Comments/Predictions: The Nationals entered as one of the favorites to win the World Series last season but failed to make the playoffs despite the extra wild card spot. But this is still a loaded roster, and Washington projects to have by far the easiest schedule in baseball this year...Stephen Strasburg is 25 years old with a career 2.96 ERA and 1.07 WHIP with a 504:123 K:BB ratio over 434.1 innings during his career. His career SwStr% is 11.1 (Clayton Kershaw’s is 10.6). Hopefully the removal of bone chips from his elbow during the offseason finally has Strasburg at 100%, something he wasn’t in 2013. I think he’s worthy of a top-15 pick…My love for Bryce Harper can be found here, and I rank him as a top-five pick right now and as my choice to win the National League MVP.
[Baseball 2014 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: Join a league today!]
No team has been hurt more by injuries than the Braves in spring training, as they lost both Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to Tommy John surgery, while Mike Minor remains sidelined with an elbow injury. It’s enough to make them underdogs in their division, but Atlanta should be in wild card contention throughout 2014 despite the major losses…Ervin Santana is a top-40 fantasy starter thanks to joining Atlanta, while Alex Wood isn’t too far behind…Chris Johnson hits better than .300 again and a move to the cleanup spot improves his counting stats…2014 will mark the final time Dan Uggla plays professional baseball…Freddie Freeman wins the NL batting title, while Andrelton Simmons is one of the five most valuable players in the Senior Circuit. In fantasy terms, Simmons finishes as a top-10 shortstop, ahead of Starlin Castro.
Few teams enter 2014 with middling expectations yet such a bright future as the Mets. They will almost certainly finish either third or fourth in the NL East this season, but with a rotation featuring Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard in 2015 and beyond, fans have a lot to be excited about…Wheeler finishes as a top-35 fantasy starter with the upside to be even better if his catchers improve framing his pitches...Dillon Gee, who posted a 2.74 ERA and 1.08 WHIP after the All-Star break last season, is a viable mixed league starter even in shallow leagues, as is Jenrry Mejia while in the rotation…Curtis Granderson rebounds and tops 30 homers but is once again a batting average killer.
A top-three of Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett is a nice start, but it remains to be seen whether Hamels can return to 100%, and the rest of this roster is old and filled with poor contracts. The Phillies’ window has passed, and it’s going to be a while before they are contenders again…Ben Revere steals 50+ bases but is left still searching for his first career home run, while despite his 10-5 rights and recent comments, Jimmy Rollins ends the year on a different team. He’s not a top-20 fantasy shortstop regardless…Marlon Byrd hit .285/.330/.518 with 21 homers in fewer than 120 games last season, and while that type of production can’t be expected to be repeated, he’s going to be given everyday at bats in Philly, possibly as the cleanup hitter in between left-handers Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Byrd is a 36-year-old boring veteran who’s going to be dirt cheap (ADP outside 250), making him a late round pick who should be a nice profit.
The Marlins remain in full-blown rebuild mode, and while the process appears like there’s no end in sight, at least there’s Jose Fernandez, who just posted a 2.19 ERA and 0.98 WHIP with 187 strikeouts over 172.2 innings as a 21-year-old rookie. Despite a likely innings limit and a hit rate bound to regress some, Fernandez is the No. 4 pitcher on my board…Had he qualified, Nathan Eovaldi’s average fastball velocity (96.2 mph) would have led all starters last season, and his slider (86.3) would have ranked sixth, so he remains intriguing. I’m not sure what it means, but he allowed half of his earned runs (20) last season in three of his 18 starts. In other words, if you remove those three duds (I know, I know, those counted too), he recorded a 1.87 ERA over 15 starts, spanning 96.1 innings. Make of that what you will…Giancarlo Stanton clubs 40 homers, but that results in neither 100 RBI nor 90 runs scored.
1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Cincinnati Reds
3. Pittsburgh Pirates
4. Milwaukee Brewers
5. Chicago Cubs
Comments/Predictions: Not only did the Cardinals win 97 games last season, their pythag record was an MLB-high 101-61, suggesting they were a bit unlucky, which is odd considering they hit a whopping .330 with RISP, nearly 50 points higher than the next team. St. Louis lost Carlos Beltran to free agency, but as usual, they will fill holes through a loaded system that’s seemingly endless. The Nationals and Dodgers are threats, but this looks like the team to beat in the NL…Carlos Martinez starts out in the pen but is a major fantasy factor once he joins the starting rotation in the second half…Peter Bourjos isn’t much of a fantasy asset, although he increases the value of St. Louis’ pitchers thanks to his strong defense…Yadier Molina finishes as the more valuable fantasy catcher than Carlos Santana, while Matt Adams swats 30 homers and finishes as the more valuable fantasy first baseman than both Anthony Rizzo and Mark Trumbo.
