So I went and saw Fifty Shades of Grey over the weekend. All the hype from the movie was hard to resist taking myself to the theaters and seeing it for myself. I do warn all my readers that I have not read the book, so don’t shoot me for liking or not liking something in the movie that was or wasn’t in the book. But after all that here are my 10 takeaways from seeing Fifty Shades of Grey.
Synopsis: Literature student Anastasia Steele’s life changes forever when she meets handsome, yet tormented, billionaire Christian Grey.
This review Contain Spoilers
1 – I really feel they missed the boat on the casting of Christian. While I had never read the books I have heard a lot about them and heard a bunch about this “Christian” guy. He is this hot-shot rich guy that just woman go crazy over, well this guy didn’t do that for me.
2 – I was fond of the Dakota Johnson casting though. While she wasn’t overly drop dead gorgeous, she fit the role of innocent girl Anastasia. I looked at her IMDB page and really didn’t know she was in as many movies as it stated but this was her first “big time” role in a movie. I would also like to applaud her for having the “balls” to be naked for like 75% of the film.
3 – Seattle is a beautiful city.
4 – The rest of the cast really didn’t matter. It was all about Christian and Anastasia. This was a key to me in making this movie enjoyable. I didn’t have to buy into the other characters, they were selling me on the vocal point of the story and I enjoyed that.
5 – You can’t help but laugh at certain parts of the movie. Certain things about the movie were funny to me. I had no problem with the contract of confidentially but the sex contract really made me laugh.
6 – The scene where Anastasia dissects Christians contract in this very low lite room, HOW COULD THEY SEE WHAT WAS ON THE PAPER? It was way too dark in that room to see any lighting at all. (Side note: I do love how Anastasia worked up Christian in this scene, just to walk out on him.
7 – Chemistry between Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan was pretty good. You felt it from there first scene and throughout the movie. They worked well together. This is very vital in a movie based on the two main characters.
8 – Placement of the music/the score was fantastic. They used the songs at the perfect time, I loved the change they brought to Beyoncé’s Crazy in Love mix they had in the film. It was a harder version of the song that really fit perfect in the film.
9 – A lot less sex in the movie than I thought which really shocked me. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I thought for sure there would be more than what happened in the movie.
10 – The movie for me was all about building the background story for Christian and Anastasia. It was a decent build and my first thought walking out of the theater was they set this whole thing up to make the 2nd one. I know there are 3 books and that’s the purpose but as a person never have read the books I knew as soon as it ended, another was to follow.
3 out of 5 Stars
This will never go down as a great movie but it was very enjoyable. While at times I couldn’t help but chuckle at certain things, I couldn’t help but find myself invested in the main characters. It was a well-directed, well shot and the score was fantastic. I bought into the movie and that to me is a big reason I liked it.
Fifty Shades of Grey is Rated-R for strong sexual content including dialogue, some unusual behavior and graphic nudity, and for language.
News broke in the afternoon about Evan Gattis being in Houston for a physical and by late in the evening it was confirmed that he indeed was being traded by Atlanta. The Braves will receive three more prospects as they continue an interesting offseason combined with stockpiling minor leaguers and signing veteran stopgaps for the upcoming season. As will be profiled, the big winner here in fantasy terms is Evan Gattis taking his powerful swing to the short left field fence in Minute Maid Park where he will take aim on the railroad tracks. On the other end of the spectrum is Freddie Freeman whose protection has been traded to San Diego (Justin Upton) and now Evan Gattis to Houston. It will be hard to project any improvement over last year’s stats for Freddie now that the Braves are in a complete rebuild and he will not be pitched to in any big situation this season.
But this is geared to look at how Evan Gattis can fare in Houston, so I will start by letting you know that the average distance of his fly balls hit last year traveled on average 300.63 feet which ranked him eleventh in the major leagues, two spots ahead of former teammate Justin Upton. Using ESPN’s home run tracker, I made the following overlay showing what his 2014 home runs would look like in Minute Maid Park here:
Observing the overlay is nice but here is a picture of Minute Maid with the dimensions displayed with the distances of the fences along with the knowledge of how far an average fly ball by Gattis travels:
It also helps to take note of where Evan Gattis hits the ball. According the chart courtesy of MLBFarm.com, it is pretty clear that Gattis is a pull hitter:
So we can see that if and when Gattis puts the ball into play, he will have a chance to hit home runs. While the move to Houston does help his fantasy prospects for 2015, what effect will it have upon his draft or auction status? In last week’s published money NFBC drafts, Gattis was the seventh catcher drafted with an average ADP of 124.31 going one pick after Salvador Perez and one before Yadier Molina. I can see a case being made to move Gattis up to the top five in catcher rankings and I would have a hard time taking Brian McCann ahead of him. Over the past two seasons Gattis has hit 43 home runs in 213 games played. That ties him with McCann for second for catchers over this time frame and the only player they trail is Carlos Santana who will not have catcher eligibility in leagues with a 20 game minimum.
Even if Gattis maintains his 16.8 HR/AB ratio his projections have to rise in Houston. However, this is a matter of health. Last year he only played in 108 games but if he can adjust to some left field and get some at bats at designated hitter, Gattis should eclipse that number. For projections, it will be all about the at bats. With simple extrapolation 400 at bats would equate to 24 home runs, 450 to 27 and 500 to 30, but this ignores the ballpark effects. According to Fangraphs.com’s ball park effects numbers Atlanta rates as a 99 for home runs and 97 for right handed hitters. But Houston jumps to 105 for home runs and 104 for right handed batters. The ballpark alone should account for about two more home runs per jump in at bats which could move Gattis projections to 26 for 400 at bats, 29 in 450 and 32 if he could get 500 in 2015. These may be on the aggressive side of projecting but if you are paying for 24 home runs and he hits 32 then profit is generated.
It will be interesting to see if his move has any real effect on his ADP in tonight’s FSTA draft which is the first one that gives insight to how experts value players. I venture to say he will jump into the top five drafted and with people worried about Devin Mesoraco’s regression this year, Gattis could be, dare I say a top three option at his position. Here are some of his early projections:
If you are in a league that uses on base percentage, then some of Evan Gattis’ value is taken away but at a time when power hitters are in high demand, this is a relative inexpensive chance today at one. With health he and Matt Wieters are relative sleepers at this point according to ADP’s. What is nice about his projections, they sort of represent the three scenarios that Gattis could provide. CBS shows a possible peak, Steamer is where I can see him getting realistically and ZiPS shows the worst case scenario. Personally I will buy Gattis for the Steamer projection but if he jumps his home run totals into the 30-32 range, it would not be a surprise.
