An important part of fantasy baseball is reflecting on the previous season to see what went right and what went wrong. Since we are at the All Star break, I thought it would be a good time to look back on how I did on my research in the offseason. Over the winter, I did well over 300 hours of research and writing about the 2014 MLB player pool. I’m not only doing this to help other fantasy baseball players; I’m doing the research to help me have success in the high stake baseball market as well.
Over the next couple of days, we’ll be posting some of the content from our baseball package. I’ll look for players that I was right about, but it is also important to see why I missed on some that did well. If you would like to receive a full copy of the baseball E-book, you can e-mail us at email@example.com, and we’ll be happy to send you the document.
Enjoy the All Star break, and get ready because the NFL push has already started. We have all of our NFL research done as well, and we will have our early projections up shortly.
Rizzo’s results were shorter than fantasy players expected in 2013. His HR’s (23) and RBI’s (80) were enough to keep you in the game, but his batting average ended up being a huge negative. His K rate (18.4%) came in at league average and he had growth in his walk rate (11.0%). Anthony had a tough time with LH pitching (.189), but he was able to hit 7 HR’s off of them in 190 at bats. Just like Castro, his best month of the season was April (8 HR’s, 20 RBI, and 3 SB’s). Rizzo only had 15 HR’s and 60 RBI’s over the last 5 months of the year. His FB rate (37.9%) was higher than 2012, but his HR/FB rate (12.6%) dropped by almost 50%. Anthony was a career .303 hitter in the minors with 87 HR’s and 343 RBI’s in 1,693 at bats. He added length to his hits (AVH – 1.801), while his approach at the plate should have resulted in a high batting average. Overall, Rizzo is an upside player with 30 HR power. He can’t make a huge step forward in runs or RBI’s without better production by his supporting cast, but he does have some underlying speed. His next step is solving LH pitching at the major league level.
The Cubs acquired Olt last July in a trade with Texas for P Matt Garza. He played well at AA in 2012 (.288 with 28 HR’s and 82 RBI’s), but he had a tough time making contact at AAA with the Rangers (.213 with 11 HR’s and 32 RBI’s in 239 at bats – 33.2% K rate). However, he was much better with the Cubs at AAA (.168 with 3 HR’s and 8 RBI’s in 131 at bats – 24.3% K rate). Mike plays well defensively and his scouting report gave him a future All Star tag. His lack of approach leads me to believe he needs more time to develop. Olt has had 361 at bats at AAA. Prior to last season, he appeared to have plus power with batting average risk, but he was willing to take a walk (14.0% walk rate). He is a career .258 hitter in the minors with 67 HR’s and 213 RBI in 1,244 at bats. His K rate suggests he isn’t ready to be a starter in the majors. For Mike to get at bats in the majors, he’ll only have to beat out the low flying fruit – Luis Valbuena, Ryan Roberts, and Donnie Murphy. Possible flash power hitter with the Cubs, but his skill set will get exposed over time. Fantasy players need to read his stats, which will be a tell all. HR’s = more playing time >>> K’s with no power = less playing time and a possible trip back to AAA.
Lake overachieved his skill set in batting average with the Cubs last year. His K rate (26.8%) is too high for his skill set (23.4% during his minor league career) and he barely took any walks (5.1%). Junior is career .271 hitter in the minors with 47 HR’s, 260 RBI, and 117 SB’s in 2,254 at bats. Lake came through the system as a shortstop (has also played 2B and 3B in the minors). Physically he looks like a talented player, but he gets himself out too many times by chasing pitches out of the strike zone. Junior has upside in speed and enough size where his power could develop. Possible 10/30 player with batting average risk that will lead to less at bats. Last year, he hit .377 against LH pitching in 67 major league at bats.
