Hello, Purple Row reader. Would you like a free copy of the 2017 Baseball Prospectus Annual? Of course you would! Would you like it without having to do anything in particular other than asking politely? Yes, you would! Is that likely to happen? Not at your local bookseller, and not here.
But here’s something you can do here that you can’t do at any bookseller. Play the BP Annual comment game, and you’ll be in the running for a free copy of the 2017 BP Annual. The rules are simple. Below, you’ll find 8 player comments from the BP Annual, each of which has the player’s name taken out as well as other information that would make this too easy. Your task is to correctly identify each of the 8 players. At the end of the post, you’ll find a form to input each of your answers. Do that, along with your SB Nation user handle and email address, and you’re off.
You get two hints and two rules. The hints are that there are no prospects listed and that none of the players are rookie eligible in 2017; second, there is a mix of Rockies and non-Rockies players. The rules: don’t cheat. It’s an unenforceable rule, sure; ultimately, it will be you who will have to live with the deeds of cheating on an internet game to receive a free book. And second, in the comments, please block discussion of answers using the spoiler function.
The easy explanation for [THIS GUY’s] career high .282 batting average in 2016, which is about 50 points higher than his career mark, is having the privilege of playing home games at [MYSTERY BALLPARK] and the .361 BABIP for which it was partially responsible. But [DUDE] also posted a career-high line drive rate of 25.8 percent. He seems to have traded fly balls for them, however, which he hit at a career-low 32.5 percent. And yet, he knocked one more dinger in 2015 than he did in 2016—sailing on a platform of contact and elevation. This is unlikely to be a full-scale reinvention, but it will keep [BASEBALL PLAYER] employed—for now.
Nagging injuries and advancing age have robbed [PERSON] of his defensive utility and finally conspired to end his streak of seasons posting a .290-plus TAv at 10, a record of consitent production exceeded only by Miguel Cabrera’s 11 straight (and counting). [NICKNAME] still displays the plus approach that has long underpinned his success, but his numbers were dragged down by a career-low batting average on balls in play. [DUDE] can still sting the ball—his average exit velocity trailed only Nelson Cruz and Giancarlo Stanton last year—but his launch angle dropped and he traded line-drive singles for hard hit ground outs. It’s not crazy to think that one of the best pure hitters of his generation can rediscover some loft and provide a few more years of solid production.
It was easy to pinpoint the reasons for [THIS GUY’s] improvement in 2015: he didn’t swing as much. The patience that edged into passivity led to more pitches seen and a higher on-base percentage. Easy peasy, at least from an analysts’s point of view. It’s a bit more difficult to identify what led to his 2016 results, which have him as perhaps the best centerfielder in the National League and a top-five centerfielder in baseball by WARP. He finished the year with the exact same same rate as 2015, but he was more aggressive at the plate. Rather than mere passivity, [DUDE] seems to have learned zone awareness. Couple that with his ht tendencies—hit hit more line drives off fastballs and more fly balls off secondary pitches—and we get a pretty good idea of [BASEBALL PLAYER’s] growth. He’s . . . a centerfielder almost any contender would welcome, which is good timing as he progresses through his arbitration years and [PLAYER’s TEAM] outfield situation gets more crowded.
[THIS GUY] doesn’t throw quite as hard as he used to, but he’s managed to mitigate the velocity migration with more movement and pinpoint precision. His cutter stays on plane longer and wanders farther than it used to and batters had a devil of a time trying to barrel it in 2016. He controlled contact as well as any hurler in the game, generating an average exit velocity lower than all but six other hurlers with a hundred pitches tracked. A good bit of that contact bounced its way around the infield, and he continued a now four-year run of model stinginess with the free pass. One would think that given his recent run and job security, he'd be a near lock to lead his alma mater in saves, yet he's still nearly 450 shy of fellow Arizona alum Trevor Hoffman.
There is some value in [THIS GUY’s] ability to step in and start when needed, but going to him in the first place is an admittance that your organizational depth is lacking. In relief, he notched appearances anywhere from one batter to 4.2 innings, and he did so with a 5.13 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 2.58 ERA. This remains a vast improvement over his 1.87 K/BB and 5.08 ERA as a starter. On the whole, and from ERA to DRA, [PLAYER] had a fine 2016. Whether or not he has to start going forward, and what that does to his player card, says more about the team he’s playing for than it does him.
The definition of insanity is putting [THIS GUY] in the rotation again and again and expecting different results. [DUDE] suffered a 5.05 ERA through 12 starts last season, but posted a 3.88 ERA in 56 innings of relief. That should look familiar; [PLAYER’s] career splits now have him as the proud owner of a 5.11 ERA as a starter versus a 3.80 ERA coming out of the pen. You can’t blame [MYSTERY TEAM] for thinking [SOME OTHER GUY] might be able to turn water into a mid-rotation starter one more time, but the evidence is pretty clear. [THIS GUY] induced more grounders and allowed fewer fly balls as a reliever, and batters lost more than 100 points of slugging against him in that role.
With the arrival of last-minute center fielder [PLAYER’s TEAMMATE] on Leap Day, the surprising 2015 starter [PLAYER] was surprisingly back on the bench. The speedy outfielder did manage to make an appearance in 74 games, mostly in center, which is more in line with what a first-place team might envision. The two steps forward he took in sticking after the Rule 5 draft last season bottomed out in his sophmore season, as his plate discipline cratered. When you couple that with the questionable defense and nonexistent power he’s always had, he’d be wise to keep a bag marked [MYSTERY MINOR LEAGUE DESTINATION] packed and in his locker at all times.
The essence of [PLAYER’s] 2017 season should have the same ingredients as his 2016—questions about role and control along with leverage as high as his heat. The rookie had a brief stint as closer, and he earned that spot on the strngth of his triple-digit fastball and the promise found in his ability to limit walks. The velocity, if not terminal, was there, but walks ended up being an issue for the first time in his professional career, and they didn’t help upon arrival in high-leverage situations. In fact, [DUDE] ended up with the fourth worst Win Probability Added among relievers in 2016—highlighted by some spectacularly bad outings. We’ll learn soon enough how those essential elements combine in 2017, frame by frame.