A look at the hitters who could outperform their PECOTA projections in the power department.
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 provide the top overall production in one of the standard five-by-five categories. We’ve all picked one player currently projected by PECOTA to fall outside of the top 10 and one longer shot player currently projected outside of the top 25. We’ll take a look at offense this week and pitching next. Yesterday’s look at batting average is here. And, without further ado, here are some players capable of teaching Chris Davis a thing or two about hitting dingers this year:
OUTSIDE THE TOP 10
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Junior-circuit bats to keep an eye on during the second half of spring training.
Ah, spring training. That glorious time of year when we do things like get excited about Lonnie Chisenhall’s on-base percentage (he’s going to break out this year, I thought last year). But while paying attention to storylines related to health and position battles is important, it’s also important to use this time to start looking toward April.
The first couple of months of the regular season are an important time for building your second-half strategy. By now, most fantasy teams are being drafted, and once you’ve had a chance to evaluate how your draft went and determine what you expect the strengths and weaknesses of your squad will be, the next step in the dance is figuring out ways you might be able to leverage those strengths to address your weaknesses during the season. I like to use April and May as an open audition to figure out which players will make the most sense to try to acquire come summertime, and to that end, spring training can be a good time to start building a list of players to monitor. Here are five hitters that I’d just as soon hold off on drafting for the time being, but who may be worth a closer look out of the gate for targeted help as the season rolls on.
The next wave of talented Twins players is on its way, and in many circles, these names are more well known than several players on Minnesota’s current roster. There’s good reason for that, as many players on the projected Twins 2013 roster— especially on the pitching side—are pretty uninspiring from a fantasy point of view.
The 2000 draft serves as an example of why knee-jerk reactions to the draft are often premature.
Rankings are always of interest to sports fans, but many analysts are uncomfortable with the notion of slapping grades on players whose real value won’t be known for a number of years. This is particularly true in baseball, where players selected in the annual amateur (Rule 4) draft are further away from the major leagues than those of any other major sport. The majority of players taken in the football and basketball drafts have spent time performing under the bright lights, and against the premier competition, of NCAA Division I athletics, and the transition from amateur to professional is a relative breeze. In baseball, only a small percentage of the 1,500 or so players chosen each year hail from Division I baseball programs.
More than a decade ago, some were critical of the Marlins for allegedly putting signability before talent when they tabbed Adrian Gonzalez with the number-one overall pick of the 2000 draft. Gonzalez was regarded as the most polished high school hitter of that year’s crop, but few considered him the best talent available. As it turns out, Gonzalez has contributed the third-most wins above replacement (28.43) among players who signed that year, trailing only Chase Utley (36.26) and Jason Bay (30.53). Given the health woes of Utley and Bay in recent years, Gonzalez appears likely to usurp them atop the list. Joe Borchard, who received that year’s largest signing bonus ($5.3 million) from the White Sox, has the third-lowest WARP total (-1.55) among players who have reached the major leagues.
Players Receiving Signing Bonuses of
$2 Million or Greater, 2000 Draft
Events that have happened already this season after not happening for all of 2011 help explain why we're still hooked on baseball.
There were 2429 major-league games played last season.* Most of the things that can happen in a baseball game happened in one of those. With a few exceptions, teams and players will do all of the same things in 2012 that they did in 2011—they’ll just do them in a difference sequence and more, or less, frequently than they did before. When and how often they do those nearly identical things will determine which teams win divisions and which players win awards. We’re suckers for those things, so another season of the same, reshuffled, is enough to suck us in. But we're not completely content with repetition. We also watch in hopes of seeing something we didn’t see the season before.
*There would have been 2430, but no one felt like seeing another Dodgers-Nationals game in September. That missed game may have deprived us of history: Matt Kemp finished the season one home run away from 40 home runs, and Dee Gordon finished the season one home run away from one home run. For the alternate-history buffs: the man who would have started that game against the Dodgers, had it been played, was Tom Milone. Milone had the fifth-lowest home run rate among Triple-A starters last season, so that extra game might not have made Matt Kemp baseball’s fifth 40-40 man. Then again, that home run rate might not have meant much, since there weren’t many Matt Kemps in the International League. More on Milone a little later.
A combination of injuries and an anemic offense led to another mediocre season by the Bay.
Kiss 'Em Goodbye is a series focusing on MLB teams as their postseason dreams fade—whether in September (or before), the league division series, league championship series or World Series. It combines an overview from Baseball Prospectus, a front-office take from former MLB GM Jim Bowden, a best- and worst-case scenario ZiPS projection for 2012 from Dan Szymborski, and Kevin Goldstein's farm system overview.