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Platoon Watch - Part-Time Infielders Worth Drafting

Platooning in major league baseball is becoming more common every year. With this mentality, teams play lefty/righty matchups to get the daily batter versus pitcher advantage. They also use this method to try to defend players against a potential injury and keep them fresh.

While platooning may look smart on the surface, it’s not always the best option. Certain players rely on consistent at-bats to find a rhythm at the plate to stay productive. It's difficult to maintain confidence and stay locked in when you get almost every other night off. For fantasy purposes, it makes us hesitant on selecting a player, anticipating that they won’t see a full seasons worth of at-bats.

That said, there are still profitable options with these types of players in which you shouldn’t overlook on draft-day. Today, we’ll focus on infielders near the end of your draft who will still be able to provide value, even with limited plate appearances. In the late rounds, it becomes more difficult to find everyday players, so you shouldn't ignore these part-time batters. Get out your binoculars - it’s time for a platoon watch.

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Justin Bour (1B, LAA) - 427 ADP

The Los Angeles Angels signed Justin Bour to a one-year contract this offseason in hopes of him spelling Albert Pujols at first base. With Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani expected to occupy the designated hitter spot when he returns to the lineup, there’s more opportunity here than what we might initially suspect. Ohtani is likely out until May as he recovers from Tommy-John surgery, leaving Pujols and Bour with the lion’s share of at-bats until then. Pujols is no spring chicken entering his age 39 season, so health is once again a concern this year, giving Bour an even greater opportunity to contribute.

Bour had a disappointing 2018 in a split season between the Marlins and Phillies. After hitting 25 home runs in 429 PA in 2017, he only managed to swat 20 in 501 PA a year ago. His batting average also plummeted from .289 to .227 as he chipped in with 49 R and 59 RBI in 2018. After the trade to Philadelphia, Bour was limited to pinch-hit duties primarily and only managed to reach the bleachers one time over the last month and a half.

Bour has a long history of struggling against southpaws, so he's unlikely to get many starts against these pitchers. For his career, he has a .219/.201/.333 triple slash line. Pretty underwhelming compared to his splits against righties who he mashes. His line against these throwers is .271/.355/.500, a massive difference. If he limits his at-bats versus left-handers it will only improve his overall batting average as he's not hitting for much power off them anyway.

After Angel Stadium lowered their right field wall, it went from third-worst in the league for lefties, to first in Home Run Factor. It’s also a significant upgrade from his old stadium in Miami which was last in HR Park Factor a year ago. Being a pull-hitter on the left side of the plate, Bour should have no worries returning to 25 HR as he’s proven it before with limited at-bats.

With Pujols and Ohtani’s health in constant flux, he might end up leading the group in at-bats behind Mike Trout and Justin Upton. The 30-year-old should pick up plenty of RBI opportunities in this lineup, and the batting average should regress towards his .260 career mark. Bour can be a solid contributor in power numbers in 2019 and can provide tremendous value at his current ADP.


DJ LeMahieu (2B, NYY) - 240 ADP

In what looks to be a crowded infield for the New York Yankees in 2019, DJ LeMahieu still has tremendous fantasy appeal in his new-look pinstripes. Playing time is the glaring concern for LeMahieu, as the Yankees currently have Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, and Troy Tulowitzki ahead of him on the depth chart in the infield. Not to mention that Didi Gregorious hopes to return around the All-Star break. It also doesn’t help LeMahieu’s cause that he bats right-handed just like all of these players, with the exception of Gregorius. LeMahieu will find his playing time though, with Torres taking over for Tulowitzki at shortstop on occasion and Andujar possibly seeing some action at first base. It’s a messy situation, but these types of conundrums tend to work themselves out over the course of a season.

LeMahieu has an advantage of hitting all pitchers well. He's hit right-handers to a .292 career average as well as lefties to a .313 average. He's bankable across the board in the batting average category. While leaving the hitter’s paradise of Coors Field is never a recommended move in terms of fantasy, LeMahieu’s new home in the Bronx might have been the next best alternative for him. The 30-year-old hit a new career-high in homers last year with 15, and he scored 90 R with 62 RBI, 6 SB and a .276 AVG in 128 games.

Several injuries hampered LeMahieu in 2018 as he seen his average hit an unusually low. After batting over .300 in three-straight seasons, he took more of a fly ball approach last year, sacrificing his batting average for more extra-base hits. As a result, he had his highest Barrel% season (5.2%) of his career and elevated his launch angle to a new high 5.7°, steering away from the heavy ground ball approach.

Lemahieu’s 128-game sample last year could be very resemblant to his roto line this year, except with fewer runs and possibly a higher batting average. He would have a chance for a lot more if a major injury were to strike anywhere in the Yankee infield.


Ryan O'Hearn (1B, KC) - 356 ADP

After 44 games with the Kansas City Royals in 2018, the club is ready to see what Ryan O’Hearn can do over a full big-league year. Manager Ned Yost specified that it would be a “loose platoon” at first base this year with O’Hearn getting the starts against right-handers and Hunter Dozier lining up against southpaws. This decision might be better for O’Hearn’s batting average as he batted just .108 against left-handers in the majors, compared to .313 against righties in his relatively small sample size. With a lack of power in the lineup and a rebuilding mentality in KC this year, the Royals have every reason to let their 25-year-old prospect mature in the bigs.

