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.
After tackling a pair of catcher debates last week, we move 90 feet up the base path to first base. In this debate, we discuss the ups and downs of veteran Edwin Encarnacion and youngster Rhys Hoskins. Two powerful mashers at very different stages of their careers. Who should you take in 2018?
Previous Staff Debates
Edwin Encarnacion vs. Rhys Hoskins
Tale of the Tape
Eric Cross (@EricCross04)
Here we are, old school versus new school, shiny versus dusty, savvy veteran versus the young gun. There might be a difference of 330 career home runs here, but the difference in their 2018 value is minimal. But that’s why we’re doing these debates, right? Damn right it is.
As it stands today, both Hoskins (42.5) and Encarnacion (46.9) have an ADP that puts them in the third or fourth round of drafts as the 6th and 7th first baseman off the board on average. We’re currently in the middle of the Fantrax staff league slow draft where Hoskins was drafted 37th and Encarnacion just two spots later at 39. Neither by me, I might add, with a scowl.
With only 212 plate appearances under his belt, it’s fairly safe to say that the safest option here isn’t Hoskins. We have no clue how Hoskins will fare over a full 162-game season. Other the other hand, Encarnacion has been about as consistent as you would want a power hitter to be over the last six seasons with at least 34 home runs and 98 RBI each season. He’s never hit for an overly high average, but he keeps the average respectable by putting the ball in play and limiting the strikeouts. Encarnacion’s strikeout rate has never gone above 20% over his six-year stretch run of being an elite slugger.
However, over the last two seasons, both the average and the strikeout rate have been trending in the wrong direction. In 2017, E5 hit just .258 with a career-high 19.9 K%. These aren’t major dropoffs, but at 35, it’s safe to say his best days are behind him. Hoskins, on the other hand, is just getting started. Like Encarnacion, Hoskins displays good plate discipline for a hulking slugger and strikes out less than we’d expect a guy this big to strike out.
Everything Encarnacion did in 2017 feels like the floor for Hoskins. His ridiculous home run rate will be hard to match, but Hoskins checks off all the necessary boxes for a 40+ home run masher. His 46.0% hard contact rate was amongst the best in baseball last season, and he hit 45.2% of balls into the air.
Overall, I’d give Hoskins a .260/35 floor in 2018, with the potential for much, much more. The potential for more is what drives me to pick Hoskins over Encarnacion this season.
Van Lee (@ManlyVanLee)
There is little doubt that Rhys Hoskins is going to be something pretty special. It took him no time at all last year in establishing that he’s a monster to be reckoned with when there is a bat in his hands. He carried over the power-heavy profile from his minor league career and proved that, although the hit tool wasn’t phenomenal, it was good enough to handle the major leagues and not bottom out. Hoskins’ 212 plate appearance debut came with 18 homers, an absurd .259/.396/.618 slash line fueled by an out-of-this-world 17.5% BB%, and a .359 ISO. His .241 BABIP also leaves the chance that he might actually be able to bring the batting average up, making him even more of a threat.
I do believe that Hoskins is a great player and likely to do great things. His 2016 and 2017 seasons in the minors and majors are the stuff of legend. Prior to that? He was merely pretty good. If I were to look at his 2014-15 numbers in the minors and project a “best case scenario,” I likely would have guessed 30 homers, five or six steals, and a .300/.375/.500 line. Very good, but not exactly what he has done the last two seasons. His 212 plate appearances (and all of them coming later in the year when fatigue and roster expansion inflate offensive numbers) still aren’t a ton, and the fact remains that facing prime MLB pitching is the hardest thing he will do in his profession. I need to see what he does once good pitching adjusts.
Five picks later in the ADP is aging slugger Edwin “E5” Encarnacion. E5 will be playing the 2018 season at age 35 as Cleveland’s primary DH and occasional first baseman. Despite the fact that he is 11 years older than Hoskins, Encarnacion has put together one of the best six-year offensive stretches in the game today. Over that time period, he has hit .269/.369/.537 with an average of 38 home runs, 91 runs, and 110 RBI per season.
This is elite territory, folks. It’s difficult to say when the actual descent of his career will begin, but despite the cries for it happening last year, he still hit 38 homers and walked at the highest rate in his career (15.5% BB%). I think he has one more elite season in him before the chinks in the armor begin to appear and the shine begins to fade.
In 2018, I’ll take the less risky pick in round four and stick with Encarnacion.
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Nathan Dokken (@NathanDokken)
It’s always tough to make heads or tails out of an extreme performance in a small sample size. That’s what we are forced to parse out with Rhys Hoskins. Fortunately, a lot of what Hoskins did in his incredible debut seems sustainable, at least to an extent. He made 81% contact and was whiff-adverse with just a 7.1% swinging strike rate.
