“Who’s on first…I Don’t Know is on Third.” That may be you speaking, if you’re still in the process of phasing out of Fantasy Football mode and preparing for your Fantasy Baseball season. It’s time to re-familiarize yourself with MLB rosters; specifically, those that feature new players.
There are several familiar names at the corner infield positions who’ll be playing for new teams in 2016. Some are Fantasy relevant in season-long leagues, while others may have a little something left in the tank, but better suited as situational players at this point in their careers.
Justin Morneau and Pedro Alvarez, two players well known in Fantasy circles, remain unsigned free agents as of this writing. Morneau’s a lifetime .282 hitter with a career .201 ISO, but he is an injury risk given his recent problems with concussions. Alvarez has been a feast or famine type player. He has tremendous power but with a .236 lifetime batting average and a strikeout rate close to 30 percent, teams have also been hesitant to sign him to a contract. Both players have been linked to the Yankees since they lost backup first baseman Greg Bird for the season. However, at this point those reports seem to be based more on media speculation than reality.
Power hitting first baseman Chris Carter, who has a skill set similar to Alvarez, has a new home with the Brewers. With Carter’s brute power comes an even more brutal 33.4 percent strikeout rate. He is a lifetime .217 hitter. Don’t be fooled by his .333 batting average last September.
Mark Reynolds signed a one-year contract with the Rockies after a disappointing 2015 season with the Cardinals. He’s another one trick pony (home run or bust); however, his power faded last season as he hit just 13 dingers in 432 at bats. He’ll be eligible at first and third base this season, and might get a boost from playing in that thin Colorado air. He’s still a .230 hitter with a 31.6 percent strikeout rate, and his days as a season-long Fantasy option are long gone.
Third baseman Jed Lowrie was traded back to the Oakland A’s, where he enjoyed his career-best season in 2013 (.290-15-75). He’s been injury-prone over his career, and with a .282 batting average against lefties he shouldn’t be considered anything more than an occasional value play in DFS games.
Other minor offseason moves involved the A’s acquisition of Yonder Alonso from the Padres. Alonso’s minor league power numbers never transferred over to his major league career. He’s injury-prone as well, and has no Fantasy value. The Rays acquired power hitters Steve Pearce and Logan Morrison this offseason. Although he might not get more than 300 at bats this season, Pearce is effective against lefty pitching and could be a DFS option. He already has 1B/OF eligibility, and may even qualify at second base based on his 18 games at that position last season. Morrison has power but has struggled with injuries and doesn’t have much Fantasy value at this point.
Here’s a closer look at some of the other corner infielders who have changed addresses this offseason and have Fantasy relevance.
Todd Frazier, 3B, Chicago White Sox
Based on FantasyPros preseason ADP, Todd Frazier should be considered a Top 6 Fantasy third baseman. Although his second half numbers tailed off dramatically (I hate it when one of my Fantasy players takes part in the All Star Game’s Home Run Derby), Frazier still posted career highs in home runs (35) and RBIs (89) last season. With Chicago’s US Cellular Field ranked right behind Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark in home runs allowed last season, we shouldn’t see much fluctuation in Frazier’s overall offensive production. Frazier does need to improve his uncharacteristically high chase rate from last season (37.8), in order for him to continue to perform well at the plate. Overall, you can expect a stat line of close to .260-30-90 in 2016. The White Sox aren’t much of a running team and Frasier’s stolen base numbers (33 in the past two seasons) might decrease a bit, but he still could swipe upwards of 10 bases in the upcoming season.
Brett Lawrie, 2B, 3B, Chicago White Sox
With the addition of the aforementioned Frazier to the White Sox lineup, Brett Lawrie shouldn’t get too many starts at third base. However, with 109 starts at the hot corner and 42 starts at second base last season, he should have multi position eligibility in your season long league. Injuries limited Lawrie early in his career but he finally got to play a full season in 2016 and the results were mixed. His showed underwhelming plate discipline (37.5 chase rate) resulting in his career worsts in K rate, walk rate and OBP. Last season’s .260-16-60 stat line is better suited for a Fantasy second baseman or middle infielder than a third baseman, but he should see a slight uptick in his power numbers based on the move from Oakland to Chicago. Although it’s a small sample size, Lawrie has a lifetime .342 batting average and .526 slugging percentage in 40 at bats at US Cellular Field. With an ADP of 246, he should be available in the later rounds of your draft.
Adam Lind, 1B, Seattle Mariners
Some Fantasy players might shy away from drafting Adam Lind this season based on his move from the hitter-friendly Miller Park in Milwaukee to the more pitcher-friendly Safeco Field in Seattle. If you’re going to avoid Lind that should not be the reason. In 90 career at bats at Safeco Field, he’s batting .282 with a .529 slugging percentage. When healthy, (he did have lower back issues last season), and given enough at bats, Lind’s lifetime .343 wOBA and career numbers suggest he can provide you with 20 home run type power. His Achilles heel is his inability to hit left-handed pitching. He batted .290-20-77 against righties and just .221 against lefties. Since Jesus Montero is lurking in the background with his .292 lifetime batting average against lefties, we are anticipating a platoon at first base in Seattle this season.
Mike Napoli, 1B, Cleveland Indians
Carlos Santana dealt with back issues last season, and may not be able to man first base for the Indians, which explains why they signed Mike Napoli this offseason. Napoli comes with health issues, high strikeout rates and problems against right-handed pitchers that make him more of a late round option. Despite his streaky nature, he may be able to provide you with 20 home runs. Napoli has worked with Indians’ hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo while both were with the Angels organization, and credited him with being one of the reasons he signed with the Indians. Who knows, maybe Burkleo will be able to revive Napoli’s old bat? For now, he looks like a DFS option or someone to focus on off of the waiver wire when he’s on one of his hot streaks.