Fantasy baseball is a game of opinions and disagreements. Okay, sometimes it's a game of arguments, too. That's what we try to capture for you in the Spin Doctors series; two Yahoo scribes who can't see eye to eye on numbers and potential.
Today's squabble comes with a couple of blue-chip third basemen, Evan Longoria and David Wright. It's become one of the greatest franchises in this series - this is Round III for Longoria vs. Wright. Who's your 2014 cornerstone? Andy Behrens and Scott Pianowski do not agree. Please break the tie in the comments.
Behrens to Open: Right here at the start, I'll concede that Wright will likely give you the better batting average (perhaps by 25-30 points), and he'll offer more steals than Longoria (probably an additional 15 or so).
[Baseball 2014 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: Join a league today!]
But that's all I'm willing to concede. Longoria is a near-lock for a 90-30-90 line in a healthy season, and we can't say the same for Wright. In the early rounds on draft day, I'm placing a priority on guaranteed power. It's no layup to reach the 30-homer plateau these days, and few hitters do it while maintaining a tolerable batting average. Longoria was one of only nine players in baseball to top 30 homers last year with an average better than .260. I'm willing to pay for this skill set. In 2014, power isn't the easiest thing to find.
Wright is coming off an injury-plagued season, he's 31 years old — three years older than Longoria — and his team's lineup is nothin' special. There's no reason to expect Wright to produce as if it's 2007. I'm not excluding him from any fantasy rosters in the year ahead, and I can appreciate his across-the-board usefulness, but I don't view him as a priority target. At the top of a draft, or in the $25+ price range, I'm looking for potential category leaders.
Pianow to Close: It's nice to get a batting average and stolen base concession up front. That's 40 percent of the 5x5 argument. But I'm not willing to make some of the other concessions.
Both players bring a fair amount of injury risk, perhaps the same amount. Check the last three seasons: Wright's logged 370 games while Longoria's at 367. Neither player is in an age danger zone yet. I'm calling this angle a wash.
Wright's scored six more runs than Longoria over that stretch, another wash. Is Tampa Bay some offensive juggernaut and I've missed the memo? Did they move in the fences (or lower the catwalk) in Tampa?
Batting average isn't the sexy grab at the table, but the ratio stats have hidden value. The dedicated fantasy player will get a counting-stat float in August and September, as the dead money moves over to football. But you can't push the ratio stats simply by showing up. That's why Wright's .301 career average is such a nifty thing to secure on draft day.
Longoria's become a stuffed animal for the stathead community, a pet player. Oh look, the team-friendly contract. Oh look, the Rays are so smart. But we don't have to pay the players, and I don't need Dave Cameron to approve of my fake-stat grab. The smarter your room is, the more likely someone is going after Longoria a little too eagerly. Don't pay extra for the snappy defense (or the high-profile fiancée).
When I look at Longoria, I see a three-category player. He won't run for you, and he might hurt you in batting average. Versatile players who do a number of things tend to be underrated, and that's happened with Wright. Imagine that, a sneaky value in the Big Apple.