Rookie Report: How Are They Doing and Who is Worth Rostering in the Playoffs

So you know that football starts in, like, two weeks, right? Yeah, I forgot too. As much as I love me some New York Football Giants, I can happily say that I don’t care what shade of creamed coffee Odell Beckham Jr.’s hair is (mocha frappachino, IMO) or what goofy expression currently hangs on Eli Manning’s face: it’s baseball season until the Fall Classic is played and the last tarp goes over the last grassy field.

But before we can enjoy the MLB playoffs, the fantasy baseball playoffs must be played. Some of you have no doubt already finished your regular seasons while others are clawing to make that last spot. Hopefully your rosters are solid, but no one is (or should be) 100% content with their lineup. There is always room for improvement. And today I’m going to look at five of the most heralded rookies who were called up after the All-Star Break by examining their peripheral stats and helping you make a determination on whether to keep your kids or put them back out on the wire where they belong. I’ll be ranking Amed Rosario, Yoan Moncada, Rhys Hoskins, Rafael Devers, and Ozzie Albies before reviewing a craft beer from my very own backyard in celebration of DC Beer Week.

As a note, I will be ranking these players in order of their value ROS (Rest of Season), NOT dynasty value.

Without further ado….

#1. Rhys Hoskins (PHI) 1B/OF, owned in 26% of leagues

rhys hoskins.jpg

Rhys pictured above doing that new forearm bump thing (Photo Credit: AP)

Season Stats: 47 Plate Appearances, .237/.383/.632, 5 HR, 9 R, 9 RBI, 0 SB

It might seem presumptuous to rank Rhys as numero uno when he has the fewest PA of all the rookies mentioned in this article, but he’s earned his ranking and I’ll tell you exactly how.

Hoskins is the kind of power hitter you drool over: standing at 6’4″ and 225 lbs, he has a big, sweet, simple swing that helped him smash 38 HR in AA-ball last season. He was well on his way to repeat performance in AAA this year with 29 HR and nearly 100 RBI in just over 100 games before being promoted to the show this month on August 10th. As many rookies do, Rhys struggled after being called up: he went 1-13 in his first four professional games, with just one R and one RBI. Since then, he’s displayed his power in a big way, going deep 5 times in his last 7 games.

What really impresses the most about Rhys is his plate discipline. Hoskins has seen his Walk-Rate improve every single season of his career in the minors, despite advancing to more difficult pitching at each level. In the bigs, he has posted a career-best 17% BB-rate, good for a .383 OBP through his first 11 big league games. He’s also showing his ability to hit off-speed pitches, something rookies are notorious for struggling mightily with as they adjust to nasty MLB-level breaking balls. Rhys is actually hitting for better average against Sliders and Sinkers than he is for Fastballs. This is no case of one or two hits in a small sample size skewing the data, either: per Fangraphs’ data, Rhys has seen 43 Fastballs, 41 Sinkers, and 30 Sliders. The short version? Hoskins is seeing plenty of breaking stuff and hitting it just as well as the Fastball. The one note to add here is that he has yet to hit one of the 26 Curveballs that he’s seen in the MLB, but he’s still managed to work 2 walks and lay off the Curve all the same, only falling victim to the strikeout Curve twice.

He’s hitting the ball hard and taking an impressive amount of walks, but he’s also not striking out. Hoskins has avoided the strikeout-prone-rookie stereotype to the tune of an impressive 14.9% K-rate, which is a full 3 percentage points better than Joey Votto’s career-average K-rate. Wow. Again, this is a small sample size, but Rhys and his numbers are all backing it up. What’s scarier still is that Rhys is going to get even better, and yes, I do mean this season: Hoskins is currently rocking a paltry .154 BABIP despite an elite 48.4% Hard Hit Percentage. During Hoskins’s minor league career he never recorded a BABIP below .268, and he posted BABIPs of .297 and .281 while in AA (2016) and AAA (2017), respectively. Even taking into account a bit of BABIP regression from his minor league stats, Hoskins is still greatly underperforming and should see his BABIP, and thus his AVG and OBP, rise around 100 points over the rest of the season, making him even more valuable.

The Verdict: Hoskins is a prototypical disciplined power hitter. He’s improved his BB-rate at every level of the game while also improving his K-rate. With the exception of his 38 HR year in AA (2016), Rhys has watched his K-rate fall every year since 2014, including his current career-low K-rate of 14.9%. His excellent ability to make contact, especially with off-speed pitches, sets him apart from other rookies, and his quality of contact and minor league history suggests that his .154 BABIP is due for a major regression towards the mean, and his ugly .237 batting average should rise much sooner rather than later. While you wait for that AVG to go up though, be comforted by his outstanding .383 OBP and the raw power that he displays each time he goes deep.

He had better not be on your waiver wire.

#2. Rafael Devers (BOS) 3B, owned in 69.3% of leagues

devers spring training.jpg

I respect his game, but I hate the team he plays for, so my compromise is an extremely unflattering, goofy picture (Photo Credit: Boston Globe)

Season Stats: 93 PA, .333/.398/.667, 8 HR, 17 R, 16 RBI, 2 SB

Despite my photo caption, I promise that my Boston-bias has nothing to do with Devers being ranked 2nd on this list. He’s had a great start to his career, and I think he’ll be making me swear at the TV for years to come when I watch Yanks-Sox games.

And what’s not to love from a fantasy perspective? Devers has displayed impressive power during his stint in the MLB this year, posting a .667 SLG to go with 8 homers, including (a very annoying) one off of the Cuban Missile, Aroldis Chapman, on his way to a delectable .353 ISO. He’s hitting for power and doing it in big spots, against big-time pitchers, while doing something that no one else on this list has managed yet: hitting for Average.

Devers has the second biggest sample size of data and the second most PA of all the rookies covered here today, yet he still holds the best BA (.333) by nearly 100 points. He’s displayed clutch hitting as well as the ability to hit for power and average, and despite their recent struggles he still hits on a strong offense who will give him RBI opportunities and help him score Runs. Devers is doing all this with a .377 BABIP, which is somewhat higher than his minor league average. Devers has only three seasons of minor league ball in which he played more than 45 games, and in those years Devers recorded BABIPs of .326 (2015, 115 games at A level), .328 (2016, 128 gms at A+ level), and .316 (2017, 77gms at AA), indicating that some regression to his BA is coming, though not an alarming amount. His rock-solid 39.3% Hard Hit Percentage also supports that his numbers are well-deserved.

What makes Devers harder to swallow than Hoskins, however, is found in his plate discipline and his spray chart.

Devers is currently sporting a 9.7% BB-rate, which is right around his minor league career-average, if not slightly better. His K-rate, however, is sitting at a career-worst 24.7%. Devers had never struck out more than 17% of the time before moving to a brief stint in AAA this season, where he K’d at a 21% clip. That being said, the jump in K-rate is not horrific, and as I mentioned it’s something we should expect to see from rookies making their first foray into the show.

Devers’s spray chart is where is gets rough. Let’s take a look at his career percentages for Pulling the ball, going Center, and going Opposite field for hits (per Fangraphs):

Pull Center Opposite
2014 (R1) 50.0% 16.4% 33.6%
2014 (R2) 43.0% 20.9% 36.1%
2015 40.5% 24.4% 35.1%
2016 39.7% 25.6% 34.8%
2017 (AA) 41.6% 25.3% 33.1%
2017 (AAA) 40.7% 29.6% 29.6%
2017 (MLB) 18.0% 39.3% 42.4%

Those MLB numbers are looking different from his previous career averages, and while he’s found success at the MLB level, it makes you wonder what will happen when he regresses closer to career norms. His Pull Percentage is more than 22 points lower than at AAA, and still 20+ points below his previous career-low. His Center Percentage is 10 points higher than at AAA, and that represented his previous career-high. Finally, his Opposite field Percentage has also gone way up after Devers decreased his Oppo percent in every subsequent season and level since 2014: a 13 point jump from AAA.

