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ADP Champ or Chump - Tommy Pham and Avisail Garcia

My main mantra when it comes to fantasy baseball is "value, value, value." I will often try and set myself up in the first two or three rounds in such a way that I have the flexibility to take advantage of value later in the draft. One of the best ways I have found to identify value is to keep an eye on hitters who play in lesser-hyped offenses. You have plenty of opportunities to get the likes of Aaron Judge and J.D. Martinez, who play in high-powered offenses, early. However, once you reach those middle round are you really better taking the seventh-best hitter on the Red Sox? Or are you better taking the second-best hitter on the Tampa Bay Rays? That is why I want to take a look at these two particular hitters today. Both have the ability to provide value at the outfield spot and both have arrived in Tampa in the last 12 months.

Tommy Pham arrived in Tampa in the middle of last year after breaking out in a big way in 2017. His 2018 did receive as much hype as 2017, due to a slow start but he had a strong finish in Tampa in the second half last year. His current NFBC ADP of 63.2 shows that people still believe he can be a really good offensive weapon this season. On the other hand, there is his new teammate Avisail Garcia. Garcia was signed this offseason, after being non-tendered by the Chicago White Sox. Garcia has had two very polar opposite years in terms of statistics and is currently being drafted well outside the top-300, even after arriving in Tampa.

Let's take a closer look at these outfielders.

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Tommy Pham (OF, TB) ADP: 63.20

Pham became a full-time regular with the St Louis Cardinals in 2017, after showing potential relatively briefly in the previous two seasons. In that year, he managed to bring everything together, with a .306 batting average, 22 home runs, 25 stolen bases, 95 runs, and 73 RBI. However, the first half of 2018 did not go to plan, as Pham hit just .248 in his 396 plate appearances with the Cardinals. His luck changed when he was traded to the Rays, where he hit .343 in his final 174 PA of the season. Over the course of the entire season, he had a .275 batting average, 21 home runs, 15 stolen bases 102 runs, and 63 RBI. Not as good as 2017 but still pretty impressive.

In terms of runs and RBI, I think we have a good idea just what Pham can offer. It seems safe to say that with Pham hitting near the top of the Rays lineup, and likely to see something in the region of 550 PA this season, he will put up approximately 160 combined runs and RBI. That is a really nice spot which to start with his value, and those numbers feel like they are safe returns. In fact, we could even see more if he can push up over 600 PA as the main hitter in that lineup.

Interestingly, last season Pham's hard-hit rate went through the roof compared to 2017, increasing 13% from 35.5% to 48.5%. His FB% also increased by 2% to 28.1%, which would have suggested that he should have topped the 23 home runs in 2017. However, his HR/FB% dropped by more than 5% to 21%, explaining why he only just managed to get over 20 home runs this season. Over his career, his HR/FB% has varied from 16.1% right up to 34.6%, and it will be interesting to see whether the decline of the last two years repeats itself in 2018. My personal feeling is that 20 home runs should be on the table once again, but that we are unlikely to see him suddenly jump up to 30.

Steals are somewhat of a difficult stat to predict for Pham because so much depends on will and opportunity. Steals are a decision-based stat and if Pham or the team are not feeling it, or it is not part of the gameplan he may not run as much as he did in 2017. With St. Louis in 2018, Pham attempted a steal every 24.75 PA, and in Tampa that rose slightly to a steal attempt every 29 PA. Some of that may have been down to Pham recovering from a foot fracture, but it may also be the philosophy his new team is looking to take with him going forward. If the attempts rate from Tampa does continue then we are looking at a potential of 17-22 attempted steals this season.

My big concern is batting average and OBP because the career fluctuations have been pretty large in those stats. Usually, I would look to see how BABIP, GB%, line drive rate and hard-hit rate vary from year to year but the changes have not been massive. In fact, his BABIP was the same in 2016 and 2018 and his batting average was .226 in 2016 and .275 in 2018. There is no clear indicator of where his batting average might go this season and that concerns me. I also do not think we will see an OBP over .400 again this season as that was accompanied by a BB% nearly 1.5% higher than his career average.

The uncertainty around batting average/OBP and stolen bases are why I have real reservations about drafting Pham 63rd overall. If he puts it all together, like 2017 and the end of 2018, then this would be solid value. However, with what seems like a power ceiling of 25 home runs, you would really need him to steal 20 or more bases and hit over .300 to return any real value on a selection this high. I would look to take Pham about 20 picks later, at which point you have the potential for value and are taking into account the potential downside of his average bottoming out.

Verdict: Chump


Avisail Garcia (OF, TB) ADP: 391.30

There are not many hitters who have had a stranger couple of years than Garcia. In 2017, the newly acquired Rays hitter had a career-best batting average of .330, and then in 2018, he hit a career-high 19 home runs but saw the batting average bottom out at a career low of .236. 2018 was a strange year for Garcia, at just 26 he was a veteran on a young team, and he struggled with injuries at various points during the season meaning he appeared in just 93 games and logged just 385 PA.

There are some indicators that what Garcia did last year in terms of his power boost might be repeatable. 2018, saw Garcia have a career high in hard-hit rate (38.2%), Pull% (47.9%) FB% (34.4%) and HR/FB% (7.9%). All of those things combined suggest to me that Garcia made a concerted effort to try and clear the fences in 2018. The only reason I can see those numbers regressing in a reasonably big way is if the Rays convince Garcia they need him to be the guy who can regularly get on base as he did in 2017.

However, there is the potential for a happy medium between his last two years. If Garcia can shift some of those fly balls to ground balls and retain the hard-hit rate he should be able to strike a balance between home runs and average. I am not sure he can ever really repeat his 2017 batting average, because the BABIP that year was a long way above anything we have seen since his rookie year in 2012.

Garcia will not offer you much in terms of steals, with seven being his career high. He should give you solid numbers in terms of runs and RBI, and his combined total could even match that of Pham. Power wise, there is a real reason to believe Garcia can hit the 18 home runs he had in 2017, and perhaps even have the ceiling to go as high as 30, if he can repeat the numbers we saw last year over a full season. Both Garcia and Pham have had inconsistencies in there batting average. I believe that Pham has the safer floor but Garcia has shown he can put up a decent batting average when things click.

There is not enough of a difference in the potential of these two for there to be a 300 pick ADP between the two. Garcia makes for a fascinating late round draft pick in leagues of all size. He has the potential to be a valuable contributor if things click, and if they do not then he is an easy option to drop as there will not be much draft capital tied up in his selection.

Verdict: Champ

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