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“Bruno’s Gold:” N.L. Fantasy All-Star Team, Hitters 2014

With the halfway point of the season (in terms of games played) already behind us for some teams and the All-Star Game quickly approaching, here at MLFS, we decided to come up with our own fantasy All-Star teams. I’ll be covering the hitters for each league and 65 Mustangs will be covering the pitchers. We are ignoring the real life rules of needing a representative from each MLB team and instead will focus on who we think the best players are fantasy-wise per position. There won’t be any players on these lists because they “deserve” to be there (I’m looking at you Derek Jeter), but rather are guys who have had an impressive first-half. I will also be ignoring defense as it’s not fantasy relevant. Without further ado, here’s my National League Fantasy All-Star team.

Catcher: Jonathan Lucroy– I wrote about him last week and my feelings haven’t changed. He’s been the best catcher in baseball this season and it’s not close. Reserve: Evan Gattis and his 16 home runs.

First base: Paul Goldschmidt– This was close for me and I’ll reveal my reserve at the end, but Goldschmidt is having a monster first half. He’s currently hitting .301/.381/.537 with 15 home runs, 57 runs scored, 53 RBI, and seven stolen bases. All of these numbers are either first or second best among NL first basemen, except for his batting average and on-base percentage, which are both 4th best. Goldschmidt has two full seasons at the MLB level under his belt and his 2012 numbers all went up in 2013. This season, all his numbers are just about on pace with those of last season, except that he’s walking less and striking out more. He’s also hitting more ground balls and less fly balls than his career averages, but it’s also only a half-season worth of data. Look for these numbers (and his K’s and BB’s) to come back towards his career numbers and for him to continue to dominate in the second half. Reserve: Anthony Rizzo

Second base: Dee Gordon– Sweet Dee gets the nod here primarily because of his speed and his ability to steal bases. No one in baseball has more swipes than he does, and he currently has eight more than fellow speedster, Billy Hamilton. Gordon has good splits (.286/.342/.405) but offers zero power. According to FanGraphs, his Isolated Power (ISO) is 4th worst among qualified NL second basemen. What Gordon does do well – in addition to swiping bags – is get on base and score runs. The Dodgers have a solid offense with Gordon hitting leadoff, and with the likes of Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, and Matt Kemp hitting behGordon, Deeind him, it means if he gets on base he’ll have a good chance of scoring. Gordon gets the edge over the other candidates at second because he doesn’t need to have a good day at the plate in order to have a productive fantasy day. Going 1 for 4 with a single could also lead to a stolen base and a run scored for Gordon, while guys like Chase Utley, need that one hit to be a home run in order to match the same production. The book is still out on Gordon, as he only has 258 career games played (with a season high of 87 in 2012), but if he continues to get on base, he’ll provide solid fantasy production. However, as a one-trick pony, he offers very little fantasy value if he fails to get on base. He’s hitting more line drives and less fly balls this year than his career averages, which is exactly what he needs to be doing, and he’s striking out less as well. Gordon is likely a “safer” pick to continue to do well from a fantasy standpoint because of the aforementioned ability to be productive without having a solid day at the plate, but he also offers less upside than guys with power, like Neil Walker. Reserve: Anthony Rendon, but only if he qualifies as a second baseman in your league. If he does, he gets my vote over Gordon. Among NL second baseman, he has the most home runs and runs batted in, and is tied for first in runs scored. With a Nationals lineup that is quickly getting healthy,  he may switch from third to second, so look for his lead in these categories to increase. I like him more than Gordon in the second half.

Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki– I don’t think I need to address this one considering the season that Tulo is having, but I’ll just point out some of his more impressive stats. His 61 runs scored are 21 more than the next best NL shortstop. He’s leading all of baseball with a .352 batting average, a .447 on-base percentage, and a .625 slugging percentage. His .272 ISO is 2nd best in the NL, his walk percentage (14.1%) is tied for 11th best in baseball and first among NL shortstops, and his runs created plus (wRC+) are the best in baseball. Tulo is on pace to shatter most of his career highs and the only question is can he keep it up. If he can stay healthy (151 games missed the last two seasons), I don’t see why he can’t. I don’t think he’ll match his first half splits (not shocking, considering all three are best in baseball right now), but there’s no evidence to say he can’t. He’s walking more and striking out less than his career averages, and he’s also hitting significantly more line drives than he has in his past. These stats show me a player who is seeing the ball incredibly well and has the power to do damage when he gets a good pitch to hit. He also has the luxury of hitting in baseball’s best offense and he gets to play his home games at Coors Field. All signs point to Tulo continuing his dominance. Reserve: Hanley Ramirez

