It’s easy to reflect back on last year’s big news. But predicting what’s AHEAD takes a fantasy baseball writer with the willingness to risk his own reputation.
But this is fantasy baseball. What reputation? Check out Clave’s 2014 “Year in PREVIEW.”
1. Tommy Hunter Saves 40 Games.
I personally don’t think the Baltimore Orioles need a closer. I suggest they just have all their games be 6 innings long like Little League or something. But if they insist on pitching the 9th, I think it’s Tommy Hunter that locks down the job and carries it all season.
Hunter isn’t going to have the high K rates you normally associate with a closer, but he doesn’t walk many guys and his velocity took a 4 mph climb when he moved from starter to reliever. The secret will be if he can get lefties out. If that happens, he holds the job all season and easily racks up 40+ saves, yet comes dirt cheap on draft day.
2. Matt Carpenter Disappoints Fantasy Owners, Yet Continues to Steal Their Hearts.
I love Matt Carpenter, the Turnpike Troubadour. His story from a college player that was nearly passed over in the draft, who through nothing but hard work went to lead baseball in runs scored has stolen my heart, as I’m sure it has yours.
Listen, I don’t have a Fathead of the guy on my bedroom wall or anything, but I do genuinely root for Matt Carpenter.
But his wild fantasy baseball success last year was predicated on 3 things:
- An inflated BABIP.
- A St. Louis Cardinals offense that was money with runners in scoring position.
- He was had by fantasy owners for next to nothing.
When his BABIP regresses (and it will), he’ll still probably hit around .300, but he’s not a .315-.320 guy. And there is a negative one million chance he scores 126 runs again, even though I do imagine the Cardinals offense will rake once again.
Carpenter adds next to nothing in the power or speed categories, so his value was disproportionally tied to his runs scored. Even with 100 runs scored, the negligible home runs and steals he offers would drop him to about the 8-10th ranked second baseman, and lower if youngsters like Jedd Gyorko, Jurickson Profar, or Anthony Rendon take steps forward.
Still a good story? Yes. Still a valuable player (especially in real life)? Yes. But he’s not sneaking up on anyone again, so chances are he simply won’t earn back the value for fantasy owners who will now have to spend a high draft pick.
3. Matt Adams will finish the season in a platoon situation.
Matt Adams is a quality player. Sorry, did I write “quality”? I meant to write “kwality”, which is a stupid, made up word that I’m going to define as Matt Adams will disappoint this year.
I realize he’s a trending sleeper who is finally – finally! – going to get at bats in the St. Louis Cardinals lineup, but I think he’ll finish the season in a platoon situation.
Adams – who will be drafted for his power – hit only 3 homers (and had a paltry .231 AVG) against left-handed pitchers. Will the Cardinals be forced to sit him against lefties and shift Allen Craig to 1B?
To be fair, what I used there was a tiny factoid that I manipulated to my purposes. By using the above Matt Adams factoid in a way that implies he is weak against left handed pitching I can easily make the case that his platoon split will force the Cardinals to bench him against lefties.
But in using the factoid that way, I conveniently left out that those 3 lefty home runs were in only 52 plate appearances.
This now reads in a way that suggests I back-tracked on my claim! But this is a list of bold predictions, so I get to use my factoid however I want to. After all, it’s what us fantasy baseball writers do.
4. Oswaldo Arcia will hit 25 home runs and finish as a legitimate fantasy baseball asset in the outfield.
Being that I’m writing this in sunny Minneapolis, Minnesota, I’m going to share some home-cooked optimism.
Mmmm-mm-mm. Just like mom used to make! Before we put mom into a home, because seriously, you can’t cook fantasy baseball analysis in the oven.
In 2013 Oswaldo Arcia had a 303 ft. fly ball distance that was 14th in baseball. Not bad for a 21-year-old rookie, huh? His home run per fly ball (HR/FB) percentage of 14.7% sticks out as low when you factor in just how far Arcia launched the ball. Is it guaranteed to rise? No. But there is certainly upside there for growth up to about 20% HR/FB. That combined with Arcia’s 40.6% fly ball (FB) percentage would project Arcia out to at least 25 home runs.
Arcia has also demonstrated the ability to hit for higher averages in the minors, but his plate discipline needs to improve first. His 31% K rate is much too high and his walk rate too low.
But he’s always shown vastly better rates in the minors, so it’s reasonable that he inches toward an 8% walk / 25% K rates. I think that happens in 2014 and with Arcia hitting in the meat of the Minnesota Twins lineup, he’ll do well in Runs and RBI as well.
A full profile of Arcia is here.
5. Andrelton Simmons has a fantastical season and ends 2014 as a Top 5 ranked shortstop.
Andrelton Simmons has excellent bat on ball skills. No way his BABIP stays so low and I also think he corrects his infield pop-up issues (IFFB% fluctuates more than other batted ball tendencies) that plagued him in 2013.
So I’m predicting a higher average out of him in 2014. He also flashed better base running ability in the minors. If the Atlanta Braves begin to run more he may see an uptick in steals.
The only thing holding him back from Top 5 shortstop value is his position lower in the lineup, which depresses his counting stats.
I toyed with the bold prediction that Jurickson Profar would be a Top 5 second baseman, but I didn’t see any way that Profar could jump from 8th in the Texas Rangers lineup to 2nd. With Simmons I can see him making the jump to the top of the Braves lineup by May.
Here’s a full profile on Simmons, which compares him to a beloved Chicago Cubs shortstop.
6. Freddie Freeman tricks fantasy owners into drafting him too high.*
Freeman is an excellent player who brings consistency. But I’m of the thought that 2013 was just about the best we’ll see out of him. Unfortunately, fantasy owners are drafting him to take a step forward in 2014. They’ll be disappointed.
7. Kyle Seager finishes as a Top 5 third baseman.
Kyle Seager, for my money – which, fortunately, is not really at stake here – is an excellent value at 3B.
As a 24-year-old Seager didn’t have mile high expectations when he got his first significant major league at bats in 2012. Seager rewarded speculative fantasy owners with 20 homers and 13 stolen bases, numbers that matched in 2013.
We now have two seasons and 1000+ at bats of Kyle Seager under our belts, which is plenty of data, particularly because his two seasons look very similar.
His walks are increasing, while his strikeouts are decreasing. He has become more selective at the plate, swinging at fewer pitches overall, swinging at fewer pitches out of the zone, and making more contact on those he does swing at. All positive signs that indicate an improved approach at the plate and this should make owning Seager a good 3B play.
But there is some top tier talent at 3B. In order for Seager to crack the Top 5, he’ll need to deliver at the plate, but we’ll also need to see injuries or decreased projection from two of the following: Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Beltre, David Wright, Evan Longoria, and/or Josh Donaldson.
Long odds, but this is a bold prediction after all. A full profile on Kyle Seager is here.
* Freddie Freeman also tricked me into stealing that bold prediction from Tanner Bell. Being that I made my predictions last, I was influenced by the other Crackerjacks. Credit is due where it is due: