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October 29, 2012

Resident Fantasy Genius

The Ones We Got Wrong

by Derek Carty

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Last week in this space I looked back on my best preseason predictions.  While I think my hits far outweighed my misses, it is important (and fair) to look back at the lesser advice I gave this year.  For each player, I’ve listed his mixed and AL/NL-only auction value in Tout Wars and LABR (only Tout has a mixed auction, but AL/NL-only values are an average of Tout and LABR) as well as his actual value for the 2012 season according to our Player Forecast Manager. Also take note that I’ve excluded most of the “value picks” from my preseason tier articles, as they’ll get their own review article.

Justin Upton
Mixed:
$40/$21
NL-only: $38/$27

Upton was likely my biggest miss this year, or at least the one with the biggest impact.  I all but predicted Upton to take the next step forward  into the elite tier of fantasy producers, but just 17 home runs squashed any chance of that happening.  My words at the time: “I love Upton’s combination of skills, and 40 home runs really wouldn’t surprise me.  That’s not to say it’s my mean expectation, but it’s well within the realm of possibility.”  His overall production was still decent, but his high price tag means owners took a big loss on him (myself included, as I drafted him in Tout Wars.  The difference between him and Ryan Braun for my team would have been eight points.)

Alex Rios
Mixed:
$13/$29
AL-only: $17/$34

I suggested owners stay away from Rios this season, but he wound up being the 10th-most valuable player in AL-only leagues, according to the PFM.

I’m pretty down on Alex Rios this year, even if he’s solidly in the Three-Star tier. I know he had some injury issues last year that could have affected him, but his power performance makes me really worry. After showing power to all fields prior to 2011, his power was strictly pull in 2011, and they were hit much shallower than he used to hit them. With Alejandro de Aza and Kosuke Fukudome around to cut into his playing time, I’d be wary about drafting Rios.

It seems as though the 2011 injuries may have been the reason for Rios’ power issues, because a healthy Rios hit 25 long-balls this year, many of which went to centerfield, as they did prior to 2011.

Lucas Duda
Mixed:
$7/$1
NL-only: $19.5/$8

Before the season, I said this about Duda, who I thought could be an undervalued commodity in NL-only leagues:

Lucas Duda is a pet player of Rob McQuown, and it’s easy to see why. The guy has a lot of power, and the fence shift in Citi Field will only aid that. Despite his lumbering size, he also manages good strikeout rates, so he shouldn’t be a hindrance in anything but steals.

While Duda’s power was good enough on a per-PA basis (he paced 20 homers per 600 plate appearances), mediocre numbers overall (.259 TAv) combined with poor defense limited him to 459 plate appearances.  His strikeout rate rose from 16 percent in 2011 to 26 percent in 2012, culminating in a .239 batting average that was indeed a hindrance to fantasy owners.

Henderson Alvarez
Mixed:
$0/-$5
AL-only: $5.5/$1

Alvarez was my Lineup Card choice for a breakout player this year, not because I thought he stood the best chance of breaking out, but because it was a good platform to discuss him.  Here’s what I wrote for that week’s LC:

You might not guess based on his mediocre strikeout numbers—he posted just a 6.8 K/9 at Double-A in 2011—but Henderson Alvarez actually throws the ball around 93 mph and doesn’t struggle to crank it up to 97 or 98, reportedly even touching 100 mph on the radar gun on occasion. Just looking at the stats you might guess that he’s a soft tosser who gets by on command, but he has the potential to be so much more. Of course, that plus command doesn’t hurt one bit, nor does his excellent ground ball-inducing ability. Even without a ton of whiffs he should be good, but Alvarez could really be something special if his stuff ever translates into strikeouts. His ability to do so will be limited a bit since his fastball is closer to a sinker than it is to a rising four-seamer, but Alvarez is an intriguing guy that many may overlook based on his numbers (though probably fewer now that Jason Collette and I have both touted him as a sleeper). PECOTA is pessimistic because of his lack of upper-level experience, but I believe that he's able to at least hold his own right now.

While my Alvarez love was based on upside, and while saying that he’d be able to “hold his own” wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement (and wasn’t even untrue), Alvarez’s season was still pretty bad.  He struck out just 3.8 batters per nine, which I definitely didn’t see coming.  He made up for it with lots of groundballs and good control, but a 4.85 ERA is hardly of much help to fantasy owners, especially when it comes with just 79 strikeouts over a full season.  There are relievers who strike out more batters than that.  I still think Alvarez has upside, but he was definitely a big disappointment this year.

Here is an assortment of other predictions I made this past spring that failed to work out as expected, with the first word linked (to see where I said it) and the bolded brackets at the end a summary of what actually happened.

