Fantasy Baseball: Winter Meetings Fallout
Boston Red Sox
Rick Porcello: He’s been around forever, hasn’t he? Well, he’ll be just 26 years old come Opening Day, meaning he theoretically has his best days ahead of him. Porcello had his finest Fantasy season in 2014 (career bests in ERA, WHIP, and wins) and that was in a similarly favorable hitter’s park, something that should alleviate the fear that is typically associated with calling Fenway home. His groundball style (no pitcher has more wins and a higher groundball rate over the last four seasons) travels well (2.40 ERA and 1.11 WHIP when starting in the Top 10 hitter’s parks last year) and he figures to get more help from his bullpen, as the Red Sox’ relievers owned the seventh-best strand rate (LOB%) in 2014, a vast improvement from the Tigers, who ranked as the seventh-worst set of relievers. He also gets relief from the third-worst fielding team and should enjoy pitching in front of 2014’s fourth-most effective glove-handlers. However, there are some red flags that point towards regression in his ERA. For starters, his expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) was 15.4 percent higher in 2014 than 2013, but his ERA managed to drop by 20.6 percent. He also caught some luck, as his fly ball percentage (FB%) increased for a second straight season (up 22.4 percent from last season!) but didn’t come back to haunt Fantasy owners, as his homerun-to-fly ball rate (HR/FB) was at a career-low. As a contact pitcher, there is no greater concern than an elevating fly ball rate, especially when pitching in a hitter’s park.
Justin Masterson: After a bumpy 2014 that saw him struggle with the Indians (5.51 ERA) and get worse after joining the Cardinals (7.04), it is easy to forget that Masterson averaged better than 205 innings and owned a 3.86 ERA over the previous three seasons. That’s not great, but it’s better than what we saw last season and would make him a reasonable roster filler if he can rediscover that form. If you were going to build the perfect Fantasy pitcher you’d probably want a starter that keeps the ball on the ground in front of a strong defense, strikes out a fair number of hitters and has the support of a strong lineup, right? That would at least be part of the equation, no? Well, no pitcher, not one, has a greater groundball percentage (GB%) and strikeout percentage (K%) than Masterson since 2010, his first season with better than 150 innings pitched. Despite his struggles in 2014, his GB% increased for a third consecutive season but his Fantasy numbers were undone by the second highest HR/FB rate among starters (minimum 120 innings pitched). Numerically speaking, there was nothing to show for a groundball pitcher that had a better than career average K% and the lowest FB% of his career. Listen, I’m not suggesting you build a staff around Masterson, but don’t forget about him, as his 2013 stat line (14 wins, 3.45 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 195 strikeouts) is a near clone of Porcello’s 2014 (15 wins, 3.43 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 129 strikeouts).
Jon Lester: He’s good, maybe even really good. But is he great? Consider this: entering June 2014, he owned a 3.74 career ERA in 1,449.1 innings pitched (for reference, Matt Garza owns a career 3.81 ERA in 1,345.2 innings pitched). Why is that worth mentioning? First, it is easy to remember what we saw last, and that was Lester with a sub 2.00 summer ERA. Also, all of those career numbers came while calling Fenway Park home, a ballpark owns a Park Factor score nearly identical to Wrigley Field. I’m not suggesting that his great 2014 season was simply a product of the large dimensions in Oakland, but it certainly didn’t hurt his status as a Fantasy ace. His improvement goes well beyond the impact of the park, and his consecutive seasons with improvements in K%, BB%, and HR/FB is no fluke; neither is his repertoire, which features three pitches (fastball, cutter, and curveball) that earned a 6.0 pitch value or better, something Clayton Kershaw hadn’t done until last season. The increasing K% is a very promising trend (for those who haven’t read my material before, I believe in building a Fantasy staff around Ks), but the downward trending GB/FB is a concern with the move to Chicago. As long as you enter this season with reasonable expectations (think 2008-2011 Lester), the newest Cubbie will provide value. My concern here is that there will always be an owner chasing the 2014 numbers, meaning I won’t end up with him.
