To no one’s surprise, Wil Myers and Jose Fernandez were named the American and National League MVPs, respectively. Let’s take a look at what can be expected from each in the sophomore campaigns.
After his recall in mid-June, Myers played in 88 games, hitting .293-13-53-5-50 in 335 at bats. On the surface, this was a great debut for the Tampa Bay Ray’s outfielder and certainly justified dealing away James Shields to the Kansas City Royals. That said, it is best to temper your expectations in the short term.
There are a couple of recent prospects that profile similarly to Myers: Jay Bruce and Brandon Belt. Granted the comparisons aren't perfect, but if we focus on the fact that in Triple-A all three exhibited prolific power but fanned a lot and compensated via an exceptional batting average on balls in play, they work.
After being promoted in 2008, Bruce's line was .254-21-58 in 452 plate appearances. The following season he slipped (at least in average) to .223-22-53 in 387 plate appearances. He dropped his K% but his BABIP torpedoed to .221. Since then, Bruce has developed into one of the more reliable power options, though I am not as bullish on Bruce as some of my colleagues, but that's a story for another day.
Unlike Myers, Belt struggled in his rookie campaign, sporting a line of .225-9-18 in 209 plate appearances. He upped his average to .275 in his sophomore season though his power dropped. This past season, Belt hit .289 with 17 homers and is thought to finally be on the upswing.
Keep in mind Bruce's home venue of the Great American Ballpark is very kind to power hitters while Belt's home digs in AT&T Park depress pop considerably. Still, it pretty clear that there is a decent sized gap in production between Bruce and Belt.
I see Myers having the ceiling of Bruce with the floor of Belt. However, realize it took Bruce a few seasons to mature into the hitter he is today, so for 2014, it would not shock me if Myers was more Belt than Bruce especially since Tropicana Field is more like AT&T than the GAB. That said, my initial projection for Myers is basically in between that of Bruce and Belt.
Long-term, the key for Myers will be shaving a few whiffs off his ledger while continue to mature as a power hitter. Bruce has been able to do just that (though his contact in 2013 dropped) while Belt has improved his contact but his power is lagging. The likelihood is Belt is more of a gap hitter and won't have the power manifest like that of Bruce and hopefully Myers. But in the short term, let someone else chase Myers' future. You can get his 2014 production from the likes of Adam LaRoche, Josh WIllingham or Mitch Moreland for a fraction of the cost.
A strong argument can be offered that Jose Fernandez was the second best starting pitcher in the National League. In 172 2/3rds innings, he spun a 12-6 record with a sparkling 2.19 ERA and even more effervescent 0.98 WHIP.
Based upon the early drafts (yes, some of us are already drafting, both mocks and for real), Fernandez will be one of the first eight starting pitchers off the board with some contending they would take only Clayton Kershaw ahead of him.
As I have discussed in the past, I don't judge other's rankings. I don't believe in average draft position other than a very selective guide so that means the phrase "good pick" or "bad pick" is not in my vernacular.
With that as a backdrop, picking Fernandez in the back end of the top-ten is very risky. Choosing him earlier is just bat-ass crazy.
Ranking Fernandez as one of the top-five starters is more about the ego trip of being right than it is about sage analysis. Can he end up as a top-five guy? Sure, but so can fifteen others.
Aside from the fact it has already been disclosed Fernandez will be on an innings limit which curtails his strikeout potential and lessens the impact of his ratios, there are signs things won't be silky smooth for Fernandez in the upcoming season.
The Marlins' phenom sported an excellent K/9 of 9.8 but his 3.0 BB/9 was a tick worse than league average. His batting average on balls in play was a fortunate .240, completely unsupported by a 21.6 percent line drive rate. While he did work half his games in the pitcher-friendly Marlins Park, his 7 percent HR/FB mark is ripe for regression.
The four major expected ERA calculations all scream Fernandez's 2.19 mark was buoyed by Lady Luck:
Look, I'm not naive. I know full well where the Fernandez love is emanating from. After the All-Star break, his ERA was 1.32 with a 0.82 WHIP. His K/9 spiked to 11.1 while his BB/9 dipped to 2.4.
But it was in only 68 frames. Granted, it was 68 of the most dominant stanzas anyone hurled all season, but just because it was the final 68 innings of the year, that doesn't mean Fernandez will pick up where he left off and continue that insane pace. There will be some adjustments made. Chances are Fernandez will adjust back, but his baseline should be considered that of a 2.80 - 3.00 ERA guy and based on his post break heroics, many are expecting a mark a run or so lower.
Since my declaration is not to rank Fernandez in the top-ten, it's perfectly fair to ask what ten starters I would have ahead of him.
In roughly this order, I would prefer Kershaw, Chris Sale, Adam Wainwright, Yu Darvish, Max Scherzer, Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee, Zack Greinke, James Shields and Cole Hamels ahead of Fernandez.
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Affectionately known as Lord Zola, Todd was the 2013 Fantasy Sports Writers Association recipient of the Fantasy Baseball Article of the Year, Web. He's been with Mastersball since its inception in 1997 and presently Todd writes for the ESPN Insider and Baseball HQ. Todd is a frequent guest on SiriusXM and is a regular on HQ Radio. He's a veteran of Tout Wars and LABR as well as a multi-time NFBC champion. Follow Todd on Twitter @ToddZola
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