Jesus Aguilar wasn’t drafted in most leagues last year. The Brewers first baseman didn’t have a starting job entering the season and his playing time looked bleak. Eric Thames tore a ligament in his thumb in late April and Aguilar took over as the starter and thrived.
Aguilar barely received at-bats with the Indians in his first three years with them in the majors and showed some good power potential in 2017 in 279 at-bats with the Brewers. Aguilar had a breakout season with 35 home runs. Was last year for real or a mirage?
Early drafters believe in Aguilar as he’s the fifth first basemen off the board on fantrax.com with an Average Draft Position (ADP) of 69.51. Aguilar batted .274 with 80 runs, 35 home runs, 108 RBIs and an .890 OPS. Seventeen of his home runs came with two strikes.
Aguilar improved his plate skills in 2018, reducing his strikeout rate 4.9 percent to 25.3 percent and increased his walk rate eight percent to 10.2 percent. The power has always been there for Aguilar. He hit 30 home runs in 2016 at Triple-A.
Some thought Aguilar was going to be a platoon player that could hit left-handers and struggle against right-handers. That didn’t pan out last season. Aguilar hit both sides well. Against right-handers, he had a slash line of .271/.341/.535 with 58 runs, 26 home runs and 87 RBIs in 361 at-bats. Aguilar had a slash line of .282/.379/.550 against left-handers with 22 runs, nine home runs and 21 RBIs.
Aguilar wasn’t a product of the hitter-friendly Miller Park either. He had a slash line of .273/.342/.541 with 18 home runs in 242 at-bats and .276/.361/.536 with 17 home runs on the road in 250 at-bats.
Aguilar is a power hitter that hits to all fields. The biggest question is the average.In 2017, Aguilar batted .265 with 40 runs, 16 home runs, 52 RBIs and an .837 OPS in 279 at-bats. Aguilar makes consistent hard contact. He had a 45.2 percent hard hit rate in 2017 and 44 percent last season.
The detractors will point out the decline in the second half. Aguilar batted .298 in the first half and .245 in the second half. He had a .331 BABIP in the first half and .283 in the second half and the strikeout and walk rate were similar. A possible reason for the dip in numbers could have been fatigue in his first full season in the majors.
Aguilar often hit third in the lineup last season and if he sticks there with Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain in front of him, he will be in a good spot again. First base is a thin position and Aguilar is being drafted at a fair price. Aguilar showed the potential was there in 2017 in his limited chances. He finally got an opportunity to play every day in 2018 and produced. Aguilar is for real and a legitimate power bat.