This article is part of our MLB Best Ball series.
We make our final stop in the tiers discussion of Underdog best ball at infield. Unlike outfield and pitcher, the infield pool is more aligned in their ADP versus projected points output. That makes a stars-and-scrubs approach more difficult as compared to the outfield, which had plenty of value hidden late in ADP. Instead, using the early rounds to fill out a strong infield along with starting pitcher is the most optimal approach according to RotoWire projections. That will be a continuing theme as we work through the top eight tiers at the infield position.
Freeman stands alone in Tier 1. He would have landed at the bottom of Tier 1 as an outfielder thanks to his strong consistency, ability to get on base and exceptional track record for being in the lineup every day. I'd prefer to grab a pitcher or outfielder in the first round, but using a late first-round pick on Freeman after the three aces and six elite outfielders are off the board is perfectly viable and the right call.
It's always hard to justify passing on Tatis and this ranking doesn't suggest that he isn't a strong first-round pick. At ADP, I prefer to stick to an outfielder or ace, but there's no reason to overly dissect a Tatis selection.
Ramirez has a fairly stable skillset entering 2021 is a strong pick at his ADP.
Between tiers 2-4, five infielders have an ADP in the second round, all of which are reasonable selections.
Turning back to a specific look at Tier 3, both Machado and Story have a strong skills profile. Of the duo, Story presents at least a mild bit of risk given the run-down condition of the Rockies lineup and the potential for a mid-season trade. In tournament formats, it's possible that Story is moved out of Coors during cutdown periods making a second-round pick vulnerable to worsened production at the time he's needed most.
Even into Tier 4, there aren't huge discrepancies between projected points and ADP. Turner has the highest ADP and takes a bit of a hit due to his relative lack of power compared to Story and Ramirez without a massive advantage in stolen bases.
The major projected value of the group is Biggio, who has an ADP nearly 50 spots lower than the next closest player. His skillset is well-suited for the format based on his willingness to take walks to the point of being a detriment in traditional roto leagues. The owner of a .347 wOBA through 695 career plate appearances, Biggio is also aided by his ability to hit for extra-bases that don't leave the yard.
Bogaerts is also worth mentioning as a strong value in the tier. He is one of the later selections of the group, yet projects very closely to the top of the tier. While not as extreme of a profile as Biggio, Bogaerts is an elite extra-base hit producer and will be locked into the middle of what remains a strong Red Sox lineup.
This is the final tier before things really open up. It's arguable that both Bregman and Devers should shift up into Tier 4, but both are interesting cases worth digging into a bit more. Bregman has had a choppy spring while battling a hamstring injury, leaving him with only 141 projected games. However, prior to 2020, he had played in at least 155 games, so for drafters comfortable with his current health situation he's a worth target in late round two or early round three. Bregman has a strikingly similar profile to Biggio but with more power. On a per game basis, he cracks double-digit projected points at 10.03, an elite mark
Devers comes out below Bregman in total points projections despite being projected for more games played. He lacks the plate discipline of Bregman but has one of the best statcast profiles in the game. Similar to Vladimir Guerrero, who will be covered later, Devers has the ingredients for a breakout season if things come together.
As promised, this is the tier where things start to open up. A few players stand out at first glance as being overpriced in Seager and Guerrero. Seager is projected for only 139 games but for a solid 9.72 points per game That's presumably based less on injury risk and more a reflection of the Dodgers' exceptional depth, which will afford them the chance to rotate their infielders occasionally. That said, while potentially still not someone worth jumping for at cost, Seager's ADP is not as egregious as it first appears. Guerrero is a bet on upside as many of his skills are elite. The ADP is betting on something that hasn't happened yet, but that doesn't mean it can't in 2021.
Looking toward the potential for positive value, Santana is the standout of Tier 6. Long the darling of points leagues, Santana is an exceptional fit in this format. Semien doesn't have quite the same gaudy walk rate to match Santana, but he is a compiler that should chip in across every avenue to scoring points. He's priced appropriately to be a middle-round target.
Swanson is yet another example that illustrates the power of compiling in this type of format, and is comparable to Semien, trading plate discipline for power. More household names such as Altuve and Marte have been downgraded to this tier as similar compliers. However, each still offers some upside. This week's news that Altuve is the favorite to lead off gives him more volume in a strong lineup, which gives him the potential to move toward the top of the tier with Swanson. Marte is yet another Statcast darling who has been inconsistent in turning those metrics into fantasy production.
Hiura takes the hit of a player with poor plate discipline in the format. His defensive limitations present mild playing time risk, though most of that has been factored into his ADP. He has some upside in this group as well.
Vaughn is worth highlighting, particularly given the injury to Eloy Jimenez. The short benches on Underdog make it difficult to take a guaranteed zero in lineups — even if only for a few weeks. However, it's more realistic that he begins the season in Chicago and offers some late-round upside for those willing to take on more risk.
One the main takeaways of the overview article to this series was the severe dip in value for catchers, given that they don't have their own positional requirements. Grandal and Realmuto are the only two worth consideration, and with a full slate of projected games, Realmuto would move back ahead of Grandal. Even so, neither is a particularly appealing option.
Aside from Mondesi, this tier is mostly late-round targets. There are two potential philosophies when filling out the bench in this format. Traditionally a time to throw darts, that avenue is less appealing in the format due to the continued theme of not wanting to take on many zero-point producers on rosters. For those with an appetite for some late-round risk, Donaldson should produce well on a per-game basis and is healthy heading into the season. Cron could also fit into this category. His contract was officially purchased by the Rockies and he is locked into playing time at first base. He has the potential to carry teams for a full week during homestands at Coors Field. On the other hand, he has an injury history and could see his performance suffer on long road trips.
The rest of the group fall into the second philosophy of more consistent contributors with locked in playing time and a stable — yet unexciting skill profile. Seager and Votto in particular are older players without the same name value as previous seasons but with plenty to offer in the format.