Points Leagues Third Basemen: Overvalued and Undervalued

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As we’ve discussed, points leagues are a bit of a different animal from the more popular head-to-head and rotisserie formats. One of the easiest and best ways to ensure that you’re making a smooth transition between these disparate styles is to identify players whose values change most.

Today we're looking at some potential third base sleepers and busts, or draft targets and avoids in points leagues.

Let's get to it!

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Overvalued for Points Leagues

Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins

I remain a fan of Sano and haven’t given up on him by a long shot. I kept him over several deserving candidates in one of my keeper leagues. He’s got 80 power and great plate discipline, and I’ll gladly bet on that combination of skills more often than not. Sano barely had a full season’s worth of plate appearances at Double-A before getting called up in 2015, and he’s only 23 years old.

All that said, the gargantuan strikeout rates are so tough to swallow in a points league if Sano isn’t posting crooked power numbers. The Twins were reportedly unhappy with his conditioning when he reported before last season, and that may have contributed to his injury problems. He also has major surgery in his history. The combination of those durability concerns and his whifftastic ways are enough to avoid paying an expectant price.

 

Todd Frazier, Chicago White Sox

Even with the leaguewide surge in power, Frazier was one of only eight players to hit 40 or more home runs. But here is what may be my favorite statistical incident of 2016:

Frazier HR/FB%: 19.0%
Frazier IFFB%: 18.5%

Frazier hits a lot of balls in the air. More than anyone else in the majors, in fact. And those balls in the air were almost equally likely to be a pop-up as they were a home run. That’s amazing. And it’s why Frazier hit .225, with a .236 BABIP that actually sat below the Mendoza line on Independence Day.

Remember, doubles and triples are valuable in points leagues, too. And though his home run total increased from 35 to 40 last season, his doubles total fell from 43 to 21. Along with that came a spike in strikeout rate. And while Frazier’s averaged 86 runs and 89 RBI the last three seasons, the White Sox are blowing things up and don’t figure to have much of a lineup around him this year.

 

Jonathan Villar, Milwaukee Brewers

As great as Villar was last season, there’s likely some regression on the horizon. He hits the ball on the ground a lot, which will make it tough for him to duplicate the surprising power he flashed a year ago. He hadn’t reached double-digits in homers since 2012, and that was at Double-A. The odds of another HR/FB% near 20% aren’t great. Also not great: Villar either struck out or popped up in nearly 40 percent of his plate appearances.

Should Villar struggle at the plate, that would cut into his run production as well as his stolen base output, which is already less valuable in this format that in others.

 

Undervalued for Points Leagues

Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers

Beltre is a marvel. Dude’s turning 39 next month and he just hit .300/.358/.521 with 32 homers, 89 runs, and 104 RBI, while providing his usual superb work in the field. Even with the lull in home runs he suffered in 2014-15, he’s still averaged 28 homers (and 62 extra-base hits) per season this decade. During that time, he’s hit below .296 once and never posted a strikeout rate above 12.5%. Here is a list of other players who can say they did the same:

¯_(ツ)_/¯

In summary, you should draft Adrian Beltre. Thank you.

 

Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals

Carpenter followed up his power breakout in 2015 with an identical slugging percentage and a higher hard contact rate, while trimming strikeouts and adding to his already excellent walk rate. Only injury kept him from equaling his home run total or run production. In fact, injury may well have kept him from an even better season in 2016.

To wit: When Carpenter strained his oblique just before the All-Star break, he was hitting .298/.420/.568. He was walking nearly as often as he struck out, had a .270 ISO, and was on pace for 30 homers, 110 runs, and 105 RBI. He missed the rest of the month and was clearly not the same player upon his return. Carpenter acknowledged in a recent interview that he never felt healthy and altered his swing as a result of the injury.

Even if he were to merely repeat his performance over the last two years, Carpenter would be a bargain in points leagues. The possibility of further upside just cinches it.

 

Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers

Turner’s first full season as a starter ended up being a career year, but it certainly didn’t start out that way. He was coming off microfracture surgery on his knee, and looked the part. Through the end of May, Turner was hitting .235/.335/.343 with just three homers. From June 1 on, though, he hit .292/.341/.556 with 24 homers and 134 R+RBI in 429 plate appearances.

Turner has now posted strikeout rates of 18%, 16.2%, and 17.2% and slugging percentages of .493, .491, and .493 in his three seasons with the Dodgers. He also hits in the middle of their lineup. Yet he’s being drafted after Javier Baez per NFBC ADP data. That’s fairly insane.

 

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