It would appear that the Braves were dead set upon restocking the farm system this off-season. By moving Gattis, this cements the plan and the Braves did receive three more prospects acquiring Mike Foltynewicz, Rio Ruiz and Andrew Thurman. According to MiLB.com Foltynewicz moves into the second slot for Braves prospects and Rio Ruiz to number six so netting two top ten minor leaguers for a power hitter may be enough in return. Houston does have third baseman prospects still in the system so Ruiz was a player they could afford to part ways with. For fantasy purposes, Mike Foltynewicz is the most likely to appear in 2015 so I will focus on his move to Atlanta.
Moving to a better pitcher’s ballpark and the National League has to improve Foltynewicz’s fantasy stock going forward. He has a blazing fastball along with a curve and changeup as can be seen in the chart below thanks to BrooksBaseball.net:
My concern about him is can he throw enough strikes to remain a starting pitcher? The talent is there, but his career WHIP of 1.4 in the minor leagues is concerning and frustrating. Foltynewicz was able to strike out ten hitters in a game but his 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio in AAA last year is cause for concern. I can see two outcomes with Folty moving forward: a viable number four starting pitcher for the Braves or their eventual replacement for Craig Kimbrel at closer if they trade him. But the latest tweet by their beat writer Mark Bowman is a head scratcher to me:
The #Braves do not have any desire to trade Kimbrel. They remain optimistic about the upcoming season.
I do not see how this Braves team as presently built can compete in 2015. As much as I like Freddie Freeman, Alex Wood, Julio Teheran and Craig Kimbrel, that is not enough to make the Braves a playoff contender. Jim Callis likes how the Braves have rebuilt their farm system:
So why not continue doing that and build for 2016. Signing Nick Markakis and A.J. Pierzynski is not enough to replace the losses of Justin Upton, Jason Heyward and Evan Gattis. I think the A’s last year showed that pitching is not enough to win a playoff series or one game play in. A team needs balance and not only does the Braves lack it, there is room for much improvement.
Baseball-Reference.com, ESPN.go.com Hit Tracker, Fangraphs.com, Steamer Projections, CBSsports.com, BrooksBaseball.net
Evan Gattis pic: http://www.foxsports.com/content/dam/fsdigital/RSN/South/2014/2/14/PI-MLB-Atlanta-Braves-Evan-Gattis-021414.jpg
Greg Jewett is the senior fantasy writer for the Sports Script and you can follow him on Twitter @gjewett9
In anticipation of the FSTA draft this week, I continue my early look at NFBC ADP’s, concentrating on the top 200 in money drafts. While the names continue to shuffle others stay the same. Outfield will be about trust, mixing some power with guys who can steal some bases and catching that bargain that others either overlooked or were burned by last year. It is evident in the ADP information that it will take due diligence and maybe a little luck to hit on the breakouts this year. Due the fact there are forty nine names to digest I made one chart and took the liberty of splitting up their strengths by color:
Red – 20+ HR, 8 < SB (Power); Green – 10 < HR, 20+ SB (Speed); Blue – 10+ HR, 10+ SB (Blends)
Here is how the outfield stacks up. I listed their draft rank below and also inserted their average ADP’s in the NFBC drafts to give an early indicator of their value prior to Thursday’s FSTA draft.
Keeping with the format, I have processed each player drafted in the top 200 in charts with their respective Steamer Projections courtesy of Fangraphs.com. After each group I will give some thoughts about how the outfielders stack up and then move to the next one. The first two charts will be in groups of seventeen then the last group will round out to the 49 outfielders according to the ADP numbers.
Group One – 4 Power, 1 Speed and 12 Blends
I mean the first seventeen at most positions should be rock solid and for the most part the outfielders are. I have sort of clumped some highlights into categories since the Golden Globes just happened, so here goes. By the way I am not scared of either Matt Kemp or Justin Upton in San Diego but I wrote about that already here. Safety in numbers: Adam Jones, Baltimore He is not flashy and is always a regression candidate and he just keeps producing. It is like you do not feel great drafting him at his ADP but he is consistent while not flashy, which in the first round is not so bad. Bounce Back: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee I was warning drafters last year to avoid Ryan, but I am back. Since his ADP is trending down, his health may be up and guys who produce 28 home runs and 12 steals are dwindling with a batting average near .300, so I am here with open arms. Trust Issues: Michael Brantley, Cleveland; Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado While I am intrigued by the price on Carlos Gonzalez, his checkered health past, last year makes him a very risky option this early. But he could deliver a season like Michael Brantley did last year. Let that marinate a minute. Brantley broke through for a strong 2014, are you feeling lucky paying for a repeat? If you are the cost may alarm you. Wild Cards: Bryce Harper, Washington; George Springer, Houston Two guys who could determine how teams finish. I mean there is a 25 home run and 15 steal season while hitting .290 just waiting for Harper who people seem to forget is only 22 years old. With batting averages dropping across baseball again, a guy who could hit 30 home runs and if his legs stay healthy, steal 20 is tolerable if he hits .240, but the .240 could be iffy. If Springer gets his average to .250, then he is a potential top 10 outfielder. There, I said it. Upside Play: Starling Marte, Pittsburgh At the same cost as Carlos Gonzalez who may strain a pinkie or Billy Hamilton I can get a poor man’s Jacoby Ellsbury who is younger with more upside? Twenty picks later? Absolutely.
