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By the Numbers: Rounding up the sophomores

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From Mike Trout to Mike Fiers, rookies have been stealing the headlines this season. Players who entered the season as prospects are now starting to establish themselves and Fantasy owners are already anticipating how well they might be able to perform as sophomores. We will have to wait until next year to know how what their fates will be, but the wait is over for getting the verdict on last season's rookie crop.

The 2011 season had its own impressive cohort of rookies, and now that many of them have played the better part of two years in the majors, we can do a better job of gauging their long-term value. This week, we'll assess the body of work turned in by 14 hitters who exhausted their rookie eligibility a year ago. Some have also exhausted Fantasy owners with their sophomore-year letdowns, while others have taken their games up a notch. Lurking behind the wavering Fantasy stats are the skill indicators that can give us a better indication of how these young stars will perform in 2013 and beyond.

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I haven't forgotten the 2011 rookie class of pitchers; we'll look them over next week. But for now, let's give the hitters our full attention. Stats are current for games played through Tuesday, August 7.

Dustin Ackley, 2B, Mariners: Most of the hitters reviewed here have experienced some change in their skill profile this season, but Ackley's peripherals are practically clones of last season's. That might come as a surprise, because his Fantasy stats have not been up to his 2011 standards. Ackley's decline is largely tied to his sluggish doubles rate, as he is on pace for just 23 two-baggers. That rate, in turn, is the likely result of a .064 BABIP on flyballs, which is roughly half of a normal rate. Given that Ackley is right around his home run pace from a year ago, a decrease in power doesn't seem to explain his lack of doubles. That makes Ackley a strong bet to rebound rest-of-season and next year as well.

J.P. Arencibia, C, Blue Jays: Probably more than anyone else on this list, Arencibia has met -- but not exceeded -- the expectations he set for owners with his 2011 performance. Arencibia has hit for a higher average this year, though he has offset that with fewer walks. With similar power numbers to last year, his OPS is up only 25 points. Arencibia's hand injury has put a dent into his 2012 Fantasy value, and the potential emergence of prospect Travis d'Arnaud puts next year's value in some doubt. Assuming Arencibia finds a way to claim regular at-bats, he should be the borderline No. 1/No. 2 catcher he was this year, with a little bit of upside, as there is room for him to cut back on his strikeouts.

Allen Craig, OF, Cardinals: If owners were left with any doubts about Craig's ability to hit for power and average in the majors after a truncated 2011 season, he answered those doubts this season. Over a larger number of plate appearances, Craig has increased his home run per flyball (HR/FB) ratio, as well as his line drive and walk rates this year. Those improvements have allowed Craig to withstand some expected BABIP regression, and he is posting a very similar OBP and SLG to those of a year ago. Owners can expect similar production in 2013 and should target him as a No. 2 mixed league outfielder.

Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves: Though Freeman's overall numbers have not improved substantially since his rookie year, owners can take encouragement in the fact that he's kept pace while dealing with a variety of health issues. He has shown that last season's 21-homer performance was no fluke, as he has held his flyball rate and HR/FB ratio constant, and his doubles rate has experienced a dramatic spike thanks to an enhanced display of line drive power. Freeman is still only 22, so he still has time to improve his contact skills and take another step forward with his home run power. 2013 could very well be a major breakout for the Braves' first baseman.

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks: Based on his minor league stats, Goldschmidt appeared to have the potential to hit for a much higher average than he did last season. He has made good on that promise, striking out at a lower rate and hitting more line drives, and the result has been a .308 average through his first 97 games. Goldschmidt's return to line-drive hitting has netted him 33 doubles to date, and a 25-home run season is still very much within his grasp. Goldschmidt may have reached his ceiling in terms of batting average, but there could still be more home run power to come. He is already a viable first baseman in practically all formats, and a year from now, he could easily be a must-start in all leagues.

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Dee Gordon, SS, Dodgers: Though he is barely hitting A.J. Ellis' weight and has already missed more than a month with an injured thumb, it hasn't been all bad for Gordon this year. He has improved his success rate on stolen bases, increased his walk rate and swung at pitches outside the strike zone with less frequency. Gordon's biggest problem is that he has whiffed on those errant offerings at a much higher rate this year. While this might be a lost season for the 24-year-old, Gordon has already shown us that he can be a very good contact hitter who puts his speed to good use. Among an increasingly thin and unpredictable corps of shortstops, Gordon could be a real steal in drafts and auctions next season.

Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals: Hosmer could be the most disappointing sophomore hitter of all, and at the very least, he is in the discussion. While he has been choosier in his pitch selection, there hasn't been any payoff for Hosmer's patience. Though he is drawing more walks this year, Hosmer's power has been on the wane, as 56 percent of his hit balls have been grounders. Owners looking for a power surge from Hosmer will have to look hard for the evidence to support their hopes. He didn't display much power during his brief time in Triple-A, and his best power numbers came while playing at a good hitter's park in Double-A. Hosmer built his reputation as a prospect largely on high batting averages that were partly supported by good contact rates and partly by high BABIPs, the latter of which can be volatile. Hosmer is still young enough to develop power, but drafting him on the assumption that he will do it next year would be a risky move.

Desmond Jennings, OF, Rays: It's not uncommon for young players to get trigger-happy once they settle into a big-league role, chasing pitches they'd be better off leaving alone. This has been the case for Jennings, as he has dramatically increased a outside-the-zone swing percentage that was among the majors' lowest last season. A near-doubling of his popup rate has been one of the consequences, and not surprisingly, so has a drop in power. All is not lost for Jennings, as he has increased his flyball rate this year, showing his potential for a turnaround sometime this season. According to the ESPN Hit Tracker, Jennings has yet to hit a short-distance home run this year, and with a handful of "cheapies," his stat line would get a significant boost.

Brett Lawrie, 3B, Blue Jays: Like Jennings, Lawrie has been much less selective as a sophomore than as a rookie, and it's had an even greater impact on him than on his Rays counterpart. Aside from a brief span during mid-June, Lawrie has yet to get into a power groove this year, and while his walk rate has withered away, he has packed on 11 percentage points to his ground ball rate. According to the pitch value data on FanGraphs, Lawrie killed two-seam fastballs last year, but this year pitchers have adjusted and given him fewer to hit. Now that he has been placed on the disabled list with a rib injury, Lawrie's letdown of a season just got even worse. Given that his best power year by far in the minors came in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, owners should bring a healthy dose of skepticism about Lawrie's chances for a return to his 2011 level to their 2013 drafts.

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Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals: Moustakas' power is easier to trust than Hosmer's, as he put it on display at Triple-A, and he is more of a flyball hitter. Now that his fluky early-season numbers, featuring a .315 April batting average, have been washed out, Moustakas is sitting outside the top 15 third basemen in standard Rotisserie and Head-to-Head scoring. That doesn't mean he should be relegated to late-round or waiver status in standard mixed leagues next year, as he should continue to increase his power while making marginal improvements to his batting average. However, his upside for 2013 is that of a middle-rounder.

Josh Reddick, OF, Athletics: The offseason move to Oakland looked like a potential disaster for Reddick, but O.co Coliseum's spacious dimensions haven't hurt him one bit. Reddick has responded with 25 home runs through his first 106 games, and to look at his recent trends, his growth appears to be sustainable. After a difficult first tour at Triple-A Pawtucket, Reddick hit for more power in each of two subsequent seasons. He has followed a similar pattern in his development as a major leaguer, and this year, Reddick is hitting with far more power to center field. His current slash line of .260/.333/.518 represents a level that he should be able to sustain over the next few years, making him no worse than a borderline No. 2/No. 3 outfielder.

Ben Revere, OF, Twins: Revere is a very good contact hitter, but unless he becomes a great contact hitter, owners shouldn't count on him for a string of .300-plus seasons. His BABIP history suggests that his current .360 rate will not the norm going forward. As you would expect from someone with Revere's speed, he hits for a high average on grounders, but his utter lack of power makes it unlikely that he can sustain a high BABIP for an extended period. Revere will continue to be a good source of steals and runs, but with a batting average though could sink into the .270s for the rest of the season, he will be more of a marginal option, even in standard mixed Rotisserie leagues.

Mark Trumbo, 1B, Angels: Don't look now, but Trumbo has an OBP that is 24 points above the league average. The knock on the Angels' slugger had been that his plate discipline was so poor that he would always be a liability for the batting average and OBP categories. This season, Trumbo has swung less and walked more, and he's hitting for a higher average after rebounding from last season's fluky-low .277 BABIP. Trumbo's power is unquestionably legit, so there is little reason to doubt Trumbo's status as a top 10 first baseman.

