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!

Advertisements

Transaction Scripts: Marlins add Gordon, Morse, Latos

In an effort to provide Giancarlo Stanton more chances to win, the Marlins added Dee Gordon, Martin Prado to bat in front of him and Michael Morse for power behind, but will it work?
The Marlins added Dee Gordon, Martin Prado and Michael Morse so far this winter

When the Marlins signed Giancarlo Stanton to an extension it changed the direction of their offseason. Instead of playing for the future the Marlins are going for it, as echoed by quotes from Stanton, courtesy of USA Today:

“Stanton told USA TODAY Sports that he was always willing to listen about a long-term extension, but simply wanted assurances that the team is committed to winning.
‘Winning,” Stanton said, “has a way of curing a whole lot of things.’’

Indeed, winning is the cure. This has happened before with the Marlins as they seem to build with youth to contend, win and then sell off the parts before they become too expensive. There is an opt-out clause in Stanton’s contract that the team feels he will take so the window to win has been shortened even with the agreement in place. In an effort to fill gaps within the pitching staff until Jose Fernandez returns from Tommy John Surgery, Miami added Jared Cosart last August along with the following changes this offseason:

Players Acquired by Miami: Dee Gordon, Michael Morse, Martin Prado, Dan Haren, Mat Latos, David Phelps, Kendry Flores, Luis Castillo, Andre Rienzo, Miguel Rojas

Players Traded by Miami: Casey McGehee, Nate Eovaldi, Garrett Jones, Domingo German, Dan Jennings, Andrew Heaney, Chris Hatcher, Enrique Hernandez, Austin Barnes, Anthony DeSclafani, Chad Wallach

On the surface this is about improving the infield and the offense. Even though Stanton hit 37 home runs prior to his season-ending injury, the Marlins as a team only hit 122 in 2014. Unlike the Padres, the Marlins have a strong base to build around in the outfield which is why they turned their focus to veteran pitching depth and improving their lineup. Here is a chart showing what each spot in the lineup produced in 2014. These spots will likely be filled by the aforementioned Prado and Morse:

Marlins 2014 2 & 4 hitters

While the counting statistics will likely be the same for Prado, his career slash lines of .291/.340/.429 are an improvement over what the Marlins had there last year. Hitting in front of Stanton is an enviable place to occupy in any lineup. In Prado’s career he has hit .297 against fastballs and figures to see plenty of them if he hits second. As for the cleanup spot, Stanton had Casey McGehee hitting behind him for most of 2014 and still produced 37 dingers, so this is more about Michael Morse hitting in a better spot in the lineup. Which Dee Gordon are the Marlins getting? Considering that they stole only 58 bases as a team last season, Gordon figures to give them a new dimension even if there is regression in his on base numbers.

Can Latos recapture his 2013 7.9 K/9 or is he ticketed for more elbow problems? His 2014 velocities raise concern
Is Latos healthy? His elbow is a concern for fantasy owners

As for the pitching side, the Marlins did give up the second-rated left-handed pitching prospect in the minors when they moved Andrew Heaney to the Dodgers in the Gordon/Haren trade. This is a high risk, high reward scenario for them because there is no guarantee Dan Haren pitches in 2015. Not only that, but they dealt Anthony DeSclafani to the Reds in return for Mat Latos who is coming off of a disappointing and injury filled 2014. If Latos cannot regain his fastball velocity and ends up needing further elbow surgery, then this could all blow up.

Here’s a look at what Gordon, Prado and Morse have done over the past two years, (for Gordon I used 2012 and 2014 due to his limited 2013) along with their Steamer projections, courtesy of Fangraphs:

marlins batters last two years plus steamer

I think that Prado is capable of scoring more runs since the number two hitters in 2014 were able to cross the plate 82 times. Gordon will regress towards the slash lines but I still think he is capable of 90+ runs and 60 stolen bases. The only question with Morse is health. If he can stay off the DL, there is a buy-low opportunity there. I can see a stat line of 20 home runs and 70 RBI this year if he can play 130 or more games.

