2014 Fantasy Baseball: Josh Donaldson, Year End Review

donaldson land

Source: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images North America

After each season ends, I look forward to looking back at divisive players to see how they fared. I did so with Carlos Gomez a couple of weeks ago. Spoiler: the people who believed in him were right, and he looks like a perennial top 15 talent for the time being.

Josh Donaldson was another player that seemed to pit fantasy players against each other. I fell into the camp of “he’s legit,” but not because of my own research. Donaldson spoke at length throughout the season about his development as a hitter, and how not worrying about catching might have helped him finally reach his potential. Eno Sarris of Fangraphs also noted some changes to Donaldson’s approach, which ultimately ended up being career altering.

The book on Donaldson seemed to be: his power is probably legit, but his batting average and on-base skills seem ripe to take a step back; he’s probably more of a top-10/12 option at the hot corner than a top five one. That wasn’t far off, except for a few finer points, including Donaldson’s differing seasons within a season.

Donaldson’s monthly splits don’t look that different … until you get to June. After setting the entire planet on fire in April and May, he cratered in June, when his plate discipline, average, and power dissipated. He wasn’t fantastic in September, either, but his stretch run still paled in comparison to the depths of June.[am4show have=’p4;p7;p11;p13;’ guest_error=’Front Office’ user_error=’Front Office’ ]

Month PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG ISO wRC+
Mar/April 133 8.3% 18.0% 0.279 0.338 0.533 0.254 149
May 120 18.3% 22.5% 0.281 0.417 0.573 0.292 180
June 112 4.5% 20.5% 0.181 0.223 0.286 0.105 43
July 99 10.1% 12.1% 0.244 0.333 0.477 0.233 132
August 117 14.5% 19.7% 0.313 0.427 0.490 0.177 167
September/Oct 114 9.6% 18.4% 0.233 0.307 0.379 0.146 91

There’s a reason sample size is preached. If you only watched Donaldson in June and September, you’d think he was absolutely terrible. Obviously, he isn’t horrible, but he did suffer through two prolonged slumps that, most importantly, included no power.

Despite those two slumps, Donaldson still managed to leave the yard 29 times – five more times than he did last year. As you can tell, though, his power faded as the season wore on, in part due to his rate of pop-ups increasing almost every month after his initial start. It’s probably not a coincidence that Donaldson’s worst months (June and September) are when he was most aggressive, especially versus offspeed offerings – pitches he has historically struggled with.

Luckily for us, though, those two iffy months don’t outweigh the other fantastic ones. Over the course of a full season, his power was fine even though his average – thanks to drop in BABiP that dropped, in part, due to fewer line drives and more flyballs – left some some room for desire.

I don’t mean to gloss over the fact that he hit fewer line drives, but it is one of the least predictive stats in the game, so don’t worry too much about it. It’s probably better to just assume he’s not a .280 hitter. And that’s more due to the function of being a flyball hitter, and not being the fleetest of foot.

***

All in all, Donaldson was about what was expected, perhaps better, despite his tail-off. And according to Steamer he’s probably going to be fine next season, although a small step back is projected.

Steamer’s first 2015 projection pegs Donaldson at .261/.341/.446 (.347 wOBA), complete with 23 home runs and 160 R+RBI. Those totals are essentially what I expected this season, and they should justify his likely price tag of a fifth or sixth round pick in standard drafts. And, of course, there’s upside for more, but considering Donaldson’s age, I wouldn’t expect too much more.

Oakland’s lineup wavered down the stretch, but they should be decent next season, assuming Donaldson isn’t shipped out of town this winter. Donaldson’s defense is phenomenal and that gives him a nice floor, because he’s likely never going to see the bench even if he struggles at the dish for an extended period, which is important, and often overlooked.

Overall, Donaldson’s likely to be a solid performer next season, with 2013’s power but 2014’s batting average, and that’s probably going to be alright.

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2014 Fantasy Baseball: Revisiting Rankings

teheran land

Preseason rankings are always fun. And futile. Everything a ranker thinks he know, seems to go out the window soon after the first pitch of the season is thrown. Sure, any ranker will get some right. And they’ll undoubtedly get some wrong that seem stupid in retrospect. As humans we see what we wish to see. Oh, this guy has a platoon split? He’ll get it figured out. This dude chases a bunch? Maybe he won’t this year because he looked little more patient over his last 150 plate appearances last season.

