Outfield and SP are the most fun positions in draft prep season. You need multiple, they have different specialties, and rankings take a back seat to draft trends. Some people have hard and fast rules about how many of their first 3-5 round picks will or won’t be OF, and same thing applies to auction budget allotments.
This week and next week I’m going to give you a few guys to think about from 2 different tiers. This week, I’m lumping two “amazin” options from different parts of the draft that will exceed your expectations… even when the Mets win total most certainly does not.
Note: Context matters with these outfielders. They are significantly more valuable in points leagues or OBP formats. Also, note that their ADP is very league dependent. Head to head categories leagues tend to draft far fewer outfielders than traditional 5 OF Roto formats. To me, this is even more reason to be the high guy on these two if others feel as if they can wait until closer to the ADPs (listed below).
Michael Conforto OF New York Mets
Fantrax ADP: Number 28 OF and 105th overall.
This kid can hit, and his plate skills and power potential make him one of the more underrated second outfielders this season. He reportedly said that he rushed his rehab last season, returning from a shoulder injury much earlier than expected, and this is supported by his numbers. I think with health and a better Mets lineup, Conforto is poised for a re-breakout. Is that a thing?
I love plate discipline guys. No matter the format, their contributions show up in a variety of ways. Conforto had a 13% walk rate in 2018 and struck out about 24% of the time. This is who he is. He hits the ball hard, lifts the ball adequately, and hits near the top of the order. But, I want to focus on some things in his profile that I expect to improve in 2019. Hard Contact% dropped in 2018 by 6 points, however his Soft Contact% dropped by 3 points. For a player coming off of a shoulder injury/surgery, there is some compensation going on here. This is further evidenced by a 6 point spike in his ground ball rate. This is very typical of players who are playing at less than 100%. (I see you Gregory Polanco!)
Conforto will hit the ball harder in 2019, in keeping with his pre-injury numbers. He will also lift the ball more. Don’t believe me? Conforto had a Hard Contact% below 30% in both April and May. Three of the final four months of the season, Conforto had a Hard Contact% above 40% – which is great. He had a blazing hot August at 46%.
- My Advice
Take that second half to the bank! Even with a .289 BABIP and a bum shoulder to start the season, Michael Conforto nearly made it back to the numbers we expected in 2018, finishing with a 120 wRC+. Of the Outfielders in this range of the draft, I think Conforto has maybe the second most upside behind Puig. However, I think he has far less risk than many of the players that are being drafted between 80-110.
For me, I have him squarely in my top 24 and am comfortable taking him in Round 7 of a 12 team draft. If you can wait even longer, you’ll be getting an absolute steal. One final note: I like Conforto that much more if you have a strong batting average and or steals foundation from early picks like Altuve, Merrifield, Blackmon or even Marte. Conforto will be a very solid 3 if not 4 category contributor in 2019.
Brandon Nimmo OF New York Mets
Fantrax ADP: Number 41 OF and 169th overall
Nimmo isn’t quite Conforto or the beloved Matt Chapman. But, this is another player I’m intrigued by for 2019. His price puts him as a 4th OF in 5 outfield leagues, and I think that allows for some significant upside.
Like Conforto, the Mets have been extremely hesitant to include Nimmo in trade talks. Normally I want to do the opposite of the Mets, but I think they have been right thus far to hold onto this fast, versatile outfielder. I think the first thing to mention is the perception of the Mets crowded roster, which clouds projections of guys like Alonso and Lowrie, shouldn’t apply in the same way to Nimmo. He’s a great defender and the most capable center field option for the Mets so I think his playing time will be based on his performance only as opposed to being beaten out by a peer.
The simplistic approach is take Conforto’s profile, subtract a little power, add more speed and you have Nimmo. Just like Conforto, Nimmo walks and strikes out fairly consistently. Nimmo walked at a whopping 15% clip last year while striking out 26% of the time. This is very much in line with his minor league numbers so this on base skill will certainly carry over to 2019. I don’t want to alarm you, but this player had a .404 OBP in 2018. Points and OBP league players, this is top 100 value sitting outside the top 150. Now, there will be some regression, but there’s a lot to like.
The BABIP will come down a bit – he had a .351 BABIP last year, but he has the speed to easily maintain a .320 BABIP. There is a bit of a batting average cap on Nimmo, partly because of so many walks and strikeouts, but Nimmo parlayed many of those walks into 77 runs in 433 at bats on a bad offensive team in 2018. Nimmo had a wRC+ of 149 last year!
The plate skills and BABIP profile hold up when you examine the Batted Ball data. He hits line drives, probably too many ground balls, but does not make soft contact. This is not a power profile, but he is certainly capable of 20 HR. With his speed, Hard Contact% should not be your only indicator. With medium contact on ground balls, this will actually translate into a lot of base hits.
Nimmo did get hit in the hand in late June, and it had some lingering effects on his power in the second half. But, this is the spin to the positive. Despite only 4 home runs after the break from Nimmo, he compensated with a ridiculous 19.2% BB rate in the second half and cut his K% to 22.3%. Nimmo’s second half OBP was .446!
When we project players in this range of the draft, we tend to focus only on upside and I understand that temptation. Nimmo has that. However, when mitigating risk, we want players who have “fallback skills”. Possibly only topped by Jesse Winker, who I will profile next week, Brandon Nimmo has a bounty of fallback skills.
- Bad batted ball luck? He walks.
- Bad HR/FB rate? He hits line drives and ground balls to accumulate base hits.
- Worry about splits? He had a .351 OBP against lefties and a .424 OBP against righties in 2018.
The bottom just cannot fall out with Nimmo as long as he’s healthy. And, you’re not really paying for any injury risk by drafting him outside of the top 150. At this stage of the draft the risk is minimal.
- My Advice
Looking at the players around Nimmo among outfielders, I’m taking him over Peralta, Desmond, Mazara, Piscotty, Bader, and I think he has more upside than McCutchen. Many of these guys are valuable here, but take Nimmo as your utility if you have to. If you’re in a daily league, play him against righties only if you want to. He is such a force with his ability to get on base, he makes good things happen.
Nimmo is a legitimate 20/15 candidate who has sneaky value depending on your format. Any time after pick 140, I’m going to be finding Nimmo. I’m sorry, how could I not?