2014 NL Central – Midseason Fantasy Baseball Reflection

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 scoutpro@competitivesportsanalysis.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.

Anthony Rizzo 

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.

Mike Olt 

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.

Junior Lake 

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.

Jeff Samardzija 

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.

Jason Hammel

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.

Jake Arrieta 

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.

Billy Hamilton 

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.

Todd Frazier 

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.

Johnny Cueto

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.

Mike Leake 

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.

Johnathan Lucroy 

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.

Carlos Gomez

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.

Yovani Gallardo 

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.

Marco Estrada 

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.

Neil Walker 

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.

Gregory Polanco

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.

Edinson Volquez 

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.

Jeff Locke 

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.

Matt Adams 

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.

Allen Craig 

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.

Lance Lynn 

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.

2014 NL East- Midseason Fantasy Baseball Reflection

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 scoutpro@competitivesportsanalysis.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.

 

Evan Gattis 

Gattis was a nice surprise in 2013. His K rate (21.2%) was higher than during his minor league career (15.1%), but his walk rate (5.5%) was short. Evan hit .236 against righties with 16 HR’s in 258 at bats. In April, May, and September, Gattis did almost all of his damage (18 HR’s and 50 RBI in 247 at bats). He is a FB hitter (44.6%) with a solid HR/FB rate (17.1%). Evan hit .308 during his minor league career with 45 HR’s and 168 RBI in 853 at bats. With McCann out of the picture, Gattis will be the everyday catcher for the Braves. He may even get some added value by playing in the outfield on some of his off days. His batting average will have some short term risk due to his K rate, but it should improve with more playing time in the majors. Evan has only had 203 at bats between AA and AAA in his career. Overall, he has 30 HR power with 80 RBI upside.

Freddie Freeman 

Freeman did everything right last year except have growth in power. He was great with runners on base (23% RBI rate), but he had short RBI chances (396). His K rate (19.2%) has improved in each season in the majors, but it isn’t in an area to support a .319 batting average without more growth. His walk rate (10.3%) was a career high. Freddie crushed righties (.334 with 19 HR’s and 80 RBI in 377 at bats) and hit well against lefties (.287), but his power was short (4 HR’s). He hit over .300 in 5 months of the season. After the All Star break, Freddie hit .335 with 14 HR’s and 48 RBI. His HR/FB rate (15.0%) has improved slightly in the last 2 seasons. Overall, he crushed fastballs (.353 with 16 HR’s in 343 at bats). He has exciting upside, especially if the front of the Braves offense plays better. Solid .300 hitter with 35 HR and 120 RBI upside.

Julio Teheran 

It’s pretty easy to see why the top 3 starters for the Braves had success last season. All three pitchers threw a high % of first pitch strikes. Teheran had better command (2.2) than he did during his minor league career (2.7), which led to a solid K rate (8.2). Julio didn’t pitch well in his first 3 starts (13 runs and 28 base runners in 17 innings with 5 HR’s allowed). After 6 strong starts, his upside started to shine through when he struck out 20 batters over 2 starts (14.7 innings). On the year, he allowed 2 runs or less in 16 of his 30 starts. Teheran started to fade over his last 7 starts, allowing 4 runs in 4 starts. Over a 20 start span from mid April to mid August, he only walked more than 2 batters once. Julio was dominant against RH batters (.204), but has weakness against lefties at this point of his career (.289 with a .483 SLG %). His AFB was 91.5, and his #2 pitch was a slider, followed by a curveball and an occasional changeup. His changeup was expected to be a plus pitch, but he didn’t trust it last season. Last year, righties couldn’t touch his four seam fastball (.174), but it had a lot less value against LH batters (.329 with a .504 SLG %). His step forward in 2013 was due to the huge improvement of his slider. Teheran was expected to have the best changeup in the Braves system, so he could have electric upside if that pitch gains value in 2014. Julio is the Braves future ace with Cy Young upside. His K rate will spike dramatically when his changeup becomes a plus pitch.

Alex Wood

Wood was a nice short term find for fantasy owners from late July through August last year. He pitched 6 straight solid outings (1.54 ERA with 35 K’s in 35 innings) before blowing up in September in 2 starts (11 runs and 22 base runners in 7 innings). Alex didn’t dominate either side of the plate (RH batters – .261 and LH batter – .267), and his AFB was 91.7. Wood threw a changeup as his #2 pitch, followed by a curveball. Alex was 9-5 during his short minor league career with a 1.73 ERA and 114 K’s in 114.7 innings. His walk rate (3.1) came in higher than his minor league resume (2.4), while his K rate (8.9) remained in a good area. His success last August proves he is ready to be a starter in the majors. The key to his development will be the value of his curveball. Wood has a chance at a sub 3.50 ERA with 150 K’s. I expect him to pitch about 180 innings, but his WHIP has some risk until his command takes a step forward.

Giancarlo Stanton 

Stanton had a down year due to multiple injuries. He suffered a minor shoulder injury in mid April, a bad hamstring injury in late April, and a minor ankle injury in early September. His K rate (27.8%) has been high during his entire major league career, while his walk rate (14.7%) made a move into an elite area (he was only intentionally walked 5 times in 2013). Giancarlo was a better hitter against LH pitching (.278 with .593 SLG %). Last year, he only hit over .250 in one month (June – .296). Stanton is one of the best pure power hitters in the game, but has struggled to stay healthy over the last 2 seasons. The Marlins don’t have a great supporting cast around him, but it should be better in 2014. He has 50 HR upside with downside risk in batting average. His price point tends to be high, which hurts a fantasy owner in a couple of categories unless he has a massive breakout season. I expect him to have his best season in the majors with 40+ HR’s and he will approach 100 RBI helped by Yelich hitting in front of him.

Marcell Ozuna 

Ozuna played surprisingly well with the Marlins after his early season call up from AA. He hit .331 over his first 36 games, but he only had 1 HR in his first 152 at bats with 17 RBI. Additionally, Marcell only hit .195 over his last 133 at bats with 2 HR’s and 15 RBI. Ozuna was very good against lefties (.318). His K rate (19.5%) was just above the major league average, while his walk rate (4.5%) was very short. He struggles to make contact with sliders (.207) and curveballs (.133). In 2013, pitchers only threw him 49.5% fastballs. Marcell is a career .274 hitter in the minors with 85 HR’s, 326 RBI, and 42 SB’s in 1784 at bats. Last year, his season was cut short in late July due to a thumb injury that required surgery. Ozuna has some talent, but he only has 42 at bats above A ball in the minors. He had short term success with Miami, but pitchers were able to expand the strike zone against him which led to less contact. The Marlins don’t have great options in the outfield, so Marcell may end up earning a job out of spring training. Upside player with 20 HR power if he can lay off breaking pitches off the plate. His skill set suggests he needs more time in the minors, but Miami may be forced to play him as he is the best option they have on the roster.

Henderson Alvarez 

Alvarez had a nice growth season in 2013 after getting drilled in 2012 in Toronto. His K rate (5.0) has been short during his major league career and it was probably the lowest in baseball for a starting pitcher in 2012 (3.8). It was only slightly better during his minor league career (6.5). His command (2.4) improved, and his minor league resume showed more upside (1.7). Henderson handled himself against RH batters (.206) with no HR’s allowed, but he struggled to find a strikeout pitch against lefties (22 K’s in 186 at bats) which led to a .269 batting average against. He allowed 3 runs or less in 12 of his 17 starts with only 2 bad starts (allowed 5 runs in each). Alvarez missed the first three months of the season with a shoulder injury that he suffered early in spring training. He is a GB rate (53.5%) pitcher with a stronger fastball (93.3) than his K rate suggests. Last year, he threw an improved slider as his #2 pitch, followed by changeup and an occasional curveball. Batters have the most success against his four seam fastball (.279). Alvarez is a pitcher a fantasy player has to take a 2nd look at. It’s easy to dismiss him as a soft tosser with weak upside in K’s, but his arsenal has more upside if he can get batters to swing at pitches outside the strike zone. His fastball can reach the upper 90′s at times (average four seam fastball was 94.5 MPH in September) and his changeup has some upside. For now, maybe he is just a right handed version of Mark Buehrle as far as results. Sneaky option if you can handle the downside in K’s.

Nathan Eovaldi 

Eovaldi looks to be slightly more advanced than Turner. His command (3.4) still needs work, while his K rate (6.6) was a career high. He had equal success against RH (.251) and LH (.246) batters, but he struggled throwing strikes to LH batters (25 walks). Eovaldi allowed 2 runs or less in 13 of his 18 starts. Without his worst 3 starts of the year (20 runs in 10 innings), he had a 1.87 ERA over 96.3 innings. His AFB (96.2) was the highest of his career. Furthermore, he threw a slider as his 2nd best pitch, followed by a curveball. At this point of his career, Nathan is really a two pitch pitcher as his curveball really doesn’t have any value (.321 batting average against). His K rate can’t spike upward without a better off speed pitch. In the minors, he had a career 3.44 ERA with 298 K’s in 364 innings. Eovaldi has a nice arm, but his upside is somewhat limited due to a lack of command and depth of his pitching arsenal. In the American League, we have seen Justin Masterson have success with just a slider and fastball, but he throws a two seamer (sinker) and a four seam fastball. Last year, Nathan didn’t throw a two seam fastball once. For now, he has WHIP risk and low K upside, but his fastball is big enough to have a positive ERA, especially pitching in Miami (last year he pitched better on the road {2.80 ERA}).

Daniel Murphy 

Murphy was a perfect back end option at second base last year. He was an asset in 4 categories and hit enough HR’s to keep you in the game. Daniel had a nice bump in power (13 HR’s). He has 78 double over the last 2 years, but his AVH (1.452) suggests he doesn’t have a lot of upside in HR’s. Murphy is tough to strikeout (13.6% K rate), but his walk rate (4.6%) is weak and fading. All of his power comes against RH pitching (12 HR’s in 442 at bats – 1 HR in 216 at bats vs. lefties). He hit well against LH pitching (.273), but his approach was weaker (6:48 BB:K ratio). Daniel hit over .280 in 5 of the 6 months last season. He played his best ball in July, August, and September (.294 with 8 HR’s, 46 RBI, and 14 SB’s). His HR/FB rate (6.3%) only rose slightly, while his increase in power was due to a huge bump in his FB rate (36.3% – 24.9% in 2012). Overall, he has a short major league resume with a high level of success. We know he can hit and his speed is somewhat supported by his minor league resume. His power doesn’t look out of line and it could have upside if he continues to hit more fly balls. With more strength, he could hit 20 HR’s. Let’s set the bar at 15/15 with a plus batting average and hope for upside in HR’s and SB’s. Murphy could be an easy player to overvalue in 2014, so proceed with caution and don’t overpay.

Curtis Granderson 

2013 was a tough year for Granderson. He broke his right forearm in late February, which cost him the first 6 weeks of the season. Curtis was barely getting his feet wet when he was hit by a pitch that broke a finger in his left hand (required surgery). When Granderson returned in early August, he wasn’t the same player as he struggled through 186 at bats (.226 with 6 HR’s and 14 RBI). The Mets signed him to a 4-year, $60 million contract in December. The change in ballparks will hurt his upside in power. His K rate (28.2) has been very weak over the last 2 seasons, while his walk rate (11.0%) remains a positive. Rather than reflect over his injury plagued season, here’s his write up from last season: Granderson repeated his success hitting HR’s and will be one of the few players that will enter 2013 with over a 2.00 rating in the average hit category (AVH). He has hit 46 of 84 HR’s at home (Yankee Stadium) over the last 2 seasons. His K rate at home was 26.7% in 2011 and 2012, which has led to a .251 batting average. His quest for HR’s has led to a decline in his K rate (28.5%) over the last four seasons. While his walk rate (11.0%) has been solid for five straight seasons, it did take a nose dive during the 2nd half of 2012 (8.2% – 15.3% in 1st half). He is a career .225 hitter against LH pitching, hitting .218 against them last season. In 2011, he had a 20.5% HR/FB rate. Last year, that number rose to 24.2%. Granderson is motivated to hit HR’s, which puts his batting average at risk. Last year, I shied away from him due to his batting average risk (I was right in this area), but he still delivered on three plus categories. His production will give you an edge, but it will be tough to overcome his BA. I think the pluses outweigh the negatives, but is he really a key piece when you start building your team? If your goal is to get 60+ points in the batting categories, you can still accomplish your goal by punting batting average. If you are looking to win an overall prize, he may leave you one category short of a championship. I think he is a smart enough guy where he will hit above .250 this season. Note: his ADP was 96 in 2012 and it is about 131 in 2013.

Zack Wheeler

Wheeler is getting solid respect in the early draft season. He is expected to be a SP3 this season, but his skill set does have some risk. I know some fantasy players don’t want to miss on the next Matt Harvey, so they are paying almost full price for Zack. His walk rate (4.1) has been poor during his entire career. This led to a shorter K rate (7.6) in the majors (9.7 in his minor league career). Wheeler had a career 3.56 ERA in the minors with 420 K’s in 391.3 innings. Last year, he had a spike in his HR/9 rate (1.2) at AAA. Zack had success against righties (.230), but he allowed too many walks to LH batters (31 in 162 at bat), which led to a .259 batting average against him. With the Mets, he allowed 2 runs or less in 11 of his 17 starts. His AFB was 94.4 with the Mets, while his slider is his #2 pitch (followed by a curveball and a weak changeup). Wheeler is a high upside pitcher, but his command is still a couple of miles down the road. His first pitch strike % (53%) was terrible with New York in 2013. I’m thinking Ubaldo Jimenez of 2008 with slightly better command, but a weaker changeup. 3.75 ERA with 175 K’s and 90 walks.

Jenrry Mejia

Mejia has kicked around the Mets system for 7 years. He looked like a high upside pitcher in 2010 when he went 2-0 with a 1.28 ERA in 42.1 innings with 45 K’s. His season was cut short by a shoulder injury, which led to Tommy John surgery in May of 2011. He returned to the minors in 2012 and appeared to be a lot less pitcher. His ERA (3.59) was solid and he had the best command (2.8) of his career, but his K rate (5.3) looked like it has faded off into the sunset. Last year, he struggled with an elbow/forearm injury out of spring training that led to two long DL stints. The last resulted in right elbow surgery to remove bone chips. He is expected to be ready for spring training. In between his struggles, Mejia flashed major league upside. He pitched well during his 5 major league starts (2.30 ERA) with elite command (1.3) and a solid K rate (8.9). Overall, Jenrry is an extreme GB pitcher (58.0%). His AFB (92.1) has declined during each season in the majors. He added a slider at the expense of his curveball, followed by a changeup. Mejia has an upside arm, but he has never pitched over 100 innings in his career at any level. The emergence of his slider is a change in skill set and it looks like the missing ingredient to being a successful starter in the majors. His lack of health will depress his value to where his price point is just about free. Possible flyer if he is healthy in spring training and is named the 5th starter for the Mets.

Ryan Howard

Howard has missed more than a season of games over the last 2 years. Last year, he wasn’t great in his 80 games (11 HR’s and 43 RBI), but he wasn’t terrible either. His K rate (30.0%) has been more of a negative over the past 2 seasons. Also, he had the lowest walk rate (7.3%) of his career in 2013. He developed a left knee issue on May 19th and tried to play through it, but it ended up being a meniscus tear that required surgery in July. His approach at the plate was brutal in April and May (10 walks in 185 at bats – 5.0% walk rate), which was totally out of character for him. His walk rate (11.4%) fell back in line in June. Last year, he had absolutely no value against LH pitching (39 K’s in 81 at bats with only 3 walks – .173). Overall, Howard has a long resume of success hitting HR’s in the majors. His struggles over the last 2 years have been due to injuries. Ryan has been working hard to get back in shape during the offseason. I expect another plus HR season and his draft value is low enough where he will be this year’s Chris Davis at 1st base. Over a six period, he averaged 44 HR’s with 131 RBI. I know the talent around him has declined, but his power is still elite.

