As I write this, Mike Trout is sporting a .556 batting average in Spring Training. I also had the pleasure of drafting him first overall in my NFBC Draft Champions league. To celebrate his feat and my luck, I am shooting for at least five of nine of the following bold predictions.
Here goes (extra ballsy right from the start):
1) The second most valuable Diamondbacks starter of 2015 is not listed in their rotation on Rotoworld, RotoChamp, RosterResource or even on MLB.com. It’s because it’s their longman, Randall Delgado. This spring, Delgado has a 9:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio and has only given up three hits.
Delgado had the eighth best swinging-strike rate last year (70IP as our qualifier) at 13.4%. The walk rate will ground his value, but my ballsy prediction here is mainly contingent on the rest of the D-backs rotation who have enough associated question marks.
If Delgado wins a rotation spot AND stays healthy, his repertoire should provide value in most formats. I pounced on him in round 31 of 50 in my NFBC Draft Champions league after freshening up on his Brooks player card. He has three elite pitches:
- Curve with a 39% whiff/swing rate: 1.2 standard deviations better than the mean
- Change with a 48% whiff/swing rate: 2.3 SD > mean
- Slider with a 58% whiff/swing rate: 3.0 SD > mean!
The Sinker is his only stinker, which doesn’t do a good job inducing grounders and gets hit hard (.447 wOBA against). If he would swap that out for more 95MPH heat (or glorious breaking balls), we have a breakout candidate on our hands.
2) Travis d’Arnaud is not a top ten starting catcher. He’s a borderline top fiver! Last year, d’Arnaud had the 9th best catcher isolated slugging percentage and contact rate. Only Jonathan Lucroy, Buster Posey and Brian McCann were top nine in each category. Batting 5th makes for some decent counting stats. 60-18-70-1-.265 isn’t out of the question, which should provide top ten value for sure. Some batted ball luck, and we’re talking top five.
3) Jose Ramirez eclipses 500 PA and winds up as a top ten fantasy shortstop. As is, according to RotoChamp’s Composite projections, Elvis Andrus is projected 5th overall with a 74-4-55-27-.274 line. Ramirez had the 38th best contact rate in baseball last year at 86.8%: 0.2% better than Andrus; as many homers in 90 less games; an almost identical batting average; and as much or more speed. At 22, we could see his ISO and speed elevate his BABIP. Connect that to an elite contact rate and we could see a .275 BA.
4) Pedro Strop slide(r)s himself into the Cubs closer role. The most glorious pitch in all of the land, Strop’s Slider had a 64% whiff/swing rate – almost four standard deviations better than the mean Slider. His Sinker does a great job inducing grounders giving him a great combo. Using 30IP as our qualifier, Strop had the 9th best swinging-strike rate and 55th best grounder rate in all of baseball last year.
This (ir)rationally assumes a Hector Rondon arm implosion.
5) Wilmer Flores is a top 13 Shortstop. I swear, this isn’t just because I am a Mets fan. Flores had the 25th best contact rate in baseball last year. He’ll only be 23 and is killing it this spring (.462 BA with only one strikeout in 26 at-bats). He will be the Mets starting shortstop this year and he will bat 2nd and 6th this year when Michael Cuddyer misses time.
The stolen bases totals from Alexei Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins, Erick Aybar, Jean Segura and Alcides Escobar all project their value over Flores, but if you’re healthy in that department skip over all of them and draft Flores ten+ rounds later. Same goes for Bogaerts – he might provide his draft position’s value, but Flores is an easy return on investment when he returns the same value ten rounds later.
“Just you wait” – here is a Nolan Arenado comp. You can blame the ISO differential on age and home field.
6) J.D. Martinez is a top 15 outfielder and goes 70-30-90-8-.285. He continues to spray his power and not get eaten by the shift. Check out this hitter analytics post by Jeff Zimmerman. Using 50 Balls in Play as our qualifier, J.D. Martinez had the 10th best expected BABIP with homers (xBABIPwHR) and expected weighted on-base average (xwOBAcon) score combined. While his xBABIPwHR was 50 points less than his actual, it still winds up 12th overall at .379.
7) Samsies on Corey Dickerson (5th best combined xBABIPwHR and xwOBAcon score combined).
I dwelled so long and hard on Corey Dickerson in round four of my NFBC Draft Champions league. The only reason I didn’t draft him was because I started the draft with Mike Trout, George Springer and Starling Marte as my first three picks – all outfielders! I pounced when J.D. Martinez was still there for me on the round six/seven turn.
8) George Springer will be a top five outfielder. Average-schmaverage. .240 is the new .260. His 30/20 combo will be enough counting stats in each department to have him rank in the top five despite what should be a .240 BA. 85r and 85rbi will ensure such a ranking. There is inflated BABIP potential here with his power-speed combo and batted ball spray. He walks enough as well. He currently has a 5:5 BB/K ratio, 2 HR and a .350/.500/.650/1.150 BA/OBP/SLG/OPS this spring. He’s 15% more contact away from being Mike Trout.
9) Mike Zunino is a top 10 catcher. I actually don’t consider this that ballsy. RotoChamp composites has him ranked 12th thanks to his HR total. And this 55-19-55 could be his floor. I am more aligned with the FANS on this one: 60-22-65 and then some. He had 22 HR last year in 130 games. STEAMER has him at 20 HR in 20 less games. At age 24 next year, he should be in his power prime.
Do you I truly believe in all these, you might ask? Here is my NFBC Draft Champion results up to round 35 of 50:
Daniel Schwartz contributes for RotoGraphs when he's not selling industry leading thermal packaging. You can follow him on twitter @RotoBanter