Whew. So what does all that mean? Who cares where he’s hitting the ball as long as he has that juicy slashline, right? Well, it’s not necessarily that simple.

Rafael Devers has been a solid power-hitter in his minor league career, but no one expected him to hit 42+ bombs in a year, which is what he’s currently on pace for over 500 PA. What the above graph shows us is that Devers is first and foremost a Pull hitter, and he always has been. Because his Pull Percentage has plummeted well below career norms, he is not hitting the ball where he typically hits it. Since Pull hitting requires getting the bat out in front of the ball and rookies can struggle to catch up to MLB pitching, it’s not surprising to see his Pull Percentage take a dip. It is surprising to see how much, and how it’s affected his stats: as of today, Devers has hit 8 HR in the MLB. Of those 8, 4 HR were hit to the Opposite field, 3 HR to Center, and 1 HR on the Pull side. See where this is going?

Devers is generating more power when he goes Oppo or Center, but that is not his hitting style, and as he regresses to career norms in where he hits the ball, we will very likely see a decrease in power. This is further supported by his insanely high .333 ISO, which eclipses all of his minor league ISO marks by a fairly wide margin: prior to his callup, Devers’s highest ISO was posted in 77 games at AA at a mark of .275, and his highest in a full season of 100 or more games was .161 set in 2016.

The Verdict: Devers is shaping up to be a great player and a future All-Star. He has consistently hit at a high level for Average and decent power. However, his current power surge should be taken with a grain of salt, as most of his HR have come at the expense of Pulling the ball significantly less and going Center and Oppo significantly more. This trend will change, and he will begin to Pull the ball more and more as he catches up to MLB pitching. That’s a scary prospect for a guy who’s already mashing with a .333 BA, and his hitting tool appears to be the real deal. Just don’t bank on that power staying where it is. Furthermore, we should temper our expectations in OBP leagues (where again Hoskins gets the nod over Devers) because he has never posted a BB-rate in the double digits, and his 9.7% BB-rate this year in the bigs represents his highest ever.

Again, this guy should be on no one’s waiver wire. Ride out his power surge and enjoy the Average.

#3. Yoan Moncada (CWS) 2B/3B, owned in 26% of leagues

moncada.jpg

No ladies, that’s not a male model, that’s actually him (Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune)

Season Stats: 111 PA, .176/.324/.330, 3 HR, 11 R, 10 RBI, 0 SB

Everyone and their mother has heard of Baseball’s #1 prospect and his enviable skillset, so I won’t spend any more time introducing him. What I want to focus on is Moncada’s MLB debut and his value ROS, and with 111 Plate Appearances, he’s given us the most data to work with of all the rookies on this list.

Yoan Moncada has been, in a word, maddening. Touted as a 5-tool player, he has yet to steal a base and has the lowest SLG (by far) of anybody on this list. He’s also had the most time in the bigs of all of his peers, yet he has the second fewest HR (Albies and Rosario each have a pair), and that’s only by 1. His Batting Average is also far and away the worst of the 5 rookies, sitting at well below the Mendoza line at a paltry .176. Moncada is striking out at a career-high (and atrocious) rate of 36.9%. So what the hell is he doing at #3?

For starters, his OBP provides immediate impact and value. Moncada is walking at a 16.2% clip, just a hair below the aforementioned Rhys Hoskins and his Votto-like BB-rate. Whatever else Moncada is doing, he’s getting on base. He’s also suffering from being on one of the worst scoring offenses in all of baseball: the ChiSox have the AL’s 2nd fewest Runs Scored this year, beating out the Blue Jays by just 6 Runs, so Moncada’s RBI opportunities and ability to score Runs are both severely hampered.

