Fantasy Baseball

Takeaways/Eric Thames: The Enigma

Generally, the projection/translation systems loved Eric Thames.  Without any bias, by just looking at the numbers, the projections thought that Thames would be an extremely valuable fantasy commodity in the big leagues and would turn an easy profit for fantasy owners.  The projection systems were not alone – many, many others including myself also dreamed on the upside that Thames offered.  However, even with the project system hype and the blessing of many fantasy prognosticators,  Eric Thames has shocked everyone with his obscene start to the season.

In case you have been under a rock, Thames has hit 11 HRs, scored 25 runs, driven in 19 and is triple-slashing .371/.482/.929.  Thames has also shown patience at the plate, walking 16.5% of the time.  His strikeout rate has dropped precipitously in the last ten days, it now sits at a very respectable 21.2%, which might even be a little high for the 9.3% SwStr%.  After some early concerns that he would be platooned, Thames’s tear includes great production against lefties including early season stud Amir Garrett.  He has now cemented himself into a run-producing role in an underrated Brewers lineup.

This historic pace is unsustainable.  You do not need me to tell you that.  After all, he does not play the Cincinnati Reds another 100 times.  So the two questions that are on everyone’s minds: (1) what should I expect from Eric Thames from today forward? and (2) what is Eric Thames’s trade value?

I had Thames for a full-season 27 HR, 8 SB .265/.825 projection before the year began.  If the season started over again right now and the first three weeks did not count, I think I would project Thames for 33 HR, 7 SB, .275/.855 over a full slate.  If you take away the games played from that projection, you are looking at 29 HRs, 6 SB with the same ratios.  As a comparison point, ZIPs rest-of-season projections has Thames as the 13th best hitter by wOBA with 26 HRs, 8 SB and a .259/.339/.534 triple-slash.  Notably, this production comes across just 106 games and 449 PA, which means ZiPS is projecting missed time due to either injury or platoon issues.  If you factor those numbers back-in, oh boy, you are looking at 30 plus bombs…

So yes, the historic pace will not continue, but in a re-draft right now, Thames likely grades out as comparable to what we expected from Freddie Freeman and Edwin Encarnacion – squarely in the second round.  Of course, there might be a bit of a discount from the projection price since we are talking about a minute sample and there is some doubt about Thames – be it the league figuring him out or the highly speculative (and likely unwarranted) steroid allegations.  Since Thames was probably your second or fallback option at 1B, other players, who were valued in that territory include Charlie Blackmon, Corey Seager, Francisco Lindor, and Ryan Braun.  As a Thames owner, I would bet that the best you could do is a third rounder and I am not sure that names like Nelson Cruz (age), A.J. Pollock (injury) and Carlos Gonzalez (slow start) with their own risk factors are worth surrendering Thames’s upside.   I will give you one name that I would sell Thames for that is a buy low candidate – Joey Votto.

Other takeaways….

-In one of my leagues, an owner dropped Aaron Nola.  In my opinion, this sort of hastiness is a huge mistake especially because  the peripherals are so promising with Nola.  If a player of a similar profile has been dropped in any of your leagues, I would not be afraid to expend a good portion of my FAAB budget to grab that player.  Remember that prospects are great, but young MLB talent that has been around the league already is more likely to produce surplus value.  Additionally, prospects can also be sent back down – see Cody Bellinger, who is up for a spell while Joc Pederson is on the disabled list.  If Bellinger does not hit in this small sample, he will likely be sent down and exposed to waivers by the owner that expended FAAB dollars to get him.  That said, I love Bellinger long term – own him in both my dynasty leagues – and if he hits, he could be hear to stay.  I am willing to let someone else have the first crack in re-draft if they want to go crazy, and then I will grab him on the next go around.

-I would be remiss if I did not mention the Madison Bumgarner injury, which we will also address on the next podcast.  I am not keen on paying anything of value for Bumgarner.  It is a throwing shoulder injury, the timeframe tossed around has 6-8 weeks with the possibility of two months or longer.  Remember, Bumgarner not only needs to recover, but also go through a lengthy rehab process without setbacks.  I am speculating here, but to me, this seems like an injury where surgery was on the table, but would have ended Bumgarner’s season so they have elected to see what rest and rehab will do.  Much like with Rich Hill, I think your options are limited – struggling or risk (or bother) upside play [Vince Velasquez, Sean Manaea] or solid innings [Tanner Roark] via trade.  I think Amir Garrett, off a brutal start, makes for an interesting target if he struggles next time out.  Maybe you can get a Dallas Keuchel owner willing to cash out.  A couple of lightly owned players that I like, who you could take a shot on include: Patrick Corbin (see below), Archie Bradley, Alex Wood, Jimmy Nelson, Jesse Hahn, and Trevor Cahill.

-Arbitrary sample here, but if you take out Joey Gallo’s first three games, where he struck out 7 times in 10 PA, Gallo has struck out just 30.3%.  Now, “just” is obviously relative, but if Gallo can live around 30% as opposed to 35%, he could be a total boon to his owners.  What is suppressing the batting average during this stretch is the .228 BABIP, which will not last.  I think Gallo might be here to stay as a Adam Dunn clone at 3B.  That’s a valuable piece.

-After speculative panic to start the year, Gerrit Cole has turned in four straight quality starts and 9 K/9 with two of those starts coming against the Chicago Cubs.  A stud being a stud.  Another arm coming off a solid week is Patrick Corbin.  Two starts v. San Diego and he took advantage.  Before that Corbin also had a quality start against the Dodgers.  If Corbin can keep the Ks, with the humidor coming to Arizona, he could be a speculative add for the Bumgarner owner if the owner can withstand the WHIP pressure.





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