Hanley Ramirez still has a ton of upside (USAT)
Hanley Ramirez is a tough player to gauge, as the former top fantasy player has missed an average of 50.3 games over the past three seasons (and he missed 20 the year before that). It wasn’t just injuries, as Ramirez’s performance slipped as well. During his first five years in the league (from 2006-2010), he recorded a .906 OPS, which was the 18th best in all of baseball (only Chase Utley ranked higher among all middle infielders over this span, and the second best mark by a SS was Troy Tulowitzki, who ranked No. 43). However, over the next two years (when he inexplicably started hitting a lot more groundballs than fly balls, something he stopped doing last year), Ramirez’s .742 OPS ranked just eighth among shortstops, tied with Erick Aybar and behind Jhonny Peralta.
[Baseball 2014 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: Join a league today!]
Then, Ramirez went crazy last season, posting a .345/.402/.638 line, although he missed half the year. If you prorated his numbers over a full season, you’d get this: .345-117-38-107-19. I generally think position scarcity should be ignored, but it certainly doesn’t hurt if that type of production comes from your shortstop. So we are dealing with a player who’s been both injury prone and shown massive fluctuations in performance when on the field of late, so he’s clearly a high upside/high risk pick early in drafts. I currently have him as my No. 7 ranked player, so I’m willing to take the gamble. Ramirez is still just 30 years old and since joining the Dodgers, he’s batted .312 with 30 homers, 92 runs scored, 101 RBI and 17 steals over 150 games.
In case you missed my last column, here I am breaking down my NL LABR team and writing a love letter to Billy Hamilton.
Count me among those willing to pay for Bryce Harper’s potential. I understand the argument for those who think it’s unwise to spend a first round pick on someone who’s never approached that value before, but I consider Harper worthy of a top-five pick in 2014. Last season, he finished April with nine homers, 18 runs scored, 18 RBI and a 1.150 OPS. Less than two weeks later he ran into a wall that would affect his health over the rest of the season. I’m not too worried about his “all out” play being reckless moving forward, as I’m guessing he learned his lesson. Plus, the guy still eats dinner every night cooked by his mom - how can you not appreciate that? The result is someone who currently looks as jacked as this. Despite the injuries affecting his performance over the rest of last season, Harper has averaged (on a per-150 game basis) 22 homers, 89 runs, 61 RBI and 15 steals during his brief career, which were his age 20 and 21 seasons! And again, he played most of last year badly hurt. It will be frustrating if new manager Matt Williams hits him down in the order, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Harper finishes as a more valuable fantasy player than Andrew McCuthen and Paul Goldschmidt. He’s going to be a monster.
Here are two contestants on the Price Is Right (who both happen to be pregnant with the same name) going head-to-head in a pretty crazy showcase showdown.
Carlos Beltran is a boring veteran who’s about to turn 37 years old with an injury history. He also doesn’t run much any more (which is a shame, since he possesses the third-highest SB success rate during his career (86.5%) among all active players), averaging just 6.3 steals from 2011-2013. However, over that same three-year span, Beltran has ranked as the No. 62, No. 39 and No. 55 fantasy player, respectively, so his current ADP (93.4) sure looks like a bargain. Beltran can still clearly hit despite his advancing age, and he’s now moving from a home park that has suppressed HRs for LHB by 10 percent and RHB by 23 percent over the past three years to Yankee Stadium, which has increased HRs for LHB by 33 percent and RHB by 16 percent over that span, so this is a drastic improvement in environment. Beltran also has the benefit of the DH now available if a nagging injury should prevent him from playing in the field. He’s one of my favorite mid-round targets this year.
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Joey Votto is an interesting player, with old school evaluators arguing his value versus those who use newer metrics. Detractors argue he recorded only 73 RBI last season while hitting in the middle of the lineup and playing in all 162 games in a strong hitter’s park. The argument being he’s TOO patient at the plate (he led MLB with 135 walks). Sabermetricians counter how foolish this is, as he reached base 43.5 percent of the time, with only Miguel Cabrera having a higher OBP. Votto clearly has an approach at the plate that’s well thought out, which has led to a total of three infield fly balls over the past four seasons and very few pulled foul balls, and this has come with him taking a lot of strikes. It’s difficult to argue with his results if you’re a Reds fan, but it’s actually not exactly ideal for fantasy purposes. For instance, he had a 14.2 BB% with the bases empty last season compared to a 26.4 BB% with RISP. Votto hasn’t been particularly injury prone yet has never had 600 ABs in a season during his career. In fact, he led MLB with 726 plate appearances last season yet finished with 581 ABs. Of course, all those walks help in the runs scored category, but there’s at least something to the argument (both in fantasy terms and for the Reds) that someone with a career .359 BABIP and 18.8 HR/FB% should be a bit more aggressive, but then again, maybe he’s impressive in those areas because he’s so selective in which pitches he swings at.
