Welcome to the 1st annual Ottoneu Position Outlook (2015).
While there’s no shortage of fantasy baseball resources (rankings, projections, opinions) available on the interwebs today, this review is dedicated entirely to the growing fantasy format of Ottoneu, the creation of founder Niv Shah. In other words, this is your go-to resource for custom, Ottoneu-style dynasty baseball preparation for 2015. If you aren’t familiar with Ottoneu, you can check out more information here
The positional reviews that follow are specifically tailored to Ottoneu “FanGraphs Points” leagues, so you’ll want to keep this linear weights scoring format in mind as you digest the information below and prepare for your own Ottoneu draft/league in 2015.
The setup is pretty standard:
· Review 2014 results and some of the top players at each position
· Compare average salaries of players found throughout the Ottoneu player universe
· Various player blurbs and analysis
· Identify a few surprises and disappointments from the previous season
· 2015 Top 20 ranking and a few sleepers to target
In addition to the format above, you’ll find several graphs for quick reference, as well as an open invitation to comment for further feedback. Keep in mind that rankings, strategies, and player evaluations are opinion only, so this is best used as a general guide.
2015 Position Outlook: 1B
- If you owned Victor Martinez in 2014, there’s a good chance you were chasing a league title, as he delivered more surplus value than just about any player in Ottoneu last year. If you didn’t own Victor Martinez in 2014 and somehow overlooked his incredible season, stop reading now and go take a look. After scoring 810 points in 2013 (just over 5 P/G), the 35 year old rediscovered the fountain of youth and paced the entire 1B circuit with 1,110 points over a relatively healthy season of 151 games. More impressively, VMart accomplished this while maintaining a 6.60 K%, 10.90 BB%, and a .230 ISO. In other words, he more than doubled his HR output from 2013 while improving his plate discipline (a 16% HR/FB helped after two consecutive years around 7%). That’s just not easy to do, so you’d be in the minority if you don’t expect some level regression in 2015, right?. VMart was the best 1B bargain of 2014, but what kind of drop off should be expected? His breakout is fully supported by the underlying skills (and elite contact rates), but his age tells us it’s an outlier. VMart is just tough to peg for 2015, so to be safe, I’d combine 2012 – 2014 and take the average, which is a 6.0 P/G player. Pay for 900+ points, 20-25 HR , and 150 games.
- The other big surprise at 1B in 2014 was the immediate emergence of Jose Abreu, who now looks like a lock as a top 3 1B entering 2015. Most scouts were willing to bet on the translation of an elite power tool to MLB, but Abreu looked every bit the smart, natural hitter in 2015 as well, though it will be interesting to see if he can maintain elite BABIP levels of > .350 going forward. One thing is for certain: Abreu hits the ball with authority, as his .264 ISO was 2nd best among first basemen (just behind Edwin Encarnacion), and his 26.9% HR/FB ratio was 66% better than the average HR/FB% of the top 20 scoring 1B shown here. Abreu had a monster 1st half in the power department (35% HR/FB!), but owners can also be excited about genuine, positive adjustments made in the 2nd half of the season too, as Abreu’s OPS actually increased thanks in part to a .430 OBP, which was fueled by an improved BB rate (11%), contact rate (79%), and utter domination of LHP (1.373 OPS). Likely one of the top arbitration targets of the off season in Ottoneu leagues, Abreu is still worth every penny (and more) of his current $30+ average salary, and is one of the few players with legitimate 40+ HR potential in 2015.
- Speaking of power and crushing LHP, don’t forget about how good Paul Goldschmidt can be in 2015. Injuries limited him to 109 games in 2014 but he was every bit the player he was in 2013 (7.45 P/G) when he was on the field. Plenty of similarities between Goldy and Abreu heading into 2015 (age, power, contact), so it won’t be surprising to see their prices align in new Ottoneu leagues, either. It’s tough to go wrong with either, but if you’re drafting a new Ottoneu team in 2015, Goldy may be the preferred option over Abreu just because we’ve yet to see how Abreu will adjust to a full season of scouting reports. Steamer has Goldschmidt at .386 wOBA (30 HR) and 144 wRC+ (6.86 P/G), so I’m taking the over (~ 1,150+ points) without thinking twice.
