Reviewing Hitters that Baffle Rankers: Outside Top 100

Phew, we’re almost at the end of my 2015 reviews. Remember when I assured you that I would review all that I predicted, projected, ranked, and said from the 2015 preseason? I wasn’t joking! So today I return to recapping the list of players us RotoGrapher rankers disagreed on the most. This time we check in on the hitters we ranked outside the top 100 that had us baffled. Actual ranks based on Zach Sanders’ top 300. Let’s see who was right…if any of us were.

Comparing the Rankers: Pedro Alvarez
NAME POS Jeff Dan Mike Paul Zach Actual
Pedro Alvarez 3B 141 199 294 145 643 198

Coming off his worst offensive performance since his half-season in 2011, Alvarez rebounded to essentially what he always had been. Unfortunately, he’s now a platoon guy, solely facing right-handers. His HR/FB skyrocketed, literally doubling off his down 2014 to a new career high, but the home run parade was diminished thanks to a stark decline in fly ball rate. My ranking was the one that stuck out like a sore thumb. I actually was a bit optimistic on his plate appearances, but missed on his each of his counting stats by a smidge. Not sure how that resulted in a difference of about 100 ranks, though it’s important to realize that the gap between 200 and 300 and far small than 1 and 100, perhaps just a couple of bucks of value.

Comparing the Rankers: Brett Lawrie
NAME POS Jeff Dan Mike Paul Zach Actual
Brett Lawrie 3B 187 235 221 144 566 265

A move from hitter friendly Toronto to pitcher friendly Oakland is rarely a beneficial one for a hitter. Lawrie proved that he was no exception, except for one small fact — he stayed healthy! He easily set a new career high in plate appearances, and yet he still managed to earn meager fantasy value. The big jump in SwStk% and strikeout rate is a concern. But hey, he’ll still be just 26 years old this season and is moving right back into another top hitter’s park. If he could remain healthy again, I’ll so boldly claim that I think he’ll earn more value this year than last. Woah, crazy thought.

Comparing the Rankers: Javier Baez
NAME POS Jeff Dan Mike Paul Zach Actual
Javier Baez SS 153 186 263 284 431 Outside top 300

Remember, these rankings were published back in early-to-mid February when we all assumed that Baez would garner significant playing time at some position in the Cubs infield. But some of us were clearly more pessimistic than others and he ended up amassing just 80 plate appearances all season. His future is now a question mark as he strikes out often and fails to offset those insta-outs with a respectable walk rate. It’s too bad, because that Cubs lineup is loaded and he could have been just another asset in the middle of it.

Comparing the Rankers: Kris Bryant
NAME POS Jeff Dan Mike Paul Zach Actual
Kris Bryant 3B 304 129 394 234 299 46

My sincerest apologies. It’s true, it’s true, I wasn’t the only one ranking Bryant past 300, but I was the most bearish. It wasn’t about his performance, mind you. It was all about playing time. Once again, remember this was in early-to-mid February, and at the time, I was forecasting just 400 plate appearances. As we progressed toward opening day, I continually inched up that projection, so his eventual ranking would have been far better. As strong as his rookie campaign was, I think his power was actually a bit disappointing. Like Steamer, I expect even better this season.

Comparing the Rankers: Mookie Betts
NAME POS Jeff Dan Mike Paul Zach Actual
Mookie Betts OF 69 83 41 115 273 27

Finally, a man I could proudly claim I was right about! I famously drafted Betts in the 6th round of last year’s 15-team LABR Mixed Draft league (okay, so perhaps not that famously, as the Betts pick was overshadowed by another selection of some mysterious speedster). I thought that pick might get questioned as being too early, but I didn’t get such reaction, and it proved to work out. Betts performed exactly as hoped with his combination of power and speed, though he contributed more in the power and less in the speed than I, and probably all, expected. There’s no reason to expect anything less than similar production in 2016.

Comparing the Rankers: Kennys Vargas
NAME POS Jeff Dan Mike Paul Zach Actual
Kennys Vargas 1B/UT 175 280 278 316 112 Outside top 300

Soooo three of us disliked Vargas, one was meh, and the other liked him. He was expected to serve as the Twins primary DH, but instead stunk up the joint and was demoted to the minors. He posted just a .275 wOBA, strike out far too frequently, walked just 4.9% of the time, and barely even showed any power, which was supposed to be his calling card. He may no longer be part of the Twins future plans. Sad face.

Comparing the Rankers: Steven Souza
NAME POS Jeff Dan Mike Paul Zach Actual
Steven Souza OF 95 160 218 180 296 230

Souza was gliding along, showcasing his sexy power and speed combination when BAM, he fractured his hand after getting plunked by a pitch. Injuries limited him to just 426 plate appearances, which is the only reason why I ended up pretty close to hitting his ultimate ranking. The strikeouts cap his batting average upside, but at least he makes up for it in walks, so he’s worth a heck of a lot more in OBP leagues.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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I’m a little surprised that CarGo didn’t make this list.