2015 RotoGraphs Staff Picks: A Review

Back in April, the RotoGraphs staff made some picks for the season. Vague, I know, but I assume you understand what kind of picks I’m talking about.

And because I like competitions, I’m going to turn this into one. As the moderator of these picks, I’m judging it by my own silly subjectivity.

The rules are simple:

  • One point for the winner of each category
  • Most points wins
  • No touching of the hair or face

That’s it! Now let’s do this!!!

Sleeper

Review: I’ll be honest, I expected a little more from us. There are some admirable picks — Xander Bogaerts; Khris Davis, but not until August; Marcus Semien, in the first half — but the rest of the lot is otherwise underwhelming. Except for one.

Winner: A.J. Pollock (Michael Barr). Some may argue he wasn’t a sleeper, but given his ESPN average draft position (ADP) — $4.30, 41st among outfielders — he could certainly qualify as one.

Honorable mention: Xander Bogaerts (Chad Young)

Deep Sleeper

Review: An wasteland more desolate than the last, very deep sleepers actually panned out. C.J. Cron made a little bit of noise.

Winner: Odubel Herrera (Brad Johnson). I legitimately didn’t know anything about Herrera prior to April, but that probably says more about me than Herrera. Still, if you asked 100 people if Herrera would have been worth almost 4 WAR this year, at least 99 of them would have said no.

Honorable mention: C.J. Cron (three)

Bust

Review: As a group, we did better here. There were some solid calls regarding starting pitchers — Jeff Samardzija, James Shields — but also some pretty big whiffs in the outfield — Michael Brantley, Ryan Braun, Adam Jones. There were a couple of huge busts, though, so this one’s a lot harder.

Winner: Anthony Rendon (Mike Podhorzer, Alan Harrison). You’d be misguided to blame the injury; he was horrible when healthy. Then again, the certainty of his current health is tenuous at best. Perhaps he’ll turn it around in 2016, but as Pod and Alan suggested, it may be unwise to expect 2014 production again.

Honorable mention: Adam Wainwright (Michael Barr). He was injured for 90 percent of the year. However, he produced as much WAR in 28 innings as Rendon did in more than 350 plate appearances.

NL Rookie

Review: So many Kris Bryant picks. That’s no fun. The Jorge Soler picks are both funny and sad in hindsight. The Joc Pederson pick looked phenomenal through June, but it all fell apart.

Winner: Noah Syndergaard (Paul Sporer). Bryant produced twice as much WAR, but Paul earns the victory for singularity. Give Syndergaard a full season of innings and he scrapes together more than 4 WAR. An excellent season for the 23-year-old rookie.

Honorable mention: Kris Bryant (nine)

AL Rookie

Review: The American League rookie landscape was barren. Bad picks all around. It’s a bitter duel to the end for a couple of players who, depending on how you viewed them, were either pleasant surprises or resounding busts.

Winner: Taijuan Walker (Dan Schwartz, Brad Johnson, Michael Barr, Alan Harrison). The ERA forsakes his improvements in control — he cut his 2014 walk rate (BB%) in half — but I’d like to see a better ground ball rate (GB%) before buying too heavily in Walker’s stock next year.

Honorable mention: Steven Souza (five). He was a four-category stud and a one-category dud. The batting average was a huge drag, and the injuries didn’t help.

Comeback Player

Review: Next time, we should break this up into “comeback,” for the injury-plagued, and “bounceback,” for those due for regression. Anyway, there were a lot of Matt Harveys on this list, which is great, but I thought it was too easy.

Winner: Chris Davis (me). Again, for singularity. Carlos Gonzalez had a monster year, but Davis added almost 5 WAR to his performance. CarGo, on the other hand, added less than 3.

Honorable mention: Carlos Gonzalez (three)

2nd Half Closer

Review: This one’s a gamble, but a couple of the picks were prescient. Unfortunately, one of them happened far sooner than it was supposed to.

Winner: Ken Giles (David Wiers, Chad Young, Michael Barr). We all knew Jonathan Papelbon was on his way out. It should’ve been obvious!

Honorable mention: Joakim Soria (Paul Sporer, Karl de Vries). The Joe Nathan vacancy occurred after one out.

