Draft Scripts: Using NFBC ADP’s to evaluate Middle Infield

Jose Altuve finished the year atop the ESPN Player Rater & now being taken at pick 11 on average. Is that too steep?
Jose Altuve finished the year atop the ESPN Player Rater

In the midst of thinking that middle infield would be a tough position to forecast in 2014, three middle infielders made the top 20 on ESPN’s Player Rater. However, it did not include top-twelve selections Robinson Cano, Troy Tulowitzki or Hanley Ramirez. This seems to be carrying over to early ADP’s as people are reacting to the strong performances by Jose Altuve and Anthony Rendon who finished 1st and 17th respectively last season. Early on, each player is being taken in the top 15 in NFBC money drafts. The third player to finish in this company was Dee Gordon, who is not enjoying the early love as his other brethren due to questions of regression. But is Gordon really that much more of a question mark than the other two? That remains to be seen. At first glance, second base seems much deeper than in the past.

Troy Tulowitzki is still the top drafted SS but his home/road splits in 2014 bear watching. Home SLG - .748, Road - .447 along with averaging just over 100 Games the past five seasons.
Tulo is still the top drafted SS but his home/road splits from 2014 bear watching

As for shortstop, rankings always begin with Troy Tulowitzki. This is not a knock on Tulo (or maybe it is), but he has averaged just 105.8 games played over the last five seasons. If you select him with eyes wide open, that is fine, but even with less than 100 games in 2014, Tulowitzki still finished 8th on the Player Rater at his position. It seems like Hanley Ramirez falls under the same category, but he will be learning a new position in Boston. HanRam has averaged 121 games over the last five years, but should see a bump in production playing in Boston if he can handle playing the outfield. Add in Jose Reyes and you have an instance in which three of the top four ranked shortstops are a risk for injury. While everyone is an injury risk, the checkered health of this talented trio makes it difficult to draft them since it comes at a cost that is rarely returned. Dee Gordon finished 2014 as the top fantasy shortstop but will not retain eligibility this year. Let’s transition to the average draft positions at second base for 2015 in NFBC money drafts:

2B ADP's

I was a proponent of Jose Altuve last year and enjoyed the returns of owning him in my home AL-only league. While I think he can repeat some of his numbers, it stands to reason that he will regress a little in 2015. Batting average is the hardest statistic to predict so when it is one of the main reasons driving a player’s value, that makes taking him in the first round risky. With the dearth of power in the league, I find it hard to justify taking a base-stealing second baseman in the top 10. I also loved Anthony Rendon as my editor will be happy to tell you (Editor’s note: It’s true, he did). But with Rendon being taken at pick number 14 that again neutralizes his value. I think he is very talented and capable of repeating his numbers in 2015 but his home run tracker lists 12 of his 21 home runs last year as “just enough”. What if half of those do not go over the wall this year? That drops him home runs from 21 to 15 which is worth making note of. Meanwhile, Seattle signed Nelson Cruz for Robinson Cano. This is very important since Cano has had little protection since moving to the Mariners. I think he is due for a big bounce back season and with his ADP slipping into the twenties, now is the time to pounce. Two other players I like this year are Jason Kipnis and Kolten Wong at their present draft spots. Kipnis’ power numbers are limited by an inability to hit fly balls, but all he needs is health to rebound. Wong had a strong finish to 2014 and looks to build upon that this year. Like the blind profile with projections, here are some interesting ones courtesy of Steamer:

Player A: 72 R, 13 HR, 62 RBI, 20 SB, .254/.331/.387
Player B: 56 R, 13 HR, 52 RBI, 19 SB, .245/.295/.392

It is easy to see that player B has a noticeable drop in runs scored and just 9 points in batting average, but he is going to be an interesting player to watch develop. While I prefer player A in drafts, if he is taken ahead of where I want him, player B is an intriguing fallback option. Here is one more comparison:

Player C: 59 R, 10 HR, 59 RBI, 9 SB, .279/.316/.398
Player D: 71 R, 11 HR, 57 RBI, 8 SB, .262/.349/.400
Player E: 66 R, 15 HR, 61 RBI, 10 SB, .241/.319/.395