Domonic Brown

Brown had an electric 19 game stretch between May 20th and June 8th where he hit .397 with 18 runs, 12 HR’s, 25 RBI’s, and 5 SB’s over 73 at bats. Over the first 3 months of the year, he hit .274 with 21 HR’s, 57 RBI, and 8 SB’s. His walk rate (7.4%) was shorter than his minor league resume (10.5%), which was due to his approach in May (no walks in 109 at bats with 21 K’s). He showed patience in April and May, so he isn’t just another free swinger with batting average risk. His K rate (18.0%) was about the major league average. Domonic had his most success against RH pitching (.281 with 21 HR’s and 62 RBI), but he had power against lefties (.252 with 6 HR’s and 21 RBI in 147 at bats). His production dropped off the table over the 2nd half of the year (.270 with 4 HR’s and 16 RBI in 141 at bats) due to a concussion in late July and an Achilles injury in August. His HR/FB rate (19.3%) more than doubled from his 2 previous seasons where he had short at bats. Brown’s success driving the ball was due to a change in his grip early in spring training (suggested by Wally Joyner). During his minor league career, Domonic hit .297 with 59 HR’s, 285 RBI’s, and 106 SB’s in 1,994 at bats. He had what appeared to be a 20/20 skill set, but his growth was slow at the major league level. Many will look at his final stats and see a ho-hum 20/80 skill set. Brown showed elite upside with even more underlying speed. His failure late in the year was due to injuries and he even had a slight back issue in April. His only downside is he won’t hit in an ideal part of the batting order, unless the Phillies are willing to bat 3 straight lefties. Brown is a five category player with upside across the board.

A.J. Burnett

Burnett has pitched the best ball of his career over the last 2 seasons with the Pirates, tying a career low in ERA (3.30) and set a career in K’s (9.8) in 2013. While his walk rate (3.2) was a step back from 2012 (2.8), it has been high during his entire career (3.5). His success has been due to throwing the most strikes of his career (65%). A.J. was electric against RH batters (.203 with 120 K’s in 375 at bats), however, his step back in command was due to his lack of success against lefties (.263 with 45 of his 67 walks). In addition, he allowed 2 runs or less in 19 of his 30 starts. Burnett did miss about a month of the season with a calf injury in June. He has had an elite GB rate (56.5%) over the last 2 years, but his AFB (92.5) was near his career low (it has been about the same over the last 3 years). He threw a high % of curveballs (35.4% – career high) as his #2 pitch, followed by a show me changeup. Batters only hit .150 vs. his curveball in 1083 pitches, .283 vs. his sinker, .322 vs. his four seam fastball, and .333 vs. his changeup. A.J. probably cost himself some money over the winter as he was contemplating retirement, which seems strange considering how much money major league baseball has been throwing around and his success last year. Burnett has a nice arm, but he only has one tough pitch to hit (curveball). If he isn’t throwing strikes, his best pitch has a lot less value. He signed a 1-year, $16 million contract in February with the Phillies. His stats from the last 2 years will keep his price point high, but I see some regression.

Bryce Harper

Harper went to war in the outfield for the Nationals last season. His season started with a swollen left thumb late in spring training. The injury appeared to be a non-factor as he was hitting .400 with 5 HR’s and 10 RBI just ten games into the season. On May 1st, he suffered bruised ribs when he crashed into the outfield wall. Bryce had a minor toe issue on May 10th after having surgery to correct an ingrown toenail. He then ran into another wall face first, suffering a bruised knee and shoulder (plus a cut on his chin that required 11 stitches). Harper then suffered concussion like symptoms and his knee started to swell up, which led to a DL stint in early June. He returned to the lineup on July 1st, but the knee issue lingered all season. Bryce had a minor hip issue in late July and a bruised triceps in mid August. Furthermore, his hip issue flared back up in early September. In the offseason, Harper had surgery to remove a bursa sac in his left knee. Each knee has 11 bursa sacs, which are filled with fluid to work as a cushion between your bones, tendons, and muscles. His recovery time table was about 4 to 6 weeks. In between all of his drama, Bryce had reasonable success. He was electric in April (.344 with 9 HR’s and 18 RBI). However, his wall banging issues crushed his value in May (.193 with 3 HR’s and 5 RBI in 57 at bats). When he returned to the lineup in July, Harper was the same player (.266 with 8 HR’s, 35 RBI, and 9 SB’s in 274 at bats). Overall, his skill set did improve as his K rate (18.9%) and walk rate (12.3%) showed growth. Bryce bashed RH pitching (.300 with .560 SLG %), but he struggled against lefties (.214). His FB rate (33.4%) has been low during his 2 seasons in the majors, but he has a plus HR/FB rate (18.0%). There is a lot of information to digest from Harper in 2013. First, he showed elite upside before taking on a couple of major league outfield walls. Second, his skill set for the season still showed growth. Third, he is a complete beast against RH pitching. Harper needs to play a lot smarter going forward. He has to let that one great play go in the outfield in order to protect his career. His next step is solving lefties. His approach did improve against them, although it didn’t show in his batting average results. Harper is going to be a perennial top 5 pick in baseball. He has .300 batting average upside with 30 HR power and 20 SB ability. I’m sure he’ll hit his way up the draft board in spring training. The only thing that can derail this runaway train is the dare devil behind the wheel.

Anthony Rendon

Rendon was able to make the push from AA to the majors with just 11 AAA at bats. His results with the Nationals won’t blow you away, but his scouting report suggests he has 20 HR power with a plus approach at the plate. His K rate (17.5%) came in just above the major league average and it was almost identical to his short minor league career. His walk rate (7.4%) was shorter than expected, but his minor league career (16.9%) suggests upside in this area. Last year, he saw 64.4% fastballs, so major league pitchers didn’t fear his power. He struggled with both breaking pitches (.226) and off speed pitches (.191). In essence, Rendon has a third baseman skill set playing second base. If his power develops, he could be an edge at the position. Anthony offers no upside in speed. He may have the skill set to bat leadoff and could be this year’s version of Matt Carpenter of the Cardinals with more upside in power. With his short resume, I would tread carefully. Possible 15 HR’s with a solid batting average, but his runs and RBI’s will be short due to his slot in the batting order.

Jordan Zimmermann 

Zimmermann ended up being the most successful starter for the Nationals last season. He allowed 2 runs or less in 21 of his 32 starts, but he had one disaster start in each month from May to August. Jordan is a strike throwing machine with an elite walk rate (1.7), but his K rate (6.8) was a career low. He was 17-1 in games when Washington scored 3 runs or more, but he was 2-8 with a 4.45 ERA in games when they scored 2 runs or less. Zimmerman was very good against RH batters (.212), but was just average against lefties (.262). His AFB (93.9) was in line with 2012, while his slider continues to be his #2 pitch (followed by a curveball and show me changeup). His GB rate (47.6%) has risen over the last 2 seasons. Jordan had a 2.26 ERA in his 28 starts without his disaster outings (28 runs in 18 innings). He is very good major league arm, but his lack of K’s makes him a step down from a fantasy ace. He has 15 win upside, but his run support might not repeat in 2014. Overall, he really needs a swing and miss off speed pitch against lefties to have growth in K’s.

Tanner Roark

Roark would draw some attention from fantasy owners if they just look at his ERA (1.51) and his win/loss record (7-1). He has a career 4.04 ERA in the minors with 573 K’s in 667.7 innings. He spent part of 3 seasons at AA, and went 6-17 at AAA in 2012 with a 4.39 ERA. His AFB (92.6) was just major league average, while his #2 pitch was a slider, followed by a curveball and changeup. Tanner was a GB pitcher (50.0%) during his first season. His command (1.8) was elite with the Nationals thanks to a plus first strike % (71%). However, his K rate (6.7) came in short. Roark dominated RH batters (.157 with no HR’s allowed in 108 at bats), but he struggled to strike out LH batters (7 K’s in 80 at bats – .263). I can’t totally write him off as he did flash a plus season at High A in 2009 (10-0 with 2.70 ERA with 91 K’s in 86.7 innings). His resume says he’s a fraud, but his command gives him a chance at short term success. I don’t trust him.

2014 NL West – Midseason Fantasy Baseball Reflection

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 scoutpro@competitivesportsanalysis.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

 

Troy Tulowitzki

Another baseball season; another Tulowitzki injury. Troy is a great player and a clear edge at his position. Without a full season of at bats, he can’t make the impact fantasy players need to win leagues. Last year, he suffered a broken rib in mid June, which cost him about a month of the season. Later in the year, Troy had a minor oblique issue. His K rate (16.6%) was slightly above his career average, while his walk rate (11.1%) was just off his career high. Tulowitzki was very good against both RH (.310 with a .560 SLG %) and LH (.318 with a .482 SLG %) pitchers, but he hit 21 of his 25 HR’s against RH pitching. He had the 2nd highest HR/FB rate (18.1%) of his career. Over the last 4 seasons, Troy has missed 210 games. If he ever played a full season, he would be a huge edge at his position. He has high upside in batting average with a 30/100 skill set. Without the injury risk, he would be a top 5 selection in 2014. It’s tough to ignore his talent as he could pop for a career year at any time.

Justin Morneau 

Cuddyer set a career high in batting average (.331) in 2013 that led to the NL batting title. Just like Gonzalez and Tulowitzki, Michael missed 30+ games of the season. In early May, he had a bulging disk in his neck, which cost him a 2 weeks on the DL. Late in the year, he had a wrist forearm injury that he was able to play with. His K rate (18.5%) and his walk rate (8.5%) were both below his career averages, however, Cuddyer crushed RH pitching (.350 with .555 SLG %). He played well at home (.356 with 11 HR’s and 45 RBI’s in 225 at bats) and on the road (.311 with 9 HR’s and 39 RBI’s in 264 at bats). Michael has had a strong HR/FB rate (16.9%) during his 2 seasons with the Rockies, but he had a high GB rate (49.7%) and a low FB rate (30.1%). Overall, Cuddyer is on the downside of his career. He is playing in a great ballpark and maybe he is this generation’s version of Dante Bichette. His batting average isn’t repeatable, but it should still be an asset. Michael has 20+ HR power, but the HR upside is limited due to his low FB rate. The Rockies lineup has enough talent to score a lot of runs if everyone stays healthy. Possible .290 with 25 HR’s and 90 RBI’s.

Juan Nicasio

Juan has a 4.92 ERA after 55 starts in the majors. His command (3.7) has regressed during each season in the majors and his K rate (6.8) was a career low. During his minor league career, he had an elite walk rate (2.0) and a solid K rate (8.9). Last year, he pitched more than 6 innings only twice. Nicasio had 5 disaster starts in his last 12 outings. He allowed 2 runs or less in 17 of his 31 outings, so he has some talent when he is throwing strikes. HIs AFB (91.9) has lost over 2 mph since his rookie season. Furthermore, he throws a slider as his 2nd best pitch, followed by a declining changeup. Juan pitched well against lefties (.228), but he allowed 41 of his 64 walks to them. In addition, RH batters lit him up pretty good (.302). Last year, he only had one month with an ERA under 4.50 (July – 3.53). At this point of his career, he isn’t a good enough pitcher to be a major league starter. His velocity is moving in the wrong direction, he can’t throw strikes, and he doesn’t have a 3rd pitch of value. Nicasio has no fantasy value in 2014.

A.J. Pollock

Pollock made the Diamondbacks out of spring training after Adam Eaton went down with an elbow injury. He showed some upside in April (3 HR’s, 10 RBI’s, and 3 SB’s in 82 at bats), but struggled to deliver any production over the last 5 months of the year (5 HR’s, 28 RBI’s, and 8 SB’s in 361 at bats). A.J. only played about 2/3 of the games after April. He hit .303 during his minor league career with 14 HR’s, 147 RBI’s, and 67 SB’s in 1,233 at bats. His K rate (17.0%) was higher than his minor league career (12.8%), while his walk rate (6.9%) was in line with his minor league career. Pollock was a better hitter against LH pitching (.283 with a .480 SLG %). This year, A.J. will get regular at bats against LH pitching. He should get a chance to prove himself early in the season if Ross isn’t ready. His skill set may be slightly higher than Gerardo Parra’s. If he plays well in April, he may emerge as the starting center fielder. Possible 10/30 skill set with some upside in batting average.

Gerardo Parra 

Parra was able to play a full season in the outfield thanks to a couple of injuries. Overall, he didn’t do anything exceptionally well. His K rate (16.1%) was a career best, while his walk rate (7.2%) has declined over the last 2 seasons. Gerardo also only hit .198 against LH pitching with no HR’s in 177 at bats (.226 SLG %). However, he played well against righties (.297) and may have more power against them in the future (10 HR’s in 424 at bats – 38 doubles). Parra played his best ball before the All Star break (.285 with 7 HR’s, 27 RBI’s, and 6 SB’s). His lack of success against lefties led to less playing time over the 2nd half of the year (.242 with 3 HR’s, 21 RBI’s, and 4 SB’s). Gerardo is a GB hitter (55.3%) with a short HR/FB rate (8.2%). Parra was a career .314 hitter in the minors with short power and possible 25 SB upside. His lack of success against lefties makes me believe he is a platoon player in 2014. Possible upside in batting average and steals, but he’ll never see 601 at bats this year.

Addison Reed

Reed converted 40 of 47 chances in 2013, however, his overall stats haven’t been elite during his 2 seasons in the majors. His walk rate (2.9) was identical to his 2012 season, while his K rate (9.1) rose slightly. Addison had success against both RH (.220) and LH (.210) batters. Reed pitched well over the first 2 months of the season (1.96 ERA with 17 SV’s), but his season started to go backwards on June 5th when the White Sox pushed him into his 3rd inning in an extra innings game. He allowed a grand slam in the 16th after allowing a run in the 15th. Later in the month, Reed allowed another crooked number (4 runs) to ruin his June (11 runs in 13 innings). Addison was great in July (3.60 ERA), but blew up again in September (7.88 ERA with huge walk rate {8.0}). His lack of dominance led to him being moved in the offseason. Reed is a FB pitcher (45.4%), while his AFB (92.8) was almost 2 mph lower than his previous 2 years. His #2 pitch is a slider, followed by a show me changeup. Addison had elite command (1.7) during his minor league career with a plus, plus K rate (12.9). Even with less velocity, his fastball was tougher to hit (.191). For Reed to be an impact reliever, he needs his slider (.271 BAA) to make a step forward (along with his command). Overall, his arm has been as electric as advertised.

Wade Miley

Overall, Miley finished with a similar season to 2012, with the exception of the drop in his walk rate (2.9). Wade improved against RH batters (.259 – .270 in 2012), but he regressed against lefties (.272 – .200 in 2012). Miley pitched well in April (2.37 ERA), but lost his command in his last start of the month (7 walks). He was terrible in May (1-5 with a 7.34 ERA) and was easy to hit in June (.317 batting average against). Over the last 3 months of the year, he allowed 2 runs or less in 12 of his 17 starts (2.67 ERA). Without his bad month, Miley had a 2.78 ERA. In addition, hIs AFB (91.0) was a career high. His #2 pitch is a slider, followed by a solid changeup and a low level curveball. Wade had a career high GB rate (52.0%). While he had growth on the road (3.09 ERA), he struggled at home (4.01). So far during his career, his command (2.5) in the majors has been better than his minor league career (3.1). However, his K rate (6.5) remains short, but his minor league resume (7.0) offers short upside. Just like Corbin, Miley has pitched better at the major league level. Steady major league arm with not much more upside. His changeup had growth in 2013 which is a plus, but his walk rate does have some downside risk.

