It’s time for our Depth Chart Discussions to begin. In an effort to suss out every team, we’ve divided them into four parts (infield, outfield, bullpen, and rotation) and will begin breaking them down for you over the next few weeks. You can find them gathered here.
The Kansas City Royals shocked the world last year, as they finally returned to the playoffs, and even reached the World Series. Then, they had the kind of offseason that reminded everyone why they had a 28-year playoff drought in the first place.
The Royals gave Edinson Volquez $20 million over two years. I don’t even need to make a joke, as the previous sentence is its own punchline. They also handed Alex Rios $11 million to take playing time away from younger, better players.
This piece, however, is about the infield, which is a bit of a mixed bag for fantasy purposes. Let’s dive a little deeper and see if anyone here looks like a good value for fantasy owners in 2015.
Salvador Perez finished 2014 as fantasy’s No. 5 catcher, simply because he played so much. Including the playoffs, Perez logged an outrageous 161 games behind the plate in 2014, after catching 137 games in 2013. That, my friends, is how a .260 hitter with .144 isolated power ends up as a top-five fantasy option.
I have a variety of concerns about this. First and foremost, you have to be worried about injury risk with a guy who has crouched behind the dish for 298 games in the last two seasons. It doesn’t appear that Perez’s workload will decrease all that much this year, seeing as his backup is Erik Kratz.
Kratz is a 34-year-old whose career weighted offense is 20% below league-average, and he has never logged more than 218 plate appearances in any single major-league season. The Royals were toying with the idea of making Kratz someone’s personal catcher — thus giving Perez at least a partial day off every five days — but they’ve since scrapped that idea.
As I said before, Perez was 2014’s No. 5 fantasy catcher, and our experts have him slotted in at No. 7 for this year. I’m not comfortable paying that price for a guy whose fantasy value is extremely reliant on playing time, at a position where playing every day is simply not sustainable for very long.
Throw in the fact that he swings at absolutely everything, and I’m passing on Perez for 2015. I suggest you do the same.
I have absolutely zero doubt that Eric Hosmer’s true talent level is well above the .270/.328/.398 line he posted in 2014. I also still believe that Hosmer will someday be a reliable mixed-league fantasy first baseman. Bear in mind, even though he’s played nearly four full major-league seasons, he’s still just 25 years old.
Hosmer divided our experts into two groups. On one hand, you had Jeff and Zach, who both ranked Hosmer as a top-10 fantasy 1B. On the other, you have Dan, Mike and Paul, who ranked Hosmer anywhere from 17th to 20th. I’m firmly in the Dan/Mike/Paul camp on this one. In standard redraft leagues, I’m not touching Hosmer with a ten-foot pole in 2015.
I think there’s going to be a lot of owners who remember Hosmer’s fantastic October, and overvalue that one-month sample. Furthermore, projecting a top-10 fantasy 1B season for him is projecting a career year. Hosmer has never been a top-ten fantasy first baseman before, and he’s coming off a season in which he couldn’t even hit ten homers.
Also of note is that he hit a disgusting .219/.260/.347 at home last year. That’s never really been a problem for him prior to 2014 and could just be a fluky outlier, but it’s certainly worth monitoring. In the end, I just don’t see how this adds up to Hosmer being a viable starting fantasy first baseman in standard formats.
In mixed leagues, I’m not viewing Hosmer as anything more than a middling CI or Util option going into the year. Granted, he’s a middling CI/Util option with the upside to be one of the top first basemen in the league and, as I said before, I think he can get to that level someday.
Still, what reason do we have to believe this will be the year? I don’t think we have one. Don’t be your league’s Hosmer owner.
Omar Infante is a very boring player for fantasy purposes, and he is also 33 years old. We have him projected to hit .271, with seven homers and seven steals. Yay. He’s a low-end AL-only option, and a non-factor in all but the deepest of mixers.
Christian Colon is capable of playing second, third and short. If KC suffers any infield injuries, the 25-year-old former No. 4 overall pick will likely see significant playing time. He’s always been a glove-first prospect, but he’d be capable of putting up Infante-esque numbers if he played regularly.
To be completely honest, Alcides Escobar is the KC infielder I’m most likely to own in fantasy leagues this year. That’s not to say that I’m especially high on the 28-year-old (because I’m not), but I think he belongs in the low-end mixed-league shortstop conversation, and that’s where he’s largely being valued.
It’s a real shame that Escobar never walks, because his career .299 on-base percentage prevents him from attempting enough steals to be truly elite in that category. Thankfully, unless you’re in an OBP league, Escobar’s career .263 AVG won’t kill you, and he has still managed to average 28.5 steals per season for the four years he’s been in Kansas City.
Escobar is rumored to see the lion’s share of playing time in the leadoff spot, and even if that’s a horrible idea in real life, it’s certainly a good thing in fantasy. There’s nothing sexy about having him as your starting fantasy SS, but if you want to go cheap at short and spend your money elsewhere, you’ll do fine snagging Escobar.
Remember back when we all thought that Mike Moustakas was going to be a really good major-league baseball player? Moose was essentially a unanimous top-ten prospect after an insane 2010 season, in which he hit 36 homers in 118 games split between Double-A and Triple-A. Sadly, 2011 happened. After that, 2012, 2013 and 2014 also happened.
Here we are in 2015. Moustakas is a very good defensive third baseman, but his bat is an absolute albatross, both in real life and in fantasy. He’s not even the best professional athlete with the nickname Moose. I mean, can Moustakas do this? Ha! No way.
At this point, I’m not sure Moustakas is even a low-end AL-only third baseman. The guy hit .212/.271/.361 last year. Gross.
If signing fat guys on the wrong side of 30 who can’t play a defensive position — and just played through a -1.7 WAR season — to two-year contracts is the new market inefficiency, the Royals just wrote the first chapter of “Moneyball 2.” Jokes aside, I honestly think Kendrys Morales is a decent bounce-back candidate, but it’s not every day that you see a DH coming off a .218/.274/.338 season sign a multi-year deal.
There are some reasons for optimism here. For one, Morales reportedly lost 12 pounds this offseason, and now looks like this instead of this. That’s a step in the right direction for a guy who used to be listed at 225 lbs, before ballooning to 247 last year. I can only imagine that his local Golden Corral appreciated his consistent patronage while he sat out the first couple months of last season.
Furthermore, Morales had never had any trouble hitting for power until last year, when he mustered up just eight long balls. It’s pretty reasonable to assume he’ll rediscover his power stroke, at least to some degree.
Still, when it comes down to it, first base is an awfully deep position in fantasy. Even if Morales has the moderate comeback that our projection systems expect, will he be anything more than a fringe AL-only option? Probably not.
Scott Strandberg started writing for Rotographs in 2013. He works in small business consultation, and he also writes A&E columns for The Norman Transcript newspaper. Scott lives in Seattle, WA.