Let’s go picking and panning once again, this time at the second base position. The updated RotoGraphs consensus rankings, from which I am comparing mine to the rest of the gang’s, are here.
For the second base position, my Picks will only include those in my top 20 and my Pans will only include those in the Consensus top 20.
Here we go again, Pod latching on to a surprising rebound performance in 2015. It’s true that Brandon Phillips shocked the world by swiping 23 bases last year. The last time he had stolen 20+ bags was in 2009! That won’t happen again. But it doesn’t need to. I’m projecting a near identical line to the other systems, with a slightly higher batting average, but offset by fewer steals. I’m actually forecasting some major regression in the latter, down to just nine! And yet, despite this entirely fair projection, somehow there’s a 12 ranking gap between me and the rest of the rankers. I don’t get it. If you forget, Phillips is slated to hit clean up, behind Joey Votto, which means bountiful RBI opportunities.
Wowzer, yet again, here I am being bullish after a player’s obvious career year. What am I thinking?! Funny, I have been so up and down on Matt Carpenter throughout his career. But he is clearly a completely different player now. He set career highs in strikeout rate, fly ball rate, Pull%, Hard%, and batted ball distance. If that doesn’t suggest that he’s sold out for power, nothing will convince you. Whether he’ll do it again this year is anyone’s guess. But even with a healthy dose of regression down to an 11% HR/FB rate (about league average), he’ll still flirt with the 20 homer barrier. And he’s a lock to be a great source of runs scored, while contributing marginally positive value in runs batted in.
Finally, a player I could easily explain and I’m not chasing the big previous season! The optimism for Brett Lawrie stems mostly from the park switch. Yes, the Rogers Centre in Toronto was a top hitter’s park as well, but U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago is even better for right-handed home runs. Beyond that though, his batted ball distance jumped nearly 15 feet to easily set a new career high, and yet, his HR/FB rate actually fell! Blame that on the Oakland Coliseum, as he posted just a 7.9% home HR/FB rate, versus a robust 16.1% mark in away games. I’m projecting his HR/FB rate to jump back up to 14%, which if his health cooperates, would equate to reaching 20 homers for the first time.
As usual, my projected line for Ian Kinsler is nearly identical to the systems. The difference comes from an extra homer than the highest system forecast, but also one less steal than the lowest. How that results in a gap of four rankings places, I’m not totally sure. However, in this situation, it looks like I merely like some of the guys I placed ahead of him more than the rest. There are only a couple of dollars in value separating Kinsler from fourth ranked guy, so this isn’t as big a discrepancy as it appears. I do have concern about a 33 year old who consistently posts weak batted ball distance marks and requires all of his excellent strikeout rate and 40% fly ball rate to reach double digit homers. Both of those metrics decline due to the aging process, so he could fall off precipitously in a hurry.
I had no idea I was bearish on Dustin Pedroia. If I sound like a broken record, it’s because again my projections aren’t much different from the other systems. Pedroia did post his highest HR/FB rate since 2011, a mark that was more than double his previous season. Perhaps the other rankers think the power spike is more sustainable than I do. His batted ball distance and xHR/FB rate certainly do not validate the mini power surge.
Obviously, I don’t need to discuss Addison Russell again, but I kept him on the list since I wanted to show everyone.
Kolten Wong has a very similar problem to Russell — he’s stuck toward the bottom of the order. Wong does move up thanks to Jhonny Peralta’s injury…to seventh. That should marginally boost his counting stats, and perhaps push him to 18th or 19th in the rankers, rather than 20th. I like his combination of power and speed just like everyone else, but it will be difficult to collect those runs scored and runs batted in at the bottom of the order. Last year, he hit leadoff 234 times, and still only managed to score 71 runs. Outside an injury, he’s highly unlikely to see that many plate appearances at the top again, if any at all.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.