Washington Nationals slugger Bryce Harper is arguably the best player in the National League. But should you draft teammate Trea Turner over him in fantasy baseball?
The Washington Nationals have a stacked lineup. There are no two ways about it. In the 2017 All-Star Game, three of the NL’s eight starting position players wore a curly W.
Last season, Harper posted a solid stat line of .319/.413/.595. Along with slugging 29 home runs and driving in 87 runs, it earned him a small share of the NL MVP vote.
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But that was last season. And this is fantasy baseball. Is it possible that there is another National worthy of a higher draft pick than Harper?
While it might seem far-fetched, Trea Turner might be a more valuable fantasy baseball asset in 2018.
Let’s start with positional scarcity. The outfield is always the deepest position in fantasy baseball. Users don’t need to draft outfielders in the first two rounds to lock up quality at-bats throughout the season. It’s a good strategy to fill infield positions first, then look for value in the outfield.
In a standard twelve team league, the eleventh or twelfth team is looking at guys like Javier Baez, Jorge Polanco, and Andrelton Simmons. Those are not players to feel confident about starting each day.
A second reason Turner might be more valuable than Harper is Turner’s stolen base upside.
Stolen bases are especially relevant for those that play in a league where categories determine weekly wins and losses. This means points accumulated don’t matter as much. Users need to beat their opponent in the different statistical categories: Home runs, stolen bases, etc.
By drafting Turner, the user can, in essence, ignore stolen bases each week and have a great chance to win the category. This is especially true if your opponent “punts” the stolen bases category, a common strategy in fantasy baseball.
As an added bonus, Turner isn’t only a stolen base specialist. Unlike Gordon and Hamilton, Turner is a 20/20 threat (20 home runs and 20 stolen bases).
Fangraphs.com’s “Steamer” projections tab Turner for 17 home runs in 139 games. A healthy Turner will compete for the 20/20 milestone.
Turner got reasonably close in 2016. In just 73 games, Turner slugged 13 home runs along with stealing 33 bases.
Drafting Turner along with other power hitters will allow you to compete for both categories without giving up an edge in either. Maximizing opportunity is the name of the game in fantasy sports.
This piece is not meant to say Harper is a bad draft pick. He is easily a top ten pick in standard leagues with massive upside. But depending on the league, Turner’s stolen base upside and sneaky power trump Harper’s all-around excellence.