Reviewing 2017 Pod’s Picks & Pans — First Base & Third Base

We continue our look back at my picks and pans, this time with the infield corners. Refresh your memory by checking out my original article.

We’ll start with the picks, those hitters I was far more bullish on than the rest of the RG crew:

Pod’s Picks — First Base
NAME Mike RG Consensus Diff Actual Winner
Miguel Cabrera 2 3 -1 49 RG Consensus
Eric Thames 17 23 -6 22 RG Consensus
Pod’s Picks — Third Base
NAME Mike RG Consensus Diff Actual Winner
Manny Machado 2 3 -1 6 RG Consensus
Justin Turner 11 16 -5 15 RG Consensus
Todd Frazier 7 9 -2 29 RG Consensus

Well gosh, it’s a clean sweep for the RG Consensus! Could I have picked any worse a group of busts?!

Miguel Cabrera endured what was easily the worst offensive performance of his career. His strikeout rate hit its highest mark since 2004, his BABIP fells below .300 for the first time, and his HR/FB rate notched a career low. Phew, that’s a lot of bad. We know Cabrera battled a back injury, and back injuries most certainly sap offense. Now the question is whether he could recover his health and rebound at the tender age of 35. His price will certainly make him an intriguing risk/reward target.

Man, after a sizzling April that saw Eric Thames sock 11 homers and bat .345, he proceeded to hit .226 the rest of the way, while knocking just 20 more homers. It was still a strong performance in his return to the Majors, but April teased us so greatly, he almost felt like a disappointment. While I’m typing this without my projections in front of me, it seems like he essentially hit upon my expectations, so I’m very surprised it only landed him 22nd overall. Probably because everyone else went bonkers on the home run front, so merely reaching my home run projection this year wasn’t enough. I bet he’s undervalued next year.

Manny Machado salvaged a weak first half on the batting average front with a more Machado-like second half. It wasn’t enough to push him into the top five at the position, though, let alone the top three. If he comes at any sort of discount next year, gobble him up.

Justin Turner would have given me my sole Picks win had he not missed time due to injury. If it wasn’t plainly obvious by now, he’s no fluke. There are many interesting nuggets in this profile, but we’ll save discussing each one of them for a future article.

Soooo, Todd Frazier was quietly one of this season’s biggest fantasy busts. A tiny part of that was recording his lowest plate appearance total since 2012, but of course, he also still hasn’t corrected his pop-up problem which, combined with his inflated fly ball rate, led to a putrid .226 BABIP, and .213 batting average. Oh, and he stopped stealing bases. It will be interesting to see what his role is next year.

Now let’s get to the hitters I was more bearish on:

Pod’s Pans — First Base
NAME Mike RG Consensus Diff Actual Winner
Edwin Encarnacion 9 6 3 8 Mike
Wil Myers 19 13 6 15 RG Consensus
Pod’s Pans — Third Base
NAME Mike RG Consensus Diff Actual Winner
Matt Carpenter 12 8 4 27 Mike
Kris Bryant 3 2 1 3 Mike

Finally some wins under my belt!

Given his age and move from a hitter friendly venue to one less so, I was bearish on Edwin Encarnacion. Sure enough, his home HR/FB rate was 18%+, versus a 24%+ in away parks. Overall, he ended virtually the same as last year, though, and essentially the only real difference between his two fantasy lines was a loss of 20 RBI. But with the power surge, the fact that Encarnacion doesn’t contribute in average probably had a great effect on his ranking since his home run total stood out just a bit less than normal.

Coming off the first full season of his career, Wil Myers was an obvious bust candidate. This was especially true after he stole 28 bases out of nowhere. Those steals did decline, but 20 was still a bit more than I expected. And he hit two more homers! Most of that was due to a fly ball rate surge that hit a new career high. Just another metric to expect regression from next season.

I had no idea how I ended up being so bearish on Matt Carpenter, but hey, I guess I was right to be! Carpenter dealt with injuries, but still recorded more plate appearances than in 2016. He took the fly ball revolution to heart, knocking flies at a career high 50.8% clip. Unfortunately, all those fly balls killed his BABIP and led to a career low batting average. He’ll either lose his 20 homer perch in 2018 and bat .270 again, or hit 20+ homers, while batting .240-.250. I’m not going to project both.

I seem to annually be the Kris Bryant pessimist as I simply never believe his BABIP and resulting batting average. And yet, he keeps proving me wrong! And despite improving his strikeout rate again, a decline in HR/FB rate meant he surprisingly failed to hit 30 homers, and that’s what kept him out of the two spot. I’m guessing everyone is a bit surprised and disappointed that it’s now been three seasons for Bryant and his HR/FB rate high is only 18.8%. I would imagine a 20%+ mark is coming soon.

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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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I see no reason not to expect a rebound from Carpenter, seeing as he was playing hurt all season long. That’s what killed his batting average, not that he was selling out to hit more fly balls. He was perfectly capable of hitting for both power and a decent average in 2015 and 2016.