Underrated and Overrated: Eugenio Suarez and Nick Castellanos Edition

As I prepare for my fantasy drafts, I always pay close attention to average draft position (ADP) data to help identify where I might find bargains in my drafts and auctions. It’s a great way to figure out who I’m higher (and lower) on compared to my fellow fantasy owners, which is arguably as valuable as determining my own rankings in the first place. I’ve already done columns on shortstops and second basemen, and today I’ll take a look at the hot corner.

Thanks to the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC), we already have a healthy sample of draft data for 2018. I don’t think it’s any secret that third base is a much more productive position than it once was in fantasy, but there’s still some wacky stuff going on with these ADP values. For example, Kyle Seager and Adrian Beltre are currently being drafted as the No. 17 and 18 3B, respectively. To be fair, Seager hit a career-worst .249 last year, and Beltre played just 94 games due to hamstring and calf strains. Still though, both Beltre and Seager were fantastic fantasy assets as recently as 2016, when they were the No. 5 and 6 third basemen in fantasy.

“But maybe they’re not young and sexy enough,” I thought to myself. “With so many youthful studs at the position, maybe fantasy owners are simply getting bored with vets like Beltre and Seager.” That also appears to not be the case. What I’m coming to realize is that I might just have vastly different 3B rankings than other owners, at least once we get past the No. 10 slot. (For reference, you can view these ADP values paired with Steamer projections right here.)

I think the top 10 3B by ADP are quite reasonable, but when we get into the double digits, madness ensues. Madness! For example, let’s take a look at these two picks, who constitute my underrated/overrated comp for third base.

2017 Overall Rank 2018 Overall ADP 2017 3B Rank 2018 3B ADP
Nick Castellanos 87 104.3 14 11
Eugenio Suarez 122 190.5 17 20

I wrote about both of these guys in 2017, Suarez in late April and Castellanos in October. (The Castellanos piece was a pretty deep dive, so if you want to dig into details about him, that’s where to look.) They’re roughly the same age, as Suarez is 26, and Castellanos turns 26 in a few weeks. They also had quite similar statistical profiles for fantasy purposes last season:

  • Castellanos (665 PA) – .272/.320/.490, 26 HR, 101 RBI, 73 R, 4 SB
    • 6.2% BB, 21.4% K, .218 ISO, .313 BABIP
  • Suarez (632 PA) – .260/.367/.461, 26 HR, 82 RBI, 87 R, 4 SB
    • 13.3% BB, 23.3% K, .200 ISO, .309 BABIP

Castellanos had a slight edge in batting average, but they were even in both homers and steals, and Suarez scored 14 more runs (likely attributable to his superior plate discipline). That’s probably just about a dead heat for fantasy value, until you throw in Castellanos’ 19-RBI advantage. Those RBI were a big part of Castellanos’ fantasy value in 2017, as Nolan Arenado and Jake Lamb were the only 3B with more RBI.

It would surprise me quite a bit if Castellanos managed another 100+ RBI season this year, seeing as the Tigers offense is looking mediocre at best. J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton, Ian Kinsler, Alex Avila and Cameron Maybin are all gone, so in other words, most of the production from 2017’s No. 18 scoring offense isn’t around this year. Detroit is going to struggle to score runs (almost as much as they’ll struggle to prevent runs…), and it’s not likely that anyone in their offense will rack up 101 RBI like Castellanos did last year. Our Depth Charts projection has him at 87 RBI for this year, which sounds reasonable.

In my previous post about Castellanos, I concluded that there are some positive signs in his data: he’s striking out less frequently, he’s making consistent hard contact, and his power production continues to head in the right direction. He also seems to be figuring out how to hit lefties, and might be a better hitter when he doesn’t have to worry about infield defense, but these are both unproven, small-sample conjectures.

On the negative side, in the “fly ball revolution” era, it’s not generally seen as a positive when your batted-ball trends from one year to the next look like this:

  • Castellanos 2016: 43.0% FB, 31.5% GB
  • Castellanos 2017: 38.2% FB, 37.3% GB

Beyond those figures, a deeper look showed another interesting in a not-so-good way trend, as far as fantasy power production is concerned:

In 2016, Castellanos hit lots of high line drives and low fly balls in that 25-30 degree area, which is the type of batted ball that produces the most homers. However, this year, he didn’t just trade fly balls for ground balls, he also exchanged high liners/low flies for lots of medium liners in the 20-degree range. Medium liners are great for doubles and triples — and may help explain how the less than fleet-footed Castellanos picked up 10 triples in 2017 — but they do not produce many homers.

Castellanos had one big month last year, and it was his last one, when he hit .359/.377/.632 with seven homers in September. That roughly coincides with his move from third base to the outfield, so maybe there’s something there, or maybe he just had a hot few weeks. It’s way too small of a sample to rely on. In short, there was a lot to like about Castellanos’ 2017, but there were plenty of caution flags as well. No red flags, but a few solid yellows.

