Our second entry in the Man to Man series saw Bryce Harper take on Ryan Braun in a young vs aging, injury vs PED, showdown. As of writing this post you, the Fake Team Readers, have cast 136 total votes, with Harper taking home the honors, thus far, receiving 69% of the votes. In today's edition we will venture in from the outfield ranks to take a look at two of the premier power hitting first baseman in the game. But as always, before I get into each player, let's remind everyone how this series works.
I like to think of these posts as a rotisserie baseball exercise of sorts. Come draft season you will be presented with numerous pick em situations, wherein you will have to decide between two players you have projected for similar value in the upcoming season. Many factors will ultimately play into your decision, such as health, reliability and consistency, but it's the ability to make these decisions quickly (and correctly) at the draft table that will bring home your championship season. That is the task at hand today - I will provide my projections and ranks for both of today's players and at the end we'll turn it over to you, the Fake Team Readers, to settle the dispute once and for all.
As mentioned above, we're headed to the first base ranks today, where dingers are a common occurrence for both our players. If draft season were to start today, it wouldn't shock me to see both players selected in the first round and there's no way either lasts through the second. Our first player is the home run king of the 2013 season, Chris Davis. Our second player is affectionately known as E5, slugging first baseman, Edwin Encarnacion.
Both players had exceptional fantasy baseball seasons in 2013, finishing within the top 30 overall according to the ESPN player rater (Encarnacion - 27th, Davis - 4th) If it weren't for some missed time late in the season, another 40+ homer season appeared to be on its way for the slugger north of the border. A quick side-by-side shot of their 2013 rotisserie lines. What comes next might not be work safe.
Chris Davis: 103 Runs, 53 HR, 138 RBI, 4 SB, .286 BA in 160 games.
Edwin Encarnacion: 90 Runs, 36 HR, 104 RBI, 7 SB, .272 BA in 142 games.
We know Davis was the more valuable fantasy commodity in 2013, but can we truly expect another 50+ home run season? What if that number slips into the 40's and Encarnacion plays a full season worth of games in 2014?
My preliminary projections have Davis out homering Encarnacion 44 to 34 next season. Both projections include some regression, but from a different stand point. Edwin will play the 2014 season at 31 years old and while I don't expect his power to disappear (a point I've made about fantasy owners jumping off the boat way too early on "aging" players many times before), the simple fact remains, some regression needs to be built into a sound projection at that age. Davis on the other hand will play the 2014 season at the age of 28. Clearly I must be nuts for not projecting Crush for a 60 homer campaign, right? Well I don't think so. Davis has shown amazing HR/FB rates the last two seasons (25.2% in 2012 & 29.6% in 2013) and there's no question he's as strong as a bull. Two things worry me when it comes to projecting crazy home run totals for Davis next season. The jump in the amount of fly balls he hit in 2013 (45.7%, up from 37.5% the year before) and his continued strike out problem (29.6 K% in 2013).
Both hitters will be doing their work right in the middle of their respective team's line up. Both teams finished in the top 10 of runs scored in 2013 and I'd expect the run and RBI opportunities to be plentiful again in 2014. The ability to surpass 200 Runs+RBI's next season is great for both players and is really a push when projecting this time of year.
We're going to skip over speed/stolen bases as you're not drafting either player due to their wheels. Encarnacion does have the slight edge in terms of stolen base potential next season, with 6-9 stolen bases a real possibility.
Lastly, we'll take a look at each players projected batting average. In 2013 both players held their own, with Encarnacion checking in at .272 and Davis at .286. Going forward I except those figures to swap with Edwin having .280-.290 potential and Davis settling in at .275 or below. Davis' xBA of .284 in 2013 leads me to believe we won't see a massive drop in overall batting average, but the .245 BA he posted in the second half doesn't comfort me either. At the end of the day, if you're getting 30-40+ homers and an average north of .270, I'd say you're doing just fine for yourself.
Now that we've run through the rotisserie categories for each player, it is time to reveal where I have them currently ranked overall and at their respective positions. I currently have both players ranked within my top 12 overall, with Encarnacion coming in at 12th and Davis checking in at 8th. Among first baseman I have both players ranked back-to-back with Davis 2nd overall (behind Goldschmidt) and Encarnacion 3rd. For those asking, Ray and I did not compare first base cheat sheets prior to our posts.
It is now your turn to agree, disagree, debate and pick apart both of these players. Who do you have ranked higher? Who would you rather build your team around? Are you worried Encarnacion will miss a significant chunk of time in 2014? How about the human like second half Chris Davis posted in 2013? Let's hear it.