Miami felt it needed to add a veteran pitching presence and has taken a chance on two pitchers who are coming off of mediocre years and declining velocities. Haren is dealing with the velocity decline with success, although he is prone to blowing up on occasion. According to BrooksBaseball.net, Haren has lost 2 MPH on his fastball and has moved to using his cutter more, especially near the end of 2014:

Haren Pitches 2014Haren Career Pitches VelocityHaren 2014

Latos had a 2014 that he probably would like to forget. Coming off of an elbow procedure to clean up bone chips and promote bone growth, he also had a knee problem. It’s blatantly obvious that Latos was never comfortable last year. What is more disturbing is the drop in his 2014 K/9 (6.5) and the loss of velocity in his pitches. Again, here are Latos’ career velocity charts along with the same pitches and speeds from 2014 (courtesy of BrooksBaseball.net):

Brooksbaseball-Chart

If Latos cannot regain his fastball speeds in 2015, it may be a long one for the fantasy owners who are buying a return to form. The following charts illustrate how important it is for Latos to use his slider, curve and split finger. His fastball and sinker are too hittable for him to pitch effectively without using his full arsenal:

Latos Career Pitches and Averages AgainstLatos 2014 Pitches and average against

I find it remarkable how similar the two players Steamer projections are for 2015 considering one is 27 and the other is 34:

Mat Latos Steamer Projection: 10 W, 30 G, 182 IP, 133/53 K/BB, 4.12 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 4.04 FIP
Dan Haren Steamer Projection: 10 W, 28 G, 163 IP, 123/35 K/BB, 3.93 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 3.91 FIP

Ultimately, Latos’ elbow health and velocity in Spring Training may determine his worth for 2015. As of this writing, the Marlins definitely took risks to keep their franchise player happy. A lot will have to go right for the Marlins to make the playoffs in 2015, although with the turmoil surrounding the Phillies, Mets and Braves, they have given themselves a shot at the Wild Card. If Haren decides to walk away from his contract or Jose Fernandez has any sort of a setback, the Marlins could be in tough shape.

Statistical credits: Baseball-Reference.com, Fangraphs.com, ESPN.com, BrooksBaseball.net
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/HdJkLW (Stanton), http://goo.gl/GrzT28 (Latos)

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!

Transaction Scripts: Dee Gordon to Miami; Andrew Heaney to Angels; Howie Kendrick to Dodgers

Moving to Miami are the Marlins hoping for Juan Pierre 2K15?
Are the Marlins hoping Dee Gordon can be their Juan Pierre 2K15?

In a move that may be vetoed in a dynasty league, the Dodgers and Marlins agreed to a 4 for 2 trade involving an All-Star second baseman who stole 64 bases along with an aging starting pitcher who has stated he will not pitch outside of California for 4 prospects. That prospect is prized left-handed starting pitcher Andrew Heaney. Heaney is presently ranked as the 18th overall prospect by MLB.com and the second best left-handed pitcher in the minors.

This tweet is true because there are many factors in play. While the Marlins get a spark plug at the top of their lineup who single-handedly stole more bases last year than the Marlins did as a franchise (64-58), they are giving up a good young pitcher who can impact the Dodger rotation this year.

With Jon Lester already getting $155 million from the Cubs and Max Scherzer hoping for a $200 million dollar offer, having a young arm like Heaney is a great chip to possess. Given the popularity of Dee Gordon in Los Angeles, this will be a tough trade initially for some of the fan base to accept, but most of the baseball community is already impressed by the Dodgers Andrew Friedman.

Not only is this an interesting baseball trade, but there are some fantasy ramifications that will come from it. I will start by looking at the impact that Dee Gordon may have in Miami. As I was researching this another twist occurred. I felt more and more like this:

Basically the Dodgers traded Dee Gordon for prospects, and flipped one of those prospects, Andrew Heaney, for Howie Kendrick and agreed in principle to sign Brandon McCarthy to bolster their staff and replace Dan Haren. I will do my best to fit all of this in, starting with the Marlins gamble on Gordon building upon his growth in 2014.

Dee Gordon flies South for the season

One of the most popular players in the Marlins franchise history has to be Juan Pierre. His speed and smile made him likeable. Since his departure, the Marlins franchise has struggled to develop or acquire a legitimate leadoff hitter. Sure, Emilio Bonifacio had 30 steals out of that spot in 2012, but fizzled out shortly after. There are going to be comparisons between Pierre and Gordon, not only for their speed, but the fact that Gordon plays the game the same way, hard and with a smile. One of the reasons for Gordon’s improved on base percentage last year is due to his diligence in learning how to bunt. Since being patient is not a forte of either player, being able to get on base by bunting is a must.

Juan Pierre had a bunt hit (BUH%) percentage of 34% over the course of his career. In 2013, Gordon was only successful getting on base 27.3% of the time via the bunt. In 2014 though, that rate jumped to 42.6%, raising not only his batting average but his OBP. Both speedsters were very impatient at the plate with Juan Pierre only walking 5.6% in his career and Gordon sitting presently at 5.2%. The difference lies in their strikeouts. Pierre owned a very low career whiff rate (5.8%) but Gordon strikes out nearly 3 times as much (16.5%).

What is encouraging is that even though Gordon strikes out much more, he did show some growth last year. The not so good news is that he only drew 4 walks in the season’s second half. Four. However, Gordon’s halves weren’t all that different on average. Warning signs do remain in regards to his OBP and slugging percentage:

1H: .292/.344/.398
2H: .284/.300/.348.

Gordon’s career slash line is .272/.314/.345 over 329 games so regression should be expected in 2015. Not leaving the theme of the Pierre and Gordon comparison though, here are each of their respective age 26 seasons:

Dee Gordon 2014: 148 G, 92 R, 24 2B, 12 3B, 2 HR, 34 RBI, 64 SB, .289/.326/.378
Juan Pierre 2004:
162 G, 100 R, 22 2B, 12 3B, 3 HR, 49 RBI, 45 SB, .326/.374/.407

To try and project Gordon’s 2015 I looked at his Steamer projection and Juan Pierre’s 2005 season for historical comparison:

Dee Gordon 2015 Steamer: 136 G, 67 R, 3 HR, 40 RBI, 50 SB, .256/.307/.331
Juan Pierre 2005:
162 G, 19 2B, 13 3B, 2 HR, 47 RBI, 57 SB, .276/.326/.354

Without sounding like a debbie downer, Gordon should take a step back this year. His inflated BABIP from a season ago should come back to earth, hurting his batting average. He’ll lose a little luster, but if he hits leadoff or between Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton, he should still be an appealing commodity for fantasy owners. The reason Miami wanted Gordon was to add an additional element (that of speed) to their lineup. Trading 4 young prospects for Dee Gordon and Dan Haren tells us that the speedster will be a fixture at the top of the Miami order on Opening Day.

As for Haren, there have been reports that he would retire if he didn’t have the chance to pitch for a team in California. If that’s really the case, maybe Miami flips him to another club in the near future. If they don’t, there’s a chance that he walks away, leaving 10 million bucks on the table.

Andrew Heaney to the Angels?

Heaney is moving to LA but is now an Angel and will compete to be the 5th starter
Heaney should slot in as the #5 in a solid Angels rotation

In an era of dominant pitching, teams are jumping at the thought of being able to land a top left-handed pitching prospect. The Dodgers essentially traded Dee Gordon for Andrew Heaney, Chris Hatcher, Kike Hernandez and Austin Barnes. Like the White Sox adding Jeff Samardzija for Marcus Semien, LA is trading from a position of strength. However, the Dodgers intent was not to use Heaney, but to trade him to the Angels for veteran second baseman Howie Kendrick.

Starting with Heaney, the Angels have gained a 23-year old Major League ready lefty with a 3-pitch arsenal as described by Eno Sarris of Fangraphs above. Heaney throws a fastball in the low 90’s that can touch 95 along with a plus slider and good changeup. Here are his number from 2014:

Andrew Heaney Minors (2 Levels): 9 W, 137.1 IP, 143/36 K/BB, 3.28 ERA, 1.14 WHIP
Andrew Heaney Miami:
3 L, 29.1 IP, 20/7 K/BB, 5.83 ERA, 1.33 WHIP

There may be some growing pains but I think he has sleeper potential for fantasy teams in the late rounds. Take note in deepe mixed and AL-only leagues.

