2018 Fantasy Baseball Awards
By: Carl Grove, Brandon Dombrowski, and Michael Yachera | @cmgrove4 / @Dombro23 / @myach1_91
CG: Christian Yelich
BD: Jose Ramirez
MY: Christian Yelich
CG: Javier Baez
BD: Jesus Aguilar
MY: Trevor Story
CG: Byron Buxton
BD: Kris Bryant
MY: Joey Votto
CG: Blake Snell
BD: Gerrit Cole
MY: Blake Snell-zilla
CG: Alex Bregman
BD: Christian Yelich
MY: Alex Bregman
Player I was wrong about
CG: Javier Baez
BD: Alex Bregman
MY: Aaron Nola
Favorite Sleeper (Hitter) going into 2019
CG: Adalberto Mondesi/David Dahl
BD: Scooter Gennett
MY: Matt Chapman
Favorite Sleeper (Pitcher) going into 2019
CG: Luis Castillo/Walker Buehler
BD: Jameson Taillon
MY: Walker Buehler/Josh James
Agree to disagree? Let us know how you feel by tweeting at us or to the Fantasy Gospel (@fantasy_gospel). It's going to be a long offseason, so let the debate begin! Thank you to everyone who followed, supported, and asked us for advice. Just because the season is over, doesn't mean we're done bringing you more great fantasy baseball content. Follow us on Twitter and bookmark this page to get your fantasy baseball fix this offseason.
By: Michael Yachera | @myach1_91
Christin Stewart (OF; DET) - 1% owned
If I’m an Adam Eaton (knee) owner, I’m looking elsewhere for someone to replace him on my roster for the rest of the season. Look no further. Christin Stewart can hit, and even though he’s pretty underhyped, the signs are there for a strong finish. Starting with his excellent 13% walk rate, he’s got an advanced eye. Need more proof? How about a lean 17.4% strikeout rate. Add it all up and you’re looking at a guy with a .370 OBP despite his .256 batting average. The league average for hitters who make contact on pitches thrown in the zone is 85.6%, but Stewart’s crushing balls in the zone with a 92.6% zone contact rate. Furthing supporting his advanced approach is a 27% outside swing rate, or swings at pitches thrown outside of the strike zone. The league average outside zone rate is 30.9%. Finally, his 35.5% groundball rate, which is actually the second highest of any level in the minors and Majors, seals the deal for me. Why is he playing so poorly, then, you ask? A .276 BABIP is largely to blame, but there’s tons of positive regression in that number. His .436 SLG is also well below what he’s produced historically, so his batting average and counting stats are in for a nice boost. It’s hard finding diamonds in the rough at this point in the season, but Stewart will shine as bright as anyone down the stretch.
Adam Frazier (2B, OF; PIT) - 5% owned
Coming off amazing August in which he hit .338, Adam Frazier is criminally under-owned. How many players floating around on 95% of waiver wires with a whopping 50% hard contact rate and meager 8.7% soft contact rate over the last 21 days? While the production hasn’t quite followed so far in September, there’s enough in his September numbers to convince me that he’s going to carry some sneaky fantasy value in the last 10 days or so of the season. The first outlier I see in his September numbers is a severely declined walk rate with an inflated strikeout rate. He’s only walking 5% of the time this month, compared to an 18.3% strikeout rate, but he posted double digit walk rates in three of the last four months and his strikeout rate last month was just under 14%, which is almost identical to his 14.1% strikeout rate in the first half of this season. More positive regression will manifest itself in the BABIP department, which sits at .318 in September. I believe that Frazier’s .353 BABIP in the second half of 2018 is much closer to his floor than disappointing .265 BABIP in the first half. What’s going to fuel this positive regression? Line drive rate. This month it’s only 13%, but in July and August, we saw Frazier post a ridiculous 53.8% line drive rate and 28.8% line drive rate, respectively. There’s plenty of positive ISO regression in his profile, too, as his .193 ISO this month is the lowest monthly mark since May. What makes Adam Frazier a flier for me is that he’s got seven games next week, playing on one of 13 teams with a full schedule. With teams resting a lot of their stars, Frazier makes for a solid bench and/or utility bat (especially if you own any Reds players who only 5 games next week). Don’t let him playing for the Pirates scare you away, he’s leading off so he’s going to get some extra at-bats and after his sizzling summer, I’m endorsing Adam Frazier as one of the best ROS adds you can make.
