2016 Fantasy Baseball: Breakout Series – Alemdys Diaz
Even when you remove players that are eligible at shortstop, but aren’t really shortstops, you still see an impressive list of players. The shortstop position may not be the best position diamond, but it is certainly up there. So, finding a breakout performer is difficult simply because we have to narrow down the list. We also have to pick someone that went outside of the top ten at the position on draft day. Before we dive in, let’s consider the top five players drafted at the position according to Yahoo.
The Top Five
For those new to the breakout series, we look at the top five players drafted at each position for a couple of reasons. First, we want to give a frame of reference for the player that has been selected as the breakout player. In many cases, we are talking about a player that went undrafted. So, when their numbers compare favorably with the top five we see how important the waiver wire is for fantasy success.
Probably more important we almost always see a star that is drastically underperforming or who is hurt. In Tulowitzki’s case, it’s both. Tulo owners are desperately looking for something to fill the void and if they acted early enough they had a number of very appealing options. Even now, the Cardinals Aledmys Diaz is owned by only 87 percent of Yahoo leagues. I say only because his numbers are good enough to have him as the 84th best overall player and the ninth best shortstop overall.
The Basic Numbers
Banking on rookie performance is the folly of man. One doesn’t have to go any further than St. Louis to see the possible rewards and pitfalls. Last year, Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty helped lead the Cardinals to the brink of the pennant. This season, Grichuk is hitting near the Mendoza line while Piscotty has continued performing. Go figure. So, there is nothing to tell us whether Diaz will continue to perform as he has except for his minor league track record. He’s only been in the minors since 2014, so there isn’t a lot to go on there either.
As we have done in the other editions, we will break down performance into two categories: plate discipline and batted ball statistics. Plate discipline rates how often a player makes contact and when they make contact. So, we look at their strike zone judgment and we break down their contact based on pitches in and out of the zone.
These numbers make sense intuitively, but very few casual fans take the time to look. Balls in the zone are easier to hit than balls outside the zone. Yet, some hitters seem to swing at an excessive percentage of balls outside the zone. Diaz is about as close to the league average across the board as you will see. Therefore, he is a good model to demonstrate the difference the ability to hit and plate discipline. He’s generally successful when he’s not fishing. Of course, we will not know what kind of hitter he will be long term until he gets a few seasons under his belt.
Some hitters use their first couple of seasons as a point of departure and continue to refine their approach to improve on their Oswing rate. Others get exposed as pitchers get a book on them and their numbers get worse. We won’t know about Diaz for a while, but it bears watching.
Plate discipline is very important and it tells us a lot, but we only know about rates of contact. We don’t know what kind of contact is being made and therefore don’t know what to expect from a hitter overall. Batted ball statistics look at a player’s batting average on balls in play, but also look at the type of contact being made. If we look closely at that we can determine if a player’s BABIP is where it should be or whether he has room for growth or will regress back to the mean.
Again, Diaz represents a player fairly close to the average in all of the categories. His BABIP is slightly higher than the league average (.300) but not excessively so. He does hit the ball harder more often than the typical player, but not by much. His rates of line drives, ground balls, and fly balls are nearly average across the board. The same is true of his rate of home runs per fly ball.
Unfortunately, without a lengthy track record we really do any serious gambling on the future. We have to take the numbers at face value which would seem to indicate that Diaz is a league average hitter across the board. The same is true of his plate discipline. The good news is that he has no glaring weaknesses. The bad news is that he has no discernable strengths either. Still, a league average hitter has tremendous fantasy value at a position like shortstop.