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ADP Champ or Chump - Nick Pivetta and Victor Robles


As a general rule, fantasy owners like to play with shiny new toys. Victor Robles has less than 100 MLB PAs to his credit but is frequently taken just outside the top-100 based on his speed. The current 21-year-old (he turns 22 in May) has talent, but this writer sees several red flags that may limit his value in redraft leagues.

In contrast, fantasy owners tend to abandon shiny new toys as soon as they break. When yesterday's exciting prospect debuts provide mediocre (or worse) results, you can often buy a talented player at a discount. Nick Pivetta illustrates this concept nicely at an ADP of 156.08 this season.

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 Pivetta and Robles, shall we?

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Nick Pivetta (SP, PHI) - ADP: 156.08

Pivetta's 4.77 ERA over 164 IP doesn't look great, but his underlying 3.42 xFIP suggests that he actually pitched much better than that. Pivetta's 2017 season went much the same way, as a 6.02 ERA over 133 IP masked a solid 4.26 xFIP. Pivetta improved in most of the areas that matter last season, and he seems primed for a breakout at age 26.

Pivetta's stuff has always been pretty good. In 2017, he struck out 24% of the batters who faced him while walking 9.8%. Both metrics improved last year, with his K% increasing to 27.1% and his BB% decreasing to 7.4%. When a pitcher's K-BB% nears 20%, it's time for fantasy owners to pay attention.

Pivetta features three primary pitches and three more show-me pitches to give hitters a different look. His fastball is elite, averaging 95.4 mph and generating whiffs at a strong 10.1% rate despite an incredibly high Zone% (58%). It's not outstanding by spin rate (2,267 RPM), but hitters clearly have a hard time tracking it.

Once the fastball gets him ahead, Pivetta has two breaking pitches to put hitters away. The first is a curve with a strong 15.4% SwStr% and 41.5% chase rate, making it a great put-away pitch. Pivetta can also drop it in for a strike when he wants to (43.7% Zone%) and rely on its insane spin rate (2,837 RPM, 27th among all MLB pitchers last year) to limit a hitter's productivity.

Alternatively, Pivetta can deliver a slider that generates more whiffs than his curve (16.2% SwStr%) at the cost of lower Zone% (39.8%) and chase rates (35.5%). The rest of Pivetta's arsenal consists of a sinker, change, and cutter. None of them look special in admittedly small samples, but together they add up to 10% of Pivetta's total pitches thrown. That's enough to keep hitters guessing.

The "luck metrics" were not in Pivetta's corner in 2018, as he allowed a 15.8% HR/FB, .326 BABIP, and 69% strand rate. If his arsenal is so strong, why has contact gone so poorly for him? It's not the quality of contact against him, as Baseball Savant projected an xBA of .221 and xSLG of .370 based on the launch angle and exit velocity of his batted balls allowed. For reference, his actual marks were .261 and .423, respectively.

No, the reason behind Pivetta's struggles was the complete lack of defense behind him. Per Statcast's Outs Above Average metric, Rhys Hoskins was worth -20 outs at an outfielder in 2018. That is unfathomably bad, but thankfully the Carlos Santana trade allows the team to move him back to first base. He's still below average there (-2 Defensive Runs Saved in limited time last season), but at least he's playable. Likewise, Nick Williams (-8 OAA) is slated for a platoon role at most this coming season.

The club also acquired Jean Segura to play shortstop in 2019. His five DRS for the Mariners last year is a massive upgrade from the -24 that four players combined for at the position in Philadelphia. Similarly, 3B Maikel Franco will either improve his play (-12 DRS last year) or start losing playing time in favor of Scott Kingery. 2B Cesar Hernandez also left a lot to be desired with the glove (-12 DRS), but he could also lose playing time if he isn't performing.

In summation, Pivetta combines a strong fastball with a high-spin curve and solid slider to generate Ks. The defense behind him should do a lot to control his prior "bad luck" on batted balls, giving Pivetta SP3 and maybe even SP2 potential at a price outside the top-150. That's the kind of profit that wins fantasy leagues.

Verdict: Champ (based on ADP of 156)

 

Victor Robles (OF, WAS) - ADP: 101.57

Fantasy owners are high on Robles, as you usually need to consider using a top-100 pick in order to land him. Robles is nearly a complete unknown, so it's fair to question if he is worth it.

Robles only has 340 PAs in the High Minors, and they were split between Double-A Harrisburg in 2017 and Triple-A Syracuse in 2018. He looked great at Double-A (.324/.394/.489 with three homers in 158 PAs), but an inflated 28.6% LD% inflated his BABIP to a likely unsustainable .368. He also popped up a lot (25% IFFB%, roughly 12.5% in major league terms) for a guy showing minimal power (32.1% FB%, 8.3% HR/FB). At least his plate discipline was good (7.6% BB%, 13.9% K%).

Robles regressed to a .278/.356/.386 triple slash line with two homers in 182 PAs at Triple-A last year. His LD% cratered to 18.2%, bringing his BABIP to a more sustainable .318. He also upped his FB% to 39.4%, but it didn't do him any good with a HR/FB of 3.8%. His IFFB% held at 25 percent, which is a lot of pop-ups coming off of a nearly-40% FB%. His plate discipline remained strong (9.9% BB%, 14.3% K%), but big-league hurlers aren't going to walk somebody with his wheels unless he shows some power.

Robles's fantasy value will come primarily from his speed. He went 22-for-31 in SB attempts in 2014, 24-for-29 in 2015, 37-for-50 in 2016, 27-for-37 in 2017, and 22-for-31 last season. Outside of 2015 (83%), his success rates have hovered in the 71-74% range. That works, but it gives him absolutely no leeway to decline at the highest level if he wants to maintain a green light. Likewise, a pure-speed play who has only eclipsed 30 swipes in one MiLB campaign suggests that he might have a relatively limited upside in the category.

There is also the question of his lineup spot to consider. Both Adam Eaton and Trea Turner profile as perfect leadoff hitters, so it will probably be tough for Robles to escape from the 8th spot in the order. Not only will this limit his R+RBI opportunities, it could also suppress his SB total as many managers are hesitant to run into an out and force the pitcher to lead off the next inning.

Even the 8th spot in the order may be more than Robles is guaranteed. If there is any truth to the rumors that Bryce Harper is considering a return to Washington, Robles seems likely to lose his everyday gig to a Juan Soto/Eaton/Harper outfield. Even if Harper elects not to return, Michael Taylor is passable enough to trot out there if the Nats want to play service time games.

Both Mallex Smith (99.33 ADP) and Jose Peraza (97.25) offer comparable speed with more consistent playing time at roughly the same cost. Alternatively, you can bet on a Josh Donaldson rebound (102.49), Michael Conforto breakout (107.37), or Daniel Murphy at Coors Field (103.18) at the same point in the draft. With unsure playing time, a bad batting order spot, and BABIP red flags, Robles shouldn't be taken at a point in the draft where you're counting on him for Opening Day.

Verdict: Chump (based on ADP of 101.5)

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