Over the past 15 days on the ESPN Fantasy Baseball Player Rater, two middle infielders stand out near the top of the list that is otherwise covered in familiar names: Tim Anderson and Jose Peraza rank third and fourth, trailing only Francisco Lindor and J.D. Martinez. Both players are in their mid-20s, and both players are available in about a third of ESPN leagues.
So which player are you more optimistic about for the remainder of 2018, and which has more value as we look ahead for those in keeper and dynasty leagues?
Tristan H. Cockcroft: Anderson and Peraza have had similarly valuable seasons to one another to date, and while I'd anticipate that they'll remain somewhat in range of one another for the remainder of the year, I'll take Anderson for the rest of the way. Peraza has a stronger plate approach and makes far more consistent contact -- he has a 35 percent chase rate (swing percentage at non-strikes) compared to Anderson's 37 percent in their young careers, and a 7.3 percent swinging-strike rate compared to Anderson's 15.8 percent. But Anderson has superior pop and makes greater quality contact -- he has .153 isolated power to Peraza's .084 and 85.7 mph average exit velocity compared to Peraza's 82.7 mph.
In order for Peraza to provide clearly superior fantasy value during the second half, he'd have to steal a noticeably greater number of bases, and his stolen-base metrics simply aren't any better than Anderson's through this point of their careers. I'll trade the probably 20 points difference in batting average for what should probably be six to eight more home runs and at least as many steals.
As for the future, I think Anderson will pull away from Peraza by a greater distance, so it's a clearer call in his favor. Anderson is getting more lift on the ball this year, and with continued growth, I think he could become an annual 25/25 candidate, whereas Peraza might struggle to ever exceed 10 homers or 25 steals. Considering the Cincinnati Reds dropped hints during the preseason that they weren't even sold on Peraza being their long-term answer at shortstop -- and that could again be the case once top prospect Nick Senzel is healthy next spring -- there's also a small question about his role.
Eric Karabell: I give Peraza credit for becoming more than a utility guy, but still, he should be running more. He's just not Anderson, or even close. Anderson has much more pop and could be on his way to 25 homers and 35 steals. He might never develop plate discipline, but he's a top-100 option now.
Kyle Soppe: Give me Anderson in this spot for one reason and one reason only: power. In today's game, it is tough to sacrifice power at any one position, and sorry, I'm going to need to see more than 1.5 weeks of power from Peraza to believe in a player that had eight homers in 750 career at-bats entering this season. Based on batting eye and the more consistent ability to get on base, I'd give Peraza the slight edge when projecting stolen bases moving forward, but the gap there (and in batting average) isn't wide enough for what I think could be a 15-ish home run gap when all is said and done.
As for looking ahead to years to come, I'm still more comfortable with Anderson. I think there is a better chance that the recently turned 25-year-old hones his aggression (or channels it to his benefit) than there is that the slap-hitting Peraza (23.8 percent hard hit rate for his career) establishes a 15 to 20 home run expectation.I expect the runs-plus-RBIs numbers to essentially cancel out, and there is a roster construction situation in which I'd consider Peraza the more valuable asset, but when it comes to overall advice, I'll take Anderson over Peraza both now and down the road.
AJ Mass: In both instances, consider me to be on "Team Tim" in this debate. While both players are on the rise, for the rest of the season I have Anderson ranked at No. 77 overall, while Peraza checks in at No. 153.
Anderson, with steals in each of his last three games, already has a career-best 20 stolen bases and is just 4 home runs shy of matching last season's 17 round-trippers. What's most interesting to me about Anderson is that, through games of June 15, he had a 0.33 BB/K rate -- an astronomical improvement over last season's dismal 0.08. Yet at the time, he was batting just .232.
Since then, however, he's walked just once in 77 plate appearances. That would concern me greatly as a sign that perhaps he's falling back into old bad habits at the plate. Yet since Anderson is batting .311 over this stretch -- and with a slightly higher slugging percentage -- maybe he has finally hit that next stage of development. Call me optimistic.
As for Peraza, I do like him, just not to the same degree. His power has improved this season, but at the expense of ground balls, which minimizes the impact of his speed. Although he's bunted for seven hits this season (third-most in baseball), so far he has only legged out just six infield hits (tied for No. 80; he tied for No. 31 in 2017).
Throw in some expected regression in batting average based on his BABIP history, and I'm more skeptical that Peraza is truly utilizing his abilities to maximum effect.