Ozzie, Won’t You Be My Gleyber?

Full disclosure: There are two things that you should know about me. I love puns and the Yankees. So, you’d think I’d be in love with Gleyber Torres for his potential in both categories. However, I am taking a skeptical look at two possible stars at the Second Base position; Albies and Torres, and where they should really be on your draft board?

Ozzie Albies: 2B, Atlanta Braves

There is certainly no consensus on where to rank Albies, much less draft him. I’ve seen rankings and early draft results with Albies squarely inside the top 60 and even top 50 in many cases. This dude does not abide! April 2018 wasn’t that long ago, but if you had Albies on your team in the other 5 months of the fantasy season, you’d think he was 14 since he last provided you with valuable fantasy production. Let’s dig deeper.

I get it, he’s 22 and has a skill set we search for in the middle infield: a new-found power stroke combined with speed. However, I’d argue we have no idea who Ozzie Albies is. As he progressed through the Braves system, Albies profiled as a better glove than bat with middling contact skills and a less than impressive command of the strike zone. He certainly will improve, but in what areas? In his first full season in 2018, Albies saw his walk rate plummet from 8.6 to 5.3% while his strikeout rate jumped from 14.8 to 17%. This change should be alarming, particularly in points and OBP formats. However, the potential reason for this change is just as alarming.

The numbers suggest there may have been an approach change that damaged Albies’ overall value 2018. After 9 HR in April and 5 more in May, Albies would only hit 10 in the final 4 months of the season. It seems as if this attempt to increase launch angle diminished the rest of his underlying batted ball profile. Albies finished 274th among qualified hitters in Hard Hit % (29.4%), which is the percentage of balls in play that have an Exit Velocity of 95% or better. He also had a Barrel % of just 3.7% which ranked 208th in MLB. Albies uses a particularly heavy bat, but it has not increased his ability to make hard contact. Complete conjecture, but maybe this heavier bat leads to fatigue as the season goes on and or increased strikeouts. The numbers could support this.

SunTrust Park is also regarded as very hitter friendly, but Park Factors from 2018 show that Atlanta’s friendly confines ranked 27th in Home Runs created. As a result, only 9 of Albies’ 24 HR came at home. Furthermore, Albies struggles against right-handed pitching. He is a far superior right-handed hitter, but obviously faces far more righties than lefties. Albies’ weighted runs created was exactly league average a year ago, he does not have good plate discipline, does not hit the ball particularly hard, and does not make consistent contact.

Albies has a lot of raw talent, but even with a slight improvement in walk rate and BABIP, I don’t predict Albies returning top 60 value. For someone who does, I would challenge them to explain with confidence what Albies as a top 60 player looks like. I just don’t think we know.

  • My Advice

Be the lowest in your draft room on Albies. If you’re sitting there at pick 90 and Gennett, Murphy, or maybe even Shaw are off your board, then pull the trigger. I highly doubt this scenario would come to fruition, however. I am fine with allowing someone else to use a top 5 round pick on Albies. There are plenty of other intriguing 2B options with the same or fewer question marks that I could find 100 picks later. Lastly, here’s some more bad news regarding Albies’ 2019 outlook

Gleyber Torres: 2B, SS New York Yankees

So, right off the bat, I am far less pessimistic about Gleyber Torres than I am Albies. A lot of those concerns are quelled by two things; positional flexibility and ADP. Torres should have shortstop eligibility in your league already and should get enough appearances there this year to maintain it in the absence of Didi Gregorius. This can be crucial, especially in daily leagues. With reference to ADP and rankings, I suspect Torres is at least a full round behind Albies in most situations. And hey, maybe the Albies and Torres guy are one and the same in your league and this will allow you to wait even longer to accurately value the young Yankee.

Gleyber’s power surge in his rookie campaign was something to behold. But, how long should we hold onto it? Is this the player we should expect moving forward? There are some serious question marks. The positive? This is a line drive hitter who has the ability and skill-set to maintain a high BABIP. But, what will the real Gleyber Torres ultimately look like?

Torres had a 36.4 % Hard Hit rate in 2018, ranking him 158th among qualifiers. This number is nothing of note in a vacuum, however Torres’ avg Exit Velocity was only 88.7 MPH, which reinforces that Torres does not have elite batted ball skills. I have no issues with those two figures, but there was a concerning development from a year ago. Torres saw a continuous uptick in strikeouts in the minors as he neared MLB competition and struck out in a quarter of his 2018 plate appearances. This is what will keep him from hitting .285 or better going forward, which he otherwise is capable of eclipsing. Torres finished with a .271 average last year, and that was with a .321 BABIP. If Torres is more of a .300 BABIP guy, he’s a .260 hitter. His 8.7 BB rate is not enough to make up for this. I also question the staying power of his 17.9 % HR/FB rate.

Torres did increase his FB%, which is positive when associated with a fortunate HR/FB ratio, however he also increased his Pull% to 42%. His hitting profile does not necessarily fit with 2018 trends. His BABIP was high despite not making elite contact and hitting the ball in the air. In part, this is because the ball left the park when it was hit in the air. If this stops, we could see a power drought similar to the one Albies suffered in the final 4 months of 2018. I think Torres’ skills could create a very solid floor of .280/.350/.450 some day in the future with a 20 HR output. But, this is, to some extent, post peak Andrew McCutchen. You would take this as one of your middle infielders, however this is a fringe top 100 player profile for 2019.

Finally, there is very little speed potential as compared to the average for the position. Torres only attempted 8 steals in over 2/3 of a full season in 2018 and is far from prolific on the base paths as he possesses above average speed only. If your second basemen or shortstop is going to justify a top 75 pick, you have to know what you’re counting on from that selection. 25 HR? I doubt it. .280 BA? Not yet. 20 steals? Not a chance. So, as a Yankees fan, I’m a big supporter of Torres. His prospects as a fantasy stud though, are a little less intriguing.

  • My advice:

Just as the issue with Albies will have fluid impacts on the second baseman’s value, lineup placement is critical to Torres’ success. The Yankees have a stacked lineup, and Torres will struggle to crack the top 5. I like Torres right around pick 100, if not a bit earlier depending on your draft room trends, but if someone reaches for Albies early, you may want to let Torres go as well, as he will not be far behind. Cano, Murphy, Gennett, Shaw, Cesar Hernandez (in points leagues), and Brian Dozier are all interesting fallback options at varying cost.

For what it’s worth, I like Torres more than Albies in Dynasty and Keeper formats. The steals advantage that Albies has over Torres does not make up for the hit tool flaws that are evident in this current version of Albies.

 

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Colin Dinsmore

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Avid Fantasy Baseball player, Yankees fan, amateur gambler, dog-lover. @AssemblyColin