Sunday, March 24, 2013

Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Catchers and Infielders

Let's Get Nerdy
Don't you just love thousands of words from your fantasy baseball analysis before they actually give you what you came for?

No, me neither.

Let's dance.

Catchers

Overvalued: Buster Posey, Yadier Molina, Mike Napoli

Undervalued: Brian McCann, Alex Avila, J.P. Arencibia

Sneaky Plays: Ryan Doumit, Jordan Pacheco, Yan Gomes

Posey's a wonderful player, but... he's had health issues, he plays in a bad park and division for offense, and the Giants are likely going to give Brandon Belt less of a jerk around at first base this year, which means that the days where Posey isn't behind the plate are more likely to also have him out of the lineup. This team is going to manage their assets and reach the playoffs (only the Dodgers in the West are a true threat to them, and that club is going to have injury issues that keep them under dominant levels), and when they do, Posey isn't going to be worn to a nub. He's still the best in the league, but he's not going to be one of the top 50 hitters in the league.

Molina is 31, has caught a million games, and is coming off a year where he beat his best OPS mark by 60 points. Look for him to slip back to the 12 to 15 , 50 to 60 RBI mark, and if he steals 12 bases again, there should be a Congressional inquiry. Napoli's dealing with a drastically lower salary and the fresh scrutiny of the Boston market, for a team that isn't going to contend. I expect Fenway Fan will ride him for what he can't do, which is a lot of things, and ruin the hitting with everything else.

On the low picks, McCann's going to get to hit lower and without pressure in the Brave lineup; this will do good things for him. Avila's a lot closer to his rookie year than his soph slump, and healthy again. Arencibia is kind of like the AL version of McCann. There's a lot of pop there, and he'll be facing pitchers that are mentally exhausted. Cheap power numbers.

In the sneaky play realm, Doumit gets a bonus due to Joe Mauer's injury history, and the overall weak quality of the Twins' hitters. Pacheco could sneak into 400 ABs in thin air while not really being a catcher. And Gomes is a 4-corner type -- think Josh Donaldson in Oakland last year -- who could hit. Better to have a guy who washes out and doesn't play, rather than one who destroys your average to no great benefit, in 2-catcher leagues. But you can probably wait and see on him in the free agent market.

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First Base

Overvalued: Albert Pujols, Allen Craig, Mark Teixeira

Undervalued: Joey Votto, Paul Goldschmidt, Freddie Freeman

Sneaky plays: Corey Hart, Chris Carter, Brandon Belt

I don't see Pujols snapping back to first overall at first base ever again, which is where too many people are drafting him. I think he's a .300 / 30 / 100 guy now, which is to say top 5 to top 10, but the ceiling has been reached, and part of that is just that he's in a harder league and division than his old NL Comedy Central days. I don't think Craig is ever going to have a full year of health, and as for Teixeira, his game scared me before he went down with an injury that could ruin his whole year. The Yankees are in real trouble, which could also lead him to rush back and fail that way, too. Stay far, far away.

Joey Votto was an absolute OBA monster for three months last year, got hurt, then gutted out the rest of the year as a shell of his former self, while still getting on base to a ridiculous rate. He's healthy again, still on the up side of his career, and with a Cincy offense that finally went out and got a guy (Shin Soo Choo) who isn't a tire fire at leadoff. If he goes .320 / 40 / 120 this year and wins the MVP, I wouldn't be at all surprised. Paul Goldschmidt has light tower strength and will get more chances with Justin Upton gone and better table setters around him; there's a lot to like here. Freeman shook off health issues, is still young, and as you might have guessed so far, I'm all-in on the Braves offense. I don't know if he's going to be truly special, but I could easily see him making the All Star Game.

In sneaky, Hart will start the year off hurt and provides 30 HR power that's streak-based. Ride him on the hot weeks for profit. Carter is going to get enough ABs to hit 30 HRs, even if he hits .220 doing it; that's got value to some rosters. Belt might never be the guy that some people were dreaming of, but post-hype sleepers make for championships. I don't like his park or his manager, but I do like his talent, and if he has a hot April, he might finally kick the door down... and he's had a great March. Roll the dice.

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Second Base

Overvalued: Brandon Philips, Marco Scutaro, Rickie Weeks, Josh Rutledge

Undervalued: Dustin Ackley, Howie Kendrick, Chase Utley

Sneaky plays: Kyle Seager, Jedd Gyorko, Matt Carpenter

Philips isn't really running or hitting the way he used to, and second base ages a man pretty quick. Scutaro is one of my favorite players in reality, but in fantasy, he's aging, coming off a World Series for the ages, and going to spend half of his games in what might now be the worst park for hitters in the majors. Weeks can't stay healthy and is wildly erratic even when he does, and nothing about Rutledge's strikeout/walk numbers tells me that he can stay in the majors. Colorado can't excuse every sin, folks.