What is encouraging outside of his OBP is his low BABIP, which currently sits at a career-low of .277, despite his worst season in the minors being a .353 BABIP, and his minor league average BABIP hovering around .380. Clearly he is due for some positive regression towards the mean, and we should see his awful BA rise in the coming weeks. This is supported by his .154 ISO (right in line with career averages) and his excellent 42% Hard Hit Percentage.

Like Rafael Devers, Moncada is also spraying the ball to very different parts of the field than he usually does. Let’s take a look at where Moncada has been hitting the ball in the MLB this season compared to his two best minor league years (2016 A+ level and 2017 AAA level):

Pull Center Opposite
2016 A+ (best year) 41.9% 29.7% 28.5%
2017 AAA (best year) 42.7% 30.4% 27.0%
2017 MLB (current) 46.0% 38.0% 16.0%

So just looking at the raw data we see this: Moncada is Pulling the ball a decent bit more(~4%), going Center a good bit more (~7%), and going Oppo significantly less (~12%). This tells us that Moncada is trigger-happy: he’s getting out in front of the ball more than ever, and really struggling to lay back on fastballs to make good contact.

When we look at his Batting Average broken down by pitch type, the disparity becomes even more clear (data from Fangraphs):

Pitch Type # of pitches seen Batting Avg.
Fastball 141 .185
Sinker 99 .313
Change 90 .000
Slider 53 .167
Curve 41 .182
Cutter 32 .200
Splitter 4 .000

So what sticks out first to me is the horrific BA against Fastballs. I mean, the one thing everyone who plays baseball must be able to do is hit the fastball. You just have to. It’s the one pitch you know you’ll face no matter who you’re up against. It’s the one with the least movement and easiest to track (unless you’re facing Mo Rivera, but lucky for everyone he’s retired), and yet he’s hitting a paltry .185 when getting the cheese.

Even worse, Moncada has a .000 BA against Changeups, and he’s seen 90 of them. Wow. Just wow. He hasn’t hit a single changeup this year despite it being the third most common pitch type he’s gotten.

His numbers against the Slider, Curve, Cutter, and Splitter are no better, with the one bright spot being his ability to smash the Sinker at a .313 clip.

So again, what does this mean? Well, we know from his spray chart that he’s getting out in front of the ball, which means Moncada is getting jumpy at the plate, likely causing him to miss all these changeups and off-speed pitches that he sees while he tries (and fails) to square up a fastball. No wonder his average is in the garbage: Moncada knows he’s not hitting the fastball, so he’s swinging earlier and faster to try to catch them, and this is coming at the expense of hitting off-speed pitches, which he is waaaaaay out in front of.

The Verdict: Moncada can hit the fastball. Let’s just be clear on that from the get-go. The #1 prospect in baseball didn’t magically lose his ability to hit the most basic pitch in the game, and I have full confidence he’ll recover. However, I do not have confidence that he’ll be able to make those adjustments in time for him to be fantasy relevant in 2017. He has some serious adjustments to make at the plate, starting with his horrific 36.9% K-rate, and until he can get out of his own head and slow down, his stat line will continue to be ugly. When he does make contact, he’s still not hitting for power like you’d hope, and when he does get on base, he’s not stealing. At all. There is no value to having an empty OBP on your roster. It’s possible that he puts things together, but be very wary of him this season until he displays a couple multi-hit games.

Moncada has no business being on anyone’s roster in leagues without OBP. Even in OBP leagues, 12-teamers and shallower should have better middle infield options on their waiver wire. Dynasty is a different ballgame, but redraft leagues should have Moncada on their wire, and he should probably stay there.