Dee Gordon – Gordon has struggled to hit his way on to first base over the last 2 seasons. His window for a starting job may be gone with the addition of Guerrero. His skill set has no value as a 3rd baseman, but the Dodgers have enough talent on the roster to play him there in the short term. While his K rate (19.8%) has risen over the last two seasons, his walk rate (9.4%) did show some growth. Last year, he only hit .222 against RH pitching. At AAA last year, Dee hit .297 with 49 SB’s in 374 at bats. Gordon has been working hard in the offseason to add bulk to help him earn more playing time. Dee has difference maker speed, but he has no value in HR’s and RBI’s. Solid bench option as a base stealer in waiting whose best option for playing time may be third base.

Yasiel Puig 

Puig made the jump from AA to the majors last season and showed 30 HR power with 20 SB upside. Yasiel had a K rate (22.5%) that was below the league average, while his walk rate (8.3%) came in as league average. Puig crushed both RH (.312 with a .516 SLG %) and LH (.340 with a .583 SLG %) pitching. Puig also had a plus HR/FB rate (21.8%), but he was a GB hitter (50.2%). In addition, Yasiel had success hitting four seam fastballs (.324 – .533 SLG %), sinkers (.396 – .496 SLG %), and sliders (.327 – .636 SLG %). Overall, he hit .349 over his first 3 months in the majors with 13 HR’s, 31 RBI’s, and 10 SB’s in 298 at bats. His approach at the plate did show growth over the last 2 months of the year (10.9% walk rate and 20.9% K rate). Simply put, he is an elite talent with high upside across the board. However, he didn’t do a good job with runners on base (10% RBI rate). He is expected to bat leadoff for the Dodgers this season, and has a chance to score 120+ runs with solid HR’s and SB’s. His batting average may come in shorter than expected due to his K rate, but I expect him to improve in this area. He looks like one of the rare 5 tool players in the game. His only negative is his maturity, which leads to many bad decisions. Possible top 5 draft pick in 2015, so his ride is still on the uptick.

Josh Beckett 

Beckett pitched pretty well over his first 3 starts (3.26 ERA with 17 K’s in 19.3 innings), but struggled through his last 5 outings (6.75 ERA). His season ended in mid May when he developed a groin injury that led to a nerve issue in his right arm and hand. He had surgery in July to fix a nerve impingement in his right shoulder. The time table for recovery was 3 to 5 months, which gives him a chance at being ready for the start of spring training. Beckett is 132-100 in his major league career with a 3.94 ERA. Josh has struggled over the last 2 seasons with declining command (3.1). He pitched at an elite level in 2011 (2.89 ERA), but his K rate (7.0) was below his career average. In addition, his AFB (92.0) has been on the decline over the last 5 seasons. He throws a cutter, curveball, and changeup almost the same % of time. Beckett has flashed elite upside at times during his career, but he has also fallen on his face more than once. Upside arm that may be overlooked on draft day who should be healthy for the first time since 2011. Possible 15 wins with 200 K upside.

Dan Haren 

Haren has been a pig in back to back seasons. He had elite command (1.6) with an improved K rate (8.0), but he allowed plus HR’s (1.5 per 9 innings) for the 2nd straight season. His AFB (88.9) did have a little more life than 2012. He threw his cutter as his #2 pitch, followed by split-finger fastball and a fading curveball. Furthermore, his FB rate (42.1%) was career high, which led to a career high HR/FB rate (13.0%). Dan struggled with RH batters (.281 – .471 SLG %), and was drilled over his first 15 starts of the year (6.15 ERA). Over the last 3 months of the year, he was a totally different pitcher (3.29 ERA with a higher K rate {8.6} and a shorter HR/9 rate {0.9}). His failure over the first half of the year was due a sore shoulder, which required a DL stint in late June. His velocity was actually less over the last 3 months. Haren is 129-111 during his major league career. While he has excellent command, the value of his pitches are declining. His success over the 2nd half gives a fantasy player a glimmer of hope that he might have one last run in him. My feeling is that he has one last dance.

Chase Headley 

Chase had his season derailed in mid March when he suffered a fractured left thumb. The injury forced him to miss just over 2 weeks of the season. His HR/FB rate (10.9%) was his 2nd highest of his career, but it was almost 50% less than 2012 (21.9%). His FB rate (31.3%) was a career low, and it has now declined in each of the last 4 years. Furthermore, his K rate (23.7%) has declined in each of his last 3 seasons, while his walk rate (11.2%) has been very good over the last 3 years. Headley had almost the same success against RH (.251) and LH (.248) pitching. Overall, he only played well in September (.305 with 5 HR’s and 14 RBI’s). His success hitting HR’s in 2012 was due to a change in his skill set as he started pulling the ball at a much higher rate than in previous seasons (23% pull rate batting RH in 2010 and 2011, 29% in 2012, and 37.6% in 2013 – 27.5% pull rate batting LH in 2010 and 2011, 39% in 2012, and 40.2% in 2013). Chase had a calf injury in June and a minor back injury in late August, and needed surgery in the offseason to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. Overall, Headley has only had one plus season in the majors during his career. His K rate is rising, which is inviting more batting average risk. The change in swing path didn’t result in more HR’s last year, and he did have a couple of injuries. Possible gamble if his price point is discounted, but I wouldn’t overpay hoping for his 2012 season. Set the bar at .270 with 20 HR’s and 10 SB’s and hope for upside.

Ian Kennedy 

Kennedy probably overachieved his skill set in 2011 when he went 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA. His value has been on a negative progression over the last 2 seasons. While his command (3.6) took a huge step backwards, his K rate (8.1) stayed intact. However, HR’s (1.3 per 9) have been a problem over the last 2 years. He pitched a little better with the Padres (4.34 ERA) after a late July trade, but he walked 18 batters in his first 5 starts with San Diego (29.7 innings – 5.4 walk rate). In September, Ian threw more strikes (7 walks in 28.7 innings – 2.2 walk rate), which led to 4 quality starts. His AFB (90.3) was in line with his 2011 season, and his changeup is his #2 pitch, followed by a curveball and a cutter. His biggest failure was against LH batters (.265 with 19 HR’s allowed in 340 at bats – .500 SLG %), but his command against righties has also regressed. Overall, his stuff has lost value across the board due to his inability to throws strikes. His home park gives him a big edge and he had a 2.81 ERA in 5 starts in San Diego after the trade (7-2 in his career with 2.41 ERA and 90 K’s in 71 innings). Solid backend gamble – 3.75 ERA with 13+ wins and 170+ K’s.

Andrew Cashner 

Cashner is drawing a lot of interest in the early draft season. He has an electric arm with a plus fastball (94.5), but it was the lowest of his career. Andrew throws a changeup as his second best pitch, followed by a slider and a low % of curveballs. His command (2.4) was the best of his career, which made a huge step forward last year. However, his K rate (6.6) surprisingly regressed to a career low. Cashner was very good against RH pitching (.217). Over his last 6 starts of the year, Andrew only allowed 4 runs in 44.7 innings (0.81 ERA – 38 K’s). He also only allowed 1 walk in his last 23.7 innings. Last year, he threw 175 innings, which was over 100 more than his previous season. Furthermore, Cashner has only pitched over 110 innings one other time during his career. I like his talent and he should have upside in K’s, but I can’t trust him to be healthy enough to be a SP3 in 2014.

Brandon Belt 

Overall, Belt had some growth in 2013, setting career highs in multiple categories. His K rate (21.9%) improved, but it is still below the major league average. However, his walk rate (9.1%) has been asset during his short career. Brandon played his best ball over the last 2 months of the year (.346 with 7 HR’s and 28 RBI’s in 191 at bats – 18.7% K rate). He was a much better hitter against RH pitching (.297 with a .495 SLG %), but he held his own against lefties (.261). His HR/FB rate (10.6%) went up by more than 50% from 2012 (9.2%). Belt is more of a FB hitter (41.3%) with a solid LD rate (24.3%). In addition, he was a career .343 hitter in the minors with a stronger K rate (17.8%). His only negative is that Posey will steal some at bats from him at first base, unless the Giants decide to let him play in the outfield (which didn’t happen in 2013). Upside player that is really close to being a fantasy asset. This year, he will finally hit 20+ HR’s with 80+ upside in RBI’s. He’ll even throw in double digit steals.

Pablo Sandoval 

Sandoval has sucked in fantasy players for 4 straight seasons. His power has been short in 3 of the last 4 years. He missed 2 weeks in June due to a hairline fracture in his left foot. Over the first 2 months, Pablo hit .288 with 8 HR’s and 37 RBI’s. He appeared to be on a pace for a 25/100 season, but struggled to hit for power over the next 2+ months after returning from his foot injury (2 HR’s and 27 RBI’s in 255 at bats). Sandoval finished the year on the upside (.322 with 4 HR’s and 15 RBI’s). Over the summer, Pablo lost 22 lbs. due to a new diet created by his brother. In the offseason, his desire to get in shape continued. Heading into 2014, he will be in some of the best shape of his life. His K rate (13.5%) has been in a tight area during his entire career, while his walk rate (8.1%) is just below the league average. Sandoval had no power batting from the right side of the plate (1 HR in 148 at bats). Furthermore, his HR/FB rate (8.3%) has declined in 2 straight seasons. Overall, Pablo has been an above average run producer (17% RBI rate during his career). A fantasy player now has to decide if his power was for real and if the extra weight was a factor for his lack of success. His K rate suggests his batting average has upside and if he gets 550+ at bats, I have to believe he is a lock to be a 20/80 player with upside in both areas. Possible all in candidate due to his low price point.

Tim Lincecum 

After going 69-41 with a 2.94 ERA during his first 5 seasons in the majors, Lincecum is 20-29 over his last 2 years with 4.76 ERA. His command (3.5) was much better than 2012 (4.4), but it was well off his career best in 2009 (2.7). His K rate (8.8) was a career low along with his AFB (90.2), which has faded for most of his career. His changeup continues to be his #2 pitch, followed by a slider and curveball. His value against RH batters (.260 -.433 SLG %) is fading. While Tim had success against lefties (.235), he issued too many walks (45 in 362 at bats). Last year, he never had an ERA under 3.60 in any month, and only allowed 2 runs or less in 14 of his 32 starts. Batters still have a tough time hitting his changeup (.157), slider (.237), curveball (.204), and sinker (.245), but his four seam fastball now has no value (.347 with a .564 SLG %). The Giants signed him to a 2-year, $35 million contact in October. His value has bottomed out where he is just about free on draft day. While his K ability remains strong, the value of his fastball is no longer elite. He has been unable to improve his command to help take advantage of his swing and miss secondary pitches. Overall, Lincecum really needs to throw more first pitch strikes. I don’t love him and he won’t be a target in 2014, but I can’t ignore him if he is given to me on draft day. I’ll take the possible 200 K’s and hope for improved command and a possible 3.75 ERA. Tim is a double jeopardy pitcher, meaning he’ll either crush your ERA and WHIP or he’ll bounce back and help make a good pitching staff special. It’s all about price point with him. In a way, I hope he pitches great in spring training to raise his value so his success will remove his name from my decision making process.

Tim Hudson 

Hudson didn’t pitch at an elite level last year, allowing 2 runs or less in just 10 of his 21 starts. His season ended in late July when he broke his right ankle on a play at first base. San Fran signed him to a 2-year, $23 million contact in November. Tim is expected to be ready for spring training. While his command (2.5) remains very good, his K rate (6.5) has been short over the last 12 years. However, it was above his career average (6.1). His AFB (89.7) was the 2nd lowest of his career, and his cutter continues to be his #2 pitch, followed by a resurfacing split finger fastball and curveball. Hudson has been a high % GB pitching (55.8%) during his entire career. Last year, batters had a tough time hitting his four seam fastball (.192), curveball (.184), cutter (.186), and split-finger (.204). Tim had the least value with his sinker (.305). Hudson is 205-111 during his major league career with a 3.44 ERA. He has won more than 15 games 8 times during his career. Solid major league arm with upside in wins whose K’s may surprise due to the addition of his split finger fastball.

2014 AL West – Midseason Fantasy Baseball Reflection

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 scoutpro@competitivesportsanalysis.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.

 

George Springer 

It really makes no sense for Houston to start Springer in the minors this season. He played well in 219 at bats at AAA in 2013 (.311 with 18 HR’s and 22 SB’s). His K rate (24.2 %) even improved from his AA results (29.7 %). Overall, George has hit .299 during his minor league career with 223 runs, 62 HR’s, 198 RBI, and 81 SB’s in only 1026 at bats. Furthermore, his walk rate (12.2 %) is solid. Without his huge K rate (26.5 % – career), his skill set looks elite. His lack of contact makes him a tough player to project in 2014. If he struggles to make contact early in the year, he could be sent to the minors quickly. Just by looking at Chris Carter, we can see a minor league 23.5 % K rate translating into a much higher K rate in the majors. Springer could have all the talent in the world, but he can’t have elite success in the majors with a 35 % strikeout rate. He has a 30/30 skill set, but we have no idea how far his batting average will fall in the majors.

Jose Altuve 

Altuve regressed slightly across the board in 2013, with the exception of RBI’s (52). His K rate (12.7%) remains solid, but it was higher than 2012 (11.8%). His walk rate (4.8%) is real short and was lower than last year (6.4%). Jose is a better hitter against lefties (.321 – career) with much more power (6 HR’s in 390 at bats – 8 HR’s in 1033 at bats against RH pitching). Altuve is a GB hitter (49.2%) with a short FB rate (28.3%) and an even shorter HR/FB rate (3.2%). Jose is one of the smallest players in the league, but he did hit 10 HR’s or more twice during his minor league career. He has stolen 30+ bags over the last 2 seasons, but was caught a league high 13 times in 2013. Altuve is a nice middle infielder that has more upside in power and could have more steals if he can improve his base stealing technique. Possible .300 average with a 10/30 skill set.

Scott Feldman 

You know is it going to be a long year for the Astros when I can’t find a better option as an ace than Feldman. He pitched real well for the Cubs over 15 starts (3.46 ERA). Scott had decent command (2.8) in 2013, but his K rate (6.5) remains short. Feldman allowed 3 runs or less in 11 of his 15 starts with Baltimore, but was racked 3 times (20 runs and 28 base runners in 12.3 innings) which led to a weaker ERA (4.27) in the AL. His AFB (89.9) was almost 2 mph lower than his previous season. Scott throws a cutter as his #2 pitch, followed by a curveball and a show me split-finger fastball. Surprisingly, both RH (.233) and LH (.235) batters had a tough time hitting him. This year, he is destined to have an ERA over 4.50. Feldman has pitched poorly as starter in 3 of 5 seasons. His low first pitch strike % (56) isn’t a good sign for 2014. Avoid at all costs.

Brandon Moss 

Moss had full time at bats in April where he hit .295 with 4 HR’s and 19 RBI, but he ended up only being a platoon player against RH pitching over the last 5 months of the year. Brandon only hit .200 against lefties with a monster K rate (43.2%). After the All Star break, Moss hit .296 with 14 HR’s and 43 RBI in 179 at bats. For the year, his K rate (27.7%) remained poor, but it was lower than his 2012 season. His walk rate (9.9%) was a career high. Brandon had a career high FB rate (51.5), but his HR/FB rate (18.8%) regressed from 2012 (25.9%). Moss only hit .206 against a four seam fastball with 11 HR’s in 126 at bats. Moss has no chance of getting full time at bats. His approach at the plate will lead to batting average risk. Overall, he has no chance of repeating his 2013 success. Moss has 20 HR power with 70 RBI potential.Don’t pay full price for his 30 HR’s.

