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Buy Low Candidate: Now In Oakland, Should JJ Bleday Land On Draft Lists?

The fourth overall selection in the 2019 draft, JJ Bleday reached the Majors in 2022 and now looks to carve out a full-time job in 2023.  Surprisingly, however, the opportunity won’t come in Miami.  After being swapped for A.J. Puk he will instead battle for playing time in Oakland, where there should be ample opportunity for at-bats.

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Is JJ Bleday a Buy Low Candidate…

Outside of Ramon Laureano, there is no certainty in Oakland’s outfield.  Instead, Bleday should have the inside track over names like Esteury Ruiz and Cristian Pache.

The question for fantasy owners is if this new opportunity should lead to excitement?  Should this new opportunity land him squarely on draft boards in the later rounds?  Should JJ Bleday be considered a buy low candidate heading into 2023?

The Good

Bleday appears to have a solid command of the strike zone, with an 11.7% SwStr% and 27.8% O-Swing% in his first taste of the Majors.  The former is consistent with his mark at Triple-A (11.9%), and for a young player that’s extremely promising.  Even better is that it is a direct contrast to what was originally expected from him upon being drafted.  Just look at what Prospect 361 had said about him prior to 2021:

“His swing is not short to the ball with a lot of moving parts. He starts high, lowers his bat before a very large load and swing.  With this approach, there could be a lot of holes that pitchers will exploit.”

It appears that he’s made an adjustment, and the hope would be that he can make similar adjustments throughout his game.  He’s shown an ability to get on base via the walk at every level, including a 16.3% walk rate at Triple-A and 12.6% in the Majors.  While the strikeout rate has been high, including a 28.2% in his MLB debut, with the discipline he’s shown that should come down a bit.

Bleday also seemed to find his power stroke, swatting 20 HR over 302 AB at Triple-A before adding 5 more over 204 AB in the Majors.  It’s great that we saw it on the field, but we need to be careful before fully declaring this part of his game a positive.

The Bad

While a strong approach and showing his power are great signs, they unfortunately are not necessarily enough.  He’s appeared to sell out to putting the ball in the air, in an effort to get to his power (FB%):

  • Triple-A – 53.5%
  • Majors – 52.5%

Had he qualified, the mark would’ve led the Majors.  In the spacious confines of Oakland that wouldn’t be conducive to carrying a strong average.

Also working against his average is a clear, pull-heavy approach.  That’s been the case since he debuted in the minors (Pull%):

  • 2019 (High-A) – 47.7%
  • 2021 (Double-A) – 48.2%
  • 2022 (Triple-A) – 47.8%
  • 2022 (Majors) – 49.6%

If he had qualified, his mark in the Majors would’ve placed him fourth in the league.  Ample fly balls, only using part of the field and a lack of speed?  That’s going to work against carrying an elevated BABIP, and in turn a strong AVG.

With questions about his ability to maintain his power in Oakland (as it is he posted an 86.3 mph average exit velocity), the matter gets even more complicated.

The Conclusion

We have a young player who may get an opportunity, but do we really believe he’s going to keep it?  He’s likely going to struggle to maintain the power…  He has always lacked speed…  Then we have the average, where he’ll be lucky to get to .250…

You put that together and it’s far more likely that he sees time in Triple-A as opposed to exploding onto the scene.  Opportunity or not, Bleday isn’t going to be a strong buy-low candidate.  Instead he remains a player to avoid in 2023.

Sources – Fangraphs, Prospect 361

Are you buying in on the change of scenery for Bleday? Share your thoughts in the comments below. For more great analysis check out the 2023 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit!

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1 Comment
  1. A Aron says

    My man crush with JJ Bleday is over, so much for college bats being ready for the majors…..or at least with this guy. Glad to see you back in some capacity Eric. If you ever put out another draft guide, please give me the wink wink nod nod

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