- Remember when everyone last year said Anthony Rizzo couldn’t hit LHP? Surprise, he hit .300 vs. LHP with a higher OPS (.928 vs. .907). He’s making those adjustments and is still only 25. Rizzo was a monster in 2014 on a per game basis (5th at 6.90), was one of the best bargains in Ottoneu (< $24 average salary after arbitration), and was unsurprisingly a top five arbitration magnet this off season. There don’t appear to be any major red flags in the offensive profile (although his BB rate dropped from 14% to 9% in the 2nd half), so Rizzo looks like the real deal heading into 2015, which should be a truly exciting year for Cubs fans. While he doesn’t have quite the same level of power as Abreu and Goldschmidt, Rizzo is still maturing, learning the league, and has the benefit of being left handed in a great hitter’s park. He was remarkably consistent throughout the season, and absolutely destroyed pitchers when he was ahead in the count, so he clearly has a plan at the plate (nearly 12% BB rate), and is young enough to find that extra gear that pushes him to the top of the list. Bid confidently, as Rizzo is capable of reaching the 1,100 point threshold in 2015.
- David Ortiz keeps on slugging (ranking 2nd in HR among 1B), posting another top 10 season in 2014 with 885 points. While age (39) could get the better of him at any time, the underlying numbers suggest Big Papi hasn’t missed a beat and still deserves credit as a top 1B target in Ottoneu. He posted the lowest BABIP of his BOS career (more than .50 less than his recent 5 year average), and has one of the highest “hard hit” rates in MLB (maintaining a top 5 ISO), so Ortiz may be in store for a beneficial correction in both average and power in 2015. There’s no doubt the aged 1B (yes, he does qualify for 1B in 2015) has seen better days, but savvy Ottoneu owners will continue to see Ortiz as a cost-effective buying opportunity when the $40 1B are off the market.
- Raise your hand if you had Steve Pearce as a top 10 1B on a per game basis heading into 2014? Believe it or not Pearce actually outpaced Freddie Freeman and Albert Pujols in 2014, though most owners were likely using him in their outfield thanks to his 31 GS in the OF in 2014. Obviously he’ll retain his OF eligibility in 2015, so the key question is whether he will retain his breakout rate stats. The short answer is “no”, as 2014 saw the perfect storm of BABIP (.322), HR/FB (17.5% career high), and playing time (86 GS) come together to account for a .404 wOBA and 186 OPS+. Unfortunately, at 32 y/o, 2014 is likely as good as it gets, but then again, you’re not owning Pearce as your starting 1B, so a $5 Steve Pearce plays nicely as a 5th OF and 1B spot starter (Pearce gave you 8.00 P/G against LH starting pitchers in 2014).
- Which 1B could have that Rizzo/Pearce-like breakout in 2015? The numbers suggest it could be Lucas Duda, who just made the top 20 P/G cutoff in 2014 at 5.28. The good: Duda’s BB rate remained steady at 12% all year long, his 30 HR didn’t seem to need the benefit of an outrageous HR/FB spike (14% 1st half; 18% 2nd half), and he seems to thrive just as well on the road as he did at home. He posted a career high in AB (514), which shouldn’t be in jeopardy with Eric Campbell (?) currently sitting behind him on the depth chart in NY. The bad: despite some growth in the 2nd half, the jury is still out on whether Duda can actually hit LHP over a full season. He hit only .180 against same-side pitching in 2014, good for a 54 wRC+, which is downright awful. But then again, that’s what everyone said about Rizzo last year too, right? If Duda can improve that LHP flaw, he stands a chance to jump into a much higher 1B tier in 2015. But keep in mind the risk, as he could just as easily tease with Pedro Alvarez-like power that is still dependent upon a platoon partner against southpaws. At an average price of just over $5 in Ottoneu, no one is cutting Duda heading into February, but if you’re drafting for 2015, $10 – $12 seems about right to balance the risk/reward if you’re targeting him as a budget 1B option come March.
- Jose Bautista won the most Ottoneu “rings” in 2014, owned by 27 championship teams (David Ortiz was 2nd with 21). At an average price of $38 across all leagues, he’s still easily an elite option, but most teams are deploying him in the OF, as he only picked up 1B late in the 2014 season. Still, that 1B eligibility is a nice addition since the position isn’t as deep as it once was, so it won’t be surprising if owners utilize Bautista in the 1B spot a few times in 2015. Bautista saw his HR/FB rate increase a bit (to 18%) in the 2nd half, which essentially helped offset his slightly decreased walk rate during the same time frame. While 40 HR seasons are a thing of the past for Bautista, he still hits the ball impressively hard at age 34, and his OBP skills (16% BB rate) are Ottoneu-gold. Bautista sits right at the top of the list with Miggy and Encarnacion as sluggers who combine hard hits with high contact rates, so as long as he stays healthy for a contending TOR team, there’s little fear that serious decline is on the way at age 34. Keep an eye on his splits in 2015…he destroyed LHP in the 1st half but came down to earth in the 2nd half, actually hitting better against RHP.