Dodgers retool and add Kendrick

LA replaces Flash with Howie as they strengthen their lineup for a World Series run
The Angels replace Gordon with Howie in hopes of giving their lineup more balance

Before we could publish a column detailing the trade between the Dodgers and Marlins, a wrinkle was added. The Dodgers flipped Andrew Heany to the cross-town Angels for Kendrick. Heaney was traded twice within 8 hours to two teams in the same city.

What does this do for Howie Kendrick’s fantasy value? Depending on where he hits in the lineup it can certainly have a positive impact. Kendrick finished the 2014 campaign as the #8 ranked second baseman on ESPN’s Player Rater. In fact, he was a top 75 overall fake player. Fantasy owners have finally given up on hopes that Kendrick will ever win a batting title, but he has settled in quite nicely as a consistent option at second base. I averaged out his last 3 years. Here’s what you get:

Howie Kendrick 3 Year Avg: 142 G, 66 R, 9 HR, 65 RBI, 11 SB, .292/.336/.410

Not spectacular by any means, but slow and steady wins the race. His boost in RBI last season can be attributed to his spot in the Angel batting order. Kendrick hit cleanup 39 times and fifth 57 times. An improved Angel offense helped him tie a career high with 75 RBI while coming close to a career best with 85 runs. Adding another veteran presence just seems to signal that the Dodgers are going all in on 2015. As for Kendrick’s fantasy outlook, much will depend on where he hits in the lineup. But if you are paying for 10-12 home runs and 10-12 steals with his career slash line, you will not be disappointed.

In an effort to beef up their bullpen, the Dodgers also acquired relief pitcher Chris Hatcher. He’s already 29 but had a solid season with the Marlins in 2014. He actually threw five different pitches last year using a 96 MPH fastball, 88 MPH split-finger fastball, a 91 MPH cutter, 95 MPH sinker and an 87 MPH slider. 9 of the 10 home runs he gave up in 2014 were against his fastball so it could be savvy of the Dodgers to encourage him to throw more sinkers along with his split-finger and slider. Opponents only hit .205 against his sinker, .208 versus his split and .250 off the slider. The best part of Hatcher is that he throws strikes and in 2014 had a K/9 of 9.6.

One of the trademarks of the Tampa Bay Rays under Friedman’s guidance was the presence of players with versatility. This speaks to the other two players to come to Los Angeles in this deal. Austin Barnes played second base and catcher in AA last year and has caught scout’s eyes:

What is in his bat was impressive 2014 across two levels. Even though he bounced around the diamond, he was able to stay consistent at the plate and made strides as a catcher. Here are his statistics from last year:

Austin Barnes (2 Levels): 122 G, 80 R, 13 HR, 57 RBI, 11 SB, .304/.398/.472

The last player to come over in the trade is Enrique (Kike) Hernandez who split time between the Astros and Marlins last year. He appeared in the outfield, second base and shortstop in games. Are you seeing a theme here? A big league ready arm, a bullpen piece and two versatile players that could contribute at the Major League level at various positions for a speedy second baseman and a near-retired pitcher. As for Hernandez, his numbers are intriguing from the minors last year as a 22-year old utility player:

Kike Hernandez Minors AAA: 98 G, 58 R, 11 HR, 42 RBI, 6 SB, .319/.372/.484
Kike Hernandez Majors 2 Teams:
42 G, 13 R, 3 HR, 14 RBI, .248/.321/.421

Again, with the emergence of Alex Guerrero in the minors last year, I think that Hernandez was targeted to be a utility player for the Dodgers. Jimmy Rollins gives Corey Seager a year to develop and only costs the Dodgers two minor league arms and some money. With Dee Gordon out of the picture, I am most intrigued by Guerrero and his power potential at third base:

Alex Guerrero Minors 2014: 77 G, 47 R, 17 HR, 57 RBI, 4 SB, .333/.373/.621

Even though he lost developmental time due to losing part of his ear in an awkward dugout altercation with Miguel Olivo, it appears that second base is Guerrero’s job to lose this spring. Look at that glorious .994 OPS! What happens next with the Dodgers is going to be interesting but if I were a Giants fan, I would be nervous about what the Dodgers are building for in 2015.

