Fantasy Baseball

Takeaways/The First Rule About Trea Turner Is You Do Not Talk About Trea Turner

I am rather stunned that the echo chamber is proudly exalting the Jonathan Villar regression, “I told you so” narrative, and yet, there is no noise about Trea Turner.  This humble (or not so humble), little website repeatedly hammered the point that Trea Turner should not be a first round pick and people’s projections for Trea Turner were totally out of wack with his skills and the regression baked into those skills.

I think part of the reason why you hear it about Villar as opposed to Turner, is that Villar has failed previously at the MLB level, and thus, was a popular regression candidate.  Meanwhile, Turner…  Well…  My guess is there just were not that many people willing to say that the concept of Turner as top 25, much less top 15 fantasy selection was utterly ridiculous.

Part of it is also, the inevitable counter that it’s a quarter of the season and Turner’s still a top 200 player (199, currently, according to Yahoo!), is going to get hot and all will be well.  I may surprise you with this, but they are right that things are going to get better for Trea Turner (and wrong if they think things will not get better for Jonathan Villar).  However, it’s because things cannot be much worse for Turner.

Outside of a four game series in Coors between April 24 through April 27, Turner has hit .193 with 2 HRs, 9 SBs, a 25.1% K% and a 3.8% BB%.  The steals are nice, but it is disturbing that about half of his season’s production came in one four game series in a notoriously hitter-friendly park.  The good news is that his BABIP during this timeframe is .263 and while the batted ball profile is not dreamy, it certainly warrants better than that number for a player with his speed and athleticism.  I do not and would not expect him to approach the .353 career BABIP or last year’s .388 BABIP, but I think a .330 BABIP with a .275-.280 average is possible.

At the end of the day, the chances are that Turner is somewhere in the middle between the supernova that he was last year and the bad player that he has been this year.  In fact, I might even be willing to buy Turner if I can get him for a top 100 type piece from a frustrated owner.

With respect to Villar, would it shock you that he’s having a lot of the same issues as Turner?  Villar also has contact-related issues – his strikeout rate is up 29.2% (from 25.6% last year).  Although Villar’s K-rate is worse (29.2% v. 23.0% for Turner), he’s able to offset some of that loss with a superior walk rate (8.7% v. 3.3% for Tuner).  Villar’s K-rate is a little front-loaded – he started off the year atrociously (35% in the first two weeks) and has since brought it back to 2016 levels (25.7% over the last five weeks).  The strikeouts are always going to be an issue, but it not the end of the conversation with Villar.  He also deserves credit for making the necessary adjustment to fix the problem previously – something Turner has yet to do.

The larger issue has been the BABIP – .296, which similar to Turner is below Villar’s career average (.341 over 1,521 carer PAs) and last year’s BABIP (.373 over 679 PA).   Like Turner, the batted profile is not ideal (a slight shift in Pull%, increase in grounders for Villar), but there is no glaring weakness indicating that this is his true talent level.  For what it’s worth, Villar has 12 SBs so the speed appears to be fine.

Here, you have two athletic middle infielders going through similar struggles.  Each had some regression coming this year and each has over-regressed to this point.  I expect that both will bounce back to a top 75-100 level player level.  However, because of pre-draft investment and the elephant in the room – a vast majority of the fantasy community loved Trea Turner – Villar is probably the better buy low investment.  After all, the first rule about Trea Turner is you do not talk about Trea Turner (when he is struggling).

Other Takeaways…

-Addison Russell is a very confusing player.  The K-Rate is down (19.4% compared to 22.6% last year), but for the second consecutive year, the BABIP is dragging him down (.250 this season, .277 last year).  At first glance, the batted ball profile is not great, by any means, but he has a 20% LD%, no serious groundball issue and he’s erased his IFFB% problem from last year.  However, digging a little deeper, it’s not just his batted ball type, but his batted ball direction.  Russell is pulling the majority of his groundalls  (less likely to go for hits) and hitting the majority of his flyballs the other way (less likely to go for homers).  If he can get that issue ironed out, he will be set for an explosion, but until he does…

-I think you should definitely keep an eye on Matt Adams.  Adams was traded from the Cardinals to the Braves to serve as their first baseman until Freddie Freeman returns.  This move by the Braves was a bit of a stroke of genius – it was low-cost, they get the aura of trying “win” in a town with a new ballpark and Adams might build some trade value over the summer and become an asset they can flip for more than they paid for him.  Real baseball aside, Adams is a power hitting lefty leaving behind an average park for left-handed offense in favor of the best offensive park for lefties – as per Baseball Prospectus Park Factors for 2017 (data is very green, but Atlanta is playing a like hitter’s park.

-A week ago, I wrote that there was a looming SP wall coming, I think it is almost here.  When you look at Yahoo! ownership rates, the sub-50% crowd still has some good names – Joe Ross (45%), Brandon McCarthy (39%), Kendall Graveman (35%), Zack Godley (36%), Matt Andriese (29%), and the returning Tyson Ross (30%) – that can produce some results.  However, once you turn the page to sub-25%, it is nearly ghost town.

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