Although the league-average second baseman only hit .250/.307/.364 in 2014, the position was rather deep. Seven second basemen finished the season as top-50 fantasy players in ESPN leagues, including a few breakout stars such as Josh Harrison, Dee Gordon, and Brian Dozier. Ultimately, it proved to be a crazy season in which cheap options on draft day provided some of the best value—as five of the top-10 second baseman were, on average, drafted outside the top 15.
Which of these first sackers should you choose in multi-year formats?
By this point, you’ve seen a few Tale of the Tape articles. Matt Collinskicked us off strong, Craig Goldstein refused to fall victim to groupthink and branched out with a dynasty league version, and Mr. Collins doubled up with another installment this week. The 2015 Tale of the Tape series shines a spotlight on two closely ranked players at the same position, hoping to pry them apart enough to help fantasy owners on draft day. Today, we’re featuring a showdown between Lucas Duda, who was a breakout guy last year, and perennial fantasy darling Brandon Belt. It’s East Coast vs. West Coast. The Big Apple vs. the City of the Bay. The penniless Mets vs. the World Champion Giants.
The Brewer is on the verge of being a bona fide stud at the catcher position.
In early August 2014, Jonathan Lucroy was the top-producing fantasy catcher, and it wasn’t exactly close. He was so far clear of second place that it took an otherworldly performance from Buster Posey over the final two months to surpass the 28-year-old backstop. Still, Lucroy established himself as an elite fantasy option at the catcher position. Owners who drafted him, on average, did so outside the top-five catchers– and those owners were collecting massive surplus value throughout the entire year.
Sizing up the backstop landscape for fantasy purposes.
The 2014 season proved to be a mixed bag at the catcher position. A few players emerged as legitimate top-10 talents, such as Devin Mesoraco and Yan Gomes, while some of the preseason darlings, such as Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos, failed to produce due to injury. Those circumstances, though, seem to add up to an extremely deep position in 2015: If the breakouts carry over and the injured players return to everyday roles, the top 10 could be relatively stacked.
An underappreciated advantage at the catcher position has always been plate appearances. Position players around the diamond amass 600-plus PA with regularity, but in 2014, only three players eclipsed that mark. However, only one catcher (Carlos Santana) did so in 2013. The biggest reason for the increase? Catchers are beginning to play multiple positions. Buster Posey, Jonathan Lucroy, Joe Mauer, Yasmani Grandal, Carlos Santana, Brian McCann, Stephen Vogt, and Evan Gattis all qualified at more than one spot. The added roster versatility is always nice for fantasy owners, but more importantly, the benefit can be found in the PA category. That means more opportunities for counting statistics—a category in which catchers have traditionally struggled. Teams are searching for ways to get quality catchers more plate appearances, which is a boon for fantasy owners wise enough to capitalize on such trends.
Thump and speed in the lineup make up for a mediocre rotation and a possible by-committee closer situation.
The Milwaukee Brewers are an intriguing club for fantasy owners. The squad lacks any obvious flops who project to receive significant playing time. At worst, mediocrity should reign supreme—especially in the starting rotation—but one can reasonably expect above-average production at almost every offensive position. That’s what makes the Brewers attractive for owners; however, that’s also the reason why the Brew Crew could compete for an NL postseason berth, despite being forgotten by the masses due to a quiet offseason.
A note for our readers. While informative, since we are still months away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, these previews are far from definitive or complete. Free agent signings, trades, and other offseason news will change the landscape for most if not all teams. For any moves that take place after a team preview is written, please look to our Transaction Analysis coverage for instant reactions, and then check back on the Team Previews for more detailed updates (including lineups, rotations, bullpens, etc.) as we get closer to Opening Day.
A look at some ways to get your team back in contention post haste.
Dynasty leagues with extensive minor-league rosters have become more popular in recent years. It’s one of the greatest ways to keep all owners engaged throughout the season, as the action never quits. However, such intensive and deep leagues can be intimidating for first-time owners. For example, I joined my first dynasty league in 2014, and it wasn’t with a bunch of amateurs. I jumped into the deep end and participated in TDGX—a 20-team, 40-man roster dynasty league with fantasy experts from across the internet baseball landscape.
It was my first dynasty draft and my first attempt at fielding my own team. Needless to say, it didn’t go smoothly. I made rookie mistakes in the draft. Grabbing elite prospects is important because the league includes a 10-man minor-league roster, but I erred and drafted prospects too early. That made my big-league roster far too shallow.
Coors Field can make a fantasy asset out of just about any major-league hitter.
The Colorado Rockies were a caricature of themselves in 2014, scoring the most runs in the National League while having the worst team ERA in Major League Baseball. Fantasy owners naturally gravitate toward Rockies hitters and run screaming from Rockies pitchers. You won’t find much on this list that disagrees with that assessment, though the organization clearly has some arms working their way toward the big leagues who could improve their fate.
My favorite thing to track from year to year: The Colorado Rockies’ offense posted a .902 OPS in home games and a .636 OPS in road games. That road OPS was second-worst in baseball. Keep that in mind. Guys like Tulo and CarGo should be in the lineup everyday, but the lesser guys are perhaps only “must starts” when playing at home.