This trio saw its home run totals drop precipitously, but is there reason to hope for a rebound?
In any given year, you are going to be saddled with players who fail to come close to reasonable expectations. It’s frustrating, but it’s the nature of the game. The only upshot is finding the players who had a fluky down year, and those who are truly in the midst of a mid-career collapse. Last season, there were three players who stood out to me as disappointments, especially in the power department. Whether you’re in a dynasty league and trying to figure out how to view these players moving forward, or already looking for good buy-low players in re-draft leagues, the following players may be of some interest in 2015.
There aren’t many good things to be said about Wright’s 2014. After entering the year as a top-25 pick, he finished with a dismal .269 batting average, just eight home runs, and 63 RBI. While the average was surely disappointing, what really killed his line was his utter lack of power. While he’s typically been a 25-plus-homer threat throughout his career, he finished this past season tied in ISO with Billy Hamilton. He had a career-low 5.1 percent HR:FB rate, and though that may sound like he suffered through some bad luck, it’s not that simple. For one thing, his average fly ball fell from 291 feet (right behind Edwin Encarnacion) in 2013 down to 261 (right being Nate Schierholtz) in 2014. The biggest reason for this dip could likely be his shoulder. He battled injuries to it throughout the season, costing him a total of 27 games, and it’s an injury that is notorious for sapping power. That injury is something to keep an eye on this winter, but if he’s fully recovered by Opening Day, he could see a big comeback, especially with the fences being moved in at Citi Field.
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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?
The Giants' ace has stolen the show this postseason, and J.P. saw his outstanding 2014 coming.
Prior to the season, in a previous life, I made numerous fantasy baseball predictions. Some were (spectacularly) wrong, and conversely, some went quite well. Perhaps the more interesting discussion, however, centers on the predictions that were somehow both right and wrong. Because, at least in my mind, those are the predictions that best encapsulate the experience of fantasy baseball. You can have stellar process, nail your projections, and still come up short.
A look at how to avoid allowing biases to influence your projections.
As soon as the baseball season comes to its inevitable and saddening end, baseball, as it does each year, will enter the offseason. For the fantasy baseball community, this means we will be entering ranking and projection season. After following “our players” and players of interest all season, we are now asked to take an all-encompassing look at the league’s baseball players. The result of doing projections periodically, as opposed to continuously, is that we are likely to invite certain biases into our processes, which can negatively impact our results. We will take a look at why we do periodic projections, the biases that come with such a process, how these biases manifest themselves, and some ways to hopefully de-bias our process.
The devil’s advocate in me asks, “if periodic projections causes certain problems, why not do continuous projections?” The short answer is that doing continuous projections is not feasible or desirable for most of us. A computer program could certainly perform continuous projections, but we—as mere people (note: people are awesome)—do not have the ability to continuously adjust our valuations on such a large scale. Sure, each time we watch, read about, or hear about a player, our impression of said player will be altered or reinforced consciously or subconsciously, but that is not what I am getting at. Rather, what I mean is that we cannot watch all players play every one of their plays, and we cannot fully analyze all of what we see or all of the available data. The result of all this humanness is that we can really only fully update our projections on a league-wide basis come decision times; those being the offseason for auctions and drafts, as well as, to some extent, the trade deadline. While we constantly update our valuations for the players we follow, my assumption is that very few people follow every player and those who do probably do not do so diligently enough to properly continuously update each player’s projection.
The Giants first baseman hit for more power in 2014, but injuries held him back.
An unheralded fifth-round pick in the 2009 draft, Belt emerged onto the prospect scene in 2010 after crushing High-A and Double-A pitching in his first professional season. He followed suit in 2011 in Triple-A, forcing his way to San Francisco by midseason. That's when the #FreeBelt movement started, as the Baby Giraffe received just 472 PA in 2012 despite hitting .275/.360/.421, hinting at promising power and boasting an 11.4 percent walk rate.
Belt was subsequently liberated in 2013, hitting .289/.360/.481 in 571 PA, finishing as fantasy's 16th-best first baseman. Given that Belt was entering his age-26 season this year, there was legitimate reason for optimism. His average draft position was no. 137 overall, according to fantasypros.com, and it wasn't totally unreasonable to project Belt for a top-12 finish at the position, if everything broke right.
The Royals shortstop won't be a sexy name on draft day, but there's a lot to like about his fantasy profile.
