Adam Eaton: One Category Wonder

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.

Jim Finch

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The self proclaimed Grand High Exhausted Mystic Ruler of Fantasy Baseball. While I am not related to Jennie or Sidd Finch, I will attempt to uphold the integrity of the Finch family name as it relates to baseball.

11 thoughts on “Adam Eaton: One Category Wonder”

  1. This is a guy who hit over 380 in his last full season prior to 2014 and is now leading off in a stacked lineup. I think 300 BA and 95+ runs with 35 steals is a reasonable expectation (with no power).

    1. …said the homer who was all in on Grady Sizemore last season 🙂 Sure, in 2012 Eaton hit .380 in AAA. That was with the Reno Aces who play in one of the top 5 hitters parks in the minors. Even the pitchers have a high average on this team. You point out the .380 average but did you even look at the unsustainable and unrealistic .432 BABIP.

      Predicting 35 steals is pretty bold and higher than any others I have seen. Yes he stole 38 bases in 2012, but he also had an 80% success rate. Lower that to the 62% success rate we saw in 2014 and how many of those 35 steals are you handing back?

      95+ runs? Did the Sox go out and pull a Padres when I wasn’t looking? If they didn’t, it’s still the same cast that was there last season and I don’t see them stepping things up to the next level and increasing Eatons chances of scoring run. It’s the same guys there driving runs home. 80 runs sure. 85…maybe. 90 runs I think would be pushing things. 95….that is just so Sizemore of you.

  2. I guess I like Melky and LaRoche more than you do. I think that’s a big help to the lineup. I also think that Eaton’s nagging injuries contributed to his low steals total and success rate last year.

    Of course he won’t have a BABIP like he did in 2012 but I am not suggesting he will hit 380 again. But he is the type of guy (speed + bar control) who can sustain a high BABIP.

    As for Sizemore… what can I say? Whiffed on that one.

    1. Not a fan of the 35 year old LaRoche who is on the downside of his career. He had a .237 BA in 2013 and .259 in 2014. Last year he swung less and made more contact, but his BABIP remained the same so I’m calling for a little luck here and think we’ll see more of the 2013 LaRoche this year. He may start off hot since pitchers haven’t seen a lot of him in the AL, but by mid season they will have him figured out.

      As for Melky, I have no argument other than the fact that he is a player I love to hate. I used to feel the same way about Nelson Cruz and it took years for me to come around on him. Melky showed he can hit for average even after the PED scandal so he can still contribute in real life, but he is not that valuable in fantasy. Having that high average guy in front of Eaton could help with the run production, but I don’t think it helps enough to push that total past 85 let along 95+.

      Five leadoff hitters in 2014 scored 90+ runs, five more in 2013, six in 2012 and three in 2011. Austin Jackson did it three times in the past four years. M.Carpenter, Reyes, Kinsler, Bourn and Ellsbury did it twice in the past four seasons. So of the 18 times a player has scored 90+ runs, 13 of those were done by six players. That doesn’t leave much wiggle room for Eaton.

      I know you’re not suggesting he can hit .380 again, but you are predicting a .300 average, but that would mean doing so without a BABIP close to .360. It’s not impossible, but not probably so a drop to the .280’s is more realistic

  3. So far in recent tweets we have SB projections of 18, 18, 20 and 25 and BA projections of .248, .271, .275 and .285. Runs are 91, 90, 80 and 68 so you have a few supporters on this one, but so far nobody is with you on the steals and average.

    1. I’ve been a Eaton owner since he was in the low minors in a couple of deep dynasty leagues so I’m probably biased. ..

    2. add another SB doubter onto the list with 15-20. You’ve got some support in the BA (.290-.310) and runs (85+) department, but it was from a White Sox writer and fan.

  4. I don’t know about the steals, but I do think Eaton is a .290 hitter. A .359 BABIP is high, but not unreasonable for a speedy guy who hits grounders 60% of the time. I would expect him to carry a BABIP north of .330 with that profile.

    If he can stay healthy, 90 runs and 25 SBs would make him an outstanding late round value. I would not advise anybody to reach for Eaton, but I think he is a solid 3 cat guy, like a poor man’s Ben Revere.

    1. Late round value yes, but here’s the thing. Some of the early rankings have Eaton in the low 30’s making him a #3 outfielder. In a 12 team league (which most leagues are), that is not late.

      If he can maintain a BABIP and If he can hit .290 are 2 big If’s to me. If that average doesn’t pan out to what people expect, what are you left with. You have an outfielder with no power, limited RBI potential and an average BA that can steal 20 bases and score runs. For where he is being ranked, I think I would want a little more for my money.

      Now if he were a late round pick as you say, somewhere in the value of one of the last 4th outfielders to go off the board or maybe a bench guy, sure he can have some value. Unfortunately Eaton is being given way too much credit and it’s being based upon one good year (his first full year) in which he was 3rd in the league in BABIP. I think a little more caution should be taken with a player that has limited upside. Now if everyone was in agreement that he could steal 30+ bases, you would have an acceptable risk.

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