While two of the players above are now teammates, it will be interesting to see how their at bats work out. The third player in the comparison really came on in 2014 and looks to build upon that this year in anonymity since he is not going in the top 200 thus far. Here are the their identities:

Player A: Jason Kipnis
Player B: Arismendy Alcantara
Player C: Scooter Gennett
Player D: Ben Zobrist
Player E: Marcus Semien

Projections do not tell the whole story but when the names are taken out of the process, it allows us to look at them objectively. Other players of note are Chase Utley, Jedd Gyorko, Nick Franklin and Rougned Odor. Second base is not a fantasy gold mine, but it is definitely as deep as it has been in recent memory. Here are the steamer projections of the players taken in the top 200:

2B Steamer Projection Chart

Due to the ADP’s in clear tiers, drafting shortstop will depend on an owner’s preference. Those who want a premium player at a volatile position will be taking Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez or Ian Desmond in the top 30. After that though it is sort of spread out. Only two shortstops are being taken between picks 50-100 but then five go off the board between picks 105 – 138. Almost a whole round lapses then four more shortstops are being selected between picks 150-180 in the NFBC top 200. Here are the players with their ADP’s included:

SS NFBC ADP's

As much as shortstop will be in transition, especially with the move of Hanley Ramirez to the outfield in Boston, there is hope. Continuing the blind profile exercise, here are some interesting ones I found using the Steamer projections:

Player A: 63 R, 12 HR, 60 RBI, 8 SB, .274/.320/.409
Player B: 66 R, 15 HR, 61 RBI, 8 SB, .251/.316/.397
Player C: 63 R, 13 HR, 57 RBI, 9 SB, .252/.314/.395

Only one of the above players is being taken inside of the NFBC’s top 200 in money drafts. Showing that while there is depth at shortstop, it seems as though there are many at the same statistical level. Continuing on that theme, here are three more in the same exact circumstance:

Player D: 50 R, 14 HR, 57 RBI, 3 SB, .255/.296/.401
Player E: 64 R, 17 HR, 65 RBI, 2 SB, .253/.298/.392
Player F: 59 R, 15 HR, 64 RBI, 3 SB, .256/.323/.402

There aren’t many discernible differences in either group. Player A does have a big advantage in batting average which enhances his value but that is also the one statistic with the largest variance. In the second group any one of the three players listed could out-produce the other with a bump in one category. Curious?

Player A: Starlin Castro
Player B: Asdrubel Cabrera
Player C: Brad Miller
Player D: Wilmer Flores
Player E: J.J. Hardy
Player F: Jhonny Peralta

Only Starlin Castro and Jhonny Peralta are being drafted inside the top 200 but I think those picks are better spent on pitchers or players with more upside than guys like Peralta. There are plenty of similar options available. Before I forget, here are the Steamer projections for the shortstops inside the top 200:

SS Steamer Projection Chart

Intriguing undrafted shortstops include Erick Aybar, Chris Owings and Alcides Escobar. I can see a bounce back by Jean Segura who endured a very tough season not only in his adjustments, but personally as well. Danny Santana is due to regress but how much? If he can steal 20 bases and score 80 runs then he still has value. Yes his average will drop to the .270 range but it depends on need. Javier Baez will be a very tough player to own since he will be streaky and may not break out until the second half. I think he is talented but to reach for him at pick 106 would be unwise. There are options if you do your research, just do not wait too long or you will find yourself with Jed Lowrie.

Middle infield will have depth and some value to share this year. I think you can be successful without reaching or paying for career years. It will take patience but early knowledge of how players are being valued helps determine where to get them. Tomorrow I will take a look at the outfield.

If you think there is variance in the middle infield, just wait.

Statistical credits: Baseball-Reference.com, Fangraphs.com, ESPN.go.com
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/ONnSIi (Altuve), http://goo.gl/6cSfy1 (Tulowitzki)

Check out FantasyRundown.com for all of our latest articles and other great fantasy content.