Some of those thoughts panned out. Others didn’t. So, with that, here are a few that I whiffed on, and a few I pegged somewhat correctly.

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2014 Fantasy Baseball: Carlos Gomez Is Who Some Thought He Was

gomez land

Note: All stats are as of Tuesday, September 23, 2014. 

Carlos Gomez was an interesting name during Draft Season. There were two camps, basically. One camp, of which I was a member, believed he was legitimate, and would more or less repeat; if his batting average faltered a little, his power/speed should pick him up. The other side believed his batting average wouldn’t hold up, thanks to his free swinging ways, ultimately making him the option he was in 2012; a year in which he was still good, but not a borderline first round talent.

The former group won out. Gomez’s batting average held, his on-base percentage improved, his power stayed basically the same, and his speed dipped a little. The weirdest part, though: no one has really talked about him unless they’re talking about his “antics” on the field. Hell, I’m not even sure I’ve seen a Gomez highlight unless you count him yelling at Gerrit Cole. That’s somewhat offensive, considering that outside of Chris Davis, who flopped miserably, he was the most questionable early round pick in the eyes of many. So, let’s recap.

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As I mentioned, his batting average has stayed roughly the same – .284 in 2013 versus .281 this season. And his on-base percentage has risen a little: .338 versus .351, thanks to a few more walks, and being plunked nearly ten more times. (Maybe those antics matter after all?) Reaching base more often has enabled him to score more runs, nearly reaching 100 for the first time in his career.

He has managed to swipe 33 bags so far, but he’s been caught 11 times, a success rate of 75%; his numbers last season were: 40, 7, and 85%, respectively. You can make the case he’s lost a step, but he’s still fast enough to be plenty valuable on the bases. His ISO (isolated power) has fallen a little, thanks to fewer home runs and triples, but it’s still pretty solidly above the .180 mark. After hitting 24 dingers last season, he’s swatted 21 this year, which is probably in line with what you were expecting if you drafted him.

All in all, the pieces above add up to this: Carlos Gomez has been the 11th best player (8th best offensive player) this season, outpacing his second-round (ADP of 23.4) draft price by quite a bit. The following players were taken in front of Gomez, on average: Chris Davis (6th overall), Carlos Gonzalez (7th), Prince Fielder (13th), Hanley Ramirez (14th), Ryan Braun (15th), Bryce Harper (20th), Joey Votto (21st), and Evan Longoria (22nd). CarGo is defensible. He’s a phenomenal talent with a long track record. Davis, Fielder, Hanley, Harper, and Braun, on the other hand, had just as many, if not more, questions than Gomez. This is just a reminder that fantasy sports are cruel, but that we have to do better about not pumping up certain players with questions while downgrading others. I’m guilty of it, too. I have to do better.

***

Gomez’s 2014 hasn’t been that different on a component level either. He’s hit the same pitches well to varying degrees. But his work versus fastballs may be the most encouraging part of his evolution, though.

Over the course of his career, Gomez hasn’t fared very well versus fastballs, posting a -13.5 pitch value. And that number would be a lot worse if he didn’t put up a fantastic 14.1 mark this season.

Hitting fastballs is a must, and improvement is always a good development. Gomez’s work versus fastballs this season has paired very well with the approach he began to utilize in 2012. That approach is: swing hard in case you hit the ball.

As always, though, with that type of approach, contact is important. And in that regard, Gomez is still pretty safe. He still chases often – an aspect that will never change based on his approach – and he doesn’t make a a lot of contact on pitches outside of the zone. He does, however, have a contact rate above average on pitches he swings at in the strike zone. When you pair that with his well above average swing rate at pitches in the zone, it’s somewhat easy to understand how he keeps his strikeout rate in check despite his free swinging ways.

***

Gomez is likely going to be a top-15 pick next year, and it’s hard to find a reason for him not to be. Sure, he swings and misses a good deal, but he’s also very good at putting bat-to-ball on the pitches that should be put into play.

