Monday, February 17, 2014

Fantasy Focus: Mike Trout vs Miguel Cabrera Smackdown

The top tier of MLB players, at least from a fantasy baseball perspective, has been shrinking for several years now.  This year we find just 2 players separating themselves from the pack, Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera.  While the gap between them and #3 is wide, they are running 1,2 in traditional drafts and neck-and-neck in auctions.  I thought it would be fun to kick off what I hope will be a running series of Smackdown posts with a super-smackdown between the top 2 fantasy players.  First the basic stats:

Mike Trout, OF, 22 yo.  3'rd full MLB season.  Yahoo ADP 1.2, $61.

2012:  .326/.399/.564, 30 HR, 49 SB, 129 R, 83 RBI
2013:  .323/.432/.557, 27 HR, 33 SB, 109 R, 97 RBI
2014(ZIPS Projection):  .300/.403/.535, 29 HR, 43 SB, 119 R, 95 RBI

Miguel Cabrera, 3B/1B, 31 yo,   full MLB season.  Yahoo ADP 2.1, $60.5.

2012:  .330/.393/.606, 44 HR, 4 SB, 109 R, 139 RBI.
2013:  .348/.442/.636, 44 HR, 3 SB, 103 R, 137 RBI.
2014(ZIPS Projection):  .317/.404/.581, 38 HR, 92 R, 119 RBI.

Trout is quite clearly #1 in traditional drafts whereas it's a much closer call in auctions.  It is also a no-brainer in keeper leagues(he's probably not even available in most keeper leagues) since he is much younger, probably has not reached his peak and has more peak years ahead of him if he has.   Cabrera probably still has 2-3 peak years in him, which makes it a much closer call in re-draft leagues where it comes down to whether you want the extra elite SB category you get from Trout or the stronger average and power numbers you get from Cabrera.

You generally are not looking at position value at the top of a draft, where you just want the best player available.  In this situation, where the numbers are so close, position value may become a factor.  Cabrera will have dual eligibility in 2014, but will undoubtedly be rostered as a 3B in most leagues.  I would say there is probably less of a gap between Trout and Andrew McCutchen than there is between Cabrera and the second tier of 3B and OF is generally a deeper position than 3B.  In traditional drafts, it probably does not matter, since Andrew McCutchen won't be there when you get back to #20 or 24 depending on the size of your league.  In auctions, you have the theoretical option of drafting Trout plus McCutchen or Cabrera + McCutchen or even Trout + Cabrera if you want to go extreme stars and scrubs!  Of course, it is very likely that you should not be investing $60 in any player, no matter how good, in a standard auction draft!  IMO, position value slightly favors Cabrera, at least in 2014 redraft leagues.

Trout probably comes with a higher injury risk.  Cabrera is starting to get old, but Trout plays a higher risk position and is more aggressive on the basepaths where more injuries occur.

In the end, I have to give the edge to the guy who gives you that extra category of production.  If you draft Cabrera #1 overall, you may have set yourself on a course where you eventually have to either punt SB's or else sacrifice power and/or average in order to get them.  With Trout, you leave your options open and keep yourself in contention to dominate every offensive category.

Smackdown Winner:  Mike Trout!

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