Which of these doesn’t belong?

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By Keith Allison on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Mike Trout
By Keith Allison on Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Last year at this time there were debates throughout fantasy baseball about who should be the number one overall pick in drafts. Many analysts were hell bent on anointing Bryce Harper to that first overall pick over Mike Trout. We saw what happened with Harper last season after his “breakout” season in 2015. Now the question is, who in the top ten will be the Harper of 2017?

According to FantasyPros.com the consensus top ten books look like this:
1. Mike Trout
2. Mookie Betts
3. Jose Altuve
4. Kris Bryant
5. Nolan Arenado
6. Paul Goldschmidt
7. Clayton Kershaw
8. Manny Machado
9. Josh Donaldson
10. Bryce Harper

For us one time on this list sticks out more than any other as a possible bust. Can you guess who? Nope your wrong, or maybe you were right, its Mookie Betts.

In his first two seasons Mookie averaged 12 home runs, 48 RBIs, 63 runs and a slash line of .291/.348/.471 over 197 games, yes a very small sample size. In 2016 Betts is more home runs than in the previous two years combined with 31, had 113 RBIs, 122 runs and a triple slash of .318/.363/.534 over 158 games, and even smaller sample size. So, which small sample size are we supposed to believe?

For me, if I am have the second overall pick in a draft I want to make sure I am getting a top player that has consistently performed that way and Betts is not that guy. Do I believe that he could be the number two overall player come end of the season, absolutely, but I am not willing to bet on it. I don’t want to be the guy that last year took Harper number one overall and kick myself for trusting one breakout season. Betts is deserving of a top ten pick, but not a top five.

My top five picks are easy, Mike Trout, Jose Altuve, Josh Donaldson, Clayton Kershaw and Nolan Arenado. Pick Mookie Betts at your own risk and buyer beware.

Disagree? Great, let us hear about it and why.

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Power Hitting Second Basemen

It has been well documented throughout 2016 by fantasy baseball analysts that MLB has become a homer happy league. Players left and right appear to be selling out for the long ball. That trend has taken one of the shallowest positions in baseball, second base, and made it a prime power spot. In 2015 there were three second base eligible fantasy players that finished with more than 20 home runs (Matt Carpenter, Brian Dozier and Robinson Cano) and none with more than 28. Already in 2016 we have 12 players at that position with at least 21 home runs and another six with more than 15 giving them a shot to break the 20 home run barrier. On top of that three of the 12 have 30 or more. Without a doubt the fantasy baseball landscape has changed and that change has been to draft second basemen as power hitters rather than speedsters.

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By Ryan Claussen on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Leading the way in power for second basemen is Brian Dozier of the Minnesota Twins. He has the second most home runs in all of baseball at 38. Yes, I typed that correctly the second most in all of baseball behind Mark Trumbo. Dozier took his career high 28 home runs he had last season and blew it out of the water, but that’s not the only change he has made. As of right now he has a batting average 32 points higher than his career average. He has a career high slugging of .579 and on-base percentage of .350. With his three home run performance yesterday he has hit six home runs in four games. If this is who Dozier is as a player moving forward we won’t be looking at him as just a top second baseman, he may be one of the top 10 players in all of fantasy.

Another middle infielder that is on a major hot streak is second baseman Rougned Odor. Odor is only 22 years old, but is displaying power numbers of a much more mature hitter. Over his last seven games he has six home runs and has a slugging percentage of 1.129. On the season he has 30 home runs and 29 doubles to go with his 12 stolen bases and career high .283 batting average. He ranks third among second baseman in home runs and is tied for 17th overall. If Odor’s 2016 numbers are a vision of what is to come for him, we may be looking at him as a future hall of famer. Only thing that Odor doesn’t seem to be doing right is controlling his temper and taking a walk.

We have highlighted two great power hitting second baseman, but the list of hard hitting studs is long. It includes names like Robinson Cano, Brad Miller, Jedd Gyorko, Daniel Murphy and Ian Kinsler. Not to mention the best all-around second baseman, and possible AL MVP, Jose Altuve who has 22 bombs and 27 stolen bases. The list is way too long to talk about all of these guys in depth.

What if anything is actionable for this season? Probably nothing unless you’re in a keeper league where you can still trade. For 2017 however all of this should be kept in mind when planning out your draft day strategy.

