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Fantrax Staff Debate: Yoan Moncada vs. Ozzie Albies

One of the most enjoyable parts of fantasy sports in debating which players are better than others. We’ve all done it. You’re hanging out with some friends, probably enjoying a beer or two, and you get into a long discussion over which player is better than another one. Sometimes it might get heated, but that’s okay. We aren’t all going to agree on every single player. That would make fantasy leagues incredibly boring.

The same can be said here at Fantrax. We have a great group of writers and podcasters (that might not be a word but who cares) who are all very knowledgeable, but we don’t always agree. So we figured we’d have some good ol’ fashion debates about two players that are close in potential 2018 fantasy value.

After covering first base and catcher, we slide over to the keystone position and debate two second basemen who were still in diapers when Bartolo Colon made his Major league debut in 1997. One has struggled so far while the other hit the ground running. Which rising young star should you want on your fantasy teams in 2018? Let’s find out.

Previous Staff Debates

Willson Contreras vs. Buster Posey

Mike Zunino vs. Yasmani Grandal

Edwin Encarnacion vs. Rhys Hoskins

Anthony Rizzo vs. Cody Bellinger

Yoan Moncada vs. Ozzie Albies

Tale of the Tape

Moncada   Albies
22 Age 21
6’2 Height 5’9
205 Weight 160
2 Years 1
199 AB 217
0.231 AVG 0.286
8 HR 6
22 RBI 28
31 R 34
3 SB 8

Eric Cross (@EricCross04)

Do you want to see the future of the second base position? Well, here it is. First off, I’m incredibly high on both Ozzie Albies and Yoan Moncada. When I said they’re the future of this position, I meant it. As a Red Sox fan, I was ecstatic when they ponied up the cash necessary to secure Moncada’s services in January of 2015. I’ve always been a sucker for toolsy Cuban sluggers, and Moncada was no different. In fact, putting my Red Sox fandom aside, I was more excited about his skillset than I was with Jose Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes, or Yasiel Puig.

Not many prospects have their hit, power, and speed tools graded as plus. Moncada was one of the lucky few. He had .300/30/40 written all over him. He still possesses that potential, but struggles in certain areas have dulled this prospect shine ever so slightly. The biggest area of concern is his swing-and-miss tendencies. Moncada has never had a K rate below 21.1% and has regressed in this category at higher minor league levels and especially in the Major Leagues, where he has a stomach-turning 34.3 K%. That’s not on Joey Gallo-ian levels, but it’s not far off.

On the other hand, Albies hasn’t ever had that issue. Over his minor league career, he struck out in just 15.1% of his plate appearances. That rate even dropped to 14.8% during his rookie season last year. Speaking of last year, when you combine Albies’ stats from Triple-A and in the Majors, he had a line of .285/15/69/101/29 over 628 at-bats. You know what’s even more impressive? Getting caught stealing only three times in 2017 and converting on 79.1% of your stolen base attempts as a professional. Oh yeah, did I mention he was only 20 years old last season? Damn impressive, Ozzie.

Coming up through the minors, Albies was given a 60-grade hit tool and 70-grade speed. His power was always deemed below average, but he’s beginning to drive the ball more as he matures as a hitter and adds strength. Don’t expect any 30+ home run seasons, but 15-20 seems about right. Add in a likely .300 average and 40+ steals, and you have a fantasy star in the making.

That could all happen as soon as this season, too. The power edge goes to Moncada here, but I’m giving Albies the edge everywhere else. I’m going off the rails on this crazy train in 2018. C’mon, you knew I’d have to work one Ozzie Osbourne reference in here. Get the signs ready … Albies/Cross 2020.

Our buddies on The Baseball Show, Andy Singleton and Ralph Lifshitz, are buying into Albies in a big way, too.

Mick Ciallela (@themick23)

It feels like we’ve been hearing about Yoan Moncada forever, and yet he is still just 22 years old. He has a tantalizing combination of power and speed and should be a fantasy asset for years to come. However, I think Moncada is still a little too raw to count on in 2018. His strikeout rate is something I just cannot get past. Moncada has struck out in a whopping 34.3 percent of his 251 MLB plate appearances. And this isn’t a sudden byproduct of being called up too soon. Moncada also struck out in 30.3 percent of his minor league plate appearance. I’m afraid we are looking at a .230 hitter until Moncada matures as a hitter. As the old saying goes, “you can’t steal first.”

Speaking of steals, Moncada’s prowess on the basepaths also might be a bit overstated. After stealing 94 bases during two seasons in Boston’s farm system, Moncada had only 20 swipes in 2017, including just three in 54 games after being called up by the White Sox. I envision Moncada as Javier Baez with a better eye but with a lower batting average. Moncada will surely be a fantasy asset sooner rather than later, but you should not expect a top-10 finish at second base quite yet in 2018.

Ozzie Albies has flown a bit under the radar over the past couple of years. Dansby Swanson got more of the hype heading into last season but didn’t do much with the bat in first full major league season. Albies, meanwhile, spent the first four months in Triple-A until being called up on August 1. Albies struggled early, but made adjustments, including minimizing his leg kick in an effort to improve his timing at the plate. Albies finished 2017 with a .286-36-6-28-8 over 244 plate appearances. His 80.0 percent contact rate and 14.7 percent soft-hit rate are good signs for his batting average floor, and he has the potential to be an elite base stealer.