Group Two – 6 Power, 2 Speed, 9 Blends
Safety in numbers: Nelson Cruz, Seattle It is clear that Nelson Cruz’s huge 2014 netted him the Mariners contract which is twofold, first he will protect Robinson Cano and second he adds a power right handed bat that they have craved. While I am not saying to invest heavily in a repeat, he can still hit 25 home runs and you know what you are getting with Cruz. Bounce Back: Jay Bruce, Cincinnati At a time when power hitters are craved a strong return by Jay Bruce at a deflated cost would be huge for his fantasy value. We know he can hit for power, or at least should, but will his batting average return to respectability? Or does the shift have another victim? Trust Issues: Charlie Blackburn, Colorado; J.D. Martinez, Detroit One had a career year in Coors field and the other was an outcast from the Astros and found success in Motown? If I had to pick from the two, I think a repeat in power by Martinez is possible with some losses in batting average but his Steamer projection supports a solid season. I think Blackburn is a nice story but to invest in him this early when there are other options available late is a tough pick to justify. Wild Cards: Rusney Castillo, Boston; Jorge Soler, Chicaco Cubs A Cuban theme here in the wild card section so all kidding aside, they both have immense ability. If Castillo can translate his winter season statistics to the major leagues then the Red Sox have an even deeper outfield and should be dealing Allen Craig sooner than later. Not to kill the theme, but a power hitting outfielder is becoming rarer and rarer, so Jorge Soler has to be on radars. Since he could hit more home runs without destroying a team’s batting average I may venture to gamble on him since he can develop over say a Jay Bruce….the shift…. Upside Play: Jason Heyward, St. Louis On my tombstone it will read, he trusted in in Jason Heyward. He has not hit left-handed pitching, well, at all lately and even though I sang his praises from the rooftops last year Heyward was replaced in Atlanta by Nick Markakis? Yes, that Nick Markakis. I am not saying that 20/20 is a guarantee but would it surprise anyone that being a Cardinal unlocked his potential? Would not be the first guy to have that happen.
Group Three: 3 Power, 4 Speed, 7 Blends, Melky Cabrera
Safety in numbers: There is not really safety out here….
Bounce Back: Shin-Soo Choo, Texas With health, it is hard to imagine a prohibitive top twenty outfielder in 2014 draft preps has fallen so precipitously, but Choo has. How many owners did he upset? In NFBC formats this means he is a tenth round pick and chance well worth taking. Unless the curse of Kinsler is real. Trust Issues: Same as the safety problem, there are going to be trust issues here as well. Just look at the ADP’s of Alex Rios and the aforementioned Choo. Wild Cards: Avisail Garcia, Chicago White Sox; Yasmany Tomas, Arizona It takes some stones to invest in players out here in drafts and when you see the pitching options you will see why I am going to get power and hitters early and try to target pitching later. But I will take a chance on Avisail Garcia here since he could have a ceiling of 20 home runs with ten steals at an ADP of 172 on average. All day every day. The White Sox are going to score some runs. Yasmany Tomas will come with some hype especially with the breakout that Jose Abreu had last year but I fear that Tomas will resemble a different White Sox teammate, Dayan Viciedo. Tread lightly here…. Upside: Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh There are all kinds of terms, post-hype sleeper for example, whatever you want to say I think Polanco had a tough go after his promotion last year but he is talented. After watching him in person I was a fan and he has presence. Though his ceiling in 2015 is probably 13 home runs and 25 stolen bases that is a bargain where he is going.
It is getting late so I am going to offer up one more chart with player that are beyond the top 200 in each category for outfield with their projections included. When you speak of me, please speak nicely.
In the midst of thinking that middle infield would be a tough position to forecast in 2014, three middle infielders made the top 20 on ESPN’s Player Rater. However, it did not include top-twelve selections Robinson Cano, Troy Tulowitzki or Hanley Ramirez. This seems to be carrying over to early ADP’s as people are reacting to the strong performances by Jose Altuve and Anthony Rendon who finished 1st and 17th respectively last season. Early on, each player is being taken in the top 15 in NFBC money drafts. The third player to finish in this company was Dee Gordon, who is not enjoying the early love as his other brethren due to questions of regression. But is Gordon really that much more of a question mark than the other two? That remains to be seen. At first glance, second base seems much deeper than in the past.
As for shortstop, rankings always begin with Troy Tulowitzki. This is not a knock on Tulo (or maybe it is), but he has averaged just 105.8 games played over the last five seasons. If you select him with eyes wide open, that is fine, but even with less than 100 games in 2014, Tulowitzki still finished 8th on the Player Rater at his position. It seems like Hanley Ramirez falls under the same category, but he will be learning a new position in Boston. HanRam has averaged 121 games over the last five years, but should see a bump in production playing in Boston if he can handle playing the outfield. Add in Jose Reyes and you have an instance in which three of the top four ranked shortstops are a risk for injury. While everyone is an injury risk, the checkered health of this talented trio makes it difficult to draft them since it comes at a cost that is rarely returned. Dee Gordon finished 2014 as the top fantasy shortstop but will not retain eligibility this year. Let’s transition to the average draft positions at second base for 2015 in NFBC money drafts:
I was a proponent of Jose Altuve last year and enjoyed the returns of owning him in my home AL-only league. While I think he can repeat some of his numbers, it stands to reason that he will regress a little in 2015. Batting average is the hardest statistic to predict so when it is one of the main reasons driving a player’s value, that makes taking him in the first round risky. With the dearth of power in the league, I find it hard to justify taking a base-stealing second baseman in the top 10. I also loved Anthony Rendon as my editor will be happy to tell you (Editor’s note: It’s true, he did). But with Rendon being taken at pick number 14 that again neutralizes his value. I think he is very talented and capable of repeating his numbers in 2015 but his home run tracker lists 12 of his 21 home runs last year as “just enough”. What if half of those do not go over the wall this year? That drops him home runs from 21 to 15 which is worth making note of. Meanwhile, Seattle signed Nelson Cruz for Robinson Cano. This is very important since Cano has had little protection since moving to the Mariners. I think he is due for a big bounce back season and with his ADP slipping into the twenties, now is the time to pounce. Two other players I like this year are Jason Kipnis and Kolten Wong at their present draft spots. Kipnis’ power numbers are limited by an inability to hit fly balls, but all he needs is health to rebound. Wong had a strong finish to 2014 and looks to build upon that this year. Like the blind profile with projections, here are some interesting ones courtesy of Steamer:
It is easy to see that player B has a noticeable drop in runs scored and just 9 points in batting average, but he is going to be an interesting player to watch develop. While I prefer player A in drafts, if he is taken ahead of where I want him, player B is an intriguing fallback option. Here is one more comparison:
While two of the players above are now teammates, it will be interesting to see how their at bats work out. The third player in the comparison really came on in 2014 and looks to build upon that this year in anonymity since he is not going in the top 200 thus far. Here are the their identities:
Player A: Jason Kipnis Player B: Arismendy Alcantara Player C: Scooter Gennett Player D: Ben Zobrist Player E: Marcus Semien
Projections do not tell the whole story but when the names are taken out of the process, it allows us to look at them objectively. Other players of note are Chase Utley, Jedd Gyorko, Nick Franklin and Rougned Odor. Second base is not a fantasy gold mine, but it is definitely as deep as it has been in recent memory. Here are the steamer projections of the players taken in the top 200:
Due to the ADP’s in clear tiers, drafting shortstop will depend on an owner’s preference. Those who want a premium player at a volatile position will be taking Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez or Ian Desmond in the top 30. After that though it is sort of spread out. Only two shortstops are being taken between picks 50-100 but then five go off the board between picks 105 – 138. Almost a whole round lapses then four more shortstops are being selected between picks 150-180 in the NFBC top 200. Here are the players with their ADP’s included:
As much as shortstop will be in transition, especially with the move of Hanley Ramirez to the outfield in Boston, there is hope. Continuing the blind profile exercise, here are some interesting ones I found using the Steamer projections:
Only one of the above players is being taken inside of the NFBC’s top 200 in money drafts. Showing that while there is depth at shortstop, it seems as though there are many at the same statistical level. Continuing on that theme, here are three more in the same exact circumstance:
There aren’t many discernible differences in either group. Player A does have a big advantage in batting average which enhances his value but that is also the one statistic with the largest variance. In the second group any one of the three players listed could out-produce the other with a bump in one category. Curious?
