Mixing Fantasy & Reality: Nunez & Miller

Eduardo Nunez: 2017 Projection

The 29-year-old Nunez went from being a Twins bench player to a top-40 fantasy player. Looking over his year-to-year profile he was basically the same player he’s been for his career, but he was given a full season of plate appearances for the first time in 2016. For example, his 2016 triple slash line (.288/.325/.432) is almost identical to his 2015 line (.282/.327/.431).

Two small differences, besides the playing time which was a huge difference, were important with his 2016 season. The first was an improving power profile.

Eduardo Nunez’s Power Progression
Season ISO HR/FB%
2013 0.112 3.1%
2014 0.132 8.5%
2015 0.149 9.5%
2016 0.145 10.2%

I am a little worried the home runs may not be as high playing in San Francisco, but they should be in the double digits.

Another small change he made was to attempt more stolen bases. From 2010 to 2015, he attempted a stolen base 29% of the time he got on first base. The number increased to 33% this season. If he maintained the 29% go rate, he would have had around 35 stolen bases instead of 40. Not a huge change, but noticeable.

Before I began examining Nunez, I wondered if his past season was a fluke and should we expect some heavy regression next season. I think there will be some regression, but he will still be useful.

My one big worry with Nunez is playing time. He is slated to be the Giants starting third-baseman, but their top prospect, Christian Arroyo, is considered to be their third baseman of the future.

If Nunez is faltering some and Arroyo is red hot, I could see the Giants make a move for Arroyo. I don’t think the move would happen early in the season, but keep an eye on the situation after the Super-2 deadline has passed. If an owner has a big enough bench, they may want to pick up Arroyo as a handcuff for Nunez.

2017 Projection: 550 PA, .275 AVG, 12 HR, 30 SB, 70 Runs, 65 RBI

 

Brad Miller: 2017 Projection

Miller, like Nunez, had his career-best season in 2016. All of Miller’s improvement came from the power department. The key is to figure out is how much power will stick around for next season.

The power increase was intentional as Miller made an adjustment to hit pitches hard when he swung.

“The biggest thing is you’ve got to be comfortable,” Miller said. “I wanted to go up there and have a free mind and just say, ‘Okay, hit the ball hard,’ where I’m focusing on the pitcher rather than focusing on what I’m doing, and that has allowed me to kind of run with that.

“Basically, I just want to max out on those balls in the zone. You’ve got to hit them, that’s the first part. And I want to hit them as hard as I can.”

And boy he did. His ISO went from hovering around .145 to .238. His HR/FB doubled from around 10% to 20%. Additionally, he hit 30 home runs which were more than his previous three major league seasons combined in half the number of plate appearances. I believe he made a change for more power, but I am skeptical if the single change could make this much of a production difference.

The power surge did with some tradeoffs. His BB/K dropped to a career low as he sold out for hard contact. The resulting career high 25 K% was a drag on his batting average.

Also, I think Miller may be done stealing bases. To start the season off, he went four for seven in steal attempts and only tried to steal three times in the season’s second half. I think just a handful of steals should be expected from him.

The biggest key with him is determining how much of power will stick for next season. Personally, I think the value will regress quite a bit, but maybe not. He is one player I may go the extra dollar on to see if the power sticks.

2017 Projection (bump value): 615 PA, .250 AVG, 20 (30) HR, 72 (82 ) Runs, 75 (85) RBI, 4 SB

 

Notes

• The Yankees are likely to keep Michael Pineda as a starter this season before he hits free agency next season.

Generally speaking, a lot of struggling starting pitchers have seen their stuff play up in the bullpen, but Pineda was recently mentioned by MLB.com’s Mike Petriello as a prime candidate for this kind of switch, along with free agent Andrew Cashner and the Marlins’ Jarred Cosart.

In Pineda’s case, it won’t happen for the 2017 season, as the Yankees have made it clear that adding to the rotation and the bullpen is going to be a priority. They need to supplement their starting depth behind Pineda, Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia, not subtract from it. Pineda is going to be eligible for free agency after the year, and so if his future truly is in the bullpen, that’ll probably happen in a different uniform.

I currently believe Pineda’s place is in the bullpen, but we will have to wait a little longer to find out.

Socrates Brito experienced a broken hamate bone (wrist) while playing winter ball. He may start the season in the minors.

Brito, 24, is expected to play a significant role in Arizona’s outfield mix in the near future. There’s little reason to believe the injury will prevent him from returning to the majors in 2017, though the lost development opportunities — and, perhaps, a delayed start to Spring Training — certainly harm his hopes of cracking the roster out of camp.

 





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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