Make the Case: Rhys Hoskins or Greg Bird

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Welcome to the first installment of Make the Case! Ben Rolfe and I will be here debating some of the biggest questions heading into the 2018 Fantasy Baseball season. This week we debate which young first baseman we would rather have? Ben Rolfe and Kyle Robert debate Rhys Hoskins and Greg Bird.

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For this exercise we excluded Cody Bellinger who is in the top 5 at the position on the consensus rankings at Fantasypros.com.

Rhys Hoskins (KR)

Rhys Hoskins is the clear choice for me beyond Bellinger. In 212 plate appearances last season, Hoskins hit 18 homers with 48 RBI and 37 runs. While the power numbers are impressive the patience displayed at the plate was impressive. He improved his walk rate going from AAA to the Majors going from 13.5 to 17.5. His K rate also went up which is to be expected making a leap in levels.

In 2018 I expect both of those numbers to normalize a bit. If he can cut down the strikeout rate and display the batting eye that helped his walk rate spike a batting average approaching .270 is very attainable.Hoskins should also continue to display the power that made him a late season stand out in 2017. 30 plus home runs and an RBI total approaching the century mark is very much a reasonable projection.

The addition of Carlos Santana should help Hoskins RBI production in 2018. Santana is a great OBP guy and should be on base a ton. It should give Hoskins plenty of chances to drive in runs.

Expectations numbers wise for Hoskins should be 30 plus homers and close to 90 RBI hitting .265. There is the potential to exceed both and approach 40/100. Obviously you don’t want to pay the ceiling price on draft day but the potential to hit those numbers will likely make him a very interesting target.

Greg Bird

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Greg Bird (BR)

When we started discussing which young first baseman we would rather have Greg Bird was my immediate choice. There are a number of reasons I like Bird despite his tough year last year. The first reason is that it feels like we have never seen the healthy Greg Bird and what he can do. He lost all of 2016 to injury, then it never felt like he was truly healthy last year and that showed in his numbers.

The second reason is that we have seen the power is real; in his first year in the majors in 2015 Bird hit 11 HRs in 178 plate appearances with a 0.261 average despite a 29% strikeout rate. Last year in 170 PAs he backed up that power with 9 HRs but they came at a sub 0.200 batting average. A large reason for that horrible average is an unbelievably low BABIP (0.194) that I can only see improving this year. Strikeouts will probably always be a problem but it was promising to see that in 2017 he cut that strikeout rate to below 25% and hopefully he can continue to improve on that in 2018.

The biggest reason why I think Bird has tremendous upside this year is the team he is playing in. The Yankees are unbelievably talented and have tremendous depth of hitting. A couple of weeks ago some sites had Bird projected to hit 6th in the line-up behind the Stanton, Judge and Sanchez trio. Now that should give him the potential for incredible RBI numbers and even with the Yankees line-up being a little weak behind him (Gregorius and Hicks) there should still have been a decent amount of runs. However, as of today he is now projected to hit 4th behind Judge and Stanton but ahead of Sanchez and if that’s the case I don’t think it is a reach to discuss the potential of 180 and perhaps even 200 combined runs and RBI this season. Combine that with my currently projected 30 HRs (in just 125 games) and all you have left to be concerned about is average.

Currently my projections have Bird hitting close to 0.230 but that is putting as much weight on last year’s injury hit BABIP as it is on 2015 (0.319). In his career in the minors his BABIP numbers have always hovered around the 0.300 mark so even if we are conservative and say a 0.290 BABIP then suddenly we are looking at a 0.250ish average which isn’t far behind what Hoskins did last year. If Greg Bird can put a close to full season together and somewhere between what he has in his two seasons so far then 40 HRs are not out of the question and he could easily be a top 10 and close to a top 5 first base option come the end of this year.

 

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