10 AL/NL-Only League Platoons for 2016

August Fagerstrom did a fantastic piece of the most promising platoons for the upcoming season. They were focused on WAR which of course includes defensive value and that doesn’t really do us any good. August kindly included a wRC+ column in the piece so we can isolate the offense and pick out the best platoons for fantasy purposes. These are best deployed in a deep league (ideally an AL/NL-Only league) with daily transactions. They require diligence to pay off. The internet age has cut out or minimized a lot of the hustle advantages in fantasy baseball and this is still one of them.

These are my 10 favorite platoons for the upcoming season. Note that these are my favorites so in some instances I expect them to do better than their projected wRC+ so this isn’t just a list of the 10 best projected wRC+ totals.

TAMPA BAY RAYS OF: Corey Dickerson v. RH, Steve Pearce v. LH [124 wRC+]

This one just so happened rank highest on August’s list by wRC+ (his calculation was 67% for the v. RH player and 33% for the v. LH player). Dickerson has owned righties in his career with a .934 OPS in 728 PA, though a lot of that is no doubt influenced by Coors Field (1.085/.695 home/road split). There will be a piece later this week by new writer Justin Mason on Dickerson that outlines why I’m not afraid of him outside of Coors.

Pearce didn’t do his normal work vs. lefties last year (just .623 OPS in 124 PA), but he has a career .824 OPS against them. He only comes into the season with OF/1B eligibility, but he played 18 games at 2B and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Rays gave him some time there. He hasn’t been terrible against righties lately, either. In fact, he was flat out good in 2014 (.856, 12 HR) and while it dropped to .765 in 2015, he still hit 11 HR. Both of these guys could end up as full-time plays ,but if they happen to struggle against same-handed pitchers, they’re a perfect platoon.

NEW YORK METS 2B: Neil Walker, Wilmer Flores [116 wRC+]

Walker has only had two years where you would’ve felt OK about using him against lefties. All the way back in 2010 he had an .809 OPS in 123 PA and then in 2014 he was at a passable .727 in 120 PA. He hasn’t been north of .700 in any other season, yielding a career .656 OPS. Even if you don’t platoon Walker with his real-life partner, you should have another 2B on hand to cover his lefty at-bats. Meanwhile, he has hit 16, 21, and 16 HR v. RHP the last three seasons.

Flores had a crazy year in 2015, but lost in the whole crying about being traded thing is the fact that he had his best offensive season thanks in part to a .955 OPS and 7 HR against lefties in 107 PA. He managed just a .637 OPS in 403 PA against righties, though, so even with his SS/2B eligibility he’s not a great full-time play. In fairness to Flores he is just 24 years old and showed some proficiency against righties in the minors (.294/.336/.455 in 1279 PA) so he could improve and leverage that dual eligibility into being a full-time SS in NL-only leagues.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS OF: Andre Ethier, Scott Van Slyke [122 wRC+]

Did you know that Ethier has an .829 OPS against righties over the last three years? That’s just behind Buster Posey (.829) and just ahead of Josh Donaldson (.824). That might be a little unfair as they are righties, but even if you isolate the lefties v. righties, he is still 19th – sitting in between Carlos Beltran (.832) and Charlie Blackmon (.816) among those with at least 900 PA.

Perhaps most impressive about that is the fact that he was terrible against righties in 2014 (.710). That is the only time he’s been below an .830 OPS against righties for a season. While I recommend this strategy mostly for AL/NL-Only leagues, Ethier is so good against righties that I think you can pull this off with him and a lefty-masher in mixed leagues. Of course he’s also a DFS gem as most sites don’t pump his price against righties.

SVS was a popular late-round pick last year after an utter destruction of lefties to the tune of a 1.045 OPS in 130 PA (with 8 HR), but he couldn’t repeat the small sample feat again in 2015. The power wasn’t there in 2015 as he managed just a .784 against lefties because of an ugly .398 SLG. He’s not the best option to go with Ethier in a platoon, but he’s still waaaaay better than just using Ethier against southpaws.

NEW YORK YANKEES OF: Carlos Beltran, Aaron Hicks [103 wRC+]

I really like both sides of this platoon because there is a scenario where both become full-time options. Beltran obviously used to be a superstar, but his best OPS against lefties in the last three years is just .752 and health has limited him in each of those seasons. At 39 years old, he’s unlikely to put together another 150+ game season, but it wouldn’t be crazy to see his performance return against lefties, even if it was only a return of his BABIP (hasn’t topped .274 the last three years; sits at .298 career v. LHP).

Hicks is a favorite of mine this season. It’s a bet on the come for sure as his best full-season wRC+ was last year’s 97. But he has been on the rise yearly against lefties and even had his best effort against righties last year (albeit just a .661 OPS). Hicks had a double-double in just 97 games. If he continues his upward trajectory, he’s a 20-20 player who you won’t even need to platoon.

COLORADO ROCKIES 1B: Ben Paulsen, Mark Reynolds [98 wRC+]

This one has some sneaky upside. OK, maybe it’s not so sneaky since it’s in Coors, but I still don’t see either guy getting much attention at the draft table. Paulsen had an .815 OPS with 11 HR against righties in 315 PA last year, hitting them both home and away. In the minors he had an .859 OPS against righties with 61 HR in 1608 PA (17 HR per 450 PA). He is a straight platoon option, though. His .554 OPS against lefties came in just 39 PA, but his minor league track record doesn’t offer hope with a .626 OPS in 602 PA.