Honorable mention: Ramon Laureano (15%), Jorge Polanco (13%), Ryan O’Hearn (13%), Matt Duffy (11%), Ji-Man Choi (11%), Austin Meadows (7%), Hunter Dozier (2%)
Erick Fedde (SP; WAS) - 4% owned
One look at his 5.02 ERA and you probably want to give him a hard pass, but Erick Fedde’s only pitched 43 innings this season. His ERA peripherals are more telling: 4.24 FIP, 3.51 xFIP, and a 3.94 SIERA. Sure those numbers aren’t jumping out at anyone, but with 41 strikeouts to only 17 walks, I see Fedde making his owners look good. So far, the biggest issue for Fedde has been the longball (6 HR). In his entire minor league career, though, he’s never had a HR/9 rate above 1.00. What’s more is his robust 54.9% groundball rate is sustainable given his track record. Opposing hitters have a 35% hard contact rate against Fedde, and while that’s not toeing the line, he’s got nearly a 20% soft contact rate going in his favor. His 5.6% swinging strike rate last year is much improved this season, which now stands at a healthier 8.9%. While my main concern with Fedde is his durability, failing to pitch six innings in any of his three September starts, he gets the Mets on Sunday and pitches for a team that gives him above average run support and defense. He struck out 15 hitters over his last two starts (10 IP), making him a very intriguing ROS add for owners that are looking to add to their rotation for this week and next. At the very least, Fedde is one of the safer streaming options this weekend. The former first round pick from the 2014 draft used to carry a lot of hype, so there’s definitely pedigree in his arm. Give Fedde Wap a long look.
Cody Reed (SP, RP; CIN) - 8% owned
Coming off an absolute gem against the Marlins, Cody Reed is picking up some serious momentum. I can hear you muttering under your breath, “it was against the Marlins…” But what if I told you the writing was on the wall for his Marlins domination? In his start prior to Miami, Reed baffled Cubs hitters to the tune of 10 strikeouts over five scoreless innings while giving up only two hits and two walks. His ERA peripherals all support his 3.66 ERA, and at this time of the season, we can’t be picky. He was never a super prospect (or anything close) and he spent most of 2018 in Triple-A, only pitching 39.1 innings at the Big League level, but what he’s doing at the highest level cannot be overlooked. Reed’s success can be attributed to several things, but I want to focus on his above average ability to get hitters to chase. Though his 30.5% outside swing rate is almost the same as the league average (30.9%), he’s much better at missing bats than the league average. Opposing hitters only make contact outside of the zone against Cody Reed 57.5% of the time, while the rest of the league makes contact outside of the zone at a 62.9% rate. Limited sample size, right? Last season in 17.2 IP (another small sample size, I know), Reed’s outside contact rate was even better at 42.2%. There appears to be some sustainability given his 10.8% swinging strike rate, and I’m sure hitters will be trying to make adjustments by swinging at fewer pitches, but with a start next week against the Royals on tap, Reed should feast in his 2018 finale. Carl streamed Reed this week much to my dismay (I streamed Matthew Boyd instead of Reed), so I am not the only one with an affinity for Reed. He’s a priority streaming option.
