Welcome back to another season of the “Two Up, Two Down” series where we discuss two players from each position that we feel will outproduce their draft spot, and two players who we feel will disappoint where they’re being drafted. After a little bit of a delay I’m ready to get the series rolling again before drafts really start to kick in. I don’t see a lot of upside in grabbing second basemen so far this season. For the most part it seems like positional scarcity at second base is being overblown leading to most second basemen being over-drafted. However, there is one guy in particular who I think is being overlooked and should be drafted quite a bit higher.
One of the more interesting things I’ve learned this year is how much average seems to be undervalued for fantasy purposes. While most of us know how little average means in the real world of OPS and other more advanced statistics, it is still it’s own category in most fantasy leagues and it’s important for us to keep that in mind while drafting. The impact that one player can have on average seems quite underestimated when looking at current MDPs. For example, using my own projections in a standard league that starts nine hitters, Michael Young would increase the batting average of an average team by five points on his own. Looking at my article about what it takes to win a roto league, five points in batting average is actually a very significant amount that could cause a swing of as much as six roto points. Another example is in the values that both Michael Young and Mike Stanton have in my rankings. I have both players projected for very similar run, RBI, and stolen base totals, yet they are both worth around $23. Even though I have Stanton hitting 23 more homeruns than Young, the difference is made up for by Young having a projected average 37 points higher. Comparing their MDPs, however, shows Stanton being taken around 30 picks higher than Young despite being only OF eligible and Young being 1B, 2B, and 3B eligible. The difference in MDP is strongly based on a severe undervaluation of average (along with some age discrimination), especially in relation to power. While this is only a quick and dirty way of looking at the impact a single player’s batting average, it does give a general idea of the importance that batting average can have on a fantasy team and how much it seems to be undervalued.
While Young won’t provide too much in terms of power or speed, he has consistently hit for a high batting average and will hit in the middle of a very potent Rangers lineup. That combination should lead to very strong run and RBI totals which make Young quite valuable, especially when his multiple positional eligibility is taken into account. The dual 2B and 3B eligibility (as well as 1B) can also be very valuable both in leaving options open during the draft and in replacing injured or ineffective players once the season begins. Young has a current MDP of 65 and is 39 in my rankings leaving quite a bit of value to be had in taking him anywhere past the fourth round in a standard 12 team league.
I’m not even a huge fan of Kipnis, he’s just the only other second baseman that I have ranked much higher than his current MDP. One thing that does surprise me is that he’s being taken 37 spots after Dustin Ackley. While I don’t expect him to be as good as he was over a small sample in 2011, I fully expect him to outproduce Ackley in every single standard category in 2012. Still, I feel like that’s more of an overvaluation of Ackley (which I’ll explain below) than an undervaluation of Kipnis. I have him ranked 152nd overall, and while that’s not much higher than his current MDP of 169, he’ll be a guy I’m targeting if only because it seems like almost every other second baseman is being overdrafted.
My dislike of Ackley has been well documented in the forums this year. While Ackley projects to be a solid player in the future, his current skill set doesn’t seem all that conducive to producing for a fantasy team. He has never hit for much power and stolen many bases in his professional career and while double digit home runs and steals aren’t out of the question, expecting much more than that in either category doesn’t seem wise. Most of his future value will likely be tied to his batting average, which will be stunted until he can cut down on the strikeouts (21% in 2011). He will likely hit for a high BABIP due to a line drive stroke, so once he is able to bring the strikeouts under control we could see a perennial .300 hitter. Even so, he doesn’t have much major league experience yet and it may take another season for him to figure major league pitching out. If his BABIP regresses from his .339 mark in 2011 (he had a .324 xBABIP) he’ll have a hard time getting his average out of the .270s and could see it slip into the .260s.
Right now Ackley is slated to bad second in the Mariners’ line up. While that’s a great spot in any normal line up for a guy like Ackley to hit, the Mariners are currently planning on leading off with Chone Figgins and batting Ichiro third. Figgins had an awful 2011 where he posted an OBP of .241. Even with regression it’s unlikely he’ll be able to get it much higher than the .320s which is pretty bad for a lead-off hitter. Hitting behind a guy with such poor OBP skills will likely kill Ackley’s RBI opportunities. Not only that, but he’ll be batting ahead of what will likely be one of the worst slugging three-hole hitters in the majors. Ichiro’s career ISO is below .100 and reached a career low of .064 in 2011. A singles hitter is the last guy you want batting third and as long as Ichiro is batting there, Ackley will have a tough time scoring runs. The Mariners are likely going to have the worst 1/3 combination in baseball and Ackley’s counting stats will suffer for it. Put this all together and you have a player being drafted in the 12th round (MDP of 132) who will probably be below average in every category. My personal rankings put Ackley down at 309 overall and while he should probably go higher than that due to upside, taking him in the 12th round looks like a huge mistake. It’s fair to say I won’t be owning him in any leagues this year.
Much like Young’s batting average is being undervalued, Uggla is being overvalued because people seem to be ignoring how much his batting average can hurt. After one of the worst first halves in baseball, Uggla put up a monster second half but still only managed to finish with a .233 batting average. His BABIP should regress pushing his batting average back over .250, but the negative value that a batting average that low produces should not be ignored. He is touted as a monster three category guy, and while he will likely put up very good numbers in those three categories, calling him that diminishes the fact that he brings absolutely nothing in the other two categories and will actually cause significant damage to your team batting average (possibly costing you multiple roto points on his own).
He is currently being drafted in the fourth round, around 46 overall. With the amount of great talent still available at that point, putting your team at such a disadvantage so early in the draft is not something I encourage. He’s being taken above Zobrist and Phillips which i strongly disagree with as both are much more complete players who provide value across the board. I have him ranked 67th overall so he’ll have to fall quite a ways before I’m willing to add him to my roster.
Michael Marinakis is a 26-year-old Giants fan who took 2011 off from fantasy baseball to bask in the glory of the World Series victory. He's now back in the game and looking forward to another year of baseball obsession. You can find him on the forums where he posts as GiantsFan14 or on Twitter @FBC_GiantsFan14.
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