The Dodgers have four full-time outfielders for three spots and all four are players that fantasy GMs have had on a roster before. It’s probably a good idea for Fantasy GMs to pump the hand brake on the Dodgers outfield before they get swept away by the hype train. There’s a good chance that your fantasy team will be derailed by investing heavily in the Dodgers outfield in 2014, but that doesn’t mean that fantasy GMs should be caught standing on the platform. Fantasy GMs will need to conduct proper research while trying to punch their ticket to victory. TRAIN METAPHORS!!!
Yasiel Puig, AKA The Human Hype Train, is the one guy virtually guaranteed to get 150+ starts…assuming he can stay healthy, hire a driver and discover a level of maturity higher than a third-grader. We only have about 80% of a season of data on Puig, so he’s hard to evaluate heading into the 2014 season, but it’s clear that he’s good at hitting baseballs hard.
There are two metrics that should concern fantasy GMs when evaluating the Puig’s limited data. First, he posted a .383 BABIP in 432 PA’s. That .383 BABIP came with a 19.1% LD %. That’s too low to maintain that kind of production. He also ended 2013 by posting a .214 BABIP in September. That indicates that teams had enough spray chart data to realize where Puig was hitting the ball.
Looking at the spray charts, that’s exactly what happened. When comparing his spray chart from June to his spray chart from September, it’s clear that a lot of the ground balls that snuck through the left side of the infield in June didn’t find the same holes in September. The league adjusted to Puig and now it’s his turn to adjust back. The .383 BABIP is likely an aberration and appears to be unlikely to be repeated unless Puig increases his line drive rate or alters his approach at the plate. A .319 batting average is unlikely to happen again.
The other number that fantasy GMs need to be aware of is Puig’s 21.8% HR:FB ratio. Puig managed to poke 19 homers on only 87 fly balls. That’s a lot of homers on not very many flies. We don’t have enough data to really judge Puig’s HR:FB ratio (it takes a couple seasons to have a worthwhile sample size), but there’s a good chance that 21.8% could be his career high.
Puig is absolutely worthy of a high draft pick, but fantasy GMs need to temper expectations. The idea of Puig being another Mike Trout is simply unrealistic. They’re completely different hitters with completely different approaches.
Puig has a very good eye against fastballs (78% swing % at pitches in the zone vs. 31% swing % at pitches outside the zone), but struggles mightily with breaking pitches. With a 47% swing % at breaking balls outside of the zone. He’s very likely to swing and miss at breaking pitches with a 43% whiff/swing %. It’s hard to imagine why a pitcher would show him a fastball.
The next problem the Dodgers outfield faces is that Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford are essentially the same guy. It’s like having two trains running on the same track at the same time. They’ll cause your fantasy team to grind to a halt in the standings. Both Crawford and Ethier kill righties. Ethier hit .294 against righties in 2013, while Crawford hit .308. Both also struggle against lefties. Ethier hit only .221 against lefties last year, while posted a .206 average against lefties. There isn’t a platoon split against lefties that works for these two. So, we’ve got two similarly skilled hitters vying for the same playing time against.
Scott Van Slyke is virtually a lock for a roster spot because he’s capable of playing the outfield and he posted a .342 OBP against lefties last year. The Dodgers will be forced to put Van Slyke, Puig and Matt Kemp in the outfield against lefties while both Ethier and Crawford sit. Ethier and Crawford were able to amass almost 1000 PA’s between them last year thanks in large part to Matt Kemp missing half the season with injuries. A healthy Kemp means that Ethier and Crawford will likely be squeezed out.
It’s probably best to let someone else round out their outfield with these two extremely limited outfielders. These two won’t be nearly as helpful as their name recognition suggests.
Matt Kemp is a player who could win your league for you. He could also leave you as helpless as a passenger stuck on a stalled subway train if his injury issues continue. He underwent two surgeries last year, one on his left shoulder and one on his left ankle. He’s already listed as unlikely for the Dodgers’ Opening Series in Australia on March 22-23, but could be available by April 1st.
Kemp is two seasons removed from a .413 wOBA in 2011. He’ll likely never reach that number again. It’s also likely that his ankle issues could sap his speed while his shoulder issues sap his power. He posted the lowest ISO of his career (.125) in 2013, but his LD % was the highest of his career (25.3%) last year. His is a situation worth monitoring, but he’s a stay away until he proves he’s capable of at least taking the field. It’s not worth starting the season at a disadvantage, no matter how high the upside offered.