Honorable mention: Tyler Glasnow (27%), Carl Edwards Jr. (16%), Ian Kennedy (14%), Felix Peña (13%), Framber Valdez (12%), Mike Montgomery (10%), Josh James (6%)
By: Michael Yachera | @myach1_91
Lewis Brinson (OF; MIA) - 6% owned
Let them laugh at you for adding Lewis Brinson...I’m very confident that if you do, you’ll be the one laughing last. Since rosters expanded on September 1, Brinson is surging. It’s worth mentioning that he hasn’t walked in any of his first seven games since being recalled, but perhaps more noteworthy is the fact that he’s only struck out five times in 26 PA (19% K rate), which continues the trend of an improving strikeout rate in each consecutive month since the beginning of this season; in March and April, Brinson struck out at a horrifying 35.2% clip for those curious. I first wrote about Lewis Brinson in the Friday Fliers section back on June 22, and much of what I elaborated on still holds true to this day (i.e., contact and outside contact rate improvements). Swing and miss is a part of his game, but he’s doing it at a much more palatable rate, and I highly encourage you to read that section. Fast forward to today and even though I certainly agree there’s regression in Brinson’s profile (.556 BABIP in September entering 9/8; 0-4 with 2 strikeouts on 9/8), Brinson’s .227 ISO in September isn’t even the highest ISO he’s produced in a single month this season (.279 in June). Further, both his hard contact and fly ball rates this month are the highest respective rates of any month this year. I’m also eagerly taking a flier on Brinson because in only three July games (15 PA), Brinson’s two walks tied the total number of walks he accrued in twenty-seven May games (98 PA) and was only two fewer walks than he totaled across 93 PA in June. Entering Saturday, Brinson 42.1% hard contact rate and 21.1% line drive rate in September give me confidence that he can keep producing even when regression hits. He’s hit in four different spots in the Marlins’ batting order in seven games since his call-up, so his value can vary depending on where he’s hitting, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Brinson get more looks at the top half of the order as the season winds down (he hit cleanup on Saturday against the Pirates). After slugging a home run off of Chris Archer on Friday, I believe Brinson is poised to make a rest-of-season splash that will vault him back up the OF ranks among industry experts. It’s unfortunate he’s playing on a team with such a poor supporting cast, but because Brinson is looking at regular playing time down the stretch, his floor is safer than some of the other fliers. As I Tweeted on Saturday, those managers in keeper/dynasty leagues with an extra bench spot could add worse players than Lewis Brinson and, remember, it wasn’t long ago that he was the crown jewel of the Marlins’ haul in their Christian Yelich trade with the Brewers. Miami is one of nine teams with seven games next week, so owners in need of an OF (Gregory Polanco, anyone?) or utility bat with the maximum numbers of games for the upcoming week need to look no further than Lewis Brinson.
Ji-Man Choi (1B; TB) - 1% owned
Playing on his fifth Major League team since joining the Mariners in 2010, Ji-Man Choi has a profile that I can’t help but get excited about. Entering Saturday, Choi has an average strikeout (25.4%) rate to go with an above average walk rate (11.8%) across 169 PA (47 games). He’s got a .337 BABIP this season, which is fairly consistent with his BABIP production at Triple-A this season (.358 with Brewers & .327 with Rays) in which he put up 7 HR, 37 RBI, 26 runs scored, and a stolen base while going 59-203 (.290) with an outstanding 49 K/43 BB ratio (249 PA). I also think his BABIP is fairly sustainable because of a 23.1% line drive rate that goes with his 42.9% hard contact and 14.3% soft contact rates. With a .238 ISO on the year and a .450 ISO through his first six September games, Choi is continuing his ball-scorching ways after ending August with a 47.9% hard contact rate and whopping 27.7% line drive rate. He’s also walked five times this month against four strikeouts in seven games. Since September 1, Choi sat out only one game. CJ Cron, on the other hand, sat five of the last seven games the Rays have played in the same span, which makes me feel that Choi is going to get close to everyday at-bats the rest of the way in order for the Rays to see how he fits into their long-term plans. Choi’s been hitting third in the order lately, but on Saturday he hit cleanup, potentially providing the .510 SLG hitter plenty of run producing opportunities in the season’s final few weeks. Regardless of whether it’s third or fourth, there’s serious rest-of-season value in this bat given how disappointing the first base position was in 2018. If you missed out on Luke Voit, I really like Ji-Man Choi as a consolation. Positive regression is abound in Choi’s profile (i.e., line drive, ground ball, and hard contact rates to name a few), so I believe he can continue producing at a very high level. As much as I love what I’m seeing from Lewis Brinson, Choi is the one I’m prioritizing as my starting first baseman or utility bat if it doesn’t matter that the Rays are only playing six games this next week.
Honorable mention: Kevin Kiermaier (21%), Adalberto Mondesi (14%), Randal Grichuk (10%), Adam Frazier (7%), Rowdy Tellez (1%)
Felix Peña (SP, RP; LAA) - 8% owned
Another recycled flier, Felix Peña is turning some serious heads as of late. He first appeared here on July 13, again on August 3, and then again as recently as last week. In addition to praising his rapidly improving BB/9 rate, here’s an excerpt of what I said about Peña last week:
“I love Peña as a streaming option rest of season, but there’s some back of the rotation appeal for fantasy owners if he can continue to build upon his last two starts [against the D’Backs and Astros] when he faces the Astros again on Saturday. While I’m avoiding him for that start unless absolutely necessary, I’m going to add him in some places if he dominates the defending champs.”
Dominate he did, and you can bet I added him in several leagues in time for his most recent start against the White Sox. Across seven innings of work in his rematch against the defending champs, Peña only gave up two runs (one earned) while surrendering five hits. If you’re complaining about his three strikeouts that game, you’re completely missing his zero walks allowed, continuing his walk-less September (14 IP). His 1.93 ERA this month is backed (or should I say, contradicted?) by a 3.94 FIP and 4.10 xFIP, but his September 5.79 K/9 rate is due to positively regress while he’s also on pace to post back to back months of 22%+ soft contact rates with a .250 BABIP or better. The positive regression already started hitting The Other King Felix in his last start against the White Sox, when he struck out six batters across seven innings. Speaking of the number seven, he’s now gone back-to-back starts with 7 IP after failing to go seven innings in any of his previous 12 starts, according to Rotoworld. With double-digit swinging strike rate (10.3%), Peña offers enough swing and miss floor for me to feel comfortable slotting him in the back of my rotation. With a favorable matchup against the free-swinging Rangers up next on the docket, I expect another dominating performance from Felix Peña this upcoming week. He could then be be a two-start pitcher after this next week, so there’s definite rest-of-season appeal here to me. My only hesitation is his innings workload this year (109 IP) in relation to the last two seasons (72.1 IP in 2016 & 73.1 IP in 2017), but he did toss 129.2 innings in 2015. He’s peaking at the perfect time, though, so I’m feeling more confident in him than I ever have.
Josh James (SP; HOU) - 6% owned
If these pitching fliers sound familiar, that’s because they are. Both were featured in last week’s Friday Fliers, and despite strong performances in the last week, both remain vastly under-owned. Check that out to familiarize yourself further if you haven’t already done so. With Josh James, there’s some risk given his lack of rotation security, but I’m double-dipping him because I don’t believe the Astros are settled on a fifth starter. Even if they are (Framber Valdez), recent comments by manager AJ Hinch seem to indicate an open mindedness to finishing the season with a six-man rotation. Hitting triple-digits in his debut consistently, The Other King James looked much better in his MLB debut than his final line indicated: 5 IP, 3 ER, and 3 BB. His 3.95 FIP for the game is encouraging, although his 2.68 xFIP against the Angels is much closer to his floor, in my opinion. Pitching on the road in Boston, James’ second career appearance went even better, only needing 41 pitches (31 strikes) to retire eight of the nine hitters he faced. He took over for Charlie Morton to begin the sixth inning and logged 2.2 IP with four strikeouts against zero walks, and the only damage against him was a double by Mitch Moreland in the 8th inning. He struck out Kinsler, Bogaerts, Mookie, and JBJ, and - more astonishingly - didn’t issue a single base on balls against one of the most disciplined and dangerous teams we’ve seen in some time! You know his confidence is skyrocketing out of this stratosphere. Even if Josh James is used in a multi-inning role instead of taking the ball every five (or six) days, he’s going to give you very strong ratio protection with double-digit K/9 upside. He was supposed to start Tuesday at Detroit, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen after pitching Saturday night. It’s likely James gets pushed back to a weekend start at home against the Diamondbacks, and given how well he’s pitched to begin his Big League career combined with the D’Backs recent slide, I feel good about his chances at giving his owners a quality start with a strikeout per inning as his floor. He’s a lot more droppable than Felix Peña because of Peña’s rotation security, but the upside Josh James brings when he’s in the rotation is enough to start him everywhere during your playoff runs. It may be hard to justify adding James in leagues that don’t allow for daily changes and add/drops because he’s not a lock to remain a starter (unless you employ a reliever-heavy strategy), but if you play in a league that lets you make daily lineup changes and you want a widely-available streaming option, I’d be hard pressed to find another player owned in less than 7% of Yahoo leagues with this much upside. This is a situation worth monitoring, and if he does stick in the Astros’ rotation, he’s must add material. I was high on Josh James last week, but it’s safe to say my confidence in him is brimming. Yours should be too.
