Here are the top five fantasy baseball questions facing owners looking to draft Tampa Bay Rays’. There is no point to discussing Evan Longoria, so I am ignoring him and looking elsewhere…
5. Is Desmond Jennings a stud? At age 27, Desmond Jennings has come into the prime of his career with a stench of disappointment. After a scintillating debut in 2011, Jennings looked like the good Carl Crawford with more power. Now, he is just another good player that keeps getting overvalued based on hype and hoped-for improvement. His skill set has not improved a whiff since his debut and his SBO% has plummeted, making a 15-15-.250 season a likely outcome. Despite these issues there is always hope for a youngish player coming into his prime and whether he gets to be a stud or a dud is impossible to tell.
4. What will Wil Myers do for an encore? The sad answer is most likely that “he will flop.” His rookie season was great on the surface, but his batting skills leave a lot to be desired. He struck out a ton, did not take a lot of walks and had an actual BA more than 30 points higher than his expected BA. Add in a BABIP of .370 and a 15% HR/FB rate, both of which are unlikely to be repeated, and his owners are looking at a dog. Unlike Jennings, it is possible that he is a future MVP candidate and if he is then we expect across the board skill improvement in year two. Time will tell, but there is no fantasy pundit that “knows” what will happen. The problem is that if you temper expectations you will never get him.
3. Can the young starters develop into stars? This question is as relevant to fantasy owners as it is to Joe Maddon. They have a strong development record that cannot be denied, so the short answer has to be that at least one or two of the young guys will blossom into a $25 starter. It is easy to say Matt Moore or Alex Cobb, but we will go in a different direction and say Chris Archer, for kicks. In the second half of the season Archer had a 95 mph average fastball velocity, good for second best in the AL. His swinging strike rate should improve on last year’s mark, and as long as his control does not go backwards he will be a stud and just might end up as their best pitcher, Cobb and Price be damned. This is more of an “Are You Crazy” type prediction, but one that you should heed.
2. Will Ben Zobrist rebound? Zobrist disappointed his owners last year, and, at 33 years old, is old enough where the end is theoretically near. On the flip side, he is a premium PPOBY, and this writer is buying. Taking a close look at his skill set there is no skill erosion with the bat that is more than what we expect from randomness. So, is the age an ex post facto excuse for a poor year or is it a legitimate concern? Put me in the “excuse” category; his bat will rebound. The biggest problem is the SBO%, which dropped by 50% last year. His linear weighted speed has not dropped at all in the last four years, so place your bet on it being just a matter of a poor success rate that was not a speed skill decrease.
1. Is David Price still an Ace? Of course the answer is “yes,” right? Not so fast. It is easy to think so, but let’s face facts: he was a good but not great pitcher outside of 2012 and does not have the skill set of a true ace. He does not have a great K/9 and does not get ace-level swinging strike rates. His skill set has been very consistent in that regard and in almost every other regard as well.
Well, except in one area—last year his BB/9 made a great leap forward to 1.3, and THAT is an ace-level skill even with a K rate less than 8 or 9 per nine IP. If that improvement is real (and it has improved five years running) and his GB% gets back to the 50% range then he is an ace even at 7 K/9. After losing more than half his value in 2013 from 2012, he might be ready to double 2013’s value.
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