I know there are still some games to be played but I cannot help but begin to think about how wild next year is going to be. Projection systems are going to be tested big-time. Long-time draft strategies are going to be revamped. There are going to be more self-struggles between head and heart than in any season of recent memory. Granted, each year brings new challenges, but 2011 looks to be equipped with a plethora. And yes, I know what plethora means. Let us take a look at some of the reasons.
LACK OF GROWTH IN EARLY ROUND PLAYERS: I do an annual study that consistently demonstrates that 70% of players regress one year to the next. But even with that as a backdrop, the demise of some early round picks, especially those that should still be in a growth phase will test projection systems and then challenge you to believe the numbers, which will no doubt predict a bounceback for several players. Some examples are Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Pablo Sandoval, Joe Mauer and to a lesser extent, Prince Fielder and even Ryan Howard.
CARLOS GONZALEZ: Wow, what a season. I’ll save the analysis for a later date, but suffice it to say, Gonzalez makes a great subject for a point-counterpoint argument. For every positive aspect of his game, of which there are many, you can come up with a reason to exhibit some pause. But wow, what a season.
WHITHER SCARCITY?: What a year for the upper-level middle infielders. Talk about serious disappointment, especially for those that bought into our draft strategy of targeting a 2B and SS with two of your first three picks. Let us go down the list; Chase Utley, Jose Reyes, Dustin Pedroia, Jimmy Rollins and Brandon Phillips all failed to meet expectations. And actually, neither did Hanley Ramirez and it took a surreal stretch from Troy Tulowitski to spare his presence as well. Will this defray those favoring picking the scarce middle infield early? Sometimes it is not the strategy nor the execution, but just dumb luck that shapes the results. And what about Robinson Cano? Chances are his value will absolutely soar in reaction to the struggles of his middle infield brethren.
THE NEXT BIG THING: With due respect to Jason Heyward and his reasonable debut campaign, with the recent trials and tribulations of Matt Wieters and Stephen Strasburg finally teach us to temper expectations? I’ll even include Tommy Hanson as an example of a youngster with extremely lofty expectations with a limited track record. It may be wise to keep this in mind when considering Mat Latos and Buster Posey next season.
BACK TO WAITING ON STARTING PITCHING? Over the past couple of seasons, a few more starters have crept into the early rounds of a draft. Will the seasons twirled by Tim Lincecum, Zack Greinke have an avalanche effect and knock down the ADP of the likes of CC Sabathia, Felix Hernandez, John Lester, Adam Wainwright and Cliff Lee or will Lincecum and Greinke drop while the others maintain?
ARE THERE ANY SURE-FIRE CLOSERS? Jonathan Papelbon and Jonathan Broxton both exhibited chinks in their armor. Mariano Rivera will be a year older and even more susceptible to the nagging injuries that tempered his 2010 campaign. Can a Kansas City Royals closer really be the top choice on the board? It is going to be extremely interesting to follow the plight of closers next season as the second tier of closers is going to be extremely plush.
What fascinates me the most is the array of underlying factors that will impact each of these decisions. As alluded to initially, some will be swayed by projections, some more game theory influenced and some shaped by your personal philosophy. Next season is going to feature an incredible balance of player projection and game theory, more so than in any season I can remember.