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ADP Champ or Chump - Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara


This week, I am making the trip down to Texas, which has started to be treated like somewhat of a fantasy wasteland by some fantasy owners. However, despite the low expectations for team performance, there are some interesting names to be found in Arlington. The Rangers are in a self-confessed rebuild mode but they have a core of young talented hitters ready to carry them into that rebuilding phase.

Two of the talents now reside in the Rangers outfield. Nomar Mazara has been a somewhat permanent fixture for the last three years, while Joey Gallo finally seems to have found his regular spot in the defensive lineup. Both Gallo and Mazara came out of the minors with no shortage of talent. However, both have had mixed results in the majors. Gallo has exploded onto the fantasy scene with power and force, while Mazara has almost delicately slid into the back of fantasy owners minds with solid but unspectacular returns. Now as they become the potential future of the team, can these two young, talented hitters take the next step for fantasy owners?

Let's take a closer look at these two intriguing Rangers.

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Joey Gallo (1B/OF, TEX) ADP: 98.28

Gallo is an absolutely fascinating player for fantasy owners. On one hand, you have the monster power, which has seen him hit 41 and 40 home runs respectively the last two seasons. On the other hand, you have the 36% strikeout rate and batting average barely above .200. It is not a new mystery how to value these types of players for fantasy baseball. Seemingly every year there is at least of these power types who can sink your batting average if you do not account for him properly.

No one is questioning the power from Gallo. He ranks in the 99th percentile in the majors when it comes to exit velocity, ranks top six in average launch angle and leads the field in barrel% whether you look at in terms of plate appearances or batted ball events. The only question for me is whether he gets enough PA to get that total up towards 45 and perhaps even 50 home runs this season.

On average the last two years, Gallo hits a home run every 13.69 PA, which is an incredible number. When you consider he walks around 13% the number on a per at-bat basis is even more impressive.

In 2019, Gallo will be part of a weaker Texas Rangers lineup and that could benefit his home run total. Last season, Gallo had 327 PA in the six through nine spots in the batting lineup. That means that in over half of Gallo's games for the Rangers he was near the bottom of the lineup, and over time that reduces his PA.

This season I expect to see Gallo hitting somewhere in the middle of the lineup for the majority of the time. There will be the occasional time he slides down the order when slumping but there is not the same depth in the lineup this season. Therefore it is realistic to project Gallo for somewhere between 50 and 100 more PA in 2019, which would result in approximately 3-7 extra home runs.

The problem there is that more PA means his pretty disastrous batting average takes an even bigger toll on your team. However, there is some reason for a little optimism, given that the last two seasons Gallo has returned an expected batting average of .221 and .228 respectively. Those numbers do not look significantly above his actual outputs of .209 and .206, but they are an approximate increase of 5-10% on the last two years numbers. That is quite a significant difference in value, even it would still have been the 53rd-worst expected batting average last season.

So why the belief that Gallo can change? Well, when you look at his batted ball profile there is a lot of positives.  In total last season, Gallo had 291 batted ball events, 29.6% were ground balls, 20.6% were line drives and 49.8% were fly balls. If we just take the fly balls and ground balls first (205 events), then Gallo had a .410 batting average on those batted ball events. If we take Gallo's average exit velocity on those types of events (99.8) and his average launch angle, this is the expected spray chart we get:

Joey Gallo's expected outcomes on fly balls and line drives assuming an average exit velocity of 99.8 and a launch angle of 21.5

Ignoring everything about that chart but the expected batting average, we can see that Gallo's actual outcomes are far below his potential outcomes. This suggests that his batting average has room for growth. 86 of Gallo's batted ball events were ground balls and he had a batting average of .198. 84 of them were against the shift. The potential growth in this batting average, if he could just occasionally drive the ball into the open space on the opposite side of the diamond, is huge. The strikeout rate will always mean there is a low ceiling on Gallo's batting average, but there is a realistic path to how he could hit .225 this season. If he does, then the 98th overall pick will likely work out as a value pick by the end of the season.

Verdict: ADP Champ

 

Nomar Mazara (OF, TEX) ADP: 156.52

Mazara is right up there with Gallo when it comes to talent levels. However, Mazara has never made the really splashy impact that we have seen from Gallo. Mazara has yet to hit more than 20 home runs in a single major league season, and his batting average does not stand out either, having fluctuated between .266 and .253 in his three seasons in Texas. Still, we have seen glimpses. Mazara had 101 RBI in 2017 and made it to 20 home runs in 2018 despite having a career low in PA at 536.

2018 was a strange year for Mazara when it came to power. He surged out of the gate with 12 home runs by the end of May and 10 of those coming in May itself. However, injuries limited his time at the plate as the summer wore on. The only reason his PA totals are not lower is that he often tried to play through the issue rather than receiving an extended period of time off. When you look at the season as a whole, Mazara actually made better contact than he had previously. His barrel % of 8.5 and exit velocity of 90.5 were the highest of his career. However, his average launch angle of just 5.3 was the lowest we have seen in his career.

The problem is that his increase in exit velocity was not apparent on his fly ball and line drives. In fact, his average exit velocity on those batted balls dropped by 0.7, so in some ways it is a surprise he got back to 20 home runs last season. Hopefully coming into the season healthy, and with a new hitting coach should allow Mazara to change his approach at the plate slightly. If he can get back to the way he was hitting the ball in May then 30 home runs is a real possibility for this young outfielder.

As for his other numbers, there is less flexibility. His batting average the last three seasons has pretty much matched his expected batting average by Statcast metrics. His walk and strikeout rates have been fairly similar from year to year, so without a surprising change in approach, his batting average is likely to remain in the .255-.260 region. In terms of runs and RBI, he is once again likely to spend the majority of his time hitting in the middle of the order. This Rangers lineup is weaker than it has been in previous seasons but it is still a solid group, meaning that if Mazara can get back to 600 PA then something in the region of a combined 160 runs and RBI should be more than possible.

Mazara's value is almost exclusively linked to his power. The great thing is that 20 home runs appears to be his floor and this draft price is perfectly appropriate for that floor. What that all means is that anything Mazara does above and beyond 20 home runs is almost pure profit from a draft value point of view. It is refreshing and somewhat unusual to see a young player, with the potential to develop, being drafted at a point where there is still the potential for him to provide upside to your fantasy team.

Verdict: ADP Champ

 

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