Samardzija followed up with a strong K rate (9.0) in 2013, but his command (3.3) didn’t repeat (led to more walks). He was even easier to hit (.255), but lefties still give him some trouble (.266 with .447 SLG %). Jeff pitched well in his first 12 starts (2.96 ERA with 91 K’s in 77 innings). His value was inconsistent over the last 4 months of the year, which led to a 5.11 ERA in 22 starts. His ERA declined in each month (June – 4.20, July – 5.28, August – 5.54, and September – 5.58). Samardzija allowed 5 runs or more in 8 of his 33 starts. His AFB (94.5) was a tick down from 2012 (95.0). His slider continues to be his #2 pitch, followed closely by a split-finger fastball and an improving cutter. His GB rate (48.2%) is rising and was a career high, while his FB rate (31.4%) is declining. Also, HR’s were a slight problem in 2013. Batters couldn’t hit his split-fastball (.138 with 98 K’s in 167 at bats) and they have a tough time with his slider (.227), but they crushed his sinker (.332) and cutter (.319 and .559 SLG %). The biggest difference between 2012 and 2013 was the lack of command with his fastball and cutter. It almost looks like he lost confidence in his ability. Jeff has a huge edge when he can get ahead in the count as his split-finger fastball is deadly. His K total will put him on the radar, but he still has plenty of downside risk if his walk rate doesn’t improve. Wins could be a problem again due to a weak offensive team.
Hammel couldn’t repeat his success from 2012. He had knee surgery the previous offseason, which may have led to his weak K rate (5.3) and walk rate (3.3) in April. Jason had success over his first 6 starts (4-1 with 3.79), but he wasn’t the same pitcher. Hammel was blasted in May (6.44 ERA), June (5.34), and July (5.52), which led to a DL stint with a right forearm injury. His AFB (92.7) was almost 1 MPH lower than 2012. His # 2 pitch is a slider, followed by a curveball and show me changeup. LH batters hit .300 against him with 15 HR’s in 317 at bats (.508 SLG %). The Cubs signed him in late January to a 1-year, $6 million contract, so they have to believe his arm issue is a thing of the past. His command (3.1) was slightly improved, but his K rate (6.2) regressed. Hammel doesn’t have a great resume, but he did flash some upside in 2012. Maybe he wasn’t all the way back from his knee issue in 2013. 2014 could be his best opportunity to have success with the change back to the NL. His price point should be free, so he may be worth a swing as a bench arm with upside in 15-team leagues.
Arrieta has been a bucking Bronco over the last 2 seasons. He showed upside at times in 2012 with an improved walk rate (2.7) and K rate (8.6), but he had too many disaster starts. Last year, he was kicking and screaming in April (6.63 ERA with 16 walks in 19 innings), which led to a trip to AAA (4.41 ERA – 2.6 walk rate and 7.4 K rate) and then a trade to the Cubs. His K rate (11.6) spiked at AAA with Chicago, but walks were a problem (16 in 30.3 innings). He gave the Cubs 4 solid starts over the last 6 weeks, but Jake struggled in 4 others. Batters only hit .216 against him in the majors as he dominated lefties (.187). Arietta did have more problems with his command to LH batters (25 walks in 139 at bats). His AFB (93.9) was also a career high. He threw a curveball as his #2 pitch, however, his slider and changeup lost value and he added a cutter. Batters had a tough time against every pitch he threw (four seam fastball – .207, sinker – .208, changeup – .118, and slider – .222) except his curveball (.277). It really comes down to him just throwing strikes, but his secondary pitches are an asset due to volume of pitches. Jake isn’t a great option, but he has enough talent to surprise with a huge step up in command.
