Predicting best and worst scenarios for top fantasy baseball players

Monday March 16th, 2015

Whenever we talk about players and their projections, there’s a reason we say that you should pencil them in rather than etching them in stone. Every player, from Mike Trout all the way on down to Pete Kozma, has a range of possible outcomes. There will be players who surprise and fall outside that range, both on the good side and the bad, but for the most part, players end up landing somewhere within their parameters.

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As such, you should not think about exact numbers when building a fantasy team. Instead, you should consider each player’s range and the likelihood he ends up closer to the top of it or the bottom. Below, we present the best- and worst-case scenarios for the top 30 players in our Top 250 (and here's a printable version of our Top 250). 

1
1Mike Trout
 

WORST CASE: Trout did post a 26.1% strikeout rate last season, and that conspired to push his batting average down to a career-worst .287. If he keeps up that strikeout pace, he will not be among the league leaders in batting average. He also curbed his running last year, which could be the beginning of a trend for him. If the Angels' offense takes a step back as a whole, Trout’s counting stats will suffer through no fault of his own. And even if all this happened, he’d likely still end the season as a top-five hitter.

2
2Andrew McCutchen
 

WORST CASE: Like Trout, even the worst-case scenario for McCutchen is that of an elite fantasy player. He has had more than 25 homers just once in his career, and his 18 steals last year were his least since joining the Pirates in 2009. With the holes in the Pittsburgh lineup, it could be a struggle for him to do much better than 85 runs and RBIs.

3
3Paul Goldschmidt
 

WORST CASE: With no one else to fear in the Arizona lineup, pitchers treat Goldschmidt like he’s Barry Bonds. His rates might go through the roof, but that sort of respect keeps a ceiling on his counting stats and prevents him from hitting more than 25 homers.

4
4Clayton Kershaw
 

WORST CASE: Last year’s strand rate regresses to the mean, and that leads to his first ERA north of 2.00 since 2012. He also reverts to the great, but not elite, strikeout pitcher he was before last season. Yeah, even the worst-case scenario here is sterling.

5
5Giancarlo Stanton
 

WORST CASE: You can never be sure how a player will react after being hit in the face, and it takes Stanton a while to get comfortable in the box. He, too, is given the Bonds treatment, and that limits him to 30 home runs.

6
6Jose Abreu
 

WORST CASE: Abreu doesn’t live up to his monster rookie season, and the White Sox supposed improvements fail to give him a better supporting cast. He still brings plenty of pop, but last year’s .356 BABIP proves to be a mirage, and the regression pushes his batting average into the .280s.

7
7Miguel Cabrera
 

WORST CASE: Last season was the start of a true skills decline for one of this generation’s best hitters. He’s still great, but the 30-homer power is gone, and with the entire Tigers' offense taking a step back, he fails to reach 100 RBIs or runs. He’s also forced to miss 20 games due to various injuries.

8
8Carlos Gomez
 

WORST CASE: Gomez HR/FB ratio falls again this season, and he fails to hit 20 homers for the first time since 2012. His strikeout rate ticks back up from the already-high 21.9% it was last year, and that brings his batting average down into the .260s.

9
9Anthony Rizzo
 

WORST CASE: Rizzo’s struggles against lefties return, making him a black hole without the platoon advantage. The Cubs' youngsters prove they’re still at least a year away, and that means Rizzo is fighting the same battles he was last year when he had just 78 RBIs despite 32 homers.

10
10Edwin Encarnacion
 

WORST CASE: The injury bug returns and forces Encarnacion to miss a significant portion of the season. He hits just .265, and while he does bring power when he’s on the field, it isn’t enough to offset his injuries and batting average.

11
11Adam Jones
 

WORST CASE: Jones’s declining HR/FB ratio is more trend than mirage, and he fails to hit 25 homers for the first time since 2010. His teammates also don’t come all the way back this year, and that results in him falling short of 80 runs and RBIs.

12
12Jose Bautista
 

WORST CASE: Bautista played just 92 games in 2012 and 118 in '13, and those injury problems resurface. He hit .286 with a .287 BABIP last year, and that, not surprisingly, proves unsustainable. The batting average reverts to the .250s, and injuries keep a lid on his counting stats.

13
13Anthony Rendon
 

WORST CASE: Rendon was playing a bit over his head last season, and both his home run and stolen base totals are cut by one-third. A lower BABIP knocks his average into the .270s, and the Nationals' offense as a whole isn’t nearly as good as everyone expects it to be.

