Center Field: On the Outside Looking In Part One

The new Veterans Committee gives us another compelling reason to separate those on the outside looking into different groups. So, we are essentially breaking the hopefuls in half between those that spent most of their careers before 1990 and those that spent most of their careers after 1990. As you might imagine, there are always players that fit right in between, but for now we will focus on those guys that played between the 1960s and 1980s.

The new committee seems to be focused on players that played in the 1980s and later. We are looking at players that will likely be overlooked by the committee. Should they be considered for the Hall of Fame? Well, we run into issues when we compare them with players already in the Hall of Fame. This is why we stick to the BBWAA list. Even still, some of them will compare favorably with Kirby Puckett. Puckett isn’t the standard. So, we should almost erase him and compare these players with the top eight amongst the BBWAA list. Here is a reminder of where we left off.

 CareerPeakTotal
Ty Cobb444.8257.3702.1
Willie Mays434.7265.5700.2
Tris Speaker390.7226.7617.4
Mickey Mantle335.6243.5579.1
Joe DiMaggio238.6199.5438.1
Ken Griffey Jr239.9187.2427.1
Duke Snider200.2171.7371.9
Andre Dawson192.3137.2329.5

So, we could consider Dawson to be the baseline one has to clear. Naturally, if you have read these articles before you know we are looking for gaps in data. If you come close to Dawson we then get to look at the other factors to determine if you get the support. That will include offensive statistics, fielding statistics, and the MVP test. Sometimes, that’s not even enough. As always, we start with career value.

Career Value

 bWARfWARWS/5Total
Willie Davis60.753.764.4178.8
Jimmy Wynn55.952.861.0169.7
Vada Pinson54.347.364.2165.8
Cesar Cedeno52.849.859.2161.8
Chet Lemon55.652.053.0160.6
Fred Lynn50.249.256.0155.4
Dale Murphy46.544.358.8149.6

The great thing about the index is the addition of the peak value element. It gives each player dimension where strictly going by career value doesn’t give us that. What is also fascinating is how each player comes to their value differently. Davis brings defense and base running (as we will see when we get to the offensive and fielding numbers) while players like Dale Murphy and Jimmy Wynn bring power. WAR and win shares are not necessarily precise. This is why we look at multiple sources of data to make our determinations.

Many reading this will likely be Astros fans and will be keenly interested in where Jimmy Wynn and Cesar Cedeno land. Neither fared well in the BBWAA voting for largely the same reason. They did not enjoy particularly long careers, but when they were good they were very good. The same could be said for Fred Lynn and Dale Murphy. On the other hand, Vada Pinson and Chet Lemon were on the other extreme. Everyone has their preference. Do you want a player to be good for 15 years or great for ten? It’s a hard question. Of course, this brings us to the peak value numbers.

Peak Value

 bWARfWARWS/5Total
Jimmy Wynn49.046.550.2145.7
Dale Murphy47.243.748.8139.7
Cesar Cedeno47.344.846.4138.5
Vada Pinson47.742.548.2138.4
Chet Lemon46.945.139.8131.8
Fred Lynn41.540.242.8124.5
Willie Davis42.738.042.8123.5

We see a larger gap here than we did with the career value numbers. As advertised, both Wynn and Cedeno are near the top. This is because WAR takes in hitting, fielding, and base running but also takes into the account the effects of time and place. There may have been no worse place to hit than the Astrodome in the 1960s and 1970s. They moved the fences in later on before it closed and it became palatable. When Wynn was at his best he was amongst the league leaders in home runs and walks in the best pitcher’s park possibly ever built.

Dale Murphy is one of three position players in baseball history to win multiple MVP awards and not be in the Hall of Fame. Roger Maris and Barry Bonds are the other two. So, it is no surprise that he should be near the top in peak value either. He fell off a cliff following a brilliant 1987 season. Not including the peak value element would not show the player he was throughout most of the 1980s.

In a similar way, when we get past Pinson we notice that the others suffered through a much more ordinary looking peak value. Rest assured, there is nothing ordinary about averaging four wins a season for ten years. Still, it raises the question of whether a merely good player should get into the Hall of Fame. Before we move on to the offensive and fielding numbers let’s add career and peak value together and see what we get.

Hall of Fame Index

 CareerPeakTotal
Jimmy Wynn169.7145.7315.4
Vada Pinson165.8138.4304.2
Willie Davis178.8123.5302.3
Cesar Cedeno161.8138.5300.3
Chet Lemon160.6131.8292.4
Dale Murphy149.6139.7289.3
Fred Lynn155.4124.5279.9

Some people would use a system such as this and make a hard cut off either at Andre Dawson or another arbitrary point like 300 wins. It somehow seems stupid to say yes to Cedeno and no to Lemon based on eight wins. Remember we are looking at three different sources and two different levels. So, the real difference is probably closer to one or two wins. What these numbers are designed to frame the conversation moving forward. If there is a path forward for Kirby Puckett then there could be a path forward for Fred Lynn. We just have to move to the other tests.

Offensive Numbers

 OPS+RbaserOW%wRC+wOBA
Jimmy Wynn12918.651130.362
Fred Lynn129-1.648129.372
Cesar Cedeno12357.610122.353
Dale Murphy1213.630119.357
Chet Lemon121-7.582122.356
Vada Pinson11128.592110.340
Willie Davis10662.536105.321

These numbers are more an illustration to show how the players arrived at their value above. Of course, we are missing the key element of defense. However, the fact that Wynn and Cedeno played much of their career in the Astrodome demonstrates how pedestrian looking numbers can look really good when you consider the negative impacts of their home ballpark. The same could be said for Willie Davis as well.

In a way, seeing such little separation works against all of these guys. This is especially true when compared to the Hall of Famers we saw in previous articles. At first blush, it would appear that Wynn and Lynn look better than the rest and Davis and Pinson look worse than the rest, but we also haven’t seen how they fare in fielding.

Fielding Numbers

 RfieldDWARTZDWSWSGG
Willie Davis10411.110678.36
Chet Lemon939.09663.23
Vada Pinson-8-5.7-669.32
Cesar Cedeno-14-4.3-849.61
Fred Lynn-27-3.1-2751.93
Jimmy Wynn-28-6.4-1844.11
Dale Murphy-33-6.8-445.22

It isn’t the fact that Davis is the best defensive player. It is by what margin he is the best defensive player. The win share Gold Gloves are the first clue. We have eschewed the traditional Gold Gloves because they simply don’t represent fielding excellence. Some might argue these numbers might not either. They represent a cross-section of what the industry had at the time. Some measure fielders against the average while others against the replacement level.

Some don’t agree between one player or another, but all agreed that Davis was a more valuable fielder than the others. So, when you combine an above average offensive player with a great defensive player you get a very good overall player. So, while Davis’ offensive numbers don’t jump off the page, he was a very valuable performer.

The others were not bad fielders, but when compared to the Hall of Fame standard they were underwhelming outside of Lemon. It is important to note the main difference between RField and Total Zone runs. They are sourced the same, but total zone runs count only their time as an outfielder. The Braves tried Murphy at catcher at the beginning of his career and that ended badly. So, if you ignore that experiment, he was probably closer to average. When you consider that all of them played ten to fifteen seasons, being 30 runs or less away from average means you were essentially average overall.

We could sit here and talk about fielding all day and we will pick up Davis’ mantle in a subsequent article, but for now we need to move on to the last leg of our test: the MVP tests. The test is plural because we compare how players did in the real MVP voting along with their actual finishes amongst position players in bWAR. MVP voting was documented through the top 30 in each league. The bWAR rankings only went through the top ten, so our comparison will not be perfect.

MVP Points

 Top 25Top 10Top 5MVPPoints
Dale Murphy320229
Fred Lynn201117
Vada Pinson311011
Cesar Cedeno41007
Jimmy Wynn20107
Willie Davis40004
Chet Lemon00000

MVP points are obviously weighted the closer you get to the MVP award with the MVPs counting ten points each. This does not prove Dale Murphy was the best player in the bunch. It proves that the beat writers thought he was more valuable when he was at his best than the others were when they were at their best. The fact that Chet Lemon had no votes is a bit of a surprise given his value as a player, but considering his value came mainly with his glove you can see why he is where he is.

MVP points help to explain why some players get more support than they should and why some don’t get as much. After all, the group that votes for the MVP award is the same group that votes for the Hall of Fame. It can be interesting comparison their finishes above to their rankings when we look at actual bWAR. The point values are the same, but we don’t have top 25 finishes to count.

bWAR MVP Points

 Top 10Top 5MVPPoints
Dale Murphy13018
Fred Lynn01115
Chet Lemon31014
Willie Davis21011
Cesar Cedeno21011
Jimmy Wynn3009
Vada Pinson1108

One of the best things about the baseball Hall of Fame is that the process allows for debate. I hope the index does the same. I would not be inclined to put any of these players in the Hall of Fame myself, but I could see a credible argument made for some. Murphy fares pretty well in the bWAR MVP points test considering we took away both of his MVP awards. He was still a very good player for several years in a row.

Lynn was really good for a season and great for one. If we follow the fame model of the Hall of Fame that might be good enough for most people. Lemon fares much better, but he was never great, so he probably falls short as well. Davis’ candidacy depends on how much you value his defense. We will end up looking back at his fielding later on, so maybe we should table in.

For most of my readers, that leaves Wynn and Cedeno. The final determination is probably something we already know. They were simply not good enough for long enough. If either had added another all-star level season or two it might have been enough. Sometimes you are just that close.

Hall of Fame Index: Centerfielders Part II

One of the key differences between the current version of the index and the book version is that we are eschewing the Veterans Committee selections. Our stated goal is to measure those out of the Hall of Fame against a Hall of Fame standard. Simply put, the Veterans Committee selections are too idiosyncratic to include in any kind of standard. Imagine comparing a current player to Harold Baines for instance. I’m sure the current committee had reasons for voting for Baines, but clearly they weren’t following the established standards when you look at right fielders.

