Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening – whichever is applicable to you. If you were to ask me which major league team was first to implement a hitting platoon, I could not tell you. My first recollection of platoon usage was the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies. With a deep roster and a ton of personality, the Phillies were the NL representative in the World Series. Jim Eisenreich and Milt Thompson were the left-handed hitting corner OF duo, while Pete Incaviglia and Wes Chamberlain were their right-handed hitting counterparts. In addition, the Phillies had a platoon at MI with Mickey Morandini (2B) and Mariano Duncan (SS) versus RH pitching and Duncan (2B) and Kevin Stocker (SS) versus LH pitching. The majority of teams during that time had 8 starters, and bench players were relegated to in-game substitutions and the occasional spot start.
Naturally baseball has changed in regards to platoons since 1993. Every team employs some type of platoon; some like the 1993 Phillies, employing multiple platoons depending on pitchers’ handedness. In 1993, 154 players had over 500 PA. In 2015 that number was 143, and that is with an additional two teams. We as fantasy owners have suffered through this. Gone are a handful, or two, of plate appearances each week. Sure, those tough matchups may save you some points on AVG, but the majority of statistics are of the counting variety, thus playing time is really the primary factor. For far too long we have accepted this change in a negative manner. Accepting the loss of playing time as part of the game, yet failing to capitalize on the impact production that can be had on the cheap.
Close your eyes and envision your fantasy squads. 10 Team, 12 Team, 16 Team or League Only – it doesn’t matter the size; your roster will have a handful of guys who are superstars and a handful of players who are essentially replacement level. Now envision your bench spots. You likely have a couple of mid-level players that add to your roster depth, maybe a spot or two dedicated to streaming, and you likely have one spot dedicated to an injured player or potential prospect call up. My proposal is this: sacrifice just one roster spot to a platoon option. A platoon option that when applicable, will produce at a superstar level. After all, it’s this level of production, more than anything, that differentiates good teams from bad teams.
What you choose to add is entirely up to you. You could simply add the most productive option, or you could focus on a particular position where the production just hasn’t been there. For this post I focused on players with noticeable splits. In addition I targeted players who were widely available. As I’ve mentioned before, when sorting through stats I find it easier to focus on one statistic rather than the whole picture. Today my focus was on OPS, as it’s an all-encompassing statistic. The following is a list of players who have produced at a high level versus certain pitchers who could very well be found on a Waiver Wire near you.
Chris Iannetta (12% Yahoo) Iannetta has posted a .874 OPS vs. LHP this season. Over his career Ianneta has posted a .861 mark. His .874 mark this season is good for 3rd among qualifiers for Catchers.
Jason Castro (9% Yahoo) Not your typical LH vs. RHP platoon, but statistics are statistics. Castro has posted a .875 OPS in 137 PA in 2016 vs. RHP. That .875 ranks 7th among Catchers with at least 20 PA.
Marwin Gonzaelz (11% Yahoo) As the place holder for AJ Reed, Gonzalez has at least managed to carve out a LHP specialist role if nothing else. Gonzalez has posted a .835 OPS in 85 PA. With a career mark of .723 it’s understandable to question, but early returns could suggest improvements have been made. Gonzalez’s .835 mark is good for 11th among first basemen with a 20 PA minimum.
Tommy Joseph (7% Yahoo) With only 29 PA vs. LHP, it’s rather difficult to solidify Joseph as a LHP specialist. Once again statistically speaking, the early returns would suggest just that. Joseph has posted a 1.102 OPS which is good for 3rd best among first basemen. In addition it would appear as though Joseph will be the 1B in place of Howard vs. LHP moving forward.
Jefry Marte (1% Yahoo) Marte has posted a 1.006 OPS in 53 PA verse RHP. The 1.006 mark is good for 11th best in all of baseball with a 20 PA minimum. Strikeout concerns and lack of walks make this a risky proposition to maintain, but this type of production should not be ignored.
Yangervis Solarte (11% Yahoo) Criminally under-owned to begin with, Solarte has produced at an elite level versus LHP in limited plate appearances. Solarte has posted a 1.096 OPS in 34 PA; this mark is good for 2nd best among second basemen with a minimum of 20 plate appearances. With multiple position eligibility and an ideal lineup spot, Solarte should be a player to target.
Derek Dietrich ( 8% Yahoo) The injury to Dee Gordon opened up an everyday job for Dietrich. While he has failed to handle LHP thus far, he’s fared very well against RHP, posting a .873 OPS in 172 plate appearances. The .873 mark is good for 10th among second basemen and 5th among players with more than 100 PA.