Player A: Starlin Castro Player B: Asdrubel Cabrera Player C: Brad Miller Player D: Wilmer Flores Player E: J.J. Hardy Player F: Jhonny Peralta
Only Starlin Castro and Jhonny Peralta are being drafted inside the top 200 but I think those picks are better spent on pitchers or players with more upside than guys like Peralta. There are plenty of similar options available. Before I forget, here are the Steamer projections for the shortstops inside the top 200:
Intriguing undrafted shortstops include Erick Aybar, Chris Owings and Alcides Escobar. I can see a bounce back by Jean Segura who endured a very tough season not only in his adjustments, but personally as well. Danny Santana is due to regress but how much? If he can steal 20 bases and score 80 runs then he still has value. Yes his average will drop to the .270 range but it depends on need. Javier Baez will be a very tough player to own since he will be streaky and may not break out until the second half. I think he is talented but to reach for him at pick 106 would be unwise. There are options if you do your research, just do not wait too long or you will find yourself with Jed Lowrie.
Middle infield will have depth and some value to share this year. I think you can be successful without reaching or paying for career years. It will take patience but early knowledge of how players are being valued helps determine where to get them. Tomorrow I will take a look at the outfield.
If you think there is variance in the middle infield, just wait.
Early average draft position results are not the bible, but in the midst of preseason rankings it helps to see where players are being selected. There is controversy every year, whether it be concerns over “fat” Mike Trout, where Kershaw will go or Miguel Cabrera’s health. Things have been quiet in Detroit and if the Tigers are indeed going for it this year, Cabrera will play. He proved that by playing hurt throughout September while putting up an epic stat line for the month:
Miguel Cabrera September 2014: 19 R, 8 HR, 18 RBI, .379/.409/.709, 1.118 OPS, 214 wRC+
The concern with Cabrera has gone from whether he should be the top pick to how far he falls in mocks. Early indications seem to suggest it is not as far as I would like, but I have seen him go in mocks as far back as number 8. Is there risk involved? Of course, but if he is on the field for the whole season he’ll be more than fine. Outside of Cabrera, a healthy Paul Goldschmidt and the return of old favorites Prince Fielder and Joey Votto make the position deep once again. In fact, it looks like power at the position can be had throughout. Anthony Rizzo seems primed to take another step forward and is climbing up rankings and draft lists. First base is making a comeback as a position of elite fantasy production.
On the other end of the spectrum is third base. With the loss of Miguel Cabrera and the lack of production top to bottom along with the volatility of the players at the position, it will be a tough sea to navigate this year. In looking at early data, it seems like you’ll have to take a third baseman in the top-100. Otherwise, just fill the position late and hope it pans out. In dealing with corner infielders, it appears most teams will be grabbing from the first base pool but there could be an advantage gained by grabbing two strong third baseman early and thinning the pool for your competitors if you can grab a Josh Donaldson and a Kyle Seager. This means another guy in your league may be forced to roster a Mike Moustakas at third, yuck. Have a plan and if you can force a run, it opens opportunity for you to get what you want. For starters, here are the first baseman taken in the top 200 in money NFBC drafts thus far:
There has never been a time to get such value on players like Prince Fielder and Joey Votto, but do you want to? If you could see their credentials without the names attached, would that change your mind? With credit to Matthew Berry of ESPN, I love his use of blind analysis to take the name value out of the equation and simply focus on the numbers. I will use Steamer projections as a guide for this exercise:
Sure, you are giving up some OBP and a pittance in slugging percentage but are the numbers really that different? Drafters say yes since player A is being drafted on average at pick number 79.85 while player B is outside of the top 200. One more:
Player D is going at pick number 69 and player C is being selected on average at pick 166.69, I cannot make this up. I sort of played my hand in the intro to this exercise but here are the players:
Player A: Joey Votto Player B: Steve Pearce Player C: Justin Morneau Player D: Prince Fielder
See what I am saying? If I put those names in front of you without the numbers are you changing how you look at them? Something to think about. Just like with Miguel Cabrera, until he comes out and says he is hampered by the injury and may miss time, I am taking him. If he is there at pick 8, I will be ecstatic. I do like Freddie Freeman and he had an impressive 2014 but have you looked at the lineup surrounding him? There are several other players I like more than most, too. Carlos Santana is one of them. If left alone to play first base after the failed move to third should bounce back this year. He’ll be third base eligible in 2015 too! Adam LaRoche is a forgotten entity as well. He’s in Chicago now, hitting after Jose Abreu and will hit 30 home runs this year. I’ll pass on Joey Votto and Prince Fielder. Let them be someone else’s problem, I just can’t trust either slugger. Here are the top 20 first baseman taken in the first 200 with their Steamer projections included. I highlighted the leaders in the four counting statistical categories as well:
While first base is getting deeper, third base is as murky as the situation in New York. With the pending return of Alex Rodriguez and his albatross of a contract, the Yankees signed Chase Headley to a four-year pact. If you want to take a chance on A-Rod being a fantasy asset in 2015, be my guest, but I will be watching from afar. Anthony Rendon was a favorite target of mine in 2014 due to his value in drafts but the gig is up. Rendon is going at pick number 14 in the drafts used for this article and that may be too steep a price. Like Carlos Santana, Rendon does have dual eligibility along with Todd Frazier but people may be pushing them up too far. Don’t get me wrong, Rendon has the talent and lineup to be successful but there are warning signs about taking him too soon. He hit 21 home runs in 2014 but 12 of them are rated “just enough” and of those 12, 3 more had “lucky” attached as well. I am not saying he will regress but to plan on more than 18 home runs may be aggressive.
I think Josh Donaldson’s move to Toronto should allow him to thrive and finish as fantasy’s top third baseman in 2015. However, he is being taken at the end of the second or beginning of the third in NFBC money drafts. This number may climb but if it does not, pounce. Here are what the ADP’s for third baseman look like so far:
It seems that Evan Longoria is finally being valued correctly, but look at the precipitous drop for David Wright. He is teetering at the edge of the top 100 which means he is finally a value pick. But is this name value again? He is an injury risk but the Mets should have a chance to at least compete for a wild card spot with the pitching depth they have. How about another blind comparison?
Not too far apart on value but player B is on the outside of the top 200 even after Martin Prado while player A is David Wright. Player B is his New York counterpart. Yes, Chase Headley. Here are the Steamer projections for the third baseman drafted in the top 200:
Navigating third base will be interesting but while some values exist, people will be reaching for name value like Evan Longoria and Chris Carpenter. One surprise is Kris Bryant going at pick number 105 without yet being named the starting third baseman for the Cubs. Could he return a profit at this spot? Yes, but that is a fine line to walk. I like Nolan Arenado to take a step forward this year but so does everyone else. Kyle Seager should thrive in the improved Seattle lineup and he was already profiled here. If healthy, Manny Machado is a steal at 148.69. Players outside of the top 200 that I like include Nick Castellanos, Aramis Ramirez and Jake Lamb.
Corner infield is setting itself up for a bounce back in 2015 but there are as many questions as there are locks. Good luck avoiding the land mines. Throw name value out the window and try to see a player for who he really is using the numbers.
Draft season is approaching and it seems that we still overthink how to handle catchers. While the production from the position and their ADP’s seem to be coming closer together, there are still owners out there who think that acquiring a top catcher is of the utmost importance. In that, a player like Buster Posey gets drafted too soon. He was the only catcher to crack the top 50 via ESPN’s Player Rater (he finished 49th). He and Jonathan Lucroy were the only two to finish in the top 100 (Lucroy broke out, finishing at 97). Even in two-catcher leagues, I think you can get by owning a top-12 option at the position and waiting until later on in your draft to gamble on a flier type. Devin Mesoraco circa 2014 comes to mind on the flier front.
Due to the declining power numbers in baseball, designated hitters are in transition as well. The top player at the position will be 39 this year and though there seems to be a player who can match Ortiz’s thump, Chris Carter’s batting average leaves something to be desired. 30-homers out of a single player will be rare in 2015, making Carter more valuable than he would have been otherwise. Whether it is the new age of pitching dominance or the emergence of shifts and specialty pitchers, run production will be in demand in fantasy next season. Power is such a scarce commodity that batting averages will likely be ignored if a player can produce 30 home runs. The stigma about a player that hits below .240 and launches 30 bombs is all but gone.
So how do we treat the players and rankings for these positions going forward? I gave my thoughts above about catcher, I try to target a solid top 10-12 catcher and get him at a fair market price whether in auctions or drafts then target a bounce back candidate or younger catcher who could break out later on. If the gamble does not work, there is bound to be someone on the waiver wire I can move on to. If any position in fantasy baseball is related to the kicker in fantasy football, it’s the catcher. Find one with a good chance to get at bats on a solid team and you’re golden. These are your Yan Gomes, Salvador Perez, and Russell Martin types. After that, take a flier or get two of the types above and gamble on upside later in the draft. But to spend a second round pick on a Buster Posey, as good of a real baseball player as he is, just does not make much sense to me.
Following up on my article about the NFBC’s top 200 by ADP, I will list the catchers taken in the top 200 along with their average draft position in the chart: As much as I liked Devin Mesoraco last year, I am shying away from him at the present cost this year. There are too many other players I will be targeting at pick 80. Knowing a catcher rarely makes the top 100 in overall rankings makes it tough to grab one early. Bounce back candidates include Matt Wieters, Wilin Rosario and Brian McCann (if he can solve the shift). Stephen Vogt and Carlos Santana lose catcher status in leagues that use 20 games played for eligibility purposes, so that stinks. In an effort to gather statistics, I made a spreadsheet listing their projections by Steamer and CBS:
Two players catch my attention on the chart above; Evan Gattis and Travis d’Arnaud. One is limited by his defense and the other has durability questions. Rumor has it that Gattis will open 2015 as Atlanta’s left fielder now that Justin Upton has been traded to San Diego. This means good things for his value since he will not wear down physically due to the rigors of catching. This should allow him to get 500 at bats. That would be huge since he has hit 43 home runs in 723 career at bats in the majors. If he hits the magic 500 number, that would pace him for 29.74 homers if he maintains his career rates. 30-homer potential out of my catcher slot is something I will definitely be exploring at pick 125.
Travis d’Arnaud also has the ability to be a stealth starting catcher for fantasy owners in 2015, but he has to stay on the field. In the second half of 2014, d’Arnaud slashed .265/.313/.474 while hitting 7 home runs and showed us why he was a top catching prospect. He did appear in 108 games last year and had some bone chips removed in October, so if he is healthy and can stay healthy, then he represents a bargain in 2015.
Speaking of health, Yadier Molina is not even being drafted in the NFBC top 200 so if you like a low double-digit home run hitting catcher that will actually help your batting average then he is your guy. If a team has loaded up on power hitting early, then Molina is a perfect target to balance a team. Another player I like with spotty health issues but burgeoning power is Wilson Ramos. He may break my heart one more time but he can hit 18-20 home runs for Washington while batting .270. Speculate. One more target is Yasmani Grandal of the Dodgers. I think he can hit 15 or more home runs for Los Angeles and be a player that is the perfect flier type to pair up with an Evan Gattis. Every draft or auction is different but I think it will pay to wait at catcher.
Since only two designated hitters were taken in the Top 200 NFBC ADP’s it is not too hard to look at them. First here are their projections by Steamer and CBS:
As much as David Ortiz can light up a room and hit home runs, power hitters do not age well. Ortiz has been defying the odds for years. I give him all the credit in the world, but with an ADP in the top 90, I think it is better to let him age on someone else’s team. It’s better to be a year early than a year too late.
Chris Carter will be a polarizing fantasy player since he is the prototypical three outcome kind of guy: a walk, a home run or a strike out. In fact, over his 572 plate appearances in 2014, 48% of his outcomes were one of the above. Carter hit 37 home runs, struck out 182 times and drew 56 walks. But over the second half he slashed a respectable .252/.338/.521. This was fueled by a line drive rate that he cannot maintain for a full season, but the seeds are in place for some growth. Both projections above account for a batting average in the Dunn range, but there is a chance he can hit .240 which increases his value. With the potential for 40 home runs at pick 140, I’ll gamble.
Values are likely to change as all of the sleeper lists and under the radar picks will be coming out, but having a grip on where to take a catcher helps. Don’t be that guy who grabs Posey in the second round to preserve your team’s batting average while other teams are collecting power. It is a precious commodity in fantasy baseball today.
Gearing up for fantasy baseball drafts is one of my favorite times of the year. Crunching numbers, ranking players and observing how values fluctuate as the season comes closer is something I really enjoy. I have already been looking at the NFBC ADP available on Nesn.com and there have been interesting developments. But I was even more intrigued by the following tweet today:
While the information available is fascinating, the list that Greg Amrosius kindly posted outlines the top 200 in the money drafts that have already happened. When money is on the line, there will be tougher decisions and the players ranks could provide some early clarity. Processing the top 200 was not easy as I was busy working on spreadsheets, but I modified the 200 players into a more common 12 team format (the NFBC is 15 team league drafts) for the article’s purposes. These are rough estimates and I will follow up tomorrow with the players ranked by position to see what trends show there as well. As for today, I listed the rank of the player, what his average pick selection is and his rank by position in the charts below. After each round or two, I will give my two cents worth on the first top 200 from drafts I have seen this year. If you think you are seeing pitchers early and often, you are correct. Enjoy!
That Mike Trout guy is still number one, and he will not be fat this year. He could be a bit weak against pitches up in the zone but he is the only player in the top 12 to go number one in every single draft. I have never been a proponent of taking a pitcher in the first round, but if there is one I would consider it is Clayton Kershaw. Even in an injury riddled season he still produced the goods. There is growing concern around Miguel Cabrera’s ankle and foot surgery but if the Tigers know that they are all in with their window of opportunity closing, he will play through it like he did last September. There are some newcomers in this list with Jose Abreu, Carlos Gomez, Felix Hernandez and Jose Altuve moving into the top 12, but I would only take one at the price listed above; Abreu. Toronto owns the tail end of the first round with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion providing plenty of punch in a lineup that welcomes Josh Donaldson to the fold.
There are surprises above with Anthony Rendon and Michael Brantley making huge jumps in early drafts. I was a big proponent of Rendon last year but this may be too rich for my blood. Troy Tulowitzki and a replacement player still make up probably the best shortstop tandem in roto but he comes with risk. At a time where power is in high demand in drafts I will find it difficult to take a player like Adam Jones here but it depends on what is available. Robinson Cano was overpriced in Seattle last year but as the third second baseman, I really love him at 22. While Madison Bumgarner almost single-handedly defeated the Royals, there is a lot of mileage on his arm from last fall, which could cause for some to reach on him. I am waiting.
Like Cano, I think the depressed price on Ryan Braun makes him a buy this year. Motivated to prove his detractors wrong and possibly healthy I would rather have a third round Braun over a second round Adam Jones. Pitchers, pitchers everywhere, with four more coming off the board in this round. It is hard to gauge Max Scherzer since some of his value will be determined by where he signs. After A.J. Preller’s wheeling and dealing, there are two Padres in this round with Kemp and Upton. I am not scared by either in Petco this year. Bryce Harper will be a polarizing figure, he is 22 and while he has burned us in the past, this is a good price for him.
Projections are all over the place on George Springer but in the fourth round in the mock 200, he could provide first round value. His batting average is not going to be great, but for a player with 30/30 potential, this is a great flier at pick 41.08 overall. Speed is flying off the board here (no pun intended), but Dee Gordon and Billy Hamilton may be fighting for the National League stolen base title this year. Carlos Gonzalez, man is he tempting here, but he is made of glass. I go with Springer and take the hit in average for his possible breakout instead of reading that CarGo is out with a tweak or bad finger on a monthly basis. It is an interesting decision, you can take Cueto, Darvish or Wainwright here to anchor your staff, who is it?
Two more Rockies outfielders come off the board in Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon. I lean Dickerson here. Last year Albert Pujols was going to fall off but here he is still and somehow I think Miguel Cabrera will do the same this year. Jon Lester had a great 2014 and moving to the NL could help his peripherals, but can he win 15+ with the Cubs this year? In all honesty, the Rockie I am eying the most here is Arenado, I could justify grabbing him ahead of Longoria but there is safety in numbers. Two more closers go off the board here but I am waiting for strikeout upside later, I like Kimbrel and Holland but grab power early and often, pitchers can be had later as you will see.