Chicago White Sox
Jeff Samardzija: In obvious news, moving from the seventh-most friendly pitcher’s park to the second-most friendly hitter’s park is not an ideal move for a pitcher like Samardzija, who is coming off a season with his highest contact rate (Contact %) since becoming a full-time starter. While the contact rate was a bit high for my liking, give the former tight end credit for limiting the damage of those balls that were put in play (he continued his downward trending FB/GB rate and his line drive percentage (LD%) was below his career average). My major concern here has less to do with the ballpark that he now calls home, and more to do with the division and his likely control regression. Within the AL Central there were three teams that finished 2014 among the Top 8 offenses in all of baseball when it comes to on base percentage (OBP) against right-handed pitching and the lowest K%. That type of batting eye scares me off Samardzija a bit, as three of his four most-faced opponents last season ranked in the bottom third of the league in OBP, thus helping him have a career-low walk rate (BB%). I worry that if his walk rate reverts to the mean (he essentially cut his career average in half last season), the home run ball will once again become an issue (20-plus allowed in three straight seasons) as a result of unfavorable strike counts. Did you know that only two pitchers (minimum 500 innings pitched) have a higher BB% and have allowed more round-trippers than Samardzija over the last three seasons? That’s not a trend I see traveling well with half of his games being played at US Cellular and more than one-third of his games coming against very patient offenses.
David Robertson: I’m not worried about the 3.08 ERA from a season ago (tenth-highest ERA among the 12 closers with more than 35 saves), as his HR/FB rate of 15.6 percent was a career outlier and was the ninth-highest rate among pitchers who threw at least 60 innings last season. Not surprisingly, he struggled at home, where 23.8 percent of the hits he allowed resulted in round-trippers. That’s not to say the gopher ball isn’t an issue, especially against right-handed hitters (82.4 percent of homers hit off of Robertson over the last three seasons have come courtesy of righties), but it’s hard to imagine them being as much of a value killer as they were a year ago. His 2.13 xFIP reflects what could have been with a normalized home run rate, an ERA that would have put him among the Top 5 ninth inning Fantasy options in 2014. The aforementioned statistic about the AL Central’s propensity to get on base against RHP doesn’t scare me off of Robertson, as he simply doesn’t give up a ton of base runners (1.05 WHIP over the last two seasons). Heck, subtract Robertson’s struggles against the ChiSox and you’ve got a closer with a combined ratio (ERA plus WHIP) similar to Kenley Jansen’s. Lastly, don’t rule out the slight value bump that comes with two workhorse starting pitchers in Chris Sale and Samardzija, as they often pitch deep into games and could hand the ball directly to Robertson with consistency (a major plus when you consider that Chicago had the third-worst reliever ERA in 2014).
Melky Cabrera: I love switch-hitters and I’m not shy about it. Why not? Baseball is a game of matchups and a switch-hitter always has a statistically favorable matchup. The one thing I like more than switch-hitters are switch-hitters that can actually hit from both sides. We often see tremendous statistical splits from one side but not from the other, which speaks to the value a switch-hitter has as he continues to take at-bats from a clearly less comfortable position, but that is not the case with the Melk Man. In fact, I have no idea which side he prefers because he has hit .311 from both sides of the dish since 2012. Nobody is going to confuse this M. Cabrera for the other M. Cabrera in terms of power, but his .164 isolated power (ISO) over his last three seasons with at least 100 games played indicates that a 20 home run season is an obtainable upside (Curtis Granderson hit 20 bombs last season with a .161 ISO) in a park that ranks ahead of the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre. The slight bump in Park Factor could also help turn an extra line drive or two into a round tripper, a trend worth buying into, as Cabrera owns a very stable LD% (at least 20 percent in four consecutive seasons). For most players, moving teams is not just about the environment, but also about the new teammates. While the names around him are a bit different, Cabrera walks into a situation that will feel very familiar, as he projects as the number two hitter in an offense that offers supreme power in the 3-4 spots (Jose Abreu and the newly acquired Adam LaRoche). Simple logic would tell you that he will see his fair share of pitches to hit early in the count due to most pitchers opting to attack him instead of the Rookie of the Year, a game plan that should put a sheepish grin on the face of Cabrera owners. His low swing-and-miss rate (SwStr%) makes contact a near certainty, and considering that he hit .347 in non-two strike counts last season (.243 with two strikes), swinging early in the count is a strength for the 30-year-old outfielder.
