Another positional week is in the books, almost. You still get our targets and avoids, as well as a wrap-up in the state of the position from yours truly. All that before Sunday, as Monday will begin Third Base Week. Fantasy baseball is happening here, folks! Hopefully it’s happening for all of us soon enough...
Jose Altuve, Houston Astros (Garrett Atkins)
NFBC ADP: 78.67
Draft rank: 7th
Altuve made a change to his swing in 2021 and it seemed to pay off. His 2021 stats were worlds better than his disappointing 2020. So what were the changes? Well, he hit the ball in the air a lot more. His launch angle was up to 15.7 degrees, compared to around 10 as it had been since 2017. This saw not only an increase in fly balls and line drives, but a major decrease in ground balls. His ground ball rate was right around 50% since 2017. In 2021, Altuve had a 41% ground ball rate. He also pulled the ball a bunch more, taking advantage of the short left field in Houston. Despite finishing 2021 as a top 40 fantasy option, Altuve is going outside the top 70 in early drafts.
Ketel Marte, Arizona Diamondbacks (Skyler Carlin)
NFBC ADP: 87.33
Draft rank: 11th
It would have been extremely interesting to see what Ketel Marte’s numbers would have looked like had he played 140-150 games in 2021. Marte was limited to 90 games last season due to hamstring and hip injuries, but he was phenomenal for the Arizona Diamondbacks when he was available. The versatile 28-year-old finished with 14 HR and 50 RBIs, and he slashed .318/.377/.532 while recording only two steals. Marte has logged only three steals in the past two seasons combined, but I believe his injuries prevented him from being closer to his 10-steal season in 2019. On top of that, Marte posted a max EV of 116 (97th percentile), an average EV of 91.1 (82nd percentile), an xBA of .307 (98th percentile), and a hard-hit percentage of 48.6% (86th percentile) in 2021. If Marte can get his launch angle up a little more from recent seasons (10.6 degrees on average in the last three seasons), then we could be looking at a spectacular campaign from him in 2022.
Jonathan India, Cincinnati Reds
NFBC ADP: 91.71
Draft rank: 12th
India is the prime example of how patience is often the only thing top prospects need to develop. His 21 home runs are somewhat deceiving, because there will be significantly more power in 2022. He was holding his own in the first half of 2021 as a rookie (.275/.397/.407, 6 HR, 118 wRC+), but started making harder contact and hit 15 blasts after the break (.263/.356/.507, 126 wRC+). He gets on base quite a bit, so there will be plenty of runs, too. I would happily invest. (Andrés Chávez)
I want Jonathan India and have been one of the few people who was high on him even when he slumped in 2018 and much of his rankings faltered. That said, there are many reasons to be cautious when going for him. First—he could EASILY hit a sophomore slump this season, as pitchers have an offseason to look at how he struggled with any pitch not named a fastball last season. He had a high BABIP and he pulled a lot of balls, and there are a lot of ‘regression’ warning signs for him this season. But long-term I’m quite optimistic on his abilities and that is likely why I’m targeting him. (Mark Abell)
Ty France, Seattle Mariners (Heath Capps)
NFBC ADP: 148.57
Draft rank: 16th
Welp, I can’t very well offer more India propaganda, can I? I am also fond of targeting the Reds’ second baseman in drafts. But if I miss out, Ty France represents another bat I am willing to trust and buy-in on. While I don’t love him as a first baseman, the 1B/2B eligibility is nice. France’s 2019 Triple-A season is the stuff of legend—27 homers and a .399 batting average in only 76 games. Granted, that .399 BA came with a .410 BABIP, but it’s no secret that France can HIT. His first cup of coffee in 2019 resulted in a modest .234/.294/.402 slash line with seven homers over 69 games...but since that time he’s posted a .305/.368/.468 slash in the shortened 2020, as well as a .291/.368/.445 slash line last year. Still just 27 years old, France should settle into a full-time role with Seattle this year as the everyday first baseman. And while his hard hit and barrel rates are pretty modest, his ability to hit for average and play every day—coupled with the upside of youth—make him a safe bet for 20 homers and a plus batting average, with the upside for more if he continues to show more power at the MLB level.