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.
Drafting injured players can be tricky. The success of the strategy is largely dependent on your league’s rules. In a single-year format, where all players are thrown back into the pool for next season’s draft, the room for error is much narrower. In a dynasty format, however, where players are kept for X number of years or at an additional premium to the player’s salary of Y dollars, it can be used much more effectively because the chances for success are spread distributed temporally.
For example: An owner in my primary 10-team standard rotisserie league with an auction draft purchased an injured Hanley Ramirez last year for $6. Had he been healthy, he probably would have gone for $25, but his estimated time of arrival in 2013 was uncertain; he actually played his first game April 1, 2013, but appeared in only three more games between then and June 4. This uncertainty greatly reduced his value.
I should re-phrase: the uncertainty greatly reduced his 2013 value. With four days until draft day, I’m realizing now that Ramirez’s value at $6, even in 2013, was immense for the format of our league, because now he will be owned for a measly $9 — all because the owner was willing to plug a hole with a replacement-level shortstop for two months. Now his team is poised to dominate this year with cheap retention prices for Chris Davis and Paul Goldschmidt to boot.
Breaking down the strategy, it makes a lot of sense. Stream someone like Stephen Drew, ESPN’s 18th best shortstop of 2013, for two months while Ramirez heals. Their patchwork stat line would have looked like this:
.302 BA, 80 R, 24 HR, 78 RBI, 12 SB
That is a solid line for a shortstop, regardless of whose name — or names — show up in the box score.
If you fancy yourself a bargain hunter or someone who can spot the late-round sleepers, this strategy makes even more sense: Draft a superstar for less than face value, stash him on the DL and fill the opening with whomever this year’s Jean Segura may be. Even if you can’t find this year’s breakout star, the replacement-level strategy still has the opportunity to be effective.
Upon further reflection, I may take a chance on players such as Cole Hamels and Hisashi Iwakuma whose draft stocks may take a hit. There’s enough pitching depth for me to make their absences painless, and I have a chance to retain them next year at a discount (relative to their expected salaries).
It’s important, though, that the player has already established a high benchmark for himself. In this case, Jurickson Profar wouldn’t be as smart a play here; he wasn’t going for a lot of money (or too quickly off draft boards) in the first place.
The best opportunities, therefore, are found in the best players who are out for two or three months. It’s important to wring out as much 2015 value as possible, but you don’t want to clog your DL all year and hamper your 2014 value too much, or it defeats the purpose. Clearly, one must strike a fine balance.
But, basically, if you see an injured player heavily discounted on draft day, and you’re in a league that rewards bargain hunting, take a stab at him.
Here are some so-called “eligible” players for this injured-player strategy and what I predict their discounts might be:
Hamels, SP, expected to miss a month | $10, three to four rounds
Iwakuma, SP, expected to miss a month | $11, seven to eight rounds
Mike Minor, SP, expected to miss a month | $8, six to seven rounds
Aroldis Chapman, RP, expected to miss 6 to 8 weeks | $9, four to five rounds
Manny Machado, 3B, expected to miss a week, but could miss a month | $3, three rounds
Michael Bourn, OF, expected to miss a couple of weeks, but could be longer | $4, four rounds
Matt Harvey, SP, expected to miss entire year | $18, 12 to 15 rounds
Kris Medlen, PS, expected to miss entire year | $15, 10 to 12 rounds ***DISCLAIMER: may not return to form after second Tommy John surgery
Players for whom the strategy may not work so well:
Mat Latos, SP, will only miss a couple of starts
Homer Bailey, SP, will only miss a couple of starts
Profar, 2B, will miss 10 to 12 weeks but isn’t valuable enough
Jeremy Hellickson, SP, will miss two months but isn’t valuable enough
A.J. Griffin, SP, will miss entire year but isn’t valuable enough
Jarrod Parker, SP, will miss entire year but isn’t valuable enough
Brandon Beachy, SP, will miss entire year but isn’t valuable enough
Players who are wild cards:
Matt Kemp, OF, depends on if you think he’ll return to form
Bold Prediction #1: Tyson Ross will be a top-45 starter (until he reaches his innings cap)
I’ve expressed my love glands all over Brad “The Triple Machine” Miller, as I’ve affectionately deemed him, in the past. It ought not to come as a surprise that I really like Miller. I project him to finish seventh among all shortstops, but for the sake of being really bold, I predict Miller will be a top-5 shortstop.
Before we get into what he did last year, let me introduce you to the minor-league Brad Miller. He hit .334/.409/.516 with 27 home runs and 30 stolen bases in just under 1,000 plate appearances. For the less-than-mathematically-savvy, that’s about 14 home runs and 15 stolen bases per 500 plate appearances, or about 80 percent of a major league season. He hit 10 triples (yes, yes, yessssss) and absolutely roped, per his triple slash line.
Now, back to the current incarnation of The Triple Machine. Because he debuted mid-season, let us extrapolate his 2013 stats for a full 162 games:
.265/.318/.418, 87 runs, 77 RBI, 17 home runs, 11 stolen bases, and… 13 triples.
Man, I love those triples. Now I know you’re wondering: Where does his nickname come from? Why am I so hung up on his triples? I’m really glad you asked!!!!!
From an intuitive standpoint, his innate ability to somehow hit a lot of triples indicates 1) he’s got legs, even though he doesn’t always use them to steal bases; and 2) because he doesn’t have Billy Hamilton‘s legs, he smacks line drives and has the power to shoot it into the gaps and fly into third.
A look at the top 50 triples hitters of the past five years yields peculiar results: Their collective BAbip (batting average on balls in play) clocks in at about 15 points above the average player’s BAbip. This can likely be explained by their speed, translating into an inherent ability to leg out more ground balls. As you further truncate the list, the spread gets wider: the t0p-3o average BAbip is about 20 points higher, and almost 25 points higher for the top 10. Meanwhile, Miller hit the most triples per plate appearance of all MLB players — in a sense, ultimately making him the No. 1 triples hitter for 2013. (Starling Marte, who stole more than 40 bases, squeaked in behind him.)
What I’m getting at is Miller’s BAbip last year was .294, but it’s very reasonable it could approach .325 — above the league average, but “average” for guys who hit lots of triples — and do it annually. (It’s also worth noting his .388 BAbip in the minors.) I think he’s primed for a spike in batting average, and his ability to reach base more will further pad his counting stats. This is all before considering any improvements to his plate discipline, which is already pretty good for his age (15.5% K, 7.2% BB).
Miller has the perfect combination of above-average speed and above-average power to notch double digits in home runs and stolen bases on an annual basis — not exactly a common occurrence up the middle — with the possibility of future 20 HR/20 SB seasons, territory reserved right now for only Ian Desmond and a healthy Hanley Ramirez. Even if he never reaches his ceiling, his ability to threaten a .300 batting average every year will make up for it.
Oh, and if you’re asking yourself, “Has The Triple Machine already hit two home runs and one triple in only 23 spring training at-bats?” The answer is yes. Yes he has. Now get on board, friends.
Rankings based on standard 5×5 rotisserie league.
Name – R / RBI / HR / SB / BA
- Hanley Ramirez – 96 / 88 / 22 / 19 / .306
- Ian Desmond – 83 / 82 / 25 / 21 / .279
- Troy Tulowitzki – 84 / 85 / 24 / 3 / .305
- Jose Reyes – 95 / 56 / 10 /26 / .295
- Elvis Andrus – 102 / 62 / 4 / 35 / .275
- Jimmy Rollins – 96 / 94 / 15 / 20 / .262
- Brad Miller – 80 / 70 / 16 / 11 / .283
- Jean Segura – 77 / 52 / 9 / 34 / .279
- Everth Cabrera – 77 / 45 / 4 / 50 / .268
- Alexei Ramirez – 79 / 75 / 9 / 22 / .266
- Starlin Castro – 81 / 66 / 11 / 15 / .275
- Andrelton Simmons – 77 / 64 / 16 / 9 / .270
- Erick Aybar – 73 / 53 / 11 / 17 / .285
- J.J. Hardy – 75 / 72 / 23 / 1 / .255
- Asdrubal Cabrera – 71 / 66 / 13 / 10 / .263
- Jonathan Villar – 68 / 42 / 3 / 46 / .234
- Need cheap steals? Villar is your guy. He strikes out too much to be a reliable hitter, but he could end up being one of those high-BAbip guys because of his speed. He needs to shore up his plate discipline to be anything but a one-trick pony. He’s only 22, though, so he has plenty of time to figure it out. In the meantime, ride the wind.
- Miller is one of my big sleepers for the year and will be the topic of a forthcoming bold prediction.
- Rollins’ RBI number above is absurd. At the risk of discrediting the projection, it will occasionally spit out a statistical anomaly. His RBI are certainly the elephant in this room.
- Not a lot to see here, although the spotlight is on Castro right now. I would say this projection is closer to his floor — that is, he’s a No. 11 shortstop with upside. In all honesty, though, the Nos. 7 through 11 shortstops are all really, really close. I’d be better off calling them all a tie, but that’s taking the easy way out.
- Desmond has hit 20 home runs two years straight. His power-speed combo up the middle is unmatched — except by Ramirez, of course. If only Tulowitzki would run more, let alone stay healthy…