2016 Fantasy Baseball: Breakout Candidate — Ender Inciarte
Hope springs eternal for most baseball fans. March is the time of year when most fans can picture their team making it all the way to October. Fewer fans may be able to picture their team hoisting up the trophy, but you can’t get there if you can’t get to the playoffs. We’ve seen enough teams go from the basement to the penthouse to count anyone out. Yet, there are a few teams that are probably already virtually out of the running before the season even starts. Ironically, most of those teams are in the National League.
The Atlanta Braves are one of those teams. It is difficult to explain, but they seem to be going through a purging period to prepare for the 2017 season. Apparently, they are building a new stadium that will go online in 2017. The theory behind new stadiums providing a bump in economic well-being was seemingly debunked years ago, but they are buying in just the same. It seems the theory is to get rid of as many long-term contracts as possible in an effort to load up again next offseason.
They made a series of moves to shed themselves of these long-term contracts and actually managed to succeed in adding some long-term talent in the process. One of those was number one overall pick Dansby Swanson. Yet, that might not have been the best piece from that trade. Ender Inciarte might be good enough defensively to make Braves’ fans forget Andrelton Simmons (also dealt in the offseason). He also might be good enough offensively to be an underrated fantasy option.
Where He Has Been
Like the aforementioned Simmons, Inciarte’s offensive numbers don’t necessarily look great, but his overall value is bolstered by the defense. In terms of fantasy relevance, it does mean that both will see their names on the lineup card more often than not. Simmons has been at a little longer, so he has probably reached his potential offensively. Inciarte could take another step forward offensively and if he does he could become a very valuable fantasy option.
Keep in mind that offensive numbers are going down around the game. So, if you find a player that is capable of stealing up to 25 bases and you have yourself someone that could be a fourth or fifth outfielder on a mixed league fantasy team. If he continues to hit .300 or above that ceiling could get a little higher. However, let’s take a look at what the experts think.
What Could Be
As we have seen with a number of players, the experts project him to regress because of a high batting average on balls in play (BABIP). However, a .329 BABIP for a player that builds his game around speed is hardly out of ordinary. He probably will come closer to reaching the midpoint between 2014 and 2015 in terms of his rate statistics. Unfortunately, the runs and RBI will probably take a dive because the Braves are actively trying not to be good.
The Rosy Picture
The rosy picture might not be entirely rosy, but we have to remember that these numbers would go along with Gold Glove performance in the outfield. According to Fangraphs, he managed to average around three wins a season above replacement. If he gets more playing time this season, he could approach four wins above replacement. That might not make him the best position player on the Braves team (Freddie Freeman should outproduce that) but that improvement along with health from some other key players could make the Braves a lot more competitive than some people think.