Previous articles in this series:

Here’s the third piece in our series about fantasy players we feel PECOTA has underrated. Be sure to read the rules of this exercise in our first post before commenting!


Cody Allen, Indians

This is cheating a bit, as Allen's PECOTA projection is held down a bit by his late start to assuming closing duties for Cleveland last year. But all the indicators you want in a cornerstone reliever are there: he altered his pitch mix to work in about nine percentage points more hooks last year, and the higher swing-and-miss rate on that pitch helped him boost his already-elite whiff rate on that pitch while helping his fastball play up all the more. The mix helped him dramatically cut his hit rate despite an inefficient Cleveland defense. Perhaps most importantly for this semi-futile exercise, Cleveland projects for an exactly even run differential (705 runs, 705 runs allowed), and close games equal plentiful save opportunities. —Wilson Karaman

Last season, despite not having the closer’s job to begin the season, Allen posted a 2.07 ERA and 1.06 WHIP while allowing a .190 AVG against. He was simply dominant, but he only picked up 24 saves after taking over the closer’s role. Perhaps the Indians as a whole can get off to a better start this year as the team was 11-17 at the end of April last year, though Allen wasn’t installed as the closer until May. —Nick Shlain

The past two years, Cleveland’s new closer has thrown 140 innings and compiled a 2.25 ERA with a 2.99 FIP. Now that he’s slated to be the opening day closer for the Indians, he should have a chance to improve dramatically on last season’s 24 saves. Allen has plenty of strikeouts and doesn’t get hit hard. While Dellin Betances is struggling with his velocity this spring and has Mr. Miller lurking in the shadows, Allen has a firm grasp on the closer’s role and has been dominant over the past two years. Considering the Indians should be an above-.500 squad, Allen could be an elite option for saves. —J.P. Breen

Joaquin Benoit, Padres

Someday the 37-year-old Benoit will break down and stop working and, because he’s a reliever, no one will blink. But right now, Benoit should be lauded in fantasy circles for his consistency. The right-hander fairly consistent strikeout and walk rates in each of the past four years, has improved his FIP’s been sub-3.00 in three of the past four years and he saw an across-the-board jump in stats last year thanks to his move to the NL. The Padres are much improved, Benoit shows no signs of slowing down and even if he does, Petco will help masque his decline. There’s no reason he can’t save 30-plus games. —Ben Carsley

Brad Boxberger, Rays

The assumption is that Jacob McGee will assume ninth inning duties when he returns from injury. However, Boxberger’s numbers and stuff indicate that the Rays have zero incentive to simply hand the reins to McGee automatically. Boxberger’s K/9 rate was the third highest among relievers with 20 or more innings in 2014; only Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller had better rates. Boxberger is a relief stud regardless of his role, but the Rays are going to be hard pressed to move him out of the ninth inning if the performance carries over from last year. —Mike Gianella

Santiago Casilla, Giants

Nobody seems to like Casilla because Sergio Romo is still lurking in an eighth-inning role, and it's an odd-numbered year, so obviously a lot is going to go wrong in San Francisco. And that's fair, but it overlooks just how good a pitcher Casilla has been these past few years. He hasn't posted an ERA above 2.84 since 2009, and while he isn't an elite bat-misser, he's clearly learned to operate with the stuff he has. All it takes is one weird season to lead the league in saves. Why not Casilla? —Craig Goldstein

Brett Cecil, Blue Jays

Before the Marcus Stroman injury, it appeared the saves in Toronto were completely up for grabs. With Aaron Sanchez apparently working as a starter now, the ninth inning belongs to Brett Cecil. In two full seasons as a reliever, he’s striking out more than eleven batters per nine innings and has an impressive 2.63 FIP. The Blue Jays figure to score a ton of runs, but the pitching staff is shaky enough to keep scores relatively close through the year. Cecil should get plenty of save opportunities, and has the skill set to capitalize on those chances. —Matt Collins

