Value Bats around the Infield

I hope drafting season has been treating all of you well.  There’s been really comprehensive draft coverage here at FA and hope that you’ve been utilizing all of those resources. I’ve been pretty pitching heavy these past few week but have come back to the bats for my final installment before the season starts.Last month I gave you some value outfield bats to consider – this week I thought I’d do the same with the infield. These are some infielders that I seem to get over and over again in my mocks and drafts.

Catcher – Wilson Ramos

I’ve talked about Ramos a lot in preseason as well as the end of the ‘17 season.  Ramos was a top-3 catcher in 2016 before his devastating knee injury. It took him awhile to get back to form last year, but he was a monster down the stretch.  It’s generally not smart to parse statistics in fantasy, but the narrative makes sense to me considering he was coming off of an injury.

Ramos has top-5 potential as a catcher and is going as the 9th catcher at an average ADP of 194 across all sites.  NFBC is a bit savvier, probably because of the two catcher format, but most of the major sites have him going after pick 200 – that’s round 17 in a 12-team league. This is basically stealing in my mind.  I own him in several leagues and would not pay for any other catcher at that price.

First Base – Miguel Cabrera

Miggy is the best player of his generation – possibly one of the best hitters ever, and he was a top-5 first baseman in 2016, right there with the likes of Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rizzo, Joey Votto and Edwin Encarnacion. Cabrera had a rough and injury riddled year  in 2017.  His age, increased K rate, and hot statcast guns in Detroit have pushed his value way down.

The controversy over the statcast numbers in Detroit are probably overblown, at least in Miggy’s case.  His hard hit rate on the road is still 40% along with an elite 26% line drive rate. I worry about aging sluggers when they hit too many grounders, start swinging at junk, and when they can’t hit pitches in the zone.  Cabrera’s ground ball rate only went up 2 points. His overall K rate went up five points, but his discipline numbers still look great. Even though he struck out more, his swinging strike rate only went up .7%. That doesn’t really match up with a 5 point jump in overall K percentage.  He’s still making contact with pitches in the zone and not chasing bad pitches at rates basically identical to his career norms. The walk rate was still way up at 13.3%, which is awfully valuable in OBP and points leagues.

Yes, Miggy is getting older.  He’s the same age as Edwin and about a year older than Joey Votto.  His ADP across all sites is 88.7, and I will draft Miggy all day long at this value.  I have him on all but one of my teams so far. If Miggy is healthy, the numbers say that he’s still a star. For an 8th round pick in a 12 team league, how can you not love him.

Second Base – Ozzie Albies

I have a huge man crush on Albies.  This one is going to be league dependent as the industry is pumping him up with helium.  That said, I’ve literally been able to get him with my last pick in home leagues. Albies is a young prospect with pedigree that feels like he has both upside and safety.   I think he can be a 15 homer and 25 steal guy with a .290 average and decent counting stats. He Ks less than 15% of the time and the Braves lineup could be pretty formidable in the launching pad of Sun Trust Park.

Albies’ ADP is 133.5 – I love him at this price given his performance so far.  There will be leagues where he gets reached for in the 7th or 8th round, but if he’s falling beyond that, there’s definite profit to be mined. Chasing Albies in all formats.

Third Base – Adrian Beltre

Yes, he’s old as dirt, but Beltre is also reliable as hell.  He only played 94 games last year, but had his best year on a per-game basis in quite some time.  His swinging strike rate is just 7.9% and this helps him to be a rare source of batting average. Beltre still had some pop as well as he was pacing at 28 bombs if he had played 153 games.  This will be his age 39 season, but he had played in 143 or more games from 2012-2016.

He’s an all-time great and a likely Hall of Famer.  Beltre is coming off as the 19th third baseman at an ADP of 137, yet I can tell you that he’s often even cheaper than this – I got him for $1 in multiple auction leagues.  So even if this is the year that he finally falls off, it won’t hurt you much. I love to draft Beltre with another aging star like Cruz, Miggy, or Carpenter and hope that at least one of them is good enough to man a Util slot.  Just a thought on strategy if you miss out on the big names. Hopefully Beltre will give us at least one more year of what he’s been doing for a long, long time.

Shortstop – Trevor Story

I’ve talked a lot about Story since he burst onto the scene in 2016.  He helped me win quite a few leagues that year, but then burned me a bit last year.  Still, I love Story as a draft pick coming in to this year. This guy has 40 homer and 15 steal potential; hat doesn’t just go away because he had an off-year. He strikes out too much – this isn’t news, but you need to remember that a 34.3% K rate is going to lead to a volatile player.  I’ve said it a million times, but we’ve seen this kind of variance from Chris Davis and other K/HR hitters. Story still hits the ball very hard (40%) and still plays at Coors in a stacked lineup.

Trevor Story is coming off of draft boards at an ADP of 108.  That’s 2 picks before Didi Gregorius, which is a joke. I like him more in roto than points obviously, but would be happy with him in either format.  There’s a chance Story flames out, which is why it’s worth keeping an eye on his potential heir apparent, Brendan Rodgers.  Obviously Rodgers will be owned in any dynasty leagues, but you need to monitor him closely in re-drafts. Should be a cheap handcuff for Story that offers similarly monstrous upside, albeit with a potentially stronger average.

Middle Infielder – Ian Kinsler

Another oldie but goody.  Kinsler has been a fantasy staple for a decade. 2017 saw his BABIP crater; it dropped over 100 points from the previous year.  That’s pretty unlucky given his K rate was only 14% and hit the ball plenty hard at 37% (34% on the road).  The batted ball profile and discipline numbers all say that he’s the same player. He even stole 14 bags last year.  I would expect the BABIP to recover and see something like 23 homers, 12 steals, and a .275 average with good counting stats.  I think that’s conservative as well given his track record and that he’ll be batting in front of some guy named Mike Trout.

Kinsler is the 21st second baseman and 169th player off the board in ADP.  I’ve seen him go undrafted in particularly ageist leagues. Kinsler is likely to be as solid as ever and this seems like a great value to me.

Corner Infield – Matt Carpenter

Carpenter has been a bit of an injury risk the last two years.  He’s been pretty good when he plays yet his ADP has been suppressed this draft season.  Carpenter kills the ball with a 42.2% hard hit rate. He hit hardly any grounders with a solid 22.3% and insane 50.8% fly ball rate. That’s the profile of a slugger.  He has told beat reporters that he’s going to stop trying to be such a power whore this year though. I’m okay with that as if his average improves a bit and he still retains some pop, he’s still just as valuable and still has a tremendous approach at the plate. He had a 17.5% walk rate last year! That’s outrageously good which makes him a bit more valuable in points and OBP leagues where he was only behind only Judge, Votto, and Trout. He’s also played a few different positions in the Spring so there’s a chance he regains some position flexibility in-season.

Carpenter is going 147 on average as far as ADP, but I would probably go as high as the 9th or 10th round when trying to draft him.  Despite injuries he still played 129 and 145 games in the last two years so he is dependable which is a bonus with that new 10-day DL killing fantasy teams.

*****

If you have a few drafts left then I would target these guys.  It’s also worth trying to trade for some of them if your draft(s) have happened already.  There’s a chance that the current owner doesn’t value these guys as highly as they should.

 

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Mike Sheehan

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Comedian, Powerlifter, and most importantly a Cum Laude graduate of the fantasy baseball school of hard knocks. Double major in points and categories with a minor in roto. Happy to be doing my Postgraduate work here at the Fantasy Assembly.