So, when we look at the remaining center fielders we are ignoring the Veterans Committee selections. There were certainly some good ones that probably eclipse some of the players we will cover here, but adding some and not others really doesn’t make a great deal of sense. Why Earl Averill and not Max Carey? Why go back and add in a Billy Hamilton for instance? It is interesting that the center field list is show short, but we will get to look at those on the outside looking in subsequent articles.

Career Value

 bWARfWARWS/5Total
Joe DiMaggio78.183.177.4238.6
Duke Snider66.363.570.4200.2
Andre Dawson64.859.568.0192.3
Kirby Puckett51.144.956.2152.2

Keep in mind that we are always looking for gaps. DiMaggio may belong with the top group and when we included Ken Griffey Jr. with the top group we certainly created a glaring issue. Of course, we will illustrating an important point about the difference between counting numbers and the value numbers. So, normally we would include Griffey with this group and if that were the case then this grouping would make sense for DiMaggio.

If DiMaggio hadn’t lost those three seasons serving his country the calculus would likely be different. That’s one of the many reasons why we include offensive and fielding numbers in addition to the index numbers. There are any number of ways to categorize players. Naturally, we have a problem on the other end with Puckett. I have always avoided setting a minimum for the index because it is all about the gaps. Puckett is clearly not in the same class as the other three, but that doesn’t mean he should be out necessarily. It means that we need some compelling reasons to look past the above numbers.

Duke Snider and Andre Dawson are comfortably in the middle. How they got there is part of the lore of baseball. Both players didn’t age gracefully for various reasons. Dawson was probably a victim of Astroturf where Snider just wasn’t the same guy once the Dodgers left Brooklyn. However, their career values seem to be enough to give them enough cushion. 

Peak Value

 bWARfWARWS/5TotalIndex
Joe DiMaggio65.570.064.0199.5438.1
Duke Snider58.556.456.8171.7371.9
Andre Dawson48.845.043.4137.2329.5
Kirby Puckett44.439.749.2133.3285.5

To give you some idea of reference, Bryce Harper has amassed about 30 WAR in his first seven seasons. That would come out to about four WAR per season and give him about 42 or 43 WAR over a ten-year period. He wants more than 300 million dollars and still might get it. So, imagine how much a Joe DiMaggio might have been worth in 21stcentury dollars. Heck, even a Kirby Puckett might have broken the bank.

This isn’t to demean Harper. He looks like a future Hall of Famer in the making. It does illustrate a couple of things we have noticed throughout history. First, the gaps between the best players and worst players have shrunk as time has gone on. So, a four-win player is more special today than in the past as the floor has elevated. Secondly, peak value by itself is a terrific barometer of greatness and shouldn’t be overlooked. Most advanced systems use some form of it because it adds so much context to the argument. 

For instance, Dawson and Snider are neck and neck in career value, but the peak value adds a great deal of separation and demonstrates that when Snider was at his best he was a more special player. It also shows that Puckett actually had a fairly strong peak value record. If he had lasted two or three more seasons he might have found himself in Dawson territory. That being said, he falls a little short in the index. As promised, we will take a look and see if we can find other compelling reasons to add him in.

Offensive Numbers

 OPS+RbaserOW%wRC+wOBA
Joe DiMaggio15516.752152.439
Duke Snider14014.707139.404
Andre Dawson11914.595117.350
Kirby Puckett12413.618122.366

Bill James has said that statistics take on the characteristics of language. I certainly don’t have the juice to interview him, but I would assume he is thinking of adjectives. If you think of numbers as describing a player then it would make sense that some adjectives are more descriptive than others. You could also think of them as strokes of paint by a painter. Some of us paint stick figures while others paint a masterpiece.

Numbers like batting average, hits, runs, and RBI are stick figures. Numbers like those above creates the shadows and dimensions that give a painting (or player) life. Take offensive winning percentage (OW%). A team of DiMaggios would win 120 games in today’s schedule. No team ever assembled has ever won 120 games. A team of Snider’s would produce around 110 wins. That’s also historically good. Meanwhile, a team of Dawsons and Pucketts would be good teams, but like teams we’ve seen before. The other numbers tell a similar story, but they do it in their own special way.

For instance, wOBA spits out a number that looks like OBP. A .350 or .366 is pretty good in any era, but an OBP over .400 is special. One above .430 is outrageously good. For Puckett, the numbers show that he was a better offensive player at his best than Dawson was. Dawson just did it for longer. Longevity is certainly part of the grade. The history of the game is littered with guys that would be Hall of Famers if they could have only stayed healthy.

Fielding Numbers

 RfieldDWARTZDWSWSGG
Joe DiMaggio493.24960.58
Duke Snider-22-5.9-2154.84
Andre Dawson701.66962.25
Kirby Puckett-14-0.3-1258.46

Offensive numbers tend to tell the same story in a variety of ways. Fielding numbers seem to compete with each other. One of the reasons is that they compare different things. Rfield and total zone runs compare players with the average while DWAR and defensive win shares compare with the replacement level player. An average or even slightly below average fielder can look good when compared to the replacement level player over a long period of time. Duke Snider and Kirby Puckett fit that description. 

Joe DiMaggio’s career was relatively short because of the lost war seasons, so his DWS doesn’t look at that good. That is one of the reasons why James added a per 1000 innings number in the book version of Win Shares. The win share Gold Gloves show that when each were at their best they were among the most valuable fielders in the league. Of course, value and greatness are sometimes two different things.

The numbers above are enough reason to think Dawson had a leg up on Puckett as an overall player. So, we are at a loss to explain the BBWAA love for Puckett except that his career ended abruptly and we tend to romanticize that sort of thing. Our last test is the MVP vote test and considering that the BBWAA also voted for the MVP awards that could give us a clue. We use MVP points to tally this up with MVP awards counting ten points, top five finishes five points, top ten finishes three points, and top 25 finishes one point.

MVP Points

 Top 25Top 10Top 5MVPPoints
Joe DiMaggio243359
Kirby Puckett243029
Andre Dawson512128
Duke Snider233023

If we follow the general premise that the MVP should be the best player on the best team then DiMaggio’s dominance makes sense. The Yankees lived in the playoffs and he was objectively the best player on the Yankees during that time period. Of course, that is only one way of looking at it. Was he the best player in baseball during those MVP seasons? I think most would agree Ted Williams was, but that’s a different argument for a different day.

The fact that Snider doesn’t have an MVP seems somehow criminal. He was a more valuable player than Roy Campanella in each of his MVP seasons. Jackie Robinson was probably deserving of his award, but Snider should have snuck in there at least once if not twice. This is where we get to Puckett. He got as much love as anyone without actually winning the award. 1987 and 1991 certainly make sense as he helped engineer an improbably title in both seasons, but it’s hard to explain his five other top ten finishes.

This is where we apply the second half of the MVP test. We take the baseball-reference top ten seasons for position players and apply the same point systems. Unfortunately, they didn’t provide top 25 lists, so the finish is not the exact same, but such a test tells us who was overappreciated and who was underappreciated.

B-Ref MVP Test

 Top 10Top 5MVPTotal
Joe DiMaggio36039
Duke Snider13128
Andre Dawson13018
Kirby Puckett02010

What exactly does this prove? Well, it proves there was a sizeable gap between what Kirby Puckett really was and what the writers thought he was. Criminologists are often warning us about how unreliable eyewitness testimony is. Our memories play tricks on us. We see a diving catch in Game 7 of the World Series and develop a picture of a player that may not be accurate. The game is made of up moments. Statistics can tell us the rate that these moments occur, but they can’t tell us exactly when they occur and under what circumstances.

The funny thing is that individual players can’t control the weight of the moments they get to play in. Andre Dawson spent most of his career out of the playoffs. Is that his fault? Some people might say so. It’s funny how some casual fans blame the best player on a team for the team’s shortcomings. If only he did more when he had the opportunity. Somehow the crappy player playing on the other side of the diamond isn’t to blame. We do this in football, basketball, and hockey too. It’s nuts when you think about it.

Puckett had an .897 OPS in postseason play. That came with five home runs, 16 runs, and 16 RBI in just over 100 plate appearances. That came with an ALCS MVP Award in 1991. So, there is little doubt that he performed big in big moments. It is called the Hall of Fame and not the Hall of Stats or Hall of Greatness. Take away his moments in 1987 and 1991 and the Twins may not even be in Minnesota. At the end of the day, it is foolish to boil down the politics of glory down to a number. There is always a context to everything, but what we can say is that comparing any player and using Puckett as a standard will lead us down a bad path. Maybe he does belong, but his index score is not a good argument for him.

Hall of Fame Index: Top Five Centerfielders

As we move to the center fielders it is high-time we do a reset. We have been covering fantasy baseball for a while now and have gotten out of our normal routine of looking at the index. So, we are going to re-eningeer this thing to show why we use something like the index in the first place. So, instead of starting with the index we will start with the conventional numbers and move from there.

A lot of fans use the counting numbers to grade players and determine who the best player of all time at a particular position or period. Some branch out to the rate statistics, but both of those categories bring two major problems. In short, they don’t account for the effects of time and place. Where did those numbers occur and during what time period? That has a dramatic effect on what those numbers mean. We are looking at who many consider the top five center fielders of all time. All five are in the Hall of Fame and no one doubts their place there. Still, how we parcel out their value depends greatly on the methodology we use.

 HitsHR2B+3BRunsRBI
Ty Cobb4189117101922431944
Ken Griffey Jr.278163056216621836
Mickey Mantle241553641616761509
Willie Mays328166066320621903
Tris Speaker3514117101418821531

I’ve talked before about my Facebook “friend” who rates everyone according to hits. Well, in that scenario we would surmise that Mickey Mantle stands in fifth place on this list. The fact that Mantle has more walks than the other four apparently doesn’t matter. Let’s consider each of these numbers as being equal. We will focus our energy on Griffey for reasons that will become obvious later.