Jody Mercer (6% Yahoo) Jody Mercer has posted a .959 OPS vs. LHP in 2016. This total ranks 7th among players with 20 plate appearances. While Mercer is certainly not known for his bat, career numbers would suggest this number to not be an unreasonable expectation. His career OPS vs. LHP is .879 which ranks 3rd among current SS for their career.
Didi Gregarious (18% Yahoo) Another player whose bat I considered to be an afterthought. Gregorious has posted a .905 OPS vs. LHP this season. From a career standpoint Gregorious has disappointed in this area, posting a career mark in the 600’s. This is worth following, however, as players such as Brandon Crawford have set a precedent for big upswing vs. same handed pitching from year to year.
Tim Anderson (20% Yahoo) Not necessarily a player to target, but early returns have been nice. Anderson has posted a .822 OPS vs. RHP thus far in 46 plate appearances, which is good for 10th among SS. Poor plate approach and big swing a miss tendencies create pause, but should Anderson maintain this OPS level vs. RHP, 2016 could be a very productive season.
David Freese (8% Yahoo) Freese has posted a .998 OPS vs. LHP this season. That total is good for 7th among third basemen, and his career mark of .838, is good for 10th among active players, and provides a measuring stick that suggests 2016 is no fluke.
Yunel Escobar (18% Yahoo) Escobar has posted a .941 OPS vs. LHP, which is good for 10th among 3B. I understand the hesitation owning Escobar; he’s rather void of the coveted power-speed combo, and the average can be rather empty. Even so, in advantageous situations Escobar can produce value.
Ryan Rua (9% Yahoo) Rua’s OPS of 1.118 against LHP is good for 8th among outfielders. Rua had recently been pressed into full-time duty because of injury. The return of Choo should relegate him back to the LHP specialist role he excels at.
Matt Joyce (1% Yahoo) Joyce has an OPS of .994 vs. RHP over 94 plate appearances, and that mark ranks 4th among outfielders. While Joyce has been relegated to a bench role in a talented outfield, recent injury concerns with Starling Marte have really opened the door for Joyce. He has actually managed a 1.053 OPS against LHP, however that has come over just 27 plate appearances. With the talent in the Pirates OF, Joyce’s playing time will be limited if all are healthy. However, given the production potential he would certainly be a target of mine should I own any of the Pirates outfield, or should an injury occur.
Tyler Naquin (4% Yahoo) Naquin was a hot add to begin the season as he seemed to capture the starting CF job out of Spring Training. While named the starter out of camp, he never really got the job. He played in 15 games in April earning 44 AB, and just 8 games in May earning 19 AB. His production in limited at bats was solid despite a poor K%. Naquin has appeared in 15 games this month and appears to be making a big playing time push. Naquin has posted a .906 OPS in 103 plate appearances vs. RHP. Once again the K% is a concern, but the power and speed potential, and established production make for a nice speculative add.
Career OPS of some notable platoon types
- Scott Van Slyke (0% Yahoo) .864 vs LHP. Injuries have limited him this season but playing time opportunity exists.
- Franklin Gutierrez (3% Yahoo) .847 vs LHP. Was a platoon specialist before it was cool.
- Rickie Weeks (0% Yahoo) .830 vs LHP. If the D’backs could play 5 OF and only face LHP they’d win the West.
- Ryan Raburn (1% Yahoo) .829 vs LHP. Has been a LHP mashers for quite some time. Coors only ups the value.
- Seth Smith (3% Yahoo) .831 vs RHP. Smith likely carries the highest day-to-day value among this group.
Taking ownership of this platoon approach would not be an easy process. Daily formats would offer the best opportunity to take full advantage. Weekly formats would have those same opportunities, but more work would have to be put into it. Regardless of a daily or weekly format a high level of dedication would be needed to execute this strategy.
Having an extended knowledge of the player pool would be a must as the player pool would be very volatile and require you to follow the ebbs and flows with regularity. One would need to objectively look at their roster and think more big picture than simply player to player statistics. Case in point; outfield offers more platoon options than any other position. However if you have 4-5 really solid outfielder then adding another bat would make little sense. However should your SS be near the bottom of the league from a production standpoint, then perhaps picking up a Jordy Mercer for his LHP starts would make sense. Is Mercer a more productive player than Rua? The answer would be no. However for the makeup of your team the Mercer pickup would add more value.
Being successful in fantasy often requires you to think outside of the box. MLB teams implemented platoons as a way to get more production for less money. Oftentimes teams could sign two veteran bats at a cheaper rate than one superstar. MLB platoons have created more potential for value among the player pool. All you have to do to take advantage of it is adjust your roster makeup ever so slightly. Fantasy owners have used the streaming practice for years with starting pitchers. This process is simply taking that and applying it to the hitters. There is value to be had; we just need to be more willing to do the work and stake claim to the unowned production.
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