2014 Fantasy Baseball: Regression Bounce Back Candidates

2014 Fantasy Baseball: Regression Bounce Back Candidates

Shawn Childs, High Stakes Fantasy Baseball Winner and Contributor from scoutPRO.com is helping FFToolbox readers dominate their fantasy baseball leagues this season.


Patrick Corbin was an impact backend starter in 2013. He went 9-0 in his first 11 starts of the year with a 2.06 ERA. Patrick allowed 2 runs or less in 17 of his first 21 starts (2.24 ERA) before fading over the last 2 months of the year (2-6 with a 6.05 ERA). Corbin was dominate against LH pitching (.203). In a way, Patrick overachieved his minor league resume (3.78 ERA with 404 K's in 430.7 innings). He has very good command (2.3) with a rising K rate (7.7). His AFB (92.1) was stronger than his 2012 season (90.9). Corbin throws a slider as his #2 pitch followed by a changeup. Overall, he only had one plus pitch in 2013 (slider - .132). It accounted for 129 of his K's. Batters hit .329 against his changeup (.586 SLG %), .277 against his sinker, and .258 against his four seam fastball. His velocity was stronger in August and September than April and May so his lack of success may have been due to him pressing as he started to fade. Earlier he his minor career, it appeared his changeup had more upside than his slider. Corbin had success last year due to move velocity, an improved slider, and an elite first strike %. I don't think his early 2013 success is repeatable without further development of his changeup. I expect regression in his ERA and whip this year. His final stats will paint a better picture than 2014 value.

Last year I was fearful of Anibal Sanchez headed into the season due to his mid season struggles. He had a great season in 2013 and he led the AL in ERA (2.56). Anibal tied his career high in K's (202). His command (2.7) was slightly lower than his previous last 2 seasons. His AFB (93.0) was a career high and it has gained velocity in 6 straight seasons. This led to spike in his K rate (10.0 - career high). His changeup gained value and it is now his #2 pitch followed by a plus slider. Sanchez also throw a curveball. His big improvement was against RH batters (.207 - .291 in 2012). He missed time in June due a shoulder issue. Anibal allowed 2 runs or less in 22 of his 29 starts. Sanchez has never thrown 200 innings in his career. His skill set is on the improve, but his success may be above his skill set. His ERA should fall back to the 3.50 area with less than 200 K's.

Hisashi Iwakuma had a great 2013 season. He pitched the most innings of his career with elite command (1.7) and slightly higher K rate (7.6) than 2012 (7.3). Hisashi had equal success against RH (.223) and LH (.218) batters. He pitched very well at home (2.86 ERA with a plus walk rate {1.0}), but he was better on the road (2.45 ERA) even with less command {2.5} and a lower K rate {7.0}). Iwakuma allowed 2 runs or less in 21 of his 33 starts. He allowed no runs in his last 3 starts of the year (23 innings). Other than a 5 game stretch between June and early July (22 runs in 29 innings), Hisashi was electric. His success last year was better than his Japanese resume (3.25 ERA with 2.0 walk rate and 6.9 K rate), but he did flash one elite season in 2008 when he went 21-4 with a 1.87 ERA. Iwakuma has pitched over 200 innings twice in his career. Both times in the next season, he struggled with injuries, which limited his innings to 169 and 119. Hisashi doesn't have a plus fastball (89.5). His 2nd best pitch is a split-finger fastball followed by a solid slider and show me curveball. He has a nice arm, but he did overachieve his skill set in 2013. I expect some regression with some injury risk down side. His resume leads me to believe Tanaka may be undervalued in 2014. Update: Iwakuma suffered a finger injury on his pitching hand in mid February. He is expected to miss 4 to 6 weeks so there is a good chance he will be ready for the start of the season.

Starling Marte is getting a lot of love in the early draft season. His plusses were his run rate (49 %), his steals (41), and his average hit (1.573). His negatives were his K rate (24.4 %), his walk rate (4.4 %), and his RBI total (35). His short RBI's were due to lack of chances (208), which is real low number for his at bat total. His AVH was above average and it points to more power down the road. Starling was very good against lefties (.402 with a .402 SLG %), but he only had 6 RBI. He missed 3 weeks late in the year due a sprained finger. Marte did most of his damage before the All Star break (.294 with 9 HR's, 28 RBI, and 28 SB's). Starling had been a GB hitter (50.8 %) in his 677 at bats in the majors. He hit .303 in his minor league career with 39 HR's, 240 RBI, and 131 SB's in 1796 at bats. His season in 2013 fell in line with his minor league resume. His skill set isn't ideal to bat leadoff and his approach at the plate will lead to batting average risk. He has talent for sure, but I could see some regression this year. His power isn't ready to make a step forward due to his high GB rate. His biggest asset is speed. On pure comparison, Mike Trout would have been on base 118 more times (39.3 % more) if their at bats were the same (589), which just show the impact of a better leadoff hitter for McCutchen.