Yoenis Cespedes: First, it is important to acknowledge what we have in Cespedes as a player before attempting to project how his third address in two seasons will affect his Fantasy status. He joins Carlos Gomez as the only players to hit more fly balls than groundballs, steal at least 30 bases, and record an ISO greater than .200 over the last three seasons. Cespedes may not have the counting stats that Gomez had over that stretch; but he does hold the slight edge in Contact %, and hitting the ball with consistency is the best way to produce Fantasy numbers. His groundball numbers have consistently declined during his three-year MLB career, while his fly ball and Contact % have increased with regularity. Detroit’s Comerica Park is somewhat of a middle ground when discussing the Park Factor difference from Fenway and O.co, but it is considered a slightly favorable hitter’s park. The ballpark, however, figures to have less of an impact on Cespedes’ Fantasy value than his new set of teammates. Early projections have him hitting fifth in one of the most potent lineups in all of baseball, a perfect spot as far as Fantasy owners are concerned. How good is that five-spot? Well, he is surrounded by Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and J.D. Martinez, who combined to bat .321 last season and knock in 288 runs with 23.4 percent of their hits going for extra bases. The only concern I have for the 29-year-old is a batting average that has been volatile over his first three seasons, but the advanced metrics suggest that his .260 average from a year ago is a reasonable projection. In fact, one could argue that the .260 projection may be a bit low, as he was able to get there despite struggling to hit the fastball, a pitch he crushed during his first two seasons. He was able to maintain the reasonable batting average (.253 was league average in 2014) as a result of career-best production against both the curveball and the slider. Consider his 2014 stat line (89-22-100-.260) as a floor, with the potential to rattle off a season similar to what Adrian Gonzalez did a year ago (83-27-116-.276).
Alfredo Simon: If you play Fantasy Football, you are aware of the cautionary tale that is Matt Flynn. To make a long story short, he parlayed one strong game into multiple contracts, “earning” big-time NFL money without actually being a very good player. I’m not saying Simon isn’t talented, but his first season as a starter has more red flags than sustainable metrics, and he is due for a very difficult season if the Tigers elect to use him in their starting rotation (I’m operating under that assumption because as a middle relief guy, he obviously holds no value in standard leagues). Consider these two stat lines:
Player A: 4.20 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 5.83 K/9, and one win every three starts
Player B: 4.48 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 8.97 K/9 and one win every 2.91 starts
Which would you rather? Pretty close, right? Player A is Alfredo Simon’s season stat line without the aid of two outlier months (April and June) that saw him produce at essentially Clayton Kershaw levels (8-1 with a 2.18 ERA). Player B is the season stat line of Drew Hutchison, the 93rd ranked SP on ESPN’s Player Rater and a Fantasy afterthought for the majority of 2014. Furthermore, Simon’s season numbers (a very respectable 3.44 ERA) were in large part due to his ability to shut down some of the worst offenses in the league. In 74.2 innings of work against teams that scored less than 620 runs and hit .250 or lower for the season, Simon registered a 1.69 ERA. Nobody is going to make him apologize for beating up on these teams, but if I’m buying into a breakout campaign, I want proof that the pitcher can have success against the best in the game, something Simon simply didn’t do last year. As a pitcher who doesn’t miss many bats, Simon’s success relied heavily on his unrepeatable .265 batting average on balls put in play (BABIP), the fifth-lowest mark of any pitcher that threw at least 190 innings. The move to a more pitcher-friendly park doesn’t make his 2014 numbers any more sustainable, as he relied on balls being hit at defenders, a pitching style (like Rick Porcello’s) that isn’t affected much by the environment. In short, Simon showed glimpses of greatness, but he was a bad pitcher more often than his season statistics would seem to suggest, and I’m not betting on a pitcher who needs luck in order to be a Fantasy asset. Don’t be like the Seahawks or the Raiders and give the Matt Flynn of MLB a chance to earn your trust: show restraint and make Simon prove that he has what it takes to consistently produce at a reasonable level.
Kansas City Royals
[caption id="attachment_87225" align="alignright" width="300"] There were plenty of "big name" moves this offseason, but did the Royals addition of Kendrys Morales result in the greatest Fantasy impact? Photo: LiannaDavis[/caption]
Kendrys Morales: He doesn’t have any batting titles on his mantle, nor has he been a staple on Fantasy champions lately, but don’t let this signing fly under your radar. Your instant impression of Morales is likely “a reasonable power option that offers little else and really struggled last season.” While that is mostly accurate, it comes with a stigma, one that figures to drop him much further in preseason ranks than he should. Let’s look at the facts and take the emotion out of it. Ignoring an odd 2014 in which he never had stability, didn’t have spring training, and was moved mid-season after finally finding a landing spot in Minnesota, Morales’ numbers from 2009-2013 were essentially that of Anthony Rizzo in 2014. Per 550 at-bats, the 31-year-old slugger averaged 72 runs, 27 home runs, 89 runs batted in, and a .286 batting average, a near carbon copy of the Cubs first baseman (78-32-89-.286). Sure, he doesn’t come with Rizzo’s high ceiling, but he also won’t come with the price tag; so in non-keeper leagues it is hard to argue that he doesn’t at least have the potential for a similar stat line. The reasonable career Contact % and K% (his career rate mirrors what Andrew McCutchen did last season, a player who is not seen as strikeout prone) make Morales more than an Adam Dunn prototype and raises his floor. Kansas City isn’t a paradise for hitters, but its’ Park Factor does rank as more favorable (or less unfavorable) than Seattle or Los Angeles (Anaheim), the two stops Morales made during that 2009-2013 run. Add in the protection of Eric Hosmer, the combination of speed/upside sprinkled throughout this order, and the consistency of at-bats that come with being the primary DH (with 1B eligibility in most Fantasy leagues) now that Billy Butler is in Oakland, and you’ve got yourself a sneaky source of power that will cost next to nothing on draft day.
Alex Rios: The move from Texas to Kansas City would seem to be an unfavorable one as far as Park Factor is concerned, but considering that health issues never let Rios fully exploit the positives of Arlington, he will likely be undervalued entering the 2015 season.
Mike Trout. Where did that come from? Well, that’s the only other player in professional baseball with a .280 batting average, 40 homers, and 60 steals since 2012. Just the two of them. I’m not saying that they are in the same Fantasy class, but that’s some pretty impressive company. Rios’ high career LD% gives me confidence that, if healthy, he should be able to produce for the Royals, and his uncharacteristically microscopic HR/FB (2.9 percent) rate is a longshot to be repeated, thus hinting at a power rebound. If the power does return (we aren’t talking about a 30 home run player, 20 would be huge), there is high-end RBI upside here as he is projected to bat sixth for the Royals (behind Morales, Hosmer, and Salvador Perez) and is batting .290 over the last three seasons with runners on base. Yes, I’m a bit concerned that this will be the first time in his 11-year career that he is playing in a pitcher-friendly park, but in a strong lineup he should still be viewed as a stable source of Fantasy production for your outfield.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Yasmani Grandal: A switch-hitting 26-year-old that crushes right-handed pitching (his slugging percentage was 263 points higher vs RHP than vs LHP last season) is going to have a nice role, one that could potentially make him a back end C1 option in a deep lineup. His .175 ISO from a season ago should translate well as he moves from power-preventing Petco, but he projects as more than just a swing-for-the-fences type. Over his career he has offered at just 24.5 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone (O-Swing%), ranking him favorably with the 2014 rates of contact specialists like Michael Brantley and Denard Span. Baseball is a difficult game but not a complicated one; swing at pitches that you can handle and drive them. Grandal isn’t a must-own, but the signs are there that he could be a nice sleeper option for those of us that wait on catchers, as he should produce better numbers simply due to a more advantageous setting.