Hamilton is going to be an intriguing player during his professional career. He has dominating speed which should allow him to score 100+ runs in most seasons. Billy has 395 steals (82% success rate) in 2,015 at bats in the minors with a .280 batting average. His K rate (19.9%) is a bit high for his skill set, which may bring some batting average risk early during his career. Furthermore, his walk rate (9.5%) was just above the major league average during his minor league career. It is an important part of his skill set going forward as a walk can easily turn into a double or triple with his speed. Hamilton showed some growth in his K rate (18.6%) at AAA, but he took less walks (6.9%). This led to a shorter batting average (.256). His AVH (1.341) was almost the same as 2012 even with a bump in HR’s (6), so his power isn’t a factor in his equation. The Reds gave him a shot in September mostly as a pinch runner. Bill stole 13 bags in 19 at bats while hitting .368. It’s too bad he won’t qualify as a middle infielder in most leagues. During his minor league career, Billy was the same hitter against RH (.282) and LH (.281) pitching. Hamilton is going to ruin many pitcher’s rhythm with his plus speed, especially late in tight games. His skill set will carry fantasy teams in the SB category, but he will also crush them if he gets hurt. I’ve never been a fan of Judy players, but his exceptional speed will be a huge edge. I’d love to own him, but his price point is probably going to be too high for me. If you don’t draft him, you can still finish 2nd in steals with the right team structure. Hamilton has 100 SB upside in his first season and should have no problem scoring over 100 runs with 550 at bats. I see him as a neutral hitter during his first full season (.270 range). His value should be higher in auction leagues when you can build a better structure around him.
Frazier was a serviceable late round third baseman, but his batting average (.234) took a big hit, even with a decline in K rate (20.8%) and some growth in his walk rate (8.3%). Todd struggled against both RH (.233) and LH (.236) pitching, finishing with 9 HR’s in 157 at bats against lefties (.471 SLG %). Frazier hit under .265 in every month of the season. He was career .280 hitter in the minors with 75 HR’s, 300 RBI’s, and 58 SB’s in 2,008 at bats. Overall, I’m somewhat intrigued by Frazier in 2014. His skill set may be just high enough to bat 2nd in the batting order based on the lack of competition in the lineup. If the Reds continue to bat Phillips between Votto and Bruce, Frazier is my choice to bat 2nd. He has 20 HR power with some underlying speed. It would serve him well to hit in front of Votto. Todd had a career OP % of .353 in the minors, compared to .332 by Cozart.
Cueto struggled with the same injury 3 times last season. He strained his oblique in mid April, which cost him 5 weeks of the season. After 3 starts, he blew it out again for 2 more weeks. Three starts later, he was done for another 2 and 1/2 months. Johnny finished the year with a strong ERA (2.82) for the 3rd straight season. His walk rate (2.7) was in line with his career resume and his K rate (7.6) was his highest since his rookie season. Cueto allowed 1 run or less in 8 of his 11 starts and only had one bad outing (12 base runners and 7 runs in 4.1 innings). However, his AFB (92.5) was a career low. He threw a cutter as his #2 pitch, which is a change in his skill set from 2012. His changeup is a close 3rd, followed by a solid slider. Johnny was dominant against both RH (.213) and LH (.204) batters. Cueto is a nice major league arm, but he hasn’t popped in the K department, so he tends to be undervalued. He tried to change his motion to help alleviate the strain on his lat muscles. Cueto has pitched over 30 starts 4 times during his 6 year career, but has only pitched over 200 innings once. He has upside in wins, ERA, and WHIP and his stuff is strong enough where he could step forward with his strikeouts. If he has no problems in spring training, he will be an upside SP3 in 2014.
Leake was much better in 2013, but his skill set didn’t really change that much. His K rate (5.7) and walk rate (2.2) both declined slightly, and he threw less first pitch strikes (59%). Mike had the same success against RH (.263) and LH (.263) batters, and allowed 2 runs or less in 17 of his 31 starts. His ERA (2.59) was in an elite area after his first 21 starts, but he pitched poorly over 5 starts in August and his 1st start in September (7.21 ERA with 55 base runners allowed in 33.7 innings). Leake continues to be a GB pitcher (48.7%). His AFB (90.2) was a career high. Additionally, his cutter is his #2 pitch, followed by an improving curveball, a slider and a changeup. Mike still struggles at home (4.00 ERA with 15 HR’s allowed in 90 innings). Leake doesn’t have an elite arm, but he is a very good pitcher with limited upside in K’s. He works both sides of the plate and will have success when he keeps the ball down. When he develops better command in the strike zone with his fastball, Leake will offer a little more upside in K’s. Possible 15-win season with below average K’s.
