Archive for February, 2015

Adam Wainwright, Enormous Draft Risk

Nearly two years ago in this space, we wrote about how Adam Wainwright’s extension was a bargain, given the production he offered compared to the massive dollar figures other players across the sport were getting.

To miss a full season to Tommy John surgery and return without missing a beat while getting back up to speed — Wainwright’s 2012 featured baseball’s sixth-best FIP — is practically unheard of.

Wainwright did it, and then he kept doing it. His 2013 was the best season of his career and might have earned him his first Cy Young were it not for the historic performance of Clayton Kershaw.

In 2014, Wainwright did it again, putting up a career-best 2.38 ERA. He also leads all of baseball in innings pitched over the past two seasons, which doesn’t even take into account the 51 additional postseason frames he contributed. Some guys never make it back the same from elbow surgery, but the post-surgery version of Wainwright has continued to be among baseball’s best.

So when Insider recently put together a “Top 10 Starting Pitchers” list for a national television broadcast that didn’t include Wainwright, Cardinals fans were understandably displeased. When I explain right now why he shouldn’t be considered among the top 20 starting pitchers for 2015, I don’t imagine that reaction is going to improve. But there’s risk here. Lots of it. Read the rest of this entry »

Joey Votto Is Still A Star

Once considered a player worthy of a massive $225 million contract extension, Joey Votto has clearly seen his popularity drop considerably among the Cincinnati Reds faithful. A quick look recently at a popular online forum for Reds fans revealed regular complaints about the hitter Votto “used to be,” that he’s “declining,” that he’s “no longer a run producer,” and that he’s massively, incredibly overpaid.

Reds radio announcer Marty Brennaman recentlystoked the fires by suggesting that if Votto leads the league in on-base percentage in 2015, the team would somehow “be in deep trouble.”

OK, so that overpaid part might be valid — Votto is still due $213 million through his age-39 season — and you can understand the frustration to some extent, considering he hit only six homers last year and didn’t take the field after July 5 because of a pair of quad injuries. At 31, and with three serious leg injuries in the past three years on his résumé, Votto has probably put his MVP candidate days behind him.

But there’s a big difference between “probably not worth the money” and somehow being a detriment to the Reds’ hopes. Reports of Votto’s demise are painfully premature; the seemingly forgotten superstar can certainly be good again in 2015, but he really never stopped being good. Read the rest of this entry »

FanGraphs+ 2015!

As the new baseball year starts, we celebrate here at FanGraphs+ by compiling an annual of sorts. Equal parts fantasy and real, our articles in this annual take advantage of our best resources here at FanGraphs in order to scout baseball players, research topics, and, in general, think about baseball as best we can.

For the non-fantasy player, our 1200 player caps can serve as gentle prods in the direction of the most interesting aspects of a player’s production. Or for a tickle on a rainy spring day. You don’t have to be interested in fantasy baseball to wonder how the clustering of a pitcher’s release point is correlated to their command peripherals, or how changing a team’s on base percentage affects the individual hitters in the lineup. Just be a baseball geek and you’ll love Dan Farnsworth’s breakdowns of a few key hitters and their mechanics at the plate — remember, this is the man that spotted the changes J.D. Martinez made that launched the Tiger into stardom.

But if you are a fantasy player, there’s gobs here for you. We hope you enjoy! It’ll only cost you $5.99 to enjoy the following:

1200 Player Caps
Eventually including all 50+ future value caps from Kiley McDaniel, these player caps will reside right on the player pages once you log in. You’ll also have access to previous player caps, for fun.

The Annual
How Much Does Having Runners on Base Improve a Hitter? by Jeff Zimmerman
Breaking Down Jung-Ho Kang by Dan Farnsworth
The Fringe Five Prospects (Plus Five) by Carson Cistulli
The Importance of Release Point Consistency by Dan Schwartz
Breaking Down Steven Souza by Dan Farnsworth
Japan’s Best, Now and Future by Jason Coskrey
The Daily Fantasy Baseball Compendium by Brad Johnson
Using Minor League Statistics To Find Sleepers by Chris Mitchell
Top 50 Rookies for Fantasy Prospects by Marc Hulet
Predicting the Quality Start by Michael Barr
Developing The Bestest xBABIP Equation Yet by Michael Podhorzer
Breaking Down Jedd Gyorko by Dan Farnsworth
Don’t Call Them Tiers: Fantasy Talent Distribution by Zach Sanders

2015 Batter Profiles: A – B

Jose Abreu

Debut: 2014 |  BirthDate: 1/29/1987 | Team: White Sox | Position: 1B
’14 622 176 36 3 107 80 .317 .383 .581 .411 42.3 -14.4 5.3
’15 611 154 35 3 100 86 .285 .358 .537 .385 30.2 -13.9 4.0

Profile: Abreu put to rest any concerns of not being able to catch up to velocity in his first year stateside, handily winning the Rookie of the Year award with his monster offensive production. Abreu performed like one of the best power hitters in the league in 2014, and he showed no signs that he will slow down in 2015. You may expect some regression in the batting average department, but Abreu demonstrated tremendous ability to make adjustments as pitchers changed their approach to him throughout the year. Not only does he possess top of the scale power, he also is a solid pure hitter, getting hits all over the field rather than having to sell out to hit homers. Expect more of the same this year. (Dan Farnsworth)

Quick Opinion: Abreu stepped into the league and immediately produced like one of its best all-around hitters. 2015 may bring a slightly regressed batting average, but he has the makeup needed to make pitchers pay even when they properly gameplan against him. Another triple crown-caliber season could be in the works if he continues to carry a solid approach into each at bat as he did in 2014.

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2015 Batter Profiles: C

Asdrubal Cabrera

Debut: 2007 |  BirthDate: 11/13/1985 | Team: Rays | Position: 2B/SS
’13 562 123 14 9 64 66 .242 .299 .402 .307 -6.3 -7.7 0.5
’14 616 133 14 10 61 74 .241 .307 .387 .308 0.7 -4.1 1.7
’15 601 132 14 8 61 65 .244 .310 .383 .307 0.6 -5.5 1.6

Profile: As someone who watched most every game Asdrubal Cabrera played in an Indians uniform, I can admit there’s nary a player more frustrating to watch to me. But Cabrera is a better fantasy option than real life, because his bat is actually pretty decent for a middle infielder. He might be more likely to hit 10 homers than match the 25 he put up in 2011, but the power is still good for the position. An early debut perhaps makes Cabrera seem older than he is, but he’s still just 29 and projects as something like a league-average hitter moving forward, which you can live with up the middle. Cabrera has kept the power up by hitting more fly balls each of the last two years, but he’s also moving to a notorious pitcher’s park in Tampa Bay. He might take a playing time cut in his new home in Tampa Bay, if the team needs to look past their one-year stopgap at some point in the season. (August Fagerstrom)

Quick Opinion: Cabrera isn’t a great real-life shortstop, which is why he won’t be playing much more shortstop moving forward, but he’ll qualify at both positions up the middle and actually has a pretty decent bat for the position(s). That being said, he chased more bad pitches than ever last year, and his new fly-ball heavy approach may not be suited for Tampa Bay. You probably don’t want him to start for you in fantasy, but you could do worse, and he’s a solid backup for either position.

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2015 Batter Profiles: D – F

Travis d’Arnaud

Debut: 2013 |  BirthDate: 2/10/1989 | Team: Mets | Position: C
’13 112 20 1 0 5 4 .202 .286 .263 .254 -4.7 0.1 -0.1
’14 421 93 13 1 41 48 .242 .302 .416 .313 1.2 0.6 1.6
’15 502 114 17 2 60 53 .251 .313 .428 .324 5.9 5.3 2.9