Jimmy Rollins: He continues to age (for those keeping track at home, he turned 36 in November), but you really wouldn’t know it from his Fantasy value. Before diving into the specifics of this move, let’s call the shortstop position for what it is in Fantasy Baseball: a mess. Look atop your rankings, who do you feel good about? I like Hanley Ramirez, but there is no denying that there is significant risk involved up-and-down the Top 15, thus giving the stability of a player like Rollins more value than meets the eye. There is a minor decline in Park Factor, but not a steep enough drop off for me to assume that this is the season that Rollins finally fails to produce nice value for his ADP. I’m more worried about his four year decline in Contact%, but it is possible that the decline in talent he will be facing could well negate slightly deteriorating skills. As a member of the Phillies, Rollins played nearly 40 games against two pitching staffs that finished 2014 among the Top 5 in team ERA, but as a member of the Dodgers those 40 games will come against two staffs that finished last season in the Bottom 5 in team ERA. He is a good bet to once against hit at least 10 homers and swipe 15 bags, something only two other shortstops did in 2014, and that has value as the leadoff hitter in a loaded lineup.
Howie Kendrick: Take the “over.” That’s my feeling on the 2015 season, when comparing it statistically to Kendrick’s 2014. The move isn’t a far one, but we are seeing a hitter that is improving and will be in the most favorable Fantasy spot of his career. Before I wax poetic about his upside, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the few warning signs that do exist. His .341 career BABIP is awfully high and could well be seen as a statistic bound to regress. Although, it is possible that eight years into his career Kendrick just has a gift for finding holes. His up-and-down ISO makes pinning down a power projection a bit difficult, as he clubbed 13 homers in 2013 (122 games) but sandwiched that performance by two seasons with a combined 15 homers (304 games).
Alrighty, now we’ll move onto the good stuff. His high career BABIP, one that appears unsustainable on the surface but has been sustained for nearly a decade, has the potential to give Kendrick his first .300 (minimum 100 games played) season given his upward trending GB/FB ratio (career-high in 2014) and Contact%. While fly balls result in runs, grounders are the best way to support a batting average, and at the end of the day, hits drive Fantasy value. As previously stated, it is awfully hard to hit a baseball but the odds of success decline dramatically if you’re swinging at pitches outside the strike zone. In 2014, Kendrick displayed a vastly improved sense of the zone, as his BB/K ratio was not only the best of his career, it was the best by 46.7 percent! That level of improvement is no fluke, and if it proves to be a strength, this is going to be a great season for owners that spend a mid-to-late round pick on Kendrick. He is expected to bat behind Rollins but ahead of Yasiel Puig and Adrian Gonzalez, a position that should net him plenty of good early pitches to swing at. That is a positive given his batting eye, but he is at his best when being aggressive early in the count (he’s hit .344 when putting one of the first three pitches in play over the last three seasons). So, he’s not going to get himself out, he will be pitched to as a result of his spot in the lineup, he has 15/15 upside, and moves to a more hitter-friendly ballpark. Yea, Mr. Kendrick, you can man my second base spot this season.
Brandon McCarthy: It was a rollercoaster ride for McCarthy in 2014, as he was unlucky beyond belief while in Arizona, and then unsustainably great while in the Bronx. When all was said and done, his style of pitching in 2014 was enough to convince me to target him in the later rounds to fill out my rotation. Here’s a fun fact: only one pitcher owned a GB% of at least 52 percent, pitched 200 innings, and had a higher K% than McCarthy. His name? King Felix Hernandez. Not too shabby, and his “stuff” looks good on paper, as opponents swung more often last season than in years past, but they made contact at a lower rate. Dodgers Park is viewed as a neutral stadium (technically it slightly favors pitchers), an upgrade for McCarthy, who gave up a career-high 25 bombs last season, from both Arizona and New York. In fact, McCarthy’s only two seasons (2011-2012) spent in a pitcher-friendly park saw him deliver a strong 3.29 ERA supported by a 3.31 FIP. The park should help and the quality of divisional opponents certainly won’t hurt. The average seasonal run production of teams in the two divisions he pitched in last season was 668, a rate that was 4.0 percent higher than the non-Dodgers teams in the NL West. Durability has been an issue in the past, but given his expected ADP this spring, that risk shouldn’t hinder your willingness to take a chance on him.
