Here we go, the last one in my series. The big finale. The crème de la crème. The ultimate in baseball knowledge. I hope I don’t cry, I’m very emotional. In case you missed my other masterpieces, here you go:
The Brewers are one of my breakout teams this year. They’re on the shortlist with the Royals, Mariners, and Diamondbacks. Some of those picks are more hopeful than others, but I really do like them. There is a lot of potential here.
Okay, I know what you’re going to say, “But Jeremy…it’s all a bunch of schizz.” Well you’re wrong. It looks like Kyle Lohse has fixed something, because his past three seasons have been much better than all the previous ones. He won’t be a strikeout haven, but there is a good shot he’ll put up good numbers again. His WHIP has been below 1.20 during the past three seasons, a mark he never reached before that. He will be available really late, and possibly even on waivers. Keep a keen eye on him. Their number two, Matt Garza, is better than Lohse. He is much more consistent, and will strike batters out. I haven’t seen a league where he isn’t owned, so that’s a good sign, I guess. Yovani Gallardo, the name probably stings burnt owners. I understand, he wasn’t anywhere near top notch last year. Good news though, he probably won’t get worse. As far as I’m concerned, not getting worse is okay. He should still surpass 7 K/9. He is projected to be as good as or better than R.A. Dickey, who is going late in drafts. If you’re willing to take Dickey, I don’t see why you should be so afraid of Gallardo. Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta are probably safe for the last two spots. Both of these guys have sleeper potential. Estrada has broken a 4.00 ERA the past two years, and his FIP has broken it the past three years. He gets a lot of strikeouts, so he is a great late round pick up. The biggest question mark is his workload. More innings=more value. Peralta is a little worse, and is in more danger of losing his rotation spot. He has to watch out for Tyler Thornburg, Johnny Hellweg, and Will Smith. On second thought, his job isn’t in much danger.
Oh Jim Henderson, how I love ye so. He is a sure thing as a closer, and he won’t cost you an arm and a leg (and if that’s the currency your auction league uses, I’d find a new league). Brandon Kintzler and Francisco Rodriguez are probably on setup duty. I like them both, and Kintzler isn’t a brand name, so he will be even cheaper. For those digging deep, you should be able to shovel Tom Gorzelanny out of the free agent pool.
I LOVE this outfield. I think it’s the best outfield in the majors. Carlos Gomez had one hell of a season last year. While I expect some regression, he is still very much a quality player. I see people overpaying, oh well. Khris Davis had a breakout “season”. It’s more like 33% of a season, but I won’t hold that against him. I see him matching Gomez on all counting stats besides SB. And then there’s Ryan Braun. We all know the PED story, so I’m not going to go into it. He was excellent before the PEDs, so I’m not worried he will return to form. He is a top ten guy, but he is being knocked down by the scandal. I’m not buying into it. I am ranking him right next to Carlos Gonzalez. Jonathan Lucroy is a top five catcher. I am sticking by this. He has 20 HR upside, with 170 R+RBI as a ceiling, 140 as a floor. If I was to write a book, I would title it “The Curious Case of Jean Segura.” I’m sure that’s copyright infringement, but that never stopped me in the past. We all know Segura channeled 2012 Jason Kipnis with his first/second half splits. Kipnis was able to rebound. I’m not as high on Segura to follow in his footsteps. I think Segura has the skill level between his two halves. I guess that means what he posted last year is what to expect this year. Not too shabby for a SS. Can you believe Aramis Ramirez has been playing since 1998? Aramis hit the DL multiple times last season, which is an obvious red flag. If he is healthy, he is good. Too bad he turns 36 this June. I could see him as a solid CI/UTIL player. Rickie Weeks and Scooter Gennett split time at second last year. I have a feeling they might run into that issue again. Gennett was really ripping the ball during his time though. He had an astronomical BABIP to make up for it though. Expect regression, but enough to be ownable in NL-Only leagues. Still, he is certainly an interesting choice. Weeks is clearly on the decline. I don’t see him being owned anywhere this year. The Brewskies probably have one of the worst starting first basemen in Juan Francisco. He hits for decent power, but that’s about it.
Ladies and Gentleman, the 2013 World Series silver medalist, the St. Louis Cardinals! The Cards have another shot at the gold medal this year.
