While home run totals have experienced a meteoric rise over the past two seasons, stolen bases have followed an inverse trend, especially during the last five years. Here’s an oversimplification: After major-league teams swiped just 2,505 bases in 2015, the lowest single-season total since 1974, they managed just 2,537 thefts league-wide in 2016.
The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.
Not a subscriber?
Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.
Just as we thought heading into the season, it was the Villar and Murphy show in the junior circuit.
Welcome to my annual look at retrospective player valuation here at Baseball Prospectus. Over the next few weeks, I will be writing a series of posts examining how players performed from a fantasy perspective in 2016. This is the third post in a series of six. The first two posts in the series focused on AL-only leagues, the next two shift their focus to NL-only, and the final two posts will examine mixed leagues.
Before I dig in, here is a brief description of the charts below.
Can and should the Diamondbacks push forward with their three-year plan, or look to blow it up early?
The Diamondbacks lost 8-0 on Monday night. The game was in Arizona. The opponents were the lowly Phillies. From the ninth spot in their batting order, Philadelphia got two extra-base hits (doubles by pitcher Vince Velasquez and substitute left fielder Cody Asche). The Diamondbacks didn’t manage any extra-base hits, from any place in the batting order. With the loss, they fell to 36-43. They’re 13.5 games back of the Giants, and after hard-fought wins over good teams for both the Dodgers and Rockies, Arizona trails those teams by 6.5 and 2.5 games, respectively. The Dodgers, seven losses clear of the Diamondbacks, hold the second Wild Card spot in the NL, and four teams (including three who are demonstrably better than Arizona, in St. Louis, New York, and Pittsburgh) stand between the two clubs. We credit Arizona with Playoff Odds of roughly 2.5 percent. Things are bleak, for a team that had high hopes (however unfounded those hopes might have been).
Lately, it seems like we talk an awful lot about the dangers of getting caught in between. We want to see teams follow the Cardinals’ model of excruciatingly patient investment in long-term success. We want to see teams follow the Rangers’ model, blending a strong preference for high ceilings in amateur talent acquisition with an open checkbook and a taste for mammal blood. We want them to follow the Cubs’ model, maybe most of all, forsaking slow slogs through seasons of 75 and 76 and 79 wins for ones much more miserable, with the end goal of building a truly special something, instead of just trying to get back into the mix.
The top four picks in redraft leagues are relatively clear-cut, but whom should you target if your selection is just outside that tier?
Depending on what you value, there’s a distinct separation in 12-team 5x5 draft formats when it comes to the fifth pick. Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Paul Goldschmidt,and Andrew McCutchen all deserve to go in the no. 1-4 spots, and I don’t think there can be much debate on that. The big question facing owners picking fifth is a value-based one. I was handed the no. 5 pick in a home league, so let’s take a look at some of the names that I thought about taking there. (Note: I’m concentrating solely on 12-team leagues, so your mileage may vary).
Kershaw is a popular choice here judging by the ADPs across a few different sites. The reasons are obvious: Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball right now; he’s a good bet to help across four categories again this year; and there’s a decent amount of uncertainty with the position players who would also be the fifth-overall pick.
The fantasy crew tries to peg the top 15 picks and predict breakouts from later picks.
We know from Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster that since 2004, there is a 36 percent success rate in the ADP projecting the top 15. The most in any one year is seven of 15; the least is four. With that in mind, I challenged the fantasy team to try to guess the top 15. In addition to their stab at the top 15, I had them give their answers on the following:
Our first snake-style mock of the spring, with 15 teams and 23 rounds.
On Thursday evening, we hosted our first mock draft with a 15-person group of industry folks going 23 rounds deep to fill out a standard roster of C, C, 1B, 2B, 3B, CI, MI, 5 OF, DH, and 9 P of any kind. Couch Managers hosted the event. I randomized the draft order just before game time and here’s how it came out:
Paul Goldschmidt leads off this list of the best long-term assets at the position heading into 2014.
Because dynasty-league rankings are relatively league-dependent, I set up parameters for ranking the players below (and the ones who will follow at other positions). The list here presupposes a 16-team standard dynasty format, where there are no contracts/salaries, players can be kept forever and owners have minor league farm systems in which to hoard prospects. So feel free to adjust this as necessary for your individual league, whether it’s moving non-elite prospects without 2014 ETAs down if you don’t have separate farm teams or moving lower-risk, lower-reward players up in deeper mixed or only formats.
