We've come to the point in the fantasy baseball season when, especially in roto leagues, it's all but clear which teams are contending for the money spots. In keeper and dynasty formats, it's important for those teams that are out of contention to make some transactions with an eye toward next year. This means evaluating your roster from the perspective of draft day 2014, deciding who you're going to be investing in going forward and who is not worth the trouble. These calculations are of course entirely dependent on your league rules-- a 10-team AL-only league where you keep five players will require a different set of keepers from a 14-team mixed league with 10 keepers. This piece will try to sort some of those 2014 values for you so you can make some of those decisions now and possibly work a deal or two to better position your roster for next year.
Today's focus will be on those players whose values have changed dramatically from the beginning of the 2013 season. Each season, it's a fun exercise to look back at how player values have dramatically changed in the few months since April. Each one of the players examined in this piece has seen a huge change in value, and so we've got to figure out where each will be valued on draft day. After all, who knew that Josh Donaldson would produce Evan Longoria-esque numbers in the first half? Who knew that Yaisel Puig would become this year's version of Mike Trout? Who knew that Matt Harvey would turn into a fantasy ace in his sophomore season? These are just a few examples of the many breakout stories that will impact keeper considerations for 2014. Just keep in mind that for shallow re-draft leagues, where owners are restricted to a low number of returnees, not all of these players will be worthy choices.
A lot of these players are sure to see a major rise in value, but the biggest question remains: which players' stat-lines have the most sustainability? All one can do is speculate, but I now give you my biggest risers and fallers of the fantasy stock market.
Note: 2014 Draft Values are designed for 12-team leagues.
Rising Catcher: Jason Castro (HOU)
The Astros' catcher has performed as a top-10 option this year, but has somehow continued to fly under the radar. Yes, he's still the second-fiddle to Jose Altuve, but it's hard to argue with with the production Castro has provided. His BA is respectable, sitting in the .260-.270 range, but it's the HR output (13) that's been the biggest surprise. The counting stats (R, RBI) have held him back, but he is no worse than a second-tier option. Castro still has a great amount of potential-- just don't let the "he's on a bad team" excuse get in the way of owning him.
2014 Draft Value: Top-125 player; worthy of a 10th-11th round pick.
Honorable Mention: Jonathan Lucroy (MIL)
Falling Catcher: Miguel Montero (ARI)
What is wrong with the Arizona catcher? Montero was once a very reliable option, but has fallen off the fantasy landscape, and in dramatic fashion. He used to be a good source of RBI while proving a healthy BA. The D-back does have nagging injuries to blame and maybe that is the ultimate cause of his poor performance. Hopefully he can get back to the Montero of old, but we've yet to see any signs of a turnaround, and now back injuries are going to cut into his playing time for the remainder of the season.
2014 Draft Value: Top-200 player; worthy of a 16th-17th round pick.
Honorable Mention: Matt Wieters
Rising 1B: Chris Davis (BAL)
This selection should come as no surprise. The former Ranger has transformed into the one on TV shows-- he's a Power Ranger! This guy should legally change his name to "Crush." Boy, can anyone explain where the power came from? Some say it's just his first chance at a regular gig. Davis hit an astounding 37 bombs in the first half, which was seven more than Triple-Crown winner, Miguel Cabrera.
2014 Draft Value: Top-15 player; worthy of a first-round pick to early-second-round pick.
Honorable Mention: Freddie Freeman (ATL)
Falling 1B: Albert Pujols (LAA)
The three-time MVP and former Cardinal slugger has been an extreme disappointment. To make matters even worse, he has landed on the DL, in what could be a season-ending injury (plantar fasciitis). For the second consecutive season, Pujols got off to a historically slow start. But unlike last season, he was never fully able to make a solid rebound. With the danger of a long-term injury in the works, Pujols might never again be deemed as an elite fantasy option.
2014 Draft Value: Top-100 player; worthy of an 8th- to 9th -round pick.
Honorable Mention: Billy Butler (KC)
Rising 2B: Matt Carpenter (STL)
For all you Carp owners out there, I now hand you the trophy for the "steal-of-the-draft award". Carpenter was rated lower than 300th on the preseason Yahoo player rater, but he has led all second basemen in runs scored and is ranked second in BA among qualifiers. Robinson Cano and Jason Kipnis are the only two players he has failed to outperform. In leagues whose rules will permit Carpenter to retain his great multi-position eligibility, he has even more extended value.
