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New Top-50 Picks, Part 2

Continuing the series started yesterday identifying the biggest jumpers into the top-50 with some potential ADP comps who could something in similar in 2016:

Dallas Keuchel [HOU, SP]

  • 2015 ADP: 194
  • 2016 ADP: 41
  • Difference: 153

Keuchel actually broke out in 2014, but nobody really bought it. I mean, I guess some were in on him. I'll backpat a little bit and say that the 2015 SP Guide was optimistic on him:

It all looks sustainable for Keuchel, again probably not at the sub-3.00 level, but anything in the low-3.00s will return a firm profit as the early drafts haven't put much of a tax on his 2014 season. Granted, he was free last year, but he has only jumped up to a 17th round pick on average. In fact, that's exactly where he went in the LABR Mixed draft as Ray Murphy from BaseballHQ snapped him up with pick 249, matching his 248.8 position in NFBC leagues so far. At that price, he has plenty of wiggle room in case he doesn't carry everything over from 2014, but I'm buying with ease.

OK, OK, I can hear you now, "Chill out, Paul, it's not like you said he'd improve every facet of his game and win the AL Cy Young!" The skepticism with Keuchel was somewhat understandable. He was a non-prospect who broke out at age-26 after 239 IP of 5.20 ERA in the majors. He also didn't succeed with the weapon of choice in today's game: strikeouts.

His 18% rate from 2014 was actually below average for starters (19%), but his groundball rate didn't get enough credit as a tool for success. Rates north of 60% are special and put fewer burdens on the strikeout rate to maintain success. That issue was rendered moot in 2015 as he posted a 24% K%, including five 10+ strikeout games.

There is no pitcher with a 200-inning, sub-3.00 ERA going as late as Keuchel went last year. The only one close is John Lackey (218 IP of 2.77 ERA) and that's because of age. It makes sense for him to be going late even off such a great year. I still have a name with some breakout upside going in this range, though.

2016 Comp: Jose Quintana (pick 180, 50th SP). Quintana now has three straight years with 200+ strong innings (ERAs ranging from 3.32 to 3.51), but he's still just kind of a mid-tier option that doesn't really excite anyone. Among starters since 2013 (min. 450 IP), his 3.40 ERA is 28th (just four spots behind Keuchel, btw), his 1.24 WHIP is 40th, and his 21% K rate is 34th.

He only has 9 wins in each of those three seasons, but that's more on the surrounding team in Chicago than Quintana himself. There isn't an obvious path to a Q breakout, but there's value in a four-peat of his 2013-15 numbers at this cost while also holding an outside chance of getting substantially better. A lot of times you're choosing between floor and ceiling, but Quintana offers that rare combo of both.

A.J. Pollock [ARI, OF]

  • 2015 ADP: 168
  • 2016 ADP: 16
  • Difference: 152

Pollock was one of the biggest breakouts of 2015, accumulating more HR (20) and SB (39) in his 673 PA than he had in 862 PA from 2012-14 (17 HR, 27 SB). He flashed the upside in 2014, but injury limited him to just 75 games, a sample too small to fully trust. Now we're left wondering how much he will regress, if at all. I mean, I say "if at all", but he has to come back a little bit off of such a great season. He can dip back and still be great.

The power wasn't tied to some obscene HR/FB rate nor shift in his batted ball profile. In fact, he hit fewer flyballs than ever before at 29%. His 13% HR/FB rate is a career-best, but not so far out of the realm that you can't easily see a repeat. He was at 10%, 7%, and 10% the first three seasons of his career. He was a 78% base stealer in the minors and 77% in the majors prior to last year meaning the 85% mark he had in '15 might be the prime spot for his regression. I think a .292-94-16-69-30 season is very doable, and that's still super-valuable.

2016 Comp: Kevin Pillar (pick 161, 42nd OF). Pillar had a pretty good season last year when you stack it all up: .278-76-12-56-25 in 628 PA. Defense earned him and maintained his spot in the lineup while the bat showed up in bursts (particularly July and Sept/Oct). Pillar doesn't have Pollock's pedigree having been drafted in the 32nd round (Pollock went 17th overall in '09), but he performed all the way up the ladder with speed and batting average at every stop.

Pillar doesn't feel like a power breakout, but neither did Pollock. Pillar has a slightly better batted ball profile to this point than Pollock did prior to 2015. Pillar already hits more flyballs and has a pull tendency while both have the benefit of a great home park.

The last few years I've been really keen on defensive stalwarts as breakout candidates with their glove keeping them on the field as they learn the finer points of hitting at the big leagues. Cain fit this mold coming into '15. Brandon Crawford was someone I targeted last year in this vein and Pillar will fill that same role in 2016 as my primary target under this premise.