The Overachievers (or are they?): What to expect from the first half’s most surprising hitters

The challenge on draft day is to buy a guy at his price, what everyone expects him to earn, and then get all the production that comes with a breakout season. In other words, much more than you paid for. This year, the biggest breakouts on offense have been Jean Segura, Chris Davis, Josh Donaldson, Nate McLouth, Everth Cabrera, Daniel Nava, Manny Machado, Domonic Brown, Matt Carpenter and James Loney (with honorable mention to Yasiel Puig and Carlos Gomez). What should you expect from them going ahead?

Jean Segura. He cost $15 in Tout Wars and earned his owner $41 in the first half. After a hot start hitting with power his SLG has declined each month, but his July BA is .314 after a .277 June. It was expected his wheels would earn him his pay, and they have, but it was the power surge that bumped him to the top of this list. He’s got 24 steals with only four CS. Given our expectations going into the season versus his red hot first two months, it seems reasonable to expect about a .300 BA with four homers and another 15 steals. That’s a very good shortstop.

Chris Davis. Cost $20 in Tout Wars, and earned $45 in the first half. After a couple of promising seasons in Texas, Davis failed for long enough that just about everyone became skeptical about him, but now after proving himself as capable last year, he’s pushing into new territory for just about everyone this year. He was on pace for 62 homers at the midway point, and has hit six more since. The big issues here are gravity and opportunity. Can he remain aloft for much longer? And will he get fewer chances to hit, as teams work around him? He’s hitting more fly balls than ever, and hitting homers on 36 percent of his fly balls. That’s not sustainable in the long run. Still, even if his homer per rate falls to last year’s rate he’s got something like 20 homers coming the rest of the way. (Note: He tore a callous during the HR Derby, an event which has a history of messing up power hitters. The injury isn’t supposed to be a big deal, but anything that affects a hitter’s hands shouldn’t be ignored.)

Josh Donaldson. Went for $10 in Tout Wars, was earning $22 at midseason. Expectations were low because he really didn’t produce last year and with the addition of Jed Lowrie playing opportunities appeared to be limited in Oakland. Instead, Donaldson has confidently established himself as a power hitter, with an increased walk rate and a decrease in strikeouts. His BABIP and HR/FB are higher than ever before, and it seems likely he’ll end up hitting .280 rather than .310, but it also appears he’s made the adjustment to big league pitching. Now it’s up to the pitchers to block him back. Unless they succeed, look for 12 homers and a .275 BA the rest of the way.

Nate McLouth. Only $3 in Tout Wars, at the midway point he was earning $25. For those who noticed his strong September in 2012 and picked him up for a song this spring, April was very sweet. Since then, he’s been a bargain for the price, but not one of the best offensive players in the game. That’s the player you should expect the rest of the way. His past history has a $30 and $20 season in it, but those were a long time ago. Expect him to hit less than .260 with four homers and 14 steals.

Everth Cabrera. He went for $17 in Tout Wars, and was earning $33 on July 1 despite spending time on the DL. Last year he had a low BA with a high BABIP, which seemed to be a warning, but this year he has the same BABIP and a good BA. His basestealing skills are for real and are rare. He still led the league in steals after missing three weeks with a hammy strain. He’s stolen three bases in the week since he returned, so all seems to be okay on that count. Expect 25 to 30 steals and a BA somewhere between .250 and .300.

Daniel Nava. Was taken in the reserve round in Tout Wars, by Larry Schechter, and at midseason was earning $20. When he was pressed into action in 2012 he impressed at first, but then inevitably slumped some and his season ended in injury. Nava, who is 30 years old, was forgotten after the Red Sox signed Victorino and Jonny Gomes. We would do well to remember that when teams sign someone like Gomes, a power platoon player, they also create an opportunity for someone else. Nava got his chance and ran with it this year, with additional chances because of Victorino’s injuries. Nava has been much the same player this year as last, a mature hitter without special skills, who will hit with a little power (figure six homers) and post a .765 OPS (and .265 BA).

Manny Machado. He cost $14 in Tout Wars last March, and was earning $32 after the first half of the season. Promoted aggressively last year, he’s bloomed this year as a hitter. He’s a free swinger who makes plenty of contact, which thus far has led to a high BABIP and nice BA. The danger here is not that he isn’t capable of making contact and running for a good BA, at least for a while, but it’s a hard thing to pull off for an extended period because pitchers are always looking for a way to exploit your aggressiveness. He should hit another 6-8 homers, with a batting average that could range from .250 to .300 or so, though I would plan on the lower end of the range and hope to be pleasantly surprised.

