2015 Fantasy Baseball: Plate Discipline — Center Field
Center field is the premier position in baseball history. There are a few notable exceptions, but when you look at the best of the best they are usually center fielders. Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Ty Cobb are obviously sure fire Hall of Famers. Unfortunately, today’s game doesn’t have the same star power in center. In fact, there are fewer players that qualified with the requisite three seasons or 1000 plate appearances than any other position. It just might be a changing of the guard at the position.
These things happen in the game. Certain positions go through periods of transition at one time or another. We are looking for the same things as we have been looking for the past few weeks. We are looking for players that slipped through the cracks that might be a good bet to fly under the radar. We are also looking to see which studs are mostly likely to take a step backwards.
As we have before, we look at the strikeout and walk numbers, but we focus more on the process data. That includes the percentage of swings on balls outside the zone, the contact rate, and the swinging strike rate. Most of the time, the process data matches the performance data, but occasionally we see some gaps. Those gaps are the key to staying ahead of your competition this year.
This one is pretty easy to spot as the differences are stark. The funny thing is that I have always tried to keep each grouping equal, but I just couldn’t do it this time. There isn’t a sixth center fielder here that belongs in that grouping. It probably speaks to the lack of depth in center field. Fantasy fans have been waiting for Adam Jones to take the next step for years. There has been small progress each year, but the numbers above indicate why he is having difficulty making that step. What’s more likely is that he will remain elite for the next couple of seasons and then begin a pretty steep decline.
The same could be said for Carlos Gomez, but he has the proverbial double whammy of relying on speed in addition to relying to superior hand eye coordination. If you take both of those away at the same time and you are looking at a very ordinary player. With the Brewers already in the tank, they might consider dealing him this July. Stay tuned because that could have a profound effect on his immediate value.
In a twelve player league, we have just identified the twelve regulars and only the twelve regulars. At most other positions we could include “bench” in the title of the second grouping. There just isn’t enough depth among the veterans to include that. Of course, as many of you might point out, there are some good young prospects that could easily slide in here. By the end of the season they may have proven themselves.
Most of the players here are actually solid when it comes to plate discipline. The obvious exceptions are Lorenzo Cain and Leonys Martin. Both players established themselves last season as regulars for the Royals and Rangers. They are both young enough to overcome bad process for awhile, but I would caution everyone against really relying on top flight performance. On the other hand, Denard Span quietly put up very good numbers last season and there’s no reason why he can’t do it again. The same could be true of Dexter Fowler if he can remain healthy.
Just about everyone reading this page is familiar with wins above replacement and its various incarnations. For fantasy players, there is a similar concept that we might call replacement value. Simply put, it is the relative difference between the elite players at a position, the solid starters at a position, and the bench players at a position. Center field does not have a great deal of depth when it comes to elite players, but it does have excellent depth at the bottom of the list.
I could have very easily included Adam Eaton, Ben Revere, and Angel Pagan with the regulars lists. If Jon Jay plays every day he could be part of that list as well. Sam Fuld has never been a regular player before, but he is getting his opportunity in Oakland this season. He’s another guy that could produce similar numbers as some of the second tier guys before it is all said and done.
That means that you can effectively add one of these guys on the waiver wire and really come close to the production as the players that went in the draft. Sometimes, it’s hard to force yourself to punt a position on draft day, but center field is one of those positions where you can. This is especially true if you are unable to nab one of those top five guys for whatever reason.