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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Top DFS Plays for 09/05/14

*Top hitters and pitchers highlight exceptional matchups that may include stars, lesser-known players and those on your waiver wires.

When I put together my top hitters and pitchers I factor in several things. First, prior matchup history, whether the hitter is hot and the pitcher’s history against that type of batter. Also, these matchups are normally released in the morning so make sure that you double-check the weather leading up to games in case they were postponed or the player got the day off.

New to Daily Fantasy? Head over to FanDuel.com and use Promo Code SCRIPT and get 100% match on your first deposit!

Top DFS hitters for today:

Adam Lind vs. Clay Buchholz – hitting .347 (17/49) with 3 2Bs, a 3B, 2 HRs, 5 RBIs & 2 BBs

Adrian Beltre vs. Hisashi Iwakuma – hitting .357 (10/28) with a 2B, 3 HRs, 5 RBIs & a BB

Albert Pujols vs. Ricky Nolasco – hitting .545 (12/22) with 5 2Bs, 3 HRs & 10 RBIs

Josh Donaldson vs. Brett Overholtzer – hitting .462 (6/13) with 4 2Bs, a HR, 3 RBIs & 2 BBs

Chris Carter vs. Jeff Samardzija – hitting .417 (5/12) with 2 2Bs, 2 HRs, 4 RBIs & a BB

Chris Owings vs. Dan Haren – hitting .818 (9/11) 2 2Bs & a RBI

Austin Jackson vs. Scott Baker – hitting .353 (6/17) with 2 2Bs, a 3B, a HR, 2 RBIs & a BB

Ricky’s HR Guarantee: Adam Lind

Top DFS Pitcher for today:

Chris Sale vs. Cleveland Indians – Sale went 8 innings gave up 3 runs and struck out 9 in his last outing against the Indians. Sale is one of those pitchers I will always pay for.

Movie of the day: Fruitvale Station – Such a fantastic film which Michael B. Jordan just kills it. Folks the story is insane and is just a great overall film.

Follow me on Twitter @Rickygangster!

Post Break Preview: Shortstop

Best in fantasy at SS over the last year, feeling lucky this second half?
“Tulo” has been the best SS in the game over the past year. Feeling lucky, punk?

The shortstop position had shown distinct tiers for drafters in the preseason. Playing the injury prediction game with friends Troy Tulowitzki, HanRam and Jose Reyes was the. So investing in one of these players came with a caveat. For those who had faith in Tulowitzki, you have been rewarded. Jose Reyes has spent time on the disabled list already and Hanley Ramirez seems to have a different ailment each week, or is it daily lately? There have been some surprises at the position, as Alexei Ramirez, Erick Aybar, Jimmy Rollins and Starlin Castro who have provided great value in the first half. Disappointments that come to mind are Brad Miller, Jean Segura (though his regression is not a surprise) and J.J. Hardy. Where are the homers? Anyway, the season’s 2nd half may show that further shakeups are in order. Here are the top 20 Shortstops according to ESPN’s player rater along with their last 365 day stats as of the All-Star Break:

1. Troy Tulowitzki – 152 G, 102 R, 30 HR, 82 RBI, 2 SB 320/411/549
2. Alexei Ramirez – 164 G, 78 R, 13 HR, 69 RBI, 26 SB 284/318/406
3. Hanley Ramirez – 132 G, 81 R, 23 HR, 81 RBI, 18 SB 289/369/513
4. Jimmy Rollins – 158 G, 76 R, 13 HR, 48 RBI, 32 SB 243/347/349
5. Erick Aybar – 161 G, 84 R, 9 HR, 70 RBI, 19 SB 270/309/397
6. Jose Reyes – 146 G, 93 R, 13 HR, 53 RBI, 25 SB 279/337/412
7. Alcides Escobar – 164 G, 61 R, 3 HR, 49 RBI, 32 SB 256/285/336
8. Ian Desmond – 157 G, 71 R, 21 HR, 88 RBI, 21 SB 259/312/412
9. Starlin Castro – 165 G, 58 R, 15 HR, 68 RBI, 5 SB 265/312/399
10. Elvis Andrus – 160 G, 92 R, 6 HR, 58 RBI, 43 SB 282/334/361
11. Asdrubal Cabrera – 156 G, 76 R, 15 HR, 68 RBI, 11 SB 245/302/391
12. Jhonny Peralta – 113 G, 48 R, 18 HR, 55 RBI, 2 SB 265/332/473
13. Jean Segura – 63 R, 5 HR, 36 RBI, 30 SB 236/267/322
14. Chris Owings* – 92 G, 31 R, 6 HR, 26 RBI, 9 SB 280/323/444
15. Andrelton Simmons – 159 G, 61 R, 15 HR, 60 RBI, 4 SB 261/312/411
16. Derek Jeter – 99 G, 38 R, 3 HR, 31 RBI, 6 SB 259/277/359
17. Brandon Crawford – 153 G, 51 R, 11 HR, 50 RBI, 2 SB 226/302/372
18. Jonathan Villar* – 129 G, 53 R, 7 HR, 30 RBI, 32 SB 221/287/331
19. Danny Santana – 40 G, 20 R, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 6 SB 313/348/429
20. J.J. Hardy – 151 G, 61 R, 12 HR, 51 RBI, 1 SB 280/315/393
*Chris Owings is on the the DL and Jonathan Villar is in the minors

I find it amazing how much J.J. Hardy’s value is impacted without the long balls. It may be a trend based on his past statistical year, Hardy is a hot streak away from increased value so the second half will tell us if this is who he really is. It’s safe to say that the league has caught up with Jean Segura, but that was to be expected, but he maintains value with his speed and sets himself up as a fantasy bargain next year. If the Brewers are going to stay in contention, they need him to step up. As much as I see people bash Andrelton Simmons, his stats over the past calender year are not all that different than Starlin Castro’s. Here are their ZiPS projections with leaders in each fantasy category:

ZiPS ROS Projected Leaders:

Runs:
1. Elvis Andrus 33
2. Troy Tulowitzki 32
3. Brad Miller 31
4. Jose Reyes 30
5. Asdrubal Cabrera 30
6. Erick Aybar 30
7. Ian Desmond 29
8. Starlin Castro 29
9. Jimmy Rollins 29
10. Hanley Ramirez 28

Home Runs:
1. Troy Tulowitzki 11
2. Ian Desmond 9
3. Hanley Ramirez 8
4. J.J. Hardy 7
5. Jhonny Peralta 6
6. Xander Bogaerts 6
7. Starlin Castro 6
8. Asdrubal Cabrera 6
9. Jimmy Rollins 6
10. Brad Miller 5

RBI:
1. Ian Desmond 34
2. Troy Tulowitzki 32
3. Hanley Ramirez 28
4. Starlin Castro 28
5. Asdrubal Cabrera 28
6. Jhonny Peralta 26
7. J.J. Hardy 25
8. Erick Aybar 25
9. Alexei Ramirez 23
10. Brad Miller 23

Stolen Bases:
1. Elvis Andrus 13
2. Jean Segura 12
3. Jose Reyes 11
4. Alcides Escobar 11
5. Jimmy Rollins 9
6. Ian Desmond 8
7. Alexei Ramirez 8
8. Hanley Ramirez 7
9. Erick Aybar 7
10. Danny Santana 7

Batting Average:
1. Troy Tulowitzki .311
2. Jose Reyes .283
3. Starlin Castro .278
4. Erick Aybar .278
5. Hanley Ramirez .275
6. Josh Rutledge .274
7. Alexei Ramirez .272
8. Elvis Andrus .271
9. J.J. Hardy .269
10. Jean Segura .269

Some players that have upside, albeit with some risk are Brad Miller, Xander Bogaerts and Danny Santana. The ZiPS projections seem to favor Miller but if he continues to bat at the bottom of Seattle’s order it will be hard to get to the runs and RBI predicted above, but he is worth a flier in the second half. I find it hard to believe that Xander Bogaerts will not rebound and even if the Red Sox become sellers, this is an offense that can provide runs. Danny Santana made his debut and took on the look of Jean Segura from a year ago with his fantasy splash. However, he has struggled since his return and learning to hit the ball to the opposite field will be a key in his development, but if he hits leadoff for the Twins he can still provide value moving forward. As of today, Tulowitzki and Ramirez are on the mend so their rankings going forward are tenuous and dependent upon health, but isn’t that always the case?