Reynolds has the reputation of a lefty-killer, but he hasn’t really earned it over the last five years. In his first four seasons, his lowest mark against lefties was .819 (the other three were between .894 and .982), but he hasn’t been north of .800 since then. That’s where Coors come in, though. He has played in several hitter-friendly parks, but nothing like Coors and while he’s unlikely to get back into the upper-.900s with his OPS, he is a solid bet to jump back over .800 against lefties for the first time since 2010. This is one of the platoons that I think will sharply outdo their wRC+ projection.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS 2B: Kolten Wong, Jedd Gyorko [106 wRC+]

I still think Wong can become a full-time, all-formats option, but he’s certainly not there yet so it’s best to prepare a platoon for him just in case. He was utterly brutal against lefties, posting the third-worst OPS among lefties with at least 150 PA (.552), and his work against righties certainly wasn’t good enough to offset that work (.772 in 435 PA).

Gyorko has blasted lefties in two of his three seasons, including an .803 OPS last year. He has 2B/SS eligibility which adds to his value, but his work against righties doesn’t show any signs of him becoming a full-time player unless you just need the pop at shortstop (15, 9, and 12 HR v. RHP). I’ve never been a huge Gyorko fan, but Wong needs a platoon partner until he shows us more.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES 1B: John Jaso, Mike Morse [114 wRC+]

I’d really like this platoon if it wasn’t at first base because I’m just not sure it has the power to sustain that position. Of course, it could be a corner infield platoon. Jaso has just one bad year against righties in his career and several big ones. A big issue for him has been health with a career-high of 109 games played.

Not catching was supposed to help that last year and then he got hurt after one plate appearance, costing him 83 games. He is learning a new position, but I like him as a sneaky NL-only play even as with UT-only eligibility to start the season. I could even see some use for Jaso in a mixed league platoon with someone like Mike Napoli.

Morse has shown big pop in the past, but two of his last three seasons against lefties have been rough (.672, .667 OPS). He still has an .808 career OPS against them. Like Jaso, health has plagued Morse throughout his career with fewer than 100 games in two of the last three seasons. A modicum of health in a straight platoon could yield double-digit power.

TAMPA BAY RAYS SS: Brad Miller, Tim Beckham [98 wRC+]

A big part of why I like this one is the shortstop aspect, but I’m also a Miller fan. He had a double-double against righties alone last year (11 HR, 12 SB, & .803 OPS). His work against lefties has done nothing but hurt him over his career with .674, .542, and .513 OPS totals with a combined 2 HR and 3 SB in the 335 PA so he’s a perfect player for TB, who won’t be afraid to put him in a straight platoon with Beckham (or maybe even former teammate Nick Franklin if Beckham doesn’t perform).

The former #1 overall pick wasn’t special against lefties last year, posting just a .725 OPS, but his .226 ISO was the third-best R v. L mark among shortstops and 29th overall (min. 100 PA). He didn’t show that kind of pop against them in the minors, but did hit .297 with a .785 OPS in 435 PA. At 26 years old, we’re unlikely to see a huge breakout, but he’s young enough to show some useful improvement.

BOSTON RED SOX OF: Jackie Bradley Jr., Chris Young [106 wRC+]

I want to like this platoon more, I really do, but I’m nervous about my dude JBJ. I’ve been a fan, but he has been super-underwhelming outside of that super-hot run last summer. He has just a .612 OPS against righties in 525 PA, but he was up at .791 last year with 8 HR thanks to that big run.

He is starting to get that Quad-A tag because he hasn’t been able to bring his minor league success to the majors. He has an .895 OPS and 21 HR against righties in 884 minor league PA. And even a passable .769 OPS against lefties in 368 PA. I still have some faint hope of Bradley becoming an all-formats starter, but it’s not something I’m blindly betting on. If I’m taking him, I will have a platoon plan in place and it might just be his natural platoon.

Young got back to his lefty-mashing ways in 2015, but only after two BABIP-fueled down seasons against them. He had .712 and .561 OPS totals in 2013-14 thanks to .238 and .164 BABIPs, all of which were sharp detours from his career levels (currently .837 and .295, respectively). He flourished with the Yankees, but I think he can maintain the success in Fenway. There is no hope of him being a full-time player with a career .704 OPS against righties. And he’s been hit below .200 in two of the past three seasons.

OAKLAND A’S OF: Coco Crisp, Mark Canha [101 wRC+]

There is a ton of risk in this one because the strong side of the platoon is an injury-prone 36-year old. Crisp only played 44 games last year and has averaged just 97 in the last seven seasons. Even with the limited playing time, he has two double-doubles and an average of 25 SBs even after just two last year. On the plus side, this is a very inexpensive duo so even if it doesn’t pan out, you’re not out much.

Canha actually had sharp reverse platoon splits last year with just a .587 OPS against lefties (and .821 v. RHP), but that runs counter to his minor league work so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him jump up against southpaws. He had an .876 OPS against lefties in 633 minor league PA with a .181 ISO. He might even become more of a full-time player because he had an .838 OPS against righties in 1341 minor league PA. This is one the platoon where I’d take the shorter side (aka the guy slated to face just lefties) first because of what Canha did last year and Crisp’s uncertain health.

So those are my 10 favorite platoons from August’s excellent work on what teams are likely to do this year. As I mentioned, these are best deployed in AL/NL only leagues and even in those formats most of them will be cheap. Later this winter, I’ll build some mixed league-viable platoons that may use some of these guys, but pairing them with higher-upside assets.

Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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6 years ago

Im surprised you like hicks that much more than bradley. They have similar minor league numbers, nearly the same steamer projections, and bradley seems to have a firmer grasp on playing time.