We are just three weeks into the 2021 MLB season, and I am seeing and hearing people giving up on players that are off to a slow start. The name that recently came up in Dynasty Sports Empire chat and got my attention was Keston Hiura. The conversation made me think about terrible fantasy decisions I have made over the last 20 years. I wanted to write not just about Keston but about slowing down, blocking out the noise, and concentrating on why you bought into particular players in the first place. We are three weeks into the season; one team has played 20 games, the rest are under 20. We have a long way to go to 162. Many good fantasy players have been successful by buying low on slumping players from owners that became impatient.
So how about Keston? Where will he go from here? I do not have a magic eight ball to answer that question for you. I know that this is the exact type of player that happens within multiple examples every year. Let’s go back to opening day. The opinion of Keston was anywhere from Top 50 overall sleeper material to total bust and will be unheard of in three years. So, after three weeks of terrible surface stats (.118 AVG/.250 OBP, 1 HR, and 1 SB), all you are hearing is, “I was right; he is not as good as he was; hyped up to be.” Of course, that is all you hear because the people who bought into him are silent, and the people who did not are trying to get an early pat on the back. Do not get distracted by the noise.
But wait, that is not all, Keston was not that good in 2020, and he just had a good, lucky rookie year in which his wOBA and xwOBA differentials were terrible. His strikeout rate has been awful in every season he has played, over 30 percent in each of his three seasons. Maybe there is a reason to sell him now to someone who does not know better.
You knew this when you drafted him, though, right? Maybe you did; perhaps you did not. Either way, you bought into him; why are you giving up after three weeks. What are the reasons to still believe in him at this point? First of all, sample size. His largest sample size was 2019, and it is by far his best. Sure, it was his rookie year, and maybe he is just one of those players that never live up to his rookie year. But do you want to give up on a 24-year-old based on that?
You can look at his stat cast numbers HERE. There it is; those wOBA and xwOBA numbers do not look so good. Even though his wOBA was .388 in 2019, it good enough to put him in the top seven percent of the league. But these are wrong numbers, right, and very indicative of whether he can sustain the type of standard stats he put up in 2019? No, I beg to differ. I will not get into why; you can google the different stat types and determine what they indicate. You need to, so when a player like Keston starts like this, you do not let it change your long-term view of him. I prefer to put the most weight into a player’s barrel percentage. The larger the sample size, the more it tells you what kind of contact a player is making. Again, Keston still has a small sample size for his career, but he had a barrel percentage of 13.5 in 2019 and 14.2 in 2020. Top 8 and 9 percent of the league, respectively. That is good. I also like to look at a player’s strikeout and walk percentage. As you can see on his page, neither are good; strikeout percent is concerning. But he is 24; it is not uncommon for a young player with good potential to struggle with his strikeout rate early in his career.
I also want to consider two other things that I often overlook: first, his minor league stats. You can look at those numbers HERE. These stats can be misleading due to competition. But if nothing else, I think you can look at players’ walks and strikeouts. These do not look good for Keston, but they aren’t real alarming either. The 2nd item is something that shows up on both these pages. He was drafted 9th overall in the 1st round of 2017. I know these MLB scouts make mistakes, and there is a long list of 1st round busts, but they still have more knowledge about the potential of a player than anyone in the fantasy community, and at least one team was high enough on Keston to take him this high in the draft.
So, what am I saying here? Am I high on Keston, or do I think he is a bust? I still think he is a decent long-term fantasy option at 2nd base. He could also be a bust. His numbers may not stack up as a 1st baseman. I take all the potential factors I can get into consideration when evaluating a player. But I do not kid myself; I do not “know” what he will be. All I can do is judge his realistic potential and decide how much of a risk I want to take that he does not live up to that potential. Whichever way you choose to go, the worst thing you can do is buy in and then sell at a low point because you let the noise get to you. “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take”. I like to look at his 2019 numbers as a reference for what he could be. His barrel percentage backs it up. He might be a 30/20 2nd baseman with .350 OBP potential. And even if he stays the 1st baseman, are these terrible numbers? He is 24. Why not take a shot at him?
Feel free to reach out on Twitter @JeffPlunkett19