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

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Post Break Preview: 2B

Altuve steals his way into fantasy owner's hearts
Jose Altuve has stolen his way into the hearts of gamers

While there seemed to be safety in getting one of the “big three” in pre-season drafts (Cano, Kipnis, Pedroia), there has been upheaval thus far at the position with none of the top-tier appearing in the top five on the player rater. As of this writing, not only is Jose Altuve the top option at the position, but he is the top rated player in fantasy. This is a precipitous climb for someone who is listed at 5’ 5”. Because of his hot first half and the stolen base accomplishments of Dee Gordon, they not only lead the majors in stolen bases, but assume the top two spots at second base. In an effort to streamline the data, I have listed the top 20 second basemen on the player rater below along with their stats from the last 365 days to underscore what they have done. The results may surprise you:

1. Jose Altuve – 159 G, 77 R, 4 HR, 51 RBI, 55 SB 315/349/410
2. Dee Gordon – 110 G, 55 R, 2 HR, 26 RBI, 48 SB 297/348/397
3. Ian Kinsler – 160 G, 110 R, 15 HR, 87 RBI, 21 SB 287/330/432
4. Brian Dozier – 160 G, 104 R, 28 HR, 77 RBI, 22 SB 246/327/439
5. Anthony Rendon – 145 G, 85 R, 16 HR, 75 RBI, 8 SB 270/332/442
6. Robinson Cano – 158 G, 77 R, 13 HR, 101 RBI, 8 SB 333/388/474
7. Daniel Murphy –164 G, 97 R, 14 HR, 77 RBI, 25 SB 298/340/492
8. Howie Kendrick – 124 G, 67 R, 6 HR, 57 RBI, 11 SB 287/336/385
9. Chase Utley – 158 G, 85 R, 15 HR, 85 RBI, 6 SB 293/354/447
10. Scooter Gennett –136 G, 65 R, 12 HR, 49 RBI, 7 SB 325/359/492
11. Neil Walker –142 G, 72 R, 23 HR, 70 RBI, 2 SB 266/33/449
12. Josh Harrison – 125 G, 46 R, 8 HR, 42 RBI, 13 SB 291/330/448
13. Dustin Pedroia-159 G, 83 R, 7 HR, 49 RBI, 6 SB 280/343/382
14. DJ LeMahieu –148 G, 66 R, 4 HR, 41 RBI, 15 SB 282/321/354
15. Omar Infante –114 G, 47 R, 9 HR, 70 RBI, 5 SB 297/330/408
16. Brandon Phillips – 152 G, 68 R, 13 HR, 72 RBI, 5 SB 264/303/384
17. Jason Kipnis – 135 G, 69 R, 7 HR, 54 RBI, 23 SB 265/344/368
18. Ben Zobrist – 150 G, 72 R, 12 HR, 47 RBI, 10 SB 275/354/407
19. Martin Prado –158 G, 70 R, 10 HR, 82 RBI, 4 SB 291/328/412
20. Kolten Wong – 85 G, 28 R, 6 HR, 24 RBI, 15 SB 220/274/339

It appears the concern over Dustin Pedroia’s power numbers in decline are more than people bargained for. With only seven home runs since last July it looks like this is who he is moving forward. It will be hard to list him in the top five next year. If you laughed at guys riding a Scooter, the one in Milwaukee has proven to be a fantasy factor off the waiver wire displacing Rickie Weeks and hitting in the top two of the Brewers lineup. A player in the midst of breakout is Anthony Rendon but he seems to be overshadowed in Washington due to the angst and attention that Bryce Harper commands. But his numbers from the last year have been rock solid and he is only getting better. One of the biggest questions has been where Robinson Cano’s power has gone. With only 13 home runs over the last year, this may be who he is going forward but like a struggling Chris Davis, Cano can hit them in bunches if he gets hot. Injuries have limited Jason Kipnis in the first half and his second half struggles have been well documented. Feeling lucky? Like Cano, his power numbers have been in a steep decline with only seven in his last 135 games. With all this in mind, here are the ZiPS ROS projections according to Fangraphs to see how player are thought to finish the season:

ZiPS ROS Projections:

