After last week’s shortstop edition of bounce back candidates, I cannot wait to get into something more promising. Hello, outfielders! The 2015 Outfield Dynasty/Keeper rankings come out next Monday and it will be quite therapeutic for me to see some offensive hope return to the e-pages of Fantasy Assembly.
As boring as middle infielders and catchers can be, teams don’t usually lose seasons when players at those positions come up shy of expectations. For the most part, people tend to stick to outfield and corner bats in the early going. For those who prefer to go offense early, only Robinson Cano, Hanley Ramirez, and Troy Tulowitzki were featured as non-outfield/corner bats selected in the top 20 based on ESPN’s ADP results from this past season. Trout was Trout, McCutchen performed about as expected as did Adam Jones, and Carlos Gomez was perhaps even better than advertised. If any of those guys were pegged as a leader of your 2014 offensive hopes, 2014 was probably a competitive year for you. The dark side of the top 20 outfielders can be seen in Carlos Gonzalez, Bryce Harper, and perhaps even Jacoby Ellsbury to a degree. Of all the outfielders selected in the top 20, CarGo, Harper, and Ellsbury probably carried the most risk so it shouldn’t be shocking to find their names on the short list of outfielder who came up short.
We all adjust as this game of numbers evolves. At this time it’s probably best to limit risk in the early going of drafts and target upside later when guys become value worthy. Here’s a small collection of outfielders who might become huge bounce back value picks in 2015.
Bryce Harper (Nationals – Just turned 22 on October 16th)
2014 Stat Line: .273/41/13/32/2 in 352 ABs
I touted Harper as much as anyone last year and paid the price for it as I made him a big part of several of my teams. Oops! Injury issues were part of the problem. Being just 21 years old through the 2014 season was probably another factor. It’s probably time I temper expectations on Harper and come back to Earth a little bit with what I expect him to do in the years ahead.
Even the numbers Harper produced in 2014 are probably skewed a little higher than they should be. He K’d too frequently at 26% and he had a slightly bloated BABIP at .352. At this point, I think his ceiling potential is something in line with what we’ve gotten out of Jose Bautista in his Toronto years. To accomplish that, Harper is going to have to cut his K-rate to something in the ballpark of 17-18% and he’ll need to increase his FB rate to something north of 42%. His 2014 FB rate was at 34.6%. To become a Bautista clone statistically, his 2014 BB rate of 9.6% won’t cut it either. Something closer to 14-15% is where it will need to be. So, is all of this possible?
Harper is already producing a HR/FB rate that could allow him to hit 35+ HR with a full season of ABs so long as his FB rate climbs up to about 42% As he gets his K-rate under control, every former K will need to become a fly ball. That’s where things are probably going to be a bit more gradual for him. Furthermore, I don’t think stealing bases is going to be a huge part of Harper’s game. He’s more likely to settle into the 5-10 SB range which actually does look a lot like a Bautista total. For now, I think people are still going to be too high on Harper and I’m advising you to stay away in the short-term. Long term; now that’s another story.
Bounce Back Potential: Remember back in 7th grade when you used to launch homemade rockets? There’s would be several failed attempts, maybe even slight lift off ending in flame, and then finally you’d get it just right and the launch would be incredible. Harper is that homemade rocket. There’s going to be some trials along the way and they aren’t going to go smoothly. Eventually though, Harper’s going to be impressive and launch as we all hope and dream he will. It’s just going to take time and patience. Dude is 22. I fully expect things to get better for Harper. His rise should be steady but not rapid enough to justify what I expect his ADP to be next year. Harper should probably be picked somewhere between 40 and 50 overall in standard one-year leagues but he’s more likely to be selected in the 15-25 range, if not higher. Long term, I’m all for getting in on Harper. Looking at a five-year window, Harper will be 26 years old five years from now and that’s about when we should really see the full launch of his greatness.
Wil Myers (Rays – Age 24 in December 2014)
2014 Stat Line: .222/37/6/35/6 in 325 ABs
Remember how foolish the Royals were to unload Wil Myers for a two-year rental of James Shields? Fools! Fast forward two years from that trade and so far all of us MLB franchise front office wannabes look like the fools. Wil Myers doesn’t appear to be the super star in the making all of us thought was on the way.
But wait a second, Myers isn’t even 24 years old yet and he just went through a season marred by a wrist injury. Wrist injuries are about as good for hitters as spoons are for cutting steaks. I’m still willing to believe that Myers can make 2014 the outlier season and get back on track to building on his .293/53/13/50/5 he put up in 325 ABs during his rookie season of 2013.
