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Five Infielders To Target In 2024 Fantasy Baseball OBP Leagues

Edouard Julien - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, MLB Prospects, Draft Sleepers

Many rotisserie or category fantasy baseball scoring formats have switched out batting average (AVG) for on-base percentage (OBP) or have simply included it as an additional category. While on the surface, it may not significantly affect your pre-draft ranking, several players should be moved a bit higher up your board.

If you are new to this category, OBP is similar to AVG but also includes when a player gets on via a base on balls and a hit-by-pitch, whereas AVG only increases or decreases based on hits. When scouting players in terms of OBP for your draft, be sure to look at additional statistics, including walk and strikeout rates.

The following five infielders are examples of players to keep in mind in leagues where AVG is scored, but they can be even more helpful in leagues that value OBP. In addition, players with a high OBP will also be beneficial in points leagues where BB and HBP are typically scored.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball waiver wire pickups and weekly lineup resources:

 

Fantasy Baseball Draft Targets: Infielders

Edouard Julien, 2B, Minnesota Twins
2023 Stats: 338 AB, .381 OBP
Current ADP: 217.5

Edouard Julien debuted in 2023 but was in a strict platoon role. The rookie had 292 ABs against righties while only totaling 46 against southpaws. Against righties, Julien registered a .401 OBP and only struck out 112 times. However, he struggled against lefties with a .229 OBP. That should not be a worry, as he will most likely remain on the strong side of this platoon going into 2024.

What makes Julien so valuable in OBP leagues is his ability to take walks and not chase pitches. Julien finished in the 100th percentile in chase rate (the best in baseball) and the top 2% of the league in walk rate at 15.7%, per Baseball Savant. In addition, the young second baseman was in the 83rd percentile in expected OBP (xOBP).

When putting the ball in play, Julien excels with a strong 38.8 sweet spot%, which placed him in the 91st percentile. This means that Julien often produced a launch angle between the eight and 32-degree threshold when a batted ball event occurred. By waiting for his pitch and hitting the ball well, he was able to sport a strong .263 AVG (.274 against righties) and a solid 13.1 barrel%. 

Unlike most small-ball hitters, Julien will not hurt your team’s power output. He hit a substantial 16 long balls against righties with a just-above-league-average 89.5 average exit velocity. Julien’s potent 44.9% hard-hit rate placed him in the 70th percentile among hitters.

According to his zone profile, Julien does an excellent job swinging at pitches in the middle of the zone. The second baseman is way below the league average on swings outside the zone, showing his strong eye at the plate. This is essential to his success from an OBP standpoint. Julien had a promising rookie campaign that suggests a solid sophomore season.

 

J.P. Crawford, SS, Seattle Mariners
2023 Stats: 534 AB, .380 OBP
Current ADP: 257

The starting shortstop for the Seattle Mariners had a career year in 2023. The 29-year-old saw his OBP climb from .339 in 2022 to one of the best in baseball in 2023 at .380. He also saw his total number of walks leap from 68 to 94 last season. His 14.7% walk rate was in the 96th percentile in baseball.

Crawford saw relatively even splits across 145 games last season. He had a .382 OBP against righties and a .373 OBP against lefties. In addition, Crawford had a solid second half of the season where he tallied a .492 SLG and .401 OBP with 11 home runs compared to eight in the first half.

While his 2023 season was awe-inspiring, it could be seen as an outlier, as he hit career highs in almost every category. His .380 OBP in 2023 was the highest of his career and just over 40 points higher than his average. Crawford also surpassed his set home run total by 10, with 19 in 2023.

However, one promising stat in favor of Crawford was that he lowered his groundball rate from 46.5 in 2022 to 39.6 in 2023.  With a lower groundball rate, he saw career highs in power statistics. His ability to show untapped power potential with his already-established strong walk rate could make Crawford a solid choice late in drafts.

