As we plow ahead in our Fantasy Categorical Breakdown series, I’m here to take a look at players who both exceeded and fell short of expectations in the on-base-percentage realm. Greg Wellemeyer looked at the OBP landscape with a wide-angle lens on Wednesday, and once Ron Johnson, audio consultant, gets done selling Wilson Karaman all of the electronics on his holiday shopping list, he will uncover all of the deep-league OBP gems.
After several years of decline, the league-average on-base percentage rose three points this season—from .318 in 2014 to .321 in 2015—as Greg pointed out yesterday. With that frame of reference, let’s take a look at three players that owners in OBP-leagues were thrilled with in 2015 and three that were disappointments. The rankings are reflective of players receiving 400 or more plate appearances in 2015 in order cast a wider net than just qualifiers.
The Rays dispatched their old Zorilla last winter and attempted to make Forsythe into an infield-only version, giving him starts at three of the four infield positions and sending him up for a career-high 615 plate appearances. Forsythe rewarded the Rays and fantasy owners with an on-base percentage that was exactly the same as the actual Zorilla’s in 2015, although his BABIP of .323 was a jump up from the .268 mark he posted in 2014. Forsythe’s walk rate of just under nine percent was also a career best, but he’ll need to replicate his improved hard contact percentage of 30.8 percent (up from 25 percent in 2014) in 2016 to match his .163 ISO (also a career high) from this season.
As Keith Cromer touched on in his look at the batting average category, Escobar’s age-32 “improvement” in both AVG and OBP was almost entirely BABIP-fueled, as his .347 mark in 2015 was a solid 40 points higher than his career norm. It’s not as though the former eye-black artist suddenly improved his eye at the plate either: His walk rate of 11.8 percent was right in line with his career mark of just over 11 percent. Escobar will be playing for yet another new team in 2016 (his sixth organization entering his 10th season), but, now with the Angels, he’ll almost assuredly revert into an uninspiring fantasy option best saved for deep leagues..
Maybin’s first-half OBP of .356 came crashing down all the way to .289 after the All-Star break—which was below his 2014 effort and his career .313 mark. Maybin’s lackluster second half earned him a ticket out of Atlanta and into a likely platoon with Detroit’s incumbent center fielder, Anthony Gose. Maybin owns a lifetime .241/.298/.347 line against lefties, making it unlikely that he hits enough to regain the mixed-league relevance that he enjoyed over the season’s first half.
Gomez’s injury-riddled 2015 season was a fantasy disappointment in virtually every category, and his below-average on-base percentage of .314 was no different. Gomez’s OBP in his breakout 2013 season was .338 and he bumped that number up to .356 in 2014, giving fantasy owners hope that he would continue his good work into his age-29 season in 2015. Instead, his health failed him and he fell all the way back down to .314, equal to his career average.
Kemp’s OBP in his first season as a Padre dipped all the way below the likes of Adeiny Hechevarria and Jace Peterson—not exactly what San Diego had in mind in the first year of the five remaining on his contract, and certainly not what fantasy owners expected of a healthy Kemp, even moving to Petco. Kemp stayed in the lineup for 154 games and 648 plate appearances (his highest totals since 2011). and owners reaped the rewards of his 23 home runs and 12 stolen bases, but his .265 AVG and .312 OBP were both well below his career averages. His .755 OPS was his career-low mark in a full season (400 or more PA).
Ian Desmond, SS, Free Agent
2015: .290 (190th overall, 86th NL)
2014: .313 (143rd overall)
Desmond appearing on any type of list of underwhelming 2015 performers is not a surprise to anybody who paid attention to baseball this season, but what is not often pointed out when discussing him is that his on-base percentage (as well as his batting average and slugging percentage for that matter) has continued to tumble over each of the last four seasons. Desmond’s OBP peaked at .335 in 2012 and plummeted all the way to 27th overall among shortstops in 2015. Desmond’s 19 home runs and 13 stolen bases in 2015 were nice, but if his strikeout rate continues to rise (as it has over the last four years, checking in at 29.2 percent this year), then his days of mixed-league relevance (even in deeper leagues) are numbered.
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