Domonic Brown. He went for $14 in Tout Wars, and had earned $31 at the halfway point this season. He was a can’t-miss prospect, the scouts said a few years ago, but to those of us who saw him hit (and didn’t see the projectability), he looked like a looming bust. And that’s the way he continued to look the last two years, with dismal stints in Philadelphia punctuating not-great stints in Triple-A. But when I saw him in spring training early in March he struck me as a different hitter, with a shorter stroke and a willingness to go the other way. Others saw the same thing, and though his role was entirely clear he went for a decent price for a guy who had lost his prospect luster. A slow start got everyone doubting, but when he exploded he blew up and by the end of May he was earning $28. He’s improved that in June, and though July has been quieter one senses we’re simply waiting for the next hot streak. If has just one more, look for 14 or so homers the rest of the way, but he’s a prime candidate for a huge September when rosters expand in September.

Matt Carpenter. Tout Wars went to $14 for him, and in the first half he’s earned $25. Questions about playing time kept his price down a little, and had some of us thinking his Tout price was an overbid. Wrong. Carpenter was rightly given the job at second base (when David Freese is able to play) and he’s pretty much performed as he did last year, only with middle infield eligibility. He’s got a higher batting average and a smidge more power, but that should be expected with more experience, shouldn’t it? Figure the BA will come down to .290-.300 the rest of the way and otherwise expect more of the same.

James Loney. Tout Wars price: $8, with midseason earnings of $25. Please indulge my personal grouse here: The last two years I bought Loney for what seemed like discount prices given his history of earnings, and he failed me. This year I let him go for cheap to the Tampa homer, and Loney’s back to being the dude he always was (and the Tampa homer is in first place by a lot). I hate that. Actually, Loney has been more than he’s been in the past, showing more power in Tampa than he had in LA all those years. He’s actually hitting fewer fly balls and more line drives this year, but his percentage of balls leaving the yard is up to a healthy 11 percent. My guess is that this reflects a better more aggressive approach, and as long as he stays focused and motivated earnings in the $20-25 range are sustainable. That means another six or seven homers, but probably with an average closer to .290-.295.

Two Short Notes:

Yasiel Puig‘s hot start is an illusion. It’s fantastic fun, but obviously he’s not going to hit .391 while striking out 24 percent of the time. It’s really hard to tell where he’s going to land, however, and how hard he’s going to fall. Based on the strikeouts and ground balls, I’d expect him to hit .270 the rest of the way, with 10-12 homers, but that’s really just a WAG. If the pitchers figure out the swing sooner he could be in the minors just like that.

Carlos Gomez has added power the last two years, is still fast, and is way over his head right now in BA. Line drive percentage suggests he should perhaps be hitting for a slightly higher average, but he’s currently got a BABIP .040 points above his career number. The power and speed are real, but his batting average should come down closer to .260 the rest of the way.

The JUNE Earnings Report is Here Now!

Chris Davis’s three month scan: $43, $45, $45. Could he be for real?

Matt Harvey’s scan: $38, $42, $46. Where does it end?

See all the prices here.

The MAY Fantasy Earnings Report

The last six weeks was spent immersed in football, which is why this is way late. But still a little useful I hope.

The May Fantasy Earnings Report.

mattharvey Matt Harvey is still baseball’s most valuable pitcher!

Rotoman’s APRIL Earnings Report

Who is earning what in 5×5 roto? To find out please check out the first monthly earnings report of 2013.

These prices add up to draft day prices for the top 168 hitters and top 108 pitchers in each league. Compare expectations to earnings for an idea about which player’s are driving the winning teams in your league, and the failing teams, too.

At Google Docs.

The Fantasy Baseball Guide 2013 Update == Is Out Now! And a correction.

Updated projections and Big Prices for the Guide can be found here.

I just corrected a few projections wins totals from the March 14 update. What happened was I used the mechanical adjustment built into the Patton software to increase the projected value of Verlander, King Felix, and Jered Weaver. The mechanical adjustment gave each of them too many projected wins. Wins are a very arbitrary category, and while any of these excellent pitchers could win 23 or 25 wins, the odds are so much against them doing so that it’s silly to project them to do that. I’ve reduced their win totals. Their earnings suffer, but that’s because they’re projected for the injury risk, which is the best reason NOT to bid up pitchers. They sometimes get hurt, catastrophically.