  • [Craig Kimbrel] is just not quite at the Mo/Pap level. He only has one year of experience, and as good as he is, we just can't say he's as good as those two yet, and he doesn't have the kind of job security they do. If he struggles, there's a real chance Venters takes over. If Mo struggles, there's basically a zero percent chance that anyone else closes. That said, if he keeps the job the whole year, he could wind up being the most valuable closer in baseball. The chance that he doesn't, though, is reflected in his projected saves total, and that drags him down a bit. [Second most valuable RP in 2012]
  • Jason Bay is a tough guy to evaluate. He’s tempting when you consider that the Mets are moving the Citi Field fences in and that one study found he’d have doubled his home power production had those changes been in place from the site. On the other hand, he’s injury-prone, aging, and BP2012 notes that his bat speed is decreasing. I’ll take him for the right price. [No price would have been right for Bay; NL-only value: $1]
  • While John Buck doesn’t have either of those concerns, we know his batting average will be poor and don’t know exactly how the new Marlins park will affect him (best guess: the deeper fences will hurt his power). [2011: 33 PA/HR; 2012: 33 PA/HR]
  • Much love for Napoli, who I owned absolutely everywhere last year. He’s finally getting the attention he deserves from fantasy owners. Unfortunately, that means I won’t have him on many teams this year, but I did manage to get him for a reasonable $21 in the CBS AL-only Experts League. He’s easily the top option at the position now that playing time is no longer a concern. [PT indeed was a concern: 417 PA; just 14th most valuable catcher]
  • Espinosa becomes even more attractive if he bats leadoff for the Nationals. Seeing as how he’s superior to Ian Desmond—whom he traded the role off with in 2011—it seems fairly likely he’ll be in the one hole by the end of the year, if not right off the bat. [Espinosa was good, but Desmond was better, and Espinosa led off just 26 games]
  • This tier has all three of the primary bullpen-to-rotation shifters, so needless to say, I’m pretty bullish on them. They’ve all posted fantastic peripherals in relief—easily good enough to withstand the Rule of 17—and they all seem to have sufficiently deep arsenals to make the conversion. Innings will likely be limited, but those innings should be of a pretty high quality. [Chris Sale was amazing, but Daniel Bard was an absolute disaster.]
  • All of these guys have one deficiency or another, be it Arencibia’s low batting average or Pierzynski’s middling power. [Oops.  Pierzynski: 27 HR.  I don’t think anyone saw that coming]
  • People really seem to like Lorenzo Cain as a speed sleeper, but he seems a little risky for me. His stolen-base numbers in the minors were never great, and as much as the Royals like to run, 15 projected steals is nothing to push old women and children out of the way for as you dash down the aisle looking for a late-round speedster. The Royals have alternatives if his bat doesn’t play, which is a possibility. [Cain’s season was shortened by injury, but he paced 25 steals per 600 PA]
  • I expressed how I was a Brennan Boesch believer back in July, and my point still stands. He’ll post a solid average, solid power, and have a great spot in a very good lineup (or at least a very good top half of a lineup, assuming he bats second). [12 HR, .240 AVG, moved out of second spot in May, at-bats limited altogether down the stretch]
  • I believe in Thames’ ability to exceed his PECOTA projection, particularly the average, but there are a lot of guys vying for playing time in Toronto, perhaps only exceeded by the situations in Anaheim and Oakland. [PECOTA: .256; Actual: .232]
  • Kuroda may seem low to you, just a Two-Star pitcher, but the move to the American League and Yankee Stadium is not going to be a forgiving one. [Fewer strikeouts and more home runs, but still: 3.32 ERA; 3.81 FIP]
  • I love Tomlin’s command. He’s not an exciting guy and there’s no upside to him, but these are the kinds of players I tend to target when filling out the back end of my rotation in deeper leagues. They’re solid and will come at a bargain because of how boring they are. [6.36 ERA, removed from rotation in July]
  • Marco Scutaro isn’t known at all for his power, but he should receive lots of playing time Colorado and could be a surprising source of double-digit homers playing half his games in Coors Field and nearly all of his games in the easier league. [Seven HR]
  • Raburn’s inclusion in this tier is dependent upon his ultimate role. If Brandon Inge starts the year with a chunk of the second-base time, his value falls off quite a bit, especially in mixed leagues. If he can get the bulk of the time, though, his power makes him an intriguing option in this tier. [Platooned to start the year, but awful play led to a demotion; 1 HR in 222 PA]
  • Chris Davis is intriguing if he can finally prove he can handle big-league pitching, but there’s big risk. He’s struggled in the past, causing some to pencil him into the Quad-A category. He had injury problems through the end of last season and decided to forgo hernia surgery (which often just means he’ll wind up getting it later on down the road). He also has a good deal of competition in Baltimore should he struggle (Wilson Betemit, Josh Bell, Ryan Flaherty, and Matt Antonelli). The risk may outweigh the potential reward here. [One of 2012’s breakout players; 33 HR; I jumped off the bandwagon too soon]
  • Morneau sticks out as the only One-Star player that PECOTA projects for a positive mixed-league contribution (outside of Daniel Murphy, who is valued as a second baseman). His post-concussion symptoms are still lingering, and when a guy talks about the ailment he’s dealing with potentially ending his career, it’s time to worry. Throw in Target Field’s effects on the healthy version of Morneau, and I’m staying away unless he’s dirt cheap. [19 HR; $13 AL-only]
  • Joe Benson was a reserve pick [of mine] in both of my AL-only leagues.  There is a lot of risk and a high chance of injury for most of the regulars in Minnesota, and there’s a solid chance Benson is up and starting in the Twins’ outfield by the middle of the season. [Not only did he never make the majors, but Benson was demoted to Double-A in May]

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