Lucroy is a nice major league catcher. He has been very good driving in runs over the past 2 seasons (20% RBI rate in 2012 and 18% in 2013). His K rate (11.9%) was a career best and it has improved a lot since 2011 (21.2%). His walk rate (7.9%) was also a career high and it has improved during every season in the majors. Jonathan played at a high level against LH pitching (.312 – .496 SLG %). His approach showed growth in July and August (20 walks and only 16 K’s), but his K rate (18.6%) spiked in September. His FB rate (38%) was a career high, while his HR/FB rate (10.3%) has been in a tight range over the last 3 seasons. His speed was a bonus last year and it was somewhat supported by his 2008 season at A ball (8 steals). Overall, his skill set is improving and he still has upside power. While his success is strong enough to where he can be a middle of the order hitter, his improving walk rate may work well as the #2 hitter for the Brewers this season. Gomez is too much of a free swinger, even with plus speed to bat 2nd, and I’m not solid on any of their other options. Lucroy will even have some added value be playing some games at first base. I see him as a possible .300 hitter with a 20/80 skill set with upside. His RBI production will take a hit if Milwaukee does give him a shot at batting 2nd, but he will score more runs.
Gomez had a breakthrough season in the majors in 2013, setting career highs in almost every category. The only negative was a high K rate (24.8% – tied a career high). His walk rate (6.3%) also tied a career high, and Carlos crushed LH pitching (.315 with a .622 SLG %). He ran into an outfield wall 3 times that resulted in him missing time due to a shoulder and knee issue. His knee injury cost him the most time, and it led to a poor August (.197 with 1 HR’s and 3 RBI’s in 84 at bats). His HR/FB rate (16.4%) was a career high last season, and has improved in each of the last 4 years. However, his FB rate (38.3%) declined after showing growth over the previous 2 seasons (43.8% in 2011 and 43.2% in 2012). Last year, his biggest change was the ability to hit a slider (.315 with a .577 SLG %). This led to a 3.1% drop in the number of sliders he saw. Gomez has had a low RBI rate (13%) during his entire career, which means he isn’t built to be a middle of the lineup hitter. His K rate is too high to bat 2nd, but he may provide the most value to the team by hitting there. He pretty much has a similar skill set to B.J. Upton, but his price point will be a 2nd round pick in 2014. He has upside in speed and his power is developing, but his K rate does invite batting average risk. The growth in his HR/FB rate gives him a chance at 30 HR’s. Gomez did have minor elbow surgery in the offseason.
This guy will make you bang your head against the floor. After having 200+ K’s over the previous 4 seasons, the writing was on the wall with the drop in his first pitch strike % (56%). He continued to not throw strikes in 2013, which led to his worst season in the majors (4.18 ERA). His K rate (7.2) was a career low and his command (3.3) still hasn’t improved. Furthermore, his AFB (90.7) was a career low and it has lost 2 mph over the last 2 seasons. His slider is still his #2 pitch, followed by a plus curveball and a weak changeup. Yovani has become more of a GB pitcher (49.2% – career high) over the last 3 seasons. This led to career low FB rate (27.6%), but his HR/FB rate (11.9%) invites downside in HR’s. Most of his decline in K’s was to LH batters (67 in 317 at bats – 102 in 371 at bats in 2012). Gallardo pitched better over his last 8 starts of the year (4-1 with a 2.41 ERA), but his K rate (7.4) remained shorter than his career resume (plus he missed a couple of weeks with a hamstring injury). Batters still struggle to hit his slider (.247) and curveball (.236), but his sinker has become a lot more hittable (.322 with .546 SLG %). Overall, Yovani has never made the step forward to be a fantasy ace due to a high WHIP (1.304 – career). His fastball is declining and he can’t throw first pitch strikes. While he has a long enough resume to have a bounce back season and his price point will be more than fair, his trend tells me to stay away. Tough to past up a possible 200 K arm, but there are enough signs where he might not bounce back all the way. We really need to see more life on his fastball plus one of those best shape of your life stories. Possible free agent in 2015.
