I posted my very early 2015 closer rankings a couple of weeks ago. In continuing with the trend, I present to you my preliminary, but mostly complete, rankings for first basemen. The prices are based on a standard 5×5 rotisserie league with a budget of $260 per team. In this instance, I assume 60 percent of all teams’ budgets are spent on hitters, as is done in mine.
In a later version of this, I will enable the spreadsheet to be dynamic and allow users to input their own budget amounts and percentages spent. In the meantime, here is the static version.
Let me try to be as clear as possible about how I determine prices: I do not discount or add premiums based on positional scarcity or relativity. I like to know exactly what a home run, a steal, a run, etc. is worth, no matter who it comes from. It gives me a better idea of the depth at each position and how urgently I need to overspend at the so-called shallower positions, such as catcher and third base, as y’all will see in future installments of these rankings.
- The statistics, to my eye, are all scaled down slightly (except for maybe home runs). However, this effect happens to every player, so the changes are relative and, thus, the prices are theoretically unaffected.
- Jose Abreu is the #2 first baseman, and it’s not even that close of a call. I honestly thought Paul Goldschmidt‘s stock would be a bit higher — remember, my computer calls the shots here, not me — but the projections believe more in Goldy’s 2014 power (which paced out to 27 home runs in a full season) than his 2013 power, when he dropped 36 bombs. He’s also no lock to stay healthy. Which no one is, really. Still, I may take the over on all his stats, but not by a large margin.
- I will, however, take the over on Edwin Encarnacion‘s statistics, as he has bested all the projected numbers each of the past three seasons, and he does it all while battling injuries. I will take him at the price simply because of what I will call “health upside” — everyone assumes he will get hurt, but if he can play a full 162, he’s a monster — and because if his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) ever reaches a normal level, his batting average boost will send his stock through the roof.
- No surprise to see Anthony Rizzo at #5 after last season. I’m a believer, and he will be surrounded by a slew of talented youngsters next year.
- Freddie Freeman, hero of my hometown, is simply not where I expected him to be after his 2012 season. Granted, he’s an excellent player, but until he chooses to hit for power rather than spray line drives (again, not a problem in real, actual MLB baseball), and until the Braves stop sucking (which may not be any time soon), he may not be that great of a first base option.
- The two Chrises — Chris Davis and Chris Carter — round out the top 10 with almost identical profiles. Lots of power, lots of strikeouts, low batting averages. The shift may have suffocated Davis’ batting average, but it shouldn’t happen again, and I am considering investing in him if his stock has devalued enough after last year’s atrocity.
- Joey Votto, Prince Fielder and Ryan Zimmerman are shells of their former selves.
- Lucas Duda is for real, but his batting average is a liability, as is a lot of the Mets’ lineup.
- The projections have what amounts to almost zero faith in Ryan Howard, Joe Mauer and Brandon Belt. Mauer may be the saddest tale of them all. He’s still good for a cheap batting average boost, but single-digit homers? I just feel bad for the guy. And the owner who banks on the rebound.
- Looking at Adam LaRoche‘s projection, I’m starting to really like that move by the White Sox. Part of me feels like he’s going to be undervalued or maybe even not considered on draft day, and that’s appealing to me.
- Steve Pearce at #16 is an upside play, given his 2014 looks all sorts of legit.
- Jon Singleton: the poor man’s Chris Carter.
- And just because Matt Adams is beating the shift instead of hitting home runs doesn’t render him without value. He’s not my cup of tea, but 19 home runs could be conservative for him.
Teams are dancing the Depth Chart Shuffle, but the closer landscape has remained relatively steadfast. Per MLB.com, 27 of 30 teams have denoted who will be their respective 9th-inning man on their depth charts (labeled “(CL)”, for reference). For reasons largely pertaining to simplicity, I have completed a preliminary round of projections for closers and have provided it for your viewing pleasure. Keep in mind that things will (likely) change as the offseason progresses into the preseason progresses into the real, authentic season.
The rankings are catered to classic 5-by-5 rotisserie leagues with $260 budgets. Bonus feature: You can manually input a budget amount as well as an expected share of total spending on closers. For example, the teams in my league historically spend about 10 percent of the aggregate wealth on closers. If your league values closers more highly, you can accordingly adjust for such.
The players on teams that have not solidified their closer situations are marked with asterisks. Note that the very elite Dellin Betances is one of these players. This will inevitably be sorted out by March.
Craig Kimbrel will likely fall short of 49 saves — although, if the Braves can compete in the few games they are expected to win, he may have a lot of small-margin-of-victory save chances coming his way. Tough call, but there’s legitimate arguments to be made about him being maybe only a top-3 RP — which is really nothing about which to write home.
The aforementioned Betances is projected for the second-best ERA, second-most strikeouts and third-best WHIP among all closers. Betances threw a ton of innings last year, so it suffices to say I’m eager to see how his usage shakes out. Given how the Yankees have historically used closers, however, I think he’ll be closer to his projected 63 innings than his 90 last year.
Sean Doolittle isn’t an upside play, but I suspect he will be underrated on draft day. Koji Uehara is perhaps an upside play: his projection factors in his health concerns, so if he can stay healthy all year, he should bolster his return on investment.
Will Zach Britton continue to induce an absurd number of ground balls? Yes, although perhaps not as extremely as he did last year.
No offense to Brett Cecil, but I think the Blue Jays will trade for someone in due time.
Dark horse candidates in Mark Melancon and Jake McGee as they round out the top 10. I think they may be a bit overrated, but I would take them over literally everyone below them except maybe Cishek, if we’re pulling hairs.
Bobby Parnell is competing, so to speak, with Jenrry Mejia; Jonathan Broxton is competing with who the heck knows. Santiago Casilla could likely cede the role back to Sergio Romo. Other pitchers in some sort of danger of losing their jobs during the seasons include Fernando Rodney, Joaquin Benoit, Drew Storen, LaTroy Hawkins, Neftali Feliz and Chad Qualls.
Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Nathan and Addison Reed seem to have some semblance of job security, but they also seem to have a semblance of not being very reliable anymore. Papelbon and Nathan will be the most interesting bullpen storylines, especially if Nathan struggles again and the Tigers are competing.
I haven’t contextualized these rankings for points leagues or a top-300 type of thing for roto formats, but hey, that’s why it’s preliminary.
This just in, folks: Corey Kluber leads all MLB pitchers in wins above replacement (WAR). The great thing about running your own website is you have full discretion to toot your own horn when you please. As much as I find it tacky to do so, I made bold predictions for a reason: to see if my projections are actually worth a damn. I just wish I had time to make more; I should have started early in the offseason as I ran out of time the longer the academic year has worn on. (I’m a graduate student, so publishing to this website is not always the most optimal use of my time. According to societal expectations, at least — I think it’s a great use of my time!)
Anyway, let’s revisit my bold predictions to discuss a) their accuracy thus far, and b) why they have (or have not) been accurate. Here they are, in chronological order:
Ross is ranked 31st of all starters, according to ESPN’s Player Rater. Instead of rehashing details, you can read the linked article to see why I glowed about Ross this offseason and have chosen him as a streamer several times already this year (before he gained more recognition and, consequently, more ownership). That he qualifies as a reliever in ESPN leagues is a huge plus as well. I readily admit it’s not insane for a random names to rank highly in the player rater; just check out the names around Ross’, including Alfredo Simon, Josh Beckett, Aaron Harang and Collin McHugh. Unlike the names I mentioned, though, I think Ross has the natural ability to stay there, given his strikeout propensity that limit the damage done by walks (which, by the way, is a problem nowhere near as bad as Shelby Miller‘s — I guess six wins will mask his atrociously bad WHIP that will blow up in his face sooner rather than later.) Ross is still available in 21 percent of ESPN leagues, so if he’s out there, you should grab him. Just don’t expect him to keep winning as often in front of that terrible San Diego offense.
