Each year, a number of us from Mastersball.com are fortunate enough to be included in the best Fantasy Baseball pre-season magazine. It is called "The Fantasy Baseball Guide - Professional Edition" and is edited by that Superhero, Rotoman. For many of us, the contribution is a list of "Picks and Pans" where we try to predict which players the readers should target or avoid.
Before attempting to objectively assign a grade to my own 2015 predictions, a few disclaimers are in order...
1) While the publication itself hits the shelves in anticipation of Spring Training, our lists need to be submitted well before the December holidays. At that point, numerous free agents haven't signed and many MLB roster roles haven't been determined.
2) The Old Duck always attempts to focus on players that are more marginal than the obvious fantasy stars. You don't need me to tell you that Mike Trout is a good player. You need me to find you a bargain or to steer you away from an overrated player. Taking this approach is more fun but also more challenging.
3) One lesson to take away from this exercise is that being an "expert" has a price. Most of my opponents sitting around the draft table in March/April have read the magazine and already know my thoughts about many players. Having your name in print is a reasonable excuse for sharing information, but for those of you in home leagues, make sure you keep your opinions to yourself in the company of your mortal enemies.
So, without pulling any punches, let's see how the Quacker made out...first the prediction and then the post-season analysis.
> Cody Allen - PICK - Recommended him last year and he didn't disappoint. 91 K's in 70 IP tells you he's the closer for awhile. - Put up 34 Saves with 99 K's in less than 70 IP to earn about $20 in Roto value...Grade "A"
> Nolan Arenado - PICK - Improved his OPS from .706 in his rookie year to .828 in '14...and he's just 24. - 42 HR's & 130 RBI's equaled a $33 Roto campaign...Grade "A"
> Cody Asche - PAN - With an OPS under .700 in 559 MLB AB's in a hitter's park, he's not the answer at a corner infield spot. - Struggled most of the year and had only 39 RBI's in over 400 AB's while earning about $5...Grade "A"
> Javier Baez - PAN - Will he be a superstar or a slender version of Mark Reynolds? Baez hit 9 HR's with a .169 BA and .551 OPS in over 200 AB's...Reynolds hit 22 HR's with a .196 BA and .681 OPS in 378 AB's. - Baez didn't make the Cubs opening day roster and spent most of the year at Triple-A. Reynolds hit 13 HR's for the Cardinals and added $5 in Roto value to your team...Grade "A"
> Michael Brantley - PICK - This is no surprise, but I'm just rubbing in the fact that I was the only one who listed him as a "PICK" last year. - Nagging injuries kept him from repeating 2014 but he earned $27 with .310 15-84-15...Grade "B"
> Jay Bruce - PAN - None of the guys impacted negatively by defensive shifting have convinced me that they're capable of making the necessary adjustment. - Another disappointing season where his 26 HR's were offset by a .226 BA. Only earned $15 for his Roto owners...Grade "B"
> Asdrubal Cabrera - PAN - At age 29, his BA & OPS have declined for the last four seasons. - Improved his OPS to .744 and earned $14 in his walk year...Grade "C"
> Steve Cishek - PICK - One of those under-the-radar closers, but has 73 Saves the last two seasons and a lifetime ERA of 2.65. - Lost his job in Miami with a bad April and ended up toiling in the Cardinals bullpen...Grade "D"
> Alex Cobb - PICK - The next ace of the Rays, don't let the 10-9 record fool you...in his last 300+ IP, the ERA is 2.82. -Injuries to pitchers are part of this fool's game. He never pitched in 2015...Grade "NA"
> Nelson Cruz - PAN - Yes, he led the way with 40 HR's, but some team will overpay for that performance and very soon, he'll start looking like a mid-30's DH. - Well, not yet it seems. Produced a $30 season with 44 HR's...Grade "D"
> Khris Davis - PAN - You'll be tempted by the 22 HR's, but the K-to-BB ratio was 4-to-1, his OBP was under .300 and the OPS was only .756. - This looked spot on until the last six weeks of the season when he caught fire. Blasted 27 HR's but hit only .247...Grade "C"
> R.A. Dickey - PICK - Don't discount his contribution, especially in a AL-only format. He led the league in starts for three consecutive years while winning 48 games. - 33 starts, 11 Wins, 214+ IP, ERA under 4.00 for a division winner...Grade "B"
> Josh Fields - PICK - If the Astros don't invest in an established closer during the off-season, this could be the guy. Had 70 K's and only 17 BB in 54+ IP. - Houston signed both Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek, so even though he pitched well (67 K's in 50+ IP), it wasn't in high-leverage situations...Grade "C"
> Freddie Freeman - PICK - 2014 was perceived as a "down year", but he's still only 24 and produced a .847 OPS. - Injuries limited him to 416 AB's, but still had a .841 OPS and produced $16 in Roto value...Grade "B"
> Matt Garza - PICK - At age 31, has gone from over-rated to under-rated...the 8 Wins and 3.64 ERA could have been much better. - A huge miss, he imploded with a 5.63 ERA...Grade "F"
> Jeremy Hellickson - PAN - His stuff won't play in Chase Field. - For $4.28 Million, the D'Backs got a 4.62 ERA. The team needs to admit their mistake and non-tender him this off-season...Grade "A"
> Kyle Hendricks - PICK - Seemed to come out of nowhere, but his minor league ERA's at two levels in '13 were 1.85 & 2.48 - Gave the Cubs 32 starts and earned $9...Grade "B"
> Derek Holland - PICK - Looked really sharp in a handful of starts at the end of the season. Don't forget that he pitched 213 innings in '13 with a ERA of 3.42 in a launching pad. - Got hurt again in Spring Training and only pitched 58 innings late in the year...Grade "C"
> Matt Holliday - PAN - Will be over-priced in every league due to reputation...he's on the decline at age 35. - 229 AB's and 4 HR's, he was only a $5 Roto player...Grade "A"
> Eric Hosmer - PAN - The post-season heroics will muddy the waters...9 HR's & 58 RBI's in 500 AB's isn't the 1B you want. -Then again, maybe it is. 18 HR's, 93 RBI's and a $26 Roto season...Grade "D"
> Austin Jackson - PAN - Only 28, but he really hasn't figured out how to maximize his tools...hit just .229 after being traded to Seattle. - Traded again, he hit .267 with less than 50 RBI's in almost 500 AB's...Grade "B"
> Desmond Jennings - PAN - No longer a prospect, he's now 28 with a lifetime BA of .248 in over 1,700 AB's. - Was injured most of the year and produced no Roto value...Grade "B"
> Francisco Liriano - PICK - If your league combatants only look at the 7-10 record, take advantage...might have the best "stuff" of any free agent pitcher. - Re-signed with the Pirates and produced a $15 Roto season with 205 K's...Grade "A"
> Russell Martin - PAN - Will get a boatload of money coming off a great year, but 2014 was the first time he's hit over .250 since 2008...a major league team will pay for last year's stats, but you shouldn't. - Smacked 23 HR's in a hitter friendly environment, but his BA was only .240 ...Grade "B"
> Brian McCann - PAN - Was panned in this space last year and it just got worse. Another stubborn sole who won't deal with the shift, his OPS was under .700. - Worth even less than Martin with 26 HR's thanks to Yankee Stadium and a BA of .232...Grade "B"
> Jake McGee - PICK - Is he a legitimate closer? How about 90 K's & 16 BB in 71+ IP with a ERA under 2.00. - Only had 37 IP due to injury, but be impressed by 48 K's & 8 BB...Grade" NA"
> Shelby Miller - PAN - This applies more to a 5x5 format, but he pitched 10 more innings than 2013 and struck out 42 fewer hitters and walked 16 more...that's not a good sign for age 24. -Despite a 6-17 record, his peripherals were solid and produced $11 in Roto value...Grade "C"
> A.J. Pollock - PICK - Injuries derailed a breakout season and he plays a gold-glove caliber CF, so he won't lose his job - With this kind of performance, he won't lose his job for a decade. Produced over $40 in Roto value...Grade "A"
> Colby Rasmus - PICK - A free agent at age 28, he'll be some team's CF and his lifetime .751 OPS with 20+ HR's would look nice. - This prediction belongs in a Twilight Zone episode - .789 OPS and 25 HR's produced $11 in Roto value for end-gamers...Grade "A"
> Tanner Roark - PICK - If you listened last year when I whispered in your ear, you got 15 Wins and a ERA under 3.00. - By the time the season started, he was no longer in the rotation and never had a significant role on the staff...Grade "D"
> Pablo Sandoval - PAN - The World Series performance and free-agent dollars will make him over-priced. The truth is that his 2014 stats weren't as good as either of the two previous seasons. - It appeared that he and HanRam spent most of the season at Golden Corral instead of Fenway Park. Hit .245 with 10 HR's and earned a whopping $4...Grade "A"
> Drew Smyly - PICK - His ERA in seven Tampa Bay starts was 1.70. - Injured early on in the season and only pitched 67 innings. His five Wins and 3.10 ERA were still worth $5...Grade "C"
> Drew Storen - PICK - The Nats replaced him in 2012 with Rafael Soriano even though Storen had 43 Saves in 2011? And, he's still three years younger than David Robertson. Who's in charge of playing time, Bryce Harper? - This was right on the money until his 29 Saves through the first four months weren't good enough and the Nats replaced him again - this time with "Rocky" Papelbon...Grade "B"
> Alex Wood - PICK - In 249 IP the last two seasons, he has 247 K's and a 2.89 ERA. Why don't the Braves just let him start every 5th day? - Evidently, the Dodgers felt the same way and traded for him, but the results weren't great with 12 Wins and a 3.84 ERA...Grade "C"
> David Wright - PAN - Hit 8 HR's and had a OPS under .700 for $20 Million...entering his age 32 season. - More injuries and only 152 AB's in another lost season...Grade "B"
Statistics can be manipulated to reach a number of different conclusions, but the Quacker did manage "A" or "B" ratings on 64% of the players. The overall GPA was about 2.76, which matches my blood alcohol level in college. The good news is that Brantley, Hendricks, Liriano and Rasmus were helpful members on my fantasy squads...hope they helped you too.