Danny Farquhar, Mariners

After being the “hot setup man behind a questionable closer that will help you even if he does not get saves” in 2014 drafts and auctions, Farquhar saw his very specific star fade heading into 2015 due to a steady year from Fernando Rodney and some non-closer relief pitcher dominance from the likes of Wade “Wade” Davis, Brad Boxberger, and Andrew Miller. That said, Rodney is entering his age 39 season (!), much to the surprise of the author of this blurb. Additionally, Rodney lost significant velocity on his fastball in 2014, so while a quick exit is not probable for Rodney, it seems to be more likely than it is for his counterparts. Add in the fact that the Mariners should be a pretty good team in 2015 and I could see Farquhar doing some serious damage in the saves category should he be able to grab the job from Rodney one way or another. —Jeff Quinton

Mark Melancon, Pirates

Melancon has been one of the most consistent and effective short relievers in baseball the past two seasons, posting a 1.65 ERA, 0.915 WHIP, and 141-to-19 K:BB ratio over 142 innings during that time. His cutter is one of the nastiest pitches in the league, which has helped him induce extreme ground-ball rates and allow only three homers the past two seasons. PECOTA is projecting 33 saves for Melancon in 2015, but that seems a tad conservative for my tastes. The Pirates closer saved 33 of 37 chances last season; he did not get his first save opportunity until May 3rd and was not named the Bucs primary closer until June 20th. A full season as the Pirates’ ninth-inning arm could translate to a 40-plus-save season, making him a solid choice to be the league’s saves leader. —Keith Cromer


Mookie Betts, Red Sox
So okay, no, Betts has no shot of *leading* the league in steals. But three people already picked Jarrod Dyson and I’d argue that no one has a great shot of beating out Billy Hamilton, Dee Gordon and Ben Revere, so instead I’m treating this as “who might steal a lot more than PECOTA thinks they will.” Betts fits that bill, as PECOTA has him down for just 18 steals. He stole 38 across three levels last year and 46 across three levels in 2013, and while it’s easier to run in the minors, Betts has the speed needed to do the job and he’s on base all the time. He might not get the green light as often as we’d like if he leads off, but John Farrell’s never been afraid to give the green light to those with high steal percentages. Betts could easily swipe 30-plus bags this year, which could at least have him challenge for the lead in AL-only formats. —Ben Carsley

Jarrod Dyson, Royals

One of these days the world will catch on to Dyson's deep-league value, and it might take him actually leading the Majors in stolen bases for it to finally happen. Thing is, he's more than capable of doing it. After three straight seasons of 30-plus bags in part-time duty and a positively elite 86 percent career success rate, Dyson will enter another season as the fourth outfielder in KC. His legs created $12 of mixed league value in less than 300 plate appearances last season, checking in 47th in OF value. It's cheating a bit given the frequency with which he entered games as a pinch runner, but his one stolen base every eight plate appearances was far and away the top mark in the majors last year. Any injury to one of the Royals' starting outfielders that opens up a path to regular time and 400-plus plate appearances also immediately opens up a path to the stolen base crown for Dyson, and given that he's going 83rd among outfielders at present it's well worth the use of a bench slot to gamble on the possibility. —Wilson Karaman

Dyson has his work cut out for him if he wants to lead the league in steals considering he’s not projected to be a starter in 2015. That’s been the case for his entire career, though, and he’s swiped at least 30 bags in each of the last three years. He’s on a team that loves to run a lot, and figures to get plenty of opportunities as a pinch runner. Dyson also has an Alex Rios ahead of him, who carries risk in terms of both injury and underperformance. It wouldn’t surprised me at all if he sets a career high in games started this year, and he has the speed to steal 50-plus bags with the necessary playing time. —Matt Collins

Given (i) that I picked Dyson as my stolen base darkhorse last season, (ii) that I am picking Dyson as my stolen-base darkhorse this season, and (iii) that this is the second annual installment of this series, it can be said that Dyson is always my stolen base darkhorse. If any of the other authors take him, I will ask them to politely step off. But why Dyson? Some reasons follow:

  • He is very, very fast
  • He is very good at stealing bases
  • Ned Yost frequently employs Dyson as a pinch runner with the intention of stealing bases
  • The three outfielders ahead of him on the depth chart (Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, and Alex Rios), are no stranger to injury
  • On the chance that Alex Rios continues to decline, we might see some sort of platoon between him and Dyson

More importantly, even if he does not get enough opportunities to lead the league in stolen bases, Dyson is going to get enough playing time earn his current, suppressed-via-ambiguity ADP/auction price. —Jeff Quinton

Alex Rios, Royals

This may seem like a weird selection given Rios’ age as he is entering his age-34 season, but it was just two years ago that he managed to steal 42 bases between Chicago and Texas. Now that he’s in Kansas City, where Ned Yost will likely continue to be very aggressive on the bases, Rios could have another high stolen base total in the near future. Or his thumb injury could limit his playing time and perhaps clear the way for more Jarrod Dyson steals. —Nick Shlain

Jordan Schafer, Twins

Between his time with the Braves and Twins in 2014, Schafer stole 30 bases in 37 attempts in only 210 at-bats, making it the fourth straight year he has swiped 22 bases or more in limited time. He is slated to be the Twins’ fourth outfielder this year and was productive for them after his release from the Braves a season ago, slashing .285/.345/.362 over 147 plate appearances with Minnesota. The rub with Schafer is that he has only logged 300 at-bats twice in his career, but the speedster is out of options and if Aaron Hicks continues his struggles, there is a chance Schafer could see extensive time in the Twins outfield. PECOTA is predicting 20 steals for Schafer this season, but if he flashes the on-base skills he did with the Twins last year and can scratch out 350-400 ABs, 45 steals are a possibility. —Keith Cromer

Aaron Hicks is penciled in as the starter for the Twins, but it doesn’t take much imagination to envision a scenario where Hicks can’t crack a .200 AVG and Schafer keeps the position warm for most of the 2015 campaign for Eddie Rosario and – eventually – Byron Buxton. Schafer isn’t much of a player but he can fly. If he can play a full season, a 60-plus-steal campaign isn’t the most absurd expectation in the world. The absurd expectation is that Schafer hangs as the starter all year, but that’s why he’s… a dark horse. —Mike Gianella

Jean Segura, Brewers

In both 2012 and 2013, Segura stole 44 bases. The number dropped dramatically last year because his batting average dropped 50 points and he only compiled a .289 on-base percentage. It’s hard to swipe bags when you’re not getting on base. However, I’m a believer in Segura. He’s worked on keeping his weight back throughout his swing, which should help him drive the baseball better. Similarly, the 25-year-old owns a long track record of high batting averages throughout the minors. I think you’ll see Segura hit .270-.280 this year, which should allow him to approach 40 stolen bases again. —J.P. Breen

Eric Young Jr., Braves

The real answer here is no one. No one is going to beat Hamilton, Gordon, Altuve, Gose, and whoever rounds out the top 10. That said, EYJR is set for way too much playing time, and he's as fast as he is bad, which is to say very. —Craig Goldstein

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
EYjr is on the Braves.
EY jr must have photos of Bud Selig or something to keep getting chances.
Would it hurt KC to have Dyson DH once in a while? Do the Royals ever have some of their other OFers DH and have Dyson play the field?
But, but, but, then what would they do with the rotting carcass of Kendrys Morales, who, let's not forget, has a 2-year contract.?
DHing Dyson wouldn't make any sense as his primary value is on defense. Rotating people through the DH spot is an option, but he really makes most sense as a PR/Defensive replacement in terms of maximizing his contributions.
I am trying to figure Mookie Betts out. He is going to hit .450 but with 75 doubles, 20 triples, and 30 HR's so his chances to steal are going to be limited.
hicks was optioned to AAA, schafer will start in center to begin the year.