Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Third Base and Outfield

2-Time Champeen And Busty
Historically, this is where you get your power numbers, but historically, baseball had power hitters. Going deep 30 times a year makes you a monster nowadays, and yet strikeouts are still as high as ever. If this continues as a trend -- and honestly, in a post-PED world, I have no idea why it would not -- you're going have to start thinking about lowering the mound again. The game is awash in unanticipated money now, but offense drives attendance, and while 2-1 games are exciting and tense in October, they are soul-crushing for the rest of the year. Anyway, draft accordingly.

Sleepers - Third Base

Kyle Seager, Mariners.
Two straight years of 20 / 10 with an OPS that's creeping up to .800 isn't exactly setting the world on fire, but Seager is still just 26 and just got Robinson Cano in the lineup to help with the Runs and RBI counts. It wouldn't take very much for him to tick up to 80 / 30 / 90, and the dozen SBs is a a half dozen more than most 3Bs get. All kinds of sneaky value here.

Nolan Arenado, Rockies. Rocking a .700+ OPS as a 22-year-old call-up from the minors over 133 games, while not exactly the stuff of legend or Cooperstown, is still a fine starting place. This year. he's got a clear path to 650 ABs, half of them in thin air, with some of 2013's doubles sneaking over the fence, and a little more counting goodness. You won't get rich here, but you might get 75 / 15 / 75, and in this era, that's manageable.

Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco. I'm generally not a fan of hitters from one of the worst hitters' parks in baseball, but the Panda is (a) 26, (b) carrying a lot less weight than usual, and (C) in a contract year, which really might explain (b). Health is usually an issue here, but money and less weight should trump, and his contact skills have never been an issue. I could easily see him finishing up with 75 / 20 / 90, which might be a top six finish at a weak position.

Busts - Third Base

David Wright, New York
. In two out of the last four years, the Mets' captain has missed 50 and 60 games. He hasn't topped 30 HRs since 2008, 100 RBIs since 2010, or 25 SBs since 2009. The .900 level OPS is still elite, but his teammates are still average at best, and at 31, the speed and durability aren't getting any better. He's usually the fourth third basemen off the board, and the end of top tier options, but I just don't see him producing at this level.

Josh Donaldson, Oakland. Simple regression from 2013's borderline MVP season seems inevitable given his BABIP, but the calf problems in spring training aren't helping matters, either. The bigger issue here is the fact that Oakland doesn't run their lineup to benefit your fantasy league team, and the team's extraordinary number of versatile platoon hitters means that Donaldson's 158 games played really shouldn't happen again, particularly when his OPS against right-handers was 200+ points lower than lefties. He's still going to be his team's best everyday player and a borderline All-Star, but don't pay for a .301 BA, .384 OBP, and 89 / 24 / 93... when the final numbers will be about 10 to 15% less than that.

Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh. Power being such a rare commodity now, Alvarez and his 66 HRs over the past two years is trending up in draft position... but man alive, there's a knife's edge here, and months where he's barely rosterable, let alone the guy you want to trot out there every day. That's what happens when a third of your ABs end in strikeout, and his combination of below average OBP and non-existent speed creates weak work in Rs and SBs. The Pirates will put enough men on base where the RBIs shouldn't be too bad, but that's a lot to wade through for two categories out of five. I'm staying away.

Outfielders - Sleepers

Justin Upton, Atlanta.
April 2013's MVP front-runner tanked so badly that he didn't even make it to the All-Star Game, but I think the second year in town goes better, simply because he isn't expected to be the end-all of the offense, and his brother's struggles aren't going to be new. He was also struggling with injuries in 2013, so with just a little luck, an .850 OPS isn't out of range, which would get you 100 / 30 / 85, and maybe 15 SBs as well. (And if it all gels together, and he looks like the MVP in May? Deal him. Deal him fast.)

Austin Jackson, Detroit. I get why people are down on him; he was helpless in the playoffs last year, the wheels haven't translated to a lot of SBs, and Ian Kinsler coming to town should mean that his leadoff gig is gone. But that assumes that Kinsler stays healthy, that the Tiger offense doesn't score so much that even the 9 hitter crosses the plate 90+ times, and that he's stopped gaining before his age-27 season. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him bring in a sizable profit for his owners with a 100 / 20 / 60 / 20 year.

Desmond Jennings, Tampa. Post-hype breakout, anyone? Jennings has added muscle in the off-season but is still stealing bases in spring training, and will go for less dollars in 2014 then he did in 2013, because that's what happens when a guy loses 11 SBs, despite the OPS raising 46 points. I like Tampa's entire offense to bounce a bit this year in Year 2 of the Will Myers Era, and Jennings' 31 doubles and 14 homers in 2013 tells me he's got 20 HR pop to go with the 30 SB potential. He's 27, and just about ready to start making too much money to stay in town... which might also mean a mid-season trade to a home park that doesn't murder him. A lot to like here.

Outfielders - Busts

Ryan Braun, Milwaukee. Did I miss something here? Despite the 50-game PED suspension and the Lance Armstrong levels of mendacity, despite the dramatically lower HR production before the federales took his bat away last year, and despite the 4 for 9 (!) performance on the basepaths last year, he's going off the board as the 4th overall OF, at age 30. Folks, 2013 happened, and few players in MLB lost more value in that year than this lying sack of garbage; he doesn't just auto-rebound to the PED years. Oh, and don't anticipate much in the way of crowd support, either. I'm penciling him in for injury, ineffectiveness, and an eventual line of 80 / 24 / 80 with 10 SBs and a relatively empty batting average, or roughly OF3 / OF4 production. And that assumes he stays healthy, out of custody, and away from needles to the ass when it becomes more and more obvious that he's a fraud. Pass.

Jayson Werth, Washington. Last years 82 / 25 / 84 with a .318 BA was his career-best OPS, and he's, well, 34 now, with over 120 missed games in the last two years. He's been one of the most erratic hitters in the game for most of his career, and if he's anything more than your OF3, your taste for risk is probably too high to cash. Also, there's this: Werth's kind of a lunatic, with all kinds of odd media moments and head-scratching decisions, and might decide at any point to get a little special on us. There's better dice rolls.

Shane Victorino, Boston. 33-year-old speed OF with middling power comes off surprisingly good year and playoff run. Nothing but ceiling comes after that, right? Everyone's favorite Hawaiian isn't going to fall off the table, but the name recognition is going to greatly outproduce the 70 / 12 / 55 / 15 line, especially when the team starts deciding that the reason he's struggling is that he needs more rest. He'll hit the waiver wire in shallow leagues this year.

Tomorrow, starting pitchers and ending pitchers. Who could object to that?

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