Chris Iannetta, underrated (yes, that's right) in OBP leagues

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Selling Chris Iannetta feels a bit like trying to sell magazines door-to-door. If you're in an OBP league, though, I have a deal for you!

(doorbell rings)

(waits a beat too long)

(impatient knocking)

(resident reluctantly answers, opening the door just enough to stick his/her head through)

"Hi, I'm the fantasy baseball guy. I'm selling players so that I can win a trip to Barbados, and I'd like to talk to you about Chris Iannetta."

(awkward silence)

(stifled laughter)

(guffawing)

(slammed door)

If you're in a standard roto league, opening this article probably feels a bit like the above. You might even skip the awkward silence stage and go straight to open mocking. That's fine, because you're a fantasy troglodyte who hasn't experienced the freeing air of OBP. If you're one of The Enlightened, however, I'm here to proselytize on Iannetta's behalf. He's my favorite kind of player in OBP leagues - the guy who gets a bad rap for his average, but consistently puts up a ton of walks.

Because the majority of the fantasy baseball world is still stuck in the Dark Ages, using a stat that requires the official scorekeeper to turn a blind eye to errors, fielder's choices, sacrifices, and walks, it stands to reason that fantasy baseball coverage focuses on batting average. It makes sense. We go where the readers are. What happens as a result is that many of us who consume fantasy baseball opinions get certain tidbits that apply to 5x5 stuck in our heads. We can't get rid of them, even if we're playing in a format that completely changes the game.

OBP leagues are becoming more popular every year*, but fantasy owners as a whole aren't yet adept at translating their fantasy knowledge to a new format that requires a different type of analysis. Take Shin-Soo Choo, for example. Too many OBP owners don't realize that he's a god in this format. To them, he's a pretty good middle-of-the-road outfielder, because there aren't 100 articles singing his praises everyday. There shouldn't be. Most of those articles are covering batting average leagues. A player like Chris Iannetta is the same way, although to a lesser extent.

*Citation needed, I suppose. Maybe I'm just being hopeful. It certainly seems that way.

Here we have a career .233 hitter that offers a little bit of something in the counting stats department, but not enough to overcome the abysmal batting average to justify ownership in anything but the deepest of leagues. The 2% ownership rate in Yahoo! leagues makes sense.

What we also have is a hitter who has never posted a walk rate less than 11.5% in any given year. He doesn't swing just a ton (his Swing% always hovers a couple of percentage points below the average), but when he does, he's not always the best at making contact (his SwStr% and Whiff% are the opposite). So, if he's seeing the strike zone well, Iannetta has a very good chance at getting on base at a high rate. There's good news for 2014 here. So far, his O-swing% is down by quite a bit in a small sample size. This suggests that he may be laying off of bad pitches.

That doesn't do anything for batting average leagues, because his batted ball profile is atrocious (8.6 LD%, 48.8 FB%), so his incredibly low .212 BABIP isn't actually far off from where it should be. His average (currently .196) isn't going to positively regress with any degree of significance. Every projection system has him in the .210s this year, and that seems like it may hold. However, if his HR/FB% holds steady at around 11-12%, we could see a slight uptick in home runs from the 11 he posted last year because of the increase in fly balls and slightly better plate discipline. So far, he's posting an incredible 18.6 BB%, which means that his OBP is above average (.356) despite his struggles when he actually puts the ball in play.

If you're in an OBP league, you could do much worse than Iannetta. Your eye might twitch a bit when you read that, but put away his batting average reputation and take the plunge. At the very least, he's platoonable against left-handed pitchers. Fifty-four of his 85 career home runs have come off of lefties, including both that he's hit this year.

Now, if you'll just sign here and here, I'm going to call my supervisor and tell to give me the points toward my trip.

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