All right, enough of the mushy stuff! I was 100% positive on the last edition of my Dudes & Don’ts, looking only at my Dudes in the outfield. Well, now it’s time for the hate! *Cues up Slayer, starts moshing with himself* Every position is full of landmines, and there are more than a few in the outfield this year. It’s like Saving Private Ryan out here. Is that reference too dated? Man, I’m getting old. It’s like Hacksaw Ridge out here! Ok, so maybe the war analogies are a bit extreme. It’s still just fantasy baseball. In any case, I’m out on these guys in 2018. The Don’ts!
The First Don’t – A.J. Pollock
This one hurts me, because I have long been an A.J. Pollock fan. During the offseason, I actually thought I’d wind up with Pollock quite a bit in my 2018 drafts. “Huge injury risk,” I said. “He’ll be a forgotten man,” I said. “Where did my Sriracha bottle go,” I said. I was eating lunch at the time. Instead, nobody has forgotten about Pollock at all. Not only that, his ADP is largely ignoring his extensive injury history and focusing on his upside.
The upside is tremendous, and that’s why I’ve liked him. He’s a potential 15/20/.300 hitter who could score over 100 runs. There’s plenty to like. Unfortunately, he’s been able to exceed 112 games only twice in his career. Including his first full season in 2013, he has averaged just 123 games per season. He’s now on the wrong side of 30, making him more likely than ever to succumb to the injury bug. He did increase his hard contact to 35% last year, a great number for him. He’s more of a line drive hitter, though, and with the addition of the humidor, I don’t expect him to eclipse the 20-homer mark.
The biggest reservation I have with taking Pollock at 61 overall as the 17th outfielder is who else I can get at that time and the options I can fall back on later in my draft. Pollock is going right behind Starling Marte and Byron Buxton, both of whom I’d much rather invest in. Marte and Buxton both have 40-SB upside, and neither has Pollock’s injury concerns. There are also plenty of “poor man’s” Pollocks (tilapia?) later on in drafts that could give you 80-90% of Pollock’s most likely outcome. Lorenzo Cain can straight up outperform Pollock with an ADP of 92. Manny Margot at 141 could go 15/30 with plenty of runs scored. Ender Inciarte at 143 gives you similar production. It just doesn’t make sense to take Pollock at his ADP. Don’t pay for the upside.
2018 Projection: 550 plate appearances, 80 R, 14 HR, 55 RBI, 20 SB, .285 AVG
The Second Don’t – Billy Hamilton
You might think this sounds hypocritical of me, considering that I’ve been preaching speed throughout my D&D series. Why then would I have stolen base king Billy Hamilton on my Don’ts list? Well, if you’ve been paying attention, you know that it’s not just stolen bases I’m after, but five-category contributors. Despite B-Ham’s obscene steal totals (56+ in every season since 2014), he doesn’t give you anything else. In fact, he actively hurts you in multiple categories.
At this point in Spring Training, Reds manager Bryan Price won’t commit to Hamilton in the leadoff role, and if he’s batting eighth, his R+RBI totals are going to be disgusting. He’s just 3-for-26 this spring, and if it’s a much larger sample size you’re yearning for, he has a .298 career OBP. Despite his elite speed, it isn’t beneficial to any team to set a sub-.300 OBP player at leadoff. His 16% hard contact rate from 2017 is actually the worst mark of his career, and his 12.1% pop-up rate was, as well. He’s a career 33.8% fly ball hitter, but he would actually benefit from hitting the ball on the ground over 50% of the time to just scurry to first after he slaps the ball. Time will tell if he adjusts his launch angle the opposite way everyone else is going, but you can’t bank on it. You’re looking at too many lazy fly balls here.
As I mentioned, while his steals are elite, he’s hurting you elsewhere. In his four-year career as a regular, he has averaged just four homers and 33 RBI. Just let the stinkiness of those numbers sink in. His career .248 average isn’t helping you, either. He’s a total one-trick pony. You can accrue steals from a variety of other sources without sacrificing four other categories at the same time. He’s the 20th outfielder off the board at 77 overall, which is much too early for a pure rabbit. Draft wisely and you won’t need Billy.
2018 Projection: 550 plate appearances, 70 R, 4 HR, 35 RBI, 55 SB, .250 AVG
The Third Don’t – Adam Duvall
Speaking of one-trick ponies, enter Adam Duvall! To be fair, if your trick is hitting home runs, that’s a lot better than stealing a base. You’re not just helping in one category; you’re helping in four with each homer. That said, there are plenty of cheap power threats these days, and Duvall is far from the cheapest of them.
Duvall has hit 30+ HR with 99+ RBI in each of the past two seasons. Pretty great, right? Well, that has come with a sub-.250 average and sub-.302 OBP in each season. He strikes out a ton and rarely walks, making him even more unattractive in points leagues. Additionally, his 48.6% FB% and 12% pop-up rate make last year’s .290 BABIP look unrepeatable. He’s more likely to have a BABIP around .275, which would place his average somewhere between .230-.240. That’s gross.
It will also be hard to push 30 HR again with a 31.8% hard contact rate, so I’m not even convinced he hits 30+ dingers for a third straight year. Also consider his career 97 wRC+ against right-handed pitching (86 wRC+ in ’17). His 0.19 BB/K vs RHP is just plain terrible. With Jesse Winker looking to weasel his way into more playing time, Duvall could very well cede at-bats against righties to Winker throughout the season. Oh, and he isn’t a stolen base threat, either, with just 11 steals in 362 MLB games. As the 40th outfielder off the board (160 overall), you can easily pass on him and find better value elsewhere.
2018 Projection: 450 plate appearances, 50 R, 22 HR, 65 RBI, .240 AVG