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The five-tool players of fantasy baseball

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There were only five players to make the list, but find out who could make their way onto the list in 2019.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

In this post will take a look at what players are great at everything and bad at nothing, and who could join this group in 2019. When I say “five-tool players of fantasy baseball,” I am talking about players who have above-average chase rates, exit velocities, sprint speeds, contact rates, and launch angles. So if you came here to read about Christian Yelich or Javier Baez, you will be sorely disappointed. There were only five players last season that reached these marks, and four out of five of them were inside the top five in my preseason rankings. It is usually a good thing to pinpoint these players because they offer a safe floor and a potentially higher ceiling. Even if one of their skill sets falters, they will likely still be a viable fantasy option in 2019 as they have other skills to fall back on.

The Group of Five

Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels (ADP: 1.2)

Skill most likely to regress: Contact Rate

This one probably surprises no one. Trout has been a perennial first-rounder ever since his rookie season, when he hit 27 home runs stole 49 bases—and had a batting average of .326. There is no question that Trout has some of the best tools we have ever seen. His speed and power are unquestionably some of the best in the game, and his consistent ability to drive the ball will continue to help him maintain a BABIP well above the Major League average. He has struggled with strikeouts at times, which includes a 26.1% strikeout rate back in 2014. The important thing to note is that although he has struggled with strikeouts, his contact rate has never dropped below 80.0%. He actually had a contact rate of 84.1% in 2018, which was 7.1% above the league average and gave him the 24th-best contact rate among qualified batters. Don’t try to get cute if you have the first overall pick. Just draft Trout to start your draft.

Mookie Betts, OF, Boston Red Sox (ADP: 1.8)

Skill most likely to regress: Exit Velocity

If there is anyone who can challenge Trout for the top spot in baseball, it would be the current Red Sox right fielder and fellow Wilco boy Mookie Betts. Betts proved that his down year in 2017 was just a mirage. His ability to make consistent contact and barrel the ball puts him among some of the best players in the game and should help him maintain one of the best batting averages in the leagues. With his amount of speed paired with his raw power and launch angles, Betts has the potential to be a perennial 30/30 player as well. His 50.2% hard contact according to Statcast last season was the seventh-best among batters with at least 300 batted ball events. With that being said, he only had two batted ball events with an exit velocity of at least 110 mph, which is an obvious outlier compared to players with similar hard contact rates. For that reason, I expect his hard contact rate to drop a little bit in 2019, but it will likely still be somewhere in the 40.0% range. Betts is an easy No. 2 option in fantasy baseball and should continue to put up gaudy numbers in 2019.

Jose Ramirez, 3B, Cleveland Indians (ADP: 3.9)

Skill most likely to regress: Launch Angle

It seems like Ramirez is finally getting the respect he deserves after being widely underrated since his 2016 season that helped push the Indians all the way to the World Series. He has always been a contact-oriented hitter, but 2016 saw his power start to come out as he had a hard contact rate that was only 1.8% lower than he had in 2018. The reason for his sudden power surge the past two seasons was due to an increasing fly ball rate that saw him hit more fly balls than ground balls in each of the past two seasons. His plate discipline has always been widely underrated, as he has a career chase rate of 25.3% despite having a single digit walk rate. His launch angles will likely regress a little bit in 2019, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. He hit most of his balls in the air last season, which is great for his power, but ultimately hurt his BABIP. I’m expecting around 30 home runs and a BABIP around .290 from him in 2019, so his ADP seems appropriate.

Alex Bregman, 3B/SS, Houston Astros (ADP: 11.6)

Skill most likely to regress: Contact Rate

I ranked Bregman as my No. 5 overall fantasy player for 2019, and it’s because he is one of only five to make this list of five-tool players. He had the fifth-best chase rate and fourth-best contact rate among qualified batters last season, and his raw power and speed give him the potential to become a 35/20 player in the upcoming years. He did have elbow surgery this offseason, but he should be ready to return by Opening Day. He basically gives you similar numbers to Anthony Rizzo, except with more stolen bases.

Aaron Hicks, OF, New York Yankees (ADP: 119.2)

Skill most likely to regress: Contact Rate

This one may surprise some people, but Aaron Hicks is not only a solid fantasy option but could be elite. His chase rate was one of the best in the Majors and put up a 43.0% hard contact rate according to Statcast. He may only steal 15 bases in 2019, but in today’s game that is actually quite valuable. His contact rate was just above the cutoff at 78.0%, so there is a chance he falls off this list in 2019. With an ADP outside the Top 100, Hicks is an absolute steal in drafts. I already had him inside the Top 75 overall players before writing this post, but I may have to move him inside the Top 60 in front of David Dahl.

The Up-and-Comers

Francisco Lindor. SS. Cleveland Indians (ADP: 4.7)

Skill needed to improve: Plate Discipline

Lindor is my favorite hitter when it comes to his mindset when he steps in the box. He is not a fly ball revolutionary, but he does want to hit the ball in the air. That may be confusing, but don’t worry I’m here to explain. A lot of people believe fly balls are great when in reality, the optimal launch angle is between 16-30 degrees. If the ball is hit with a good enough exit velocity, the ball has a chance to become a home run. If the ball stays in play, however, it still has a high likelihood of becoming a hit. When asked about his approach, he said he is not going to sell out for power, but instead he is focused on driving the ball. This gives him the ability to hit 35+ home runs without sacrificing batting average. The only reason Lindor doesn’t make it into the group of five is due to his slightly below-average 32.7% chase rate. If he improves his plate discipline in 2019, then he easily makes it into that group next season.