 

Luis Arraez, 2B, Miami Marlins
2023 Stats: 574 AB, .393 OBP
Current ADP: 154.5

Luis Arraez is coming off his second consecutive batting title after winning it in the American League with the Minnesota Twins in 2022. In 2023, Arraez registered a .354 AVG and recorded 203 hits, a career high.

From an advanced stats perspective, Arraez had even more career highs. The second baseman had a minuscule 5.5 K%. In addition, he registered a .369 weighted-on-base average (WOBA), which was in the top 8% of baseball. Even more impressive, Arraez was in the 100th percentile in XBA, sweet spot%, Whiff%, and K%.

What is becoming a common theme, however, is that Arraez lacks consistent power. He was in the third percentile in hard-hit% and ninth percentile in barrel%. Arraez also lacked average exit velocity and finished the 2023 campaign with a lackluster 88.3 mph, putting him in the 29th percentile among hitters. He saw a career-high in home runs (10), but his underlying numbers do not suggest much more of an increase.

Arraez’s track record suggests he will provide you with elite OBP scoring due to his near-perfect contact skills. Draft Arraez with confidence to boost your OBP, even if it may hinder your team’s power output.

 

Vinnie Pasquantino, 1B, Kansas City Royals
2023 Stats: 231 AB, .324 OBP
Current ADP: 132.0

Pasquantino was a favorite breakout pick entering 2023. However, his season was abruptly cut short as he was placed on the injured list on June 10 and was eventually transferred to the 60-day IL, ending his season.

In his rookie season, the first baseman finished with a .383 OBP, fifth among first basemen, albeit with a small sample size.  However, he struggled across the 61 games he played as a sophomore with a disappointing .324 OBP and saw his AVG drop from .295 to .247.

While the stats he accumulated in 2023 were certainly worse than his debut season, he did have a very promising April that was tarnished with struggles in May and a short-lived June. In April, Pasquantino had a .379 OBP and .287 AVG, which were right in line with the numbers of his rookie season.

Over his two short seasons, Pasquantino averaged an 11.6 K%, which is toward the top of baseball and would have placed in the upper percentiles if he had qualified. In addition, he had a .282 XBA, which shows that there can be signs of positive regression in 2024, as he finished 2023 with a much lower .247 AVG. 

Pasquantino will be a helpful corner infielder in shallower leagues or a starting first baseman in deeper leagues, as he has shown signs of being extremely useful and has room for growth with his young age. However, he has only played in a total of 72 games, which can raise some concerns being only a very small sample size.

 

Alex Bregman, 3B, Houston Astros
2023 Stats: 622 AB, .363 OBP
Current ADP: 87.0

The two-time World Series champion is the most established hitter on this list. Bregman currently sits ninth in traditional roto rank but third in points leagues, which places a greater emphasis on players with higher OBP. Bregman has been a consistent option at the hot corner throughout his career.

He had a .366 OBP and .259 AVG in 2022, almost identical to his 2023 output. He has maintained a solid .274 AVG and .373 OBP across his eight-season career with no signs of decline.

Like the players above, Bregman excels in similar statistics that show he is an elite option when looking at OBP. The third baseman finished in the 98th percentile in Whiff%, 96th percentile in K%, and 95th percentile in chase percentage in 2023.

The one knock on Bregman’s game is his below-average barrel% and hard-hit%. However, Bregman is fortunate that the Crawford Boxes at Minute Maid Park benefit how and where he hits the ball. According to Baseball Savant, if he were to play all of his games at Minute Maid Park, he would have hit 30 total long balls. 

However, if he had played most of his games outside of Houston, he would have barely cleared 20 home runs. This shows that he may struggle in 2024 from a power perspective due to his low barrel% and hard-hit rate, even more so as he continues to age.

Draft Bregman confidently to significantly boost your OBP, but be wary of his power output, as there have been a few signs that it could be on the decline due to his lower hard-hit rate compared to hitters ranked around him.



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