There are certain players in fantasy baseball that just kill you. You don’t know what to do with them. You start them, they go 0-4 with 3 K’s. You bench them, they drop a 3-4 with a dinger, stolen base, and 6 R+RBI on your pine. It’s just the nature of the beast, and if you’ve played fantasy baseball long enough I guarantee you’re currently nodding your head and muttering to yourself about one or two of these guys right now. And in dynasty leagues these guys are all the more problematic. Not only because they have the potential to torture you for multiple seasons, but because you’re stuck with the conundrum of whether they’re worth the longterm hassle or not. For over five years now no player has been more THAT GUY for me than Justin Upton.
I spent a couple weeks earlier this fall looking at a few starting pitchers worth monitoring for deeper and dynasty league purposes over the winter and through spring training, and today we’re going to shift gears to the offensive side of the game. As noted previously, the focal point of my player research this time of year is identifying players who may be worth keeping an eye on as we build up to draft day. I like to start each offseason with a longish list of names that may provide value at the back end of a rotation or bench, and then depending on how organizational depth charts shake out over the winter I narrow that list down to my spring training watch list.
Earlier in the off-season I wrote about one of my favorite quick and dirty methods for evaluating base-stealing prowess. Today we’ll look at another rough starting point for uncovering unheralded offensive value, and it involves looking at LD% and BABIP for players who suffered poor luck in the form of a batting average well south of what we might expect given the player’s batted ball profile. Line drive rate is among the more helpful correlative elements of batting average, though with a caveat that it does tend to be among the more variable statistics year to year. This past summer batters hit a collective .295 on ball in play. They also hit line drives at a league-wide 22.3% clip, and on those line drives players posted a .688 average. Translation: the more line drives you hit, the more likely you are to produce a strong batting average. Despite the variability, I’ve found it a useful starting point metric in identifying some hitters that suffered bad luck in 2013 and may be due for positive regression going forward.
My general rule of thumb for this exercise is to take the top 50 or so hitters by LD% and cross-check them with players who posted sub-.300 BABIP numbers, and this exercise yields a couple particularly notable infield names for dynasty leaguers heading into 2014. Let’s take a closer look at a couple of them and see what we may be able to expect in 2014.
I’ve written about some of my current fantasy leagues/teams in this space before, though I’ve yet to discuss the league I’m about to. For a primer on that, check out what I wrote for Fake Teams a while back, because this will be very much the same exercise. Here are the basics:
- 20-team league
- 25 man rosters
- 22 keepers
- 4 DL spots
- 15 man minor league system
- C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF, RF, Util, Util lineup
- SP, SP, RP, RP, P, P, P, P rotation
Because of the deep rosters, multiple DL slots and the fact that you can keep anyone on your farm team as long as they’re below rookie limits or are currently in the minor leagues, the league plays extremely deep. There is a three round minor league draft held in February, followed by a three round major league draft. Most roster turnover comes in the form of trades. I thought it might be instructive for some to see the thought process that I go through in terms of building my team. For disclosure’s sake, Bret joined this league this offseason. I had a good team and made moves, some good, some bad. I did reach the playoffs though I lost in the first round. Oh yeah, and I’m the LA Dodgers. Here goes nothing:
It’s not often that a first round pick can be labeled a sleeper, or fail to receive a ton of attention. Even rarer when that prospect has put up good numbers throughout his career. Yet that’s exactly where we stand with Tampa Bay Rays prospect Jeff Ames. Selected with the 42nd overall pick in 2011, Ames was a supplemental first rounder and has been somewhat lost in the slew of early picks Tampa Bay has made in the last few years. Despite striking out over 26% of batters at each of his first two stops, and posting an ERA under 3.00 in his most recent two stops, Ames has flown under the radar.
