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Corner Crunch – Staffing the “CI” Slot

So you take your Prince Fielder or Adrian Gonzalez, you select Evan Longoria or Jose Bautista and breathe a sigh of relief that you have first base and third base covered, now let’s see about building something of a respectable pitching staff. And then around the 15th round it occurs to you that you have that pesky corner infield situation to tend to (not to mention middle infield, and for those of you in such leagues – one or more utility slots — but that’s for another post).

I have fallen into a false sense of security before during drafts where I select a player and feel a little like Ed Norton in Fight Club regarding his couch – that is, “I’ve got that sofa issue handled.” We know there’s more work to be done on the offense side of the dish, yet we might fail to plan as diligently as we did for the respective positions.

This post is a little strategy that might be quite “101” to some, but it was born out of comments about the need to plan for the flex positions in our leagues. The context is standard 5×5, 12 team, non-keeper roto leagues.

This year, I have two plans in mind for the corner infield slot – let’s get really creative and call them “Plan A” and “Plan B”. That’s not proprietary either, feel free to use it. But it’s not to say Plan A is a better plan, in fact they probably work equally well because all I’m doing is attempting to zig in one direction when others zag.

Plan A will actually be the result of losing out on targeted players at either second base or shortstop. Without spending an inordinate amount of time on my general approach to the middle infield positions, let’s just say that I’m targeting (as are the majority of fantasy managers) the consensus top three at the respective positions. Assuming I don’t get one of the first couple picks, I’m not likely to get Troy Tulowitzki, so in order to accomplish that, I’ll need to take a second baseman and/or a shortstop with a 2nd round and 3rd round pick, and I’ll have to get lucky to pull it off. Chances are, knowing thyself, I’ll wind up with a first baseman or third baseman in the first round.

So in Plan A, let’s say I take Jose Bautista or Albert Pujols or Joey Votto. I’ve got that first or third issue handled. But what I’m looking for now is a little luck to get Hanley Ramirez or Jose Reyes at SS and then in a perfect world, Ian Kinsler at 2B, which is probably going to be a slim chance. I’m probably not going to be the guy that takes Starlin Castro or Elvis Andrus where they project, so now I’m looking at probably Alexei Ramirez, J.J. Hardy, or Jhonny Peralta down in the teens. At second, I might be resigned to a Jason Kipnis or Jemile Weeks in the same range, or maybe Kelly Johnson way down in the 200’s somewhere.

So now what? Well, I say you go big at CI. Mark Teixeira is projecting at pick 26 (according to mock draft central), which will be right in the range when I’ll know if Kinsler will be there for me or not. So maybe I was able to go Joey Votto/Jose Reyes with my first two picks but I lose out at 2B. I don’t think I’m ready to take a starting pitcher, and I’m not sure there will be guys like Mike Stanton and Curtis Granderson left, and I’m really not sure I want them at this draft slot. You’ve got that first base issue solved, but I think there’s an opportunity here to not only, ahem, screw your fellow manager, but set yourself up for some big time offensive production while you shift to alternate plans at other positions.

Teixeira isn’t in his prime, but most reputable projections have him in the .270/.360/.500 range with mid-30’s HR and he’ll probably sleepwalk to 100 RBI. Not a bad corner infielder to have around. The trade off, of course, is that you now have no second baseman (nor middle infielder) but if you check out my recent look at the reader mock, you’ll see why I think there’s good value far later in the draft at 2B, and you could pretty easily pull two second basemen capable of 15+HR and 15+ HR pretty late in the draft.

Plan B? Well, that’s actually if things go according to how I draw it up ahead of time and I’m able to neatly tick off each box at every respective position. In this case, I’m dealt the proposition of finding a corner infielder later in the draft. If that’s the case the following are the bats that I’ll be targeting at CI (ADP via MDC):

Freddie Freeman 0.281 23 85 120
Paul Goldschmidt 0.255 27 80 143
Adam Lind 0.265 25 80 150
Ike Davis 0.265 22 80 171

These are just rough approximations of the available projections – in some cases the projections have players well above these totals (in particular, Paul Goldschmidt — not to mention the chance of some steals from him). But these are guys going mid-to-late draft and they all provide some pretty solid contributions in the counting stats, and would be pretty great as corner infield options. While there are some decent third base options later in the draft, you’ll notice I’m targeting all first basemen as I think there are just far better contributors in later rounds.

Lastly, I think it’s prudent to keep an eye on what’s going on with Ryan Howard (144) and Kendrys Morales (214) as they’re projecting to go quite late according to MDC. Either player could put up healthy fantasy stats and yet we all know their health is a big question mark, and in the case of Morales, he probably needs someone in the Anaheim logjam to get dealt in order to ensure consistent at-bats. Keep a pulse on the status of both of them heading into the season.

Of course, it’s possible Plan A and Plan B both blow up in my face – so I’ll have a Plan C, which is to scramble and pray.