Three year Ottoneu trends at 1B
- It’s hard to look at this graph of 3 year scoring averages at the 1B position and not be amazed by how good Miguel Cabrera has been over the past few years. He’s been 25% better in total points scoring than his closest competitor at the position, Encarnacion, since 2012. Miggy is a beast, and despite an injury-plagued 2014, he still managed to score just over 1,000 points, one of only nine (9) hitters to do so last year. Keep an eye on his return timeline this winter as he’s coming back from significant ankle surgery that clearly sapped some of his HR power in 2014. If healthy, he’s very likely to return to the top spot at the position in 2015, though it won’t come with much of a discount ($64) to those building around him. Underlying numbers indicate Miggy still has the power to play at the elite level, and if his career low 14% HR/FB rebounds to “normal” Miggy-like levels, a season similar to 2010 isn’t completely out of the question. After all, Miggy will play 2015 at age 32, so if guys like Ortiz (39) and Bautista (34) can still play at a high level, you shouldn’t feel the need to write Miggy off too soon. He did set a career high in doubles (52) in 2014, many of which will clear the fence again in 2015 when healthy.
- Chris Davis pops up at #8 on the best 1B of the past three scoring seasons, so what’s in store for 2015? The easiest bet in fantasy baseball heading into 2014 was banking on the under for 53 HR again from Davis, but what he actually delivered last year was devastating to those owners who invested heavily in what now appears to be a career-high HR/FB rate of almost 30% in 2013. Clearly, 2014 was a lost year for Crush Davis, who found himself platooning regularly with Steve Pearce against LHP later in the season. Despite still blasting 26 HR, Davis actually regressed in the 2nd half last year, an alarming trend that should encourage buyers to continue tapping the brakes in the 2015 auction. Maybe it was the medication issue, but both his walk and contact rates plummeted in the 2nd half, which doesn’t come as a surprise when you see his sub-.200 batting average. There’s still no evidence that Davis can consistently hit LHP, which is probably the biggest harbinger of trouble entering 2015, as Pearce and others may continue to take away playing time if it doesn’t materialize out of the gate in 2015. Still, at 29 y/o, with 3B eligibility and a 50 HR season on his resume, Davis has the upside to recapture some glory, but owners may want to hedge their bets with a platoon partner as a return to 2012 (33 HR but 759 points) may be the new ceiling.
- Joe Mauer: how the mighty have fallen. At an average price of $27, you should be selling hard. Pick up Loney, LaRoche, or Morneau as a suitable alternative and let others bid for the guy who hit only 4 HR last year.
- Over the past three years, Joey Votto has averaged 7.15 P/G, 2nd only to Miggy. Taking a look at his profile, he still has all the makings of an elite hitter in Ottoneu. But does it feel like he scored 1,159 points in 2013 and played a full 162 game season? That feels like decades ago for some reason, so maybe Votto might actually be underrated heading into 2015. He’s owned across Ottoneu at almost $49, so if you’re one of those owners I’m sure you’re thinking hard about selecting the “cut” option in your Roster Organizer right now. Cutting Votto at $49 is worth the risk, as it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s a player many owners avoid in the draft in 2015 due to injury perceptions. That avoidance may represent a buying opportunity at significantly reduced prices, so don’t forget about him just because he doesn’t show up at the top of the 2014 1B leaderboard. He’ll play at 31 y/o and still maintains one of the best BB rates in the game. Steamer’s .385 wOBA (135 GP) projection looks just right to me, so adjust your funding expectations accordingly.
- Eric Hosmer doesn’t show up on any of these graphs, and yet his average Ottoneu price is just over $21, higher than Ortiz, Napoli, LaRoche, and Chris Carter, each of whom is likely to outscore Hosmer in 2015. If Votto is underrated, Hosmer is perhaps the most overrated 1B in fantasy. Sure, he’ll play 2015 at 25 y/o, and he did have a “breakout” 2nd half to the tune of a 115 wRC+ (thanks to a .341 BABIP, an increase in ISO, and finally being healthy, in just 34 games), but Hosmer’s ground ball tendencies just don’t do enough to suggest a power explosion is coming any time soon (similar to a lot of KC hitters…). Over the past two seasons, Hosmer has averaged 4.95 P/G, so 775 points in a truly healthy season feels about right for him in 2015. Granted, that’s a top 20 1B, but at what cost? The year we all finally write Hosmer off is probably going to be that year his skills at the plate finally catch up to his pedigree, so the message here isn’t to completely avoid him. Just don’t go overboard in the auction when there are similar alternatives available at cheaper prices. In other words, don’t get caught in a bidding war for Hosmer late in your draft; bid him up early for a reasonable price ($15 – $18), when possible, and bow out early if another owner is clearly betting on his age and upside to push up the price. Odds are they’ll be the one most disappointed…
1B Disappointments – 2014
1) Allen Craig – between 2012 and 2013, Allen Craig averaged 6.0 P/G, or 970 points over a full season. The problem is, Craig has never played a full season (career high of 134 in 2013). Everything went wrong for Craig in 2014, so it was only appropriate he was traded to BOS, for which everything else went wrong. Unfortunately, despite being only 30 y/o, both Craig’s contact and power rates are trending downward. Add in the fact that he’s (currently) buried in BOS behind a wide range of OF/1B possibilities, it doesn’t look promising that Craig is going to play a full slate of games any time soon. At $17 (average in all Ottoneu FGPts leagues), I’m selling Craig as fast as I can. He’s a $4-$7 player at best right now with slight upside, most of which is completely contingent upon health and playing time, neither of which looks promising for next season. If it’s between Steve Pearce and Allen Craig in drafts in 2015, I’m taking Pearce. They feel like similar players.
