by Eno Sarris //
When planning your draft for the 2011 season, there are a few different ways to consider positional scarcity. While introducing us to Tsuyoshi Nishioka recently, Eriq Gardner showed us the relative run production for each position on the infield, which demonstrated how terrible shortstop can be. That graph is certainly one way to consider the relative strengths of each position.
But for the most part, only the 12 to 18 best (including CI/MI/UT) at each infield position are relevant in regular mixed leagues. Another way to consider your approach would be to take a look at the projections and rankings at the position and highlight some tiers. A tier-based approach allows you to know when to leap, and when to wait.
Let’s take a look at third base. If you strike early for a first-tier third baseman, you’re looking at Evan Longoria, David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman. Those are fine selections, and there’s no reason not to take any of these three early in your draft.
But only three members of your league will leave the early rounds with an elite third baseman, and the names that follow are fraught with uncertainty. Alex Rodriguez (age-related decline), Adrian Beltre (home park, lineup and some consistency issues), Jose Bautista (batting average, limited track record), Michael Young (muted power), Aramis Ramirez (health) and Mark Reynolds (batting average) all have question marks as large as their relative upsides. You could reasonably lump these players into one tier, which means that as you fill your other positions, your leaguemates will be spending picks on this tier.
Now we’re nine third basemen into the rankings, and only two other managers have a hole at the position – with possibly a few more willing to speculate on a CI or UT third base option. You could define scarcity at the position as the quality of this final tier. How does third base rank in this situation? Well, left on the board are Pablo Sandoval, Casey McGehee, Chase Headley, Pedro Alvarez and Ian Stewart. Take a look at the projections I’ve cobbled together for these players, and you’ll see that while there’s plenty of risk here, there’s also a decent amount of upside.
The best part about this group is that they are a diverse bunch. Need some steals? Headley has swiped double-digit bases in each of the past two seasons, and considering his total last year (17), he may have upside to better his projection in that category. He’ll likely either steal the second- or third-most bases at the position. Need batting average above all else? Might as well take the leap that the Kung Fu Panda will return to his hit-filled ways. The good news is that Sandoval has lost 10 pounds already this off-season, and that some positive regression should be expected after such a huge year-to-year drop from 2009 to 2010. Want a safe player after filling your team with risk? McGehee has been solid the past two years and seems like he could easily hit these projections even with a step back. Need power upside no matter what? Take your pick between the young and exciting Alvarez, and Stewart, or take both to spread out your risk.
Looking at the position as a whole is important – that’s the easiest way to see the overall offensive strengths around the diamond. But looking at the particular personnel and the particular strengths and weaknesses of the players near the bottom of your rankings is also a good way to plan your draft.
by Eno Sarris
Think back to 2006. That quaint comedy Beerfest was taking the country by storm while we were all saying prayers for Barbaro’s quick recovery. Faint memories of a movie called Little Miss Sunshine waft through the house like the scent of apple cobbler. Ah, those were the days.
Those were also the last days that featured Alex Gordon as The Future of the Royals Franchise. He was tearing up the minor leagues at the time, a number-two pick overall making good on his promise with a stellar .325/.427/.588 (AVG/OBP/SLG) line in Double-A. Fans of the powde -blue were practically salivating at the thought of the new George Brett rescuing the franchise. Gordon was the epitome of the hyped prospect and was being penciled in for the 2007 Rookie of the Year hardware before the season began.
Unfortunately this story was not going to be without some speed bumps. Gordon produced an underwhelming .247/.314/.411 major league stat line in 2007. Though he played a decent third base and was actually an above-average player when appraised as a whole, the hype balloon was popped. If his second season’s line, .260/.351/.432, was also not very inspiring, and last season his year was cut short by an injury, why is there hope for Gordon to have a good year this season? He’s currently hurt – could his stock fall any lower? Take a look at the graphical representation of his 2009 compared to other major league batters in the Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Kit. Yuck.
a player on the hopes of a rags-to-riches journey is always enticing for a fantasy player
looking for value. Consider that Gordon actually showed some signs of
life between his first two years, and you’ll find that his 189-plate appearance season in 2009 is not enough to write those gains
off. If you instead focus on his first two years, here’s a short list
of underlying statistics that Gordon improved in his sneaky-good
sophomore season: walk rate, strikeout rate, isolated power, line drive
percentage, fly ball percentage, home runs per fly ball, reach rate,
and contact percentage.
That’s a lot of improvement. In other
words, Gordon walked more, struck out less, reached at fewer balls outside the strike zone, and hit the
ball higher, further and harder. Isn’t that the kind of improvement you want from your best prospect? There’s reason for a bit of concern after last season, and Gordon’s health needs to be watched. Still, there’s reason for hope too.
Looking at his minor league
numbers and you might still expect super-stardom from Gordon, but there is
a slight asterisk that must come into play. As an accomplished college
star, Gordon hit Double-A at 22 years old (the average age of his league that year was 24).
Age matters when considering a player’s statistics in the minor leagues
– if a teenager is holding his own against top talent (like Elvis Andrus, who was 19 in the same league in 2008, or Jason Heyward
hitting the majors at 19), he gets extra credit. If a guy in his
mid-20s comes in and destroys younger pitching, his stats lose a
tiny bit of luster. Have some fun and check Kevin Maas‘ minor league statistics and the picture becomes clearer.
any case, the positives here still outweigh the negatives, as nebulous
as Gordon’s future may seem. Gordon has a good bit of power, a little
bit of speed, plays an important position, and has an improving
approach at the plate. The ending of this movie has not yet been
written, and it may just yet be the story of a Post-Hype Sleeper that
For more information on Alex Gordon and other cheap third-sackers this year, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kit for yourself.