Four more starting pitchers are taken in this round and Matt Harvey is among them. I am tempted to grab him but it is a risk to have him as a number one coming off of Tommy John Surgery and knowing the Mets will protect his innings, but he has had 18 months to rehab and is ready to go. Jeff Samardzija could be a sneaky play in Chicago but I am avoiding Prince Fielder and Yoenis Cespedes. Cole Hamels is nice in this round but really needs a change in scenery to make him a bargain in the sixth.
A mini first baseman run happens here following Prince last round with Carlos Santana, Chris Davis and Joey Votto. Gun to my head I will go with Carlos Santana of these three. Crazy? Probably but I am willing to take chances from round seven on. Two Cardinal outfielders are here but if you want safe it is Holliday, upside and playing for a contract, Jason Heyward. I really like him in St. Louis this year.
Alex Cobb is a pitcher I like at this point of the draft, especially over James Shields. Josh Harrison had a great year but gambling on a repeat here may be tough to swallow. Wong represents upside and two more closers are off the board. What are fantasy owners going to do with David Wright? I think he is a great value here. While he will not return to his glory days, he has a better track record than Josh Harrison.
Speaking of risk, the ninth round brings just that. Kris Bryant has power that is in demand not only in baseball but for fantasy players as well. Javier Baez has all-world power and could swipe 13-15 bags as well, albeit with a .220 average. If Tyson Ross and Jake Arrieta can stay healthy they are good values here, especially Arrieta for me. As a matter of fact, the pitchers in this round are really good targets including Alex Wood, Hisashi Iwakuma and Jacob deGrom. Doubling up early on two aces just doesn’t make sense to me.
If the ninth was risky, so is the tenth. Power hitting outfielders who may only hit .250-.260 like J.D. Martinez and Jorge Soler are here, but I prefer them to reaching for Yoenis Cespedes four rounds earlier. Gio Gonzalez was really good in the second half, I mean really good. Speaking of power, if Evan Gattis gets to play left field with catcher eligibility, he can hit 30 home runs. Three more closers go in this round so even though I probably have not taken one yet, the time is nearing.
I have seen articles ranking Carlos Carrasco high for this year. But so far in money drafts he is the 30th pitcher selected. Even if he flames out at this price it is easily worth the risk. Speaking of which, Dellin Betances was out of this world good last year. His same age numbers are strikingly similar to his mentor Mariano Rivera, just saying. Definitely taking Gregory Polanco over Wil Myers here. I am very interested to see what Rusney Castillo can do, he will have a better year than fellow Cuban import Yasmany Tomas. Book it.
Remember when everyone was so excited by Pablo Sandoval going to Boston? That leaves him as the 12th third baseman selected and while his average and numbers will see a bump, how much will they improve? It seems that people are frightened off by Tanaka’s elbow, and I agree. But if he pitches 20 or more games in this round, he is worth it. Chris Carter hits home runs, takes walks and will not hit much better than .250 but if he can mash 35 long balls, who cares?
Why am I not taking Pablo Sandoval in the 12th? Because I can get Manny Machado in the 13th, at least in this top 200. This is a cornucopia of value. Adam LaRoche can hit 30 home runs if he adjusts to DH in Chicago but he will be hitting after Jose Abreu and ahead of Avisail Garcia in a bandbox. Shin-Soo Choo was a consensus top 20 outfielder preseason last year, how soon we forget. Another post hype prospect is Xander Bogaerts who could provide pop at shortstop and flourish this year after some consolidation in 2014.
Some outfielders with speed in Brett Gardner, Leonys Martin and Alex Rios come off the board here. Always underrated Howie Kendrick and Justin Morneau, too. I think Hector Rondon is great value this late, he really blossomed in the second half. Jason Motte is a depth signing but Joe Maddon does change closers more than most which can be a worry.
Want to know why I am waiting on pitchers? Look no further. Drew Smyly and Zack Wheeler could provide good ratios and strikeouts in round 14. Not to mention Marcus Stroman who could break out this year. His 2014 was not a fluke and with a better defense he is primed to shine in 2015. Avisail Garcia is another target I really like here, the White Sox are going to score runs and he may hit fifth with double-digit home runs and stolen bases.
I have yet to give up on Wilson Ramos and I will be lighting a candle for his health. If anyone this year can follow Devin Mesoraco’s power breakthrough of 2014, it is Ramos in 2015. Melky Cabrera will produce in Chicago and could bat second. Speaking of health, Travis d’Arnaud is another catcher with upside if he can stay on the field.
How can you take Matt Shoemaker over Phil Hughes? His K/BB in the second half was epic and though his wins are neutralized a bit in Minnesota, he is being overlooked. Mike Fiers will also be a popular sleeper target but look at Jose Fernandez. It seems the Marlins are all in and if he can return by July, a half season of Fernandez is better than a whole one from other pitchers. At this point, I would take A.J. Pollock over Josh Hamilton and that is really all you need to know about that.
Tomorrow I will list the players by position and try to formulate a set of tiers based on this early 200 courtesy of Greg Ambrosius of the NFBC. Drafts are coming, I may be crazy, but using all the information we can will help us be right.
While there are a multitude of issues facing the Hall of Fame currently, what to do with steroid-era players is the most challenging. After all, this one is in the hands of the voters. That’s not to say that the 10-vote limit and the fact that some of the writers seem to be making this process more about themselves than the institution aren’t major concerns.
This year for the first time, I had the privilege of casting a ballot for the IBWAA. Even though my vote was unofficial in nature, I took it very seriously, as I consider myself to be a well-read and historically driven student of the game. As you can see in my ballot below, I chose to leave off any player with even the smallest connection to the use of performance enhancing drugs. This decision did not come easily, as I used almost the entire amount of time allotted to me to submit my final ballot. I did an absurd amount of reading, talked with dozens of other writers and made sure to do my own research.
Here’s my 2015 IBWAA ballot (with my picks highlighted in yellow):
As I mentioned, my decision to leave players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens off my ballot was a tough one. From a pure numbers perspective, I effectively left two of the greatest players in baseball history out in the cold. I realize this, and although it was not fun to have to do, I will stick to my guns. I of course respect the opinions of the pro-steroid voters, as they are not without validity in their arguments. So it goes.