Statistical credits: Baseball-Reference.com, Fangraphs.com, BrooksBaseball.net, MiLB.com, MLB.com
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/Hu6D7w (Gordon), http://goo.gl/jllWoX (Heaney)

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!

Script Splits: Using Advanced Stats to Rank 2B

Altuve is stealing his owners fantasy titles this year
Jose Altuve is stealing his owners’ fantasy titles this year

While there was surprising depth at catcher and first base, my research of second basemen shows much more of a chasm between the players to target against pitching splits in daily fantasy. This will also reflect in rankings for next year as players like Dustin Pedroia continue to lose traction in the ranks. It also underscores just how good Scooter Gennett has been this year as both he and Neil Walker rank ahead of Robinson Cano based upon the advanced statistics used to rank performance in this article. For instance, would you think that Steve Tolleson has been better against left-handed pitching than Dustin Pedroia?

Before I get into the splits rankings, here are the five categories I am using:

wOBA: Weighted On Base Average represents all the ways a player gets on base (HBP counts in this metric). It is used to measure a player’s overall offensive value.

ISO: Isolated Power  is simply a player’s slugging percentage minus his batting average.

OPS: On base plus Slugging is exactly what it’s surname suggests, adding together both statistics (OBP and SLG%). In the daily game being getting on base via the extra base hit is preferred.

AB/HR: A simple stat. How many homers does a player hit between each at bat? The fewer the better.

wRC+: Weighted Runs Created Plus A measure of how many runs a player creates. The “+” accounts for differing ballpark factors. So a player who’s home park is Coors is weighted to equal one in Citi Field, for example.

2B versus Left-Handed Pitchers (minimum of 70 plate appearances):

wOBA:
1. Jose Altuve .433
2. Steve Tolleson .428
3. Ben Zobrist .410
4. Anthony Rendon .394
5. Howie Kendrick .372
6. Daniel Murphy .363
7. Gordon Beckham .357
8. Brian Dozier .339
9. Rickie Weeks .338
10. Dustin Pedroia .334
11. Robinson Cano .320
12. Dee Gordon .319
13. Aaron Hill .319

ISO:
1. Steve Tolleson .224
2. Brian Dozier .219
3. Danny Espinosa .192
4. Anthony Rendon .188
5. Rickie Weeks .185
6. Gordon Beckham .159
7. Ben Zobrist .149
8. Dustin Pedroia .149
9. Logan Forsythe .138
10. Aaron Hill .125
11. Howie Kendrick .124
12. Daniel Murphy .124

OPS:
1. Steve Tolleson .991
2. Jose Altuve .989
3. Ben Zobrist .941
4. Anthony Rendon .907
5. Howie Kendrick .850
6. Gordon Beckham .831
7. Daniel Murphy .827
8. Danny Espinosa .827
9. Brian Dozier .774
10. Rickie Weeks .757
11. Dustin Pedroia .753
12. Robinson Cano .735

AB/HR:
1. Brian Dozier 19
2. Steve Tolleson 25.3
3. Rickie Weeks 30.7
4. Danny Espinosa 36.5
5. Aaron Hill 40
6. Gordon Beckham 41
7. Ben Zobrist 47
8. Logan Forsythe 47
9. Daniel Murphy 48.5
10. Howie Kendrick 56.5
11. Chase Utley 57
12. Jose Altuve 57

wRC+:
1. Jose Altuve 181
2. Steve Tolleson 174
3. Ben Zobrist 170
4. Anthony Rendon 154
5. Howie Kendrick 143
6. Daniel Murphy 136
7. Danny Espinosa 126
8. Gordon Beckham 125
9. Brian Dozier 115
10. Rickie Weeks 113
11. Dustin Pedroia 109
12. Dee Gordon 106