Dee Gordon: Speed kills, so the environment shift shouldn’t hinder Gordon’s Fantasy game in a big way. Having Giancarlo Stanton in the middle of the order is an obvious plus when it comes to Gordon’s run-scoring upside, but is Stanton too good a hitter? That is, could the Marlins elect to keep Gordon on first base, knowing that Stanton is more than capable of driving him in from there? It’s just a thought. I like Christian Yelich batting behind him, as the 23-year-old showed some positive signs last season and hit his stride in the later months. A high BABIP (.346) and low BB% (4.8 percent) aren’t good signs, but the fact that his O-Swing% has been trending downward since putting on a major league uniform hints that his plate discipline/pitch recognition isn’t the issue. Ideally, we see an increase in walk rate to balance the inevitable drop in BABIP, thus allowing his OBP (and directly correlated stolen base attempts) to be sustained. Did Miami have the fourth-fewest stolen bases last season (only two players stole more than seven bags), because a lack of speed or management? I’m not overly concerned about this game plan, as I believe you adjust to the roster, but it is at least a thought, something that wouldn’t have been the case in Los Angeles, as they proved to have the confidence to give Gordon the forever green light. I’m in the camp that believes his OBP declines this season, thus making a reduction in both stolen bases and runs scored a very real possibility. A nice season is in store, but 45-50 steals and 70-75 runs scored is a more realistic projection for Gordon.
Mat Latos: Early in his career, he was successful in San Diego (3.37 ERA and 1.15 WHIP), but as with all Padres’ pitchers we were unsure of how much of that production was Latos and how much was ballpark aided. He laughed at his detractors by recording a 3.31 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in his 81 starts as a member of the Reds, proving to all of us that he is a true Fantasy asset. Latos showed no signs of being affected by the ballpark, as his numbers at home were actually better while in Cincinnati than they were on the road. Albeit in limited action, he recorded a career-best BB% last season, a level of control that is encouraging. BEWARE: His LD% has increased in four consecutive years, a serious concern since those hard hit balls will catch up to you sooner or later. Even with that knowledge, I’m a fan of his pitching repertoire (he threw six different pitches at least 3.7 percent of the time last season, the third consecutive season he has done so) and the move away from a hitter’s paradise.
Dan Haren: In the first nine years of his career he had one season with 30-plus starts and a 4.00 (or worse) ERA. Well, he’s produced that stat line in three consecutive seasons for three different teams and appears to be aging rather quickly. His HR/FB ratio has been the primary culprit of his steady decline, as the two worst seasons of his career and his three worst since 2007 have come during that stretch. Haren’s declining velocity likely has something to do with that and it is difficult to imagine this 34-year-old rediscovering it after setting career-lows for every pitch last season. He’s not a groundball specialist (essentially as many groundballs as fly balls over the last five seasons), but his contact percentage was in the same ball park as pitchers like Rick Porcello and Mike Leake in 2014. I would suggest that the high home run rate could see a decline given the slight edge to pitchers that Marlins Park gives, but he’s given up 83 homers in his last 92 starts, most of them while pitching in Los Angeles (spilt the difference between the two Los Angeles stadiums and the Park Factor is basically the same as Miami’s Park). I hate to say it because Haren was a strong Fantasy play for nearly a decade, but the 2015 upside might be a repeat of 2014 (13 wins, 4.02 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 7.02 K/9), which resulted in him being ranked as the 63rd most valuable SP (ESPN Player Rater).