Desmond's power/speed combo makes him a second half stud
Desmond’s power/speed combo makes him a second half stud

My Second Half Ranks:

1. Troy Tulowitzki – He is the gold standard at SS, injuries are always the key
2. Ian Desmond – There are flashier, and higher batting averages, but his steadiness is the key (21 HR, 21 SB) in his last statistical year.
3. Hanley Ramirez – Maybe the most frustrating player to own in fantasy (or is it his teammate Puig?). Always is nicked up, leaving early and now hit on the wrist with a pitch. May be a good time to sell if you can
4. Jose Reyes – As stated above, if healthy he is an elite shortstop, a pennant push will keep him motivated to stay on the field
5. Starlin Castro – What a difference a year makes, hitting behind Anthony Rizzo and an evolving Cubs lineup makes him worth speculating on
6. Alexei Ramirez – Similar to Desmond, he is under-appreciated in fantasy but he fills the stat columns. Can be streaky but he is emerging from a slump and may finish strong
7. Erick Aybar – His value fluctuates but the Angels offense is potent and Aybar is in the middle of it. He’s also a sneaky source of RBI (70 over the last year)
8. Elvis Andrus – Elvis relies on his speed  for fantasy value. While the Rangers are struggling, this offense has to improve in the second half, right?
9. Jimmy Rollins – I had him too low entering the season as he and Chase Utley continue to put up stats. A trade to a contender may be just the right juice to squeeze out another fantasy-driven second half
10. Alcides Escobar – Has quietly been emerging this year and is only 27 years old
11. Jhonny Peralta – If the Cardinals are going to win the NL Central again this year he will need to provide more pop in the second half. With Allen Craig struggling, he is moving up in the order
12. Jean Segura – The loss of his child has to be a distraction but there is still time to turn around his season
13. J.J. Hardy – He could vault up this list with more power, this second half will tell us more about his fantasy value in the future
14. Brad Miller – I still believe. ZiPS agrees, hope we are correct
15. Jordy Mercer – Jordy goes virtually unnoticed but has been a key part of their success following the promotion of Gregory Polanco. Over his last 28 days he is hitting .325 with 12 RBI and a stolen base
16. Asdrubal Cabrera – I feel like I am always downgrading him but he left last night’s game with back spasms. He’s a free agent at the end of the year and Francisco Lindor was promoted to AAA. None are good signs to me
17. Jed Lowrie – What a difference a year makes. He has hit 12 home runs over the last 365 days but only 4 in the first half this year. The A’s could use a rebound from him
18. Xander Bogaerts – The potential is there, a nice second half would alleviate some of the worries about next year. May have been a year early on “X”
19. Stephen Drew – I do love him and he is probably safer than Bogaerts moving forward but I think the Red Sox wasted money on him (Editor’s note: Yes, yes they did)
20. Derek Jeter – Not really a fantasy factor anymore but I just wanted to recognize him as a team player who always hustled (on and off the field. Have you seen the women he has been with?), and a player baseball will miss. #RE2PECT

A couple of players who just missed include the Diamondbacks duo of Chris Owings (presently on the DL) and Didi Gregorious. Either may be a good trade chip in the off-season and both are improving this year. Danny Santana is another wild card but his minor league track record suggests his hot streak is going to be hard to maintain. If the Twins leave him at lead-off he will be a cheap source for runs and stolen bases. Shortstop is a position in transition with some big minor league talent on the way. It will be interesting to see how soon some of them will make their debuts.

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, ESPN.com
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/0NrPDC (Tulo), http://goo.gl/r1w7A4 (Desmond)