With the season underway, there have been a substantial number of movers on my corner infielder rankings. It’s difficult to make too much of a week of play, but with only 60 games total, you’ll have to be aggressive in order to win your league. And that means jumping on breakouts and benching those who might be flaming out.
I made my rankings initially using z-scores based on projections. Now that we have some actual results, it’s a bit of a free for all. Know only that I’m thinking prospectively, i.e., ranking players based on how I expect them to perform relative to one another for the rest of the season. Just because Starlin Castro has been better than Miguel Sanó to date, doesn’t mean that I expect him to be better going forward.
Sorry To See You Go
I’ve removed several players from the list either due to poor performance, lack of playing time, or Covid-19.
Certain guys either are at their team’s alternative training site or don’t play enough to justify a spot on the list. Michael Chavis, for instance, is splitting playing time with Mitch Moreland. Prospects Kevin Cron, Ryan Mountcastle, and Bobby Bradley have yet to receive opportunities from their respective organizations, so I removed them. I’ve left Alec Bohm on the list because it’s feasible he gets called up this week and, once he does, you’ll want to own him.
Unfortunately, there are some corner infielders who have been diagnosed with Covid-19 that got pushed off the list. I figured it would be simpler to just remove them until they’re healthy again. Therefore, Mike Moustakas and Hunter Dozier will have spots on the list upon their return. As will Brian Anderson, who’s out at least until the Marlins resume play (unless he has Covid-19).
Notably, Eric Hosmer is not only a new addition to the list, but finds himself just inside my top-30. Hosmer’s always had impressive exit velocity marks, but some significant adjustments to his swing path have unlocked his ability to put the ball in the air. Now, Hosmer’s hitting .500 with a homer and seven RBI. Impressive stuff.
Colin Moran and Joey Votto are newly occupying spots in the 30s. As for Moran, although I don’t expect his torrid pace to continue, I can’t ignore that he has hit as many home runs as all of the top-5 corner infielders combined. His plate discipline also looks pretty good (3:2 K-BB ratio). I probably also should have included Votto on the original list, but I salivated over some of the now-irrelevant prospects that previously occupied the backend of the list. Votto’s hitting .333 with two homers so far, and it’s worth noting that he’s still got a premium spot in a potent lineup and a tiny ballpark.
As for the other new additions to the list, Maikel Franco is making the most of his playing time with Dozier sidelined, having already blasted two homers. You may also want to own David Fletcher, his .556 AVG, miniscule 2.3 SwStr% (not far off from his impressive 3.3 career SwStr%), and spot atop the Angels batting order in front of Mike Trout. Ji-Man Choi might no longer just be a platoon bat, having somehow managed a home run in his second career plate appearance from the right side. And Evan White has a full-time job at first for the Mariners, where he’s proving he might not exclusively be a defensive prospect. Lastly, Justin Smoak and Asdrubal Cabrera are boring veterans that you probably don’t want to own, but will accumulate some useful stats for you given they have starting gigs.
Freddie Freeman looks rusty — rightfully so, having just returned from a nasty bout with Covid-19 — with a .143 AVG and no HR or SB, and has accordingly fallen behind Anthony Rendon and José Ramírez. For his part, Ramírez looks great (.368 AVG with 2 HR) and will be even more valuable once he starts running. Anthony Rizzo looks no worse for the wear after his early-season back scare, having already mashed three homers for the Cubbies. I probably would have had him higher in the last iteration of the list if I weren’t worried about his injury. Now that he looks fine — great, even — he gets a big boost.
Conversely, I wasn’t sold on Rafael Devers from the get-go given he only had one season of excellence under his belt. With a poor start both at the plate and on the field, and the Red Sox playing so putridly that Devers might have little to play for in a week or two, I worry enough about him that I’ve lowered him four spots. Similarly, there were warning signs last year for Pete Alonso. I have no doubt that he’s one of the strongest hitters in baseball, as evidenced by a 116.3 mph HR he hit Monday night, but he looks pretty lost at the plate (eight strikeouts already!) and might face a sophomore slump now that pitchers have had a look at him.
Several other disappointing starts have caused some movement in the teens, including Josh Bell (.200 AVG and no HR or SB), Manny Machado (.167 AVG and seven strikeouts, but one SB and one HR), and Eugenio Suárez (.059 AVG and literally no counting stats). Yoan Moncada looks good thus far (.389 AVG with one HR) and has therefore earned a bump, but he has also struck out seven times.
Justin Turner is one of those guys that gets overlooked every year and always performs when healthy. Guess what? He’s healthy and hitting .421 with five RBI and an 8.7 K%, and moves up to 24 accordingly. Tommy Edman is now in the 20s because he has already hit a homer and attempted (unsuccessfully) to steal a base while hitting .312. I loved what J.D. Davis did in the second half last year. He had the 10th-highest xwOBA among all hitters and, after Tuesday’s home run served as some confirmation bias, I moved him up. Luke Voit already hit a bomb and looks to have re-secured the first-base job and a spot in the middle of the order for the Yankees, earning a spot just outside of the top-30 on the list.
Yuli Gurriel severely outperformed his expected metrics last year. He had a .285 xBA, .423 xSLG, and .329 xwOBA, as compared to his actual .298 AVG, .541 SLG, and .364 wOBA. Now that he’s hitting .188 with one homer, I’ve seen enough to drop him substantially (more confirmation bias!). Eduardo Escobar is performing even worse, but had less of a lag between his actual and expected outcomes in 2019 and is, usefully, 2B-eligible.
Finally, if C.J. Cron is on your waiver wire, you should grab him. Last year, he had the fifth-best Brls/PA% among all qualified hitters, and that was with a thumb injury. Now healthy and with guaranteed playing time, Cron is regularly hitting cleanup for the Tigers and looks locked in with multiple summer camp home runs and two more in games that actually count. Also note that Comerica Park plays neutral to left field for home-run hitting, and righty Cron pulls nearly all of his home runs. For those reasons, I’ve slotted Cron just behind Davis at 30.