Fantasy impact of position changes 

June, 25, 2014
Most times that I’ve talked to a baseball player about the potential effects a position change will have -- or is having -- on them at the plate, they’ve looked at me like I was an alien from outer space. In other words, although these guys are human beings and have feelings and all that, they tend to separate their work in the field from what they do with the bat. I ask the question not expecting some new answer -- among the people I’ve asked over the years include Ryan Braun, Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion and Billy Hamilton, and I spared Joe Mauer in March because he laughed at others who asked -- but because perhaps one day an athlete will admit that there is a mind game at play, and both the MLB teams that employ them and the fantasy owners that rely on statistics should know better.

Boston Red Sox youngster Xander Bogaerts was dropped to the No. 7 spot in the struggling lineup for Tuesday’s game in Seattle, and he responded merely with a single in four at-bats. Bogaerts has told reporters the switch from shortstop, where he was doing awesome, to third base is no big deal. I believe him! I’m a huge Bogaerts fan and think he’ll be a fantasy monster in two years and a league building block in time. However, the numbers tell us he’s either in a massive slump that might have happened anyway, or it’s pure coincidence he’s hitting .296 with a .816 OPS at short, and .167 with a .522 OPS through 84 plate appearances at the hot corner. I’m still investing in Bogaerts, and think he'll hit at least .280 this season with 15 home runs. The best is yet to come, though he’s been a popular drop recently in standard leagues. Bogaerts’ OPS while at shortstop, incidentally, is among the top-5 at the position among qualified hitters.

Then there’s Cleveland Indians walker/slugger Carlos Santana. He transitioned from a catcher/first base hybrid over to third base this spring, when the organization had mostly given up on Lonnie Chisenhall; Santana appeared competent enough defensively. He didn’t hit well, though. Chisenhall really got on a roll, and now it appears Santana is mainly a first baseman and occasional designated hitter. Is this why the talented switch-hitter is now hitting? I haven’t seen anyone ask Santana if defensive responsibilities at third base affected him at the plate, but what athlete, in retrospect, would admit that? They’re supposed to be strong and impervious to outside distractions, right? Santana homered among his four hits in five at-bats Tuesday, and also drew a pair of walks. I’ve never given up on him, as a strong walk rate and unlucky BABIP have been obvious signs of future success, and now he’s hitting .371 in June with a 1.190 OPS. In April and May, he hit .151 and .167, respectively. Add them up and it’s not .371. Oh, and Santana is hitting .129 at third base and .397 at first base with more power. Coincidence?