Our prospect team has arrived in the desert, with reports on eight prospects, including Hunter Renfroe and Michael De Leon.
With a strong portion of our prospect team in the desert, Baseball Prospectus has you covered for the Fall League action. Our plan was to approach these reports in a similar fashion to our Ten Pack articles, but with fewer players to work with, we anticipated what was to be called a Six Pack. In so many ways, however, a six pack just wasn’t going to be enough to get the job done this weekend, so we overachieved.
Hunter Renfroe, OF, Padres (Saguaros, AFL)
In terms of raw power, Renfroe checks in just below the truly elite guys (Gallo, Bryant, Sano), and the show he puts on in batting practice impresses even veteran scouts. The bat speed is at the plus level and the raw power is plus-plus. The game application, however, leaves you wanting more. Few can time up a fastball like Renfroe, but there is a ton of forward movement in his swing and the weight transfer is significant. His entire swing is timed to hit fastballs, and he does that as well as any prospect in the minors, but without an adjustment, he leaves the door open for exposure to better breaking pitches. At this point, he could hit anywhere from .230 to .280 at the major-league level (which was confirmed by a scout in attendance on Wednesday), and the slot in which he falls depends largely on his ability to handle better offspeed offerings. The power will play regardless, though its application will also depend on his hit tool. It’s a big-league profile either way, but the level of impact greatly depends on his ability to separate the stride from the swing and handle offspeed pitches. —Jeff Moore
The Dodgers lefty might be the no. 3 starter in their rotation, but he could pitch near the top of your fantasy staff.
Looking at the FIP leaderboard from the past regular season, most of the names on the top of the list come as no surprise. Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, and Chris Sale are always near the top of the list. Corey Kluber, Jake Arrieta, and Garrett Richards had well-documented breakout seasons. When you look at all of the pitchers with at least 100 innings, though, you’ll find one surprising name of a guy who was just the number three pitcher in his own rotation. While Hyun-jin Ryu has turned himself into a highly successful major-league pitcher in the two years since coming over to the United States, he’s still overshadowed on a team filled with stars. Even within the rotation, he has to compete for headlines with the likes of Kershaw and Zack Greinke. Despite that, he’s made clear strides in his time in the majors, and has established himself as a top-20 starting pitcher.
Although he was limited to 152 innings due to shoulder issues at the start of the year, Ryu was still able to put up strong numbers across the board. He racked up 14 wins, and was able to put up a 3.38 ERA. Based on his peripherals, though, that was still an underwhelming performance. The 27-year-old posted a 2.59 FIP and 3.13 FRA in 2014, both significant improvements from his first year in the league. In fact, his performance was up throughout his stat line. He saw his K/9 rise by a full strikeout-per-nine-innings, his BB/9 fall from 2.3 to 1.7, and his HR/9 tumble to just 0.5. This all happened while his ground-ball rate held steady around the 50 percent mark and his velocity rose slightly throughout his repertoire.
The Braves outfielder is a better fantasy asset than you think.
Last winter, I wrote a fairly lengthy piece over at Dynasty Guru detailing my frustration with Justin Upton as a longtime owner in my primary dynasty league. The verdict: The move to Atlanta in 2013 had been a net negative for Upton’s fantasy profile, as organizational philosophies emphasizing swinging for the downs and limiting stolen base attempts were poised to restrict Upton’s batting average and stolen base contributions. I later doubled down a month into the season with a pretty brutal deconstruction of Upton’s successful-on-the-surface April efforts, ultimately recommending a sell-high on account of an exploding swing-and-miss rate on in-zone fastballs and an unsustainable BABIP. My conclusion, which mind you was not necessarily unwarranted by the numbers, suggested “an ugly dossier of negative indicators for performance going forward—one that does not at all suggest that Upton’s strong surface start is evidence that he’s finally turned the corner as he enters his physical prime. Nigh on every indicator of successful hitting has not only failed to improve over the past couple of seasons, but is instead regressing at a fairly rapid pace right now.”
So, what happened next? Well, from that sell recommendation to the end of the season he maintained a .259/.330/.462 line with 21 homers, 147 R+RBI, and five steals en route to the 37th-most valuable fantasy season overall (14th among outfielders). Not on par with his April campaign, when he was the second-most valuable outfielder behind Jose Bautista, but certainly well-above average numbers across the board. The batting average was a slight liability and the steals were token contributions. His power production, on the other hand, was highly valuable even after he tore through a good bit of his full-season value in April. His .313 TAv was the second-best mark of his career, checking in 21st among all qualified hitters. Here’s the real kicker, though: I wasn’t particularly wrong in any of the analysis I offered of Upton’s offensive flaws in either of those articles. He logged the numbers he did despite a whole bunch of glaring red flags. So what do we make of him as a fantasy asset going forward, and how should he be valued come draft day 2015?
A bit more quietly, Jeremy Affeldt is approaching postseason records as impressive as Madison Bumgarner's.
Many pixels will be burned describing Madison Bumgarner’s historic performance in the World Series. Many will be dedicated to the Giants as a group, and about how they came together as a club despite effectively losing much of the rotation that had carried them to two previous championships. Many will be spent describing the Royals’ unexpected run through October. I suspect that precious few pixels will be earmarked for Jeremy Affeldt, one of the unsung heroes of the Giants’ postseason success. I aim to rectify that.
At 35 years old, Affeldt has already had a long and distinguished career. He’s pitched in the major leagues for 13 seasons and has now won three World Series rings. All told he has pitched in four postseasons, including a losing bid in 2007 with the Rockies. He has thrown 31 innings in the postseason, while posting an ERA of 0.86. Needless to say, that’s much better than his regular season performance.
We don't know anything about baseball, part 1 million.
This postseason took joy in reminding us how little we know about the game. Whether it was the Royals, the team that felt least likely to advance to the World Series, reaching the Fall Classic with a perfect postseason record; or the Giants, another Wild Card team turned pennant winner, taking the whole thing despite having five starts last four innings or fewer, and three end in under three innings; this October created self doubt for everyone at some point or another.
So, the 2010-2014 Giants. The dynasty of our era. What the Yankees were to the 1990s, the A's were to the 1970s, so the Giants are to this decade. Feels weird. You swish it around in your mouth and you're not sure whether it's $800 scotch or $3.99 mouthwash, but you know it burns a little and you know it'll get you drunk and/or blind.