Welcome back, baseball fans, to another season of “Alluhring Strategy.” Thus begins my 5th year entertaining the Major League Fantasy Sports’ community with (hopefully) thoughtful and interesting discussions about fantasy baseball. For those of you that may not be familiar with me, I mostly focus on MiLB players and dynasty baseball formats. Throughout the season, we will be looking at such topics as MiLB preseason rankings for starting pitchers, in-season MiLB hitters to watch and analysis of the June draft all through the eyes of dynasty style strategies. However, there will be plenty of info for those that play in keeper and redraft leagues as I’m an equal opportunity offender…er…I mean, reporter.
The first week of this pre-season, the staff at MLFS has been challenged to recount their 2017 season and discuss their booms and bust from last season. My assignment is Third Base, arguably the most top heavy of any position. Most of the yearly drafts I participate in are primarily MiLB players for dynasty leagues, but I do have one traditional keeper league draft I participate in each year with Major League Fantasy Sports. I will use that as a benchmark along with the ADP of some of the experts in the fantasy baseball community (ESPN, CBS, Yahoo, NFBC). I will be evaluating the player’s production based on stats provided by Fangraphs.
2017 3B BUSTS
So the Third Base position was stacked in 2017 which led to high expectations. When you have this, you can get disappointed in a performance based on high how high you spent a draft pick even if the overall numbers were still productive. A quick preface to the “busts” is that none of these players actually suck. The players on this list left their owners a bit disappointed. Will they rebound? Are they trending in the wrong direction? Let’s take a look…
Todd Frazier (NYY)
MLFS League 2 (Fantrax) #74 OA, #9 3B
NFBC/Yahoo/ESPN/CBS Avg. #74 OA, #10 3B
Fangraphs 2017 3B Ranking #21 Standard Hitting, #13 Advanced Hitting
Tripe Slash (AVG/OBP/SLG): .213/.344/.428
Sabermetrics (BB%/K%/BABIP): 14.4%/21.7%/.226
Weighted (wOBA/wRC+): .335/108
The “Todd Father” is a welcome member of any MLB clubhouse. He is the consummate professional that quickly becomes a team leader and a mentor to those that want to learn how to play the game the right way. As a die-hard Yankees fan, I was not thrilled at the time of the trade that brought him over from the White Sox along with DRob. Lengthen our bullpen, Yes, Please! But don’t waste important trade chips on a rental player that barely hit .300. Well, I found out that he was a “yuge” influence in the clubhouse and that short stint was well worth what the Yankees gave up for his brief services. As a fantasy owner, however, if I draft him as a Top 10 3B, in the first four to six rounds (depending on league size), I’m expecting better results than the 21st best 3B. Yeah, 27 HRs isn’t too shabby but I should get more than 74 Runs and 76 RBIs from a Top 10 player at the hot corner. Bottom line is Frazier is barely above replacement level with a value less than 10 runs over 600 plate appearances above the league average. This value derives from a rough calculation based on Fangraphs wOBA where league average is .320 (every 20 points = 10 runs) and wRC+ where league average is 100 Runs Created (every point over 100 is the percentage of runs created over league average). It’s not all bleak for the new 3B of the New York Mets. He had a career-high walk rate (14.4%) and his BABIP of .221 indicated he was extremely unlucky with balls hit in play. With the bigger outfield in Queens and a focus on plate discipline, Frazier could have a bounce-back season in 2018. Don’t expect him to hit over .250, but power and on-base potential put him within the Top 15 3B for 2018 drafts.
