Drafting players who won’t break camp with a team inside 200 overall signals we are ready for the 2018 season. If you have confidence in the draftee, however, then is it safe to say that aggression is warranted?
Over the last three days of NFBC drafts, Scott Kingery’s draft stock has ranged between 178 and 362, with his average owner pulling the trigger in the 24th around. This represents substantial inflation from his January and February draft stock, which sat him outside of the 30th round on average.
In scenarios where spring training confirms the talent and readiness of a prospect, it’s natural, with the lack of major league statistics to form a consensus on a projection, for assets like Kingery to be appealing given the unknown. Sometimes this works out. Remember Kris Bryant and Cody Bellinger?
Uncertainty illustrates how futile comparing prospects can be, especially when best practice is to avoid drawing direct lines where they shouldn’t be drawn. What we can draw a line between is Kingery and Bryant/Bellinger in regards to service time.
The earliest Kingery could conceivably be in the major leagues is April 13, giving him 171 days of service time, one day under a full year. That could cause Kingery or the league to file a grievance. The second baseman could cite the clear limit on his earnings potential for one more year; the league could claim manipulation of service time rules. This alone signals the system might be flawed, but I won’t open that can of worms.
So when is Kingery up? April 25 sounds good to me (the same day Bellinger was called up last year)! Seriously, your guess is as good as mine. There has been buzz that Kingery will land in Philadelphia before April is over, making any day between the April 13 and April 30 windows fair game.
Where does he play? Gabe Kapler says Kingery can play nearly all outfield positions, as well as his natural position of second base, shortstop, and third base. When he arrives, he’ll have second base and middle infield eligibility for fantasy purposes. While extra positions never hurt, he’ll need around 10 games – depending on your host site – at each of those Kapler is confident in to make him last year’s Marwin Gonzalez. Observing J.P. Crawford’s defensive prowess at short last year limits the chance Kingery acquires enough time to boost his stock the most by adding shortstop eligibility. Suffice to say, beggars can’t be choosers.
What are his projections? Razzball has Kingery posting a .257 average over 52 games, with five home runs, and six stolen bases. That’s ownable in the deepest of deep leagues, but for reasons that make him appealing in shallower leagues too: projections often failure to capture developments unfolding right beneath our noses. In this case, we get a slightly better perspective of Kingery’s potential over 120-plus games by looking at ZiPS (Ralph and friend of Razzball, Andy Singleton, spoke with the ZiPS founder on the Fantrax Baseball Show). Although ZiPS is considered a hyper-aggressive projection system, it pegs Kingery for 130 games, with a solid 16 home runs and 20 stolen bases to go with 133 total counting stats and a .257 average.
If this is Kingery’s 2018, when we look back in October, aggregate production would be similar to Tim Anderson of the White Sox in less games with a boost to RBIs. Anderson landed 193rd overall on our Player Rater last year. Taking a player who will finish inside the top 200 in the 24th round, as Kingery is going, is great value late in a draft. It may not win you a league, but combo up players like this and your lineup’s floor becomes substantially higher.
The one question up for debate is whether Kingery plays in 130 games this season. Scouts, fans, and projection system are all aligned in saying he’ll produce, it’s just a matter of how much and how soon. I’ll keep an ear to the ground, for all of our sakes, but for now, we can only hope when he is up, Kapler abides by his spring phrasing and finds Kingery at-bats.
What about this lukewarm average projection? I understand caution with prospects, but hitting .294 in a solid sample of Triple-A games, buoyed by a great line drive rate, feels like it can translate to a greater batting average than your standard, cookie-cutter hitter. This optimism could be because I buy into what changed, even if I can’t fully explain it.
What intrigues me most about Kingery is the lack direct, tangible reasoning for his improvement from 2016 to 2017. Like his Twitter moniker states – @ScottyJetpax25 – his home runs skyrocketed to 26 in 132 games, with his average stabilizing around .290-.300. With players like Colin Moran (gif here), change can be obvious, even to an inexperienced baseball-watcher. With players like Chris Taylor (gif here), alteration can be clouded, but a keen eye can pick it out.
Kingery’s helium stems from a change that sits closer – and possibly beyond – Taylor’s subtle tweak. Matt Gelb of The Athletic, wrote about how Kingery’s change started with an individual named David Schenck, a college coach connected with Kingery through a mutual agency. Schenck stressed the importance of instantaneous barrel speed when the decision to swing is made. He’s quoted in that column as saying most players have some slack, or “loading left to do” when this decision happens, which can prevent optimization of timing. Kingery embraced the concept (which goes much deeper than my simple explanation), using an enlightened tone when speaking with The Ahtletic that makes me feel like he, and presumably other players, know something others don’t.
It’s ethereal, even nuanced, but dam did it work.
Let’s put Kingery next to an aesthetic swing comp I find fitting: Alex Bregman.
Both college bats, both similar ages, with Bregman touted as the better prospect. The biggest difference between the two is the engagement Bregman has in his lower body and back hip. This highetened leg kick and initially closed front foot is unique to Bregman, but both of their approaches to the ball are similar, and the totality of their swings resemble one another well. (Shoutout to Matt Thompson for bringing up another good comp for Kingery in Ian Kinsler.)
Our shot of Kingery from above is in Lehigh Valley (Phillies Triple-A) late in the 2017 season. If you’ve seen Kingery at all this year in spring, you’ll notice a growing tendency to stay back, off his front foot, and generate even more power, helping to blur whatever differences existed between Bregman and Kingery on the surface.
This is all to confirm that some hope exists in believing Kingery’s .257 average projection may be a little bit light. I don’t think we can expect an average near .285, which Bregman posted last season, but something in the .270-.275 comes down to a few hits and a smattering of luck.
With the addition of an inflated average, we’d see an even greater return on his current ADP and production that resembles a discounted Andrelton Simmons.
Betting on the unknown – in this case, an eventual call-up and playing time – is a nice way to return value over draft stock, especially beyond 200 overall. Take a shot on Scotty Jetpax.
I released my top 100 for fantasy baseball 2018 late last week. I encourage you to take a look and criticize me appropriately… BigThreeSports.com