Dynasty Fantasy Baseball: Middle Infielders to Sell
Even though the calendar has flipped over to 2021, the dynasty landscape remains an interesting place following the crazy 2020 season. Plenty of player values are being examined under a microscope right now to determine the validity of their 2020 performances and how we should rank and value them in 2021 and beyond. That’s what we’ll be diving into today with three middle infielders I’m looking to sell right now in dynasty fantasy baseball leagues.
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Dynasty Fantasy Baseball: Middle Infielders to Sell
DJ LeMahieu, Free Agent
This was an easy pick. Including DJ LeMahieu here doesn’t mean that I think he’s not a good hitter. He’s a very good hitter, but one that has been very much aided by playing in Yankee Stadium the last two seasons. That’s especially true for his power. Coming into 2019, LeMahieu had amassed 49 home runs in 918 games as a member of the Colorado Rockies and Chicago Cubs. Then, in 195 games with the New York Yankees in 2019 and 2020, he slugged 36. LeMahieu went from hitting a homer once every 18.7 games to once every 5.4 games. That’s quite the difference and those of you that have rostered LeMahieu over the last two years can thank Yankee Stadium for that.
|Coors Field (COL)||1738||.329||.386||.447||82.8|
|Yankee Stadium (NYY)||390||.359||.414||.628||14.4|
|All Other Parks||2114||.275||.322||.380||57.1|
Throughout LeMahieu’s career, he’s mostly been a line-drive hitter that uses the entire field well, especially going to the opposite field. In total, 74.5% of his batted balls have gone to center or right with only 25.5% being pulled to left. In Yankee Stadium, that’s a recipe for success with that extremely short right field porch and how balls tend to carry to right and right-center. If I could direct your eyes to the image below, you’ll see how Yankee Stadium greatly impacted LeMahieu for the better.
Those HR/FB ratios are a major step up from his previous levels and simply aren’t sustainable outside of Yankee Stadium. It’s really hard to have a 32-homer pace as DJ did in 2020 with a 56.6% groundball rate and 21.1% flyball rate. But hey, when over 1/4 of your flyballs are leaving the yard, it works out for you.
Another place this shows up prominently is in his expected HR by park numbers. LeMahieu had an xHR mark of 11 for Yankee Stadium in 2020, which is more than every other Major League park. Only three of his home runs would’ve left Kauffman Field in Kansas City. “But Eric, he’s not going to sign with Kansas City.” Very true. How about Dodger Stadium then as that’s a possible landing spot for him? Only five of his batted balls would’ve left the yard there. If he played for the Angels, Blue Jays, or Mets it would’ve been six, seven, and seven respectively in those parks. In general, LeMahieu had an xHR of 6.8, which is a significant drop from his actual total of 10.
His lowly 2.9% barrel rate and 2.3-degree launch angle aren’t doing him any favors outside of Yankee Stadium when it comes to hitting for power. LeMahieu hits the ball hard in general, as evident by his average exit velocity being above 91 mph in each of the last three seasons, but this simply isn’t the profile of the 30-homer bat without the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium to give him a boost.
I honestly could go on and on about this. But I’ll cap it with one last thing. In 2020, LeMahieu’s AVG (.364), SLG (.590), and wOBA (.422) vastly outperformed his xBA (.315), xSLG (.462), and xwOBA (.355). In fact, the differences in the last two were both the largest in baseball and the difference in his AVG and xBA was the 12th highest.
Now, I’m not saying that LeMahieu is going to decline to that slash line you see next to “all other parks” above. He’s simply too good of a pure hitter. But if LeMahieu doesn’t resign with the Yankees, I’d anticipate a noticeable power dropoff in 2021 from the 30-homer pace he’s been at with the Yankees over the last two seasons. For the sake of this article, let’s say LeMahieu hits .300 with 15-20 home runs and five steals in 2021. Is that valuable? Absolutely. Is that worthy of a top-30 overall pick? Absolutely not.
The closest statistical match to that I could find in 2019 was Jeff McNeil at .318/23/5. That’s a very reasonable outcome for DJLM and would keep him within the top-100 at season’s end, maybe even close to the top-50. But that’s simply not good enough to match his current ADP and dynasty price tag. I’d be trying to sell all the LeMahieu shares I had as this talented yet aided hitter enters his mid-30s and likely leaves Yankee Stadium in 2021.
Ketel Marte, Arizona Diamondbacks
I’ve never understood the love for Ketel Marte. He’s had exactly one season where he was a legit fantasy star and even that was fluky if you ask me. In 2019, Marte had that great .329/97/32/92/10 season, but has been mostly underwhelming outside of that. In 2020, he still hit for a high average (.287), but could only muster two homers and one steal in 45 games. That’s an 8/4 pace over 162-games. I’m sorry, but .287/8/4 does NOTHING for me. I’m not saying he’s only going to produce at that level in 2021, but I’d bet every dollar I have that Marte’s 2019 performance will go down as the best season of his career. His profile simply does not match up with his current price tag in dynasty leagues.
Now, let’s start with the positives surrounding Marte’s contact skills. Since the start of the 2019 season, Marte has recorded the 15th best contact rate (84.5%), 15th best Z-Contact rate (91.2%), 12th best O-Contact rate (74.7%), and 17th lowest SwStr rate (7.3%). On top of that, Marte posted a 98th percentile whiff rate and 99th percentile K rate in 2020. When it comes to making contact, limiting strikeouts, and hitting for average, Marte is rock-solid. But it’s the power/speed profile that I’m not impressed by at all.
