Where Eno’s Infielder Ranks Were Different

We just finished ranking week (find them easily on the right-hand nav bar), and since I’m apparently a masochist, I’m going to jump right back in and examine where I was different from the consensus. We’ll do as many positions as possible today — I’ll focus on those players that are most differently positioned in my rankings — before checking out the pitchers.

Catchers
Carlos Santana (ES: 12, RG: 8)
Jason Castro (ES: 22, RG: 14)
Hank Conger (ES: 26, RG: 33)

Maybe I’m just worried that Santana will regress to his 2012 self instead of the 2013 version. If he does, the rest of the season may only hold a .240 batting average and 10 homers. I think 11 catchers can beat that. Sal Perez, Yan Gomes and especially Miguel Montero are more attractive to me.

I’ve always thought there was a bit too much swing and miss in Santana’s game, and now he’s at his career worst in the category. That makes for a smooth segue to Jason Castro, who’s striking out 28.2% of the time, which is way too high. If this is his new true talent contact rate, there’s no reason to think he’ll hit better than .220 the rest of the way.

Hank Conger is pretty much just doing what I predicted for him, which is incremental improvement across the board. It’s made for a slash line that’s mixed league relevant, but his counting stats aren’t there yet. Could he get more plate appearances when Chris Iannetta‘s batting average on balls in play takes it’s customary dive? With injury as a constant threat at the position, I’ll bet on the talent here.

First Basemen
Brandon Belt (ES: 21, RG: 30)
Michael Morse (ES: 27, RG: 21)

Belt’s ranking obviously depends greatly upon each ranker’s projection for his health the rest of the way. But he’s swinging the bat now and I’ll believe him when he says that he’s a couple weeks away. That still gives him three months of production, and I really like the adjustments he’s made at the plate. I’ll take the over on the rest-of-season power projections, put him into 300 more plate appearances, and that’s how you get this ranking.

Similarly, I think plate appearances factored in heavily to my ranking of Belt’s replacement. Morse is killing it, and the power looks legit, and the strikeouts aren’t even that bad for a behemoth like him. But he’s only once had more than 430 plate appearances in a season, and even if he passes that total again, I’m not sure he’s good for 575 (his career high) again. I’ll bake in some lost time for a two-week break or two, plus the fact that, once the team is healthy, Gregor Blanco will steal some defensive-replacement plate appearances from him (Morse is the worst defensive outfielder in baseball since 2011).

Second Basemen
Martin Prado (ES: 15, RG: 11)
Neil Walker (ES: 11, RG: 15)
Omar Infante (ES: 29, RG: 23)
Jordy Mercer (ES: 34, RG: 39)

I can’t explain why Martin Prado is striking out more than he ever has before, despite a swinging strike rate that’s barely any worse than his career rate. It looks like maybe he’s just swinging at the wrong pitches — his zone swing rate is down off his career, and while he’s swinging less than ever, his reach rate is largely unchanged — and what we do know is that strikeout rate is generally stable at this point. We also know, pretty much, that he’s done stealing bases. So .280/12/3 as a true talent fantasy slash? That’s out of the top 12 for me.

Neil Walker has had plenty of hot months in the past, so I’m not necessarily projecting out his homer pace. Especially at 28 years old. Right now, though, he’s showing the best strikeout rate of his career, and along with a league-average BABIP, he really could hit .280 or better. That makes his customary 15-20 homers play up, especially when compared to Prado.

Omar Infante is a 32-year-old with no power and speed and a career .278 batting average. I had Mercer below him because of playing time and contact ability, but I thought it was a lot closer than the overall ranks suggest. At least, I believe that Mercer has more pop than Infante and more pop than he’s showing now. Once he shows that 15-homer type pop the rest of the way, the meh batting average won’t hurt as bad. And if you can use him only against lefties, he’s actually valuable.

Shortstops
Erick Aybar (ES: 21, RG: 16)
Andrelton Simmons (ES: 15, RG: 20)
Zack Cozart (ES: 33, RG: 28)

A career high in ground balls per fly ball means I don’t believe in Erick Aybar‘s power explosion. And as much as the best strikeout rate of his career has me interested, I don’t like that he’s getting caught almost as often as he’s been successful in stealing second base. I’ll take the under on both his homer and stolen base “on-pace-for”s, which makes him the definition of an empty batting average.