Best Sophomore Pitcher

Review: Another no-brainer, Jacob deGrom laid waste to the National League once again. I want to reward a more obscure pick.

Winner: Carlos Martinez (Brad Johnson)

Honorable mention: Jake Odorizzi (Scott Spratt, Alan Harrison)… and deGrom, of course

Best Flyer

Review: This one will be contentious again, based on your definition of a flyer. Late-round pick? Waiver wire addition? In the end, it doesn’t really matter (an unfortunate and inadvertent Linkin Park reference), as your winner was drafted 18th on average at his position with an average price tag of zero dollars and zero cents.

Winner: Alex Rodriguez (David Wiers). Thirty-three homers, 169 runs + RBI, almost all his offensive production negated by his horrible defense… all at 40 years old. You go, Glen Coco.

Honorable mention: Jung-ho Kang (Josh Shepardson). Brad Miller, Justin Smoak and Devon Travis all deserve some love, too.

And the winner is…

Michael Barr! Technically, Michael and Brad tied, but I took some liberties and decided the tiebreaker should be most honorable mentions. Alas, Michael takes the cake. With all my RotoGraphsian authority (read: none), I grant you bragging rights! Brag away.

We hoped you liked reading 2015 RotoGraphs Staff Picks: A Review by Alex Chamberlain!

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Currently investigating the relationship between pitcher effectiveness and beard density. Biased toward a nicely rolled baseball pant. Reigning FSWA Baseball Writer of the Year and 5-time award finalist. Featured in Lindy's Sports' Fantasy Baseball magazine (2018, 2019). Now a Tout Wars competitor.

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Detroit Michael
Guest
Detroit Michael

You wrote that almost all of Alex Rodriguez’ offensive productive was negated by his horrible defense.

I disagree. A-Rod only played something like 27 innings in the field during 2015. Even if one counts the DH positional adjustment as “horrible defense,” A-Rod still finished with 2.7 WAR, a performance that his Fangraphs page claims was worth over $20M if one had to buy that stat line in free agency.

Of course, all of that has little impact on A-Rod’s fantasy value in most formats.

james
Guest
james

I hate valuing DH. Hitters see a decline at the plate when they DH, so I am willing to give them back at least the 5 runs we ding them from being a 1b to account for the fact that other similar players would be playing an average to poor 1b to avoid that loss on another team.

With that, If he was a FA today, I could still see him getting around qualifying offer money (15-16 million) on a 1 year deal. The thing that makes his contract terrible is the risk that he keeps it going another few years (and I think it is up to 30 mil per year).

The other side of the coin, is that the long inflated contracts are a way to pay over a longer period of time. Look at a Trout, if today using standard 7 mil per WAR, he would be worth well over 50 mil per year. No one will pay that per year, so they give me 30 per year, and then give him more years on the deal than he will likely be worth. Max Scherzer did this for real, taking only half his money while playing on that contract, and the rest being paid off after he is gone. Bonilla famously took long term payments that are still getting paid out (I think he assigned the rights years ago- basically selling a structured settlement- a really common thing in law, just watch a JG wentworth ad).

So A-Rod is really getting overpaid, he is just getting the money that he should have been getting 7 or 8 years ago if teams actually paid for things up front.

the other route is for players to take more risk, and sign a lot of 1 year deals that maximize their pay. Very few players do this since the risk is huge. A-rod gets 40 mil for 1 year, then has an off year and gets a minor league deal. Personally, I think I would go that route, once you have 20 mil in the bank, you are “never work again rich” why not take some of the risk to maximize your total bankroll, maybe end your career a billionaire. But you have to stay healthy… (reminds me a Gary Sheffield who more of less did this to being a top 10 highest paid player for almost all of his prime years, and was still getting very good pay days till he was 40. It did hurt his HOF chances (if he had played on 1 team, he would have been a 1st ballot guy, instead he is a guy we will debate for the next decade).

Either way, I lost my point rambling about all of that. either way, on a 1 year deal, I totally see a 20m tag on A-rod last season (in hindsight), but the long term deal means he is getting paid for what he did, not what he is doing.