Steve Pearce, Jake Arrieta, And Information Gaps

Since I released my initial, flawed roto rankings on Tuesday, we’ve been discussing my most unusual choices. Wednesday was Carlos Carrasco day, and yesterday was Adam Jones‘ turn to shine (in the sense that he was a featured part of the article).  Today I’ll focus on highlighting a class of player who could be misrepresented. You may not believe it, but I haven’t conducted advanced analysis on every player. Shocking, I know. While I have an idea of an embarrassing quantity of player values, some of those are based more upon impression than science or scouting.

Within these rankings, the poster child is probably Steve Pearce. I know his power outburst is based purely on pull-field home runs. In ranking him the 20th outfielder – one ahead of Jones – I’m saying his .263 ISO is mostly real. He’s been a lefty masher for years (.472 wOBA last season), but he also posted a stout .377 wOBA against fellow right-handers. His BABIP ran a little hot against same-handed pitchers, so that’s something to watch.

That’s all surface level analysis. I need to scout and find some deeper hooks before becoming a true champion of Pearce. What if pitchers just stopped throwing pull-able pitches to him? Could he still hit for power? Perhaps my assumption that he’ll play everyday with at least league average performance against righties is wrong. Maybe his numbers against lefties will drop from Earth shattering to merely good. Pearce smells like an obvious candidate for regression, yet my ranking seemingly accounts for none.

What we have in Pearce is a very classic rankings conundrum. There is information supporting bullish and bearish predictions. In many ways, Pearce reminds me of vintage Allen Craig. I watched plenty of both players – Pearce last season and Craig in his good years – without ever understanding why they were hitting well.

On the other side of the fence, I have Jake Arrieta penciled in as the 16th starting pitcher. The bullish pick is based off his strong strikeout, walk, and whiff rates combined with a sub-3.00 ERA, FIP, xFIP, and SIERA. On the FanGraphs player page, he has everything a fantasy owner could want in a pitcher. Admittedly, I also have some warm and fuzzy feelings for Arrieta. He helped me to finally defeat my former college teammates in our alumni H2H league.

The problem, insofar as there is one, is that I don’t recall watching Arrieta last season. That seems impossible to me, but at the very least, his starts weren’t memorable. Especially with pitchers, who are so much easier than hitters to scout, I’m slightly worried about the lack of visual feedback in my ranking. He does rank 27th in the latest version of pitch arsenal score, which does something to allay my fears. As a commenter pointed out, his slider rate is a cause for concern, although it’s slightly below the warning level Jeff Zimmerman identified during his research.

Rather than get into the mucky details, here are a few other players who rated relatively highly despite some information gaps.

This “information gap” I’m referring to isn’t enough to change how I rank these players – at least not substantially – but it does mean I have less conviction about their place in the rankings. I can use the information readily available on FanGraphs but that can only brings us so far. To take your fantasy play to the next level, you have to find insights above and beyond those available to your league mates. That, I suppose, is the lesson of the day.

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It seems that each of the players you listed all can be catgorized in the “have shown flashes of being good, but only in short sample sizes” or “have been better than prospect profile suggested, and 2015 will validate big league performance or bring them back to earth.” In other words, it seems the players you listed are all potential break out candidates for 2015, or brokeout in 2014 and this year will show if they are legit or not, due to finally getting playing time or improving in a major statistic that changes the type of player they are. And the “information gap” really is there sample sizes reaching points that will legitimize whether or not their current level of production can be maintained in the future. Pearce, Arretia, and Harrison are in the group as well, but the difference is that they have had their breakouts.