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Selling High on Avisail Garcia and Tommy Pham

Fantasy leagues are won and lost on making the right decisions while maximizing margins. It’s not like you’re just going to pick up Bryce Harper in the 7th round; you have to be precise with your timing as well as resources. With that in mind; here we look at a couple of outfielders who had pretty big years and drew some serious hype. However, as we look into their numbers it becomes apparent that it is unlikely for them to continue to perform at their 2017 level.

For keeper leagues, selling high in the offseason can give you a huge boost out of the gate heading into the new year, not to mention perhaps opening up draft slots and or giving salary cap relief. For re-draft it’s similar, although less involved, to know which sleepers and busts to target and avoid.

Avisail Garcia and Tommy Pham are a couple of physically imposing outfielders (both over six-foot and 200 pounds), and we are starting to see what prospect hype and fan hopes come to fruition, or so it seems.

Garcia was acquired during a three team trade that sent Jake Peavy from the White Sox to the Red Sox, and was considered a big hit tool hitter with average power – if everything works out. Pham appeared to be cut from the same cloth, eclipsing a .300 batting averages in about every step of the minors, which unfortunately for him, he was still getting extended looks down on the farm (25 games in Triple A) despite being 29 years old already.

Enter 2017, and both have provided fantasy owners and fans alike with great results. Garcia and Pham raked to wRC+’s of 137 and 148 respectively, both hitting over .300 (Garcia with .330 and Pham with .306). Both kept strikeout rates around league average or lower, and Pham showed off excellent discipline with a 13.4% walk rate. Pham was worth 5.9 fWAR while Garcia was 4.2 fWAR – both All-Star levels. The reason for Pham being so much higher is his power rates, hitting 23 bombs in just 128 games, helping him get a .214 Isolated Slugging.

And while last year both were key cogs on their teams (although the team results surely left something to be desired), the future looks a little bleaker. Garcia, while showing off the plus contact tool scouts boasted about, was certainly buoyed by a heap of luck. He led the majors in BABIP at .392, and while some batted ball profiles can escape the attractive forces of regression, Garcia neither fits or is close enough to live with that rate. His 20.3% line drive rate shows he wasn’t necessarily hitting the ball better, and his 52.3% ground ball rate shows that he’s simply benefited from a bunch of seeing eye singles. And while Garcia only struck out 19.8% of the time, his insane 16.2% swinging strike rate shows that there is even more luck helping his strikeouts that we can’t expect to continue into next year. Simply, by whiffing on that many pitches he’s going to be striking out much more than we saw last year.

Pham dazzled with his power performance in his small sample, but the homers are looking a little hollow. He hit 23 while having a 51.7% ground ball rate, meaning he had to hit a huge portion of his fly balls for homers to reach that mark – 26.7% to be exact. It was the sixth highest mark in the league, and only one other person in the top 25 HR/FB hit 50% grounders as well (and it’s Eric Hosmer, a guy who has proven himself for years). And like Garcia, Pham benefited from a ridiculous .368 BABIP, just too high to be consistent, and hence is going to hurt his contact numbers. Adding that to some expected deflation in his power when his HR/FB rate stabilizes; Pham does not look like the hot buy he may appear to be positioned as.

Just because players break out with hype from prospect evaluators and armchair analysts doesn’t necessarily mean that they have truly made it. Many players have fluke years, both up and down, but we always seem to try to have a narrative fit whether a guy can continue.

Pham and Garcia both have had people excited for a couple of years, and for many this past season is justification to continue to buy shares in both. But the peripheral and projection numbers just aren’t there to expect them to continue their paces, much less improve, so don’t be afraid to shy away from both.

 

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James Krueger
James lives in Tampa, Florida and is often one of the 10,000 people you can see at Rays' home games. He's a huge fan of prospects, loves analyzing swing mechanics, and will eat a "Top 100" list for breakfast. Dynasty leagues are his forte, especially rebuilding teams; building a farm system is the best part.
James Krueger

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