Since 2012, Mike Trout, our resident Demigod, has hit 92 home runs while swiping 97 bags, giving him a league best HR+SB total of 189. Carlos Gomez’s HR+SB total in that span is 174 (64 HR and 110 SB). Trout has done so with a .313 AVG and .405 OBP; Gomez, .276 and .334, respectively.

Outside of Trout, Andrew McCutchen, and maybe Giancarlo Stanton, if he swipes nearly 15 bags again, there might not be a more well rounded fantasy player than Carlos Gomez, especially if Miguel Cabrera’s power doesn’t bounce back to its normal levels.

Rejoice. Gomez has done things his way. And it’s worked out beautifully. Chalk up a win for players that perform better when they aren’t forced to fit a mold. And, lastly, no Gomez piece is complete without a gif.

Oh My.

Oh My.

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2014 Fantasy Baseball: What if Christian Yelich Had More Power?

Photo Credit: Scott

Photo Credit: Scott

Lost in Giancarlo Stanton’s monstrous year is this: Christian Yelich, a popular breakout pick, has been very good. Back in March, he was one of my favorite targets. He was young, disciplined, had some speed and showed good bat-to-ball skills, allowing solid contact more often (he never pops up!). I was able to land him on multiple teams. And he’s been an asset, no doubt. If you didn’t look at a player rater – which puts Yelich in top 50 territory – you might not think he’s helped you that much, but he has.

He’s only left the yard nine times, while swiping 20 bags. His average and OBP are well above average, though, sitting at .292 and .372, respectively. And he’s thrived by simply being in front of Stanton – who isn’t of this world – crossing the plate nearly 90 times, ranking him in the top 15 in runs scored.

Basically, Yelich has done what many hoped for: provide some power and speed, while helping in whichever rate statistic your league uses. More power is on the way, though, and I believe there is a unique comparison to be made. [Read more…]

2014 Fantasy Baseball: The Corey Dickerson Bandwagon

dickerson land

Source: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images North America

I love Coors Field. The Rockies’ pitchers – pitchers of any team really – might not. Hitters do, obviously. Last year, Michael Cuddyer revived his career in the Mile High City. Justin Morneau did so this year. Troy Tulowitzki did his usual: crushed and then got hurt; Carlos Gonzalez, too. Nolan Arenado has taken a step forward as well. Perhaps lost in all of that is this: Corey Dickerson is awesome.

Using wOBA (probably more useful in this context than wRC+, because a dinger is a dinger in fantasy after all), Dickerson has been the fifth best hitter in the major leagues; if you adjust for Coors, he’s seventeenth. Despite only coming to the dish a little over 400 times so far, Dickerson has hit 22 home runs, good for ninth among outfielders. And he has swiped eight bags in the process while hitting for a fantastic average.

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Platoon? Not An Issue … Maybe

Any time a young left handed batter comes up, platoon questions arise. Most of the time they’re valid. In Dickerson’s case, though, maybe they won’t be. The Rockies have limited his exposure versus left handed pitching so far, but that seems to be more because of the way their roster is constructed than Dickerson’s abilities: Drew Stubbs mashes left handed pitching; Michael Cuddyer, too; Brandon Barnes is phenomenal in center field. Dickerson’s basically been a full time player in the second half, and that should be the expectation for him going forward because he isn’t dead weight versus left handed pitching.

Period PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG ISO
2012 – Minors 124 5.6% 18.5% 0.342 0.39 0.587 0.245
2013 – Minors 106 6.6% 20.7% 0.339 0.386 0.576 0.237
2014 – MLB 76 9.2% 25.0% 0.275 0.342 0.449 0.174

Dickerson hasn’t been as good versus left handed pitching as he was in the minors, but, on some level, that’s expected. We’re also dealing with small samples. For the most part, though, Dickerson is fine versus left handed pitching. He doesn’t have to be a world beater against them, he just needs to be good enough to see regular playing time. The rest should take care of itself.