Of course, when they don’t get hurt the best pitchers are usually the best pitchers, which is a good reason to bid them up to their true value (which is already discounted 33 percent because of the hitter/pitcher budget split). How you land on this question is usually a matter of whether you bought Chris Carpenter in is healthy or unhealthy years, or Roy Halladay last year.

ASK ROTOMAN: Altuve v. Heyward

Hi..

I’m in a 14 team .. 5×5 rotissire league that can keep players for $5 more then they were purchased the year before..

I have Jose Altuve at $1 (can be kept for $6) but I can trade him for Jason Heyward at $16 (Can be kept for $21)..

I’ve always loved Altuve but im not buying his magazine listed price as an over $20 player.. what are your thoughts on that deal???

“Head Over Heart”

Dear HoH:

If you really love Altuve you’ll keep him for $6. He earned $25 last year. Heyward earned $26, not that much more. So the question here is why would you distrust the $22 price in the Guide, and why would you distrust it so much that Heyward would look like a better keeper.

Remember: Who you keep is a function of who would save you the most money above their keeper price on draft day, assuming you want them on your team.

If you don’t want Altuve on your team, that’s fine, but here are some facts:

Last year Altuve earned $25 in 5×5, according to me. According to Alex Patton he earned $24 in 4×4. I think it’s safe to say in an AL only league he earned in the low to mid 20s.

This year, the CBS Sports experts league paid $24 for Altuve (that’s 5×5), while in LABR he went for $19. I think Altuve is worth $22 this year (a 23 year old coming off a $25 season can only be discounted so much), but even if you buy the LABR valuation, you’re saving $13 keeping him at $6.

Jason Heyward earned $28 in 5×5 last year, I say. Alex Patton says he earned $30 in 4×4.

This year, the CBS Sports expert league paid $28 for him, while in LABR he went for $30. I think he’s worth $28 this year, but even if you buy LABR’s price (and I’m not saying that’s wrong), you’re saving $9, which is less than you’re saving with Altuve.

Plus, of course, you’re spending more than three times as much to get the savings. We just gave every rounding edge to Heyward and the numbers still point to Altuve. I think you have to keep the smaller man.

Here’s another way to look at it, assuming 10 percent inflation in your league:

If you throw back Altuve, it’s going to cost you $22 to replace him, based on LABR’s low price. That’s $16 over his freeze price.

If you throw back Heyward, it’s going to cost you $33 to replace him, based on LABR’s high price. That’s $12 over his freeze price.

The bottom line is that you’ll do better freezing Altuve and buying Heyward on draft day than vice versa, even though Heyward is the better and more attractive player overall.

Quickly,
Rotoman

Outliers: Shopping for VMart at Walmart

walmartlogo One of the players my projection and my initial bid price deviated on most was Victor Martinez. VMart was one of the game’s best hitting catchers, but he missed all of 2012 (his age 34 season) with a torn ACL. After earning $26 and $21 the preceding two years before the injury, he would seem to be a $20+ player this year, even while aging. But a closer look made me wary.

Between 1947 and 2000, four players earned 10+ dollars in their 33rd year and then missed all of their 34th year. None of them played again.

In that same time frame, five players earned 10+ dollars in their 32nd year and then missed most of their 33th year. Only one, Danny Tartabull, came back, and he had one $10 season and then retired.

During that same period, four hitters earned $10+ dollars in their 31st year and then missed most of their 32nd year. None of them earned more than $6 the next year, though two did earn $17 in their 34th year.

Obviously these are small samples, but when we widen it to include even hitters who weren’t that good the year before they missed a season, the tendency is clear: Once you’re in your 30s it’s hard to come back.

None of which is to say that VMart can’t come back. He’s swinging a hot bat so far in camp, and is going to be hitting behind Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, which isn’t going to hurt. But while the projection, which doesn’t really figure in the injury, is strong, my sense of where the bargains lay makes me wary. History says he’s not likely to be nearly as good as he was before he missed the entire year, because of rustiness and conditioning and aging issues. I wouldn’t be unhappy with him for $10 at all, but he’s likely to go for more like $17-20. At that level I’ll pass.

Outliers: Finding Disagreement With Myself

Creating my initial Bids and my initial Projections are two discrete processes.

