RHP in 2017, his high strikeout rate (33.5 K%) and impatience (4.0 BB%) carries batting average risk. When he puts the ball in play versus RHP, he creates hard contact (34.0 hard%), but more balls end up as grounders (41.0 GB%). Going to work on his plate discipline would help his value, as he often swung out of the zone on sliders (41 O-Swing%), curveballs (41 O-Swing%), and sinkers (38.6 O-Swing%). When he faces LHP, he can mash. He cuts his swings and misses (17.7 K%) almost in half, and he draws more walks (10 BB%). Continuing to hit the ball with authority (35.9 hard%) contributed to 11 home runs and a 1.077 OPS in 114 at-bats versus southpaws.

If the Padres don't trade Renfroe, Steamer's 14 home run projection in 308 plate appearances seems appropriate, and his poor defense in the outfield could cost him some at-bats as well.

If the Padres focus on defensive value, Franchy Cordero plays much better defense in the outfield, which could add to his at-bat totals in 2018.

Like Renfroe, Cordero has plenty of swing-and-miss in his offensive game, as he struck out 118 times in 390 at-bats at AAA and he struck out 44 times in 92 MLB at-bats in 2017. When the left-handed hitter does make contact, he can drive it (39.0 hard%) with authority (97.3 MPH EV-1oth in MLB). Cordero has the skills to gain some platoon time against RHP. He hit 13 home runs (17 total HR) and posted a 1.054 OPS versus RHP at AAA in 2017. He will also need to hit fewer ground balls, and he posted a 1.28 GO/AO in AAA with a 48.0 GB% in San Diego.

His ability to steal some bases could also boost his value, as he was successful on 15 thefts in 19 attempts in 2017. While he will need to work on his plate discipline, taking a chance on Cordero's raw abilities could provide some profit (NFBC ADP: 550) at his current price while cutting into Renfroe's at-bats.

 

Myth 2: Avoid Colorado pitchers

Jon Gray (SP, COL) and Tyler Anderson (SP, COL)

Even with a humidor at Coors Field, most fantasy owners have avoided drafting Colorado pitchers in the past. In 2018, there are some Rockies starting pitchers that could provide value when other fantasy owners are looking elsewhere for pitching.

Jon Gray keeps the ball on the ground with his slider (50.6 GB%) and his four-seamer (49.2 GB%), which aided his 56.3 GB% and 3.50 xFIP at Coors Field. The right-hander's ability to create swings and misses with his slider (16.7 SwStr%) and curveball (12.1 SwStr%) also help his cause. While it appears that his 3.13 home ERA was more dominant, a .364 BABIP on the road contributed to his 4.06 away ERA (3.41 xFIP). Although he gave up more fly balls (31 FB%) in away starts, he registered more strikeouts (9.9 K/9) on the road. Improving versus left-handed batters would add even more value, as his weaker command (2.5 K/BB) versus LHB led to a 4.03 xFIP. Matching 2017's line would make him an SP3 at a decent price (ADP: 162).

Like his teammate, Tyler Anderson induces ground balls (47 GB%) at Coors Field. With a much lower ADP (428), fantasy owners can take a chance that some regression will help him in 2018, as his 19.5 HR/FB in 2017 stayed above his career 15.6 HR/FB. While he did give up harder contact (32 hard%), he improved his swinging-strike rate with his cutter (13.2 SwStr%). With health, his projected league-average production is worth a dart throw late in drafts.

 

Myth 3: Jake Lamb is a top-10 3B

For the second-consecutive year, Jake Lamb paired a torrid first half (20 HR) with a cooler (10 HR) second half. In 2017, a hand injury and a BABIP swing, from .332 in the first half to .227 in the second half, affected his statistics. While he created similar hard contact in both halves, his exit velocity on FB/LD dropped from 93.8 MPH in the first half to 91.7 MPH in the second half. His average fly ball distance also fell from 344 feet in the first half to 311 feet in the second half.

Lamb crushed right-handed pitching, to the tune of 25 home runs, .270 ISO, and .938 OPS. Unfortunately, the struggles versus southpaws continued with a 55.7 GB% and .557 OPS in 2017. Throughout his career, he strikes out more (32.4 K%) versus LHP, hits more ground balls (54.6 GB%), and owns a .566 OPS. If the struggles persist, he could eventually see time in a platoon role.

As we wait to see the effects of the humidor, Steamer's projection of .254 with 26 HR is within reach, which would more than likely fall short of top-ten production at third base.

 

Myth 4: Cody Bellinger's power will slump as a sophomore

During the World Series, the Astros attacked a hole in Cody Bellinger's profile: the inside breaking ball. While the memories from October hasn't hurt his draft stock (ADP: 23), some are saying that Bellinger's power could suffer when he sees more breaking balls.

Yes, Bellinger swung and missed (34.0 0-Contact% and 48.8 K%) on plenty of curveballs outside of the zone throughout the 2017 season. When he made contact, his power allowed him to post a 1.007 OPS and .341 ISO against curveballs. Chasing sliders (40.4 O-Contact% and 41.1 K%) outside of the zone lowered his batting average, but a .359 ISO, .876 OPS, and eight home runs against sliders vouch for his ability to square up pitches. Even though we should account for those strikeouts, Bellinger's ability to hit sliders and curveballs with authority (97.5 MPH exit velocity) provides a decent floor for his power.

While his ability to launch (47.1 FB%) hard-hit balls (43.0 Hard%) backs a power output between 35-40 home runs, carrying over his swings and misses against breaking balls may cut into his batting average. Even with a lower batting average (.252 projection from Steamer), drawing walks (11.7 BB%), stealing double-digit bases (10), and RBI chances in the middle of the Dodgers lineup says that he can provide close to the same value in 2018.

 

Myth 5: Brandon Belt won't cross the 20-HR barrier

Whether it's been injuries, four concussions, or a tough home park, Brandon Belt has yet to hit 20 home runs in a season. The first baseman has the power to provide a 20-homer season in 2018.

With health, Belt provides enough hard contact (38.4 Hard%), fly balls (46.9 FB%), and exit velocity (93.8 MPH) to finally hit more than 20 home runs. AT&T Park isn't kind to hitters, with a 53 Index for LHB-HR (Bill James). In 50 home games in 2017, Belt hit eight home runs, which is on pace to surpass his 2017 home run total with a full season of at-bats.

While he may not join the home run revolution and slug 35 home runs, he hits RHP well. With 14 home runs, 18 doubles and an .879 versus RHP in 2017, he drives the ball with more authority (41.6 Hard%) against right-handers. His .829 career OPS versus RHP and .794 OPS versus LHP bodes well for plenty of at-bats.

Before an August concussion cut his 2017 season short, Belt was on pace for 25 home runs. If he can avoid the DL, we can expect a similar home run pace and good value (ADP: 299) in 2018.

 

More Myths to Debunk...

While these are just a few examples of NL West myths, there are others that we can investigate on our own. For example, we could explore the effectiveness of Brad Hand and his current value (ADP: 108) as a closer.

As we continue to search for value in our drafts and auctions, we will look at myths and possible blind spots in the AL East in the next article.

 

More 2018 MLB Advice and Analysis





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