Estrada didn’t appear to be healthy over his first 12 starts of the year (5.32 ERA). He allowed 11 HR’s in his first 7 starts (38.3 innings) before suffering a hamstring injury in early June that led to a 2 month stint on the DL. When Marco returned, he was a much better pitcher (2.15 ERA with 56 K’s in 58.7 innings). Batters only hit .165 against him over his last 9 starts, compared to .275 over his first 12 starts. Estrada had more success against LH batters (.214), but he held his own against righties (.242). His AFB (89.2) was a career low and it has lost about 2 mph over the last 2 seasons. His #2 pitch is a changeup followed by a solid curveball. Marco is a FB pitcher (44.3%) with a rising HR/FB rate (11.9%). Estrada doesn’t have a great minor league resume (3.89 ERA), but he has shown growth in his command (2.0) over the last 2 seasons in the majors. This has led to a higher K rate (8.3) than his minor league career (7.8). Last year, batters only hit .185 against his changeup. His sample size of success in the majors is short, but he does have a plus changeup with developing command. HR’s tend to be a problem when he isn’t keeping the ball down. Possible 175 K upside with 200 innings, but I fear the declining fastball.
Walker is one of those players that isn’t flashy. He went on the DL twice with a hand and oblique injury, but his overall skill set showed some growth. His K rate (15.4%) was a career low and his walk rate (9.1%) was a career high. His AVH (1.667) even gained value, however, his value against LH pitching really bottomed out in 2013 (.225 with only 1 extra base hit in 80 at bats). Neil is a career .260 hitter against lefties with only 4 HR’s in 477 at bats (50 career HR’s). Overall, Walker delivered below replacement value in 5 of 6 months. His power (7 HR’s) did emerge in September. Over the past 2 years, Neil has missed 62 games. His power is trending up (even with shorter at bats), while his skill set is still strong enough to be a slight asset in batting average. Prior to last season, he had a solid RBI rate (19% in 2010, 18% in 2011, and 19% in 2012) in 3 straight seasons. I believe he has the potential to be a 20/80 player with some underlying speed.
After a slow start to his minor league career, Polanco has blossomed into an upside prospect over the last 2 seasons. Last year, he hit .285 with 12 HR’s, 71 RBI’s , and 38 SB’s at High A and AA. He has 127 career steals in 1,495 at bats with a solid walk rate (9.5%) and a low K rate (15.5%). He might have the best skill set to bat near the top in Pittsburgh’s lineup. Overall, he has enough size where some believe he may develop into a 30/30 hitter. Should start the year at AAA.
The Pirates have saved two veteran pitchers over the last 2 seasons (Burnett and Liriano), but they will have their hands full with Volquez. Since his breakthrough season in 2008, Edinson has made 106 starts in the majors (4.93 ERA during that span). His command (4.8) has been poor in just about every season in the majors. Last year, he allowed the most runs (108) in the NL and allowed the most walks (105) in 2012. However, Volquez did have his lowest walk rate (4.1) since he became a full time starter. On the flip side, his K rate (7.5) was the lowest of his career. In his 6 starts with the Dodgers last year, Edinson had the best command (2.6) of his career with a stronger K rate (8.4), but he struggled with HR’s (5 allowed in 28 innings). Volquez struggled with both RH (.269) and LH (.294) batters, and had an ERA over 4.02 in every month of the season. Additionally, his AFB (92.5) was the lowest of his career. His curveball is his #2 pitch, followed closely by a changeup. Volquez has been a GB pitcher (47.6%), but he has struggled with a high HR/FB rate (12.0%) during his career. There is a whole lot of ugly in Volquez’s resume and he is a pitcher that can crush a fantasy team’s ERA and WHIP. He has always had three plus pitches, but his lack of command has killed any chance of success. If you draft him, it’s almost like you are trapped by his short term success. Over the long haul, his bad starts will eat away at your numbers. Possible breakthrough year if you believe in his late command with LA and if you believe the Pirates have the keys to saving washed up pitchers’ careers.
