Tomorrow we start draft prep for the 2016 season and begin our early rankings, starting with dynasty rankings for 2016. Rankings are fun. While we all like to raise our hands, beat our chests and celebrate when we call a player correctly; it’s not too often that you’ll see somebody touting their misses. Those are usually like retractions in newspapers, buried deep in the back on page 87 where nobody ever looks. Not here, and not today. Nope, I’m here to hold myself accountable for those very players I told you to avoid drafting this season. Some were right on, some were dead wrong, but all of them are here for you to see on page 1.
CATCHER – I said Wilson Ramos had the potential to be a top 5 catcher, but his injuries and inability to make it through a season make him a risk. Ramos did manage to play in 127 games so I got that part wrong, but his batting average (.231) and lack of runs kept him from being a top 12 catcher. He did manage 15 home runs and 67 RBIs so it wasn’t that bad owning him, but you could have done better.
Speaking of doing better: I stated Russell Martin had a career year in 2014, but I expect his numbers to fall back down to his customary levels dropping him outside the top 15. Well his batting average fell, but he put up a career number of home runs (23) along his second highest RBI (77) and run (76) totals since 2007. Overall he will finish as the second best catcher behind Buster Posey. I guess I can take solace in the fact that several others on our panel were not high on Martin either; Will Emerson had him the highest at #10, and even that wasn’t high enough.
FIRST BASE – The first player I listed in our way too early rankings was Justin Morneau. I didn’t buy into his 2014 Coors resurgence, and prior to that season his numbers were mediocre. There’s no way he can hit .300 again. Ok, part wrong here as Morneau did crack .300, but injuries limited him to just 47 games. And despite the average, 3 home runs, 12 RBIs and 18 runs don’t make up for what you could have had if you had taken someone else.
That someone else you could (and should) have taken was Chris Davis. The decline and strikeouts reminded me of Mark Reynolds; while I said to avoid him; I also stated I would not condemn anyone that took a gamble on him. Hopefully you ignored my Mark Reynolds comparison because Davis pulled an Adam Dunn – batting .258 with 45 home runs, 112 RBIs and 96 runs scored. He finished the year ranked as the 5th best first baseman on ESPN’s player rater; not bad for a guy who was taken (on average) in round 9.
Two other players I mentioned were Victor Martinez and Brandon Belt. While Martinez showed flashes of 2014, his overall performance made him undeserving of that single digit ranking many gave him. I put him at #18 because I wasn’t buying into his career year; hope you did the same. Belt I did not rank in my top 30, mostly for the fact I felt jaded for buying into him as a sleeper for 2014 and have been waiting for years for him to deliver. While Belt did not have a super breakout year, he did produce numbers good enough to warrant being a corner infielder on any team and a top 15 option for first base.
SECOND BASE – I lumped a quartet of middle men into one basket here. All were on the wrong side of 30, their stats were declining, and there were younger, potentially better options with upside available. Chase Utley and Aaron Hill both proved my logic was undeniable and had a season to forget. Dustin Pedroia was limited to 111 games due to injuries. Overall his numbers were good; not Pedroia good, but better than average second baseman good. I’ll take the judge’s score card decision on this one considering how many second basemen finished ahead of him. Brandon Phillips was drafted late (if at all), and for the first month he didn’t give us any reason to doubt not taking him. Then the calendar turned to May and Phillips started hitting – and he never really stopped. While it was a smart move not to draft him, he did make a nice waiver grab for some. Phillips ended the season ranked 4th on ESPN’s player rater, 7th in Yahoo and 10 for CBS. No real misses here.
THIRD BASE – I’ll get the success stories out of the way before eating a mega-portion of crow. Josh Harrison, Aramis Ramirez, Chase Headley and Brett Lawrie were all on my avoid list, and none of them put up numbers good enough to finish among the top 25 third basemen. That makes these guys waiver/injury fill in material; that’s not something you draft or even keep on your roster unless you are in a very large or deep league. Hopefully you avoided them and ignored the hell out of me on the next two.
I said Xander Bogaerts has loads of potential, but see a lot of growing pains in 2015 so avoid him. Oops. His power and speed didn’t shine through, but what numbers he did produce combined with his average (.322), runs (83) and RBI (81) total made him not only a top 10 option for third, but the number one shortstop in the league. I wish I could say that was my biggest mistake, but I also said to avoid Manny Machado. It was a safe call for me at the time; he had off-season surgery and problems with both knees. Unfortunately Machado put me and any other doubters to shame this year with a 30/20 season and finished as the third best third baseman in the league. At least I recommended reaching for Todd Frazier so……..yea, I know, own up to it. Alright, I blew these two calls big time.