The Cardinals are in the unique position of having too many good starting pitchers. I don’t think I have to say anything about Adam Wainwright. He was a top five pitcher last year, and will demand that price tag this year. That is too expensive for me, plus he is going to be 32. Not my cup of tea. Second to Waino is Michael Wacha, who I have named one of my fantasy teams after (Wacha Flocka Flame). He absolutely dominated during the playoffs, and he should be good again this year. He is good enough to be a second string pitcher for fantasy purposes. Just be wary of his home/away splits. He was bad when he was away, but the sample size was small, so it’s hard to draw any conclusions. The third guy on the mound is Lance Lynn. While his ERA will likely be higher than some of the other starters, the Cards will use him to eat innings. You know your rotation is good if Shelby Miller is your fourth string starter. There might be cause for concern since he only has two pitches, but he still has a ton of upside if he can perform up to 2013 standards. The last starter is probably Jaime Garcia. If he can stay healthy, he is definitely a better choice than Joe Kelly, who will be designated to being a long reliever and spot starter. If Garcia’s body holds up, he will be a good starter to own. He is only owned in 0.5% of ESPN leagues right now (which is 3 A.M. on a Monday night…I’m a night owl). Joe Kelly has been outplaying his skill, so expect regression, sorry folks.
The Cardinals have a solid bullpen on top of their rotation. Trevor Rosenthal is set to be a top ten closer, maybe even top five. Jason Motte, Seth Maness, and Kevin Siegrist will be on setup duty. They all look like good options, which is scary for everyone else. Siegrist managed a 0.45 ERA over 40 innings last year, which is other-worldly. Buy, buy, buy.
This team has no weaknesses. They have great starters, relievers, and hitters. Maybe their defense isn’t stellar, but Yadier Molina has won the Gold Glove for the past six years. His bat has been good too, which is especially valuable at catcher. I won’t be buying him this year, because I feel like his hot streak is over. He actually feel to 204th overall in one of the RCL leagues I’m in. For reference, B.J. Upton was 203rd. Grey has officially tainted us all. Next on the list is veteran outfielder Matt Holliday. He is entering his 34th year, but shows few signs of slowing down. He won’t be hitting 30+ bombs again, but an 85/23/88/.290 line isn’t out of the question. I won’t buy him because his age has to catch up with him eventually…right? Because of Matt Adams, Allen Craig will be shifted to the outfield. Craig is nice because of his 1B/OF eligibility, but I think he is going to fall down to earth a bit. His BABIP since 2011 is .350. To put things in perspective, this puts him near or ahead of names like Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez, Ryan Braun, and Andrew McCutchen. Other concerns include his loss of power and injury risk. Then there’s Matt Carpenter. He won’t repeat his 126 run season, but he won’t necessarily be bad. I think 90 runs is more in his realm, with an average around .290. This is interesting: the four players I’ve gone over are the only ones who played a full season for the Cardinals last year. The rest of the lineup is filled with newbies, more or less. Peter Bourjos, a member of the Bourgeoisie, will be manning center field. He might be splitting some time with a man of the proletariat, Jon Jay. This split makes it hard to own either of them. Bourjos might be a nice benchwarmer though. Over at second base, the Cardinals have passed the baton to Kolten Wong. The 22 year old prospect didn’t get much playing time last year (Waino had more PA than Wong), so they’re going to test him this year. He will probably be near the bottom of the lineup, which hurts his already diminished value. On top of that, he might lose playing time to Mark Ellis and/or Daniel Descalso, neither of whom are worth owning. The starting shortstop, fresh off his suspension, is Jhonny Peralta. He needs to learn how to spell, it’s “o” before “h” except after “c”. I wouldn’t expect anything amazing from Peralta, but his value will be lower from his suspension. He is my last resort SS, and I really want to avoid taking him. He won’t contribute in SB, and he doesn’t make up for it with power. I feel like I missed someone…oh yes! Back to Adams. Adams had a breakout year, of sorts. In his half season, he hit 17 homers, and combined for 97 R+RBI. Extrapolated to a full season, that’s almost a 100/35/100 season. That’s not happening, so don’t get your hopes up. I think 75/25/85/.270 is more his speed. I like to think of him as being roughly equivalent to Brandon Belt. Whatever thoughts you have on Belt, apply them to Adams too.
I’ve gotta hand it to Cubs fans, they stick with their team through thick and thin. Even with a winning record, the Rays can’t pull an attendance anywhere near what the Cubs can. The Cubs have been in fifth for the past four years, but are still pulling over 2.5 million fans a year. While they aren’t looking too hot this year, they do have a great farm system, which should be the cause for much promise in years to come…stay strong Chicago.
