The 2014 season was my first here at RotoGraphs, and I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly. As for today, this column is helping distract me from the fact that Jeff Beliveau’s seventh-inning meltdown yesterday cost me a considerable sum in a deep roto league, coughing up my razor-thin leads in both ERA and WHIP, sending my team tumbling down two spots on the final day of the season. Fantasy sports are a fickle mistress.
At any rate, my still-seething anger at Jeff Beliveau notwithstanding, let’s tear apart my preseason Bold Predictions column. The point of these columns is to make the predictions sufficiently bold, while still being realistic. In other words, the sweet spot is probably getting four of them right. By those guidelines, I think I did pretty well this year. There were a few that I nailed on the head, while others…not so much.
1. Matt Carpenter will not be a top-ten second baseman.
NAILED IT. This is off to a great start. 2013’s No. 2 fantasy second baseman saw his value fall off a cliff this year, pretty much for the reasons I predicted. I argued that his .359 batting average on balls in play was quite clearly unsustainable, and this season saw his BABIP drop more than 40 points. Consequently, his run and RBI totals were both cut down by more than 20%.
As I said in the preseason, Carpenter doesn’t have enough power or speed to compensate for BABIP regression. When the dust settled, he finished the year as the No. 12 second baseman in standard formats.
Well, nobody’s perfect. Butler actually had a startlingly bad season in general, as he didn’t strike anyone out in Double-A and was atrocious in his three major-league starts, issuing seven walks while punching out just three. Gray didn’t make any major-league starts, which means he was actually one of the Rockies’ most valuable starters after all!
While that may just seem like a lame attempt at a joke, part of me really is wondering whether an empty roster spot had more or less fantasy value than the Rockies’ actual pitching staff. Brace yourselves for one amazing stat: In 2014, the Rockies had five pitchers — Franklin Morales, Juan Nicasio, Jhoulys Chacin, Yohan Flande and Christian Bergman — who started at least ten games and finished the year with ERA’s north of 5.00. That’s the most starters they’ve had with ERA’s over 5.00 since all the way back in 2012, when they had seven pitchers make double-digit starts with ERA’s over 5.00 — and Drew Pomeranz‘ 4.93 ERA made it close to being eight. Man, it must totally suck to be a pitcher in Colorado.
Bonus mind-boggling statistic: Nicasio now has three consecutive seasons in which he made double-digit starts and maintained an ERA over 5.00. Wow.
3. Jon Singleton will hit 20+ home runs in the majors.
This prediction, much like Singleton in the batter’s box, was a swing and a miss. While the 23-year-old did hit 13 bombs with the big-league club, he also hit for a .167 average and struck out in 37% of his plate appearances. All told, he had a terrible season and was worth 1.3 wins below replacement…but this prediction still wasn’t too far off.
4. Marcell Ozuna will hit 20+ home runs.
Ah yes, now I’m feeling better. Ozuna, who hit just three homers in 291 plate appearances last season, clubbed 23 dingers and made me look like a genius for writing this column in February. Whereas Ozuna had an average fly ball distance of 255.51 feet in 2013 — good for just 291st in the majors — he finished 2014 at No. 47 in that department, with an average distance of 291.52 feet. I’m going to go ahead and give myself a thorough pat on the back for this one, because it’s about to get really ugly.
5. Despite entering the season without a starting job, Abraham Almonte will be a top-40 fantasy outfielder.
Um. Hey! Look over there! It’s Marcell Ozuna hitting 20 more homers than he did last year! Nothing to see over here! Wouldn’t you rather go focus on that? Of course you would!
Ahem. At any rate, what I meant to say was that Almonte would be a top-170 fantasy outfielder, because he totally was. The 25-year-old outproduced the likes of Kevin Pillar and Aaron Hicks, but failed to live up to the standards of the mighty Ryan Rua or a stud like John Mayberry. This was probably my worst prediction. Abraham Almonte is not very good.
Pretty close! McCann launched 23 bombs this year, his highest total since 2011, and his seventh consecutive campaign with at least 20 homers. That’s a really impressive feat when you think about it, especially for a catcher. Yankees fans should probably focus more on that aspect of McCann’s offense, as he basically had another 2012 (which is not a good thing).
Through his first six full major-league seasons, McCann hit no worse than .269 in any given season. In the three years since, he’s hit .238, and this year his walk rate plummeted from 9.7% to 5.9%. Not good signs for a catcher on the wrong side of 30. But he still cranks out those homers, baby! This prediction goes down in the books as a near-miss.
7. …and Wilin Rosario will join him.
Boooooooo. Rosario hit just 12 homers, and showed two very ugly tendencies this year that have considerably sullied my outlook for him beyond 2014. Let’s start with his troubling platoon split…
- vs L (106 PA) – .310/.340/.610, .950 OPS
- vs R (300 PA) – .252/.293/.363, .656 OPS
Uh oh. What have we here? This isn’t very encouraging. You know what’s even less encouraging?
- Home (217 PA) – .343/.387/.540, .927 OPS
- Road (189 PA) – .183/.212/.306, .518 OPS
He’s pretty great in the thin air of Coors Field, but his road production this year was like a slightly worse version of Stefen Romero. You wanna see something really scary?
- Road vs R (141 PA) – .158/.191/.211, .402 OPS
If Rosario’s road production in general this season was a slightly worse version of Stefen Romero, his efforts against righties away from Coors made him look like Brendan Ryan, except even worse than that! Sure, as long as he’s still in Colorado, he’ll still get to put up those gaudy home numbers, but he’s starting to look like more of a platoon option for fantasy purposes.
8. No player will strike out 200 times.
The streak is over! After six consecutive seasons in which one — and only one — player crossed the 200 strikeout mark each year, this season no one could do any “better” than Ryan Howard’s “impressive” 190 punchouts. How neat is that? That’s pretty neat.
9. Kevin Gausman breaks camp with the Orioles and is a top-30 fantasy starter.
Nope and nope. If he had broken camp with the team instead of making 11 starts in Triple-A, he might have been close to the top 30 though, seeing as he posted a 3.57 ERA (3.41 FIP) in his 113.1 major-league innings. Look for Gausman to increase his strikeout rate a notch and be an impact fantasy player in 2015.
10. Speaking of the Orioles, Johan Santana will earn 1 WAR without hitting 90 mph even one time all year.
This would’ve been pretty cool, and Santana actually came so close to pitching this year that he was featured in one of Mike Podhorzer’s Deep League Waiver Wire columns. Unfortunately, just as Santana was rehabbing his shoulder back into game shape, he suffered an injury to his left Achilles tendon, ending a season that never got a chance to get started.
Scott Strandberg started writing for Rotographs in 2013. He works in small business consultation, and he also writes A&E columns for The Norman Transcript newspaper. Scott lives in Seattle, WA.