As terribly as this prediction has turned out — Miller is batting .151/.230/.247 with 3 HR and 3 SB — I do not regret making it. Miller has struck out in 28 percent of his plate appearances, which is way, way worse than he ever was in Triple-A or even last year, when he struck out 17 percent of the time. It pains me deeply that The Triple Machine hasn’t hit a triple. Have I given up on him this year? Honestly, yes. His batting average on balls in play is grossly unlucky right now, but even regression to the mean won’t fix what his strikeout tendency has broken. But I still like him as a sleeper for next year, or even as a late bloomer this year. If he can demonstrate an improvement in his plate discipline as the year wears on, I will give him another chance. It upsets me, though, that he had such a hot spring. It fuels the fire of analysts who criticize spring training stats as unreliable. I agree, to an extent, but Miller’s spring stats were an extension of his 2013 season — albeit an extension inflated by some good luck. It’s worth emphasizing here that strikeouts really aren’t luck-based, so to say the his spring training was lucky is an ignorant dismissal.
Corey Kluber is this year’s Hisashi Iwakuma (aka big breakout candidate)
There’s one thing I, at least, can privately appreciate about my bold predictions: I abided by all of them in every single I’m in, unless someone happened to grab a pitcher before me. Ultimately, in four leagues, I grabbed Ross and Miller in four of them, and Kluber in three — and in the fourth one, I promptly traded Jayson Werth and Tyson Ross (who I drafted in the last round) for Norichika Aoki and Corey Kluber (this is a points league, so Aoki carries some value for his lack of K’s and contact approach). Did I win the trade? Who knows — I traded one guy I liked for another I liked more. Point is, I actually rolled with my bold predictions. Might as well eat my words, right? (Is that how that saying goes?)
I got Kluber in the equivalent of the last round in every draft and for $1 in my primary keeper auction league. Yes, I’m bragging. But, more importantly, this isn’t a revelation to me. I knew Kluber would be good based on last year’s peripherals, as did a host of other people on FanGraphs (namely, Carson Cistulli and the Corey Kluber Society). But a lot of people didn’t see it coming, which is crazy to me, and it makes me question what it really takes to become a paid professional “fantasy expert.” Tristan H. Cockcroft ranked Kluber 58th of starting pitchers this preseason, which is better than I expected, but look at some of the names above him: Matt Garza? Justin Masterson? Zack Wheeler? For a guy who invests so much in seeing an improvement in skills, Wheeler has been, for his entire career, buying up billboards to plaster them with slogans such as I HAVE CONTROL ISSUES. Kluber is essentially the antithesis of Wheeler. And, yet, who has the smaller track record? Ridiculous… (In Eric Karabell’s defense, he said pitching is so deep this year that owners may not be able to draft Kluber, which was a roundabout way of indicating he liked him, at least somewhat, heading into draft day.)
Anyway, I’m clearly on a rant, and I need to get this train back on the rails. Kluber is somehow not 100-percent owned at this point — he’s 99.9-percent owned, but hey, at least I’m not lying — yet he’s striking out everyone and their mothers. I don’t know if he continues to strike out 10 per nine innings (10.28 K/9), but the percentage of swinging strikes he has produced has jumped 1.4 percent, placing in the top 1o in the category, behind Max Scherzer and ahead of Madison Bumgarner. This is all a long-winded way of saying he could, and perhaps should, be a 200-K guy this year. In that sense, maybe he’s not a buy-low guy, but his lack of name recognition and his .350 BABIP makes him a prime candidate to be exactly that. A handful of rankings have him in the 35-to-40 range; even then, I can give you a case to trade perhaps a dozen names ahead of him for Kluber, including Gio Gonzalez, Matt Cain and, yes, maybe even Justin Verlander (who, at this point, is still owned in most leagues simply because of name recognition and past performance; and while I understand the importance of past performance, do not let yourself be blinded by nostalgia).
