We return yet again for another edition of Man to Man, our off season player comparison series. If you missed any of the action thus far, I'd encourage you to check out our previous posts and weigh in on the poll questions.
A quick glance at the poll results from our latest Davis VS Encarnacion post, has Davis out in front 60% to 40% over Encarnacion (47 votes total)
In today's edition we'll move across the diamond to the shortstop position and take a look at two of the best in the fantasy game. No, we're not examining Troy Tulowitzki and Hanley Ramirez (who I have ranked 1 & 2 at the position), instead we'll turn our attention to a young speedster and a back-to-back 20-20 contributor at the position.
Jean Segura VS Ian Desmond.
Both players provided their owners with profit and in the case of Segura, a gold mine's worth, in 2013. Drafted around the 65th pick in ESPN Standard Leagues, Desmond returned top 45 value according to their player rater. Segura meanwhile went undrafted in some mixed leagues and would finish the season as the 16th player overall. While each player provided tremendous value, they got there a different way.
2013 Rotisserie Lines:
Jean Segura: 74 Runs, 12 HR, 49 RBI, 44 SB, .294 BA
Ian Desmond: 77 Runs, 20 HR, 80 RBI, 21 SB, .280 BA
As mentioned, Segura was the more valuable fantasy commodity in 2013, but Desmond provides the across the board production many owners are looking for. How productive will each player be in 2014 and in what categories will they produce fantasy worthy statistics? Now for the fun part.
My preliminary projections have Desmond out homering Segura in 2014. I don't think that is going to be a shock to anyone, as Desmond has recorded back-to-back 20+ homer seasons. Segura on the other hand hit 12 home runs in 2013 and many aren't projecting he gets back to that figure next season.
A look at the underlying skills show Desmond hits about a league average number of balls in to the air and turns a slightly above league average number of them into homers. A quick check of the ESPN Home Run Tracker shows 6 of Desmond's home runs were "No Doubts", while only 1 was "Lucky". On top of that, Desmond's Average True Distance of 407.5 feet ranked second on the team behind Jayson Werth.
Segura on the other hand is not expected to hit home runs as his primary contributions revolve around speed. That said, I still have Segura repeating his 12 home runs in 2014, despite the fact 9 of his 2013 home runs were "Just Enough". Another knock against Segura in terms of home run potential is his ground ball / fly ball percentages. In 2013, his FB% sat at 23.3%, while the league average rate was 34.3%. He was able to turn his fly balls into home runs at a league average rate however (10.4%). My optimism regarding a return to 12 home runs next season centers around two research items. Segura's average home run & fly ball distance of 292.08 feet ranked 48th in baseball last season, showing he hits the ball hard when he elevates it. The second bit of information that leads to my confidence can be found in his home run spray chart below:
Credit: ESPN HOME RUN TRACKER & Greg Rybarczyk
This isn't pure pull power Segura is displaying (although he did hit some bombs into left field) - Segura is able to deposit baseballs into the opposite field stands, an ability I love to find in players I target on draft day. While some of those opposite field homers may not have been light tower shots, the skill and power needed to drive the ball to the opposite field porch makes me very confident in a repeat of power from Segura next season.
In terms of runs created (Runs + RBI's) I give the edge to Desmond. Segura should once again see most of his at bats in the two-hole, which in turn will lead to a respectable runs scored total and a slightly better than lead off hitter RBI total. Desmond on the other hand has shown he's able to produce up and down the line up from second to sixth. I'd expect the National's to use Desmond, one of their best hitters, in a run producing role, leading to both runs scored and RBI's. The runs scored should be close between Segura and Desmond, but Desmond pulls away once RBI's are factored in.
Next we'll take a look at each players stolen base ability. Both players successfully stole a base right around 77% of the time last season - not a great conversion rate, but with the totals both players have established, I don't see them getting the red light any time soon. While they each have above average speed, Segura is clearly the faster of the two runners. I fully expect Desmond to approach 20 stolen bases next season. I except Segura to double that number, giving him the category by a wide margin.
Lastly, it's time to take a look at each players projected batting average. Desmond's .284 xba shows me his .280 BA in 2013 was about right. Throw in the fact Desmond has a slightly below average contact rate and swinging strike percentage and I'd say .285 is his ceiling for next season. Segura on the other hand flirted with .300 in 2013 and his xba of .322 says he may have actually been a bit unlucky in terms of batting average. A common practice in projecting statistics when dealing with players with less than 3 years of BABIP history is to regress heavily towards the league average BABIP. I believe this is why you'll see some projections for Segura coming in at .275-.280 instead of the .300 I have him pegged for. Between his speed, above average contact rate (85.6% in 2013) and his ability to record infield base hits, I don't see a drop in BABIP or BA coming for the soon to be 24 year old. Advantage Segura.
Now that we've run through the rotisserie categories for each player, it is time to reveal where I have them currently ranked overall and at their respective position. Currently, both players are ranked within my top 60 overall, with Desmond slotting in at 59th and Segura at 45th. At the shortstop position I have Segura ranked 3rd and Desmond ranked 4th overall. Ray released his Early Top 20 Shortstop Rankings this morning and has Segura ranked 6th at the position, with Desmond 3rd. I guess we'll both get our man if we square off this season.
It is now your turn to agree, disagree, debate and pick apart both of these players. Who do you have ranked higher? Who would you rather build your team around? Are you the type of manager that wants to spread the statistics across multiple categories at the draft table, or do elite contributors in key statistics appeal to your draft strategy? Let's here it.