Runs:
1. Ian Kinsler 38
2. Brian Dozier 35
3. Robinson Cano 32
4. Jason Kipnis
5. Dustin Pedroia 31
6. Jose Altuve 31
7. Daniel Murphy 31
8. Anthony Rendon 30
9. Ben Zobrist 30
10. Neil Walker/Howie Kendrick 29

Home Runs:
1. Robinson Cano, Ian Kinsler, Neil Walker, Brian Dozier, Dan Uggla 7
2. Anthony Rendon, Chase Utley, Jason Kipnis, Kelly Johnson, Jonathan Schoop 6

RBI:
1. Robinson Cano 35
2. Ian Kinsler 31
3. Neil Walker 29
4. Jason Kipnis 29
5. Dustin Pedroia 28
6. Anthony Rendon 27
7. Howie Kendrick 27
8. Daniel Murphy 27
9. Aaron Hill 26
10. Brian Dozier 26

Stolen Bases:
1. Dee Gordon 19
2. Jose Altuve 17
3. Emilio Bonifacio 11
4. Jason Kipnis 9
5. Leury Garcia 9
6. Arismendy Alcanatara 8
7. Ian Kinsler 7
8. Brian Dozier 7
9. Josh Harrison, Howie Kendrick, Daniel Murphy, Roughned Odor 6

Batting Average:
1. Jose Altuve .301
2. Robinson Cano .300
3. Daniel Murphy .284
4. Scooter Gennett .284
5. DJ LeMahieu .284
6. Dustin Pedroia .281
7. Marco Scutero .281
8. Tommy LaStella .281
9. Ian Kinsler .279

Mark it down Rendon is a top 5 second baseman in the second half and going forward
Book it: Anthony Rendon is a top five option at 2B

While these projections are far from perfect, it does give fantasy owners an idea of how players could finish out the season. It also helps to predict how they will finish the year in the rankings. Going forward, here are my top 20 fantasy second baseman for the season’s second half:

1. Jose Altuve – Never thought I would type this but why can’t he keep the top spot all year? He is going to hit for average, will steal bases and the Astros can score runs
2. Ian Kinsler – I underestimated him in the preseason and his motivation to show the Rangers they made a mistake has definitely made a difference. The surrounding offense doesn’t hurt, either
3. Robinson Cano – He is still a top option but the first round is a reach next year
4. Anthony Rendon – I am all in with him and next year he may bust out even further
5. Dee Gordon – Stolen bases provide huge value and he is still providing them, the average will regress but the speed is here to stay
6. Brian Dozier – His average can be a drain but the power and speed combo are too hard to ignore
7. Daniel Murphy – Unlike David Wright, he is undervalued at his position
8. Jason Kipnis – The talent is there but his plate discipline and lack of power in the last calender year are concerning
9. Chase Utley – Could a trade really boost his value in the second half? Absolutely
10. Ben Zobrist – See Utley above, he is warming up
11. Scooter Gennett – Hits at the top of the lineup against righties and helps in all five categories
12. Neil Walker – Still has power and will be in play as the Pirates push for the playoffs
13. Howie Kendrick – Has been healthy and solid
14. Dustin Pedroia – As I am typing this he is 0 for 4 in a game that Boston has scored 14 runs. I love his heart and hustle, but his name buoyed his draft position. Look at his last 365 stats above
15. Kolten Wong – Upside late and he could leapfrog a couple of the names above him if he can stay healthy. Has stolen base and runs upside
16. Arismendy Alcanatara – Why not? He has been solid in his debut and if the Cubs leave him in the second spot in the lineup he can provide double digit steals in the second half
17. Aaron Hill – He has to get better this year. Just in case though, I am leaving him here
18. Martin Prado – Does a little bit of everything but like Aaron Hill, he’s been a disappointment
19. Rougned Odor – Again, upside play and this kid plays older than his age but the Rangers are burying him by hitting him last. Move him up please, Ron
20. Josh Harrison – Has eligibility in leagues and he is a spark plug in this offense

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

Statistical credits: Fangraphs.com, Baseball-Reference.com, ZiPS Projections
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/nnHCNt (Altuve), http://goo.gl/90NPMB (Rendon)