The Brewers signed Escobar as a 16-year-old on international signing day of 2003, and he made his stateside debut the following summer as a 17-year-old in the Pioneer League. After working his way up to Double-A for the second half of his age-20 season in 2007, he cracked the Brewers’ top prospect list for the first time heading into 2008, ultimately topping the list as a five-star prospect in 2010 and peaking as high as 19th on the BP 101 that same offseason. The Brewers traded away the then-26-year-old J.J. Hardy to clear a path for Escobar, which should tell you all you need to know about how highly regarded he was as a prospect. Regaled universally for his plus-plus range and generally top shelf defensive profile at short, Escobar was tabbed as an impatient, powerless hitter, but one still capable of slapping his way to a .280-plus batting average with 30-steal speed.
Despite the shortstop-of-the-future billing, the Brewers shipped the then-23-year-old to Kansas City as the centerpiece of the Zack Greinke trade after he struggled in his first full big-league season. Since arriving in KC, Escobar has pretty much developed into exactly the type of player scouts envisioned him becoming. He hasn’t posted a walk rate over 4.2 percent in any of his four seasons in Royal blue, nor has he managed to crack the .100 ISO threshold or generate league-average offensive value.
In the second of a two-part series, Mike reviews how his senior-circuit bid value recommendations fared.
Last week, I took a look back at how my outlier predictions did for American League players in 2014. This week, I will take a look at the National League.
What you will find below is a complete list of players where my bid limit was $3 higher or lower than the average expert league price in the CBS, LABR, and Tout Wars NL-only auctions. In addition, based on a reader suggestion rather than simply “grade” how well my predictions did in retrospect, I will attempt to explain why each specific bid limit was particularly aggressive or timid.
The former first-rounder plugged the Giants' hole at the keystone, but can he do the same for your fantasy squad?
A first-round pick of the Giants back in 2011, Panik quietly hit his way up through the minors, landing a spot on the MLB roster halfway through the 2014 season. Once viewed as a shortstop, he’s settled in as a second baseman for San Francisco, and with Brandon Crawford firmly entrenched at short, Panik figures to stay at the keystone for the foreseeable future.
Panik’s rough 2013 campaign in Double-A tempered what was already pretty lukewarm enthusiasm about his future, but he answered his critics in a big way in 2014, both in Triple-A and in the majors. Once viewed as a surefire utility infielder, Panik now seems like he may at least be a second-division starter, and the Giants probably think there’s even more here.
The Cardinals center fielder isn't a sexy late-draft option, but could he still hold fantasy value in 2015?
The 29-year-old Jay has seemingly been around forever, but he has in fact only been playing baseball at the major-league level since 2010. Honestly (but there is no way you can really know), heading into the 2014 season, a playoff spotlight on the former second-round pick out of the University of Miami was the last thing I thought I would be writing in October. Why? Because after an unexciting 2013, Jay seemed destined to be replaced by the newer and apparently shinier Peter Bourjos. Additionally, super-prospect Oscar Taveras and notable prospect Randall Grichuk were waiting in the wings.
While players like Jay have almost no use in shallow leagues, finding affordable (cheaply acquirable) players to fill out your roster is a key to success in deeper leagues. Prospect theory tells us that when our expectations are lowered, such as at the end of drafts or auctions, we tend to be more risk-seeking (think buying lottery tickets). Consequentially, boring, lower-ceiling players like Jay tend to be passed up in favor of boom or bust type players (in the fantasy sense) such as Borjous, Cameron Maybin, or Chris Young. Sometimes these lottery tickets workout, but in knowing our behavioral biases, we know that the odds are not in our favor. Conversely, steady players like Jay with no ceiling to dream on can often come at a discount. Given all of this, let us see what happened in 2014.
The Royals center fielder has put his stamp on the postseason, but can he do the same for your fantasy team in 2015?
Though he’s 28 years old, Lorenzo Cain hasn’t played baseball as long as many of the guys in Double-A and Triple-A. As a child, his love was on the basketball court, but as a freshman in high school, he failed to make the team. That heartbreak pushed him onto the diamond, where he flourished… after many growing pains.
Anyway, read this magnificent article by Andy McCullough on Cain’s unlikely and uneven journey in baseball. He chronicles the story much better than I could hope to in this space. It was one of my favorite baseball reads of the year.
Craig reviews and grades his preseason prospect evaluations.
Look. I’m not one to toot my own horn exactly, though I’m not averse to it when it’s earned. More so, though, I hate admitting I’m wrong, so when our benevolent overlord Bret Sayre suggested we look back at our own predictions, I immediately began digging for something, anything I did right. Three weeks and two playoff spotlights later, I found it.
Just prior to the start of the season I wrote about five NL Post-Prospects to watch, and I’ll be damaged if I didn’t light that country music award on fire knock this one out of the park. Let’s ignore the fact that I rarely make firm predictions because I’m a big wuss (and did I mention I hate being wrong), but rather endorsed or advised against players more generally. Still, let’s see how that worked.