Profile: We started writing about Travis d’Arnaud almost monthly here at FanGraphs after his return from Triple-A last year, and deservedly so. I personally noted from August fifth onward, he outdid Yan Gomes’ season line. A more aggressive approach per Nicholas Minnix was a big reason for his success. From pitch-type and discipline perspectives, TDA has little issue hitting breaking pitches; he swings less often than the league at pitches out of the zone and more often than the league at pitches inside the zone. His quality balls in play (line-drive) approach and batted ball spray should ensure counting stats. TDA should be a top 10 fantasy catcher next year. Last year, TDA had the ninth best catcher isolated slugging and contact rate. Only Jonathan Lucroy, Buster Posey and Brian McCann were top nine in both rates and Lucroy’s isolated slugging percentage (.174) was actually ten points under TDA’s. (Dan Schwartz)

Quick Opinion: Kevin Plawecki looming will hopefully motivate TDA. A healthier David Wright and the addition of Michael Cuddyer should mean more RBI-related counting stats for TDA. Batted ball spray and the ability to hit breaking pitches means batting average potential. 120+ games should mean 17+ homers. There is a good chance that TDA winds up as our seventh best fantasy catcher in 2015.

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2015 Batter Profiles: I – L

Chris Iannetta

Debut: 2006 |  BirthDate: 4/8/1983 | Team: Angels | Position: C
’13 399 73 11 0 39 40 .225 .358 .372 .330 3.2 3.4 2.1
’14 373 77 7 3 43 41 .252 .373 .392 .343 10.6 4.2 2.9
’15 416 78 10 3 40 46 .224 .339 .358 .315 2.1 8.8 2.7

Profile: Chris Iannetta may be in for a bump in playing time now that Hank Conger is in Houston, and that could turn Iannetta into a useful catcher in OBP leagues. Iannetta’s greatest offensive attribute is his career 14.2% walk rate which has translated into an OBP north of .350 each of the last two seasons. Even if he surpasses 400 plate appearances for the first time since 2008, Iannetta is likely capped at around 10 home runs and 50 RBI and runs. Meanwhile, he has a .236 career batting average. Even in two-catcher leagues with standard roto categories, Iannetta falls a bit short of draftable. (Scott Spratt)

Quick Opinion: A possible increase in playing time with Hank Conger in Houston makes Chris Iannetta an intriguing deep league option in OBP leagues. In standard formats, he’s more of a mid-tier third catcher.

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2015 Batter Profiles: G – H

Freddy Galvis

Debut: 2012 |  BirthDate: 11/14/1989 | Team: Phillies | Position: 3B/SS
’13 222 48 6 1 19 13 .234 .283 .385 .291 -6.3 0.3 0.1
’14 128 21 4 1 12 14 .176 .227 .319 .243 -6.1 -0.5 -0.3
’15 522 110 11 5 48 44 .226 .269 .353 .275 -16.5 3.1 0.2

Profile: Freddy Galvis missed more than two months of the 2014 campaign because of the fractured clavicle he sustained when he slid into a barrier in foul territory. It’s not as if Philadelphia missed his offense (.176/.227/.319 in 128 plate appearances), however. A 25-year-old whose best season in three with the stick is .234/.283/.385 in 222 PAs (2013), with a minor league resume promising little else, and who plays, essentially, average defense doesn’t sound like a great fantasy bet. Galvis will have a chance to start now that Jimmy Rollins is on the West Coast, so the question is how long Philly will go without a viable alternative. The switch-hitting Galvis offers no power or speed and will surely hit in front of the pitcher when he’s in the lineup. It’s hard to endorse him as a warm body in an NL-only league, even, but maybe he’ll turn out to be one, if his owners are lucky. (Nicholas Minnix)

Quick Opinion: Galvis will have a chance to play shortstop every day, but he’s below-average in virtually all phases of the game on offense. He could be a lukewarm body in an NL-only league, but Philadelphia will probably be open to alternatives that present themselves.