2) Ike Davis – After hitting 32 HR in 2012, Ike Davis was a nice sleeper coming into 2014. Granted, at an average price of $5, he was a sleeper/platoon at best, but he failed to deliver even $1 in value in 2014 after 3.12 P/G. Davis is now in OAK as part of what looks to be a true platoon, but I’d continue to stay away, at least in drafts. He’s teased Ottoneu leagues for a few years with great BB rates and emerging power, but there’s no reason to put him up for auction in 2015. Wait till he gets hot (if ever) and pick him up on a speculative $1 bid in late April. That’s your best hope to see any sort of profit going forward. His 20% HR/FB in from 2012 is long gone…
3) Nick Swisher – at $14, Swisher is getting cut in a lot of leagues this winter come January. Bad knees (and eventual surgery) wreaked havoc on his season, and when he was playing he chased more pitches out of the zone than ever, making less contact with them when he did. The old, consistent Swisher, the one that averaged 860 points (5.6 P/G) per season from 2009 – 2013 isn’t coming back, but of the three 1B mentioned here, I’d bet on Swisher having the best bounce back season…maybe just enough to use as your 5th OF at around $6.
2015 Top 20 1B (total points)*
1) Paul Goldschmidt ($45)
2) Jose Abreu ($45)
3) Miguel Cabrera ($55 – rank #1 if fully healthy by ST)
4) Anthony Rizzo ($36)
5) Freddie Freeman ($36)
6) Edwin Encarnacion ($35)
7) Joey Votto ($32)
8) Victor Martinez ($27)
9) David Ortiz ($24)
10) Brandon Belt ($22)
11) Albert Pujols ($20)
12) Adrian Gonzalez ($20)
13) Prince Fielder ($20)
14) Eric Hosmer ($18)
15) Chris Davis ($16)
16) Adam LaRoche ($12)
17) Lucas Duda ($12)
18) Mike Napoli ($12)
19) Matt Adams ($10)
20) Justin Morneau ($10)
*Note: players eligible for other premium positions (Bautista, Posey, Lucroy, Santanta, Carter) will be ranked at the position deemed most valuable for the 2015 season. ($) above represents estimated auction price I’d consider paying for 2015.
Three 1B Bargains for 2015
1) Billy Butler – over the past three (3) seasons Butler is the 11th highest average scoring 1B in Ottoneu. He’ll turn 29 in April and should have DH locked down in OAK now with Moss out of town. Butler isn’t ever going to hit 29 HR again like he did in 2012, but he’s not to be overlooked, especially considering a) he mashes LHP, and b) you can probably pick him up for ~ $3 in 2015. Butler averaged 927 points/season between 2009 – 2013, so a return to the 800 point threshold from a $3 1B would be a nice profit outlook for 2015.
2) Brandon Belt – his injury plagued 2014 (thumb, concussion) started off crazy hot as Belt sacrificed his normally excellent BB rates with extraordinary power in April/May. He’ll play 2015 at the magic age of 27, and though he’s never hit more than 17 HR in a season, I’d be willing to bet on at least 10 more, which is the reason I’d go at least $10 over his current average Ottoneu price of $12. Belt represents one of the true upside profit plays in 2015 at the 1B position.
3) Matt Adams – With Craig out of town and only Mark Reynolds a threat to take away some AB’s vs. LHP, Adams is setup nicely to improve upon his .779 OPS from 2015 and possibly enter the top 10 1B discussion if everything breaks right. Of course, STL signed Reynolds because Adams still struggles against same side pitching, so we’ll take a wait and see approach until he does. However, his contact rates are solid, and his hard hit and line drive rates are strong enough that more power is expected, so you’ll want to be buying when it does. Adams doesn’t walk much (just 5% in 2014), so his OBP will be limited to around .340, but for around $10 (or less) you could have a 26 y/o breakout on your hands. I’ll take the (slight) overage on his .335 Steamer wOBA projections for 2015.
Next Up: 2nd base…