Honorable mention: Matt Boyd (26%), Ivan Nova (17%), Jose Ureña (6%), Tommy Hunter (5%), Jorge Lopez (3%)
By: Michael Yachera | @myach1_91
Roman Quinn (OF; PHI) - 5% owned
Roman Quinn’s production in only 27 games is nothing short of amazing: 1 HR, 7 RBI, 10 runs scored, and 6 SB with a .369/.388/.569 triple slash. Promoted to the leadoff spot on August 27, it’s very hard to find table setters on the wire this late in the season, especially one on such a high-powered offense. While doubters will point to his weak 3% walk rate, I’d counter that in two ways. First, his walk rate in 45 Triple-A games last season was about 9% while his walk rate in 25 Triple-A games this season was 7.5%, which is just under the MLB league average (8.4%). This means that I expect his approach at the plate to improve, and now that he’s leading off, I expect him to make an even greater effort to get on base via the walk. Secondly, he only struck out 10 times over his 67 PA with the Big League club, which translates to a much-better-than-league-average 14.9% strikeout rate (22.1%), while he struck out 17.8% of the time at Triple-A this year. What gets me excited about Roman Quinn is his ridiculous BABIP, which I feel can be sustainable. Across 15 games (69 PA) in 2016, Quinn finished with a .395 BABIP. This year, in 67 PA, he’s sporting a .426 BABIP. There’s some red flags in his batted ball profile, but looking at his 27.3% soft contact rate, I believe there’s some positive regression in his soft contact and ground ball rates. I’m making a speculative add on Quinn because of his speed and promotion to the leadoff spot on a high-scoring team--I feel good doing so because of the signs of positive regression in his profile.
Luis Urias (2B [SS in ESPN]) - 14% owned
Urias doesn’t boast the power of Eloy Jimenez, have the pedigree of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., or come with the hype of Ronald Acuña Jr., but he’s quietly been one of the best hitters in the minors. He nearly had .400 OBP in 2017 and 2018, including 123 games in Triple-A, and his .151 ISO this season is almost double what it was in 2017 (.084). He debuted hitting second, and hasn’t hit anywhere since, so his floor feels very safe to me. He doesn’t have a ton of power, but he crushes baseballs with consistent 20%+ line drive rates in the minors. There’s also more good news in that his 27.3% soft contact rate as a member of the Padres feels like it should improve greatly. While he did steal his first career base last night, that isn’t something we can expect with regularity. What we can expect, though, is a very, very good hitter who will get on base via a walk or hit with regularity. He’s only struck out once in his first 14 PA in the Majors, and he’s going to help teams in batting average, runs, and OBP. The power is still developing, but I believe he has more power in his bat right now than he gets credit for, so I’ll predict four home runs before now and the end of the season. He’s going to be a fantasy baseball mainstay, and I’m expecting him to be the second best player on the team the rest of the way. Don’t let him playing on the Padres fool you.
