Fantasy

Dynasty Dugout: Corner Infield Risers and Fallers

The 2017 fantasy baseball season is barely a month old, but so much has already happened. We’ve seen some blazing starts, prolonged slumps, and plenty of trips to the newly created 10-day disabled list. A lot of movement is happening in terms of player’s value in dynasty leagues. Let’s take a look at some corner infielders trending in different directions.

Trending Up

Freddie Freeman, 1st Base, Atlanta Braves

Since debuting for the Braves in 2010, Freeman has been a fairly productive player. His potential and big frame, however, has always left fantasy owners wanting more. In 2016, Freeman finally broke out with his best season yet. Take a look at his 2016 breakout season and 2017 season to date, compared to his career averages from 2010-2015:

Year G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO TB BA OBP SLG OPS
2010-2015 125.2 516.2 451.5 67.5 128.5 27.2 1.3 17.3 70.7 54.8 107.2 210.3 0.265 0.334 0.445 0.779
2016 158 693 589 102 178 43 6 34 91 89 171 335 0.302 0.400 0.569 0.968
2017 29 130 106 26 37 8 1 11 19 22 22 80 0.349 0.469 0.755 1.224

 

Across the board, his numbers were exponentially better than his career averages through his first five seasons. Add in his hot start this season and Freeman is leaving no doubt that he is joining the elite at the first base position. At 27, Freeman is just entering his prime years, so several more elite seasons should be expected. His runs and RBIs will be limited until Atlanta puts some talent around him, but this is still an elite first baseman in dynasty leagues. He should be valued just a hair behind the top options, right in the Joey Votto and Miguel Cabrera range. With a better lineup, this could be a first round dynasty league hitter waiting to happen.

Cody Bellinger, 1st Base/Outfield, Los Angeles Dodgers

I won’t go into too much detail on Bellinger. For write-ups on him check out my Fantasy Crystal Ball or my article profiling the top power threats in the minors. Due to a need for an outfielder and an offensive spark, the 21-year-old Bellinger was summoned to the majors on 4/25. Whether the expectations are fair or unfair, top prospects are expected to produce right away. That’s exactly what Bellinger has done in his brief major league stint. After a sluggish 1 for 10 start in his first three games, he found his stride and gave the Dodgers the offensive spark they needed. Bellinger’s average currently sits well north of .300 and his power has been on full display so far with five homers. His strong debut just further shows what this kid is capable of.

The Dodgers were considering sending him back down once their outfielders got healthy, but Bellinger hit well enough to squash that idea. Starting 1st baseman Adrian Gonzalez also recently went on the DL with nagging back and arm ailments, which has allowed the young Dodgers phenom to slide over to his natural position.  He should be valued as a top-10 dynasty league 1st baseman moving forward with the potential to be a top-5 option before too long.

Eric Thames, 1st Base, Milwaukee Brewers

After a lackluster three years in the majors, Thames went to the KBO and posted video game numbers. Granted, the talent in the KBO is lesser than MLB, but these types of numbers will always get people’s attention.

Year G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2014 125 514 443 95 152 30 6 37 121 11 2 58 99 0.343 0.422 0.688 1.111 305
2015 142 595 472 130 180 42 5 47 140 40 8 103 91 0.381 0.497 0.790 1.288 373
2016 123 529 436 118 140 30 3 40 121 13 4 74 103 0.321 0.427 0.679 1.106 296

 

The Brewers decided to take a chance on him and made him their everyday first baseman for the next few seasons. Thames has been feasting on NL pitching so far making everyone in dynasty leagues want a piece of him. In 108 at-bats this year, he is hitting .324 with 12 homers, 22 RBI, and 31 runs scored. His dynasty league value will never be higher and now is your chance to capitalize on that. There’s no reason why he can’t be a productive slugger going forward but not at this level. Opposing pitchers are going to figure out his weaknesses and start attacking them. Going forward he should be valued in the vicinity of Hanley Ramirez. Still a top 10-15 dynasty league first baseman with plenty of power, but don’t expect the elite numbers to continue. Sell high.

Miguel Sano, 3rd Base, Minnesota Twins

When talking about the best raw power in baseball, the discussing has to include Twins slugger Miguel Sano. When the Dominican native barrels up a ball, it sounds like a shotgun blast reverberating through the stadium. The question with Sano has always been will he make enough contact to truly be a star player. So far in 2017, that answer has been yes. He’s not going to continue hitting over .300, but he should be able to keep his batting average respectable in the .260-.270 range most seasons. That type of average, combined with 35+ home runs a season, makes Sano a very appealing dynasty league 3rd baseman. The lower average will keep him from joining the top tier at the position, but he should be valued right behind those guys as near top-5 dynasty option.