Griffey ranks fourth in hits, second in home runs, fourth in extra base hits, fifth in runs scored, and third in RBI. So, no one in their right mind would claim he was the best center fielder of all-time, but he definitely would belong in this group. The problems are all plain to see. First, simply listing the numbers above assumes all numbers carry equal weight. We know they don’t. A simple hit doesn’t have the same value as a home run or even a double or triple. Those don’t carry the same weight as runs or RBI.

Furthermore, we don’t know any context around any of those numbers. Were they accomplished in 12 seasons? 15? 20? How easy was it it to put up numbers during the era they played? How well did they run the bases? How well did they avoid outs? We can begin to answer some of these questions when we look at numbers that distill out the effects of time and place. When we look at those numbers we begin to see some separation between Griffey and some of these other guys.

 OPS+RbaserOW%wRC+wOBA
Ty Cobb16852.809165.445
Mickey Mantle17250.804170.428
Tris Speaker1571.778157.436
Willie Mays15677.748154.409
Ken Griffey Jr.13616.663131.384

One of the beauties of something like this is that you really don’t even need to know what you are looking at it to see the problem. Griffey clearly doesn’t belong in this group. The explanation is easy enough. Each of these numbers compare players to the average player from their era. We distill out the effects of home ballparks as well to give a truly neutral outlook on each player.

As you might imagine, these numbers don’t prove that a player is ranked where he should be overall. These are just the offensive numbers. We know that Willie Mays had quite the reputation as a great defensive player. Cobb has the reputation as the best hitter in the history of the game. Whether either of those reputations are deserved is neither here nor there. The point is that while these breakdowns are helpful, they don’t necessarily tell us much about value in a real sense.

However, before we skip to value we should find out if Mays really is the best defender in this grouping. We can see that Cobb has some competition here from Mantle, but this listing doesn’t show how long they did it for. That is where the value questions comes into play. We will get there eventually, but let’s look at fielding first.

 RfieldDWARTZWSWSGG
Willie Mays18518.2191103.610
Tris Speaker922.591117.811
Ken Griffey Jr.32.2-3760.24
Ty Cobb0-10.8082.63
Mickey Mantle-37-9.6-2855.13

The fielding numbers give us a little clearer picture of value, but even then it depends on which source you are looking at. Rfield and total zone runs are more or less the same thing. The total zone version looks at their performance solely as outfielders. Griffey has the biggest difference because of the switch to universal zone runs (UZR). They are supposedly more accurate than their predecessor and happened to capture him late in his career when he clearly was not the same fielder he was in the 1990s.

The implication is pretty clear though. Mays and Speaker were in a class by themselves defensively. It is important to note that the numbers above don’t absolutely indicate who was the betterdefensive center fielder. They peg who the more valuabledefensive player was. That is done in part by comparing players with their contemporaries. So, we are looking at the gap between each player and the other center fielders and not at an absolute cataloging of skills. There was no way to have Speaker and Mays have a foot race or a skills challenge. Most scouts and historical observers would probably tab Mays as the better of the two, but we are trying to arrive at value.

This brings us to the ultimate question. How does one account for both offensive and defensive value? How do we combine the two to come up with one number? There have been numerous critics of any particular WAR formula or that of win shares. You are taking something that is inexact and placing an exact looking value on it. The numbers were never meant to be gospel, but to give us a general overview of the value of a particular player or group of players.

For those just joining us, the Hall of Fame index was designed to measure the fitness of someone for the Hall of Fame by comparing him to those already in the Hall of Fame. We do that by combining bWAR (baseball-reference WAR), fWAR (Fangraphs WAR), and win shares divided by five. We combine a career value element and a peak value element to come up with the total index. Let’s take a look at the career value breakdown.

 bWARfWARWS/5Total
Ty Cobb151.1149.3144.4444.8
Willie Mays156.4149.9128.4434.7
Tris Speaker134.1130.6126.0390.7
Mickey Mantle110.3112.3113.0335.6
Ken Griffey Jr.83.877.778.4234.9

It’s important that we talk about what these numbers mean. Essentially, they combine the value a player brings with his bat and his glove to give a total amount of wins they were worth over a replacement level (AAA) player. The index is not meant to say that Cobb is better than Mays. After all, different sources disagree here. Each brings their own brand of secret sauce to come to their ultimate conclusion.

The index was never designed to pick Cobb over Mays or vice versa. It is meant to find gaps in data to determine where a player belongs in context. As we will see, Griffey definitely belongs in the Hall of Fame, but he doesn’t belong with this group. He fits better with the Joe Dimaggio’s and Duke Snider’s of the world. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. However, this is simply looking at career value. Peak value considerations add some context we don’t see here.

For instance, we know Mickey Mantle had a shorter career than the other four. Griffey’s career also was not consistent over the full course of his career. So, what we do is take the best ten year stretch of their careers to see how they fared in terms of value. Then, we can combine the two to get a total look at the player.

 bWARfWARWS/5Total
Willie Mays96.993.675.0265.5
Ty Cobb88.788.080.6257.3
Mickey Mantle82.683.177.8243.5
Tris Speaker78.075.173.6226.7
Ken Griffey Jr.67.767.352.2187.2

So, we can see that some players move around when we count only their best ten seasons. Mantle moves ahead of Speaker in terms of peak value and Mays moves ahead of Cobb as well. However, the results are close enough to keep us from declaring one as better than the other. The key for the index is that we want to find gaps in data. Griffey is well below the other four. That is a significant gap. In point of fact, the index was designed to create gaps, so when we see data this close we would be foolish to start making declarative statements. We can see how close when we combine the career and peak value numbers.

 CareerPeakTotal
Ty Cobb444.8257.3702.1
Willie Mays434.7265.5700.2
Tris Speaker390.7226.7617.4
Mickey Mantle335.6243.5579.1
Ken Griffey Jr.239.9187.2427.1

Anyone willing to pick Cobb over Mays on the basis of less than two wins is deluding themselves. That’s not what the index was designed to do. It essentially says that when all things are considered they are nearly equally valuable in terms of value. How they arrived at that value was wildly different. So, it really has to be a personal preference as to which guy you would ultimately pick.

If you have paid any attention to the previous index articles then you know that all five of these guys are more qualified. The fun is when we get into the next set of players. However, you can see how this list is a more accurate accounting of their value than the simple counting numbers that many rely on. There is just more context in these numbers than the basic ones.

2019 Fantasy Baseball: Right Field Steamer Projection Rankings

We come to the end of our series. We are looking at the Steamer projections for all of the hitters that should be rated for a standard 300 player draft. We have already looked at the three year averages for these players, but because they were rated over three seasons some young players were left out.

So, we are ranking the right fielders according to their projections in the six main categories (walks as the sixth). Projections are not always accurate, so these rankings are flawed just like the other rankings. Hopefully, the combination gives us something to go on.

Mookie Betts– Boston Red Sox

Projection: .303, 30 HR, 117 Runs, 96 RBI, 26 SB, 77 BB

Betts has a credible argument for the top spot in all of baseball. Naturally, Mike Trout has something to say about that. When you include fielding Betts probably has the edge. He plays on the best offensive team in baseball, so that is probably worth something in the counting categories.

Christian Yelich– Milwaukee Brewers

Projection: .297, 27 HR, 96 Runs, 87 RBI, 15 SB, 73 BB

The balkanization of the Marlins is now complete and with all of the hype you would think that J.T. Realmuto was the reincarnation of Johnny Bench. Yelich was probably the best of the lot as evidenced by his MVP. The fact that both MVPs come from right field is an indication of the strength of the position.

Bryce Harper– Free Agent

Projection: .267, 35 HR 95 Runs, 94 RBI, 10 SB, 111 BB

Talk about a guessing game. We don’t even know where he is going yet and the possibilities could change his numbers drastically,. If he winds up in San Diego the numbers will be depressed. If he winds up in Philadelphia it could be a bonanza. So, I’d wait to see where he winds up.

J.D. Martinez– Boston Red Sox

Projection: .297, 36 HR, 94 Runs, 110 RBI, 4 SB, 63 BB

Is the MVP the best player in baseball or is the MVP the guy most responsible for the winning team winning it all? Betts was the best player, but the Red Sox were merely a good team without Martinez. He gave them the extra oomph they needed to go all the way.

Aaron Judge– New York Yankees

Projection: .251, 36 HR, 98 Runs, 93 RBI, 7 SB, 95 BB

Judge took an obvious step back last season, but he is still a very productive guy. In total points leagues he strikes out too often to be an upper echielon player, but in standard leagues he is still very strong.

Giancarlo Stanton– New York Yankees

Projection: .267, 45 HR, 96 Runs, 114 RBI, 3 SB, 67 BB

Stanton is flawed like Judge. The general idea is that hopefully one of them is hot at any one time. Either of them are capable of carrying a team for short bursts. Neither are as good as Betts and Martinez and that is why the Yankees are likely to come up short again.

Yasiel Puig– Cincinnati Reds

Projection: .276, 27 HR, 77 Runs, 87 RBI, 14 SB, 57 BB

The key in these things is never in the rankings themselves, but in the gaps you find. Puig is only next to Stanton in terms of absolute rank. The distance between the two is exceptional. Puig has always been talented. He gets one season to show how talented before becoming a free agent.

Andrew McCutchen– Philadelphia Phillies

Projection: .263, 26 HR, 78 Runs, 78 RBI, 11 SB, 75 BB

If this were the McCutchen from three years ago, there is no telling how far the Phillies would go. As it stands, the Realmuto trade is likely to make them a trendy pick to win the NL East. It remains to be seen how far they will actually go and how much he has left in the tank.

Mitch Haniger– Seattle Mariners

Projection: .259, 23 HR, 82 Runs, 80 RBI, 7 SB, 62 BB

Baseball is a one on one sport, but we cannot deny the effects of time and place. If you placed Haniger in Philadelphia and McCutchen in Seattle the rankings would be reversed and Haniger might even move up a couple of spots.

