Buy or Sell These Players Getting Early Buzz
For the most part, the algorithms on social media sites annoy me. Why can’t we just get our feed in chronological order! Even Twitter messes with it if you use their phone app. But one thing I like about Twitter is that you can stumble upon a conversation that someone you follow is in.
That’s how I came across this Saturday:
2018 All-Helium Team (January version):
C Austin Barnes
1B Greg Bird
2B Ozzie Albies
SS Alex Bregman
3B Nick Castellanos
OF Manny Margot
SP Luis Severino
RP Blake Treinen (Hat tip to @enosarris & @sporer)
— echoingreen (@echoingreen) January 21, 2018
Ooh, I love it. I love looking at players getting early buzz heading into draft season. It’s a pretty solid list, Mr./Mrs. @echoingreen, but I have to agree with Paul Sporer that while Luis Severino doesn’t belong on the list, another Luis does.
Ya, probably need Castillo over Sevvy bc Sevvy started very high and likely won’t drop at all
— Paul Sporer (@sporer) January 21, 2018
So, let’s have some fun and look at the names on the list. Do they deserve the buzz? Can they live up to it in the season, or will their ADP get so high that they can’t possibly return value? Let’s make a case in both directions for each person listed.
C – Austin Barnes
The case for Barnes: He isn’t your normal catcher, as he enters the season with catcher and second base eligibility. I see you, Craig Biggio Jr. Among catchers with at least 250 plate appearances last year, not one catcher – not Gary Sanchez, Buster Posey, J.T. Realmuto – had a higher wRC+ than Barnes, and only Alex Avila had a higher walk rate. He hits for average with some power and will even steal a handful of bases for you.
The case against Barnes: He’s already 28 years old and only has 336 career plate appearances. There’s no denying that the talent is there, but as of now, he’s slated to split time evenly with Yasmani Grandal.
Verdict: Catcher is set up to be dreadful again, so he could find his way to being a Top 10 option at the position. If Grandal were to get moved or hurt, you’re looking at Top 5 potential.
Honorable mention: Robinson Chirinos
1B – Greg Bird
The case for Bird: Yankees’ General Manager Brian Cashman has said on many occasions that Bird was the best hitting prospect that the team had. Yes, better than Sanchez and Aaron Judge. Bird put on a show, improving his stock in Spring Training last year, as he hit home run after home run. There’s no competition at first base, and hitting in that lineup will add to Bird’s counting stats.
The case against Bird: He just can’t stay healthy. After missing 2016 with shoulder surgery, Bird played in just 48 games in 2017, where he hit .190 while dealing with an ankle injury.
Verdict: I’m buying Bird … again. But if he can’t stay healthy this year, I’m done.
Honorable mention: Matt Olson
2B – Ozzie Albies
The case for Albies: Have you watched him play? Not just look at the numbers, but actually watched him? He looks like a star in the making. Are the Jose Altuve comparisons taking it too far? Yeah, but he’s a second baseman that has tremendous contact skills, can grow into his power, and offers dependable speed, which is getting harder and harder to find.
The case against Albies: He’d be a lot more valuable if he were a shortstop. It’s been a small sample size so far, and Steamer is expecting regression across the board.
Verdict: There’s one player I want on every team, and his name is Ozzie Albies.
Honorable mention: Willie Calhoun
SS – Alex Bregman
The case for Bregman: Oh, hello, 2017. We went through the same song and dance with Bregman last year, as he was routinely being drafted in the fifth and sixth round in drafts. Bregman had one of the best bats in recent memory in the minors, and it’s translated overall to the big leagues.
The case against Bregman: He’s gotten off to slow starts the past two years. He stole 17 bases last year, but that’s his ceiling. He isn’t a 25-steal guy. He’ll have the position eligibility this year, which is all that matters, but can he regain it for 2019?
Verdict: Bregman is a Top 5 shortstop for me, but I prefer to get him in the fifth or sixth round. If not, I’ll fade him.
Honorable mention: Ketel Marte
3B – Nick Castellanos
The case for Castellanos: There were only a few players that had a wider margin between their xwOBA and wOBA than Castellanos. He had a low BABIP but near-elite Barrel numbers.
The case against Castellanos: It feels like it’s the fourth year in a row where Castellanos is a post-hype breakout candidate. Is this his final chance to prove it? Mind you, he’s playing a new position, which isn’t the worst thing for him as his -12.9 defensive WAR was the 16th worst in all of baseball last year.
Verdict. I enjoy being disappointed, I suppose, as I’m in on Castellanos again.
Honorable mention: Joey Gallo
OF – Manuel Margot
The case for Margot: He had a really, really good rookie year last year and, as Eno Sarris wrote, no player upped his launch angle in the second half more than Margot. If Margot carries the angle over to this year, you’re looking at a guy that can go 20-25 at minimum and 30-30 at his ceiling.
The case against Margot: He still plays in San Diego, and he could stand to lower his strikeout rate.
Verdict: Maybe I’m part of the problem for this list, because I, once again, buy into Margot. His first- and second-half splits were nearly identical, and there’s only room to grow.
Honorable mention: Austin Hays
SP – Luis Castillo
The case for Castillo: I wrote about Castillo last year when he made his way through a tough stretch including Arizona, Washington, at Arizona, at Colorado, Milwaukee and at Washington last year after he was called up. I compared him to Severino then, as he displayed pure dominance on the mound. Next to Severino, Castillo had the most valuable fastball in all of baseball last year.
The case against Castillo: I worry about Castillo eclipsing 150 innings this year. Long term, he has the makings of a dominant closer, but should still start for the next few years. What’s more, Castillo lacks movement on his key pitch. His fastball ranked 124th in vertical movement last year among pitchers with at least 80 innings pitched, and he was 139th in horizontal movement with the pitch.
The verdict: Finally, I’m out on a guy – at least at his current price. Castillo is being viewed as a Top 25ish option at starting pitcher. I prefer him between the 35th and 40th pitcher off the board.
Honorable mention: Dinelson Lamet
RP – Blake Treinen
The case for Treinen: The closer job is open in Oakland, and Treinen has a nice combination of pitches with a high-90s fastball, a slider with nice late movement and a sinker that has the potential to be a plus-pitch. He turned it around once he got to Oakland last year.
The case against Treinen: He’s a closer, and he’s not an elite option. Outside of an elite few, closer jobs aren’t safe. He still needs to harness his stuff, as he a .271 average against last year, which was the 19th worst in baseball.
The verdict: I’ll buy him as a second closer, but on the low end
Honorable mention: Brandon Morrow