This one is random, but hey, it’s legit: Haren has only a 6.89 K/9 right now. You can read the linked post to find out way. I may rip him a little too hard — his control still makes him a fairly solid starter — but he’s more of a Kyle Lohse these days than, well, a Corey Kluber. Lohse is serviceable, but he’s not elite, and Haren should be able to net you an extra win or two along the way in front of a lethal Dodgers offense.
OK, that’s it. I’m 3-for-4 in my bold predictions so far this year, which is a pretty good day at the plate, so I’ll take it.
Also, the academic year is winding down, and once it winds down completely, Need a Streamer will ramp up with more content. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading.
New standings reflect Aroldis Chapman’s injury and Joakim Soria’s victory over Neftali Feliz for the Texas 9th-inning job.
Based on standard 10-team 5×5 rotisserie format.
Name – Saves / ERA / WHIP / K’s
- Craig Kimbrel – 47 / 2.32 / 0.65 / 106
- Kenley Jansen – 39 / 2.48 / 0.87 / 103
- Greg Holland – 42 / 2.21 / 0.99 / 97
- Trevor Rosenthal – 39 / 2.41 / 1.00 / 90
- Koji Uehara – 34 / 2.42 / 0.69 / 81
- Aroldis Chapman – 30 / 2.42 / 0.83 / 81 … down 4 spots (CIN committee: J.J. Hoover, Sam LeCure, Logan Ondrusek)
- Joe Nathan – 40 / 3.15 / 0.95 / 72
- David Robertson – 38 / 3.13 / 1.05 / 82
- Jason Grilli – 34 / 2.80 / 1.14 / 78
- Sergio Romo – 36 / 2.93 / 0.99 / 67
- Grant Balfour – 43 / 3.46 / 1.11 / 74
- Glen Perkins – 34 / 2.93 / 0.98 / 68
- Ernesto Frieri – 36 / 3.74 / 1.14 / 91
- Steve Cishek – 31 / 2.92 / 1.14 / 70
- Casey Janssen – 34 / 2.91 / 1.01 / 54
- Addison Reed – 32 / 3.19 / 1.18 / 71
- Jonathan Papelbon – 33 / 3.30 / 1.14 / 66
- Jim Henderson – 32 / 3.76 / 1.18 / 80
- Fernando Rodney – 32 / 3.26 / 1.32 / 74
- Bobby Parnell – 32 / 2.76 / 1.16 / 48
- Nate Jones – 30 / 2.64 / 1.22 / 52
- Jose Veras – 33 / 3.62 / 1.22 / 69 … up 1 spot
- Huston Street – 29 / 2.52 / 1.15 / 47
- Rafael Soriano – 43 / 3.85 / 1.25 / 52
- Joakim Soria – 32 / 3.55 / 1.12 / 54 … up 3 spots; won closer role from Neftali Feliz
- John Axford – 35 / 4.36 / 1.33 / 80
- Jim Johnson – 36 / 3.42 / 1.17 / 41 … down 1 spot
- Tommy Hunter – 30 / 3.85 / 1.10 / 43
- COL time bomb: LaTroy Hawkins or Rex Brothers
- HOU committee: Chad Qualls, Matt Albers, Josh Fields … Jesse Crain injured
Bold Prediction #3: Corey Kluber is this year’s Hisashi Iwakuma
Bold Prediction #2: Brad Miller will be a top-5 shortstop
Bold Prediction #1: Tyson Ross will be a top-45 starter (until he reaches his innings cap)
I’ve heard it through the grapevine: maybe Washington Nationals starter Dan Haren is due for a bounce-back season. In his defense, he recovered from the second-worst WHIP of his career, and his strikeout rate leaped back up to classic Haren at his peak. The problem lay in his propensity to give up home runs at an alarming rate. A blip on the radar, right? Eh…
First, the too-many-homers thing has been a problem for two years now, and it hasn’t really gotten better. Second, batters’ contact rate against Haren was the highest of his career last year. And in 2012? It was the second-worst. It’s an alarming trend, indicating that batters are squaring up his pitches better than ever before. It reinforces both the notion that home runs may continue to plague him as well as the following: last year’s strikeout rate was a fluke.
