In this offseason column, I’ll be taking both sides of a classic dilemma facing fantasy owners every draft: do I go for broke with upside or take the safer bet?
For me, my teams always look fairly similar, with an offense of safe bets and maybe a Giancarlo Stanton or other high volatility middle rounder to go with a pitching staff that has at least one sure-thing closer taken in the top-100 picks.
But following 2020, a season where that strategy really let me down, I figured it was time to at least consider breaking the mold. And that’s where Floor to Ceiling comes in. In each article, I’ll break down two players that play the same position that is within 10-20 draft picks and try to determine which to take. Sure, team construction will come into play, but this should help serve as a guide as you build your ideal team, and will point out reasons to buy the hype or decide that the risk isn’t worth it.
Jimenez owns left field and the middle of a potent lineup for the Chicago White Sox. In his sophomore season in 2020, Jimenez scorched the ball, following up his red-hot September in 2019 with a .296/.332/.559 with 14 homers in 213 ABs. Finishing in the 96th-percentile in barrel- rate, Jimenez is well-known for his light-tower power already, despite having played less than 200 career games. After winning his first Silver Slugger award in 2020 at 23 years old, expect his growth to continue into 2021, which may well be his first 140+ game season.
Judge, a two-time All-Star in his own right, is one of a handful of players who actually hits the ball harder than Jimenez. Battling injuries in 2020, Judge only hit 9 homers, but he maintained some of the underlying numbers that keep him amongst the top 30 hitters that will be drafted in 2020. The 2013 first-rounder is now entering his age 29 season after spending parts of three seasons in the bigs after his stellar debut in 2017. If he can stay on the field, there aren’t many hitters who can outperform him, but he’s no longer the young breakout he was a few years back.
For this debate, it is difficult to determine who really is the player who represents the floor and who represents the ceiling, but for me, it came down to less checkered injury history and more stable numbers year to year that made Jimenez the floor. Judge’s 50+ homer track record made him the ceiling, not to mention his 6’7 build and “All Rise” nickname. But there’s obviously more to it than a difference in nicknames, so let’s dive in, first establishing their respective ceilings before dropping down to their floors.
The Penthouse and the Rooftop Deck
|xBA||Max EV (mph)||avg EV (mph)||Barrel rate||Hard-hit rate|
|Eloy Jimenez ‘19||.270||114.1 mph||91.2 mph||12.8%||47.9%|
|Aaron Judge ‘19||.277||118.1 mph||96 mph||19.7%||58.4%|
|Eloy Jimenez ‘20||.285||113.6 mph||92.4 mph||16.5%||55.7%|
|Aaron Judge ‘20||.266||113.1 mph||92.2 mph||11.6%||40.6%|
Data courtesy of Baseball Savant
Judge has consistently had higher average exit velocity and hard hit% numbers than Eloy, though both have been amongst the best in baseball in those metrics, those measures are not the best predictors of slugging percentage. wOBA is a stronger predictor of SLG% than hard hit%, avg EV, and even ISO according to Statcast data.
So even discarding Judge’s injury-shortened 2020 and his career lows in exit velocity and hard hit% and instead of using his solid 2019 marks, Jimenez seems to be at least on par with Judge. In 2019, Judge put up a .362 wOBA with a .540 SLG; in his sophomore season in 2020, Jimenez had a slightly superior .367 wOBA and a .559 SLG, higher than any mark of Judge’s besides his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2017, where the Yankee superstar had a .430 wOBA and garish .627 SLG.
|Eloy Jimenez ‘19||.343||.246||.513|
|Aaron Judge ‘19||.362||.249||.528|
|Eloy Jimenez ‘20||.367||.263||.559|
|Aaron Judge ‘20||.368||.297||.554|
Data courtesy of Baseball Savant
To sum things up, Judge and Jimenez are not similar hitters when you compare what Judge did in his historical 2017 season, but factoring in the possibility injuries have permanently locked Judge from achieving at that level in the future, and taking his 2018-2020 numbers to be predictive of his future production, the pair seem to be in lockstep, at least in the power department.
|K%||BB%||Zone Swing and Miss%|
|Eloy Jimenez ‘19||26.6%||6.0%||22.6%|
|Aaron Judge ‘19||31.5%||14.3%||24.0%|
|Eloy Jimenez ‘20||24.8%||5.3%||22.5%|
|Aaron Judge ‘20||28.1%||8.8%||19.2%|
Data courtesy of Baseball Savant
One differentiator that actually shows Eloy’s upside is his higher batting average and similar on-base floor, both of which are important in all formats, including OBP leagues, H2H categories leagues, and points leagues. Though Judge had a ridiculously high OBP buoyed by a 14-15% walk rate across the 2017-2019 seasons, his 2020 walk rate was a career-low 8.8%, bringing him closer to Jimenez’s career walk-rate of 5.8%. Add that to Eloy’s strong .296 AVG in 2020, backed by a .285 xBA higher than any of Judge’s finishes outside of his 2017 .284 mark, and it is easy to see how similar the pair are at the plate.
