Lorenzo Cain Hits Lottery

The Kansas City Royals made a surprise run to the World Series this year. Lorenzo Cain was a significant factor in that outcome, relatively speaking. Jeff Sullivan welcomed the center and right fielder to stardom last month. (The anecdote at the beginning is priceless!) The 2014 ALCS MVP kind of arrived.

Fantasy baseball players found Cain to be pretty likable, too. He hit .301 with five home runs, 55 runs, 53 RBIs, and 28 stolen bases. He was the 100th outfielder taken, on average, around the main roto/head-to-head Webiverse, according to Fantasy Pros. His average preseason ranking from the four horsemen was 82nd. He finished 37th, per Zach Sanders’ end-of-season outfield rankings, in roto money earned. That’s tidy profit.

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Steven Souza and Michael Taylor: Buried in Washington

The Washington Nationals have a tip top outfield of Denard Span, Bryce Harper, and Jayson Werth. The trio is productive when healthy, but they all spend time with the team trainer. That’s where Steven Souza and Michael Taylor enter the picture. They’re both thoroughly blocked by veteran studs, and they both have massive fantasy potential.

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Jacoby Ellsbury In The Bronx

In his first season in New York, Jacoby Ellsbury didn’t crack under the pressure of a $153 million contract, hitting in Yankee Stadium didn’t kill his swing and despite something of an injury label, he managed to appear in 149 games, putting together what can only be described as another fine season for those who drafted him as a top outfielder.

At the same time, he struck out more frequently than he had before at the big league level, his batting average finished 20 points below his career mark and he posted his lowest OBP over the course of a full season, finishing 13th among outfielders in Zach Sanders’ rankings despite being tabbed as a top-five option before the year.
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Ryan Zimmerman, Sleeper?

I hate the word sleeper. The very definition of the term in fantasy circles isn’t completely clear to begin with and the players typically labeled as such are just young guys with upside. I tend to define a sleeper as anyone I believe to be undervalued, resulting in strong profit potential. But then that simply makes sleeper and undervalued synonyms. So be it. Anyhow, Ryan Zimmerman…sleeper? It’s odd to consider slapping the label on an established veteran, but considering I drafted him 89th overall in an early slow mock draft, I’m thinking that he may end up falling too far after his injury-marred season.

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Aging Free Swingers (Josh Hamilton vs. Mark Trumbo)

Last year, Mark Trumbo was worth just short of a buck by our end-of-season values. Josh Hamilton cost his owners three cents. They are both free-swingers coming off bad seasons. That is the premise for this article. Flimsy, yes. But it’s happening.

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Steven Moya: The Good, the Good and the Ugly

Steven Moya is not exactly a household name in fantasy baseball. He didn’t make any top 100 prospect lists going into the 2014 season, but the 22-year-old has garnered some recent attention. In AA, he hit 35 home runs this past season and five additional ones in the Arizona Fall league. People are always looking for power, but is Moya an option to consider going into 2015? I will look at three items to consider when contemplating his fantasy value.

Good

Moya started getting attention last season and made our own Marc Hulet’s top 10 Tiger prospects and right now he is the top Tigers prospect according to Baseball America after the Tiger’s traded Devon Travis to the Blue Jays. Moya is a free swinging slugger with little plate discipline. When he did hit the ball, he put a charge in it with the 35 home runs, .280 ISO and an .327 BABIP.

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Deeper Outfielders That Might Be Relevant Next Year

For the purposes of our rankings, we assume that the 75th outfielder is replacement level, basically. That’s why the 75th-ranked Mark Trumbo, worth seventy cents, is the last guy you can round to a dollar. But if you’re like me, and you leave the last few outfield positions for the end of the draft, you’re looking deeper than 75. You’re looking in that 75-100 range for some players that will cost bench prices but produce at starting outfielder levels.

Let’s see if we can find three of those for next year. Let’s go with guys that haven’t been there before — Carlos Gonzalez, Allen Craig, Wil Myers, and Ryan Zimmerman don’t count here, even though they were ranked outside of the top 80. We’re looking for young guys on the way in. But let’s also avoid the prospect types. It’s nice that Mookie Betts, Jorge Soler, Arismendy Alcantara, and Avisail Garcia are good sleepers, but you’ll hear their names many times over.

No, this list is for the grinders, the less-talented, the non-prospects that make up more than half of baseball. What they do have is opportunity.

91) Kevin Kiermaier
There are reasons to dismiss the Rays’ probable 2015 center fielder. His short-sample power numbers were better than expected, for one. He had a .120 ISO for his minor league career, and a .178 number last year. He was caught four of the nine times he attempted a steal, and hasn’t stolen more than 21 bases in a full combined year since A-ball in 2011. His walk rate is below average and was only about average in the minor leagues. His strikeout rate was average (19.5%), his swinging strike rate (9.6%) was worse than average, and his minor league career (18.4%) suggests that contact may not be a strong suit going forward. He had bad platoon splits in the minor leagues (.664 OPS v LHP, .773 OPS v RHP) and those continued in the major leagues (.488 vs LHP, .846 vs RHP). He sat against tougher lefties late in the season.

