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2018 Fantasy Baseball Trading Places: Infield Edition

2018 Fantasy Baseball Hitters Trading Places: Infield Edition
Rough Tough, Real Stuff

Welcome Fantasy Baseball fans to part two of my look at players who have traded places, in which I will be taking a look at the infielders who have switched uniforms and how they might affect their Fantasy values. Please take a moment and took a look at part one in which I take a look at the Outfielders who have traded places.

Which players increased their Fantasy values by switching teams? What players actually will regress with their new teams? Who should Fantasy owners target in the infield? The answers to those questions and a whole lot more in the 2018 Fantasy Baseball Trading Place: Infield Edition.

2018 Fantasy Baseball Trading Places

Alex Avila, C, Arizona Diamondbacks

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Alex Avila joins the Diamondbacks who have a good offense and a hitter-friendly hitter park (for now). He will have some good hitters around him in the Diamondbacks’ lineup, guys like Paul Goldschmidt, Jake Lamb, A.J. Pollock and David Peralta. He is projected to hit sixth between Yasmany Thomas and Chris Owings. He did have his best power-hitting season in years last season. Avila finished with 14 home runs, 49 RBI and a .264 average in 112 games.

Chase Field is also a very hitter-friendly park. It finished fourth in home runs, sixth in hits and first in doubles, according to ESPN Park Factors. There are still rumors of the Diamondbacks installing a humidor to store the balls. This was supposed to happen last year but it kept getting pushed back and back and is scheduled to be installed this year. A year ago, ESPN ranked Chase Field as the second most hitter-friendly park in the game.

Avila flirts with double-digit home runs every year and will pop around 13-18 doubles.  Unfortunately, he has played in more than 124 games just once in his career (141 games in 2011), so he will likely share catching duties with Chris Herrmann or Jeff Mathis during the season. He will be Arizona’s primary option and a good starter in deep and two-catcher leagues.

Welington Castillo, C, Chicago White Sox

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Castillo is an underrated Fantasy contributor at a shallow position, who is now the starting catcher for the Chicago White Sox after just one season with the Baltimore Orioles. In 96 games last season, he hit .282/.323/.490 with a career-high 20 home runs. He had a 115 OPS-plus, 20 points higher than his average OPS-plus over the previous five seasons. Castillo will be an upgrade over the group of catchers the White Sox had in 2017. They hit a combined .279/.346/.381 with 10 homers, 51 RBI, and 51 runs scored.

Castillo was seeking more regular playing time. In the second half of 2017, he battled injuries and split time evenly with Caleb Joseph and the Orioles have been open about their desire to work rookie Chance Sisco into a major league role next season. One concern to keep in mind, however, is that Castillo posted a .929 OPS at Camden Yards compared to a .694 mark in road games.

Roster Resource has Castillo hitting 5th behind Jose Abreu, Avisail Garcia, and Yoan Moncada, which should above average RBI opportunities. He is a Top 10 catcher whose power is legit. I can see him putting up 20-25 homers and 60-plus RBI.

Yonder Alonso, 1B, Cleveland Indians

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The Cleveland Indians signed Yonder Alonso to take over for the departed Carlos Santana. Alonso (.266/866 OPS/ 28 HR/67 RBI) had very similar stats in 2017 to Santana (.259/818 OPS/23 HR/ 79 RBI). The big difference is that this was the first time Alonso hit more than nine homers in a season. He made a major adjustment to his swing, creating more fly balls to hit for more power. His fly ball rate increased from 34 percent to 44 percent, according to Fangraphs.  Overall, Alonso had a 43.2 percent fly-ball rate in ’17, compared to 33.3 percent in ’16 and 34.3 percent for his career.

Alonso made the All-Star team, batting .275 (.934 OPS) with 20 HR and 43 RBI at the break. In the second half, Alonso hit .254 (.771 OPS) with 8 HR and 24 RBI. His OPS dropped 160 points in the second half, he fell from a .562 slugging to a .420 slugging. The 30-year-old Alonso posted a career-best .866 OPS in 2017 and hit 28 homers, more than three times his previous high.

He finished out of the top 25 on the Player Rater. The power helped him get there but his low batting average kept him from reaching starter status. He should have plenty of opportunities to gets hits and drive in runs in a very potent Cleveland lineup. Although it’s doubtful that he will help much in your fantasy lineup.

Eric Hosmer, 1B, San Diego Padres

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Eric Hosmer is coming off back-to-back 25-homer seasons and his .318 average last year with the Kansas City Royals was a career-best. However, the move to San Diego doesn’t change the gauge on his fantasy value. His fantasy value stems from being extremely durable.

After turning slightly hitter-friendly in 2016, Petco Park reverted to its traditional position among the worst in the majors for hitters. It ranked next-to-last in promoting scoring and home runs last season. (Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City was only slightly better.)

