It’s again reflection time for us fantasy analysts, which is extremely important for a multitude of reasons. First of all, it’s an accountability thing. If we throw out predictions at the beginning of the season and don’t go back to show you our work, why should we expect you to come back and read our predictions pieces the next season? Of course it also helps to have good predictions, but that’s a separate topic in and of itself that we’ll revisit over the next 2,000 words or so. The second reason is for education. If I don’t go back and look at how I did, I’m not learning from my mistakes. I mean, we all know not to invade Russia in the summer (at least I hope we do), but how often does that come up in our day-to-day lives? What comes up more often is whether or not to trust the pitcher with the large ERA-FIP differential or at what point to buy in on the injury-prone player who is falling in drafts.
The week before the 2015 season began, I ran this article on my favorite endgame targets in draft or auctions of varying sizes. Today, we’re running through those 20 selections and seeing how I fared. Let’s fire up the accountability engines!
12-TEAM MIXED LEAGUES
What I Said: "He may not be a great bet to pitch 200-plus innings in 2015, but he’ll still be pitching in a very friendly ballpark half the time in front of one of the best defenses in the league."
What Happened: He outperformed his FIP again, but not by enough, as his ERA remained north of 4.00 despite the aforementioned friendly ballpark and great defense. He also didn't come close to throwing 200 innings.
What I Said: "He could come close to a 20-20 season with multi-position eligibility to boot. Sure, he could hit .230, but this isn’t the seventh round."
What Happened: He barely got 20 at-bats. But he did steal a base! Positivity! In another organization, he would have likely been allowed to play through his early season struggles, but there's so much depth in Chicago that he faces an uphill battle for fantasy relevance in 2016 as well.
What I Said: "I’ve long been a fan of Lind, and my excitement is generally only hampered by his back problems. Lind was a top-10 first baseman last year on a per-at-bat basis, and he’s moving to a similarly hitter-friendly ballpark in the friendlier league."
What Happened: He didn't quite get to the top-10, but he wasn't very far off with his .277-20-87 line, and he was a top-150 player overall. The #AdamLindAppreciationSociety lives on, and he'll likely continue to be underrated again in 2016.
Carlos Martinez, RHP, St Louis Cardinals (ADP: 288)
What I Said: "His stuff has always been unquestioned, and he now has the chance to show the Cardinals that he deserves the chance to stick in the rotation."
What Happened: His breakout season. Martinez racked up 184 strikeouts and a 3.01 ERA before missing his last couple of starts with a shoulder injury, and was a big reason for the Cardinals' (and his fantasy teams') success.
What I Said: "A quick glance suggests that it’s been two straight down seasons for the second baseman, but his strong 2013 season was just cut short by injury. He could bounce back with 20-plus homers and a .280 average this year."
What I Said: "It’s easy analysis just to say that a return to a pitchers’ park and Ray Searage will help Burnett get back to near his 2013 value, but those two things are pretty big deals. His WHIP will never be a source of pride, but Burnett could be a top-50 starter in 2015."
What Happened: Burnett had a very strong bounce back campaign, and despite an injury that sidelined him for six weeks, he was still nearly a top-50 starter. He was also an All-Star for the first time in his final season, which was awesome.
Grade: A+ if you traded him midseason, A- if you did not.
What I Said: "The drastic drop in stolen bases from the once speed-laced Bourn is jarring, as he went from 61 steals in 2011 to 10 steals in 2014. At just 32, it’s not difficult to envision a 90-run, 25-steal campaign—but the Bourn of old isn’t coming back."
What Happened: He did bounce back in the stolen-base department, as he finished with 17 on the season. The runs total, however, was mild lunacy on my part, as he posted a near-career-low .238 average and .303 on-base percentage.
16-TEAM MIXED LEAGUES
What I Said: "Like Alcantara, he’ll be less useful in OBP leagues, but Flores could hit .270 with 15 homers—which would likely make him a top-10 shortstop in this environment, defense be damned."
What Happened: He hit .263 with 16 homers, but his diminished counting stats (and the emergence of many new fun fantasy shortstops) left him far outside the top 10.
What I Said: "The last four months of the 2014 season were nothing short of terrible for the left-hander of national commercial fame, but it may have been aided by a hip injury that Wilson pitched through. Even with that factored in, Wilson still had a 3.68 ERA and nearly a strikeout per inning at home in 2014. So start him out as a home-only guy and see if he earns more than that in season."
What Happened: The left-hander was on pace to be a top-50 starting pitcher before a July elbow injury ended his season. If you grabbed him at this price, you certainly got your money's worth even in an abbreviated year.
What I Said: "The fact that Snider is going more than 100 picks behind an injured Michael Saunders is borderline criminal. Snider hit .288/.356/.524 in the second half last year, while taking away playing time from Gregory Polanco."
What Happened: The Orioles outfielder fell back down to Earth, registering a .659 OPS over 69 games before being released. There’s little reason to believe that Snider will ever be much of a fantasy contributor at this point.
