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Sell ‘Em: Keeper League Middle Infield

Hello all, hopefully you’re having a terrific hump day! I’m going to be introducing a bit of a new segment over the next couple weeks revolving around players near the end of their “prime years” I view as sell-high candidates in keeper leagues as we move toward the 2018 season.

What years are a player’s prime years? You generally hear from all the talking heads that an athlete’s prime years are generally their late 20’s, though this differs slightly based on the sport. There’s no way you can get me to agree that an NFL player is in his prime as he nears 30; they’re generally scoping out retirement packages by then! As a MLB player, you typically see the best years from players anywhere from their age 25 season to their age 29 season, with a few exceptions.

Today I’m going to touch on the middle infield, guys that will have 2B/SS eligibility in the 2018 season. If a player picked up positional eligibility during this past season, say Anthony Rizzo at 2B, but didn’t have enough appearances to carry that eligibility over, I’ve skipped right over them. If Rizzo carried 2B eligibility into the 2018 season you bet I’d be trying to stockpile some keeper’s in return for Rizzo’s added incentive!

Daniel Murphy (1B/2B)

Daniel Murphy will begin the 2018 campaign at age 32, but one day into the season he’ll turn 33, so it’s his age 33 season. As a player creeps towards the middle 30’s in age, they tend to move farther down my rankings. I don’t believe Murphy is one of those guys quite yet, seeing as he’s adopted the “launch angle theory” to his game the past two seasons where he’s hit a combined .334. Daniel Murphy has always been a solid player, hitting less than .281 only once, but it’s clear to me he is at the peak of his career.

He has compiled back-to-back seasons of 23+ home runs – he hit 23 home runs total in 2013-14 combined! He was only seven RBI shy of putting up repeated seasons of 100 RBI. His previous career high before his 104 in 2016 was 78 back in 2013. I mentioned his adjusted launch angle earlier, but his career numbers also align with playing with a better skilled team in Washington rather than what he had in New York, even if he did make a World Series with them.

Murphy will also lose his 1B eligibility when the 2018 season rolls around. You might argue that the 2B pool is shallow and to hang on to Murphy for that reason, but he only outscored a guy like Jed Lowrie by roughly 40 points. Those are points that can be made up in the return you get for him. I’m not saying you’re going to get a HUGE haul for a guy like Murphy, and I’m not a huge fan of 2-for-1 deals coming my direction, but I do make exceptions during the offseason when you’re bringing in additional talent that you don’t need to stress over on draft day.

Oh, and I almost forgot, 2018 could be Murphy’s last season in a Nationals uniform. I imagine they’ll move on from him at season’s end to make room for Wilmer Difo to team up with Trea Turner up the middle. I’d definitely want to deal him before that jersey changes (not to mention it’s a contract year)!

  • Positions to target: Add a SP who slots in as your #2 or a couple very reliable bats at your weakest positions

Brian Dozier (2B)

As a White Sox fan, I can’t say I’ve ever liked Brian Dozier, but that has nothing to do with his work on the field – strictly because of the jersey he wears. That whole thing is for another day. Dozier is a bit of an oddity to me. He’s not a big guy; solid sure, but man he can pack some power into a swing.

Dozier hit’s the 31 mark a little more than a month into the 2018 season, but will only mark the start of his 6th full season with the team. He has a career average of .250, thanks in large part to his past two seasons of .268 and .269. Prior to 2016 the highest Dozier his was .244. Normally when you see an average like that you’re running the other direction when it comes to middle-infield players. Heck, even some middle infield guys hitting around the same mark Dozier did this year were only owned in 8-9% of leagues on ESPN.

As I mentioned, though, Dozier brings the power game to the table! Getting 30+ homer potential out of your 2B spot is something you can’t pass up! He finished as the #2 2B-elibigle player this past year in many formats only because sites got cute and gave Anthony Rizzo 2B eligibility for changing his glove in the field a few handful of times.

Dozier has always been a power threat, hitting 23+ homers each of his last four seasons. His 42 in 2016 was his career high, but he did a fine job following that up with 34 this past year. I don’t expect him to reach the 40 mark again, but crazier things have happened, like the Twins maintaining success all season and nabbing a Wild Card spot this year! I’m not sold that Dozier is past his prime years; I think he’s still got another one or two solid power seasons left in the tank, which is a reason why you should deal him now for help in other areas your team might need (can never have enough pitching).

Dozier saw his walk rate rise to 11.1% this past season, his highest in three years! If that continues to improve I think we’ll see an increase in average and OBP. Increases in those areas coupled with the young talent surrounding him in Minnesota should make for another great fantasy year from Dozier. Like Murphy, though, Dozier is a free agent after the 2018 season. Going from Minnesota to a more friendly hitting envroment could increase his value short-term. This gives you a reason to hold him, but can also be used as a selling point to a potential buyer.

  • Positions to target: Add a SP who slots in as a low-end #2 or a high-end #3 or a very trusting bat plus a prospect

Elvis Andrus (SS)

Man, I was really torn when it came to including Elvis on this list. I’m an Andrus owner in the dynasty league I run (8 teams/40-man rosters) and I wasn’t so sure I’d be willing to deal him away. I got to thinking about it, and why wouldn’t I see what I could get from a guy coming off his career year at the age of 28-29? Andrus has 55 career home runs, 20 of those coming this past season. He has 36% of his career home runs in ONE season. That’s absurd! Think about it, seriously, think really hard. He had 35 home runs entering the 2017 season and put up 20! Absolutely sell high on Andrus!

Home runs weren’t the only thing that saw an increase across the stat line for Andrus this past season. He also scored 100 runs and knocked in 88, both are also career highs. He also had a career high 44 doubles and 191 hits. His stolen base numbers is right at the average he’s had over the past four seasons (27, 25, 24, 25), so you know what you’re getting there.  All Andrus’ ratios seemed to stay relatively the same with the increase in power. His fly ball percentage increased a bit, which means his line drive percentage decreased, which is directly related to the ridiculous increase in home runs. The changes in those percentages coupled with the increase in hard contact lead me to believe this power surge could sustain a while here.

In the end of it all, I’m not so sure you shop Andrus around as a “sell high, sell now” candidate, but if someone offers you a package, don’t be a fool and decline it thinking you’re getting hosed. If it’s not something satisfactory to you put in a counter offer. Andrus should net you some solid options going forward. He projects as a real 20/20 guy heading into 2018 and playing in Arlington never hurts anybody’s stats either. Then again, this could be his final year with Texas if he opts out of his remaining four years – something to keep in mind; his new home may not be as hospitable.

  • Position to target: Land a SP that slots in #3 or add a weak position plus a prospect or two

Honorable Mention – Eduardo Nunez (2B/3B), Marwin Gonzalez (1B/2B/SS/LF)

*****

Hopefully you guys enjoyed the above read and continue to come back each week to read more. Don’t be too harsh on me, but a little friendly banter back and forth never hurt anyone! Leave me some questions in the comment section below and I’ll be sure to answer them for you! If you’re in the twitter world, shoot me your questions on there as well, @KennyGarvey.

Catch you next week!

 

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Kenny Garvey
I'm from eastern Iowa, yes there are more things than just corn here. I'm a baseball nerd. If there's a game televised you can bet I've got it on! Family and baseball keep me sane. Fantasy baseball far outweighs fantasy football, no doubt about it!
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