Overall Rankings Based on Aggregate Averages:
1. Steve Tolleson – 76 AB, 8 R, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 1 SB, 355/412/579
2. Ben Zobrist – 95 AB, 13 R, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 3 SB, 358/426/505
3. Anthony Rendon – 102 AB, 22 R, 3 HR, 15 RBI, 4 SB, 333/378/520
4. Brian Dozier – 114 AB, 17 R, 6 HR, 13 RBI, 2 SB, 246/310/465
5. Jose Altuve – 114 AB, 16 R, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 11 SB, 421/445/544
6. Danny Espinosa – 74 AB, 11 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 5 SB, 284/369/473
7. Gordon Beckham – 92 AB, 13 R, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 1 SB, 317/356/476
8. Howie Kendrick – 113 AB, 16 R, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 2 SB, 336/390/460
9. Daniel Murphy – 98 AB, 5 R, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 3 SB, 327/370/449
10. Rickie Weeks – 92 AB, 13 R, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 1 SB, 239/333/424
11. Dustin Pedroia – 121 AB, 22 R, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 1 SB, 256/348/405
12. Aaron Hill – 80 AB, 9 R, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 275/318/400

Count me among those daily fantasy players who did not realize how good Steve Tolleson is against left-handed pitchers. It will be interesting to see if he can still get at bats against lefties once Brett Lawrie returns from the disabled list. The acquisition of Danny Valencia suggests a platoon with he and Juan Francisco at 3B may be in order. This would push Lawrie to a 2B role, which would limit Tolleson’s reps moving forward. On a positive note, Ben Zobrist and Anthony Rendon are two options to target against southpaws moving forward. If you subscribe to the notion that “speed never slumps”, Jose Altuve is another great 2B to have in lineups against lefties with his 11 stolen bases and .421 batting average. Seeing Aaron Hill and Dustin Pedroia at the bottom of this list just exacerbates how they have struggled in 2014. By the way, where is Robinson Cano? Daniel Murphy made the top ten against lefties.

2B versus Right Handed Pitching (minimum 100 at bats):

wOBa:
1. Robinson Cano .393
2. Scooter Gennett .381
3. Neil Walker .372
4. Chase Utley .357
5. Ian Kinsler .342
6. Jose Altuve .341
7. Anthony Rendon .335
8. Dee Gordon .334
9. Jason Kipnis .332
10. Roughned Odor .330
11. Brian Dozier .326
12. Daniel Murphy .322

ISO:
1. Neil Walker .211
2. Scooter Gennett .195
3. Anthony Rendon .185
4. Brian Dozier .175
5. Ian Kinsler .169
6. Roughned Odor .159
7. Chase Utley .149
8. Jonathan Schoop .147
9. Robinson Cano .140
10. Kolten Wong .140
11. Ben Zobrist .138
12. Brian Roberts .136
13. Aaron Hill .136

OPS:
1. Robinson Cano .909
2. Scooter Gennett .889
3. Neil Walker .847
4. Chase Utley .877
5. Ian Kinsler .786
6. Jose Altuve .773
7. Anthony Rendon .767
8. Roughned Odor .764
9. Dee Gordon .755
10. Jason Kipnis .742
11. Daniel Murphy .730
12. Brian Dozier .729

AB/HR:
1. Neil Walker 19
2. Brian Dozier 22
3. Jonathan Schoop 26.4
4. Scooter Gennett 32.8
5. Jedd Gyorko 32.8
6. Ian Kinsler 34.1
7. Kolten Wong 35.6
8. Ben Zobrist 42.2
9. Chase Utley 46.8
10. Gordon Beckham 47.6
11. Danny Espinosa 48.3
12. Robinson Cano 48.4

wRC+:
1. Robinson Cano 155
2. Scooter Gennett 142
3. Neil Walker 141
4. Chase Utley 128
5. Jose Altuve 117
6. Dee Gordon 116
7. Ian Kinsler 115
8. Anthony Rendon 113
9. Jason Kipnis 113
10. Daniel Murphy 108
11. Brian Dozier 107
12. Ben Zobrist 104