Billy Butler: Remember when the fightin’ Billy Beanes were the best hitting team in the big leagues? Yeaaa … about that. The train fell of the tracks as the season wore on and moving Josh Donaldson/Brandon Moss probably isn’t going to help this franchise rediscover their high-scoring ways. Butler was added and will likely be counted on as this team’s three-hole hitter, a role that typically comes with Fantasy value, but I’m not taking my chances. The batting average should rebound a bit, as his LD% and Contact% are stable enough to bank on, but without any metric indicating that the power will approach the 2012 level (29 homers and a .510 slugging percentage), is he really anything more than James Loney? The ISO and HR/FB rate has fallen off a cliff over the last two seasons and moving to Oakland isn’t where hitters go to regain their power. At 28 years of age there is still the potential he can improve, but he’s not the type of player that I’m drafting and hoping for, rather he’s the type you let sit on waivers until he proves worthy of a roster spot. If there is a silver lining, he does play just about every day (19 missed games in his last six seasons) and has a firm grasp on the Athletics’ DH role.
St. Louis Cardinals
Mark Reynolds: He isn’t Fantasy relevant, but I wanted to include him here, as the signing has sparked some concern regarding the Fantasy value of Matt Adams. It is no secret that Adams has struggled in a big way against LHP during his career (.197/.227/.326), but Reynolds’ numbers against southpaws aren’t much better (.212/.319/.366) over that stretch, not to mention that he doesn’t hit righties any better. Is it possible that we see a pinch hit appearance here and there? Or maybe a day off if Adams is a bit banged up and/or struggling? Sure, but I’m not downgrading Adams in a big way as a result of this signing; Reynolds projects as more of a handcuff than a platoon.
San Diego Padres
Matt Kemp: The name value is still there, but will the production be? I’m not going to harp on the move to San Diego, everyone is aware that Petco Park limits power upside, and instead focus on what else Kemp can (or can’t) bring to the table. After swiping 40 bags in 2011 (602 at-bats), the 30-year-old Kemp has stolen just 26 bases over the last three seasons (1,207 at-bats), a concerning trend for a player who really has never been an overly successful player on the bases (65.2 stolen base success rate since 2010, not including the outlier season of 2011). The Padres were a station-to-station offense last season and while part of that was roster based, it is difficult to imagine them running their projected cleanup hitter with any sort of regularity. The fact that his LD% was at a career-high level last season provides me with some confidence that he can drive in runs, but expecting his power to translate (his HR/FB rate has been at least 20 percent in each of his last three seasons with 100-plus games played) to San Diego simply isn’t the percentage play. Consider this: subtract a handful of homers and you’ve got 2014 Torii Hunter. A nice Fantasy play, but worth the risk where he is sure to be drafted given his injury riddled past and a lack of lineup protection?
Wil Myers: I’ll admit it; I’m stubborn when it comes to Myers. I think the .185 ISO (similar to the power rate that Adam Jones and Ryan Braun produced in 2014) that we saw in the half of season he played in 2013 is just the beginning of what this 24-year-old is capable of and I had him pegged as a player that was going to be on every one of my teams in 2015, banking on people forgetting about the impressive 2013 power display and focusing on an unproductive and injury plagued 2014. Well, that theory is out the window … for now at least. The move to San Diego is obvious a step in the wrong direction for a player whose value depends on the long ball (although don’t sleep on his 11 career steals in 175 games or his.293 batting average from 2013), making a young player who has never really “done it” a tough sell coming off of a broken wrist. Is he an overhyped prospect that is destined to be the next Dom Brown? Or was the beginning of 2014 a sophomore slump that was magnified by an injury? It won’t cost you much to find out and it is possible that he becomes a sell-high candidate early in 2015 before he and the rest of his Padre teammates (namely Kemp and Carlos Quentin) have a chance to get injured. Believe it or not, a healthy San Diego lineup might actually be an improvement over Myers’ former situation in Tampa Bay, but the best ability is availability in baseball, and there is serious concern from that point of view for the Padres.
Toronto Blue Jays
Fantasy Baseball Value Tracker
Anybody can give you their ranks (and I have), so let’s evaluate value change as a result of changing addresses. Below are the players ranked in order of improvement from their 2014 performance (includes expected regression).
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