A look at the relative fantasy merits of two National League West starters.
In today’s edition of “Tale of the Tape,” we dissect a pair of major-league starters from the National League West, the Giants’ Matt Cain and the Dodgers’ Zack Greinke. Both entered 2013 with “ace”-level expectations, but, after a down year from Cain, only Greinke exited the season with it still firmly attached. You’ll find both right-handers listed among Paul Sporer’s four-star tier in BP’s Positional Rankings, but last year’s performances have the pair trending in opposite directions. Greinke is going 41 picks ahead of Cain, according to the most recent NFBC ADP. Can Cain bounce back and make this a closer-than-expected showdown? Or will Greinke stay ahead of the curve?
In nine seasons, Cain has recorded a 3.35 ERA in 265 starts, including a 3.68 FIP and 4.16 xFIP. Last year, the right-hander posted a 4.00 ERA after a slow start (6.49 ERA in April), giving Cain his first ERA over four since 2006, his first full season in Major League Baseball. From 2009-2012, he recorded a 3.00-or-better ERA in three out of four years, and not a single one worse than 3.15. In 11 seasons, Greinke has recorded a 3.65 ERA in 259 starts, including a 3.43 FIP and 3.60 xFIP. Last year, he posted his lowest ERA (2.63) since winning the American League Cy Young award in 2009. Greinke’s ERA has fluctuated more wildly, from 2.16 in 2009 to 4.17 in 2010 (the year following his Cy Young). Cain’s had the privilege of pitching his entire career in the NL, while Greinke has spent the majority of his time in the AL. While the former is the more consistent pitcher and plays in the more favorable ballpark, the latter has enjoyed as much (if not more) success in the NL, with a 3.28 ERA in three seasons, compared to a 3.81 ERA in the AL. It’s impossible to ignore a difference of 137 points in earned run average between the two hurlers in 2013. For what it’s worth, PECOTA predicts a 3.02 ERA for Greinke and a 3.10 ERA for Cain.
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This week's showdown features a couple of third basemen from our four-star tier.
In this week’s “Tale of the Tape,” we take a look at a pair of upper-echelon third basemen who have combined for 10 All-Star appearances and 384 home runs, Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria and New York’s David Wright. Longoria, 28, is a former AL Rookie of the Year award winner who once barehanded a foul ball to save the life of a reporter in a commercial for Gillette; Wright, 31, is a seven-time All-Star who once made a barehanded catch in fair territory to rob the Padres’ Brian Giles of a base hit. Both can be found in Mike Gianella’s four-star tier in the battle for next best after Miguel Cabrera, but only one can win this week’s “Tale of the Tape.”
Wright is the owner of a career .301 average. Excluding his rookie debut, the Mets third baseman has provided fantasy owners with a .300-or-better average in seven of nine seasons, including a high of .325 in 2007. Following an injury-plagued year that saw his average sink to a career-worst .254 in 2011, Wright has put up marks of .306 (2012) and .307 (2013). His batted-ball profile is as consistent as they come, and there’s no reason to doubt that another .300 average is coming. The same can’t be said for Longoria, whose batting average has fluctuated from .244 (2011) to .294 (2010). More recently, Longo has recorded averages of .289 (2012) and .269 (2013). Somewhere in-between is where I see Longoria finishing in 2014, but a strikeout increase of almost four percent and a batted-ball profile that included fewer line drives and more fly balls in 2013 could keep him in the .260s. Wright is the easy choice.
This week's showdown features a pair of young keystoners who recently topped their organizations' prospect lists.
For the second-base edition of “Tale of the Tape,” I was given a choice between Jason Kipnis vs. Dustin Pedroia, Neil Walker vs. Martin Prado, and Anthony Rendon vs. Jurickson Profar. As the title gives away, I chose set no. 3, Rendon and Profar—a pair of former no. 1 prospects with All-Star potential. More than two years separate the second basemen in age, but both will enter the year ready to compete in their first full major-league seasons. In BP’s positional rankings, Craig Goldstein lists Rendon at the back end of the three-star tier and Profar checks in a few keystones later inside the two-star group. Can the two-star player outshine the three-star favorite?
To this point in their brief careers, Rendon and Profar have combined for fewer than 750 plate appearances, so small-sample-size goggles are required. As things stand, Rendon enjoys a comfortable .265-to-.231 lead, but Profar’s major-league clock also extends to a brief nine-game stint in 2012, when he struggled and hit .176. For what it’s worth, Profar out-hit Rendon with a .276 BA in four minor-league seasons, compared to Rendon’s .269 in two. We have obviously yet to see either player reach his full potential, but both have been graded with the tools to one day hit .300. Profar hasn’t adjusted as well to big-league pitching as Rendon, however, striking out 19.6 percent of the time (compared to about14 percent in the minors); Rendon’s strikeout rate is a cleaner 17.5 percent. And while both have fantastic contact rates, Rendon appears poised to hit for a better average in 2014. For Profar, the new season should help shed some light on his chances of fulfilling a grade-7 hit tool.
This showdown between 27-year-old catchers might be closer than you think.
Today’s “Tale of the Tape” focuses on a pair of 27-year-old catchers from a pair of midwestern cities: Cleveland’s Carlos Santana and Milwaukee’s Jonathan Lucroy. Both finished 2013 as top-five catchers sans Victor Martinez, with the Brewer getting the better of the Indian (no. 3 to no. 5). While that might surprise some people given Santana’s pedigree as a top-flight prospect and Lucroy’s quiet ascent to the top, that doesn’t mean one is overrated and one is underrated. Both catchers are in their primes and should continue to provide top-five upside in 2014; today’s exercise examines who has a better chance of finishing the season on top. Mike Gianella lists Santana and Lucroy as four-star players and ranks them back-to-back at no. 4 and no. 5, respectively, so choosing between the two on draft day could come down to a matter of personal preference.
One look at the career batting averages of Lucroy and Santana makes it clear: Lucroy holds the decisive edge. Lucroy’s .279 career BA dwarfs Santana’s .254, albeit in 410 fewer plate appearances. Dragging Santana’s career average down is a .239 showing in 2011; he rebounded with a .252 mark the following season and even more so with a .268 average in 2013. Lucroy, meanwhile, added 55 points to his .265 in 2011, hitting .320 in 2012 before coming down to earth with a .280 average last year. Lucroy also holds a decisive advantage with a career .306 BABIP (compared to .281 for Santana), and his contact rates are far superior. Additionally, there’s a clear edge among the duo’s strikeout rates—especially when it comes to last season (11.9 percent for Lucroy, 17.1 percent for Santana). Lucroy’s batting average is his greatest advantage.