If you want stolen bases in 2019 Fantasy Baseball drafts, you will likely need to spend a high draft pick or pay up in an auction. Whit Merrifield is one example.
The Royals gave Merrifield a contract extension of four years for $16.25 million that covers his years of arbitration eligibility, and there’s performance bonuses up to $2 million. Merrifield didn’t reach the majors until 2016 when he was 27 years old.
Merrifield is coming off his best season with a slash line of .304/.367/.438 with 88 runs, 12 home runs, 60 RBIs and 45 stolen bases in 158 games. He led baseball with 192 hits, including 43 doubles. In 2017, Merrifield had a slash line of .288/.324/.460 with 80 runs, 19 home runs, 78 RBIs and 34 stolen bases. Merrifield is eligible at second base and outfield in most leagues and could be at first base in some. He played five games at first base in 2018.
Merrifield became a more patient hitter, increasing his walk rate from 4.6 percent in 2017 to 8.6 percent last year, although the strikeout rate increased by 2.1 percent to 16 percent. The hard-hit rate increased by 6.3 percent to 36.9 percent.
Merrifield has an ADP of 31 in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) and 35 on fantrax.com. What? This is way too high. While stolen bases aren’t as plentiful as they used to be, it doesn’t mean you overpay to get them. It also means not as many stolen bases are needed to be in the top three to five. While it would be great to win every category, it’s not necessary to win the league.
Merrifield led baseball with 45 stolen bases last season. The only others to reach 40 were Trea Turner (43) and Mallex Smith (40). Eleven players stole at least 30 bases in 2018.
While Merrifield’s stolen bases are valuable, he doesn’t do enough in home runs and RBIs. It’s really difficult to spend an early pick on a player that likely won’t hit 20 home runs or drive in 80 runs. While there’s an advantage in stolen bases, you are chasing home runs and RBIs. Most RBIs come from the three and four hitters, and those players go early in drafts. The Royals aren’t a good offense, and it’s difficult to envision Merrifield being a boost in the counting stats.
There are many ways to build a successful Fantasy Baseball team, and you can do it by drafting Merrifield, but it digs a hole. The way I build mine doesn’t include a player with the profile of Merrifield.
I will not overpay for stolen bases and building an early base of home runs and RBIs is important. If there’s no trading, getting stolen bases in the draft is more important, but overpaying should be avoided. Successful players who know the player pool well will find speed elsewhere.
Steamer projects Merrifield with a slash line of .275/.330/.406 with 84 runs, 12 home runs, 62 RBIs and 31 stolen bases in 2019. That’s not good enough to be a second or third round pick. Merrifield is overvalued.
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