Polanco, Johnson, Roberts, Espinosa: 2B Showdown

Recently, I did a little work looking at the owned % and the likely hood that a player would be starting on a fantasy depending on the league size. Using Yahoo ownership rates, 90% ownership is probably the starting level for 10 team leagues, 85% for 12 team leagues and 10% for 20 team leagues. Originally, I figured I could just go down the ownerships of each position and get the players on the edge, but multiple positions eligibilities caused some confusion, especially for IF positions like 2B, SS and 3B. The following is the 2B who rank around the cutoff value for 12 team leagues, 85% and below.

The 4 players I will be looking at today are Placido Polanco, Kelly Johnson, Ryan Roberts and Danny Espinosa. Here are their ownership rates and stats so far this year:

Player % Owned H/AB* R HR RBI SB AVG
Plácido Polanco(Phi – 2B,3B) 83% 86/298 32 4 39 3 0.289
Kelly Johnson(Ari – 2B) 76% 61/286 43 13 34 8 0.213
Ryan Roberts(Ari – 2B,3B,OF) 73% 62/244 43 10 33 11 0.254
Danny Espinosa(Was – 2B) 70% 68/284 40 15 48 9 0.239

After looking at the these 4, here is the order I would prefer to own/play them:

1. Danny Espinosa: He has the combination of speed (9 SB) and power (15 HR) that the others don’t have. His average is not ideal, but it is expected considering his BABIP (0.264) and K% (25%). It would be nice to see him make some more contact, but his combination of speed and power from 2B is tough to find.

2. Ryan Roberts: The 30 year old is having a career season and I would ride to the end of it. He is already at career highs in SB and HR only half way through the season. His triple line slash of 0.254/0.341/.439 isn’t far this season are that his preseason ZIPS projection of 0.251/0.3290.400. Ryan was finally given the opportunity to play every day and he is taking full advantage of it.

3. Kelly Johnson: He is performing like Danny Espinosa lite. Power and speed, but can’t hit for average at all. His BABIP has risen from 0.227 at the end of March to 0.267, which has helped his AVG some. The main reason for the low AVG is that every third at bat he is striking out. If/once he begins to make contact on a more regular basis, he will instantly become more valuable.

4. Placido Polanco: He has hit for good AVG, but that is about it. He is showing little speed (5 SB) and less power (3 HR). This is a case where the abilities he has, doesn’t translate to fantasy baseball. If you need help with AVG and have plenty of speed and power, he may be worth acquiring.

As a whole, each of these 2B can make decent contributions to a fantasy team. Out of these 4 though, I will take Espinosa, which currently has the lowest ownership rate.




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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.


11 Responses to “Polanco, Johnson, Roberts, Espinosa: 2B Showdown”

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  1. ericd says:

    I’ll take Ackley over all of them.

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    • GTW says:

      You will lose.

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      • Lewis says:

        Don’t think so. He’s a great young hitter.

        Plus he has a solid chance to lead the league in Handsome/9.

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    • Phillie697 says:

      Are you serious? Once Espinosa matures and starts striking out less and put better contact on the ball, he’s literally the next Chase Utley, although perhaps not quite as good defensively (that said his defense isn’t too shabby to begin with). You’d take Ackley over that? Really?

      He is what Dan Uggla was suppose to have been this year, except with much more speed.

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      • NBH says:

        Espinosa’s issue is that he has an uppercut swing with a hole in it. That’s why his contact rates are poor (high K%) and why he has a terrible LD%. Take Espinosa for the 20/20, but .240 is his ceiling with that swing. Nothing wrong with that in this low scoring environment.

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      • Slevin Kelevra says:

        Ackley could be the next Chase Utley, Espinosa just the next Uggla with speed

        As you said

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      • Eric Dykstra says:

        Ackley, right now, is better than Espinosa. Walks more, strikes out less, and has better contact when he does hit the ball.
        Espinosa has more power, and that’s it. “Once he matures and strikes out less” is pure speculation. ZiPS has him projected at a 28% K rate for the rest of the season compared to Ackley at 16.5%.

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  2. Heyo says:

    All 4 guys are owned in my 12-teamer, I kinda find your methodology unconvincing.

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  3. Jamie says:

    My team is so bad that Polanco is my 3B and Espinosa is in my Util rotation.

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  4. Drew says:

    Are these picks based on current stats as they stand, or ROS expectations?

    Roberts isn’t playing well at all right now, hasn’t been for months. His OPS is under .700 in his past 60 games; in the past 30, it’s under .650.

    Sure, his current .779 OPS looks nice (boosted by a clearly unsustainable power surge in early April where his HR/FB% was over 25%, possibly due to a lot of “just enoughs”), as does his multiple position eligibility, but he has a pretty limp track record, unlike Kelly Johnson who’s proven to be a solid bat out of the 2B slot.

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  5. Brad Johnson says:

    One thing to say in Polanco’s favor, he’s the very image of consistency. You know exactly what you can count on him for week in and week out. The other three are the very essence of inconsistency. If I have a strong roster, I prefer Polanco to any of those guys. A weak roster and I’m probably taking Johnson (the upside play of the group) though Espinosa draws strong consideration too.

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