With the regular season over, it’s time to look at 2017 and beyond. For keeper formats, I’m looking at risers and fallers in our 2017 rankings, as well as highlighting where I differ from the rest of the Assembly team. We’re entering a golden age for third base, with many youngsters and Donaldson firmly entrenching themselves at the top of the rankings.
Kyle Seager – Everyone knew he was a good bet for 25 home runs. He’d been pretty consistent for years, along with a mid-.260 average. None expected a big breakout, given his age and previous body of work. And he didn’t break out, per se — he simply improved slightly across the board as he entered his prime. What went right for Seager, and what can we expect in the future?
Maybe you could argue that his home runs should come back down a bit, but there’s absolutely nothing in his metrics that worries me or makes me think his production level will change in any way. He makes hard contact above the league average. His contact and walk rates have been pretty steady over the years, and his batted ball profile is consistent, as is his BABIP. The only quibble may be a career high HR/FB at 15%, but it’s only 2% better than his previous best, so it’s not like he surged to unsustainable levels. My favorite factoid for Seager? He hit 5 home runs in every month of the year. If you’re looking for consistency, look no further. For this reason, he gets my vote as a top-5 at the position.
Nick Castellanos – Technically, he wasn’t much of a riser based on our cumulative rankings. However, that’s primarily because he was injured for a good portion of the second half. Also, maybe some managers don’t buy into his first half (.299, 14 HR) being repeatable. He hit 7 home runs in May, and his .363 average in April was aided by luck. Still, people tend to forget that despite being around for three seasons, he was only 24 this year. So was it luck or growth that spurred his production in 2016?
On the surface, not much changed for him. His walks, contact, and hard hit were just as they have always been, and his BABIP was up, implying he was mostly lucky. But his batted ball profile shows a three-year rise in fly balls. Still owners will hem and haw, looking at his spike in the HR/FB rate and claiming he won’t repeat. Don’t be fooled yourself. In the second half of 2015, his HR/FB was 14%, and his two halves for 2016 were 14% and 13%. That’s three half-seasons of consistent home run production, though granted the second half of this year was a small sample due to injury. Add in his strong line drive rate and you can expect him to keep his BABIP above league average. He may lose a few points in average come 2017, but with health, his floor is going to be .275 with 25 home runs. You’ll want to invest in him before he takes off, because then you can ride him for the next five years without worrying about age.
Justin Turner – The previous year’s rankings saw Turner left off of three out of five lists. This year he was still left off of two (Sunday spoiler alert). I guess people simply aren’t buying into his power output. That’s a big mistake, and he’ll continue to reward owners who draft him, even slightly above slot value. James Krueger did a great piece on Turner the other day, which you can read here. I can’t argue with what he wrote. Reap the rewards of doubters and age-ists.
Ryon Healy – Healy is a complete newcomer to our lists. There were a few, as there are every season, but I thought he deserved a close look, if only because he didn’t enter the year profiling as a breakout prospect. He projected to be a solid regular, but not a star. So what happened in 2016, and can he keep it up?
Scouts liked his doubles power in the minors, but it hadn’t translated to homers yet. Some wondered whether he’d develop it, and it turns out he did pretty well this year, with 14 home runs in the minors and 13 more in the bigs. What’s more, he hit for high average the last two years in the minors, and after a rocky first month with Oakland, he hit .303 in August and .355 in September. That said, his hard hit rate and LD% aren’t very high, so a BABIP near .350 is likely to drop in a full season. But that doubles power is converting to homers power, and with monthly HR/FB rates of 15%, 14%, and 18%, I’m convinced he has 25+ home run power. His contact rate is decent enough to help keep up his batting average as well. He’s a riskier play than the top-15, but the potential for .280 and 25 home runs in 2017 while playing both corners could net a nice profit.
Anthony Rendon – I keep holding out hope that he can take the next step and really break out, but it hasn’t happened yet. His 2016 results look pretty close to 2014, so at least he rebounded from the injury-plagued 2015 with worse stats. At age 27 in 2017, will he finally stay on the field and develop into a superstar like some of us had hoped years ago?
