I am a little pressed for time this week so we’re just gonna jump right into things. As always, if you have a player you would like profiled or have a question about, feel free to post in the comment section or reach out to me on Twitter @hedenson18 with that or any other questions. We will be working our way around the diamond so you can submit your player requests in advance.
- Jonathan Villar
After setting the world on fire in 2016 with 19 home runs and 62 steals, Villar cratered in 2017 (11 HR and 23 SB), creating a great deal of uncertainty for who he was as a hitter coming into this season. The 2018 version of Villar continued to provide solid power and speed at the position, coming in second among second basemen for stolen bases (35) and notching 14 home runs as well. Other than Javier Baez and Whit Merrifield, he was the best source at the keystone for these two categories, though his struggles in other areas overshadowed that production a bit.
Villar slashed .260/.325/.384 for the season with a .124 ISO, scoring 54 runs and driving in 46. Strikeouts continued to be an issue for him, though he did improve his K% (26.8% in 2018, 30.3% in 2017) for the season, especially during the second half (24.6%). His walks jumped as well (+1.1%) though he continued to exhibit strong swing and miss tendencies despite this improvement in discipline (13.4% SwStr%, 30.8% O-Swing%). His batted ball profile remained similar to past seasons, though he did post slight improvements in a couple of categories compared to last season (-1.5% GB%, +2.5% FB%).
The main thing that Villar has going for him heading into 2019 is his team, the 115 loss Baltimore Orioles. Their ineptitude on the field means that Villar will play consistently in an environment without much to lose, allowing him to get the reps he needs to have an impact in fantasy on a volume basis. In 54 games with the O’s over the second half, Villar attempted more steals (24) than he had in 87 games in Milwaukie (16), and succeeded in 21 of those attempts.
This aggressive base-running approach should continue into next season, making Villar a likely contender for the stolen base crown next season (4th in MLB in 2018) barring injury. His power is a question mark, especially considering his 2.7% Launch Angle, though he did start putting the ball in the air more over the second half (+9.6% FB%). Despite the obvious warts, (low batting average, strikeout issues, etc.) Villar offers a rare mix of power and speed at second base, and is an interesting option to consider for 2019.
- Gleyber Torres
Torres acquitted himself well in his first taste of the big leagues, slashing .271/.340/.480 with 24 home runs and 77 RBI and a healthy ISO (.209) in 123 games for the Yankees. His batted ball profile was strong (24.5% LD%, 32.8% GB%, 42.7% FB%) and he hit the ball with authority, generating hard contact 38.4% of the time. Torres also posted a strong Pull% (42.2%) for the season, another element supporting the power stroke he showed this season.
Despite exceeding expectations in many areas on the season, there are still areas Torres needs to improve upon going into 2019. His overall K% (25.2%) is not too worrisome (though he could definitely improve it), but his 14.1% SwStr% and 34.4% O-Swing% are something he needs to deal with. That SwStr% was the 15th highest in the majors, and while there are some hitters who can produce despite similar levels (Javier Baez, Giancarlo Stanton, etc.), others in that top 15 struggle to do so consistently (Schoop, Grichuk, etc.).
While Torres has boosted his stock a good bit heading into 2019 and beyond, it is important to remember that he may struggle next season due to his age (21). The league will offer new challenges to him in his second year, and there will be some growing pains as he adjusts to those offerings. Despite that, Torres looks like a strong investment moving forward, and could be a top source of power at the position for years to come.
- Yoan Moncada
Over 54 games in 2017, Yoan Moncada slashed .231/.338/.412 with 8 home runs, 3 stolen bases and a .181 ISO. His 2018 numbers? .235/.315/.400 with 17 slams, 12 steals and a .164 ISO over 149 games. At first glance you may think that any jumps in his production were merely the result of playing in more games, but despite the lack of differentiation between his slash lines, Moncada did take some steps forward this past season.
His batted ball profile improved across the board (+3.5% LD%, -8.3% GB%, +4.9% FB%), he saw gains in his Hard% (+0.7%), Average Exit Velocity (+2.1%) and Launch Angle (+2.7%) and saw only a small dip in his Pull% (-0.2%). All of these changes bode well for his future power potential, giving him the potential to build on the 17 home runs he produced this past season.
Despite growing in several areas, Moncada regressed further in the main area that plagues his production potential moving forward: Strikeouts. Moncada led the majors in strikeouts with 217 whiffs in 2018. He posted the 5th highest K% in MLB (33.4%), though he did manage to slightly cut both his SwStr% (-0.4%) and O-Swing% (-3.5%). That strikeout rate has to improve, and until it does, Moncada remains a risky, though talented bat.
- Jose Altuve
Altuve batted .315/.384/.449 with 13 home runs and 17 steals in 2018, solid production for most players, though a bit disappointing for the former MVP. Knee injuries shelved him for the first time in his career, limiting his overall production and causing most of his struggles over the second half of the season (.276/.364/.400 with 4 home runs and 3 steals).
Even before the injury sent him to the DL, Altuve was generating lower power production overall. His first half ISO was .139, a number that would have represented his lowest total since 2014 even without his second half collapse in that area (.124 second-half ISO). While that dip is slightly concerning, his other stats during the first half were right in line with his previous performances (.332/.394/.470 with 9 home runs and 14 steals).
Even with the injury, Altuve posted some improvements in his batted ball profile (+3.7% LD%, -1% GB%) though he did dip 2.7% in fly balls. His Hard% jumped 5.1% for the year and he continued a three-year trend of raising his BB% (8.4% in 2016, 8.8% in 2017, 9.2% in 2018). The one concern with Altuve is how that knee injury will affect him in 2019, especially since a good deal of his value relies on speed. Keep an eye on that, but if you can get him on a discount, he is worth the investment, even if his power dip from the first half holds.