Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Mark Steinbach - Drafting Infielders in 2011

Knowing the strength or scarcity of each position during your fantasy baseball draft is incredibly important. To draft effectively, you must evaluate each position, gauge its strength and then draft accordingly, either shelling out money or high draft picks to get one of the position’s lone stars, or waiting to capitalize on the depth of the position. I’ll be grading each position, with an A+ meaning very strong and deep and an F meaning very shallow and weak.
Catcher - You have to have a bit of historical perspective when looking at the 2011 crop of catchers. Sure, it isn’t as good as first base or outfield, but the fact is, catcher has never been as good as those positions in terms of hitting. It’s a classically defensive-minded position, so the fact that there are at least five guys capable of hitting 20+ homers at this position this year is a luxury that we didn’t have for many years. At the same time: It’s still not very good at all and what I especially hate about it this year is the presence of so many young, expensive players. I don’t care how good he was last year...I’m not paying 15 bucks on Buster Posey, a guy who has played just over a hundred big league games. And, no, I’m not paying 12 bucks on Carlos Santana, a guy who suffered a serious injury during his rookie year. This stance is compounded by the fact that the fifth best catcher isn’t much better than the tenth best catcher. Do we really know that Carlos Santana will be “ten dollars better” than Kurt Suzuki or even Jorge Posada? Really, I don’t wanna end up spending more than 2% of my budget on catcher this year. C+

First Base - You know what makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside? The fact that Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard and Adam Dunn are the 7th, 8th and 9th ranked first baseman respectively (in terms of where they’re being drafted). These guys are studs. Go a bit deeper and you find Justin Morneau, a guy who always has a really high ceiling if he stays healthy, as well as Kendry Morales and Billy Butler (guys you’ll especially target if you like your team a little overweight...). Even old, crusty guys like Derek Lee and Lance Berkman are going for pretty reasonable prices and are worth taking a chance on if you think they have one more solid year in them. A-

Second Base - Half of your league will end up with a productive, consistent second baseman. The other half of your league is screwed. Second base is actually really strong at the top, with guys like Robbie Cano, Chase Utley, Dustin Pedroia and Dan Uggla (and Ian Kinsler can be included in that, if you’re feeling lucky). Brandon Phillips is just about the definition of boring, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be productive and approach 20-20 in homers and steals. Then it gets a bit topsy-turvy. You have Martin Prado who I don’t totally believe in. I’m always weary of guys who “specialize” in average and runs. Rickie Weeks is a total rollercoaster. 30 homers from a second baseman is awesome, but I still would want to wait a year and see if he can replicate that power before I think of him as a top-7 second baseman. Kelly Johnson is shaky and Ben Zobrist terrifies me. If you end up with any of these 7th ranked to 11th ranked guys, you’d be smart to pair them with a cheaper back-up with upside, like Brian Roberts or Neil Walker. Second base is deeper than you think and has some star power, but don’t get burned by these rather expensive question marks. B

Third Base - Pretty similar to second base, but lacks the depth that that position has. It’s pretty smart to grab one of the top four guys (Evan Longoria, David Wright, Ryan Zimmerman, A-Rod) because after that, it gets dicey. It’s a mix of total wild cards (Jose Baustista, Adrian Beltre), old guys on the down slope (Aramis Ramirez) and just total WTF guys (Pablo Sandoval, Ian Stewart). I just feel like some of these guys going for over fifteen dollars are going to totally suck this year. Very scary group here. C

Shortstop - A slippery slope, my friends. Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzski deserve no introduction - they’re top ten studs, no questions asked. The rest is a total wash. The 3rd, 4th and 5th shortstops being drafted (Jose Reyes, Derek Jeter, Jimmy Rollins respectively) are all either aging or dealing with injuries that jeopardize their skill set...or both. If I get any of those three guys on my team, paying around 20 bucks for each of them, I’m in trouble. Then there’s Elvis Andrus. Do you really want to pay 15 dollars for a guy who hit as many home runs as I did last year? He hit zero home runs. You’re putting yourself at a power disadvantage if you have him this year. Each use a great deal of your budget/picks on Hanley/Tulo (not a bad idea at all) or go for a cheap sleeper, scour the waiver wire and accept the horror of the shortstop position.

Mark Steinbach

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