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.
Today, we compare and contrast two men that have made nearly have the starts at third base for Boston over the last two seasons. Rafael Devers and Travis Shaw are at two very different stages of their careers but next door neighbors when it comes to their ADP.
Previous Staff Debates
Travis Shaw vs. Rafael Devers
Tale of the Tape
Eric Cross (@EricCross04)
This was a very interesting debate for me. As a Red Sox fan and prospect hound, I’ve seen both of these men extensively, especially during their time up here in Maine at Double-A Portland. Nearly half of the starts at the hot corner in Beantown over the last two season have been by Shaw or Devers. But the question is, would you rather have the former or current Red Sox third baseman?
After a couple of lackluster seasons in Boston, Shaw finally put it all together during his first season with the Brewers. In 538 at-bats, he hit .273 with 31 HR, 101 RBI, 84 R, and even chipped in 10 steals for fun. Why couldn’t you do that in Boston, Travis! Anyways. It was a very solid season from a hitter entering his peak physical years. Can he do it again? Sure he could. Can he better those numbers? That’s where I’m skeptical. His HR/FB% skyrocketed from 10.3% to 20.6% and nothing about his development suggested anything more than a 25-30 HR hitter.
On the other hand, the sky is the limit for Devers. When he came up on July 25, it was like a late birthday present for me and an early Christmas gift for the entire Red Sox Nation. He started out hot with four bombs in his first 15 games, including a stoic blast on a 102.8 mph heater from Aroldis Chapman. The pace wasn’t quite that high the rest of the way, but the potential was immediately felt.
Devers has that enticing blend of plus power and a plus hit tool. He was a career .296 hitter in the minors, and even though he never had a high home run rate until 2017, the massive raw power was always very apparent. It just needed to be coaxed out of its shell. When you look at the entirety of Devers 2017, he combined for 30 HR, 90 RBI, 88 R, and 3 SB with a crisp .300 average. Slightly different from what Shaw put up, but overall, pretty equal in terms of fantasy value.
The ADPs of these two men put them back to back in drafts on average, so that’s not a factor here. This comes down to who is likely to put up the better stats in 2018. For Shaw, last season was likely his peak. Unless he makes further advances, it’s going to be difficult for him to exceed his current ADP. Meanwhile, Devers is just getting started and has all the talent in the world to blow his ADP out of the water. If the price is the same, give me the man with the higher ceiling, and that’s Devers. They don’t call him Rafy Big Stick for nothing.
Andy Singleton (@PeoplezPen)
Devers, of course, is the ultra sexy young riser at third base, who Ben Badler debated as one of the best he’s ever seen. And those eyes have seen a lot. When we broke down Travis Shaw in our 2018 Video Draft Guide, I specifically pointed to the Brewers third baseman as the floor of the position. He is the last player I’d feel comfortable with at the hot corner. There really is no difference between Devers and Shaw, except that Shaw has now done exactly what we hope Devers can do. So, in hindsight, that is a major difference.
The gamble you take is twofold. Shaw can’t repeat, and/or has topped out; Devers is only getting started, and at 21 we know his power is a minimum of 30 bombs. The reality is, they are both very good hitters who will likely finish the year with similar lines, but one has shown you he is actually capable of it. Not to mention, Shaw turns 28 in April and is well within his power years. (If you don’t think that is a real thing, use J.D. Martinez as a reference.) Even if Shaw is maxed out, he’s set the bar on a floor Devers still hopes to achieve.
I can’t emphasize enough how huge that is. I really wish there was some separation with their ADP because I hate that it has to come down to this decision. In the end, this really isn’t an argument for one over the other, but rather a defense of saying either one would be good and should be desired. You really can’t go wrong here, any way you slice it, but give me Shaw.
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Van Lee (@ManlyVanLee)
Let me be clear before we start that this is going to be less of a vote of confidence for Rafael Devers and more a lack of confidence in Travis Shaw for me. These two guys are going at a price that I find to be just too high for my liking (Fantrax ADP of 86 and 87 for Devers and Shaw, respectively), and I sincerely doubt I end up with either on my teams this year. Now, that’s not to say that both of these guys are going to be busts, but in my opinion, they are being overhyped to the point that the value to be gained from drafting these guys is negated based on their ADPs.
For Shaw, I’m concerned that the average was a bit inflated. I think .270 is certainly attainable, but a minor boost in BABIP and a surge in ground ball percentage saw the average hit what I consider to be the peak level for Shaw in 2017. Steamer also predicts a drop down to the .249 mark, and I think that’s about right. Coupled with his insane jump in HR/FB percentage from 2016’s 10.3% mark to last year’s 20.5% level, I think the homers will come down a bit, too. I think he did make changes to his approach, and he can hit for a bit of power, but there just isn’t 30-homer pop in that bat for me. He grades out slightly less than good for baserunning, so I also see a drop in stolen bases to be within the 5-10 range, which isn’t exactly a game-changer.
Devers, on the other hand, has already shown the ability to hit for a solid batting average, and I think he really does have .300 average potential. Where I’m less excited for him is that he has all but abandoned the stolen base aspect of his game. A guy who steals fewer than five bases per year isn’t exactly helping you in the category. I also think there might be some growing pains. However, with Devers’ pedigree and what he showed last year in the Majors, I think there’s enough talent for him to bat .280-.290 with 25+ home runs. That batting average could also sneak over .300 with some luck, and if he does that then you’ve really gotten a big boost in his value. Average is hard to come by in this day and age, and it’s what gives Devers the advantage over Shaw, in my opinion.
Mick Ciallela (@themick23)
Fantasy owners tend to gravitate toward the shiny new toy, and Rafael Devers is no exception. Hence, Devers is being drafted as a top-60 hitter despite just 240 career plate appearances. The hype is mostly justified. Devers acquitted himself well in 2017 as a 20-year-old, hitting .284 with 10 home runs in 58 games. Projected over 600 plate appearances, Devers’ would have had 85 runs, 25 home runs, 75 RBI and eight stolen bases. If we give Devers a 20% bump in production based on his status as a top prospect and his potential for growth, we could be looking at a 100 run, 30 HR, 90 RBI, 10 SB year. Quite impressive, until you realize that’s basically what Travis Shaw already provided fantasy owners in 2017.
Shaw is going largely underappreciated despite being the only third baseman in the majors to have at least 30 homers and at least 10 steals. He also finished in the top-seven at the position in all four counting categories. Yet, he’s barely being drafted as a top-10 third baseman. Shaw is still just 27 and still has room for improvement. None of his 2017 numbers seem fluky. Shaw made soft contact on just 15.8 percent of at-bats and had an 80.1 percent contact rate last season while improving both his walk and strikeout rates. His 20.5 HR/FB percentage in 2017 is a touch high, but he also hit just 37.6% of balls in the air overall. If Shaw’s HR/FB holds and he brings his FB percentage back up to career norms, he would likely hit another 5-6 home runs.
Devers is an exciting phenom who has the potential to be an elite third baseman for the next decade. If we’re talking keeper leagues, sure, serve me up some Devers. But in a redraft league, I’m taking Shaw.
Nathan Dokken (@NathanDokken)
Travis Shaw enjoyed a big breakout last year, improving his plate discipline while exceeding the 30-homer mark for the first time in his career. The Brewers have greatly improved their lineup this offseason, lending optimism to Shaw exceeding 100 RBI once again. Heck, he even stole 10 bases out of nowhere, and he was a perfect 10-for-10 to boot. However, I’m not really convinced he can duplicate any of those numbers. While 80-90 RBI seems within the realm of reason, 100 RBI is only accomplished by a few hitters every year.
He also needed a very high 20.5% HR/FB% to hit his 31 homers, and considering he actually hit fewer balls in the air last year (37.6%) than ever before, that home run total is destined to come down. Factor in that he still isn’t very good against lefties (.776 OPS), and he could lose at-bats against southpaws, limiting his counting stats.
While Devers has even less of a track record than Shaw, you have to love what you saw from him in his rookie debut. At just 20 years old, he was not overmatched by big league pitching, making 75% contact while hitting for a .198 ISO. He also had a 34.5% hard contact rate and a good ballpark and division to play in, so the power numbers should be there. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him eclipse 25 homers in this, his first full season. He also had a nearly even batted ball distribution, spraying the ball all over the yard. That will help him maintain a high batting average and allow him to drive home a heap of runs for the Red Sox.
There might not be much speed with Devers, but there’s also breakout potential lumped in with this draft pick. A solid floor with a lot of upside has me very interested.
Overall Fantrax Verdict: Rafael Devers 6-3
|Anthony Franco, Eric Cross, Nathan Dokken, Ryan Cook, Ryne Milkins, Van Lee.
|Andy Singleton, Keith Farnsworth, Mick Ciallela.
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