Today we complete the hitter side of the 2017 Pod’s Picks & Pans with the outfielders. Let’s see how my rankings on the players I disagree with the RG consensus performed.
We start with the outfield picks, those hitters I was significantly more bullish on than the RG consensus:
|NAME||Mike||RG Consensus||Diff||Actual Rank||Winner|
|Billy Hamilton||10||22||-12||32||RG Consensus|
|A.J. Pollock||6||13||-7||52||RG Consensus|
|Travis Jankowski||45||79||-34||224||RG Consensus|
|Kevin Kiermaier||33||47||-14||73||RG Consensus|
Billy Hamilton set new career highs in runs scored and stolen bases (though just barely), while finishing about where expected in the other two categories. And yet, he ranked just 32 among outfielders according to CBS. I would guess this is for two reasons: first, I’m not confident in CBS’ valuation methodology as it likely doesn’t properly value steals, and second, the leaguewide increase in home runs and RBI means that Hamilton’s four and 38, respectively, hurt your team even more than in past seasons. I would bet that if I ran end of season values, Hamilton would have finished better, though not nearly enough to give myself the win here.
A groin injury cost A.J. Pollock over a month and a half, limiting him to just 466 plate appearances. But, he performed right in line with projections when he was on the field, with the only difference coming from a sharp decline in BABIP. Perhaps the less impressive counting stats will make him undervalued in 2018.
I wasn’t sure why fantasy owners weren’t buying Adam Duvall’s 2016 breakout, and sure enough, he followed up strongly, with near identical results across the board in 2017.
Ender Inciarte appeared on my list because of the undervaluation of batting average, though increased power and a career high in steals also helped boost his fantasy value. This is the type of profile that is consistently undervalued, as he doesn’t stand out to a major degree in any one category, but does a little of everything.
Travis Jankowski missed almost the entire season due to a foot injury, though he wasn’t exactly lighting things up at the plate when he did actually play. His opportunity as a starter may be over.
Jose Ramirez was the middle infield version of Inciarte, doing a little of everything and entering the season undervalued. But then he epitomized the league’s power surge by more than doubling his HR/FB rate and still doing everything else we expected. Since he makes such great contact, he only needed a 14.1% HR/FB rate to nearly reach 30 homers. That means that even a steep regression there could still yield 20 homers next season.
Kevin Pillar was another participant in the home run surge and that alone led to my rankings win.
I noted that Kevin Kiermaier’s rankings were all over the place, and he ended up disappointing us all. Of course, an injury was once again the culprit, as he missed more than two months with a fractured hip. But when on the field, he performed as expected and likely would have made me a winner if he got a full season in.
Now let’s get to the hitters I was far more bearish on than the RG Consensus:
I was ridiculously more pessimistic on Bryce Harper than everyone else, as I sat at 12, when no one else was worse than six. I even listed four reasons why I was bearish. And while an injury was partly to blame for his rank of 17, that’s actually part of the point – Harper has proven to be quite injury prone and health is a skill. I didn’t believe in the steals, and sure enough, they almost disappeared. I believed more in the 2016 BABIP, rather than the inflated marks of previous seasons, and I was dead wrong. I also believed more in the teen HR/FB rates rather than the high 20% mark from 2015, and I was wrong again, as he was assisted by the league wide power spike. So my calls were a mixed bag, as they typically are, but overall, it was health that hurt him once again.
Man, Nelson Cruz simply refuses to age. He’s gotta start his decline phase at some point, right?! At age 37, I’m still not willing to pay market value.
LOL on my Giancarlo Stanton ranking.
I was quite confident calling Jose Bautista someone in the midst of age-related decline, and that decline accelerated swiftly, as he posted the worst wOBA of his entire career. Entering his age 37 season, it’s hard to imagine any sort of dramatic rebound.
I’m not sure why Joc Pederson was always so highly ranked, as he doesn’t steal bases, hurts batting average, and is routinely stuck at the bottom of the lineup, capping his counting stats. This season, injuries and a trip to the minor limited him to just 323 plate appearances, so he had no chance at finishing in the top 50. There was one intriguing sign though – he cut down on his swinging strikes and set a new career best in strikeout rate. Solving that big weakness would really boost his ultimate upside, as long as he doesn’t offset that with a drop in power.
Kyle Schwarber essentially performed exactly as expected, and without catcher eligibility, simply can’t stand out with just the homers alone. His batted ball profile doesn’t lend itself to a high BABIP, so he’s a one category contributor, and his runs scored and runs batted in will heavily depend on where he hits in the lineup.
I adjusted Byron Buxton’s projections rather significantly after it was expected he would open the season batting lead-off rather than the bottom of the lineup. That would have boosted his ranking, though I still would have lost this battle. Funny, he ended up never leading off all season, and getting just one plate appearance in the second hole as well. In fact, he accrued the most plate appearances while batting ninth, so it’s pretty amazing he still managed to sneak into the top 50. After an atrocious April, he suddenly resembled a baseball player, and enjoyed a huge July and August. Overall, nothing looks too fluky here, though you see what batting in the bottom half of the lineup will do to one’s RBI and runs scored total.
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.