The Reds lost a lot of OBP when Shin-Soo Choo left via free agency, and the injury to Aroldis Chapman was both scary and a blow to a bullpen that entered thin to begin with. Still, Cincinnati is led by a starting rotation that could be among the most dominant in the league…Homer Bailey takes the next step, not only becoming the staff ace but also finishing as a top-15 fantasy starter…No Reds reliever proves worth rostering when Chapman is sidelined, while Todd Frazier hits 25 homers and records 15 stolen bases…Billy Hamilton provides strong defense in center and steals 100+ bases. Hamilton enters 2015 as a consensus top-10 fantasy pick.
After jumping 15 wins in the standings from 2012 to 2013, expect Pittsburgh to take a step back this season, as the team is hurt by the loss of A.J. Burnett and can’t expect another repeat performance from its bullpen (they posted a 2.89 ERA last season. Two teams were better, but the Pirates threw more than 80.0 innings more out of the pen than either of them). It’s also unrealistic to ask Andrew McCutchen to post another 8.2 WAR season, and if Francisco Liriano succeeds in 2014, it would mark the first time in his career he’s both healthy and performs well in back-to-back years. Still, a full season of Gerrit Cole is sure to help, and future star Gregory Polanco is waiting in the wings in the minors. The Pirates should once again be playoff contenders…Cole finishes as a top-10 fantasy starter, even garnering some Cy Young votes. He enters 2015 as a top-five starter on most draft boards…Pedro Alvarez hits another 30+ homers but also ends the year with the worst batting average in the National League…Mark Melancon finishes with more saves and fantasy value than Jason Grilli.
Milwaukee is an interesting team with some upside and isn’t the worst long shot bet. They are strong up the middle with Jonathan Lucroy, Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez, and no one should rule out a monstrous campaign from Ryan Braun. The rotation has sneaky potential as well. It’s too bad Rickie Weeks’ demise has left them so weak at second base. The Brewers may hang around the playoff picture longer than many expect…Braun hits 40 homers and is a top-five fantasy player, while Yovani Gallardo bounces back and is a worthy mixed league starter…Wily Peralta’s average fastball velocity (94.8 mph) last season was the fourth highest among starting pitchers. But what makes that truly remarkable is that nearly half of those heaters were two-seamers, which he threw 31.5% of the time and helps explain his 1.84 GB/FB ratio. To put this in perspective, among the top-10 in average FB velocity, only two others threw a two-seamer more than 20.0% of the time (Jeff Samardzija and Homer Bailey). Peralta is an interesting flier…Over the last two years (minimum 250.0 innings), only Cliff Lee and Adam Wainwright have a better K:BB ratio than Marco Estrada’s 4.50. However, Estrada’s 3.75 ERA over that span ranks just 49th, as he’s an extreme fly ball pitcher playing in a home park that’s increased homers by 23 percent over the past three seasons. Sometimes a pitcher can be in the strike zone too much. Estrada posted a 2.15 ERA and 0.75 WHIP with a 56:11 K:BB ratio over 58.2 innings after the All-Star break last season, so he quite clearly has a lot of potential. Even if the homers continue to be a problem, he’ll be an asset in WHIP and Ks. If Estrada pitched at AT&T Park, he’d be a Cy Young contender.