Ackley has worlds of talent, no real competition for playing time, a park where the fences are coming in and post-hype goodness. Now's the time to buy in. Kendrick keeps slowly but surely adding more to his game, and that offense gives him lots of opportunities for counting stats. Utley is playing his first spring training in years, and has looked like his old self in doing so. His old self was the best player on a team that went to the playoffs every year. I think he has one Last Hurrah year, so buy accordingly.

In the final group, I love Seager -- actually a 3B with 20-HR power, same advantage as per the Ackley comment -- and Mariners tend to go under the radar in drafts. Gyorko was a good enough hitter to be a 3B candidate for the Padres, and they were moving him to 2B to get an extra bat in the works before the Chase Headley injury. He looks OK at the keynote to me, Petco's fences are coming in a bit, and there's Rookie of the Year potential in the NL here. Carpenter is a legitimate corner OF bat that's being shoved into second base, and he's also got 1B/3B utility. Especially in daily move leagues, he's an asset.

Third Base

Overvalued -- David Wright, Pablo Sandoval, Kevin Youkilis

Undervalued -- Brett Lawrie, Aramis Ramirez, Mike Moustakas

Sneaky -- Jeff Keppinger, Matt Dominguez, Nolan Arenado

Wright already has health issues (seemingly minor, but given his past dossier, nothing is minor), a terrible supporting cast for RBI opportunities, a tough division and a bad home park. Also, he's getting too old and brittle to run. If he gets dealt to a contender, he could be a monster again, but they aren't going to do that. Sandoval is all streak and injuries, and someone's going to overpay for his playoff; don't let it be you. Youkilis is not young just because he's a lot younger than a lot of his teammates, and I don't see him holding up to the grind, media, or fans. It's just too much fun to hate that guy.

Lawrie has talent that he hasn't begun to reach, and so many new teammates that will take the spotlight; I really like him as a breakout candidate this year. Ramirez is undervalued because he's (a) terrible in the first half, when more people are paying attention, and (b) consistent from year to year. With as many question marks as there are at third base right now, you could do a lot worse.

Sneaky - Keppinger's won the job and will hit in the Cell Park bandbox, and has the defensive chops to keep it for a team that will need him to pick it. In AL only leagues, he's going to give you 500 sneaky good ABs for next to nothing. Dominguez was a glove guy in the Marlin organization that got lost in the shuffle. In Houston, I think he keeps the gig and hits enough to be an asset. Arenado is a pure line-drive hitter who should start for a Colorado team that's going nowhere. In a lesser park, he'd be .280 / 15 / 75, but in thin air, maybe that gets to .295 / 25 / 90. And he's really young, too. Killing me that I didn't get him in my league.

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Shortstop

Overvalued - Troy Tulowitzki, Ian Desmond, Hanley Ramirez

Undervalued - Ben Zobrist, Starlin Castro, Andrelton Simmons

Sneaky -- Justin Turner, Maicer Izturis, JJ Hardy

If you are willing to roll the dice with Tulo, you could hit it big... but you could also be spending a top 25 pick on a guy who can never stay healthy, and doesn't steal bases even when he does. For a going nowhere Rockies team, I think they baby him to keep him healthy, so the counting stat ceiling is limited in any event. Desmond's advanced metrics scream regression from his 2012 year, and he did enough then to make pressing and a worsening of the situation likely. Hanley is on an alarming career spiral before the recent injury; even at a discount, I want no part of him. He looks to me like a guy with a forged birth certificate, if you catch my drift.

The Zorilla is a 20/20 guy who gets on base, is durable, and plays all over the place. He's not the best shortstop eligible player in the league, but he's closer than you think. Castro still has room to grow, and while Cub fandom isn't bright enough to just be happy with he's given them so far, I think more is still on the way. Simmons is going to hit leadoff, destroyed the WBC, has a minor league track record of power and speed, and can flat out picks it in the field. I expect him to make the NL All-Star Game, and the average draft position makes him an absolute steal. Buy with confidence.

Turner isn't really a shortstop, which is good news for the fantasy stuff we care about; he can hit. Izturis might lose playing time to Emilio Bonifacio, then get it back on defense. He'll play a  lot and amass some counting stats without killing your ratios. Average out the last two years of Hardy, and you get .255 / 25 / 75 with 80 runs scored. He doesn't run and will eventually be cuckolded by Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop, but if you want to build your team with a SB rabbit in the OF, he could do very well for you in 2013 at short, and won't cost you a thing.

Outfielders, starting pitchers and relievers later today...

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