2014 Fantasy Baseball: Three Keepers to Stash for 2015
At this point in the season, 90% of the standings in your fantasy baseball league are decided. If you play in a keeper format, it’s time to look to next year. After a little disclaimer, let’s run down three down-on-their-luck players to stash for next season.
Obviously, keeper values are highly dependent on the specific rules of your league. How many guys you can keep, what their draft pick or auction value is, and how long you’re able to keep them for are all critically important considerations and are all different based on your rules. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to make some basic assumptions about those values; for instance, that it’d typically cost more to keep a traditionally elite player that it would to keep a younger, more unproven player.
Cool? Let’s do this.
Chris Davis | Baltimore Orioles | 1B/3B
He’s had a bad year, but Davis isn’t broken. Even in a terrible, injury/suspension shortened season, only nine corner infielders hit more home runs and of those nine, all but one (Edwin Encarnacion) registered more plate appearances than Davis’ 525. Only one of those nine sluggers is a third baseman, and Josh Donaldson’s 27 homers are a career high for him at any level. Your particular league format will determine whether Davis enters 2015 with 3B eligibility after starting 20 games there in 2014, but assuming he does, it’s absolutely reasonable to project him to hit more home runs than any other player at his position.
Davis’ HR/FB rate and average fly ball distance both dropped significantly this season, but he still ranks third in the league in HR/FB rate (22.6%) and 25th in fly ball distance (298 feet). Even in a down year, he remained an elite power hitter. His batting average was untenable, but there’s reason to believe that it’ll bounce back.
Davis’ BABIP sank by nearly 100 points from 2013 as he struggled mightily against the offspeed and breaking stuff that he feasted on last year. While it’s certainly not encouraging to see those results, two things make me believe that Davis will rebound. First, his plate discipline continues to improve. His walk rate reached a career high in 2014 as his swing rates dropped near career lows. Second, his BABIP has been consistently high before this season. Prior to this year’s .242 mark, Davis had maintained a BABIP of .335 or better for three consecutive seasons. Finally, I don’t think he’s lost the voracious bat speed that makes him so dangerous. Despite his struggles against secondary stuff, Davis continued to pound fastballs, slugging .502 with a .265 ISO against hard stuff.
Stash him instead of… Prince Fielder
Wil Myers | Tampa Bay Rays | OF
Wil Myers’ first two years in the league have been ravaged by injury, but let’s take a look at what would have happened if he’d been able to make his way through an entire season. He played about a half a year each in 2013 and 2014, so let’s keep this simple and just add/average those two years together. The plate appearances total is a bit high, but I’ll just call that increase in production an adjustment for Myers’ development; he is still only 24-years old.
Although it doesn’t look overwhelming at first glance, that’s some seriously well-rounded production. In fact, over the last three seasons, only nine outfielders have posted a full season with at least 19 homers, nine steals, 86 runs scored, 85 RBI, and a .260 batting average, per the Baseball Reference Play Index. That certainly doesn’t mean that Myers is immediately a top tier outfielder, but it proves that even amid his injury difficulties, he’s proven to be capable of a level of major league production commensurate with his prospect status.
Stash him instead of… Ryan Zimmerman
Collin McHugh | Houston Astros | SP
When I started to write this, I had no idea that Collin McHugh would wind up on this list. I planned to focus on players either battling back from an injury or primed for a bounceback from a poor or unlucky season. McHugh doesn’t fit into either category, but somehow he’s available in more than a third of ESPN and Yahoo! leagues! Perhaps he’s already been scooped up in these formats, but if you’re in a deepish league with keepers, he’s a guy that already absolutely has to be owned and has to be considered as a keeper for next season. For some reason, perhaps because he plays in Houston, McHugh hasn’t gotten the same amount of love of other breakout stars like Jake Arrieta and, recently, Matt Shoemaker. Even Google says so.
Despite not pitching enough innings to qualify for the ERA title, McHugh has been the 28th-most valuable pitcher by fWAR this season. Among pitchers who’ve thrown at least 140 innings, he ranks 13th in strikeout rate, 16th in K%-BB%, and 20th in FIP. It’s not an uber-elite profile, but those are pretty damn good numbers. They kind of remind me of another (formerly) underappreciated pitcher…
It’d be silly to project McHugh to make that kind of a leap, but the tools are there. Specifically, his curveball is there. It’s among the best in baseball at missing bats and perfectly complements the rest of his arsenal, which has proven to be outstanding at generating weak contact. Like Kluber, McHugh doesn’t get a ton of ground balls, but does feature both an excellent strikeout rate and an above average pop-up rate.
As I wrote earlier, he’s really only a consideration in deeper leagues, but McHugh is already really good and only figures to get better.
Stash him instead of… Matt Moore