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2016 Fantasy Baseball: Sleeper Candidate — David Peralta

Baseball today is so weird when you compare it to what the game used to be years ago. Let’s say a decade ago I came to you to try and convince you that someone who just this past season hit 17 home runs and drove in 78 RBIs was an “under-the-radar stud.” You’d probably look at me like I had five heads. However, the way the game has evolved, including from a fantasy perspective, and players like Peralta are extremely valuable to have.

The story of how Peralta made his way to the MLB is actually quite fascinating. Back in 2006, Peralta started his career in the St. Louis Cardinals organization as a pitcher. Throughout his time with the Cardinals, Peralta struggled to stay healthy, experiencing numerous injuries, a couple of which resulted in multiple shoulder surgeries. Shortly thereafter, the Cardinals released Peralta in 2009 after never making it past rookie ball.

Peralta decided to return to his home country of Venezuela, where he would transform himself into a position player in an attempt to return to the major leagues. In 2011, Peralta came back to the Untied States, and started playing baseball again; though this time, it was in an independent league. After dominating in the independent league for two seasons, Peralta hooked on with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Peralta is now 28-years-old, which is somewhat of a surprise for common baseball fans, as he’s just in his second year in the big leagues. However, Peralta’s story is unlike others, which makes him that much more fascinating. What makes him even more interesting, however, is the way he’s raked since being called up in June of 2014.

In a season and a half’s work in the majors, Peralta has 25 home runs, 114 RBIs, while slashing .299/.345/.486. Here’s something that a lot of people don’t know: Peralta was fifth among outfielders in 2015 in OPS. Despite this, Peralta still isn’t getting the love he deserves. Could it be because people aren’t buying into a 28-year-old former indy league player making a transition to one of the better outfielders in baseball? It’s possible. Could it be the .368 BABIP he sported last year that some think is unsustainable? The small sample size in the big leagues hurts his value, too. Nonetheless, Peralta’s stock is something that you should be buying into, not trying to avoid. There’s no reason we should be getting angry about where Peralta’s ADP is, as it makes it easier for us to acquire him in later rounds. You just need to avoid taking a player because of their “name-value”.

After all, there are a lot of outfielders who are currently getting drafted above Peralta who come with a lot more risk, while Peralta offers upside without the substantial risk. For example, outfielders like Brett Gardner, Ben Revere, and Hanley Ramirez are all getting taken ahead of Peralta. Yes, the track records for these players are much longer than that of Peralta’s, but the numbers speak for themselves.

Ramirez had an absolutely abysmal first year in Boston, and while the transition to first base should help him regain some value defensively, it’s not guaranteed to improve his bat. Gardner had a nice first half last season for the New York Yankees, but he fell off considerably in the second half. By the way, saying he fell off “considerably” is a pretty nice way of putting it. Gardner was an early MVP candidate in the first half of last year, hitting .306 with 10 home runs and 15 stolen bases for the first place Yankees. The second half was, well, not so sweet, as Gardner hit .206 with six home runs and three stolen bases. It’s no surprise that the Yankees were shopping him this offseason, either, as the upside for a speed-first 32-year-old is now somewhat limited.

Peralta, on the other hand, got off to a slow start the first half of the season, though he still hit eight home runs and drove in nearly 40 runs. In the second half of the season the power numbers were essentially the same (nine home runs), though he hit .360 and slugged .577. What’s not talked about enough is Peralta’s ability to get on base, which makes him that much more valuable if your league counts OBP. And though Peralta isn’t known for having blazing speed, he was still able to snag nine bases last season in 13 attempts, so there is value there as well. Among outfielders in 2015, Peralta ranked 15th in UBR, which measure the value a player adds to their team via base running.

Mr. Peralta not only placed in the top five for OPS in 2015, he also ranked sixth among outfielders with a 138 wRC+. That put Peralta ahead of big-name outfielders like J.D. Martinez, Yoenis Cespedes, teammate A.J. Pollock, and Ryan Braun, among others. For those that don’t know, wRC+ is a statictic that helps measure the runs a hitter created; a 100 wRC+ would be considered league average. It actually freaks me out a bit how little everyone talks about this guy.

But wait, there’s more. Via Fangraphs.com, Peralta was ninth among outfielders in ISO, which measures a player’s raw power and gives you a better indication of how often they hit for extra bases. This was the stat that really stuck out, as many Peralta skeptics believe he won’t be able to top 20 home runs in a season. At 28, Peralta is in the prime of his career and has a lot less mileage than other outfielder’s his age, so there’s no reason to believe he can’t hit 25 home runs and drive in 100 runs this season.

The Arizona Diamondbacks are clearly going for it in 2016, as emphasized by their offseason moves. Peralta projects to be the #2 hitter in a very good lineup, hitting right in between 2015 MVP candidates A.J. Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt. That spot in the batting order is dependent on whether or not Yasmany Tomas pans out as the cleanup hitter. If he doesn’t, Peralta would slot right in the #4 spot in the order. Given where Peralta is getting taken in drafts, he provides unmatched upside in the later rounds when you’re looking for an outfielder.

Statistics gathered from Baseballreference.com and Fangraphs.com

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