2018 Pod’s Picks — Hitters

Every year after we post our positional rankings, I run my Pod’s Picks series, highlighting the players I am more bullish and bearish on compared with the consensus. I didn’t want to completely skip the series this time, so because I’m strapped for time before opening day, I’m going to do a hitter version that lumps all positions together. I’m also only going to discuss my picks, which are the players I am most bullish on versus the rest of the rankers. I figure advice on who to draft, rather than who to avoid, is a bit more valuable.

The below table represents a selection of players with the largest positive gap in Pod rank versus consensus at their position.

2018 Pod’s Picks
Player Pod Consensus Diff
Randal Grichuk 40 72 -32
Kevin Pillar 47 75 -28
Jay Bruce 35 57 -22
Gregory Bird 14 24 -10
Tim Beckham 13 22 -9
Joey Gallo* 9 17 -8
Chris Taylor 9 17 -8
Ian Kinsler 9 16 -7
Rhys Hoskins 4 8 -4
*His rank at first base (I had him 8th at third vs the same 17 consensus)

How is it that I’ve completed four drafts/auctions and have only one share of Randal Grichuk?! I love his power potential, as he moves to a much better home run environment. Perhaps there are concerns about his playing time given the outfield depth in the Blue Jays system. This is certainly a risk if Grichuk gets off to the same cold start that got him demoted last year. Obviously, I’m betting on him hitting enough and playing strong defense that he’ll remain an every day player.

I had no idea I was high on Kevin Pillar until I found myself drafting him multiple times. My projections are virtually identical to every other system, so I’m at a loss for this severe undervaluation by the rest of the crew. His excellent defense is going to keep him in the lineup and he contributes in both power and speed categories.

Jay Bruce?! Color me surprised. My projections are almost a mirror image of ATC and essentially the same as THE BAT, plus a bunch of additional runs batted in. I’m really not sure what the disconnect is here. Bruce has hit more than 30 homers for two straight seasons, and knocked in around 100 both years.

Well duh on Gregory Bird. I’m guessing a lot of this is a playing time thing as it’s hard to project him to remain healthy all season. Then again, I didn’t forecast a full season’s worth of plate appearances, and in fact my PA projection is just below THE BAT and Depth Charts. I’m the high man on home runs, but that makes sense — any computer projection system is going to his full season performance, which includes his terrible April. Once he returned from the DL in late August, he went bonkers. I don’t think that was a fluke.

I always feel silly highlighting a 2017 breakout as a pick of mine. This is especially true after doing the research on last year’s breakouts and their performance the following year. So I’m somewhat embarrassed to include Tim Beckham here. But again, my projections are no different from the rest. And guess what? Beckham’s xHR/FB rate completely validates his 20% HR/FB rate, thanks to surges in both Brls/True FB and Avg FB Distance.

Speaking of breakouts, I love me some Joey Gallo. I didn’t really expect that before draft season began. This one is easy to explain — I’m forecasting more homers and a higher average than everyone else. It’s not like this home run power came out of nowhere, as he never posted a HR/FB rate below 22% in the minors, and reached as high as 34.6% over a rather small sample at Double-A. He also makes the most of his power by hitting an insane rate of fly balls. That’s not going to change, but it’s likely the projection systems are too heavily regressing the outlying FB%. Those extra homers bump up his batting average a bit, as my BABIP projection is in line with everyone else. Oh, and he might even hit second against right-handers, which would boost his plate appearances and counting stats even higher. If you play in an OBP league, he suddenly goes from solid first/third base option to a monster.

Gosh, Chris Taylor is the third 2017 breakout in a row on this list! I didn’t expect to really like him, but his HR/FB rate was mostly supported by his xHR/FB rate, thanks to better than average Brls/True FB and Avg FB Distance marks. I’m figuring some regression of course, but still comfortably in the low teens, and not too far off some of the projection systems. The thing here is that Taylor also steals bases, so even if he’s just 15/15, that would earn good value, especially since it should come with lots of runs scored atop the Dodgers lineup.

Ian Kinsler is another player I’m shocked I don’t own more shares of. Fred Zinkie stole him from me at a bargain price in LABR Mixed and he wasn’t discounted much in the two other leagues I didn’t grab him in. Why the pessimism? First off, he’s 35, and fantasy owners hate boring, old veterans. Second, despite going 22/14, he was actually a bit of a fantasy disappointment thanks to a .236 batting average. But that was driven by the third lowest BABIP of his career and is due to rebound. He’ll hit atop a strong lineup, in a park that just lowered their fences.

Heads turned when I drafted Rhys Hoskins in the third round of LABR Mixed at 37th overall. Sure it was before his ADP, but I had him worth better than 37th overall and he certainly was not going to make it back to me. Why allow another owner to scoop up a great value?! I’m pretty much expecting the same as the projection systems, but am the high man on his batting average. And therein lies the explanation for the ranking gap. I see an improved strikeout rate, better than any system’s forecast aside from the Fans, and a higher BABIP than all except ZiPS. On the strikeout rate front, did you realized he posted just a 7.1% SwStk?! That’s absurd for an elite power hitter and reminds me of peak Albert Pujols. Pujols is the guy I typically compare strong contact/elite power hitters to, as he ran a string of sub-6% SwStk% marks to go along with high teens to low-20% HR/FB rates. I think Hoskins has more power and is in a much better home park.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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5 years ago

Great minds think a like! I’m really high on Grichuk, Bird, Gallo, Taylor and Hoskins.

Grichuk is obviously a masher of base balls. He’s also never been given a real opportunity to get consistent, everyday at bats due to St. Louis’ outfield depth. He doesn’t have any platoon splits (in fact better against righties if I remember correctly), so excited to see how he does.

In terms of Gallo – I think it’s reasonable that he takes his second half production from last year and carries it to the full 2018. The guy was only 23 last season and made real plate discipline improvements as the season went on and he got more consistent at bats higher in the batting order. He could potentially have a Judge-type season this year (a little lower on the AVG though).

Taylor seems to have higher plate discipline potential than what he showed last season. He needs to get that walk rate north of 10% and that K rate down a little. If he does I can see him developing into a Zobrist-caliber player. And while the 360 BABIP is worrisome, he always had a very high BABIP in the minors.

5 years ago
Reply to  NickGerli

Grichuck has barely swung a bat this spring. Careful.

5 years ago
Reply to  southie

So you’re saying he’s improved his plate discipline?