Before I start, I have to thank Ray Flowers (@BaseballGuys) for giving me the idea for this article. I saw this tweet from Ray a few weeks back and immediately thought that more research needed to be done to put together a piece for fantasy owners to think about.
Everyone wants the flashy new toy or the "upside." Don't know why so many discount consistently good.
— Ray Flowers (@BaseballGuys) January 3, 2014
Which of these 2 outfielders would you rather have for 2014?
Player A is Shin-Soo Choo. Player B is Carlos Gomez. These statistics are their averages over the past 2 seasons. However, these numbers can be extended 2 more years for Choo to become 4 year averages, while Gomez’ cannot. For my money, Shin-soo Choo is a more consistent option, and if I am looking to find a #2/#3 OF, I would rather have Choo. CouchManagers has Gomez going as the 11th OF overall (pick 28) with Choo the 18th (pick 50). Again, I would rather garner the production of Choo 2 rounds later than Gomez and grab a top pitcher or another elite position player in place of Gomez.
There is a time for drafting upside in a draft, but there is something to be said about consistency. Here I present my 2014 All Consistent Team. These are players that I am targeting to produce at the same level they have been producing at for several years.
Captain: Nick Swisher
Since I am putting an all-consistent team up, I am naming Nick Swisher the Captain of this team. Nine straight years of 20+ homers, 70+ runs (66 in 2005), 70+ RBI (63 in 2013, 69 in 2008), while playing in 140+ games (131 in 2005). His batting average is only around 0.250, but you can pencil him in to play everyday.
Catcher: Yadier Molina
Last 3 years, increase in runs, RBI and batting average while playing in 136+ games.
First Base: Adrian Gonzalez
Even with his poor half season in Boston, 7 straight years with at least 99 RBI, while topping 20 HR (18 in 2012), 70 runs and a 0.290 average.
Second Base: Robinson Cano
Move to the Pacific Northwest could depress value in some owners’ minds, but he has 5 straight 25+ HR seasons, with batting averages over 0.300. Add in 4 seasons with 100+ runs and 3 seasons with 100+ RBI.
Shortstop: JJ Hardy
Take out 2 injury-shortened seasons and Hardy quietly has 5 straight 22+ HR seasons, with 70 runs and 70 RBI. His average may hurt you but a very consistent producing SS. His batting average will hurt you, but there are other guys on your team to help with that.
Third Base: Adrian Beltre
Not really sure what happened in 2009, but Beltre has averaged more than 20 homers for 11 straight seasons, topping 30 the last 3 while in Texas. When you consider his 80 runs, 90 RBIs and a batting average around 0.300, you don’t even have to count that he plays almost every game (150+ in 8 of last 12 seasons) and plays Gold Glove 3B to see why he is so valuable.
Outfield: Shin-soo Choo
An injury in 2011 limited him to 85 games, but outside of that you have 4 years with 20 homers, 20 steals and a 0.280 average. I already discussed his draft slot value.
Outfield: Alex Rios
My 3rd Ranger in a row, I was surprised by Rios’ production. Seven straight years of 145+ starts, averaging 20/20 production over that time. Drives in and scores runs, a trend I expect to continue in Texas in 2014.
Outfield: Matt Holliday
He’s going to hit about 25 homers and 0.300. There are plenty of opportunities to score and drive in runs in St. Louis as well.
Utility: Jay Bruce
He has hit at least 21 homers in each of his 6 MLB season, topping 30 the past 3 years. He has score 80+ runs over the past 4 years, while driving in 97+ over the past 3. He will add a few steals as well, though his average will drag you down a bit.
Utility: Ben Zobrist
His versatility is a nice bonus to his double-double production of the past 5 years, with 77+ runs, and 71+ RBI. If he can return to his 20 HR production, he is a true draft steal this year.
Starting Pitcher: Adam Wainright
Every staff needs an ace, and I will take Wainright on mine. Past 4 seasons: Wins: 19-20-14-19, K’s: 212-213-184-219, ERA 2.63-2.42-3.94-2.94.
Starting Pitcher: Matt Cain
Sure, he was 8-10 in 2013. But before last year, he had ERA’s under 3.20 for the past 4 seasons, with WHIPs around 1.10. He doesn’t pile on the strikeouts, but is a great arm to have consistently going out there each week. Coming into 2014 I think his value may be depressed, so he could be a great value pick.
Starting Pitcher: Cliff Lee
Six consecutive seasons of 170 strikeouts, averaging double-digit wins, a WAR of 4.9 or higher and a WHIP around 1, while throwing 210+ innings. Lee is a workhorse.
Starting Pitcher: CJ Wilson
Since moving into the rotation in 2010, all Wilson has done is topped 200 innings each year, won more than 13 games, had an ERA in the mid-3’s and struck out more than 170 batters. With all the Angels struggles in 2013, Wilson still finished the year 17-7 in 33 starts.
Relief Pitcher: Tyler Clippard
I always like to own at least one dominating setup guy who could garner some saves and wins during the year. Clippard is one of the best. Four straight years of 70+ innings, a K/9 in the ballpark of 10 (topping 100 strikeouts twice), a WHIP under 1 twice, and he has won 22 games while saving 33 over these 4 seasons.
Relief Pitcher: Huston Street
His numbers may not be overly sexy, but Street has 5 straight 20 save seasons (with 33 in 2013). He will give you 40-50 strikeouts, a couple of wins and a low WHIP (0.72 in 2012). Additionally, he will not cost you an early pick on a closer.
Relief Pitcher: Rafael Soriano
Soriano has 85 saves in the past 2 seasons. While he occasionally blows up in a save situation, you can’t argue that he will get plenty of opportunities to save games. He is not always drafted as an elite closer, but 40+ saves are there for the smart owner.
My theory in establishing a lineup such as this is that now you have the flexibility to go out and take some chances on guys with high upside. You can also focus on a few players who might only produce in one category, steals for example. With Holliday and Choo in your OF you could take a shot at Billy Hamilton, or draft a guy like Jarrod Dyson, who can get you valuable stolen bases in a roto league.
Obviously you may not be able to compile this roster (Cano and Beltre should both cost you a first round pick), but if you landed Cano, then you could afford to reach a round early for Manny Machado, or suffer the possible average crush from a 3B like Pedro Alvarez, or bet on a rebound for Brett Lawrie.
The same can be said for your pitching staff. I don’t advocate chasing wins, but rather focusing on high strikeout potential and having guys who will take the ball and give you quality starts. Then you can take a shot on some young arms, some middle relievers who could end up as closers and maybe even a prospect or 2 who could get called up. The overall roster may not look too sexy at the end of the draft, but I think a lineup such as this will look really nice in your league playoffs.