As the season winds down and the American League races continue to provide September intrigue, there’s really not a whole lot more to say in this space around the 2013 season. I’m going to hand out my awards and then turn quickly to thoughts on a few players for 2014.
MVP – Miguel Cabrera. … or Mike Trout? I like both obviously, but for me, I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around how defense and base running give 2.6 fewer WAR (per FanGraphs) to a guy with 89 more points of OPS. You can say that Cabrera has been a statue at third base this year, but Mike Trout has a -2.0 UZR/150 in CF. Cabrera gets the nod.
Cy Young – Max Scherzer. No, I’m not basing this on wins, but on the fact Scherzer has topped 200 innings and has great ratios – 10.2 K/9, 2.2 BB/9. Apologies here to Koji Uehara, who has just been ridiculous in relief and by far baseball’s top bullpen arm this year.
Rookie of the Year – Dan Straily. Wil Myers has played 75 games, J.B. Shuck has no power and rookies like Jurickson Profar and Nick Franklin haven’t hit much. So, by default, Straily is the winner. He leads AL rookies in innings (140), strikeouts (113) and wins (10).
MVP – Andrew McCutchen. Sorry Paul Goldschmidt. McCutchen leads all NL hitters in WAR and plays a premium defensive position very well. He can also hit a bit – .324/.404/.515. Pretty easy call.
Cy Young – Clayton Kershaw. No explanation needed. It probably won’t be a unanimous vote, but it should be. Sorry Adam Wainwright.
Rookie of the Year – Jose Fernandez. Admittedly I’m a Dodgers fan, so I do think Yasiel Puig and Hyun-Jim Ryu should receive consideration, but Fernandez should be a unanimous selection. He’s far and away the NL rookie leader in strikeouts (187) and ERA (2.19). Bonus points for doing that while playing under the cloud that is Jeffry Loria.
Looking ahead to 2014, I’m going with the list approach. Essentially, if you want to take a beating as an analyst/writer, you put out lists. Someone is always going to disagree with your lists, sometimes vehemently, but at a minimum, they at least spark some level of conversation and passion. Here are a few of my top-10s:
TOP-10 PROSPECTS FOR 2014
Caveat: must have yet to make MLB debut.
1. George Springer (OF-HOU) – 37 homers and 45 steals? No, I don’t think he’s Houston’s Mike Trout, but those numbers are mind-boggling. Should be the team’s Opening Day center fielder.
2. Jose Abreu (1B-FA) – Not sure where he winds up, but he’ll be a power threat wherever he goes.
3. Oscar Taveras (OF-STL) – Carlos Beltran is likely gone, and Taveras should be the replacement. This season was disappointing, but if he gets the ankle 100 percent healthy, a monster spring training is very possible.
4. Nick Castellanos (OF-DET) – The Tigers have financial pressure with Cabrera, Fielder, Verlander, etc., so a cheap cost-controlled OF is very attractive. Plus he’s talented. Should be team’s Opening Day left fielder.
5. Masahiro Tanaka (SP-FA) – He’s not Yu Darvish, but if Tanaka is posted this winter, he’ll get a monster contract as a potential No. 2 starter.
6. Archie Bradley (SP-ARI) – The Diamondbacks will find room for him at some point in 2014, perhaps as early as April. Could front their rotation by 2015.
7. Noah Syndergaard (SP-NYM) – May wind up as the best piece to come out of the R.A. Dickey deal. Not sure he breaks camp with the club given his inexperience, but a big spring and he could do so.
8. Byron Buxton (OF-MIN) – Yes, he hasn’t played above High-A, but please look at those numbers. Albert Pujols never played Double-A or Triple-A prior to making the big leagues, and Buxton could do the same. If I thought that was 90 percent guaranteed, he’s easily top this list.
9. Jameson Taillon (SP-PIT) – Former top-5 pick made six Triple-A starts this year, so he’s knocking on the door.
10. Miguel Sano (3B-MIN) – Sano hit 35 homers between two minor-league levels this year and could have a chance to displace Trevor Plouffe for the everyday third-base job some time in the 2014 campaign.
10 BREAKOUT CANDIDATES
1. Lonnie Chisenhall (3B-CLE) – Yes, I still believe. Perhaps you will do when you see his September numbers – .346/.393/.808.
2. Cesar Hernandez (OF-PHI) – Assuming Ryne Sandberg is back next year, he seems to really like this guy. Not much power, but he has a .380 OBP and once he learns to read pitchers, he can steal bases.
3. Josh Rutledge (2B-COL) – Yes, he was brutal for a good portion of 2013, but he hit well in Triple-A and is batting .379 in 29 at-bats for Colorado this month.
4. Brandon Belt (1B-SF) – Darn it, I’m going to keep putting him here until he has a breakout. Belt is batting .380 this month, and though he’s only homered once, he has 20-25 homers in his future.
5. Kole Calhoun (OF-LAA) – They’ll find room for him, right? All Calhoun does is rake – 1.048 OPS in Triple-A and then .307/.368/.507 for the Angels. Most of Rotowire’s fine subscribers know his name, but if given regular playing time, Calhoun could go 20/20 in that lineup.
6. A.J. Griffin (SP-OAK) – Seems like every time I watch him pitch, he does well. Now that he’s fully healthy, Griffin is pitching very well, posting a 2.70 ERA and 24:3 K:BB in 20 innings this month. He’s not a hard thrower, but Griffin has managed to increase his K/9 from 7.0 to 7.5 year over year.
7. Trevor Rosenthal (RP-STL) – Trust me, he’ll lead the Cardinals in saves next year. This is a guy with top-five closer stuff.
8. Andrew Cashner (SP-SD) – If he can continue to stay healthy, Cashner should make an All-Star team or three before he’s done. A 6.5 K/9 is disappointing for a pitcher with his stuff, but in his last six starts, Cashner has that up to 7.7, so maybe he’s figuring some things out.
9. Wily Peralta (SP-MIL) – Three starts average more than Peralta’s 94.8 mph – Matt Harvey, Stephen Strasburg and Jose Fernandez. I am a velocity junky, and combined with Peralta’s ability to generate ground balls, I like him a ton in 2014.
10. Kris Medlen (SP-ATL) – He’s on this list because after a great finish in 2012, he’s been a relative disappointment this year with a 3.32 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. In Medlen’s last four starts, though, he’s 4-0 with a 0.97 WHIP and 26:4 K:BB in 27.2 innings.
10 I WON’T HAVE SHARES IN NEXT YEAR
1. Rickie Weeks (2B-MIL) – Scooter Gennett is going to get a real chance at winning the second base job next spring. The Brewers have a lot of money invested in Weeks, so he’ll get a chance, but the last two years when weeks is not hurt, he’s not hitting. No thanks. I’m done … really.
2. Francisco Liriano (SP-PIT) – Great year, and I wish he were on more of my teams, but I just don’t want to invest what it would likely take in 2014 to see whether he can stay healthy and repeat.
3. Matt Kemp (OF-LAD) – Two injury-riddled years, so I am not taking him unless he drops to the fourth round in 12-team mixed leagues. I figure he’ll be gone by then.
4. Ryan Braun (OF-MIL) – I don’t care what he did in terms of whether I want him on my fantasy team, but I just don’t know what to expect in 2014. I expect he’ll be good, but normal Braun good? I don’t know.
5. Patrick Corbin (SP-ARI) – At 11-1 with a 2.35 ERA at the All-Star break, Corbin once appeared to be a worthy competitor to Clayton Kershaw for Cy Young honors. Since the break, Corbin has a 4.05 ERA and a 5.19 mark in August. He’s good, but in my view, not top-of-the-rotation good.
6. B.J. Upton (OF-ATL) – Sorry, I know he was the No. 2 overall pick and all, but he’s disappointed ever since I took him in Tout Wars several years ago.
7. CC Sabathia (SP-NYY) – Sabathia threw no fewer than 230 innings each season between 2007 and 2011, and we saw the effects last year as he dealt with a sore elbow and saw his velocity take a 1.5 mph dip. Another 1.2 mph dip this year has resulted in Sabathia posting a 4.90 ERA thanks to a career-high 28 home runs. At 33, we know his best days are behind him, but we don’t know how much more of a dip we’ll see next year.
8. Matt Carpenter (2B/3B-STL) – Don’t get me wrong, I love what Carpenter has done this year, but he’ll probably be overvalued in 2014. Just 10 homers and three steals and far more value in OBP leagues.
9. Jose Fernandez (SP-MIA) – Not because I don’t love his game. I do, but I think someone will reach for him next year, and I’ll let him go. I’m not worried about the 38.2-innings increase over 2012, but at some point he’s going to hit a rough patch, right?
10. Chris Davis (1B) – Sorry, but just not willing to burn a first-round pick on him just yet. I’d rather target a guy who has done it for a few years – i.e. Joey Votto.
Top-10 STARTING PITCHERS FOR 2014
1. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) – Kershaw is as easy a choice here as the No. 1 fantasy pitcher as Emmitt Smith used to be as the No. 1 fantasy running back in his heyday.
2. Felix Hernandez (SEA) – Flip-flopped him and Darvish a couple times, but Hernandez’s 9.3 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 are the best marks of his career, and next year will be just his age-28 season. I do wonder whether his workload will lead to a decline along the likes of a CC Sabathia eventually, but given how well he’s done so far this year, I think we’re safe to see the normal King Felix in 2014.
3. Yu Darvish (TEX) – Darvish’s 11.9 K/9 is far and away the best mark among all major league starters. Next best is Max Scherzer at 10.2. Next year will be Darvish’s age-27 season, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if he was the 2014 runaway Cy Young winner.
4. Adam Wainwright (STL) – If we really thought about it, Wainwright may very well be the poster child for successful Tommy John surgeries. He’s likely to post career highs in innings and strikeouts this year and should be one of the first starters off the board in 2014.
5. Max Scherzer (DET) – He’s my Cy Young pick, so yes, he’s going to rank high on this list.
6. Stephen Strasburg (WAS) – Only with Strasburg can a 2.96 ERA and 9.6 K/9 be a bit of a disappointment. He’s also dealing with a forearm issue, but if you can get him in the late-fourth round, you should be OK. If so, you’re getting a pitcher with late first-round upside.
7. Chris Sale (CHW) – Yeah, that delivery may be concerning, but how many pitchers with "clean" deliveries have been hurt over the last 10 years? Sale is approaching "true ace" status.
8. Mat Latos (CIN) – The Reds had Joey Votto at first and Devin Mesorasco behind the plate, so dealing C Yasmani Grandal and 1B Yonder Alonso (plus a couple others) for a pitcher who has become an ace was, to say the least, a great deal. Latos’ stuff plays in any ballpark.
9. Justin Verlander (DET) – Verlander and the next guy on this list have taken a bit of a dip this year, but I have to give them another year as top-10 starters given past performances. We just haven’t seen the velocity from Verlander this year, and that’s dropped his K/9 to 8.5. He’s also walking more batters, but I’d still put him in my top-10.
10. David Price (TB) – Price has lost two mph on his fastball and yes, that’s concerning. However, he just won a Cy Young award and has lowered his BB/9 to 1.4. An offseason of rest and a strengthening program for his left arm should help, but one question – will he be a Ray in 2014?
Regan is a five-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner.