Alas, the fantasy baseball season is over. It's been a rather interesting season with many surprises and just as many disappointments.
Any of us in the business world are all too familiar with the self-evaluation process that we are forced to go through on an annual basis. There are some benefits to the process, as laborious as it may seem when it is sprung on you near the close of the year. Given that we are at the end of the year, I would like to review the conclusions from each advisory article I produced from the end of the 2013 season until the start of the season to see whether my advice benefited you in your pursuits of glory, or if it was the cause of your underperformance.
Next week, we'll look at the in-season articles.
10/11/13 - Jayson Werth:
The battle against Father Time is a battle every baseball player eventually loses, but the ones that make consistent hard contact drag that fight out longer than others. Werth has always had the ability to barrel up a baseball and hit it hard. His 2013 will likely be looked back on as the apex of his playing career so his current owners are in the envious position of being able to either maximize his current trade value or enjoy the safety of his consistency as only another injury would lead to a rapid acceleration into has-been land.
Werth had over 600 plate appearances for the first time since 2011 and has equaled his RBI and run totals from last season. He hit nine fewer home runs this season and his batting average fell 37 points. It was a solid season for the 35-year-old player, but still a step down from the apex value of 2013.
10/21/13 - Profits and Losses:
When asked about Adam Jones and Chris Davis, I replied: "More of the same from Jones - he's consistent. Davis will take a small step back but I'll be surprised if he's not a 40+ HR guy again. I expect a 8-10 HR drop and a 15-20 pt BA drop."
Jones was rather consistent once again. He hit in the .280s for a fourth consecutive season and nearly hit the 30/100 plateau. His stolen base total did drop back to single digits, but overall, a very solid year from him. Davis, on the other hand, was a complete disaster. His average fell 90 points, his home run total was halved, and he ended the year as a hypocritical cheater.
10/30/13 - Where did Go-Go Go?:
If he can get his plate appearances at the top third of the order and have more opportunities to run, it is not impossible for him to post a season of at least 20 home runs, 50 stolen bases, and 90 runs scored and driven in. That particular type of season has been done by 11 different players in baseball history: Lou Brock, Ryne Sandberg, Barry Bonds, Brady Anderson, Craig Biggio,Eric Byrnes(what???), Hanley Ramirez, Cesar Cedeno (2x), Eric Davis (2x), Joe Morgan (3x), and Rickey Henderson (4x).
That's why I view Carlos Gomez as a first-round talent, despite the batting average risk. The skill set is incredibly enticing as he continues to develop into what we had hoped B.J. Upton would be five years ago when he was all of the rage.
Gomez has ended 2014 as the 10th most valuable hitter in a standard 12-team mixed league at $32. The injury problem in the second half derailed what was a very strong season. In the end, he's hit .282/.355/.470 with 34 steals, 22 homers, and scored 93 runs. He got the projected homers and runs, but even a full season from Gomez would not have netted 50 steals.
11/8/13 - Big Wily Style:
Peralta was one of the worst pitchers in baseball in throwing first-pitch strikes in 2013 and ended up fighting against himself for the success he did have last season. If he could learn a thing or two from what Ubaldo Jimenez did in Cleveland last year and learn that strike-one pitch, Peralta could take a nice step forward in 2014. As it stands now, his draft day value is going to be rather suppressed due to the unattractive surface stats. There is growth potential here; you should harvest it.
Peralta went 16-11 this season with a 3.62 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP while striking out 141 batters. It was a tale of two halves for him as he was 10-6 with a 3.72 and a 1.29 WHIP before the break and 6-5 with a 3.45 ERA and 1.37 WHIP after the break as command issues came back to haunt him. Overall, there was growth here but the disappointing second half limited the return on investment.
11/15/13 - Hey, Mr. Wilson!:
Brian Wilson is a free agent looking for money, and non-contending teams tend to avoid spending millions on a reliever if they are not ready to contend. Wilson is likely to end up on a contender that will allow him to save games and keep his beard. If his inability to throw strikes last season was a residual effect from the time away, then all systems are go. That said, his strike percentage rate was the same in September as it was in August.
A lot of people were excited about what Wilson showed in his return from the medical issues which derailed most of the previous two seasons. I am just not one of them, for now.
Wilson converted one of five save opportunities with a 4.69 ERA and a 1.63 WHIP as he struggled to throw strikes.
