Surprise Early Rounder Hitters: Adolis Garcia, Royce Lewis, & CES

Last week I analyzed a few players who stood out to me in a mock draft due to their early selection. Whenever this happens, I like to dig in to see what I can learn. This week I’ll keep the party going with three more offensive players I was surprised to see going so early.

*NOTE: All ADP values come from The NFBC, where there have been 61 drafts as of this writing.

OF – Adolis García (ADP: 44.30, Min: 24, Max: 65)

The auction calculator has the Texas outfielder ranked as the 17th-best player at the position. In front of him are tried and true players like George Springer, Bryan Reynolds, and Randy Arozarena. He is also the 46th-best batter overall according to the calculator, so pick 44 isn’t too far off if you assume no pitchers are selected in the first four rounds, but that would be unusual. It seems to me that the price is close to being right but still a little inflated by recency bias from the 2023 playoffs where García hit eight home runs, the most of any player in the postseason. He also slashed .323/.382/.726 while striking out 26.5% of the time. García’s BB% regressed to his typical in the playoffs, but his K% decreased. Take a look:

Adolis García Stats and Projections
2021 5.1% 31.2% .243 .286 .454
2022 6.1% 27.9% .250 .300 .456
2023 10.3% 27.7% .245 .328 .508
2023 Postseason 4.4% 26.5% .323 .382 .726
2024 Steamer Proj 8.1% 28.6% .241 .308 .457

It would be unreasonable to assume García will hit anywhere over .250 in 2024 or that he will strike out under 26% of the time. This is a great example of Steamer predicting regression. The table also shows a perfect example of a player who went galactic in the playoffs, it happens. Remember when Randy Arozarena hit 10 home runs in the 2020 postseason? The comparison is not an apples-to-apples one by any means, but it’s at least orange to clementine:

Randy Arozarena Stats
2020 7.9% 28.9% 0.281 0.382 0.641
2020 Postseason 9.3% 22.1% 0.377 0.442 0.831
2021 9.3% 28.1% 0.274 0.356 0.459

I’m not implying that it’s as simple as “Randy Arozarena came back down to earth and so will Adolis García.” Arozarena broke out in that incredible 2020 postseason run and then went 20-20 in 2021 with a .274/.356/.459 slash line. But there’s more data on García than there was on Arozarena when making projections after both of their big postseason performances and I think Steamer has it right.

One last thing to point out is that while García could certainly record over 30 knocks in 2024, he may not be stealing the 13 bases Steamer projects. He only recorded nine in 2023 after recording 25 in 2022. That power/speed threat is what bumped García’s value up in years past and I don’t think the adjustment has been made for 2024. The Rangers, whether due to Bruce Bochy’s arrival or not, stole far fewer bags in 2023 than in years past:

2021: 106 -> 2022: 128 -> 2023: 79

Adolis García is a great pick and the error bars on his 2024 projection likely aren’t very wide. Still, those projections include negative regression and if someone drafting before you wants to disregard that, let them.

3B – Royce Lewis (ADP: 43.08, Min: 15, Max: 110)

Imagine someone told you there is a young third baseman who is projected for 28 home runs, 13 steals, and a .269/.336/.481 slash line and his name is not Gunnar Henderson. They told you he has recorded only 239 major league plate appearances, but they were good ones, and he hit 15 home runs, stole six bases, and slashed .309/.372/.548. Oh, and that when he made it to the major leagues, he struck out just barely above league average, 23.0% (league average: 22.7%). You would be frothing! Now, imagine someone told you this player is projected for 617 plate appearances by Steamer even though he’s never even recorded half of that before, and you’d become skeptical. Scroll through his NBC Sports Injury Page and you’ll become even more so. You don’t have to read much more, you could just listen to Sleeper and the Bust and hear them discuss Lewis’ ceiling appeal, but injury risk floor. Even still, here are some data points to prepare you for seeing his early ADP during your draft prep:

  • His auction calculator position rank is 5th behind Manny Machado and in front of Yandy Díaz.
  • He did not slug anywhere south of .500 in AA, AAA, or the major leagues in 2023.
  • He worked fastballs for a 7.6 pVal (PitchInfo), sliders for 5.7, and only really struggled against the curveball (-3.5).
  • He is the everyday third baseman for the Twins and is projected to bat second

What’s not to like? Well…the injury risk. “But, what’s not to like about candy?”, the dentist asks you as the drill starts up and goes “zzziirrmmhmmm!!!”

1B – Christian Encarnacion-Strand (ADP: 127.75, Min: 74, Max: 225)

There are so many young players going in early rounds this season offseason. It feels like more than usual. But with players like Gunnar Henderson, Corbin Carroll, Michael Harris II, and Bobby Witt Jr. seeming like sure shots in 2024, why not? The game has skewed young the past few years and it’s not hard to believe that CES can continue the trend. However, who do you think played the most games at first base for the Reds last season?!

Games Started at First Base – Cincinnati Reds (2023)

Joey Votto’s option was declined for a reason, the Reds have some depth at first. But who will stick there defensively? Ok, you win RosterResource, Steer moves to left field and CES takes third. Fine! Is he good enough offensively to stick? He slashed .270/.328/.477 in 63 major league games in 2023 and is expected by Steamer to slash it again (.271/.329/.491). Steamer is lower on his playing time than it is with Royce Lewis (above). CES’s 130-game projection is not a 162-game projection and the difference makes me nervous. He did strike out 28.6% of the time in the major leagues, his base running (BsR) and defense (Def) produced negative numbers, and he walked only .2 times for every time he struck out. Even still, his actual stats didn’t lie:

  • AVG: .270 xAVG: .268
  • SLG: .477 xSLG: .476
  • wOBA: .346 xwOBA: .347

Ok, so what’s his specialty? Power? Speed? Batting average? None, really, but that’s why he’s the 11th-best first baseman for 2024 according to our auction calculator. He does a little bit of everything, or at least, he’s expected to.

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Jorge Soler vs Train (UNEXPECTED)member
5 months ago

CES is forsure pushing his way into the top 10 at first base by season’s end. He’s always hit well and he improved his triple slash each month of 2023 (granted that was 3 months only, but still). I’m under the impression he will continue to improve rapidly given how solid his minor league track record is and his success at the major league level last year