Overall Rankings Based on Aggregate Averages:
1. Neil Walker – 268 AB, 40 R, 14 HR, 45 RBI, 2 SB, 280/352/489
2. Scooter Gennett – 265 AB, 41 R, 8 HR, 34 RBI, 5 SB, 325/363/517
3. Robinson Cano – 242 AB, 34 R, 5 HR, 36 RBI, 6 SB, 351/417/492
4. Ian Kinsler – 307 AB, 51 R, 9 HR, 41 RBI, 8 SB, 290/326/459
5. Chase Utley – 281 AB, 41 R, 6 HR, 38 RBI, 3 SB, 310/368/459
6. Anthony Rendon – 301 AB, 52 R, 10 HR, 41 RBI, 6 SB, 262/324/445
7. Brian Dozier – 286 AB, 55 R, 13 HR, 34 RBI, 14 SB, 224/330/399
8. Jose Altuve – 320 AB, 40 R, 2 HR, 23 RBI, 31 SB, 316/354/416
9. Dee Gordon – 316 AB, 47 R, 2 HR, 23 RBI, 41 SB 297/316/446
10. Roughned Odor – 141 AB, 14 R, 2 HR, 17 RBI, 2 SB, 291/316/446
11. Jonathan Schoop – 211 AB, 23 R, 8 HR, 23 RBI, 218/250/365
12. Jason Kipnis – 200 AB, 30 R, 4 HR, 24 RBI, 12 SB, 260/352/390

Scooter is asserting himself in 2014 as a 2B to be targeted going foward
Scooter is asserting himself this season as a 2B option to keep an eye on moving forward

In daily and year-long fantasy, the seasons by Neil Walker and Scooter Gennett have gone under the radar but by these guidelines they are the highest ranked second baseman against right-handed pitching this year. Robinson Cano’s slash lines are nothing to look down upon, but the surrounding lineup has more to do with his suppressed counting stats than the ballpark. In fantasy where a player bats is also vastly underrated, look at players like Jonathan Schoop and Roughned Odor. Their slash lines are not far off from Brian Dozier and Jason Kipnis but they bat 8th and 9th respectively in their team’s lineups. This matters for DFS as well, since more at bats mean more chances to score valuable points. As noted earlier, Dee Gordon and Jose Altuve have stolen a combined 72 bags  so if the power hitting 2B do not have good matchups, target the speedsters instead. A base hit, stolen base and run scored are equal to a home run in daily play and are easier to predict. Like Pedroia above, this list underscores how much Jason Kipnis has struggled in 2014. Kipnis will either be a steal if his value is suppressed in drafts, or this is who he might be looking ahead. The remainder of the second half (Kipnis has struggled in second halves before) will help fantasy gamers better gauge his value. Last note: only Jose Altuve, Brian Dozer and Anthony Rendon qualified in the top 12 splits against both righties and lefties.

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

Statistical credits: Fangraphs.com, ESPN.com
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/MNUckp (Gennett), http://goo.gl/VbjFON (Altuve)

Top DFS Plays for 07/26/14

*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:

Cleveland Indians SUPER STACK! vs. Jeremy Guthrie – Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, Carlos Santana and Nick Swisher are all hitting over .370 against Guthrie. Also, the Royal’s hurler is 0-2 with a 8.71 ERA against the Indians in 2014.

Aaron Hill vs. Cliff Lee – hitting .346 (9/26) with 2 2B, 3 RBI and a walk
RHH are hitting .318 against Lee and Hill has been on a tear over the last week hitting .391 with a HR and 4 RBI.

Evan Longoria vs. John Lackey – hitting .351 (13/37) with 3 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI and 3 walks

Dee Gordon vs. Ryan Vogelsong – hitting .385 (10/26) with a 3B, a RBI and a walk

Anthony Rizzo vs. Shelby Miller – 0-2 – Rizzo is the hottest hitter on the planet and I am starting him everyday until he cools off.

Ricky’s HR Guarantee: Evan Longoria

Top DFS pitcher for today:

Chris Sale vs. Minnesota Twins – Anytime this man is on the mound, he is in my DFS lineup easily. 26 K and only 1 walk in the month of July. I love love love this guy.

Movie of the Day: Hercules – I saw this Thursday night in theaters and really enjoyed it. I think it’s the easy “must see” oat the box office this weekend.

Follow Ricky on Twitter @Rickygangster!

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)