Luke Voit (1B; NYY) - 20% owned
Added in 19% of Yahoo leagues in the last day, Voit’s gaining some serious momentum. Back on July 27, I proclaimed my belief in Voit, tweeting all he needed was everyday at-bats. As the Fantasy Gospel tweeted out earlier today, Greg Bird only started three of the Yankees’ last nine games, and after yesterday’s 2-4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 runs scored performance, I think it’s becoming clear who the Bronx Bombers’ everyday first baseman is. Strikeouts aren’t going away anytime soon, but he’s just below the league average for strikeout rate and he’s walking at about the league average. That’s all fine and dandy, but I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m a believer. What if I told you Voit is a poor man’s Jesus Aguilar? That’s preposterous. Or is it? Last season, the writing was on the wall for Aguilar as he had a eye-opening 33.3% line drive rate. Luke Voit has a 31.6% line drive rate this year. Aguilar is striking out 25.2% of the time while walking about 11.2% of the time. Voit has a 25.9% strikeout rate with an 8.5% walk rate. Aguilar’s 44.3% hard contact rate almost mirrors Voit’s 44.7%. I can keep going, but I’ll up the ante here. Jesus Aguilar has a 15.3% soft contact rate, which is obviously very strong, but Voit’s soft contact rate is 13.2%, which feels sustainable given his 7.2% soft contact rate in 2017 (124 PA). Aguilar has an impressive 24.6% HR/RB rate, Voit’s is 38.5%. Voit takes BABIP, too: .364 to Aguilar’s .307. Voit’s .604 SLG eclipses Aguilar’s .556 SLG, and the same is true with ISO. Finally, Voit’s .416 wOBA puts Aguilar’s career-best .382 wOBA this year, so there’s a real argument to be made here. Let’s not keep putting Voit off as long as we kept insisting Aguilar was not an everyday player. He’s been hitting fourth or fifth in a Yankees lineup that expects Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez back next week, so the potential for continued (and increased) production only increases. First base surprised a lot of us this season for its lack of depth that we’re accustomed to seeing from the position, but Voit is a late-season game changer that you need to scoop up now. If you missed out on Ryan Zimmerman and Tyler White, Luke Voit is your chance at redemption. His rest of season value is through the roof to me.
Honorable mention: Joey Wendle (21%), Adalberto Mondesi (11%), Randal Grichuk (10%), Manny Piña (3%), Adam Frazier (3%), Brandon Lowe (1%), Ji-Man Choi (0%)
Josh James (SP; HOU) - 4% owned
The Other King James began his professional career in 2014 with 45 strikeouts to 15 walks in only 39.2 IP at rookie ball, making 18 appearances (six of which were starts). Between 2015-2017, James lost his 10+ K/9 rate even though he continued up the minor league system to Double-A. This year, between Double-A and Triple-A, he’s registered 171 strikeouts to only 39 walks across 114.1 IP with 13+ K/9, around 4 BB/9, and a sub-1 HR/9 rate. Specifically at Double-A, James had a 2.49 ERA that was the product of bad luck, evidenced by a 1.92 FIP and 1.85 xFIP. That’s the quietest dominating performance I’ve seen in some time, so you can bet I already added Josh James everywhere I could before writing this article. There’s some uncertainty with James rest of season value given the Astros rotation when healthy, so his promotion to the rotation could be short-lived. I see Josh James making only one or two appearances, so if he takes three or more turns, I’ll be playing with house money. When he’s inevitably moved to the bullpen, he’ll lose a tremendous amount of fantasy value, but as long as he’s starting, I’m owning him in redraft leagues. He’s taking the ball tomorrow (Saturday) against the depleted Angels, who just announced Albert Pujols will miss the remainder of the season, so I URGE you to find a spot for him in time for his debut (not an Herbal Essences endorsement). Owners in keeper/dynasty leagues would be wise to add James in case the Astros decide to do something with Lance McCullers given his complete inability to make 30+ starts in a year (i.e., trade or move to the pen). While it feels like Josh James could be the next strikeout leader, I do need to caution that I think he’s about a mid-3’s ERA pitcher with an elevated floor due to his strikeout prowess. The walks feel a little high to expect utter dominance, but I am very encouraged that his career-worst HR/9 rate is 0.90 HR/9 (High-A in 2016). Managers fighting for their playoff lives need to make this add, as do managers in long-term leagues.