#4. Ozzie Albies (ATL) SS/2B, owned in 7.4% of leagues

albies.jpg

(Photo Credit: Scout.com)

Season Stats: 73 PA, .224/.274/.448 2 HR, 10 R, 9 RBI, 1 SB

Ozzie is dangerously close to overtaking Moncada on this list (again, we’re talking ROS, not Dynasty/career), and should be someone on your radar if you need R or SB. He’s put together a modest 3 game hit streak, including two consecutive multi-hit games and two consecutive games with a triple. In fact, Ozzie has 3 triples to his name already in just 19 games played, and only 37 MLB players have more three-baggers than Ozzie this season despite having a 100 game head-start. Do you see what I’m getting at here? The kid has speed, yo.

The lonely SB is a bit disappointing, but it’s still better than 0 SB (cough, Moncada), and hopefully it’s a trend that’ll continue. Not to mention that more than half (8/15) of Ozzie’s hits have been for Extra Bases, and it’s hard to steal third and home, so he should really be trying to hit a few more singles if he wants those SB numbers to get pumped up. Which is likely, as his current ISO of .224 is unsustainably high for a young man whose best ever ISO was posted in AAA this year, clocking in at .156.

He’s also struggled to get on base, walking at a pathetic 5.5% clip, which unfortunately fits his career narrative of losing a couple points of BB-rate with every level he climbs. Still, his K-rate is impressive, and sits at an also-low (but good!) 15.1%, which is not only right around his career average, but damn impressive for any MLB player, much less a rookie.

Ozzie has also posted a nice Hard Hit Percentage (35.1%) and has great contact numbers, showing that he’s getting in quality looks and being selective with his swings, and when he does swing, he’s hitting. Ozzie has suffered from a below-average BABIP (currently .236), well below his minor league career-average BABIP of ~.330 and his previous season-worst BABIP of .290 posted in AAA last year. In short? Expect the average to climb, because his BABIP definitely should.

The Verdict: Ozzie Albies might be the least-heralded name on this list, but he could end up being one of the most valuable in what little we have left of 2017. Albies is hitting the ball well, hitting it hard, and putting the ball in play while refusing to strike out. His BABIP is due for positive regression, and he’s on a mini-hot-streak. His lack of power and poor walk-rate keep his ceiling below Moncada’s, but it’s very possible that Ozzie continues to trend upwards and force himself into fantasy relevance over the next couple weeks. Keep a close eye on him in all leagues, and 12-teamers and up should seriously consider taking a flier on him. Once the AVG starts coming, the steals will too, and that’s where his value starts to skyrocket.

#5. Amed Rosario (NYM) SS, owned in 25.3% of leagues

amed-rosario-1400.jpg

Yeah, he’s the worst one. Sorry Dad. (Photo Credit: CBSsports.com)

Season Stats: 72 PA, .243/.264/.400, 2 HR, 6 R, 4 RBI, 4 SB (2 CS)

It’s so easy to mock the Mets that I feel bad putting Amed at the end of my list, but I urge all the Met fans, like my father, to remember that this is only evaluating Rosario’s fantasy impact in 2017, not his career in Queens.

That being said, Rosario has been riding the struggle-bus since his callup. You may have noticed in his slashline above that his OBP is barely 20 points above his average, but even if you did, it still might surprise you to hear that Rosario has just one walk in his young MLB career. Yeah. Just one. That’s good for a 24:1 K:BB ratio, which would be great if he was a pitcher, but for a position player that’s about as lousy as it gets when it comes to plate discipline. Unfortunately it’s unlikely to get much better, as Rosario walked a grand total of 115 times across 1,926 career minor league PA, good for a 6% BB-rate. In short? This dude doesn’t walk. He makes contact or he strikes out. There is no other outcome.

And boy oh boy is he striking out. While he might not be whiffing as hard as Moncada, he’s not far behind him: Rosario is sporting a 33.3% K-rate in the MLB, and his .243 Batting Average coupled with a .341 BABIP tells us that he’s pretty much earned those numbers. His .157 ISO is also right in line with career averages, so there is no incoming power surge for the young shortstop, but we can certainly expect to see a few more Extra Base Hits coming in the near future.