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2015 Batter Profiles: M – O

Manny Machado

Debut: 2012 |  BirthDate: 7/6/1992 | Team: Orioles | Position: 3B
’13 710 189 14 6 71 88 .283 .314 .432 .325 1.1 33.6 6.3
’14 354 91 12 2 32 38 .278 .324 .431 .332 3.5 7.8 2.5
’15 610 152 18 6 69 76 .271 .319 .436 .332 7.1 19.7 5.1

Profile: For a while, it appeared Manny Machado might not be ready to hit at the big league level. His two years of full time play at the big league level featured long periods of terrible slumps book-ended by moments of inspiration. Still just 22 years old, Machado’s numbers were trending in the right direction before injury cut his 2014 season short. He might not walk enough to keep some folks happy, but Machado produces with what appears to be an Orioles model for success: high contact, low walk, high average and power to the gaps. Like Adam Jones and Nick Markakis, in other words. His age and still-developing body, coupled with what appears to be a full-time move to third base (thank you J.J. Hardy!), make it easy to be bullish on Machado’s ability to show off a little more power in 2015. With Machado, it’s all about value. His numbers over the last two years put him on a third base tier with Martin Prado, Chris Johnson, and Trevor Plouffe. But with youth on his side, Machado is capable of delivering much more than that group’s middling results. Staying on the field is the biggest hurdle for Machado to clear before he becomes one of the best third baseman in baseball. (Drew Fairservice)

Quick Opinion: Another season cut short by injury and spurts of great offense make Manny Machado a high risk, high reward player for 2015.

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2015 Batter Profiles: P – R

Jordan Pacheco

Debut: 2011 |  BirthDate: 1/30/1986 | Position: C/1B
’13 262 59 1 0 22 23 .239 .276 .312 .262 -15.8 -5.4 -1.5
’14 165 39 0 0 16 10 .255 .299 .333 .283 -8.1 -5.0 -0.9
’15 103 23 1 1 8 9 .242 .286 .333 .276 -3.7 -0.7 -0.2

Profile: The Rockies, one of the worst teams in baseball, gave up on Jordan Pacheco last season. Pacheco has a sliver of chance of working his way back up the majors, thanks in part to Arizona’s public refusal to sign a catcher. Even if he arrives, Pacheco’s game doesn’t transfer very well into fantasy. That’s pretty much all there is to say about that. (Landon Jones)

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2015 Batter Profiles: S – T

Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Debut: 2007 |  BirthDate: 5/2/1985 | Team: Marlins | Position: C
’13 470 116 14 4 65 68 .273 .338 .466 .349 10.0 7.3 3.5
’14 435 82 11 0 44 43 .220 .320 .362 .304 -5.2 4.6 1.3
’15 428 83 13 2 45 41 .220 .301 .377 .301 -5.3 3.7 1.2

Profile: Jarrod Saltalamacchia stretched the limits of Three True Outcome production in 2014, striking out at a career-high rate while walking more than ever before. Putting fewer balls in play, Salty saw his offensive value dip far below that which he produced in Boston as his power dried up, hitting just .220/.320/.362 with only 11 home runs. Saltalmacchia swung more freely than ever before, whiffing on more pitches and seeing significant drops in his contract rates inside and outside the strike zone. Moving to spacious Marlins Park from cozy Fenway, Salty lost more than 100 points of slugging percentage and, after posting a sky-high average on balls in play in 2013, he hit far more balls on the ground and saw his batting average drop. Pitchers challenged Saltalamacchia with more fastballs than ever before (65% of the pitches he saw were classified as ‘hard’ by Brooks Baseball, up from 57% the year before) and he couldn’t respond, as his meager numbers suggest. If his bat is slow, it’s trouble for the power hitting catcher. If a midseason concussion cost him at the plate and he can bounce back to the league-average hitter from a power-starved position, then it’s sunny days in Miami for the Marlins starting catcher. (Drew Fairservice)

Quick Opinion: After a disastrous season full of whiffs, ground outs, and injury, it’s up to Jarrod Saltalamacchia to prove he can still get around on big league heat.

