2014 Fantasy Baseball MVP

Since the Fantasy Baseball season is over, it is time to reflect upon the season and determine the 2014 Fantasy Baseball MVP is. In this article, there is a notable absence of players such as Clayton Kershaw, Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, etc. as it was well established that these individuals happen to be very good at the game of baseball well before the 2014 season began.

What we are looking at today is players that were lightly (if at all) regarded prior to the start of the season but turned out to provide Fantasy value during the 2014 season. The criteria I used was as follows:

1) Pre-Season Ranking: I looked at the cumulative 2014 Fantasy Baseball Rankings  released by Yahoo. Anyone that was listed within the top-100 of this article was ineligible.  The reason why Jose Altuve is absent from these rankings is because he was ranked 90th overall in these rankings.

2) Actual Performance:

The formulas used for this section are as follows:

Hitters: (R + HR + RBI + SB) * Batting Average * 1.25

Pitchers: (W + SV + SO)/(ERA + WHIP) * 1.01

The above formulas were tweaked to give the top ranking batter and pitcher scores of 100 in this category.  Any player that had a score below 50 in this section was ineligible for this award. While future performance is speculated with the top 10 players, this part did not factor into the final rankings.

After evaluating both of these areas, my initial list of 32 players was reduced to 21.

The remaining players while eligible based on the above criteria did not crack the top 10:

Jake Arrieta, Devin Mesoraco, Danny Santana, Kole Calhoun, Josh Harrison, J.D. Martinez, Justin Morneau, Melky Cabrera, Kyle Seager, Brian Dozier, Dee Gordon, Corey Dickerson

10) Charlie Blackmon

Pre-Season Ranking: N/A

Blackmon had played part time in 2011-2013 and got his first chance to play full-time this year. While he was slightly more value than Dickerson in 2014, primarily due to his SB contributions (28) I’m not quite sold on his future value. The primary red flags that indicate this may be his one good season (compared to the basis for a long career) was that Blackmon had a weak second half (.698 OPS) and had even worse struggles (.617) in stadiums not named Coors Field.

9) Anthony Rizzo

Pre-Season Ranking: 118

Rizzo had at least shown he could hit for some power going into 2014. Last year, he hit .286 with 32 HR. While the 30+ HR power is legitimate, his BABIP (.311) was well above his .283 career total so there’s likely to be regression in his AVG 2015.

8) Todd Frazier

Pre-Season Ranking: 227

Frazier barely missed hitting 20 HR in 2012-2013 but came within 1 HR of having a 30-20 season in 2014. While he should at least go yard 20 times next year, I’m not convinced he’s going to repeat his contributions in the Stolen Base department.

7) Nelson Cruz

Pre-Season Ranking: 139

The expectations for Cruz were limited going into this season. He was coming off a PED-related suspension and stayed on the free agent market longer than expected. In addition to staying healthy, he also crushed the ball all season hitting 40 HR.

6) Johnny Cueto

Pre-Season Ranking: 145

Cueto was another player where health was a bigger question mark than talent. Cueto rewarded owners who did draft him with 20 W, 242 SO & a 2.25 ERA. While I think he’s going to be good in 2015, I’m not sure he’s going to be this good as he produced an FIP (3.30) much higher than his ERA of 2.25 and he had a higher K/9 rate (8.94) than what he’s produced in his career 7.41

5) Corey Kluber

Pre-Season Ranking: 213

Kluber had shown some promise in 2013 but he ended up shattering expectation in 2014. He rewarded owners with 18 W, 2.44 ERA & 10.27 K/9. There is a good chance that he can come close to repeating these numbers as his FIP (2.35) was actually better than his actual ERA and he didn’t get extremely lucky in BABIP (.316 compared to .326 career total). While he should remain a strong source of strikeouts, I think he’ll be closer to 9 K/9 (compared to 10.27 from 2014).

4) Anthony Rendon

Pre-Season Ranking: 250

Rendon came into the season with 98 games of major league experience but had lots of potential. He fulfilled this potential last year as he hit .287 with 21 HR & 17 SB. While there wasn’t much of a speed track record prior to this year, his Fantasy Value should continue to rise. He should keep his AVG high as his BABIP only went up by 7 points in 2014 and his power numbers should continue to develop as he hit his 21 HR even with a modest 10.4% HR/FB rate.

3) Jose Abreu

Pre-Season Ranking: 110

Since this was Abreu’s first season, it was tough to tell how he would adjust to major league pitching. It turns out he adjusted very well as he hit 36 HR. While the 30+ HR power is legitimate, I’m not sure if the same can be said about his .317 AVG as he did have a .356 BABIP.

2) Victor Martinez

Pre-Season Ranking: 156

Last year, Martinez complemented his typically very strong AVG numbers by throwing in a career high 32 HR. While maintaining his .335 AVG is actually realistic (his BABIP only went up 3 points from 2013 to 2014), a repeat of last year’s power may be too much to ask. While he did have a 16% HR/FB rate last year, his total in this area the last two years he played (7.3% in 2011 & 7.2% in 2013) was less than half of this total.

1) Michael Brantley

Pre-Season Ranking: 183

Going into this year, Brantley had been a solid but not spectacular player. In 2014, he helped owners across the board with a strong AVG (.327), Power (20 HR), Speed (23 SB) along with 94 R & 97 RBI. He may have hit for less power than Martinez but Brantley was a stronger all-around contributor.

In 2015, he’s likely to go back to being solid but not spectacular. The speed should still be there but his BABIP (.333) was higher than it had been the prior two years and his HR/FB rate of 12.7% in 2014 is significantly higher than his career total of 6.8%

Numbers used found on fangraphs.com & baseball-reference.com

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BOSTON, MA – JUNE 15: Michael Brantley #23 of the Cleveland Indians rounds the bases after his home run against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on June 15, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. A run scored on the play. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)