A post or two ago I promised to take you through the process my dad and I use to evaluate players during the preseason. Steps 1 a. and 1 b. Occur simultaneously. We’ll work on the stats and see what we can discern from those. In addition, we will do an independent ranking based simply on what we like to call the eye-test. I’ll take you through the stats portion over the next several weeks. I like to do those by team, because it helps me learn the players. I follow lots of players during the season, but there are still many that just never seem to make it onto my radar, in any meaningful way. I find this helps compensate for those I only seem to know through the highlights on MLB network. Don’t look for the stars, though. I primarily hone-in on the deep league, middle to late round guys, because those are the rounds that win your leagues.
With that, let’s get started in the A.L. East with the Baltimore Orioles. Folks, this is one loaded lineup. Do you really need me, or anyone, to tell you that Matt Wieters, Chris Davis, or Adam Jones? Didn’t think so. But, what about Mark Reynolds? Lots of power; no speed; no average. From a fantasy prospective, there are two things to consider when drafting a player like Reynolds. The first, like any player on your team, is the stats. First, the basics. Mark ended 2012 with 23 HR, 69 RBI, 65 runs scored (as opposed to the runs that are not scored, I suppose), all while batting a feeble .226. He spent some time on the DL in May, and so he was not able to equal last year’s 534 at-bats, coming to the plate 447 times, in 2012. But it was not necessarily the reduction in at-bats that caused his counting stats to decline from 2011. Reynolds’ Power Index (PX) declined from 200 in 2011 to 166 in 2012. 100 is league average, so the 166 is comfortably above that, but this reduction, combined with a slight decline in his HR/FB from 23% in 2011 to 19% in 2012, helped reduce his HR and RBI numbers. While he strikes out a horrid 35% of the time, he does walk a respectable 14%. So what does this mixed bag of stats mean for next year? The fact that he can take a walk and get on base will help him score runs in a power-laden Baltimore line up. His power is such that I will confidently pencil him in for 30 HR and 80 RBI, but the batting average will drop him down in my rankings. I think his .226 this year is about right, which brings us to the second item to consider if you draft Reynolds; you will need at least one extra .300+ guy to offset his average. (I hear Ty Cobb is a good batting average guy) Feel free to apply this logic to Adam Dunn or Dave Kingman, as well.
Next up is J.J. Hardy. We finally saw a full season from Hardy, but I am not sure we saw the true J.J. How do you have an 84% contact rate, and bat .238? He does not draw any walks to speak of, but that contact rate, even with his 5% walk rate, should equate to a more respectable .265 batting average, which more closely resembles 2011, when Hardy batted .269. Power? Given that three of the past four seasons included a below average power index (78, 85, 133, and 92 from 2009 to 2012) and HR/FB ratio (8%, 6%, 16%, and 10%, during the same time period), I think the 22 HR from this year are more indicative, although still slightly inflated, than the 30 from last year, when we saw spikes in each of those stats. I think the 22 HR from 2012 is probably more of a ceiling. Hardy makes contact, and hits the ball in the air 43% of the time, but given the below average PX, and the average to below average HR/FB makes me a little cautious regarding the HRs, but I will still pencil him in for 18, given his historical performance. Although not one to take a base on balls, I believe there is enough pop in the Oriole line up to allow J.J to contribute in runs. All in all, I think J.J. Hardy will be a nice addition to fantasy line ups in 2013.
Let’s change gears and take a look at a pitcher. Coming into 2012, starting pitcher, Chris Tillman spent most of his time in the minor leagues, first with the Mariners in 2006 and 2007, and then with the Orioles from 2008 to this year. The Orioles brought him up for a look each of the past three years, but he could never manage to keep his ERA lower than 5.40, so he kept a suit case handy, traveling between the majors and minors from 2009 to 2011. Something changed in 2012. He started 15 games at AAA, and just seemed to find himself. He struck out an insane 24.3% of the batters he faced, giving him a more than respectable K/9 of 9.27 to go with a nice BB/9 of 3.02. Since his promotion in 2012, his strikeouts have come back down to earth, but are still respectable at 6.91. to go with a BB/9 of 2.51. Additionally, he throws a 91 mph fast ball. His BABIP during this time period is .227, over 80 point lower than what I expect from Chris, so don’t anoint him yet. Here’s the problem I’m having. There really is nothing in Tillman’s history that says he can duplicate his 2012 season. He will get his strikeouts, and with Baltimore, is a good bet for some wins, but he has historically walked over a batter per nine more than he did this year. In 2012 his ERA was 2.93 his WHIP was 1.06, but he is a fly ball pitcher, and his HR/9 was 1.3. I am willing to take a chance because of the K/9, but I will not pay for his 2012 numbers in a 2013 draft. I think the walks per nine will regress to 3.45, and with this reduction in Command (K/BB), I think his ERA regresses to above 4.00. Without a sustained major league track record, projections are difficult, but I will go with 130 K’s, an ERA of 4.63, and a 1.35 WHIP. Until he proves otherwise, deep mixed league only.
These are three from the Orioles. If you would like my observation and opinion on a player not mentioned above, just leave a comment. I’ll do my best.