Infielders to Avoid (2019 Fantasy Baseball)

by Carmen Maiorano | @cmaiorano3 | Featured Writer
Mar 26, 2019

Ian Desmond’s power and speed comes with a poor batting average that could cost him playing time.

Earlier this week, I focused on pitchers and outfielders to avoid due to an injury or performance risk, or perhaps even both. Today, I’ll nail down top-100 infielders in ECR who are best to avoid at their current draft price. You’ve probably seen some of these guys on bust lists before, but others may surprise you.

Important Note: I am naturally staying away from the infielders who just got injured, Matt Olson (hamate bone) and Scooter Gennett (groin). While they could both be back sometime in May or June, these injuries could drain their performance once they return.

ECRs noted are for hitters only, while ADPs shown are an overall consensus (including hitters and pitchers). All stats, unless stated otherwise, are from FanGraphs.

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How to Lose a Draft in Five Rounds

Javier Baez (2B/3B/SS – CHC)
ECR: 19; ADP: 19

While the experts and drafting community agree on Baez, there is plenty of bust potential here. I wrote a lot about him here, but you likely know that he has terrible plate discipline, including a 25.9% strikeout rate and 4.5% walk rate. Even with that poor approach, he posted a .290 average on the heels of a .347 BABIP. Baez’s BABIP will always be higher than the league average given his propensity to barrel the ball at a near-elite rate. However, his 35.8% hard-hit rate leaves him susceptible to barrel regression, which would lead to a fall in BABIP and average.

His 21 steals were great last year. However, if Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, and/or Kyle Schwarber rebound, manager Joe Maddon likely won’t have Baez run as much. As a result, Baez’s floor looks like this: 25 homers, .270 average, 85 runs, 90 RBI, 15 steals. Fine numbers, but not in the second round. He should get drafted around 10-15 picks later. Avoid him in points leagues, where plate discipline and steals are less of a factor.

Jean Segura (SS – PHI)
ECR: 38; ADP: 64

I expect to catch some flak for this one. Everyone is raving about Segura hitting near the top of a completely reimagined Phillies’ lineup. However, if you look at trends in his career, you might start to second-guess where Segura is going in drafts. Most people will say that he is one of the few locks for 20+ stolen bases, but I disagree wholeheartedly. Segura’s totals have declined since stealing 33 in 2016. Now down to 20 swiped bags last year, there is concern that manager Gabe Kapler won’t let Segura run. The Phillies ranked just 23rd in stolen bases. With that new and improved lineup, why would they run more this year? I’m downgrading Segura to 15 steals.

Sure, you say, but his power will come back in Citizens Bank Park, one of baseball’s best hitters’ parks. In 2016 (which is looking like a career year), he hit 20 homers. However, he’s hit just 21 over the past two years combined. His 29.2% fly-ball and 25.8% hard-hit rate resulted in just 10 homers in 2018, so you can’t bank on him returning to 20.

If his speed and power slide, he quickly becomes a two, or maybe just one, category player. While he has posted .300+ batting averages over the past two seasons, his expected averages have been .272 and .275, respectively. While certainly respectable, you have to strongly consider the possibility of Segura’s average dropping 25 points this year. With all that said, you can lock in the runs scored if batting first or second in this lineup. But with a floor of .275/10/100/60/12, he’s not top-65 material in the slightest. You could draft Adam Eaton or Brandon Nimmo much, much later.

Ozzie Albies (2B – ATL)
ECR: 42, ADP: 53

Albies is a fine young player, but one who needs to demonstrate consistency before becoming a top 50-60 selection. He was dynamite at the beginning of last season, swatting 14 long balls before Memorial Day Weekend ended. However, he hit just 10 more the rest of the way and carried a paltry .226 batting average in the second half. It’s important to understand why he slumped to see why he’s someone to avoid. His K rate did tick up in the second half, but was still at a more-than-manageable 17.9%. Ah, here we go; his hard-hit rate dipped from a decent 38.5% in the first half, all the way to a measly 27.0% in the second half.  This explains why his average (.226) and ISO (.115) went down to a level where you almost couldn’t play him.

