Third base was once again a deep position in 2018, boasting thirteen players with over twenty home runs and six with at least thirty bombs. Unsurprising stars like Jose Ramirez and Nolan Arenado paced the position, but a variety of surprising names ended up being productive for owners along the way.
This week’s stock watch highlights a few hot corner performances from 2018 that you need to keep on your radar as you make keeper decisions and fill out your infield for 2019.
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.
- Matt Chapman
Chapman was a man possessed over the second half of the season, swatting fourteen home runs and slashing .309/.371/.591 in his last 64 games. This was a huge improvement over his first half numbers (.250/.342/.434 with 10 home runs) so I wanted to dive a bit deeper to see which Chapman owners could expect going into next year.
In the second half, Chapman supported his torrid run with a .371 BABIP, a much higher figure than the .308 mark he posted earlier in the season. Here is his batted ball profile for both the first and second half:
As you can see, the biggest changes in his batted ball mix occurred in his LD% (-4.2%), FB% (+4.6) and IFFB% (-13%) as his GB% remained the same over the second half. He pulled the ball much less (-7.9%) sending more hits up the middle and to the opposite side of the field. In relation to quality of contact, Chapman dipped slightly in his Hard% over the second half (-1.9%) but saw a 7.8% increase in his Med% at the expense of his Soft%.
That 13% decrease in IFFB% is key in determining whether Chapman can be more of the player that we saw in the second half. IFFB’s are almost exclusively outs, and have been a particular issue for Chapman in his short MLB career. Eliminating such a large portion of these type of hits helped boost Chapman’s BABIP in the second half, even compensating for a lowered LD% in that period. If he can maintain this change moving forward, he could boost his BABIP and have more opportunities to let his above average speed (28.3 FT/SEC) come into play a bit more.
Improvements to his plate discipline (-4.5% K%, -2.7% SwStr%, -2.1% O-Swing%) will help his production moving forward, making Chapman an interesting keeper option to bet on in fantasy. He could revert to some of his previous struggles, but there is a lot to like in the performance he authored this season.
- Kris Bryant
Bryant struggled through an injury plagued 2018, first going on the DL in June with shoulder issues that never really cleared up. He played in only 102 contests for the season, appearing in only 32 games after the All Star Break and batting .272/.374/.460 with 13 bombs and a .188 ISO for 2018. As we look into 2019, the main question owners have for Bryant is whether the power he previously displayed will return.
His second half power metrics all took an expected dive as he worked to play through his injury (-6.9% FB%, -3.9% Pull%, -16.2% Hard%) contributing to only three slams in that period. While this dip is expected given his injury, Bryant was showing small signs of decreased power before this injury occurred, starting the second half of 2017. After the All Star Break in 2017, Bryant posted a 13.8% HR/FB% for the rest of the way, a 4% decrease from his first half production. In the first half of 2018 this dip continued, with Bryant’s HR/FB% dropping to 11.1% (11.5% overall in 2018).
Bryant’s ISO has followed this trajectory as well (2017 First Half: .259, 2017 Second Half: .222, 2018 First Half: .202, Second Half: .150) and his Average Exit Velocity has declined each of the past two years (89.3 MPH in 2016, 87.1 MPH in 2017, 85.8 MPH in 2018). I do not point this out in an effort to say that Bryant will not produce in 2019. This change in his power production could be nothing, and Bryant might return to the 35 plus home run range he displayed in 2016.
However, if he does see a continued depression in power, it would change his value a great deal in keeper leagues for the seasons to come. He would still be a solid bat either way, but Bryant needs to get his HR/FB%, ISO and quality of contact rates closer to at least his 2015 numbers if he is to remain a top option at the hot corner.
- Rafael Devers
Devers came back down to Earth a bit in 2018, struggling to a .240/.298/.433 slash line with 21 bombs in 121 games. His batted ball profile improved in a few areas (-2.9% GB%, +3% FB%) but he did not see any positive movement in his LD% (15.3% in 2017, 15.2% in 2018). His power was steady when compared to 2017, and he managed to keep an above average HR/FB% (16.5%) in addition to increases in Pull% (+2.7%) and Average Exit Velocity (+1.5 MPH).
A lower BABIP this season (.281 in 2018, .342 in 2017) tanked Dever’s batting average and unfortunately, that dip looks warranted, at least for now. As a player with limited speed, Devers is going to struggle to improve his BABIP (and by extension, his batting average unless he can start hitting more line drives and further cut his GB% (46.2% in 2018).
Plate discipline is another area Devers needs to improve after regressing a bit in 2018. While his overall K% rose only slightly compared to last season (+0.9%) he jumped in both SwStr% (+0.7%) and O-Swing% (+1.2%). His walk rate did not noticeably improve, and until he gets better at this aspect of the game, he may be somewhat of a liability for your team based on his BA and OBP production.
- Travis Shaw
Shaw generated a .242 BABIP in 2018, a mark well below both his 2017 number and career mark (.286). This contributed to a depressed slash-line for the slugger (.241/.345/.480) muting an otherwise solid performance. For the second year in a row Shaw slammed over thirty home runs, improving in most power metrics (+6.9% FB%, +5.5% Pull%, +2.8% Hard%) and letting everyone know that last year’s power jump was very real (2017 ISO: .240, 2018 ISO: .239).
He cut his strikeouts (-4.4% K%) walked more (+3.4%) and continued to cut away at his chase rates (-0.7% SwStr%, -0.5% O-Swing%) as well. For 2019, I expect Shaw to have a bit more luck go his way in regards to his BABIP. He may not fully return to his previous levels based on his power approach at the plate, but there is room for him to split the difference between his slash line in 2017 and 2018.
Despite slightly lowered production in 2018, Shaw remains a good source of infield power, and is a good investment given his multi-positional eligibility.