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Fantasy

Your Complete, Rest-Of-The-Season Fantasy Baseball Infielder Rankings


THE ROAD NOT TAKEN

Drafting. That’s how you win Fantasy Baseball leagues. This is a line many Fantasy experts feed you, and they’re not wrong per se, but it’s certainly not the only way to win. If it were, I would be staring at an empty theoretical trophy case. I’m a lousy drafter. OK, lousy may be a tad strong, but I’m no better than average. Yet, it never hinders my ability to claim victory by season’s end. Why? Because I rely on excellent in-season management. Little tricks that bolster your squad as the year progresses. I’ve already divulged my fondness for streaming and the neverrarely fail strategy of flipping prospects, and those are a part of the overall concept, but the biggest key to truly improving your team is the ability to project performance going forward.

I talk a lot about “selling-high” and “buying low”, and even the radical theory of “buying high”, but none of that makes a difference if you don’t get the proper return in a deal. It’s tough. People talk about trading all the time, yet most are hesitant to sign off on the dotted line. “What if I’m wrong?” “Am I getting ripped off?” “Why would I trade my best player?” These are just some of the common questions that hinder Fantasy players from reconstructing their rosters for the better. Avarice is another huge factor, but it’s really uncertainty that makes those proverbial brakes pump. You just need to overcome the biggest mental stumbling block that plagues every Fantasy player, from expert to neophyte, and say it with me… YOU ARE GOING TO BE WRONG. Deal with it. To quote the immortal Thurman Murman’s novelty T-shirt, “Shit happens when you party naked”. Lets say you trade Jordy Mercer for Miguel Cabrera tomorrow, and over the weekend Miggy gets dragged off to a Gulag. Or, more realistically – and contemporarily – injured for the season: And you lose that trade. Lacking a prescient mind, you would do that trade 400 times out of a hundred. Probably 500,040 time if you were allowed.

Even the best trades ever jotted down on a scraps of looseleaf or negotiated through texts can come back and pinch your posterior until your ass is redder than Tom Coughlin’s cheeks. But that can’t be a deterrent, because over time, as you make more and more swaps, probability will take hold and you’ll end up the victor long-term. You just need to inflate the sample size. Do you think counting cards in blackjack works every time? No. It’s much akin to how I talk about batting average on balls in play or strand rate:. Over a longer period of time, the more data we accumulate, the truer those numbers become. And, almost always, the numbers will drift back towards the baseline average, from either direction. Problem is: Most Fantasy gamers just don’t make that many trades. Thus reducing the sample, allowing for far greater variance in whether you actually come out ahead. If you make 20 on-paper, favorable trades over the course of the season, it’s likely you’ll win 15 – or so – of them. But, if you only make five, there is the hazard those five are the one’s that backfire. And usually, once the first two go against someone, they get gun shy and just stop dealing altogether.

Now, I’m not suggesting to make bartering a part of your daily routine, I’m actually rather resolute in my opposition of over managing simply for the fuck of it – that’s how you sabotage your squad – but anytime you can make a exchange where you’re getting the better end, do it. No hesitation. Have the indomitable fortitude to improve your team.

Obviously, figuring out who’s better than who is unequivocally the toughest part. Since we’re dealing with a limited sample of only three and a half months, there are bound to be outliers. Overall though, using these rankings to guide me through trade talks will only put me in position to have the best team by the trade deadline expires.

The same applies for you.

So, without further ado, here are… THE REST OF THE SEASON RANKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (infield edition)

CATCHERS CORNER INFIELDERS

Everyone starts with catchers. I don’t know if it’s an alphabetical thing, or people just start at the plate and work out from there – I’d say by position number, but no one ever starts with pitchers – regardless, no one should, catchers are the least revelant Fantasy commodities – well… except maybe closers.