2016 MLB OBP Leader Surprise

In this day and age many baseball fans pay very close attention to on-base percentage as a measure of how good a batter may or may not be. I don’t know that we can say exactly why we follow it so much more now, but I blame it on the movie Money Ball. Great movie by the way, you must see it if your a baseball fan.

What is on-base percentage, or OBP? It is pretty simple, a measure of how often a player gets on base. To calculate the actual percentage you would use the following formula OBP = (Hits + Walks + Hit by Pitch) / (At Bats + Walks + Hit by Pitch + Sacrifice Flies). Ok, so why is this important in baseball. That is somewhat obvious, the more a player is able to get on base the more often he has a chance to score.

Looking around my favorite baseball sites today and deciding what I wanted to post about I looked up OBP leaders for 2016 and the top five included names I expect; Mike Trout, Joey Votto, Jose Altuve and Paul Goldschmidt. There was however one name that surprised me. Not sure why I didn’t realize this player was such an OBP machine, but he seems to be. Number four on the list of on-base percentage leaders is, can you guess, DJ LeMahieu. Surprised? Like I said, I sure was.

On-Base% 
1. Trout (LAA) .436
2. Votto (CIN) .431
3. Goldschmidt (ARI) .418
4. LeMahieu (COL) .417
5. Altuve (HOU) .412

DJ LeMahieu
By Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as “DJ LeMahieu”) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
LeMahieu currently has an OBP of .417 to go along with a batting average of .344 and slugging percentage of .499. He is quietly putting together a very decent season and is on pace for a career high in hits, average, on-base, and slugging. Already this season he has set his career high in runs, walks and home runs. He is the #4 ranked second baseman in fantasy baseball according to FantasyPros player rater ahead of Brian Dozier, Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler. Yet most analyst rarely talk about him.

Why is he such an under the radar player? There are a few reasons. First, he plays on a team with Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gonzalez and Nolan Arenado. Second, he lacks that sexy stat line that includes huge power numbers or stolen bases. Likely next year he won’t be drafted as the #4 second baseman because of these reasons. At least partially because of that as I would anticipate before the season is over some regression in his average and OBP since he currently has a .384 BAbip, roughly .084 points higher than league average. Which is actually good news if everyone else sleeps on him since that allows you to pick him up later in a draft and return really good value next year. One other thing you may want to consider, in 2015 he finished 3rd in roto rankings for second baseman.

2017’s #1 Overall Pick

Recently I read an article on CBSSports.com written by Scott White (To read the article you can click here). It made me a bit frustrated. Not frustrated with White himself, since he says Mike Trout would be his top pick in 2017, but about the fact that this even has to be discussed.

I get as fantasy baseball owners we are always looking for the next big thing and we love chasing the hot hand, but when someone like Trout comes along and consistently performs at the level he does there is no reason to ever stray from him. Many owners did this with Bryce Harper this year after one great season and paid the price for it. Next season owners will be doing it again with Mookie Betts or Jose Altuve, but the reality is neither has done it as long or as good as Mike Trout.

My advice, trust the track record because the last thing you can afford to do is waste the first overall pick.

An Underdog Story Re-Visited

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By EricEnfermero (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
If you haven’t been paying attention you may have missed out on the new Mighty Mouse in baseball. His name is Jose Altuve. Though he may not be tall enough to ride all the rides at your local amusement park he is tall enough to stand with the big boys in MLB. If you only pay attention to what he has done on the field you are missing out on much of the story.

Altuve was not suppose to make it to the big leagues. He showed up for an open tryout for the Astros and after the first day was told to go home. Luckily for us as fans, he didn’t listen. He came back for day two of that workout and ultimately impressed the scouts enough to be signed.

We have seen Altuve over the years be a good on-base and batting average guy, not to mention he can steal a base whenever he wants to. This season however he has taken it to another level. He leads all of MLB in batting average and hits. He is second in second in total bases, top ten in stolen bases and third in Wins Above Replacement (WAR). On top of all that he has 21 home runs as of August 29th and is one of only five players with a 20/20 season to date.

Even with all of these impressive stats if you ask people outside of the main baseball fan base, and likely residents of the Houston area, they would have no clue who Jose Altuve is. He isn’t even the most well known player on his team thanks to last year’s Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa. He is by far the most underrated player in baseball and is making a very strong case to be the American League MVP. If I had a vote he would be my hands down MVP.