Transaction Scripts: Chris Young and Allen Craig

Bias is a not-so-funny word in society but it can creep into our fantasy sport tendencies. Players have a great year then struggle and whether the statistics can predict it or not. But to make sense of why a player’s production drops, if we as an owner were burned by a player, they fall of the radar. For starters, here are some blind profiles from outfielders in 2014:

CB Young's value is pointing up? What kind of world are we living in....
Chris Young’s value is pointing up. What kind of world are we living in?

Player A: 135 G, 68 R, 19 HR, 81 RBI, 11 SB .266/.324/.453
Player B: 126 G, 41 R, 8 HR, 46 RBI, 2 SB .215/.279/.315
Player C: 144 G, 47 R, 10 HR, 63 RBI, 7 SB .235/.285/.349
Player D: 123 G, 64 R, 10 HR, 36 RBI, 15 SB .244/.319/.378
Player E: 111 G, 40 R, 11 HR, 38 RBI, 8 SB .222/.299/.385

This comparison is not alarming (yet) by looking at the above numbers. It is clear that Player A would be the preferred one to own in this scenario until you see the price tag. But only one of the blind profiles did not possess an ADP below 110 this year. Injuries can wreak havoc on fantasy rosters but identifying players to avoid in the off-season can alleviate some of these problems. Player A did have some hot streaks but the questions about his health and rebound from controversy made him a player I avoided this year. In the same boat was Player B, who I did not draft either but the tail in his production was severe. Many hyped Players C and D entering the season but their price tags in drafts did not allow me to own them either. I have owned Player E before but his situation entering the season made him another one that I tried to avoid if possible. Before we delve into a nice comparison for 2015, here is each player with their respective ADP entering this year’s drafts:

Player A: Ryan Braun (11)
Player B: Allen Craig (57)
Player C: Dominic Brown (109)
Player D: Desmond Jennings (97)
Player E: Chris Young (NA)

How do you feel about each player now? Since Allen Craig and Chris Young will both play in the American League in 2015 and are only a year apart in age, I thought comparing the two would not only be fun, but could help determine who I would rather have late in drafts or in an AL-only format. Each player has had a very good career in the Major Leagues but seem to be on different paths. I am willing to bet that Allen Craig will be on many bounce back lists entering 2015 draft season but is he worth the risk? On the flip side, I am betting that people will say not to buy into the mirage that was Chris Young’s small sample size in the Bronx. It will be pointed out that Craig has a career slash line of .282/.337/.445 while Young’s is only .234/.313/427. As pure hitters, this is not a fair fight, but this is fantasy and owners want stats not career averages. So allow me to compare their 2014 seasons:

Chris Young: 111 G, 40 R, 11 HR, 38 RBI, 8 SB .222/.299/.385
Allen Craig:
126 G, 41 R, 8 HR, 46 RBI, 2 SB .215/.279/.315

I understand that Allen Craig was battling injuries all season but this is a three year decline in which he cannot blame on playing in Oakland and Citi Field as contributing factors like Chris Young can. But it is deeper than that. Here is a look at some of their peripheral statistics:

Allen Craig 2012: HR/FB% – 17.1, FB% – 33.3, SwStr% – 6.9
Allen Craig 2013: HR/FB% – 11.2, FB% – 11.2, SwStr% – 8
Allen Craig 2014: HR/FB% – 9.2, FB% – 24.9, SwStr% – 8.3

Chris Young 2012: HR/FB% – 12.1, FB% – 47.2, SwStr% – 7.3
Chris Young 2013: HR/FB% – 10, FB% – 49.8, SwStr% – 9.9
Chris Young 2014: HR/FB% – 8.3, FB% – 51.6, SwStr% – 8.4

So Allen Craig is trending down in fly balls, home runs per fly ball and his swinging strike rate is rising each of the last three seasons. In this same time Chris Young has seen a similar drop in home runs per fly ball rate but an increase in his fly ball rates each of the last three years and a drop in swinging strike percentage as well. With Young playing half of his home games in the bandbox in the Bronx, this has to have a positive effect upon his potential home run production in 2015. I can see a rebound in Craig’s average, runs and RBI playing in Boston, but will he ever hit 20 or more home runs again in a season? After his 22 dingers in 2012 he has hit a combined 21 the last two years. Returning from a foot injury does not suggest he will be stealing bases either. As much of a drain as Young can be on a team’s batting average, when he plays well, he can contribute across the other four fantasy categories. In fifteen fewer games last year Young only had one fewer run, three more home runs, eight fewer RBI and six more steals.

Staying with the theme, in an AL-only format some owners will be deciding between these two players when rounding out a roster. Due to his high ADP last year, Allen Craig will still figure into mixed leagues as well though I would be very wary to add him to my roster. Here is each of their respective stats during their brief stints in the American League last year:

Allen Craig in Boston: 29 G, 7 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 SB .128/.234/.191
Chris Young as a Yankee:
23 G, 9 R, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 1 SB .282/.354/.385

In no way shape or form am I suggesting that Young can maintain the slash lines he displayed in his Yankee debut, but if I had to gamble on which of these two players will be more valuable to fantasy players in 2015 I am taking Young over Craig. In fact, as much as I agree with the Mets signing Michael Cuddyer for their team chemistry and lineup needs, the Yankees paying 2.5 million for Young is actually a bargain and I think he could even provide more home runs and steals than Cuddyer. Statistics are a fun way to compare players and try to predict outcomes. Young was a bad fit at Citi Field and Cuddyer will be a much better Met than he was, but this is about numbers in fantasy. For 2015 I will take Young over both Cuddyer and Craig, especially at the price, which will be cheap on draft day.

Statistical credits: Baseball-Reference.com, Fangraphs.com, Fantasypros.com
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/EYider

Be sure to check out FantasyRundown.com for all the latest fantasy articles from around the web.

Greg Jewett is The Sports Script’s senior fantasy baseball writer. Follow him on Twitter @gjewett9!

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