Buying Generic: When the Top-Tier is Gone

In Ottoneu, the top tier of 1B usually cost a pretty penny. Whether it’s Miguel Cabrera, Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto, or Anthony Rizzo – the clear top tier will likely cost $40 or more in FGpt leagues for 2017, and I would not be surprised if any of these 4 clear $50. Maybe you really like Freddie Freeman and want to add him to the mix. It’s certainly defensible given Freeman’s ridiculous 2016. However, after that group things get a little more congested. Edwin Encarnacion is another name who will likely come up. He has helped round out the upper echelon of 1B for the past few seasons, but projections have him taking a slight step back. Either way, you will probably be left pushing $30 for the likes of E5 come march. So what do you do when you are left on the outside looking in a as the top 1B come off the board? Today I want to look at two options who can help if roster construction leaves you pinching pennies at 1B.

Mr. Name Brand has been a favorite of mine for a while. (I’m a sucker for power options with low strikeout rates).While moving into the 1B position later in one’s career is hardly a recipe for success from a fantasy standpoint (losing more valuable position eligibility is never a good thing), today’s name brand option has exhibited capable offensive production at the position. Our generic option doesn’t share quite the aptitude for plate discipline, however, his batted ball profile is somewhat similar and he will likely come at a fraction of the cost.

2016 Results
Name Ottoneu Avg. PA BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Mr. Name Brand $15.51 688 14.40% 14.40% 0.239 0.258 0.259 0.366 0.498 0.370 132
Mr. Generic $4.39 321 11.80% 17.40% 0.211 0.278 0.264 0.349 0.475 0.343 114

I will acknowledge up front. I prefer today’s name brand option. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t own both right? (Ottoneu does feature a UTIL slot…) Dreaming aside, I wanted to delve into these two names because I think the scenario described above is actually quite common. You like the idea of the top-6 1B, but their cost seems prohibitive and you want to shuttle that money elsewhere. Maybe you already spent the $65 necessary to grab Trout or Kershaw. Maybe you have shuffled your budget into MI. Regardless, you still need two 1B, and these are two options I like quite a bit if you decide to pursue a strategy that places a lesser priority on the top tier 1B.

Mr. Name Brand comes at a ~$10 increased price across Ottoneu leagues. In 2016 he was the benefactor of an increase in power production and also holds a 27 point increase in wOBA over our generic option. You will notice that Mr. Generic did not play a full season, and was probably the factor of a platoon or some form of injury. However, his production certainly seems like that of a usable 1B/UTIL option in ottoneu. Is there any information that helps us bridge the gap from generic to name brand?

xStat Differences
Name FgP/G ISO xISO Diff BABIP xBABIP Diff wOBA xOBA Diff
Mr. Name Brand 6.31 0.239 0.224 15 0.258 0.278 -20 0.370 0.382 -12
Mr. Generic 4.78 0.211 0.211 0 0.278 0.327 -49 0.343 0.385 -42
xStats.org

While both names appear to have underperformed their expected on base average, the gap was far more substantial for Mr. Generic. In fact, the reader will notice he actual bested the name brand by xOBA, largely due to under-performing his batted ball profile by about 50 points of babip. Additionally, our name brand option appear to have hit for 15 points of ISO in excess of his expectation. So, while it looks like Mr. Name Brand had the much strong 2016 (and did due to playing time) they don’t appear to actually be that different on a rate basis besides some batted ball luck. Any guesses?

2017 Steamer Projections
Name G PA 2B HR AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA
Carlos Santana 146 630 27 25 0.253 0.372 0.459 0.831 0.359
Justin Bour 113 462 20 18 0.265 0.337 0.453 0.790 0.334
Bour pro-rated 146 597 26 23 0.265 0.337 0.453 0.790 0.334
Difference 0 -33 -1 -2 0.012 -0.035 -0.006 -0.041 -0.025