Nick Castellanos– Detroit Tigers

Projection: .276, 24 HR, 81 Runs, 90 RBI, 3 SB, 48 BB

Make no mistake, the Tigers will be terrible, but they won’t be terrible offensively. There is also the chance that Castellanos could be dealt to a contender once the Harper situation is resolved. That will have a slight effect on these numbers.

Wil Myers– San Diego Padres

Projection: .240, 23 HR, 72 Runs, 71 RBI, 17 SB, 61

If the Padres sign Manny Machado then Myers becomes the right fielder. If they sign Harper he moves to left field or they try him at third. It’s hard to call him the key to their season given the amount of the investment it would take to get either of those two in town, but a healthy season from him makes them competitive.

Brandon Nimmo– New York Mets

Projection: .240, 16 HR, 78 Runs, 55 RBI, 10 SB, 81 BB

Occasionally, you get significant gaps between formats. There is a huge gap between five and six category formats. The walks play a huge role in his value and they do the same for total points formats. He just isn’t a huge power source yet, but he could develop that as time goes on,

Adam Eaton– Washington Nationals

Projection: .283, 10 HR, 76 Runs, 52 RBI, 11 SB, 57 BB

When the Nats acquired Eaton, he was supposed to be the missing piece in the pennant chase. His career has mirrored their relative lack of success. He has been good when healthy, but he just hasn’t been healthy enough. Defense was always a big part of his game, but after numerous injuries who knows how much he has left.

Max Kepler– Minnesota Twins

Projection: .255, 20 HR, 73 Runs, 74 RBI, 7 SB, 61 BB

Kepler belongs in the baseball encyclopedia as the epitome of an average player. Average players have value. Like most average players, he rises and falls with the tide. If the Twins are good then he will be better. If they struggle again then he will not be as good.

Stephen Piscotty– Oakland Athletics

Projection: .261, 21 HR, 76 Runs, 77 RBI, 4 SB, 56 BB

Explanations like above seem pithy, but Piscotty is a perfect example of it. As the A’s gained momentum he gained momentum. Sure, he was a part of that momentun, but boats always seem to rise with the tide.

Randal Grichuk– Toronto Blue Jays

Projection: .243, 30 HR, 71 Runs, 84 RBI, 5 SB, 36 BB

Grichuk came on strong in the second half last year to give the Blue Jays some hope for next season. Add him to a lineup with Guerrero Jr. and Justin Smoak and you might have something. The Jays won’t win anything, but they will be fun to watch.

Nomar Mazara– Texas Rangers

Projection: .271, 21 HR, 65 Runs, 72 RBI, 2 SB, 43 BB

There is a difference between value and production. Mazara puts up numbers because he plays in a great ballpark for hitters and plays every day. It’s overly simplistic to say anyone could do it, but more people could do it than you think.

Nick Markakis– Atlanta Braves

Projection: .274, 11 HR, 63 Runs, 62 RBI, 2 SB, 58 BB

Markakis will be on a Hall of Fame ballot some day. He won’t get much support, but that puts a ranking like this in perspective. He isn’t as good as he was last season, but you could do a lot worse on your fantasy bench.

Kole Calhoun– Los Angeles Angels

Projection: .243, 17 HR, 64 Runs, 57 RBI, 5 SB, 50 BB

The first two months of last year saw injuries derail his entire season, but if you took the numbers from the last four months and extrapolated them to a full season you would see his career norms come through. It’s simplistic to say bet on that for a full season, but it’s worth a late round pick to gamble.

Steven Souza– Arizona Diamondbacks

Projection: .239, 16 HR, 52 Runs, 53 RBI, 9 SB, 48 BB

The Dbacks acquired him to be the missing piece and he ended up missing much of the season Now, they have lost Goldschmidt. Still, Souza is worth a pick at the end of the draft in case he comes back to 2017 form.

2019 Fantasy Baseball: Center Field Steamer Projection Rankings

“Put me in coach, I’m ready to play today. Put me coach I’m ready to play. Look at me I can be center field.” — John Fogerty

It is probably no coincidence that center field has arguably the best player in the game today. Go back to when we were children and there were three positions you wanted to play. In some instances you played all three. We’ve already covered shortstops, so now we come to center field.

We’ve already covered the three year rankings and as we have seen, that leaves out any number of young players. So, we are looking at the Steamer projections for the six main categories. These are guesses as well and probably not as accurate as what we have seen, but we must take a look at some young players to give a full picture of the position.

Mike Trout– Los Angeles Angels

Projection: .300, 37 HR, 112 Runs, 100 RBI, 19 SB, 117 BB

Bill James once said of Babe Ruth that no player evaluation system could be legitimate if it didn’t have him as the top player of all-time. Well, the same could be said for modern projection systems and Mike Trout. Of course, that is hyperbole, but while he is in his prime it is also true.

Charlie Blackmon– Colorado Rockies

Projection: .287, 27 HR, 105 Runs, 79 RBI, 13 SB, 56 BB

The trick is not in ranking players, but in determining the distance between two particular players. Trout is head and shoulders above everyone else. Blackmon is also head and shoulders in front of the next man.

George Springer– Houston Astros

Projection: .263, 26 HR, 95 Runs, 75 RBI, 8 SB, 71 BB

Springer was the World Series MVP in 2017 and had another productive postseason last year. It is easy to get carried and extrapolate postseason performance moving forward. You are almost always better off taking a player for what he has done in the regular season.

Lorenzo Cain– Milwaukee Brewers

Projection: .284, 15 HR, 86 Runs, 59 RBI, 22 SB, 59 BB

It’s too bad that WAR isn’t a category. Cain is a gifted defender on top of being a very good offensive player. He isn’t elite in either category, but when you are very good in both you are an elite performer. It’s too bad they don’t count the defense.

Starling Marte– Pittsburgh Pirates

Projection: .282, 17 HR, 79 Runs, 71 RBI, 34 SB, 35 BB

If you are playing in a standard 5×5 format then Marte is a very good play. He gives you a little bit of everything. In more advanced formats his inability to steal first base is problematic, so you can plan accordingly.

Aaron Hicks– New York Yankees

Projection: .248, 22 HR, 80 Runs, 70 RBI, 10 SB, 76 BB

Hicks came of age last season after bouncing around for several seasons. It almost reminds you of David Ortiz. Both players came from Minnesota where they did not realize their full potential. Of course, Hicks isn’t quite as good offensively, but might be of similar value overall.

A.J. Pollock– Los Angeles Dodgers

Projection: .252, 19 HR, 70 Runs, 62 RBI, 15 SB, 41 BB

There is much talk about the economic downturn in the game. He signed a four year and 50 million dollar deal with an option for ten million in a fifth season. This is all for a guy that has played in more than 113 games once since 2013.

Victor Robles– Washington Nationals

Projection: .274, 12 HR, 69 Runs, 59 RBI, 27 SB, 38 BB

Every season brings a new phenom in the fantasy landscape. There are a few if we include guys like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. it could be a very exciting season for fantasy baseball players. He is the main reason why the Nats aren’t going all in on Bryce Harper.

Odubel Herrera– Philadelphia Phillies

Projection: .267, 18 HR, 66 Runs, 69 RBI, 8 SB, 44 BB

Herrera doesn’t do anything particularly well, but he doesn’t have any major weaknesses either. He is the kind of boat that rises with the tide. The Phillies will be better next season and he should be too.

Mallex Smith– Seattle Mariners

Projection: .263, 6 HR, 78 Runs, 50 RBI, 40 SB, 54 BB

This was another shrewd trade by the Mariners. Mike Zunino is a below average catcher and they were able to get Smith for him. He won’t make anyone forget Mike Trout, but he is definitely above average.

Ender Inciarte– Atlanta Braves

Projection: .274, 9 HR, 67 Runs, 58 RBI, 23 SB, 46 BB

It is ironic that both Inciarte and Andrelton Simmons were in the same organization, but briefly so. They are essentially the same player at different positions. Inciarte plays because of his defense just like Simmons.

Jackie Bradley– Boston Red Sox

Projection: .248, 15 HR, 65 Runs, 63 RBI, 11 SB, 49 BB

Bradley is another version of Springer. He had a brilliant postseason which would lead some to think he has turned the corner as a player. He may be better this season, but it has little to do with last postseason.

Ramon Laureno– Oakland Athletics

Projection: .252, 16 HR, 69 Runs, 56 RBI, 17 SB, 46 BB

There are the halves and the have nots. While the A’s continue to be a have not they have to put some unproven guys in some key spots. Laureno showed some in the last couple of months of 2018 and could be an under the radar pick this season.

Chris Taylor– Los Angeles Dodgers

Projection: .248, 13 HR, 64 Runs, 61 RBI, 11 SB, 52 BB

The Dodgers have quite a few players that can play a number of positions. Taylor is penciled in as the second baseman next season, but both Enrique Hernandez and Max Muncy can play there as well. Taylor can play all three outfield spots in addition to second base.

Harrison Bader– St. Louis Cardinals

Projection: .245, 17 HR, 59 Runs, 62 RBI, 14 SB, 38 BB

Bader is ultimately the reason why the Cards traded Tommy Pham. Like Inciarte and Kevin Kiermaier, he is mainly there for his fielding. Depending on where he hits in the order he could be an interesting late round pick.

Adam Jones– Free Agent

Projection: .266, 18 HR, 62 Runs, 63 RBI, 4 SB, 25 BB

Jones is really not a center fielder anymore. He may not even be an every day player depending on who gets him. It’s the ultimate gut check moment for him. Do you sign with an also ran and play every day or sign with a contender and play part-time.

Byron Buxton– Minnesota Twins

Projection: .244, 15 HR, 59 Runs, 54 RBI, 18 SB, 33 BB

It’s hard to put an entire division race on one guy, but Buxton is the most important guy on the Twins. He was the number two overall pick in the same draft that saw Carlos Correa go to the Astros. There were many then that thought he was more talented. If he can harness that talent he could be huge.

