Let me start this off by saying that we dont know how 2015 scoring is going to work. We also dont know how play structure is going to facilitate how we play the game. All that taken into consideration, there are a few players that should be great pickups regardless of whether or not the scoring or structure changes. Here are some of my targets.
Clayton Kershaw – SP, Dodgers
Even though he had quite the meltdown in the playoffs, he was basically unhittable during the regular season. His ERA, WHIP, and K/IP were all high, leading him to the 2014 NL Cy Young and MVP. You know he is dominant when both awards are in his pocket. That rarely happens. This year, the Dodgers are again going to be in a tough division, but Kershaw is one of those guys you bet on regardless. Expect him to be the top pitcher in the league again this year.
Mike Trout – OF, Angels
I have been a Trout fan since he exploded onto the scene back in 2011, and think he should have 2-3 MVPs on his resume instead of just 1. I guess voters just dont see the stats like most of us do. Either way, Trout put up a monster season last year, and was one of the only hitters that was worth playing like a pitcher in the game. That is saying a lot. This year, the Angels will be a playoff contender again, and Trout will likely repeat the heroics he had last year. Its a given with him. Expect over 30 HRs, a high average, and over 100 RBIs, to match some SB and some low strikeout numbers.
Felix Hernandez – SP, Mariners
Considering he didnt have a card in Bunt that scored above 1x until later in the year, he still managed to be one of the top scoring pitchers in the game. He slowed down as the year came to a close, but was THIS close to being in the playoffs. He is a big strikeout pitcher who has a miniscule ERA, all things that led to big Bunt points last year. Even if the structure changes, he will be a guy to chase.
Giancarlo Stanton – OF, Marlins
This guy has rare talent, hitting for power, average and everything in between. Now that he has a huge contract tied to him for the next 50 years, the numbers could drop a bit, but it wont matter much. Stanton is a guy you can feel confident about, especially when you see how far he can hit the ball on a regular basis. Im curious to see if Bunt will adjust to be more evenly weighted between hitters and pitchers, but you never know.
Johnny Cueto – SP, Reds
Last year was Cueto’s year, striking out a ton of guys on his way to one of the lowest ERAs in the league. Although the Reds didnt factor into the postseason much, it was clear that he was easily one of the best pitchers in baseball. Im not sure the Reds did much in the offseason to improve, but as long as they have him pitching at his best, they will be a tough team to beat.
Jose Altuve – 2B, Astros
Believe it or not, the ‘Stros have a young team that quietly put up some really good hitting numbers over the year, including Altuve taking home the batting title. He also put up 21 HRs, which is pretty insane for a second baseman that hits for average as much as power. His teammate Chris Carter also put up 37 HRs, but didnt have the solid stats to not make him a Bunt liability (182Ks is hard to stomach). In contrast, Altuve only struck out 53 times which is just ridiculous.
Madison Bumgarner – SP, Giants
I have never seen someone pitch like he did in the World Series last year. You have to go back a very long time to find a comparable series. What people may not have been familiar with is that he put up some really nice numbers during the regular season as well, with 199Ks and only 43 walks to match his sub 3 ERA. Not bad at all. Through his career, he has been quite the ace for the Giants, pitching close to 200 innings a year. I think he should come into 2015 with a reason to be great again.
Jose Abreu – 1B, White Sox
I am not a White Sox fan at all, being from Minnesota, but even I can appreciate Abreu’s rookie season. He put up some nice totals in all the major categories, coming 3 HR short of the league lead, while still managing to hit .317. For someone who had never played in the major leagues, that is pretty nuts. This year, I think the White Sox added some pitching help, but with the loss of Konerko’s leadership and a few other things, Im not sure how much better they will be.
I think 2015 Bunt is going to be quite a fun experience, just from what the team has said already. Looks like there will be a bunch of new added features, so its going to be interesting how the game reflects what everyone is expecting.