Coors Field & Playing Time: Just What The Doctor Ordered

As with any Colorado player, Dickerson’s going to benefit from Coors Field, and that’s okay. Hell, it’s more than okay. Dickerson’s power is notable. And while it isn’t fair to say: “he’s a Coors Field product,” it is an important factor, because no field boosts BABiP quite like Coors. Given Dickerson’s ability to use the entire field, that’s huge. Also equally as huge: getting consistent playing time. From Fangraphs’ Eno Sarris:

For Blackmon, perhaps the number one reason for his breakout this year has been comfort. “Having a role that I’m comfortable with, a role that allows me consistent at-bats” was more important than anything, the outfielder said before a game with the Giants in mid June — “the hand-eye coordination has always been there.” But confidence lead to the everyday role, and that confidence came from success — “Having some success allows me to relax and just play the game.”

Teammate Dickerson was even more specific about the link between his role and his confidence. “Being comfortable, where every game is just like a game you played in the minor leagues, instead of the game is on the big stage,” is huge, he said. “You know you’re going to be in the lineup again if you go oh-for-four — You’re not really worried about failure as much. You’re going to fail, but you don’t have to worry about it and think that one at-bat is going to matter so much.”

For Dickerson, his adjustment been more about the type of pitch than the location. “If you can eliminate what he’s going to throw to your weakness, then maybe you can be better with your strength,” he said of scouting the opposing pitcher. If he boils it down to something he can remember easily at the plate, he can be “thinking about two pitches instead of three pitches or his whole repertoire.”

Though this sounds like a per-game thing, there has been a change in the pitches Dickerson is offering at. He had the hardest time with sliders from right-handers for some reason, so according to Brooks Baseball, it looks like he started swinging at them less (and cutters):

Pitch Type Swing 13 Swing 14 Whiffs 13 Whiffs 14
Fourseam 46.46% 47.31% 11.38% 10.75%
Sinker 45.83% 40.91% 4.69% 8.33%
Change 52.78% 57.45% 11.11% 17.02%
Slider 60.55% 57.45% 21.10% 17.02%
Curve 60.47% 62.75% 15.12% 13.73%
Cutter 60.87% 44.23% 10.14% 5.77%

To some extent, both players have a skill that’s uniquely useful for their home park. Coors field inflates batting average on balls in play as much as than anything, and these guys can put the ball in play to all fields.

Player Pull% Center% Oppo%
Blackmon 32.3% 37.4% 30.4%
Dickerson 36.1% 36.6% 27.3%
League 38.8% 36.1% 25.1%

Dickerson says this is a goal: “I try to go where it goes — make hard contact wherever it’s pitched.” For Blackmon, it’s more of a necessity. “I’m not a guy who has a ton of power — if you come watch me in BP you’ll be incredibly unimpressed,” he said. “I understand that. I don’t go out there and try to hit home runs. That’s not how it works. I’m a guy that is strong enough that if he makes really good contact, can hit it over the fence.”

Getting consistent playing time is important – it’s hard to get better results and comfortable with your role if you aren’t playing.

2015 Outlook

Dickeron has proven he can play. Obviously, he can hit. And he’s rated out decently in the outfield, which is important, because being poor on defense is a surefire way to losing playing time.

I have no idea what the Rockies’ plan is this offseason. They just re-upped Jorge De La Rosa for two seasons. Cargo and Tulo are seemingly always on the block, yet they’re never close to being traded. If Cargo were to be moved, though, Dickerson’s road to a full-time gig is easy to see. But even without a trade the road to playing time isn’t too crowded: Cuddyer will be a free agent; Stubbs will be around, but he’s a platoon player who is most valuable in center, anyways; Barnes will be cheap, but he can’t hit; and Charlie Blackmon, who started hot, but has faded since, will be there, but in centerfield. (There’s always the option that Dickerson or Blackmon could be traded, but that seems unlikely given their cheap salaries and club control.)

To me it lines up this way: Gonzalez, Blackmon, and Dickerson will be the core of the outfield; Stubbs and Barnes will step in when someone needs a breather or an injury happens. All told, Dickerson should come to the plate at least 500 times next season, barring injury. And, honestly, he might do more with those 500 appearances than lesser outfielders do with over 600.

Using early, early projections, Dickerson’s projected to go 21/13 next season. I’m taking the over. Dickerson’s ability to hit the ball to all fields for power, while adding in a little value on the bases is very, very important. Given what we know about Dickerson’s track record, situation, and potential, is it that difficult to see him doing an Adam Jones – with a better OBP – impression? Jones is currently projected to finish the year with 28 home runs and nine steals. It might be high praise, but given over 600 plate appearances, I believe Dickerson can do that. There is just so much to like: batting average, power, some speed, park (although, to be clear, Dickerson’s a good hitter; Coors just helps), and age. Dickerson’s going to be interesting to watch because there is sure to be tons of helium.

Late edit: I’m not alone, apparently: Eric Karabell loves him as well ($). Load up on the wagon, friends.

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2014 Fantasy Baseball: Brad Boxberger, The Next Great Reliever?

boxberger land

Source: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images North America

Relievers don’t garner much interest unless they occupy the closer role. It’s just the way it is. As we know, though, closers – and bullpens in general – change on a whim. So, this week, I’ve spent a lot of time planning for next year, or at least thinking about it.

In Tuesday’s Rookie Report, I focused mainly on Ken Giles, Philadelphia’s flamethrowing new addition, who just happens to not have a sexy fantasy role. Only Jonathan Papelbon and, maybe, Antonio Bastardo stand in his way of being Philly’s closer. If I were running the show, he’d be chosen over Bastardo, but I’m not. Giles isn’t today’s man, though, Brad Boxberger is.

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Tampa Bay finds bullpen pieces often, and Joe Maddon does a fantastic job of maximizing each arm he carries, putting each pitcher into good situations as often as possible. Jake McGee wasn’t supposed to be Tampa Bay’s closer this season. Late-ish signing Grant Balfour was. It didn’t work out that way. McGee was/is better, therefore, the role is his. And probably will be for a little while. Boxberger, though, has carved out quite a role for himself in Tampa’s bullpen.

First of all, Boxberger’s velocity has been in uncharted territory all season. Before this season, he had never averaged more than 92 mph on his fastball, but it’s a tick over 93, so far and his change-up is up a little, too.

The increase in velocity has allowed Boxberger to miss more bats, which wasn’t a huge issue in the first place. Boxberger’s strikeout percentage is better than 41%, bested only by Aroldis Chapman. His walks, forever a problem, have also disappeared this season, dropping nearly 6% thanks to more first pitch strikes and more pitches in the zone in general, which can maybe be attributed to a new release point.

Boxberger’s money pitch, in my opinion, is his change-up. Sure, it levels the playing field versus lefties, but it’s damn near unhittable, anyways. Hitters chase it 41% of the time it’s out of the zone, resulting in weak contact and empty swings. In  gif form, a 81 mph change-up, courtesy of this link, which also features a good bit of mid-nineties heat.

Boxberger - Change-Up

Words and numbers are one thing, watching Major League hitters rendered helpless is another. Between his improved command – chalk that up to Tampa Bay shenanigans, I guess? – and his devastating two pitch mix, it’s not hard to see why hitters have struggled so much.

Jake McGee is good, one of the best relievers in the game, in fact. But Boxberger is no slouch and is only a home run problem away from being an absolute force. If he’s able to iron out his issues going forward, he’s going to be fantasy relevant. More and more fantasy leagues are beginning to blend the saves category with holds. If that’s the case in your league, Boxberger is already relevant and has been for the majority of the season. Even if your league doesn’t give credit for holds, though, high strikeout relievers still have value – evidenced by Dellin Betances, Wade Davis, and Pat Neshek. As long as Boxberger’s velocity holds, he’s going to be good. And if he keeps more balls in the yard, he’s going to be great. According to xFIP-, he’s been the fifth best reliever in the majors. The only thing holding him back is his home run rate. If that can be solved … oh buddy.

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2014 Fantasy Baseball: The Rookie Report, August 26

Javier Baez Fantasy Baseball

Today’s report will be the last one for a little while. I’ll likely do a recap once the season ends, but I’ll be taking a quick break. Before that happens, though, let’s review once again, complete with plenty of Javier Baez talk. [Read more…]

2014 Fantasy Baseball: Is Yovani Gallardo’s Resurgence Legit?

Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo’s declining strikeout rate and ever present command issues set off alarms in 2013, forcing nearly everyone to avoid him on draft day. But, despite all of the warning signs, he’s pitched well. Interestingly enough, though, he hasn’t done what many people – including myself – thought he had to do in order to regain his footing.