Scott Schebler– Cincinnati Reds

Projection: .240, 19 HR, 53 Runs, 62 RBI, 4 SB, 37 BB

Schebler has some upside, but he also comes with tremendous risk. He may not be the center fielder in Cincinnati. They have Jesse Winkler, Nick Senzel, and others in line to compete with him. He’s produced more than they have, so he might get the first crack at the spot.

Kevin Kiermaier– Tampa Bay Rays

Projection: .238, 13 HR, 57 Runs, 50 RBI, 15 SB, 38 BB

If only we could count defensive runs saved. Kiermaier will play because they will want his glove in the lineup as often as possible. Last year was a disaster, but he was passable in seasons past. So maybe he will be again.

Billy Hamilton– Kansas City Royals

Projection: .241, 5 HR, 57 Runs, 41 RBI, 36 SB, 41 BB

Someone dig up Whitey Herzog. The Royals will likely steal more than 200 bases this season if everyone is healthy. The Royals will still likely lose more than 100 games, but they will be entertaining while they do it.

2019 Fantasy Baseball: Left Field Steamer Projection Rankings

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. We can rank outfielders as a whole group or we can break them down position by position. It may seem counterintuitive, but it is easier to break them down by position and then adjust back to the generic than to do the reverse, so we are looking at left fielders first.

Theoretically speaking, each position should be relatively equal, but it doesn’t turn out that way. Left field is weaker than the other two spots for one reason or another. We are ranking them by their projection in the six categories (walks are the sixth category).

Juan Soto– Washington Nationals

Projection: .292, 26 HR, 84 Runs, 85 RBI, 6 SB, 82 BB

2019 might turn out to be the best outfield in franchise history for the Nationals and it will be without Bryce Harper. Soto and Victor Robles will be the reason why. The key for Soto is the patience he brings to the plate. It adds to his power and ability to hit for average.

Ronald Acuna– Atlanta Braves

Projection: .279, 28 HR, 95 Runs, 77 RBI, 24 SB, 56 BB

It was a battle back and forth between Acuna and Soto for the top spot in the Rookie of the Year race. It makes perfect sense that it would be that way in fantasy. Soto wins in six categories while Acuna wins in five.

Andrew Benintendi– Boston Red Sox

Projection: .286, 18 HR, 98 Runs, 74 RBI, 18 SB, 69 BB

Benintendi does a little bit of everything and as such has more value than the numbers immediately show. He also plays for the best offense in baseball. That counts for something when it comes to the counting statistics.

Joey Gallo– Texas Rangers

Projection: .225, 40 HR, 86 Runs, 98 RBI, 6 SB, 81 BB

We’ve talked at length about chasing single categories. How about when a single category chases you away. Sure, the batting average is horrendous and if you are playing total points the strikeouts will kill you. In five or six category leagues he is still worth it.

Marcell Ozuna– St. Louis Cardinals

Projection: .288, 26 HR, 75 Runs, 89 RBI, 2 SB, 45 BB

Ozuna had one magical season in 2017, but the rest of them have looked like this. Leave it to the Marlins to trade him after his one great season and they still didn’t get much for him. Adding Goldschmidt may help a little, but this is probably who Ozuna is.

Eddie Rosario– Minnesota Twins

Projection: .277, 24 HR, 77 Runs, 83 RBI, 8 SB, 33 BB

A team that added C.J. Cron, Nelson Cruz, and Jonathan Schoop will have to rely on the holdovers getting better. For most, that is Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano. However, watching Rosario take another step forward might be more realistic.

Justin Upton– Los Angeles Angels

Projection: .243, 27 HR, 75 Runs. 84 RBI, 7 SB, 61 BB

Billy Eppler is the Ken Williams of the 2010s. He keeps trying to add that one key piece for a team that needs four or five. Upton is taking up a lot of money and he’s good, but he’s just not good enough. That describes most of the supporting cast for Mike Trout.

Khris Davis– Oakland Athletics

Projection: .240, 38 HR, 86 Runs, 102 RBI, 1 SB, 62 BB

Davis’ spot depends largely on whether you are playing left field specific or generic outfield. He suffers with batting average and stolen bases. Only four left fielders are projected to steal ten or more bases, so his output has to be seen in that context. Compared to other outfield spots that is very low. So, plan accordingly.

Kyle Schwarber– Chicago Cubs

Projection: .241, 28 HR, 69 Runs, 76 RBI, 4 SB, 74 BB

Sooner or later you come to accept players as they are. Schwarber looked like a better hitter than this early on, but he is what he is. He is an average outfielder defensively a little bit better than average offensively. Overall, that makes him pretty solid.

Michael Conforto– New York Mets

Projection: .244, 25 HR, 70 Runs, 75 RBI, 4 SB, 70 BB

Yoenis Cespedes would likely be a top five left fielder if he were healthy. He is a name to watch as he could come back at some point this season. Conforto is not nearly as sexy, but he puts up numbers when given opportunities.

Ryan Braun–Milwaukee Brewers

Projection: .265, 22 HR, 63 Runs, 70 RBI, 11 SB, 41 BB

Supposedly, Braun is altering his swing to work on his launch angle. That’s fancy talk for saying he is trying to hit more fly balls and therefore more home runs. It’s an interesting turn in a career that has seen a number of turns.

David Peralta–Arizona Diamondbacks

Projection: .281, 18 HR, 67 Runs, 62 RBI, 4 SB, 42 BB

Peralta hit 30+ home runs last year, so it is a bit of a surprise to see them knock Peralta down a bit. I guess they are going with overall career norms and he has had trouble staying on the field in the past. I suppose two consecutive healthy seasons is too much to bank on.

Shin-Soo Choo– Texas Rangers

Projection: .254, 17 HR, 73 Runs, 55 RBI, 6 SB, 67 BB

Money changes the perception of things and sometimes for the worse. For the most part, Choo has been a very good hitter. He’s been a crummy fielder, but when healthy he is always good with the bat. He is being paid as if he is a great player. He isn’t but that really hasn’t changed.

David Dahl– Colorado Rockies

Projection: .270, 18 HR, 59 Runs, 64 RBI, 9 SB, 33 BB

Dahl is ready to produce, but he never has been able to stay on the field. He is in a perfect ballpark and a perfect situation. He doesn’t have to produce big numbers because they already have four or five guys that do. He just needs to stay healthy.

Michael Brantley–Houston Astros

Projection: .282, 14 HR, 66 Runs, 61 RBI, 8 SB, 40 BB

If you are playing in a total points universe, he jumps up the rankings. If you are playing on a per game basis he might even be top five. The Astros will limit his exposure to lefties, so he isn’t a great bet on a full season basis, but if you can make daily lineup changes he could be an appealing platoon option.

Trey Mancini– Baltimore Orioles

Projection: .261, 23 HR, 68 Runs, 77 RBI, 1 SB, 41 BB

Mancini is an example of an NBA phenomenom. Even bad teams have to have someone that produces runs. Even if that player isn’t good himself, he will produce runs. He might not be around when the Orioles are good again, but that won’t be for another few seasons.

Tommy Pham– Tampa Bay Rays

Projection: .255, 16 HR, 60 Runs, 53 RBI, 13 SB, 56 BB

The Rays play platoons more aggresively than any team in baseball. It worked enough to get them 90 wins even with a mediocre roster. However, it doesn’t exactly help with fantasy value for guys like Pham. It’s the main reason you haven’t seen a ton or Rays players on this list.

Domingo Santana– Seattle Mariners

Projection: .237, 18 HR, 59 Runs, 60 RBI, 6 SB, 60 BB

There was a lot not to like in the Mariners offseason, but picking up Santana was a stroke of brilliance. He could easily be a 20 HR and 10 SB guy when it is all said and done and they got him for next to nothing.

Corey Dickerson– Pittsburgh Pirates

Projection: .275, 17 HR, 57 Runs, 60 RBI, 5 SB, 25 BB

Dickerson has had a few fascinating chapters in his career. His Pittsburgh chapter has been fun to watch. He is a maximum effort guy and never met a pitch he didn’t like. It makes him a very flawed player, but a very entertaining player to watch.

Brett Gardner– New York Yankees

Projection: .245, 9 HR, 48 Runs, 37 RBI, 9 SB, 39 BB

Gardner has forged himself a nice career. He is still an above average defender, but he used to be a great one. All told, he is a below average offensive player at this point, but he used to be a good one. He probably has one more season as a semi-regular before he gets relegated to the bench.

2019 Fantasy Baseball: Shortstop Steamer Projection Rankings

Shortstops aren’t as deep as they have been in the past, but there are some intriguing new names that could burst on the scene this year. Those names almost certainly didn’t make our last list. You have to put up at least a couple of seasons worth of performance to make those list.

So, we move to projection numbers. We use Steamer because everyone has a Steamer projection and they are about as good as any other. That is to say that they are a decent predictor. We use them to make sure we account for younger players and for where a player is going. Sometimes they are off and we acknowledge that. The best thing to do is combine the past three seasons with future projections.

Francisco Lindor– Cleveland Indians

Projection: .286, 30 HR, 103 Runs, 90 RBI, 20 SB, 62 BB

Lindor has elevated himself to a fantasy first rounder. He came up as a good offensive player and a great fielder. Now, he is a great hitter and great fielder. With all of the big time contracts people are throwing around it makes you wonder how much he would be worth on the open market.

Manny Machado– Free Agent

Projection: .288, 32 HR, 87 Runs, 94 RBI, 8 SB, 57 BB

Machado doesn’t know what position he is going to play much less where he is going. He could wind up at third or at short. He probably is a better baseball value at third because of the Gold Glove defense, but obviously short it a better fantasy value play.

Trevor Story— Colorado Rockies

Projection: .271, 30 HR, 84 Runs, 95 RBI, 18 SB, 49 BB

With Daniel Murphy in tow, the Rockies offense stands as one of the more underrated offenses in the NL at any elevation. Story is heavy on the strikeouts, so you have to make sure you study up on your format before making your final rankings list.

