Mike Minor P, ATL- Minor threw 6.1 shutout innings on Saturday against the Mets improve his record to 11-10 for the year and finished the regular season on a strong note by having an 0.87 ERA in September. Minor's numbers for the year are somewhat skewed by his horrendous month in May when he allowed 10 home runs in 25 innings of work. His 11.7 percent HR/FB ratio is also inflated because of that terrible month, and I believe that Minor will be a strong back end starter in standard leagues in 2013. His strikeout rate is above average (7.28 K/9), and I would expect that number to improve to offset the likely BABIP regression. I was also encouraged to see his best month in terms of velocity to come in September, which included his highest average fastball velocity of the year on 9/22 (91.3 mph). Minor could be even stronger next year.
Garrett Jones 1B/OF, PIT- Not much has gone right for Pirates in terms of the lineup other than Andrew McCutchen, but Jones has been the other consistent fantasy producer this season. He has 26 home runs, 84 RBI and a .276/.319/.515 line in 508 plate appearances this year. Jones could be a solid late round pick for owners in daily leagues considering he is a safe bet to hit 20 home runs (career 14.4 percent HR/FB ratio and 41.7 percent fly ball rate). His numbers against right-handed pitching this year were very strong with 24 home runs and a .886 OPS in 394 plate appearances. His performance against left-handed pitching keeps him from being a starting first baseman in standard leagues, but he is definitely worth a spot as an outfielder, corner infielder or utility player.
A.J. Griffin P, OAK- Griffin improved his record to 7-1 on Friday after allowing just one run in 5.2 innings pitched against the Mariners. He was able to lower his ERA to 2.71, and his FIP (3.81) and xFIP (3.87) indicate he will be strong fantasy starter in 2013 despite an expected regression. Despite a below average fastball that averaged 89.8 mph this season, Griffin has maintained a solid strikeout rate (7.23 K/9) thanks to a full compliment of pitches (curveball, slider and change-up) along with excellent command (1.92 BB/9). His fly ball rate is a little bit of a concern moving forward to 2013 (39.1 percent), but a 15.3 percent infield fly ball rate indicates that opposing hitters are not squaring the ball well. With half of his starts coming in Oakland next year, he is definitely worth taking a look at in later rounds for standard mixed leagues.
Kurt Suzuki C, WAS- After a nightmare start to the season with the A's, Suzuki has looked like a different hitter since being acquired by the Nationals producing .266/.316/.406 with 5 home runs and 25 RBI in 160 plate appearances. Suzuki now has six home runs and a .235/.274/.328 line for the year, and he heads into next season as the possible starter at the position as Wilson Ramos has to deal with recovering from his ACL surgery. Suzuki has cut down his strikeout rate since moving to Washington from 19.1 to 11.9 percent (16.4 percent for the year), as his swinging strike rate has dropped from 7.4 to 5.5 percent. Furthermore, it looks as if getting out of the Coliseum has helped his BABIP as his .270 rate with the Nationals would be his best since 2009.
Erasmo Ramirez P, SEA- Ramirez did not earn a decision in the Mariners loss to the A's on Sunday, but he did earn a quality start allowing only two runs on three hits and four walks in 6.1 innings pitched. In 59 innings (16 appearances and eight starts), Ramirez has a 3.36 ERA, 3.56 FIP and 3.76 xFIP with strong peripherals (7.32 K/9 and 1.83 BB/9). The 22 year-old right-hander has five different pitches (fastball, change-up, slider, curveball and cutter) while averaging 92.9 mph with his fastball and a strong 11.3 percent swinging strike rate. His command is very strong for a pitcher of his age, as his 63.6 percent first pitch strike rating indicates. His change-up and slider produce swinging strikes, and his chase rate is also very strong in these 56 innings. It is a small major league sample size, but he never produced a FIP above 3.85 FIP at any level in the minors.
Yasmani Grandal C, SD- Grandal's performance for the Padres this year seems to have gone somewhat unnoticed, but his .293/.389/.473 and eight home runs in 216 plate appearances while playing half of his games in Petco Park is an achievement by itself. His 13.4 percent walk rate demonstrates his tremendous plate discipline, and his strike out rate of 17.4 percent (7.7 percent swinging strike rate) is solid for rookie. His .326 BABIP could see some regression, but he has been a consistent .350 above performer in all of his stops in the minors. However, his 16.8 percent line drive rate and 51.4 percent ground ball rate indicate he has been somewhat lucky this year. His 17.7 percent HR/FB ratio also seems likely to regress, but I believe he could be a top-10 type of player at the position in 2013 with a full season under is belt. Look for a .280/.375/.460 type of line with 18-20 home runs next year if healthy.
