In the debut edition of this series, the fantasy team looks at players who could outperform their PECOTA projections in batting average.
One of the fun ways we all try to outsmart our opponents in fantasy is by searching for hidden value in players who, for one reason or another, we suspect have the ability to outpace their projections (and, relatedly, their draft cost). Our Darkhorses series features staff picks for players who could very well outpace their PECOTA projections for the year and finish at the top of one of the standard five-by-five categories. We’ve all picked one player currently projected by PECOTA to fall just shy of the top 10 (in the 11 to 25 range) and one longer shot player currently projected outside of the top 25. We’ll take a look at offense this week and pitching next. To kick things off here is a bounty of hidden treasure in the batting average department:
The defending National League champs are replete with fantasy assets on both sides of the ball.
At the risk of pummeling home an obvious point, teams that advance to the World Series typically provide plenty of fantasy value across the board. The St. Louis Cardinals were no exception in 2013. Fifteen players provided double-digit Roto value in NL-only last year. Carlos Beltran left to join the New York Yankees, but with Matt Adams and Allen Craig already in the fold, Oscar Taveras waiting in the wings, and a handful of shrewd acquisitions, the Cards won’t miss a beat in 2014, and will once again be a good place for most of your fantasy shopping needs.
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You might want to let someone else gamble on these players in your fantasy drafts and auctions this spring.
First base is a very deep position, which affords fantasy owners plenty of opportunities to pad every offensive stat save for steals through their use. It also means that plays who whiff on their first base picks are automatically in a hole, an must make up for that lost ground elsewhere. Making up ground stinks, so be wary of these eight players.
Jose Abreu White Sox
This comes with a caveat, I’m not saying Jose Abreu will be a bust, but at a position like 1B, you have to get the production levels right. We don’t know what Jose Abreu will be in 2014; all we have are some reports and memories of his performance in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. In deeper leagues he’s worth a shot, but in a standard 5x5 league, there’s too much risk here to pursue him aggressively. Sure, sometimes a gamble like this can pay off like Yoenis Cespedes did, but I would strongly advise against taking a huge gamble at a position that produces at the level 1B does. —Mauricio Rubio
Our fantasy crew's favorite value picks at a spot where elite production is critical.
First base is a position that harbors many good fantasy players. These are some the aforementioned good players who we feel are comparatively more good than their peers.
Brandon Belt, Giants
Heading into 2013 there were legitimate concerns about Belt’s power and by extension his viability as an everyday major-league 1B. Belt answered those concerns with a strong season, complete with 60 extra-base hits, a solid walk percentage (9.1) and a pretty damn good 139 wRC+. Belt plays in extreme parks the majority of the season—AT&T and PETCO strongly favor pitchers, Coors and Chase Fields both favor hitters, and LA falls somewhere in the middle, depending on what time the game starts. He hit well on the road in 2013 and his production didn’t nosedive at home. Belt will be undervalued this year, and while he isn’t an elite-level 1B, he provides enough production to warrant being a starter in standard fantasy formats. —Mauricio Rubio
The big man's 2014 role is unclear, so Craig examines what that means from a fantasy perspective.
We’re not quite to the offseason yet, though we will be by the time my next article rolls around, which is why I wanted to continue my theme of touching on the fantasy value of players who are either in the news (Brandon Phillips) or in the World Series (Matt Carpenter). While each team certainly has their fair share of interesting candidates and question marks heading into 2014, one of the most interesting is what St. Louis will do at first base. Not because they’re losing anyone though. Quite the opposite. With Matt Adams establishing himself over the course of the season, the Cardinals once again find themselves in a situation where they have too much of a good thing, a problem most teams are unfamiliar with.
While he’s struggled in the NLCS and World Series, Adams was a valuable contributor in the early rounds of the playoffs and even more so, over the course of the regular season. While he did appear in 108 games (exactly two-thirds of the MLB season) he accrued only 319 plate appearances which is about half (or less) than one would expect a player to gather over the course of a full season. It’s easy enough to do, right? Let’s say we double his plate appearances to 638, which is just about a full season depending on where one hits in a lineup. It’s easy enough to double his counting stats in that situation, which would put him right at 34 home runs, 92 runs, 102 RBI, and well, stolen bases aren’t his game. Combine that with his .284 average and we’re talking about elite numbers from the first base position.
The Fall Classic gets underway with a battle of aces at Fenway.
I know it’s in season to congratulate the Red Sox and the Cardinals for making it to the Fall Classic—and they certainly deserve the accolades—but they are not the only groups worthy of weathering the journey. We, the general baseball following universe, deserve a congratulations. Sure, there were plenty of amazing games/moments, but here’s a quick list of things we (the baseball-consuming public) have had to endure this October thus far: