Why I Don’t Like Altuve and Zobrist

When we did our consolidated rankings for second base, I was the lowest ranker on Altuve and the second lowest on Zobrist. (Actually, at first I left Zobrist off my top-20 list, but then I decided his veteran presence was better for 2014 than the gamble of Kolten Wong.) Some of the Assembly was surprised at my rankings. So why don’t I give these guys more love? Let’s take a look at the following chart. Which player would you rather have?

   BA    R    HR     RBI     SB
 Player A .288 84 14 80 13
 Player B .283 77 12 72 5
 Player C .283 64 5 52 35
 Player D .275 77 12 71 11

Player A is simply the average cumulative stats of the top-12 2B from 2013. Player B was created by taking the top-12 2B and selecting the #9 ranked stat in each category. I chose the 9th best stat in each because our consolidated rankings have Altuve at #9 and Zobrist at #10. Player C is Altuve in 2013, and Player D is Zobrist.

Obviously, Zobrist lines up well with the #9 ranked stats — he matches two categories exactly and was 1 RBI off. However, he’s going to be 33 in 2014, and it seems his peak power is now behind him, given that he nearly halved his HR/FB: In 2011 it was 12%, in 2012 it was 13%, and in 2013 it was 6%. He set a five-year high in AB in 2013, but his 5×5 stats were all ranked 4th or 5th out of those five years. Given that stealing bases is a young man’s game, I don’t expect SB to bounce back. He may net a few more HR, but there’s no guarantee of that. And he’s only had one BA in the last five years that I’d categorize as above-average for fantasy purposes. It’s safer to assume 2013 is the new ceiling, given the high AB total, than it is to assume he can get back to 2012 levels. He could be a top-10 2B for another year, but especially looking to the future (or even 2015), I won’t trust him as more than a late-game bench role.

As for Altuve, the only thing he does well is run. He was tops in SB for 2B — but he was also caught 13 times, so there’s a chance they rein him in some. His BA is fine but not great for fantasy purposes. Houston’s offense is terrible, and Altuve’s runs and RBI are diminished as a result; you’d have to have a lot of optimism about the 2014 Astros to project Altuve reaching 70 R and 60 RBI. He also has no power; in 2014 I’d take the under on his 2013 total of 5 HR. This means he’s a top-3 2B in one 5×5 category, an average 2B in another (BA), and well below average in three categories. At least Zobrist is capable of being near the average across the board. You can find cheap sources of speed late in the draft, so why pay for Altuve at an ADP of 104 (via Mock Draft Central) when a mostly healthy Bonifacio can net 30+ SB in 400+ AB at an ADP of 261?

I looked at these two players’ 2013 rankings at 2B in a 5×5 and four custom CBS points leagues. In 5×5 Altuve ranked 8th simply because of his lofty SB totals, and Zobrist was 11th. In my custom points leagues, Zobrist fared better, reaching 6th twice and 7th twice. Points leagues tend to discount speedsters, so Altuve’s best rank was 10th, and his worst was 13th. Given that I don’t expect any improvements from either players — in fact I’d expect declines before gains — there’s no way I take them as my starting 2B in a normal depth league. Expecting a top-10 2B finish from either of them is a mistake. You can hope for it, but you can’t bank on it.

Kevin Jebens

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Fantasy baseball player since 2000; winning leagues ranging from 12-team H2H to 18-team experts 5x5. Has written for various baseball blogs, including the 2013 Bleed Cubbie Blue Annual.

6 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Like Altuve and Zobrist”

  1. I think you’re insight is usually very good but I disagree a little on this one. These aren’t players that win your league but, IMO, you’re selling Altuve a little short by saying that he’s a one category player. .280-.290 is a nice average in today’s game and he has the the potential to hit .300+. He’s also young and can conceivably improve, although if this is his floor, it’s pretty solid.

    Zobrist also seems like a worthwhile target at the right price. He’s probably declining at this point but coming off of a forgettable season and one that probably has lowered his ADP, he could be a somewhat of a value pick if he bounces back a little.

    1. It may be possible for Altuve to hit .300, but I’m not counting on it. He had about the same BABIP in 2012 and 2013, but he had an even higher LD% in 2013, which should imply a better BABIP and BA. However, his BA went down despite this. He hits 50% of his balls into the ground, and though his speed lets him beat some of these out, that’s a bit of a crapshoot as his infield hit percentage indicates: 11.0% in 2012 dropped to 7.5% in 2013. His swinging strike jumped up from 2012 (though still below MLB avg), as did his O-Swing%. Perhaps he was trying to hard to be the only producer in a bad HOU lineup. He also doesn’t do well against RHP: .676 OPS in 2012, .656 OPS in 2013. These are all relatively minor negatives, but the problem is that I don’t see any positives to balance them out. I’m capping his short-term BA at .290, but a repeat of .280 is far more likely. That’s not bad, but it’s not great. Consider him a 2-category player, then, SB and BA, but his R, HR, and RBI won’t be close to the average at his position, let alone the average of the top-100 players, which is where he’s going according to his ADP.

      Zobrist actually has a higher ADP at Mock Draft Central than Altuve, at 93. I do agree that for 2014 he’s the better option, but the earliest he’s gone on MDC is 60th overall, so there isn’t necessarily a huge decline in his perceived value, probably because he’s a double-digit HR/SB guy and has position flexibility. But I stand by my warning signs, particularly his poor 5-year personal ranks in all 5×5 categories despite a high AB total.

      If these players are available at the right price, I’m happy to take them. The problem is that I value them far lower than the average fantasy drafter. Well, okay, there’s one other Altuve hater out there, because his lowest draft spot on MDC is 175th overall. I could live with that!

      1. That is a fantastic link.

        Obviously it depends on where I can draft him, I certainly won’t reach, but I was hoping to snag Altuve later as my starting 2B with a hopefully improved offense in Houston, which I’m hoping will improve his runs.

  2. Nice work Kevin!

    This is why we do our consolidated rankings. Everybody has players who they value differently than the market. Whether you agree with Kevin’s position or not, it is always good to see the supporting case for an opinion that runs contrary to the accepted standard. This piece has certainly made me think.

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