The yin and yang of sports is about as powerful as any force there is. For the most part. There are few out of nowhere surprises at first base. Most of the players picked among the top twelve were highly thought of before the season. On the flip side, the players labeled as disappointments were not only picked among the top twelve first basemen but were also probably picked in the first four to five rounds of most drafts. These kinds of mistakes tend to blow up a fantasy season and many seasons were blown up when these three players tanked on the season.
Keep in mind that players can tank for two primary reasons. The first and most prevalent reason is that players simply under-perform in comparison with expectations. The second reason is that the player could have lost a lot of time due to injury. Obviously, the circumstances surrounding the lack of performance will color what we might expect from the player in the future. We will look at both for all three players.
Joey Votto— Cincinnati Reds
(.255, 6 HR, 32 Runs, 23 RBI, 1 SB)
In short, two things have happened to Votto. First, he has been injured for significant time in two out of the last three seasons. That alone would cause many to push him out of the first round in next year’s draft. Yet, there is more there than meets the eye. He also is losing considerable value in standard 5×5 leagues. He hasn’t hit 30 home runs in a season in four seasons and hasn’t driven in 100 or more runs in three. Yet, before the 2014 season, Votto led the National League in walks three seasons in a row. Simply put, opposing pitchers have determined that Votto will not beat them. If you have an OBP or walks component, then he is still a valuable fantasy prospect. Adjust accordingly.
What about 2015?
There was a brief time a few years ago when Votto would have been my first 1B off the board. I even traded for him this past season before he missed all of his time. It isn’t so much that Votto has lost so much, but that there are a number of better guys on the board now. If healthy, he still should be a top five first baseman in most people’s drafts, but the lack of health in two out of the last three seasons might drop him even lower than that. If that is the case in your league then you might get tremendous value in waiting to pick him up.
Chris Davis— Baltimore Orioles
(.196, 26 HR, 65 Runs, 72 RBI, 2 SB)
In short, he turned back into a pumpkin. It would be easy to label Chris Davis the Brady Anderson of the 2010s, but it really isn’t that simple. Davis has always had the prodigious power and he still has it. He averaged close to six home runs per 100 plate appearances this past season, so if he had had 600 plate appearances he would have hit close to 35 home runs on the season. While that doesn’t match the huge total he had in 2013, it is among the best in the league. Anyone that saw him as an elite performer coming into the season probably got what they deserved. Yet, that doesn’t mean he is going to be the slugger he was the past season.
What about 2015?
Davis’ situation was made that much more complicated when he played enough games to become eligible at third base. He should be eligible in most leagues there in 2015 and considering the dearth of prospects there, Davis has to be a consideration fairly early on. His .242 BABIP this year is an indication that we should see a bounce back next season. If he hits .300 on balls in play then his average would rise to a respectable .250. He’s always going to be a high strikeout guy, so he will never be a high batting average guy, but if you match health and decent batted ball luck together, he should return to become a very good fantasy player.
Prince Fielder— Texas Rangers
(.247 AVG, 3 HR, 19 Runs, 16 RBI, 0 SB)
It would be easy to chalk up this season to injury, but there is more going on here than meets the eye. The Rangers certainly hope the diminishing performance was due to the neck injury that required season ending surgery. That certainly could explain the 2014 season away, but his numbers have been in steady decline since 2011. The power numbers went from 38 HR, to 30, and then to 25 HR before falling off the cliff this past season. I’d imagine that he would return to those numbers again next season should he be healthy, but this isn’t a simple case of a season ending injury derailing a season.
What about 2015?
Again, this is not your older brother’s Prince Fielder. Coming into the season, he had 100 or more RBIs in seven out of his nine full seasons in the big leagues. If we had to bet, we would probably bet on the fact that he would get to 25 home runs and 100 RBIs again next season. The Rangers have a potent attack returning next season, and the home ballpark should be beneficial to Fielder. That being said, he should be a lot like Joey Votto in the next draft. There are just too many guys that have vaulted them at the position to consider him a high round pick.