2015 First Baseman Bounce Backs

Bounceback Players LogoWe rolled out the Fantasy Assembly First Baseman Dynasty/Keeper Rankings yesterday and will focus on the position through the rest of the week. I am a strong believer that you need to nail your corner picks. If you went the path of buying into Chris Davis and spent a first round pick on the Baltimore first baseman then 2014 was likely a rough season for you. Selections of Joey Votto and Prince Fielder likely got you into the fantasy football grind a little sooner than you would have liked as well. On the flip side, wise selections of Anthony Rizzo and especially Jose Abreu likely had you in contention for a league title in 2014.

For 2015, the first base position will yet again be stacked with plenty of clout. That said, there are a solid host of first basemen that left much to be desired from their 2014 performance and this likely means a draft day discount will be in their near future. Here are a set of bats likely to meet that criteria and they could prove to be major bounce backs in 2015:

Chris Davis (Orioles – Age 29 in March 2015)
2014 Slat Line: .196/65/36/72/2 in 450 ABs

Let’s get this out-of-the-way first; Chris Davis had his career year in 2013 and it won’t be repeated. Had Chris Davis put up the same 584 ABs in 2014 that he posted in his career year of 2013 he would have approached a mid-30’s home run total. You can look at that two different ways. For starters, that’s a far cry from the 53 home runs Davis hit in 2013. On the other hand, a mid-30’s home run bat is nothing to sneeze at either. You just looked at his .196 batting average and sneezed, didn’t you? Gesundheit! What happened in 2014 was simply the baseball world balancing itself out. From 2011-2013 Davis was spoiled to the tune of .366, .335, and .336 BABIPs. In 2014, Davis’s BABIP slapped him silly for his prior good fortune and fell all the way to .242.

For my liking, Chris Davis is more Adam Dunn circa 2010 than what he showed in 2014. Remember that Adam Dunn was a guy who hit anywhere between .234 and .267 and could always be counted on to finish somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 home runs. There has to be a middle ground between Davis’s extremely lucky 2011-2013 seasons and his 2014 flop. We should all take advantage of the bounce back Davis is likely to give us especially considering that he should come at a considerable discount in 2015 drafts.

Bounce Back Potential: I’m going to reserve the title of Super Ball Bounce Back for a player or two in future positional breakdowns like this, but you’ll like the return on investment you’ll get from Chris Davis in 2015. Let’s say his bounce back potential is more in the range of what you’d get from one of those bouncy balls in the large crates at your local grocery store. You know the ones…marble colored and usually look like they are behind bars filled to the brim. They’re fairly bouncy. 

Prince Fielder (Rangers – Age 31 in May 2015)
2014 Stat Line: .247/19/3/16/0 in 150 ABs

Of all the players in this write-up, Fielder is probably the most difficult to project. It didn’t used to be that way for the son of Cecil. Fielder was the guy you drafted and knew would play 160+ games, top 100 RBI and give you 30+ HR in a down year. We fantasy baseball nerds kept telling everyone that Fielder’s 30s would not be pretty even in the face of one productive year after another. Even a tofu diet and a move to the Launching Pad in Arlington could not prove us wrong. The nerds always win!

I sound so negative about The Fat Prince of Down There. In reality we are likely to get a hefty (I went there) discount on Prince Fielder in 2015 drafts. My crystal ball does not know just how far Fielder will fall in 2015 drafts but if it’s somewhere beyond the first, oh let’s say 70 picks, I’ll be intrigued.

Bounce Back Potential: Like that overly used volleyball that keeps needing to be re-inflated. It gives you spurts of its former greatness but just isn’t quite the same as it once was.

Brandon Belt (Giants – Age 27 in April 2015)
2014 Stat Line: .243/30/12/27/2 in 214 ABs

For starters, Belt is going to be the mythical age 27 for the majority of his 2015 season.  If you’ve played fantasy baseball long enough you know what that means and you’ve read the data on why being 27 years old is considered a player’s physical prime. So there’s that. When I look at Belt’s final stat line for 2014 it feels like it should look better even in a limited amount of at bats. It’s probably the .243 batting average that has me initially puzzled but the 12 HRs in 214 at bats is sure encouraging.

