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First base figures to be one of the more frustrating positions for fantasy owners this draft season. Part of the frustrating is that this position used to be one of the pinnacles when it came to production and depth. However, many of the steadfast options have now gone beyond their prime or had their careers derailed by injury. Instead what we have is a position with eight solid options, and then a big collection of players with question marks around them.

Two of those question mars are Josh Bell of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Peter Alonso of the New York Mets. Both players are still in the early part of their career and both are really looking to make a name for themselves in the sport. Another similarity between them is that they are both going just after pick 250 according to NFBC ADP. Neither of them is going to cost much on draft day but the question is which of them is the right choice for you at that point of the draft?

RotoBaller is going to break down all the pressing ADP questions you need to know before draft day.

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Josh Bell – Post-Hype Sleeper?

(ADP: 255 Overall)

If you have been a Bell owner in the past two seasons then you are likely extremely frustrated by the results you have received from him. Coming into the league Bell had a reputation as a good on-base option, who should provide you with a solid average. Power was a bit more of a question mark but at 23 the theory was that his power would have the opportunity to develop in the majors.

To some extent that was true as Bell hit 26 home runs in 2017. However, that excess power appeared to come at a cost to his batting average, which slumped to .255. The problem is that in 2018, despite 583 PA, he did not really give you anything of note. His 2018 stat line shows 12 home runs and a .261 batting average, ultimately giving you worst of both potential outcomes that we thought he might have entering the season.

So what can we expect from Bell this season? Let's start with power. Bell now has two and a bit seasons in the major leagues, and these are his HR/FB rates over those three years: 9.4%, 19.1% and 9.2%. The 2016 sample size is extremely small but it is somewhat validated by the 2018 performance. When you dig deeper the contrast in his outputs is head scratching. If we just look at 2018 and 2017, then Bell had a higher average exit velocity on fly balls and line drives (94.7 vs. 92.3) in 2018 than in 2017. He also had a greater launch angle (9.2% vs. 8.5%) in 2018, but yet hit fewer home runs. The answer may lie in where he hit the ball to, as in 2017 Bell had a pull% of 41.5%, but in 2018 that dropped all the way to 33.8%. That difference in pull% was reflected in Bell hitting more balls to center field, a harder place to hit home runs in most parks.

Now for batting average which actually is a little easier to get a feel for. Unless we see a significant change in approach by Bell then his batting average is likely to remain around the .260 region. When you look at his xBA for the last two year it is almost identical. In 2017 it was .261 and in 2018 in was .259, and his actual batting average was not far away in either year. .260 is not terrible and for a pick outside the top 250 it actually feels fairly solid. The question is whether is he is giving you enough of anything to be an upside selection, or if he is just a pick for the sake of making a pick?

 

Peter Alonso – New Kid on the Block

(ADP 259 Overall)

For a player who hit 36 home runs last season, albeit across two different levels, Alonso is receiving surprisingly little hype compared to some of the other big name prospect. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is going at an ADP around 45 and Eloy Jimenez is currently being selected right around the 100th pick. However, Alonso is getting very little of that hype right now. Some of it is that technically he is still behind Dominic Smith in the Mets minor league system, but I do not expect that to be much of a log jam.

The bigger issue in Alonso's outlook this season are the way his numbers changed when he moved from Double-A to Triple-A. At Double-A, Alonso had a .314 batting average and an 18.3% strikeout rate. However, at Triple-A that batting average dropped to .260 and the strikeout rate was just a hair below 26%. Those numbers do give pause when it comes to what his batting average might be in the major leagues. Right now there is really a wide range of outcomes. The current projections models have him hitting anywhere between .222 (THE BAT) and .242 (ATC). However, there is a chance those numbers are a little pessimistic so it could yet be higher.

Power wise his Triple-A output was incredible. In 301 PA he hit 21 home runs with an ISO of .32 and a HR/FB% of 28.4. Unfortunately, we do not have Statcast data on exit velocity and launch angle, so validating those numbers with that information is not possible. One caveat is that the Mets Triple-A organization played in the hitter-friendly PCL in 2018, so those numbers have received the boost that is provided by that environment. However, in the slightly less hitter-friendly Double-A environment, he still managed to hit 15 home runs in just 273 PA.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, your decision about who you pick between these two may be dictating by your overall draft strategy. If you have taken a lot of gambles earlier in the draft and just want some safety to fall back on, then Bell might be your guy, he is going to be an everyday player and that can count for a lot. However, you would need to have really invested a lot in high-risk players to make Bell the right choice here.

Alonso has a real chance of having a batting average in the region of what Bell can provide and his home run potential on a per plate appearance basis is far superior. For me, fantasy baseball is about having fun and maximizing your chance to win. Ask any Bell owner and they will tell you that fun has not been part of the Bell experience the last two years. For that reason, the clear winner here for me is selecting Peter Alonso.

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