Roundtable discussion of the pressing questions facing the NL East teams as we approach the start of the season
1) After a disappointing sophomore campaign, what can we expect of Jason Heyward going forward?
MJ: Jason Heyward had an injury-riddled sophomore season in Atlanta, but there is a lot to like about his chances at a rebound campaign in 2012. His offensive line was deflated by a .260 BABIP, but his peripherals were once again stellar. His 11.6 percent walk rate represented a regression from 2010 but cannot be considered poor, and his .162 ISO likewise dropped from the previous year but did not experience a precipitous fall.
Oswalt, Norris, Morrow, and Hanson all make the cut for the first SP Value Pick column of 2012
Baseball Prospectus Fantasy 2012 is GO. With PECOTA and the PFM now available for public consumption, we’re back for another season of fantasy analysis. Today, I follow the first twoMikes by kicking off my portion of the preseason series with a look at a few starting pitchers who may be undervalued in early drafts, plus a check in on the health of one of the most promising young starters in the game.
Now that the new PECOTA projections are out, Michael looks at which fantasy corner infielders you might fall in love with this Valentine’s Day.
For those who have just fallen in love with fantasy baseball, draft day can seem like a box of chocolates: you never know what you might get. Will you get the coveted chocolate caramel, the dreaded orange cream, or the boring plain milk chocolate? Of course, savvy fantasy owners know to come armed with projections and predictions, and the wisest fantasy owners look to Baseball Prospectus for guidance. What better way to distinguish coconut from cherry-filled chocolate—or next year’s Matt Kemp from Carl Crawford?
Like any fantasy lover, I tore into last week’s PECOTA release with reckless abandon to come up with some sweet finds for next season—aka the players predicted for the biggest turnaround (or, if you like, the ones you can catch on the rebound.) Using the Player Forecast Manager, I found the corner infielders and designated hitters with the heftiest projected increase in dollar value, excluding those who are projected to remain below the $5 threshold or who missed most of last season. Rankings are based on a 12-team mixed league, and Average Draft Position (ADP) comes from mockdraftcentral.com.
Genuflect, genuflect, genuflect to Mike Trout and his supernatural powers.
Prospect #1: OF Mike Trout Background with Player: My eyes; industry sources. Who: It’s a little cheap to include Trout in these rankings; after all, he belongs at the major league level in 2012 and already accrued 40 games there in 2011. But this is my series and I can do what I want, and what I want to do is wax poetic about Mike Trout. The 20-year-old prospect is not a mystery to man; he has been on the prospect landscape since a breakout debut campaign in 2009 put him on the map and an even greater sophomore season peeled back the layers of his superiority and left the baseball world with a top tier talent. Trout can do just about everything on a baseball field, with elite speed, a near-elite hit tool, plus power potential, a plus-plus glove, and enough arm to grade around average. That’s a legit five-tool talent, and while we are being honest here, if given a choice of any prospect in baseball to build a team around, I’d take Trout over Harper, I’d take Trout over Moore, and I’d take Trout over Profar. I’ve only seen the kid play five times in two years, but each time his performance triggered an internal existential debate: Is Mike Trout the archetype of the modern player? Is Mike Trout a baseball deity?
What Could Go Wrong in 2012: Trout’s physical skills are straight out of your favorite fables, but he’s only 20 and those post-biblical skills aren’t refined. As a right-handed hitter, Trout struggled with his first-taste of major league quality stuff, especially arm-side stuff on the inner half of the plate, be it sharp fastballs, benders with depth, or sequencing that kept him guessing on both. I fully expect to see more struggles of this variety in 2012, as Trout should pound lefties and remain inconsistent against the arm-side. To his benefit, Trout has lightning-fast hands and strong wrists which give him good bat control and contact ability. With those attributes, his contact rates should climb in 2012, but negotiating the difficulties associated with electric arm-side stuff is something you can only overcome through exposure, and setbacks are intrinsic to that process. In the end, Trout could be a perennial MVP candidate as a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder that is going to hit over .300, reach base at a high clip, slug 20 homers and a ton of doubles, steal bases, and change the fortunes of the Angels franchise more than their recent free agent additions. The Church of Trout starts here.
The Rangers have a burgeoning farm system, but what could be some stumbling blocks for their top prospects?
Prospect #1: SS JuricksonProfar Background with Player: My eyes Who: This highly-touted prospect comes from Curacao. Many saw the former Little League World Series star as a pitcher because of his already promising fastball and ability to spin what projected to be a quality breaking ball. Signed as a position player for a bonus of $1.55 million in 2009, Profar exploded in his full-season debut in 2011, showing an advanced feel for all aspects of the game and emerging as a premier prospect in all of baseball.
What Could Go Wrong in 2012: Not that Profar is all polish and no projection, but unlike most teenaged prospects, the gap between his representational present and his abstract future isn’t as wide. As such, Profar isn’t going to continue his physical tool-based ascent at the same accelerated pace. That isn’t to say his status isn’t legit; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Profar is a rare breed of prospect, one that combines all the physical characteristics of a future first-division major-league starter, with the intense desire to not only reach those heights, but to ultimately eclipse them. This might seem like an odd thing to criticize, but the intense desire to be the best might end up being a hindrance in the short term, even if the #want makes him a better player in the long term.
The Athletics have recently padded their farm through several trades, but will their prospects pan out?
Prospect #1:RHP A.J. Cole Background with Player: Industry Sources Who: He’s a prototypical starter drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 draft by the Washington Nationals. Cole was traded to the Athletics in the Gio Gonzalez deal, and has everything you want in a future major-league starter: size, stuff, and feel for the mound. In his full-season debut in 2011, Cole showed off his combination of polish and power, striking out 108 Sally League hitters while walking only 24.
What Could Go Wrong in 2012: As with any young pitcher climbing the ladder, each step will bring new challenges and adjustments. In 2012, Cole will need to continue his sharp command while focusing more attention on the development of his changeup. With good arm action and precocious command, Cole isn’t likely to fall apart by throwing more changeups. But the changeup is a feel pitch, and it takes time to gain command of the nuances of its utility and execution.
Updating BP's metric measuring the monetary value of a player's production.
When the Marlins traded Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers after the 2007 season along with Dontrelle Willis for a handful of prospects, the familiar voices echoed with the following summary: "Baseball is a business." They talked about how the Marlins "could not afford" to keep those players as their salaries escalated, and would only be able to watch them walk away when they became free agents. That’s what they said, at least. Now, the same "they" are outraged that Forbes reported that the Marlins reported the highest profit of any team last season. Clearly, they infer, the Marlins can afford the talent, but choose not to.