2017 Fantasy Baseball: AL Central Lineup Grades
Fantasy baseball is more or less an individual sport and baseball tends to be a one on one game, but there is a certain synergy that comes from being a part of a team. Players on a good team tend to perform better than players on a bad team. Furthermore, we are learning more and more about the interplay between fielding and pitching. So, given that the offseason only has about a month left, it seemed like a good time to take stock in where our lineups are at.
In order to do this we are looking at three Baseball Prospectus statistics over a three year period. The first is their version of wins above replacement (WARP). It gives us an idea of the relative level of experience of overall proficiency of the lineup. The second is total average (Tav). It calculates everything a player does offensively and factors in park effects and league norms. It is calculated to look like batting average where .260 is considered average. The final statistic is fielding runs above average. Obviously, this is important when considering how successful pitchers might be.
Chicago White Sox
WARP: 13.2 (11th)
TAV: .265 (13th)
FRAA: -3.0 (9th)
The White Sox have made a ton of changes in the offseason, but their lineup has remained fairly stable. Adam Eaton was dealt for a bevy of prospects to the Nationals, but otherwise their lineup is virtually the same. Charlie Tilson takes his spot. He has virtually no track record to speak of, so the Sox can hope for league average performance. Cody Asche takes the place of Justin Morneau at DH, but that likely doesn’t move the needle much either way.
There are no direct questions that remain unanswered, but the Sox have two or three more major chips they could trade for prospects. Two of those chips are pitchers, so they would add to the lineup at this point. Todd Frazier could be dealt, but it seems unlikely at this point.
The White Sox finally got off the mediocrity train this offseason. They had operated on the mistaken impression that if they added one more piece they would get to the playoffs. Now, they are in the process of rebuilding. It will be ugly for awhile, but this gives them a fighting chance.
WARP: 20.7 (4th)
TAV: .270 (5th)
FRAA: 5.4 (8th)
Give the Indians some credit. They could have kept the band together and made another good run at the pennant. Heck, with Michael Brantley returning to health, that approach actually made some sense. Instead, they let Mike Napoli go and signed Edwin Encarnacion instead. The strength of their team is on their pitching staff, but the addition of Brantley and Encarnacion could be enough to make them an upper echelon offense.
The Indians have very little major business to do. They have every spot plugged in with a decent player. They lost Rajai Davis to free agency and with that went their quality depth. They could sign a fourth outfielder to give them cover in case Brantley can’t make it back.
The Indians have to be the prohibitive favorite to repeat as American League champions. Getting Encarnacion was just the icing on the cake.
WARP: 17.0 (8th)
TAV: .272 (3rd)
FRAA: -9.1 (14th)
The Tigers only have made one change. That was a bit of a shocker as they appear to be ready to embark on a rebuilding journey of their own. They traded away Cameron Maybin in order to save a little bit of money. Overall, that change does not effect the Tigers in a significant way.
Of course, when you deal your centerfielder you have to replace him with someone. Rosterresource.com has Tyler Collins penciled in as the regular center fielder. In mid January it is hard to imagine them going that route, but it is certainly possible they may just let the best young man win.
The Tigers may have one of the best lineups through the six hole in all of baseball. Depth is an issue, but as long as they stay healthy they will do some damage. Defense will also be an issue, so you might bump Tiger pitchers down a peg.
Kansas City Royals
WARP: 12.8 (13th)
TAV: .263 (14th)
FRAA: 6.7 (6th)
Middle market teams like the Royals can compete over the course of three or four seasons, but they must retool when pieces get to be too expensive. In the case of the Royals, they only lost Jarrod Dyson and Kendrys Morales from the regular lineup, but lost a lot more from their pitching staff. They added Jorge Soler to the outfield, so offensively they are pretty close.
At present, the Royals have Cheslor Cuthbert penciled in as the designated hitter. He was okay as an injury replacement for Mike Moutakas, but a hitter with a .248 TAV shouldn’t be a regular at any position much less DH. There are numerous inexpensive hitters on the market that should be better than that.
The Royals had a nice run. There are probably 25 teams that would kill for two consecutive pennants and one World Championship. Now, they have to find a way to retool with some new prospects, so they can make another run.
WARP: 11.1 (15th)
TAV: .257 (15th)
FRAA: 28.4 (2nd)
Trevor Plouffe was non-tendered and signed with the Oakland Athletics. Their only addition was a defensive one when they added one of the best pitch framers in the game in Jason Castro. Data is a funny thing. While the Twins may be last in the league in total average, the gap between first and last is much less than in the senior circuit. Much like many other teams, they are embarking on a youth movement, so the numbers above really don’t represent the ceiling.
When you are last it doesn’t matter whether you are a distant last or a competitive last. The Dodgers have been flirting with trading for Brian Dozier and they seemingly have hit a snag. There were a few other teams in on that, but they have fallen by the way side for the time being. If they can maximize what assets they have (primarily Dozier and Mauer) then the Twins could become competitive much sooner.
They’ve already finished with a top three pick in this year’s draft. It looks like they will have at least one more season there after this year. This is an organization that needs a serious infusion of talent. If they could make a key deal or two they could get there faster.