Gallardo’s calling cards for years were two things: innings and strikeouts. From 2009 until 2012, Gallardo threw at least 185 innings and struck out at least 200 batters each year; his 2013 totals were 180 and 144, respectively. He was never an ace, but he was solid, reliable. But in 2013, the wheels came off a little. His strikeouts plummeted, which made his walks hurt even more.

Gallardo never pounded the zone. He relied on batters chasing pitches, especially his curveball.

Year Zone% Swing% O-Swing% Contact% swStr%
2009 32.8% 39.3% 35.2% 59.8% 15.8%
2010 34.6% 43.9% 35.4% 64.5% 15.6%
2011 33.8% 43.7% 36.2% 62.1% 16.6%
2012 35.1% 37.3% 28.7% 67.9% 12.0%
2013 37.0% 35.9% 27.5% 69.1% 11.1%
2014 34.3% 36.6% 28.3% 69.6% 11.1%

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His peak (2009-2012) coincides with the years his curveball was at it’s best. It was rarely in the zone, and it wasn’t put into play that often. Then, though, things began to go awry.

As Gallardo’s velocity diminished, so did his results. His curveball’s movement stayed similar, but it was no longer as sharp, coming towards the plate slower than it did in the past. Unfortunately, his velocity isn’t coming back – although it is better than it was in 2013, it’s still on a downward trend. And without that velocity, his strikeouts aren’t coming back, either.

Gallardo’s been able to remain productive, though, thanks to two changes; changes he controls, not the continuously declining human body. He’s become better at limiting free passes, and generating groundball outs.

As mentioned in the intro, command was never Gallardo’s strong suit. He issued too many walks. Until now he didn’t have an immediate need to improve that area of his game because of his ability to wiggle out of trouble using his arsenal to generate empty swings. Now that those empty swings are less prominent, he’s had to switch things up.

Per Fangraphs, Gallardo’s two-seam (sinker) usage has gone up 10 percent this season. It’s not a coincidence that his groundball rates sits at a career high. Surprisingly, his walks are down even though he hasn’t been in the strike zone that much more than he was in 2013, although his first pitch strike rate has improved. And hitters are actually chasing less than they ever have against him.

Admittedly, I’m at a loss. It’s hard to understand how his walk rate has fallen so quickly despite the fact that he isn’t actually in the zone much more than he has been in the past. Even on a per pitch basis, his zone numbers aren’t that different. It’s an odd deal, and I’m not sure I have an answer, but whatever he’s doing is working. I have no idea if it’s sustainable, although I’d bet against it a little, given his history.

Gallardo’s bounce back season is undoubtedly a product of his abilities, good luck, the return of some velocity and his ability to adapt. He throws to one of the best catchers in the major leagues. And his infield defense isn’t too shabby, which helps him on all of those extra groundballs.

The truth is, I’m a little disappointed. I expected to find a surefire answer of why Gallardo has bounced back. I didn’t. He’s getting more groundballs, which helps; he’s doing so by being down in the zone a little more. And he’s issuing fewer free passes, despite not throwing many more strikes and generating even fewer swings outside of the strike zone. He’s actually grooving more pitches than ever. Maybe he’s generating weaker contact, but we have no way of testing that.

Basically, I’m just throwing my hands up. Perhaps he was only a slight tweak away from being good again, and hasn’t really changed much from last year – his release points are identical, too – although his scenery has been much different. Gallardo’s not the pitcher he once was, and he’ll never be that guy again. But maybe we wrote him off too quickly. Projection systems don’t seem to think so, though; Steamer projects a 4.11 ERA going forward, ZiPS is at 3.91. So, I’m kind of buying his resurgence, but not really. I haven’t found anything tangible that makes me think he’s found a way to reinvent himself.

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2014 Fantasy Baseball: Kyle Seager Is Consistent, Yet Improving

Kyle Seager

I’ve been on a consistency kick lately. I’m not really sure how I ended up there, but I did. Over the past two weeks, I’ve written about Nick Swisherclockwork consistency for many years – and Lucas Dudaperhaps our new Swisher.

