Archive for February, 2014

Will Homer Bailey’s Strikeouts Carry Over?

Homer Bailey’s shiny new six year, $105 million extension is a clear sign that the Reds believe that Bailey’s 2013 breakout was no fluke. While Bailey’s career up to last year had been somewhat inconsistent, that kind of price requires Bailey to keep pitching at the level he did last year. And there are reasons to think that he may very well do that.

Perhaps most important in his breakout was a sharp uptick in his strikeout rate, which went from 19.2% in 2012 to 23.4% last year. By ranking, he went from 27th in the NL two years ago to 8th in the NL last year, as even just a few points of strikeout rate can make a big difference. And strikeout rate is the kind of metric that seems somewhat impervious to fluke seasons. You can either get guys to swing and miss or you can’t, and we just don’t see too many Brady Anderson type seasons when it comes to pitcher’s strikeout rates. But how much of a strikeout rate spike can we really expect to carry over from one season to the next?

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Rick Porcello’s Breakout Potential

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Rick Porcello is on the verge of having a big season this year. That’s a statement that seemingly pops up every year, most notably last spring, when Porcello was doing his best to disprove the long-held theory that spring training stats don’t matter by striking out 21 without walking a single batter.

Yet the anticipated breakout didn’t quite happen, not when Porcello put up an ERA north of 4.30 for the fourth straight year and was the subject of trade rumors this offseason.

So what makes this year different? Here are three reasons: Read the rest of this entry »

A Look Back at Last Year’s Extensions

While a few stray free agents remain unsigned, the upcoming baseball news landscape is going to be dominated by new contracts for players already in camp for spring training. Clayton Kershaw, Freddie Freeman, Michael Brantley, and Julio Teheran have kicked off the start of the 2014 extension season, but they won’t be the last players to sign long term deals with their current clubs. Between November of 2012 and June of 2013, 12 players re-signed with their organizations for deals that last at least five years, and if that trend holds, we’re likely to see another wave of long term extensions over the next few months.

What can this year’s crop of potential extendees learn from the players who signed a year ago? Let’s take a look at those 12 deals and see how they’ve worked out for both the team and the player. For reference, all total listed years and dollars are from the point of the signing through the expiration of the extension, and in some cases, include years already covered by a previous contract.

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Contenders Without Enough Arms

We all know that depth is important for teams across sports, and with the largest amount of games to fill, it is of paramount importance for baseball teams. In a nutshell: over the course of six months and 162 games, stuff happens. This is especially true when it comes to starting pitchers. It’s rare that a team makes it through a season with its intended rotation intact.

Last month, Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs wrote that, on average, each team needed 32 starts from starting pitchers who weren’t among the five most-frequent starters. In essence, what this means is that teams need to have quality options at the sixth and seventh spots in their rotation. It is in this area that the Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics and Atlanta Braves may come up a little short this season.

All three supposed contenders face injury concerns with the front five members of their rotation, and it doesn’t get much prettier after the front five. Let’s take a closer look.

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FanGraphs+ 2014 Is Here!

It’s that time again! Time for FanGraphs+ to help you get ready for the coming season. With this subscription, you get access to the 1200+ player capsules on the player pages (our most ever) and our ongoing pieces that we produce for ESPN Insider for a full calendar year. Enjoy also the research pieces listed below, as our fine writers worked hard to uncover an aspect of baseball or fantasy baseball that you may not have noticed before.

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2014 Batter Profiles: A – B

Tony Abreu

Debut: 2007 |  BirthDate: 11/13/1984 | Team: Giants | Position: 2B
’12 74 18 1 0 15 5 .257 .284 .357 .279 -4.0 -0.4 -0.2
’13 147 37 2 0 14 21 .268 .301 .442 .319 0.8 -2.4 0.3
’14 101 26 1 2 10 10 .270 .302 .393 .303 -0.6 -2.9 -0.1

Profile: Abreu was signed by the Giants to fill a utility infield role in 2013 and that is exactly what he did. He started 22 games at second base (30 appearances in total) while Marco Scutaro was injured and filled in over at both third and shortstop sporadically. However, defense is Abreu’s game, as evidenced by his two home runs and zero stolen bases over 147 plate appearances, so his usefulness is the fantasy game is almost nil. He’ll fill the exact same role in 2014, so fantasy owners can simply bypass him altogether. Yes, even in the deepest of leagues, he has no value. (Howard Bender)

Quick Opinion: Abreu will fill the Giants’ utility infielder role once again in 2014 which means fantasy owners can once again omit him from their lists. With no stick and no speed on the bases, he offers about as much value as Joe Buck has doing sports commentary.

