Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins
Dozier has been a worthwhile second baseman since entering the league; no one's doubting that. He's virtual lock to crack double digits in every non-rate category and has somehow scored 100-plus runs on the lowly Twins for three straight years.
But everything that made Dozier a top-25 hitter in 2016, and not just a barely-top-100 hitter in 2015, is tied up entirely in the circumstances of last season's power surge. It depends if you believe Dozier's power stands on its own. Color me skeptical: per StatCast, his average exit velocity (on both flyballs/line drives and overall) and his Barrels per ball in play don't rank particularly well relative to his contemporaries, and neither of those metrics fundamentally changed from 2015 to 2016.
His extra RBI, his extra 20 points of batting average—they're all the result of his extra home runs, and you'll be hard-pressed to convince me the peripherals support it. Sure, he hit a few extra fly balls, but at the expense of line drives, not ground balls. And he improved his hard-hit rate, but so did everyone else. Take away those homers and Dozier's power not only fails to impress given 2017's deep second base crop but also falls to the back end of said crop because how much his would-be batting average drags him down.
I'm risk-averse, especially in the second or third round of a draft. Dozier is liable to produce, but you'll be drafting him at his absolute ceiling in 2017 despite evident red flags. —Alex Chamberlain
Rougned Odor, Texas Rangers
I like Odor a good bit, actually. It’s hard not to. The kid went 33/14 as a 22-year-old, after all, and with a respectable batting average to boot. And what was really impressive about his effort was the demonstrated ability to make adjustments and continue piling up numbers in the second half, even as pitchers tried to work him farther down and out of the zone; he just started dropping the bathead more often and pulling balls with authority in response. Ho hum. But what worries me here is that there are holes in the swing that can be exploited better, namely in the upper and outer portions of the strike zone, and given his abject aggressiveness I wouldn’t be surprised to see pitchers more effectively concentrate their efforts. His chase rate skyrocketed last year, and his contact rate tumbled down accordingly. Solidly above-average exit velocity mitigates some of the batting average risk, though his pull-happy (read: shiftable) ways aren’t likely to produce a spiked BABIP without a whole bunch of luck.
With young players we tend to default our expectations towards improvement, but especially for a player with Odor’s approach the downside risk is every bit as important to price in. And that’s just not happening right now, as he’s going off the board sixth among second basemen and inside the top 40 overall in NFBC drafts. This on the heels of a $22 season that rated 10th at the position, mind you. But instead of assuming automatic improvement, let’s say the homerun binge and generally successful offensive effort encourages him to double down on some of the worrisome trendlines: the chase rate creeps further in the wrong direction, the whiff rate continues on a similar path, and he gets worked increasingly away by savvy pitchers, leading to more rolled-over contact. A .250 hitter with 25-homer pop and double-digit steals is still a good player at second base, but given the sudden depth at the position that kind of downside risk is a little more than I’m willing to gamble on with a third-round pick. – Wilson Karaman
Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals
I am not going to waste your time or mine suggesting that the changes to Murphy’s swing aren’t sustainable. They are, and the Nationals pulled off a coup last winter when they signed Murph to a multiyear deal. My concern is with Murphy’s fantasy value. Murphy finished 36th overall in mixed leagues per the PFM, which is exactly where he is being drafted now. I’m all for paying the top players what they are worth. What I don’t like doing is paying for batting average for a hitter who isn’t perennially elite in the category. I trust Murphy to hit between .310 and .320, but even that level of slippage impacts his value yet isn’t being accounted for in NFBC drafts. I’m not worried much about his BABIP in general, but rather with the success Murph had against the shift. Because he is a straight pull hitter, a traditional shift should have been more effective against Murphy than it was. I anticipate more shifts against Murphy this year and more success by teams shifting against him.
My other concern is with the recurring hamstring issues Murphy had last year and the related glute injury that sidelined him late in the season. Murphy did commit to a strength and conditioning program this winter and is slated to play in the World Baseball Classic, but while conditioning can help, it isn’t bulletproof. Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post reported in December that Nationals trainers believe that hamstring and leg issues will always be a concern for Murphy. Given the wealth of options at second base, I’m not eager to pay a par price for a 32-year-old hitter coming off a career year who is battling a health issue that team’s medical staff suggests will linger (as always, the usual “not-a-doctor” disclaimers apply). —Mike Gianella
Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals
There are two major trends for hitters that I am seeing in early ADP analysis and both, I believe, are making us over-draft Matt Carpenter (current NFBC ADP of 70). The first trend is our tendency to blindly regress AVG, heavily regress AVG, or completely discard AVG when doing our own personal valuations or rankings. While the new, more-strikeouts-and-more-power version of Carpenter is not hurting anyone in AVG, he is significantly worse in this department than other second base options that are going later than him in drafts, such as D.J. LeMahieu (87) and Dustin Pedroia (137).
