Almost a year ago, I introduced what I've since taken to calling Equivalent Fantasy Average. It's a sorting tool designed to boil players down to their core fantasy-only abilities.
For example, a player who hits .270, with 20 homers, 60 runs, 70 RBI and 15 steals is good. A player who does all those things with great defense and 45 doubles is better. But for fantasy only, Dude A and Dude B are the same dude.
I've found that in fantasy, we sometimes get bogged down in outside factors when it comes to player evaluation. It can be significant unrelated (Delmon Young is a bad baseball player; his alleged anti-Semitism is why I don't think I like him personally, but should be irrelevant to any fantasy evaluation), but it can also be tangentially related but unhelpful.
For example, coming into last season, Andrelton Simmons was the 13th-ranked shortstop in our consensus rankings. That was in part because he had 17 home runs in 2013 and was only 24, sure. But this was also a dude who had a .248 batting average and only six steals, and who had hit for more power than anyone expected or than he appeared likely to repeat.
No, if you ask me (I was also the lowest on Simmons last year, but that's neither here nor there), a big part of the reason why many of our rankers thought Simmons was some great shakes entering last season was that we kept hearing about him. And the reason we kept hearing about him was because of his glove. Dude is a game-changer on defense, the best fielder in baseball. That's great, and at the very least we know that facet of his game is going to keep him on the field, but beyond that, it is absolutely irrelevant for fantasy. Simmons could have Billy Butler's glove, and if he's playing shortstop with it, he's the same guy.
So Equivalent Fantasy Average was (is) my attempt to excise those unnecessary details from a player's fantasy evaluation. It's gone through some changes as I've refined it, and I've introduced a pitcher version - look for that update sometime (I don't know when; I'm so daggone busy). I'm still open to input as far as refining it, because heaven knows I ain't perfect. But below you'll find the 2014 EFAs for each position, and then an overall-offense breakdown. I've included some thoughts after each position. (As a reminder, players are listed under every position they were eligible for in Yahoo! in 2014, and there's a 300-PA minimum.)
- We spent all year talking about how Jonathan Lucroy was the new BMOC at the position. And he was great, to be sure, beating Buster Posey 6.3 to 5.7 in fWAR on the season. But that was on the back of a strong defensive performance; on fantasy-related offense, Posey had more homers (22-13), a higher average (.311-.301) and more RBI (89-69) than Lucroy. They were essentially tied in runs scored, meaning Lucroy's only real fantasy advantage over Posey was a 4-0 lead in steals. Posey didn't equal his MVP campaign, but he was still great.
- The Indians had two of the top five catchers in fantasy last year, with Carlos Santana third and Yan Gomes fifth. This is an example, though, of where a player gets dinged for his unconventional offensive contributions - if EFA were calculated by on-base percentage rather than batting average, Santana and his super-walkability would rate even better.
- The Braves are crazy if they think Evan Gattis can be a full-time outfielder, or even close to that. He is a power-only bat who doesn't contribute anything else even in fantasy let alone his real-world inabilities. I have to think there's an American League team who could use an occasional catcher and DH like Gattis, because that dude in the outfield is askin' for it.
- I would give good money to see what Wilson Ramos could do in a full season of playing time, but at this point, he's 27 and it seems like we'll never see it. Shame.
- Basically a month into the season, Jarrod Saltalamacchia was hitting .310/416/.595 with six homers, and I was feeling really good about having ranked him highly in the preseason. And then over the rest of the season, he hit .194/.290/.294 with only five more home runs, and I was feeling less good. He ended the season as one of the worst full-time catchers for fantasy, and I was shame-faced.
- With 12 games at first base last year, Jose Bautista wormed his way into the position, and finished No. 2. Yahoo! is particularly generous in positional designations, so Bautista might be eligible there next year as well, but I'd have to imagine anyone who uses him will do so as a first baseman.
- Todd Frazier is even more sure of being 1B-eligible in 2015, as he logged 43 games there this season. Again, I'd have to think you're using him at third, but flexibility is flexibility.
- Lucas Duda had a great season (11th in the bigs in home runs), but still has shown no ability to hit lefties (.273/.372/.543 against righties last year; .180/.264/.252 against lefties). He'll be 29 by the time next season starts, and while he definitely has a role, it's as the dominant side of a platoon, not as a full-timer.
- As much as we all mock Ryan Howard and his contract - and it's justified, as he can't field, run, or hit lefties - he still had a reasonable fantasy year, buoyed by 23 homers and run production in a cushy lineup spot. He'll never again by all-caps RYAN HOWARD, but assuming nothing else major changes, he is, dare I say it, mildly underrated for fantasy.
- This hurts me to say, but I have a feeling that, after his strong postseason, we'll actually come into 2015 overrating Eric Hosmer. He was bad last year for fantasy, not even reaching 10 homers or 60 RBI, and putting up a career-low four steals. His .270 batting average was below his career average as well. I'm sure I'll be on the Hosmer bus again next year, because this is who I am, but don't let October cover over April-September.
- Jonathan Singleton had a decent power season - 13 homers in 362 plate appearances - but didn't do much of anything else. Dude his .168, which just isn't tenable no matter how many home runs you're hitting, and if he were on literally any other team but the Astros, he wouldn't have finished the season.
|51||Tommy La Stella||ATL||.231|
- Jose Altuve's .314 at second base was second only to Mike Trout at any position. The little dude had a monster season, with a .341 batting average, 56 steals, even tying his career high with seven homers. And this dude is *gulp* younger than Eric Hosmer. Oh, he could be fun.
- Ian Kinsler at second base: .297 EFA. Prince Fielder at first base: *ERROR 404*. Aw, man.
- It's tough to find any way to argue 2014 wasn't the worst year of Dustin Pedroia's career; in general, the only season with lower counting stats (occasionally, not universally) was 2010, when he was limited to 75 games, and that year was one of Pedroia's best my rate stats. So, if you're a Pedroia backer, you have to take heart in the hopes that his wrist surgery in September will have him back to himself next season, even as he turns 31.
- Dude, Stephen Drew was bad.
- Miguel Cabrera did log 10 games at third base this year (eight starts), so it's possible Yahoo! will continue to have him eligible at the position next year - their position-determining algorithm is far beyond me. If he is, that'll be nice and helpful, and any time you can get a third baseman out of a first baseman, do that.
- Cabrera is also a nice illustration in expectations. He hit .313/.371/.524 last year with 25 homers, working out to a .306 EFA at third base, and in general we remember that as a disappointing year.
- You can compare how positions set up next to one another by looking at guys who qualify at multiple. For example, Carlos Santana has a .278 catcher EFA, a .271 first base and a .276 third base. That basically jibes with the thinking that catcher is shallow, third base less so, and first base reasonably deep.
- For playing on such a big-market, always-in-the-news team, Justin Turner had a great year that no one is talking about. Sure, it was only 109 games, 322 plate appearances, but dude hit .340/.404/.493. That was a 155 OPS+, and I honestly didn't realize it until I was wondering how his EFA was so high.
- Mike Moustakas is another candidate for overrated-in-the-preseason next year, as his relatively hot bat in the playoffs helped to obscure his abysmal season at the plate.
- Dee Gordon played zero games at shortstop last year, so even figuring in the positional generosity of Yahoo!, he's probably done qualifying there.
- His last game was July 19. He played only 91 games total. And yet Tory Tulowitzki finished fifth among shortstops in EFA, because when he played, dude was incredible. I think the strategy around him for next season has to be to draft him early, but do so knowing you'll have to burn a 12th-, 13th-round pick on another start-worthy shortstop to fill in when he inevitably gets hurt. Because the upside is just so damn up.
- In the 2008-2009-2010 range, I would often stumble into Stephen Drew as my starting shortstop by virtue of waiting forever at the position. He was never a superstar, but he always did enough to make it worth my while by letting me get depth at the other positions. The problem was that I kept doing it for a year or two after Drew's production went in the tank. A .278/.352/.458 out of your 17th-round shortstop is fun; a .223/.309/.348 is untenable. Well now I find myself doing it with Elvis Andrus, who managed only a .263/.314/.333 last year, and his 27 stolen bases marked a dropoff of 15 from 2013. He's only turned 26 in August and he's still an elite defender, but I'll find it hard to invest in him in fantasy next season.
- Remember how excited most people were about Jean Segura, and how I was much, much cooler? He was the No. 21 shortstop in EFA. (And no, I'm not pretending I'm perfect - remember the Saltalamacchia interlude up in catchers. I just can't even pretend to be surprised by Segura's rough year.)
|Alejandro De Aza||CWS/BAL||.254|
|Eric Young Jr.||NYM||.243|
|117||Jackie Bradley Jr.||BOS||.226|
- Oh, hey, Mike Trout, being obviously best and everything. Good to see you.
- Giancarlo Stanton would have finished second at the position by himself if not for that injury that ended his season. Even then, he finished in a tie with the out-of-nowhere Michael Brantley, who had himself a year, y'all.
- Also done qualifying at the position he had qualified at before is Lucas Duda, who logged exactly one game in the outfield last year.
- Shin-Soo Choo, .248. Man, things did not go well for the Rangers last year.
- On the other hand, Josh Hamilton, .246, so the Rangers have also made some good calls.
- As much as we mock him, B.J. Upton did have a better fantasy season than Choo, than Hamilton, than Carlos Beltran and Bryce Harper and Michael Bourn. Sure, he played 141 games and a lot of those guys didn't, but that's part of it, yeah? I'm not claiming Upton is good, but for fantasy he's actually become a little underrated.
|Alejandro De Aza||CWS/BAL||.255
|Eric Young Jr.||NYM||.244|
|258||Jackie Bradley Jr.||BOS||.227|
|Tommy La Stella||ATL||.227|