One of the most enjoyable parts of fantasy sports in debating which players are better than others. We’ve all done it. You’re hanging out with some friends, probably enjoying a beer or two, and you get into a long discussion over which player is better than another one. Sometimes it might get heated, but that’s okay. We aren’t all going to agree on every single player. That would make fantasy leagues incredibly boring.
The same can be said here at Fantrax. We have a great group of writers and podcasters (that might not be a word but who cares) who are all very knowledgeable, but we don’t always agree. So we figured we’d have some good ol’ fashion debates about two players that are close in potential 2018 fantasy value.
First base and catcher are out of the way, so let’s take a look at second base. In this debate, we’re discussing two players that go together like peanut butter and spaghetti or tacos and chocolate mile. Yeah, I know. Both of those sets are extremely different, and so are the two men we’re debating below.
Previous Staff Debates
Brian Dozier vs. Dee Gordon
Tale of the Tape
Eric Cross (@EricCross04)
This debate basically boils down to power versus speed. Gordon has 11 career home runs and 278 steals, while Dozier has 151 and 90, respectively. Over the past few seasons, Gordon and Billy Hamilton have been duking it out for the title of best base stealer in the Major Leagues.
The great thing about Gordon is that he helps you out in more than just the stolen base department. Granted, he probably would lose to Bartolo Colon or an umpire in a home run derby, but the runs and batting average are what I’m talking about here. Over his last three full seasons (minus 2016), Gordon has averaged 98 runs per season and is a career .293 hitter. If you’re looking for a three-category speedster, Gordon is your guy.
Speed has become a fickle beast. There were only six players to swipe 30 bags in 2017, and only three of them eclipsed 40. In 2016, those numbers were 15 and five. That leads many to say that speed is harder to come by now. And they’re right. However, that also means speed is harder to replace if a guy like Gordon goes on the disabled list. I don’t necessarily shy away from elite speedsters, but I prefer to get several players in the 10-30 SB range than rely on one guy to get me 50+. Which leads me to Dozier.
The biggest caveat on Dozier was always his sub-.250 batting average. The rest of his stat line always was appealing, but the average put a damper on his overall value. Take a look at the last two seasons, though. Averages of .268 and .271 aren’t great, but they’re damn sure better than the crap he used to put up. To add to the rise in batting average, Dozier has combined for 76 homers over the last two seasons, largely thanks to his ISO, hard contact %, and HR/FB % all rising to new heights.
When you break it down, Gordon will likely get you around .300/2/30/110/60 and Dozier .265/35/95/105/15. The much more balanced stat line is what draws me to the Dozier side in this debate. Both are great players to own, but if Gordon gets hurt, you’re screwed in steals.
— MLB (@MLB) September 27, 2017
Van Lee (@ManlyVanLee)
Let’s start with Brian Dozier. It’s certainly worth noting that he isn’t exactly a zero in the stolen bases category, as he’s swiped double-digit bags each of the previous five seasons. But there’s reason enough to think that his number of stolen bases could plummet at any given moment. Age is definitely a factor, as he has now reached 30 years old, which isn’t ancient but often serves as a solid arbitrary age for a player’s speed to begin waning. I think he’s likely going to top double-digits again, but I’m thinking we see his totals fall into the 10-15 range this year.
Obviously, Dozier is also known for his prodigious power out of the second base spot, as he’s hit an average of 32 home runs over the previous four-year span, with a high of 42 in 2016. That power is very valuable at a middle infield position, but with every player seemingly hitting 20 home runs a season now, that luster has faded a bit. I fully expect Dozier’s power to remain; however, it just isn’t as valuable as it once was.
Dozier is also a bit of a batting average liability considering he has a career .251 mark, and he needed a career-high .300 BABIP last year to elevate his average into the .270 range. A tad of regression here is to be expected, and I project something along the lines of .250/.330/.490 for the coming season with 25-30 HR to go along with those 10-15 stolen bases.
That’s all pretty awesome, but I can’t stress enough how valuable the stolen bases really are in the game today. I wrote an article about some interesting trends in HR and SB totals that you can find here if you’re interested in some extra analysis. In my evaluation, I almost always prefer the guy who can walk against the hitter who relies more on hitting for average, but I make a bit of an exception in the case of Dee Gordon.
If we ignore the disaster season of 2016 (which still really wasn’t that bad), dating back to 2014 we have in Gordon a .310 batting average to go along with an average of 60 steals and 98 runs scored per season. That’s three categories in which he will give you an extreme boost over the competition. He’s one of the few guys that I truly believe is a safe batting average bet thanks to his speed and solid ground ball percentage, and he’s still young enough that he should stay healthy and put up his usual 650-plate appearance season.