Hosmer is a .280, 25 HR, 90 RBI guy, which is very solid. However, he is being taken as a top-12 first baseman. Fantasy owners can get the same type of production from a variety of players, more than 50-100 picks later.

Carlos Santana, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies

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Carlos Santana, 31, is a Gold Glove-caliber, switch-hitting first baseman with a career .810 OPS and .365 on-base percentage, who left the Cleveland Indians. He then signed with the Philadelphia Phillies to be their primary first baseman. Since becoming a full-time player in 2011, he has a slash line of .249/.363/.445 with 168 home runs, an average of 26 a season per 162 games. Last season, he batted .259/.363/.455 (112 OPS+) with 23 home runs and 37 doubles in 154 games with Cleveland.

Among qualified first basemen, Santana’s fWAR of 3.0 ranked 12th, putting him in the upper half in baseball in ‘17. His walk rate (13.2%) was much higher than the league average (8.5%), and his strikeout rate (14.1%) was much lower (21.6%).

The Phillies added a much needed middle-of-the-order on-base machine. They averaged 4.26 runs per game in 2017-the fourth-fewest in the majors-and were among the 10 worst teams in the majors at getting on base with a .315 OBP. Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez was the only member of the team with a higher OBP than Santana in 2017, and Santana had a higher walk rate (13.2%) than anyone on the Phillies with at least 250 plate appearances.

Carlos Santana should be a mid-round selection as a low-end corner infielder in drafts with an uptick in OPS leagues, which all Fantasy leagues should use as a category, but I digress. He should continue to produce similar numbers, somewhere close to .250/20-25 HR/90 RBI/.850 OPS productive line.

Ian Kinsler, 2B, Los Angeles Angels

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The Angels acquired second baseman Ian Kinsler from Detroit to help fill a second base void that has haunted the team since Howie Kendrick was traded after the 2014 season. The Angels will be happy if Kinsler can bounce back from a season in which he hit .236 with a .313 OBP and .412 slugging percentage, well below his career slash line of .273/.342/.447. Though he did hit 22 home runs, Kinsler finished with just 52 RBI.

Kinsler will also likely hit at the top of the order and serve as their lead off man.The veteran’s strong on-base and contact skills play well in a leadoff role, and it could be a boon to his value with the likes of Mike Trout and Justin Upton hitting behind him.

Kinsler’s bat is likely to bounce back despite his age concerns, although he has topped 600 plate appearances in each of the last seven seasons. In fact, considering his 37.0% hard-hit rate a career-best clip — plus a contact rate and swinging-strike rate right around his career norms — Kinsler is due for some positive regression in 2018. Kinsler still has double-digit home run and stolen base potential. His run total could flirt with 90 runs on a much-improved Angels team. Currently, his ADP is 21st-second baseman off the board, with his upcoming bounce-back season, look for Kinsler to approach starter status in deeper leagues.

Starlin Castro, 2B, Miami Marlins

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The Miami Marlins obtained Starlin Castro in the biggest off-season trade when they shipped NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton to the Bronx. Last season, he hit .300/.338/.454 with 16 home runs and 63 RBI in 112 games for the Yankees. He finished the season strong even with missing some time in the summer with a hamstring injury.

Over the past three seasons, Castro has averaged 16 homers and 67 RBI with a slash of .277/.310/.419. His 2017 offensive numbers were even better, buoying his 2.6 fWAR despite poor defensive numbers. The veteran infielder also has shown he can impact the baseball. According to Statcast™, his average exit velocity on balls put in play was 87.4 mph, which was fourth on the Yankees among players with at least 150 attempts. Aaron Judge (94.5 mph), Gary Sanchez (90.9) and Matt Holliday (89.6) were the only players higher.

Marlins manager Don Mattingly is using Spring Training to tinker with the lineup, but a constant has been Castro playing second base and batting third. A career 80% contact rate makes Castro a good candidate to bat third for this young Marlins team. Castro is no stranger to batting third, doing so 135 times in his career and posting a slash line of .264/.291/.400 with 11 home runs and 61 RBIs. projects a .272 batting average and .319 on-base percentage in 2018. It seems like Fantasy owners have forgotten about Starlin Castro. His current ADP is 31st ranked Second baseman and 288th overall, which seems too low. While he did suffer a significant downgrade now that he is no longer a Yankee, Castro can still hit and produce in your MI slot. He will be worth a gamble late in your draft as other owners draft their second baseman early.

Dee Gordon, 2B/OF, Seattle Mariners

The addition of Dee Gordon gives the Mariners a loaded lineup and one of the deeper lineups in baseball. With Gordon and Jean Segura at the top of the lineup, and Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Kyle Seager following, Seattle should score a ton of runs. Last season, Gordon showed what he is capable of by posting a .308/2 HR/33 RBI/60 SB/.716 OPS/114 R line over 158 games.