2014 Draft Value: Top-40 player; worthy of a late third-round pick to fourth-round pick.
Honorable Mention: Daniel Murphy (NYM)
Falling 2B: Rickie Weeks (MIL)
Weeks has surely lived up to his name, except he forgot the 'A': "Weaks!" Not that many owners were expecting elite production, but he has not been worth rostering in most formats. This is a guy who is known to kill your BA, but he's supposed to make up for it with his power/speed skillset. For whatever reason, be it motivational factors or a decline in ability, Weeks has been nothing other than a wasted fantasy product.
2014 Draft Value: Top-200 player; worthy of a 16th- to 17th-round pick.
Honorable Mention: Martin Prado (ARI)
Rising 3B: Pedro Alvarez (PIT)
I'm sure what you're probably thinking: why isn't Machado number one on the list? Well, though the Oriole phenom is deserving of attention, it is Alvarez who has come closer to a "true" breakout campaign. I believe he has fulfilled more of his potential, and for that reason, his stock has had the biggest rise. Serving the hot corner for one of the best teams in baseball, Alvarez has emerged as one of the premier power hitters in the game. Chris Davis Lite? On the flip side, however, he is sporting a porous sub-.240 BA, which ultimately prevents him from reaching elite status.
2014 Draft Value: Top-60 Player; worthy of a late-fifth-round pick to sixth-round pick.
Honorable Mention: Manny Machado (BAL)
Falling 3B: Pablo Sandoval (SF)
Following a breakout campaign in his sophomore season, Big Panda has yet to produce more than 80+ RBI. The once-feared power-hitter has also failed to record over 500 AB in any season. The only good that has come from his production in recent years is his solid BA while offering a modest counting-stats combo (R, RBI). His pedigree indicates he should be playing much better than he is. It's time for the sandman to heat up: enter!
2014 Draft Value: Top-100 Player; worthy of an eighth-to-ninth-round pick.
Honorable Mention: Chase Headley (SD)
Rising SS: Jean Segura (MIL)
The rookie speedster was a highly tabbed preseason prospect, for sure. But how many owners honestly believed this he would turn into anything more than a second-string option? Not many. If you happened to draft him with lofty expectations, I give you a ton of credit for a job well done. Segura has lived up to the hype by putting his high-end speed on full display. He has led all shortstops in stolen bases, with the exception of suspended Everth Cabrera. However, the most impressive aspect of Segura's stat line is the power numbers, as he ranks fourth among qualifiers in HR and seventh in RBI. Considering all of the many underachieving shortstops, Segura makes a strong case for an early-round selection.
2014 Draft Value: Top-40 Player; worthy of an early-third-round pick to fourth-round pick.
Honorable Mention: Everth Cabrera (SD)
Falling SS: Jimmy Rollins (PHI)
Rollins, a.k.a. J-Roll, has long been considered a 10-30 threat, but that seems to have changed. One thing to take note: he clearly does not have the same lineup protection he's had in year's past. Core Phillies Ryan Howard and Chase Utley have not been at full-strength. And in that environment, Rollins's statistical upside is extremely limited. Unless he can find a change of scenery, it will be difficult for him to regain his relevancy. Also remember that age might finally be taking it's toll. Rollins will turn 35 in November.
2014 Draft Value: Top-175 player; worthy of a 13th- to 14th-round pick.
Honorable Mention: Alcides Escobar (KC)
Rising OF: Carlos Gomez (MIL)
Also known by fantasy gurus as "Cargo-Lite", this version of Cargo has surprisingly been performing as a top-five outfielder. Throughout his career, Gomez has often flashed 20-20 potential, but he has consistently failed to reach the 20-HR plateau. There were a fair share of Gomez doubters, as most of them were reluctant to believe in last year's power surge. In 2012, Gomez hit a career-high 19 home runs after posting a career average of 5.75 in his four seasons prior. As a well-polished HR/SB producer, Gomez has turned into the fantasy stud he was always capable of becoming.
