What Player Raises His Stock The Most In 2016?
I am a believer that the single most important aspect of keeping a dynasty team competitive is the ability to recognize when a player’s value is on the verge of increasing rapidly and being able to acquire that player at a minimal cost before it is too late. My initial thought was to study the site’s pre-season top 500 lists and look for huge swings in value from year to year and attempt to determine exactly what type of player or skill-set typically leads to a huge increase in value; that is something that I will most certainly come back to. I went a different, more fun and simple direction. I’ve asked eight contributors to the site who they think will improve their position on the Bret’s top 500 the most in the next 365 days and why. The responses follow. Feel free to click their name and check out their twitter profiles. I can confirm several are solid follows and the others will be once you follow them…
Jack Cecil – Frances Martes, SP, HOU, #332
If 2015 was the emergence of Francis Martes, 2016 will begin phase one of world domination. Martes fastball grew to match his frame, regularly sitting between 95-97MPH, with nasty late arm side run. The pitch flashes elite potential, but Martes isn’t a one pitch pony. His curveball sits in the low 80s, and has hard late 11 to 5 breaking action, that he can use as both a pitch to make batters chase, or whiff within the zone. His change up lags behind, as merely a potential average offering, and that’s more or less why he’s not a top 20 minor leaguer. This year he’ll be working on the polish of his pitches, improving the overall command of them, as the velocity and movement are MLB caliber. Looking at Martes present 332 ranking on Bret’s top 500, there is room for improvement over the next few months, and this ranking bakes in the unknown as he’s a true popup prospect right now. I’m sure Wilmer Flores, Jed Gyorko, and Brett Gardner are all nice people, but when the next rendition of this list comes out, a healthy Martes should have earned another promotion, and I’d assume he’ll have new neighbors on the top 500.
Mark Barry – Marcus Semien, SS, OAK, #223
Marcus Semien sure had a weird 2015. He hit a little (.257/.310/.405), but fielded even less, on the way to a league leading 35 errors, eight more than second place finisher, Ian Desmond. Now, much has already been made about the A’s hiring of Ron Washington in late May of 2015 to teach Semien how to, you know, catch and throw. Even more has been speculated about Semien’s extra work on defense sapping his offensive production. It just seems a little, convenient.
After taking a deeper look into the numbers, it’s easy to see the case. Through May, Semien slashed .283/.326/.444 with six homers. He also made ALL OF THE ERRORS. Enter Wash and his Jedi-esque defensive teachings. Semien’s offense dipped in June and July to anemic levels, with a .199 batting average, .527 OPS and two measly homeruns. As Semien’s defense improved to “slightly below average”, his offensive production roared back as well, producing a line of .283/.352/.478 with seven dingers in the season’s final months.
Semien was so bad at the plate in June and July, it’s as if he took a two-month break to focus on defense. And it pretty much worked. Without his vacation, Semien hit .283/.338/.460 with 13 homers and 9 stolen bases (11 overall) for good measure. Sure, it’s a small sample, but if there’s anything to make out of Semien’s defensive frustration bleeding into his offensive performance, he could be in store for a big 2016 season. Oh, and he’s still only 25-years-old.
Eric Erhardt – Trevor Story, SS, COL, #408
There are certainly players with more upside at this point on the list, but I like Story to make a significant jump in next season’s rankings due to his skillset, position, opportunity, age, and home ballpark. Story lost some of the prospect shine over the course of his minor league career due to a series of struggles after promotions to high A and double A ball, but he reversed the trend in 2015, and once again posted excellent power and speed numbers. His strike out rate and fly ball-heavy batted ball profile mean he is unlikely to contribute in the batting average category, but Coors Field’s tendency to inflate BABIPs should help limit the downside while enhancing the power. We all know the old adage that spring training numbers are meaningless, but they can certainly be used to identify players who could see an increase in playing time opportunity. Story is having an impressive spring, and with uncertainty surrounding Jose Reyes’ return, he is looking like a lock to be the primary beneficiary of his absence. If his skills translate to the bigs, he could post similar stats to the good Ian Desmond. And with the bad Ian Desmond checking in at #117, it’s not out of the question that Story can make a 300+ spot jump.
Jesse Meehan – Kyle Hendricks, SP, CHC, #416
Kyle Hendricks’ rookie year ended with a good-looking 2.46 ERA, but an ugly 3.92 WHIP, and 5.27 k/9. After considerably outperforming his peripherals, regression was inevitably going to come in 2015. Instead of his luck just normalizing though, Hendricks’ completely flipped. Despite a 3.25 xFIP and nearly a strikeout per inning, his 2016 ERA ended just shy of 4.00. In 2016, Hendricks relied more heavily on his sinker, trading flyballs for grounders and putting hitters away more often. This spring training, Hendricks has continued his success, owning a 1.89 ERA in 19 innings this year, and striking out a batter-per-inning. With a spot all but locked up in the Cubs rotation after his sparkling spring, Hendricks arrow is definitely pointing up.
Ben Diamond – Nathan Eovaldi, SP, NYY, #398
Eovaldi has long been an intriguing name in dynasty circles for his prospect past and elite velocity. It’s hard not to get excited about a pitcher that sits in the high-90’s, occasionally pumping out triple digit fastballs. But Eovaldi just hasn’t panned out yet, looking quite hittable for a pitcher with his stuff. Last year the 26-year old may have finally figured it out, though many haven’t realized it yet. Before going down with elbow inflammation in September (which is something to keep an eye on), Nasty Nate had a 3.67 ERA in the second half, finally looking as dominant as many had hoped for him. Eovaldi has seen his peripheral stats be regularly lower than his ERA, such as last year’s 3.39 FIP and 4.20 ERA, but the introduction of a new and improved splitter into his repertoire could finally change Eovaldi’s ‘luck’ in 2016.
Kazuto Yamazaki – Kodai Senga, RP, Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, NR
It’s safe to say that you’ve probably never heard of the right-hander. But he’s got the stuff to flourish. I mean, see this video.
Senga touches 96 miles-per-hour with his fastball, to go with a devastating breaking ball called a “Monster Fork” which induces whiffs more than 30% of the time. He missed a chunk of time in 2014 due to a shoulder injury (which is an ominous sign, obviously).
Over his career, the 23-year old has struck out more than 11 per nine innings, mostly as a reliever. The Hawks are trying to make him a starter this spring. If it works, his stock could see a staggering rise. Though, to me, he’s better suited as a reliever. With that said, Senga is an intriguing arm to remember.
Tyler Baber – Tyler Skaggs, SP, LAA, #324