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Infielders to Target in Points Leagues

12 infielders you should be targeting in your points league drafts.

Points leagues are typically famous for valuing players with exceptional plate discipline, but they can also bump up players that produce a disproportionate amount of their value from non-home run extra-base hits. Walk/strikeout (BB/K) ratio is one of the best measures of a player’s patience at the plate and is one of the most useful and important metrics to use when identifying valuable players in typical points leagues.  Let’s take a look at 12 infielders with impressive BB/K ratios, a multitude of inside-the-park extra-base hits, or a noticeable disparity between their rotisserie and points league values.

 

Early Rounds – Top 100

 

Freddie Freeman – 1B

A longtime member of the Atlanta Braves and now the newest addition to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Freeman has been one of the most consistently elite offensive contributors in all of baseball since his first full season in 2011. The 6’5″ first baseman has always stood out for his ability to hit for a high average while maintaining decent power output for a corner infielder, leading him to record a wRC+ of at least 130 every year from 2013 to 2021. The only other player to match that level of production and consistency during that time frame was the one-and-only Mike Trout.

Freeman’s bat makes him appealing in every fantasy format, but he is a clear late-first to early-second round pick in points leagues because of his sensational plate discipline and his 40-double upside. Despite just 25 doubles last year, the lefty slugger regularly tops the charts in that category. He punched out 23 doubles in his 2020 MVP campaign (62-double 162-game pace) and has three previous 40-double seasons (2014, ’16, and ’18), giving him additional value that is not accounted for in other formats. Not many players have the ability to reach that double threshold, let alone are projected to surpass 30 doubles and 30 homers. Freeman is one of 13 players projected by ATC to hit at least 34 two-baggers, and he joins José RamírezNick CastellanosRafael Devers, and Mookie Betts as the only members of that list projected for at least 30 bombs.

Freeman makes the most of his power by premiering some of the best plate discipline in all of baseball. The five-time All-Star continues to improve his pitch recognition, posting a full-season career-high 0.79 BB/K ratio in 2021 (previous best: 0.69 in 2019) that was sixth-best among qualified batters. Freeman will continue to produce in points leagues even when he’s not hitting and won’t hurt you in the strikeout department.

Climbing the plate discipline leaderboards was a direct result of Freeman cutting his strikeout rate to a level that is rarely seen from players with his power production. He was one of just nine qualified batters to pair a sub-16% strikeout rate with an isolated power mark (slugging percentage minus batting average) above .200 last season. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Juan Soto, and Betts are the only players on that list to join Freeman in walking more than 12% of the time. It’s a welcome positive that he’s now in the center of possibly the best lineup in baseball. If you’re looking for security in volume, production, and plate discipline early in drafts, Freeman is your man.

Jose Altuve – 2B

The diminutive second baseman’s fantasy production has been evolving for more than a few years now. Altuve broke out way back in 2014 with a .341 average and a whopping 54 steals but has since been adding more power to his game at the cost of his batting average as his speed diminishes. He is no longer a lock for even 10 steals and is more of a 30-homer/.270 average bat than the 25 HR/30 SB/.300 AVG guy he was as recently as 2017. Just because his path to his production is changing doesn’t mean he’s no longer valuable. In points leagues, players can reach the exact same points totals as others through different means, and that is the case for Altuve.

Without his stolen bases, Altuve is nowhere near as appealing as he once was in roto, but he is someone you should be targeting in points leagues because, as he grows into a more power-centric second baseman, he has become more selective at the plate while maintaining one of the best strikeout rates in baseball. His advanced plate approach will keep his floor above many of his contemporaries, making him one of the safest early-round options at second base.

The 2017 MVP possesses an elite hit tool that manifests in his career 11.9% strikeout rate (13.4% in 2021) and 86.4% contact rate (85% in 2021). Contact ability such as Altuve’s will keep him from slumping for long periods of time and sets him apart from any other player because he combines it with above-average power production. No qualified batter with a strikeout rate as low as Altuve’s was able to come close to his slugging prowess as measured by isolated power.

Qualified Batters with a K% < 13.5%, Sorted by ISO

 

The major change to his game has been his increased emphasis on a pull-heavy, fly ball approach, revealing how much he’s leaning into getting the most power out of his frame. From 2014 to 2020, Altuve hit the ball to his pull side 43.7% of the time and drove the ball in the air 31.9% of the time. In 2021 however, he began to aim for the Crawford Boxes and pulled the ball in the air more, recording a 54.4% pull rate and a 38.7% fly-ball rate. It bodes well for his future in points league that he was able to maintain a top 10 strikeout rate while making a drastic change to his approach. Buy into his newfound power because it is backed up by a change in approach and jump at the chance to draft him because of his uniquely unmatched and ideal points profile.

Alex Bregman – 3B

The second overall pick in the 2015 Amateur Draft, Bregman has long been one of the most attractive points league players because of his ability to pair a high walk rate (career 12.5% BB%) with a really low strikeout rate (career 14.1% K%). I know, it sounds simple, but those two metrics can make or break an offensive player’s value in these types of leagues. Since he began showing off his sensational batting eye in 2018, he has walked more than he struck out, resulting in the best BB/K ratio of any qualified batter during that time.

Paired with his nearly unmatched plate discipline, Bregman has proven that he can hit the ball a long way. The 41 homers he hit in 2019 are most likely a massive outlier and his true talent level lies closer to 25 dingers, but he can still make an impact with his bat. Like I’ve mentioned a couple of times so far, players don’t need to generate all of their extra-base power from the long ball because the majority of points leagues capture a player’s value through total bases.

Bregman is a doubles machine, leading to slugging production that fantasy owners normally would not consider in other formats. The two-time All-Star hit a career-high 51 doubles in 2018 and has a 42-double 162 game average for his career, allowing him more avenues to produce if the notion that his true talent home run power isn’t quite as appealing as we may have thought at his peak in 2019. Reaching first via the free pass and turning base hits into doubles will lead Bregman to boatloads of scoring opportunities atop a loaded Astros lineup.

When the LSU product keeps his bat on his shoulder, he racks up points with the best of the best. When he swings for the Crawford boxes, he has the ability to eclipse 30 long balls. When he’s putting the ball in play, he has an increased chance of reaching second base. When you amalgamate the aspects of Bregman’s game, the result is a player that seems to be made in a lab just for points leagues. As long as he recovers normally from the wrist surgery he underwent this offseason, he will, once again, be one of the most coveted infielders in fantasy.

Wander Franco – SS

Many analysts are pegging Franco as a player to avoid in roto drafts, but that’s because that format doesn’t account for his most attractive asset; his incredible plate discipline. Franco was the No. 1 prospect in all of the minor leagues for a couple of years, and he showed why in his first taste of the majors in 2021. The then 20-year-old shortstop was able to transfer the majority of his minor league success to the majors, proving he belonged in the big leagues at his young age.

The end result was a 127 wRC+ across 308 plate appearances, buoyed by a BB/K rate that was automatically the best by any player his age with at least 300 plate appearances (he was the only 20-year old to cross that threshold in 2021). Superstars were the only players to surpass Franco in the 23 and younger crowd in terms of BB/K ratio with the same qualifier. In a similarly magnificent fashion, since 2000, among players with at least 300 plate appearances at age 20 or younger, only Bryce Harper, Jason Heyward, and Juan Soto have produced a higher BB/K ratio than Franco.

Players Under 24 with > 300 PA, Sorted by BB/K

All of these age-related leaderboards paint Franco as a special young talent with a plate approach rarely seen from anyone with his level of experience. This notion is absolutely the case and you should be jumping at the opportunity to draft him while there are still some questions surrounding his ability. By next draft season, Franco will be going in the first two rounds of drafts in this format. He may never be a 30/30 guy, but he has the ability to win a batting title and will grow into more power while being the centerpiece of the Rays lineup. Most astonishingly, he does all of this from both sides of the plate, making him a truly one-of-a-kind baseball player.

A lot of Franco’s projections rely heavily on his minor league track record, where he never batted below .313 at any level and showed even better plate skills than he did in the Majors. It’s also important to point out that Franco got better as his debut season went on. He started off ice cold but ultimately finished incredibly strong. Many may forget, but he tied Frank Robinson’s 65-year old record of reaching base in 43 consecutive games at the age of 20 or younger. The biggest question mark surrounding the shortstop is whether he’ll be able to tap into his power in 2022, but it won’t matter in points leagues if he can just hold the plate skills he manifested in 2021. Don’t underestimate Franco as he is truly a superstar on the rise.

 

Middle Rounds – Top 200

 

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

After a tough COVID-shortened 2020 campaign during which Rizzo batted just .222, I was expecting a return to form in 2021 as the league returned to normal and he got a full year to let positive regression settle in. Rizzo, in fact, did not return to form, posting his worse full-season line since his first full season in 2013. The good news, however, is that it didn’t come at the cost of his typically impressive plate discipline.

The three-time All-Star lopped off a couple of percentage points from his walk rate, but it’s nothing to worry too much about. The former Cub was able to maintain a sub-16% strikeout rate despite the slight decrease in his patience. Most importantly, he had no noticeable changes to his approach, so I am once again buying back into the notion that he bounces back to his previous All-Star level. He has always been a beast in points leagues as a result of his career 0.70 BB/K ratio, but he’s going to need to tap back into his 25+ home run power and prove that the career-low (tied with 2013) .258 BABIP he posted was just a fluke.