I realize some criticism is warranted in leaving players like Jeff Bagwell off the ballot, as it was never proven that he used. Hell, there was never concrete evidence that Bonds used either. In trying to be as fair as possible, I used a form of probable cause in my decision making. You know, the kind of skills that police officers use while on the beat. If they have probable cause that you committed a crime, they can pull you over. In that, any player that I even think may have been linked to steroids will not appear on my ballot. I realize that this may sound silly to some, but I didn’t want to make the mistake of voting for a player who juiced without every possible piece of information. Sure, there are going to be rare cases where I’m wrong and I left off a player who was actually clean. However, I’m willing to take that risk in order to make absolutely sure that my vote doesn’t taint baseball’s most sacred institution. Maybe more information comes out about a player in the future, absolving them of any dark cloud. In that scenario, I would gladly reconsider. For now though, this is how I chose to approach it.
There’s no doubt that it’s hard to decipher between those who used, those who probably did, those who may have and those who did not in an era where steroids were reportedly widespread. How widespread it really was though, we will probably never know. Before we close up shop, I just wanted to take a minute to critique the arguments of those who would call me crazy (and there have been many).
Everyone was doing it: Wrong. Ken Griffey, Jr. was never linked to the use of performing enhancing drugs. Plenty others had great careers, and had them on the up and up. Many were doing it, but many also refrained.
It wasn’t illegal: While this is true to some degree, it still doesn’t exonerate those who used. Baseball looked the other way for the entirety of the 90’s and into the early 2000’s before cracking down. Some will argue that the home run races of this era brought baseball back after the ’94 strike. I understand the fact that athletes are always going to look for an edge over their competition. I get it. But to allow these factors to wipe away the fact that some chose to cheat would be foolish.
He was great before he started using: Just stop, stop it right now. Then why use? I’m sure those who use this argument would say “to gain an even greater edge”, but really? Do we have no morality? This argument has been paramount to those who support Barry Bonds’ candidacy.
His numbers outweigh his steroid use: No they don’t. It’s likely that a solid chunk of his numbers (at the least), especially those in relation to power came as a direct result of PED use. I really don’t get this argument. If the CEO if a big bank accumulates large quantities of money in a way that is clearly shady while there were no penalties for it, does that make it alright? It’s a slippery slope to be sure, but I don’t think that makes the way in which the funds were acquired any less wrong from a moral standpoint.
And finally, I’ll just leave this here. This has been copied directly from the BBWAA’s election rules via the Hall of Fame’s website.
5. Voting: Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.
At the very least, this rule should give those who are quick to pencil steroid-users in on their ballots some pause.
Once again the real life general managers are making a trade that makes sense for both teams involved. It is not always about winning or losing a trade, but dealing from strength to fix a weakness. After trading away Michael Saunders to Toronto, the Mariners have been looking for another outfielder, preferably one with some pop. Though the Padres have been very busy they have been in pursuit of Brandon Maurer for about a year now:
Source says the Padres have been pursuing Brandon Maurer for about a year. Some think he could still return to starting.
With the trade of Seth Smith to Seattle, both teams fill a need. The M’s get to platoon Smith in right field with Justin Ruggiano, which will improve an offense that has already added Nelson Cruz this winter. The Padres get some Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow insurance since Maurer can work as a starter or reliever. Maurer thrived in a relief role in 2014:
New #Padres pitcher Brandon Maurer ranked 4th in Strike Zone % (51.4) & 7th in FIP (1.85) in 2014 among AL relievers with as many or more IP
The platoon in Seattle will now feature Justin Ruggiano batting against left-handed pitching and Seth Smith versus righties. While this feels like a bit of a fantasy letdown for everyone involved, it may enhance each player’s value. Mariner fans are a bit disappointed giving up on Michael Saunders but he has averaged just 116 games per season over the last three years and played only 78 in 2014. Fantasy owners are teased by his fantastic 2012 season but that may never happen again. I took the luxury of looking at Smith and Ruggiano’s splits in their roles as a possible platoon and compared what their projections look like against last year’s right field production for the Mariners:
While it is an imperfect world, I did take each player’s career numbers to formulate their combined on base percentages and slugging in that chart. It seems hard to believe that two players can fill that gap alone, but after the inconsistency in right field last year, the stability may be welcomed:
Not being satisfied I also took the time to make an overlay with Safeco for each player but I used Smith’s 2014 and Ruggiano’s 2013 season since he missed much of 2014 with leg injuries. It is worth noting that neither lost any home runs due to the overlay but that does not account for the difference in atmoshphere:
Seth Smith 2014 Overlay in Safeco
Justin Ruggiano 2013 Overlay in Safeco
Sometimes you have to be a bit unpopular to make a good baseball decision and while some of Seattle’s decisions of the past can be questioned, I think this one makes sense. Smith and Ruggiano could be a very good platoon in right field. Now the Mariners must address a backup first baseman unless one of the above is going to learn the position. Also, the Mariners still have the opportunity to deal one of their young shortstops (Brad Miller or Chris Taylor) as the signing of Asdrubel Cabrera to Tampa Bay signals they are going to move either Ben Zobrist or Yunel Escobar. Timing is everything.
On the San Diego side, acquiring Maurer is an insurance policy with rotational upside. If you believe in Brandon Morrow or Josh Johnson making it through the season healthy, then Maurer will be another live arm in the bullpen along with newly acquired Shawn Kelley. But based on the tweets above, the Padres may see Maurer as more than a relief pitcher. While his career numbers have been a bit erratic, he really made a jump as a reliever. Using Baseball-Reference.com’s splits, I copied his numbers as a starter against those he recorded while pitching in relief:
If Maurer can continue to throw strikes as a starting pitcher after experiencing a big jump in his K/9 and K/BB as a reliever, then the Padres have something. Here are Maurer’s velocities last year with seven games as a starter and 31 in relief:
As Eno Sarris points out in this tweet, one of the reason that the Padres were drawn to Maurer is his curveball:
New Padres pitcher Brandon Maurer had highest spin rate on curve. http://t.co/dprbgJguLl Colin McHugh was sixth. Astros targeted him for CB.
If Maurer’s curveball effectiveness can catch up to his changeup, then he can certainly make the jump to the Padres rotation with success. Much will depend upon his spring and what happens with the Padres as they continue to evolve under the leadership of their new GM.