In fantasy, you expect to gain certain category strength with particular positions. Corner infielders are there to provide you with power-associated production. In the ranks of the elites this is certainly true. Miguel Cabrera has had back-to-back 44 HR seasons. Chris Davis mashed 53 HR in 2013. In fact, across Major League Baseball, the 6 top HR hitters in 2013 all manned CI slots, while 8 of the top 10 were 1B/3B. 6 of the top 10 RBI producers were also CI-eligible players. Often this offensive production comes at the cost of batting average and speed, but those can be made up in other categories. However, while the elite certainly produce, in a 10-team AL or NL-only league playing 1B, 3B and CI slot, plus a UT, there is not a lot of talent to go around. Here we break down the $1 CI for 2014.
First a word about our assumptions concerning CI-eligible players.
When doing this exercise, caution was taken with respect to assumptions as you have very little control of how an auction plays out; thus, you want to be prepared for unfavorable scenarios. For example, if owners put Moss, Swisher, and Carter in the OF, then corner infield becomes thinner in the AL. Here are some assumptions for the corner infielder end game:
- Moss, Swisher, Chris Carter, Brandon Belt all get slotted at OF (not 1B or CI).
- All catchers and middle infielders that are CI eligible get slotted at C, 2B, SS, and MI.
- Kendrys Morales signs in the AL
The last bunch in: Davidson, Dunn, Smoak, Dominguez, Hart, Morrison, Moustakas, Plouffe, Chisenhall (10th CI), Betemit, Konerko, Wallace, Carp (italics denote not drafted)
This list gets ugly very quickly. Where it gets ugly really depends on your opinion of pretty much every guy listed after Davidson. For me, I would be fine with any of these guys at $1 until you get to Moustakas (I would be happy with Moose at $1). I could be tempted with Betemit or Carp if they could get the strong side of a platoon, but that is not currently the case. In a keeper league, where the cards do not fall as evenly, if I could fill my offense with studs elsewhere, I would consider a $1 Konerko who absolutely crushed lefties to the tune of .313/.398/.525 last season, albeit in only 99 AB. Konerko should be getting most starts against lefties (and thankfully none versus righties), but this is a finesse play, and one that I would be looking to avoid, unless the situation dictates it. I really want no part of Plouffe, Chisenhall and Wallace, who are likely to be below average in every category in a slot that is providing much more production for most owners.
AL Recommendation: Unless I am getting values that are too good to pass up everywhere else, I am going to look to get top 10 positional production at 1B and 3B, while looking to spend enough to ensure I do not end up with a bottom half corner infielder (Targets: Moreland, Lind, Loney, Teixeira or better).
Last bunch in: Todd Frazier, Chris Johnson, Cody Asche, Darin Ruf, Juan Uribe, Juan Francisco, Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, Tyler Moore, Casey McGehee, Donnie Murphy (italics denote not drafted)
Outside of the top-10 of CI in the NL, the talent level drops off very quickly. In a league with these settings, you will see the top 10 1B and top 10 3B disappear off the draft board quickly, and for a solid chunk of your budget.
For the $1 CI players, there is not a lot to look forward to at the end of your auction draft. There are a few players who offer some production, but most are nothing more than bench players who will require an injury to a starter to sniff consistent at-bats. Casey McGehee of the Miami Marlins could be a sleeper for a $1. McGehee once hit 23 HR for the Brewers. Journeyman IF Donnie Murphy hit 11 HR for the Cubs in 46 games in 2013. He offers a little pop, and gets playing time all around the diamond. Brett Pill has shown good power in the Giants minor league system, but will have a tough time finding playing time in the majors in 2014. An injury could make some room for him. Lucas Duda was a sleeper heading into 2013, and hit 15 homers for the second straight season. His batting average will weigh you down, but the temptation of double-digit HR might be worth the risk. Tyler Moore looked solid in 2012 but really struggled in limited action during 2013. Juan Francisco is worth an add as the backup to the oft-injured Aramis Ramirez in Milwaukee, though there is a chance he could start at 1B, which would obviously increase his price tag. Ike Davis is a season removed from 32 HR. Certainly 2013 is a season to forget, but if he can reclaim even half of his 2012 success, owners should be very happy with 14-20 HR from a $1 CI.
There are a few minor league players who could be interesting in 2014 as well. Mike Olt came to the Cubs in a trade from the Rangers. Another Cubs prospect, Kris Bryant, had a tremendous season in the Arizona Fall League. While the team will most likely allow him to further develop in the minors, his advanced approach could lead to a rapid accent in the system. Mikael Franco in the Phillies system is another player to keep an eye on.
NL Recommendation: In a 10-team league with a CI and UT slot, I am targeting an elite option, and spending a few more dollars to grab some mid-tier talent at these positions. I would much rather take a shot on $1 OF or SP and use those extra $$ on CI.