Here are the top five fantasy baseball questions facing the Baltimore Orioles in 2013.
5. Can Chris Davis repeat? Former cast-off Davis was a big part of the Orioles’ success last year. Was his improvement real or a fluke? He is only 26 years old, and one may speculate that he is reaching his prime. There is nothing in his 2012 performance that jumps out as a fluke; his HR/FB may seem like one at 25%, but he was at 20% over 700 at-bats in 2008-2009. Even if we regress that to 20% he is still a 30 HR threat. His contact rate stinks, so if you are in a head-to-head league that penalizes strikeouts he drops a lot.
4. Why isn’t Adam Jones a superstar? Every year fantasy players are waiting for Adam Jones to become a stud, and after 2012 you may be forgiven for thinking he is there. But his FB% is down to a measly 33%, and his success is predicated on maintaining a Chris Davis-like HR/FB rate of 19%. A career high in at-bats last year helped his counting stats, and his batting eye, like Davis’, stinks. There is a good chance he is a huge disappointment this year, and may not even be a top 100 player when it is all said and done.
3. Is Manny Machado ready? Personally, we are big fans of Machado long-term. But let’s face facts; this is not Ken Griffey Jr., or Mike Trout or Bryce Harper. This is a 20-year-old trying to learn a new position in the Majors. This is a 20-year-old with mediocre minor-league numbers, a poor batting eye and whose main selling point, and a good one by the way, was his age. In fact, this blurb might have been written about other similar youthful players, only with better minor league performance-Wilson Betemit and Jose Guillen. If you end up with Machado in a non-keeper mixed-league you had a bad draft.
2. Can Jim Johnson be a stud closer again? Let’s say this up front: the Closer Identifier Algorithm says, for now, he keeps the job. That, by itself, is good evidence that he will keep it. However, his “hold” rating is based on his success in converting saves, not because he is a skilled closer. And SV/SVO can be a fickle mistress. We won’t be surprised if CIA says he loses the job at some point, and neither should you. But he will have an extremely long leash.
1. Will any starting pitcher have a positive mixed-league fantasy value? This looks to us like a much closer question than it might seem like at first glance. Wei-Yin Chen is a mediocre starter with middling K rates, and we do not know what to expect in his second go-round. Miguel Gonzalez had a 3.25 ERA last year as a pleasant surprise, but his skill set stinks, and he is likely to add at least a run to that ERA if not two. Chris Tillman seems like a sleeper, but we have discussed his alleged velocity increase at length on the Roundtable Show, and elsewhere as well, and it is unlikely to continue.
Perhaps the best bet is Jason Hammel. He has shown a league-average skill set in the past, and though that is damning with faint praise, last year’s 3.43 ERA is fully supported by his underlying numbers, and the change of scenery to Baltimoredi d him a lot of good. What remains to be seen is whether his K rate and GB% gains are illusory or not.