The short answer is no, I don’t see him becoming a top-5 options in the future. That said, I still like his profile, and now that people have cooled on him and aren’t taking him in the first round (due to disappointment and a shift from 2B), you could get a solid value from him. He is managing at least a league average HR/FB%, and this year’s uptick in fly ball rate will keep alive his chances of repeating 20 home runs. All his metrics and skills are solid and haven’t really changed over the last three years. He may find a way to improve in the future, but I’m not counting on it. Even so, a third baseman who can hit .275 and go 20/10 is a fine choice.
Mike Moustakas – He missed significant time with an injury in 2016, which is the main reason he’s dropped to the bottom of the top-20. The knee injury may affect him in 2017, but let’s assume long-term health. What about the next five years in terms of production?
There’s a lot to like in his profile. He’s put up five straight years of improving contact rate and BB/K, showing a maturing approach. His hard hit rate jumped in 2014-15, even higher in 2015. He’s put up four years of HR/FB growth, and even if you throw out the shortened 2016, it’s still three years of improvement before that. The growing home runs are legit, and he should have no problem putting up 20 every season moving forward, assuming he’s healthy.
The biggest concern is his fluctuating batting average. It’s been near the Mendoza line, and he’s had one season above .280. However, the three seasons he has had a BABIP above .280 he had averages of .263, 242, and .284. He doesn’t have a reliable, or even league average, BABIP, so there’s a chance his average will keep bouncing around, and that can hurt you. However, the fact that he’s hitting the ball harder in recent years gives me hope that he can start to eke out a few more points in both BABIP and average. You can get him dirt cheap in 2017, so you should be able to profit if he plays a full season, and there’s some room for further growth in the future.
Todd Frazier – It’s not every year that you see someone hit 40 home runs and yet move down the rankings. However, when you add a .225 average to the profile, it clearly scares off some managers. Add in the fact that Frazier is another year older, whereas there are plenty of young franchise players at the position, and I can understand why he’s dropped. Is it just the bad average scaring owners away?
Turns out there are a few small red flags. His hard contact rate was down by quite a bit, and it dropped below league average. Hid LD% was a career low, which means his low BABIP wasn’t all bad luck. Finally, his contact rate dropped at least 4% lower than any previous season, so his approach may have changed as he swings for the fences, leaving him vulnerable to making bad contact (18.5% infield fly ball rate).
However, he swung at fewer pitches out of the zone. Though his swinging strike rate is above average, it was no different than his previous years. And he set a career high walk rate to boot. Clearly his plate discipline hasn’t fallen completely apart; perhaps he simply needed a year to adjust to the American League. What’s more, his weaker contact and low line drive rate does mean he’ll put up a BABIP that’s lower than .300 — but there was still bad luck in play when his BABIP hovered near .200 in the first three months. When his BABIP rebounded in the second half, his batting average returned to tolerable (.247).
The fact that he’s hitting a lot more fly balls in the last two years means the power numbers are legit, even without strong hard hit rates. The fact that he can steal 10+ bases is gravy. In 2017, he could be a bargain and net you a line of .245, 35/10. I’ll take that from a guy we ranked #11 in dynasty.
Adrian Beltre – Look, the guy can still rake. Not many people doubt his production for 2017. But he keeps falling down the rankings due to his age — you don’t rank a hitter in his high-30s as a top-10 option at a position, right?
We didn’t get that bold, but I wouldn’t blame you if you keep using him as a top-10 guy. In fact, I own him in one keeper league, and though I’d love to acquire someone like Bryant or Arenado, I won’t overpay while Beltre keeps hitting. Nothing in his metrics indicates he’s slowing down at all. After two years in dipping HR/FB from 2014-15, he got back to the level he put up in the previous three seasons. His hard hit rate is still well above league average, and his contact and walk rates are steady. The way I see it, his floor is .280, 20 home runs, and he could easily repeat his 2016 season next year. I know age is a scary thing in keeper leagues, but don’t discount him until he actually starts slowing down. The way he’s playing, he’ll give Ichiro and Julio Franco a run for their money, playing well into his forties.
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