Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
It is an age-old question for fantasy owners: Select a good player on a bad team or an average player in a great offense? If you are playing in an NFL fantasy league, the answer is almost always to go with the better team/offense.
But what about in a more individualized sport such as baseball. The offense isn't 11-on-11, it's one pitcher versus one batter and the rest of his team can only lend morale support.
In 2013, the poster boy for a good player on a bad team is Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton.
Stanton has as much talent as any hitter in the game, but with the Marlins' management trading off most of last year's starters, he's surrounded by almost no top-quality offensive threats. The 23-year-old is struggling with the fact that no pitcher will throw him a hittable pitch. And why would they?
The 2012 team had a lineup that included John Buck, Carlos Lee, Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, Logan Morrison and Emilio Bonifacio. Stanton led the National League in slugging percentage (.608).
But now he can't get a decent pitch to hit. It shows throughout a statistical analysis. He's batting just .188 with zero homers and one RBI. He's struck out 20 times in 57 plate appearances. He's scored just two runs, probably the most telling number about his new teammates and their inability to swing the bat.
He's not the only player stuck in a bad situation. Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro is a top quality talent mired in a bad offense. Last year's team had only a few offensive weapons: an aging Alfonso Soriano and a not-yet-ready- for-prime-time Anthony Rizzo. So despite Castro getting on base 223 times including 55 extra-base hits, he only managed to score 78 runs.
By comparison Texas second baseman, Ian Kinsler, in baseball's highest-scoring offense (4.99 run-per-game) got on base 238 times (168 hits, 60 walks, 10 HBP) and scored 105 runs. Detroit's Austin Jackson was on 232 times and scored 103 runs. Washington rookie Bryce Harper got on 202 times and scored 98 runs.
Meanwhile, many average players in good offenses have produced better results.
Justin Upton had what was considered a "down" year and still scored 107 runs in the Diamondbacks' improving offense which averaged 4.53 runs per game.
Elvis Andrus doesn't have Castro's skills with the bat, yet he scored 85 runs last season while playing in Texas. Rickie Weeks is a career .249 hitter, who batted just .230 last year, yet in the Brewers' No. 3 run-producing offense he scored seven times more than Castro, who batted .283. Danny Espinosa batted .247, but in the Nationals' offense he scored more often than Castro.
So it appears that playing in a great offense pays off. Certainly in the runs scored category. Through about 15 percent of the season, the best run-producing team is the surprising New York Mets at 5.82 per game, followed by Colorado, Cincinnati, Oakland and St. Louis.
Based on this, we've chosen a few players who may benefit from being in top offenses, but weren't highly thought of on Draft Day, and may still be available in free agency or obtainable for a reasonable price in a trade deal.
Daniel Murphy, 2B, New York Mets (preseason ADP 314) - Murphy has always been able to hit, but it wasn't until last season that he found a permanent home at second base. With the improvement of the team around him, Murphy is hitting a career-best .348 and has already scored 17 runs this season.
Todd Frazier, 3B, Cincinnati (143) - Replacing an injured Scott Rolen last season, Frazier showed enough skills (.273, 19 HR, 67 RBI) that the team decided to go with the youngster as their third baseman this season. In most fantasy leagues, he wasn't drafted until around the 12th round, but he's playing well above that level with 12 runs scored, five homers, 17 RBI and a .881 OPS.
Josh Rutledge, 2B, Colorado (177) - After being called up, Rutledge played in 73 games last season and batted a solid .274 with 37 runs scored, eight homers and 37 RBI. Extrapolated over a full season, that would be an 80-plus run, 80- plus RBI season. There were only two second baseman in the entire majors who produced 80-80 seasons last year, Robinson Cano and Aaron Hill. Rutledge was a "steal" as a 15th-round selection on Draft Day and could still be a bargain if the trade price isn't too high.
Matt Carpenter, 2B, St. Louis (311) - Carpenter started just 66 games last season (he played in 114), yet in 296 at-bats he managed to score 44 runs and knock in 46 while batting .294. This spring, he won the second base job outright and is paying huge dividends. In 18 games (17 starts), he's already scored 16 runs. He's been particularly good against right-handers with an .835 OPS. As the newly installed leadoff hitter for the Cardinals, he's likely to continue to produce at a high level yet he's a free agent in 25 percent of all Yahoo fantasy leagues. Claim him today.
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