Chris Davis was beyond impressive last season. He has a huge K rate (29.6 % - slight improvement from 2012 - 30.1 %), but he avoided any prolonged slumps in power. He had a massive first 3 months of the year (.332 with 31 HR's and 80 RBI) with an improved K rate (26.6 %), but his success did a take a huge step back over the 2nd half of the year (.238 with 21 HR's and 58 RBI - 32.6 % K rate). Chris owned RH pitching (.316 with 40 HR's and 93 RBI), but his approach at the plate was much less against lefties (5.9 % walk rate and 30.9 % K rate). Davis had a massive jump in his FB rate (45.7 % - 37.5 % in 2012 and 36.8 % in 2011), which led to a major league high HR/FB rate (29.6 %). We know two things for sure with Davis. He has plus power with a high K rate. His 53 HR's will make him a very high draft selection in 2014. To me, he is the new version of Ryan Howard with a stronger FB rate. He has 40 HR power with upside, but his batting average should regress this season. Interesting start to a fantasy team, but he will force a fantasy player to chase batting average for the rest of the draft. His success last year will make him a early first pick, but he won't be an edge in batting average and his high RBI total may not be repeatable. The first base position has depth this year and Davis isn't a clear edge based on his price point.

The Mariners blew away Robinson Cano with a 10 year $240 million contract. Robinson has hit over .300 in his last 5 years. His K rate (12.5 %) remains in a very good area while his walk rate (9.5 %) has shown very good growth. Last year Cano was a plus run producer (20 % RBI rate), but he had his shortest RBI changes since 2006. Last year he had a great first half of the year (.302 with 21 HR's and 65 RBI) before his power faded after the All Star break (6 HR's). Cano is a career .318 hitter against RB pitching and .290 against lefties. He has hit .309 at Safeco Field with 4 HR's and 20 RBI in 163 at bats in his career. His FB rate (29.8 %) has been short in his last 2 seasons while his HR/FB rate (17.3 %) has been strong over the past 3 years. The change in ballpark and team is somewhat of a concern. Cano is a rock solid .300 hitter with 25+ HR potential. HIs RBI total may lack upside unless the Mariners get a solid option as a leadoff hitter.

Bounce Back

Last year Albert Pujols missed most of spring training after a slow recovery from knee surgery from the previous October. He was limited to a DH role early in the year and it was clear he wasn't 100 % healthy just based on his slow foot speed. For most of his career. Albert has struggled with plantar fascia. Last year he tore his left plantar fascia in late July which ended his season. The injury didn't require surgery and he was almost 100 % healthy in January. Pujols had a career low 17 HR's and a career low .258 batting average. Prior to last year, Albert had hit 30 HR's or more in 12 straight seasons and his lowest RBI total was 99. If he played a full season in 2013, Pujols was on a pace for 27 HR's and 100 RBI. His K rate (12.4 %) has been elite in his career, but it was a career high last year. His walk rate (9.0 %) has been below his career average in his last 3 years. Pujols has a great major league resume and great work ethic. He has under achieved in his first 2 years with the Angels and this year his draft value has slid to a career low. Last year Mike Trout was on base 282 times, which gives Pujols one of the best RBI chances in the game. A fantasy player would just be crazy to pass up the Trout/Pujols hook up on the 2/3 turn. Albert should hit over .300 this year with 30+ HR's and 120+ RBI.

C.C. Sabathia had a disaster season after delivering 7 straight plus seasons with 122 wins and an ERA under 3.40 in each year. C.C. had surgery in October of 2012 to have a bone spur removed from his elbow and maybe he wasn't 100 % healthy in 2013. His AFB (91.1) was a career low. His velocity has declined by 2.7 mph over the last 2 years. His slider continues to be his #2 pitch followed by a solid changeup. Last year he pitched well in April (4-2 with 3.35), but he delivered negative stats in every other month of the season (May - 4.14 , June - 5.11, July - 5.11, August - 5.94, and September - 3.90). Late in the year, Sabathia was battling a hamstring injury. C.C. allowed 2 runs or less only 9 times in his 32 starts. He has a long resume of success. His decline in velocity in 2012 may have been a result of his elbow issue. Last year Sabathia may have taken it easy in the offseason, which led to him being more out of shape than he normally is. I respect his motivation and I see him as bounce back candidate. I expect 15+ wins with a sub 3.50 ERA. He lost about 40 lbs. in the offseason, which further supports my position in him.

