In this series, I will give you my personal scouting report from watching lots of baseball during the week while trying to leverage my perspective as a former college ballplayer and lifelong baseball fan. I will also do my best to fuse this visual examination with the underlying statistics that we all know and love to provide the most accurate analysis possible.
Aaron Judge: New York Yankees
All rise! As a NYC resident, I hear this quite a bit these days. “He’s better than Stanton!” That’s another common thing you hear in my neck of the woods. The guy is visually impressive, and so far he’s looking like my worst call of 2017 thus far.
Don’t get me wrong, I hope this guy is for real. I’m a lifelong Yankee fan, but there are some reasons for both sides to cling to.
So taking a cursory look at the numbers and batted ball data, you will find a mix of information. First of all, he is absolutely smashing the ball. His hard hit rate is 46.3% going at the time of this being written. That’s an outrageously high number, but it’s actually a click or two lower than his cup of coffee last year. He also has an unrealistic 50% HR/FB rate. Finally, he is hitting about 39% fly balls, which is a solid number, but again, lower than the 50% he hit last year.
The most promising development is that he has knocked his strikeout percentage down to a more manageable 26.5%. That’s a vast improvement from last year’s vomit worthy 44.2%.
Watching Judge play has been a lot of fun. It’s fun to see a player that makes other professional athletes look like children with his giant like size. The eye test seems to support an approach change. He is definitely laying off some pitches that he chased last year. When he connects with a ball, it really is a thing of beauty as well. He’s definitely hit some of the more impressive bombs hit by a player in pinstripes in a long, long time. It is also worth noting, despite not being fantasy relevant, Judge plays a pretty good outfield and has a cannon. One more reason to keep the big man on the field.
Eye Test Advice: There’s still some red flags, and I don’t think he’s a top-5 outfielder, but he should be fantasy relevant. The power is for real, and if he can keep his K rate under 30%, he should be really useful. As long as he keeps hitting the ball hard and in the air, he is worth hanging on to. My advice is to keep him unless someone is giving you top 5-10 outfielder value. On the same token, feel free to buy if someone is a non believer as I once was.
Avisail Garcia: White Sox
I got into an argument with one of the better owners in my home league over this guy. “You love post-hype sleepers” he said. And I do, I really do. I just heard the name Avisail and I automatically dismissed it. In fairness, that’s wrong too. So let’s see what the numbers and my vision corrected eyes have to say about this guy.
He’s currently batting .362, and the lazy analysis would be to just point at the .434 BABIP. Even without doing any further observation, we know that is not something that’s going to continue long-term. He is hitting the ball reasonably hard at a 32.1% clip, but he has always hit the ball pretty hard and actually finished 2016 at 34%.
The problem is the ground balls, which are still a part of the equation here. He’s hitting 50% of his balls on the ground. Believe it or not, this is a very slight improvement from years past. His K% is also down a few ticks.
It’s hard to trust my eye test as I have so many preconceived notions about this guy. He looks exactly the same as he always has. He’s definitely hitting the ball hard, but it does seem like a lot of balls are simply squibbling through the right spots of the infield.
Eye Test Advice: I would trust the numbers here. If there is an improvement, it’s only very incremental. Hopefully you picked him up and caught some of this hot start. Enjoy it while it lasts. I don’t think he’ll have any trade value, but deal him for anything of value. In very deep leagues, he may have some use as a 5th or even 6th outfielder. Other than that, enjoy the ride while it lasts.
Nick Castellanos: Detroit Tigers
I used to have an irrational dislike of this guy for fantasy purposes. I imagine it was some level of prospect fatigue and the fact that he seemed to strikeout too often. Or maybe it’s because I hate the correct pronunciation of his last name (Cast uh yan os). As someone who has eaten as much prosciutto as I have in my life – this just doesn’t seem right to me. He definitely doesn’t have the prospect sheen that he had a few years back, but some folks are starting to notice that Castellanos is percolating a bit early in 2017 and even going back to 2016.
Castellanos also gives me the chance to talk about some newer stats the Statcast has put forward in the last year or so. One such stat is called “barrels.” A simple definition for this is a baseball that is struck both hard and from an ideal launch angle. Castellanos is currently tied for the 4th most barrels so far in 2017 with 15.
Another Statcast introduction is a stat called xwOBA. This has to do with a player’s expected woBA. Castellanos is currently the 22nd hitter on that list. You can find all of these numbers at baseballsavant.com free of charge.
It’s early, but I am liking these stats so far. They seem to back up his batted ball profile, which looks pretty good. He is hitting the ball hard an absurd 58% of the time and pairing with an equally ridiculous 31% line drive percentage. The strikeout rate is a bit too high, but is acceptable if he continues to hit the ball this hard.
Eye test confirms everything the numbers say. He still gets beat late in counts a bit too much for my taste, but he is absolutely demolishing baseballs. Pitchers are clearly being very careful with him. They were treating him like the best hitter in the lineup while Miggy was out. And now Miggy is back, batting right behind him. Batting 2nd in this lineup should be a really good thing for the young third baseman.
Eye Test Advice: I would target Castellanos everywhere. He has the batted ball profile of an elite hitter. If he can cut the Ks down even a little bit we are looking at a third baseman with top-5 potential. He was a big prospect and seems to be on his way to making good on that promise. You should be able to get him somewhat cheaper in trades and he is even available on the wire in some shallower leagues.
Maikel Franco: Philadelphia Phillies
Franco was one of my bigger misses last year. I thought he was going to take the next step. I was really mad about his 2016 since I made the age old mistake of paying for the potential. The offseason afforded me the chance to add some perspective.
He was a 23-year-old that hit 25 bombs in his sophomore campaign. That’s really not that bad. In fact, as I’ve said before, that is a better age 23 season than Arenado and Beltre, and Josh Donaldson wasn’t even a major leaguer yet at that age. So what gains can we see for Franco here so far in 2017.
The results are mixed so far, but I like the way he’s hitting the ball. First of all, he has a .220 BABIP which is prime for positive regression. He is hitting the ball pretty hard at 34.4%. Would like to see a few more fly balls, but he is right around 30% and is also sporting a 25% line drive rate. That’s nothing to scoff at. He has also improved both his walk and strikeout percentage to career bests. They sit at 9.4% and 14.2% respectively.
Franco looks pretty good at the plate, confident and patient in his approach. Pitchers definitely treat him like the best hitter in this lineup, because… he is. He has also actually been benefiting from having runners on base, which was a huge problem last year. The 25 RBI so far has been a really nice surprise. I’m not sure that Altherr and Herrera can keep up what they’ve been doing, but it’s nice to see Franco batting with guys on base for a change.
Eye Test Advice: Same as Castellanos, I would add anywhere he’s been dropped and try to buy low from other owners that are disgusted by his .223 batting average. Franco is a little bit of luck away from being a points monster and should be solid in all formats in general. He is due for some positive regression, so try to get him on your team before his value jumps back up.
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