Now that Rizzo is going outside the top 100 picks, he is a much more enticing selection, making the prospect of him maintaining his 2021 form much more digestible. With his return to the Yankees, he’ll definitely get a boost to his home run power, with the short porch in right field suiting his batted ball location perfectly. As of now, he’s projected by Roster Resource to bat leadoff in front of sluggers such as Joey GalloAaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton, placing him in one of the premier lineup spots in all of baseball, with his on-base ability and the power production behind him affording him countless scoring opportunities.

Jake Cronenworth – 1B/2B/SS

We have all been in the “Crone Zone” since 2020 when the Padres’ utility infielder took the league by storm with a 126 wRC+. Cronenworth then proved he wasn’t just a short-season one-year-wonder by hammering out 21 bombs alongside a 116 wRC+ in 2021. In classic roto leagues, Cronenworth has been constantly linked to DJ LeMahieu this draft season, as they are both multi-position eligible with modest power and decent batting average potential. In points leagues, however, Cronenworth sets himself apart from LeMahieu, despite the Yankee infielder’s superior plate discipline.

The 2020 NL Rookie of the Year runner-up reaps a considerable amount of point production by knocking out an abundance of non-home run extra-base hits. Last year, the left-handed hitter rapped out 33 doubles and tied for the second most three-baggers in the MLB with seven. He’s able to manufacture so many extra-base hits because of his above-average speed as well as his ability to make contact while driving the ball with some authority. He may not stand out in many power metrics, but his penchant for making contact in the zone is what sets him apart from his constituents at this point in drafts.

The All-Star made contact in the zone 94.1% of the time, making him one of the preeminent batters in terms of bat-to-ball skills. His contact-first approach is especially impressive considering his inclination to hit for some power as well. He ranked fourth among qualified batters in in-zone contact rate and exhibited the best power of anyone inside the top five in that category by a significant margin. That combination of contact and power alongside solid plate discipline will make him a coveted pick in this format. Cronenworth will be batting atop the Padres lineup and will be a rock in your fantasy lineup all year long. Snag him around the ninth round in 12-team leagues and you won’t regret it.

Yoán Moncada – 3B 

Moncada has not quite lived up to the hype that made him the number one prospect in all of baseball prior to his debut. Disregarding his BABIP-fueled 2019 campaign, Moncada has fallen short of the MVP-type expectations that came with his debut. Entering his age-27 season, Moncada still has more than enough time to put everything together into one spectacular season.

The Cuban native is more of an all-around player in roto leagues, but in points leagues, he stands out for his extraordinarily passive approach. The switch hitter has swung at just 43.2% of pitches for his career, aiding him in drawing a boatload of walks. Last year he set a career-high in walk rate (13.6%), the tenth highest mark among qualified batters. Noticeably, he paired his increased walk rate with a paired down strikeout rate, the best of his career. After striking out 31.3% of the time from 2016 to 2020, he was able to drop that rate all the way down to 25.5% in 2021. That combo of a career-best walk rate with a career-best strikeout rate obviously resulted in a career-best BB/K ratio (0.51), well above the league average of 0.37.

Now that Moncada has exhibited a better plate approach, it’s much easier to count on him in points leagues. Also, he’s another one of those players that consistently knocks out 30 doubles every year with a lackluster home run total, giving him additional paths to production in 2022 without relying on a surge in homers. Even if he’s unable to manufacture an offensive breakout in 2022, the advances he made last year are more than enough to make him an enticing option in points leagues.

Luis Urías – 2B/3B/SS

Having finally shown MLB production in 2021 similar to the level he played at in the minors, many people will be drafting Urías much higher than he has been drafted in the last couple of seasons. I’ll be taking him even higher than ADP to make sure he lands on my team, not only because of his impressive eye but also because I’m convinced he takes an even bigger step forward in 2022.

I’ve been hyping up the infielder to the point where I’m willing to take him inside the top-15 at each of his eligible positions. I’m enamored with his skill set, especially in points or OBP-focused formats. For someone of his age (he’ll be just 25 years old in 2022), he shows an inclination to take the free pass that is matched by few others.

The fact that he’s among such impressive company yet didn’t have an All-Star caliber 2021 campaign suggests he has the capability of breaking out and performing closer to those I’ve compared him to. That splendid walk rate came with a solid 20.4% strikeout rate, giving fantasy managers even more reason to draft him ahead of his ADP. In a friendly hitters park such as American Family Field, Urías’ adequate 9.3% barrel rate should lead to him maintaining his power. Most importantly, as he gets more comfortable hitting in the major leagues, he should only get better, placing himself in that upper echelon of offensive infielders in 2022.

