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ADP Champ or Chump - Nick Senzel and Christian Yelich


As fantasy owners, it can be easy to fall in love with a player's talent and end up overpaying for a guy. Nick Senzel's stat lines suggest that he has all of the talent necessary to make an impact at the MLB level, but the combination of his health issues and a crowded Cincinnati roster seem likely to make him a wasted draft choice.

Likewise, Christian Yelich's most ardent supporters are pointing to his 2018 MVP campaign as evidence that they have been right all along. Unfortunately, almost nothing in his profile changed en route to his most productive season ever, making a first-round price tag too rich for the numbers you are likely to get.

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 Senzel and Yelich, shall we?

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Nick Senzel (3B/OF, CIN) - ADP: 232.12

The Reds have been talking up Senzel seemingly since their rebuild began, but things have gone off the rails. He has been limited to just 428 PAs over the past two seasons combined due to a variety of health ailments.

Make no mistake, Senzel has been very good on the farm when he takes the field. He reached Double-A in 2017, slashing .340/.413/.560 with 10 homers and five steals (though four CS) in just 235 PAs. His plate discipline metrics supported an advanced approach at the plate (11.1% BB%, 18.3% K%), and his raw power looked elite (19.2% HR/FB) even if he didn't do a great job elevating the baseball (32.1% FB%). You'd want to take the under on his .391 BABIP moving forward, but it was a strong High Minors debut.

The performance earned Senzel a shot at Triple-A last season, where he slashed an impressive .310/.378/.509 with six homers and eight steals (two CS) over 193 PAs. His plate discipline remained strong (9.8% BB%, 20.2% K%), and he dramatically improved his LD% (25.4%) relative to his Double-A mark (17.3%). His FB% was still on the low side (34.3%), but he appeared to at least be trying to elevate the ball more.

The problem with Senzel has nothing to do with his MiLB production, but rather his limited number of games played. He lost most of last season to a torn tendon in his right index finger that required surgical repair, but his vertigo is even more concerning. Vertigo is essentially chronic dizziness, and you can experience what it's like for yourself by spinning around six-to-seven times and then immediately trying to play baseball.

This article does a good job highlighting the limited experience MLB players have had with vertigo. The author (an ardent Reds supporter) tries to spin a positive conclusion at the end, but I have no idea how you could take the information positively. Senzel himself didn't sound that optimistic about his condition in this interview, so this is far from a closed case.

Missed time has also allowed others to surpass Senzel on the Cincinnati depth chart. A third baseman by trade, Senzel will probably never play that position for the Reds now that Eugenio Suarez has established himself as a star. Accordingly, Senzel was moved to 2B, where Scooter Gennett's surprising rise to stardom again blocked him. Reports out of camp suggest that Senzel is now competing for an outfield job, though the team has no obvious holes there either with Yasiel Puig, Jesse Winker, Matt Kemp, and Scott Schebler already on the roster.

In short, Senzel has no obvious place to play and a chronic medical condition that could flare up every time he dives, slides, crashes, or otherwise rattles his brain. It feels like a Rocco Baldelli situation where the team's fans are left wondering what could have been if only he were healthy.

Verdict: Chump (due to medical concerns)

 

Christian Yelich (OF, MIL) - ADP: 7.31

Yelich may have been the most valuable man in fantasy last year. He slashed .326/.402/.598 with 36 homers and 22 thefts (four CS), providing above average production or better in all five standard fantasy categories. Yelich's power numbers were the clear outlier in his statistical profile, but they do not appear sustainable.

Per Statcast, Yelich made excellent airborne contact quality in 2018. He averaged 97.2 mph of average airborne exit velocity and combined it with an impressive 12.9% rate of Brls/BBE. At first glance, you might believe his league-leading 35% HR/FB as the obvious result of plus power and an extremely power-friendly home park.

However, Yelich has always crushed airborne baseballs. He averaged 94.7 mph of average airborne exit velocity in 2017, 96.5 mph in 2016, and 94.9 mph in 2015. His rate of Brls/BBE spiked last season relative to his history (7%, 9.7%, 4.8%), but relatively low marks haven't stopped him from posting a career HR/FB of 20.3%. An extreme ground ball tendency has always been Yelich's bugaboo (20% career FB%), and he did nothing to correct it despite surface-level improvements (23.5% FB%).

That said, the rest of Yelich's season looks sustainable. His .373 BABIP was only marginally higher than his career mark of .359, largely due to a LD% spike (24.7% vs. 22.3% career). Yelich's ground ball profile plays up for BABIP purposes (.274 career BABIP on the ground), and he tends to hit them really hard (89 mph last year). He rarely strikes out (20.7% K% last year, 20.6% career) while earning his fair share of walks (10.4%, 10.6%), so he looks like a true-talent .310 average/.400 OBP type of guy. Yelich's 85% success rate on the bases was also sterling, so he should keep running in 2019.

Miller Park should help Yelich to a HR/FB around 25%, bringing him closer to 25 HR (which would still be the second-highest total of his career) than last season's 36. He still figures to be a tremendous fantasy asset on the strength of his all-around game, but he is more of a second or third-round draft choice without an elite home run total. This author would rather have game-changers like Francisco Lindor (6.76 ADP), Nolan Arenado (8.54), or even Aaron Judge (17.98) than pay up for a second career-year from Yelich.

Verdict: Chump (based on ADP of seventh overall)

 

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