Okay let’s wax positive instead. Dude’s a highlight reel in center field. And though defense doesn’t score in most fantasy leagues, it should push Keirmaier into regular plate appearances. The Rays don’t field a designated hitter, and Matt Joyce and his exactly scratch major league work in the outfield is the natural fit there. Even if Keirmaier suffers some power regression, his power was developing as he advanced in the minors (he’s added ISO at every stop since 2012). He recently made a mechanical adjustment (added back a leg kick he’d dropped) that he feels helps him with his power, and he also uses his feet to turn doubles into triples. It can also take a bit to learn the major league pickoff move, and Keirmaier was a high-percentage stealer in the minors (73%). If you can use Kiermaier against lefties and bench him otherwise, he could easily give you .260/10/20 type numbers in 2016 — and be an injury away from fulltime work.

97) Robbie Grossman
Might as well label this “and Jake Marisnick.” What’s happening here is mostly about opportunity, and less about talent. Not to say that Grossman is untalented. He walks a ton, and has stolen 15 bases and hit 10 homers over the course of 700 plate appearances. At 25 years old, there’s a tiny bit of projection left in his power, too. He’s a switch-hitter, too, so his upside is a fulltime job in the Astros’ outfield. Even if his major league work against lefties has been unremarkable (87 wRC+), he was better against lefties in the minors and the sample isn’t large enough to be conclusive about his ability to hit southpaws. A full year could give you ten homers, 15 stolen bases and a .240 average, or about what Desmond Jennings did this year on his way to making $4 of fantasy value.

But there is Marisnick there too. And Marisnick has a much better glove, profiling much closer to a center fielder than Grossman. Dexter Fowler has been injured often enough to make Grossman an interesting deep league play, but for him to be useful in mixed leagues, Grossman needs to win the job outright. I’ll take him in the battle, though. Grossman walks almost three times more than Marisnick, whiffs less (both by swinging strikes and strikeouts), has more power, more experience, and isn’t a terrible defender. Marisnick looks like a better fourth outfielder, given his glove. Maybe Grossman is more one to monitor in mixed leagues, and pickup in deep leagues.

167) Rymer Liriano
Honestly, Liriano had the worst kind of debut for a young player. He had one of those debuts where every flaw that was ever put down on his scouting report stepped to the fore and announced itself. Problems with contact? How about a whopper of a strikeout rate (32.2%) held up by a terrible swinging strike rate (13.5%). Unsure his power will translate from the better minor league environments to his terrible major league one? How about three extra base hits in 121 plate appearances and an ISO (.046) worse than Ben Revere‘s (.055)? Iffy defense? Here’s a -12 UZR/150 for you. So yeah, don’t draft Liriano, probably.

But watch his name. Because, with the DH and the state of platooning, even a healthy Cameron Maybin and Will Venable leaves space for a right-handed platoon mate at one outfield position. Seth Smith could end up at first base, or Carlos Quentin could end up on the disabled list. Quentin hasn’t managed more than 350 plate appearances since 2011, and he gets hit by baseballs all the time. Rymer Liriano is the next name on this list, and if Chris Denorfia rode his right-handedness into playing time with worse athleticism, there’s a chance Liriano carves himself out a role. There’s still all those better minor league walk rates, and the fact that Liriano reached and swung less than the major league average in his debut. He should have a better eye than this, he showed speed, and there *might* be more power coming. If Grossman can manage .240 10/15 with lesser tools, Liriano should be option B.

There you have it. All of them look better on a deep league roster, but all three could be mixed-league relevant next year. Stash these names away as the depth charts start to fall into place next spring.


Offseason Fantasy Blockbusters

Ottoneu is a year-round fantasy baseball platform developed by Lord of Shadows Niv Shah. You probably know that. The arbitration period ended on November 14, and trading began the next day. In the writer’s league, FanGraphs Staff Two, a pair of blockbuster trades were consummated on the very first day of trading. Today, we’ll discuss those trades and the perspective of each owner involved.
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Kole Calhoun Delivers a Profit

Heading into the 2014 season, Kole Calhoun enjoyed some sleeper love as the prospect of hitting atop a a solid Angels lineup made him an intriguing outfield option. And despite missing over a month with an ankle injury, he still managed to finish just outside the top 30 outfielders at 33, versus our consensus rank of 42.

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A Little Horsey Named Ben Revere

Revere ranked 25th in Zach Sanders’ 2014 rankings among outfielders.

It’ll probably come off as a copout, but there isn’t much we don’t know about Ben Revere at this point.

For a guy who is super jacked physically, he has no power. The proof of that goes on and on. He’s slugged .340 in his career. He has two career home runs — both came this year. In over 2000 career plate appearances, he has just 44 doubles. Even the 21 triples for someone with his speed is disappointing.

Revere can hit; make no mistake about it he can put the bat on the ball. Since becoming a full-time regular, Revere is 30th in batting average at .293. Cut out his .267 from his rookie season and he jumps to 17th. Read the rest of this entry »