Gordon will, of course, carry second base eligibility heading into 2018, as he transitions to center field for the Mariners. Gordon led all of baseball in steals in 2017. His speed is not going anywhere and finding steals is harder and harder to do. Only 6 players stole more than 30 bases in 2017, and only 14 stole 25 or more. Baseball is moving away from base-stealers, opting instead for the instant offense of the home run ball.

His multi-position eligibility will provide flexibility to your Fantasy roster and likely improve his value.  This will allow Fantasy owners to fill in the power categories with a combination of any position. The edge to having an elite stolen base guy like Gordon is more valuable to you than power, which is much easier to find.

Dee Gordon will hit .300 and will likely win you the runs and stolen bases categories. He could easily post a .300/50 RBI/60 SB/120 R type of season with this lineup behind him. That places Gordon in the Top 5 at Second base and worth the gamble as a high draft pick.

Brandon Drury, 2B/3B, New York Yankees

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The Yankees made a deal to obtain Brandon Drury to provide flexibility and insurance. They have rookies Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar competing for starting jobs at second and third and did not want to go to into this season without a backup plan if the rookies were not ready for the big leagues. Drury played 114 games at second base for the Diamondbacks last season but also has 41 career games at third base. He hit a solid .275/.323/.453 with 29 homers the last two seasons. He also slugged a whopping 68 doubles. Drury and the Yankees’ coaches want to turn some of those doubles into homers going forward.

Scouts believe that Drury’s swing, which allows him to naturally drive the ball to the opposite field, will play nicely in Yankee Stadium. He did hit approximately 26 percent of his batted balls the other way in 2017. This is slightly above the league average of 25 percent, and five of his thirteen home runs were hit either to center or right field. Combining his league average hard contact ability with an increase in fly balls will inevitably lead to more homers. Yankee Stadium is more homer-friendly than Chase Field, at least according to the park factors at FanGraphs.

The 25-year-old Drury figures to start at second or third for the Yankees on Opening Day. This will depend upon how the rookies produce. His versatility is also a value to the Yankees, with potential for him to become a Ben-Zobrist-type player. Currently, he has an overall ADP of 353, which means he is practically free for Fantasy owners. He is the type of upside late-round draft pick that wins championships!

Evan Longoria, 3B, San Francisco Giants

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The Giants are making a big bet that Evan Longoria will bounce back from a disappointing 2017 season with the Rays. He hit only .261/.313/.424 with 20 home runs and 86 RBI but still defends at an elite level. The three-time All-Star is only entering his age-32 season and did hit 36 home runs in 2016. There is a reason to believe he can still produce at a high level for a few more seasons.

His biggest asset is his durability. Over the past five seasons, he has missed a combined 12 games, so you can be fairly confident projecting him for a minimum of 150 games. That projection alone provides fantasy value for Longoria.

Longoria did show signs of deteriorating skills and now will be hitting in one of the worst hitters parks in baseball. Additionally, the Giants were terrible last year, but how much are they really improved? It’s doubtful that they can be any worse this season, but can Longoria? He is the consensus 22nd ranked in third baseman on FantasyPros and I see his upside only climbing to the Top 15 while hitting .260 and maybe 20 home runs.

2018 Fantasy Baseball Hitters Trading Places-Infield Editon

Alex AvilaCChicago CubsArizona Diamondbacks
Jonathan LucroyCColorado RockiesOakland A's
Matt Adams1BAtlanta BravesWashington Nationals
Yonder Alonso1BSeattle MarinersCleveland Indians
C.J. Cron1BLos Angeles AngelsTampa Bay Rays
Lucas Duda1BTampa Bay RaysKansas City Royals
Adrian Gonzalez1BAtlanta BravesNew York Mets
Ryon Healy1BOakland A'sSeattle Mariners
Eric Hosmer1BKansas City Royals San Diego Padres
Adam Lind1BWashington NationalsNew York Yankees
Logan Morrison1BTampa Bay RaysMinnesota Twins
Carlos Santana1BCleveland IndiansPhiladelphia Phillies
Danny Valencia 1BSeattle MarinersBaltimore Orioles
Brandon Moss1B/DHKansas City RoyalsOakland A's
Mike Napoli1B/DHTexas RangersCleveland Indians
Ian Kinsler2BDetroit TigersLos Angeles Angels
Starlin Castro2BNew York YankeesMiami Marlins
Brandon Drury2B/3BArizona DiamondbacksNew York Yankees
Dee Gordon2B/OFMiami MarlinsSeattle Mariners
Yangervis Solarte2B/SS/3BSan Diego PadresToronto Blue Jays
Christian Arroyo3BSan Francisco GiantsTampa Bay Rays
Todd Frazier3BNew York YankeesNew York Mets
Chase Headley3BNew York YankeesSan DIego Padres
Evan Longoria3BTampa Bay RaysSan Francisco Giants
Colin Moran3BHouston AstrosPittsburgh Pirates
Zack CosartSS/3BCincinnati RedsLos Angeles Angels
Aledmys DiazSSSt. Louis CardinalsToronto Blue Jays

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