I love Dozier. But I love the stolen base benefit you’re going to get from Gordon, so he’s my pick for this debate.
Mick Ciallela (@themick23)
The debate between Brian Dozier and Dee Gordon essentially centers around the likely value of Gordon in 2018 fantasy leagues. We basically know what we’re getting with Dozier in 2018. Over the last two seasons, Dozier posted minimums of a .268 batting average, 104 runs scored, 34 home runs, 93 RBI, and 16 stolen bases. His recent HR/FB percentages (18.4 in 2016, 16.8 in 2017) and hard-hit rates (34.7, 34.1) are certainly sustainable. I would expect Dozier’s final 2018 numbers to mirror those of the past two years, making him a likely top-20 hitter once again.
As for Gordon, 2018 will be a year of transition for the former Miami Marlin. Gordon was traded to the Seattle Mariners back in December and is also undergoing a position change, as he will be manning center field for the M’s. Gordon is an elite base-stealer, averaging 63 stolen bases per 162 games throughout his career. However, he provides almost zero power, with just 11 career home runs.
With home runs being hit at a record rate, Gordon’s lack of pop is an especially difficult obstacle to have to overcome. This can become problematic because if you draft Gordon, you basically have to overcompensate and choose pure sluggers over more well-rounded players with multi-category upside in subsequent rounds.
There is also the chance Gordon’s production on the basepaths decreases as he enters his age-30 season. I do not expect Gordon’s numbers to fall off a cliff quite yet. But when it comes to players like Gordon who are so reliant on speed, I would rather get out a year too soon than a year too late. I would still prefer Dozier to Gordon even if Gordon steals another 55-65 bags. However, given the possibility that Gordon’s speed begins to erode, choosing Dozier over Gordon is an easy call for me.
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Nathan Dokken (@NathanDokken)
The name of the game is speed! Actually, the name of the game is fantasy baseball, but speed is pertinent to this debate. Dee Gordon just so happened to lead the majors in steals in 2017 with 60, and that makes him immensely valuable in roto leagues. It’s close to a category winner. Not to mention the 114 runs he scored leading off for the lowly Marlins, which was good for fifth in MLB (ahead of Jose Altuve). Mercifully for him, he was shipped off to the Mariners in the offseason, where he will set the table for a much better offense than what they’ll deploy in Miami.
The downside is that Gordon is as bad as it gets in home runs and RBI. A grand total of two homers and 33 RBI in 2017 is downright disgusting. While the RBI should tick up some, it will still be a negative to his value. Then again, that’s the risk you take when investing in any leadoff hitter. There’s also the chance he’s a literal zero in homers. Dozier will give you much better all around production no doubt, so in points leagues that don’t score well for steals, he’s your ticket. In roto, however, it’s Gordon’s runs and steals that get my vote.
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) January 31, 2018
Anthony Franco (@affranco10)
It would be harder to find two players with more different skillsets than Brian Dozier and Dee Gordon, but I’ll take Gordon here because he is the rarer of the two in today’s game. Dozier has seen his power output explode, cracking at least 20 home runs in four consecutive years, including back-to-back seasons with at least 34. His batting average has improved in recent years, but as a fly-ball hitter with low line drive rates, he should be expected to run fairly low batting averages on balls in play, and his career-high .300 BABIP from last season seems destined to fall.
With a consistently average strikeout rate and home run power, he should be able to keep a decent batting average despite the subpar BABIP, and he will not kill you in the stolen base department. However, home runs are obviously the calling card with Dozier.
In roto formats, I would rather have the speed-first player. Gordon has stolen at least 58 bases in each of his three full seasons in the majors, and players like this are extremely rare in an analytical style of baseball that has deemphasized small-ball techniques in recent years.
Last year, only six players even picked up 30 steals, and only three (Gordon, Billy Hamilton, and Trea Turner) got to 40. By contrast, 41 players racked up at least 30 longballs in the year of the home run, devaluing Dozier’s top tool somewhat. Gordon offers no power, of course, but he hits for one of the higher batting averages in baseball, and he should score quite a few runs hitting atop Seattle’s lineup next season.
On top of all of that, he will pick up outfield eligibility early on, as he is moving to center field full-time, giving owners some additional roster flexibility from May onwards. If this were a real-life debate, Dozier would be the obvious choice, but given the rarity of their respective skillsets, I’ll take Gordon for fantasy purposes in 2018.
Overall Fantrax Verdict: Dee Gordon 6-3
|Andy Singleton, Anthony Franco, Keith Farnsworth, Ryan Cook, Nathan Dokken, Van Lee
|Eric Cross, Mick Ciallela, Ryne Milkins
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