Buster Posey was great as a rookie in 2010. He was fine in a 2011 that was largely truncated by his broken leg, then was outstanding in 2012 as the Giants won another World Series. He was almost certainly the first catcher off the board in just about fantasy draft this year, with perhaps a few holdouts for Joe Mauer making it less than unanimous, and they were rewarded with… well, it’s hard to be disappointed by .294 and 15 homers from your catcher. But it was merely a good season, and not a great one, wasn’t it?
That’s backed up by the fact that he finished seventh in catcher wOBA (min. 250 PA), behind guys like Jason Castro and Yan Gomes, and also seventh in Zach Sanders’ end of season rankings. Seventh isn’t bad, of course; it’s a starter in even the shallowest of leagues. But it’s also not what fantasy owners were expecting, and that means we need to understand why in order to figure out where he’s appropriate to draft headed into 2014.
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Headed into the season in my main league, I was pretty excited about the prospect of my outfield. In left field, there was Mike Trout, probably the most valuable player in fantasy. In right field, Domonic Brown, about to break out. They’d be flanking my center fielder, someone who not all that long ago was one of the most valuable fantasy player himself.
Sadly, it didn’t work out that way for Matt Kemp, who ended up being one of fantasy’s biggest busts. (Fortunately for me, I could easily move Trout to center and spot in left with, at various points, Evan Gattis, Norichika Aoki, and Alfonso Soriano.)
I feel a little bad listing Kemp with someone who was simply atrocious like B.J. Upton, because there was obviously a lot more to it than that. Really, there were three different Kemps this year: Read the rest of this entry »
Prior to the season, we all made “10 Bold Predictions,” and now it’s time to see how great — or awful — those turned out. You can see mine right here from March; let’s see how I did.
Prediction 1: 70% of opening day closers won’t still have their jobs by the end of the year…
Okay, let’s sort through this and see how close this one came.
These teams kept the same guys in the ninth all year long, and I won’t nitpick about things like the few days where it seemed like Tommy Hunter would overtake Jim Johnson or a short 15 days on the disabled list. I will, however, claim Chris Perez on my side, despite the fact that he didn’t lose it until late September:
BAL (Johnson), NYY (Rivera), TB (Rodney), TOR (Janssen), KC (Holland), MIN (Perkins), CHW (Reed), OAK (Balfour), TEX (Nathan), LAA (Frieri), ATL (Kimbrel), PHI (Papelbon), WAS (Soriano), MIA (Cishek), CIN (Chapman), SD (Street), SF (Romo).
That’s 56% who kept their jobs all year, and only 44% who didn’t, and I guess that counts as a loss for me. I was reasonably confident about this one in the spring, and it feels like there’s been a little less turnover than usual. Off the top of my head, only one closer got traded — Jose Veras from Houston, not including Milwaukee since Jim Henderson already had the job when John Axford & Francisco Rodriguez were moved — which seems oddly low, since bottom-feeders usually offer up their closers quickly. The only serious injuries were to Bobby Parnell and Rafael Betancourt, which kept the turnover low, too. I would — and might — make the same prediction again next year. 0 for 1.
Prediction 2: …but Brandon League will.
Oh, lord. In retrospect, I suppose I probably never should have expected that League was going to hold off Kenley Jansen, who is only one of the three best closers in the game, but I have to admit it didn’t go down the way I expected it to. If it was simply “Jansen is better and took over the job,” that I could see. But it ended up being “League was so atrocious that he was going to lose his spot regardless of whether it was Kenley Jansen or Skip Schumaker taking over,” and that really was a surprise. League’s big contract was probably never one that made sense, but he was so good down the stretch last season that it seemed like he’d at least be adequate. Instead, he fell apart, stopped missing bats, and had an ERA north of 5 for most of the season. 0 for 2.
Prediction 3: Jake Arrieta will be the most valuable Baltimore starter.
This is going to get better. I promise. Arrieta lasted just four starts — one of which was very good, at least — before getting bounced from the rotation. He came back for one more in June, then was traded to the Cubs in July. There, he’s been… also not good. Which means I’ll probably set myself up for failure when I make the exact same prediction next year. 0 for 3.
Prediction 4: The National League leader in stolen bases will be someone who wasn’t in the top 10 in MLB last season.
Okay, now we’re talking. The top three NL stolen base guys were Eric Young (received nearly 400 more plate appearances than in 2012), Jean Segura (played only a partial 2012 as a rookie), and Starling Marte, who like Segura, was in his first full season. All three would count, though I got a bit lucky here, because Everth Cabrera was leading the league for much of the year before getting suspended. I’ll take the win anyway. Next year, I’ll predict that you shouldn’t draft Young for steals, because he’s really not that good. 1 for 4.