Like Chris Davis above, Belt also saw a significant drop in BABIP. Belt posted a BABIP of .351 in both 2012 and 2013. 2014 saw that number drop all the way to .288. This is somewhat supported by a 2.2% increase in his K% as well as a 6.3% decrease in his LD%. Some of those line drives appear to have turned into fly balls as his FB% saw a jump of 2.7%. Perhaps the biggest reason for the power increase albeit in a fraction of a season is a HR/FB% jump of 7.6%. So we are left to guess if the greater amount of fly balls leaving the yard was due to Belt approaching his physical prime or if it was just a fluke stat produced over a limited amount of 2014 at bats.

It feels like the 2015 discount is going to be pretty extreme for Belt and I want in on it. His 2014 was marred by injuries, including a pretty severe concussion. That he was able to make it back before the end of the year and is now contributing to the Giants playoff run goes a long way to enforce that his injury struggles are behind him. I’ll take a chance that he can put it all together at 27 years old, have a slight rebound in his BABIP, and maintain most of the power increase he displayed in 2014.

Bounce Back Potential: Something like that of an appropriately inflated basketball that you dribble up and down the court and almost don’t even think about it. That is to say that I feel Belt will be reliable for a well-rounded stat line you can count on bouncing back nicely in 2015. 

Eric Hosmer (Royals – Age 25 in October 2014)
2014 Stat Line: .270/54/9/58/4 in 503 ABs

Entering the 2014 season I was convinced a breakout was on the horizon for Hosmer. I was certain he was about to give us a 20+ HR, 10+ SB season with perhaps a little room for more. What we ended up with was a stat line that looks more like that of a middle of the pack shortstop rather than an impact corner bat. Part of my brain says that Hosmer should land square on my own personal Done and Doner list as fellow Fantasy Assemblyman Paul Hartman has created for us here and here. In the mean time Hosmer’s going nuts and looking like a world beater through the first four games of the post season just to tease us all.

Whether the power developed or not there was always a solid chance Hosmer would make up for any shortcomings by chipping in a mid-teens amount of SBs. Sure enough he fell right in line with the Royals ways as his 9 HRs were fitting for a team that was dead last in the MLB in home runs. Surely Hosmer would be a factor in the MLB leading 153 SBs the team posted, right? Nope! He only gave us 4. For those of you like me who are about to join an I drafted Eric Hosmer Anonymous support group let us be reminded that the KC first baseman will be just 25 years old through the 2015 season. He still has time to break away from his James Loney impersonations. One thing we can all be grateful for is the solid discount Hosmer is about to have in 2015 drafts. I have to admit that I’m not sure I can muster up the intestinal fortitude to call out Hosmer’s name on draft day so the discount had better be pretty amazing.

Bounce Back Potential: Something like how a football bounces. By that I intend to paint an image that he could bounce one way or the other and at this point I’m just a little unsure if we should buy into Hosmer for 2015 and beyond. 

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4 thoughts on “2015 First Baseman Bounce Backs”

  1. Great read, Ron. I was burned by Davis in a redraft league because I wanted to lock down big power numbers early in the draft. Granted that he provided the HR, but of course I expected more.

    I will say that “Davis’s extremely lucky 2011-2013 seasons” means it’s not all luck. There can be a lucky season, but when you have a three-season trend, even if the numbers seem lucky for the MLB average, it’s gotta be respected as an ability by the individual player.

    I guess we assume it’s luck when any player breaks out like this. Certainly when Pujols (and more recently Trout) hit the ground running, people anticipated a big decline, but that didn’t happen, or at least not to a large degree. So like you, I do expect a good bounce back from Davis and agree he could be a nice value in 2015.

    1. Thanks, Kevin. Davis was a keeper of mine in two different leagues so I feel your pain. I like your take on the luck factor and agree that luck is no longer luck once it becomes a trend. With Davis I think we can safely hope that 2014 was simply unlucky!

  2. Belt has burned people in the past, and may continue to do so, but I do like him going into next year. I personally think he is worth the risk if you can grab him cheaply. My analysis has him basically putting up 2014 Alex Gordon statline next year, but trading 6 SBs for 6 more HRs. (2015 Belt finally stat line if healthy – 84 run, 78 RBI, 5 SB, 25HR, .265 AVG)

    1. Tony, that prediction seems reasonable. Let’s hope people are frustrated with his development and forget his age and signs of breaking out so we can cash in on draft day.

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