Strategy Tip: Beware of Playing Time Leeches

Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Adams is a big dude.  I imagine it would be difficult to slow him down once he builds up some momentum…  And that’s pretty much what I expect to happen with his draft stock heading into the 2014 season.  He’s going to be an extremely popular sleeper.  After all, he did hit 17 HR in only 319 plate appearances last season.

Some other names I expect to frequently pop up on 2014 sleeper lists are Jose Abreu, George Springer, Craig Gentry, and Kolten Wong.  I’m certain we’ll even profile them and include them on sleeper lists at this site.

But promise you’ll do me a favor any time you read an article about one of these players.

Be aware of the playing time battles they will face.

A full season of at bats for these players will look awfully enticing.  A simple extrapolation of Adams’ HR total from last year would easily give him 30+ HR over a full season.

But can we really expect full seasons for these players?

Sticking with Adams, we know he’s a little pull happy and a candidate for defensive shifts.  We know he’s not exactly fleet of foot and may have defensive issues. We know Allen Craig has to play somewhere and the outfield is jam packed (Holliday, Bourjos, Jay, and even Oscar Taveras).

All these factors add up.  And they point to playing time battles that can erode the fantasy statistics we’ll be counting on.

I’m not just trying to pick on Matt Adams.  Let’s think about some of these other guys:

  • Old man Paul Konerko just threw a wet blanket on Jose Abreu’s sleeper status when he decided to return.  Konerko can’t just DH with Adam Dunn still around.  He’s going to leech some playing time from Abreu.
  • George Springer is a candidate to go 30-30, right?  Or will the Astros send him to Triple-A to start the season?  After all, they just acquired Dexter Fowler and also have youngsters Robbie Grossman and L.J. Hoes on the roster.
  • Craig Gentry is finally going to get a chance to play full-time!  Oh wait, he was just traded to the platoon-happy Oakland A’s?  The same A’s who already have outfielders Coco Crisp, Yoenis Cespedes, and Josh Reddick on the roster?
  • The trade of David Freese opens up the door for the Cardinals to slide Matt Carpenter to 3B and give Kolten Wong the full-time 2B job!  Wait…  They then turned around and  signed Mark Ellis to leech at bats away?

You might be sitting there saying to yourself, “Paul Konerko is not going to rob a significant amount of playing time from Jose Abreu.”  And you’re probably right.  But let’s do a quick exercise to illustrate the effect it might have.  Let’s just assume Abreu was in line for 155 games played before Konerko re-signed with the White Sox.

And for the sake of simplicity say Abreu will now only play every five out of six games, allowing Konerko to start one game a week.  Sounds reasonable enough, right?

Well that instantly knocks his games played to 135 (5 / 6 * 162).  That’s a lot!  The common line on Abreu is that “he has 30-HR power”.  Well adjust that to 25 my friends (5 / 6 * 30).

The point of this article is not to poo-poo preseason sleeper lists.  It’s just to make you think.  To serve as a word of caution.  To make sure you’re thinking of these things while looking at tiers, ranking players, or drafting.  These principles apply to every decision you make all season long.  Every in season trade, injury, or rookie call up in Major League Baseball has playing time ramifications.  Make sure you’re on top of your MLB depth charts…  And beware of playing time leeches.

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