2014 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleeper: Adam LaRoche
2014 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleeper report on Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche
One of the most common questions I get asked leading up to the start of any regular season is, “Who are your sleepers this year?” While I love discussing Fantasy Sports with the all of our readers/listeners/people I find myself repeating myself far too often. So, I’ve decided to go ahead and periodically profile my top sleepers for this upcoming Fantasy Baseball Season and post them right here for all to read. This way the discussion can go from “Who” are my sleepers to “Why am I buying on these guys?” Also, I’m not going to be a bitch and give you names of players that will be on everybody else’s sleepers list. The following is another edition of my 2014 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers:
Player: Adam LaRoche
Position: First Base
2013 Stats: 590 AB’s, .237/.332/.403, 20 HR, 62 RBI, 70 Runs, 4 Steals
Current ADP: 269.51 (NFBC), 144.75 (MockDraftCentral)
Adam LaRoche has been one of the most underrated power hitter in baseball for almost a decade. He’s never been a high batting average type of guy but usually isn’t a drain on the category either. He suffered one of the worst slumps of his career in 2013 which led to a miserable .237 average. The difference in ADP between the NFBC and MockDraft Central clearly shows some misconceptions in LaRoche’s game. If he is on the board late in your draft he is a very good source for HR & RBI.
1. Power/Fly ball Rate
3. On Base %/Runs
An average season for Adam LaRoche has been 26 HR’s, 90 RBI & 77 runs scored. Considering he has done this over a ten year span and on five different teams is even more impressive. LaRoche has been a good value in the mid to late rounds for years but coming off a subpar season in 2013, he is a downright steal right now. Even though he hit just 20 HR’s last year he still had an outstanding 41.5% fly ball rate which is almost identical to his career average of 41.3%. Considering the MLB average is around 35% this is a very positive indicator that LaRoche’s power won’t be down for long.
LaRoche will most likely be hitting fifth in the Nationals order for much of the season. That puts him behind the likes of Denard Span, Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper each of who get on base at or above the major league average. This will provide plenty of RBI opportunities for LaRoche. Combine the opportunity with his ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark and you have the perfect recipe for RBI. A player who has a long track record of knocking in 90+ runs is almost impossible to find in the later rounds.
Last season LaRoche struggled at the plate. This is evidenced by his lowly .237 batting average. But when you consider that he still maintained his eye at the plate and walked a career high 72 times you see that he still had some Fantasy impact in the runs department. LaRoche has steadily increased his OBP over the years and as Moneyball has taught us the more a player gets on base the more likely they are to score runs.
2. Batting Average
Most power hitters strikeout a lot. That is just a known fact and something we have to deal with. While Adam LaRoche strikes out a lot he is far from being an Adam Dunn or Chris Davis. His career average strikeout rate sits at a below average 22.2%. Obviously the less contact he is making the less opportunity to hit the ball out of the ballpark and drive in runs.
As I stated above, power hitters seldom make regular contact. This leads to more strikeouts and a lower batting average. Considering you can select LaRoche in the 15th round or later the batting average drain should not be a surprise. Although all indicators suggest he’ll hit better than his .237 last year, this is still not an impact category for him in Fantasy.
LaRoche is now 34 years old and is entering his eleventh season in the major leagues. That experience pays off in terms of pitch selection and on base opportunities but it also takes its toll on the body. LaRoche has had elbow and back injuries over the years and had offseason surgery on his left elbow to clean out “loose bodies.” It’s a reasonable argument that LaRoche has hit his peak and is on the downside of his career but that is not to say he doesn’t have a couple of productive seasons still in front of him.
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