Marte’s 2019 power spike was a culmination of everything clicking at exactly the right time. Mainly, a spike in HR/FB rate and career-best marks in FB%, HH%, EV, barrel rate, and launch angle. These numbers have been VERY pedestrian in every season for Marte outside of 2019. We saw these stabilize in 2020 and even decrease below his career norms. Marte recorded a 3.7% barrel rate, 89.2 mph average exit velocity, and saw his xSLG, wOBA, xwOBA, and xwOBACON all drop between 85 and 152 points. That barrel rate finished in the 13th percentile in baseball in 2020.
With all that said, Marte did record 57th percentile exit velocity and 56th percentile hard-hit rate, so we can expect more than an 8-homer pace in 2021. But how much more? The same can be said about his speed. Marte has averaged 10.7 steals per 162 games throughout his career and has only reached double-digit steals twice. His 70th percentile sprint speed is solid, but there’s just never been a big desire to run here.
For 2021, I’m expecting an average in the ballpark of his .287 mark in 2020 with 12-15 homers and 5-10 steals as well. That’s certainly enough to make him fantasy relevant, but that 85.4 ADP I’m seeing right now on NFBC is way too high for my liking. The lower power output means less RBI as well. I’d highly recommend selling Marte shares now as I’m willing to bet his ADP will be a good 50-60 spots lower in 2022.
Cavan Biggio, Toronto Blue Jays
Over the last few years, the Toronto Blue Jays have developed several intriguing hitters and Cavan Biggio is certainly one of them. With several more on the way as well, this Toronto lineup is one to watch moving forward. So far in 159 career games, Biggio has totaled 24 home runs, 20 steals, 102 runs, and 76 RBI with a .240/.368/.430 slash line. But with that said, I’m concerned with Biggio’s profile and wonder just how much of an impact he can make long-term.
We all know the book on Biggio by now. He’s going to draw a ton of walks year in and year out, post a solid OBP, and provide some power and speed. However, the contact skills are middle of the road and his quality of contact got even worse in 2020.
That’s a lot of blue balls in the above picture. And as we all know, blue balls are never a good thing. Biggio ranked in the bottom 30% of the league in exit velocity, barrel%, hard-hit rate, xBA, and xSLG with the last three all ranking in the bottom 13% of the Majors. And with the exception of a slightly better wOBA and K%, Biggio’s metrics decreased across the board in 2020. Yes, it was just a 60-game season, but some of these are substantial drop-offs.
You gotta love that walk rate and how it keeps his OBP higher than it should, but outside of that, there’s not a lot of metrics to be excited about here. Out of the 257 hitters that qualified, Biggio ranked 157th in xwOBA, 225th in xSLG, and 223rd in xBA. Those three metrics were 47, 85, and 35 points below his actual metrics, signaling that he overperformed in 2020. That overperformance spread to his home run total as well as Biggio’s eight homers were above his xHR rate of 5.8. Even his launch angle dropped 3.4 degrees. That launch angle has helped Biggio overperform in the home run department as a professional. That’s a tough basket to put all your eggs in year in and year out.
What format you play in plays a big part in how you value Biggio moving forward. It’s obvious that he’s always going to be more valuable in OBP leagues than AVG leagues. But let’s get past that for a second. In general, regardless of format, I believe Biggio is valued too highly. As I mentioned with Marte above, I’m in the mindset that his value and ADP is going to be dozens of spots lower when we’re doing our 2021 draft prep. Is a .230ish hitter that finishes in the area of 15/15 worth a top-100 pick or top-100 price tag in dynasty? That’s a big no for me.
And as Toronto continues to bring up more talented hitters like Austin Martin, Jordan Groshans, and others, Biggio isn’t a lock to remain near the top of the order. Yes, his OBP will always remain solid due to the higher walk rate, but Austin Martin and his plus to double-plus hit tool are tailor-made for hitting high in the lineup. If Biggio drops down in the order, his runs scored production is sure to follow. In dynasty leagues, I’d be selling Biggio now before his price tag drops.
Others to Consider Selling-High
Ha-Seong Kim, SD: As the latest exciting Korean player to come to the United States and newest San Diego Padre, the hype surrounding Ha-Seong Kim right now is profound. As I write this, I’m currently in the middle of a Best Ball draft on Fantrax, and Kim was taken in the 10th round (#118 overall) as the 12th shortstop and 8th 2nd baseman off the board. There’s no question that Kim is talented enough to be a viable fantasy asset, but we’ve seen how difficult the transition can be from the KBO to MLB. With all the hype surrounding him right now and the fact that he’s now a Padre, which seems to drive up cost a bit, it’s a good time to see what you can get for him.
Ronny Mauricio, NYM: Chris Clegg and I recently discussed Mauricio on the Fantrax Prospect Toolshed, and neither one of us was impressed by Mauricio’s profile. While he’s been young at every level of the minors thus far, I’m just not seeing the star potential that has been bestowed upon him. Do I think there’s a future where Mauricio is a competent Major League hitter? Absolutely. But what I don’t see is an impact bat capable of .280/30 seasons. For me, he’s more in the .260-.270, 15-20 HR range with a handful of steals annually at most.
Media/Link Credit: Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire, Baseball Savant, Fangraphs
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