by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
You could easily argue that four of our Top 6 first basemen in our preseason rankings were bitter disappointments in 2014 (the only ones who wouldn’t have been labeled a bust were Paul Goldschmidt & Edwin Encarnacion). While injuries were part of the problem, let’s take a quick look at each player to help determine who has the best shot at bouncing back in 2015 (we will likely take much more indepth looks at all of these players as we get closer to the start of the season):
Freddie Freeman – Atlanta Braves
2014 Statistics – .288, 18 HR, 78 RBI, 93 R, 3 SB
Just about everything ultimately went wrong, from the average not being at .300 to his power dropping significantly. It was a good start, with 6 HR in April courtesy of an average distance on non-groundballs of 263.466. What’s interesting is that number was up over the final five months, to 274.080, yet the power seemingly disappeared. With 43 doubles on the season and an 11.9% HR/FB, there’s definitely hope for a rebound.
The drop in power was also responsible for his drop in average, as he posted a 31.0% line drive rate, .351 BABIP and 20.5% strikeout rate.
In other words there’s a very good chance that he rebounds strong in 2015.
Chris Davis – Baltimore Orioles
2014 Statistics – .196, 26 HR, 72 RBI, 65 R, 2 SB
We all knew the power was going to drop, though just 26 HR in 450 AB was a bigger drop than anyone could’ve pictured. Just look at his HR/FB the past three seasons:
- 2012 – 25.2%
- 2013 – 29.6%
- 2014 – 22.6%
A little bit of a bounce back can be expected, and the same can be said in the average department. While he strikes out way too much (33.0%), more power and better luck (24.6% line drive rate, .242 BABIP) will lead to better results.
He’s not going to be the player he was in 2013, but the 2012 marks (.270, 33 HR) aren’t unreasonable.
Joey Votto – Cincinnati Reds
2014 Statistics – .255, 6 HR, 23 RBI, 32 R, 1 SB
Part of the problem was injury costing him all but 62 games, but even when he was on the field Votto looked like a shell of the player who was once an elite option. Sure he posted an impressive line drive rate of 26.7% and we would expect a better BABIP than .299, but Votto simply remains too passive in RBI situations.
Just look at his walk rate by situation:
- Bases Empty – 15.2%
- Men on Base – 20.6%
- \Men in Scoring Position – 30.6%
Sometimes you simply need to be aggressive and make things happen. He only has one season with more than 24 HR and, with his passive approach, he’s better suited as a #2 hitter than a middle of the order bat. The average and on base percentage will be there, but if he’s not driving in runs he’s more of a middle of the pack option.
Prince Fielder – Texas Rangers
2014 Statistics – .247, 3 HR, 16 RBI, 19 R, 0 SB
At this point Fielder’s outlook is basically a complete unknown. He needed neck surgery ending his season in May, as he was suffering from a herniated disk. Will it have a long-term impact on his abilities at the plate? It’s a question that we will really have to dive into and try to figure out.
Obviously the upside is there, but he’s a huge risk and the riskiest of this group. Is he worth the flier? Absolutely, but you need to make sure you have ample depth to protect yourself.
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Heat Maps