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

Trade Scripts: Price/Jackson/Smyly

Not to be outdone by Oakland, the Tigers add another ace in David Price
Not to be outdone by Oakland, the Tigers add another ace in David Price

In one of the busiest trade deadlines in recent memory, the stories and tweets surrounding David Price changed every hour. On Wednesday night it seemed like the Rays were going to keep him and make a run at the postseason, if not the AL East on the heels of a 16 win July. As the deadline loomed it became apparent that the Rays were going to trade their ace, and the Tigers became the suitor. Dave Dombrowski has made it his signature to get what the Tigers need at times when it appears they are not worthy. Chalk another one up as not only did he get David Price, but it did not auction off the farm system, although the defense in center field took a definitive downgrade. The long and short of this trade is that the Detroit Tigers acquired David Price after trading Drew Smyly, Austin Jackson and Willy Adames to the Rays who in turn traded Jackson to the Mariners for Nick Franklin. There are many opining that the Rays did not get enough in return for Price but as Buster Olney of ESPN speculated, they probably would have gotten less in return in the offseason. It remains to be seen what will become of all of the parts of this trade, but the Tigers and Mariners addressed present day needs in this deal without mortgaging too much of the future. However, the Rays seem to think they can make Smyly an effective starter now as he will assume the #5 role for the rest of the season. Here are the fantasy implications:

David Price 2014 Stats: 11 W, 170.2 IP, 189:32 K:BB, 3.11 ERA, 1.05 WHIP

By adding Price to the rotation, not only did the Tigers answer the A’s trade for Lester, but they now have three Cy Young award winners in their starting five. His swinging strike percentage of 11% this year is the second highest of his career and he will join the Tigers for what looks like ten more starts this year. As it projects out, here are his upcoming contests:

Price’s future games: @NY Yankees, @ Toronto, vs. Pittsburgh, @ Tampa Bay, vs. NY Yankees, @ Cleveland, vs. San Francisco, vs. Cleveland, @ Kansas City, vs. Chicago White Sox

Using the games above to get a feel of Price’s outlook, here are his stats against the teams he has faced so far in 2014 or in the last three years courtesy of ESPN.com:

Against NY Yankees: 1 W, 19 IP, 23 K’s, 3.79 ERA
Against Toronto: 2 W, 15.1 IP, 22 K’s, 1.17 ERA
Against Pittsburgh: 1 W, 8.1 IP, 11 K’s, 1.08 ERA
Against Cleveland: 3 W, 27 IP, 29 K’s, 3.33 ERA
Against San Francisco: 9 IP, 5 K’s, 1.00 ERA
Against Kansas City: 8 IP, 8 K’s, 0 earned runs
Against Chicago White Sox: 1 L, 6 IP, 7 K’s, 9.00 ERA

With the exception of the White Sox, Price has had much success against his upcoming opponents. The most interesting opponent very well may be his matchup against his former team in his old house. Trading for Price does not guarantee the Tigers a World Series, but it makes them a serious contender and if everyone gets the heavyweight bout of Oakland and Detroit in the ALCS, it will be great pitching every game.

As an aside, with Austin Jackson gone and Rajai Davis being a weak center fielder, the Tigers have promoted Ezequiel Carrera from their AAA affiliate in Toledo. While he has struggled making contact in the bigs, slashing 251/306/339 over 131 games, Carrera has shown a better approach and is stealing bases. Here are his stats: Ezequiel Carrera AAA 2014 Stats: 97 G, 68 R, 6 HR, 41 RBI, 43 SB, 307/387/422

He may start out at the bottom of the lineup but if he can get on base and steal, he may end up leading off against right-handed pitching as his defense will be needed by Detroit. An intriguing grab in AL only and deeper mixed leagues.

Seattle Mariners get their man in the middle:

Austin Jackson 2014 Stats: 52 R, 4 HR, 33 RBI, 9 SB, 273/332/398

In the midst of his age 27 season, Austin Jackson has been a bit of a disappointment for fantasy owners. Although he did not require use of a high pick to draft, many had A-Jax on breakout lists and figured him to score plenty of runs as the leadoff batter for a prolific offense. However, after early season struggles and batting in the bottom third of the lineup, Jackson seemed to be regressing. Jackson turned his season around after the Tigers put him back at leadoff and it seemed to spark him. Part of Jackson’s struggles can be a bit of bad luck as his line drive and home run per fly ball percentages are both down in 2014. But here is his second half thus far:

13 G, 8 R, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 1 SB, 352/407/537

What’s better is that his peripheral stats support the breakout. Jackson’s second half wOBA is up to .413 and his wRC+ (100 is league average) has jumped to 164 which placed him firmly back on the radar. The move to Seattle should not have much of an effect on him offensively due to the ballpark. It may be the type of move that will help Robinson Cano as he will have someone to drive in. Seattle has been searching not only for a strong defensive center fielder but a leadoff hitter as well. They were able to get both in this deal for Austin Jackson. But it does beg to question, why didn’t they just up the ante and offer James Paxton and get David Price? We will never know but Jackson will stay at leadoff and may run more in Seattle.