Police Blotter: Man Gets 2 DWIs In 1 Night At The Same McDonald’s...Man Googles Himself, Finds He’s Among ‘Most Wanted’ And Promptly Surrenders...Police Release 911 Call After Wife Stabs Husband, Claims He Was “Worshipping The NASCAR Race.”...Man With Gun Tattoo Wakes Up To Armed Police...Police: Man Ordered And Downed $80 Worth Of Shots, Set Fire To A Trash Can And Punched Several People In The Face...Brooklyn Men Sue NYPD Cops For Trying To Take Their White Castle Sliders And Getting Arrested When They Refused...Taco Bell Diner Assaulted For Burping Inside South Carolina Eatery...Hawaii Law Let’s Police Have Sex With Hookers...Man Arrested For Locking Wife In Shed After She Sang “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead” About His Mom...Florida Man Facing Two Weeks In Jail For Eating Anonymous Tip...Fake Shoe Salesman Charged In Wal-Mart Toe-Sucking.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. San Francisco Giants (Wild Card)
3. San Diego Padres
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
5. Colorado Rockies
Comments/Predictions: The Dodgers clearly have the upside to win 100+ games and the World Series, but they also have a roster filled with injury risks. They curiously have glaring holes at second and third base despite such a high payroll, although that can always be fixed through a trade. Health obviously matters to all teams, but Los Angeles’ season will ultimately come down to the durability of its stars…Clayton Kershaw’s 16 wins last season were modest considering he posted a 1.83 ERA over 236.0 innings. While it’s safe to expect a higher ERA in 2014, it’s also safe to expect more wins barring health, as the Dodgers should provide plenty of run support and employ a dominant back-end bullpen. Kershaw is the No. 3 player on my fantasy board…Yasiel Puig is an extremely exciting player, flashing one of the best arms in right field you’ll ever see. He’s also one of the league’s worst base runners and looks increasingly injury prone. Puig owns a 1.66 GB/FB ratio and a 10.2 IFFB%, so fantasy owners expecting more than 20-25 homers might be disappointed. Since he’s also been caught on eight of his 19 SB attempts, there’s reason to be skeptical of his top-25 ADP. Puig of course is young and can improve in all these areas, but he’s a bust candidate in 2014…Hanley Ramirez stays relatively healthy and finishes as a top-10 fantasy player.
The Giants have a roster filled with candidates to bounce back after down years, but they are in an extremely competitive division, so things will need to break right for them to make another postseason run…Pablo Sandoval stays in shape and posts the best season of his career, while Mike Morse becomes the first Giant other than Barry Bonds to hit 30 homers in a season since 2002. He’s not worth much more than a win or two though, thanks to his horrific defense in left…Matt Cain returns to being the pitcher he was before last year’s blip, while Tim Lincecum continues to disappoint, as Tim Hudson provides more fantasy value…Brandon Belt develops into one of the most valuable first baseman in the National League, but AT&T Park masks this when it comes to his fantasy value, although he is able to finish as a top-12 option regardless...Buster Posey finishes in the top-five in MVP voting, as does Madison Bumgarner with the Cy Young.
The Padres are a young team that could easily surprise in 2014, with plenty of players capable of making “the jump.” Even after the (predictable) Josh Johnson injury, the team’s staff looks like a real strength. San Diego to win more than 77.5 games is my favorite over/under this year. I’m betting the house on the over…Everth Cabrera records the second-most steals in the majors, making him an incredibly valuable commodity as a shortstop. It’s a head-scratcher his ADP is so low (111.7)…After moving the fences in, PETCO Park increased home runs for left-handed batters by 30% last season, so Will Venable’s 22 homers may not have been a fluke (15 came at home). Expect Chase Headley to benefit in 2014 during a nice rebound campaign…Carlos Quentin appears in 120 games for the first time since 2010, resulting in 30 bombs…Tyson Ross is a top-35 fantasy starter, finishing just barely behind teammate Andrew Cashner…Joaquin Benoit records more saves than Huston Street.
Arizona is a solid team that should approach a .500 record but is stuck in an NL West division that’s going to make it awfully tough to make a wild card run. The season-ending loss to Patrick Corbin doesn’t help matters either…It’s a good thing Gerardo Parra and A.J. Pollock are both terrific defensive players, because the team is asking Mark Trumbo to play left field this season, which may be a stretch...Archie Bradley will be immediately worth using in fantasy leagues when he gets called up, but that likely won’t happen until June…Miguel Montero’s current ADP is 220.7, which will look like an extreme bargain when he finishes as a top-10 fantasy catcher.
The Rockies allowed the most runs in the National League last season, which isn’t exactly surprising playing half of their games at Coors Field, which remains baseball’s best hitter’s park by a wide margin. Colorado will need Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez to stay healthy to have any chance of competing for a wild card spot…Wilin Rosario somehow hit .319 over the second half of last season despite a 41:1 K:BB ratio. Even with Coors Field at his disposal, expect some BA regression in 2014…Corey Dickerson emerges as the runaway winner in the team’s centerfield competition and is a fantasy difference maker...Believe it or not, Carlos Gonzalez had the highest road OPS (.987) among all NL hitters last season. If you prorated his numbers before the All-Star break over a 150-game season, you get this: .302-112-41-106-26. If only he could stay healthy.
Song of the Week: The Black Keys – “Fever.”
Longread of the Week: Dear America, I Saw You Naked, And Yes, We Were Laughing. Confessions Of An Ex-TSA Agent.
NL MVP: Bryce Harper
NL Cy Young: Stephen Strasburg
NL Rookie of the Year: Billy Hamilton
NLCS: Cardinals over Nationals
I’ll post my AL Preview later this week.