The Reds Infield: Some Decent Options, If You Pay Up

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.

Catcher

Devin Mesoraco
Brayan Pena

Entering the 2014 season the RotoGraphs team ranked Devin Mesoraco 18th among catchers, but a “coming out party” for the former first-round selection lead to an end of season ranking of third among catchers according to Zach Sanders. In order to achieve said ranking, Mesoraco triple slashed .273/.359/.534 with 25 homers, 80 batted in and swiped a single base. Fantasy baseball owners apparently feel that more of the same is to come in ‘15 as Mesoraco sports an ADP of 81 (third among catchers) in NFBC and fourth among catchers — including the likes of Carlos Santana, who is no longer catcher eligible on some sites — at FantasyPros with an average ADP of 80.

But was 2014 a mirage for the Reds’ catcher or can he continue to perform at this level going forward? While I don’t believe he’ll post numbers equal to ‘14, I’ve read up on what my colleagues Jeff Sullivan and Brett Talley had to say (since they did the legwork already) regarding change of approach and subsequent differences in his batted ball profile and feel that Mesoraco could sustain a good portion of his production — somewhat justifying his current average draft position. Steamer agrees, pegging the soon-to-be 27-year-old for a .246/.317/.445 slash with 20 home runs, 51 runs, 60 batted in and three stolen bases. If you want to grab Mesoraco you’re going to have to pay for last year’s production, but be realistic in that he’s no lock for a repeat of ‘14.

Due to some injuries in the Reds’ infield last season, Brayan Pena earned a career-high 372 plate appearances. But that’s not likely to happen again this season as Cincy appears to be healthy, leaving Pena for those exclusively in NL-Only leagues looking to gain some extra at-bats at catcher or first base, depending on your league’s settings.

First Base

Joey Votto
Brayan Pena

An injury plagued 2014 season for Joey Votto left a lot to be desired for those who invested a high draft pick in the 31-year-old in 2014. He appeared in a career-low 62 games, slashing .255/.390/.409 with six homers, 23 RBI and a stolen base. (Eno Sarris thoroughly covered the injury and impact on Votto’s production here, which you should give a gander.) Owners and their recency bias are taking Joey Votto about 61st overall –14th among first baseman — behind guys like Todd Frazier, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez, which is a bit bearish in my opinion, especially if you’re in an on base percentage league.

As long as health is on his side, there’s no reason to believe that Votto won’t be able to sustain his excellent walk and strikeout rates while elevating his batting average and on base percentage toward their career norms — .310 and .417, respectively. Steamer believes Votto will slash .279/.405/.465 with 19 home runs, 74 runs, 67 batted in and three stolen bases.

Second Base

Brandon Philips
Skip Schumaker

In 2014, Brandon Phillips posted single digit homer and stolen base numbers for the first time since his 2003 campaign with the Cleveland Indians. In each of the past six seasons, Phillps’ walk and strikeout rates have steadily trended in the wrong direction. For the fourth consecutive year, Phillips saw a dip in OPS and for the third consecutive year a dip in his HR/FB rate despite showing a similar batted ball profile (with the exception of a spike in infield fly balls to 12.9% IFFB%). Steamer doesn’t believe that Phillips will post the numbers he did in ‘14, but also don’t think he’ll return to his career rates. He’ll still be relevant in “only” leagues, but with a shrinking ceiling, should be considered later in your mixers.

Skip Schumaker might be second on the depth charts for the Reds at the keystone sack, but he shouldn’t be anywhere near your fake rosters, unless you’re in the deepest of NL-Only leagues.

Third Base

Todd Frazier
Kristopher Negron

Like Mesoraco, Todd Frazier is coming off a career year resulting in a significant spike in average draft position. Frazier is currently being selected as the fifth third baseman and 47th overall according to FantasyPros, much too rich for my blood. Aside from the fact that Frazier is a bit post-peak for power, 20 of his 29 home runs last year came in the homer friendly Great American Ball Park and 12 of his 29 homers were of the “just enough” variety according to ESPN’s version of the home run tracker. The 17.5% HR/FB% that he posted likely has some influence in all this as well. Frazier’s HR/FB% came in at 13.2% and 11.7% respectively over the last two seasons. I do think that Todd Frazier is good at baseball. And I do believe that he’ll be a fine addition to your squad. I just think that the current price of acquiring Frazier assumes that he’ll be posting similar numbers to his 2014 season — and I don’t think that will happen.

Kristopher Negron appears to be the frontrunner for the utility infielder role for the Reds, backing up both third base and shortstop. In a limited sample last season, Negron knocked six homers and stole five bases with a .271 average in 158 plate appearances.

Shortstop

Zack Cozart
Kristopher Negron

Zack Cozart swiped 30 bases in Triple-A and smacked double digit home runs in five seasons between the minors and majors. Unfortunately, neither appear to be a good bet to occur again thanks to a significant decline in ISO and OBP in each of the four years he’s been in the first division. Steamer projects Cozart for eight home runs and three stolen bases with a .239 average, worthy of a middle slot in NL-Only formats and possibly a short stop in your deeper “only” leagues.





In addition to contributing to the RotoGraphs blog, you can find Alan at his own site, TheFantasyFix.com and follow his nonsense on Twitter @TheFantasyFix.

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Patrick
9 years ago

The .279 Projected BA for Votto is laughable. He has hit 20+ points higher than that every year (expect for 18 points higher in 2008) before last year. .279 is 30 points below his career average including last year.