14
14Robinson Cano
 

WORST CASE: Unfortunately, he can’t change his home park or the way the ball travels in Seattle, which means he just can’t hit more than 15 homers. The rest of his counting stats suffer, as well, with the Mariners falling short of expectations again in 2015.

15
15Felix Hernandez
 

WORST CASE: His walk rate jumps back up to his previous career totals, and that bumps his ERA back above three. Meanwhile, the supposed upgrades in Seattle fail to materialize, and he once again finishes the season with an average win-loss record.

16
16Adrian Beltre
 

WORST CASE: Time waits for no one as age finally catches up to Beltre. He hits below .290 for the first time since 2010 and fails to reach the 20-homer threshold for the second straight season. The Rangers struggle again, and that keeps him below 80 runs and RBIs.

17
17Chris Sale
 

WORST CASE: Sale’s broken foot lingers to the point that it hampers him for his first few starts, and that puts a damper on his overall numbers. The White Sox aren’t nearly as good as they looked during the offseason, keeping Sale below 15 wins for the third year in a row.

18
18Troy Tulowitzki
 

WORST CASE: Yet again, Tulo just can’t stay on the field. Injuries limit him to fewer than 100 games for the second straight season, robbing the baseball world of one of its most talented players.

19
19Ian Desmond
 

WORST CASE: Desmond’s high strikeout rate submarines his batting average, as he fails to make it out of the .250s. He still hits for decent power, but falls short of 20 homers for the first time since 2011.

20
20Jose Altuve
 

WORST CASE: Altuve crashes back down to earth, hitting in the .290s instead of last season’s .341. With fewer times on base, he doesn’t steal nearly as many bags or score as many runs, which basically makes him a glorified Elvis Andrus.

21
21Yasiel Puig
 

WORST CASE: Puig lost 10 percentage points of his HR/FB ratio from 2013 to '14, and that proves to be the real Puig. He falls short of 20 homers again while stealing just 10 bases. He’s still wildly fun, but that helps make him overrated in fantasy leagues.

22
22Stephen Strasburg
 

WORST CASE: Strasburg loses five starts due to injury, and the walk issues that plagued him during his first two seasons rear their ugly head. All of that makes him overshadowed by teammates Max Scherzer and Jordan Zimmermann.

23
23Josh Donaldson
 

WORST CASE: Donaldson’s 2014 BABIP carries over to 2015, and he hits no better than .265. The move to Toronto doesn’t take as well as it should, and he falls back to the low-20s in homers.

24
24Max Scherzer
 

WORST CASE: After racking up a ton of mileage over the last three seasons and turning 30 last July, the workload catches up to Scherzer. He’s still a strong fantasy pitcher, but a reduced strikeout total knocks him out of the top 10.

25
25Michael Brantley
 

WORST CASE: Last year was nothing more than a mirage. Aided by a fluky BABIP and unsustainable HR/FB ratio, it proves to be by far the best year of his career. Brantley falls back down to the low-teens in homers while his batting average dips back into the .280s.

26
26Justin Upton
 

WORST CASE: Upton falls victim to 81 games in Petco Park and hits fewer than 25 homers for the first time since 2012. The stadium also swallows would-be doubles, and he has the worst batting average of his career.

27
27Hanley Ramirez
 

WORST CASE: Ramirez just can’t stay healthy. He plays fewer than 130 games for the third straight season and crushes the dreams of any owner who used a pick on him in one of the first three rounds.

28
28Bryce Harper
 

WORST CASE: Harper’s reckless ways keep him off the field for a significant portion of the season yet again. When he is on the field, he strikes out just as much as he did last year, when he fanned in more than one-quarter of his plate appearances. Even though he’s just 22 years old, it becomes time to recalibrate expectations.

29
29Freddie Freeman
 

WORST CASE: Have you seen this Atlanta lineup? Why would anyone pitch to Freeman? Freeman is pitched around more than anyone in the majors, and that results in him having the worst counting stats season of his career.

30
30Corey Dickerson
 

WORST CASE: Dickerson is a train wreck any time the Rockies leave Coors Field and continues to struggle against southpaws. At the same time, his rates come down at home, and he falls short of 20 homers, 70 RBIs and 70 runs.

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