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.
Kipnis was one of the more hyped players coming into last season, and was subsequently one of the bigger disappointments. After being another top-25 ADP player who was lauded for his all-around contributions at a weak position, his numbers fell across the board. In his case, power was far from his only concern, but it was still a problem. His .284 average from 2013 was somewhat BABIP-fueled, and some decline was expected, even if it fell more than many thought. His power, though, was very upsetting. In his first two seasons, he established himself as a 15-homer player, and a threat for 20-20 seasons. Last year, though, he hit just eight dingers and drove in just 41 runs. Like Wright, Kipnis saw a massive drop in average fly ball distance last year, tumbling from 287 feet to 267, as well as a startling drop in HR:FB ratio. However, unlike Wright, he doesn’t have a shoulder injury to fall back on, nor does he have the extensive track record in the power department. I’d expect a bounce back from Kipnis as an all-around fantasy threat, but I’m wary of him being a 15-20 home run threat moving forward.
While Rios wasn’t as well regarded as the previous two names listed here, he was still a top-40 pick in most leagues. His average stayed steady, but he fell flat on his face with home runs, tallying just four on the season. For context, only eight qualified batters hit fewer in 2014, and players like Hamilton and Denard Span hit more than Rios. The runs and RBI totals also fell precipitously, but some of that blame can be placed on a Texas lineup that collapsed. What’s interesting about Rios is that while his HR:FB ratio fell like Kipnis’ and Wright’s, his average fly-ball distance stayed mostly consistent in the high 260s. He’s just usually been someone who has benefitted from player in hitter-friendly parks. On top of that, the rest of his batted ball data stayed on par with his career norms. To me, that suggests that his drop in HR/FB was more bad luck than Kipnis and Wright. With that being said, there are still some red flags from Rios. Most notably being that he whiffed much more than normal, posting his highest swinging-strike-rate since 2009 and his highest K-rate since 2006. He also put up just a .141 ISO against hard pitches last year, compared to .179 from 2007-2013. Considering he just played in his age-33 season, it’s fair to think his bat speed may be going. All things considered, I’d expect more normal numbers from Rios in 2015. However, it’s important to note that Rios is a free agent and his power numbers could drop if he ventures away from the hitter-friendly Globe Life Park.
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