On the other hand, Andrelton Simmons is also showing a good strikeout rate, but I believe the power that comes with it. The best news is that he’s cut his infield pop-up rate — almost in half. Now he can put up a league-average BABIP with a league-average pop-up rate, and that’s why I’m taking the over on his rest-of-season projected batting average.

I think Mike Podhorzer’s last piece about Zack Cozart — titled “Zack Cozart: Zero Category Contributor?” — says it all.

Third Basemen
Manny Machado (ES: 10, RG: 14)
Chase Headley (ES: 14, RG: 19)
David Freese (ES: 36, RG: 30)
Conor Gillaspie (ES: UR, RG: 35)

Like Simmons, Machado needed to improve his pop-up rate. Like Simmons, he did. I realize the strikeout rate got worse this year, and that the dude is immature, but it’s nice to see him try to steal a few bases. And if he had a league-average BABIP with a bad pop up rate, couldn’t he put up a plus one with improved numbers there? I’ll believe the rest-of-season projections (10 homers and five stolen bases on average) and take a slight over on the projected batting averages (.266 on average).

A power-friendly batted ball mix (lowest GB/FB in six years) is about all I have to hang my hat on with Headley. His speed is disappearing and his strikeout rate is the second worst of his career. But there’s still always the chance he gets traded to a new park, and with Jace Peterson and Jedd Gyorko representing the future, there are in-house replacements ready to go.

David Freese is striking out so much that you can’t even blame his sub-Mendoza batting average on BABIP (.294). The power may come back a bit, and he’s playing fairly regularly, but his work against righties has disintegrated (64 wRC+) and I fear he’s headed for wrong-side platoon work.

Gillaspie is a left-hander and makes decent contact, so the other side has an argument for ranking him. I just see the zero homers and steals, and the 162-game average of a .265 batting average and 11 homers with no steals… and I see an empty batting average that’s about to crash (.389 BABIP). Plus, I don’t see the White Sox settling on him as a permanent solution, so his plate appearances are not guaranteed.

Looks like we’ll have to do the outfielders in their own post.




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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.


15 Responses to “Where Eno’s Infielder Ranks Were Different”

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  1. Chase Headley says:

    What team would trade for me?

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  2. Ruki Motomiya says:

    Just wanted to drop by and say thank you for writing this article. One of the big things I wanted to see from the consensus rankings was the rankers discussing why they felt some players had very different placements from consensus/other rankers, so seeing this article pleased me a lot. Keep up the good work.

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  3. Shawnuel says:

    As a Headley owner, I SO much would like to see him hit regularly in Yankee Stadium.

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  4. Cason Jolette says:

    Eno!!

    Owner is trying to trade Kipnis for a starter. Would you trade any of these starters for Kipnis: Cobb, Bailey, Fister, Samardzija, Kazmir, Kluber, Ventura, Kuechel. I would be dropping Hill for another starter, probably Heaney. Thanks!

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      fwiw, I would trade any of those pitchers for Kipnis 1-for-1. Even though you implied otherwise, I assume you need to trade more than one to get a deal done? If not, you ought to stop waiting.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      Yeah I’d try to keep Cobb and Kluber, but I’d trade the rest for him quickly.

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      • Cason Jolette says:

        Thanks both for the reply.

        Yeah, I was planning on giving his pick outside of those two ironically haha. As a Rays fan and big Kluber believer, those are the two I’d like to keep. I tried Samardzija but he was concerned he might be traded to Colorado or within the AL East. Trying to push Kazmir right now, maybe Ventura (im scared his arm might fall off) if that fails. I have a feeling Fister is where he might go.

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      • Inglourious Dirty Ol' Basterd says:

        That’s not irony, and you’re wasting time chatting instead of taking Kipnis from this maroon.

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    • JKB says:

      Hill and Ventura for Heaney and Kipnis? Great upgrade…

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  5. Facenda says:

    Yes on what Ruki wrote. Fantastic piece. Thanks!

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  6. I Zimbra says:

    “I’ve always thought there was a bit too much swing and miss in Santana’s game, and now he’s at his career worst in the category.”

    You lost me here. How does a guy that has consistently posted a below average K% (20.2% this year, above his career avg),an above average bb% (18.7%), his lowest ever oswing % (18.1%), and a 6.8 swstr% (2 lowest of his 5 years) have to much swing and miss? How can you pick that to knock him on based off his numbers?

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  7. blackoutrestrictions says:

    Thanks for a new series in rotographs that isn’t daily fantasy related!

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