As Judge’s xBA and AVG have stabilized around .260 over the last three hobbled seasons since 2017, Eloy built on his in 2020 and thanks to a consistent plate disciple and batted ball profile, seems poised to make further strides next season. If Eloy can threaten a .300 AVG, or at least bottom out at Judge’s AVG ceiling of .260, there really is a category where he far outperforms Judge, especially considering how relatively rare a .280+ AVG is across baseball in today’s game. Here’s how Eloy’s 2020 AVG, .296, ranked amongst qualifiers.
Concrete vs. A Frozen Pond
While debating which player has the higher ceiling is more of a subjective exercise, there really is no debate as to which player presents the higher floor.
In his rookie campaign in 2019, Jimenez spent just two short stints on the injured list; Eloy needed three weeks in April and May to recover from a high right ankle sprain and 10 days to fend off a right ulnar nerve contusion, neither of which bothered him in 2020.
Judge on the other hand is, along with his teammate Giancarlo Stanton, one of the poster boys of nagging injuries limiting on-field production. As has been mentioned earlier, Judge has not come close to his 2017 breakout numbers in any category, from power and speed to games played. After 155 games and 678 plate appearances in that ROY season, Judge averaged 107 games across 2018 and 2019, failing to reach 500 plate appearances.
Those low totals have largely been due to repetitive leg injuries. In his September call-up in 2016, Judge was sent to the shelf due to a left oblique strain. In 2018, a more flukey right wrist fracture sidelined him for the better part of the summer, but in 2019 and 2020, those leg injuries returned with a vengeance. Judge began 2019 with a full two months on the IL to start the year after straining his left oblique. Then in 2020, he missed two weeks to begin the season with a right calf strain, which he re-injured less than a week later, missing another two weeks.
When healthy, the underlying numbers mentioned earlier really have Jimenez and Judge right around the same mark, hence the similarly high ceilings. However, Jimenez is far more likely to act on those underlying numbers by actually being on the field. Judge’s ability to reach his ceiling is like walking on a newly frozen pond in December; you might make it across and have a great time, or you’ll put a hole in the ice and be forced into an unpleasantly cool swim (I’m from California so please excuse the poor ice analogy).
Eloy isn’t without flaws though. One limiting factor for Jimenez is the lack of steals. While Judge is likely to at least chip in 3-5 bags over a full season with a floor closer to the nine he took in 2017, Jimenez has yet to steal in his abbreviated MLB career, despite a competitive 62nd percentile sprint speed. That handful of steals may not seem important, but from a league-wide perspective, drafting Judge and a few other players who will chip in in that category will allow you to steer clear of players like Adalberto Mondesi in early rounds and Jonathan Villar later on.
But other than speed, factoring in how similar the two sluggers now are in the power and on-baes department and Judge’s checkered injury history, Jimenez clearly has the higher, or least more stable, floor.
The Verdict: Pay for the Sturdier Floor, Find Upside Later
Maybe with Stanton… paying for injuries around pick 40, where x, y, z players reside, really doesn’t make much sense when Stanton, Franmil “The Franimil” Reyes, and Rhys Hoskins all could provide eerily-similar production to Judge’s projected 2021 triple-slash from Steamer of .248/.369/.510.
At the end of the day, Jimenez really does look like he could bust out. He clearly has the underlying power numbers to put up a season reminiscent of Judge’s 2017 if he maintains his health, which as an athletic 24-year-old he should. Plus, he hits in a lineup similar to Judge’s Yankees lineup with the White Sox, which is reflected in his 2021 Steamer projection of 91 runs and 108 RBI.
No matter your league rules, both players will produce for you, though Judge’s OBP floor is much higher, which could help you choose him over Jimenez in a points league. But if you’re worried about Judge’s dip in BB% from over 14% to 8.8% in 2020, then maybe you shouldn’t buy Judge in 2021. Instead, opt for the healthier, younger Jimenez and all of the stable counting stats and AVG he should provide in the heart of Chicago’s best lineup.
At the end of the day, if you draft Judge, you should have already drafted some safer games played and AVG options within the first three rounds. Judge could also really pair nicely with a speedy young shortstop like Trea Turner, though Turner has his own durability concerns.
On the flip side, Jimenez really could be the stable batting average hitter who could anchor your outfield even if you miss out on the very elite tier in the first and second rounds. Pairing Jimenez with less stable options in the mid and late rounds, like Trent Grisham and Randy Arozarena, could prove a winning strategy, though he’ll certainly need to be paired with a bit of speed, like Judge, to help you stay competitive.