Over the next couple weeks, the Rotoworld staff will look at some players whose arrows are pointing up for the 2014 season. We’ll break them down by division, starting off with the AL East.
Xander Bogaerts, 3B/SS, Red Sox
Bogaerts just turned 21 last month, and he has only two full minor league seasons under his belt, but that didn’t stop him from earning a call-up this past season and playing an integral role during the Red Sox’ World Series run. The top prospect batted .296/.373/.489 across 378 games during his minor league career, including a .297/.388/.477 line with 15 homers and 67 RBI between Double- and Triple-A in 2013. He then hit .250/.320/.364 over 50 regular season plate appearances before sporting a .296/.412/.481 line during the postseason.
Where Bogaerts plays next season is still undecided. He’ll likely be at shortstop, as Boston is unlikely to re-sign Stephen Drew or bring in anyone else at the position. There’s a chance, though, that he could play third, where he spent more time for the big club this season. Either way, he’s going to be starting, and he should be eligible at both positions in most fantasy leagues. Bogaerts doesn’t possess big home run pop yet and isn’t a stolen base threat, but his upside is tremendous, which should result in him banging plenty of balls off the Green Monster next season.
Chris Davis, 1B, Orioles
Davis experienced a breakout season in 2012, belting 33 home runs with 85 RBI in his first full season at the major league level, but no one could have expected what he had in store for us in 2013. “Crush” ripped a major league-leading 53 balls over the boards and also drove in a major league-leading 138 runs. The lefty slugger also added 42 doubles and batted .286 on his way to becoming a finalist for AL MVP honors.
Obviously, it will be pretty impossible for Davis to repeat his 2013 showing. He’s probably not going to hit .286 again, as he strikes out a ton and is still vulnerable to left-handed pitching. However, Davis has shown the last two seasons and in the minors that his power is certainly for real. He’ll fall back, but another home run crown is certainly attainable.
Wil Myers, OF, Rays
It took a bit longer than expected for us to get our first look at Myers. Many felt that he had a good shot to crack the Opening Day roster, but the Rays, wanting to delay his arbitration, held him back until mid-June before bringing him up for good. Myers hit right away, batting .296 with three homers that month on his way to a .293/.354/.478 batting line with 13 bombs over 88 contests for the season.
The recently announced AL Rookie of the Year has been considered one of the best prospects in the game for a while, boasting tremendous raw power. The batting average could fall back next season, as Myers struck out at a high clip and was the beneficiary of a .362 BABIP. Still, there’s no reason to think this soon-to-be 23-year-old’s first full season in the bigs won’t be a great one.
Manny Machado, 3B, Orioles
Machado entered the 2013 season as a fresh-faced 20-year-old, but he went on the lead the American League with a whopping 51 doubles while batting .283/.314/.432 with 14 homers and 71 RBI. And, while it means nothing in the fantasy realm, he’s already become one of the best infield defenders in the game, having taken home the AL Platinum Glove award.
Machado’s campaign ended on a sour note, of course, as he shredded his left knee during the final week of the season and eventually underwent surgery to repair his medial patellar femoral ligament. The procedure is expected to keep him from being ready for Opening Day, but his absence is not expected to extend too far into the season. Aside from his doubles prowess, Machado hasn’t produced eye-popping numbers in the minors or majors. He’s been very young at every level, though, and most expect him to eventually blossom into an MVP candidate. Machado could also possibly gain shortstop eligibility at some point in 2014 if the Orioles trade J.J. Hardy or lose him to injury.
Koji Uehara, RP, Red Sox
Uehara was inexplicably ignored by many last offseason, and the Red Sox scooped him up on what turned out to be a bargain of a two-year, $9.25 million deal. The Japanese import began the season in a setup role, but injuries and ineffectiveness from others led to his ascension to the ninth inning. Uehara went on to have one of the best seasons ever by a reliever, posting a 1.09 ERA, 0.57 WHIP and ridiculous 101/9 K/BB ratio across 74 1/3 innings. He then went on to star in the playoffs, converting all seven save chances while permitting just one run.
Manager John Farrell has stopped short of officially announcing Uehara as the club’s closer in 2014, but make no mistake about it: he’s going to be used in the ninth inning. Although he’ll turn 39 just after Opening Day, Uehara has certainly shown no signs of slowing down to this point.
Chris Archer, SP, Rays
The Rays didn’t bring Archer up until June this past season, but once they finally did, he fit in nicely amongst one of the best pitching staffs in the league. The 25-year-old right-hander posted a 3.22 ERA and 1.13 WHIP across 23 starts, contributing a pair of shutouts along the way. Archer struck out 101 over 128 2/3 innings and did a good job to limit his walks to 38.
The youngster might have trouble repeating his 2.7 BB/9 ratio in 2013 given that his best-ever full season mark in that regard in the minors was 4.1. However, he also didn’t miss as many bats this season as he did in his minor league career, so we could see an uptick with his punchouts. Archer should be a fantasy asset for years to come.
Alex Cobb, SP, Rays
Cobb put together a solid rookie season for the Rays in 2012, posting a 4.03 ERA and 1.25 WHIP across 25 outings. He finished with a 3.09 mark from August on, and he certainly carried that momentum over into a fantastic 2013 campaign. Cobb’s 2.76 ERA would have placed him fourth in the AL had he had enough innings to qualify, which he wasn’t able to do after a line drive to the head cost him two months of action.
Another sub-3.00 ERA probably will be too much to ask from Cobb. But, he has excellent control, gets more strikeouts than you’d think from someone without overpowering stuff and benefits from the Rays’ superb defense. He’ll be rock-solid again in 2014.
David Robertson, RP, Yankees
The Yanks haven’t officially handed him the closer job, but that’s probably a formality and Robertson has the goods to be one of the best stoppers in the AL.
Ivan Nova, SP, Yankees
Nova took a big step forward in 2013, posting a 3.10 ERA while continuing to lower his walk rate (2.8 BB/9) and strike out a decent number (7.5 K/9).
John Lackey, SP, Red Sox
Lackey came back from the dead to put up a 3.52 ERA and 1.16 WHIP before starring in the postseason.
Colby Rasmus, OF, Blue Jays
If not for a couple stints on the disabled list, Rasmus would have easily cruised to a career high in home runs in 2013.
Alfonso Soriano, OF, Yankees
Yes, he’ll turn 38 in January, but Soriano is coming off two straight 30-homer seasons and will play all of his home games at Yankee Stadium in 2014. He also chipped in with a surprising 18 steals this year.