2014 Draft Value: Top-30 player; worthy of an early second-round pick to third-round pick.
Honorable Mention: Starling Marte (PIT)
Falling OF: Josh Hamilton (LAA)
The former Ranger and reigning MVP-candidate has taken a much lighter approach at the plate. When a career .294 hitter is batting under .230, it makes you wonder whether something is seriously wrong. The most concerning stat is Hamilton's strikeout rate of 27.8%, which is by far the highest of his career. While he is still capable of performing well over the final two months of the season, it is hard to trust Hamilton for the long term. His injury risk still plays a huge factor into his value. Playing in his age-32 season, Hamilton has only recorded three 500-AB seasons in his six-year career. As for this year, he needs at least another 100 AB to reach the 500 mark.
2014 Draft Value: Top-60 Player; worthy of a late-fifth-round pick to sixth-round pick
Honorable Mention: Matt Kemp (LAD)
Rising SP: Max Scherzer (DET)
As Fox Sports' broadcaster, Tim McCarver predicted, Max Scherzer is well on his way to claiming the A.L. Cy Young Award. He would become the second Detroit Tiger in the last three years to accomplish the feat. Scherzer has long been considered an elite strikeout artist, but he has finally become an all-around pitcher. It was the 2012 season that was his true breakout year. The right-hander struck out 231 batters in 187.2 IP, building on his career high of 184 (2010). This season is simply an extension of his breakout performance and confirmation that he is among the elite class of starters. Scherzer's success this season can mostly be attributed to his improved control. He currently holds a walk-rate of 2.0 per 9 IP, which is by far the lowest of his career.
2014 Draft Value: Top-15 Player; worthy of a first-round to early-second-round pick
Honorable Mention: Patrick Corbin (ARI)
Falling SP: C.C. Sabathia (NYY)
The Yankees' ace was expected to continue his reign as an elite starter. Unfortunately, he has struggled to find much success. Many believe that Sabathia's offseason weight-loss is the biggest underlying factor. This reasoning may seem a bit illogical, but his reduced body mass could have a direct correlation with his pitch velocity. His fastball sits in the 90-91 mph range, rather than the 93-95 mph range that we've been accustomed to. His strikeout rate has surprisingly been compatible with career norms, but his H/9 is at a career high (9.9). Sabathia should not be written off as a third or fourth SP, but it's hard to rely on him being a fantasy ace.
2014 Draft Value: Top-75 Player; worthy of a 6th-round pick to 7th-round pick
Honorable Mention: R.A. Dickey (TOR)
Rising RP: Greg Holland (KC)
With all closers, much of their value is derived from opportunity rather than performance. In Holland's case, however, he has both factors strongly on his side. While playing for a team winning a lot of close games, he has also managed to produce elite peripherals. Out of the top-10 saves leaders, Holland ranks fourth in ERA (1.67) and is tied for 5th in WHIP (0.93). The Royals' closer also possesses elite strikeout numbers, as he is striking out 1.58 batters per inning. For owners who miss out on the Kimbrels and Chapmans of the world, Holland makes for the perfect consolation prize-- he will provide similar strikeout rates and his draft value will come at a much cheaper price.
2014 Draft Value: Top-75 Player; worthy of a sixth-round to seventh-round pick
Honorable Mention: Kenley Jansen (LAD)
Falling Relief Pitcher: Huston Street (SD)
The veteran closer provides reliable peripherals, but his ownership comes with extreme injury risk. Street can usually be counted on as a mainstream closer option, but when can anyone ever count on his health? Even at the age of 29, he appears to be turning into fragile glass. Since 2009, he has not recorded a season with more than 60 IP, with 24 being his average saves count. His productivity has remained steady this season, but his career-low strikeout rate of 6.9 is a major cause for concern. The Padres only have Street under contract for another season, so his continuation as a closer has to be questioned. Owners would be wise to not highly invest in an injury-riddled player with a very uncertain future.
2014 Draft Value: Top-200 Player; worthy of a 16th-round to 17th-round pick
Honorable Mention: Tom Wilhelmsen (SEA)