One of the most enjoyable parts of fantasy sports in debating which players are better than others. We’ve all done it. You’re hanging out with some friends, probably enjoying a beer or two, and you get into a long discussion over which player is better than another one. Sometimes it might get heated, but that’s okay. We aren’t all going to agree on every single player. That would make fantasy leagues incredibly boring.
The same can be said here at Fantrax. We have a great group of writers and podcasters (that might not be a word but who cares) who are all very knowledgeable, but we don’t always agree. So we figured we’d have some good ol’ fashion debates about two players that are close in potential 2018 fantasy value.
We shift to the outfield today, where there’s a lot of congestion right near the top. Mookie Betts, Giancarlo Stanton, and Charlie Blackmon’s current ADPs are less than one pick apart. In many drafts, you’ll likely see these three men picked back to back to back. To acquire them, it’s going to take a first-round pick, no doubt about it. So which one should you anchor your fantasy squad around? Let’s dive into it.
Previous Staff Debates
Betts vs. Blackmon vs. Stanton
Tale of the Tape
Eric Cross (@EricCross04)
First off, this is one hell of a debate. Once Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are off the board, we have this trifecta of outfield fantasy dynamos all clustered together. Last season, nine different players posted a 20/20 season, with seven of those nine being outfielders. However, if you add in 100 RBI and 100 runs scored to the threshold, you’re left with only one man: Marcus Lynn Betts.
In a “down” season, Betts was still able to rack up 24 home runs, 102 RBI, 101 runs, and 26 steals. However, it was looked at as a down season due to a 54-point drop in batting average from .318 to .264. A big reason for that massive drop in average was an equally as big 54-point drop in his BABIP. So, was he less lucky or was it his own doing?
The loss of David Ortiz left a massive power void last season in Boston’s lineup. Mookie did his best to make up for that, but he’s not your prototypical 40+ home run slugger. Betts began pulling the ball more and hitting more fly balls that he did in 2016. His pull rate rose from 39.7% to 44.4 % and his fly ball rate from 39.4% to 42.8%. You would think that would be ideal when you play half your games at Fenway Park, but Betts’ homer total still dropped from 31 to 24, even with his hard contact rare rising from 33.4% to 35.7%. A reason for that is that fewer of his flyballs were leaving the yard. To be exact, 3.2% less.
I can spew numbers at you all day long, but as you can see, there wasn’t a major change anywhere in Betts’ peripheral numbers that can explain his drop in batting average. To me, that signifies that there was indeed some bad luck for him last season. Betts is too good of a hitter to hit .264 again, that’s for damn sure. Just look at his 77/79 BB/K rate if you don’t believe me.
All three players in this debate are elite talents worthy of building a fantasy team around. I could sit here and list all their faults, but that’d be pointless. They’re first-round picks for a reason, and I’m not going to dispute that. However, neither Blackmon nor Stanton possesses the type of all-around upside that Betts has. Back in the leadoff spot, 240 combined runs and RBI are a distinct possibility for Betts this season, as is 30/30 and an average north of .300. I’d be more than happy to start my team with any of these three studs, but if all three are on the board when my pick comes up, welcome to the team, Mr. Betts.
Mick Ciallela (@themick23)
There’s a school of thought that says that Charlie Blackmon should not be worthy of a first-round pick because he is too much a product of Coors Field. They make it sound like Blackmon is a nobody on the road. But that is hardly the case. Here are the road splits of two high-end outfielders over the past three seasons:
I can admit that I would probably rather have Player B, but it’s close, right? Well, as you can probably guess, Player A is Charlie Blackmon. Player B is Mookie Betts. Now let’s look at their home splits:
We can conclude that Road Betts is better than Road Blackmon, but it’s not exactly a runaway. However, Home Blackmon destroys Home Betts. Heck, Home Blackmon destroys almost anyone. Blackmon’s home dominance is a factor that cannot be understated. The .503 home wOBA Blackmon posted in 2017 was reminiscent of early-2000s Barry Bonds. For reference, the highest wOBA any player has posted in a full season since 2005 was Bryce Harper’s .461 mark in 2015.
Listen, Betts is a beast. He has all the tools, including an elite batting eye. The fact that Betts eclipsed the 100 run and RBI marks despite hitting just .264 is incredibly impressive. And, at 25, there is still room for growth. I’ll even concede that the days of Blackmon stealing 40 or even 20 bases in a season are probably over. But Blackmon can single-handedly put you in position to win weeks when Colorado plays at home. The lows are a little lower with Blackmon, but the highs are still much higher. Based on that, I’m going with Blackmon over Betts in 2018 redraft leagues.
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Keith Farnsworth (@fantasy_keith)
Mookie Betts is a beast! Through his age 24 season, he has two gold gloves, two all-star appearances, three consecutive years receiving MVP votes, and is coming off back to back 20/20 seasons. Oh, and don’t forget his .292/.351/.488 triple slash line he has maintained through his first 508 career games.
