It’s that time of year. The time when we long for warmer days and baseball. Reports appear that pitchers and catchers will report in time, and the season will be a full 162 games. That said, it’s time to get ready for Fantasy Baseball! Last week we talked about someone sleepers on third base. Today we have to cover the dreaded topic of busts. By making a player early who is underperforming, you can lose your leagues. If you can avoid certain landmines that end up being “busts”, you will be in much better shape for the season.
Let’s classify a bust as someone who will not return the expected value based on ADP. I’m not necessarily saying these players will be bad either. The third base bust we are going to discuss today is players who have a small chance of making a profit on their current ADP.
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2021 Third basebust for fantasy baseball
Manny Machado, San Diego Padres
NFCB ADP: 23.2
The third base position has few city options and quite a few sleepers and values. Manny Machado stands out as one of the few obvious third base breasts. If we only looked at production in 2020, you can probably justify this price tag. According to Razzball’s player rates, Machado came in as the eighth best player in standard 5 × 5 leagues. In 2019, with a pretty solid performance, Machado came in as the 124th player. The problem here is Machado’s volatility.
Check Machado’s stroke average over the last four seasons: .259, .297, .256, .304. The inconsistency is what has me of Machado at his price. You can not afford to take anyone in the second round, which gives you a stroke average in the .250 series. As we have seen, the upside is obvious, but should we really expect it again next season? It is hard to say.
Machado’s speed is also a factor here. Getting bases stolen from players who contribute in all categories is important. Most of these players come in early rounds. Machado’s value was inflated last season by the fact that he stole six bases in 60 games. Again, we are looking at a volatility problem. In 156 games in 2019, Machado stole just five bases. In 2016, he stole zero bases in 157 matches. Machado turns 29 next season and has had knee surgery before. Padres like to steal bases, but why does Machado need to run next season? The team wants one of the better lineups in baseball, and Machado does not have to show off his wheels to make races for the team. After all, Machado has not had a sprint speed above the 39th percentile since 2015.
There’s enough to like in Machado’s profile, though. First, its durability is unsurpassed. Since 2015, no player has played more matches than Machado’s 853. The highest number of possible matches played during this span is 870, which means that Machado has only missed two percent of matches.
The force is also steady. From 2015 to 2019, Machado averaged almost 35 home runs per season. By 2020, he was on pace for 43 bombs. It is positive to take Machado here, but questioned in speed and stroke average. Bryce harps feels like a much safer alternative to his price point, especially with some solid third basemen becoming available later. For all these reasons, Machado tops the third base chest list.
Jeff McNeil, New York Mets
NFCB ADP: 97.5
Jeff McNeil has long been known for having one of the best tools in the game. His contact frequency is solid, but by no means at the elite level, but McNeil hits consistently for a high average. In 1024 career records, he has a career stroke cut on. 319. Given what we know, it is a surprise to see the estimates down to his average. I know projection systems lean more conservatively, but outside of ZIP (.297) other systems project him at .279, .284, .291, .286. All solid numbers, but I expect McNeil to hit at least .300.
Beyond his ability to hit on average, there are question marks for McNeil. One is his power. In 2018, McNeil had a random power rise in double-A where he hit 14 home runs in 241 record appearances. So in 2019 he broke out for 23 home runs in 567 record appearances. In addition, that season stole five bases and cut .318 / .384 / .531. Even during this career season, he was only the 85th most valuable player, according to Razzball’s player rates.
I have a legitimate fear that we will never see that power from McNeil again. He hit only four in the shortened season 2020. These four came over a stretch of four games. In the other 48 games played, McNeil had a goose egg in the home column.
McNeil has never hit the ball hard, including in 2019 when he hit 23 home runs. He actually surpassed the expected home team in 2019 significantly. The Statcast data suggested that his expected home-run production was only 18 years old.
With a barrel rate of just 2.5 percent last year and an average exit speed of 86.6 miles per hour, you can’t expect much power. His hard interest rate of 26.5 percent was among the bottom five percent of the league. While his average starting speed on line drives and hot air balloons looks slightly better at 90.3 mph, only 15 hits were worse.
The reality is that even if McNeil hits over 300, he will have to hit 20 home runs to give back value in 2021. I lean more on the side that he is a 12-15 home run player. If so, I prefer to wait for a hit like that David Fletcher, goes well over 100 choices later that can give you a similar stroke average and maybe a little less power.
Andres Gimenez, Indians from Cleveland
NFCB ADP: 182.6
During the first two months of the draft season, Andres Gimenez went to an average election of 193. Since he was traded to Cleveland as part of Francisco Lindor trade, Gimenez goes to an average choice of 160, with a high level of 153. I fear the draft price will only increase with the hype.
The problem does not necessarily involve Gimenez’s ability on the pitch. The problem with the draft price is the fear that the Indians will start him in triple-A. Reports are that one of Cleveland’s best targets for free agents is Cesar Hernandez. Why is it important?
Well, Cleveland insiders thought Gimenez could record at shortstop and Rosario at second base. Rosario has always been a shortstop, but the club thought he could easily track down others. Cleveland believes Gimenez could be their starting card stop for the future despite playing both second and third bases last season. BUT Cleveland also believes that Gimenez was driven to the majors after skipping triple-A. If the Indians use some of their released money to sign Hernandez, there is a high probability that Gimenez could be sent to triple-A to get regular playing time. The team tends to be more conservative with their best opportunities and likes to save money. This move is right up in their alley.
Take this for what it’s worth, but knowing how the Indians operate, this would (unfortunately) not shock me. Andres Gimenez. They’re cheap, but they want to sign some guys yet
– Less than Dave (@RunDMcD) January 17, 2021
Outside of this problem, if Gimenez’s ADP continues to be pushed up, there will be little room for profit. Over the course of an entire season, Gimenez is likely a 10-12 home-made bat. He has solid speed and the upside to steal 20 or more bases. It is extremely valuable for Fantasy purposes. The hit tool has some concerns, and Gimenez is probably a .260-.270 hitter. His expected cut of .246 last season does not give much hope that he can improve his .263 average.
As the price continues to rise, Gimenez will have less chance of returning value. The chance to start in minors also applies. For these reasons, Gimenez is considered a third base bust.
For more great rankings, strategy and analysis, check it out 2021 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. We will add more content from now until the opening day!
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