It is a little concerning that Myers’ 2014 production before his wrist injury wasn’t up to par for what we came to expect after his rookie season. There is this little thing called a sophomore slump that tends to occur with young hitters and it wasn’t anything a hot couple weeks in the June he never played in 2014 couldn’t have corrected.
Bounce Back Potential: Given his age and pedigree, Myers is as close as any to having super ball bounce back potential for dynasty formats. For 2015, Myers has the potential to get back on track and could prove to be a nice ADP value depending how far he falls. Anything beyond a 90 ADP will be extreme value that none of us should pass that up.
Jay Bruce (Reds – Age 28 in April 2015)
2014 Stat Line: .217/71/18/66/12 in 493 ABs
For a guy who was supposed to give Giancarlo Stanton a run value-wise, Jay Bruce came up short like an Oompa Loompa looking up to Shaq. After three straight years of 30+ HR and 97+ RBIs, I’m willing to ignore 2014 and consider it the outlier season. This is especially easy to do considering Bruce is still in his prime and also factoring in that the Reds were allergic to offensive production in 2014. They ranked 28th in the league in runs scored and that’s hard to do when you call Great American Ball Park home.
As much as I believe Jay Bruce will bounce back to a degree and likely be a nice value in 2015, there are certainly reasons for concern that he will fall short of that belief. For the sixth straight season, Bruce’s K rate has gotten a little worse. Back in 2009 it stood at 19.4% but it has steadily crept up to 27.3% as of last season. To go along with the rising whiff rate, Bruce also saw his FB rate fall for the fourth straight season, going from 46.7% in 2011 to 34% in 2014.
Bounce Back Potential: I see Jay Bruce’s bounce back potential falling in line with the housing market in recent years. 2011-2013 was Bruce’s spike, 2014 was his recession, and 2015 will be a bit of a recovery but not quite what it once was. Maybe something more in the .250/80/27/90/8 range is what we should expect. If Bruce falls beyond an ADP of 70 we might have something here. His age keeps him ripe for a bounce back and the Reds should be better offensively with a healthier Votto and Phillips as well as possible progression from Billy Hamilton. Maybe the Reds will even open their wallets for a change and give their lineup a boost with a legitimate free agent signing. That’s probably wishful thinking but it could happen.
Mark Trumbo (Diamondbacks – Age 29 in January 2015)
2014 Stat Line: .235/37/14/61/2 in 328 ABs
There are some clear parallels when comparing Mark Trumbo and Jay Bruce. Both are power hitting outfielders who will be under the age of 30 in 2015 and have the potential to offer owners a 30+ HR, 100 RBI season. Like Bruce, Trumbo also sustained a nice three-year run of HR and RBI production before unraveling in 2014. Furthermore, each player has a home ballpark synonymous with above average offensive outputs.
Whereas I believe Jay Bruce will bounce back to some degree yet caution readers that there are red flags in his underlying stats to be considered, I don’t see Trumbo having many statistical red flags at all. The Trumbeast dealt with a stress fracture in his foot for the second time in his career. This really seemed to derail him after a nice start. Aside from a low batting average, his immense power played well in Arizona through the first month of the season. After his injury it seemed to take him a while to get back in a groove. Trumbo managed to finish on a high note in September with six home runs though, which gives reason to believe he moved past the foot concerns. He will never compete for a batting title but it is encouraging that Trumbo dropped his K rate from 27.1% in 2013 to 24.6% in 2014. When you mix the improved K rate with the fact he put up the highest FB rate of his career at 40.2%, there’s reason to believe Trumbo may be in for his best season yet if he can just remain healthy in 2015.
Bounce Back Potential: If Wil Myers is a super ball bounce back candidate for dynasty purposes, then Trumbo could be a super ball bounce back candidate ready to offer immediate returns on investment in 2015. There’s a .250/80/35/105/5 potential bargain here if people focus too much on Mark Trumbo’s 5×5 shortcomings from 2014 and not the positives in his underlying stats. If Trumbo slips past the 90 ADP range, it’s time to buy! Mix Trumbo with a Denard Span type later on and you’re going to like the combined production. Health seems to be the only thing standing in the way of Trumbo and a potential career year in 2015 and I’m betting he’s healthy and ready to deliver. If that doesn’t get you excited, I believe Trumbo is the answer to who has the most power in the NL outside of Giancarlo Stanton.
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