Established Superstars or One Month Fallacies?

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening– whichever is applicable to you. In 1986, Greg Briley was the 12th overall selection in the MLB Amateur Draft. By 1988 he had made his Major League Debut, and by 1989 he was an everyday player with premier placement within my Baseball Card collection.

Like most kids who loved baseball, my baseball card collection was among the most important things in my life. With a convenience store owner as my father, I would receive a minimum of one box a week of baseball cards to open. The stars would go in one box, the scrubs would go to another. The best of the best would be put in the albums for whoever was interested to see. Once the cycle was completed into the scrub boxes I would go, re-categorizing players as stars, often times doing so based on those dreaded “small sample sizes”.

During this time I was consumed with box scores, checking daily the results of my favorite players across the country. Ken Griffey, Jr. was just one of the many superstars I tracked. When checking the box scores to see what Griffey had done another young M’s production jumped out to me: Hello world, meet Greg Briley. Aside from his name and position I knew little about Greg Briley. At this point in time a track record meant nothing to me, all I knew was this guy was young and he could rake. The transition from scrub box to album couldn’t have happened soon enough.Some fantasy owners value track records and underlying numbers, some value the assistance of others, but the majority act upon the numbers themselves. They drop players that are struggling and add players who are hitting. It seems to be a rather sound strategy in theory. You need home runs? Sort the wire players by HR and select the best one. Of course, the problem is that what has happened doesn’t do anything for you: only the things to come.

This post identifies 5 Hitters whom appear among the Top 100 players in Yahoo! standard scoring. Their statistics thus far are worthy of superstar status. The players appearing on this list have likely seen their ownership percentages increase at a minimum of 25%. In other words, fantasy owners are moving them from the scrub box into the feature album. The question remains to be seen if the efforts will be worth it. If the underlying numbers speak the truth, it would appear these efforts will go unrewarded.




Neil Walker
88% owned, currently 26th Overall

The only veteran that appears on the list. With Walker’s proven track record it’s easy to dismiss this type of production. Simply put, Walker is 30: unless a conscious effort was made to improve his approach, the career track record should provide a solid guiding light. Walker’s BB rate {4.9} is actually down from his career mark {8}, his K rate has increased from a career mark of 17.4 to 20.4. Simply put, no improved plate approach can be found. The increase in HR output is thanks to an increased GB/FB ratio of .62 compared to a career mark of 1.06. Given the age of Walker, I could sign off on this increased GB/FB ratio but the 24.3 % HR/FB rate compared to his career mark of 10.6 tells us all we need to know about the early magical season of 2016.

Wil Myers
77% owned, currently 27th Overall

So many people have waited for the Wil Myers breakout. In his age 25 season, could this be the year?  While Myers has improved his Contact % from 76% career to 79.2%; there’s not much to suggest this is his dance with superstardom. Myers has managed to decrease his BB% from 9.1 career to 6% for this season. That loss has come at the expense of his K %; with a career worst mark of 24.2 in the books, Myers has managed to post a 26.5 rate thus far. He has managed to improve his GB/FB rate, and in addition his HR/FB rate of 18.5% doesn’t feel crazy despite his 12.5% career mark. For me the big potential drop is in AVG as Myers has managed to post a .315 mark thus far. Factor in an astronomical .392 BABIP compared to a career mark of .326 and you could be looking at a 40-50 point drop in AVG.

Jean Segura
92% owned, currently 32nd Overall

His hot start couldn’t have been scripted better for anyone looking to move him to a desperate SS owner. Honestly after the first two weeks I just assumed he’d return to typical Segura. Over the last two weeks Segura has posted a .327 AVG even if the counting numbers were rather pedestrian. While the decline has yet to happen, I’m rather confident it’s just a matter of time. Career BB rate – 4%, current rate – 2.6%. Career K% – 13.9, current rate – 12.9 (crowd applauds). Once again, no plate discipline strides seemed to have been made so why expect a complete overhaul of the underlying statistics. Segura’s current BABIP is .359, career mark – .304. Segura’s current HR/FB rate – 15.4, career mark – 7.2. Segura’s speed is unquestioned, but his value as a Top 50 player is based on the home run and batting average marks he obtains. Up to this point it’s come easy for Segura. I just can’t envision both production levels continuing much longer.