The next trend is our tendency to overrate high home run numbers for a position, while underrating smaller contributions in stolen bases. Carpenter only hit 21 home runs in 2016, but he did so in only 566 plate appearances (he missed time because of an oblique strain). Given that he hit 28 home runs in 665 plate appearances in 2015, and given that he played in 154 or more games from 2013 to 2015, it is easy and not unreasonable to extrapolate his 2016 power production when forecasting his 2017 power production (which early ADP indicates drafters have done). The issue, though, is that 28 home runs are not as valuable as they were three to five years ago. Moreover, Carpenter stole zero bases last season and was caught four times. The most steals he ever had in a season was five; therefore, expecting more than two or three steals from the 31 year old would be unwise.
And lastly, as mentioned before, we overrate positional flexibility. This is all to say that while Carpenter is a really good baseball player, he is being overrated right now in fantasy baseball and he is being valued more highly than superior options; so let's pass until the market corrects itself. –Jeff Quinton
Trea Turner, Washington Nationals
One of my least favorite parts of fantasy baseball is when the players you enjoy the most have value that is overinflated. Trea Turner is an absolute blast to watch. He’s crazy athletic, and smart enough to put it to practical use on the field. That’s how you steal 33 bases in 73 games — a 73 SB base over 162 games. Even if that pace is (probably) a little unrealistic, it still shows how valuable he can be in that area alone. He combined that with a great ability to hit the ball hard, leading to a .342 AVG and a .225 ISO. All of that in his first significant major-league time at just 23 years old.
And yet, I have a feeling I won’t own him in any single-season leagues this year. As of this writing, the shortstop-turned-outfielder-turned-second-baseman-turned-back-to-shortstop is being selected 11th overall. In other words, if you want Turner, you’re going to have to use a first round pick. For as much fun as he is, I’m a little scared of betting so much on a strong half-season. Who knows if the power is going to stick around for the entire league, never mind a rookie on whom the league now has significantly more information. We’re also talking about a guy who had a .388 BABIP last year, and his best-case AVG will probably be much closer to .300 in 2017. Even just a round later, Turner seems like a great get. Right now, however, he’s being selected ahead of Josh Donaldson, Anthony Rizzo, Madison Bumgarner, and Miguel Cabrera. That’s the kind of player I want with my first-round pick. –Matt Collins
Starlin Castro, New York Yankees
Take a look at Starlin Castro's end-of-season line and you might think you're onto something. 21 homers from a second baseman on a decent offensive team? Not too shabby. The .270 average isn't great, but playing a full season — and dude always plays full season — with some pop might make you think he could be a nice $1 or late-round player. He's not.
Castro s not a diamond in the rough. He's not gold. He's not even fool's gold. He's not even fool's silver. Let's go with fool's bronze The problem with Castro is that to get the counting stats you see in the end-of-season line, you have to play him every day, as his employers do. The day-to-day expectations are so low, however, that he'll rarely be the best option on any given day or in any given week. He might not even be in the top three.
He's doomed largely because his baserunning is so bad he has basically stopped trying to steal bases altogether. Yeah, he stole double-digit bags and hit .300 more than once early in his career, but his flailing ways at the plate and his flopping ways on the bases have basically made that an impossibility, no matter how warm a streak he can put together from time to time. And sure, if he puts together a solid month, you can plug-and-play him. Just don't stretch for him now. He'll be in the bargain bin when you need him. —Bryan Joiner
Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
Fantasy owners who drafted Pedroia last season were in for a pleasant surprise. In mixed leagues, he provided top 10 value at the position. It was Pedroia’s best offensive season since 2013 by TAv, and he showed flashes of the player fans remembered from his prime.
The fact that this season stands out so much compared to his previous two seasons is one of the major reasons I’m concerned about his production in 2017. He’s 33 years- ld, and he’s coming back from offseason knee surgery. Those facts alone should make owners cautious to expect a repeat of Pedroia’s performance from a year ago.
In terms of counting stats, Pedroia provided owners with the most value thanks to his 105 runs scored. That total was good enough for 16th best in baseball. He spent the bulk of the season hitting in front of two or three (depending on Betts place in the order) of MLB’s top six RBI leaders. One of those hitters retired (for now), and if one of the other two take a step back Pedroia’s production in this area could slip as well.
Could Pedroia have a similar season to 2016? Sure. But he brings plenty of question marks, and there are much safer bets at his tier. —Eric Roseberry