Just like in any other major league baseball season, this season there have been a great many players playing the game as rookies. These players now have some MLB experience (and stats!) under their belts to go along with an extensive minor league career stat sheet. It’s time to do some rookie analysis!
For a player to qualify as a rookie, for the purposes of this article series, the player has to be classified at fangraphs.com as a rookie. All stats are courtesy of fangraphs.com unless otherwise indicated.
Today I want to look closely at two young talents that have hit a combined 29 home runs while stealing a combined 29 bases this season in a combined 872 plate appearances. Those talented prospects turned MLB rookies are none other than Boston Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi and San Diego Padres outfielder Manuel Margot.
487 plate appearances, 17 HR, 63 R, 68 RBI, 14 SB, .276 batting average
Mr. Benintendi entered the 2017 fantasy baseball season as a highly sought after prospect with a clear path to consistent playing time at the major league level and a minor and major league track record that suggested that not only would he be ready for the full-time role, but that also suggested that there was a small, but decent chance, that he could be a star player right away.
On October 29, 2016 I wrote this about Andrew Benintendi:
“Assuming Mr. Benintendi has a full healthy 2017 I would project 16 home runs to go along with a .295 batting average with 10 stolen bases when you combine his stats from all levels of baseball.”
To read the entire article CLICK HERE.
As you can see, entering the season, while I liked Mr. Benintendi a lot, I didn’t see him breaking out into being a true star player in 2017. With over a month of left in the season Mr. Benintendi has surpassed my home run projection for 2017. His .276 batting average is lower than my .295 projection and part of that is due to his Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) being a bit lower than I thought it would be in 2017.
What I have loved seeing from Mr. Benintendi in 2017 is his amazing plate discipline. His 16.6% strikeout percentage (K%) I consider average, and I tend to be a tough grader in this area. When you combine that with a 10.5% walk percentage (BB%) (above average) you have a hitter with polished plate discipline.
The beautiful thing with Mr. Benintendi is that we get this plate discipline in a hitter that as he matures will hit for more power than he already has at the major league level. In his time last season and this season at the MLB level he hasn’t quite hit the Isolated Power (ISO) number that I like to use as the starting point for players that I refer to as solid power hitters. A .200 to .299 ISO is what I like to see from a player over an extended period of plate appearances to label them a solid power hitter at that level of play. He had a .181 ISO in 118 plate appearances (a bit on the low side of plate appearances for proper ISO analysis, but at least it was over 100) in 2016 and has a .166 ISO in 2017.
Mr. Benintendi will grow into a solid power hitter at the major league level. It’s just a matter of when that will be. I wouldn’t be overly surprised to see that happen as soon as next season. It should go without saying that to be able to have a solid power hitter with amazing plate discipline and the ability to steal 20…maybe even 25 or more bases in multiple future seasons on your fantasy baseball roster is the things dreams are made of! Yes, I do really love Mr. Benintendi’s game.
385 plate appearances, 12 HR, 37 R, 30 RBI, 12 SB, .265 batting average
Just like with Mr. Benintendi, here with Mr. Margot we have a prospect turned player that has this season shown his ability in 2017 at the major league level to affect the fantasy baseball game with his bat and his legs.
On December 15, 2016 I wrote this about Manuel Margot:
“Assuming Mr. Margot has a full healthy 2017 I would project 7 home runs to go along with a .281 batting average with 30 stolen bases when you combine his stats from all levels of baseball.”
To read the entire article CLICK HERE.
As you can see Mr. Margot already has 5 more home runs than what I projected from him in 2017. With his 14 stolen bases (2 from AAA ball play) he still has a ways to go to get to the 30 I projected. The .265 batting average he’s had has been a small disappointment as well.
However, there are a lot of positives here with Mr. Margot. First off, he has a 19.5% K% (below average). Please remember that I am a tough grader on this. His ISO this season is .162…and don’t forget that Mr. Benintendi has a .166 ISO. They are nearly identical power numbers.
Where Mr. Margot has the leg up on Mr. Benintendi (pun intended) is in the stolen base potential. Mr. Margot is a player that has multiple seasons of 30 plus…maybe even 35 plus stolen bases in him. In a fantasy baseball era where stolen bases are harder to come by, a 35 plus stolen base guy has some very nice appeal to him being on your fantasy baseball team roster. So far this season the only players with 35 or more stolen bases are Billy Hamilton (51), Dee Gordon (41) and Trea Turner (35). If we are looking at players with at least 25 stolen bases in 2017 (since we have some of the season left to play) we add another four names to the list (Jose Altuve, Jarrod Dyson, Rajai Davis and Cameron Maybin). That’s not a lot of names…seven to be exact.
Mr. Margot is a player with high stolen base potential who realistically could have some seasons with a solid .295 or even .300 or better batting average to go along with 15 or more…maybe, just maybe, 20…home runs. That’s a player that anyone would love to have on their fantasy baseball team.
If I could only keep one player, and I had to choose between Mr. Benintendi and Mr. Margot, well, Mr. Benintendi would be the guy I’d keep.