His 24% O-swing% also lends credence to a double-digit walk rate, although reaching 17.5% again is a lofty expectation. A 46% hard-contact rate with a 49% pull% will lead to a TON of home runs, especially in Citizens Bank Park, which was THE most favorable HR park for right-handed batters in 2017. Even if you drop his ISO from .359 to .259 – which might be an overcorrection – you’re looking at 35+ homers.
I’m not super worried about Encarnacion falling off completely, but at age 35, that possibility has to creep into your mind. Between these two hitters, I’d say the batting average and HR output should be similar, with a slight nod to E5 in the R+RBI categories. I’m giving the edge to Hoskins here thanks to additional outfield eligibility and an upside of 45+ homers.
Mick Ciallela (@themick23)
A common trait among fantasy players is that we all want to be ahead of the curve. Nothing satisfies us like a sleeper who pans out. Similarly, nothing seems to bore us quite like an aging veteran whose best years are likely behind him. Because of this, I suspect many fantasy owners will gravitate towards Rhys Hoskins over Edwin Encarnacion in drafts this year. Here’s why I would caution against this strategy.
Edwin Encarnacion has been one of the most consistent fantasy commodities for the past several seasons. Some cracks in the armor have shown over the past couple of years. His contact rate has dipped in four straight seasons, and his hard-hit contact index has dropped in three straight. But it’s not as if he has fallen off a cliff, and Encarnacion’s production has remained largely consistent.
Since 2012, Encarnacion has averaged 100 runs, 42 home runs, and 120 RBI per 162 games played. There’s something to be said for that, especially at first base. Positioned in the middle of a potent Cleveland Indians’ lineup, Encarnacion is a near lock for 35 homers and 100 RBI once again in 2018. Despite last season’s power barrage across MLB, bankable numbers like the ones Encarnacion provides are still a valuable commodity and should not be taken for granted.
Rhys Hoskins is an exciting young player who made an immediate impact for the Phillies last year. He had 11 home runs in his first 18 MLB games. Perhaps even more impressive was his 17.5 percent walk rate. However, his .241 BABIP is downright frightening, and his 67 percent September contact rate suggests that pitchers were able to adjust once the word on Hoskins got out following his torrid start.
Over his last 16 games, Hoskins went just 7-for-52 with no home runs and 19 strikeouts. Sure, that’s cherry picking an extremely small sample size, but then so too is touting what he did during his first 18 games. Hoskins appears to be an extremely volatile player, which I tend to shy away from in the early rounds and at premium positions such as first base.
Now, if Hoskins has outfield eligibility in your league, his value increases tremendously because the “Rhysk” factor is decreased. In fact, I feel compelled to mention that Hoskins is listed as an outfielder in Fantrax’s salary cap challenge games and comes at a significantly lower price than Encarnacion. If I had to choose only one in that format, I’d likely take Hoskins. However, if I am strictly drafting a first baseman in a standard format, give me Encarnacion over Hoskins.
Ryne Milkins (@Ryhhno)
Personally, I have to go with the seasoned vet on this one. Encarnacion has been one of the game’s top sluggers the past six seasons. I don’t see that coming to an end anytime soon.
At 35 years old, Encarnacion has stayed healthy recently and averaged 147 games over the past six seasons. In 157 games last season, EE put together yet another great season. Despite a slow start, EE finished the season batting .258 with 38 homers and 107 RBI. He led the team in homers, RBI, walks, and OBP. Most importantly, he batted .313 in the month of September and helped the Indians enter the postseason red hot.
Rhys Hoskins had an incredible season in his own right. He kept the baseball world in awe after making his debut in August. In just 50 games, he homered 18 times and knocked in 48 runs. Hoskins was averaging a homer every 11.7 plate appearance.
While Hoskins has a ton of power, a pace like that cannot possibly be sustained. He’s yet to experience the wear and tear of a full Major League season. Hoskins already began slowing down in mid-September, batting just .135 with no homers in his last 16 games. Although it’s easy to forget that he’s still just 24 years old.
Three or four seasons down the line, it’d be silly not to go with Hoskins. He’s got the power potential, the makeup, and the tools to be a very serviceable bat in any lineup. However for the foreseeable future, I have to go with consistency, and that’s EE.
Encarnacion has shown time and time again that he can perform regardless of the situations he’s in. You know what you’re getting with him, even this late into his career. The Indians look to be a very dangerous team for the foreseeable future, and Encarnacion should play a huge role in that.
Overall Fantrax Verdict: Rhys Hoskins 7-3
|Anthony Franco, Andy Singleton, Eric Cross, Keith Farnsworth, Nathan Dokken, Ralph Lifshitz, Ryan Cook.
|Mick Ciallela, Ryne Milkins, Van Lee.
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