Free agent Jed Lowrie signs a two-year deal with the New York Mets worth $20 million. And in doing so, has muddied the waters for the fantasy impact of their infield. Firstly, for the Mets it’s a fine move as Lowrie has versatility and is coming off his best season as a pro as well as playing a career high 157 games (making it 310 in the last two years). The reason of the unclarity now with the Mets is their seemingly abundance of infielders. Prior to the Mets acquiring Robinson Cano from the Seattle Mariners in a trade, the Mets projected to have Jeff McNeil starting at second base, Todd Frazier at third with Amed Rosario at shortstop. That kept first base free for top prospect at the position in baseball; Peter Alonso (Dominic Smith filling in until Alonso was deemed ready).
Due to Lowrie’s versatility, he could be the flexible infielder who spots days off and moves around the diamond. Which makes sense for the Mets but isn’t what you want for your fantasy team. But there are plenty of variables in play here. Cano can move to first base which may make sense now he’s 36 and a huge two years older than Lowrie which frees up second base. Frazier can also move over to first base which allows Lowrie time to play third (which he’s done in 145 career games). And Lowrie can also slide in at shortstop should Rosario miss any time (although he hasn’t played shortstop for two years, he spent the early years of his career there and actually has more career games there than at second). With Cano a leftie hitter and Frazier a rightie, this also opens up platoon possibilities if the Mets want to go down that path which would come as a shock seeing as Cano actually had more success against southpaws last year (.893 OPS vs LHP and .818 OPS vs RHP). My feeling is the Mets first choice lineup on Opening Day will see Cano at first, Frazier at third, Lowrie at second and Rosario at shortstop, leaving McNeil as the utility sub infielder and delaying Alonso’s Major League bow. This whole thing would be a lot simpler if the National League employed the DH!
That’s not to say you avoid drafting either McNeil or Alonso, but it’s worth noting their possible limited playing time heading into your drafts. Both of them have enough talent to make an impact and there will always be the likelihood of injuries, struggles or they just hit too well to be ignored. The below table shows where each of the Mets’ infielders were being drafted in NFBC live drafts before and after the Lowrie news broke on January 10th (67 drafts pre and 8 drafts since).
|Player||NFBC ADP pre January 10th||NFBC ADP post January 10th||Difference|
|Robinson Cano||130||112||+ 18|
|Amed Rosario||140||155||– 15|
|Peter Alonso||248||262||– 14|
|Jeff McNeil||243||336||– 93|
|Jed Lowrie||279||231||+ 48|
|Todd Frazier||472||642||– 170|
Although only a small sample since the Lowrie signing, it’s still significant how much McNeil’s stock has fallen and how much Lowrie’s is on the rise. I’d expect these trends to continue going forward to Opening Day. This is also a case of fantasy meeting reality. Frazier is most likely the first to lose playing time as and his 2018 numbers would justify that (only Rosario had a lower OPS than Frazier) and his fielding isn’t enough to keep him as a regular like it will with Rosario. It’s just a case of whether it will be McNeil or Alonso who takes up he reigns first and where the rest of the pieces lineup. Yes, Lowrie did build on his 2017 breakout with an even better year, but he did slow down markedly in the second half (his batting average dropped from .291 to .231 and his OPS fell by .111 in the second half) so is equally vulnerable.
Obviously one Spring injury could make this all pretty moot but for what it’s worth;
I’d be comfortable drafting Cano in all formats as my second baseman (hoping he gets first base eligibility early in the season). His floor makes him a good option after those early rounds and mitigates a riskier pick in the middle rounds.
Rosario I’m happy with as a middle infielder in all formats and as my shortstop in NL-only leagues, hoping his second half batting gains were legit and his stolen base chances remain. His glove should enable him to hit out of any slump too.
Lowrie for me is a middle infielder in all formats. If his second half drop last year is a sign of things to come, he’s not going to ruin your team at his current price but drafting him higher for his position versatility is useless if he carries on where he left off in the second half of 2018.
Both Alonso and McNeil are guys I’d take in the late rounds with the hope they will get regular playing time sooner rather than later. Depending on your team’s need at that stage of the draft, Alonso is the clear pick for power and McNeil for a more rounded and higher batter average demand. Pairing either with Lowrie makes sense as you have an immediate backup for Lowrie too if he misses time for whatever reason. In NL-only leagues, both are very good bench spot stashes and will be better than most anyone else on waivers.
Frazier is an NL-only or deep rosters/14-team league player late in drafts if you need power and can afford the negative impact on your batting average. In those deep leagues, his handful of stolen bases could also be of use too.