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2015 Batter Profiles: U – Z

Dan Uggla

Debut: 2006 |  BirthDate: 3/11/1980 | Position: 2B
’13 537 80 22 2 55 60 .179 .309 .362 .303 -8.0 -4.0 0.4
’14 157 21 2 0 10 14 .149 .229 .213 .209 -11.6 -0.3 -0.8
’15 1 0 0 0 0 0 .195 .297 .335 .287 -0.0 -0.0 -0.0

Profile: Needless to say, Dan Uggla’s 2014 [entire tenure in Atlanta] wasn’t quite what he planned, although he’ll likely be the owner of a World Series ring this time next year. That’s where the positives end, though. Atlanta finally, mercifully (for their fan base), cut bait on Uggla after he threw together a .162/.241/.231 line in 145 plate appearances. Outside of that one magical night in Philadelphia in which he smashed two home runs — the only two he hit! — Dan Uggla ddidn’t do anything well in 2014. He didn’t draw many walks, which used to be a hallmark of his game, and kept his on-base percentage respectable. He still struck out a ton. And, most importantly for fantasy players, his power cratered even further. Without power or walks, Uggla simply isn’t a fantasy option, and thanks to his waning production and bad defense he’s likely not an option in real life anymore, either. (Landon Jones)

Quick Opinion: If Uggla is able to make a roster this Spring, it’ll be somewhat shocking. Either way, his days as a productive fantasy option are over, if they weren’t already. Look elsewhere.

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2015 Pitcher Profiles: A – B

Fernando Abad

Debut: 2010 |  BirthDate: 12/17/1985 | Team: Athletics | Position: RP
’13 0 3 0 37 7.6 2.4 0.7 3.35 1.38 3.26 0.3 0.3
’14 2 4 0 57 8.0 2.4 0.6 1.57 0.85 3.25 1.9 0.6
’15 2 2 0 40 7.9 2.6 0.9 3.19 1.20 3.70 0.3 0.2

Profile: Fernando Abad appeared to post a strong 2014 season for several reasons. His 8.01 strikeouts per nine helped, as did his low 2.35 walks per nine. But his 1.57 ERA was more smoke and mirrors than true talent. Abad was incredibly fortunate in the batted ball department, his .211 batting average on balls in play tying for fourth-lowest among 142 qualified relievers. With a career .291 BABIP, it looks like a lot of his fly balls stayed in the yard and were caught by the Oakland A’s defense, owners of the ninth-best outfield Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games. Despite appearing in a career high (and nice) 69 games, Abad managed just nine holds and 13 shutdowns. If you’re in an extremely deep league which happens to count holds, Abad has some use. Outside of that, look elsewhere for your reliever stats. (David Wiers)

Quick Opinion: Probably the fourth or fifth man in the Oakland bullpen, Abad isn’t a terribly attractive fantasy option. He’ll get a few strikeouts and the occasional hold, but isn’t worth rostering in anything but the deepest of leagues.

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2015 Pitcher Profiles: C – E

Trevor Cahill

Debut: 2009 |  BirthDate: 3/1/1988 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: SP/RP
’13 8 10 0 146 6.3 4.0 0.8 3.99 1.42 4.26 1.7 0.9
’14 3 12 1 110 8.5 4.5 0.7 5.61 1.61 3.89 -1.4 0.8
’15 5 6 0 96 7.3 4.0 0.7 4.29 1.40 4.02 0.5 0.8

Profile: Cahill’s 2014 was a mixture of good and bad. The soft-tossing righty allowed plenty of runs with a 5.61 ERA, but his 3.89 FIP and 3.83 xFIP point to better times ahead. Left-handed hitters went wild with a .404 weighted on base average against him. A .350 batting average on balls in play, well above his career average, contributed to the pain. He was substantially better out of the bullpen with a 3.04 ERA and 2.92 FIP in 23.2 innings. The lone bright spot is a healthy 10.1% swinging strike rate, which translated to 8.54 strikeouts per nine. Unfortunately, the good was offset by 4.47 walks per nine. With $12 million owed to him in 2015, the Diamondbacks are looking at an expensive swingman. (Brad Johnson)

Quick Opinion: Cahill will need to learn how to neutralize left-handed hitters if he wants to help out of the rotation. Otherwise, he’s a very well paid long reliever.