SHORTSTOP – I ranked both Jimmy Rollins and Alexei Ramirez inside the top 10 based upon what they had the potential to do. While I ranked them on potential, I advised you avoid both. Rollins based strictly on his age and the potential a cliff year could come at any time. As for Ramirez, I was skeptical of his new-found power at his age, not to mention the decline in speed and, I just stated, he is getting up there in age. Rollins was worthless, and things didn’t get better after he was traded. Ramirez showed some signs of life in the second half, but odds are those that did draft him dropped him, so you got him for free if you waited. Should have just drafted Mr. Average Joe – Erick Aybar.
OUTFIELD – Josh Hamilton was the easy call and one I’m not going to brag about. Matt Holliday I avoided due to age and injury potential, and he didn’t let me down there. I said Wil Myers was only 24 and had potential, but all I’ve seen are inconsistencies, injuries, high K’s and poor contact. It was more of the same in 2015. Matt Kemp was my first miss. I figured the speed would continue to decline and the power would be sapped due to his new surroundings. Kemp managed to hit 20+ home runs, steal double digits and put up his highest run and RBI totals in the past 4 seasons. He finished in the top 20 for outfielders.
Carlos Gonzalez was an avoid with a caveat; I said avoid him through the first 4-5 rounds due to injury potential. He was taken on average in the middle of round 4 so if you got him there or later, congratulations. If you grabbed him early congratulations. If you avoid him until said round based upon my say so and someone grabbed him earlier…sorry about that. He didn’t steal bases, but 40 home runs made you forget about that. With 87 runs scored and 97 RBIs, CarGo was a top 15 option for the outfield and probably one of the best steals of the draft.
Nelson Cruz was my other big avoid. Prior to 2015 he only played 2 full seasons and came with a laundry list of injuries. As you already know, Cruz went on to play in his 3rd full season launching 44 home runs, batting over .300 and finishing among the top 5 for the outfield. Cruz turned out to be a bigger bargain than both Kemp and Gonzalez with an average draft position of 6.5. I never doubted his bat, only his health and new home park.
STARTING PITCHER – I didn’t buy into Phil Hughes‘ breakout, did not buy into the Chris Carpenter comparisons, and doubted everything he did in 2014. He initially did not rank in my top 75, but made his way into my top 100 just for the sheer chance his breakout wasn’t a fluke, but he never made it onto my queue in any draft. I doubt I’ll give Hughes a second look in 2016. I doubted Scott Kazmir for similar reasons; his career to that point was that of a streamer pitcher and I didn’t think there was any way he could match his 2015 totals. I was half right here. His first half was phenomenal with an even better ERA and WHIP, and he also posted almost a strikeout an inning. Once he went to Houston though, we got the Scott Kazmir I was expecting with an ERA over 4.0, a bloated WHIP and BAA, and the strikeouts fell off. If you drafted him, hopefully you sold high and got out before the collapse.
I swear Francisco Liriano continues to pitch well just to spite me. Before coming to Pittsburgh his numbers were all over the place. I know the pitching staff helped him improve, but I always believed it was the man behind the plate that helped refine his game. Once Russell Martin left I assumed Liriano would take a step back with a new signal caller behind the plate. Yea, so much for that. He posted similar numbers to 2014 with an improved walk rate. Maybe next year I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
We wrap up pitchers with Carlos Carrasco. Like I stated in the beginning of the year: I know what he did in 2014, but I want to see if he can do it again before I put my trust in a pitcher being taken ahead of some established veterans. The ERA went up a full point, but he also added 6 more wins and had a big spike in strikeouts. There were 9 games where he allowed 4 or more runs and made you scream *expletive deleted*, but the 18 games he had with 2 or few runs reminded you why you took him in the first place. Had I known he was slipping until the middle of round 10 in drafts I might not have listed him as an avoid; early indications predicted he would go before that. Carrasco finishes the season as a top 15 pitcher and it is doubtful you will get him that late again in 2016.
CLOSERS – After a meltdown late in the 2014 season, and given the fact he would turn 40 this year, it’s easy to understand why I said avoid Koji Uehara. The ERA was a little rocky in June, but overall Koji gave us 4 solid months as a closer before going down with a wrist injury. I will probably avoid the soon to be 41-year-old in 2016 again, but only because of his age. If he falls far enough though I might give him a shot. I’ve said for years that Fernando Rodney‘s saves aren’t worth the damage he can do to your ERA and especially WHIP. It took Seattle some time to figure that out (that and the fact that 2014 was a fluke) and they finally pulled the plug – the same plug fantasy owners pulled months earlier. Joe Nathan was the final and most obvious avoid. He notched 1 save in one-third of an inning before going down for the year. At least he can point back to that 0.00 ERA in 2015 and feel like he went out on top.
So there you have it. As Will Emerson said each week in his Field of Streams article, you have your Ins, Outs, and What Have Yous. Hopefully the rest of my rankings and advice throughout the season made up for the few hiccups along the way. New rankings for dynasty will start this coming week with prospect and 2016 rankings to follow. Fantasy baseball may be over, but it’s just starting here at Fantasy Assembly. Stay tuned.
Be sure to visit Fantasy Rundown this off-season for early rankings, player analysis, predictions, projections and more great baseball links.