11/23/13: - Breaking Stan:
Stanton was as frustrated as anyone else last season with his struggles that were no doubt, in part, affected by the atmosphere of the team last season. He hit in the third spot of the lineup most of the season and the group that hit behind him was an improvement over the 2012 group. Stanton did have better plate discipline when hitting out of the three-hole, but showed more power hitting out of the four-hole. While the concerns for the lack of lineup protection may seem founded by focusing on the results, the actual answer is not quite that simple. The good news is that the same guy we all fell in love with in 2011 and 2012 could come right back in 2014.
And, boy did he! Before his season ended with a Mike Fiers fastball to the face, Stanton hit .288/.395/.555 with 37 homers, 105 RBI, 89 runs driven in, and a surprising 13 steals. Even with the shortened season, only Jose Altuve, Mike Trout, Michael Brantley, and Victor Martinez were more valuable hitters in standard 5x5 leagues.
12/14/13: Where should Cano go on draft day?:
Let me be clear, Cano should not be falling out of the top 12 in your drafts. He should not be taken after Kipnis. If I am drafting this month and have the swing pick, Cano doesn't get through me. Cano being taken 20th, let alone 13th, is a steal for the owners who took him there. There will be times to worry about Cano during this 10-year contract, but 2014 is not that time.
Cano has hit .316/.384/.457 in the bigger park. The homers tumbled to just 14 and his run production slipped because the talent around him also slipped. He was still the 19th-most valuable hitter in standard 5x5 leagues, but his days as a first-round pick are over. He did finish well ahead of Jason Kipnis in terms of fantasy value, but he was not a top-12 producer in 2014.
12/21/13 - Closing Time:
Beware the closer coming off a career season. Uehara has been AMAZING over his last four seasons, but took that awesomeness to another level last season. There is some natural regression coming for him, but the larger concern is the fact he's never worked back to back heavy seasons. He threw a career-high (for MLB) amount of pitches in the regular season and was worked frequently in the postseason. If he falters, Edward Mujica has the chops to step in and pick up saves as Uehara did when Bailey broke down last season.
Chad Qualls is your man. Yes, Chad Qualls. Over the past three seasons, he has pitched for six different teams, and mostly ineffectively, until he got his career back on the right track pitching for the Marlins. Last season, he realized he needed to get back to doing things that made him successful, and he did that. He has his old slider back, and should be a nice source of cheap saves just as Jose Veras was last year before he was dealt away.
For now, Lord Farquhar reigns supreme. Danny Farquhar stepped in nicely once Tom Wilhelmsen lost his ways, but it has been reported several times this offseason that the Mariners are looking for a proven closer. Ugh. If they are foolish enough to waste money like that, then Farquhar becomes the insurance policy. Given the fact Fernando Rodney is essentially the last remaining closer on the free agent market, the Mariners should just sit tight.
Jonathan Papelbon has been on the trade block most of the winter, but nobody is touching him. His strikeout rate fell from 32 to 22% last season and his average velocity is in a three-year decline. That alone should give you extreme pause as he no longer resembles the safe closer money he once was.
Both Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon did excellent work in the closer role last season. If healthy, Grilli should get the job back to start the season but Melancon is more than ready to step in and do the job again if Grilli hits a roadblock in his recovery. Roster the skills and let the role play itself out.
Jason Motte got hurt, Edward Mujica became ineffective, in stepped Trevor Rosenthal. Strong skills across the board, so even if Motte is healthy, it is going to be tough to unseat the kid. He is the safer alternative and gives the team its best chance to win. So what if he has just three career saves; use that inexperience to get him at a discount.
Uehara's ERA went from 1.09 to 2.52 and his WHIP went from 0.57 to 0.92. His strikeout rate slipped a bit, but he was still effective in saving 26 of 31 games before Boston shut him down. Qualls saved 19 of 25 games for Houston with a 3.33 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP - great numbers for a closer that mostly went undrafted. Fernando Rodney took to Safeco very well saving 48 of 51 games despite continued command issues. Papelbon ended the strikeout rate skid and saved 39 of 43 games with a 2.04 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP for a last place team. Melancon's skills did play out as he's flourished in the closer role in Pittsburgh and Rosenthal did the same with St. Louis.
1/4/14: Uphill Battle:
We don't know how new skipper Brad Ausmus will manage the running game as he replaces Jim Leyland, who preferred a plate techtonic-like method of steals. The Tigers nearly attempted fewer bases (137) as a team over the past two seasons than Rickey Henderson did in 1982 by himself when he stole 130 bases. What we do know is that Kinsler is aging, and the odds are increasingly against him turning around his slide in stolen base production. Kinsler may hit leadoff, or he may hit second. If he hits second, it is unlikely he will steal as many bases so he doesn't give opposing managers a chance to pitch around Miguel Cabrera. That said, if Kinsler does hit in front of the two-time reigning MVP, he could have a better offensive year at the plate because he could score a lot of runs to negate the loss in steals.