Yoenis Cespedes 

For the 2nd straight season, Yoenis missed time due to multiple injuries. He suffered a thumb injury in April, which cost him 14 games. He had a slight hamstring injury in June, a slight wrist injury in July, and a shoulder injury in September. His approach at the plate regressed in 2013 as his K rate (23.8%) spiked upward and his walk rate (6.5%) regressed. His final results were in line with his 2012 season, with the exception of a huge decline in batting average and a weaker success rate stealing bases. Cespedes held his own against lefties (.280 with 11 HR’s in 161 at bats), but he regressed against righties (.223 – 24.6% K rate). He had a jump in his FB rate (45.6%), but his HR/FB rate (14.4%) declined slightly. It looks like pitchers have the most success against him with sliders. Last year, Yoenis struck out 35 times in 121 plate appearance against the slider with 6 HR’s. Cespedes has a 30/100 skill set if he could ever stay healthy for a full season. His batting average has risk if he is going to have a swing for the fences type of approach at the plate. I would consider his speed a bonus at this point of his career.

Scott Kazmir 

Kazmir was banished from baseball in 2011 after struggling in back to back seasons with the Angels. His lack of success was somewhat due to a bad back. After 5 disaster starts at AAA in 2011 (0-5 with a 17.02 ERA), Scott found himself trying to rebuild his career in the Independent league in 2012 where his results were less than attractive over 14 starts (5.34 ERA with 33 walks in 64 innings). The Indians signed him to a minor league deal in December of 2012. Kazmir pitched well during spring training, but he developed an abdomen injury at the end of March which cost him the first 20 days of the season. Scott was bombed in his first start with the Indians (6 runs and 11 base runners in 3.3 innings), but he responded with 3 straight solid outings highlighted by a 10 K game on May 9th. Overall, Kazmir allowed 2 runs or less in 16 or his 29 starts. In September, he showed electric upside when he posted three 10 or more K games. Scott was very good against lefties (.226), however, he allowed 41 of his 47 walks to RH batters and they hit .275 against him with 16 HR’s in 451 at bats. Kazmir finished the year with a plus K rate (9.2) and solid command (2.7). His AFB (92.5) was also his highest since his 2005 season. He threw a changeup as his 2nd best pitch, followed by a slider and a show me cutter. His HR/FB rate (11.6%) was higher than his best years in Tampa, but he did change his skill set, evidenced by him allowing the least amount of fly balls in his career (36% – 42.1% career average). His success led him to signing a 2-year, $22 million contract with the A’s. Kazmir has upside in 2014, but he needs to improve against RH batters. His K rate and command give him a chance at a 3.50 ERA or less with 200 K upside and 30 starts.

Jim Johnson 

Johnson has the most saves in baseball over the last 2 seasons. He signed a one year, $10 million contract in January with the A’s. His command (2.3) has declined over the last 3 seasons. While his K rate (7.2) made a nice bump, it has been short during his entire career. Last year, he didn’t dominate RH (.266) or LH (.279) batters. Johnson is an extreme GB pitcher (58.0%) with a low FB rate (21.5%). His HR/FB rate (11.4%) made a high jump from his previous 2 years. Furthermore, his AFB (93.8) was his lowest since 2008 and it has declined over the last 2 seasons. His curveball is his 2nd best pitch, followed by a changeup. Johnson’s resume looks good, but he did blow 9 saves last year. He isn’t dominant and wasn’t tough to hit in 2013. He has 40 save upside with a low K rate, but his skill set may lead to job loss if he struggles.

Sonny Gray 

Gray allowed 2 runs or less in 8 of his 10 starts with Oakland last year. He had a plus K rate (9.4) with good command (2.8). While Sonny had success against both RH (.198) and LH (.226) batters, he allowed 15 of his 20 walks to lefties. He has a solid fastball (93.1) with a plus curveball, followed by a show me changeup. Gray was a GB pitcher (52.9%) with the A’s. Overall, his minor league resume doesn’t match his major league success. Sonny has a career 3.66 ERA in 292.3 minor league innings with 237 K’s. His command (3.2) was less and he had a weaker K rate (7.3). Early during his minor league career, Oakland tried to change his mechanics, which led to less movement on his pitches. He switched back to his old throwing motion, which led to more late life on his stuff. His 2013 success with the A’s looks attractive, but he does have some downside risk if his command takes a step back. Gray really doesn’t have a dependable 3rd pitch at this point of his career. Upside arm that may need more time to develop in 2014. His ERA may fall on the wrong side of 3.75 with a higher than expected WHIP.

Kole Calhoun 

Trout should really be the #3 hitter for the Angels, but that plan will have to wait one more season. In order to create as much value for Trout, LA needs to have a quality bat leading off and really need a solid option hitting 9th in the batting order. Aybar is nice major league hitter, but his on base % is only .317 during his career. Calhoun gave the Angels 195 plus at bats in 2013. He showed upside power and a willingness to take a walk (9.5%). Furthermore, his K rate (18.5%) was about the major league average. He is a career .317 hitter in the minors with 55 HR’s, 263 RBI, and 45 SB’s in 1364 at bats. He had a solid walk rate (11.9%) in the minors, which gives him more upside in this area in the majors. In his limited at bats (50) against lefties in the majors, Kole hit .340. At AAA in 2013, he hit .439 against left hand pitching in 57 at bats with 3 HR’s and 16 RBI. His skill set probably isn’t built on being a leadoff hitter, but he does enough things well where he appears to be the best option on the team after Trout. His career on base % in the minors was .402. Calhoun also has underlying speed, even though he only has average base running ability. Kole is an older prospect with low upside tools, but he has great character and smarts. I expect him to be undervalued on draft day, especially if he does get a chance to bat at the top of the order.

Albert Pujols 

Last year, Pujols missed most of spring training after a slow recovery from knee surgery from the previous October. He was limited to a DH role early in the year and it was clear he wasn’t 100% healthy just based on his slow foot speed. For most of his career, Albert has struggled with plantar fascia. Last year, he tore his left plantar fascia in late July, which ended his season. The injury didn’t require surgery and he was almost 100% healthy in January. Pujols had a career low 17 HR’s and a career low .258 batting average. Prior to last year, Albert had hit 30 HR’s or more in 12 straight seasons and his lowest RBI total was 99. If he played a full season in 2013, Pujols was on a pace for 27 HR’s and 100 RBI. His K rate (12.4%) has been elite during his career, but it was a career high last year. Additionally, his walk rate (9.0%) has been below his career average over the last 3 years. Pujols has a great major league resume and great work ethic. He has under achieved in his first 2 years with the Angels and this year his draft value has slid to a career low. Last year, Mike Trout was on base 282 times, which gives Pujols one of the best RBI chances in the game. A fantasy player would just be crazy to pass up the Trout/Pujols hook up on the 2/3 turn. Albert should hit over .300 this year with 30+ HR’s and 120+ RBI.

C.J. Wilson 

Wilson was one of the few bright spots on the Angels in 2013. His command (3.6) has been a negative during his entire career, while his K rate (8.0) was in line with his career average. C.J. was dominant against lefties (.169), but he did struggle a bit with righties (.269). Wilson was a much better pitcher at home (2.55 ERA), but won most of his games on the road (11-3 with 4.13 ERA). HIs AFB (91.2) was down from 2012 (91.7). Wilson threw a slider as his #2 pitch for the 1st time since 2009. He also throws a curveball, followed by a cutter and a show me changeup. C.J. is 61-32 over the last 4 years as a starter with a 3.37 ERA. Wilson has been able to survive in the majors even with poor command. In a way, he has somehow overachieved considering his skill set. His solid season will push up his draft value, which makes it easier to avoid his downside WHIP risk. Possible down tick year.

Garrett Richards 

Richards had some growth in the majors last year. His command (2.7) moved in line with his minor league resume (2.8), but his K rate (6.3) still needs some work. Last year, Garrett turned into a high GB pitcher (57.9%). He has a plus fastball (94.8), but really only has one other pitch that he trusts (slider). Richards will throw a show me curveball and an occasional changeup. In 2013, he struggled with LH batters (.281) and wasn’t dominant against righties (.252). Over the last 2 months last year, Garrett had a 3.98 ERA in 12 starts for LA, but he allowed too many base runners (1.40 WHIP). Richards is 34-11 during his minor league career with a 3.34 ERA and 347 K’s in 398.3 innings. He struggles with lefties and lacks a 3rd pitch at this point of his career. His fastball gives him upside, but his skill set may make more sense as a closer down the road if he doesn’t improve. His jump in GB rate shows a change in approach to batters. Garrett needs to improve his first pitch strike % (54%) as well. Possible upside, but he isn’t ready to make a fantasy impact. Potential sub 4.00 ERA with some WHIP risk and low K upside.

Ernesto Frieri 

Frieri wasn’t an easy ride last year. He struggled with walks (17 in 23.7 innings) over the first 2 months of the season. This led to a bad stretch in May where he allowed 6 runs and 12 base runners in 5.3 innings. He survived his slump without blowing any saves, but his 2nd bad stretch in late July and early August (12 runs and 19 base runners in 4.7 innings) led to him losing the closer job for 2 weeks. When he returned to the 9th inning in late August, he only walked 3 batters over his last 16.7 innings with 22 K’s. Ernesto finished 2013 with a plus, plus K rate (12.8), but his walk rate (3.9) is a huge problem especially if you add in 11 HR’s (1.4 per 9 innings). RH batters hit .292 against him. Frieri was very good against lefties (.159), but he allowed 21 of his 30 walks to them. His HR problem was to both sides of the plate. Last year, he had an incredible 59.2% FB rate. His AFB (94.4) was the highest of his career, but he threw it 87% of the time. Ernesto throw a slider as his #2 pitch. Frieri is a one dimensional pitcher with a huge FB rate, poor command, and a HR problem. His lack of success against righties isn’t good for his long term job security. Overall, he’s a tough swing for me in 2014. I just see too many factors working against his success, even with an improved 1st pitch strike %. Frieri needs to find a 2nd pitch he can trust.

Kyle Seager 

Seager played real well over the first 4 months of the year (.298 with 17 HR’s and 50 RBI), but he died over the last 2 months of the year (.181 with 5 HR’s and 19 RBI). His batting average has been short against lefties over the past 2 years (.237 in 2012 and .235 in 2013), but he hit 17 HR’s in 453 at bats. His K rate (17.6%) declined slightly, while his walk rate (9.8%) was a career high. Kyle’s power growth is a good sign and his approach at the plate and his minor league resume suggests upside in batting average down the road. Kyle will even chip in with possible double digit steals. Seager hit .304 with a .374 OB % while batting 2nd. His batting average has .300 upside with 20 HR power and double digit speed.

Robinson Cano 

The Mariners blew away Cano with a 10-year, $240 million contract. Robinson has hit over .300 in his last 5 seasons. His K rate (12.5%) remains in a very good area, while his walk rate (9.5%) has shown very good growth. Last year, Cano was a plus run producer (20% RBI rate), but he had his shortest RBI chances since 2006. Furthermore, he had a great first half of the year (.302 with 21 HR’s and 65 RBI) before his power faded after the All Star break (6 HR’s). Cano is a career .318 hitter against RH pitching and .290 against lefties. He has hit .309 at Safeco Field with 4 HR’s and 20 RBI in 163 at bats during his career. His FB rate (29.8%) has been short over the last 2 seasons, while his HR/FB rate (17.3%) has been strong over the past 3 years. The change in ballpark and team is somewhat of a concern. Cano is a rock solid .300 hitter with 25+ HR potential, but his RBI total may lack upside unless the Mariners get a solid option as a leadoff hitter.

Felix Hernandez 

Hernandez has been a great pitcher during his major league career, but he only has a 110-86 record. Felix has only won more than 15 games once during his career. Furthermore, Seattle has only averaged 72 wins per season since he has been a full time starter. Hernandez has averaged 13 wins per year over his last 8 years. Last year, Felix had the best command (2.0) of his career, which led to a career high K rate (9.5). His strikeout rate has risen in each of the last 5 seasons. Hernandez was elite after the first 4 months of 2013 (11-4 with a 2.34 ERA with 158 K’s in 143.7 innings), but tried to pitch through a sore back late in the year. Over his last 5 starts in August, Felix had 3 poor starts (19 runs and 34 base runners in 27 innings), which led to him missing 3 starts in September. He finished the year with a 1-6 record over his last 8 starts with 5.77 ERA. His AFB (91.9) has declined over his last 3 seasons and it is well off of his rookie year (95.8). His changeup continues to be his #2 pitch, followed by a curveball and a changeup. Hernandez has pitched over 200 innings during his last 6 seasons and has made 30 or more starts in his last 8 years. He has an elite arm with an improving skill set (despite a declining fastball). Seattle should be better in 2014, which gives the King a chance at 15+ wins and a sub 3.00 ERA. Excellent fantasy ace who is reaching the prime of his career.

Taijuan Walker 

Walker pitched well enough at AAA and in the majors in 2013 where he is expected to make the Mariners starting rotation in 2014. His K rate (9.7) has been strong at every level of the minors, but his walk rate (3.6) really hasn’t shown a lot of growth. He did throw more strikes at AA (3.2 walk rate), but he regressed at AAA (4.2). In his 3 starts in the majors, he did throw strikes (2.4 walk rate), but his K rate (7.2) declined. At AAA, RH batters hit .315 against him with 4 HR’s in 29.7 innings (.222 in the majors with only 2 K’s in 18 at bats). Taijuan was very good against lefties in the majors (.194) and AAA (.161 with 35 K’s in 27.7 innings). However, Walker did struggle with walks to LH batters (5.5 walk rate) at AAA. He has a plus fastball (94.7) and throws a cutter as his #2 pitch, followed by a curveball and a show me changeup. Taijuan is a high upside pitcher, however, his command suggests it won’t be an easy ride over a full season in the majors. I like the development of his cutter, but he needs to find a secondary pitch to get righties out at a higher rate in the majors. His innings should be capped at 180 this season. I’d draft him with a 3.75 ERA in mind with WHIP risk and possibly 150 K’s if he pitched the whole year with Seattle.

Elvis Andrus

This year, Andrus may finally get a chance to bat leadoff. He continues to show no upside in power and has one of the weakest AVH scores (1.22) in the game. His RBI totals have been inflated by plus chances (also helped by plus at bats). Elvis has decent size and may develop power, but his low FB rate (22.4% in 2013 – 21.4% during his career) suggests he isn’t ready to make that step forward. Andrus hit most of his fly balls to right center where they have no chance of leaving the park. Furthermore, he has had a high GB rate (56.3) during his career. Last year, he had almost the same success against RH (.270) and LH (.273) pitching. After hitting no HR’s in his first 449 at bats over 4+ months, Elvis hit 4 HR’s in his last 171 at bats. He had a spike in RBI’s (34) in August and September. Over the last 3 months of the season, Andrus hit .301 with 4 HR’s, 39 RBI, and 25 SB’s. His K rate (13.9%) was slightly above his career average, while his walk rate (7.5%) has declined over the last 3 years. Elvis really doesn’t have the ideal skill set to bat leadoff due to a lack of walks, but the Rangers team structure set up well with him at the top of the lineup. By hitting Choo 2nd, Andrus’ speed will open up the right side of the infield when he is on base. This gives Shin-Soo more room to hit a ground ball through the infield (plus Choo takes plenty of pitches). In turn, this will allow Andrus to steal more bases. I don’t trust that Andrus will have a breakout season in terms of power, but he has upside in batting average, SB’s, and runs. He is a young player that has shown to have durability and he has even more upside. I see his first 200 hit season, which leads to a .300+ average with 60+ steals.

Joakim Soria 

Just like Feliz, Soria made the slow crawl from Tommy John surgery in 2013. He pitched 7 shutout innings in the minors while only allowing 1 hit and no walks with 8 K’s. When he returned to the majors, Joakim lacked command (5.3), but had a plus K rate (10.6). RH batters hit .366 against him in 41 at bats, but he only allowed 2 extra base hits. Lefties had only 3 hits off of him in 44 at bats. His AFB (90.8) came in short of his previous 3 seasons. He threw a slider as his #2 pitch, followed by a slow curveball. For some reason, his changeup was no longer a pitch of value. Soria has 160 major league saves with a history of having solid command. He is more than capable of doing the job and I expect him to pitch at a high level this season. If Feliz lacks command early in the year, Joakim could steal the job and run with it. He almost looks like a must handcuff.