I’ll start by naming all the second basemen more valuable than Jason Kipnis in 2013:
Cheesy way to start a blog post aside, many doubted the second baseman’s 2012 campaign after he completely fell apart post All-Star break. I wasn’t one of the doubters, but I understood the sentiment. TDG’s chieftain, Bret Sayre, opined about the 26-year-old in The Top 50 Dynasty League Second Basemen:
“I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of Kipnis, but I really don’t have much of a choice other than to rank him in the #4 (second base) spot. I think we saw pretty close to his peak in 2012, and I expect him to be around a .270 average with 12-15 HR and 18-22 SB going forward. But at 25 years old (he’ll be 26 right around Opening Day), he’s one of the few major league players on this list approaching their prime. In a better landscape, he’d be in the back-end of the top-10, but this is the landscape we’re stuck with.”
On June 4, I took stock of Byron Buxton’s phenomenal campaign in Single-A and asked our readers a simple question: was the Twins’ outfielder the best fantasy prospect in the game, and if not, who was?
After examining the extraordinary numbers Buxton had posted to that point in the season, I concluded that Buxton was surely a Top 10 name, but was not yet ready to give him the top spot. After all, the likes of Jurickson Profar, Oscar Taveras and Xander Bogaerts all loomed large, and each was significantly closer to the majors.
That opinion came back when Buxton was hitting “a modest” .333/.435/.545 with a wRC+ of 174 through 240 PA. Of course, the 19-year-old would go on to finish with a .341/.431/.559 line in 321 PA in Single-A, before hitting .326/.415/.472 in 253 PA in High-A. Continue reading
In continuing our quest to find some names to monitor over the winter as potential end-of-draft or early season streamer targets I thought it would be appropriate today to look at a couple rotation options from the two World Series teams. As I noted last week I find it advantageous to use this time of year to compile a first draft list of names that may have flown under the radar while offering a glimmer of hope for improvement next year. Starting now allows you to follow off-season roster developments with players of interest in mind, and makes it that much easier to finalize a watch list come spring training. If this Series had gone seven (baseball gods forbid), Felix Doubront and Joe Kelly figured to be front and center for their respective teams’ championship hopes. This would have been a fitting culmination to their 2013 seasons, as both men offered fantasy owners at least a few nuggets of solid production, particularly as matchup plays. Both are relatively young, and both seem to have the inside track to a reprise in the starting rotations of their respective clubs next season. Let’s take a gander at where these two might fit in to your draft day plans for 2014.
The Arizona Fall League is in full swing, and we hope you’ve enjoyed TDG’s coverage taking you through all the rosters, big names and lesser names you may one day see in a big league box score. But before we dive into the final installment, here are five links to help catch you up:
The Scottsdale Scorpions – comprised of players from the Braves, Giants, Mets, Pirates and Yankees – make up the final piece to the AFL puzzle. Pittsburgh is the top dog, followed by the New Yorks and Atlanta, with San Francisco bringing up the rear. First, the potential stars:
‘Round this time of year I like to begin my off-season planning by taking a few minutes to check out some of the better second-half performances of the season by unheralded players. Identifying your starter list of potential sleepers for the following season as early as possible allows you to track off-season moves with those players in mind. By the time spring training comes along you’re then able to winnow your list down to a coherent watch list leading up to draft day. I like to spend time on starting pitching in particular, as it’s not only a good exercise to identify potential late-round draft targets, but for those in head-to-head leagues in particular it’s also a chance to get a head start on figuring out potential early season streamers. So to this end let’s take a look at a couple pitchers who managed to raise an eyebrow or two of mine and see what if anything 2014 may have in store for them.
Since the AFL schedule kicked off nearly two weeks ago, we’ve been making our way through the rosters, talking about the big name prospects on each roster and a handful of lesser known guys whose names may be worth remembering in the future. You can find the links to the teams that have run already below:
The Glendale Desert Dogs are a compilation of prospects from a few wide ranging organizations, as far as talent level is concerned. On the high end (and the biggest supplier of impact on this roster) are the Minnesota Twins, with the Chicago White Sox on the opposite end of the spectrum. In between are mostly middle-of-the-road farm systems in the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds and Miami Marlins.
First, let’s cover the potential fantasy stars on the roster: