If you’ve read enough of my work, you can probably answer this question yourself. A 30 year old just led the American League in home runs by hitting 13 more than he’d ever hit in a season. I write an entire series on regression, so of course I don’t think it will happen again. But with Mark Trumbo there are some mitigating factors that make it slightly more complex.
Trumbo’s power surge hardly came out of nowhere. He hit 32 minor league home runs as a 22 year old. Two years later he blasted 36 in 595 PA at AAA. Trumbo proved that minor-league power was no fluke by hammering 94 blasts over a three year period from 2011-13 while playing in a park that rated well below average for right handed power hitters. Considering how favorable Camden Yards is for sluggers, is it really that surprising that he topped 40? Well, it wasn’t just the park change.
Trumbo hit more fly balls (43.1 percent) than he ever has in his career. Conveniently enough, a higher percentage of those fly balls (24.6 percent) left the yard than ever before. If you just normalize Trumbo’s fly ball rate to his career norm and leave everything else the same he still hits 43 HR in 2016. If you leave the fly ball rate alone but normalize his HR/FB rate he hits 37. If you normalize both, Trumbo hits 33 home runs and I’m not writing this piece at all.
Now, it’s completely unfair to do that. Partially because you would expect Camden Yards (and three quarters of the other AL East parks) to have a positive impact on his HR/FB rate and partially because Trumbo’s hard-contact rate (39.3 percent) was also a career high.
Then again, Trumbo played 159 games last season, which he’d only once before in his career. His 667 plate appearances from 2016 are probably a little ambitious. The Orioles have said they want to play him primarily at DH which helps. I’ll settle on 606 PA, which would be the third highest mark of his career. I can also buy into the idea that Trumbo tried to lift the ball last year and will be able to continue that, mostly. Let’s give him a 43 percent fly ball rate and cut his HR/FB rate to 21 percent (which is probably a little generous).
That leads us to a projection of 37 home runs for Trumbo. That’s four more than our Sportsline projections and five more than FanGraphs’ Steamer projections. Suddenly, I’m the Trumbo optimist. That’s still going to be elite in Rotisserie leagues. Where does that leave him in points leagues?
Last year Trumbo finished seventh amongst outfielder with 499 Fantasy points. The expected dip in both power numbers and plate appearances would drop him into the Gregory Polanco and Stephen Piscotty range from 2016. I rank him just below those in points but Fantasy Pros ADP suggests he’s also going behind Polanco in Rotisserie leagues. This may be one case where the obvious regression is driving the price below where his actual skills suggest it should.
You can draft Trumbo in the 5th or 6th round and your second outfielder in Roto and feel great about it. Feel free to wait a round or two later in points leagues. He won’t be what he was in 2016, but he’ll be good enough to justify the cost.