 

2014 AL Central – Midseason Fantasy Baseball Reflection

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 scoutpro@competitivesportsanalysis.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.

 

Jose Abreu 

Abreu signed a 5 year, $68 million contract in October with the White Sox. He will take over at first base. Jose hit 30 HR’s or more in each season from 2010 to 2012 while only playing in 263 games. Abreu has had an elite approach at the plate over his last 4 seasons in the Cuban league (276 walks – 113 intentional and only 178 K’s). His walk rate was 19.5% during that stretch with a 12.9% K rate. Last year, his power took a step back (SLG % of .604). There isn’t much video available on Abreu. He had massive power in short at bats in Cuba, but the ball parks are small and the pitching talent lacks depth. Cespedes and Puig have played well in the majors after their transition from Cuba. It appears Abreu is willing to go the other way, which will help him keep his contact rate in line. I’m looking forward to watching him in spring training. I’ll set the bar at .275 with a 25/90 skill set until I see him in live action.

Alexei Ramirez 

Ramirez has played in 156 games or more in 4 straight seasons. He set a career high in at bats (637), hits (181), doubles (39), and SB’s (30). His skill set is really tough to figure out. Early in his career, Alexei appeared to have upside in power with underlying speed. His power is almost all gone (6 HR’s), while his speed has emerged (30 SB’s). His K rate (10.1%) was a career low. Likewise, his walk rate (3.9%) has ranked near the bottom of the league over the last 2 seasons. Last year, his low HR rate was due to a career low FB rate (29.2%) and HR/FB rate (3.6%). His LD rate (22.1%) was also a career high. Maybe his swing path changed resulting in more solid contact but less loft. Last year, he hit over .270 in every month of the season, but only had 1 HR over the first 3 months of the year. Alexei had 501 at bats hitting 2nd and 3rd in the batting order. Overall, Ramirez had 47 extra base hits, which was somewhat in line with his previous seasons. I expect a bounce back in power and I’m hoping his speed holds up. Possible upside – .280 with 15/20 skill set.

Chris Sale 

Sale improved in just about every area in 2013, with the exception of wins. He set a career high in K’s (226) with a career low in walks (46) and dominated LH batters (.135 – 3 extra base hits in 148 at bats). His command (1.9) is elite with a rising K rate (9.5), while his overall strike % was a career high at 67%. Chris pitched 7 or more innings in 23 of his 30 starts, and had double digit K’s 6 times. As good as his season looked, he did allow 4 runs or more 7 times. Chris missed 1 start in May due to a sore shoulder. Sale did struggle with HR’s over a 5 game stretch in late August into early September (9 HR’s in 36 innings). His AFB (93.1) was 1.5 mph stronger than 2012 and the value of his changeup is rising, which he threw a career high 19% in 2013. His #2 pitch is a plus slider. Sale came into the league looking like a tooth pick with a delivery that many thought would lead to an injury. As he fills out, he could add more velocity. Overall, he has 3 plus pitchers with elite command. Lefties have no chance against him due to his side winding style and his improved trust in his secondary pitches. He did take a step backwards against righties (23 HR’s and .252 ERA). If he improves against RH batters, he has a chance to lead the league in ERA with 250+ K upside.

Jon Danks 

Danks missed the first 7 weeks of last season after having left shoulder surgery. When he returned, his fastball (89.3 – career low) had less velocity. His command (1.8) was elite, but his K rate (5.8) was short and too many fly balls ended up in the seats (28 HR’s in 138.3 innings). Overall, he struggled with both RH (.270) and LH (.293 batters). His ERA was under 4.00 only once (August – 3.86). Over his last 4 starts of the year, Danks allowed 19 runs and 39 base runners in 21.3 innings. He clearly wasn’t 100% healthy last season. This season, he needs more life on his pitches in the strike zone. John’s K rate lacks any upside. This season, he’ll need volume of innings to deliver any value. His command suggests he still can pitch in the majors, but he needs to make better pitches. Maybe a 3.75 ERA with 150 K’s if he shows some life in spring training.

Michael Brantley

Brantley didn’t have a lot of value in 10 or 12 team leagues, but he was a very good backend option in 15 team leagues. He set a career high in at bats (556), runs (66), HR’s (10), RBI (73), and SB’s (17). Michael did a very good job with runners on base (17% RBI rate). His K rate (11%) was a career best, but his lack of walks (6.6% BB rate) hurts his chances of batting leadoff. Most of his power was delivered against RH pitching (9), but he did handle himself well against lefties (.276). Brantley lost his HR stroke after the All Star break (3 HR’s in 223 at bats). He only hit 1 HR on the road in 282 at bats. Michael stole 46 bases during his best season in the minors. His low FB rate (29.8%) limits his upside in power, but Brantley has shown growth during each season in the majors. His low K rate should lead to higher upside in batting average. However, he needs to steal a few more bases to make a fantasy impact in 2014. I like his progression and he may pop this year as he reaches his prime. I think he is a better option to bat leadoff for Cleveland. Possible .300 with 15 HR’s and 30 SB’s.

Carlos Santana

It’s rare to find a catcher that will play 150+ plus games. Over the last 3 seasons, Carlos has averaged almost 151 games and 533 at bats. His added value is built on his ability to play first base, plus he gets to play a high % of games at DH. Santana set a career high in hits (145), doubles (39), and batting average (.268). HIs walk rate (14.5%) has been elite in every season in the majors, while his K rate (17.1%) is slightly better than the league average. Carlos has been a below average run producer during his career (14%). He has 20 HR power, but fantasy players thought he would push toward 30 HR’s after his 2011 season (27 HR’s). His batting average continues to fall short of expectations based on his approach at the plate. His lack of success in BA is due to his poor hitting against RH pitching (.239 in his career – .251 in 2013). His approach is much stronger against LH pitching (.285) with more walks (103) than K’s (93). Santana’s FB rate (35.7%) has declined over the past 2 seasons. Overall, Carlos has a chance to be an edge at catcher due to his plus at bats. He hits in the right part of the batting order, but needs to be a better hitter with runners on base. His limited days behind the plate gives him a much higher chance of staying healthy. I’d loved to say he has a .300 30/100 skill set, but his 2 big weaknesses (RH pitching and RBI rate) would need a huge step forward. Solid option at catcher, but he could be beat by multiple other catchers this year. Santana has been working out in winter ball at 3B in an effort to get more at bats for Yan Gomes behind the plate.

Justin Masterson 

If a fantasy player can figure out why Masterson struggled so badly in 2012 and why he made such a big improvement in 2013, he would win the ticket to fantasy paradise. Justin’s command (3.5) only improved slightly, but it was well below his 2011 season (2.7). His K rate (9.1) made a huge jump and was much harder to hit (.222). His AFB (91.6) was lower than his previous 2 seasons. Masterson still relies on his slider as his only other pitch. Last year, he dominated RH batters (.182 with only 10 extra base hits allowed in 275 at bats). As good as his season looks, it could have been better if he didn’t miss almost the whole month of September with an oblique injury. Masterson was tougher to hit last year. He didn’t throw more strikes, didn’t add another pitch, and didn’t add any velocity. It really just comes down to better pitch location and execution. He hit a league high 17 batters, so he probably just established the inner half of the plate better. Justin has been an every other year pitching over the last 4 seasons, so this may be a down tick year. His poor command needs to improve to repeat his success. Overall, he has some downside risk in 2014.

Corey Kluber 

Kluber pitched very well for the Indians after being called up in mid April. He had excellent command (2.0) with a solid K rate (8.3). In the minors, Corey struggled with his command (3.6). Just like McAllister, Kluber suffered a right middle finger injury in August. Kluber has a solid fastball (93.2). He threw a cutter as his #2 pitch followed by a curveball and changeup. He was very hittable in 2013 (.271), but allowed 3 runs or less in 17 of his 24 starts. On the year, Kluber allowed more hits than innings, but most of his negative damage happened in 3 starts (20 runs and 36 base runners in 14.7 innings). Overall, his minor league resume (4.42 ERA) doesn’t support his major league success. His improvement of command was the key reason for his step forward. Corey does rely on his secondary pitches, so he may have had some growth last year. Decent arm, but his age and resume suggest downside risk. HUGE MISS BE ME – His improved command should have been more important to me.

Cody Allen

Allen had a great season for the Indians last year. He had a plus K rate (11.3), but his walk rate (3.3) still needs some work. Cody had success against both RH (.236) and LH (.230) batters. Allen pitched well in every month except July (4.22 ERA). His AFB (95.4) is elite and his only other pitch is a curveball. He had a 1.74 ERA during his minor league career with 128 K’s in 98 innings. His success last year was in line with his minor league resume, except his command (2.1) was better. This suggests he has more upside. I believe he has the best arm to be the closer for Cleveland.

Victor Martinez 

Last year, Martinez came to the plate with 478 runners on base, which is a very attractive number. With Fielder off the team, Victor should move to 4th in the lineup. Last year, Prince came to the plate with 536 runners on base. The cleanup slot on the Tigers lineup is probably the best RBI opportunity in baseball, even with Cabrera cleaning the bases with plus HR’s. During his career, Martinez has been a 18% run producer. With 500 RBI chances, he can’t help but drive in 100 runs. He played in a career high 159 games and set career highs in at bats (605) and hits (182). His K rate (9.3%) is elite and his walk rate (9.3%) was in line with his career resume. Victor hit .361 after the All Star break with short power (6 HR’s). His HR/FB rate (7.2%) was a career low for a full season. This year, he will only qualify at DH. He has 100 RBI upside with a plus batting average. His power is only a bonus. I’d draft him hoping for 15 HR’s and pray for a breakout season. Solid major bat with a plus opportunity.

Ian Kinsler 

After two straight relatively healthy seasons, Kinsler missed 26 games last season with a rib injury. Ian had a career low K rate (9.6%). His walk rate (8.3%) has been major league average over the past 2 seasons after showing upside in 2010 and 2011, while his FB rate (39.4%) has declined over the past 2 seasons. This drop has led to a much lower HR/FB rate (6.7%). Kinsler had success against LH pitching (.306), but only had 2 HR’s against them in 157 at bats. Ian has a solid major league resume. His approach at the plate should lead to upside in batting average. His speed is fading and his power has regressed in 2 straight seasons, and he has been injury prone in the past. This year, I expect him to hit in front of Miguel Cabrera, which gives him a chance of seeing more fastballs. His RBI rate has been much stronger over the past 2 seasons. Kinsler should be an asset in all 5 categories in 2014. His bar has dropped to a 20/20 skill set with downside risk in both HR’s and SB’s. Possible juicer, which means his elite days could be over.

Rick Porcello 

Porcello continued his wild path in the majors in 2013. His ERA is 4.51 during his major league career, but he has 61 major league wins at age 24.. His command (2.1) has been elite in his first 868.7 innings, but last year was the first time his K rate (7.2) had any value. Additionally, his GB rate (55.3%) continues to rise and he allowed a career low 23.7% fly balls. His AFB (91.2) was slightly less than 2012 (92.0), but his changeup continues to improve. Last year, he started using his curveball as his #2 pitch at the expense of his slider. Porcello had the most success against RH batters (.237) in his career. He had an elite BB: K rate (11:85) against righties. Rick has struggled with lefties during his entire career (.307) and his failure rate was the same in 2013 (.303 – 11 HR’s in 347 at bats). Last year, Porcello had a 6.28 ERA after his first 9 starts mainly due to his 9 run pasting by the Angels in 2/3 of an inning. On May 28th, he pitched an electric start against the Pirates (11 K’s in 8 shutout innings). It was the first time in his career that he showed plus K ability. On the year, he allowed 3 runs or less in 23 of his 29 starts. His weak ERA was due to 4 disaster starts where he allowed 30 runs in 16 innings. Without his bad starts, he had a 3.19 ERA. In September, he had back to back plus K games (19 K’s in 12.7 innings). Porcello is one step away from being an elite arm, but he needs to figure out lefties. His resume looks like it has many shades of red, but he is really close to turning a profit. I see a breakthrough season with a sub 3.50 ERA with 150+ K upside.

Justin Verlander 

For most pitchers, Verlander’s 2013 results would be great. Justin had his worst season since 2008. His command (3.1) took a huge step backwards and he lost more velocity off of his fastball (93.3 – career low). Verlander has pitched over 200 innings in 7 straight seasons and has won 17 games or more 6 times in 8 major league seasons. Most of his failure happened in May (6.41 ERA). He ended the season with a 2.27 ERA in September and was electric in the playoffs (1 run in 23 innings with 31 K’s in 23 innings). His slider has gained value over the last few season (he threw it a career high 13.2% of the time). His changeup is still his #2 pitch, followed by a plus curveball. Most of his struggles were against RH batters (.275), but he did walk the most LH batters (50) since 2008. Verlander had surgery to repair an abdomen muscle in early January, but is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season. Justin has an elite resume and finished 2013 on a high note. I know one fantasy player that will be looking for him to fall in drafts so he can pull off the triple Lindy. Elite arm with 20 win upside and sub 3.00 ERA.

Mike Moustakas 

M & M may have been the caption of the YOU SUCK award in 2013. The Royals wheeled him out day in and day out and he came up empty more times than Charlie Sheen on a bad tear. He crushed many teams for me last year as I rode him into the ground. His K rate (16.2%) improved from 2012 (20.2%), while his walk rate (6.2%) was below the league average. Moustakas was brutal against lefties (.196 with 2 HR’s and 10 RBI in 107 at bats). Over the first 3 months of the year, he only hit .215 with 5 HR’s and 15 RBI. At no point in the season did he look like a major league ready hitter. Moustakas was a .282 career hitter in the minors with 84 HR’s and 335 RBI in 1736 at bats. He has 25+ HR power with a strong enough approach to have upside in batting average in the future. Mike is a FB hitter (44.5% in 2013 and 45.7% in his career), but his HR/FB rate (6.9%) was very low last year. His major league resume will scare you to death on draft day, but there is a shining star with upside power hidden in his skill set. Of all the Royals possible power hitters, Moustakas has the best stroke for upside power. One deep breath and two Hail Mary’s and your prayers may be answered.

Billy Butler

It’s really strange looking at the power progressions of some of these Royals batters. Butler had a smokin double rate over 2009 to 2011 (140) with solid HR’s (55). His power spiked (29 HR’s) in 2012 and his doubles stayed strong (32). Essentially, he basically traded doubles for HR’s. Last year, Billy couldn’t hit doubles (27) or HR’s (15). Surprisingly, his RBI rate (18%) stayed in an elite area, while his K rate (15.3%) was slightly higher than his career average (14.3%). However, it did improve from 2012 (16.4%). His walk rate (11.8%) was a career high. Billy hit for a higher average at home (.318 – .260 on the road). His swing path may have changed slightly as he hit a career high 53.1% ground balls, which led to a career low FB rate (26.4%). Butler has a solid major league bat with upside in batting average. His high GB rate suggests his breakthrough in power isn’t repeatable. Maybe the Royals are trying to play too much small ball. Their lack of experience in the heat of the battle led to a just put it in play attitude. I like him as a player and he is just reaching his prime. While I expect a much better season, he isn’t ready to be an impact power hitter. His value takes a hit as he will just qualify for DH. Pencil him in for 20 HR’s and hope for upside.

