The season is only a little over two weeks old, and all the rote small sample size caveats apply, but some hitter performances in the early going have been enough to move the needle when looking at rest of season projections. I’m specifically going to be looking only at hitters in this article, mostly because rest of season projections aren’t quite as quick to adapt to changes in talent for pitchers. I’m also going to be presenting this information through the lens of ottoneu Fangraphs points leagues, which utilize linear weights scoring.
Without further ado, below is the list of the ten hitters (minimum 80 games projected rest of season) whose points per game projections have increased the most since the preseason (looking at Depth Charts ROS projections versus preseason Depth Charts projections). I’ve also included two columns showing preseason points per game positional rank, and rest of season points per game positional rank.
|Melvin Upton Jr.||Padres||OF||0.25||3.91||3.66||OF135||OF139|
The name at the top of the list is probably no surprise, as Trevor Story has provided plenty of fodder for pun-loving baseball writers everywhere. The preseason projections for Story were actually quite favorable, ranking him as the seventh best shortstop on a rate basis, but there was some doubt as to how much he would play. So far so good, as Story won the Rockies shortstop job out of spring training and has been tearing the cover off the ball. Story now projects as the fourth best shortstop going forward, and although the Jose Reyes situation still looms, it’s hard to imagine Story losing his job.
Angel Pagan, Melvin Upton Jr, and Yunel Escobar all appear on the list of the top ten points per game risers, but even with those bumps all three still are probably not worth rostering in ottoneu leagues. It’s hard to justify owning an outfielder ranked 120+, or a third basemen ranked 27th.
There are four outfielders on the list that definitely are worth owning in ottoneu, and they are Dexter Fowler, John Jaso, Carlos Gonzalez, and Mark Trumbo. All four are now projected to be top 36 outfielders based on points per game, which makes all of them very good starting options. It’s possible that Gonzalez gets traded this summer, but in the meantime he’s putting his poor 2014 performance in his rear view mirror. Trumbo is once again off to a good start in April, but this time I think he will stay hot all year with Camden Yards as his new home. As a Cubs fan I’ve been thrilled with how Fowler has hit (and fielded!), but it seems to me that his preseason projections were too harsh to begin with, so I think he will settle in as a solid third outfielder. Jaso at this point is best used as a platoon bat, as he mashes right handers.
Story isn’t the only rookie that has been hitting well, as Tyler White has been arguably just as impressive in the early going. White has gone from a replacement level projection as a third base eligible player, to a projected starter. Third base is actually somewhat weak this year for fantasy, but that shouldn’t undersell White’s rest of season projection, as his 4.88 points per game matches the projection of Evan Longoria and bests David Wright and Kyle Seager.
The move from Citi Field to Nationals Park has so far been very kind to Daniel Murphy, as the late season surge he showed last year has carried forward into 2016. Right now the only second basemen projected to be better than him are Altuve, Carpenter, and Cano, so Murphy is basically the best option in the second tier at the keystone.
Here is the list of the ten hitters with the largest decreases in points per game projections:
|Russell Martin||Blue Jays||C||(0.22)||4.50||4.72||C11||C7|
Derek Norris started the season as a fringe starting catcher, but now projects as a low end backup. He did just hit his first home run of the season yesterday, so maybe he will turn things around and look more like the guy he was in Oakland a couple seasons ago. Fellow catcher Russell Martin had a much rosier projection in the preseason, but has yet to have an extra-base hit and now is in danger of slipping out of the top 12 at catcher.
Fellow Padre Jabari Blash was a Rule 5 pick this offseason, mostly due to his excellent AAA performances and good pop coupled with high walk rates. The 26 year old has only started three games and garnered 18 plate appearances, but the power has yet to show up and he has struck out 44.4% of the time. There’s still a chance he could be an intriguing bench outfielder in ottoneu, but the door is closing.
Yonder Alonso, Logan Morrison, and Peter Bourjos don’t require much analysis, as none of the three were probably worth rostering in ottoneu to start the season, and definitely aren’t now. Ketel Marte also had a preseason projection that would have made him seem like a replacement level option, but the young shortstop hit well in a limited sample last year, so he could serve as an upside play at a weak position.
Khris Davis would probably be a top 40 outfielder if he had stayed in Milwaukee, but his move to Oakland and struggles to start 2016 leave him looking like a bench bat at best. Ian Desmond also moved from the NL to the AL in the offseason, and he has made the transition even worse than Davis, and now projects to be a bench middle infielder, rather than a starter.
Desmond isn’t the only member of the Rangers that is struggling, as Prince Fielder has struggled to make contact and hasn’t hit the ball particularly hard when he has.
Many, if not most, of these rest of season projections could look much different in another two weeks, so it is far too early to get too excited or too deflated if one of your hitters appears in this article.
Justin is a life long Cubs fan who has been playing fantasy baseball for 20+ years, and an ottoneu addict since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @justinvibber.