1. Miguel Cabrera
2. Paul Goldschmidt
3. Joey Votto
4. Prince Fielder
5. Chris Davis
6. Evan Longoria
7. Allen Craig

Health has always been the lone factor thwarting Allen Craig’s rise to Fantasy superstardom, or so we thought. Despite playing in 67 of the Cardinals first 70 games, Craig hasn’t completely broken into that next level yet. And, of all things, it’s due to a lack of the one attribute we assumed was a certainty – his power. Craig has only slugged six home runs so far. What up wit dat? Fortunately, that’s an easy one; his HR/FB rate is completely out of whack.

Over the last two seasons, Craig watched about 17.5% of his fly balls sail over the fence, this season, just 8.8%. That’s an aberration. HR/FB rates tend to be consistent for hitters from year-to-year. If he was hitting considerably fewer fly balls than in the past, there could be an issue, but that’s not the case – career – 34%, 2013 – 30.5%, not a substantial difference. So expect the power numbers to return over the second half. And when they do, his already gaudy RBI total is going to balloon out of control, and with it, he’ll ascend onto the celestial plane of  corner infield elite.

8. Adrian Beltre
9. Edwin Encarnacion
10. David Wright
11. Freddie Freeman
12. Billy Butler
13. David Ortiz
14. Buster Posey
15. Michael Cuddyer
16. Albert Pujols
17. Chase Headley
18. Ryan Zimmerman
19. Anthony Rizzo
20. Manny Machado
21. Matt Carpenter

It’s not wise playing Carpenter away from the middle infield – you’ll extract max value from his numbers at second base – but if you have to use him there at third, he’s still a copacetic corner. While he doesn’t deliver the power you’d like from the position, much like Manny Machado, his elite run total carries the day.

Many question whether his hot start is sustainable, and that really depends on two factors: His line drive rate and spot in the batting order. And those two things are likely affixed. Currently, Carpenter’s LD% rests slightly south of 28%, it’s the main reason he’s been able to generate such a high BABIP – .356. Is that number going to persist? Yes actually, if he continues the same plate approach. Right now, he’s doing a terrific job laying off pitches up and out of the zone. Check out his improvement from a season ago - Shout out Baseball Prospectus! If Carpenter can maintain this plate discipline, don’t anticipate any drop off.

22. Hanley Ramirez
23. Mark Trumbo
24. Eric Hosmer
25. Mike Napoli
26. Aramis Ramirez
27. Pablo Sandoval
28. Carlos Santana
29. Adam Lind
30. David Freese
31. Joe Mauer
32. Adrian Gonzalez
33. Jedd Gyorko
34. Klye Seager
35. Adam LaRoche
36. Corey Hart
37 Martin Prado
38. Brett Lawrie
39. Pedro Alverez
40. Ryan Howard
41. Paul Konerko

Maybe Paul Konerko is just fighting the same losing battle as every aging professional athlete. All signs, or at least rudimentary stats, would certainly say that’s the case. But what if it’s not? What if Konkero’s miserable first half – negative 0.9 WAR, .298 wOBA, .117 ISO – could simply be chalked up to some sort of Voodoo curse? Likelyhood? Low, unless Pauly K isn’t a fan favorite in Haiti. No, a more reasonable response is that Konerko’s age, 37-years-not-young, has led to a declining skill set, leading to a precipitous drop off in his production. His numbers currently reside in the hadal zone. Now the worst part: Since Paul Konerko’s an established brand in Fantasy, many gamers have stuck with him through these struggles. If his name was, oh, lets say… Cody Ransom, you would have cut him after the first week. Actually, if his name was Cody Ransom you probably wouldn’t have drafted him in the first place, but I digress. The insane part of all of this though, is that crazily holding on to him for this long maybe actually work in your favor over the next three months, because, while he’s never going to be even the Konerko of years past, he is due for a bounce back.

A deeper look into his advanced numbers reveals some oddities. Like how his BABIP – .270 -is  down 40 points from his three-year average despite a 5% increase in his line drive rate. That’s fishy. And he’s witnessed a similar bump in his fly ball percentage – 36.5% to 42.1% – yet his HR/FB is over half what it’s been at any point in his career. Strange. If you believe father time’s zapped Konkero of his ability, fine. That would explain a lot, but I just don’t buy it. He’s due for a slight uptick in prodiction, and is someone you can acquire for next to, or literally nothing. Do you have the balls to make that leap of faith, though? Lets hope.