The Cubbies have been trying to shop Jeff Samardzija around, but to little avail. Samardzija had a down year, which gives him nice bounceback potential while also lowering his price. He should keep striking batters out, while also eating innings. If he can get his ERA around or under 4.00 again, he will give a big return on his value. He is still on the right side of 30, so I like the potential. I’ve already drafted a couple leagues, and I’m regretting not having him. Travis Wood was an interesting specimen last year. He managed to post a 3.11 ERA last year, but his peripherals don’t shout repeat. I’d turn back while you can. Wasn’t Edwin Jackson supposed to be good at some point? His performance isn’t consistent enough to warrant a draft pick, or even a stream really. I’d pass on him everywhere expect the deepest of leagues. We have a couple of starters who moved from the Orioles to the Cubs this year: Jason Hammel and Jake Arrieta. Neither were very good in Baltimore, and I don’t see much reason for improvement in Chicago. They’ll probably get the NL bump, but not enough to be worth owning. After that there is Chris Rusin, but he isn’t much of a threat outside of sport starts, if that tells you anything about his skill level. In conclusion, skip everyone whose name you can’t pronounce (I hope you can pronounce “Arrieta” and “Rusin”).
Good news: The Cubs’ pen is better than their starting rotation. Bad news: It’s not that much better. Jose Veras is a nice addition at closer. While he won’t be dominant, he will be consistent. Outside of Veras, there are a few worthwhile relievers. Pedro Strop will be the setup man for Veras. He had a bad year in 2013, but he should rebound. After Strop are Blake Parker and James Russell. Parker had a breakout season of sorts, and could be a high upside player in deep leagues. Russell has been a fairly consistent reliever the past two years, so he might be worth owning in deep leagues. I wouldn’t expect any saves out of him though, as he went 0 for 8 in save opportunities last year.
It doesn’t look like the Cubs will improve on their last place finish last year, sorry. At least you guys have a new mascot! That’s a nice consolation prize…I guess… Anthony Rizzo is as good a place to start as any. After a breakout half-season in 2012, Rizzo disappointed in 2013, putting up a measly .233 average. His OBP was .090 points higher than that, so he walks a bunch, a good sign. His BABIP was very low, which is always a sign for rebound potential. H-to-the-Rizzo should be able to put up better numbers this year, and I’m trying to get him in a bunch of places. I bought him for $13 in an auction, and I would pay upwards of $17-18. What happened to Starlin Castro? I wish I knew. He declined across the board. He can’t be that bad again this year, can he? His stock fell, so at least he won’t come with a big price tag like last year. He has a lot of upside, as his 2011/2012 showed. I won’t take him, but if you like his upside, good luck. Junior Lake is the next upside candidate. In just over a third of a season, he hit 6 bombs, scored 26 runs, and drove in 16. No one will be challenging his position, but he is due to regress. His BABIP and Line Drive rates were highly inflated, and he struck out over a quarter of the time. He is a good late round upside pick, but he is more fit for a fifth outfield or UTIL slot. On the other side of the outfield is Nate Schierholtz. He surged out of nowhere this year. When he was finally given steady playing time, he managed to hit 21 homers and drive in 68 (in 503 PA). While it’s not a wonderful output, it certainly shows potential. He should get even more time this year, and has 70/25/75/.260/10 upside. That’s a late round steal. Luis Valbuena had a nice showing last year. In under 400 PA, he went 34/12/37/.218. Okay, okay…that average is worse than when you get a kernel of popcorn stuck in your teeth. The good news is that his BABIP was low, so it could come back up a bit. Well that’s the last of the upside. That leaves Justin Ruggiano, Darwin Barney, and “Beef” Wellington Castillo. I don’t really need to go into depth on any of them. Ruggiano has upside potential maybe, but he is a huge outside shot. He has 20/20 upside, but his other stats won’t be spectacular. Castillo could be viable in two catcher leagues. Barney is unownable.
YARGH ME MATEYS!!! Okay, I got that out of my system. Everything fell into place for the Buccos last year. Unfortunately, I think a lot of that will fall back out of place. I really like the team, and I hope they can pull through.
