We at Razzball realize that exporting our views across the country has damaging consequences on the blogosphere. To help make amends, we are reaching out to leading team blogs and featuring their locally blogged answers to pressing 2014 fantasy baseball questions regarding their team. We feel this approach will be fresher, more sustainable, and require less energy consumption (for us anyway). The 2014 Rangers Fantasy Baseball Preview comes courtesy of Joseph Pytleski from RotoBanter.
1) Jurickson Profar was called up last year despite not really having a place to play. Now that he is slated as the Rangers’ starting second baseman, what should fantasy owners expect from him in the 2014 season?
There are three things to consider here: First, there is just not enough data (341 total plate appearances in the majors) to definitively make any statements about Profar’s MLB ability yet. At the very least he held his own against the best competition in the world at age 20, slashing a .234/.308/.336 line and with a basically neutral WAR for 2013. We’ve been overly spoiled by Mike Trout and Jose Fernandez, so I’m just not going to delve into his MLB numbers due to the small sample size.
This leads to the second point, that for now we’ll have to go on what we know from the scouts and his MiLB track record, which is great to say the least. Keith Law thinks Profar will be fine, labeling him a future superstar. Now, let that percolate for a second. Those of you that follow Keith Law know that he rarely throws that terminology around, so there’s definitely reason for optimism (not to mention that he was the consensus top 10 overall prospect in just about every respected prospect circle in 2012). Furthermore, his minor league high walk/low strikeout profile portend success in the bigs. While it’s true he doesn’t have elite tools, his above average tools across the board, coupled with a great baseball acumen that make his tools play up, tell me that he’s going to be a very good player moving forward.
Third, Jurickson Profar finally has a full-time position and no one looking over his shoulder. There is a reason Jon Daniels & Co. held on to this guy and traded Ian Kinsler this offseason; now we’ll get to see what he can do. Most likely he’ll be hitting #6 behind Adrian Beltre and Alex Rios, so there’s reason to believe that he could have some nice counting stats by the end of the year hitting what some consider to be the best lineup in the majors. As a total speculation, I think that Profar could supplant Elvis Andrus in the 2-hole (in between Choo and Fielder) by the end of the season due to his superior on-base skills and power/speed combo.
I think this year you can expect some ups and downs (with more the former than the later), but pencil him in at .270BA, 15 HR, 75 RBI, 55 Runs, 8-10 SBs, .345 OBP. That may seem bold but I think he’s completely under-the-radar in this year’s fantasy drafts.
The short answer? Not much. Let’s start with Fielder. I really do want to believe that Fielder’s move to Texas will reignite him, but I just don’t see a huge return to dominance for the big man. As noted by Chad Young, moving to the Ballpark at Arlington may not have a great impact on Fielder’s power production. As far as counting stats, he goes from playing for the #2 overall run-scoring team in 2013 to the aforementioned possible #1 overall lineup, so I don’t see a lot of change there either. For those who believe in lineup protection (which I don’t), he goes from Miggy to Beltre. However, I can point to two anecdotal ideas– 1) Jon Daniels and his team are super-scouts, and tried getting him to the Rangers before he signed that big deal with Detroit, and would not put Fielder’s contract on the books if they didn’t believe in his hitting ability. 2) Prince did go through a divorce in the middle of last season. Those aren’t data-driven reasons to believe, but I could see him hitting 30 long balls and driving in 100+. But don’t go crazy here, three years of declining skills and a body to match don’t make me all tingly inside.
As for Choo, what can you say about this guy? In his age-31 season he pus up the best OBP of his career to go with 721 PAs, and managed to squeeze in 21 HR and 20 SB. First, can he actually go 700+ PAs next year? Only 11 players did that (including Fielder) and they were all younger than Choo. Like Prince, he goes from a nice hitter’s park in the NL, to a nice one in the AL. I see regression coming in terms of his walk rate (career high 15.7% last year), IFFB% (0.8% last year) with an accompanying regression in line-drive rate as well. What’s all that mean, you ask? He’ll still score 100+ runs, but I wouldn’t count on a return to a .400 OBP or a 20/20 season, but it’ll be close. Add to that his well documented problems with LHP, and his upside will be limited in 2014.
