2015 Fantasy Baseball: Plate Discipline — Third Basemen
We move forward with another edition of the plate discipline series. As we gain some steam we begin to see some patterns across positions. Obviously, we are concerned about individual players, but sometimes it makes sense to look at the aggregate. In this case, it might help us understand what is happening at each position and how we can improve our overall draft strategy.
For those just joining us, we are looking at not only strikeouts and walks, but also what we would call process data. That includes looking at how often hitters swing at balls outside the strike zone (Oswing), how often they make contact (Contact), and how often they swing and miss (SwStr). Often, when we see good process data it leads to a solid strikeout to walk ratio. The opposite is true as well. Before we dive into the third basemen, let’s take a look at how the position stacks up with the rest.
As you can see, third basemen have the worst strikeout to walk ratio amongst these peers. That includes the lowest walk rate. Fantasy players can treat this two different ways. Either they can make sure they get one of the elite third basemen or they can punt the position and take their chances. Ironically, there are more experienced third basemen than almost at any position. Let’s take a look at the elite guys.
This grouping demonstrates the difference between performance data and process data. With the exception of Todd Frazier, all of these guys have strikeout to walk ratios that are better than the positional median. Furthermore, most have walk rates better than the median (Frazier was the median). This isn’t shocking at all. Elite players should outperform the positional median. Yet, we see something else when we look at the process data.
Both Todd Frazier and Adrian Beltre are succeeding in spite of shaky process numbers. Beltre is a future Hall of Famer, so it stands to reason that he might be a simple anomaly. Frazier on the other hand is a perfect regression candidate. He had a career year this past season and many fantasy players bought into that as a predictor of things to come. The rest have matching process and performance data.
Regulars and Bench
There really is no reason or rhyme to this group, so you have to look at individual players. There are some fantasy regulars in this group. This season, that list would include Nolan Arenado, Pablo Sandoval, and Josh Harrison. In some leagues that would include Martin Prado and Chase Headley as well. The first three are all very similar. They are overhyped and therefore are potential albatrosses on their fantasy teams.
It is unusual to find a player where 38 percent of their swings come on balls outside the zone. In this case, that makes Harrison the best of the three. We haven’t seen a regular player with a 40 percent Oswing rate. Third base has three of them and two are in this group of three. That makes Headley and Prado much safer picks in the long run. Unfortunately, draft day is gone, but you might consider trading any of those players before they are discovered.
On the positive side, Aramis Ramirez may not be a traditional regular third baseman anymore, but he does make a decent bench option when paired with another of these guys. His process data was actually better than I thought it would be. He is too old and usually too frail to ride as a fantasy regular, but as a bench option you could do a lot worse.
When we get down to this point we are looking only for sleepers. I shudder to say it, but the number one sleeper on the board just might be Alex Rodriguez. Of course, he fully deserves getting to this point. You take a player naturally aging (well, sort of), have him miss a year, and then drag his name through the mud and you can see why a number of people just threw him off their draft board. Heck, I might have done the same. That being said, he is one of six third sackers to have a walk rate north of ten percent. He has the best rate amongst the players on this list. Add that to his power potential and you can make a very good case for adding him on waivers.
The only other name worth mentioning is Luis Valbuena. Valbuena shouldn’t be anywhere near a starting fantasy lineup, but as a backup you could do a lot worse. In some leagues he will be eligible at second base and third base. Last season, he played everyday for the first time in his career and added 16 home runs. Again, it isn’t starting material, but in six category leagues he can be sneaky effective.