James Shields 

Shields delivered his 3rd straight plus season in 2013 while leading the AL in innings pitched. Overall, he has thrown 705.7 innings over the last 3 years. His K rate (7.7) was the lowest it has been in the past 4 seasons while his walk rate (2.7) was his highest since 2006. His AVB (92.2) was his 2nd highest of his career. Additionally, he has a plus change up and a cutter that is improving (plus he throws a solid curveball). He wasn’t dominant against RH batters (.272 – .248 in 2012 and .215 in 2011). James had an ERA under 3.50 in every month of the season and was great on the road (10-3 with a 2.07 ERA). Shields is a solid major league pitcher who has pitched over 200 innings in each of the last 7 years. He showed decline in 3 areas in 2013 – walk rate, K rate, and batting average to RH batters. Looking back, he has struggled in the past after a couple of solid seasons. Possible down tick year.

Jason Vargas 

Vargas missed 2 months of the season with an arm injury. He returned to pitch 4 decent starts in August to lower his ERA to 3.54. However, Jason blew up in September (5.55 ERA). His K rate (6.5) was a career high and his walk rate (2.8) was in line with his career average. Lefties hit .327 against him, but they had no HR’s. RH batters had 17 HR’s in 425 at bats. Vargas has a short fastball (87.7) and throws a change up as his 2nd best pitch. Last year, he started throwing his curveball a lot more at the expense of his cutter. Jason has plenty of risk, but the backend half of the Royals pitching staff isn’t any better. Vargas has decent command with a weak K rate. He won’t have a ton of value in the fantasy world, but could end up being the 2nd best starter on the Royals with a sub 4.00 ERA.

Oswaldo Arcia

Arcia is one of the few players in the Twins starting lineup with long term upside. Last year, he had 24 HR’s and 73 RBI between the majors and AAA. His K rate (31.0%) with Minnesota was well above his minor league career (18.9%), but his K’s have risen in each level in the minors as he has moved up through the system. His walk rate (6.1%) is projected to be major league average or less. Oswaldo was about the same hitter against RH (.249) and LH (.254) pitching. However, he only had 2 walks in 114 at bats against lefties and had more power against RH pitching (11 HR’s in 237 at bats). In August and September, his K rate rose to 35.1%. Arcia hit .314 during his minor league career with 63 HR’s and 290 RBI in 1544 at bats. His minor league resume suggests upside in power and batting average, but his major league success points to batting average risk until he makes better contact. Oswaldo has talent and upside, but his K rate will hold him back over the short term. I expect him to get full time at bats and he may have a slump or two during the season. Overall, I expect a sub .250 batting average with 20 HR’s and short RBI. Speed is not a factor in his skill set.

Brian Dozier 

I was way off on Dozier heading into 2013. He hit .298 in the minors with only 16 HR’s and 46 SB’s in 1405 at bats. His walk rate (8.2%) was about major league average in the majors with a above average K rate (19.3% – 11.3% in the minors). Brian struggled over the first 2 months of the season (.214 with 2 HR’s and 13 RBI in 154 at bats). He found his stroke in June (5 HR’s and 13 RBI), which led to him getting full time at bats over the last 3 months of the season. His batting average was weak all season, but he was able to hit 11 HR’s with 40 RBI and 8 SB’s over the last 3 months of the year. His K rate (22.6%) over the last 2 months of the season regressed. While he only hit .219 against RH pitching, he had 13 of his 18 HR’s against them. His approach (17 walks and 20 K’s) was much better against lefties, which led to a .328 batting average. His 2013 season is intriguing for a middle infielder, but it’s tough to trust his power based on his resume. Dozier had better control of the strike zone in the minors, so his batting average may improve. His SB’s also may have more upside. Tough to really believe in him progressing further, but he hits in a favorable part of the batting order. Possible 15/20 skill set with uptick in average.

Phil Hughes 

Hughes never developed into the starter the Yankees thought he would. Phil signed a 3 year, $24 million contract in November with the Twins. He has a career 4.54 ERA in the majors, but he does have a winning record (56-50). His command (2.6) has been strong over the last 2 seasons, but his K rate (7.6) remains flat. Over the past 2 seasons, he has allowed 59 HR’s in 337 innings (1.6 per 9 innings). Hughes was only dominant once during his career against RH batters (.184), but it was when he pitched in the bullpen. Over the past 2 seasons, righties have hit .298 against him with 35 HR’s in 619 at bats. His AFB (92.4) has improved over his last 2 years. Last year, he tried to be a fastball/slider pitcher for the first time in his career. Prior to last season, his curveball was his #2 pitch (followed by a cutter). Furthermore, his changeup hasn’t developed into a quality pitch. Phil pretty much struggled in every month last season and was relegated to the bullpen in September. Hughes is a FB pitcher (46.0%) who struggled in Yankee Stadium during his entire career (4.95 ERA), allowing 76 HR’s in 405 innings (1.7 per 9 innings). In his 3 starts at Target Field, he has 2.53 ERA with only 1 HR allowed in 21.3 innings. Hughes has won over 15 games twice during his career, so he has to have more in the tank than he has shown at this point in his career. It looks like he really doesn’t know what he has to do when attacking batters and is too easy to hit. I expect him to pitch better this season, but Minnesota may hang him out to dry too many times to see a huge improvement. The one glimmer of hope is his elite 1st pitch strike % (71) in 2013.

Kyle Gibson 

Gibson pitched very well in the minors last season, but he couldn’t get anyone out in the majors. Minnesota gave him 9 starts in July and August, and Kyle only had one quality start. He only threw 52% first pitch strikes, and his AFB was 92.1 in the majors. He threw a slider as his #2 pitch, followed by a curveball. Gibson has a career 3.51 ERA in the minors with 337 K’s in 377.3 innings. He has more upside than most of the other options competing for a starting job, so he should get a 2nd chance in the majors early in the season. Possible flyer in deep leagues and may have value in an AL only league.

Ricky Nolasco 

After allowing 458 hits in 397 innings over the previous 2 seasons, Nolasco was able to lower his batting average against to .255 in 2013. Paired with his elite command (2.1), this led to his best season since 2008. Ricky threw his fastball (90.3) a career low 43.9% of the time. His slider is his #2 pitch, followed by a curveball and a split-finger fastball. Nolasco had an electric 12-game stretch with the Dodgers (8-1 with a 1.91 ERA) after a July trade. He allowed 3 runs or less in 13 straight starts (1 with Miami) to lower his ERA to 3.14 on September 9th. Unfortunately, he collapsed over his last 3 starts of the year (12.75 ERA with 28 base runners allowed in 12 innings). He allowed the same amount of runs (17) as he did in his previous 12 starts. Overall, Nolasco’s improved season was probably due to more life on his pitches in the strike zone, which led to a few more K’s (7.4 walk rate). Ricky signed a four year, $49 million contract in November with the Twins. His command suggests he has upside, but his declining K rate in 2011 and 2012 paints another picture. Decent major league arm and a sure upgrade to Minnesota’s staff, but his stats will most likely fall short of expectations. Downside risk in 2014.

2014 AL East- Midseason Fantasy Baseball Reflection

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 scoutpro@competitivesportsanalysis.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.

 

Chris Davis

Davis was beyond impressive last season.  He has a huge K rate (29.6% – slight improvement from 2012 – 30.1%), but avoided any prolonged slumps in power.  He had a massive first 3 months of the year (.332 with 31 HR’s and 80 RBI) with an improved K rate (26.6%), but his success did a take a huge step back over the 2nd half of the year (.238 with 21 HR’s and 58 RBI – 32.6% K rate).  Chris owned RH pitching (.316 with 40 HR’s and 93 RBI), but his approach at the plate was much less against lefties (5.9% walk rate and 30.9% K rate).  Davis had a massive jump in his FB rate (45.7% – 37.5% in 2012 and 36.8% in 2011), which led to a major league high HR/FB rate (29.6%).  We know two things for sure with Davis.  He has plus power with a high K rate.  His 53 HR’s will make him a very high draft selection in 2014.  To me, he is the new version of Ryan Howard with a stronger FB rate.  He has 40 HR power with upside, but his batting average should regress this season.  Interesting start to a fantasy team, but he will force a fantasy player chase batting average for the rest of the draft.

Nelson Cruz

Cruz continues to be a plus run producer (19% RBI rate – 17% during his career). Last year, he missed 50 games due to his connection with the Biogenesis scandal in Miami. Sensing a declining opportunity for a full time job, Nelson signed a 1-year, $8 million contract in late February with the Orioles. His K rate (23.9%) was his highest since 2007, while his walk rate (7.7%) showed more upside earlier in his career. Last year, he was on a pace for the best season of his career (.277 with 22 HR’s and 69 RBI’s before the All Star break), showing similar power against both RH (22 HR’s and 59 RBI’s in 309 at bats) and LH (5 HR’s and 17 RBI’s in 104 at bats) pitching. Additionally, his success was almost identical at home (.266 with 13 HR’s and 35 RBI’s) as it was on the road (.267 with 14 HR’s and 41 RBI’s). Cruz is a FB hitter (43%) with a plus HR/FB rate (21.3% in 2013 – 16.6% career). He has some injury history, but the Orioles will try to keep him healthy by playing him at DH a high % of the time. Solid 20/80 option with upside and some speed, even with less juice.

Ubaldo Jimenez

Jimenez was dusted for 14 runs in 6 innings during his 2nd and 3rd starts of the year, which led to a 5.57 ERA at the end of May. He then allowed 2 runs or less in 16 of his last 22 starts (2.41 ERA with 141 K’s in 131 innings) to save his season, pitching his best ball in September (4-0 with 1.09 ERA with 51 K’s in 41.1 innings). Ubaldo was dominant against LH batters (.223 with 118 K’s in 368 at bats), but his command (46 walks in 368 at bats) is still an issue against righties (.258 – BAA). His AFB (91.7) was a career low and has now declined in 3 straight years (96.1 in 2010), but it did have more value over the last 2 months of the year (92.5+ mph). His success last year was driven by the highest % of first pitch strikes (58%) and overall strikes (62%) of his career. Furthermore, his slider gained value at the expense of his curveball and changeup. His gain in K’s was due to the addition of a split-finger fastball. Overall, his decline in velocity can be offset by better command. Baltimore signed him to a 4-year, $48 million contract in late February. Overall, he will be pitching in a tough division in a hitter’s ballpark. His success last year will inflate his value, which will make him an easy player to avoid in 2014. I see downside risk as I don’t trust his command.

Xander Bogaerts

Boston called up Bogaerts on August 20th last season.  He had part time at bats (44) over the last 6 weeks of the season.  Xander hit .250 with 1 HR in 5 RBI in the regular season.  The Red Sox played him in all 6 games in the World Series at 3B due to his value with the glove.  With Stephen Drew no longer on the roster, Bogaerts is expected to be the starting shortstop this season.  He has shown 20 HR power in the minors with an improving approach at the plate (12.2% walk rate in 2013).  His K rate (19.0%) was about the major league average during his minor league career.  With full time at bats in Boston, his K rate will most likely rise.  In his 71 at bats during the regular season and the playoffs, Bogaerts had 21 K’s (25% K rate) and 11 walks (13.1%).  Xander will be an intriguing young player in 2014.  With no changes to the Red Sox roster on the left side of the infield, he should get 500+ at bats.  I expect 20+ HR’s in his first full season and Bogaerts will be one of the early favorites for rookie of the year.  I’d set then bar around .265 in batting average.  His talent suggests he has upside in this area with more experience.

Dustin Pedroia

For the 2nd straight season, Pedroia struggled with a thumb injury.  He tore a ligament in his left thumb in the first game of the season, but was able to play through the injury.  He had a career high 724 at bats.  His injury led to only 9 HR’s and his average hit (ABH) was a career low.  His high RBI total was driven by plus RBUI chances (478).  He had surgery on his thumb in November and is expected to be ready for spring training. Dustin is a very low K rate player (10.4%) and is willing to take a walk (10.1% BB rate).  Pedroia was a plus hitter against LH pitching (.354 with a .505 SLG%) last season.  The Red Sox won the World Series last season, but Dustin was a non-factor in the playoffs (.230 with no HR’s and 7 RBI in 14 games).  Boston stuck with Pedroia in the 3 hole last season even with no power.  He is a solid MLB player, but isn’t enough of an edge to select in the top 3 rounds unless you believe he is capable of delivering a 20/20 season.

Clay Buchholz

Buchholz had a great season in 2013, but he missed half of the year with a right shoulder injury.  His AFB (91.9) has declined in the last 3 seasons, and his pitching repertoire was the same as his poor 2012.  The big change in his success was probably due to better command (3.0) and an improved cutter.  Clay dominated LH batters (.187) and had a career high K rate (8.0).  Buchholz does a very good job of limiting the number of fly balls given up (31.8%), which helped him set a career low HR/FB rate (4.5%).  When he returned in September, Clay pitched well (3-1 with 1.88 ERA).  He complained of shoulder fatigue in the playoffs, but tried to gut it out for the Sox.  Buchholz had a 4.35 ERA in the postseason, but didn’t win any games.  Clay is in the last year of his contract with Boston.  He didn’t need to have surgery in the offseason to correct his shoulder issues and has pitched two elite seasons in the majors (2010 – 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA and 2013 – 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA).  Buchholz has never had over 129 K’s in any season during his career (on pace for 160 last season if he pitched 180 innings).  His low ERA will most likely pump up his draft value this season, but his underlying shoulder issues will keep me from over paying for him.

Jon Lester

Lester bounced back last season, but he didn’t pitch at the elite level he established from 2008 to 2011.  His command (2.8) was the key reason for improvement, but it didn’t lead to a higher K rate (7.5%).  In 2009 and 2010, Lester had 450 K’s.  Jon pitched well in April and May (3.53 ERA), but was a complete train wreck in June. He allowed 8 HR’s and 16 walks in 28.3 innings, which led to a 7.62 ERA.  After more bad results in July and his first start in August (4.25), Lester found his rhythm over the last 10 starts (2.19 ERA) to somewhat save his season.  Jon went 5-1 in the postseason with a 1.56 ERA.  He pitched his best in the World Series (0.59 ERA with 15 K’s in 15.3 innings).  Lester’s skill set looked almost the same as 2012.  His AFB (92.7) was in line with his 2 previous seasons.  He throws a cutter as his #2 pitch followed by a changeup and curve ball.  It appeared Lester was overthrowing his off speed pitches.  The addition of Jon Farrell to the team was a huge upgrade to the pitching staff across the board.  Last year, Lester threw a career high 248 innings.  He pitched better as his workload increased.  His shorter K rate and high WHIP eliminates him from being a top 2 fantasy starter in 2014.  A solid arm pitching in a contract season, but I would temper my expectations this year.

Mark Teixeira

Just like Jeter, Teixeira had a tough 2013 due to an injury.  He hurt his right wrist within 24 hours of last year’s LABR draft.  The injury forced him to miss almost 2 months.  He returned to the lineup on May 31st, but was under the knife in early July after playing only 15 games.  He is expected to be able to swing a bat in early January.  Teixeira has hit over 30 HR’s 7 times during his career and has driven in 100+ runs 8 times.  His batting average has been poor over the past 4 seasons (.249 in his last 1694 at bats).  Mark’s decline in his batting average may be the result of the shift put on when batting left handed (.244 in 2010, .224 in 2011, .239 in 2012, and .086 in 2013 {limited at bats – 35}).  Teixeira isn’t a high K hitter (17.3% in his career) and he does take his fair share of walks (11.4% career), so his batting isn’t dead in the water.  He has missed 186 games over the last 2 seasons and any player coming off of a wrist injury is a concern.  If he looks healthy in spring training, I see no reason why a fantasy player can’t expect another 30/100 season with some batting average risk.