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2014 Batter Profiles: C

Miguel Cabrera

Debut: 2003 |  BirthDate: 4/18/1983 | Team: Tigers | Position: 3B
’12 697 205 44 4 139 109 .330 .393 .606 .417 50.7 -8.2 6.8
’13 652 193 44 3 137 103 .348 .442 .636 .455 63.5 -14.8 7.6
’14 656 182 37 3 115 105 .325 .418 .594 .427 51.8 -15.7 6.2

Profile: Miguel Cabrera didn’t repeat his 2012 Triple Crown, and he faded badly down the stretch as minor injuries piled up… and yet he still had what was probably the best year of his life. Cabrera’s home run per fly ball rate reached an absurd 25.4%, and while it’s difficult to count on that happening again, it’s not like it was a huge jump from 2012’s 23.0%. At some point he’s going to slow down, but he’s only headed into his age-31 season. The move back across the diamond to first base should help reduce some of the wear and tear, too. MVP arguments aside, we’re probably watching one of the top ten right handed hitters in the history of his game in his prime. Put him down for another .330ish average, 35-45 homers, and 130 runs batted in, and if you’re lucky enough to draft him consider yourself a step ahead of the competition. (Mike Petriello)

Quick Opinion: Miguel Cabrera may never play an inning at third again, but he’ll still have eligibility there in 2014, and that plus his historic bat makes him a contender for first overall pick in any draft.

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2014 Batter Profiles: D – F

Travis d’Arnaud

Debut: 2013 |  BirthDate: 2/10/1989 | Team: Mets | Position: C
’13 112 20 1 0 5 4 .202 .286 .263 .254 -4.8 0.1 -0.1
’14 428 97 13 2 49 44 .254 .320 .418 .323 3.9 7.2 2.6

Profile: Travis d’Arnaud may have a backwards and upside-down capital P on the back of his jersey — which is undeniably sweet — but his fantasy value in the coming years is more debatable. Some of the things that show up fairly quickly, whether you are watching the player play or looking at his small-sample major league stats, will be useful in real life but not so much in batting-average fantasy leagues. It looks like he might have good patience, for example. He swung and reached less than the league, and those stats stabilize quickly. He was always supposed to do this, too, according to scouts. Defensively, he’s a good framer, blocker and receiver, that much was immediately clear. His contact rate was good in the majors and he never really struggled with strikeouts in the minor leagues. So far, so good. The problem is that he didn’t show power in his short major league stint last year, and the places where he did show power in the minor leagues were largely hitter-friendly parks. If he does show that 18-20 homer power that is supposedly on it’s way, he’ll be fantasy relevant even if his average is in the .250s. If he doesn’t… well, he’ll be useful to the Mets. (Eno Sarris)

Quick Opinion: The good news is that the stuff that matters in short samples all went d’Arnaud’s way last year. And the good news about the bad news — his power didn’t show — is that power takes the longest to stabilize. We still don’t know how powerful the Mets’ catcher will be in the majors, and that makes all the difference to his fantasy value.

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2014 Batter Profiles: G – H

Freddy Galvis

Debut: 2012 |  BirthDate: 11/14/1989 | Team: Phillies | Position: 2B/3B
’12 200 43 3 0 24 14 .226 .254 .363 .267 -8.8 8.1 0.6
’13 222 48 6 1 19 13 .234 .283 .385 .291 -6.5 0.3 0.1
’14 278 63 5 3 26 24 .243 .283 .363 .283 -8.1 -6.9 -0.7

Profile: If you really value positional flexibility in fantasy baseball, Galvis might offer decent value beyond his raw numbers, as he might qualify at second, short, third, and outfield in some leagues. With the Phillies’ middle infield manned by the aging Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, and Cody Asche hardly a lock at third base for the 2014 Phillies, Galvis might have some opportunities to play. He will be just 24 during the 2014 season, but beyond that, there is not much upside. He never hit in the upper minors, with few walks and little power. He had a little speed, but it was not mind-blowing, and he does not have the sort of on-base skills that would make it useful anyway. The chance that he could luck into playing time means that he might have some marginal value in very deep NL-only leagues, but even that is iffy. Pass. (Matt Klaassen)

Quick Opinion: Freddy Galvis has little to recommend him in fantasy baseball aside from the chance that he might luck into some playing time.

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2014 Batter Profiles: I – L

Chris Iannetta

Debut: 2006 |  BirthDate: 4/8/1983 | Team: Angels | Position: C
’12 253 53 9 1 26 27 .240 .332 .398 .323 -0.2 3.4 1.2
’13 399 73 11 0 39 40 .225 .358 .372 .330 2.7 3.4 2.1
’14 288 53 8 2 30 34 .220 .339 .374 .320 0.8 4.1 1.6

Profile: The upcoming playing time battle between Chris Iannetta and Hank Conger has no clear favorite, but defense, youth, and offensive potential seem to favor Conger. Iannetta will likely play a little less than half of the time, but can still provide respectable home run production in his starts. While his great eye creates good on-base percentages, his batting average is going to be a liability, fantasy-wise. That shouldn’t change — his strikeout rate is bad and is only going to get worse as he ages. With a bit of an uppercut swing, no speed, and few balls in play, there’s always the risk of a disastrous average on balls in play, too. If the Angels are bad in 2014, the 31-year-old is probably not going to be considered a part of the franchise’s long-term plan, either. Look for him to finish around 40th in standard fantasy catcher rankings (or low 30s if OBP is used instead of AVG) with more downside than upside. (Steve Staude)

Quick Opinion: Hank Conger will likely usurp playing time from Iannetta this season, diminishing the latter’s fantasy value to the point where it won’t make sense to draft him in most leagues.

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