(*) BATTERS: Stop... LIMA time!
At this point, the LIMA plan should be pretty familiar territory for BaseballHQ.com readers. The ingredients are static: consistent yet affordable hitters with a foundation of solid plate discipline sprinkled with power/speed upside. In fact, now is as good a time as any to review the specific LIMA parameters:
- ct% + bb% of 90% or greater
- PX or Spd level of 100 or greater
- Regular PT
- Projected R$ between $10 and $30
While the qualities of a premium LIMA target don't change much, the batters who qualify certainly do. That may seem counterintuitive, given the idea that these are supposedly the most reliable offensive options, but that perception ignores the volatile impact of market value on the player pool.
Some former LIMA targets play themselves into the elite tier of batters, while others fall from grace when their skills wilt or collapse altogether. The goal, of course, is to target players with the best chance to land in the former category while attempting to avoid those that may descend into the latter.
With all of that in mind, the list below is full of new and interesting names that fit the LIMA mold:
Name POS TEAM bb% ct% PX Spd LIMA ================= === ==== === === === === ==== Jose Abreu* 1B CHW 13 84 103 85 A Albert Pujols 1B LAA 9 86 109 69 A Joey Votto 1B CIN 19 76 128 107 A Nolan Arenado** 3B COL 5 85 103 101 A Adrian Beltre 3B TEX 7 88 115 64 A Pablo Sandoval 3B SF 8 85 90 56 A Aaron Hill 2B ARI 8 85 108 93 A Omar Infante 2B KC 4 90 82 119 A Ian Kinsler 2B DET 9 89 87 101 A Dustin Pedroia 2B BOS 10 88 80 123 A Marco Scutaro 2B SF 8 93 49 129 A Chase Utley 2B PHI 9 83 119 115 A J.J. Hardy SS BAL 6 88 101 96 A Andrelton Simmons SS ATL 6 91 86 150 A Carlos Santana C CLE 15 80 131 71 A Michael Brantley OF CLE 7 88 72 108 A Matt Holliday OF STL 12 83 123 80 A Angel Pagan OF SF 8 87 86 132 A Denard Span OF WAS 6 87 65 152 A Prince Fielder 1B TEX 11 81 119 36 B+ Adrian Gonzalez 1B LA 7 83 110 71 B+ Eric Hosmer 1B KC 8 84 96 103 B+ Logan Morrison 1B SEA 11 81 86 102 B+ Mark Teixeira 1B NYY 13 64 139 73 B+ Aramis Ramirez 3B MIL 11 82 118 78 B+ Matt Carpenter 2B STL 10 84 116 123 B+ Daniel Murphy 2B NYM 5 86 87 107 B+ Martin Prado 2B ARI 7 91 85 90 B+ Erick Aybar SS LAA 4 89 75 109 B+ Jed Lowrie SS OAK 8 85 108 93 B+ Alexei Ramirez SS CHW 4 89 68 121 B+ Troy Tulowitzki SS COL 11 81 148 84 B+ Ben Zobrist SS TAM 11 85 87 104 B+ Jonathan Lucroy C MIL 8 87 104 109 B+ Joe Mauer C MIN 12 80 115 91 B+ Brian McCann C NYY 10 81 125 70 B+ Buster Posey C SF 10 87 103 79 B+ David Ortiz DH BOS 13 83 162 68 B+ Norichika Aoki OF KC 8 93 50 144 B+ Jose Bautista OF TOR 13 81 150 91 B+ Melky Cabrera OF TOR 6 86 57 108 B+ Coco Crisp OF OAK 11 87 107 108 B+ Nick Markakis OF BAL 8 88 56 100 B+ Nate McLouth OF WAS 9 84 95 122 B+ David Murphy OF CLE 8 86 100 88 B+ Carlos Quentin OF SD 10 80 149 70 B+ Shane Victorino OF BOS 5 84 102 104 B+ *MLEs **Includes MLEs
As opposed to last year, there are lots of solid LIMA options in general. Let's begin with prime cuts, or some new and/or notable batters that are rated...
Jose Abreu (1B, CHW) may be an unknown quantity as an MLB hitter at this point, but his numbers in Cuba give us a strong indication of his skills. Based on his Major League Equivalencies, Abreu has both plus patience and contact skills giving him a good shot to be a .300 hitter in the big leagues. And while his PX doesn't look overwhelming, it's important to note that Abreu is the Cuban home run king so it's possible that the MLE undersells his upside in this regard. It's risky to invest in a player without an MLB track record, but between the solid skills and the fact that Abreu will spend half his time in a great hitter's park, all the pieces look to be in place for a solid debut.
Albert Pujols (1B, LAA) is no longer a top three overall fantasy player, but he's still pretty darn good. Of course last year was ugly, but Pujols was attempting to play through a plantar fascia injury and still posted very strong peripherals. His batting eye and PX remain potent and he makes a tremendous amount of hard contact, which is reflected in his excellent HctX. Adjust expectations down from previously elite levels, but Pujols is an intriguing rebound candidate.
Nolan Arenado (3B, COL) didn't set the world on fire after his MLB debut, but he didn't fall on his face either. Arenado retained his admirable ct% after being recalled but he also brought along his lackluster bb%. His PX was less than impressive, but xPX thinks he'll grow into above average pop with a little bit of Spd to boot. His lack of patience means he'll have to make more hard contact to take a step forward in terms of his BA and he'll need to trade some grounders for fly balls in order to reach his 15-20 HR potential. For now, these kind of skills on a 23-year-old amount to a high floor with moderate short term upside, making Arenado a bargain for the price.