Jemile Weeks, 2B, Athletics: Weeks' Jekyll-and-Hyde act over his first two seasons mirrors his inconsistent minor league track record, so it's hard to have confidence in his ability to replicate his better performances with regularity. It seems odd that the speedy Weeks is hitting only .232 on grounders, but he didn't always register high BABIP rates in the minors, so he shouldn't be counted on to hit for average like he did as a rookie. As someone who can steal bases, make frequent contact and draw walks, Weeks still has the potential to be a solid second-tier second baseman, but until he develops some consistency, he is too risky to use in standard mixed leagues.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Nationals sign Tony Gwynn Jr. to a minor-league deal
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:57 pm ET) The Nationals have signed outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. to a minor-league deal, the team announced. 

Gwynn will be invited to major-league camp with the deal. The 32-year-old hit .152 over 105 at-bats with the Phillies last season. 


Nationals' Matt Purke hoping to get on a mound soon
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:31 pm ET) Nationals pitcher Matt Purke is hoping to throw off a mound in a few weeks, according to MLB.com.

Purke had Tommy John surgery last May, and has struggled with injuries since being selected in the third round of the 2011 draft. Purke was actually released by the club during the offseason, but came back on a minor-league deal. 

Purke said he was frustrated by the injuries, but understands he has to take it all in stride. "It's just something you have to take in stride, keep moving forward," he explained. "I'm ready to keep progressing the best I can and really get myself out there and pitch and perform. When my number is called, I'll be able to help when I can."

Purke is currently in the middle of a throwing program. He's been able to long toss, and hopes to throw off a mound in a few weeks. The team is still unsure when Purke will be ready for game action.


Twins' Danny Santana learning to play multiple positions
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:16 pm ET) Danny Santana came to the Twins in 2007 playing primarily shortstop. Now, Santana is playing in the outfield and learning how to transition to a new position on the field.

"I didn't know how to play the outfield and I needed a lot of work," he said to MLB.com. "It wasn't hard, because I have the ability to play many positions. But the hard part was being in center field and throwing to the bases. At shortstop, you throw from different angles. In the outfield, you need to be on top to throw."

Santana hit .319 with 40 RBI and 70 runs scored in 405 plate appearances in 2014.

"There's a lot of people here who believed in Danny Santana's future for a long time. We were able to get a glimpse of that last year," manager Paul Molitor said. "I have a lot of confidence in that kid. He's going about his business very professionally. He's really a good listener and applier. Some guys listen well and have trouble taking it out there. He's pretty good at taking information and putting it into play."


Padres' Cameron Maybin to hit leadoff in first spring game
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:07 pm ET) Padres outfielder Cameron Maybin will hit leadoff in the team's first spring game, according to MLB.com.

Manager Bud Black basically confirmed the news, though he wouldn't make it official as he prefers to let the player know before the media. Maybin is the forgotten man in the team's outfield heading into camp. While he's proven he can play center field, the club is expected to go with Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and Justin Upton when the regular season starts. 

Maybin, 27, hit .235/.290/.331 over 251 at-bats last season. 


Giants experimenting with Norichika Aoki in the leadoff spot
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:43 pm ET) The Giants are experimenting with using outfielder Norichika Aoki in the leadoff spot, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Aoki will hit leadoff on Tuesday with Angel Pagan sidelined. While Pagan is expected to claim the role once the regular season begins, manager Bruce Bochy said he would consider using Aoki in the leadoff role occasionally. When that happens, Pagan would hit in the third spot in the order. 

Aoki, 33, hit .285/.349/.360 over 491 at-bats last year. 


Twins' Glen Perkins feeling healthy heading into games
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:34 pm ET) Twins reliever Glen Perkins is feeling healthy heading into spring games, according to the Pioneer Press.

Perkins was shut down at the end of last season due to forearm and elbow issues. He hasn't experienced any of those issues this spring. "Really the barometer on how my arm feels is the bite on my slider," Perkins said. "If my slider is loopy, then my arm is probably tired, especially my forearm."

