4 High Risk/High Reward Infielders (Fantasy Baseball)

by Eric Cross | Featured Writer
Mar 13, 2018

Greg Bird has solid power and plate discipline, but his health and streaky nature make him a risky option

Who doesn’t love a little risk in their lives? Not too much, unless your Evil Knieval, but just a little bit is fine. Becuase where there’s risk there’s usually some potential reward that goes along with. Fantasy baseball is no different. Whether it’s a hot prospect, a player returning from injury, or drafting someone coming off an abnormally good or bad season. There’s risk everywhere. So much in fact that I couldn’t contain it all in one article.

Below are four infielders that carry a substantial risk for the upcoming season, but also have the capability of being fantasy assets for your squad. These are true high-risk/high-reward players.

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Greg Bird (1B – NYY)
To put it simply, the hype surrounding Bird is growing unhealthy levels. His ADP has risen to near pick 150, and I’ve seen him taken before pick 120 in several of my drafts this spring.

The intrigue with Bird is understandable. He has easy plus-power and is a lefty that gets to play half his games in the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium where you can spit from home plate over the right-field wall.

Another factor that is exciting for his fantasy potential this season is the fact that he’s penciled in to hit third, right between the bash brothers, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.

Talk about some damn good lineup protection. If he’s able to finally put it together this season, he has a good chance at being a top-100 player and maybe even a top-10 first baseman. However, Bird has struggled to sustain any prolonged success during his two partial Major league seasons so far.

Bird isn’t doing himself any favors this spring either. As I’m writing this, Bird has only two hits (both singles) in 21 at-bats and has struck out a whopping 10 times. About the only positive thing he’s done this spring is walk five times. That’s it.

Now, he’s obviously not going to be this bad all season, but he has the potential to go on these types of slumps many times over the course of a full season. The power is wonderful. We all love the power upside here. But there’s too much swing and miss in his profile to finish with a decent batting average.

If you draft Bird, you could very well be drafting a player whose fantasy value at season’s end is way ahead of his pre-season ADP. You could also be wasting a top-150 pick on a guy that could be back in the minors by Memorial Day.

Miguel Cabrera (1B – DET)
To quote Howie Day, “Even the best fall down sometimes.” Everyone is entitled to having a down season, even future first-ballot Hall of Famers like Miguel Cabrera,

However, when that down season is caused by a bad back (herniated discs) from a player entering his age-35 season, it’s a tad more concerning. Okay, a lot more concerning.

Excluding his rookie season when he only had 314 at-bats, Cabrera set career lows in AVG, OBP, SLG, and OPS last season, also known as his entire slash line. Furthermore, he also set a career-worst in ISO and had 20.8 K% was his highest strikeout rate since the 2004 season, his second in the Major Leagues. Miggy posting a pedestrian .399 OBP and .728 OPS just doesn’t seem right.

Now, everything isn’t all bad. There are still some positive factors that point towards Cabrera having a rebound this season. His hard contact was the highest it’s been in the last three seasons at 42.5%, but the issue was that his back was causing him to be slower in his swing rotation causing him to hit the ball to center and right more often and pull the ball less.

Cabrera has said his back feels better, which is encouraging, but he’s only 22 at-bats into spring training. A healthy Miggy is a dangerous hitter and a four-category fantasy beast. If he truly is healthy, his current ADP will be an absolute steal. However, back injuries have a way of sticking around, especially with older players like Cabrera. His 2016 and 2017 numbers represent his ceiling and floor respectively for this season. That’s a very wide range.

Miguel Sano (3B – MIN)
We’re under three weeks from opening day and we still don’t have a clear idea of how much time, if any, Miguel Sano will be suspended to begin the season. Back in December, Sano was accused of assaulting a female reporter and could be suspended under MLB’s domestic violence policy.

Ever since the alleged incident, it’s been very quiet on all fronts. Sano vehemently denied the allegations, but other than that, it’s been radio silence. There are reports that Sano met with MLB in late-February, but nothing much has come out from that meeting.

So, unfortunately, this leaves us in a difficult situation in the fantasy baseball world. Many drafts have already been completed this spring, and Sano’s draft slot has been all over the place. On average he’s settled in just outside the top-10 third basemen and top-100 overall, but as you can see in the link above, his ADP from site to site is a roller coaster.

The talent and upside that Sano possesses are very apparent. In his career, Sano has averaged 37 HR, 103 RBIs, and 94 runs per every 600 at-bats with a .254/.348/.496/.844 slash line. Unfortunately, health hasn’t been one of Sano’s strengths as he’s only managed to stay on the field an average of 115 games over the last two seasons.

If Sano could get in a full season, we could be looking at a 40-50 HR campaign, but that’s far from a certainty given past health and this giant suspension black cloud hanging over his head. Hopefully, we can get some clarity before Opening Day, but regardless, the risk when drafting Sano is as high as ever this season.

Daniel Murphy (2B – WAS)
There’s no doubting that Murphy has become one of the Major League’s best pure hitters over the last two seasons. In that time, he’s averaged 24 HR, 98.5 RBIs, and 91 runs with a .334 AVG. Think the Mets are regretting letting him go?

When you look at those numbers, you’d think a top-75 pick (ADP 65) was more than worth it and maybe even consider that price tag a steal. And most seasons, you’d be right. But not this season.

Murphy underwent microfracture surgery on October 20 last year and is questionable to be ready for Opening Day. This is the same surgery that Dustin Pedroia underwent five days later, and Pedroia isn’t expected back until June.

Obviously, not every operation is exactly the same. Just because Pedroia is out until June doesn’t necessarily mean Murphy will be too.

His recovery has gone smoothly thus far, but it’s worth noting that we’re in the second week of March and Murphy still hasn’t made his Grapefruit League debut. Time is running out Danny boy.

It’s becoming doubtful that Murphy is ready for Opening Day. There’s still no timetable for his return, and he’s running out of spring games to get into. In all likelihood, Murphy will start on the 10-day disabled list so he can get some additional work in at extended Spring Training.

There’s also going to be that risk that his knee doesn’t respond well to game action and is a season-long problem for Murphy. We just don’t know. At season’s end, we could very easily be seeing Muphy’s name as a top-50 fantasy asset, but coming off knee surgery at the not so ripe age of 33 creates more risk than you’d like for a top-75 pick.

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Eric Cross is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Eric, check out his archive and follow him on Twitter @EricCross04.

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