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    Breaking Down The 2015 Fantasy Baseball Ranks

    RotoExperts Staff September 17, 2014 2:49PM EDT
    When you’re looking to build your Fantasy Baseball ranks for 2015, you’re going to look at the stats that your league uses for scoring. That’s not a bad thing, but it isn’t going to tell the whole story. Here are ten stats and trends that you’re likely to miss, numbers that may change your preliminary ranks.

    Starling Marte, who is a good bet to finish inside of ESPN’s Top 20 outfielders on their Player Rater, leads the league with .371 BABIP. At face value, that would indicate some good fortune, but given his skill set, it’s more of a value-saver. Marte is striking out 24.6 percent of the time, a very high rate for someone who has actually helped his owners in the batting average department. The average BABIP of the 20 players that strikeout more often than the Buccos 25-year-old is an underwhelming .314. Sure, the .280-plus batting average is useful, but is it here to stay? More importantly, when regression takes place, how damaging will it be on his counting numbers? I’m thinking twice before making him a Top 20 outfielder on draft night.

    Yangervis Solarte isn’t a player loaded with upside, but there is more than meets the eye to this dual positional infielder. He ranks in Top 20 in Contact percentage, yet his batting average is just .262. The other players that rank in the Top 20 in Contact percentage have a .295 batting average. Again, not someone who is going to win you your league, but a 15-homer, 75 RBI, 75 run season with a .275 batting average is not out of the question as this soon to be second year player matures.

    Looking to gain an advantage at a position without having to spend big to make it happen? Salvador Perez, the Royals emerging star, leads all players that are ranked among the Top 20 in Swing % in Contact rate. I’m supposed to be the analyst, but I’ll let you connect the dots for a player that swings a ton and often makes contact.

    Jose Abreu is hitting ground balls with more frequency than the slap hitting Alcides Escobar, but has managed a high home run total thanks to one of the 20 best HR/FB rates this millennium (28.5 percent). Barry Bonds and Ryan Howard are the only two players since 2000 with consecutive seasons with HR/FB of at least 28.5 percent, and those two have averaged less than one ground ball to fly ball while Abreu is approaching 1.5 GB/FB. Consistent ground balls and an insanely high rate of fly balls leaving the park? His rookie season sounds more like a ceiling than a building block for future production.

    Josh Donaldson has impressive counting numbers at a shallow position … so why does he project as a bust in 2015? Photo: NewJack984

    Josh Donaldson has impressive counting numbers at a shallow position … so why does he project as a bust in 2015? Photo: NewJack984

    Josh Donaldson’s ISO vs. LHP is the highest in the league … by 49 points! He has one more homer against lefties than righties this season despite 276 fewer ABs. Remember in 2001 when Bonds hit 73 record-breaking homers? Well, as the best power hitter against LHP of this generation, he recorded 17 homers, 27 extra base hits, 34 RBIs, 29 runs, and struck out 34 times in 141 at-bats against southpaws.  Donaldson this season: 14 homers, 25 extra base hits, 32 RBIs, 30 runs, and 24 punch outs. Either Donaldson needs to be feared the same way Bonds was against lefties or he needs to be penciled in for serious regression next season (15 homers vs. lefties from 2011-2013).

    Of the 19 pitchers with a 3.00 ERA or better, no pitcher stranded a lower percentage of runners than Garrett Richards. In fact, 34 starters currently have a better LOB% than the future of the Halos rotation (74.9 percent). He was a fringe Top 10 starter without elite run support from an elite offense and with a higher than expected percentage of runs scoring when on base. The devastating injury is likely going to cause him to fall in your drafts … take advantage and remember to thank me.

    Tyson Ross ranks second in the league in GB%, yet his ERA ballooned due to his unreasonably high rate of fly balls leaving the yard (11.3 percent, 20th worst rate in baseball). And by “ballooned” I mean a 2.81 ERA. The fly ball rate is going to dip, as Petco is among the best pitcher parks in the big leagues and a 37.8 percent spike in HR/FB rate is unlikely to be sustained. Even if both come back to the mean a bit, Ross could once again be among the best values in your draft.

    Jered Weaver has received the fifth greatest run support per nine innings in all of baseball and has an xFIP that is 24.3 percent higher than his ERA. Combine that with the fact that his fast ball velocity has now decreased in four straight seasons and you’re looking at a player whose days as an elite pitcher are waning. He’s won 55.8 percent of his starts over the last three seasons (for reference, Clayton Kershaw has won 53.8 percent of starts over that span), allowing him to maintain value despite declining peripherals. You can chase wins … I’ll pass.

    Phil Hughes’ ERA dropped 23.4 percent from his average over the last two years, but his contact rate increased by two percentage points. As much as I preach about opportunity leading to Fantasy production, I think you can see where I’m going with this. An increasing in contact is a dangerous line to walk for a pitcher, especially one that is going to finish this season as a low end SP2 or high end SP3. Let other owners assume that he has figured things out after a handful of disappointing seasons.

    James Shields has thrown at least 3,300 pitches in six straight seasons. That’s over 20,000 pitches. I don’t care what the task is, do it that often and your body is going to react. His fast ball hit a career high in velocity this year and he recorded a career-high in percentage of pitches that were either a fastball or cutter (65.7 percent). I’m not suggesting Shields, who is going to turn 33 this winter, is going to get hurt, but …

    Have ranking questions? Sit/Start quandaries? I take questions of all kinds at all times.

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