Albies stole 29 of 32 bases in 2017, including his time in the minor leagues. Likely hitting behind Ender Inciarte and in front of Freddie Freeman, Albies is in a prime spot in the Atlanta Braves’ order. I would not expect a ton of pop from Albies, but he should be a fantasy asset in batting average, runs, and stolen bases in 2018.

The decision on which player to select in drafts may be predicated on the construction of your other hitters. If you can afford the batting average hit and are looking for a little more power, Moncada might be your guy. However, in a vacuum, I prefer Albies in drafts. Despite having just turned 21, Albies has already shown that he can make adjustments at the major league level, a trait that only highlights his excellent skill set and provides a lot of optimism heading into 2018.

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Van Lee (@ManlyVanLee)

An interesting matchup here of two top-tier prospects. We saw Ozzie Albies come up and put together about 250 plate appearances with the big league team in Atlanta last year and hit the ground running. His slash line of .286/.354/.456 with six homers and eight steals showed what he’s capable of. On the other hand, with Yoan Moncada we saw a 231 plate appearance season in the Majors with less-than-glowing numbers. His .231/.338/.412 line with eight homers and three steals leaves a lot to be desired, but it wasn’t too terrible.

Looking deeper into the minor league numbers for both players, we see a few trends start to break out. In 1,744 plate appearances in the minors, Albies has a .304/.365/.424 line while averaging a home run every 109 plate appearances and a stolen base every 17 PA. In 1215 plate appearances, Moncada boasts a .285/.390/.470 slash line with a home run every 35 PA and a stolen base every 11 PA.

While both point to valuable players in their own right, through a 650-plate appearance season, that would put Albies on pace for six homers and 38 steals and Moncada for 19 homers and 59 steals. Albies walks about 8.2% of the time and Moncada an amazing 14% of the time. Obviously, this is very rudimentary application of numbers, but you get the point. Albies has arguably less overall potential than Moncada.

The difference in performance in the minors and the majors isn’t necessarily astounding, but it can aid in evaluating these guys. Ultimately, this comes down to potential over safety for me. Albies likely has the better path to success this season, but that ceiling is a bit limited. Moncada could flame out and end up back in the minors, but with more advancement in the 22-year-old’s game, we could see a breakout season of 20 homers and 40+ steals. I don’t have to tell you how beneficial that could be to your fantasy team. It’s Moncada for the win.

Nathan Dokken (@NathanDokken)

I wrote up Yoan Moncada in my Course Correction series and accidentally boldly predicted a 20/20 season for him. Therefore, you would understandably presume me to side with Moncada in this particular debate. That’s where you’re wrong!

As we speak, Albies’ ADP is rising like sourdough in a San Franciscan oven. He won’t be the bargain I was hoping he’d be in drafts this year. The fantasy community has caught on. However, I still like what both of these guys bring to the table in terms of power and speed … mostly speed. Albies showed he wasn’t overmatched in his debut with a decent 33% hard contact rate and 80% overall contact. He should hit second in an improving Braves lineup and score plenty of runs with Freddie Freeman hitting behind him. Eventually, he and Ronald Acuna will form a heck of a 1-2 punch atop that lineup.

I could see Albies going 15/25/.280 with 90 runs in 2018, with the batting average being the separation between him and Moncada, who I think will strike out too much to hit higher than .260. There’s a chance Moncada gets more aggressive on the bases in 2018 than he was in 2017 and out-steals Albies, in which case the matchup will tilt his way. However, I feel a lot safer with the floor of Albies, and that’s where I’ll go in drafts.

Anthony Franco (@affranco10)

I wrote up Ozzie Albies to kick off my 2018 preview series back in October. What struck me, in particular, was that he was on a shortlist of players with a strikeout rate below 20% and a soft contact rate below 15% in 2017. Toss in the fact that he was both the fastest and the youngest player in that group, and there are countless reasons for excitement here.

He is the rare player who could realistically offer across-the-board production, with enough hard, air-ball contact to profile as a solid home run threat despite his size, 70-grade speed,  and a Braves lineup that should be better than it was last year with the incoming arrival of Ronald Acuna and a full season from Freddie Freeman, which should give Albies quite a few run-scoring opportunities if he hits near the top of the lineup.

I think Yoan Moncada will be an above-average MLB player for a long time, but his present skill set just does not match up with Albies’. Upon breaking into the big leagues, Albies immediately ran a strikeout rate below 15%; Moncada, on the other hand, had a strikeout rate of 32%, continuing a bit of a troubling trend that has been present throughout his minor-league career.

Moncada has more raw power of the two (and his 89.1 MPH average exit velocity beats Albies’ 86.9 MPH mark by a rather significant margin), but his extremely low contact rates indicate that he should be expected to have a bit of a lengthy development curve ahead of him.

Moncada has 70-grade speed of his own. However, he has less of a track record of stealing bases at the highest levels of professional ball than Albies does, and the gap in batting average here figures to be rather significant. For a dynasty format, I might be tempted to take the bet on the player with more physical upside. However, for 2018 only, I would roll with the higher floor that Albies offers.

Overall Fantrax Verdict: Albies 5-4

Ozzie Albies Andy Singleton, Anthony Franco, Eric Cross, Mick Ciallela, Nathan Dokken.
Yoan Moncada Keith Farnsworth, Ryan Cook, Ryne Milkins, Van Lee.

Thank you for reading and we hope you can use this article to your advantage and get a leg up on your fellow league members.  Got a question that we didn’t cover here? Then follow us on Twitter (handles above) and ask there.

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