42. Daniel Murphy
43. Kendrys Morales
44. Nick Swisher
45. Todd Frazier
46. Mitch Moreland
47. Adam Dunn
48. Kelly Johnson
49. Mark Reynolds
50. Nolan Arenado
51. Kyle Blanks
52. Michael Young
53. Chris Carter
54. Josh Donaldson
55. Brandon Moss
56. James Loney
57. Will Middlebrooks
58. Justin Morneau
59. Lance Berkman
60. Will Middlebrooks

SMELLIN’ OF TROY

Since some ultra talented interneter spliced together the definitive Troy McClure supercut, I haven’t stopped debating, with anyone, over where I most fondly remember my favorite fictional hack thespian from.

It’s clearly “They Came to Burgle Carnegie Hall”, followed ever-so-closely by “Get Confident, Stupid”. If you havewrong different answers to share, you let me know.

MIDDLE INFIELDERS

Oh, middle infielders, how your dearth tortures us. The position’s depth falls somewhere between Angelina Jolie’sSkeletor arms and Pete Campbell’s hairline on the “Sickly Thin Scale”.

1. Robinson Cano
2. Dustin Pedroia
3. Jean Segura
4. Ian Kinsler
5. Jose Reyes
6. Brandon Phillips
7. Matt Carpenter
8. Hanley Ramirez
9. Ben Zobrist
10. Ian Desmond
11. Elvis Andrus
12. Jose Altuve
13. Troy Tulowitzki

Assessing injured players is always a chore. We know Tulowitzki will miss at least the next month with his broken rib, but let’s say the healing process takes a little longer than expected and he doesn’t return until August first, then the question becomes: How much is two months of Tulo worth? I suppose it depends on your format. In head-to-head leagues, he’s still the number one guy, since you really just need him to be awesome during the playoffs. But in Roto, you have to downgrade him… only slightly though. He’s so good even two weeks of Tulo is still better than 85% of middle infielders.

14. Everth Cabrera
15. Jason Kipnis
16. Chase Utley
17. Starlin Castro
18. Jedd Gyorko
19. Kyle Seager
20. Jimmy Rollins
21. Josh Rutledge
22. Martin Prado
23. Howie Kendrick
24. Jhonny Peralta
25. Asdrubal Cabrera
26. Daniel Murphy
27. Kelly Johnson
28. Rickie Weeks
29. J.J. Hardy
30. Anthony Rendon
31. Alcides Escobar
32. Omar Infante
33. Nick Franklin

Yes, I know I preach shipping your prospects away as quickly as possible, but a decent middle infielder, regardless of experience, will always have a spot on my team. And you’re not getting much in exchange for Franklin anyway; he just didn’t arrive with the same ballyhooed publicity as some of the other rookies. Probably has to do with playing in the Pacific Northwest, because based on what he’s done since joining the Mariners, people really should be taking notice. He’s solidified his spot in the lineup, with Dustin Ackley’s positional change as evidence, while flashing the a little of the  power/speed combo Fantasy player have wet dreams about.

34. Marco Scutaro
35. Neil Walker
36. Aaron Hill
37. Dan Uggla
38. Zack Cozart
39. Jurickson Profar
40. Brandon Crawford
41. Gordon Beckham
42. Michael Young
43. Logan Forsythe
44. Andrelton Simmons
45. Didi Gregorius
46. Alexei Ramirez
47. Jed Lowrie
48. Mark Ellis
49. Erick Aybar
50. Elliot Johnson

Elliot Johnson’s more of a deep-league option, but as long as he continues to get everyday reps in the Royals lineup, I’ll be happy having him on my team. Yes, he strikes out a ton, doesn’t really walk or hit for much power, but he has shown the ability to swipe some bags when he does manage to get on. Steals are way down across the league, so being able to plug in a speedster, at such a thin position can actually be very beneficial to your team. I’ll bet Adam Dunn isn’t available, and he basically only does one thing – and home runs have been far more bountiful than stolen bases this year. There’s no chance he’d crack my roster in a 10-team league, but anything deeper, you could do a lot worse at middle infield- especially if you now need a replacement for Everth Cabrera.