Kinsler equaled his 15 steals from 2013 while upping his RBI total from 72 to 90 and increasing his run total from 85 to 99. He finished the year as the 22nd most valuable hitter in standard 5x5 leagues.
1/11/2014 - The Top 200 vs Early ADP:
Tulowitzki has not played 150 games since 2009 and requires a lot of maintenance to stay on the field. There is NO way a non-catcher can be taken in the top three rounds if they cannot stay on the field. The best indicator of an injury is a previous injury, and Tulo has plenty of those.
Wacha is enjoying the helium of his postseason run, but he simply has not demonstrated enough to be a top-100 pick at this time.
Shocker, Tulowitzki played fewer than 100 games but was very productive when he was on the field. The .340/.432/.603 slash line with 21 homers was awesome for just 91 games played, but he ended the year with the same value as Alex Gordon and Adam LaRoche and was less valuable than the likes of Justin Morneau and Rajai Davis. Wacha had a 3.20 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP, but won just five of 19 starts and struggled with a shoulder issue that cost him time on the disabled list.
1/19/14 - Whither CJ .321?
In other years, Chris Johnson would stand out more, but this year, there is a lot of competition on the market for him to compete against. That said, it is still tough to comprehend an everyday player that bats in the middle of a lineup go undrafted through 377 picks.
Johnson, like most of the Atlanta Braves, had an off year. Even with an above average .345 BABIP, he hit .265/.295/.364 as he was not as willing to accept his walks, struck out a career-worst 26% of the time.
2/3/14: Diminishing Supplies:
Simply put, power is at a premium in baseball these days, even at a position that is traditionally known for it. If you have one of the young first basemen at the major league level, cherish him, because you have a big step up on the competition and that advantage could be yours for several seasons.
How many first basemen hit 30 or more homers this season? Two - Jose Abreu & Edwin Encarnacion and both players spent time on the disabled list. How many hit at least 25? 11. Adjust your expectations for power at the position because it's just not there these days.
2/10/14: Double Down:
Navarro hit a career-high 13 home runs in just 266 plate appearances in Chicago last season. The "power breakout" was one part playing in Wrigley Field, where he hit nine of his 13 home runs, and another part from an 18.8% home run to flyball ratio. Before 2013, Navarro had never had a double-digit HR/FB ratio in a season in which he had more than 100 plate appearances. In fact, 15 of his last 89 flyballs have become home runs after just 39 of his previous 628 had done so.
Navarro came within one home run of matching his 2013 total, but needed nearly double the amount of plate appearances to do so. He ended the season with the same value as Salvador Perez at catcher, who was drafted well ahead of him.
2/24/14: Smooth Cruzin':
The good news for owners of Cruz in keeper leagues, or players interested in him is that he did not land in Seattle. A few weeks ago, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Seattle was going to buy the bat, and Cruz's production was going to suffer moving to Safeco. That did not happen, and mixed league players can safely spend $8-10 to acquire Cruz's power in the middle of this lineup. He goes from a division that had three pitchers parks (Seattle, Oakland, LA) to a division with just one (Tampa Bay). Given his motivation to revisit the free agent market this time next season, it wouldn't surprise me to see Cruz go the Marlon Byrd route and give up contact for power and try to hit 30 homers again in 2014.
30 homers? Check, +10. Gave up contact? Nope, actually made a bit more in 2014 than 2013. 2013 slash line - .266/.327/.506. 2014 slash line - .273/.336/.527. 2013 HR/FB ratio - 21.1%. 2014 HR/FB rate - 21.6%. Same guy, but stayed healthy and mashed.
3/25/14 - AL Tout Review:
I did not acquire as much speed as I would have liked, and that regret started early when I tossed out Austin Jackson as the third player in the draft and then let him go to Ron Shandler at $20. I had him as a $21 player, and for some reason, I could not speak up at $21….My hope is that Aoki will bring extra steals under Ned Yost and his lead foot. Aoki has the on-base skills, so as long as Yost lets him run, I feel he has 30-steal upside.
Aoki went 17 for 24 in his stolen-base attempts, and stole three fewer bases than Jackson did this year. Those three steals would not have made a difference for me in Tout Wars this year as I spent money on pitching, despite my reservations, and it torched me.