February 25, 2014
Fantasy Team Preview
Last year’s NL East champion brings plenty of fantasy value to the table again in 2014, as the Braves try to defend their title against a surging Nats team. They have star-level hitting sure to be scooped up in the early rounds, three like-valued starting pitchers who will be near the top of many fantasy rotations, and the top closer in the game by any ranking.
Seven of their eight starters will be drafted in every league with Uggla the odd man out, particularly in shallow leagues or altogether if he loses his job (more on that later). Five of their players (the top four hitters and Simmons) are among the top 150 being chosen right now. There’s some frontline talent, upside potential, and even some sneaky late-round value plays.
Freeman has jumped past Heyward and Justin Upton as the top guy, but the latter two still possess massive upside. Upton carries one of the higher floors around despite the fact that his last two seasons contain a tinge of disappointment. At 26, there is still plenty of reason to be optimistic.
Johnson is the most underrated of their assets. This is probably because too many are focused on his .394 BABIP from last year and except that the regression in that metric will yield the demise in his production. Sure, he might not hit .321 again, but he has seasons of .354 and .387 BABIP, too, during which he hit .281 and .308 with double-digit home run totals (in just 136 and 94 games, mind you). His 25.2 percent line-drive rate is third in baseball among batters with at least 1,500 PA since 2010, behind only Joey Votto (26 percent) and James Loney (25.4 percent). If you miss out on the frontline hot corner options, he is a very appealing value pick later on while you stock the rest of your club.
Doumit is the only one of these options with any real appeal and that only comes from his catcher eligibility; otherwise, he would be bland waiver fodder in most formats. Schafer still has impactful speed (22 SB in just 265 PA last year), but it’s very empty speed, so even if injury created an opportunity for him, it would be in an NL-only setting.
All five starters will be taken in a lot of leagues, though it is the top trio who will bring the most value despite also costing the most. Beachy (health) and Wood (platoon splits, mechanics) each bring plenty of risk despite the clear upside of Beachy’s past and the dreams of extrapolation on Wood’s 2013.
Minor picked up where his 2012 second half (2.16 ERA in 87 1/3 IP) left off with a huge 2013 breakout. In his last 292 innings dating back to All-Star break in 2012, he has a 0.9 HR/9 rate. He appears to have a handle on the issue that plagued him most in the first half of 2012 and in his 24 appearances in 2010-2011, during which he had a 1.3 HR/9 in 215 innings.
Medlen had obscene expectations after his excellent finish to 2012—and he nearly lived up to them! He was the 76th player off the board on average last year (going as high as 50th) and wound 104th on ESPN’s Player Rater. He closed with a bang yet again, posting a 2.00 ERA in 72 innings over the final two months with a 0.94 WHIP and 4.9 K:BB ratio.
As great as those two are, Teheran might actually have the most upside of the group. He was seen as a frontline starter coming up. Though projections softened from ace to no. 2-3 starter after an uninspiring 2012, we now see why the top-shelf expectations were in play after his breakout rookie campaign.
As scary as it is to invest in closers, because they burn fast and quickly, everything is working in Kimbrel’s favor. His numbers are just beyond absurd even when you account for the 2012-to-2013 regression. It would’ve been silly to think he could keep up that level, so to regress and still post a 1.21 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and 38 percent strikeout rate tells you just how stupid-good Kimbrel is at baseball.
Walden is rebuilding his stock nicely and looks like a solid $1 reliever in NL-only leagues, but I think there’s a strong case to make Carpenter the handcuff if you actually do have some concern about Kimbrel (or the speculative pick if you’re just mining the high-K/quality-ratio pool for longshot saves).
Position Battles: Second Base: Dan Uggla vs. Tommy La Stella
Player to Target: Julio Teheran
Player to Avoid: Evan Gattis
Deep Sleeper: Wes Parsons