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Position Pairings: Exploiting Splits to Replicate Early Round Production

Pairing mid-to-late rounders using splits to maximize production from your fantasy players

Written by: Jake Floriolli

[Source: AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann]

Unfortunately, you will not be able to draft the highest-ranked players at every position. Sorry to be the one who breaks the news. But what you can do is draft two players whose combined statistics can provide you with what an elite player would give.

So how do you pull this off? Draft mid-to-late round players and know when to start them to maximize their production based on their splits. This becomes immensely easier in a daily league, but even in a league with weekly lineup changes, you can certainly achieve early-round production with the right players.

Below I’ve outlined 3 pairs of players and when to use them to maximize their production and provide you with statistics similar to an early-rounder. Whether you are starting a player in Coors Field or using him strictly against lefties, here’s how to get the most out of your players.

CJ Cron (COL, 1B) at Home + Max Muncy (LAD, 1B/2B) at Home

Combined 2022: 141 games, .297/.403/.645, 42 HR, 1 SB, 99 R, 121 RBI

(162 game pace: 48 HR, 1 SB, 113 R, 139 RBI)

When talking about splits, you would be remiss not to mention a member of the Colorado Rockies. Due to the high altitude, Coors Field in Denver, CO is a hitter's palace. First baseman CJ Cron certainly took advantage of his environment by hitting 19 home runs with a 1.073 OPS and 155 wRC+ in 69 home games last season. In addition, take a look below at his huge jump in wOBA after calling Coors Field home last season.

Health has always been an issue for Cron as his 142 games played in 2021 was his most in a season. However, if you are drafting Cron with the idea of using him for just 81 home games, it takes a lot of the risk away instead of having to rely on him to play 162 games for you.

Now looking at Max Muncy, his 2022 season is muddled as he is currently rehabbing from a torn UCL in his left elbow that he suffered late last season. His ADP of 144 almost certainly reflects his injury status at the time of this writing, but if given a clean bill of health come spring training, Muncy is an excellent value.

Muncy straight up thrives at Dodger Stadium. Over the last four seasons, he has slashed .254/.371/.553 at home with 42 home runs per every 162 games.

In 2021 alone, Muncy had a .269/.394/.630 slash line with a 172 wRC+ at home versus road numbers of .232/.343/.432 with a 109 wRC+. And the difference does not appear to be luck-driven as Muncy’s BABIP was only .010 higher at home last season.

With 23 out of his 36 home runs being hit in Los Angeles last season, along with a career slugging percentage more than .060 points higher at home than on the road (even with two partial seasons in Oakland), it is clear that Muncy loves being in front of his fans.

Cron and Muncy’s home production last season was remarkable as their combined 162 game pace was a slash line of .297/.403/.645 with 48 homers and 252 combined runs and RBI. For context, ATC projects Vlad Guerrero Jr. to finish 2022 with a slash line of .307/.390/.589 and 42 home runs with 217 runs plus RBI.

If you miss out on the early-round first baseman in your draft this spring, you are not out of luck. With some strategic drafting and lineup construction, you can still achieve early-round production. You should not expect a combination of Cron and Muncy to outproduce Guerrero Jr, but the possibility of getting elite-level production out of the two is not far-fetched.

Harrison Bader (STL, OF) on the Road + Akil Baddoo (DET, OF) vs Righties

Combined: 162 games, .293/.358/.536, 26 HR, 23 SB, 75 R, 80 RBI

(162 Game Pace: 26 HR, 23 SB, 75 runs, 80 RBI)

Harrison Bader, current NFBC ADP of 232 overall, has been a popular breakout pick in the past but has yet to play more than 138 games in a season. In 2021, Bader put up a career-high 16 home runs, but an astonishing 13 of those came on the road.

Take a look below at Bader’s home and road splits from last season. BABIP certainly played a large role in the difference in production, but Bader has been a better road hitter over his entire career.

Bader’s career road slash line is .278/.345/.491 with 33 home runs and 192 combined runs plus RBI in 212 games. Compared to his home statistics of .209/.300/.341 with just 14 homers and 146 runs plus RBI in 222 games.

Bader also provides his fantasy managers with stolen base production as he recorded nine steals in 103 games last season. Obviously, if you only start Bader in half of his games next season, you will miss out on some of his steals, but pairing him with another guy who has 20 home run, 20 steal potential can combat that.

Speaking of another player with 20 homer, 20 steal potential, Akil Baddoo can be found around pick 160 overall. Baddoo came out of nowhere last season to hit 13 home runs and steal 18 bases in 124 games.

However, a closer look at Baddoo’s production shows us a tale of two players. Baddoo against righties was a force to be reckoned with as he slashed .273/.346/.495 and hit all 13 of his 2021 home runs against them.

But when it came to facing southpaws, Baddoo struggled. Against lefties in 2021, he had an OPS of .523 with a 47 wRC+. Take a look below at how drastic Baddoo’s splits were last season.

Looking into his Minor League statistics, lefties have given Baddoo trouble throughout his whole career. However, starting Baddoo when he faces righties can provide your fantasy team with power and speed potential to go along with a great average.

Harrison Bader’s away games and Akil Baddoo’s games against righties added up to 162 games in 2021. With a combined slash line of .293/.358/.536 with 26 homers, 23 stolen bases, and 155 combined runs plus RBI, the two provided outstanding production when used together correctly.

For reference, Randy Arozarena, who is being drafted at 58th overall, is projected by ATC to finish 2022 with 23 home runs, 19 steals, and 157 combined runs and RBI with a slash line of .262/.343/.455.

Starting Bader in road games and Baddoo against righties can give you similar production to a player being drafted in the 4th round of fantasy drafts. If you miss out on an early rounder, feel confident knowing that Bader and Baddoo can still provide your fantasy team with 20/20 potential.

Jorge Polanco (MIN, 2B/SS) on the Road + Brandon Crawford (SF, SS) vs Righties

2021 Combined: 205 games, .305/.371/.571, 40 HR, 16 SB, 122 R, 122 RBI

(162 game pace: 31 HR, 12 SB, 96 R, 96 RBI)

Our last pairing brings us to a couple of veteran shortstops. Jorge Polanco of the Minnesota Twins has a current ADP of 88 as he rather quietly put up 33 home runs and 11 stolen bases last season.

Polanco’s stats from last season were impressive, but even more so was how successful he was on the road compared to at home. Take a look below at the table to see the discrepancies in Polanco’s game when it came to righties vs lefties in 2021.

Polanco’s road success was not a new trend in 2021 either as his career road OPS is .843 compared to .721 at home, driven by a .097 difference in slugging percentage. In fact, in each of Polanco’s eight seasons with the Twins, he has never hit more home runs at home than on the road.

Polanco had a great 2021 season with more than 30 home runs and ten steals, however, a lot of his production was generated away from Minnesota. Pairing Polanco with another shortstop is the best way to avoid Polanco’s home production dips and to maximize his value.

When looking for another shortstop to pair with Polanco, Brandon Crawford can be found at pick 203 in fantasy baseball drafts. When the San Francisco Giants veteran isn’t giving up homers to his son, as seen below, he is busy crushing right-handed pitchers.

Crawford set career highs in almost every statistical category last season but a lot of his success came from smashing righties. Against right-handers last season, Crawford slashed .319/.401/.560 with 18 homers and a 156 wRC+ in 132 games. Whereas compared to lefties, Crawford put up a slash line of .244/.300/.422 with 6 home runs and a 95 wRC+ in 89 games.

Even in 2020, Crawford had a batting average nearly .040 higher against righties along with all eight of his homers in the shortened season. Crawford, now age 35, has avoided a major injury for most of his professional career, however, relying on someone of that age may bring unwarranted risk to the success of your fantasy team.

If you combined Polanco’s road stats and Crawford’s games against righties last season, you would have had a .305/.371/.571 slash line with a 162 game pace of 31 homers, 12 steals, 96 runs, and 96 RBI.

Looking at projections for shortstops next season, ATC projects Marcus Semien (ADP of 32) for 31 home runs, 11 stolen bases, 96 runs, and 85 RBI with a slash line of .259/.335/.479. Looks familiar, doesn’t it?

Now I am not trying to make the argument that pairing two mid-to-late rounders will be better than drafting one of these more established players, but knowing when to start your guys can make all the difference when competing for a fantasy baseball championship.

Just remember that missing out on big-name talent does not mean you have to miss out on their production next season.

Statistical and Visual References: Baseball Savant, NFBC, Fangraphs, Twitter