Masahiro Tanaka

The Yankees were the big winners in the Tanaka chase. Masahiro signed a 7-year, $155 million contract. He had a career 99-35 record in Japan with a 2.30 ERA with 1238 K’s in 1315 innings. Tanaka has had elite command (1.3) over the last 4 seasons, but his K rate (8.5) has only been elite twice during his career (9.5 in 2007 and 9.6 in 2011). He throws a mid 90′s fastball with a plus slider and plus split-finger fastball. When you compare his resume to Yu Darvish, Tanaka has better command. Both pitchers averaged over 7.5 innings per start, but Darvish was much tougher to hit (6.5 H/9 innings – Tanaka – 8.1). Masahiro will enter the majors with a declining K rate (7.8), while Darvish was coming off a career high (10.7). Tanaka has a plus arm, but his skill set may be a slight step down from Darvish. However, his strike throwing ability should lead to more success during his rookie season than Darvish. I’m going to set the bar at Jordan Zimmerman in 2013 (3.25 ERA) with a few more K’s.

Evan Longoria

After 2 injury plagued seasons, Longoria was finally able to put in a full season. His results were less than expected. He did deliver on his 30 HR potential, but was brutal with runners on base (13% RBI rate). His K rate (23.4%) was a career high and his walk rate (10.1%) was a career low. It almost looks like he was trying to do too much at the plate. Maybe he felt more pressure to hit HR’s, which ended up hurting his upside. Tampa doesn’t have great options hitting in front of him, but Jennings and Zobrist are capable of making a step forward. Just like Zobrist, he struggled when batting 3rd (.212 in 212 at bats – .303 in 380 at bats hitting 4th). Longoria has seen less fastballs in each of his last 3 seasons. Longoria is a very good major league hitter, but he hasn’t developed into the elite bat I thought he would. He has three 30 HR season on his resume and has 40 HR upside if he was ever locked in for the whole year. For him to have upside in batting average, he needs to control the strike zone better. 2014 will be his best season ever in the majors.

David Price

Price gave fantasy owners a scare over his first 9 starts last year. He gave up 32 runs in 55 innings (5.24 ERA), and also developed a triceps strain in mid May that forced him to miss 6 weeks. After 6 starts in July, he had his ERA (3.57) back in a respectable area. Over his last 18 starts of the year, he allowed 2 runs or less 14 times. His walk rate (1.3) was a career best by more than 1 full walk, but his K rate (7.3) regressed. Price lost 2 mph off of his fastball. His lack of velocity led to him relying on his secondary pitches more, however, his changeup appeared to make a step forward. He threw it a career high 16.8% of the time. For the year, David dominated LH batters (.189). Price threw a career high 68% first pitch strikes. This is a dominating number, especially if he can repeat it in 2014 with increased velocity. The triceps injury paired with the drop in velocity scares me, but the development of his command and his changeup are encouraging for 2014. He has sub 2.50 ERA upside with a chance at a career high in K’s. He’ll be a free agent after the season, so his home in 2014 could change at any moment. Poised for a huge contract if he can make it through this season healthy.

Matt Moore

The average fantasy player is going to look at Moore’s 2013 stats and believe he made a huge step forward. His ERA (3.29) improved, but his command (4.5) and K rate (8.6) declined. He allowed the most wild pitches (17) in the league. His first pitch strikes % (51) was in Jimenez or Liriano disaster area. Last year, Tampa scored 6 runs or more 12 times during his starts. He was 16 -1 when the Rays scored 3 runs or more. In his 17 wins, Moore had a 1.67 ERA and only allowed 60 hits in 107.7 innings (.157 BAA). Overall, he dominated both sides of the plate (LH – .222 and RH – .213). His command is still weaker against LH batters. Moore missed six weeks last season with a sore elbow. His AFB (92.4) was 2 mph lower than 2012. Matt throws a curveball and changeup a high % of the time. Moore allowed 19 runs and 38 base runners in 12.2 innings over a 3 game stretch in early June. Without those 3 games in his stat line, he had a 2.35 ERA and 1.14 whip. His lack of success in those starts suggests his elbow may have been bothering him in June. Overall, Moore allowed 2 runs or less 17 times in 27 starts. Matt has an upside arm that could be electric if his command could make a huge step forward. The elbow issue is a concern for sure and he had poor command when he returned in September (20 walks in 28 innings). There hasn’t been any negative reports during the offseason, so he should be 100% healthy for spring training. Moore isn’t ready to be a fantasy ace due to his poor command, but he has enough talent to be an upside SP2 with some WHIP risk.

Chris Archer

These types of pitchers tend to aggravate me (maybe I’m just a fantasy snob). In his 35 starts at AAA over 2012 and 2013, Archer had a 3.74 ERA and 1.31 WHIP. With this resume, it would be tough to expect him to pitch better in the majors than AAA. Somehow Tampa’s coaching staff worked their magic on him and Chris had his best command (2.7) of any season at any level in professional ball (5.0 in his minor league career). His K rate (7.1) was a step back from his minor league resume (9.0). Archer has an elite fastball (95.0). He threw his slider 33% of the time followed by a show me changeup. Chris dominated RH batters (.176 and .218 SLG %), but he needs to find a pitch to have more success against lefties (13 HR’s in 280 at bats – .476 SLG %). Archer will be on a lot of fantasy players radar after his step forward in 2013, but I fear that his poor command may rear its ugly head in 2014. Downside risk.

Grant Balfour

After being shot down by the Orioles earlier in the offseason, Balfour was able to land a 2-year, $12 million contract with Tampa. He will take over as closer. Grant converted 38 of his 41 save chances last season. Furthermore, he handled himself well against both RH (.222) and LH (.192) batters. Balfour did fade after the All Star break (4.13 ERA – 5.3 walk rate), but his AFB (93.4) was his highest since 2008. His slider also had its most value during his career. Grant also throws a show me curveball. Overall, his command (3.9) has regressed over the last 3 seasons, while his K rate (10.3) was his highest since 2008. He makes sense as a closer for Tampa for fantasy owners, but his skill set isn’t ideal. There are signs of risk and downside. His low first strike % (55) isn’t a great sign for a pitcher in the 9th inning. I believe he is a closer to avoid in 2014.

Edwin Encarnacion

Encarnacion has delivered back to back plus seasons. His season was cut short in September due to a wrist injury that required surgery. He was expected be 100% healthy by December. Edwin has 78 HR’s and 214 RBI over the last 2 years with an improving K rate (10% – career best – 15.8% in his career). His walk rate (13.2%) was also a career high. Last year, he had 25 HR’s and 72 RBI at the All Star break. In July and August, pitchers started pitching around him (39 walks and only 15 K’s in 184 at bats). In 2012, Encarnacion had a 49.5% FB rate, but last year his FB rate dropped to 43.3%, while his HR/FB rate only declined slightly (18.7% in 2012 and 17.6% in 2013). Just like Bautista, Encarnacion has a huge AVH (1.97) and has been a plus run producer over the last 2 seasons. His improvement in his approach at the plate gives him a chance at having a huge bump in batting average. As long as his wrist is healthy, he should be poised for his best season in the majors, especially if Reyes can stay healthy. His early ADP is 18, which puts the pressure on a fantasy player to decide if he is for real.

Joe Bautista

For the 2nd straight season, Bautista had his season cut short due to an injury. He injured his left hip on August 20th. The injury forced him to miss the last 37 games of the season. Jose was 100% healthy in November, so he should be good to go for spring training. His batting average has been short in back to back seasons, even with an improved K rate (15.9%) and a plus walk rate (13.1%). Last year, Bautista’s FB rate (42.7%) was a huge step back from his previous 3 seasons (54.5% in 2010, 47% in 2011, and 49.5% in 2012). For his entire career, Jose has had a poor LD rate (15.2%). He has hit under .300 in 10 of the last 11 months over the past 3 seasons. Bautista hit .311 at home and only .213 on the road, but almost had identical HR’s and RBI (14/37 at home and 14/36 on the road). I haven’t been a fan of Bautista in the past and I thought his success was somewhat driven by artificial sweeteners, but I can’t dismiss the growth in his K rate and his solid approach at the plate. He’ll hit fly balls with the best players in the league, so his power is for real. He has 40 HR upside and his batting average has some upside if he gets off to a good start. He has one of the strongest AVH ratings in the league, but has a low batting average when he puts the ball in play.

Colby Rasmus

Rasmus was on the way to having his best season in the majors before he suffered 2 injuries late in the year. Colby suffered a oblique injury in August and was hit in the eye by an errant throw in September. These injuries forced him to miss 45 games. His batting average matched his career high and he was on pace to set a career high in HR’s and RBI. His K rate (29.5% – career high) showed no sign of improvement. Rasmus had more success against RH pitching (.284 with 16 HR’s and 47 RBI), but wasn’t dead in the water against lefties (.256). Colby tends to be a FB hitter (45.7% in his career). He had a career high 17.3% HR/FB rate. Rasmus has 20+ HR pop, but his high K rate is going to invite batting average risk. His speed is no longer a part of his equation. I see him as a player to avoid in 2014.

R.A. Dickey

Winning in fantasy baseball can be as simple as knowing when to get on and off a player. Dickey made fantasy players a ton of money by his surprising 2012 season, but he crushed everyone’s dreams who bought into his success. The move to the AL was a clear problem. He had a huge HR rate (1.4) and threw a lot less strikes (65% – 69% in 2012). This led to a decline in his walk rate (2.8) and K rate (7.1). Dickey is a knuckle ball pitcher, but his high innings total in 2012 may have been the reason his velocity dropped last year (FB – 81.9 and KB – 75.6). Both pitches lost 1.5 mph from the previous season. R.A. did find his rhythm over the last 2 months of the season (3.35 ERA with 66 K’s in 78 innings). Lefties hit 23 HR’s off of him in 463 at bats (11 in 2012 in 386 at bats). In 2012, he faced 46.6% lefties, but he faced 54.2% lefties in 2013. His struggles in the first half (4.69 ERA) were mainly due to poor command (3.3 walk rate – 2.3 after the All Star break). His ERA was 3.94 with Josh Thole as his catcher (over 4.60 with Blanco and Arencibia behind the plate). Last year, Dickey pitched at least 6 innings in 30 of his 34 starts, so he should get his fair share of wins. Knuckle ball pitchers can have long stretches of dominance and inconsistency. Dickey probably isn’t as bad as last year, but he’ll never pitch as well as he did in 2012. Maybe 3.75 ERA with 175 K’s.

Mark Buehrle

Buehrle has pitched 200+ innings in his last 13 seasons. In 2013, his K rate (6.1) was his highest since 2004, but his walk rate (2.3) was also his highest since 2003. Righties hit .283 against him with 17 HR’s. Mark struggled over the first 2 months of the year (5.51 ERA). He went 10-2 over 17 starts in June, July, and August with a 2.97 ERA before fading again in September (5.84 ERA). Buehrle was a much better pitcher at home (3.36 ERA – 4.94 on the road). His AFB (84.2) was a career low and it has declined in each of the past 3 seasons. Last year, he threw his cutter as his #2 pitch, followed by a plus changeup. His lack of strikeouts will kill a fantasy team over the long haul and he really doesn’t have high upside in wins, even with plus starts. He has no value on draft day, but he could be serviceable at times as a double starter.

2014 NL West Outside Corner Report- Week 14 Fantasy Baseball Recap

Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona has won three of their last four games, but they remain in last place in the NL West trailing the Dodgers by 12 games. Their pitching staff has allowed three runs or less in the last four games. Their only loss was due to another home run allowed by Addison Reed. Reed has allowed an amazing 9 HR’s in 36.7 innings, and 25% of his hits allowed have left the ballpark. His HR/FB rate (19.6%) is almost double his career average (10.3%). Brandon McCarthy was traded to the Yankees, which returned Vidal Nuno who only allowed one run in 6.7 innings with 8 K’s in his first National League start. Wade Miley has only allowed three runs in his last 14.7 innings with 18 K’s. His K rate (8.6) is almost two more strikeouts per nine innings over his last two seasons. The Diamondbacks are 14th in the National League in ERA (4.26). David Peralta has played very well since being called up to the majors, which will result in him getting regular at bats even when Mark Trumbo returns from the DL. He hit .385 last week with 1 HR and 9 RBI while hitting second in the batting order. Trumbo is hitting .458 with 5 HR’s and 12 RBI in 24 at bats in the minors. He appears to be ready to be called up, but Arizona may keep him in the minors through the All-Star break. Paul Goldschmidt has 10 hits in last 25 at bats with 1 HR and 8 RBI. Gerardo Parra is only hitting .196 over the last 30 days with just one RBI, which may lead to him getting limited at bats over the second half of the year. The Diamondbacks are fifth in the National League in runs scored (370).

Colorado Rockies

The Rockies have won their last two games after dropping briefly into last place in the NL West. Their offense has scored three runs or less eight times in the last 10 games with seven of those games being at home. They have the worst ERA (5.00) in baseball, and they are allowing almost 3/4 of a run more than every other team in the National League. Brett Anderson is expected to return the starting rotation at the end of the week. He has only allowed one run in 9.3 innings over two starts at AAA. Colorado was desperate for a starting pitcher, so they added Jair Jurrjens to the starting rotation last week. He has allowed 11 runs and 23 base runners in 9.3 innings. Nolan Arenado returned from the DL last week, but he only has three hits in his last 26 at bats. Troy Tulowitzki broke out of his homerless slump when he hit a pair of homeruns against San Diego on Wednesday. He only has one other home run in his last 92 at bats. Carlos Gonzalez has four hits in 10 at bats at AAA with 2 HR’s and 5 RBI and is expected to return to the starting lineup on Friday night. The Rockies continue to lead the National League in runs scored (443) and HR’s (109).

Los Angeles Dodgers

LA has moved into first place in the NL West over the last 10 days, but they can’t shake the Giants. The Dodgers have lost three of their last four games to remain in a first place tie. Dan Haren and Hyun-Jin Ryu were bombed for 15 runs and 22 base runners over 7.7 innings in their last starts. Clayton Kershaw delivered another electric start when he allowed two hits in eight shutout innings with 8 K’s. He hasn’t allowed a run in his last 36 innings, which has lowered his ERA to 1.85 on the year. Josh Beckett was placed on the DL with a slight hip issue and is expected to return shortly after the All-Star break. LA is fifth in the National League in ERA (3.36). Juan Uribe has 10 hits in last 26 at bats with 1 HR and 5 RBI. Carl Crawford, who has five hits in 11 at bats in his minor league assignment at AAA, is expected to return after the All-Star break. Yasiel Puig is only hitting .255 over the last 30 days with one HR and 10 RBI. Matt Kemp is hitting .304 with 3 HR and 10 RBI over that same period. The Dodgers are third in the NL in runs scored (397).

San Diego Padres

After a five-game winning streak, San Diego has lost four of their last five games to remain 10 games off the pace in the NL West. Their pitching staff has three shutouts in their last nine games, which has helped San Diego move into second in the National League in ERA (3.24). Jesse Hahn has a 1.45 ERA in his last five starts with 36 K’s in 31 innings. Odrisamer Despaigne has only allowed two runs in his first three starts in the majors covering 19.7 innings, but he has eight walks compared to only five strikeouts. He had a 6.85 ERA in 23.7 innings at AAA. Robbie Erlin threw a bullpen session last week, which gives him a chance at a rehab assignment sometime over the next couple of weeks. No Padres starter allowed more than three runs in any start last week. Chase Headley has 11 hits in his last 26 at bats with three RBI. Cameron Maybin only has two hits in his last 14 at bats. San Diego is last in the National League in runs scored (272), and they are averaging less than 3 runs per game this season (2.99).

San Francisco Giants

The Giants continue to hang by a thread in the National League West. They have lost 20 of their last 28 games, but they remain in a first-place tie with the Dodgers. They have been shut out four times in their last 10 games. Hunter Pence has 11 hits in his last 20 at bats with 1 HR and 2 RBI. Gregor Blanco only has three hits in his last 24 at bats with 10 K’s. Brandon Belt only has two hits in 22 at bats since returning from the DL, but he has a home run and four RBI. San Francisco has fallen to 9th in the National League in runs scored (359). Madison Bumgarner has been a train wreck over his last three starts as he has allowed 15 runs and 32 base runners in 18 innings. Tim Lincecum continues his hot pitching by allowing only one run in 6.3 innings with 6 K’s. He has won his last three starts while allowing only one run in seven hits in 23.3 innings. Santiago Casilla has converted all three of his save chances since taking over the closing job. He hasn’t allowed a hit in eight innings since returning from the DL with 8 K’s. The Giants are sixth in the NL in ERA (3.42).