Josh Beckett pitched pretty well over his first 3 starts (3.26 ERA with 17 K's in 19.3 innings). He struggled through his last 5 outings (6.75 ERA). His season ended in mid May when he developed a groin injury that led to a nerve issue in his right arm and hand. He had surgery in July to fix a nerve impingement in his right shoulder. The time table for recovery was 3 to 5 months, which gives him a chance at being ready for the start of spring training. Beckett is 132-100 in his major league career with a 3.94 ERA. Josh has struggled in the last 2 seasons with declining command (3.1). He pitched at an elite level in 2011 (2.89 ERA), but his K rate (7.0) was below his career average. His AFB (92.0) has been on the decline over the last 5 seasons. He throws a cutter, curveball, and changeup almost the same % of time. Beckett has flashed elite upside at times in his career, but he has also fallen on his face more than once. Upside arm that may be overlooked on draft day. Josh should be healthy for the first time in since 2011. Possible 15 wins with 200 K upside.

The Neftali Feliz as a starter ended up costing him 2 years of his career. Last year Neftali returned from his TJ surgery to pitch 4.7 innings in the majors where he allowed no runs with 2 walks and 4 K's. His AFB (93.6) wasn't all the way back (96.3 in 2010 and 2011). He threw his changeup as his #2 pitch followed by a slider. Feliz only threw 51.4 % fastballs in his brief innings with Texas (over 80 % fastballs in 2010 and 2011). Neftali seems committed to be a closer going forward. His command (4.3) faded in his 2nd year as a closer and it was poor as a starter in 2012 (4.9). Feliz had an electric fastball with developing command in his first 2 seasons in the majors. Texas will score runs this year so his upside in saves may only be the low 40's. I think his skill set matches up with some of the front relievers in the game if his velocity returns. His lack of resume over the last 2 seasons creates a nice buying opportunity. Neftali has 100 K upside in the bullpen. His spring training will determine his draft value. He needs command and a plus fastball to be elite in 2014. Possible top 10 closer.

Carl Crawford has had a tough past 3 seasons after signing a huge contract with the Rex Sox. He appeared well on his way to a 3000 hit career. Last year he suffered a bad hamstring injury that cost him a month of the season, which led to short stolen bases. After the first 2 months of the year, Carl was hitting .293 with 5 HR's, 13 RBI, and 9 SB's. He had a slight back issue over the last 3 months of the year, which led to a .270 batting average with only 1 HR, 18 RBI, and 6 SB's in 252 at bats. Crawford really struggled with LH pitching (.206). His HR/FB rate (5.4 %) was his lowest since 2003. His FB rate (30.1 %) has been low in his whole career. Carl is a high upside talent with plus speed and double digit power. He needs 1235 hit to reach 3000 in his career (about 155 per season if he played until he is 40). Crawford should enter this season healthy. He price point is discounted, which makes him a possible buying opportunity. He has seven 40 SB season on his resume. His K rate (14.1 %) was his lowest since 2008 and his walk rate (6.0 %) in has been short in his whole career. Solid 10/30 option with upside.

Ryan Howard has missed more than a season of games over the last 2 years. Last year he wasn't great in his 80 games (11 HR's and 43 RBI), but he wasn't terrible either. His K rate (30.0 %) has been more of a negative in the past 2 seasons. Last year he had the lowest walk rate (7.3 %) of his career. He developed a left knee issue on May 19th and he tried to play through it, but it ended up being a meniscus tear that required surgery in July. His approach at the plate was brutal in April and May (10 walks in 185 at bats - 5.0 % walk rate), which was totally out of character for him. His walk rate (11.4 %) fell back in line in June. Last year he had absolutely no value against LH pitching (39 K's in 81 at bats with only 3 walks - .173). Howard has a long resume of success hitting HR's in the majors. His struggles over the last 2 years were due to injuries. Ryan has been working hard to get back and shape in the offseason. I expected another plus HR season and his drafted value is low enough where he will be this year's Chris Davis at 1st base. Over a six period, he averaged 44 HR's with 131 RBI. I know the talent around him has declined, but his power is still elite.

Shawn Childs Shawn Childs -
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Forestdale, MA
FFToolbox Fantasy Baseball Writer since 2014
Over the past decade, Ive had the liberty to compete against the best fantasy players in the world. Ive won my fair share of leagues in multiple high stakes season long games in baseball and football. My strength is fantasy baseball where Ive won five National Fantasy Baseball Championship main event titles with four of those teams finishing in the top 5 overall. My success in fantasy sports has lead me to pursue a career in the fantasy market as a content provider and product development.