Trea Turner– Washington Nationals

Projection: .287, 17 HR, 92 Runs, 66 RBI, 39 SB, 53 BB

Turner finally has tuened in a healthy season last year and delivered on the promise he showed back in 2016. He led the NL in steals last year as as much as people love steals he ought to shoot up the rankings.

Xander Bogaerts– Boston Red Sox

Projection: .286, 19 HR, 80 Runs, 82 RBI, 9 SB, 54 BB

Bogaerts will be a free agent after the season. Like Machado, he will enter free agency at age 26. Will he fetch 150 million? 200 million? A lot of it depends on what he does this season. So, is he a guy that rises to the occasion or he is a guy that shrinks under pressure.

Corey Seager– Los Angeles Dodgers

Projection: .284, 23 HR, 90 Runs, 74 RBI, 4 SB, 61 BB

People put way too much credence in what happened last year. With all of the big names around him in the rankings it is easy to forget about Seager. He is one of the best young shortstops in the game and he will show it again this season.

Javier Baez– Chicago Cubs

Projection: .269, 28 HR, 78 Runs, 93 RBI, 16 SB, 32 BB

Baez was the runner up in the MVP race last season. If you are playing in a standard 5×5 format he immediately jumps into the top five. He is a few extra walks away from superstardom. He will also play plenty of second base, so he is also eligible there.

Carlos Correa– Houston Astros

Projection: .265, 22 HR, 74 Runs, 78 RBI, 4 SB, 64 BB

Take someone six foot four and give them back trouble and its enough to scare anyone off. He is a talented as anyone above him on this list. If you could bank on 600 healthy plate appearances you can bank on him being top five.

Jorge Polanco– Minnesota Twins

Projection: .272, 14 HR, 79 Runs, 64 RBI, 15 SB, 48 BB

The Twins are a fascinating team moving forward. In many ways, they may be a model for the future. They keep adding guys to one or two year deals. When they don’t work out they just go in another direction. Polanco got busted for PEDs, but he came back and produced like he had before.

Jean Segura– Philadelphia Phillies

Projection: .284, 13 HR, 74 Runs, 60 RBI, 19 SB, 34 BB

Much like Baez, he moves up the list if you are playing in a standard 5×5 league. If you prefer a few extra steals you might even elevate him above Polanco now. After all, these numbers are just a guess.

Marcus Semien– Oakland Athletics

Projection: .251, 18 HR, 70 Runs, 67 RBI, 12 SB, 53 BB

Semien is one of those guys that gives you a little bit of everything. If you decide to punt shortstop on draft day you could do a whole lot worse.

Adalberto Mondesi– Kansas City Royals

Projection: .253, 22 HR, 76 Runs, 73 RBI, 43 SB, 31

How do we even begin to handicap this? He came up after multiple cups of coffee and finally produced a .276/.306/.498 slash line with 32 steals in almost half a season’s worth of at bats. The batted ball data and plate discipline issues point to regression. How much regression is the key question.

Jose Peraza– Cincinnati Reds

Projection: .281, 11 HR, 69 Runs, 61 RBI, 21 SB, 29 BB

Peraza put up 14 HR and 23 stolen bases last season. For now, he has the Reds shortstop job. Nick Senzel looks like the shortstop of the future, but they will give him a shot at center field next season. Ten plus home runs and 20 plus stolen bases is nice to have on a fantasy bench.

Lourdes Gurriel– Toronto Blue Jays

Projection: .266, 19 HR, 72 Runs, 65 RBI, 7 SB, 24 BB

There was one magical day last summer where Yuli and Lourdes both hit two home runs on the same day. The Blue Jays brought in Freddy Galvis to be his caddy, but I can’t imagine why they would want to waste at bats on him.

Andrelton Simmons– Los Angeles Angels

Projection: .277, 11 HR, 65 Runs, 63 RBI, 10 SB, 39 BB

Much like Matt Chapman in the last article, Simmons is one of those guys that you wished there would be a fantasy category for defensive runs saved. He is basically this generation’s Ozzie Smith. He’s solid offensively, but that plays up big time with his defense in real baseball. In fake baseball not so much.

Tim Anderson– Chicago White Sox

Projection: .252, 16 HR, 62 Runs, 64 RBI, 20 SB, 25 BB

Anderson has been up a couple of seasons and we know his modus operandi. He will hit the occasional dinger and steal the occasional base. That’s good. He won’t draw walks. That’s bad. There’s a reason the White Sox have been sniffing around Machado.

Paul Dejong– St. Louis Cardinals

Projection: .254, 22 HR, 62 Runs, 73 RBI, 2 SB, 24 BB

Where the Cardinals hit Dejong could make a lot of difference. If they put him in the lineup near Matt Carpenter and Paul Goldschmidt the lack of patience may not kill him. The smart play would be to put him down in the order though.

Willy Adames– Tampa Bay Rays

Projection: .248, 13 HR, 61 Runs, 59 RBI, 10 SB, 56 BB

The third of our young shortstops also came up last year and looks to be the Rays regular shortstop next season. They can mix and match guys with the best of them, so we aren’t as confident that he will get a full complement of at bats.

Brandon Crawford– San Francisco Giants

Projection: .255, 13 HR, 54 Runs, 60 RBI, 5 SB, 47 BB

I’ve always liked Crawford. He doesn’t do anything really well, but he doesn’t have any major weaknesses either. He is a testament to the value of an average player. Sure, average doesn’t sound good until you’ve experienced replacement level performance.

Elvis Andrus– Texas Rangers

Projection: .266, 9 HR, 58 Runs, 55 RBI, 11 SB, 37

Andrus had a huge 2017 season and then he spent a good portion of 2018 on the shelf. 2017 may have been a mirage. The numbers above represent what he has done for much of his career. Of course, he doesn’t have the speed he once did and that is while he has tumbled down the list.

2019 Fantasy Baseball: Third Base Steamer Projection Rankings

Third base and right field are the deepest positions on the fantasy diamond. It’s hard to explain why that is the case. Unfortunately, when you get to the point where you have this much depth, you get some considerable anger when someone’s guy is ranked lower than they think he should be.

The three year rankings do that for guys that haven’t played three seasons. So, we look at the projection data as a counterbalance. We are looking at the Steamer projections for the six main offensive categories. Again, we take these with a grain of salt.

Jose Ramirez– Cleveland Indians

Projection: .284, 27 HR, 93 Runs, 97 RBI, 23 SB, 77 BB

Ramirez has done it two seasons in a row and he was better last year than the season before. Yes, the Indians have less than they did before, but Ramirez is also eligible at second base. I’m not sure if he’s a first round pick given all that has happened, but you could do a lot worse.

Kris Bryant– Chicago Cubs

Projection: .275, 28 HR, 93 Runs, 86 RBI, 6 SB, 79 BB

Bryant has tumbled into the 30s in ADP. He was the former NL MVP and has multiple position flexibility. 2018 was a down season to be sure, but this guy is an elite player. He could end up being a bargain if he lasts until the third or fourth round in most standard 12 player leagues.

Nolan Arenado– Colorado Rockies

Projection: .286, 36 HR, 96 Runs, 106 RBI, 3 SB, 62 BB

I try to stay true to ideology. The key difference between Arenado and Bryant is patience and a little extra speed on the part of Bryant. The multi-positional flexibility is also a factor. Arenado just spits out runs and RBI by the bushel, so you can flip flop them if you wish.

Alex Bregman– Houston Astros

Projection: .279, 25 HR, 95 Runs, 89 RBI, 10 SB, 73 BB

Both Bregman and Bryant were number two overall picks. It would be interesting to flip flop them. After all, the Astros could have taken Bryant instead of Mark Appel. They may have won out here. Bregman is also eligible at short in most formats.

Eugenio Suarez– Cincinnati Reds

Projection: .257, 28 HR, 80 Runs, 90 RBI, 4 SB, 70 BB

The Reds are one of the deepest offenses in the National League. That includes teams like the Dodgers and Cubs. Suarez has quietly improved in each of the past three seasons. I’m not sure if he has another step in him, but even if he doesn’t he’s turned into a very underrated player.

Anthony Rendon– Washington Nationals

Projection: .287, 21 HR, 80 Runs, 80 RBI, 4 SB, 65 BB

Rendon will likely be the next 100+ million dollar guy coming out of Washington. This shows how deep third base is. Some will drop him once Harper signs elsewhere, but there are still plenty of hitters to drive in in Washington.

Matt Chapman– Oakland Athletics

Projection: .249, 28 HR, 84 Runs, 85 RBI, 4 SB, 60 BB

I wish they included fielding runs as a category. Chapman is definitely a top five overall third baseman in terms of absolute value, but as a hitter he doesn’t have the batting average to compete with the guys above him. He will draw walks though, so he’s a good bet in six category leagues.

Matt Carpenter– St. Louis Cardinals

Projection: .251, 25 HR, 96 Runs, 69 RBI, 4 SB, 98 BB

Carpenter is also eligible at first base. Usually that would be worse, but third base is deeper than first these days. There was a brief time in August when Carpenter looked like the NL MVP last season. Now, he’s ranked eighth. That’s how deep this spot is.

Travis Shaw– Milwaukee Brewers

Projection: .249, 27 HR, 72 Runs, 83 RBI, 5 SB, 64 BB

Shaw could be eligible at second base in some leagues and if the Brewers bring Mike Moustakas back he could move there permanently. Shaw is definitely a step below the top eight guys. This is similar to the index when we look at the gap between players.

Josh Donaldson– Atlanta Braves

Projection: .257, 25 HR, 75 Runs, 75 RBI, 3 SB, 74 BB

Every fantasy champion must roll the dice every once in awhile. Donaldson is a top five talent even at a deep third base position. The key will be health. Most projection systems are looking at 500 or so plate appearances. If he goes north of 600 he could be a stud.

Mike Moustakas– Free Agent

Projection: .257, 28 HR, 70 Runs, 83 RBI, 3 SB, 43 BB

Poor Mike Moustakas. He has to wait for the Manny Machado sweepstakes to sort itself out before the losers turn to Moustakas. A return to Milwaukee actually makes sense and in that lineup he could put up really good numbers. Stay tuned.