Third Base: Todd Frazier– Frazier is quietly having a great year. He’s hitting .283/.350/.515, with 17 home runs, most among NL third baseman, and tied for 10th best in all of baseball. His 50 runs scored and 45 RBI are both second among NL third baseman. He’s also the only NL third baseman with an ISO over .200 (his is .232, 15th best in baseball). The third base position has been a black hole fantasy-wise, especially in the NL, making Frazier’s season all the more valuable. Can Frazier repeat his success in the second half? Going back to 2012, his first full season in the majors, Frazier posted similar splits to his current ones (.273/.331/.498) with 19 home runs in just 128 games. He had a down year last season, hitting .234/.314/.407, again with 19 home runs, but this time in 150 games. Part of this down year can be attributed to his .269 batting average on balls in play, meaning he was a bit unlucky, but he also didn’t help create his own luck by hitting a career high percentage of ground balls and a career low percentage of line drives. His line drive percentage this season is the highest of his career, which suggests why he’s having a career first-half. Look for his numbers in the second half to land somewhere between his current splits and his splits from last season, around .275/.340/.500, with another 10-12 home runs, or in other words, for him to finish the year as fantasy’s best NL third baseman. Reserve: Anthony Rendon

Right Field: Giancarlo Stanton– Stanton is similar to Tulowitzki in that there isn’t much to say about him – he’s having a monster season. He’s hitting .310/.404/.596 and leading the NL with 21 home runs, 59 RBI, and a .286 ISO. He’s even got seven stolen bases and is likely the best fantasy player in your league. Stanton is keeping a torrid pace, but can he keep it up? The power has always been there for Stanton, as he Stanton, Galready has 138 home runs in just 568 career games played. He hasn’t hit less than 22 in any year in the majors, and that came in just 100 games in 2010, his first season playing at the MLB level. The rise in his batting average from this year to last (.249 to .310) may look suspicious, but he hit .290 in 2012 and his career batting average is .272. A possible reason for this increase could be attributed to a career low strikeout rate and an increased percentage of line drive hit. His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is high (.374), so look for his average to regress, but with his power, his batting average is just gravy anyway. I see no reason why Stanton can’t keep up his first half performance in the second half of the season. Reserve: Yasiel Puig

Center Field: Andrew McCutchen– McCutchen and Carlos Gomez have very similar numbers, but I give the edge to McCutchen because of his much higher walk rate and much lower strikeout rate, thus helping give him a substantial edge in OBP (.420 to .377). McCutchen does a little bit of everything, and does it all well. He hits for power (32 extra-base hits), average (.315 BA), scores runs (42), drives in runs (48), and steals bases (12). McCutchen could almost be grouped into the elite Tulo/Stanton group where not much needs to be said. We simply expect him to produce, and he does. Over the past two seasons (2012 and 2013) McCutchen didn’t hit less than .317/.400/.508, with 21 HRs, 97 runs, 84 RBI, or 20 SB in a season. Considering his current splits are right in between his 2012 and 2013 numbers, plus a career high walk percentage, he shouldn’t experience a significant drop-off in the second half. I don’t expect him to pass his career highs this season, but I do expect him to improve on his “lows” of the past two seasons. Reserve: Carlos Gomez

Left Field: Justin Upton– Left field in the NL has been similar to third base in that there is a dearth of talent this season. Seth Smith started strong, but playing in baseball’s worst offense (the Padres) has caught up with him. Smith still has a better BA and OBP than Upton, but Upton has double the HRs (16), eight more runs scored (38), 18 more RBI (42), and five more SB (6), earning him the “All-Star” nod. Upton also has the 4th best ISO in the NL at .242. Disconcerting for Upton and his second half, are his decreased walk totals and a strikeout percentage that is a career high (28.5%) and 8th worst in the NL. His current BA (.275) and OBP (.343) are right on par with his career averages, but his SLG is 40 points higher than his career average and it’s likely not sustainable. His home run to fly ball ratio (HR/FB) is currently 20.5% (5th best in the NL) and a large reason why he has 16 HRs. However, his career HR/FB ratio is just 14.9% and has never been higher than 18.8% for an entire season. His career high for home runs (31) came in 2011 and his HR/FB that season was just 14.8%. Right now, a large percentage of Upton’s fly balls are turning into HRs and look for that to drop-off in the second-half and hurting his fantasy value, as none of his other numbers jump off the page. It doesn’t help that the Braves offense is struggling right now and is second to last in runs scored in all of baseball. Reserve: Khris Davis– I mentioned adding Davis two weeks ago as a hot streak player to hold onto and he hasn’t cooled off yet.

That’s it for the hitters, and in two weeks I’ll be back with my American League Fantasy All-Star team so keep a lookout for that. Here’s the roster in the order that I would bat them:

  1. Gordon- 2B
  2. McCutchen- CF
  3. Tulo- SS
  4. Stanton- RF
  5. Goldschmidt- 1B
  6. Lucroy- C
  7. Frazier- 3B
  8. Upton- LF

Follow me on Twitter @BenBBruno and check out my most recent post on the Washington Nationals here, where I discuss what happens to their lineup when Bryce Harper returns.

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