Nick Castellanos
Owned in 62% of leagues, currently 38th overall

Much like Wil Myers; it would seem Castellanos has been among the hyped prospects to have yet to produce. While it’s early, it would seem Castellanos has managed to change his batted ball profile. This season Castellanos has a .57 GB/FB rate; his career mark up to this point was .91. While more fly balls are being hit, Castellanos is still managing to make the most of the additional opportunities. Thus far Castellanos has posted a 13.3 HR/FB rate, while his career mark of 8.7 would suggest a decline is due. However at age 24 and with a track record of improvements from year to year, a 13.3% HR/FB seems reasonable. Despite these improvements I believe you’re still looking at a big decrease in his production. His BABIP of .444 is over 100 points higher than his career mark of .333. If that wasn’t enough for you to reconsider Castellanos as a .300 hitter, his career BB% of 6.1% has somehow managed to decrease thanks to his 3.2% mark this season.

Travis Shaw
Owned in 65% of Yahoo Leagues, currently 74th overall

Shaw has improved his BB/K totals in 2016. It’s not much to get excited about, but .35 is, in fact, better than .33. Another potential positive with Shaw could be increased power. While Shaw’s GB/FB rate has stayed steady (.69 this season, .82 career) his HR/FB rate is coming in rather low at 9.4% compared to a 15.2 career mark. Naturally this suggests we could see some improved power in the near future. Sadly it’s not all roses for Mr. Shaw. While his overall contact numbers mirror his career numbers, his Soft contact has increased from 22.7% to 28.4%. Despite this Shaw has still maintained an AVG north of .300. With that being said, it’ll be hard to produce a .394 BABIP throughout the duration of the season. While Shaw managed to take the starting 3B job away from the Kung Fu Panda, it’s still to be determined if Shaw could lose AB vs. LH pitchers at some point. 20 PA is hardly a season definer, but early results have netted an ugly .100 AVG against them.




If you were to look from a statistical standpoint, the production from this group thus far is unquestioned. Excluding Walker, all of the players listed have been considered by many to be the next wave of great players. While some have shown flashes, the overwhelming theme from this group would be disappointment. So naturally when these players find success most feel it’s the talent taking over. The reality is these players performance has more to do with data outliers than anything else. I wholeheartedly feel this group offers some talent, to this point that talent has been capped.  Until a better foundation exists, I’ll avoid buying into anything more than they’ve showed me in the past.

Greg BrileyAfter a disappointing start to the 1989 season, Greg Briley was demoted to Triple A, He returned to Seattle on May 23rd. From May 23rd to July 31st, Briley managed to hit .321 with 9 HR and 6 SB. So there I was, spending hours upon hours searching for stacks of Greg Brileys. My search continued, extending beyond my own box of commons. I raided my friend’s commons and the local card shop commons in pursuit of a local monopoly on Greg Briley rookie cards. Four full sheets of Greg Briley’s later,  I had accomplished my goal. Greg Briley finished the 1989 season with a .266 AVG, 13 HR, and 11 SB. That would be his only season as a Full Time regular.

I rushed to judgment in ruling Briley a star. The box score told me so, but the talent didn’t agree. Briley was a soft-hitting, high-contact speed guy who just happened to play like a young Kirby Puckett for two months. Shaw, Castellanos, Segura, take your pick. All have played well, but nothing in their underlying numbers suggest to me that their past is indeed their past. If you’ve profited from their earnings thus far, congratulations. Just don’t be surprised if come September you’re left holding four pages of Greg Briley Rookies.

 

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Josh Coleman
Father of four SP1 children. Replacement level husband to a top tier wife. I love my family, value my friendships, and spend as much time as possible (too much according to the aforementioned Mrs. Coleman) dedicated to the pursuit, of another Fantasy Championship. I'm the oddball at the bar who prefers Fantasy Baseball to Fantasy Football.
Josh Coleman

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