What I Said: "The Dodgers will roll him out there for as long as he’s healthy, and if another ailment strikes, just hit the wire. However, this is a much more recommended play in deep mixed than an NL-only."
What Happened: He stayed healthy, made 31 starts, and earned his keep as a very cheap starting pitcher in deep mixed leagues. The strikeouts weren’t there, but his 116 were the most he’s had since 2009.
David Freese, 3B, Los Angeles Angels (ADP: 397)
What I Said: "The former World Series hero had a tough season in 2014, but the transition from the National League to the American League can require an adjustment period. Of course, that adjustment period may have just been the first three months of the season, as Freese hit .282/.333/.456 with eight homers from July 1st on—which is about what most expected coming into the season."
What Happened: It was an okay season for Freese, which is probably better than you’d think given the lack of any attention paid to him. Just like 2015, he was stronger in the second half with a .296/.364/.447 line, and it was just barely enough to make him a top-20 third baseman.
What I Said: "Before slowing down at the end of his longest season, Gibson had an ERA right around 4.00 and was serviceable even in deeper mixed leagues. With his stronghold on a rotation spot, he’s worth more than his $2 price tag from AL Tout Wars."
What Happened: He was absolutely worth more than that price tag, and in fact, he was a top-65 starting pitcher overall. His ground ball rate held while he missed more bats and slightly increased his velocity. He won’t be that cheap again in 2016.
What I Said: "With the fourth outfield spot in hand now, he should find his way into 250-300 at bats, mostly against left-handers, and could hit .270 with a smattering of homers and steals."
What Happened: Smolinski had that smattering of homers, but his batting average cratered to below .200, which led to him getting DFA’d by the Rangers in late June.
What I Said: "If it feels like I’ve been talking about DeSclafani for months, it’s because I probably have—and while I’m glad to see him lock down the rotation spot in Cincinnati, let’s be honest about what he is and what he’s not. I am not expecting any sort of breakout that makes him worth owning in all mixed leagues, but a potential 4.00 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 18-20 percent strikeout rate are within reach, despite the ballpark."
What Happened: My agreement with Craig Goldstein restricts me from talking further about DeSclafani, but I have a carve-out specifically for this article. The Reds’ right-hander finished with a 4.05 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, and 19.2 percent strikeout rate. For more information on DeSclafani, listen to the latest episode of TINO. #plug
What I Said: "Despite the fact that Quentin got buried this offseason under a pile of new corner outfielders, he was always a terrible bet to get more than 300 at bats anyway. In this situation, he could get a good portion of those at bats against left-handed starters, which is never a bad thing for Quentin. And if he’s traded, even better."
What Happened: Four days after this published, he was traded to the Braves, who then released him two weeks after that. Then he retired in early May without making a single appearance.
AL-ONLY FORMAT, RESERVE PICKS
What I Said: "Yeah, I went there. The players blocking him (Logan Morrison, Dustin Ackley, Seth Smith) aren’t sure bets to be productive, and the talent that once made him an elite prospect are still dormant somewhere that svelte body of his."
What Happened: He hit five homers in the majors. For a mono reserve, this is not a terrible showing.
What I Said: "There was never really a competition between Nolin and Kendall Graveman for the last spot in the Athletics rotation coming out of the spring because of Nolin’s hernia surgery recovery and Graveman’s destruction of Cactus League batters. However, Nolin is the better prospect and long-term bet, and even if it doesn’t come at Graveman’s expense, I believe he’ll find his way into the rotation before midseason."
What Happened: Nolin’s recovery ended up slower than expected and he missed an additional six weeks in July and August. He made six nondescript starts in September, but there’s little chance he was still on your roster if you reserved him to start the year.
NL-ONLY FORMAT, RESERVE PICKS
Peter Bourjos, OF, St Louis Cardinals (ADP: 578)
What I Said: "If you’re going to gamble on someone in an NL-only reserve round, it might as well be someone who has been a $15-plus earner in the past and is saying all of the right things about his health this spring."
What Happened: The overall line is terrible, but he had four homers and five steals. See: Montero, Jesus.
What I Said: "With the formidable duo of Melvin Upton and Eric Young Jr scheduled to patrol center field in Atlanta this season, it’s not tough to see why looking down the depth chart might be a good idea. If he gets a chance, he could steal 20-plus bases in even a partial season."
What Happened: This prediction was fated from the start, as the Braves traded for Cameron Maybin just days after I wrote this. Even with that, Perez did make the majors and hit .269 with three steals in 119 at-bats.
So how did I do? I think it’s pretty clear from the grading system (which I entirely made up myself) that my predictions on pitchers were far better than for the hitters. And, to be honest, that’s not terribly surprising given my M.O. in auctions: I spend early and often on hitters and backfill my pitching with fliers and bargains. After all, it’s far more important to know your strengths as a fantasy owner than to be right on a player here and there in isolation. Overall, it looks like it does almost every year. Some hits, some misses, and a lot of time to reflect on how to do better this coming March.
Thank you for reading
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