Kyle Seager (SEA)
MLFS League 2 (Fantrax) #24 OA, #5 3B
NFBC/Yahoo/ESPN/CBS Avg. #46 OA, #7 3B
Fangraphs 2017 3B Ranking #18 Standard Hitting, #18 Advanced Hitting
Triple Slash (AVG/OBP/SLG): .248/.323/.450
Sabermetrics (BB%/K%/BABIP): 8.9%/16.9%/.262
Weighted (wOBA/wRC+): .326/106
The older brother of emerging star, Corey Seager, followed up an excellent 2016 campaign with a very mediocre one in 2017. His stats were roughly similar to that of Todd Frazier but he was getting drafted in the late 2nd, early 3rd rounds in most drafts. A production line of 30 HRs, 89 Runs and 99 RBIs will do that for you. He dropped at least 10% in each of these categories as his ISO drops 20 points from .221 in 2016 to .201 in 2017. A portion of this could possibly be explained by a drop of over 30 points in his BABIP. He may have overachieved in 2016 but the entire Mariners lineup (except Nelson Cruz) really underachieved in 2017. Does that explain a 35 point drop in wOBA and 25 point drop in wRC+. Hard to say for sure, but his plate discipline has stayed pretty steady over his career and Seager may be a product of his protection. The addition of Dee Gordan and Ryon Healy could extend the lineup a bit and give him more chances at production. He was going as the #7 3B in 2017, I would target him around #12 in 2018. I expect to see him somewhere in between his 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Manny Machado (BAL)
MLFS League 2 (Fantrax) #13 OA, #2 3B
NFBC/Yahoo/ESPN/CBS Avg. #8 OA, #3 3B
Fangraphs 2017 3B Ranking #17 Standard Hitting, #16 Advanced Hitting
Tripe Slash (AVG/OBP/SLG): .259/.310/.471
Sabermetrics (BB%/K%/BABIP): 7.2%/16.7%/.265
Weighted (wOBA/wRC+): .328/102
So this might not be a popular opinion, but Manny Machado SUCKED in 2017…in comparison to where he was being drafted. He was a first-round pick in nearly every league and did not produce like one. Not by a long shot. You may say 33 HRs and 95 RBIs is pretty damn good. I would retort…sure its damn good power numbers, however, a first-round pick must produce all most offensive categories to be worthy of such a high pick. Otherwise, you are in a very big hole considering the other guys used the same pick on Trout, Harper, Goldy, Altuve, and players that were MVP caliber players. Chris Davis could hit 30 dingers and bat .250. I’m not dropping a first-round pick on him. Machado doesn’t get on base so he is limited in his run creating opportunities. He had MVP caliber seasons in 2015 and 2016 so what happened in 2017? Perhaps he was distracted by getting his old SS position back. Perhaps he didn’t see a good pitch all year because the rest of the Orioles lineup isn’t that intimidating. He didn’t appear to be injured as he played over 155 games for the third straight season. Bottom line is he has dropped over 30 points in average and on-base percentage with a 60 point drop in slugging. His BABIP suggested some bad luck or perhaps a lot of good luck the previous two seasons. His plate discipline was steady in walk and strikeout percentage as compared to the previous two seasons. The stats that best encompass offensive contribution in comparison to other players is wOBA, wRC+, and WAR. Machado dropped 38 points in wOBA, 28 points in wRC+ and a staggering 3.8 WAR in 2017. He was literally an average player last year in every category except power where he still dropped 26 points in ISO. I don’t expect him to be as bad as 2017, but I would not draft him in the first two rounds. He just doesn’t deserve it. Save your auction money and your top draft picks for someone that will perform above replacement level. Thank God Brian Cashman didn’t give up the FARM for this guy.
2017 3B BARGAINS
Jose Ramirez (CLE)
MLFS League 2 – 2017 Draft slot (Fantrax) #118 OA, #13 3B
NFBC/Yahoo/ESPN/CBS Avg. #106 OA, #15 3B
Fangraphs 2017 3B Ranking #2 Standard Hitting, #3 Advanced Hitting
Tripe Slash (AVG/OBP/SLG): .318/.374/.583
Sabermetrics (BB%/K%/BABIP): 8.1%/10.7%/.319
Weighted (wOBA/wRC+): .396/146
Well, Jose Ramirez was the anti-Machado in 2017. He did have a breakthrough season in his first full MLB season in 2016, but many thought he wouldn’t sustain it due to a .333 BABIP. Well, he didn’t sustain it, he exceeded every single offensive statistic with the exception of SB. Jose was getting drafted in the middle rounds as roughly the 15th 3B coming off the board. Owners that picked him up were smiling all year as he added power to his repertoire this season. 29 HRs, 107 Runs, and 83 RBIs contributed to a 146 wRC+ and a 6.6 WAR in 2017. Unlike the power hitters that were covered in the “bust” section, he displayed a plus hit tool and only strike out 10% in route to an All-Star and MVP-type season. I’m not sure it’s fair to except an identical season, but he should be firmly entrenched in the first two rounds in 2018 taking Machado’s old slot as Top 10 overall and Top 3 third baseman. Add 15-20 SB per year and he could be a perennial Top 5 MVP candidate each year.