Perkins added that he threw a few sliders during a recent bullpen session, and was happy with how they looked. "I told them it was coming and they swung and missed at a few," he said. "It's got good movement right now. That means obviously I'm fresh, but also I'm strong and healthy."

Perkins is expected to pitch during an exhibition game on Wednesday. He posted a 3.65 ERA over 61 2/3 innings last season. 


Red Sox OFs Betts, Castillo to share time in CF this spring
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:30 pm ET) Red Sox manager John Farrell said Sunday that outfielders Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo will get equal playing time in center field this spring, MLB.com reports.

"Like we said at the outset of camp, we'll take all of camp to determine that," said Farrell. "They're going to get equal playing time. But I think it's important they both get comfortable with the combination of the guys on the flank because of communication, the responsibilities for balls in the gap, fly ball communication and those priorities."

While Betts had ample time to make an impression on the team during his rookie season, the Red Sox are still getting to know Castillo and his capabilities.

"With Rusney, I think it's a matter of frequent at-bats, more games played," Farrell said. "Particularly after our season concluded, he went to the [Arizona] Fall League and Puerto Rico, and through repetition, I think he's just gotten better timing and consistent routes in the outfield and he's looked very good here in camp so far."

Castillo went 12 for 36 in his short time with the Red Sox last season.


Report: Red Sox, Phillies haven't made progress on Hamels' deal
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:16 pm ET) The Red Sox and Phillies have not made progress on a deal for pitcher Cole Hamels, according to the Boston Herald. 

The Red Sox have been mentioned as a contender for Hamels in the past, but the club is hesitant to give up their top prospects for the pitcher. Though Phillies' special assistant to the general manager Charley Kerfeld was spotted at Red Sox facilities on Monday, two sources told the Herald that no progress has been made on a deal. 

The Phillies are said to covet either Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart, but Boston has refused to include either player in a deal.

Hamels, 31, posted a 2.46 ERA over 204 2/3 innings last year.


Cardinals' Carpenter seeks to balance aggressiveness, patience
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:04 pm ET) Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter hopes to combine the aggressiveness he displayed in 2013 with the patience he showed in 2014, MLB.com reports.

"I've had both extremes of it," Carpenter said. "I've had it where I've led the leagues in walks [2014], and I've had where I've led the league in hits [2013]. I'm trying to search for that perfect balance where you're aggressive, but you're still patient.

"In the postseason, I felt that I was more aggressive than I had been at any point in my career, but at the same time, I wasn't flailing at balls. I didn't lose anything. Now, it's finding the perfect balance to where I'm swinging the bat, I'm being aggressive, I'm trying to do damage, but at the same time, I'm a guy who can walk a lot, get on base and set the tone as a leadoff hitter. I think that's part of growing up as a baseball player. You learn and you adapt and you continue to try to figure out who you are as a hitter."

Carpenter homered four times during last year's postseason after hitting just eight home runs during the regular season, with his first two postseason blasts coming on the first pitch of his at-bats. He's looking to capture that approach more often this season.

"I think he's a smart enough guy to do it because he knows what he does really well," hitting coach John Mabry said. "That's what you take pride in -- those guys who put in all the work to get to where they are and then say, 'I'm not happy.' They want to put in the extra work to get to that next step, the next level."

Carpenter is looking to build off a 2014 season in which he hit .272/.375/.375 with eight home runs and 59 RBI in 595 at-bats.


Mariners' Dustin Ackley to get a lot of playing time this spring
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:01 pm ET) Mariners outfielder Dustin Ackley will get a ton of playing time this spring, according to MLB.com.

Manager Lloyd McClendon said he wants Ackley to get off to a strong start, and will give the outfielder a lot of at-bats in March. Ackley seemed happy with the arrangement. "I think that's good," Ackley said. "The more at-bats you get, the better your timing gets and the more comfortable you feel. I think everybody wants to get at-bats and get ready."

Ackley had a tough first half of the season in 2014, but seemed to come on strong late. He stressed that being strong mentally should help in 2015. "I just need to stay consistent and don't start pressing if I don't get a hit for a couple games or don't do this or that," he said. "It's not being result-oriented and just going out there and playing and trusting in my swing and my mental standpoint."

The 27-year-old hit .245/.293/.398 over 502 at-bats last year. He's expected to open the season in a platoon role with Rickie Weeks. 


 
 
 
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