Locke gave the Pirates almost 4 and 1/2 months of quality pitching before blowing up on August 17th. After 23 starts, he had a 2.43 ERA. Over his last 8 outings of the season, Jeff had a 8.59 ERA. Locke had success despite his inability to throw strikes (4.5 walk rate). Not surprisingly, he led the NL in walks (84). His K rate (6.8) was also much lower than during his minor league career (8.3). However, Jeff did have solid command (2.5) in the minors. In the minors, he went 51-44 with a 3.60 ERA and 733 K’s in 799 innings. Locke had more success against RH batters (.229), but he allowed 10 of his 11 HR’s to righties. Furthermore, Jeff allowed 67 of his 84 walks to RH batters and struggled to strikeout LH batters (19 K’s in 140 at bats). His AFB was 90.4 and Locke threw a curveball as his #2 pitch, followed by a changeup. Overall, he is a GB pitcher (53.2%). Jeff isn’t an elite arm, but he proved he had enough in his arsenal to have success in the majors, even with poor command. His minor league resume suggests his command should be better. Many will overlook him due to his high walk total. I don’t love him, but I do think he has more in the tank than meets the eye. With more strikes, he could push his K total over 150.
Adams will be an interesting player in 2014. He hit .318 during his minor league career with 82 HR’s and 293 RBI’s in 1,442 at bats. His K rate (25.1%) was much higher than his minor league career (17.1%), while his walk rate (7.2%) was just above his minor league mark. Last year, he did most of his damage against RH pitching (.295 with 14 HR’s in 244 at bats). He hit 3 HR’s in 52 at bats against LH pitching, but he had 19 K’s (36.5% K rate) with no walks. In 2011 and 2012 in the minors, Adams hit .294 against LH pitching with 12 HR’s and 40 RBI in 221 at bats (24.0% K rate). His lack of contact against LH pitching will restrict his upside in batting average in the near future. However, his HR/FB rate (21.8%) is elite. Adams has 30 HR upside, but his batting average may have some short term risk until his approach improves. It may make sense to bat him clean up to break up the Cardinals top 2 RH batters, but he may need time to develop to handle that role. Let’s throw out .270 with 28 HR’s and 88 RBI’s as a baseline. Overall, an interesting player that has an upside bat for sure.
Craig will move to the outfield with Adams taking over at first base. He has had an elite RBI rate (22.0%) during his career and it was even better last year (24.0%) despite a short HR total (13). His K rate (17.8%) is just above the league average, while his walk rate (7.1%) is a notch below the league average. He missed the last 3+ weeks of the season with a foot injury. Allen hit better against RH pitching (.327), but he had more power against lefties (6 HR’s in 126 at bats). From May to August, he hit .331 with 13 HR’s and 78 RBI’s. He had a plus LD rate (26.9%), which led to a low FB rate (28.1%) and a 50% drop in his HR/FB rate (11.2% – career low). Craig is a career .300 hitter in the majors, but he hasn’t played over 134 games in any season. The move to the outfield will invite injury risk for him. His AVH (1.450) had a big regression, so his upside in power is limited. I love his RBI rate, but I hate the move to the outfield. Solid major league bat that will see time on the DL.
Lynn has gone 33-17 over the last 2 seasons, but his command (3.4) isn’t improving and his K rate (8.8) is declining. He allowed 2 runs or less in 16 of his 32 starts. His downside is that he allowed 4 runs or more in 14 starts. His lack of command to LH batters (49 walks and 71 K’s in 317 at bats) continues to be the reason he hasn’t made another step forward. He had success against both RH (.247) and LH (.259), but didn’t dominate either side of the plate. Lance had a 5.19 ERA in June, July, and August. Lynn was able to right the ship in September (2.12 ERA with 36 K’s in 29.7 innings), but his AFB (92.4) declined from 2012. However, his slider gained value at the expense of his curveball (also throws a weak changeup). Batters have a tough time with his four seam fastball (.211) and his curveball (.192), but they crushed his sinker (.332) and changeup (.320). His velocity did improve in September and October. Lynn has upside in K’s and wins, but his lack of a 3rd pitch really hurts his value against lefties, which in turn hurt his ERA and WHIP.