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2015 Pitcher Profiles: F – J

Jeurys Familia

Debut: 2012 |  BirthDate: 10/10/1989 | Team: Mets | Position: RP
’13 0 0 1 10 6.8 7.6 1.7 4.22 1.97 6.52 -0.0 -0.3
’14 2 5 5 77 8.5 3.7 0.3 2.21 1.18 3.07 1.1 0.5
’15 3 3 6 55 9.0 3.6 0.7 3.55 1.28 3.41 -0.0 0.1

Profile: Jeurys Familia underwent successful hernia surgery in October: he and fellow Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia had similar surgeries. Familia is expected to be fully healthy by spring training while Bobby Parnell and Mejia will probably fill the closer role. Familia has the outcomes to remain an effective set-up man. He will only be 25 next year and is projected to improve his strikeout and walk rates. His sinker-fourseam-slider repertoire induced close to a 60% grounder rate, which was top 30 for relievers over 30 innings pitched. The “luck” statistics (5.2% homer-to-fly ratio and .264 batting average on balls in play) are likely to regress, which should knock his actual ERA (2.21) up closer to his expected rates of 3.21 (SIERA) or 3.49 (xFIP), but top 20 velocity could keep these outcomes grounded. (Dan Schwartz)

Quick Opinion: With Mejia, Carlos Torres, Vic Black, Josh Edgin, and a hopefully healthy Bobby Parnell, the Mets have an interesting, relatively cheap pre-arbitration eligible (outside of Parnell) bullpen complemented by Familia. That might also make it tough on owners hoping for saves out of Familia. 

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2015 Pitcher Profiles: K – O

Tommy Kahnle

Debut: 2014 |  BirthDate: 8/7/1989 | Team: Rockies | Position: RP
’14 2 1 0 68 8.3 4.1 0.9 4.19 1.19 4.02 -0.2 0.3
’15 1 1 0 20 8.7 4.3 1.0 4.27 1.42 4.13 0.1 0.1

Profile: Kahnle isn’t anywhere near the closer job in Colorado, not even close enough to rack up a healthy amount of saves. He was a serviceable arm in his rookie season, but he didn’t give any indications of dominance. (Brett Talley)

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2015 Pitcher Profiles: P – T

Jonathan Papelbon

Debut: 2005 |  BirthDate: 11/23/1980 | Team: Phillies | Position: RP
’13 5 1 29 61 8.3 1.6 0.9 2.92 1.14 3.05 0.9 1.0
’14 2 3 39 66 8.5 2.0 0.3 2.04 0.90 2.53 2.5 1.7
’15 3 3 30 65 8.3 2.2 1.1 3.42 1.17 3.68 0.3 0.2

Profile: Some figured that the end was nigh for Jonathan Papelbon because of the seven save opportunities he blew in 36 total chances in 2013. The mid-30s righty’s readouts on the radar gun have definitely lost a tick – or three – but he’s still posted some solid peripherals (a 2.78 FIP, 3.50 xFIP, and 2.91 SIERA) in the past two seasons. He revived his swinging-strike rate (12.2%) in 2014 by ditching the two-seam grip, which wasn’t doing much for him. A couple of years with bad walk rates are almost distant memories. OK, enough: This is still a pitcher in decline. Last year, he went back to mostly four-seamers and locating them up often. That could certainly continue to work, but, with that low velo, it might be quite a trick to allow only two homers in a full season again. It’s fair to expect some serious regression in his .247 batting average on balls in play, too, given all its context. Papelbon deserves credit for continually finding ways to stay ahead of the competition. A strikeout rate slowly approaching 20% has reduced his relevance in the fantasy world, however. He’s still good – definitely not great – because he’s a smart pitcher. He’s still fantasy-relevant because his survival skills and hefty contract keep him in that closer’s role. Philadelphia could eventually find a taker who won’t need to feel the same way – although that seems unlikely even in 2015. He’s an adequate second reliever in mixed leagues and could be just a tad overpriced this year. (Nicholas Minnix)

Quick Opinion: Rumors of Papelbon’s demise were premature, but strikeout percentages in the low 20s can’t endear him to fantasy owners. He owes the baseball gods a favor or two, as well, so he may be a tad overvalued in 2015. He’s relevant mostly because he’s a probable source of 30-plus saves.

