The stove is hot, people. HOT! And as Every Time I Die once said: I been gone a long time. Sorry about that. I finished the first term of my last year of graduate school. It was probably the hardest one, and it should be smooth sailing from here on out.
I’m also pretty proud of a research paper I just completed regarding the probability of future success of minor leagues. The results are robust and I couldn’t be more pleased. It was a school project, so I didn’t have time to make it nearly as complex as I would have hoped, but it’s something I plan to further investigate in the coming days, weeks, months, what-have-you.
Anyway, there is plenty of news flying around as well as plenty of analysis. I’ll do my best to recap, but surely I’ll miss some things:
- Jeremy Hellickson, Yasmani Tomas Allen Webster and Rubby de la Rosa to the Diamondbacks
- Nick Markakis and Shelby Miller to the Braves
- Hanley Ramirez, Rusney Castillo, Rick Porcello, Pablo Sandoval and Wade Miley to the Red Sox
- Jon Lester, Jason Hammel and Miguel Montero to the Cubs
- Jeff Samardzija, Adam LaRoche and David Robertson to the White Sox
- Brandon Moss to the Indians
- Yoenis Cespedes, Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene to the Tigers
- Andrew Heaney and Josh Rutledge to the Angels
- Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick, Brandon McCarthy and Juan Nicasio to the Dodgers
- Dee Gordon, Mat Latos and Dan Haren to the Marlins
- Adam Lind to the Brewers
- Ervin Santana to the Twins
- Michael Cuddyer to the Mets
- Didi Gregorius to the Yankees
- Brett Lawrie and Billy Butler to the Athletics
- A.J. Burnett to the Pirates
- Matt Kemp to the Padres
- Nelson Cruz and J.A. Happ to the Mariners
- Jason Heyward to the Cardinals
- Josh Donaldson, Justin Smoak, Russell Martin and Marco Estrada to the Blue Jays
And I’m ignoring all the prospects involved as well. Marcus Semien, Austin Barnes, Jairo Diaz and others got shipped. I can only imagine a whole lot more action will be happening soon, as there still are teams with surpluses and deficits at all positions and some big-name free agents left on the market, including Max Scherzer and James Shields.
It is clear, however, that the Cubs and Blue Jays intend to more than simply contend. I would say the Marlins intend to as well, but I don’t even think they know what they’re doing, let alone we do. The White Sox are looking like a trendy sleeper with some key pitching additions (LaRoche is also an addition, but far from what I would call a “key” one), but they are far from a championship team.
But with so much more yet to happen, maybe it’s best to wait and see. There are obviously some ballpark and team-skill implications that will affect all these players’ projections, but I’ll get around to those in 2015.
I’ve finished my preliminary set of pitcher projections. I’ll share them but they’ll see some refining by the time March rolls around.
I’m also looking at how my projections fared last year. That will come in the next couple of days.
Keep your ear to the ground, people. Or to the stove. Never mind. Terrible idea. You’ll burn yourself. Just keep it to the ground.
Rankings based on standard 5×5 rotisserie format.
Name – R / RBI / HR / SB / BA
- Miguel Cabrera – 105 / 124 / 39 / 4 / .332
- Adrian Beltre – 95 / 106 / 31 / 1 / .297
- Evan Longoria – 93 / 108 / 32 / 2 / .282
- David Wright – 88 / 90 / 22 / 20 / .299
- Ryan Zimmerman – 84 / 85 / 24 / 4 / .283
- Josh Donaldson – 78 / 81 / 22 / 6 / .274
- Manny Machado – 86 / 74 / 19 / 6 / .276
- Kyle Seager – 75 / 78 / 21 / 11 / .259
- Pedro Alvarez – 68 / 94 / 33 / 1 / .238
- Aramis Ramirez – 61 / 76 / 20 / 2 / .291
- Xander Bogaerts
- Pablo Sandoval – 65 / 77 / 15 / 1 / .289
- Will Middlebrooks – 54 / 74 / 23 / 5 / .256
- Chase Headley – 64 / 64 / 14 / 12 / .259
- Nolan Arenado – 59 / 62 / 13 / 2 / .282
- Brett Lawrie – 59 / 50 / 11 / 12 / .268
- I think 19 home runs for Machado is waaaaaaay too optimistic. I would be happy for just 14 bombs again. Still, taking those five homers away doesn’t affect his placement in the rankings, as he’s being buoyed by counting stats and a reliable batting average (compared to everyone on the list who follows him).