2014 NL Central Outside Corner Report- Week 14 Fantasy Baseball Recap

Chicago Cubs

One major trade and the wheels have come off of the Cubs bandwagon. Chicago has lost the last six games after they traded Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel on July 4th, and they have only scored 12 runs in their last 6 losses. Tsuyoshi Wada, who was called up to replace one of the holes created in the starting rotation, threw five shutout innings with 3 K’s. In his 16 starts at AAA, Wada was 9-5 with a 2.66 ERA and 105 K’s and 101.7 innings. Kyle Hendricks, the other pitcher who was called up, went 10-5 at AAA with a 3.59 ERA and 97 K’s and 102.7 innings. Of the two pitchers, Hendricks has more upside as he is only 24 and Wada is 33. The Cubs are 10th in the National League in ERA (3.71). Jake Arrieta continues his hot run. He has only allowed five runs in his last 41.3 innings with 53 K’s. Chris Coghlan has 11 hits in his last 24 at bats with two home runs and a stolen base. Justin Ruggiano hit .407 in 27 at bats with one HR, but he did have 9 K’s. Luis Valbuena only has two hits in his last 22 at bats, and Starlin Castro only hit .179 with three RBI last week. Chicago is 12th in the NL in runs scored (342). Kris Bryant is hitting .324 in his last 10 games at AAA with 2 HR’s, 7 RBI and 13 K’s in 37 at-bats. Javier Baez is hitting .222 with 3 HR’s and 7 RBI in his last 36 at bats.

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds have started have their second push over the last month to move back into contention in the NL Central. They have won five straight games, and they now trail Milwaukee by 2.5. Cincinnati has won 17 of their last 24 games. Their pitching staff has allowed three runs or less 16 times in their last 19 contests, moving them to seventh in the National League in ERA (3.43). Alfredo Simon continues to have his best season ever in his major league career. He has allowed three runs or less 16 times in his 18 starts, which has led to a 12-3 record with a 2.70 ERA and 1.05 whip. Prior to this season, Simon only had 17 major league wins at the age of 33. Mat Latos has allowed two runs or less in four of his five starts since returning from the DL. Joey Votto was placed on the DL with a quad injury. In his 84 at bats since returning from his last injury, Votto only hit .250 with 11 RBI and no homeruns. Jay Bruce was the Reds most productive bat last week (3 HR’s and 10 RBI), and Billy Hamilton has played at a much higher level than most fantasy players expected. He hit .296 over the last seven games with 1 HR and 9 RBI. Not bad for one-dimensional speed player. Cincinnati is 10th in the NL in runs scored (356).

Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers have started to fade over the last 10 days. They lost eight of their last nine contests, while St. Louis and Cincinnati have started to play at a high level. Milwaukee only has a two-game lead in the division. They have scored two runs or less in six of their last eight games, but the Brewers are still second in the National League in runs scored (403) and HR’s (92). Ryan Braun has only started once the last five games due to a minor back injury. He is hitting just .252 over the last 30 days with 2 HR’s and 18 RBI. Jean Segura only has three hits in his last 22 at bats with one SB. Aramis Ramirez was the only starting batter to hit over .250 on the week. He had .273 in 22 at bats with only one RBI. Wily Peralta has faded badly in his last three starts (9.37 ERA and 2.02 whip), and his lack of success has Brewers fans calling for Jimmy Nelson to save the fading franchise. Nelson hasn’t allowed a run in his last three starts at AAA covering 20.2 innings with 18 K’s. He is 10-2 on the year with a 1.46 ERA and 114 K’s in 111 innings. Milwaukee has faded to ninth in the National League in ERA (3.69).

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates have won 14 of their last 20 games to move within 4.5 games of the Brewers in the NL Central. They have lost their last three games, but they haven’t lost any more ground due to the fading Milwaukee team. Their pitching staff has allowed two runs or less nine times in their last 13 games. Vance Worley had a solid 3.03 ERA in his five starts as a replacement to Francisco Liriano in the starting rotation. He has been bumped to the bullpen with Liriano expected back at the end of the week. Liriano threw six shutout innings with only three hits allowed and 8 K’s in his rehab start at AAA. Gerrit Cole was placed back on the DL with a lat injury and is expected to return to the starting rotation just after the All-Star break. Jeff Locke has a 2.23 ERA over his last six starts covering 44.3 innings. Pittsburgh is 11th in the National League in ERA (3.75). Jordy Mercer hit .435 with six RBI, and Andrew McCutchen has 10 hits in his last 29 at bats with 2 HR’s and 7 RBI. Neil Walker also played at a high level last week (.381 with 1 HR and 2 RBI). The Pirates are sixth in the NL in runs scored (368).

St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis appeared to be the team in the NL Central on the decline late last week when the only scored one run in three games, plus they lost their second best starting pitcher. They have won six of their last eight games to move within two games of the Brewers in their division. The Cardinals are third in the NL in ERA (3.29). Michael Wacha will be shut down for a minimum of two more weeks due to his shoulder injury. At best, he will return sometime in mid-August. Joe Kelly is expected to take over the fifth slot in the starting rotation after Marco Gonzalez struggled badly in three starts. Kelly has allowed one run in his last two starts at AAA covering 8.3 innings. Lance Lynn has a 2.93 ERA over his last 73.7 innings with 56 K’s. Matt Adams has 13 hits in his last 26 at bats with one HR and five RBI. Yadier Molina could be headed to the DL with a sprained right thumb. Matt Holliday continues to deliver an uninspiring season, and he has only five home runs in 326 at bats. Kolten Wong has 3 HR’s and 5 RBI in his last four games since returning from the DL with a bruised shoulder. The Cardinals are 13th in the National League in runs scored (340) with only 55 home runs on the year, second lowest in the majors.

2014 NL East Outside Corner Report- Week 14 Fantasy Baseball Recap

Atlanta Braves

The Braves ran off nine straight wins to regain first place in the NL East, but they lost their last three games. Their offense remains one of the weakest in the National League as they have scored the second fewest amount of runs (333) in the league. Evan Gattis was placed on the DL with a back injury that required an epidural shot. He has made enough progress to begin catching over the weekend with a possible return to the starting lineup after the All-Star break. Andrelton Simmons has 10 hits in his last 25 at bats with 5 RBI after moving to second in the batting order, and Freddie Freeman is hitting .440 over the last week with five RBI. B.J. Upton has nine hits in his last 27 at bats, but he has 10 strikeouts with no walks. Justin Upton was the only batter to have a home run all week. Atlanta had a quality start from every starting pitcher with the exception of Julio Teheran in his last outing when he allowed five runs and 13 base runners in 3.3 innings against the Mets. It was his second disaster start in his last six outings. The Braves are third in the NL in ERA (3.28).

Miami Marlins

The Marlins have won three of their last four games, but they remain two games under .500 and trail the division leaders by five games. Top pitching prospect Andrew Heaney was sent back to AAA after allowing 14 runs and 25 base runners in 14.7 innings. In his first game back in the minors, he allowed one run in six innings with 9 K’s, and there is good chance he returns to the majors quickly. Henderson Alvarez continues to be the only dependable starting pitcher for Miami. He allowed only one run in seven innings with 3 K’s against the Cardinals and has only allowed seven runs in his last 60.3 innings (1.04 ERA). Christian Yelich is hitting .344 over last week with one HR and five RBI. Both Casey McGehee and Marcel Ozuna had 12 hits in their last 29 at bats with a combined one HR and nine RBI. Giancarlo Stanton only has four hits in his last 20 at bats with 9 K’s. Jarrod Saltalamacchia has two hits in his last 21 at bats with nine strikeouts, but he hit a pair homeruns with five RBI. Miami remains fourth in the National League in runs scored (387), and they are 12th in the league in ERA (3.87).

 New York Mets

New York has won their last three games, but they remain a game under .500 while trailing Atlanta and Washington by eight games. Their pitching staff has allowed more than three runs in their last 13 contests, dropping them to eighth in the National League in ERA (3.59). Jonathon Niese was placed on the DL with a shoulder injury and is hoping to return in a couple of weeks. Jacob DeGrom allowed three runs in 12 innings with 19 K’s, and Daisuke Matsuzaka threw seven shutout innings against the Braves. Curtis Granderson continues to play at a higher level as he is hitting .276 over the last 30 days with 6 HR’s and 12 RBI. He even has more walks (19) than strikeouts (17) in his last 87 at bats. Lucas Duda has six hits in his last 16 at bats with one HR and four RBI. David Wright returned to the starting lineup after missing seven games with a shoulder issue. He has four hits in his last 18 at bats with one HR. New York is eighth in the NL in runs scored (357).

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies have won their last two games after losing 13 of their previous 16. They are in last place in the NL East, and they trail first-place by 10 games. For only the second time in 15 games, Philadelphia scored more than five runs in a game when they scored 9 against Milwaukee on Tuesday night. They are 11th in the National League in runs scored (372). Ben Revere has 10 hits in his last 28 at bats with three stolen bases. Chase Utley was their most productive hitter (1 HR and 7 RBI). Jimmy Rollins only has three hits in his last 23 at bats, and Marlon Byrd has 10 strikeouts in his last 28 at bats. Maikel Franco is hitting .357 in his last 10 games at AAA with one HR and eight RBI. The Phillies are 13th in the NL in ERA (3.91) and are expected to have the services of Cliff Lee after the All-Star break. He threw two shutout innings with two strikeouts in his first rehab start at High A. Ken Giles continues to do a solid job in the bullpen after being called up to the majors. He has only allowed one run in 12.7 innings with 17 K’s. Cole Hamels has allowed three runs or less in his last eight starts to lower his ERA to 2.87.

Washington Nationals

The Nationals have won 11 of their last 16 games to move into a first-place tie with Atlanta in the NL East. They lead the majors in ERA (3.08). Gio Gonzalez hasn’t allowed a run in his last 21 innings with 19 K’s, which has led to three straight wins. Jordan Zimmerman has a 2.58 ERA over his last 12 starts with 61 K’s in 76.7 innings. Steven Strasburg has bounced back with two strong outings (three runs in 14.7 innings with 17 K’s) after being roughed up on June 25th for seven runs and 11 base runners in 4.7 innings. Jason Werth has seven hits in his last 19 at bats with two HR’s and six RBI, although Bryce Harper only has two hits in 16 at bats with 7 K’s. Adam LaRoche only has one hit in his last 18 at bats. Wilson Ramos has seven hits in his last 15 at bats with two RBI. Washington is seventh in the National League in runs scored (361).

2014 AL West Outside Corner Report- Week 14 Fantasy Baseball Recap

Los Angeles Angels

LA has won seven of their last nine games, but they still trail Oakland by 4.5 games in the AL West. Prior to being shut out in their last game by R.A. Dickey, the Angels had scored 34 runs in their previous five games. They have scored five runs or more in 13 of their last 16 games. LA is now second in the American League in runs scored  (437). Howie Kendrick has 13 hits in his last 26 at bats with six RBI, but he only has four homeruns in 345 at-bats this season. Albert Pujols is hitting .379 over the last week with 2 HR’s and 8 RBI. Josh Hamilton is only hitting .229 over the last 30 days with 39 K’s in 105 at-bats, and Mike Trout only has five hits in his last 28 at bats. David Freese has eight hits in his last 15 at bats with two HR’s and six RBI. Garrett Richards continues to pitch like an ace – he allowed one run in 7.3 innings with 11 K’s. Over his last six starts, he is 5-0 with a 1.73 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 41.7 innings. Batters are only hitting .161 against him over that period. Jered Weaver was removed from his last start with tightness in his lower back but is expected to return to the starting rotation after the All-Star break. The Angels are fourth in the American League in ERA (3.85).

Houston Astros

The Astros broke their seven-game losing streak with back-to-back wins against the Texas when they scored 20 runs. Houston’s pitching staff has allowed 67 runs in their last nine games. They are now 14th in the American League in ERA (4.38). Scott Feldman was the only pitcher to have success when he allowed two runs in six innings with five strikeouts. Jarred Cosart is 5-1 over his last six starts, but he has allowed 56 base runners in 38.7 innings. The surprising ride by Dallas Keuchel has come to an abrupt halt as he has allowed 13 runs and 37 base runners in his last 18 innings. George Springer has 13 K’s in his last 27 at bats, but he was able to deliver a pair of homeruns with five RBI. He is hitting .202 over the last 30 days with 42 K’s in 94 at bats. Jon Singleton had 2 HR’s and 8 RBI, but he had 11 K’s in 27 at bats. He has 38 strikeouts over his last 96 at bats while only hitting .198. Chris Carter has seven hits in his last 20 at bats with 4 HR’s and 7 RBI. Houston is 14th in the AL in runs scored (354) with the third most homeruns (98). They lead the American League in strikeouts (807 – 8.8 per game).

Oakland A’s

Oakland has won their last six games due to great pitching, and they have allowed only five runs during their winning streak. They helped strengthen their starting rotation when they traded for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel over the weekend. Samardzija allowed only one run in seven innings with 5 K’s in his first American League start. Tommy Milone was sent back to AAA, and Drew Pomeranz will have no value going forward when he returns from the DL. The A’s continue to lead the American League in ERA (3.09). Yoenis Cespedes only has three hits in his last 27 at bats. Coco Crisp has eight hits in his last 19 at bats with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 3 SB’s. Josh Donaldson, who only has three hits in his last 19 at bats with one HR, is hitting .163 over the last 30 days with 2 HR’s and 13 RBI in 98 at bats. Brandon Moss avoided a DL stint after injuring his ankle last week. Oakland still leads the AL in runs scored (450).

Seattle Mariners

Seattle remains one of the favorites to win a playoff berth in American League. They have won 15 of the last 22 games, but they have actually lost one game in the standings to Oakland. The Mariners are second in the American League in ERA (3.15). They have allowed two runs or less in six of the last seven games, but unfortunately they have been shut out twice in their last three games. Over the last five games, Seattle has only scored six runs. Mike Zunino only has one hit in his last 14 at bats. Since his return from the DL, Corey Hart only has three hits in 17 at bats. Michael Saunders was their leading hitter last week (.318 with 1 HR and 2 RBI). Chris Young has an amazing 2.43 ERA over his last six starts with 28 K’s in 37 innings. Over that same period, rookie Roenis Elias has a 5.79 ERA. I’m sure the Mariners would like to upgrade a couple slots in the starting rotation before the trade deadline. Hisashi Iwakuma tossed an electric seven innings shutout with 10 K’s against Minnesota in his last start. Seattle is 11th in the American League in runs scored (365).

Texas Rangers

It’s been getting downright ugly in Texas over the last month. They have lost 17 of the last 20 games to move into contention for the worst record in the American League. Their pitching staff has allowed five runs or more eight times in their last nine games. The Rangers are last in the American League in ERA (4.78). Their only respectable starter is Yu Darvish, but he has allowed four runs or more in four of his last six starts with an increased walk rate. Phil Irwin, who had a 2.41 ERA at AAA with 39 K’s in 33.7 innings, was called up for a spot start earlier this week. Texas had three batters with 10 hits on the week – Alexis Rios, Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus. They combined to hit .330 with 4 HR’s and 14 RBI in 91 at bats. Rios hit his first home run since May 14th. Leonys Martin has six hits in his last 20 at bats with two HR’s and five RBI, while Robinson Chirinos is hitting .302 over his last 63 at bats with 6 HR’s and 5 RBI. The Rangers are eighth in American League in runs scored (372