What’s the most common phrase you’ve heard this offseason among the fantasy community?
Steals are scarce is one. James Paxton is my sleeper might be another contender – I’m guilty of this one. How about player x is injury prone? This is one that I’ve heard numerous times, and for good reason.
There are a lot of players whom are properly tagged as a risk to not stay on the field. However, I always find myself stepping back from discussion whenever I hear the claim as I determine what the actual standard is for a player being prone to injury.
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We have guys, like Bryce Harper, who play like their hair is on fire and are considered by many to be injury prone. Giancarlo Stanton is a player who I wouldn’t say plays with the level of aggression that Harper does, but seems to always come up with an injury to nix him from the 150 game threshold. I would say he is injury prone, but in a different respect.
Then we have have literally every pitcher in baseball who possess some level of injury risk simply due to the motion of throwing a baseball. They’re all susceptible to some sort of ailment at one point or another during the season. It’s why the wait on pitcher club is always accepting members. My apologies to all of you who own shares in David Price and Carlos Carrasco. Just think, it’s not even Opening Day yet!
What about the players caught in limbo with the injury prone tag? I always find myself optimistic in projections for players who are a few missed games away from their injury history moving into any discussion about that player’s future.
Gregory Polanco is one of these guys.
The Pirates’ outfielder received two platelet rich plasma injections early last season, tore up the major leagues for two months, and then fizzled out into a 22 homer, 17 stolen base season with a .258 average. This was just good enough to make him a top 100 player, but more importantly caused many to wonder what the heck this kids potential is if he’s healthy for an entire year.
It’s always a tough thing to nail down, for any player.
Mechanical changes and adjustments players make in their career can drastically alter what their ceiling looks like. J.D. Martinez had a ceiling of .250 and a generous 20 home runs for the first three years of his career. All the sudden he makes a few subtle adjustments and that ceiling is somewhere in the realm of 40 home runs.
Gregory Polanco’s ceiling can be debated, but I would peg it somewhere in the 100/30/100/25/.290 range for the 2017 season.
This is with everything falling his way. Health, BABIP, HR/FB%, hard hit %, line drive percentage, the whole package of player dependent and independent results. His 2016 first half doubled would give you 100/24/100/18/.287, although rudimentary, taking a player’s best half and doubling it is a good barometer for what a really good season could look like for any player. I may be a bit bullish on this thought for Polanco, but I don’t think it’s too insane.
If we want to expand our vision past the 2017 season, we run into an even more perplexing range of possibilities. Brett Sayre of Baseball Prospectus is the poster boy for Gregory Polanco long-term love, as he took him 26th overall in a 99 round ‘draft and hold’ with the folks over at Dynasty Guru – of which I own a team as well. Yes, it’s actually 99 rounds. No I am not joking. Yes I am crazy.
It was a bit shocking to see him name off the board so early, but when you look big picture at his prospect pedigree and the mix of skills he has shown at the major league level, I can’t fault Brett for the pick. As Grey mentions in his top 20 outfielders piece, Polanco’s two major league seasons combined lead you to a 22 homer, 27 steal campaign. He’s done both before, just in different years. I’m happy to drool over his skill set for another 500 words but we have more important matters to attend to.
Grey – 77/23/89/24/.262
Me – 80/24/85/17/.265
Fangraph’s Steamer – 76/18/71/19/.265
The real question is would one be happy with a repeat of last season at this high of a price tag? Polanco’s current ADP on NFBC is 64th overall, with a high pick of 40 overall.
For any owner confident in a slight improvement up to our previously discussed ceiling, the answer is probably no. However, Polanco is one of the few players with such parity in his range of outcomes that I’d be happy to insulate my team around the Pirates stud as a modified hedge on his potential.
Kyle Seager is a player I would love to combo with Polanco in a draft. All the Mariners’ third basemen has done in his career is improve, stay on the field, and hit. He’s a player with a very high floor and an attainable ceiling that could offset any volatility Polanco could leave you with.
20/20 is a great expectation for the industry to have on a player like Polanco. This is a good reason why the fifth round price tag is what you’re going to have to pay. Legitimate five-tool fantasy assets are few and far between.
The easy way to see a player’s floor is simply saying he doesn’t play. That’s a cop out.
Let’s make it interesting and say Polanco nagging injuries remerge on opening day and he still plays through the entirety of 2017. Weird to think about a scenario where this actually happens, but this doesn’t deviate much from what Polanco’s 2016 second half seemed to be. So what value are we going to see returned?
This is a combination of looking at this spotty second half and expanding out to a slightly better average. My confidence in his average sticking is because it’s tough to expect a substantial reversion of the line drive approach that netted him the attractive peripherals we saw in 2016: 25.7% hard hit rate, 24% line drive rate, 14.4% HR/FB%, 91.5% zone contact rate.
The floor we’re looking at above is something along the lines of what Freddy Galvis produced last season, minus a bit of power – 61/20/67/17/.241. Bet you never thought a Polanco-Galvis comparison would emerge when you clicked on this column did you?!
It’s not pretty, but it’s a possibility that needs to be acknowledged. Galvis was still a top 200 player last season with those stats, but you’re digging yourself a hole if your 5th pick is barely a top 200 player.
I’m skeptical of this floor manifesting because of the change in batted ball profile mentioned above.
Hitting the ball hard a great indicator of success and is a common metric that gets people really excited for the future. We’re not going to wake up in May and see Freddy Galvis atop the exit velocity leaderboard, unless there is substantial change in approach. That, or Mike Trout changes his name.
Polanco made strides to hit more line drives and turned out an extremely attractive batted ball profile that pushes up his average floor higher than we’d think. Exit velocity is also one of the few things a batter controls to a great extent, making an uptick, even during a year of power across the board, more appealing in expecting this floor to be easily exceeded.
I’m a Buyer
So is the combination these three buckets enough to pull the trigger on Polanco before the 5th round has come and gone? I think it is, and Grey would likely agree with me (Polanco is Grey’s 15th OF). But for that decision to be made by an owner on draft day, they’d have to believe strongly that the window between the expectation and ceiling is what you’re going to get. Not the much less valuable window between the expectation and the floor.
I’d consider myself one of those owners. I paid $27 for Polanco in a CBS Expert League NL Only draft and drafted him 50th overall on one of my NFBC teams. The potential has been something I am consistently gravitating towards. My general dislike for the steals centric players like Jonathan Villar and Trea Turner early in drafts has made me more inclined to turn to players like Polanco to solidify some foundation for steals early in roto drafts.
Polanco has all the potential in the world. Here’s to hoping the 2018 offseason doesn’t bring with it the phrase Gregory Polanco is injury prone.
You can follow Lance on Twitter, @LanceBrozdow, if you prefer to act like a proper millennial.