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2015 Pitcher Profiles: U – Z

Koji Uehara

Debut: 2009 |  BirthDate: 4/3/1975 | Team: Red Sox | Position: RP
’13 4 1 21 74 12.2 1.1 0.6 1.09 0.57 1.61 3.8 3.3
’14 6 5 26 64 11.2 1.1 1.4 2.52 0.92 3.09 2.2 1.4
’15 4 2 32 65 9.9 1.5 0.9 2.33 0.99 2.87 1.4 1.1

Profile: Entering his age 39 season as a bonafide closer for the first time in his career, Koji Uehara’s body of work from 2014 looks remarkably similar to the elite marks he put up in 2013. His strikeout rate fell a few points, but he managed to shave a hair off his already ridiculous 3% walk rate. His swinging strike percentages actually climbed, too. Even though he lost a little over a mph on his already-sub-90-mph fastball, his bread-and-butter splitter could still carry the load. Cracks began to appear in the foundation late in the year, however. His second half FIP was a less sexy 3.86, driven in large part by a jump to nearly two homers per nine innings. While some of this may have just been unfortunate luck, Boston felt the struggles were real enough to “relieve” him from his closer duties late in the year once they exited the playoff hunt. The Red Sox resigned Uehara to a two-year deal, and he’ll almost certainly return as their main ninth inning man. There is still reason to draft Uehara among the top 15 or so closers, but the potential of his late season regression sticking around needs to be baked into his projections. He seems like a prime candidate to be overdrafted on name value and the whole of his 2014 numbers. (Colin Zarzycki)

Quick Opinion: For the first time in his career, Koji Uehara headed into a season as a full-time closer. The 2014 version was a reasonable facsimile of 2013’s fantasy breakout star, although late season gopheritis tainted what looked to be a top-five reliever season. Now headed into his age 40 season, Uehara doesn’t have any overt warning lights. However, savvy owners need to factor in the potential for a decline, meaning he should come off the board later than he did last year.

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2015 Prospect Profiles

Takashi Toritani

Profile: A slick-fielding shortstop with a good eye at the plate, Toritani is the type of player who could find a modicum of success where more athletic players like Kazuo Matsui or Tsuyoshi Nishiokadidn’t. Toritani is coming off a productive year for the Hanshin Tigers, having produced a .313/.406/.415 line, eight home runs, 73 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. He was also second in the Central League with 87 walks, a finish that ended his three-year reign as the CL leader in that category. Toritani is a smart, selective hitter who can grind out at-bats until he gets a pitch he thinks he can handle. His power numbers in Japan — 120 career home runs — are similar to what Norichika Aoki put up in NPB, but Koshien Stadium, where the Tigers play, favors pitchers more than Aoki’s old stomping ground, hitter-friendly Jingu Stadium. Still, Toritani has reached double-digit home runs only once in the past four seasons, and it might be asking a lot to expect to see any kind of surge if he were to move to the majors. Defensively Toritani is one of the best in Japan at shortstop, owing more to pure fielding prowess than the athleticism Nishioka or Munenori Kawasaki displayed. His arm would be greatly tested were he to play shortstop everyday in the majors and he’s probably better suited to second base. He’s also proven to be supremely durable, the flip side of that meaning there’s already a lot of mileage on the tires. Unfortunately for American fans, Toritani took a multi-year deal to return to the Tigers and, now 33, probably won’t ever play in Major League Baseball. (Jason Coskrey)

Quick Opinion: Takashi Toritani reportedly considered coming to America as a free agent in 2012, but remained in Japan after a down year. Now 33, Toritani gave it another shot and ended up returning home. That might be all she wrote for his Major League Baseball chances.

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Developing the Bestest xBABIP Equation Yet

As a projectionist, I am seemingly on a never-ending quest to develop equations for every result statistic. By result statistic, I mean home runs, for example, which are fueled by such skills as hitting the ball far, among others, which itself is summarized by the average batted ball distance we reference here quite often.

Another one of those result statistics is batting average. A hitter’s batting average is derived from two underlying skills — his ability to make contact (strikeout rate) and turn balls in play into hits (batting average on balls in play). While a hitter’s strikeout rate is quite stable from year to year, unfortunately his BABIP is not. It’s one of the metrics we still struggle to explain, with luck considered to play a major role.

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