Prediction 5: Justin Smoak is going to put it together to be a top-15 mixed-league first baseman.
So here’s a fun one. At the time, Smoak had been a terribly disappointing prospect who seemed like he might be about to get lost in the Kendrys Morales / Raul Ibanez / Jason Bay / Michael Morse 1B/DH hole, though he’d tempted some by putting up a red-hot September 2012. That, along with a smoking hot spring, shorter fences in Seattle, and the switch to a lighter bat made me wonder if 2013 was finally the year.
Sadly, Smoak didn’t end up as a top-15 first baseman or anything close to it, though he did set career highs in home runs, ISO, and wOBA. That would be be something to build on, except that after four full seasons he’s been basically a replacement player. It’s time to give up. 1 for 5.
Prediction 6: Justin Maxwell will put up a 20/15 season.
This is going to be another loss, but I can caveat this somewhat by saying that any chances Maxwell had to do this died in late April when he was hit by a Hisashi Iwakuma pitch and missed nearly two months. He’d been back for barely more than a week when he suffered a concussion diving for a ball, sidelining him for more than two weeks. When he returned in mid-July, he played only 12 more games for Houston before being traded to Kansas City, where he played well (.268/.351/.505 with five homers).
On the season, Maxwell received only 262 plate appearances and put up seven homers and six steals. If he’d managed to play a full season, he’d have come pretty close to my prediction, but he didn’t, so I’ll take the hit. 1 for 6.
Prediction 7: Cliff Lee will pitch almost exactly the same as he did in 2012, yet double his win total — or more.
This was in response to Lee pitching wonderfully in 2012, yet going just 6-9. Lee did end up pitching in 2013 relatively similarly to how he did in 2012, and in fact improved somewhat…
…and went 14-8 on another lousy Phillies team. That’s a win. 2 for 7.
Prediction 8: Yasiel Puig will be a fantasy disappointment.
Nope. Obviously. My rationale for this at the time is that Puig would end up spending so much of the season in the minors that his ability to impact fantasy seasons would be limited. Of course, when I said that I had no idea that Matt Kemp would be injured approximately 72 different times, including once when Carl Crawford was also injured, and the Dodgers would have no choice but to recall Puig in early June. (Counting Andre Ethier’s late-season injuries as well, the Dodgers had all four of their outfielders healthy at the same time for something like 10 innings all season.) 2 for 8.
Prediction 9: Matt Harvey will be a top-20 NL starter.
I realize that this doesn’t sound bold at all now, not after he started the All-Star Game and led baseball with a 2.01 FIP and would have had a pretty solid case for the Cy Young if he hadn’t A) been injured and B) unfortunate enough to share a league with Clayton Kershaw.
But at the time, remember that he was a guy who was entering the season with only 10 major league starts under his belt, and that the NL is stacked with elite starters like Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Stephen Strasburg, Mat Latos, Lee, Cole Hamels, Madison Bumgarner, Adam Wainwright, etc. — and Jose Fernandez, who we didn’t really know about at that point — and so for as silly as this sounds now, it was hardly a guarantee in March.
The funny thing is, now that his elbow is a huge question mark, if I make this prediction again next year, it might be a lot bigger of a risk than it was this year. 3 for 9.
Prediction 10: Juan Uribe will at some point be owned in at least 5% of one of the three main fantasy sites — ESPN, Yahoo, or CBS.
I would like to say that this was my boldest and best prediction of all, that I saw something in the man who hit just .199/.262/.289 in his first two seasons as a Dodger that indicated he’d suddenly be productive. I didn’t; this was a joke, because “bold predictions” should be fun, and embedding a GIF of Uribe corkscrewing himself into the ground on a badly missed swing was fun.
Not only did Uribe end up sticking with the Dodgers all season long — notable because a DFA would have been my real prediction — he actually took over the third base job and was shockingly productive, finishing as one of just seven third basemen with at least 5 WAR. While that’s largely on the strength of his defense, his offensive numbers rebounded as well, making him fantasy-relevant.
But just how relevant? Five percent relevant?
Yes! 4 for 10.
Vic Black served as the interim closer last night for the Mets, doing so because Bobby Parnell is injured, Frank Francisco is apparently in the witness protection program, and LaTroy Hawkins was unavailable. He managed to save his first game on Tuesday against the Reds, and he may yet get more chances over the final few days of the season against Milwaukee, but even if not, he’s apparently in the mix for 2014, especially with Parnell’s health after neck surgery still uncertain — and that makes him interesting.
What also makes Black interesting is when you see quotes like this from the ageless Hawkins, who has seen just about everything there is to see over his approximately 73 years in the big leagues: Read the rest of this entry »
Taylor Jordan made nine starts this year before the Nationals turned to Tanner Roark. Nate Karns made three; even Zach Duke got a chance to start before Roark. And why not? Texas’ 2008 25th-rounder — he was traded to Washington in 2010 for Cristian Guzman, and how is Guzman still only 35 years old? — lost 17 games with a 4.39 ERA in Triple-A last year, was unprotected and unselected in the Rule 5 draft, and spent much of this year coming out of the Syracuse bullpen.
Now, suddenly, Roark is the talk of the town as the Nationals make an improbable run at the final wild card spot, having won seven of the 12 games he’s appeared in with a 1.08 ERA and generating stories about his inclusion in the 2014 rotation.
Is this real life? Is this just fantasy? More importantly, is Roark a name you really need to know as you start thinking about keepers for next year, or just someone on a well-time hot streak feasting on the expanded rosters of teams who gave up weeks ago?
The Dodgers have one of the top starting rotations in the game as they head into the playoffs, and it’s not hard to see why. Clayton Kershaw might be the best pitcher on the planet, while Zack Greinke has been just about as good as Kershaw over the last two months. Behind that pair, Hyun-jin Ryu has been fantastic in his debut season, and might have been the slam-dunk Rookie of the Year in a campaign that didn’t feature Jose Fernandez, Yasiel Puig, Shelby Miller, and so many others.
With that trio leading the way, it’s easy to forget the 30-year-old veteran who only joined the team in July after having been rescued from Miami, and whose main claim to fame during parts of eight seasons in the big leagues is that he constantly (and infuriatingly) under-performed his peripherals. But since arriving in Los Angeles, Ricky Nolasco has been every bit as effective as his more famous teammates, with a 2.07 ERA and 3.06 FIP in 12 starts. Luck? Increased happiness at being away from the Marlins, back in a pennant race, and pitching for his childhood team? Or has something actually changed other than his zip code? Read the rest of this entry »
The Diamondbacks recalled shortstop Chris Owings to the big leagues a few days ago as part of the September roster expansion, and any time you get an infielder in his age-21 season who just won both the Rookie of the Year and the Most Valuable Player awards in the Pacific Coast League, it stands that you should take notice.
Of course, the Diamondbacks already have Didi Gregorius at shortstop, and he’s just 23 himself. So as I try to parse the long-term situation in Arizona at the position, I keep coming back to these three thoughts: Read the rest of this entry »
It seems so long ago now, but Diamondbacks outfielder Adam Eaton was hyped as a pretty nice sleeper headed into the season. Eaton collected 198 hits and 44 steals to go with a .456 OBP between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012, then made a solid impression with a .382 OBP in just over 100 plate appearances for the big club. Though he didn’t add a lot of pop, that kind of potential for on-base skills, steals, and enough speed to stretch singles into doubles set him up to be a nice under-the-radar choice. With Justin Upton & Chris Young traded, Eaton would man center while Kubel & Cody Ross would handle the corners, and Gerardo Parra would spot all over.
But that situation never really came to fruition, since Eaton injured his left elbow in the spring. He didn’t get into minor league games until May, suffered a setback, and finally returned to the Diamondbacks in July. Now Kubel has been DFA’d, Ross is out for the season, and Eaton finds himself playing left field as much as center, with Tony Campana & A.J. Pollock filling in up the middle.
He’s also hitting .306/.372/.459 in August, and it’s time to see if he can be the asset that everyone hoped he’d might be entering the season. Read the rest of this entry »
If there’s any tool on this site I truly love, it’s the “last calendar year” sort on the leaderboards. For example, if you head over to the batting leaders and sort by wOBA over the last calendar year, you’ll get Miguel Cabrera & Chris Davis at the top, as you’d expect… but you’ll also see a pretty surprising name crack the top 20 hitters with at least 500 plate appearances: Brandon Moss. In the top 20!
Just look at the names behind him to see how impressive that is, because he’s beating out Jose Bautista, Evan Longoria, Prince Fielder, and Carlos Beltran, among others. But Moss is only owned in about half of ESPN leagues, and barely more than a quarter in Yahoo. Have we all missed something?
According to numerous reports, the Cardinals will be recalling 22-year-old infield prospect Kolten Wong, the team’s first-round pick out of the University of Hawaii in 2011. Wong was only Marc Hulet’s #5 Cardinals prospect entering the year, but that “only” comes with just about the largest caveat you can find, because saying that someone isn’t better than Oscar Taveras, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, or Shelby Miller is pretty far from a slight.
Wong doesn’t project as a superstar in the big leagues, but the potential for an above-average ballplayer — and intriguing fantasy asset — is there. Moving quickly from Single-A to Triple-A in just barely over two years since being drafted, Wong carries a professional line of .301/.365/.446 into his promotion, and that career mark is almost exactly what he’s producing at in 2013 as well.