In an attempt at optimizing plate appearances, teams have become more and more comfortable implementing platoons. Instead of some bench bats playing once in a while, those spots have been dedicated to weak-side platoon players. This does not apply to everyday right-handed batters. If you can hit right-handed pitching and play at least average defense, you will almost certainly play every day. The issue here is for the left-handed batters that struggle to hit left-handed pitching and are not standout defenders. Unfortunately, there are quite a lot of players that fall into that category. Some of them are fantasy relevant on teams that decide to platoon. How much does it affect their fantasy impact and are they worth taking in the middle rounds of your draft?
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How Platoons and Rest Affect Plate Appearances
If we look at total plate appearances from teams, counting only qualified players of at least 150 plate appearances. We understand who platoons and rests more often among the Major League teams. Here is a leaderboard of individual games played, sorted by team, highlighting how many different players each team used.
As we can see, the Braves had the least amount of unique games played among all 30 teams, with a minimum of 150 plate appearances. This tells us they had the most stable and consistent lineup throughout the season. Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman, Dansby Swanson, and Austin Riley played in at least 156 games. Once they had their outfield situation figured out after the deadline, that also became consistent between Adam Duvall, Jorge Soler, Eddie Rosario, and Joc Pederson.
On the other side of the spectrum, the San Francisco Giants. Though it was partially due to injury, they had the most unique games played among all teams by a wide margin. This was due to all the platooning and experimenting with their 40-man roster. They had 18 players with at least 130 plate appearances by the end of the season and only two players surpassing the 500 plate appearance mark, Mike Yastrzemski and Brendan Crawford. As a comparison, the Braves only had 14 players with at least 130 plate appearances, only because it took them several tries to replace even half of Ronald Acuna’s production.
Aside from the extremes, most teams clumped in the middle. The only things that should separate them, for the most part, are the quality of the player, a need for a platoon, or a deep bench.
Applying Plate Appearance and Rest Data to ADP
Now that we have the data of which teams platoon and rest the least and the most, how can we apply this to actual fantasy baseball and create an edge? We can look at the average draft position over the last month and identify similarly drafted players on teams at either end of the spectrum.
To start, we will look at Jose Altuve and Brandon Lowe. They are going next to each other in early drafts on NFBC, at picks 80 and 85. Last season, Altuve racked up 678 plate appearances, despite missing 10 games due to an IL stint, all but two of them came at the top of the order for the Astros. Lowe stayed healthy the entire season and put up 615 plate appearances. He ended up getting benched 28 times throughout the season, coming in as a pinch-hitter on 15 occasions, giving him 17 extra plate appearances.
If we compare the plate appearances per game started between the two players. We would get 4.69 for Altuve and 4.46 for Lowe. The discrepancy here is that Altuve hits leadoff every game for the Astros while Lowe hits leadoff roughly half the time against right-handed pitching, batting from third to sixth in the order on other days. If you do the math, in a 162-game season, Altuve should accumulate roughly 40 more plate appearances than Lowe due to batting order. Despite Altuve having 60 extra plate appearances while going on the injured list, that number could have grown to over 100 if he had not missed those ten games.
So, in a vacuum, the number of plate appearances over the time each player is healthy could legitimately make an impact on your fantasy season. If Altuve and Lowe have similar projections and one gets 100 or so more plate appearances when healthy, you would have to say Altuve would be the player to take in this scenario.
Another example of this would be Jarred Kelenic against Austin Meadows. Again, they have a similar average draft position of 128 and 132. Once Kelenic got his feet under him in the big leagues, the Mariners started to play him virtually every day. Between August and September, plus the last three days of October, he recorded 228 plate appearances. If you extrapolate that over a season, Kelenic should receive roughly 680 plate appearances if he were to stay healthy.
Meadows, someone who was not on the injured list at any point in 2021, was only able to record 591 plate appearances. That was because he was platooned or rested for 31 games and came in as a pinch-hitter 11 times. Though 591 seems like a decent number, it’s fairly low for someone healthy and available all season long. Meadows ended up ranked 67th in all of baseball in plate appearances which is about in the range of players that saw at least one IL stint.
If we regressed Kelenic’s plate appearances, assuming one IL stint, to about 640 plate appearances over a season. That is still 50 more than Meadows, assuming a full bill of health next year.
In conclusion, there should be a tax in drafts next season for potential platoon players. If there is a similarly skilled player on a team that plays their batters every day. You have to choose between him and a player you know will platoon. It will only help to grab the extra plate appearances in what could be the difference between the two players. Runs scored and runs batted in are two categories that are not emphasized as much as home runs and stolen bases, but they still count the same. Similar to what Major League Baseball teams do with platoons, you need to optimize your plate appearances every week and, you start by doing that in the middle rounds of your draft.
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