Fantasy Baseball 2014: Early Love/Hate
My name is Adam Pfeifer and yes, I am a fantasy sports addict.
No, it’s not my go-to. No, it’s not my bread and butter. And no, I’m not as knowledgeable as many others out there. However, I do enjoy some fantasy baseball action, and guess what?
It’s right around the corner already.
Doing drafts before pitchers and catcher report may seem like a bit much, but it is never too early to begin preparation, right? So, while I don’t consider my guru by any means, I do know a thing or two here or there, and dive into plenty of stats that may make you think twice about selecting a certain player. So, without further ado, let’s get into the players I love and hate for the 2014 season.
Prince Fielder, Texas Rangers: It looked a bit odd while typing it, but alas, Fielder plays for the Rangers now. Prince has seen his home run totals drop in each of the last two seasons, but a new home in Texas could help change that streak. Over the last three seasons, Rangers Ballpark has averaged 1.5 HR per game (most), 1.16 HR (7th-most) and .903 HR (19th-most) in the major leagues. But, as Tristan Cockroft of ESPN points out, it’s been even more friendly to hitters. During that same span, left-handed hitters are averaging a 12.8 home run/fly ball ratio, which is well above the league average of 9.9. And in 21 bats in Rangers Ballpark last season, Prince slugged two home runs (tied for most in any park outside of Comerica) and eight RBI (most). And sure, Miguel Cabrera and that great Tigers team is behind him, but the Rangers are no slouch. The team brought in Shin-Soo Choo, a very capable leadoff man who seemingly always gets on base, as he finished fourth in the league in on-base percentage last year (.423). I think Fielder returns to his 30-home run days in his new home.
Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians: We are all Kipnises. I owned Kipnis in my main league last year and loved having him. A guy who was obviously primed for improvement, Kipnis has now stayed healthy in consecutive seasons, which is great for both fantasy owners and the Indians. He posted a career-high in homers (17) and RBI (84), while still swiping a very healthy 30 bags in year number three. His batting average jumped from .257 all the way to a solid .284, which was great to see, however, his strikeout rate also jumped to 22 percent (was 16 percent the year before). It wasn’t because he was swinging and missing, however, as his swinging strike rate remained the same. That said, I think he hasn’t even tapped into his full potential. He hit 36 doubles and those 17 homers last year, proving that he has 20 home run power and potential, making for a rare 20-homer, 30-steal player at the weak second base position. Combined some burgeoning power with an above average contact rate and I like his chances.
Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals: The Hosmer from 2012 was completely different from the on that suited up in 2013. He hit more home runs, slugged more RBI, stole more bases and improved his average from a measly .232 all the way to an impressive .302. This was because in 2013, he improved his plate discipline, swinging at far less pitches outside of the strike zone. It seems that the 24-year old is starting to put it together, and at that age, hasn’t even come close to reaching his prime just yet, which excites me. And because he improved on his plate discipline, it resulted in less groundballs (16 percent less) and more home run opportunities. Because of his improvement, stolen base potential and upside, Hosmer could flirt with a top-five finish among the deep first base class in 2014.
Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels: Pujols has the name value that will keep him among some of the top fantasy first basemen, but to me, it’s not worth it. An aging Pujols (34) just doesn’t have the upside as some of the other players at his position, which is insanely deep, by the way. He’s also coming off a 2013 campaign where he dealt with a nagging foot injury, so there’s a bit of injury concern to monitor as well. Meanwhile, his on-base percentage has dropped in each of the last three seasons, while his walk rate has been cut in half compared to what is was back in 2010. He is also chasing more pitches, going from 21.6 percent in 2008 all the way to an alarming 34.4 and 34.3 over the past two seasons. First base is just too deep and I’m not chasing for the Pujols of old.
Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins: I pegged Stanton to lead the majors in home runs last season, but sadly, that didn’t come to fruition. A nagging hamstring injury limited his action as he belted just 24 homers on a poor .249 average. His 62 RBI were very upsetting for fantasy owners, and it had plenty to do with the Marlins poor offensive play. In 2012, Miami averaged just 3.76 runs per game, which was towards the bottom of the league, and last year, their 3.17 runs per contest ranked dead last in the majors. It was a rare occasion for Stanton to see plenty of runners on base when up to bat. And while the Marlins lineup has improved a bit, I’m not sold on it, especially when teams can afford pitching around Stanton. Plus, he’s had some injury concerns over the last two seasons. In 2012, he suffered a knee injury that limited him to 501 plate appearances, while last year’s hamstring issue limited him to 504. Outfield is another deep position and Stanton just can’t be trusted as one that belongs in the top tier.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.