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The exciting young gun versus the proven veteran. A sports debate older than fantasy baseball itself, and a decision we’re faced with at every draft pick. That’s why we’re comparing the young gun (Mitch Haniger) to the proven veteran (Michael Brantley), two outfielders within the same sub-elite yet startable tier that owners must decide between on draft day.

Haniger is going slightly higher in NFBC leagues at around pick 83, while Brantley is going at pick 117. Is it worth forking up the extra 34 spots for Haniger, or can owners wait and get similar production from Brantley?

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

Editor's Note: Get a full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off before Opening Day. Exclusive access to our Draft Kit, in-season lineup tools and over 200 days of DFS. Sign Up Now!

 

Mitch Haniger– The Northwestern Jewel

(ADP 83 Overall)

Seattle Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger is a 27-year-old that topped 100 games played for the first time in 2018, but did not top 100 runs scored, or RBI. He was also not part of a playoff team. That being said, Haniger was one of the best values of the 2018 season.

Coming into 2018, Haniger only played 130 career games and, while he had a .843 OPS in 2017, was basically an unknown entity. Then, he tallied 68 extra-base hits, 90 runs scored, 93 RBI, and a .859 OPS in 157 games as the right fielder for the Mariners. To say that he was one of the surprise players of the 2018 season is an understatement and the only thing that will limit his future are his injury woes from the past.

Haniger was an OF2 in 2018 and his extra-base hit abilities on top of his .350+ OBP will likely keep him on the fringe of OF2 in 2019. A lot of people have soured on the Mariners in 2019, but their offense may be better than some think. Mallex Smith, Jay Bruce, Domingo Santana, and Edwin Encarnacion were all added to the team leading into this season and Dee Gordon is looking for a bounce back as well.

If Haniger is still at the top of the lineup for the M's, he will get an opportunity to both knock in the speedy Gordon and Smith while also having the potential to be knocked in by Bruce and Encarnacion. Unfortunately, he will obviously not go unknown in drafts this spring, but could still be a sleeper pick. If you can get him around the ninth round, consider yourself very lucky, as early ADP has him going on average in the seventh round.

 

Michael Brantley – The Stable Veteran

(ADP 117 Overall)

After posting a .776 OPS over the last two seasons (418 plate appearances), Brantley was seen as a player that was a serious doubt for 2018. He then played his most games since 2015 (143 games) and topped an .800 OPS for the first time since posting back-to-back .800+ OPS seasons in 2014 and 2015. His 36 doubles gave him his fourth season with 35+ doubles in his career and his 17 home runs were the second-highest total of his career. A player with 55 extra-base hit, .300 batting average, and double-digit steal potential is very useful for fantasy owners.

Maintaining a solid line drive rate (his 24.7% rate was the second-best of his career), Brantley also had a career-best 37.1% hard-hit ball rate in 2018. He was below his career-average in ground balls (45% vs. 47%) and had a 12.2% soft hit ball rate (the second-best of his career). Most impressively, Brantley had a 90.9% contact rate, 97.3% zone contact rate, and a 4% swinging strike rate that all led the league. A line drive hitter, Cleveland was the 2nd-best stadium for line drives for lefties last season.

As for his new home, it actually suppresses line drives, basically allowing a league average of line drives from lefties. Doubles are obviously a big part of Brantley's game as well, and Progressive Field allowed eight percent more doubles than league average to lefties while Minute Maid Park allowed seven percent less than league average. Just to fully confirm that he is downgrading his ballpark, Cleveland helped runs scored for lefties more than any ballpark in 2018 while Houston allowed two percent fewer runs for lefties than league average.

Brantley looks like he is going to slot into the middle of the Astros' lineup and could make a run to be a top-100 player for 2019. He looks like he can be an OF3 once again, especially in a lineup that could help him top 100 runs scored or 100 RBI for the first time of his career. There are some issues with his new ballpark, but he is the stereotypical "professional hitter" and will find a way to make an impact. He may not regain his top form from the past, but you could do much worse than Brantley in 2019.

 

Conclusion

In a straight-up comparison, both players have flaws, but could each finish as a fantasy OF3. Brantley may have more risk with a new team and his injury history, but he also has the opportunity to play with one of the best offenses in baseball. That being said, with the two players being so close, value-wise, it is better to wait for up to three rounds and pick Brantley.

Looking at value-based picks, you could get a closer like Brad Hand (ADP 86), Roberto Osuna (ADP 87), or Felipe Vázquez (ADP 88) instead of Haniger in the mid-80s or could end up landing Corey Seager returning from injury (ADP 80) or the stable Jose Abreu (ADP 82). Of course, Haniger is coming off of the better season and has exciting new teammates, but he had very little track record coming into 2018, making it a better decision to add the stable veteran Brantley later in the draft.

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