Adam LaRoche’s 2015 Fantasy Value

Yesterday the White Sox signed Adam LaRoche to a two year $25M contract to serve as the DH. On draft day LaRoche is not going to get a lot of ooooh’s and awwww’s by your opponents but you’re going to be getting a player who won’t win you your league and most importantly, won’t lose you your league.

For career he’s basically averaged 25 home runs with .259-plus batting average for pretty much for his whole career and I do not see any indication he’s going to stop in 2015.

After his worst fantasy season (where he played a full year) he had a nice bounce back season in 2014. The strikeout rate decreased four percentage points and was the second lowest of his Major League career; also, the contact rate was the highest its been since 2008.

In regards to the power he should see an up-tick in power because he’s moving to one of the best home run parks in the majors. In the last two years he’s hit 162 fly balls and he has a career 15% HR/FB rate. Last year his HR/FB rate was 16% so even if that stabilizes in 2015 he’s going to hit 26 home runs again (and with room for more).

LaRoche struggles against lefties. Since 2008 he has a .233/.288/.413 slash line against lefties (in 1,060 PAs) so he’ll likely be platooned, which would increase his fantasy viability because he would hit 30-40 points higher.

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Brandon Moss’ 2015 Fantasy Value

In late September Brandon Moss revealed he played much of the year with torn cartilage in his hip. To quote from the article, “He [Moss] didn’t want to blame his second-half numbers dip on the problem but Moss said that he does not have much range of motion or strength in the joint as a result.” In late October Moss had the torn labrum repaired as well as a clean-up procedure to an impingement in his hip.

I don’t know when the injury started to bother him, but I’m guessing it started to occur sometime in June. My guess is based purely on his statistical data and he started to trend significantly down in June.

Moss’ season was so bad you could break down his 2014 season and create a narrative based on that data. The next two tables will provide two different cuts of his 2014 season to give you some perspective.

The first table looks at is his performance for the first two months of the season compared to the last four months.

Splits AVG OPS BABIP wOBA K% HR/FB
April-May .276 .934 .290 .391 19.7% 17.6%
June-Sept. .210 .678 .278 .301 30.2% 12.8%

The second table shows his performance for the first three months of the season compared to the last three months.

Splits AVG OPS BABIP wOBA K% HR/FB
April-June .268 .876 .302 .370 23.1% 17.3%
July-Sept. .190 .637 .256 .289 30.5% 10.9%

Some fantasy owners never believed in Brandon Moss to begin with and they could have the belief that his spiral in the second half of the season was due to the regression that was bound to happen. However, if you compare his first three months of 2014 and compare them to his 2013 season they look eerily similar (table below).

Splits AVG OPS BABIP wOBA K% HR/FB
2013 .256 .859 .301 .363 27.7% 18.1%
April-June 2014 .268 .876 .302 .370 23.1% 17.3%

I have no idea how much the injury effected Moss’ play on the field but the poor performance in the second half of the season suggests it had a major impact on him. Assuming he’s healthy and looks good in Spring Training I’m going to believe Brandon Moss can bounce back to the player he was in 2013.

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Billy Butler’s 2015 Fantasy Value

In a surprise move today the A’s gave Billy Butler a three-year, $30 million deal. My initial thoughts when I heard the news was the length of the contract was too long and  $10M a year for a DH who doesn’t hit for a lot of power is too much. However, after reading David Schoenfield’s take on the signing I no longer believe the contract is a salary dump.

The fact of the matter is the A’s do not have a lot of money and in order for them to be successful they need to take gambles on players like Butler. They cannot afford a Nelson Cruz or even a Melky Cabrera (whom I think he would be a great fit in the two spot for that lineup) so why not take a chance on Butler? From 20011-13 he had a .369 OBP and hit 63 home runs (which averages out to 21 a season). Obviously the power numbers are skewed by the 29 home runs in 2012 that was extremely fluky, but he still averaged 15-20 home runs a year for five straight years before 2014.

There are two ways to interrupt his career low 6.9% HR/FB rate. A) he’s getting old (he turns 29 in mid-April) and this is the beginning to the end or B) he got unlucky with the HR/FB rate and should positively regress. After looking at the data I believe in the latter.

He had a brutal April that dragged down his overall numbers. He hit .224/.285/.255 with zero home runs and only three extra base hits. After April he hit .282/.332/.406 with nine home runs and a 8.2% HR/FB rate.

Any time a player suddenly sees a sharp decline in power I look at the percentage of extra base hits to get an idea if he’s making the same amount of hard contact as before. Usually if the extra base hit percentage is relatively the same as the past I’m more inclined to believe the HR/FB rate should improve. From 2011-13 he had 167 extra base hits, which represents 31.3% of his hits. Starting in May of last year he had 38 extra base hits, which represents 29.9% of his hits. Therefore, the power numbers should positively regress in 2015.

He’s slow and hits into a lot of double plays, but for the A’s offense that’s not a problem. The A’s offense is built upon getting on-base and hitting home runs. Butler may not hit more than 20 home runs, but he should be on-base a lot for Josh Reddick and Stephen Vogt.

Butler will probably bat fifth, behind Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss (against right handed pitching). He’ll probably bat cleanup against left handed pitching. Butler is going to have a lot of RBI opportunities. Yoensis Cespedes hit in that area of the lineup for the A’s and at the time of trade to the Red Sox Cespedes was eighth in the majors is plate appearances with runners in scoring position. If Butler can stay healthy (and there’s no reason to believe he can’t because he’s never hurt despite the poor body) he could have 100-plus RBIs.

Overall, Billy Butler will be a great buy low going into drafts in 2015. The power and batting average should positively regress and he’s going to have a lot of RBI opportunities in that lineup.

Lastly, the A’s window is one, maybe two years so I wouldn’t be shocked if Butler doesn’t finish out the contract with the A’s. If he bounces back there is a high likelihood he’s traded to a team looking for a right handed bat. If that happens it’s a one year $10M deal for a potential 2 WAR player, which would be a great value.

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