Only one team had a less productive outfield than the Mariners in 2014. With 31 combined home runs and a .242 batting average, Seattle finished in the bottom five of MLB in both areas. No one had envisioned this out of the Mariners several years ago as Baseball America once ranked Dustin Ackley and Michael Saunders as top-30 prospects in all of baseball. Both players showed signs of life in 2014. Can Saunders remain healthy and build on his .273/.341/.450 triple slash line?
An early season match-up between the Marlins and Braves saw a Major League-record for total strikeouts without a walk (28) and helped to launch our Solo Home Run Situations study. Miami ace Jose Fernandez struck out 14 in eight innings, while his counterpart, Alex Wood, whiffed 11. Though Fernandez succumbed to Tommy John surgery less than a month later, Wood logged 171.2 innings and 2.5 WAR in his first full season in the bigs. The young lefty possesses the stuff and the stats of a budding ace, but are his notorious mechanics ready for 200 innings?
The move of Prince Fielder to Texas in exchange for Ian Kinsler was not a move about Ian Kinsler so much as it was about salary and the future. They wanted to move Miguel Cabrera to a position where he would be less likely to hurt himself or the team defensively. But it also showed they were confident in the playing ability of Nick Castellanos.
Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom put together a Rookie of the Year-type campaign in 2014, much to the surprise of dynasty owners everywhere. The 26-year old started the season behind fellow righties Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero at Triple-A Las Vegas. After a mid-May call-up and a 9-6 record over 140.1 innings, deGrom now looks set to slot in behind Matt Harvey at the top of the Mets rotation in 2015. Has the former ninth-round pick shown enough to warrant such lofty expectations next season? Or are fantasy owners better off cashing in on a cheap investment?
While considered the best defensive left fielder in baseball, overshadowed has been Alex Gordon’s string of strong offensive seasons. The left-handed hitter has hit at least 14 home runs in each of his six full seasons and has managed a career batting average near .270. And while the numbers fail to “wow”, he has been a core piece in a lineup where consistency has been tough to find. Gordon has been good for a double-double each season since solidifying himself as an MLB regular. However, 2015 will be his Age-31 season and accurately predicting the start of the decline phase will be key to gauging future value in dynasty leagues. Can he remain a healthy fantasy baseball contributor for years to come.
Pablo Sandoval finds ways to contribute in the postseason. He did it against Justin Verlander and the Tigers in the 2012 World Series. Two years later, he drove in the Giants first run against James Shields in Game 1 of the 2014 World Series. The “Kung-Fu Panda” is a proven offensive threat in the postseason whose been between 11% and 19% better than league average offensively the past three seasons. Does he have the ability to return to 2009 and 2011 form where he produced at 46-49% above league average with the bat?
Danny Duffy enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2014, logging over 100 innings for first time since 2011, the Royals product notched 2.2 WAR across 25 starts with a 2.53 ERA. This was a revelation to dynasty fantasy baseball owners who’ve held on through the bad times, but Duffy’s performance was met with trepidation by non-believers. With a spotty health history and poor pitching peripherals undercutting the ERA, is Duffy a tweak away from consistent fantasy success, or is he a sell high candidate after a fantastic season?
The 2014 campaign for Mike Moustakas has been a tale of two halves. He started off 2014 cold as ice and was demoted to Triple-A on May 22. While in the minors, he appeared to regain his form. The Royals gave him another chance and he performed well enough to finish the season at third base for Kansas City. The Royals have reached the World Series with “Moose” batting from the nine spot where he’s been a leading offensive force. Is this a sign of things to come for the former top prospect?
The Giants are in the midst of another deep October run and Madison Bumgarner is leading the charge. The lefty starred in the wild card match up against Pittsburgh and kicked off the NLCS with 7.2 shutout innings against the Cardinals. During the start, he set the record for most consecutive scoreless playoff innings pitched on the road. In 2014, as Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain limped to -0.5 WAR combined, Bumgarner paced the pitching staff with 3.6 WAR and 30-plus starts, something he’s done every season since joining the rotation full-time in 2011. But, for all of the 25-year-old’s success, fantasy owners seem reluctant to make San Francisco’s ace their SP1. Is it time to fully embrace Bumgarner’s ascendance?
On the list of “Best Hitters in Baseball,” Victor Martinez’s name is overlooked as his numbers have never wowed. He has one silver slugger under his belt, received in 2004 as a member of the Cleveland Indians, but more time at first base and designated hitter has forced comparisons to the elite hitters in baseball. With two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera batting behind him in Detroit, nobody expected Vic-Mart to out slug a triple crown winner. Martinez did in his free agent season, but at 36, what will the reward be?
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