First base is the place you need to get offense these days if you want to compete, and after a strong first ten or so names, the rest of the options can get a little more dicey than you’d like to see. It’s not a particularly strong pipeline for prospects, but that’s not terribly uncommon for the position—the pipeline is often just as wide for players who have defensive deficiencies than it has been for strict first base prospects in the last decade or so. That won’t be any different in 2015, when Miguel Cabrera and Joe Mauer join the fold.
A fantasy-based look at how this position stacks up through 2016.
Everyone in fantasy sports loves the look-ahead. Even in the throes of a pennant race, you can fire up a conversation about next year’s first round and it will go on for an hour. With that in mind, the BP fantasy team will be taking a long view look at every position this offseason with three-year rankings (composite value at the position over the next three seasons). We continue our way around the diamond with first basemen today! First base is the storage locker for bad defenders who can hit, especially in the NL where there is no DH. The position is almost always adding staff, but their value at the position is mitigated until they’re done qualifying elsewhere.
For example, you would be insane to use a primary-catcher first-base-eligible asset anywhere but catcher. In no circumstance are they worth more playing first base, and if you carry two such assets and put one at first base, you’re not only robbing the value of this asset, but you’re also putting yourself behind in the counting categories of first base to teams who have full-time first basemen in their lineup. At any other position (though predominantly 3B and OF), they are never more valuable at first base. You could use them there in a pinch, but just like with the catcher, you’re sapping the value of the asset.
Paul Goldschmidt and Chris Davis lead the way, but there are plenty of power bats in the middle and lower tiers.
This series began last week with a look at the catchers. Today, our positional tier rankings series continues with a look at first base.
Players at each position are divided into five tiers, represented by a numerical star rating. Five-star players are the studs at their respective position. In general, they are the players that will be nabbed in the first couple of rounds of the draft, and they'll fetch auction bids in excess of $30. Four-star players are a cut below the studs at the position. They will also be early-round selections, and they are projected to be worth more than $20 in most cases. Three-star players are the last tier in which players are projected to provide double-digit dollar value in auctions, and two-star players are projected to earn single digits in dollar value in auctions. One-star players are late round sleepers and roster placeholders. The positional tiers aren't simply a regurgitation of last year’s values but rather try to offer some insights into what we expect will happen in 2014.
We retained last year's roster requirements for the positional tier series. Dollar values come from last year’s PFM using a 12-team, standard 5x5 scoring format, with 23-man rosters and the following positions: C (2) 1B (1) 2B (1) 3B (1) SS (1) CI (1) MI (1) OF (5) UT (1) P (9). The minimum bid for players is $1, and, as we did last year, we allocate $180 of a $260 budget to hitters. Players needed to play in 20 games at a position to qualify there. The PFM is customizable, so if your league uses a different format, you can adjust it to match your league settings and see how it impacts players’ dollar values.
Players with multi-position eligibility are listed at the position where it is most likely they would start in a standard fantasy league. Buster Posey and Carlos Santana both have eligibility at catcher and first base but are not included in this part of the series for this reason. While there are unique situations where a fantasy owner might start Posey or Santana at first, these situations are the exception and not the rule.
Craig examines the strategies you should employ when filling this premium offensive position, and what it might look like down the road.
First base is always an interesting position, especially for those of us who are in dynasty leagues (or just into prospects) because it lacks the high-end prospects in the minors but manages to maintain a huge portion of value in fantasy. Because of the depth that the position picks up at the major-league level, thanks mainly to position changes, the strategy it sees can actually be similar to the one Bret mentioned in the State of the Position: Catchers writeup, in that many people will go into a draft planning on passing until the later rounds. With catchers, this can be because at some point, all that’s left are similarly (but poorly) skilled players, so it just doesn’t matter who you end up with. It’s different at first base in that, while there are elite talents at the top, the depth of the position provides some cushion for those who choose to draft/spend elsewhere early on.
That depth is the defining aspect to the position. While outfield may rival first base for its depth, it also has between 3-5 positions to fill, depending on the league, while first base only has the one (though CI is also filled by 1B-eligible players). The top of the depth chart at first base appears more muddled than ever, with Chris Davis the reigning king thanks to his power explosion in 2014. Still, Paul Goldschmidt might be the better investment thanks to a steadier track record and impressive versatility (he led all first baseman with 15 stolen bases). We’ve seen Eric Hosmer and Brandon Belt finally, hopefully, solidify themselves reliable first-base options with upside, adding talent to what has become a very robust middle tier.