FanPost

The Real Top 25 Fantasy Hitters for 2014

Fantasy baseball is all about offense as it pertains to hitters. Managers are not interested in a players' WAR value because it doesn't matter how good his glove is and how valuable he is to his real team. All we want to know is how valuable he will be for our team. While looking at other fantasy sites' player rankings there is sometimes scant information about what (if any) projections systems were employed, and it remains to be seen how valid or reliable these rankings are for fantasy managers. However, I use a data-driven projection system to get my positional tiered rankings to give you the most accurate, valid means of analyzing player value.

Sabermetric experts have honed in on offensive production (among other things) in the last 7-8 years by formulating statistics that more accurately reflect offensive output than ever before in the game[1]. With the advent of sites like fangraphs.com and the like casual fantasy managers like you and I have access to boat-loads of data that can help us make more informed decisions about who to draft, who to trade, and who to acquire for our fantasy teams. Whereas at first we were beholden to counting stats (R, RBI, HR) and then graduated to the next level by incorporating OPS, now we can take the next step with wOBA and wRC+.

In a basic sense wOBA is a statistic that attempts to measure a player's overall offensive value by assigning a value to every type of hit, walk, or any other way a hitter gets on base. In the same way, wRC+ attempts to quantify this offensive value by measuring the runs created by each individual player (click on the links above for more detailed definitions).

For fantasy baseball we couldn't have any better stats to measure offense than these. Despite a player's age, team, league, and injury history (which all have subjective aspects of analysis) I want to know one thing: Is he producing offensively?

For this study exported every hitter from the 2011-2013 seasons (min. 1000 PAs to take into account those players who may have begun their careers in 2012) to find out who had the best offensive output based on wOBA and wRC+. Since the correlation between these two metrics nearly perfect (.985), I first sorted by wOBA and then by wRC+ to get a valid measurement and ranked the players according to these two measurements. I included the top 25 players overall below:

Player

wOBA

wRC+

1

Miguel Cabrera

0.436

178

2

Joey Votto

0.412

162

3

Ryan Braun

0.412

161

4

David Ortiz

0.409

157

5

Mike Trout

0.405

163

6

Jose Bautista

0.402

154

7

Troy Tulowitzki

0.390

134

8

Prince Fielder

0.388

146

9

Mike Napoli

0.386

140

10

Matt Holliday

0.385

148

11

Andrew McCutchen

0.385

147

12

Giancarlo Stanton

0.385

144

13

Carlos Gonzalez

0.385

131

14

Robinson Cano

0.384

142

15

Matt Kemp

0.383

148

16

Adrian Beltre

0.382

137

17

Paul Goldschmidt

0.381

139

18

Edwin Encarnacion

0.377

138

19

Chris Davis

0.377

137

20

Buster Posey

0.376

144

21

Aramis Ramirez

0.376

136

22

Allen Craig

0.373

140

23

Carlos Quentin

0.371

137

24

David Wright

0.370

138

25

Matt Carpenter

0.370

138

What the scores tell me is how much offensive production a player has had relative to his PAs as well as to the league-average player for the 2011-13 seasons. I wanted to use three seasons worth of data because, like many fantasy managers (and writers) we have a tendency to weigh the previous years' data more than a player's larger body of work. Using this method, we can pull from three seasons' worth of data and not have to worry (as much) about one outlier year, a significant injury, a team/league switch, platoon splits, batted ball data, and a number of other factors. I can just look at offensive production itself over the course of time.

Furthermore, I wanted to identify players whose wOBA numbers increased or decreased over time to see if I could identify players who might be trending one direction or another, offensively speaking. These players also had to have a minimum of 300 PAs each year (taking into account injury). In the Trend field I indicated by color whether a player's wOBA increased each year in 2011-13 (++) increased from 2012-13 only[2] (+), went up from 2011-12 and back down in 2013 (-), or declined each year from 2011-13[3] (∨).

Player

Trend

Player

Trend

1

Miguel Cabrera

+

14

Robinson Cano

-

2

Joey Votto

-

15

Matt Kemp

V

3

Ryan Braun

16

Adrian Beltre

-

4

David Ortiz

-

17

Paul Goldschmidt

+

5

Mike Trout

+

18

Edwin Encarnacion

-

6

Jose Bautista

19

Chris Davis

+

7

Troy Tulowitzki

+

20

Buster Posey

+

8

Prince Fielder

--

21

Aramis Ramirez

-

9

Mike Napoli

+

22

Allen Craig

-

10

Matt Holliday

+

23

Carlos Quentin

-

11

Andrew McCutchen

-

24

David Wright

++

12

Giancarlo Stanton

-

25

Matt Carpenter

+

13

Carlos Gonzalez

+

Finally, I wanted to look at three other sets of overall fantasy hitter rankings for 2014 by some well-known fantasy baseball sites to see how my rankings compared with theirs:

My Rankings

Site 1

Site 2

Site 3

1

Miguel Cabrera

Miguel Cabrera

Mike Trout

Mike Trout

2

Joey Votto

Mike Trout

Miguel Cabrera

Miguel Cabrera

3

Ryan Braun

Andrew McCutchen

Andrew McCutchen

Carlos Gonzalez

4

David Ortiz

Paul Goldschmidt

Paul Goldschmidt

Bryce Harper

5

Mike Trout

Hanley Ramirez

Bryce Harper

Hanley Ramirez

6

Jose Bautista

Troy Tulowitzki

Chris Davis

Robinson Cano

7

Troy Tulowitzki

Ryan Braun

Edwin Encarnacion

Troy Tulowitzki

8

Prince Fielder

Carlos Gonzalez

Adam Jones

Matt Kemp

9

Mike Napoli

Chris Davis

Adrian Beltre

Chris Davis

10

Matt Holliday

Robinson Cano

Ryan Braun

Evan Longoria

11

Andrew McCutchen

Adrian Beltre

Joey Votto

David Wright

12

Giancarlo Stanton

Edwin Encarnacion

Carlos Gonzalez

Giancarlo Stanton

13

Carlos Gonzalez

Adam Jones

Prince Fielder

Jason Kipnis

14

Robinson Cano

David Wright

Robinson Cano

Buster Posey

15

Matt Kemp

Bryce Harper

Freddie Freeman

Justin Upton

16

Adrian Beltre

Giancarlo Stanton

Yasiel Puig

Ryan Braun

17

Paul Goldschmidt

Jason Kipnis

Jay Bruce

Andrew McCutchen

18

Edwin Encarnacion

Carlos Gomez

Carlos Gomez

Paul Goldschmidt

19

Chris Davis

Yasiel Puig

Jason Kipnis

Joey Votto

20

Buster Posey

Joey Votto

David Wright

Adam Jones

21

Aramis Ramirez

Evan Longoria

Hanley Ramirez

Jacoby Ellsbury

22

Allen Craig

Jose Bautista

Justin Upton

Edwin Encarnacion

23

Carlos Quentin

Ian Desmond

Domonic Brown

Jose Reyes

24

David Wright

Prince Fielder

Jose Bautista

Jose Bautista

25

Matt Carpenter

Alex Rios

Shane Victorino

Adrian Beltre

It is interesting to note players like Mike Napoli (9), Matt Holliday (10), Aramis Ramirez (21), Carlos Quentin (23), and Matt Carpenter (25). None of these players, presumably, would be on any top 25 overall hitter rankings for any fantasy site this year. However, the fact of the matter is, when compared with their peers, these hitters have been the most offensively productive players in the league, given the minimum PAs over the 2011-13 seasons (or at least the 2012-13 seasons if they didn't meet the required PA during 2011.

While I have no idea what projections systems or what methodology these sites used to come up with their top 25 overall players for the 2014 season, I know exactly how I developed mine: offensive production relative to the rest of the league.

The limitations of ranking players this way is obvious: it doesn't tell us why the stats are what they are. It merely tells us what happened. When these players are playing they are the most offensively productive players in the league-not because I believe them to be but because the numbers say so.

For fantasy managers, I'm not advocating using my list for your top 25 (or top 250) hitters for next year, but redraft managers should pay attention. You have nothing vested in your team past 2014 so you can take the risk of drafting some of these guys higher than you might otherwise. Provided some of these guys are healthy you could have a really productive player on your hands for pennies on the dollar. Dynasty/keeper league managers could also target some of these players in trades (perhaps even as throw ins) to maximize potential production for your roster.

The days of looking at last year's counting stats are over. When you begin looking at players' offensive production this way it can pay huge dividends down the road no matter the league format and it will give you a statistically justifiable reason for finding those diamonds in the rough during the upcoming season.

If you want my full list of 225 players, please follow me on Twitter (@agape4argentina) or go to rotobanter.com to request them.

[1] I am referring to materials such as The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball by Tom Tango (Potomac Books, Inc., 2007), Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Need to Know About the Game is Wrong, ed. by Jonah Keri (Basic Books, 2007), and The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract by Bill James, (Free Press, 2003).

[2] This also includes players who may not have qualified in 2011 with 300 PAs due to lack of playing time or not being the majors at that time.

[3] Note, Matt Kemp is -- because he declined from 2011-12 and then was injured all last season. Ryan Braun qualifies as -- but only had 253 PAs in 2013 due to suspension.

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