Other Risers in Value

Ryan Zimmerman, 1st Base, Washington Nationals – Don’t buy into this hot start. He’ll get hurt soon enough. At least he’s hitting again and back on the mixed league radar. He shouldn’t be considered a starter in dynasty leagues.

Jose Ramirez, 3rd Base, Cleveland Indians – Doesn’t have enough category power to be a dynasty league starting 3rd baseman. He’s more of a utility guy.

Joey Gallo, 3rd Base, Texas Rangers – Adrian Beltre’s injury has opened up playing time the young slugger. He’ll provide lots of power along with an inferior average. Basically the 3rd base version of Chris Davis with a little bit of speed.

Trending Down

Edwin Encarnacion, 1st Base, Cleveland Indians

Over the last few seasons there arguably hasn’t been a better source of power than new Indians slugger Edwin Encarnacion. In his final five seasons north of the border, he averaged 38.6 home runs and 110 RBI per season to go along with a modest .272 batting average. His lack of speed kept him slightly below the elite options, but Encarnacion was a bonafide top-5 option at the 1st base position. That top-5 status seems to be slipping away from Encarnacion in 2017.

Contact has become a substantial issue for him this season and really started being an issue last season. Before 2016, he had only eclipsed 100 strikeouts once in a season back in 2008.  His 138 strikeouts in 2016 were easily a career high and his .886 OPS was his lowest since 2011 and 43 points below the .929 total he posted in 2015. If Encarnacion continues this season at his current 30% strikeout rate, he will set a career high for strikeouts for the second year in a row. The power should remain an asset, but these contact woes should not be ignored. At age 34, it’s possible we’re starting to see the decline of Encarnacion. He’s still a strong dynasty starter but you might want to start looking for your replacement.

Jose Abreu, 1st Base, Chicago White Sox

It’s time we stop valuing Jose Abreu as a top 10 dynasty first baseman. His first two years supported that value when he was hitting around .300 with 30 homers and 100 RBI each year, but now this is a player on the decline. His OPS has dropped each season since his stellar .964 OPS in his 2014 rookie campaign and now sits in the mid-700 range this season. If it wasn’t for stellar ends to the 2015 and 2016 seasons his numbers would have looked even worse.

Since speed isn’t a word in Abreu’s vocabulary, his runs scored will always be low and stolen bases for him will be as rare as seeing Haley’s comet. You’re basically counting on him for three categories: average, home runs, and RBI. Abreu should provide steady production there but not enough to warrant being your starting 1st baseman in a dynasty league. Drop him out of the top-10 at 1st and target him as more of a corner infielder or utility bat.

Todd Frazier, 3rd Base, Chicago White Sox 

July 13th of 2015 very well might have been the peak of Todd Frazier’s career. He was making his 2nd career all-star appearance and won the home run derby in front of his then home crowd in Cincinnati. Since then it’s been all downhill for the New Jersey product. The saying “He couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat ” is a perfect way to describe how Frazier has hit since the 2015 all-star break.

Season G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1st Half – 2015 85 374 342 54 97 26 1 25 57 8 4 24 65 0.284 0.337 0.585 0.922
2nd Half – 2015 72 304 277 28 61 17 0 10 32 5 4 20 72 0.220 0.274 0.390 0.664
2016 158 666 590 89 133 21 0 40 98 15 5 64 163 0.225 0.302 0.464 0.767

 

The power has remained but his batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS have fallen off a cliff. That trend is continuing this season as well with Frazier hitting only .195 with three home runs. With power on the rise across the league, it’s best that you look for your power elsewhere. Frazier will kill your team’s average most weeks. This isn’t a guy you should look at as your starting 3rd baseman in dynasty leagues anymore.

Other Fallers in Value

Chris Davis, 1st Base, Baltimore Orioles – Still can provide power, but the batting average will hurt your team. With Gallo, the best is yet to come. For Davis, the best is behind him.

Eric Hosmer, 1st Base, Kansas City Royals – Was once on the same level as Freeman, but not anymore. Hosmer is trending in the opposite direction.

Maikel Franco, 3rd Base, Philadelphia Phillies – Simply put, he will never be a top-10 option at third. Don’t target him as anything more than a bench option.

Next week will focus on the dynasty value of middle infielders. Stay tuned.

Statistics from:

http://www.baseball-reference.com

 

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