For the Bids I sit with a player’s history of Cost and Earnings, look at his age and any injury information, and try to determine how much I think he’s worth and how much I think everyone else thinks he’ll be worth, since everyone else is who I’ll be bidding against. If I’m way higher than I think the market will be, I’ll shave my bid down so that it will win, but not tower above the competition. And if I’m way lower than I think the market will be, I’ll bump my bid up to just below the market. I want to indicate my predilections, but I’m also trying to describe the market as a whole, so the prices are useful even if you disagree with me.

My projections come in two phases. The first is running a player’s historical data, including a bunch of component parts (batted ball data, mostly), through my projection formula, which also takes into account age and league and home field and league. This gives a rough idea of what players will do but has to be adjusted for playing time, and for changes in roles. After those adjustments the projections run in the Guide, and a similar but more complex set (more categories, mostly, and more time to smooth anomalies) run in the Patton $ software, at first. As spring training progresses I tweak the projections manually, mostly for playing time with veterans, but also to deal with differing situations on teams with platoons and competition and as I get a better sense of new players and their roles.

Once the projections are loaded into the Patton $ software they get priced using Alex’s formula, which is an excellent way to discover what the projection formula is telling me, especially when it differs substantially from the bid price. I’ve been going through the lists, looking at some of the substantial differences, assuming that these are players who might be of special interest this year.

HITTERS (Proj$, PK5)

Mike Trout ($49, $41): The bid predated the reports about Trout’s reporting weight. It assumes he’s not going to be nearly as good as last year, but still plenty good. THe projection is a result of increased playing time, even though he’s projected to not be nearly as good as last year. Verdict: Assuming he can run once the season starts, I would be fine standing by the projection, but I think there’s enough risk of sophomore slump and/or other issues that I wouldn’t bid more than $41.

Albert Pujols ($36, $31): The projection is remembering Albert’s past greatness. Age deductions of significance don’t kick in until the mid 30s. He could be great again, but the trend is clear. Verdict: One reason to bid $31 on Pujols is that he could put up another $36 year. But counting on an aging player to keep running is a mistake. I’ve bumped his projection down a bit, especially the SB.

PITCHERS (Proj$, PK5)

Joaquin Benoit ($15, $1) The bid is wrong. It is the standard bid for a setup guy in 5×5. Especially a guy on a team with a different pitcher named as closer (Bruce Rondon) and at least two other worthy CIW candidates (Al Albuquerque and Phil Coke). But it’s wrong because I’m projecting Benoit to be the closer at some point this year, and to do a good job at it. So, I’m bumping him to $3. That may seem silly, but that’s what he’s worth if Rondon does the job (I doubt it) or one of the other guy ends up the closer. Verdict: Right now Benoit is a closer in waiting. Maybe not even first on line. The reason closers in waiting are valuable is because you don’t pay much for them. So until there’s more smoke, I’m going to keep the bushel on this fire.

Andy Pettitte ($12, $1) He’s 41 years old this year. He only pitched 79 innings last year, and took the year before that off. It’s fine to say last year’s injury was not age related, but not many pitchers stay effective and healthy into their 40s. The projection reflects what he might do if he stays healthy, but the bid is a severe hedge. Verdict: It will be in the $8-$10 range if he emerges from ST in the rotation.

More to come!

ASK ROTOMAN: Calculating Inflation

Rotoman,

Years ago The Fantasy Baseball Guide had a section where there was a formula for inflation in keeper leagues. I think maybe the article was from maybe seven to nine years ago? It may have been even 10 years ago. Would it be possible to have that formula again?

Thanks in advance,
Charles

Dear Charles:

To calculate inflation:

Subtract the bid prices of the frozen players from your total league budget. That leaves you with how much money will be available to spend in your auction.

Subtract the projected value of the frozen players from the total league budget. That leaves you with how much talent will be available to spend in your auction.

For instance, in a 12 team league the total budget is $3120. Let’s say the price of all the kept players is $500. Your league will have $2620 to spend.

If the projected value of the frozen players is $1000, your league will be chasing $2120 worth of talent with $2620 of money. Divide the talent into the money and you discover that your inflation rate is 24 percent.

Note that the inflation is usually not distributed evenly in the auction. You should allocate the $500 inflated dollars to players you want (being realistic about what other players might go for and distributing inflation to them, too). The danger is backing off the best players because their price is 24 percent over the “book” value, letting them go at par, and then getting stuck spending your inflated dollars in the endgame so you don’t leave money on the table.

Largely,
Rotoman

Get Your Mid March Fantasy Baseball Guide 2012 Update Here!

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