It’s the heart of fantasy baseball draft season: a time to gather with friends and swill beer, down plates of wings, leave boxes of pizza strewn all over the living room and, oh yeah, assemble a team capable of achieving fantasy greatness.
Or maybe just auto-draft.
Either way, I’m coming off two drafts this past weekend and have a little wisdom to share in anticipation of the 2014 fantasy baseball season. Let’s look at some middle infielders – second basement and shortstops:
Maybe he’ll thrive in Detroit now that he doesn’t have a “sleazeball” general manager lording over him, but Kinsler is trending downward and just isn’t worth a premium pick anymore. My jaw dropped when he was taken in the second round of one draft. After a career high 32 home runs in 2011, his power has dipped the last two years. He’s not a great hitter for average and converted just 57.7% of steal attempts (15 for 26) last season. Have I mentioned his injury history? Let somebody else hitch their wagon to Kinsler in the early rounds.
I’d expect Pedroia to be better than 2013 (a year he finished seventh in the MVP voting) if that thumb is healed. But is he worth a pick in the early going? I certainly like him better than Kinsler; Dusty Two Sacks does a little bit of everything well. But walks and defense aren’t as valuable in fantasy as they are in real life, particularly in standard 5×5 leagues. Pedroia will serve you well, but maybe not as well as you might think.
I’m a big fan of Chase Utley, who continues to put up numbers and gut it out despite a bevy of injuries. But would you rather have Utley in the 10th round or Dozier in the 17th? That happened in one of my drafts. I’ll take Dozier all day: he’s eight years younger and gives you Utley’s production with an uptick in speed.
An All-Star in his first full season in the bigs, Segura cratered in the second half. A league-leading batting average and eye-popping power in the first half can be chalked up to a high BABIP and, well, the jet stream at Miller Park?
The steals and runs will be there in 2014 and he’s still an above-average hitter based on his minor league totals. But I saw him go in the third round of one league and get kept in another league that allows just three keepers per team. Shortstop is a notoriously sparse position, but there are enough options that I don’t need to buy into the Segura hype.
Old reliable. Hardy has averaged 26 homers and 77 RBI the past three seasons. Grab him in the mid-to-late rounds (he went in the 17th round of both drafts) and be happy with your shortstop.
Miller looks like he’s got the keys to the car in Seattle as their everyday shortstop, as Nick Franklin is better suited to second base and, well, Robinson Cano plays there. Miller looked solid in his audition last year and should only improve at 24 years old. In some leagues, Miller will also be eligible at 2B (13 games last year) or 3B (three games last year).