Justin Turner– Los Angeles Dodgers

Projection: .286, 18 HR, 71 Runs, 68 RBI, 3 SB, 52 BB

Turner missed almost half of last season. Projecting playing time is a dicey issue across the board. Does one season with a significant injury affect future durability. Maybe. I tend to think he will be back to 600 PA, so he will outproduce this in all likelihood.

Miguel Sano– Minnesota Twins

Projection: .237, 28 HR, 72 Runs, 80 RBI, 1 SB, 64 BB

Sano may be a scumbag. What does this have to do with the numbers? Well, he spent a good portion of last season with an abuse allegation hanging over his head. It was a huge step back on the diamond. Maybe being “cleared” lifts the cloud. He’s a borderline regular. I’m not sure that’s enough to overlook the fact that he might be a scumbag.

Rafael Devers– Boston Red Sox

Projection: .271, 21 HR, 63 Runs, 71 RBI, 5 SB, 38 BB

Devers is a good counterpoint to Sano. Devers plays in the best lineup in the American League and he is getting better. Whether he takes two steps forward or just one remains to be seen. The key for him will be whether he can take a few walks here and there.

Miguel Andujar– New York Yankees

Projection: .279, 23 HR, 69 Runs, 78 RBI, 3 SB, 28 BB

Andujar was worth -25 DRS last year as a third baseman. That might explain why the Yankees seemed eager to replace him this offseason. Fielding matters because it effects how often he gets on the field. With D.J. LeMahieu in tow, he might find itsef on the bench more often this season.

Kyle Seager– Seattle Mariners

Projection: .241, 22 HR, 66 Runs, 74 RBI, 3 SB, 48 BB

Seager used to be banked for 25 home runs and 90 RBI a season. The Mariners are going into tank mode and he took a steo back last season. Whether he returns to form or not, he isn’t likely to drive in all of those runs.

Jake Lamb– Arizona Diamondbacks

Projection: .245, 17 HR, 55 Runs, 58 RBI, 4 SB, 57 BB

Last season was a lost season for Lamb, but a move to first base might help him stay on the field long enough to produce some decent numbers again. At any other position he would be a definite top 15 guy, but third base is as deep as ever.

Eduardo Escobar– Arizona Diamondbacks

Projection: .252, 15 HR, 55 Runs, 59 RBI, 4 SB, 39 BB

Formats matter. Escobar is a doubles machine. Doubles don’t count any extra in standard leagues, but in total points leagues it makes him an intriguing play. The Dbacks are tanking, so it will be hard for him to put up secondary numbers.

Matt Duffy– Tampa Bay Rays

Projection: .271, 5 HR, 33 Runs, 29 RBI, 6 SB, 22 BB

This is all about projecting playing time. Betting on any Rays player is rough because they mix and match so much. If Duffy gets 500 plate appearances he is a decent add for a fantasy bench. He may also be eligible at shortstop.

Zack Cozart– Los Angeles Angels

Projection: .243, 15 HR, 63 Runs, 55 RBI, 3 SB, 45 BB

Cozart had a lost season last year, but there is no reason to expect him to suffer through more injuries this season. If he goes back to career norms he is a decent bench option. He could even get some games in at short if Andrelton Simmons gets hurt.

2019 Fantasy Baseball: Second Base Steamer Projection Rankings

Second base is actually one of the deeper positions in fantasy baseball. That could clearly be seen in the market this past winter as well. Like with catchers and first basemen, we get to deal with the tension between past results and future expectations. Some younger players were hurt because they had not put up enough numbers to beat out lesser players. Here, we get to see them move up the charts.

In our projection series we are using the six primary offensive categories to rank players (walks are the sixth category). The best course of action is probably to combine the two somehow. Projections are an inexact science due to all of the factors that are out of the player’s control. So, we do the best we can.

Jose Altuve—Houston Astros

Projection: .303, 17 HR, 89 Runs, 78 RBI, 17 SB, 54 BB

ESPN or the MLB Network did one of those lists that get you through the hot stove season where they listed players under 30 that look like Hall of Famers. They somehow left Altuve off the list. In Houston, the debate is already raging between Craig Biggio and Altuve for the top spot at second base. He played with a broken bone in his leg last season. He should be 100 percent again this season.

Ozzie Albies—Atlanta Braves

Projection: .273, 18 HR, 76 Runs, 72 RBI, 15 SB, 40 BB

Albies looks like a younger version of Altuve. Altuve grew when he learned to take the occasional walk. Albies doesn’t have Altuve’s freakish hit tool, but he has power and speed to burn. He also plays in a lineup that is considerably better than it was last year. If he learns to take a few more pitches he could be dangerous.

Gleyber Torres—New York Yankees

Projection: .257, 21 HR, 67 Runs, 71 RBI, 8 SB, 49 BB

As exciting as Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are, every team sees their fortunes rise and fall with their best young players. Miguel Andujar and Torres drove the Yankees to a 100 win season. Whether either are as good this season remains to be seen. Young players always take a step forward or a step back. They are rarely ever the same.

Yoan Moncada—Chicago White Sox

Projection: .236, 19 HR, 77 Runs, 63 RBI, 16 SB, 69 BB

Moncada struck out more than 200 times last season. Yet, he also had a healthy walk rate. Add in the power and speed and you have a fascinating package. Something will give in 2019. Either he will make more contact and take the next step as a player or he will take his first steps out of the league.

Daniel Murphy—Colorado Rockies

Projection: .306, 18 HR, 66 Runs, 70 RBI, 3 SB, 35 BB

People trash the Rockies because they haven’t done much this offseason, but this move was a stroke of genius. Murphy might not be much of a second baseman anymore, but he just might be the second or third best hitter on the Rockies. That’s saying something for a team with Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon.

Scooter Gennett—Cincinnati Reds

Projection: .262, 18 HR, 67 Runs, 72 RBI, 4 SB, 37 BB

The J.T. Realmuto saga has become its own soap opera with pitfalls and cliff hangers at every step. The Reds are supposedly in. Let’s assume he goes there. I dare you to find a hole in their lineup. Gennett could be a trade candidate depending on how their season goes, but I can’t imagine him doing any better anywhere else.

Robinson Cano—New York Mets

Projection: .277, 19 HR, 63 Runs, 67 RBI, 1 SB, 40 BB

Often when we throw things into a computer we don’t allow for context. I’m sure each projection system saw fewer PA last season and somehow spit out a lower number again. Cano has been a durable player over the years and likely will be again. I’d have to think he will produce better than this.

Whit Merrifield—Kansas City Royals

Projection: .275, 10 HR, 66 Runs, 48 RBI, 25 SB, 37 BB

The market has put players in a hard spot. You can keep getting paid peanuts from season to season and then cash in when you become a free agency or accept a lesser long-term deal in order to get security. If my employer came to me with a five-year contract I’d be hard pressed to say no. That’s even if I were leaving some money on the table.

Rougned Odor—Texas Rangers

Projection: .249, 22 HR, 63 Runs, 68 RBI, 13 SB, 33 BB

Odor actually started to draw a few more walks towards the end of last season. If that continues he could be a viable six category guy. As it stands, he just doesn’t steal first base often enough to be a top-tier guy. Who knows, if he finds himself at around 40 or 50 walks he could be something special.

Cesar Hernandez—Philadelphia Phillies

Projection: .256, 9 HR, 67 Runs, 47 RBI, 14 SB, 70 BB

When we get here we start to have a frank discussion about the difference between real value and fantasy value. Hernandez is a valuable player in real life. He gets on base and fields his position competently. In fantasy he doesn’t hit enough dingers or steal enough bases to be elite. Add in a pedestrian average and most people will just pass him by.

Brian Dozier—Washington Nationals

Projection: .242, 18 HR, 63 Runs, 54 RBI, 9 SB, 49 BB

These numbers sure do feel low. This was a guy that was hitting 30 home runs and stealing 20 bases a season until last season. As usually happens, he revealed that he was injured for part of last season. He signed a one year contract to rebuild his value. I’d bet the over here.

Jurickson Profar—Oakland Athletics

Projection: .259, 13 HR, 58 Runs, 55 RBI, 6 SB, 44 BB

Necessity is the mother of invention. The A’s are about as good as anyone in recognizing value. Profar was the number one prospect in baseball a few years ago, but it wasn’t until last year that he stuck. If he were a free agent he might be an eight figure guy annually. For now, he is under club control. 

Ian Happ—Chicago Cubs

Projection: .232, 16 HR, 48 Runs, 49 RBI, 7 SB, 50 BB

The Cubs are a team screaming for the DH. They have Happ penciled in center field for the moment, but he is naturally a second baseman. They have Ben Zobrist there. Zobrist can play everywhere and Happ is flexible too. When Addison Russell comes back it will be interesting to see how the pieces fit together.

Jason Kipnis—Cleveland Indians

Projection: .248, 13 HR, 58 Runs, 54 RBI, 6 SB, 44 BB

There was a day when Kipnis lived in the top ten at second base. Maybe it’s the pitching or maybe he just isn’t the guy he used to be. Either way, he is likely to take another step back as the Indians lineup is not nearly as deep as it used to be.

Dee Gordon—Seattle Mariners

Projection: .275, 3 HR, 60 Runs, 41 RBI, 30 SB, 18 BB

Stolen bases are fantasy baseball’s heroin. Fantasy players chase the dragon and it never seems to get them the high they were hoping for. Like the drug, speedsters always seem to regress over time (at least in terms of SB). You look up one day at a guy that steals 20 or 30 bases and does little else.

Jed Lowrie—New York Mets

Projection: .242, 13 HR, 54 Runs, 52 RBI, 1 SB, 52 BB

Lowrie certainly cashed in on a career season this year. He will be the Mets third baseman and should gain multiple position eligibility during the season. That makes him a viable bench piece, but if you or the Mets are banking on last season’s numbers you are looking in the wrong place.