Rosario is fast, in case you hadn’t heard. He’s already stolen 4 bags in the show, and while he’s also been caught twice, I really don’t care. Stealing in the MLB is all about getting your timing down, with speed being the second most important factor. Rosario has the speed, and there’s literally nothing he can do on the basepaths to hurt the Mets season anymore than their pitching already has, so expect plenty more SB from him to round out 2017.

Finally, Rosario is the latest edition to this list to suffer from the small-sample-size-and-also-a-rookie-adjusting-to-MLB-pitching-spray-chart-weirdness (sounds like a great new catchphrase). What I mean is that, like Devers and Moncada before him, Rosario is posting a very different-looking spray chart in the MLB than he did as a minor league hitter. Amed has typically (over 8 different levels and seasons) Pulled the ball 38% of the time, gone Center ~25% of the time, and gone Opposite field ~35% of the time. In the MLB this season, Rosario has maintained his 37% Pull Percentage, but underwent a massive change in Center and Opposite: hitting to Center 37% and Oppo at just 26%, with his Center being by far a career-high and his Oppo being by far a career-low. In short? His hitting is off, and he’s usually going dead-center, giving the defense their best shot at catching the ball.

What is encouraging (again, in an admittedly small sample size) is Rosario’s vast improvement in Infield Fly Balls (IFFB) and Home Run to Fly Ball Ratio (HR/FB). You want as low of an IFFB as possible and as high of a HR/FB as possible, and Rosario has posted a career-low IFFB and career-high HR/FB. Basically, he’s popping up far fewer balls and hitting way more HR.

The Verdict: Rosario was never touted as a power prospect: he’s never hit more than 7 HR nor has he ever eclipsed 60 RBI in any season. But fantasy owners weren’t taking fliers on the top-Met prospect for his power numbers, they were hoping for a .300 BA with plenty of R and SB. Unfortunately Rosario has not delivered on that promise. The talent is there, but he’s struggling hard at the plate to make contact. When he does make contact, he’s sending it right to Center. He’s not walking at all (and never will), but should eventually become a .300 hitter, just don’t hold your breath on that happening in 2017. That being said, Rosario will rack up several more SB before the season is out: he’s already been given the green light to run 6 times in his short tenure, and the Mets have little to play for beyond developing their talent, so expect plenty more SB chances for the young Met. Beyond the steals, however, Rosario has little value for fantasy owners this year.

The Beer

Today’s beer comes to us from my very own backyard: in celebration of DC Beer Week, several local DC Metro-Area breweries got together to brew the aptly named Solidarity, a Brett IPA brewed in Right Proper Brewing’s facilities and bottled by 3 Stars Brewing.

solidarity.jpg

Well, first off, what the heck is a Brett IPA, you might be asking? Well, you probably know what an IPA is, but a brett beer is a beer brewed with Brettanomyces, a strain of yeast that is typically used in saison, farmhouse, and sour style beers. AKA beers that are wildly different from IPA’s and their hoppy, bitter, malty flavors. The Brett IPA has also been called a Farmhouse IPA, and is typically characterized by meshing the strength, malt, and bitterness of an IPA with the funky, earthy, spicy profile of a saison or farmhouse ale.

Solidarity, I’m glad to say, does this rare and odd style proud. It pours a cloudy golden-orange with a small but thick head of foam, and light lacing on the glass. It clocks in at 6% ABV, which is quite sessionable for an IPA without being an actual session beer.

The smell is yeasty, grassy, floral, and light spices reminiscent of a Belgian style ale. The taste follows the nose: herbal and floral, good funky yeast flavor and Belgian spice that blends very nicely with the light citrus and heavy hop flavor of the IPA.

It’s surprisingly light and smooth, with a moderate malty backbone, lightly spicy, and a quite dry and bitter finish.

It’s a unique beer that represents the skill and style of the DC brewing scene, so if you’re in the area I suggest you seek it out!

Until next time,

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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