51. Derek Jeter
52. Dustin Ackley
53. Derek Dietrich
54. Emilio Bonifacio
55. Yuniesky Betancourt
56. Mike Aviles
57. Danny Espinosa
58. Yunel Escobar
59. Pedro Florimon
60. Adeiny Hechavarria

AGE IS JUST A NUMBER

The countdown to the new season of The Challenge start last week – here yet July 10? – so inevitably I stumbled into Challenge YouTube quicksand. And I reemerged three hours later with two takeaways. One: How didn’t some professional team – any sport – give Alton a contract at some point. Two: I don’t buy into that “closer’s mentality” nonsense, but if I did, its optimal manifestation would look something like this…

He’ll pepper your sauce.

CATCHERS

Catchers… blah. Yes, the elite one’s can carry your team for spurts, but that’s about it. The best quality you can have in a Fantasy backstop is consistent playing time. You’ll notice the ranks skew towards those who find everyday at-bats at an assortment of positions or just don’t strap on the shin guards at all.

1. Buster Posey
2. Yadier Molina
3. Mike Napoli
4. Carlos Santana
5. Wilin Rosario
6. Joe Mauer

Seems low for Mauer, right? WRONG, WRONG! You see, the problem with Mauer is that, even at his peak performance, he’s only a three-category player. He’s a terrific compliment to any roster carrying Pedro Alvarez or Adam Dunn’s anchor of an average, but simply judging him on his individual merit, he’s not nearly as good as people think. Basically, he’s the opposite of Shawn Marion during his Suns days – fantastic real life player, overrated Fantasy commodity. Among all catchers this season, Mauer ranks first in runs (40) and second in average (.324), which is great, but he’s 17th in RBIs (23), 12th in home runs (7) and tied for last, with a host of others, in steals (0).

7. Matt Wieters
8. Brain McCann
9. Victor Martinez
10. Sal Perez
11. Jonathan Lucroy
12. Ryan Doumit
13. Miguel Montero
14. Jason Castro
15. Yasmani Grandal

In 1982, some babe blinded Thomas Dolby with science, and a roided out Grandal may have done the same to me last year. The Padres backstop exploded onto the scene after a midseason promotion, tearing the cover off the ball, smacking 8 HRs in just 226 plate appearances. Then he was suspended for 50 games for PEDs. He returned a few weeks ago with moderate fanfare, but has been a disaster, hitting a miserable .196 with a lone long fly over his first 63 PA. But don’t rid yourself of him in haste just yet, there are some positive signs a breakthrough is looming. Grandal’s BABIP has bottomed out at a minuscule .205, down over 100 points from his mark last year. The crazy part however is that his line drive rate’s way up – from 17% in 2012 to 24.4% in 2013. So he isn’t just suffering from your regular unfortunate luck, he’s essentially been the baseball equivalent of Nordberg.

15. Russell Martin
16. J.P. Arencibia
17. Jarrod Saltalamacchia
18. A.J. Pierzynski
19. John Jaso
20. Evan Gattis
21. Mike Zunino
22. Wellington Castillo
23. Carlos Ruiz
24. Travis D’arnaud
25. Chris Iannetta

PAT MAYO WILL RETURN NEXT WEEK WITH…
PITCHERS & OUTFIELDERS

The new RotoExperts Daily Clubhouse has all you need to win big every night in Daily Fantasy Baseball – expert picks, tools to identify hot and bargain players, plus official lineups and podcasts/radio shows just prior to game time! Don’t set your lineups without visiting the Daily Clubhouse first. Then set your winning rosters on DraftKings.



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