In fantasy baseball, you cannot always swing for the fences because invariably when you swing for the fences, you are exposing yourself to a rock bottom floor while chasing upside. There are times where it pays to take a player that will produce a modest profit and provide a high floor.
Adam Eaton is the perfect example of this type of target. This offseason, Eaton was traded to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects headlined by Lucas Giolito. The Nationals have been much maligned by the baseball press for this trade, which has unanimously categorized the trade as an overpay. This also works in Eaton’s favor.
Presently going as the 32nd overall outfielder with an ADP of 140.62, Eaton is likely being discounted for both being boring and the centerpiece of a poor real-life trade.
Whatever the reason is, I would greatly encourage you to consider drafting Eaton. Let’s review what he can produce that makes him likely to turn a profit at that cost.
Eaton is going to be a plus in the batting average department – likely hitting somewhere between .280 and .300. His plate patience is good so his good average combined with the walks will produce an OBP around .360 (notably, Eaton’s OBP has been .362, .361,.362 over the last three seasons).
With those skills and a top-two spot in the Nationals lineup a near-certainty, Eaton will approach 100 runs and receive plenty of extra at-bats in a lineup that will likely turn over quite a bit.
Eaton has been somewhat disappointing on the basepaths compared to what he achieved stealing bases in the minors. Over the last three seasons, Eaton has stolen 15, 18 and 14 bases and has not been particularly proficient with a 66% success rate over his MLB career.
However, Eaton will now play for manager Dusty Baker and 1st base coach Davey Lopes, both of whom are renowned advocates of the running game. Washington ran the fifth most in the league – averaging 0.77 attempts per game, compared to 0.48 attempts per game by the Chicago White Sox. I think the coaching and philosophy of the Nationals will lead to a career high and Eaton’s first 20+ SB season.
Eaton has has hit 14 homers each of the last two seasons with a 10.9% HR/FB rate in 2015 and 11% HR/FB rate in 2016. Washington is a worse park for home runs for lefties compared to his former home, but 13 of Eaton’s 14 homers would have left the yard in Washington.
While I do not project much of a power change, I think it is also worth noting that Eaton hit for more power in the second half last year (9 of 14 homers). This was supported by large increase in Hard% (38.2% compared to 26.3%) and in the number of flyballs (29.9% compared to 22.5%). If those changes are the result of some mechanical change (which to my knowledge has not been reported), there might be a little more power upside to Eaton than anyone would think.
Thus, Eaton will provide contributions in 4 of 5 traditional categories and if he hits second, he might not be a drain on RBI either. Eaton has a little bit more upside that his prior years show based upon situation and a second half power surge. A player with multiple paths is always a nice bet – two lottery tickets instead of one.
As the 32nd overall OF in ADP, I expect Eaton to turn in a top 20-25 season, which represents a good, but not significant profit. Remember, you do not always need to hit a home run especially when you are paying a lower cost. Plus, Eaton’s floor is probably a very serviceable 4th OF, which is not a return that will sink you.
My projection: 155 GP, 102 R, 13 HR, 53 RBI, 22 SB, .291/.365/.437