by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Remember when Brandon Belt was viewed as a potential fantasy star? It wasn’t that long ago, but injuries and inability have helped to derail him. Sure he hit .289 with 17 HR back in 2013, but from a first baseman that’s obviously not enough power.
Fantasy owners are looking for someone more like the Astros’ Chris Carter, who slugged 37 HR in 2014. Given the general lack of power around the game, it makes sense that the ADPs for the two currently are as follows:
- Carter – 117.3
- Belt – 200.7
Is that really the best strategy, though? Is Carter really a better bet for 2015? Let’s take a look:
We all know that the power is there, it always has been, but what is drawing people to Carter is the improvement he showed in his average in the second half of 2014. A strikeout machine, he posted a .252 average after the All-Star Break (.205 in the first half) thanks to a boost in line drive rate (24.0%).
His value is going to rest solely on his ability to maintain that mark, considering he still posted a 30.9% strikeout rate. With a career 33.6% strikeout rate and 48.8% fly ball rate, it seems unlikely that he can post a usable average (.222 for his career).
The Astros have also obtained a significant amount of talent, including Evan Gattis who could step into first base (and Jonathan Singleton, who likely will open the year at Triple-A). In other words, he may not have the rope that we would expect.
While Belt’s average dropped last season, he had posted line drive rates of 25.6% and 24.3% in 2012 and 2013. That shows the potential he has to hit for a strong average, with .270+ a likely scenario.
The bigger question is if his power is going to develop, which it appeared to do when he was on the field last season (18.2% HR/FB). Of course a 257.510 average distance on non-groundballs doesn’t instill much confidence, nor does his home ballpark or the potential to lose playing time to Buster Posey.
Still, the question we have to ask ourselves is if there is enough value in a middle of the order bat who should hit 20+ with a strong average? That’s really what this debate boils down to…
Both players actually carry playing time risk, given the moves that Houston made in the offseason. With Carter’s potential to hit closer to .200 than .250, it’s not crazy to think that he’s going to be forced to take a seat on occasion. As it is, as long as Belt can stay within 10-12 HR, his advantage in average, as well as the likelihood to come close in the RBI department (and win in R), it’s fair to prefer Belt as it is. Given the ADP difference? It becomes an easy call.
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Heat Maps, Fantasy Pros
Make sure to check out all of our 2015 rankings:
- First Basemen
- Second Basemen
- Third Basemen
- Starting Pitchers: 1-20 | 21-40
- Outfielders: 1-20 | 21-40
- Relief Pitchers
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