Starlin Castro—Miami Marlins

Projection: .266, 12 HR, 52 Runs, 55 RBI, 4 SB, 31 BB

Castro will wind up on a Hall of Fame ballot someday. Let that sink in for a minute. He is the kind of player that rises and falls with the tide. He is on the worst team in the National League, so it’s low tide. They’d love to deal him, but I’m hard pressed to figure what contender would actually want him.

Ian Kinsler—San Diego Padres

Projection: .246, 12 HR, 50 Runs, 41 RBI, 11 SB, 34 BB

Kinsler will wind up on that same HOF ballot and he deserves some votes. However, there is nothing as dangerous as the memory of a good player. Kinsler has aged a lot more gracefully than some guys, but the signs of age are there. The Padres hope to get a useful season or two, but there isn’t much left in the tank.

Ben Zobrist—Chicago Cubs

Projection: .268, 8 HR, 46 Runs, 45 RBI, 3 SB, 45 BB

I make no bones about the fact that I have had a man crush on Zobrist for years. He plays nearly every position well and he gets on base. He has value on a fantasy bench, but there is no denying that he will have a hard time getting in the lineup consistently. There has been talk of dealing him and if that happens he could see an uptick in value.

Dustin Pedroia—Boston Red Sox

Projection: .272, 7 HR, 46 Runs, 42 RBI, 4 SB, 38 BB

It’s takes imagination and multiple dimensional thinking to be a good fantasy sports player. The element of time is crucial. There are players that won’t be effective for six months, but they might be effective for three or four. The trick is knowing which guys to draft and stash and which ones to wait on the waiver wire. 

2019 Fantasy Baseball: First Base Steamer Projection Rankings

We return from our detour through the index to look at the rankings for first basemen. These rankings are based on the Steamer projections in the six primary categories. Projections are never perfect because they are based on a number of factors that are impossible to predict accurately. Batted ball luck, durability, and actual ability is difficult to predict.

Yet, looking at them is still instructive because the younger players were invariably hurt by the three-year outlook we went with earlier. So, take these rankings for what they are worth. Like with the index, the real story is not in the absolute rankings, but the distance between one guy and the next.

Anthony Rizzo—Chicago Cubs

Projection: .281, 29 HR, 92 Runs, 90 RBI, 7 SB, 76 BB

A part of Rizzo’s charm is that he gives you a little bit of everything. There is someone that does each skill a little better, but he gives you the combination. He also happens to be on one of the most talented teams in baseball. We might say the Dodgers, Red Sox, Yankees, or Astros are better, but that’s still a pretty short list.

Freddie Freeman—Atlanta Braves

Projection: .287, 26 HR, 89 Runs, 90 RBI, 8 SB, 78 BB

Freeman is moving up in the world a lot like the Braves are. They aren’t quite to the same level as the Dodgers and Cubs, but they are the defending NL East champs and you could argue they are even better. Of course, so are the Mets, Phillies, and Nats. 

Paul Goldschmidt—St. Louis Cardinals

Projection: .277, 27 HR, 92 Runs, 87 RBI, 11 SB, 92 BB

You could argue for Goldy as the top first baseman and wouldn’t argue too strenuously. Projecting runs and RBI is a fool’s errand. Even projecting stolen bases is hard. So, you leave yourself with the other numbers and he’s right there in all of them. Like Rizzo, he gives you a little of everything.

Rhys Hoskins—Philadelphia Phillies

Projection: .249, 35 HR, 87 Runs, 95 RBI, 5 SB, 80 BB

Funny how we pay so much attention to new faces in new places, but the best guys are usually the guys that are already there. As of this writing, neither Bryce Harper nor Manny Machado have agreed to a deal. Either may wind up in Philly and that would certainly change the perception, but Hoskins still might be the top bat in town.

Joey Votto—Cincinnati Reds

Projection: .278, 21 HR, 87 Runs, 78 RBI, 3 SB, 108 BB

Votto is the best first baseman in terms of pure offensive production, but most of those numbers don’t show up on a fantasy stat sheet. The rumor mill had the Reds adding J.T. Realmuto and if that happened you would have to take them seriously in the NL Central. I’m not sure how much that affects Votto though.

Cody Bellinger—Los Angeles Dodgers

Projection: .267, 30 HR, 80 Runs, 89 RBI, 4 SB, 67 BB

Bellinger has multiple position flexibility (as does Rhys Hoskins) and there is some doubt as to whether he will wind up at first or in the outfield. I’d bet on both. Either way, he is a flawed offensive player, but there is enough protection around him to give him some cover. The added flexibility will help throughout the year.

Matt Olson—Oakland Athletics

Projection: .244, 32 HR, 81 Runs, 90 RBI, 2 SB, 70 BB

The first AL first sacker is a relative newcomer. All positions go through ebs and flows like that. Like some of the guys above him, he is a flawed offensive player, but he is a gifted defender and he plays for a team without many other options. That has a way of boosting his plate appearances.

Jose Abreu—Chicago White Sox

Projection: .280, 27 HR, 77 Runs, 89 RBI, 2 SB, 40 BB

When you put a free swinger on a young team you see diminished returns. Pitchers know they can get him to chase, so he won’t be quite as good as when he first played for the Sox. There is always the chance he could move to a contender in a trade and if that happens we could see a slight uptick in performance.

Eric Hosmer—San Diego Padres

Projection: .265, 22 HR, 76 Runs, 75 RBI, 6 SB, 65 BB

Hosmer is a throwback to the old days of free agency. A fool and his money are soon parted. Yes, there are some really smart people working for the Padres, but either they were out of the room when that decision was made or their voices weren’t heard. He isn’t as bad as he was a year ago though.

Miguel Cabrera—Detroit Tigers

Projection: .283, 21 HR, 69 Runs, 74 RBI, 1 SB, 62 BB

There is a huge debate going in and around the game about the effects of toxic contracts. Make no mistake, Cabrera has a toxic contract. Still, is that as much of a barrier to spending as some contend? If healthy, Cabrera is still a top ten first baseman and if that is the case then he is still worth something.

Brandon Belt—San Francisco Giants

Projection: .253, 18 HR, 69 Runs, 66 RBI, 4 SB, 76 BB

Is Belt really a starting quality fantasy first baseman? That might be more of a philosophical question. If you could guarantee 600 plate appearances the answer is a resounding yes. Of course, that also assumes you are playing in a walks/OBP league. There might be too many caveats there.

Max Muncy—Los Angeles Dodgers

Projection: .236, 23 HR, 70 Runs, 69 RBI, 3 SB, 72 BB

Muncy might become eligible at second base this year. The Dodgers have a group of players capable of moving around the diamond. It makes them a better bet than the Cubs or anyone in the NL East moving forward. Muncy is likely to take a step backwards this season at the plate, so that hurts his value some.

Carlos Santana—Cleveland Indians

Projection: .251, 20 HR, 70 Runs, 66 RBI, 3 SB, 70 BB

Santana is clearly a better player than Yonder Alonso. Maybe if he had been in Cleveland last year they would have made it to the ALCS. Given how thoroughly the Astros kicked them that might be farfetched. Cleveland still has Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor, so they aren’t terrible, but they are a much thinner group this time around.

Jesus Aguilar—Milwaukee Brewers

Projection: .242, 27 HR, 69 Runs, 81 RBI, 1 SB, 52 BB

Most projection systems have a regression to the mean model. So, players like Aguilar have to prove themselves before getting the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes this pessimism makes sense and sometimes it’s just a hedging of bets. Take a look at his batted ball data if you like, but this feels like a “prove it” kind of projection.

Justin Smoak—Toronto Blue Jays

Projection: .239, 25 HR, 71 Runs, 77 RBI, 1 SB, 69 BB

There’s a reason why Steamer and other projections systems do what they do. Smoak and Logan Morrison were the toasts of 2017. Smoak took a step back and Morrison turned into a pumpkin. This feels right, but there is also the possibility that Smoak could join a contender via trade, so stay tuned.

Josh Bell—Pittsburgh Pirates

Projection: .270, 15 HR, 58 Runs, 60 RBI, 4 SB, 59 BB

Fans can make themselves wondering when a player will take the next step. Sometimes they never do. Pirates fans have been waiting for Bell to develop a little more power. This year might be the year. Maybe it happens in 2020. He’s not a bad guy to have around even if it never happens. You just have to accurately peg his value.

Kendrys Morales—Toronto Blue Jays

Projection: .249, 21 HR, 57 Runs, 62 RBI, 2 SB, 42 BB

The knee injury that derailed his career as a star didn’t completely kill him. Morales still has value in deeper leagues where he also qualifies at first base. In some leagues he will only qualify in the utility spot. He’s not good enough to stick there. Like in real baseball, there are fewer and fewer spots for pure DHs.

Edwin Encarnacion—Seattle Mariners

Projection: .238, 24 HR, 60 Runs, 68 RBI, 1 SB, 57 BB

It’s hard to fathom someone going from 100+ RBI a season to 68 overnight. I don’t buy that personally, but the Mariners are also in rebuilding mode. Maybe he gets dealt before Opening Day and these numbers change. I have to think he is good for 80 RBI just by virtue of the fact that he is who he is. I’d adjust accordingly.

Ryan Zimmerman—Washington Nationals

Projection: .263, 19 HR, 51 Runs, 62 RBI, 2 SB, 34 BB

We all know that person at work. Everyone feels for him or her because something is going on in their life that just keeps them from being at their best. Then, you realize that there always seems to be something going on. Emergencies cease to be emergencies when they are always happening. Freak injuries cease to be freak injuries when they always seem to be happening. It’s hard to call someone fragile when you haven’t walked a mile in their shoes. Maybe unlucky instead?

Ian Desmond—Colorado Rockies

Projection: .268, 14 HR, 47 Runs, 49 RBI, 12 SB, 30 BB

Desmond gets the nod over C.J. Cron because he potentially has multiple position flexibility. Cron may actually put up slightly better numbers, but when you have the thin air of Colorado and multiple position potential that has to count for something. He also gives us some speed that we don’t normally have at the position.