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Draft Round Battles: Alvarez Vs. Seager

Go big or go home.  This is my mantra every time I go to an all-you-can-eat pasta buffet, and it's the mantra many fantasy managers take when putting together a team.  Everyone has one or two managers in their league (or you're one yourself) who load up their rosters with players who are injury risks, coming off poor seasons, youngsters looking to break out into stardom, etc.  For managers like these, Go Bold Or Go Home isn't just a feature column, it's a way of life.

These types of managers love Pedro Alvarez.  "Look at that raw power!  He hit 36 homers last year!  With 100 RBI!  I don't care if he strikes out more often Mark did at finding a senior year prom date, Alvarez is my guy!  If he gets his average up even just a bit, look out!"  First of all, I didn't appreciate the cheap shot, fictional straw man fantasy manager.  Secondly, while said managers can cut right to the bone by bringing up painful high school memories, they may have a point.

Alvarez hit .233/.296/.473 in 614 PA last season, and it's of no small concern to the Pirates and their fans that Alvarez's walk rate dropped to a career-low (7.8%) after, ahem, "peaking" with a career-high 9.7% in 2012.  The slugger still hasn't surpassed the .326 OBP he posted over 95 games in his 2010 rookie season so forget about Alvarez inheriting Adam Dunn's title as the Three True Outcomes King; Alvarez's only two outcomes seem to be "hit a dinger" or "strike out."

That said, walks don't account for much in a 5x5 fantasy league.   Sure, a guy who gets on base less often will score fewer runs (Alvarez only crossed the plate 70 times last year) but by and large, if a guy is able to give you 36 HR/100 RBI from the third base position, you don't mind if he underachieves a little bit in the run category.  And, like Dunn, you also don't mind trading off lower batting average for that kind of extra pop.

Alvarez currently holds a 73.06 average draft position in Mock Draft Central's latest ADP report, putting him just in front of his 77.5 ADP doppelganger.  This third baseman is also a left-handed hitter who can't hit southpaws at all, plays in a pitcher-friendly ballpark and yet enjoyed a pretty solid power season in 2013.  This player also topped Alvarez in rWAR, fWAR, wRC+ and OPS+, and I can probably stop being coy with his name since it's right there in the post title --- it's Kyle Seager

The Silver Bullet Man hit .260/.338/.426 with 22 homers, 69 RBI, 79 runs and even nine steals over 695 PA last season.  If Alvarez is the new Dunn, maybe Seager can take over from Chase Headley as the player whose value is most limited by his home ballpark.  Over his three-year career, Seager has an .836 OPS in road games and only a .645 OPS at Safeco Field, so it's quite possible that Seager would be a top-five fantasy third baseman if he played anywhere but Seattle.  (Alvarez, for the record, also enjoyed a big edge in away games in 2013 but his home/away splits are almost identical for his career.)

Both players definitely aren't the kind you can just stick in your 3B slot and happily forget about for the rest of the year.  Neither Alvarez or Seager can hit left-handed pitching, and in Seager's case, he's a poor play for the home half of the schedule.  From a 5x5 perspective, however, Seager may have the edge....

  • Runs.  Seager gets on base a bit more and thus will score more.  Also, since the Mariners actually have some quality Major League hitters in the lineup this year, Seager should theoretically score more often.
  • RBI.  Alvarez had the big edge last season but Seager had 86 steaks in 2012.  The improved Seattle lineup should also lead to more opportunities for Seager to drive in runs, so I'll still give this one to Alvarez, but only slightly.
  • Steals.  Seager stole 13 bags in 2012 and nine last year, so he can at least hit the double-digits in the category.  Alvarez has four career steals in four seasons so he's nada in this category.
  • Average.  While Seager's .260 career average is nothing to write home about, it's still better than Alvarez's .235 mark.  Even when Alvarez was ripping up the minors with an .888 OPS, he only had a .278 average (and a .270 in Triple-A).  His contact rates have dipped in each of the last three seasons, so it's hard to see where the "he just needs to get his average up a bit!" argument holds much sway aside from a BABIP spike.
  • Home runs.  While 22 homers counts as a major power surge for a Mariner, there's no question Alvarez holds the edge here.

I've got to confess, I'm not much of a "go big or go home" kind of fantasy manager.  I always hesitate to have players who are utter sinks in a category (besides steals) since adds a bit more pressure to find another player who excels in that category to balance things out.  It's for this reason that I prefer Seager to Alvarez, because while I think Seager also has a better chance of breaking out in 2014,  at the end of the day he's just a less-frustrating pick. 

If you're in a league that goes beyond the 5x5 numbers, Seager becomes even a better pick.  If you track OBP or walks, Seager has the edge (though not by a wide margin, given his career .325 OBP).  Tracking doubles again favors Seager, since doubles aren't a True Outcome.  And if you're in a league that counts negative stats like strikeouts, then Alvarez becomes a burden.

As opposed to when I'm deciding on a fourth plate of spaghetti as a pasta buffet, I'm going to show restraint here and recommend Seager over Alvarez.  While power is an increasingly rare commodity, Alvarez is just too streaky for my liking.

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