Ronald Acuna, OF, Atlanta Braves (ADP: 8.0)

Skill needed to improve: Contact%

When Acuna first got called up, it seemed like he was a little overmatched at first. After getting some Major League at-bats, however, he seemed to adapt to big league pitchers a lot faster than expected. His contact rate and chase rate started to improve as the season went on, and he then had that amazing home run streak to finish out the season. When running some of his Statcast numbers from 2019, I was shocked to see his BABIP and home run rates were nearly identical to one Mike Trout. The only problem was his 25.3% strikeout rate, but he will be just 21 years old to start the season. If Acuna improves on his 74.6% contact rate, then he could take Trout’s spot as the perennial No. 1 overall pick.

Trea Turner, SS, Washington Nationals (ADP: 10.4)

Skill needed to improve: Launch Angle

Turner’s speed has been the topic of the fantasy industry ever since his rookie campaign in which he stole 33 bags in just half a season of work. Two things that many people seem to overlook are that his contact rates have slowly been improving over the past three seasons, and his chase rate resembles that of Christian Yelich and Bryce Harper. He will need to improve his launch angles if he wants to become more of a power hitter, but there is no doubt that Turner has the potential to become one of the best players in fantasy.

Andrew Benintendi, OF, Boston Red Sox (ADP: 29.8)

Skill needed to improve: Launch Angle

Benintendi was so close to making this list, but his launch angles were just shy of the cutoff. His plate skills are quite impressive as he owns a career 83.0% contact rate and a 28.4% chase rate. His hard contact rate was only 33.4% according to Statcast, but I think he has the potential to make it up to the 40.0% range at his peak. With his speed and power potential, he could become a 25/25 player who has a batting average above .300. With an ADP around 30, I could see him make his way on a couple of my teams come draft day.

Harrison Bader, OF, St. Louis Cardinals (ADP: 169.1)

Skill needed to improve: Contact Rate

Cardinals fans are enamored with their potential superstar center fielder in Harrison Bader. Bader had the seventh-best sprint speed and 30.8% hard contact rate according to Statcast. With his raw power and speed, Bader has the potential to be 20/30 player in 2019. My fear with Bader comes with his lack of contact. He has never really been a great contact hitter, and with a 29.3% strikeout rate last season there is an obvious reason for concern. I’m fine with his current ADP, but I won’t be reaching past the Top 150 in drafts.

Austin Meadows, OF, Tampa Bay Rays (ADP: 181.9)

Skill needed to improve: Launch Angle

I personally ranked Meadows inside my Top 100 for redraft leagues despite his current 181.9 ADP in NFBC leagues. The reason is that Meadows has a clear path to playing time and offers something that only five other players did last season. Meadows has been seen as a contact hitter with marginal power. Well, I’m here to tell you that not only is his power for real, but he has the potential to hit over 30 home runs as soon as 2019. While playing in the minors last season, he had more fly balls than ground balls and posted a 39.3% hard contact as a Major Leaguer according to Statcast. Sadly, his launch angles at the big league level were just a tad below average, so he just missed the list. If you asked me who is most likely to make their way into the group of five next season, Meadows would probably be third behind Lindor and Benintendi.

Ketel Marte, 2B/SS, Arizona Diamondbacks (ADP: 226.9)

Skill needed to improve: Launch Angle

Marte intrigues me as he has excellent plate skills and has added more power to his game since coming over to the Diamondbacks back in 2017. He’s not crazy fast, but he has the speed to swipe 15 bags. The one major flaw in Marte’s skill set is his horrid fly ball rate. A lot of people around the industry got really excited once they saw him improve his fly ball rate in 2017, but that all came crashing back to earth as he posted a 51.2% ground ball rate last season. If he could start lifting the ball a little more, Marte has the potential to become 20/15 player with a batting average lingering around .300. It may never happen, but let a man dream.

Phillip Ervin, OF, Cincinnati Reds (ADP: 594.7)

Skill needed to improve: Contact%

It is unclear how Ervin will fit into the Reds’ plans for 2019, but he has tremendous potential nonetheless. He has shown good plate discipline throughout the minors and has a career chase rate of 27.5% at the Major League level. His ability to hit the ball in the air was complemented with a 34.6% hard contact rate. The only problem I see with his skill set is his 75.8% contact rate. If he can improve his contact abilities, then Ervin is a genuine diamond in the rough.

Pablo Reyes, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates (ADP: 713.0)

Skill needed to improve: Launch Angle

If you asked me who the most underrated prospect is for fantasy baseball, the answer would be easy. Pablo Reyes had a small cup of coffee last season, but over that span, he had .293/.349/.483 slash line with a 127 wRC+. His hard contact rate was an even more impressive 48.9% over his 47 batted ball events, according to Statcast. Now this was a small sample size and there is likely room for regression, but even a 35.0% hard contact rate is impressive for a player who was left off the Pirates’ Top 30 prospects. With that power also comes some serious speed that could see him steal upwards of 25 bags at the Major League level. I think a lot of people shy away from players who haven’t had that coveted top prospect label on them because they are afraid of being wrong. Luckily, I am known for saying crazy things and I don’t shy away from hot takes very often! So here’s a hot take for you: Pablo Reyes is a 25/25 player the second he gets a full-time job with a Major League team.