As for Suarez, he made some major strides in 2017. His walk rate climbed significantly for the second straight year (4.3% in ’15, 8.1% in ’16, 13.3% in ’17), his isolated power jumped from the .165 ISO he put up in 2015-2016 to a robust .200 last year, and he posted a career-low 23.3% strikeout rate. He’s also expected to bat cleanup this year, right behind Joey Votto. There are plenty of soft spots in Cincinnati’s lineup, but that’s not one of them.

One interesting wrinkle for Suarez is that there were rumblings starting last August that Suarez could see some time at shortstop, his original position. It didn’t happen, with the exception of one four-inning cameo, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen this year. Remember that he played short his entire career in the minors, and also for 180 games in the majors, until the Reds moved him to third in 2016 to accommodate Zack Cozart’s return from injury.

Now, Cozart is gone, and Suarez is the only player other than Jose Peraza on the projected 25-man roster with any major-league experience at short. Especially if you’re in a league that only requires a handful of appearances to generate positional eligibility, the possibility of Suarez even making a few guest appearances at short is very enticing.

There weren’t many major changes to Suarez’s batted-ball data, aside from his career-high 24.0% line drive rate, which was third in the league among 3B behind only Chase Headley and Castellanos. I do have some concern with Suarez’s 17.9% HR/FB rate, which was a significant jump from 2016’s 13.5% rate. To be honest, I’m not seeing much support for that in his data, aside from the possible influence of his 42.7% pull rate, a fairly significant increase from 2016’s 39.5% Pull.

All told, I’m hesitant to predict much more of a breakout from Suarez, but I more or less believe in what he did last year. For what it’s worth, I think Steamer’s a little overly pessimistic regarding his AVG. He’s projected for a .299 BABIP, which would be a career low, and considerably lower than his career .315 BABIP.

I’m not concerned about the eventual arrival of top prospect Nick Senzel, who naturally plays 3B, but will play multiple positions in Spring Training. Both of these guys are capable of playing several different spots around the diamond, and Cincy’s lineup certainly has room for both of them.

In an effort to tie all this together, I’ll simply say that I don’t remotely understand why there’s an 86-pick gap between Castellanos and Suarez in this year’s drafts. I’m not even saying I expect Suarez to outproduce Castellanos, but what I am saying is that I think they could very well be right next to each other in the end-of-season fantasy 3B player rater.

Am I crazy for thinking there’s far more value in drafting Suarez in the 16th round, as opposed to taking Castellanos in the 9th? I honestly don’t think it’s even close. I have quite similar expectations for these two in 2018, and even if Castellanos outproduces Suarez — as he very well could, and did last year — I don’t think it will be by a wide enough margin to warrant Suarez being drafted a full seven rounds later than Castellanos.

In other words, welcome to several of my 2018 fantasy rosters, Eugenio Suarez. If I can really snag him as late as the 16th round, that’s a great bargain, which is what these “Underrated and Overrated” columns are all about.

We hoped you liked reading Underrated and Overrated: Eugenio Suarez and Nick Castellanos Edition by Scott Strandberg!

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Scott Strandberg started writing for Rotographs in 2013. He works in small business consultation, and he also writes A&E columns for The Norman Transcript newspaper. Scott lives in Seattle, WA.

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Brad Johnson
Member

I’ve long preferred Suarez to Castellanos. Suarez may be the most consistently underrated 3B in the league.

Jim Melichar
Member
Jim Melichar

It’s all home park – which is a fine reason to prefer him.

Castellanos is the more powerful hitter. Just ran through the numbers, and Castellanos’ hard hit balls between 16-32 degrees leave his home park 15% of the time, Suarez’ at 20% despite Castellanos hitting them harder and more frequently. My quick summary says Castellanos would have 11 more HRs over the last 3 years playing in Cincy, that’s a conservative estimate.

On the road Suarez’ hard hit balls at home run launch angles leave the park 12% of the time, Castellanos’ 13%.

So to answer the question of would I take Castellanos 86 slots earlier. Maybe in an AVG league. I like what he did with the K-rate in the second half and it’s in line with his pedigree and his minor league strikeout rates. In an OBP league, if you believe Suarez is a 13% walk rate guy you’d have to take that, but I believe there are 35HRs for Castellanos and a 285+ AVG and I don’t think either of those things are there for Suarez. The park factor risk is real if you think there’s any chance Suarez gets traded.

mr_hogg
Member
mr_hogg

… or Castellanos could get traded. Sure, there’s more of an ADP gap than is warranted. But it’s not crazy to think that Castellanos is the better hitter and at some point (park changes, achievement of upside) that may come out.