- Bogaerts is a sneaky pick for power up the middle once he moves to shortstop. He may be worth a bump in the rankings for that. I don’t want to get too optimistic the numbers he can put up, but somewhere between 15 to 20 home runs and a .290 batting average (hence, why he’s snugly between Ramirez and Sandoval) sounds about right.
- For all of Ramirez’s consistency, he’s a good bet to bounce back. However, he hit a career-high percentage of ground balls, something of which he may not fully control, but he still needs to hit fly balls to hit home runs. If you can squeak 150 games out of him, he’s still good for 20 homers, but that may be asking too much at this point.
- I will not, not, not support Lawrie. I get it: he was a top prospect once with massive potential. Now what? Am I going to put a basically unproven third baseman in my top 10 with the hopes this will be his breakout year? No way. If I miss the Lawrie train as it leaves the station, and he goes off this year, then so be it. But I have Middlebrooks with huge power (31 home runs per 162 games) and the opportunity to have third base to himself. His BAbip 2012 was high and then it tanked in 2013. Watch it find a happy medium in 2014 as Middlebrooks is able to keep the keystone to himself.
Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Rajai Davis is 95th on the ESPN player rater this year with a whopping 45 stolen bases in only 349 plate appearances through Sept. 22. To compare, the Philadelphia Phillies’ Brandon Phillips is No. 94 on the player rater, and he has amassed 646 plate appearances. That’s almost double the playing time Davis has seen. Although it’s not as simple as I’m about to state it, one could claim Davis has been doubly effective in his limited playing time compared to Phillips, even with Davis’ modest batting average and low RBI count.
By the way, Davis was 96th on the player rater in 2012. I’m starting to think this is no coincidence.
I’m being facetious. It’s totally not a coincidence. Davis has swiped 216 bags in the past five years alone. He has more steals than Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury since 2007, the year of their rookie seasons, and more steals relative to playing time (measured by plate appearances or games, your choice).
OK, you get it. He’s fast. That’s not the question here. The question is, and has been, since 2007: What will Davis’ playing time look like? And that is a question that has been difficult to answer for years — hence why Davis has gone undrafted the past two years.
And the answer to the question, at least for next year, is pretty apparent: Melky Cabrera in left, Colby Rasmus in center, Jose Bautista in right. But is it really that simple?
Brett Lawrie has, again, disappointed owners this year, but it’s not like Munenori Kawasaki (or whoever is manning second base nowadays) is any better. If Lawrie moves back to second base, Bautista to third and Encarnacion to first, it would leave room for Davis to play left field. This situation completely disregards Adam Lind, but he can slot in as the designated hitter if he does not pursue arbitration. If he does, that leaves even more space for Davis.
Moreover, I think it’s about time to let Joey Bats assume the DH role, at least until he can prove he can stay healthy. Even with Lind at first, Lawrie at second and Encarnacion at third, it still leaves a spot open for Davis. And even if this doesn’t happen, Davis has been more productive than Cabrera now that the speedster has been showing some pop (six home runs this year), which he showed last year as well.
So if I’m a Davis owner, which I conveniently am, I’m considering keeping him for next year. If he’s a free agent, I’m adding him.
Because if Davis earns a full-time role, he is not only a top-100 player — remember, he’s No. 95 right now, on limited playing time — he could be something like a top-50 player, or maybe even better than that. Even in a platoon role (he has smoked lefties to the tune of .330/.395/.491 this year) he would be plenty valuable, and he always has the chance of inheriting playing time with every Joey Bats at-bat.
Now, even with all these scenarios, there’s one last caveat: Davis is a free agency this offseason. While he could stay in Toronto, where he seemingly has the green light, he could sign with a team that is looking for a Billy Hamilton type — a speedy, spark-plug pinch runner.
In all scenarios — a full-time role, a platoon role, even a pinch running role — Davis deserves to be drafted. In which round is a question for another day, but it’s a question I plan to revisit. Davis could theoretically warrant a 10th-round pick in next year’s draft based on his performance the past two years. Otherwise, the incredible value he provides via stolen bases alone is worth a late-round draft pick whom you can stash on your bench until his playing time is sorted out.
In the meantime, keep abreast of Davis’ offseason. Any and all developments will have profound fantasy implications. There are only a handful of players about whom I can say that and mean it — and, until recently, I hadn’t even considered Davis a candidate for discussion. But he is. He’s a fantasy game-changer.