I like some of the rotation this year, and I don’t like the rest. Francisco Liriano is not as good as he played last year. He played better than he has since his rookie season. I don’t think he will repeat, and I won’t touch him. Grey ranked him as the 20th best starter, I think of him more like 50-60th overall. Now I’m sure someone will be out to get me for disagreeing with the master of disaster. Gerrit Cole, the second string, is really the best pitcher they have. Everyone is going to be all over Cole, and I want him too. His price tag will go up for this, and that bums me out. Oh well, there are other pitchers in the sea. Charlie Morton is one of those pitchers. While I don’t expect a Cole-sian level performance, he has decent back end rotation potential. And then there’s Jeff Locke. Locke was tearing it up the first half of the season, posting a low 2’s ERA. By the end of his season, his ERA was back at 3.52. He performed so poorly over the second half that he didn’t make the playoff roster. I don’t see much upside, or a rebound from the end of last season. Pass. The last rotation spot will go to either Wandy Rodriguez or Edinson Volquez. Wandy is the better pitcher, but the Pirates just shelled out $5 mil for Volquez, so I don’t think they’ll let that go to waste. Either way, both are too risky to roster. It is entirely possible they both take a roster spot and Locke is left hung out to dry.
Fortunately for the Bucs, their bullpen spits hot fire. I think the Pirates have the best bullpen in the bigs. The big story last year was Jason Grilli’s dominance, followed by Mark Melancon’s even larger dominance. The Grilli-ed cheese man will be closing again this year, with Melancon as the setup guy. Both are rosterable, and Melancon might steal some saves, especially if Grilli falters. Tony Watson, Justin Wilson, and Vin Mazzaro all posted sub 3.00 ERA’s last season, and all threw over 70 innings. I like Wilson and Watson the most out of those three, but all will be good at lowering rate stats. Mazzaro will also be a little light on strikeouts. For those digging deeper, Jeanmar Gomez and Bryan Morris might also be worth exploring.
Last year, a team of mostly decent players, with some better than average players, combined forces to score 634 runs last year…good enough for 20th overall. They made the playoffs last year because their pitching was so dominant. It would be nice if they could match last year’s numbers, but I don’t see it. Obviously last year’s NL MVP, Andrew McCutchen, is a great player. In fact, he is a top five overall pick in most leagues. There is no reason he won’t repeat last year’s performance. After Cutch is Starling Marte. The Marte Partay showed a lot of potential in 2012, and it came to fruition last year. He paid off big time for those of you that followed Grey’s advice last year. I happily owned him and reaped the rewards. You won’t get the same bargain price this year, but he should still be worth his weight in gold…or maybe Starling Silver. The last outfielder is Jose Tabata. While Tabata only got half a season last year, he should be getting an upgrade closer to full time this year. He will still sit some games, but he could play in 130+. While the Pirates might like a whole-lotta-Tabata, owners should be more wary. Most of his value comes from hitting for average, and stealing bases. He isn’t exceptional at either, so you can probably pass. Pedro Alvarez is the only power the Pirates have, if you don’t count Cutch. He has 66 home runs over the past two seasons, but he is also hitting in the high .230s in that same time period. He is valuable for his counting stats, with the exception of SB. If you can take the AVG/OBP hit, Alvarez is your guy. He should go somewhere between 75th and 100th overall. Neil Walker will maintain control at second again. He has 70/15/70/.280 as a ceiling. He has been consistently in that area for several years, so he could repeat. He is a decent benchwarmer, maybe UTIL or MI player. Shortstop will probably be split between Jordy Mercer and Co. (Clint Barmes and Josh Harrison). This makes all three of them worthless for fantasy purposes. Even full time, none of them are worth a look. Gaby Sanchez has first base duties. He is pretty bad, as far as first base standards go. He doesn’t hit for overwhelming power, doesn’t steal any bases, and his average is…average at best. Another pass for the Pirates. Last up is backstop Russell Martin. Martin is a top twenty catcher, which makes him rosterable in deep leagues (and two catcher leagues). He isn’t the same Martin from when he was on the Dodgers, so don’t expect that. His last three years are the new standard for him.
