Even though the games don’t count for anything except for conversation pieces at the water cooler at work, baseball is officially unofficially back and part of our lives again.
The Reds won. Yoenis Cespedes hit a grand slam. Marcus Semien hit two bombs, including one off of Madison Bumgarner. The Pirates import went yard. Baseball things were happening.
And this is only the beginning. The weather is still awful here in Ohio but soon the snow will melt and spring will bring renewed hope and baseball games that count. And sunshine in the morning. But it would still be nice to take about three weeks off work, drive down to Florida and go to a few Spring Training camps. I’m going to do that someday if I’m ever successful enough to make it happen. That’s a big ‘if’.
Since we’re fantasy baseball nerds, we’ll be running down as much of a commentary as we can prior to your March fantasy drafts. If you’re having a draft before then, you’re violating a major man-law. Don’t do it. You’ll inevitably draft some guy who breaks his nads installing a hardwood floor or something. Here are our top-20 Outfielders for fantasy baseball 2014. We’re running this down similar to the guys at Razzball, though we could never pretend to be of the legendary status they’ve achieved.
1. Mike Trout: Until the younger bull knocks the old bull off the hill (Trout is the old bull in his age 22 season, didn’t you know?) you have to keep putting this guy here and leaving him alone. We just hope you were one of the lucky bastards who snagged him late and were able to keep him after that lackluster cup of coffee in 2011. That was so, so long ago. We figure Trout finally wins that MVP award, hits 30 homers, drives in around his career-high 97 and steals close to 40 while hitting around .320 again. No regression in sight.
2. Andrew McCutchen: There’s just no reason to move an MVP much when he’s entering that magical age-27 season. He wasn’t as Heavenly as his 2012 last season, but he was still remarkable and helped owners win a lot of leagues. What is there to say that hasn’t been said (that’s what we hate about these rankings at the top, everyone has these guys up here). McCutchen is a Ferrari, get him in your garage if you can.
3. Carlos Gomez: This is the guy we’re pretty proud of. He was our major sleeper heading into 2013, and he finally put it all together. What we love about Gomez is he’s a guy who seems to want those stats for you. He steals bases when his team is up big, he challenges for the extra base, he isn’t happy settling with that three-hit night. He plays the game hard and we think the power could enjoy another slight up-tick in 2014. The only thing about Gomez that sucks is when he takes away home runs from your other fantasy players playing center field. He owes Jay Bruce several.
4. Giancarlo Stanton: Big Mike struggled last season hitting .249, but he’ll enter 2014 with major motivation: play so well he can escape Miami for greener pastures and a mega-deal soon following. This will be the year that he eclipses 40 home runs if anyone does in the National league. This will be a .900 OPS season. This will be the year he finally plays like a first rounder. As they say on eBay, bid with confidence.
5. Carlos Gonzalez: 2010 seems so long ago when he finished third in MVP voting. Since then he’s missed time each season but was still spectacular when he was on the field. The only question with Gonzalez is health, if you believe he can stay healthy he will be stellar and steady. He’s not going to go out there and hit .260 at Coors Field. It’s just not going to happen. A solid first-round guy if he can play in 140-150 games.
6. Adam Jones: He’s in a great lineup, he’s in a nice hitter’s park, he’ll be just 28, and he’s baseball’s closest present-day version to Eric Davis. What we like most about Jones is his games played the past three years: 151, 162, 160.
7. Bryce Harper: Someday soon the nagging injuries that drive fantasy owners like us nuts will end, and Bryce Harper will have the biggest numbers of his young career. It’s not too much to ask for a player like Harper to post an average in the .280-.290 range with upwards of 35+ home runs and over 100 RBI and runs scored. We don’t look for him to steal many more than 10 – he’s bulked up – but that power is coming in a big way. He hit .344 and 9 HR in April last season. If he can put that together over a full year like he’s going to try to do……
8. Jacoby Ellsbury: We don’t like that he’s turning 30. We don’t like that he misses monstrous amounts of time about every other season. We do like that he is in that hitter’s park in the Bronx and think he offers 20-50 potential. Solid bet to be very good in the near-term. I want no part of him in a year or two though.
9. Jay Bruce: The Reds are going to have an average year. Jay Bruce is going to have a career year. He’s entering his age-27 season. He’ll get as close to 40 home runs as he has yet and he’ll hit around .275, and with Bruce what you’re buying is the consistency. A lock for 30+ home runs and 150 games played. His slumps will make you want to drown kittens. His hot streaks are other-worldly.
10. Ryan Braun: He’s really not going to miss a beat when he returns from his little hiatus in 2013. He’ll be the same old Braun, which is video-game numbers. It won’t be his career year, but short of that you’re getting one of the top sluggers in baseball with some steals, albeit a few less steals and probably a few less homers. All things considered, a guy we would love to have; even with the cheating!
11. Justin Upton: So now the world knows that he’s not the second coming of Ken Griffey Jr., and that’s okay! What Upton is, is just a pretty good player. And he’s going to be more comfortable in his second season in Atlanta. Something about Upton worries us a little bit; but when we think about it it’s just the poor taste he left in our mouth in 2012. Even then, he was pretty solid. He’s deserving of this high ranking.
12. Shin-soo Choo: He’s going to score a lot of runs out in that Texas heat and don’t be surprised if his numbers improve across the board in a lineup full of threatening hitters.
13. Yasiel Puig: There will be no in between for Puig in 2014. He does not simply maintain; he either becomes full-fledged fantasy superstar or completely collapses in his sophomore campaign. We’re talking .240 or .315ish with power and steals again. Either way, it’s going to be VERY entertaining. Biggest risk factor of anyone in these rankings.
14. Jose Bautista: He may be quickly approaching his decline. He is at an age where it is reasonable for a lot of players to lose bat speed and miss time to injuries. But we believe enough in Joey Bats’ skills to say he will provide one more glorious summer in the sun for fantasy owners. A return to the 30’s in HR, 100 RBI, and an OPS in the .900s for those that believe.
15. Jason Heyward: We don’t really plan to target him – which is why he’ll inevitably break out. If that’s not a good enough reason, keep in mind he’s playing for a monster contract. If you believe what the scouts originally said about Heyward back entering 2010, that huge year is coming this year or next.
16. Allen Craig: The guy with two first names always wrecks shit when he’s in the lineup. He’s a .300 hitting machine in a baseball town where everything seems to line up nicely for that organization. He’ll probably have a DL stint included, but if you can weather that storm you’ll get a .300 average, 20+ homers, near 100 RBI, and peace of mind rotating him between OF and 1B.
17. Matt Kemp: Another guy we don’t want to own, in part because his risk is not worth the overpay it will take to land him on draft day. If for some reason the bargain exists in the middle rounds – take a flier on the guy. The decline might only be a season or two away, but for now Kemp has something to prove and will be taking the field for a team with World Series expectations. It should be a nice year for the back of his baseball card.
18. Starling Marte: A lot of people out there will shy away from putting Marte in their top-20 because it’s too out on a limb. His power numbers should improve and he’ll be a realistic possibility for a 20-40 season. His average should not dip much further than .280 because speed like his doesn’t slump. An .800 OPS player who will be 25. The soon to be Pirates outfield of Marte, McCutchen, and Polanco could be a lot of fun.
19. Yoenis Cespedes: Why do I feel like the guy is probably older than his listed age of 28? He’s probably like 34, but these damn Cubans are ageless wonders with their chicken blood voodoo cocktails. If you want a projection on him an average of his first two seasons is fair to expect: 25ish HR, .265-.270, 81 RBI, 12 steals, 70 runs.
20. Domonic Brown: The bottom line is power comes at a premium these days in baseball. Gone are the days where any number of middle infielders slug 27 home runs for you and drive in 80-plus. For that, you’ll need to pick up a guy like Brown who should continue to hit home runs in bunches. If it wasn’t for an injury he would have easily entered the 30-homer club. He’ll be inducted in 2014.
It didn’t matter that he wasn’t an All-Star, Yoenis Cespedes stole the show tonight in the Chevrolet Home Run Derby.
Cespedes hit 17 home runs in the first round of the contest, which was the best of any round total for a player. He basically took two hours off after that and prepared for the final. The showdown was The Cuban vs. The Kid, with Bryce Harper and his father Ron as his pitching coach opposing Cespedes in the finals.
Harper led off the final round with a strong eight home runs, but you could tell in watching him it was a struggle to hit those eight. By the time it got to Cespedes as the final hitter of the night, he had plenty left in the tank. He homered nine times while only using five outs to take home the title.
Altogether it was a great derby. It was entertaining, and I didn’t find myself fighting the urge to change the channel like in those past years; for whatever reason.
As part of our preview for the upcoming 2013 season, we’ll be doing a 10 Bold Predictions for 2013 series that will be featured between now and Opening Day. Our third prediction: Yoenis Cespedes collects more MVP votes than Robinson Cano.
Robinson Cano has been one of the best hitters in baseball over past several years. His three year averages: .311/.370/.539, 30 HR, 107 RBI, 104 runs, and 5 sB. The 30/100/100 mark is a milestone and when someone averages that over three years in an increasingly pitching dominated era, it’s incredible. He has finished 3rd, 6th, and 4th in the MVP race in the past three years. It seems like any year now he is going to win it. Well, it’s not likely to be this year. Let me get this out there to start. In no way is this prediction based on the fact that Cano will be meaningfully worse this year, but the Yankees lineup is not going to be great this year and two of these stats depend in part on his teammates – RBIs and runs. In each case, Cano only contributes half of the contribution to the stat. I don’t think Cano will go over 100 in RBIs or runs this year. His average should maintain over .300 and the o/u on his HRs this year is probably 30. Still a great year, but it won’t stack up against his previous seasons.
Let’s look at the other side of the coin, Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes came to Oakland last year from Cuba. It was a bit of a surprise that Oakland spent on what was basically a free agent, but I suppose they saw more value than anyone else did. Cespedes’ rookie year was going great, certainly overshadowed by Mike Trout, but great nonetheless. However, he only got to play in 129 games last year due to a wrist injury. What could he have done with a full season? His 162 game averages were .292/.356/.505, 29 HR, 103 RBI, 88 runs, and 20 SB. Take a few counting stats off for a 158 games season and his numbers don’t look too far off of Cano except exchange some runs for some SB. Cespedes isn’t a young rookie, he’ll be entering his age 27 season this year. Cespedes has always been rated as plus raw power with speed to match so the 30 HR/20 SB averages aren’t too surprising. The .292 average to go with it is what can set him apart from the typical power/speed outfield type. In a season where the overall average with .260 you can count the guys on two hands who can hit for average, power and steal plenty of bases.
Part of this prediction is based on the fact that the MVP is voted on. It’s not a mathematical calculation of who had the best year. Although Cano possibly has the advantage of being in a bigger market, the media is national enough that Cespedes will get plenty of press, especially if Oakland comes close to their 2012 season. Another great year from Cespedes will be exciting as he is still relatively unknown to the casual fan and he could still have the “breakout” year narrative since last season was cut short by injury. I don’t think either of these guys will necessarily win the MVP, but we can count the votes at the end of the year. Check back to see if I’m brilliant or a complete idiot, or a little bit of neither.
The San Francisco Giants may have taken home the World Series title, but they weren’t the only team in the Bay Area to grab our collective attention last year. The Oakland A’s, of Catfish HunterBash BrothersMoneyball regular baseball fame, had a great year and, in combination with a Texas collapse, rallied to actually win the AL West in 2012.
Let’s take a closer look at the A’s.
Major Off-Season Moves:
Acquired John Jaso in 3 way from Seattle. Jaso is good young player and will be a sneaky great addition for the A’s
Acquired IF Jed Lowrie from the Houston after he made a temporary home their. Lowrie made like $20/hour, so he was way too much for the Astros.
Signed Hiroyuki Nakajima from half across the world in Japan. They hope he is better than Kaz Matsui.
I think the Jaso and Lowrie trades were great deals for the A’s but, in typical fashion, they weren’t flashy this offseason. If Brad Pitt knows anything, it’s how to acquire players below market value. Side note: we discussed one of Jaso’s most important features here when the trade was made.
Now on to who is going to take the field this year.
We survived Tebowmania and Linsanity, now it’s time to help think of a catchy phrase that will captivate the sports world that follows every at-bat of the (presumably) young Cuban sensation of the Oakland A’s.
These two AL West teams split the Tokyo series and now will return home to American soil to play their remaining 160 games. Josh Reddick homered immediately after Cespedes, and Justin Smoak accounted for the lone Mariners run with a bomb of his own.
The good news is that now we can all settle in, because the next games played that count will be the real deal variety of openers and we’ll have a lot to focus on in just a short while.
While you were sleeping this morning, the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics played 11 innings of baseball to kick off the 2012 season. This bonus baseball resulted in a 3-1 triumph for the Seattle Mariners, which kind of sucks for the Oakland A’s seeing as how they gave up a couple of home games to go over to Japan and play the Mariners for the good of the game.
Things began mostly as they should have. Felix Hernandez went 8 innings and got one lonely run of support for striking out six and walking nobody. Ichiro went 4 for 5, and Dustin Ackley was what we like to call the whole damn show. He homered to open up scoring, stole a bag, doubled in the run to break the tie in the top of the 11th and then scored on an Ichiro single.
Cliff Pennington had two hits for the A’s and Yoenis Cespedes went 1 for 3 with a double in his big league debut.
I am so happy that we have real baseball. I can’t wait for the American soil version a week from now.
Everyone ready for the start of the 2012 MLB season tomorrow morning at 6 am sharp? Mariners-A’s in the Egg Dome in Tokyo. Yoenis Cespedes, King Felix, Brandon McCarthy, and Eric Wedge are all part of a cast of characters who help us kick off another big league season. Things are starting to feel exciting in these parts.
Now get your fantasy lineups set, make sure your alarms are ready and get a few hours of sleep before we wake up and start tabulating those counting stats for six months plus.