Which Outfielders quietly improved in the second half?
The 7th part in our series focuses on Outfielders. Both of these guys are already mixed-league relevant, but are likely to be under-priced on draft day.
Yasiel Puig, RF, LAD
Yasiel Puig is a mercurial player and fantasy asset. He broke on the stage and won over many fantasy players with his incredible 2013 debut. Then he broke many hearts with his poor play from 2014-2016. Even in those years he flashed upside. In 2017, it finally all came together for Yasiel and he finished the year with a .263/.346/.487 slash line with 28 home runs and 15 steals. He did that in only 135 starts. So he’s already on your radar as a strong asset, but what he did in the second half suggests he’ll be a 5 category stud this coming year that you should target aggressively.
In the first half, Yasiel batted .251/.324/.453 with a 19.1% k rate. A good slash line, but not all that impressive. After the break, he batted .278/.374/.533, while cutting his k rate to 15.4% and boosting his walk rate. He improved his hard contact rate in the second half as well. He still pops the ball up too much, but the improved discipline could have him threaten a .280/.380/.550 slash line next year with a 30-15 home run stolen base total. His BABIP of .288 in the second half has some room for improvement, don’t underrate him on draft day.
Eddie Rosario, LF, MIN
Eddie Rosario had a strong breakout season in 2017. He hit .290/.328/.507 with 27 home runs and 9 steals. Before looking into him, I was ready to dismiss it as a career year and someone who is likely to regress based on his below-average plate discipline. Don’t make my mistake, Rosario got even better as the season went along and will be just as good in 2018.
In the first half, Rosario hit .287/.325/.458. He had a 4.5% walk rate, a 19% k rate, a BABIP of .329. There wasn’t a lot of power in the first half, and an average and OBP fueled by BABIP. In the second half, both his power and discipline improved, and without the benefit of BABIP. He hit .292/.331/.558 with a 6.5% walk rate, a 17% k rate. He boosted his ISO by almost .100 points, and his BABIP lowered all the way down to .295.
Another key point in his dramatic second half improvement in quality of contact. He hit more balls in the air (42% fly balls in second half versus 32.7% in the first half). He pulled the ball more (44% pull rate in second versus 34.1% in the first half). He also hit the ball harder 35.1% versus 28.1%.
His discipline, power, and quality of contact all dramatically improved in the second half. Expect a repeat of his 2017 performance, with some upside for more. He could very easily be a .290 30 home run 10 steal player. Target aggressively.