I’m sure that there are a number of Adam Eaton fans out there, and I’m also sure that some of them are under the impression that he will improve upon his 2014 season. Well I’m not an Adam Eaton fan; never have been, never will be. I never understood the hype surrounding him when he was a prospect with the Diamondbacks and I don’t see the value in owning him now in fantasy. Other than some cheap steals, what is Eaton really good for?
First off he has no power, none. In 2014 he had just one homer in just under 500 at bats. His average fly ball distance was 261.5 feet; 270 major league players were better than that. Add on to that a FB% of 20, a GB% just below 60 and an ISO of .101 and you get a player with less pop and power than Jose Altuve. I’m sure you were not looking to Eaton for home runs anyway, but I figured I would dash the hopes of those few who were.
You’re also not getting any RBIs here. Eaton drove in 35 runs in 2014. Leadoff hitters usually do not get more than 50 RBIs in a season. The few that do generally have some power and as you know, Eaton has none. The White Sox have not added any bats to improve the bottom half of their lineup. I’m sure I can factor other things in here but those are the main bullet points. You’re getting a repeat of 2014 and hoping for that total to reach 50.
That’s 2 categories in the toilet, but what about batting average? Eaton put up a nice one in 2014; that .300 sure does look pretty. I can’t help though but glance over when looking at the numbers and seeing a .359 BABIP which makes that pretty average look pretty lucky. Eaton’s BABIP was the 3rd best in the league. In comparison, his teammate Jose Abreu was 4th with a .356. I expect some major regression here in the batting average department and don’t think he will even sniff .300. If Eaton has luck on his side he could reach .280, but I think the average will be closer to .270.
I’ll split the difference on the average and say Eaton hits .275. So far we’ve got a .275 average with approximately 45 RBIs and maybe a couple of home runs. The runs scored category could give things a boost, Eaton did score 76 runs last year. Looking at the glass as half full, you could say Eaton is in line for a boost since he had fewer than 500 at bats. The glass half empty view is those extra at bats will be nullified by the drop in BABIP. Less times on base means less scoring opportunities, and Eaton doesn’t walk enough (8% walk rate) to counter the damage. I don’t see Eaton being worse in 2015, but I can’t see him scoring that many more runs. I’d set the bar at 80 which is slightly higher than the Streamer projections.
Now 80 runs aren’t bad and would place him just outside the top 20 for outfielders. Unfortunately almost all the players above him (and immediately below him) have more power, will produce a similar or better average and they drive in runs. So while Eaton may be an adequate source for runs, he delivers little in RBI, no power with a batting average that is, well…average.
This brings us to my original question. Other than some cheap steals, what is Eaton good for? With a 62% success rate, an average walk rate and potential decline in batting average, I can’t see Eaton improving much upon his 2014 totals. For the sake of argument though, let’s just say he gets 20 steals in 2015. There were 25 outfielders with 20 or more steals last year, and a number of them were either late round draft picks or scooped up off waivers.
Looking through all the player’s stats I found one man that closely resembles Eaton’s walk rate, contact skills, batted ball profiles, stolen bases success and his overall numbers. Nori Aoki. How excited are you about Eaton now? I assumed Eaton was going to be low on the totem pole when I started, but I didn’t see the Aoki comparison coming.
I like Aoki, but as the guy you pick up off waivers to fill in for an injury or stash on your bench in case of emergency. I view Eaton the same way, someone I can stick in there for some steals with an average that will not kill me. That’s what Eaton is, a source of cheap steals. If that’s what you’re looking for then Eaton is your man. Is he worth a late round pick? Sure, maybe in the 20-25 range, but nothing before that. I won’t be drafting him though. If I need cheap steals, I’m sure someone will be available on waivers…probably that Aoki guy.