Almost to a fault we associate consistency with older players that have less perceived upside. They’re safe, or not sexy, depending on how you read the piece, I guess. Young players can fall into that bin, though. How many years does it take someone to become consistent in your mind? Personally, two to three years is plenty for me in most cases. Which brings us to the man of the hour: Kyle Seager.

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Seager’s sauntered to the dish 2030 times in his young career, which has spanned nearly three seasons. His numbers, per 162 game paces, are below.

Year R HR RBI SB AVG OBP SLG
2012 65 21 90 14 0.259 0.316 0.423
2013 81 23 70 10 0.26 0.338 0.426
2014 69 26 104 7 0.276 0.344 0.479

He’s probably been a little better than you thought, and he’s trending in the right direction, seeing his wRC+ mark rise each season. He’s gotten better at getting on base each season. And now he’s tapping into even more power. But what’s amazing about Seager’s production is how satisfyingly static the components that go into it are.

After swinging a little too often in 2012, Seager began to cut back. And he never looked back. Since altering his approach, Seager’s walk rate has increased – although it’s dropped a little this season – and he’s gotten into favorable counts much more often. Most importantly, he’s not swinging at pitches he struggles with. Swisher – profiled above – has struggled with this: swinging at breaking balls and offspeed pitches – pitches he’s historically been poor against – more than he used to. Seager’s done the opposite, dropping his swing percentage versus all pitches, but versus secondary offerings, in particular. It doesn’t stop there, though. He’s quit swinging at pitches in locations he struggles with, too.

In 2012, he struggled with pitches up in the zone, and he swung at them often. Those struggles were still present in 2013, although less so, in part because he quit swinging at those pitches so often. He’s swung at pitches up even less in 2014, essentially neutralizing his largest struggle zone - except the upper outer third, which is a bitch, anyways – in the process. Cutting down on the sheer amount of swings you take is one thing, but cutting down on swings that are hurting you the most? That’s huge; and it looms even larger when those gains materialize into you crushing pitches in your zone more.

Yikes

Yikes

Seager’s walled off the plate: throw middle or in at your own peril; he’ll even punish you up and in now, a stark change from 2012. Seager’s still predominantly pitched over the outer third, because … well, you saw the graph. Seager’s biggest asset at the plate is his pull power, which ranks in the top 10. Pitchers do their best to stay away from it, but it hasn’t worked much. He’s been able to hit the mistakes pitchers have made, along with “muscling up” on some while pulling the ball more each year.

Year Pull% Air Pull% Pull ISO Pull HR/FB
2012 36.0% 29.6% 0.352 34.0%
2013 42.0% 31.2% 0.356 39.6%
2014 YTD 48.3% 34.8% 0.429 46.2%

Matt Carpenter doesn’t pull the ball enough to hit for power; Seager does. And it makes sense, because Seager’s never been very good at going the other way. For his career, Seager’s posted a 228 wRC+ mark, while pulling the ball; it’s at 62 when he goes the other way. Some guys aren’t meant to spray the ball all over the yard, no matter how much we’d like that. Seager’s working with what he’s good at it, and he’s getting better at it. Sure, there’s a tipping point, but we haven’t gotten there yet.

Seager’s probably going to be valued highly next season. He’s going to have the “RBI guy” label. And that’s fair, considering only three third basemen have driven in more runs since 2012. The good thing is, Seager still has some room for growth. Seager’s entering his power prime, and even though Safeco smothers him a little, it wouldn’t be a surprise for him to flirt with 30 home runs. Even if he doesn’t, he’s proven he’s good for at least low twenties, and in today’s game that’s an asset worth targeting.

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2014 Fantasy Baseball: The Farm Report, August 12

archie-bradley

Well, Trevor May and Javier Baez have left us. Most like, they’ve left us for good. Baez did so with a bang, treating Coors Field like the launching bad it is. Sure, he swings and misses a ton, but when he makes contact angels sing. May’s debut did not go as planned. He walked seven batters in two innings, striking out zero, and surrendering four runs before he was not allowed to throw another pitch. He’s better than that, so don’t fret too much. [Read more…]