Which of these power bats is a better fantasy bet this year?
I think, by this point, we all get the drill with these Tales of the Tape. For those just tuning in, I’ll be covering two players ranked next to each other in our tiered rankings for third base category-by-category, declaring a winner at the end. This week, we have Evan Longoria pitted against Carlos Santana. An important note before we begin: with some early ADP data in, Longoria is crushing Santana thus far, with an average draft position around 54 to Santana’s 74. As we’ll see, that is not representative of the production gap we can expect from them. Now, on to the good stuff.
Should you go with the veteran who enjoyed a 2014 renaissance or last year's breakout darling in drafts and auctions this spring?
Last week, I started the Tale of the Tape series with a pair of backstops, pitting Salvador Perez against Russell Martin. As we move on to first base this week, it appears we have another very close battle on our hands. This time around we’re presented with two players coming off the best performances of their lives. For one of them, it may have been the first great year in a string of many. For the other, it may have been the last great year in a tremendous career. It’s Anthony Rizzo vs. Victor Martinez. Let’s get started.
We start off with a category in which the winner is fairly straightforward. Obviously, average is always a tough stat to predict given the fluky nature of performance on balls in play. With that being said, Martinez has been consistently great in this area. Over his career, he’s played in at least 100 games nine times, and has put up an AVG over .300 in eight of those seasons. Rizzo, on the other hand, has been up-and-down over his short career. After stumbling to a .233 mark in 2013, he bounced back to .286 a year ago, mostly due to his BABIP coming back up to a more normal level. I still feel good about Rizzo’s future as a .280-plus batting-average player, but Martinez is too strong to overcome in 2015. Winner: Martinez
Kicking off the series with a look at which of these two backstops will help you more in each fantasy-relevant category.
Every week, while the fantasy team here at Baseball Prospectus is rolling out our positional series, we will be running a “Tale of the Tape” series as well. For the new readers out there, or those who just don't remember the series from last year, it will be an in-depth, category-by-category comparison between two players who are ranked right next to each other in the positional rankings. We start this week with a battle between a couple of backstops, Russell Martin and Salvador Perez. The former is a veteran coming off the best year of his career, while the latter is a young player coming off the worst year of his short career. So, if you find yourself deciding between one or the other for 2015 only, let’s take a deeper look at how they match up.
A big part of both Martin’s career year and Perez’s down year was batting average. The new Blue Jay’s .290 mark was his best since 2007, while Perez’ .260 was 32 points lower than any mark he’s posted in his short MLB tenure. Looking purely at that, it’d be easy to give the edge to Martin, but the years prior to 2014 tell an entirely different story. From 2011-2013, Martin hit just .225, while Perez hit .301 in 989 plate appearances over the same span. Now, Martin showed some encouraging signs that point to his higher average staying, including a lower strikeout rate and a much-improved line-drive rate. On the other hand, Perez was hurt by a career-high K rate and O-swing rate. Both were also affected by BABIPs that belied their career norms. So, with all of the information we have, I’m confident in Martin hitting better than he did from 2011-2013, but would guess he won’t match the 2014 heights again. In the same vein, Perez may not get back to the .300 plateau next season, but he should improve upon his 2014 success. I would guess both players finish in the .270-.290 range, giving the edge to the youngster.
The first-year Tiger has a longer résumé in the ninth inning, but is he a better value than the bearded Giant on draft day?
It happens in every draft. That moment when, despite your best intentions to avoid forking over a draft pick for a closer, you realize you’ll probably need to at least be somewhat competitive in saves if you’re going to make a run at your standard league title. And while I prefer waiting and speculating on saves as much as the next guy, there’s very definite value to be had in grabbing an established closer to anchor your bullpen in these formats. When that moment comes, and you’re actually going to sacrifice a pick to make this scenario a reality, it’s really important that you come through with the safest option possible to bag you the saves you need.
So, let’s take a look at a couple of the “safer” proven-closer types you’re likely to encounter around the middle rounds of your draft. In one corner, Joe Nathan, the newly signed and minted closer for the Detroit Tigers. In the other, Sergio Romo, another veteran coming off of his first full season saving games in San Francisco. Nathan is currently the seventh closer going off the board in NFBC drafts, with Romo following as the ninth closer about two rounds later. Over in Paul’s astute breakdown of relief pitcher tiers, Nathan checks in as a four-star option, while Romo leads the pack of three-star options. Let’s take a look at how they stack up, and see whether Nathan is really worth the slightly higher price on draft day.