 

Late Rounds – Post 200

 

Yuli Gurriel – 1B

The older Gurriel brother is the king of outlier seasons. He had an uncharacteristic power breakout in 2019, crushing 31 long balls, having never reached even 20 before or since. Then, this past season, he won the AL batting title with a .319 average that was 20 points better than anything he had put up before. Entering his age 38-season, there’s little doubt that he won’t be reaching those heights again in 2022. Nonetheless, he can be more than serviceable as a late-round pick in a points league draft because of his formidable plate approach.

Gurriel has always exhibited a low strikeout rate since he came to the U.S. from Cuba, striking out just 10.9% of the time for his career. He continued that trend in 2021, recording the fifth-lowest qualified rate in the Majors at 11.2%. The aspect of his 2021 season that makes him extra appealing heading into 2022 was that he was able to pair his sensational ability to avoid whiffing with an enhanced capacity to take free passes. After walking just 4.7% of the time across his first five Major League seasons (2016-2020), the right-handed hitting first baseman was able to more than double his career rate, finishing 2021 with a 63rd percentile, 9.8% walk rate. Sitting in the middle of a formidable lineup in Houston, Gurriel’s improved plate metrics should help offset his inevitable age-related regression, making him one of the most underrated points league options this late in drafts.

Luis Arraez – 2B/3B/OF

One of the best contact hitters in baseball across his small Major League sample, Arraez is close to the safest bet for a .300 average. His average production makes him a decent late round target in roto leagues, but many will point to his lack of production in any other category as a reason to avoid him in drafts. In points leagues, however, Arraez accrues added production from his incredible plate approach, offsetting his complete lack of power, speed, and lineup security.

The left-handed-hitting utility man pairs a career 9.0% walk rate with a nearly identical 9.1% strikeout rate. It’s hard enough to find players that have a one-to-one BB/K ratio, let alone after pick 200. Arraez’s appeal might come solely from his plate discipline, but the effect he can make on your team is wholly underrated. He trails only Alex Bregman and Juan Soto in BB/K ratio, the preeminent players in this category. With multi-position eligibility and a .313 career batting average, Arraez isn’t completely void of other enticing skills, so if he can get consistent playing time, he could be one of the sneakiest late-round picks in points leagues.

Jeimer Candelario – 3B

Although he posted the least appealing plate discipline metrics of any of my points league targets, Candelario should be heavily considered at the end of your drafts. It’s not that he doesn’t have a solid batting eye (he had a 70th percentile, 10.4% BB% and a 48th percentile, 21.6% K% in 2021), it’s just that he’s not as much of a standout as every other guy on this list. He’s a great late-round selection because of how he comes about his power production.

The switch-hitter may not seem like someone with a ton of power, considering he’s mashed just 53 homers in 482 career games (career 18-homer 162-game average), but he gets to his power in other ways. He is a downright doubles machine, having knocked out 42 doubles in 2021, tying him for the Major League lead alongside stars Bryce Harper, J.D. Martinez, and Whit Merrifield. With an above-average barrel rate (9%) and a wOBA mark (.344) lower than his xwOBA (.357), there’s no reason to believe Candelario won’t continue his efforts going forward. He’s currently projected to bat cleanup for a Tigers lineup that could receive an influx of talent from the minors, giving more lineup protection and production around the 28-year old third baseman.

David Fletcher – 2B/SS

Fletcher is an afterthought in NFBC drafts right now, with an ADP since January 1st around 344. That’s expected, given that the majority of NFBC leagues aren’t utilizing the points format. Nonetheless, it shows a general industry-wide consensus that Fletcher is not an enticing player in fantasy and that drafters aren’t as interested in him as they were last year, considering he’s going almost 100 picks later than he did in 2021 drafts. Despite his fall in high-stakes roto leagues, Fletcher should remain on your radar in points formats because of his nearly unmatched ability to put the bat on the ball.

The career .281 right-handed hitter may have had a down year in 2021, batting just .262 with a dreadful 70 wRC+, but he remains the preeminent contact hitter. He avoids strikeouts and makes contact at the best rate in baseball. Since his 2018 debut, Fletcher owns the best, qualified contact rate (91.3%) in the Majors by a solid margin. His capacity for making contact has also helped him record the lowest qualified strikeout rate (9.9%) in the big leagues during that same time frame. He provides almost no power to your squad and didn’t record a single barrel last season, but he’s a member of one of the premier lineups in the American League and with the plate skills he presents, will rarely hurt your team with negative points by way of his fondness for selling out for a low strikeout rate.

Photos by Leslie Plaza Johnson, Nick Wosika, Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire & Freddie Freeman– All-Pro Reels Photography | Adapted by Michael Packard (@artbyMikeP on Twitter & IG)

Jake Crumpler

A Bay Area sports fan and lover of baseball, Jake is a recent graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz with a B.A. in English Literature. He currently writes fantasy articles for Pitcher List and is the lead baseball writer at The Athletes Hub. Some consider his knowledge of the sport to be encyclopedic. Without baseball, Jake would be a Pokémon master.

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