Jason Kipnis was good, then bad, then bad still, and now he's good again. Why?
Streaks are a fascinating thing in baseball. There's an ongoing debate about whether having a hot hand is a fallacy or if there is actually some rhyme and reason to performing better for longer stretches of time.
Frankly, all that stuff is a bit beyond my interest. What I enjoy trying to figure out is why a great player is struggling, how he handles it, and how he attempts to bounce back. A month ago, I talked toAndrew McCutchen about a rough patch he was going through; his OPS was hovering around .600 at the time. He was confident he’d figure things out, and repeatedly talked about how the game is all about adjustments. Well, to no one’s surprise, Cutch has been on fire since, with a .368/.464/.691 line in his last 19 games. I’m not going to say I motivated him, but hey, you can thank me later, Pirates fans.
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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.
The Indians' second sacker hasn't lived up to expectations in 2014, but is a turnaround in store?
Prior to the season, the upper fantasy echelon of the second base position appeared to be a rather precarious investment. Robinson Cano inked a mega-contract with Seattle, which made many fantasy owners nervous that his power numbers would spiral down the drain. Dustin Pedroia saw his power production drop precipitously in 2013 and had finally found himself on the wrong side of 30. Ian Kinsler compiled rather pedestrian (for him) numbers a year ago and was transitioning that performance to a more pitcher-friendly environment in Detroit.
The traditional fantasy stalwarts at second base were vulnerable. It seemed a changing of the guard could occur and other guys could step into the limelight—and in some ways, that’s exactly what has happened with Dee Gordon, Jose Altuve, and Anthony Rendon asserting their fantasy dominance in the first half of the 2014 season. After the season, perhaps we must re-evaluate who can now be labeled as “elite” at the position.
My colleague Paul Sporer put it best in the opening paragraph of his “State of the Position” column regarding the depth at 2B. No, this is not a sexy position full of robust offensive options and guys who can hit 30 bombs. What the keystone has become in my mind is a position that keeps your team going. The average top-30 2B will hit around .262 with around 10 bombs, 10 SB, 54 R, and 47 RBI. There’s nothing spectacular about that 5x5 line, but what it showcases is a type of positional depth that’s difficult to appreciate.
Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, and Danny Salazar headline a roster whose complementary players could be appealing in deeper formats.
Coming off their first playoff appearance since blowing a 3-1 lead in the 2007 ALCS, the Indians will look to get back to the Promised Land (if you can call a one-game playoff the Promised Land). And they’ll have to do it with two of their three best pitchers from last season, Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir, potentially departing. The lineup remains intact, though they have added underrated outfielder David Murphy so that they don’t have to give nearly 500 plate appearances to Drew Stubbs again.
Yes, the Indians are a better franchise now than they were 25 years ago when they had Ricky Vaughn and Jake Taylor in uniform, but that element that causes us not to take them seriously as a World Series contender still exists. They have a couple of strong, underrated players about to enter their primes in Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana, but they’ll need others to step up and join them on that stage to make a deep playoff push. With the Tigers improving their roster (and flexibility) by trading for Ian Kinsler and the Royals possibly on the rise, the Indians will have their hands full in the AL Central.
Scouts' takes on Lucas Giolito, Ubaldo Jimenez, Jason Kipnis, Chris Owings, and other interesting players.
Many of our authors make a habit of speaking to scouts and other talent evaluators in order to bring you the best baseball information available. Not all of the tidbits gleaned from those conversations make it into our articles, but we don't want them to go to waste. Instead, we'll be collecting them in a regular feature called "What Scouts Are Saying," which will be open to participation from the entire BP staff and include quotes about minor leaguers and major leaguers alike.