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.
Which of these two high-ceiling outfielders should you target this spring?
In today’s “Tale of the Tape,” we’ll take a gander at a couple of American League sluggers and see if we can shed some light on what looks to be a very tough decision for fantasy owners. Should you be more willing to invest in a bounce-back season by 2012’s would-be AL Rookie of the Year (non-Mike Trout division), Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes? Or is it a better bet to bank on a breakout first full season from the current reigning AL Rookie of the Year, Tampa Bay’s Wil Myers?
Cespedes burst onto the scene in his stateside debut two years ago with a scorching .311 TAv as an already-in-his-prime rookie, flashing 30/20 potential and solid on-base skills despite some issues with nagging injuries. Last season was a different story, though, as nearly everything in his offensive profile took several steps in the wrong direction and he again battled the injury bug, declining to a .275 TAv that returned just the 43rd-highest value among outfielders. Meanwhile, Tampa was quick to enjoy the spoils of last off-season’s infamous trade of James Shields that netted them the BP 101’s no. 7 prospect in all of baseball from Kansas City. Following a mid-June promotion Myers raked to the tune of a .296 TAv, and he looks poised to anchor the middle of the Rays lineup alongside Evan Longoria for a very, very long time. Both rate as three star options for 2014 according to Mike Gianella’s impressively exhaustive look at the outfield position, with Myers holding a nominal seven-spot advantage on the list. The two are currently going back-to-back in the middle of the fifth round of standard NFBC drafts (67th and 68th overall), and PECOTA projects nearly identical lines for the two (.260/.326/.454 for Myers vs. .261/.322/.457 for Cespedes). So let’s check these guys out and see if there might be a lil’ bit more upside with one of them for fantasy owners to gamble on.
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.
Hardy’s been one of the better power options at short for several years now, owning the fifth-best ISO among big-league shortstops since his breakout campaign as a 24-year-old in 2007. Now entering his age-31 season, he’s as good a bet as any middle infielder to hit you 20-plus homers and give you 140-160 R+RBI this year. In the other corner, Bogaerts is a consensus top-three prospect in all of baseball after a breakout post-season debut last fall that saw him hit .296/.412/.496 in October for the eventual World Series Champions. Bogaerts will be ranked among the third-base tiers per our internal discussions, but he would’ve rated as a borderline two-to-three-star player on Paul’s SS rankings. That would have put him right around the same ballpark as Hardy, who checked in at the back end of tier three. Let’s see if we can shed a little more light on where Bogaerts would’ve/could’ve/should’ve slotted in among shortstops, at least relative to Hardy.
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.
Two emerging, 24-year-old, left-handed sluggers square off in this week's installment.
Today we’re going to take a look at a pair of emerging 24-year-old sluggers, Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman and Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer. Freeman put together a breakout campaign in 2013, posting the third-best season of all first baseman, and, after a slow start, Hosmer rebounded with a scorching final four months of the season to finish eighth at the position in standard 5x5 leagues. When you look at the future of the first-base position these are two of the premier young players in the game, and Mike Gianella has listed them back-to-back as four-star options for 2014. Mike’s list gives a slight nod to Hosmer as the preferred option, but it’s clearly a pretty tight battle. Let’s take a look under the hood and see what these two look like mano-a-mano.
If you look only at the surface stats you’d be tempted to give Freeman the nod. He posted a better average last season (.319 to Hosmer’s .305) and owns a better career mark (.285 to .277) over a comparable number of plate appearances. But a “not so fast!” caveat is all kinds of warranted here. Freeman’s 2013 campaign was fueled by a very high (and very likely unsustainable) .371 BABIP, and his 11.6 career SwStr% is almost three points higher than Hosmer’s. Freeman chases about 2.5 percent more balls out of the zone than Hosmer, and he makes contact with pitches in the zone almost seven percent less often. Hosmer’s disastrous sophomore campaign in 2012, meanwhile, was fueled in part by a dismal .255 BABIP—a number that carried over into the first two months of 2013 as well. Assuming the flowers and heartfelt apology Hosmer gave to Lady Luck last June keep him out of the doghouse, he’s the better bet to produce a higher average going forward.
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.