Aaron Hill (2B, ARI) has strong skills, but he also has a nasty habit of ping-ponging between productive and disastrous seasons. It's a curious phenomenon considering that Hill has a strong batting eye, consistently potent HctX and plus PX. This blend does seem to have stabilized in terms of Hill's production since he arrived in Arizona during the 2011 season so a return to good health is likely to bring with it a return to profitable fantasy value. Considering that Hill had posted four straight seasons of 520 ABs or more before last year, history suggests that even at age 32 he'll enjoy yet another bounce back campaign in 2014.
J.J. Hardy (SS, BAL) owes a lot of his fantasy value to the position he plays. Were he not a shortstop, Hardy's HR or bust offensive approach would be far less tolerable. Sure, he makes plenty of contact and has a healthy HctX, but beyond that there just isn't much here. Hardy's lack of both patience and line drives results in his pedestrian h%, which caps his BA upside and his overall fantasy impact. Given his price and draft position, selecting Hardy isn't a huge reach yet owners would be wise to understand the risk inherent in a profile that is so dependent on the long ball.
Michael Brantley (OF, CLE) enjoyed his best season as a regular in 2013, marking the third consecutive season in which he increased his R$. Unfortunately, his value may be at critical mass in relation to his actual skills. Brantley's excellent ct% helps keep his batting eye healthy largely obscuring the fact that his bb% is less than average. Between his HctX, GB% and PX, there is very little reason to expect Brantley to exceed 10 HRs anytime soon. His Spd and SBO are at least above average, but nothing in his profile suggests he will suddenly take a step forward and threaten the 25 steal plateau. This all sounds very pessimistic, but the fact is that Brantley is a fine player and is in his peak years. Given his current NFBC draft position, a case could be made that he remains underrated.
There are plenty of solid options that earned an "A" grade, but there are even more that earned...
THE KILLER B+
Prince Fielder (1B, TEX) has a lot to prove in 2014 and an offseason trade certainly hasn't hurt his chances for a rebound. Fielder's former home park in Detroit has played close to neutral in terms of its effect on LH power, but Texas boosts lefty HRs by 22%. Fielder still takes walks and makes more contact than your average slugger while making plenty of hard contact. It's true that his PX was down the past two seasons, which is reason for concern, yet a hr/f rebound to his career mark of 19% would rectify that issue. Large sluggers on the other side of 30 have a dubious track record to be sure, but Fielder will only turn the big 3-0 in May, so it's a little early to throw dirt on his chances for a resurgence.
Daniel Murphy (2B, NYM) overcame his ugly injury history to post a second straight campaign of 570 ABs or more in 2013, made even more impressive by the fact the he enjoyed a breakout effort in the process. While his owners certainly appreciate the effort, a closer look reveals that nothing about Murphy's skills is overly impressive. He doesn't take walks, but makes quite a bit of contact, specifically hard contact. His PX is average at best and quite often less, while his Spd is unremarkable as his SB breakout was largely a product of a sudden SBO surge in conjunction with his excellent SB%. As a second or third tier option at the keystone, Murphy makes a lot of sense. But anyone paying for last year's production is likely to end up in the red.
Jed Lowrie (SS, OAK) logged a 600+ AB season! This occurrence may prompt some to check to see if the Polar Vortex has made its way to Hades, but the end result was a solid season that rewarded patient owners. Health has always been the crucial variable for Lowrie as his blend of solid plate discipline and above average PX plays very well at the shortstop slot. The problem is not that Lowrie's 2013 stats aren't repeatable—they are. The problem is that his price tag will leave lots of room for disappointment if he falls victim to injury once again. As always with Lowrie, the skills are worth a modest investment, but it's worth having a solid backup.
Buster Posey (C, SF) is not going to rack up stolen bases anytime soon, but that's pretty much the only thing he doesn't do well on the diamond. Posey's batting eye has improved every year he's been an MLB regular and that terrific plate discipline combined with his strong HctX gives him a shot to post a BA over .300 every season. Add in his above average PX and Posey remains a premium backstop, especially because his extra time at 1B pads his PT. None of this changes the fact that Posey is being taken too early at 40th overall per the latest NFBC data. Posey is a great ballplayer and is likely to produce solid numbers, but he barely cracked the top 40 in 2013 R$... in NL-only.
Coco Crisp (OF, OAK) isn't getting any younger and he will almost certainly land on the DL at some point this season. But when he plays, he produces and earns his owners a profit as evidenced by four straight seasons of $20 or greater in R$. His batting eye has improved for three straight seasons, currently residing in elite territory. Owners shouldn't pay for another 20+ HR season as the hr/f will regress yet he will threaten double digits to compliment the healthy SB total courtesy of his excellent SB%. If Crisp can deliver 30+ SB for the fourth time in five years, he's got a great chance to deliver another low profile, high profit campaign.
Shane Victorino (OF, BOS) did appear in this article last season and a strong finish to the season salvaged what initially looked like a bad investment by his owners. His bb% and ct% aren't what they used to be and he struggles against righties (aside from last year's small sample batting RH) so he's likely to produce a BA in the .270-.280 range going forward. Yet he remains spry on the basepaths and his bat has enough pop to continue to deliver double digit HRs. Expect injuries and age to limit his upside, but this is still a very solid all-around talent worth spending a pick or some auction dollars to roster.