In roughly half a season in 2019 Tommy Edman was fantasy gold, perhaps leading managers to titles in the season’s final weeks. In 2020, though, he was as bad as he previously was good. I believe the 2020 version is closer to the real Tommy Edman than the 2019 iteration - therefore do not draft Tommy Edman.
I don’t believe there is enough demonstrated skill in his major league experience nor is there a strong enough minor league track record to justify a top-150 pick on Tommy Edman.
Why I Could be Wrong
Edman has been a slightly above-average player at almost every stop in his career. With wRC+ marks of 151, 118, 106, 80, and 108 across seven stops in four years he’s shown he can hit, if only just a little. His production tapers off at the higher levels with the 80 and 108 WRC+ coming at double-A and triple-A from 2017-2019. Edman also makes plenty of contact and struck out more than 20% just once in his minor league career (82 PAs at the A+ level). That was also the only season in his entire pro career that his swinging strike rate exceeded 10%.
Edman also didn’t demonstrate much power until 2019 when his .208 ISO at triple-A became a .198 ISO later that year in the big leagues. Is he a contact hitter filling out a bit and growing into more power? Could be, but I’m still not convinced.
His last saving grace is his propensity for stealing bases. Another modest skill Edman has showcased at every stop, with 13 more more stolen bases every season, maxing out at 30 in 2018 and now 17 combined steals in roughly a full MLB season. He’s been caught just 5 times in his MLB career, albeit with 4 of those happening in the shortened 2020 season. And his 95th percentile spring speed suggests he’s certainly fast, even if he’s not an overwhelming stolen base threat.
Why I Could be Right
Edman is an elite runner and elite defender. This should keep him in the lineup more often than not, and perhaps at a handful of positions. But his quality of contact leaves a lot to be desired.
You can see in his Statcast profile there is a lot of blue where you typically prefer to see red. His contact abilities combined with his speed should max out his BABIP and therefore I’m buying his xBA. But He doesn’t walk much, doesn’t hit the ball with much authority and certainly not often enough to make the most of what power he has.
McGuire on the low end, with Joey Wendle, Oscar Mercado, and Jurickson Profar in between. With the exception of the catcher McGuire, those are double-digit home run and stolen base threats, which is why you’re drafting Edman. Though, only Merrifield has shown any kind of elite production, and those days are behind him. Profar, Wendle, and Mercado have all either settled into part-time or a bench roles at most.
You can’t outright dismiss his 2019 numbers, but his 2020 stats tell a much different story. And I tend to side with the underlying metrics and the projections.
About those Projections...
Looking at projected wOBA by The Bat X Edman projects...not very well. In his range you see names like Ty France, Elehuris Montero, Evan Longoria, and Danny Jansen. Filter by projected SB and he’s 48th, behind speedy veterans such as Jean Segura and Elvis Andrus. By ADP he’s being viewed on the same level as Marcus Semien and Carlos Correa. By auction calculator he’s worth as much as Chance Sisco. See the discrepancy?
Now, projections aren’t the end-all, be-all and it is up to each manager to adjust accordingly. One interesting thing I noticed when evaluating Edman is a player with nearly identical, if not better, projections but can be taken 150 picks later.
Player A is Edman. Any guesses as to who Player B is? It’s the man he’s replacing in St. Louis: Kolten Wong. The optimist sees Edman’s 2019 output and the fact that the Cardinals didn’t re-sign Wong and assumes Edman is a very good hitter and a fantasy star. The pessimist (like me) sees a profile that doesn't add up to the performance and his supplanting of Wong being more of a matter of baseball economics - he’s younger and cheaper - than anything.
I understand the allure of Edman. I really do. The hype suggests he has a 20/20 ceiling with a 15/15 floor in the middle infield. The data suggests his ceiling is more like 15/15 with a floor of 12/10, though. There are options that will be available later on that can provide the same double-double floor with arguably as much ceiling. Wong, Segura, Andrus, Niko Goodrum, Rougned Odor, Scott Kingery, Amed Rosario, Chris Taylor, and Nick Ahmed all come to mind as middle infielders you can target much later and still get double-digit steals and home runs. You might sacrifice some in average or OBP, but perhaps gain in other areas. Tommy Edman isn’t special, so why are we treating him as such?
How do you feel about Tommy Edman going into 2021? Leave a comment or find me on twitter at @JoeyThomasD!
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