Using ADP to Examine Potential Sleepers at Third Base

Early Average Draft Position is such an astounding thing, as typical and interesting draft tendencies are widely reflected in it. Rookies and inexperienced players being taken too high, quality performers being limited because of a smaller market, etc. Also, Josh Donaldson as the fourth third baseman on average? Come on. With that in mind, it makes sense to look at some of those ADP figures and examine who could be a potential sleeper in drafts as the month of March continues to barrel toward the regular season. Those identified as “sleepers” here are based primarily off of their ADP more so than name recognition.

Jake Lamb

It’s difficult for me to refer to Jake Lamb as a sleeper candidate when I’ve been so notably high on him for over a year at this point. However, ADP numbers have him as the 16th player drafted at the hot corner. He’s coming in behind names like Jose Ramirez, Javier Baez, Maikel Franco, and Justin Turner, all of which Lamb has shown the capacity to far exceed, in terms of offensive output. While it’s difficult to compare Lamb to that group given the slightly differing skill set (especially as it relates to someone like Ramirez), it’s hard to look at Lamb’s first half numbers and not immediately be filled with excitement over the idea of nabbing him late in drafts.

Lamb hit .291 in the first half of 2016 while reaching base at a .371 clip. His isolated power, at .322, was easily the highest out of a powerful third base group. That half also featured a park-adjusted offense of 151, ranking him fourth in that group, and an OPS of .983, which ranked third. He also hit the ball harder than almost anyone at the position, with a Hard% of 41.9%, also good for third. He fell off dramatically in the second half, but it’s likely we can attribute that to a hand injury more than anything. He maintained a similar walk rate and his strikeout percentage didn’t leap that high from the first half. His BABIP fell to .240, though, and he made considerably lighter contact (36.2 Hard%). A healthy Lamb, and a regular opportunity for more plate appearances against left-handed pitching, should serve Lamb well, and it’s hard not to imagine him building on that early season success from last year. While following up those numbers from the first half of 2016 will be difficult, he has a quality approach, improved mechanics, and a lot of power. He’s a legitimate option at this point who is going surprisingly low in drafts.

Ryon Healy

Much more of a true sleeper, Ryon Healy’s average draft position comes in at about 196, which puts him 18th among the third base group. He’s an interesting quantity for a couple of different reasons, but there are also a couple of potential detractors. Focusing first on the latter, he’s a notably aggressive hitter. His walk rates across his minor league seasons, and in his 283 PAs from last year, regularly linger around five percent or below. There’s also the matter of his position. Healy will get at-bats, but will they come at the third base position? Trevor Plouffe seems likely to take over, but his versatility could allow Healy to still get enough ABs there to maintain positional eligibility.

What Healy does possess is intriguing power. He hit 13 homers in those 283 at-bats and finished with a .219 ISO. And while he was aggressive, he was able to make relatively steady contact, finishing with a Contact% that lingered around 80%. He maintains aggression with an approach, as he mostly laid off pitches outside of the strike zone (34.5 O-Swing%). As he continues to adjust to big league pitching, it’s possible that he could increase that contact rate and cut down on the strikeouts, as he punched out at a 21.4% rate and whiffed on 9.4% of pitches overall. He’s not likely a starting option at this point, but he’s worth monitoring because of that power.

Jung Ho Kang

Jung Ho Kang is a really interesting entity from a pure baseball standpoint. He’s going as low as 340th overall and is currently the 22nd-ranked player at the third base position. He was able to recover from a nasty injury in 2015 to the tune of 370 plate appearances in 2016. He’s been steady in displaying good on-base skills, with OBP figures of .355 and .354 in those two years, respectively. From a power standpoint, he represents perhaps the most consistent threat on the Pirates. He went for a .258 ISO last year, which included 21 home runs across only 103 games. He’s a nice power threat and high-OBP guy at the position.

However, he comes with concerns that represent the reason he’s going so low in drafts. Fantasy baseball doesn’t account for character concerns, and Kang was able to avoid jail time in getting a suspended sentence for fleeing the scene of an accident after a DUI. His third DUI. He hasn’t been cleared to return to the United States, and there’s still the potential for a suspension to come down from Major League Baseball, hence the low ADP. This is a situation worth monitoring from a fantasy standpoint, but it’s important to proceed with extreme caution, as his availability for early in the season isn’t clear in the slightest. On paper, he’s a legitimate power threat and a nice source of OBP when healthy. But the reasons folks are avoiding him are relatively obvious and have nothing to do with what it says on paper.

Mike Moustakas

Because I’d rather not end on player who clearly cannot learn from his past mistakes, let’s look at the more encouraging end of the spectrum. Many prospective owners don’t trust Mike Moustakas from a performance standpoint, and then there’s the lingering questions about a player’s performance in recovery from a knee injury like the one that Moose suffered. As such, ADP figures have him as the 19th ranked shortstop, going as high as 121 and as low as 290. Being apprehensive about Moustakas is understandable, but the upside is still there and we saw him make significant strides in 2015 that indicate encouraging results in 2017.

Moustakas’ approach remained relatively similar, in terms of swing and contact rates. However, the most notable change was his ability to take the ball to the opposite field, as he increased his Oppo% by about six percent, up to over 27% overall in 2015. He was more selective within the strike zone, being aggressive against pitches on the outer half of the plate. In 2016, he was making even harder contact in the 103 plate appearances before the injury, just running into some bad luck, as indicated by a .214 BABIP. But the oppo tendency was still there, as he drove it up to 30.8% before his season ended. There’s some power potential there, and with his revamped oppo approach proving effective, Moustakas could be an absolute steal on a deeper roster or as a depth option for the corner spot.





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James
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James

Small thing, but you have Moustakas as the 19th *shortstop* off the board.