I have previously discussed the strong correlation between strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) and contact/swinging-strike rates. In it, I mentioned Haren in particular, whose PITCHf/x data predicted a strikeout rate closer to 7 K/9 than 8 — and it made sense, given his decreasing strikeouts (7.25 K/9 in 2011, 7.23 K/9 in 2012, 7.07 xK/9 in 2013) and increasing contact rates against him by hitters (79.3% in 2011, 80.9% in 2012, 81.0% in 2013).
Maybe Haren will recover and start missing more bats, but projections calling for a K/9 in the high 7’s is disconcerting to me. I’ll be bold and take the proverbial under: Haren is fully in decline, and his strikeout rate will reflect it in 2014.
I have updated the starting pitcher rankings to reflect offseason signings, rotation battles and spring training injuries — and holy cow, have there been a lot of spring training injuries.
I also truncated the list to the top 90 pitchers. I will write about my favorite pitchers outside the top 90 because a lot of them are really good; they simply won’t get enough get enough starts or pitch enough innings for them to crack the top 90 in value. In terms of stuff, though, there are plenty of diamonds to find in the rough.
Bold Prediction #2: Brad Miller will be a top-5 shortstop
Bold Prediction #1: Tyson Ross will be a top-45 starter (until he reaches his innings cap)
But there’s a more important reason to read about (and “join”) the Society. Kluber is not only a legitimate fantasy starting pitcher but also a very good one. His breakout last year was muted by a couple of bad starts, but he is a perfect comp to a 2012 Hisashi Iwakuma on the verge.
I will list a variety of statistics in which Kluber excelled. Then I will let you know whom he outperformed in each category for all pitchers with at least 140 innings pitched (107 total).
BAbip: .329 (6th worst)
Yowza. Those are some seriously stellar numbers. What’s the deal? Unfortunately for Kluber, he suffered a brutal outing or two, causing his WHIP and ERA to be inflated for most of the year and allowing him to fly under the radar. Chalk it up to bad luck, considering Kluber’s 6th-worst BAbip, better than only Joe Saunders, Dallas Keuchel and other names one wishes not to be associated with.
This sounds vaguely familiar. A high-control guy with a solid strikeout rate out of the bullpen? Does the name Hisashi Iwakuma ring a bell? It should, because he has already been mentioned several times in the last 300 words. Anyway, I rode the Iwakuma (and Bailey) wave through the end of 2012. Instead of going with my gut and drafting Iwakuma in the last round of my shallow draft in 2013, I opted for Marco Estrada — not a terrible pick, but clearly not the right gamble to take. It’s actually the moment upon which I reflected and realized that I should really just take my own advice. Because given Dan Haren‘s peripherals, why would anyone have trusted him over Bailey last year? Ridiculous. (FYI, I will rip on Haren in a forthcoming bold prediction, just to be clear that I’m not ripping on him because he gave up a million home runs last year.)
But I digress. Iwakuma was good in 2012, but his 7.25 K/9, 2.35 K/BB and 1.28 WHIP were all rather pedestrian. But sometimes you need to rely on your eyes more than the numbers, and anyone who watched Iwakuma saw flashes of brilliance. 2013 may have been more than we anticipated, which brings me to my point:
Kluber already has the makings of a great pitcher, and his peripherals indicate that none of it was a fluke. My official bold prediction: Corey Kluber will be a top-20 starting pitcher.