You may have guessed by the impeccable plate discipline and power that Carlos Santana was our name brand option. It probably helped that I removed Edwin Encarnacion and Anthony Rizzo – two other high end 1B options who display above average plate discipline paired with power. However, was Justin Bour on your radar? I gave you a hint by acknowledging he might have been injured in 2016 (he was). If he has not been on your list of 1B or UTIL options he probably should be. Currently, he sits at the top of the Marlins 1B depth chart and if I had to guess, I would push the over on his plate appearance projection. Acknowledging that he will likely get less playing time than Santana – Santana is more established and hits at the top of the Indians lineup, yielding more PAs – I have pro-rated Bour’s performance for the same number of games as Santana and have noted the difference in their projections from Steamer. Over the course of a full season, you could be looking at something like under 4 PAs favoring Santana, and nearly identical doubles and homers. For the $10 average price across Ottoneu, that’s at least semi-comparable production. Digging a little bit deeper…

Average EV and Launch Angle
Name Total avg EV vertical horizontal
Justin Bour 196 92.7 8.1 7.8
Carlos Santana 437 91.7 11.8 7.7
SOURCE: xStats.org
Positive horizontal angle to right field, negative to left.
Ground Ball EV and Launch Angle
Name Total avg EV vertical horizontal
Justin Bour 96 92.7 -11.2 14.8
Carlos Santana 206 91.9 -9.3 10.3
SOURCE: xStats.org
Positive horizontal angle to right field, negative to left.
Line Drive EV and Launch Angle
Name Total avg EV vertical horizontal
Justin Bour 44 96.2 17.3 4
Carlos Santana 82 96.4 18.6 7.3
SOURCE: xStats.org
Positive horizontal angle to right field, negative to left.
Fly Ball EV and Launch Angle
Name Total avg EV vertical horizontal
Justin Bour 47 91.4 35 2.9
Carlos Santana 112 90.1 35.2 6.5
SOURCE: xStats.org
Positive horizontal angle to right field, negative to left.

Looking through their Statcast data from xStats.org, you can see that Bour and Santana actually hit the ball fairly similarly. Since Santana is a switch hitter, and Bour a lefty, I have not corrected horizontal launch angles for handedness. As Andrew has noted in the past, balls hit between 21 and 36 degrees vertically, at 96+ mph are a home run roughly half the time. While neither Santana nor Bour hits the ball quite that hard, both of them have the average launch angle on fly balls down.

I had mentioned at the beginning that I actually would prefer to Santana to Bour if given the opportunity, and I am more likely to own Santana at his average price than Bour. One of the main reasons for this is that Santana pulls the ball more, which yields to easier power, and he plays in a better park while hitting at the top of a lineup. Santana has pulled the ball 50%+ each of the past 4 seasons, and while his babip will never be high, it could allow him to maintain his power as he’s ages. Bour on the other hand could benefit from taping into more pull power. That’s one of the main differences between him and Santana. While Bour hits the ball harder, he has only pulled the ball 45% of the time for his career. He also plays in Marlins Park, which likely doesn’t yield itself to higher power number from anyone not named Stanton. Bour also swings far more out of the zone (31% compared to 19% for Santana) but beyond that, their plate discipline numbers are pretty similar.

This is not to say that I think Justin Bour will become Carlos Santana. I don’t posses any crystal ball that says he will. (Sometimes you’re not willing to pay the same amount for a generic option). However, I see two things he could change to become more similar to Carlos Santana (pull more fly balls, swing less out side the zone) and those two things appear to be changes that players typically have the aptitude to control (Dozier, Lamb, Healy, etc). I have zero idea if either of those things will actually change, but even if they do not, he displays the skills necessary to be a middle tier 1B in 2017. Think of it like this, you have your top 6 1B options. Then the 2nd tier of Santana, Abreu, Chris Davis. Then Belt and Hanley. After those names, I would prefer Bour as much as any other 1B. For a likely cost near $5, he makes an easy 2nd 1B option if you have gone cheap at the position, and an easy depth piece if you are looking for upside on your bench.

We hoped you liked reading Buying Generic: When the Top-Tier is Gone by Joe Douglas!

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Joe works at a consulting firm in Pittsburgh. When he isn't working or studying for actuarial exams, he focuses on baseball. He also writes @thepointofpgh. Follow him on twitter @Ottoneutrades

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CJ03
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CJ03

Don’t you think EE has outgrown the E5 nickname?