It’s that time of the season. We’re at the midpoint so it’s time to take a look at first-half performance and list the top-ten at each position. But please keep in mind, this is not a competition, it is only an exhibition. Please, no wagering.
The rankings are listed in terms of dollar values calculated using a 15-team mixed league using standard 5x5 rotisserie scoring. The players are assigned to the position where they are most likely to be used.
Today we’ll cover catchers and the four infield positions. Next time we’ll present outfield and pitching. Included is the first half dollar value earned, my projected value and projected rank.
Click HERE for the overall first-half rankings for hitters and pitchers.
While there will be surprises at every position, it is fair to say there are more surprises at receiver than any other spot. It's a little early to read too much into this; let's let the season play out and investigate if this is a yearly trend before we base a draft strategy on the presence of catchers jumping into the top-ten than the other positions. The biggest leap is Mesoraco. Recall he was kept off of Cincinnati's playoff roster and wasn't expected to play full-time this season. What makes his ranking even more impressive is Mesoraco missed time. While I expect Mesoraco to be a top-10 backstop the rest of the season, my guess is it's in the lower portion.
Perhaps the most glaring omission is Brian McCann who was expected to flourish in Yankee Stadium. The lefty-swinger has nine homers but since he was expected to knock 25 or so over the fence, he's lagging behind. McCann's .221 batting average is also disappointing. He isn't likely to end the season as a top-ten catcher but he could have top-ten numbers over the second half.
The catcher most likely to bust his way into the top-ten overall in the second half is Carlos Santana. Santana started painfully slow hitting .151 in April and .169 in May with just three homers each month. In June, it came together for Santana with a .308 average and 6 homers. Since he's no longer playing behind the plate as well as not dealing with the pressure of playing the hot corner, Santana should be able to focus on his offensive production so his second half should be much less....offensive.
The biggest surprise among first baseman is Adam LaRoche. The production, 12 HR and 44 RBI is right where it's supposed to be. The eye-popping stat is a .307 average. LaRoche is a career .267 hitter and hit a meager .237 in 2013. his average is propped up by a career-best .347 BABIP but to his credit, LaRoche is sporting the best contact rate since his rookie campaign way back in 2005. As LaRoche's BABIP regresses, his average will fall and so will his stay in the top-ten.
Abreu was a tough preseason rank as there were a couple of yellow flags tempering expectations. As odd as this sounds. he was hit by a ton of pitches in Cuba which concerned some back in the spring. He crowded the plate so there was some concern about his plate coverage. That problem is solved though Abreu is whiffing too much. He could be the best mistake hitter in the league. The power is absolutely real but a low contact rate and allergy to walks is a concern. if Abreu were ever to go into a power slump, his average would plummet. In fact, I'd be very surprised if he finished with the .279 he's sporting now. I mark in the .260's is most likely.
The names most conspicuous by their absence are Chris Davis, Joey Votto and Prince Fielder. Obviously Fielder is hurt and both Davis and Votto lost time. But, when healthy, neither Davis nor Votto has played like a top-ten hitter at the position. Even though he suggested he'd change his approach this season, Votto is still more content taking a walk which is great for the Reds but not so great for his fantasy owners. Davis is the enigma. His already poor contact is a bit worse but he's
not pressing as evidenced by an improved walk rate. While a 21 percent fly ball is down from last season, it's still quite impressive. That said, Davis is lofting fewer batted balls which hurts home runs. His hard contact is still strong which means his BABIP has been unlucky, Last season is the outlier. Most of Davis' numbers are comparable to 2012 where he hit .270 with 33 bombs. That's the Davis I expect but perhaps pacing just a little below that over the second half of 2014.
At the mid-way point, there's only one player on pace for a 30HR/30SB season and that's Brian Dozier. What makes that more remarkable (and a bit scary) is he hasn't hit a dinger since June 14 or swiped a base since June 16. A month ago 30/30 seemed like a lock. While it's possible, mid twenties of each is more plausible.
The other big mover is Rendon. Driving Rendon's value is the quietest 53 runs and 46 RBI in the league.Based on his college pedigree the 12 homers aren't too surprising (though 6-for-7 in steals wasn't expected). Rendon's walk and whiff rates are about the same as last season but since home runs are hits too, his average is up a tick. Sustaining the power is possible though a slightly slower pace is likely. The associated production will be interesting to follow. Remember, he did that with Bryce Harper on the sideline. That both helped and hurt. Rendon hit higher in the order with Harper out but he also lacked Harper's stick to drive him home. I like Rendon as a top-ten guy going forward, just the bottom half.
Whither Dustin Pedroia? He was my top-ranked keystone sacker in the spring. In retrospect, that was a mistake but still, four homers and two steals? YIKES! Maybe Pedroia is playing through injuries and his all-out style gets him a pass with Red Sox nation but his fantasy owners aren't so forgiving. If someone believes in Pedroia, SELL! Freaking Brian Roberts has as many homers and five more steals than Pedroia.
Shortstop has many players performing as expected though a pair of speedsters are missing, Everth Cabrera and Jean Segura. With seasons of 37 and 43 steals under his belt, and the only believable excuse for his PED suspension, Cabrera was looked at as a viable source for speed. my own expectation included a little more pop as well. Things have not gone as planned for the Padres' shortstop as he's hitting at a .218 clip with only 13 bags. Compounding the steals issue is a sub par 65 percent success rate. All the contact rate improvements Cabrera made last season have been given back as well as a drop in BABIP. The good news is Cabrera can't get any lower. The bad news is it's going to be hard to climb out of the hole owning Cabrera has dug for you.
Segura's plight is similar to Cabrera's but his average hasn't dipped as much. But then, a lot more was expected from Segura as many jumped him into the second and third round. I had him second among shortstops. His power and speed are both down from what was expected, though unlike Cabrera, Segura's usual excellent contact rate is still very much intact. Comparing the two, I feel better about Segura going forward but that's as much of a team thing as player thing. The Brewers are competing for a playoff spot while the Padres are competing for the worst offense in history.
The hot corner has eight of the ten preseason favorites here with only Ryan Zimmerman and Chase Headley absent. Of the two, Zimmerman has the better chance of picking it up in the second half though a return to third base (he's been playing left field) increases the chance of injury. Silly as this seems, Adam LaRoche playing so well is an issue since the most logical long-term home for Zimmerman is first base where he will be asked to make the fewest number of throws where he needs to put a little mustard on the toss.
Who would have thought that Todd Frazier would be leading the pack, especially with Miggy in tow. But lead it he does and there's no reason to think Frazier will slow down all that much. His strikeout and walk rates are identical to last season as his his fly ball rate. While his BABIP and HR/FB are admittedly on the lucky side, neither are that outrageous so sure, they'll be some give-back but not much. Even the steals are real. Frazier has always had speed but the previous regime harnessed most running. Bryan Price is letting the troops run wild.
Frazier joining the top-ten isn't a huge surprise, though occupying the top perch is. The biggest shocker on this page is Lonnie Chisenhall. Keep in mind that he barely made the team as Carlos Santana was slated to play third. But when afforded the chance to play, Chisenhall croaked righties which pushed Santana off third and got him more time in the lineup where he's now basically a regular. You don't need me to tell you a .393 BABIP isn't sustainable so cashing in your Chisenhall chips is defensible. On the other hand, third base is still a weak position and Chisenhall's power is real. Regression is on the way but he fall may be to a spot where you can't get back equal value.
Next time we'll go over the fly-chasers and pitchers.