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Quick Hits: I’m going to go with a strategy this year that is opposite of what has mostly been preached over the past decade, as I plan on taking starting pitchers heavily early on. I have Clayton Kershaw as my No. 3 ranked player (as an aside, even if I wasn’t implementing this radical strategy that may or may not work, I’d have Kershaw ranked here regardless) and would also be willing to take Yu Darvish in the top-10. But I also plan on taking 3-4 more in the next rounds. I understand why pitchers have traditionally been valued like they have, but they have become more reliable in recent years, while hitters have become the opposite (i.e. the game is shifting). Moreover, assuming you draft a couple of closers, a starter impacts 1/7 of half your categories (it’s true they don’t get saves, but very few hitters are legit 5 category contributors either), whereas a hitter is filling 1/13 (or a variation close to this) of your slots that accounts for your other half of the scoring categories. In other words, a pitcher who throws 200+ innings can have twice the impact of a hitter. The fourth SP off the board right now has an ADP of 27.0, while the fourth 1B has an ADP of 16.9. That’s one position on offense, and the deepest one to boot. I strongly believe this is a market inefficiency to be exploited...Miguel Cabrera led the AL last season in BA both against right-handers (.341) and southpaws (.368). He also led the league in home BA (.366), but the scrub finished second on the road (.331), behind James Loney…Mike Trout had the longest average home run distance (410 feet) in the AL, while Coco Crisp averaged the shortest (369)…I wouldn’t be overly concerned about Robinson Cano’s change in scenery since he actually hit more homers on the road (16) than at home (11) last season, but it’s worth pointing out he’s leaving a park that increased HRs for LHB by 33 percent over the past three seasons (which tied with Coors Field for the most in MLB) to one that decreased them by 14 percent last season, even after Safeco Field moved in its fences in 2013. That’s a pretty dramatic change, although you won’t find a more durable middle infielder.
Headlines of the Week Part Deux: Michigan Woman’s Auto-Payments Hid Her Death For Six Years...Oklahoma Man Chasing $20 Gets Lost In Sewer System For Two Days...22-Pound Pet Cat Holds Family Hostage Until Police Arrive...Researchers Prove The Five Second Rule Is Real...North Korea’s Kim Jong-un Gets 100% Of Yes Votes In Election...Rampaging Elephant Smashes Up House Then Saves Crying Baby Trapped Under Debris...This incident actually happened to a girlfriend of a friend of mine: Lizard Head Found In Salad From Midtown Deli.
Quick Hits Part Deux: The Braves have easily been the most snake bitten team by injures in spring training, dealing with maladies by Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen, with the latter (two?) likely to undergo Tommy John surgery. This obviously increases Alex Wood’s fantasy value, as he now looks like a lock to be a part of Atlanta’s rotation. The same can be said for Ervin Santana, who just posted a 3.24 ERA and 1.14 WHIP with a 3.16 K/BB ratio last year in the American League, as he needs to be boosted up fantasy ranks now joining Atlanta. It also helps the chances of the Nationals winning the NL East, as they already projected to have the easiest schedule in major league baseball even before all the Braves’ injuries…Righty Koji Uehara held left-handed batters to a .115 BA last season, which was by far the lowest in baseball…Bruce Rondon threw just 28.2 innings in 2013. His 144 pitches of 100+ mph led the AL by a wide margin and was second in MLB. Of course, that didn’t come close to Aroldis Chapman, who reached triple digits on the radar gun a whopping 282 times, according to The Bill James Handbook. Among starters, Gerrit Cole doubled more than any other with 14, and he was a rookie who wasn’t called up until the middle of June…Stephen Strasburg led MLB in pitches thrown 95+ mph with 1,260 (Matt Harvey was second with 1,241), while not one pitcher reached 1,000 in the American League (the leader there might surprise you, as it was Garrett Richards).
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- Hanley Ramirez
- Carlos Beltran