Ian Kennedy P, ARI- Kennedy is on this list as because of his drop off in performance from 2011 to this year, as some statistics in certain areas saw some regression. Kennedy had benefitted since being acquired by the Diamondbacks by producing BABIP's of .250 and .270. This year his ERA jumped up to 4.16 after producing a BABIP of .305. His FIP (4.15)and xFIP (4.16) indicate that he has pitched as well as his numbers would reflect this year, and I would expect numbers closer to his 2012 ones when heading into 2013. Kennedy is a fly ball pitcher, and he was able to produce an ERA below 3.00 in 2011 because of his 7.7 percent HR/FB ratio. Kennedy is a decent option in standard leagues because of his strikeout rate (8.00 K/9), but he is likely to finish with a 3.90-4.15 ERA next year.
Ryan Howard 1B, PHI- Howard broke his toe on Friday and will miss the remainder of the regular season. He finishes the season with a .219/.295/.423 slash line with 14 home runs and 56 RBI in 292 plate appearances. Howard produced a career high strikeout rate this season (33.9 percent); combined with the second lowest BABIP of his career (.287) gave him the worst numbers of his career. His HR/FB ratio of 27.5 percent was his best since 2008, however, a 31.1 percent (worst since 2005) and 43.3 percent ground ball rate contributed to the worst ISO of his career (.207). Furthermore, a career worst 37 percent chase rate lead Howard to his worst walk rate as a starter (8.8 percent) and was a large contributor to the increased strikeout rate. I would expect improvement his BABIP next year, but I think it is safe to say that his 45 plus home run seasons are behind him.
Ricky Nolasco P, MIA- Nolasco made his last start of the season on Saturday night against the Phillies, and saw his record fall to 12-13 after allowing five runs on nine hits in five innings of work. He finishes with a 4.48 ERA this year, and it is the fourth straight season in which he underperformed in relation to DIPS (3.89 FIP and 4.18 xFIP). With this large of a sample size, it is enough to say that a 65-70 percent strand rate is considered average for Nolasco and he has yet to have a season in which his BABIP has been below .305. Additionally, Nolasco's strikeout numbers took a hit this year has his average fastball velocity dipped to a career low 90 mph and his swinging strike rate fell to 8.5 percent. He should not be considered in standard mixed leagues for 2013, and is only option in NL-only leagues heading into March.
Gordon Beckham 2B, CHW- Another fantasy season, and another disappointing one delivered by Beckham hitting .235/.297/.373 with 16 home runs and 60 RBI in 577 plate appearances this year. While he did improve his strikeout rate from 19.9 to 15.4 percent, Beckham saw a sharp decline in his BABIP to .254. In terms of power numbers, he has improved his HR/FB ratio to 8.8 percent and ISO to .138. A 42.3 percent fly ball rate is a key to the power increase, but his 13.7 percent infield fly ball rate is still too high even though has it has dropped from 21.3 percent last year. If Beckham is able to maintain his lower strikeout rate, he should finish with a .245/.305/.375 line next year as his BABIP is likely to increase. One has to wonder what the organization's breaking point will be with his consistent disappointments.
Luke Hochevar P, KC- Hochevar took an even greater step back in 2012, as he finishes the season with an 8-16 record and a 5.73 ERA in 185.1 innings pitched this season for the Royals. He underperformed in terms of his DIPS (4.64 FIP and 4.34 xFIP) for the fifth straight season, and it would be hard to believe that he will post a strand rate above 70 percent with a career rate of 63 percent. I believe Hochevar is one of the top non-tender candidates heading into 2013 even with the Royals need for starting pitching. His peripherals are not especially impressive (6.99 K/9 and 2.96 BB/9), and his ground ball rate has declined to a career low 43.3 percent. Hochevar is due to make almost $5 million in arbitration this year, but he could sign a one-year deal with a low base salary for another organization. Either way, it is best to stay away in all formats.
Jesus Montero C/DH, SEA- Montero delivered one of the more disappointing seasons in 2012 especially after setting such high expectations after his brief stint with the Yankees last season. He has 15 home runs and 58 RBI with a .257/.295/.384 slash line in 539 plate appearances this year. His lack of plate discipline has been discussed as a weakness for years now, but I was surprised how inept he seemed to be at certain times during the year. His 39.7 percent chase rate is tied for tenth worst among qualified hitters, and his batting average could take a greater hit next year considering he has over performed in terms of his 18.4 percent strike out rate. His chase rate and 10.2 percent swinging strike rate dictate a percentage above 21 percent. It also looks as if Safeco Field will continue to hurt his anticipated power numbers, as he only produced a .590 OPS and 66 wRC+ at home in 2012.