Angels Corner Infield: Bour, Ohtani, & Pujols

On Wednesday, the Angels signed Justin Bour to a one-year deal. After a mini-breakout in 2017 when he hit .289 with 25 homers, his batting average dropped to .227 with only 20 home runs in more plate appearances last season. This signing made perfect sense for the Angels who will have Shohei Ohtani rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and Albert Pujols being a member of the walking dead. Overall, this move just about killed what little value any fantasy the three had in weekly leagues but could make them sleepers in daily lineup leagues.

The biggest key is to understand the risk behind each player and let’s start off with the one who has the most questions surrounding him, Ohtani. He’s also considered a safe pick by some analysts. According to reports, he should be able to contribute sooner than the normal nine to 10 months timeline for most hitters returning from the surgery because he’ll only DH.

But the following recent news is not encouraging from manager Brad Ausmus.

It seems like the chances of him breaking camp are slim and maybe he sits a month cutting his plate appearances by 100 (I’ll assume 100 PA/month).

The next major date will be when he starts his bullpen and recovery days. The Angels will want Ohtani to pitch off the mound around months eight to 10 after the surgery and likely need to rest day of and after he throws as he did during the 2018 season. Once he begins this mound work portion of his rehab, he’ll be sitting on average 3 days a week.

I’ll go with two months of full DH (200 PA) before the three months of missing time for rehab starts (171 PA). Right now, I feel good putting his plate appearances around the 371 total. Most projection systems have him with more at-bats and they may be right if everything goes perfectly. Already, there has been a hiccup with him not breaking camp with the team.

The playing time risk could be even more limiting if he has any setbacks. Enough about Ohtani, onto the other two.

Justin Bour is a perfectly fine first base fill-in if he could hit lefties. Over his career, he’s hit a .855 OPS against righties and just a .635 OPS against lefties. Part of his 2018 struggles was because the Marlins couldn’t platoon him and he faced lefties nearly a third of the time and only hit .192/.306/.264 against them. His fielding is league average, so if playing, he should be in the field.

With his splits, he should only be playing about 450 plate appearances.

And finally, there is Albert Pujols. He can’t run or even hit at this point in his career. In all fairness, Bour is more talented than Pujols and ten times healthier. But Pujols is a future Hall of Famer making $28M this season so he’s going to get every chance to play.

As for his plate appearances, he was over 600 for four straight seasons but was just under 500 last season. The 500 figure seems reasonable for now.

The total plate appearances come out to 1321. This total is fine, but the playing time might not mesh perfectly for the following reasons.

  • For the first month, Bour and Pujols will need to play with Bour facing lefties.
  • Bour or Pujols will be on the bench the days Ohtani can play depending on pitcher handedness.
  • And there will be days will Pujols is hurt, Ohtani can’t play, Bour will be facing lefty pitching, and someone else will be the DH.

In the end, I think Bour will see more time in the lineup than he should and his AVG or OBP will suffer. Also, the team will use a weak bench bat as the DH at times. In a weekly lineup league, I’m not going to roster any of them but especially Ohtani with current ADP of 94 (Pujols is at 383, Bour is at 540). The lack of playing time is killer with the in-and-out of the lineup nature of each guy limiting the amount of replacement value to add. Bour might be worth a flier if he can get everyday at-bats and sort of hit lefties. Maybe.

In a daily lineups league, their values jump, since owners can start Bour against righties and Ohtani when he’s in the lineup. The pair is ownable in all formats depending on the bench size as a team can’t allocate too many spots to platoon bats.

I’m an owner who likes players who are easy to manage. These three aren’t those players. They need to be actively managed or they may miss several games per week. I believe Ohtani is going way too high for only a couple months of steady production and the other two also have limited talent and playing time concerns. It’s just one big mess that I’ll pass on.

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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Will H.
Will H.

Hey Jeff,

Ohtani will also miss time when they play interleague games away (no DH) and he didn’t really play vs. LH starters.