Asdrubal Cabrera (NYM)
MLFS League 2 (Fantrax) #308 OA, #18 3B
NFBC/Yahoo/ESPN/CBS Avg. #240 OA, #31 3B
Fangraphs 2017 3B Ranking #7 Standard Hitting, #13 Advanced Hitting
Tripe Slash (AVG/OBP/SLG): .280/.351/.434
Sabermetrics (BB%/K%/BABIP): 9.3%/15.4%/.310
Weighted (wOBA/wRC+): .338/111
Ok, so these stats are anywhere near as gaudy as Jose Ramirez. The reason Asdrubal is on this list is that he was a good bargain in the 15th to 20th rounds for his production. Cabrera performed at or better than Machado, Frazier, and Seager in pretty much all categories other than power. I’m not suggesting you draft him where you did Seager and Frazier in 2017. I think it’s worth noting that he edged out all three of the “bust” candidates in the most telling offensive stats in my opinion, wOBA and wRC+. He will primarily be playing 2B in 2018 after the signing of Todd Frazier and the promotion of Amed Rosario at SS. He should be eligible at all three positions in most leagues and represents a nice value as a utility player on your fantasy roster that is still a slightly above average producer across the board.
Travis Shaw (MIL)
MLFS League 2 (Fantrax) #409 OA, #25 3B
NFBC/Yahoo/ESPN/CBS Avg. #330 OA, #40 3B
Fangraphs 2017 3B Ranking #8 Standard Hitting, #6 Advanced Hitting
Tripe Slash (AVG/OBP/SLG): .273/.349/.513
Sabermetrics (BB%/K%/BABIP): 9.9%/22.8%/.312
Weighted (wOBA/wRC+): .361/119
So it’s not too shabby to get the 8th best 3B in 2017 in rounds 20-25. His nickname implies he has power, but I’m not sure anyone expected him to jump for 16 to 31 in one season. Especially in light of him being traded for an oft-injured reliever, it appears Boston didn’t view him as a full-time player. He is a full-time player who now hits in the #3 hole of a suddenly potent Brewers lineup. Sure he strikes out but 31 HRs, 101 RBIs, and .240 ISO atones for that vice. I don’t see any real red flags to predict a major regression. He did come down to earth after a scorching first half. That being said, he overachieved his draft position by 10-15 rounds and rewarded the savvy owner that took a flier on him to round out the bench. Even if his BABIP lowers in 2018, I don’t see the power numbers affected and his on-base skills will offset a slight drop in batting average. I would draft him around the same area as Kyle Seager this year and Shaw probably has more upside.
Hope this has given you some food for thought (and argument). Do you agree with Machado trending down or do I just have my head up my ass? Is Ramirez a perennial All-Star or a one-hit wonder? Can Shaw continue to improve in the stacked Milwaukee lineup? We will see as the 2018 season unfolds and we can finally see that light approaching as pitchers and catchers are preparing to report. Thanks for taking the time to read and I look forward to breaking down the minor league players this season for all you dynasty freaks and baseball geeks.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and John Gozzi live on Sunday February 11th, 2018 from [7:30]-9pm EST for episode #97 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This is our kick off show for the new 2018 fantasy baseball season. We will discuss the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Our guest this week is Joe Iannone. Joe is a tenured writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com. Click on his name to see his portfolio of writing. His main focus is in the pitching arena.