Tampa Bay three-way returns Drew Smyly, Nick Franklin, Willy Adames

Drew Smyly 2014: 6 W, 105.1 IP, 89/31 K/BB, 3.93 ERA, 1.31 WHIP

Smyly has been a media favorite as a breakout pitcher for Detroit over the past couple of seasons. They really limited his innings early on but once they needed a fifth starter he got his chance in. However, if the Rays are trying to fill the void left by Price with Smyly, it will be a difficult sell to their fan base. There are a couple of concerns I have about him long term as a starter and it begins with his difficulty in getting right handed batters out. This was limited when he was a reliever but for 2014 here are his present splits:

Versus LHB: 164/192/259 wOBA .201
Versus RHB: 295/360/511 wOBA .378

The struggles in his WHIP lie in the numbers above as right-handed hitters get on base almost 40% of the time. Moving to the AL East is not as bad as it once was, but there are still three other teams in the hunt. Another concern is that he is throwing his slider 30% of the time which is not a worry yet, but it is his go-to pitch to generate swinging strikes and once teams scout him more may lay off the pitch. Extrapolating out his remaining ten starts, these are his matchups:

Smyly as a Ray: @ Oakland, @ Texas, vs. NY Yankees, @ Toronto, @ Baltimore, vs. Boston, vs. Baltimore, @ Toronto, vs. NY Yankees, @ Boston.

Here are his statistics against teams he has faced:
Against Oakland: L, 5 IP, 3 K’s, 4 HR allowed, 10.8 ERA
Against Texas: 1 W, 7 IP, 6 K’s, 0 earned runs
Against NY Yankees: 1 W, 11.2 IP, 13 K’s, 0.77 ERA
Against Baltimore: 1 W, 9 IP, 10 K’s, 1.00 ERA
Against Toronto: 2.2 IP, 2 K’s, 0 earned runs
Against Boston: 1 W, 6 IP, 4 K’s, 1.50 ERA

Admittedly, I was shocked at how well he has done against the AL East teams in particular. But the Yankees have added Chase Headley and Martin Prado, Baltimore has Adam Jones, Nelson Cruz et al with Toronto getting healthy soon, these are going to be some tough matchups. There has to be something that Tampa Bay sees in him to take him as part of this trade, I for one am interested to see how the rest of Smyly’s season goes. I am not adding him as a result of this trade in fact I would sell if the chance arose.

Nick Franklin 2014 AAA Stats: 75 G, 45 R, 9 HR, 47 RBI, 9 SB, 294/392/455

Can Franklin reach his lofty potential in Tampa?
Can Franklin reach his lofty potential in Tampa?

Taking the AAA statistics with a grain of salt is necessary as he plays in the hitter friendly PCL, but he is a former top 100 prospect and it is much too soon to give up on him offensively. A switch hitting second middle infielder that can provide a combination of power and speed is not to be taken lightly in fantasy. With the way that the Rays like to utilize players it will be fun to see if they can fix Franklin and allow him to play not only in September, but for seasons to come. Like Jackson, the ballpark effects are nil as both Seattle and Tampa Bay are pitcher’s parks. This is about opportunity and Franklin got to the majors as a high OBP guy and that is something the Rays cherish.

Willy Adames 2014 A Stats: 98 G, 40 R, 6 HR, 50 RBI, 3 SB, 269/346/428

This is the piece of the trade that will take time to process. It is hard to grade out the winners and losers though many are seeing this as a huge loss by Tampa. Willy Adames is the youngest player in the Midwest League but has posted a very respectable slash line in the process. Jim Callis and Ben Badler both were high on hearing the Rays get Adames in return for David Price. Rival executives had Adames as their highest rated prospect in the Tigers system so although it looks like the Rays lost huge in this deal, if Adames can match the hype and continue his fast climb through the minors, it could be a couple years down the road for the Rays. Time will tell but keeper league AL-only players have a shortstop they can stash as Tampa Bay has needed a high end shortstop prospect for some time. It just begs the question though, if Addison Russell could have been had for Price, then trading him would have been more palatable to the Rays fan base.

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

Statistical credits: ESPN.com, BrooksBaseball.net, Fangraphs.com
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/XjZB7t (Price), http://goo.gl/fVfMef (Franklin)