It’s honestly hard to say enough about Betts and his approach to hitting, but I’m going to try. Betts is extremely patient in his at-bats, offering at only 36% of the pitches he sees, and he forces the pitcher to throw strikes by maintaining a top 15 O-Swing% (22%). Combine this with his elite 86% contact rate, and it’s no wonder he walked 77 times last year and was punched out only 79 times. To add to a pitcher’s likely frustration, Betts’ swing path is one that produces a good number of fly balls without sacrificing batting average. His 17-degree launch angle is ideal, and he has enough pop in his bat to do damage, demonstrated by his 88.4 MPH average exit velocity.
Betts hit 24 home runs to go along with his 26 stolen bases and .264 batting average in 2017. He also was one of only five hitters in baseball last year to rack up over 100 runs and 100 RBI (others: Giancarlo Stanton, Paul Goldschmidt, Aaron Judge, Charlie Blackmon). It also appears that Betts may have been a bit unlucky in the batting average department. Entering the 2017 season, Betts had BAPIP of .318, and that number (likely unfairly) dropped all the way to .268. With a lack of skill or swing changes, the most likely cause of this drop was just some good old fashion bad luck.
Betts is the complete package. He is an elite five-category contributor, staring down a rebound in batting average, and with age firmly on his side, Betts is on the path to being the best hitter in baseball for 2018. No doubt.
Anthony Franco (@affranco10)
Fangraphs projects Stanton to hit 58 home runs in 2018. Comically, second-place Joey Gallo projects for 42. His unbelievable power is his calling card, of course, but Stanton also adopted a more patient approach last season, cutting his chase rate by four percentage points and slicing his strikeout rate to only 23.6%, barely above the league average.
Not surprisingly, that contact approach came with a bit of a tradeoff, and his average exit velocity fell by two MPH from the year prior. Not to worry, though; Stanton still ranked sixth in the league in exit velocity among players with at least 100 plate appearances, and, even more importantly, his exit velocity on balls in the air actually increased last season, helping him to post an absurd 34.3% HR/FB rate.
An offseason trade to the hitter-friendly AL East should only help, even if Stanton stands to benefit from a change in park less than most hitters because his home runs tend to clear the fences by a wide margin regardless. The biggest positive boost that Stanton should reap from the trade is in RBI opportunities; he leaves a Miami team that was average offensively last season to join a Yankee one that finished second in baseball in runs and led the league in plate appearances with runners on base.
Betts should bounce back with a BABIP rebound, and Blackmon is coming off back-to-back years of elite offensive production, so all three players are poised for huge seasons. Admittedly, Stanton has the spottiest health history of the three. Still, his power upside is unmatched league-wide, and he just might slug fantasy owners to a championship.
Ryne Milkins (@Ryhhno)
Baseballs are flying out of parks at higher rates than they ever have before. The guy with the most homers in baseball last season was Giancarlo Stanton with a stunning 59 bombs. Year in and year out, Stanton proves that he is one of the game’s most dangerous power hitter. In 2017, he appeared in over 150 games for just the second time in his career and rewarded fantasy owners immensely.
We’ve been waiting for a full, healthy season from Stanton for years and finally got it in 2017. He showed us what he can do in a full season with a ridiculous .281/.376/.631 slash line, 59 homers and 132 RBI. His performance earned him an NL MVP award despite playing on a team that failed to even break the .500 mark.
Now, Stanton will be hitting in the middle of perhaps the best lineup in baseball. With new teammates Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez providing protection, pitchers aren’t going to have a choice but to pitch to Stanton. He should get plenty of pitches to hit, and hit a long, long, way.
It’s also worth noting that Stanton’s change of scenery should do nothing but wonders for the slugger. In the first eight seasons, Stanton played half of his games at the pitcher-friendly Marlins Park. According to Fangraphs, Marlins Park had a home-run park factor of 80 for righties, compared to the MLB average of 100. His new home, Yankee Stadium, owns a mark of 124. If Stanton can stay healthy, that 60 home-run-mark is not out of the realm of possibility.
Stanton is far from an all-or-nothing slugger, too. In 2017, he posted a career-best strikeout rate of 23.6 percent. That’s a nearly four percent drop from his career average of 27.7 percent. Additionally, he posted a walk rate of 12.3 percent, compared to his career average of 11.8 percent. Betts and Blackmon may have the speed advantage, but Stanton’s power and ability to get on base, along with his protection around him, gives him the advantage.
Overall Fantrax Verdict: Betts 5, Blackmon 2, Stanton 2.
Thank you for reading and we hope you can use this article to your advantage and get a leg up on your fellow league members. Got a question that we didn’t cover here? Then follow us on Twitter (handles above) and ask there.