O’Hearn swatted 12 HR, with 23 R, and 30 RBI while batting .262 in his first taste of MLB action. 10 of these came off right-handers as he's still working out some kinks versus southpaws. Going relatively unnoticed in the late stages of the season, his stats from his time with the Royals were very commendable by the left-handed batter. He showed power to all fields as well hitting half of his homers to center and left field. He showed excellent patience for a youngster with an 11.8% BB%, but he is prone to the strikeout with his 26.5% K%.

Overall, he profiles as a better option at first base over Dozier who lacks in power, average, and plate discipline compared to O’Hearn. He’s sure to be the long-term option for the Royals, but the spot on the bench versus lefties this year will only hurt his counting stats, not his batting average. A home run total in the twenties is a guarantee, and he’ll provide good RBI numbers with Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi getting on base ahead of him. O’Hearn is a terrific late-round sleeper regardless of format.


Ian Happ (3B/OF, CHC) - 262 ADP

Pegged by numerous members in the fantasy industry as a breakout for 2018, Ian Happ didn’t quite materialize into the superstar player that we had hoped. Seeing time all over the diamond last season, he’s a bit of a cheat pick for this article as he qualifies in the infield and the outfield, but this fact increases his overall value. On one of the most notorious teams for platooning, Happ appeared in 142 games last year, but he went all nine innings in only 38 of them.

With Addison Russell’s season in flux, this creates one less player to steal at-bats, but it’s still a crowded group of players that will split playing time. Happ is likely to be in the lineup versus lefties, and although he’s not as good as a defender as Albert Almora Jr., he should still see plenty of action in center field against righties. He’s proven to play all outfield spots and third base, so he’s versatile to fill in anywhere if a major injury were to strike.

Hitting on either side of the plate is advantageous for Happ, but he struggled as a right-handed bat in 2018. Hitting lefties to a .202/.291/.317 slash line, he'll have to work on this part of his game if he wants to find moe ABs. Happ crushed right-handers, however, to a .244/.374/.442 line.

After swatting 24 homers as a rookie in 2017, Happ pulled back on this number in 2018 with only 15 in nearly 50 more plate appearances. He also contributed a .233 AVG with 56 R and 44 RBI to go along with 8 SB. Despite his average slipping, he managed to get on base at a high rate with a 15.2% BB% leading to a .353 OBP. Happ needs to hone in on his contact though, as his 36.1% K% was by far the worst on the roster.

The 24-year-old is still developing as a player, and with any consistency, he’ll be sure to catch fire. When Kris Bryant landed on the DL, Happ got more ABs during this span from the end of June until the end of July. He hit .328 with a 28.2% K% during this stretch, it’s a small sample, but it showed how beneficial it was for him seeing consistent action. Whether this will be the case in 2019 remains undetermined, but you can expect an improvement in all areas with a little more experience under his belt. Happ is more valuable in daily lineup leagues, but he still has a lot of untapped potential to unleash with a little bit more opportunity.


Jay Bruce (1B, OF, SEA) - 285 ADP

The Seattle Mariners once again made a plethora of moves this offseason fogging up the first base and DH spot. With Edwin Encarnacion and Jay Bruce coming to town, this leaves a three-headed monster to tackle these spots with Ryon Healy still being productive. The M’s have stated they plan to flip Encarnacion at some point during the year, but for now, we have to assume he’ll be a Mariner until the trade deadline.

EE will likely be in the everyday lineup as long as he’s in Seattle in order to promote his trade value. This fact leaves a platoon between Bruce and Healy, with Bruce on the better side of it as he'll get the majority of starts against right-handers. Bruce can play the outfield as well, but with his defense declining, he likely won’t see much time out there unless an injury strikes. Healy also has experience at third base if anything were to happen to Kyle Seager, so these players have some defensive versatility.

Bruce will likely ride the pine versus lefties as he has just a .226 career average against them, compared to a .256 average versus righties. After hitting at least 25 HR in seven of his last eight seasons, Bruce ran into some injury problems in 2018. Missing time with a hip issue, he only managed to play in 94 games last year as it was the first time in his career that he had less than 100 games played. Hitting an underwhelming .223 last season, he popped nine HR, with 31 R and 37 RBI.

Despite being viewed as an “older” player, Bruce will only turn 32 in April, leaving plenty left in the tank for the veteran. Bruce is just a year removed from an incredible stretch of productivity. A perennial threat for 80 R and 90 RBI during his mid-to-late-20s, we shouldn't forget these numbers after one poor year. Bruce will still be able to produce in Seattle even with the downgrade in ballpark from his best years in Cincinnati. A full return to his previous counting stats would be optimistic, but a 20/70/75/.250 season would still be valuable at his cost.


Ryon Healy (1B, SEA) - 395 ADP

In his first season with the Mariners, Healy had an underrated season in terms of power numbers. Clubbing 24 long balls in 133 games, he knocked in 73 RBI, with 51 R and a .235 AVG. The 27-year-old now has back-to-back seasons with at least 24 homers and 73 RBI on two different clubs. He had his best season in terms of Exit Velocity (89.3 MPH) as well as Hard Hit% (41.4%) in 2018 as these numbers have improved every season. Healy’s batting average took a mysterious plunge as his BABIP fell over .060 points despite his LD/GB/FB slash line looking almost identical.

As mentioned, Healy will see the majority of his starts against left-handers which will play well to his .270 career average off them. Although Bruce will draw starts against right-handers, Healy actually has a better average against them with a .263 mark. This production in split-stats bodes well if Bruce were to slump so Healy could steal away ABs versus righties. He projects to have a similar roto line as Bruce, but with a little more potential in the HR category. At his price tag, his return value can be substantial, especially if he found his way into more playing time.

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