Albies’ plate discipline also leaves a lot to be desired. He was below average in O-Swing, Z-Contact, and swinging-strike rate. He also didn’t walk much. Swinging at pitches outside of the zone more will naturally decrease his hard-hit rate, so this correlation isn’t surprising. While Albies can be a five-category contributor and has incredible upside (plus Gennett’s injury taking another 2B off the table early), he still is a risk I’m not taking in the fourth or fifth round. I would rather get another impact bat like Eugenio Suarez or Nelson Cruz instead and wait for Travis Shaw, Robinson Cano, Jonathan Villar, or Jonathan Schoop.

Mid-Draft Mistakes

Jesus Aguilar (1B – MIL)
ECR: 59, ADP: 77

Another second-half slumper. In the first half, Aguilar had a coming-out party, hitting .298 with 24 long balls. He quickly put Eric Thames out of a job. He then struggled big time in the second half, hitting just .245 with 11 dingers and a 101 wRC+. It seems that his late fade was regression to the mean since we weren’t expecting Aguilar to keep up his .324 first-half ISO for the full year.

His BABIP also dropped 48 points in the second half, which makes sense given his batted-ball profile’s complete 180. He started hitting grounders at a 41.1% clip, 10.5 percentage points above his first-half rate. As you probably guessed, his fly-ball rate suffered, falling nearly 10%. A power hitter like Aguilar needs to get back to hitting more fly balls. On top of that, we want to see his swinging-strike rate drop two-three points to improve his strikeouts. His K rate dipped almost five percent last season, but that’s unlikely to happen again. His exit velocity is also middle-of-the-pack for a masher, meaning we’ve potentially seen his home-run ceiling.

All in all, Aguilar’s numbers look a lot like Justin Smoak, 2017 career-year version. Aguilar likely doesn’t have another level, and you can get Smoak around 100 picks later.

Dee Gordon (2B/OF – SEA)
ECR: 79; ADP: 93

I wrote a blip about Gordon and why I don’t like him at his price here. Look at the Albies section to see who I’d rather have at second base.

Eric Hosmer (1B – SDP)
ECR: 90; ADP: 157

Hosmer’s career has been very volatile, as he’s only good every other year. If you believe in that trend, then 2019 should be another bounce-back season. However, I’m not banking on his power and average returning, especially in Petco. His hard-hit rate sits at 34.5%, which FanGraphs ranks as almost above-average. Because that’s what I’m looking for on my roster — almost above-average guys.

His line-drive rate also dropped over two points from 2017 to 2018, which now also sits at almost above-average. His K rate also went up 5.5 percent. Hosmer is not old (29) by any means, but with many players peaking between 25-27 years old, perhaps his skills are slowly eroding. Even if you don’t believe that, he wasn’t a great fantasy baseball player when posting a sustainable BABIP in 2016 and 2018. A .351 BABIP, on the other hand, fueled his strong 2017. I’m guessing Hosmer’s BABIP is closer to .300 than .350 in 2019. Either way, I’d still rather have Smoak or Josh Bell at their cheaper prices.

Amed Rosario (SS – NYM)
ECR: 100; ADP: 159

In a recent FantasyPros podcast, Bobby Sylvester and CBS’ Scott White discuss, at length, why Rosario is a bust. I’ll give you my written opinion here, since if you’ve made it this far, you probably like to read about busts. Rosario walks less than five percent of the time, had a .125 ISO (.170 is league average) in 2018, and hit .256/.295/.381. Sure, his 78 runs and 24 steals project to being well above-average for a full season, but he’s not slated to hit leadoff again in 2019. Rosario will instead likely hit near the bottom of the Mets’ revamped order with Nimmo batting first. As a result, I would be shocked if he bested his 2018 runs and steals totals, which is what many drafters are relying on. If you need a shortstop, Paul DeJong and Jorge Polanco are better options at their costs.

Ian Desmond (1B/OF – COL)
ECR:100; ADP: 148

I predicted over a month ago that I would be avoiding Desmond, and that has clearly held true. His skills are declining (especially against offspeed stuff), and the Rockies have enough young guys to eventually push him out of the lineup, hopefully sooner rather than later. Desmond’s 20/20 season is actually a rare commodity, but it comes with a .236 average and 81 wRC+. You can get Jake Bauers, who does similar things at the same positions, 100 picks later.

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Carmen Maiorano is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Carmen, check out his archive and follow him @cmaiorano3.

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