The Reds look very similar to last year, with the exception of center field. They’re looking to repeat their run to the playoffs this year. I like them again this year. Can they beat the stiff NL Central competition? Let’s find out…
The biggest question on the rotation is, “Can Johnny Cueto stay healthy? And if so, how good will he be?” Okay, that’s two questions…but they’re both important. Most of his issues seem to come from his unique delivery motion, which involves a lot of twisting (and a lot of shouting as he heads to the DL). He is dirt cheap because of his injury woes, which is exactly why I’m picking him up. He was so good before he got injured. How could you pass up on that, even with some regression? If he puts up an ERA below 4.00, which I suspect he will, he will pay off immensely. Their second string starter is Mat Latos. Latos’ name is missing a “t” because he accidentally ate it in a T-bone steak. Latos is a solid starter, who is more than good enough to earn a second string spot on your roster (or a first string for those deeper leagues). Next in line is Homer Bailey. He is also good enough to be a second string starter, for those of you that like him. I don’t like him; I think he has become overrated. Last year was a slight anomaly for Bailey. He pitched better than he ever has. I expect a mid to high 3’s ERA with 170 strikeouts or so. I think he is more of a third string starter, but he will cost more than that. Fourth and fifth strings go to Mike Leake and Tony Cingrani. They have no competition for their slots, which is nice job security for them. Leake pitched much better than he is last year, but I think people know that. I won’t be owning him, and I doubt others will be either. Cingrani is much more interesting though. He put up some good numbers in just over 100 innings. He should be owned as a fourth or fifth string starter because he has a ton of upside. A mid 3’s ERA with upwards of 200 strikeouts is not out of the question. He should be fairly cheap, so he is definitely a good target.
We all know Aroldis Chapman is a top three closer. There is little reason that will change, and he will be owned everywhere. I don’t think I need to go into more depth on him. After Chapman are Sean Marshall and J.J. Hoover. They’ll be the go to guys for the eighth inning. Both can be owned in leagues that count holds. Marshall is a little better than Hoover. And while Hoover won’t be selling you a new vacuum cleaners, he does have the potential to suck up a bunch of K’s. After those two, you have Sam LeCure, Alfredo Simon, and Jonathan Broxton. None are ownable from the get go, but could be if they perform well. Broxton has the potential to become a setup player, as well as close if Chapman gets hurt. He is being paid handsomely for his not-so-handsome returns, and has closing experience from his time on the Dodgers.
I think I have to start with Billy Hamilton here. There is so much buzz around him that I can’t ignore it. The Flash has 100 SB potential to some, while most projections put him somewhere in the 70 range. That’s a great return, if he follows through. I expect a lot of pickoff attempts when he is on first. The problem is that he has almost no value outside of steals at this point. He hasn’t proven that he can hit for average. I won’t be taking him because the ends don’t justify the means. Brandon Phillips will most likely be hitting second. The most $WAG-A-LICIOUS baseball player punched out over 100 RBI’s last year. That was easy to do because Shin-Soo Choo was getting on base at a .423 click. I expect that number to fall as Hamilton fails to live up to Choo’s OBP expectations. I expect regression around the board for him though, so I won’t be buying him. Joey Votto will probably fill the third slot. There is no one in baseball that is better at getting on base than Votto. He has decent power to go along with his exceptional AVG/OBP. Again, the RBI opportunities will hurt him, but he will still be good, even more so in OBP leagues. Fourth up is the slugger, Jay Bruce. Everyone is saying he is poised for a huge year. He has been having great years, so imagine what a huge year could consist of. Once again, the RBI total could be hurt a bit by Choo’s departure, but he should have plenty of opportunities from Phillips and Votto. I like him this year, but I think he will cost too much for my liking, oh well. Ryan Ludwick will be behind Bruce…well…if he is playing that day he will be. Ludwick is likely to split some time with Skip Schumaker. Ludwick wasn’t very good to begin with, and now Schumaker will be eating into his time…I’m not liking that. Todd Frazier is likely to hit sixth. He should get plenty of RBI opportunities with Votto and Bruce in front of him. Unfortunately for you, he would be lucky to hit .250, so he will hurt you there. On the plus side, he could hit over 20 bombs. He is a late round CI pick. You could do worse than him. The seventh and eighth lineup spots are a toss-up between Zack Cozart and Devin Mesoraco. Cozart is J.J. Hardy, but without the power. That makes him a MI at best. Mesoraco is more interesting. In 352 PA, he threw up a 31/9/42/.238 line. The .238 isn’t great, but he had a low BABIP, so that could go up. I am targeting Mesoraco as my last option behind the plate. He has slight sleeper potential there, especially in deep or two catcher leagues.
Jeremy is a contributor for Razzball Baseball. He had a last name, but he lost it in ‘Nam. You can follow the soldier of misfortune on twitter @Jeremy_Razzball, just don’t trigger his flashbacks.