3) Leonys Martin stole an impressive 36 bases to go along with 8 home runs in 2013, providing a lot of value to owners who took a chance on him. How high should fantasy players be on him this season, and should his .226 average against lefties be a concern?
Until last year the toolsy-outfielder had not received a lot of playing time to show off his skill set; above-average defense, a nice hit tool, good strike-zone awareness, line-drive power, and average to above-average base stealing ability. It’s not his fault JD went out and got the best OBP-guy on the planet to make a home in the lead-off spot, but for all his upside, Martin is still unproven and will most likely spend the year at the bottom of the lineup. That’s not a bad place to be necessarily, though. He’ll be a tough out against RHP, as I expect his walk rate to be about league average, offer speed on the bases, and a little bit of pop from CF. However, like you already mentioned, the platoon split is somewhat disconcerting. Martin is only 26 and though it sometimes takes lefties a bit longer to figure out lefties, I don’t see Ron Washington or Jon Daniels having any problem snuffing out Martin late in the game against a LOOGY, especially if they resign this lefty-killer again in 2014. After all, they built this team to win now and they won’t be patient giving away outs late in the game trying to develop Martin. However, with only Engel Beltre (40 total MLB ABs) behind him on the depth chart, he should see the majority of time in CF this year.
So, the moral of the story? I’d scoop him up late and see how he’s utilized, as any CF who could potentially get to double-digit HR and 20-25 SBs is worthy of a roster spot for me. Just don’t draft him expecting more than what he did last year.
4) The Rangers have some intriguing pitchers in their rotation like Martin Perez. Which of the Texas starters do you see taking the biggest step forward in terms of fantasy value in 2014?
Hmm… biggest step forward you say. I think it’s safe to say that Yu Darvish cannot go much further ahead of where he already is, and with Derek Holland’s great 2013, I think the cat is out of the bag on him (and his creepy ‘stache). Alexi Ogando is too injury prone as a starter and always has been since he’s been in Texas, and Matt Harrison is coming off of a 2013 campaign ruined by shoulder and back problems. For me, that leaves Martin Perez. The lefty will only be 23 years old this year, has a legitimate 3-4 pitch arsenal that includes a four-seamer, change, slider, and sinker. He throws 91-95 MPH (good enough velocity from the left side for 6th best in the majors), has a great whiff-inducing changeup (#14 overall whiff/swing rate), and a nice ground-ball inducing sinker. He’s always been promoted mercilessly by the front-office brass and hasn’t been able to pitch in the most favorable environments (not to mention the AL West in Arlington), and this could be why his performance has always lagged behind his stuff.
The Rangers signed him to a team-friendly extension this off-season so I have to believe that they think he’s going to take a step forward. If everything clicks (meaning a slight uptick in Ks, keeping the command in check, and the ground-ball rate in tact), you could have a solid back-end starter on your hands who could net you double-digit wins again with an ERA in around 4.00. I’m not giving a ringing endorsement here as a huge step forward, but he won’t cost a dime on draft day. This guy certainly has the pedigree and youth is on his side to take a step forward in 2014.
5) The “Boomstick” 2-foot hot dog will apparently remain a concession in Arlington whether Nelson Cruz is a Ranger or not. What’s the name of the new vegetarian snack offering now that Prince is in town?
Vegetarians in Texas go together like fat guys in baseball uniforms. Fat guy in a little coat… fat guy in a little… I digress. I’ve been to plenty of the concession stands all around the ballpark and outside of some onions and relish there are few vegetables to be found in Arlington. [Ed. Note — But plenty of guns!] That said, I suppose we could do some veggie kebabs (now I’ve got the Flight of the Conchords’ song in my head, fast forward to 2:15 and enjoy). At least you can still use the BBQ, Prince will be happy eating healthy, and heck, we can keep the theme going and call ‘em…uh, Shroom-sticks.