The Saber's Edge: Expectations Met and Exceeded

The Saber's Edge: Expectations Met and Exceeded

This article is part of our The Saber's Edge series.

Every season it seems like the top drafted players don't end up at the top of the rankings no matter how much work people put into preseason projections. The main reason for a player dropping is injuries, but why do some players jump up in the rankings. Today, I am going to work my way down the current rankings and see what we missed in our preseason rankings.

To start with here is the top 10 players from the preseason rankings.

1: Mike Trout
2: Andrew McCutchen
3: Paul Goldschmidt
4: Miguel Cabrera
5: Clayton Kershaw
6: Jose Abreu
7: Giancarlo Stanton
8: Jose Bautista
9: Adam Jones
10: Carlos Gomez

Well, things have definitely not worked out that way so far in 2015. Some names are still near the top like Trout, Goldschmidt and Kershaw, but the rest seems to be a mixed bag of later round draft picks. Here is a look at the current top 10 (as of 9/9/15) and what we missed on.

#1 Josh Donaldson
Preseason Rank: #21

Donaldson is ranked this high based on out producing his projections in every category except stolen bases where he is tied with his projection at five. Donaldson has made some personal improvement like an increase in home runs as he has gone from a 15% HR/FB to 23% HR/FB. Additionally, his batting average is on its peak year as it has been cycling from bad to good since 2012 (.241 to .301 to .255 to .305). Put a good player with career high numbers in AVG and HR with the league's best lineup and run generating machine is created. He leads the league in both RBI and Runs. I am a little surprised his RBI total is so high since he normally bats second in the Jays lineup.

What was missed: The impact a good player has on an already good lineup can lead to bunch of run producing opportunities. The initial projections of less than 100 Runs and RBI was probably on the low side. The other point which was missed is the increase in home runs. We should have expected more than a single run increase over his 2014 total (29 HR to 30 HR).

#2 Bryce Harper
Preseason Rank: #22

In 2015, the 22-year-old Harper is finally putting up the numbers people expected from him after he was drafted #1 overall in 2010. His change from a frustrating player to a star comes from three items.

  • First, he has been relatively healthy. He already has more plate appearances in 2015 than in each of 2013 and 2014. He needs to be on the field to get his max production. His health has probably led to the next two items.

  • He seems to be making more contact with a K/BB nearing 1.0. Since 2012, his K/BB has gone from .47 to .65 to .37 to .96. Some of the improvement has come from more intentional walks, but his K% drop from 26% in 2014 to 20% this season.
  • Finally he is hitting the ball harder. His HR/FB distance (303 ft) is at a career high. His HR/FB ratio (26%) is also a career high. So is his Hard Hit rate (42%). His has just been knocking the crap out of the ball this year.

Basically, he has been a stud.

What we missed: The ~50 point jump in batting average was not expected. A jump to .300 was not out of the question, but no one expected an NL leading .333. If he can keep the AVG up, he will provide good value going forward. I completely buy into the power spike and could expect even more in the future. The big miss was calling him a potential bust before he even reached is 22nd birthday.

#3 Paul Goldschmidt
Preseason Rank: #3

We expected Goldy to be a top player and he has been one. My only issue with him is the 21 steals. I think a total near 10-15 is more realistic going forward.

What we missed: We didn't except the 20+ steals, but otherwise nothing.

#4 Yoenis Cespedes
Preseason Rank: #47

The 29-year-old Cespedes has increased his production by hitting the ball harder. His ISO, HR/FB%, and Hard Hit% are all at career highs. The harder hit balls have led to a 37 point increase in his AVG and five more home runs than his previous career high. Nothing else has really changed.

What we missed: The power uptick and no 2014 signs pointed to a change. He may have reworked his swing to become more line drive in nature with his FB% dropping from 48% to 37% and his PU% rate going from 6% to 3%. After searching around the internet, I could not find any reports on him changing it.

#5 Nolan Arenado
Preseason Rank: #48

Arenado high rank can be attributed to his 37 HR (twice his career high of 18 HR last season) and the additional Run and RBI which the home runs generate. For Arenado, the change can't be attributed to jsutone item, but a series of changes/improvements. His HR/FB% is up to 18% after being at 11% last season. The increase HR/FB% can attributed to him pulling the ball over short corner fences at a career high rate (46%). Finally, he is hitting more fly balls with his FB% going from 34% to 42% to 45% over the past three seasons.

What we missed: It may seem like a broken record, but we missed with power increase and the additional runs it created. He showed some of the power in September last season, but any player can have a good month.

#6 Nelson Cruz
Preseason Rank: #12

I don't think anyone expected Cruz to be approaching his 2014 home run total of 40 home runs after making the move from hitter friendly Camden Yards to spacious Safeco Field, but he has. I have a theory I need to test that states some hitters aren't affected as much by park factors (ex. Giancarlo Stanton) while others have wide swings. I wonder if Cruz is one such player who would hit home runs no matter the ballpark dimensions.

Besides the home runs staying the same, his batting is at .310 this season after hovering around the .260-.270 range the past few seasons. I just don't see this value being sustainable and would bet on a 2016 AVG nearer to .270 than one near .310.

What we missed: The power continued from Baltimore to Seattle. I looked over his stats and found no signs that the 34-year-old would have a career season. We could of had his home run numbers in the low 30's, but not in the 40+ range.

#7 A.J. Pollock
Preseason Rank #101

Pollock's 2015 stats are pretty much in line with his 2014 numbers if they were extracted out beyond his 287 plate appearances. He is showing at bit more home run ability (9.5 %HR/FB to 12.7% HR/FB), but at the same time his ISO as dropped (.196 to .176).

What we missed: The miss centered on how much to believe in his 2014 injury plagued "breakout" season. Maybe more stock should be put into half a good season, but maybe not.

#8 Mike Trout
Preseason Rank #1
Mike Trout did Mike Trout while he was healthy, but his wrist has slowed him down later in the season.

What we missed: Nothing

#9 Clayton Kershaw
Preseason Rank #5

Clayton Kershaw doing Clayton Kershaw things.
What we missed: Nothing

#10 Zack Greinke
Preseason Rank #35

Every season an ace or two make the top 10 players. This year it is Greinke and sub-2 ERA and sub-1 WHIP. These two along with his 16 Wins helps to push him over a few pitchers with more strikeouts.
What we missed: No real surprise another pitcher besides Kershaw is in the top 10. Greinke is one of several pitchers like David Price, Madision Bumgarner, or Max Scherzer who could be here. This season, Greinke gets the nod.

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