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 Colorado Rockies infield has some enticing fantasy pieces, although there are certainly legitimate questions swirling about. Several of these guys will be nearly universally owned, but which ones do you want on your team? Let’s take a trip around the diamond to determine how these players should be valued.
Wilin Rosario seems like a pretty trendy pick this year, as he will reportedly get some playing time at first and/or in a corner outfield spot to keep his bat in the lineup. This being fantasy baseball, people like to freak out about catcher-eligible guys playing the position of not-catcher, and rightfully so. I’m all-in on Evan Gattis this year, for example.
However, I wrote about Rosario in October, and my opinions haven’t exactly changed since then. I urge you to read the entire piece if you’re really in the mood to read that much about the 26-year-old, but I’ll give you the short version: Rosario hit .158/.191/.211 against right-handers on the road in 2014.
That’s not a typo. That is indeed a .402 OPS against righties away from Coors. That is a must-bench player, and unless you’ve got crazy-deep benches, I’m guessing you’re not platooning catchers. Whenever he faces lefties — or plays at home — Rosario’s pretty great.
Unfortunately, baseball is often played on the road and also against right-handers. That combo accounted for more than one-third of Rosario’s 2014 plate appearances, a situation in which he hit a little bit better than a pitcher.
I’m staying far away from him in pretty much any mixed or one-catcher leagues. He’s currently owned in 84 percent of Yahoo leagues. Be a 16-percenter.
As for Nick Hundley, I streamed him a few times last year in a 14-team two-catcher league. He will again be ready and willing to provide this not-that-valuable service.
The reigning National League batting champion — Justin Morneau — is out to prove that his rather shocking 2014 career renaissance was for real. Of course, as with every single player discussed in this piece, playing half his games in Coors sure helped. Still, I’ve got a feeling 2014 was a bit of smoke and mirrors for Morneau.
Here’s one stat that gives me some serious pause:
- BABIP (2011-2014): .257, .294, .290, .330
Hello outlier, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again. It’s not exactly reasonable to think that Morneau will repeat that inflated BABIP in his age-34 season.
A stat that I’m not sure how to feel about is his 10.9% strikeout rate from last year. His K-rate was in excess of 17% in three of the last four years, and suddenly he just completely stopped striking out in 2014. Whether that’s even remotely repeatable is anyone’s guess. Bottom line: I do not like drafting players who confuse me, and that weirdly low K-rate is confusing.
Finally, Mike Podhorzer identified Morneau as a candidate for downward-trending power in 2015. That’s troubling, seeing as Morneau only hit 17 homers last year in the first place.
Look, I’ve been a big Morneau fan for pretty much my entire life, and 2014 was a great story. However, there are plenty of red (or at least yellow) flags regarding his batting average, and he hasn’t really hit for power since 2010.
In his career, DJ LeMahieu’s weighted offense is 31% below league-average. He has a little bit of speed, but no power. He’s basically an empty batting average, and an empty .276 excites me not.
The book on Troy Tulowitzki is the same as it always is. He’s unquestionably the best hitting shortstop on the planet whenever he’s healthy. Unfortunately, he’s now on the wrong side of 30 and has played in just 264 games in the last three years.
Owning Tulo is playing with fire, but as I like to say, you don’t win fantasy leagues playing it safe. Still, seeing as I wrote an entire article entitled “Making the Case for Ian Desmond as Fantasy’s Top Shortstop,” I have to stick to my guns and stick Desmond in the top slot if it comes down to it.
I know I’m in the minority here; of our expert rankers, only Zach Sanders agrees with me on this one. If Tulo can put together a healthy season — or even a healthy 125 games — he will almost certainly be the top shortstop in fantasy. Personally, I just don’t feel that comfortable mortgaging my season on Tulo’s health.
(For those of you who prefer your fantasy baseball predictions in Scott Steiner math, Tulo’s got a 141 and two-thirds percent chance of getting hurt this year.)
I’ve been very high on Nolan Arenado for years, and his breakout 2014 season has him looking like one of the top fantasy third-base options for 2015. Who wouldn’t want a guy who hit .287/.328/.500 as a 23-year-old?
If that question seems like a setup for me deconstructing Arenado and telling you he’s not that awesome, let me assure you that is not the case here. Arenado totally is that awesome. I wrote about him in my disappointingly un-spooky Halloween column, in which I identified the following areas in which Arenado improved in 2014:
- Hitting vs lefties, hitting vs righties, hitting at home, hitting on the road, hitting fly balls, fly-ball distance, chasing fewer pitches, striking out less, walking more
I firmly believe that Arenado has the upside to become the best third baseman in fantasy. I’m going to stop well short of saying that he’s my top choice for the position this year, because he’s not, but would it be all that surprising if he had a monster year and beat out guys like Josh Donaldson, Anthony Rendon and Adrian Beltre?
Again, not saying it’ll happen, but Steamer’s projections don’t predict much of a gap between any of the top 6-8 fantasy third basemen. Arenado’s got the upside — and home ballpark — to pull it off.
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.