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ADP Champ or Chump - Kyle Gibson and Miguel Sano

Fantasy owners frequently like drafting players on good teams because of the benefits of playing in a strong lineup. In 2019, the Astros, Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, and Dodgers clearly fit into this category. We also like drafting upside plays from rebuilding clubs like the Marlins or Royals because of the opportunity they have. A guy like Adalberto Mondesi can go from the minor leagues to an important major league lineup spot with a good week.

However, we have blind spots for teams that are in the middle of the two extremes. For example, the Minnesota Twins will almost certainly finish second in their division: not good enough to compete with Cleveland, but clearly better than the full-on rebuilds. As such, these teams can provide some sleeper value. Starting pitcher Kyle Gibson and 3B Miguel Sano look like interesting rolls of the dice based on their current cost.

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 Gibson and Sano, shall we?

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Kyle Gibson (SP, MIN) - ADP: 275.96

Gibson had a reasonable 2018 campaign, posting a 3.62 ERA and 3.91 xFIP over 196 2/3 IP with an essentially league-average 21.7% K%. That made him a nice volume guy in leagues without innings limits and an acceptable injury replacement in shallower formats. In deeper formats, he was nearly a must-own asset. A quick look under the hood suggests the performance was real, as nothing stands out about his .285 BABIP, 14.8% HR/FB, or 75.5% strand rate (.304, 13.2%, 71.2% career). It's amazing that an arm with such a reasonable floor could be falling so late in drafts.

While it's true that most fantasy owners are chasing ceiling over floor at the end of their drafts, the 31-year-old has some upside that he could still tap into. His slider is an outstanding pitch (26.6% SwStr%, 45.2% chase rate, 28.5% Zone% in 2018) that could easily support a higher K%. His changeup is a strong secondary weapon (17.7% SwStr%, 41.8% chase, 33.6% Zone%) that keeps his slider from getting predictable. His curve is a work in progress (16% SwStr%, but 30.7% chase and 27.2% Zone%), but it has potential. A lot of talented pitchers would kill for Gibson's breaking stuff.

Gibson isn't a household name because his fastballs are awful. His sinker does not generate whiffs (4.4% SwStr%) or get him ahead in the count (47.6% Zone%), and batters have a lifetime batting average of .288 against it. Basically, it accomplishes exactly nothing. Somehow, his straight 4-seamer was even worse last year (3.5% SwStr%, 44.4% Zone%) and has been hit even harder over his career (.343 BAA). Gibson needs something to set up the rest of his repertoire; an effective cutter could make him one of the better starters in the league.

The beauty of drafting Gibson at his current price is that you don't need a breakout. If he repeats his 2018 season in a division where the Royals, White Sox, and Tigers are all rebuilding, you're looking at 13-15 wins with solid ratios. That's a profit! The fact that he could break out on top of a relatively safe floor makes him an intriguing late-round target.

Verdict: Champ (based on ADP of 276)


Miguel Sano (3B, MIN) - ADP: 223.56

Sano's 2018 was an unmitigated disaster. He was accused of sexual assault, sustained a major leg injury, was reportedly out-of-shape, and sent back to the minor leagues for a significant chunk of the season. It all added up to a .199/.281/.398 line with 13 HR over 299 PAs at the major league level. It would be easy to write off the 25-year-old after such a dismal showing, but this is still a guy who slugged 28 long balls over just 483 PAs in 2017. There is serious bounce-back potential here.

Sano's results weren't there last year, but most of his indicators remained solid. He still posted a slugger's FB% of 41.2% (42.6% career) and put plenty of oomph behind his batted balls (20.6% HR/FB, 23.8% career). It can be tough to trust a HR/FB in excess of 20%, but Sano had the average airborne exit velocity (96.1 mph) and rate of Brls/BBE (11.8%) to conclude that he remains a true-talent 20% HR/FB type of guy.

Sano has posted impressive Statcast metrics since the data became public in 2015. His airborne batted balls averaged 98.9 mph off of the bat in that first year, while his 20.4% rate of Brls/BBE ranked second in the league. His numbers regressed slightly in 2016 (96.8 mph, 14.1% Brls/BBE), but still ranked well above average. He surged again in 2017 (98.3 mph, 16.3%) before slipping last year. The numbers are clear: Sano makes special contact. A 30 HR campaign is probable given everyday PAs, with the upside for 40+.

Sano's bugaboo has always been batting average, but he's bound for positive regression from last season. His .286 BABIP was well beneath his career mark of .348, due in large part to less productive airborne batted balls. His flies posted a BABIP of .060 against a career mark of .136, while his liners clocked in at .696 against a career mark of .770. His airborne contact quality was great, so both numbers should rebound. Likewise, Sano's 15% LD% was much lower than his career 20.3% rate. LD% declines are seldom predictive, so regression appears likely.

You would think that a guy who looks like Sano wouldn't do much with ground balls, but he has a .308 career BABIP (.313 last year) on them. His 26.8 ft./sec Statcast Sprint Speed is only a smidge below average, so he can get down the line when he needs to. He also torches the shift (.385 career, .350 last year), so he doesn't lose base hits because the infielders moved around.

Sano struck out at an unacceptable rate (38.5% K%) last season, but there is hope on this front as well. There is a lot of swing and miss in his game (15.2% SwStr%), but his 80.4% Z-Contact% last season was actually a career best (76.4% career). He also has enough power to keep opposing pitchers honest, earning his fair share of walks last season (10.4% BB%) despite a career-worst 30% chase rate. Sano will absolutely strikeout too often in 2019, but it won't be as bad as a 38.5% K%.

In conclusion, Sano has legitimate 40 HR potential despite a down season in 2018. He should raise his average to the .230 range or so and has added value in leagues that use OBP. You probably don't want to count on him for Opening Day, but there are few better value propositions after 200+ players are off of the board.

Verdict: Champ (based on ADP in the 220 range)

More 2019 Fantasy Baseball Advice


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