Reviewing 2017 Pod’s Picks & Pans — Second Base & Shortstop

Let’s finish the infield by reviewing my 2017 Pod’s Picks at second base and shortstop.

We start with my picks at each of the two positions, those players I was significantly more bullish than the RotoGraphs Consensus:

Pod’s Picks — Second Base
NAME Mike RG Consensus Diff Actual Rank Winner
Howie Kendrick 19 33 -14 37 RG Consensus
Jose Peraza 9 13 -4 41 RG Consensus
Dee Gordon 7 9 -2 3 Mike

Pod’s Picks — Shortstop
NAME Mike RG Consensus Diff Actual Rank Winner
Alcides Escobar 14 28 -14 35 RG Consensus
Dansby Swanson 13 21 -8 41 RG Consensus

This was not a good showing for me!

I was dramatically more bullish on Howie Kendrick than the rest and I think most of it is because he’s a boring vet who was coming off the worst batting average in his career. Sure enough, he fully rebounded and more, posting the highest wOBA and HR/FB rates of his career. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to just 334 plate appearances, which obviously reduced his counting stats and made it near impossible for me to come out of this battle a winner.

How many of you were burned by Jose Peraza? I loved him the moment Brandon Phillips was traded to open up a starting gig for him. His low strikeout rate meant he was a near lock for a strong batting average and he had the potential to contribute greatly in steals. Unfortunately, he BABIP slipped below .300, which meant that combined with his meager walk rate, he rarely got on base. And since he possesses little power, he was one of the worst hitting regulars in baseball. I’m not sure a starting job is in his future.

I’m not sure why anyone was relatively low on Dee Gordon as he is a shoe-in for 50+ steals and owned a .286 career batting average heading into the season. You might not like drafting a guy who generates so much value in just one category, but rankings aren’t draft strategy. Value is value whether it comes mostly from one category and a little bit in all.

I have nothing much to say about Alcides Escobar. It’s not like I liked him a whole lot, his projections simply led to a projected dollar value that’s more than you would think. Of course, that assumed at least high teen steals. Instead, he stopped doing the only thing his owners bought him for, and he swiped just four bases all season, and was caught stealing more often than ever before.

Dansby Swanson got off to a horrid start that earned him a demotion to Triple-A. He was much better offensively once he returned, though his real baseball results didn’t actually help fantasy owners any given that he failed to homer and stole just one base. I actually like his overall skill set, but I think his willingness to steal will determine how he performs for fantasy owners next year. He needs to reach or come close to double digits to be a worthwhile asset in mixed leagues.

Now let’s dive into the pans:

Pod’s Pans — Second Base
NAME Mike RG Consensus Diff Actual Rank Winner
Rougned Odor 11 8 3 18 Mike
Neil Walker 26 20 6 43 Mike

Pod’s Pans — Shortstop
NAME Mike RG Consensus Diff Actual Rank Winner
Addison Russell 19 9 10 37 Mike
Carlos Correa 4 2 2 7 Mike
Trevor Story 7 5 2 18 Mike
Javier Baez 27 20 7 11 RG Consensus

Nearly a clean sweep in my favor this time!

I was bearish on Rougned Odor in every corner of his offensive profile, expecting regression in his HR/FB rate and BABIP, along with fewer steals. Indeed, his BABIP collapsed as he simply couldn’t keep up a near league average mark while getting shifted so frequently. He also doesn’t hit enough line drives and pops-up far too frequently. He didn’t lose the HR/FB power I expected, but he probably benefited some from the same magic the rest of the league did. Surprisingly, he attempted the same number of steals and succeeded one additional time. Overall, the counting stats were actually very similar to 2016, but that .204 batting average as an absolute killer.

It was all about the injuries for Neil Walker, who recorded just 448 plate appearances. I was baffled at my bearish ranking considering my projection was almost identical to Steamer, but with a higher batting average. I guessed the other rankings believed in his HR/FB rate spike more than I did, and sure enough, his mark regressed right back down to his career average.

I’m not sure why people have been obsessed with Addison Russell. I have been the big bear the last two years, as I have been very down on his batted ball profile and BABIP potential. His spot in the order also capped my RBI and runs scored projections. And since he doesn’t steal bases, he’s essentially a one-category shortstop, with perhaps some potential for RBI value. Injuries derailed his season, but it was basically a carbon copy of his 2016. Buying him as a top 10 shortstop again means you’re baking in lots of improvement in many areas of his game.

I wasn’t truly bearish on Carlos Correa, as he was part of a foursome on my values, all of whom were worth within two bucks of each other. I would have been dead wrong if it wasn’t for a thumb injury that limited him to just 481 plate appearances, as he increased his fly ball and HR/FB rates, and posted a career high BABIP (though that definitely looks fluky). The real question mark now is about his speed. He attempted just three steals after swiping double digit bases in his first two years. If he’s not stealing bases, then he’s Corey Seager. It’s fine and dandy, of course, but makes it more difficult for him to separate himself from the pack.

I actually liked Trevor Story heading into the year as all his underlying skills supported his outrageous 2016 output. But he fell back to Earth a bit as he struck out even more often, while seeing his HR/FB rate slip into the mid-teens. It’s pretty amazing that he strikes out so often even while playing half his games in Coors Field, a park that notoriously reduces strikeouts.

Somehow, some way, Javier Baez finds his way onto the field often enough to have accrued just over 500 plate appearances. Playing time was the big question mark and one of the reasons he was ranked so low by me, as his counting stat projections just weren’t high enough to yield much value. But he also made the most of that playing time, posting a .345 BABIP despite just a 15.4% LD%, and setting a career best in HR/FB rate at 19.7%. So he was an all-around contributor, which is exactly what those who crossed their fingers that playing time would be there were hoping for.

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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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Carlos Correa has an xBABIP of .362 this year against his .352 RL-BABIP so its not completely flukey, also pulled the ball a lot less this year….wanted to go more in depth but there seems to be a problem with his baseballsavant page.