Last year around this time I posted an article taking a look at the hitters whose rest of season Depth Charts projections had changed the most, and even after just two plus weeks some players saw significant increases and decreases. I’m following up with the same analysis for this very young 2017 season, so let’s take a look at the players whose projections have moved the most in the early going (based on projected FanGraphs points per game):
Aaron Judge is quite the physical specimen, and the young Yankees slugger has been stinging the ball in his first 13 games as five of the fifteen hardest hit balls in ’17 have come off his bat. He still has contact issues (30.6% strikeout rate), but the prodigious power and patient approach help to offset them. Judge has gone from an upside fringe 4th OF in ottoneu to a potential breakout 2nd/3rd OF. The .382 wOBA will likely settle into the .335 range going forward, but there’s a lot to be excited about for Judge owners.
Eugenio Suarez was a sneaky good SS eligible hitter in ottoneu in ’15 and ’16, but given the 3B-only eligibility for ’17 his path to relevance in ottoneu became more difficult. Apparently Suarez didn’t get the memo, as he’s put up a .481 wOBA while controlling the strike zone (10.0% walk rate, 16.0% strikeout rate) and hitting for power (.341 ISO). Enjoy this hot streak while it lasts, but Suarez has gone from a below replacement 3B to a roster-able backup.
Eric Thames is the ’17 version of Trevor Story, though let’s hope his season isn’t derailed by injuries like Story’s was last year. Thames had very aggressive projections from Steamer and ZiPS in the preseason, but the ottoneu market wasn’t really buying it (Thames has an average salary under $10 in all formats). There is still a very real chance that pitchers learn how to get Thames out and exploit his weaknesses, but in the meantime he looks a lot like a $25-$30 1B.
I will admit to being skeptical that Francisco Lindor would ever hit enough to be much more than the next Andrelton Simmons or Elvis Andrus. Lindor emphatically proved me wrong with his first two seasons (.358 and .340 wOBAs), and has decided to twist the knife even further by flashing some real power (Four home runs and a .333 ISO). I’m done doubting any young Indians (Jose Ramirez is another player who has far exceeded my expectations), so I fully expect Lindor to continue making the 2015 version of myself look like a fool.
Travis d’Arnaud, I just can’t seem to quit you, as one of my bold predictions from last year was that TdA would become a top three catcher. I only own the Mets catcher in one of my leagues this year, and it seems possible that I was just a year too early with my prediction. Now, I don’t really think he will be a top three catcher any time soon, but his updated projection marks him as a solid starting catcher in ottoneu and that’s something few owners would have expected.
Now that we’ve gotten the good news out of the way, let’s see which players are sabotaging their owners:
|Steve Pearce||Blue Jays||2B||(0.40)||5.62||5.22||2B3||2B8|
|Jose Bautista||Blue Jays||OF||(0.33)||6.04||5.70||OF7||OF14|
To be fair to David Dahl, he’s been on the disabled list since opening day, so he hasn’t actually under-performed. It looks like most of the rest of season reduction is due to his more favorable ZiPS projection not being factored into the current DC projections, but even if it were we’re still looking at a rib injury that was only supposed to keep Dahl out for a week or two and instead will likely keep him out at least through the first month of the season. There’s still quite a bit of upside attached to Dahl, but owners that expected him to be a solid starting OF for their teams should lower their expectations.
Steve Pearce finally seems to have a mostly full time role with the Blue Jays, but has done almost literally nothing (.171 wOBA and zero extra base hits) with the opportunity so far. His projections on a rate basis going into the season were excellent, but he’s very likely to go back to a short side platoon hitter if he doesn’t turn things around quickly. I’m not giving up hope as a Pearce owner, but I’m also not sure I would attempt to buy low on him either.
Few hitters have been worse than Pearce in the early going, but Byron Buxton has been one of them. It’s hard to get hits when you’re striking out 46% of the time, especially when you have a .043 ISO. Buxton is still just 23 and the tools and upside are there (though clearly dormant), but he was a player I thought was over-hyped to begin with based on the projections, so now he looks like a likely cut and bail given his $12+ average salary.
Jose Bautista was available in a lot of auctions this spring given his disappointing (for him) ’16 season, and yet so far he’s looked like last season wasn’t a blip but rather the start of a trend. I still believe in Bautista going forward, and expect he’ll turn things around eventually just like Joey Votto and Justin Upton did last year, but I also think his turnaround will look more like Upton’s (slower and without climbing all the way back to prior levels).
Tommy Joseph was a popular target among ottoneu owners looking to go cheap at first base, but his updated projections imply that he’s not even worth owning at this point. Like many other players on this list Joseph is still young (25 years old), his walk rate and contact rate have been right in line with his projections and career averages, so this could just be a case of a low BABIP (.200) and bad HR/FB luck (7.1% this year, 18.9% in 347 PA last year) making a player look worse than he actually is.
Justin is a life long Cubs fan who has been playing fantasy baseball for 20+ years, and an ottoneu addict since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @justinvibber.