Felix Peña (SP, RP; LAA) - 4% owned
Peña first appeared in the Friday Fliers back on July 13 when he was 7% owned, and I’m surprised he’s still this highly owned with a 5.03 ERA in 39.1 IP. His 4.3 BB/9 in the same span is mostly to blame, and the month of July was just not kind to Peña. He’s been much better in August, improving his line drive, soft contact, and (most notably) his BB/9 rate. His strikeout rates are down in August compared to July (as well as the second half in general), and we’re seeing him give up more homers, but I’m also impressed by the way he’s pitched in some tough matchups. Despite giving up four earned runs two starts ago to the Diamondbacks over six innings, he rang up 12 batters and registered a 2.82 FIP and 2.03 xFIP for that game. His most recent start against the Astros was daunting, but he managed five strikeouts in six innings with a 2.49 FIP despite giving up three earned runs. Over those last two starts (12 IP), Peña’s struck out 17 batters while only walking four. He also only gave up one homer in that span, so it really feels like things are clicking for the 28-year old righty. He’s heading towards back-to-back 11%+ swinging strike rate seasons following last year’s 11.7% finish, and the Angels badly need healthy bodies in their rotation. He hasn’t pitched more than 100 innings since 2015, but he’s on pace to change that this season. I love Peña as a streaming option rest of season, but there’s some back of the rotation appeal for fantasy owners if he can continue to build upon his last two starts when he faces the Astros again on Saturday. While I’m avoiding him for that start unless absolutely necessary, I’m going to add him in some places if he dominates the defending champs.
Jose Alvarado (RP; TB) - 14% owned
Sergio Romo will likely see the majority of the Rays’ remaining save opportunities, but Jose Alvarado has all the makings of a closer. He’s already got six saves on the year, most recently on Thursday night, but Romo is going to be a free agent at the end of this season, so perhaps the Rays want to give Alvarado an extended look in high-leverage situations. Last season, Alvarado finished 29.2 IP with a 3.64 ERA. This year, he’s pitching to a 2.24 ERA with over a strikeout per inning. Alvarado’s 2.55 FIP from last season is nearly identical to this year’s 2.57 FIP, and his xFIP and SIERA last year are very similar to his xFIP and SIERA this year. He improved upon last season’s 11.1% swinging strike rate with a 13.2% swinging strike rate in 2018, and his sub-70% contact rate (69.7%) is nearly 8% better than the league average. His 55% ground ball rate is completely sustainable and opponents are only hitting .181 against him. Alvarado is a must add in all holds leagues, and managers speculating for saves could do much worse.
Honorable mention: Lucas Giolito (27%), Jace Fry (22%), Wei-Yin Chen (7%), Jesse Chavez (6%), Dan Straily (5%), Daniel Mengden (5%), David Hess (2%)
By: Michael Yachera | @myach1_91
Devon Travis (2B; TOR) - 3% owned
Perennially-injured underachiever Devon Travis is another one of those players I can’t seem to write off, even after the vast majority of the fantasy baseball industry has (see Jurickson Profar on 6/20 in “Written Content”). I also think it’s no coincidence that when Jurickson Profar first appeared in the Friday Fliers section, he was 3% owned...he’s on pace for the most games played in his first four MLB seasons, so I like to think this is the healthiest he’s been during that time. Enough jibber jabber, let’s get to the good stuff. In the first half (190 AB), Travis slashed .242/.294/.389 with a 56.7% ground ball rate and .278 BABIP. This second half, however (50 AB), looks much improved with signs that this 2nd half surge is sustainable: a .280/.333/.460 triple slash with a 38.1% ground ball rate and .300 BABIP. Compare these splits to his career averages, where Devon Travis owns a .282 AVG, .449 SLG, 47% ground ball rate and .328 BABIP. I believe he was still getting over his myriad of injuries in the first half, which is why the power was absent, he had a very low BABIP (and in turn, batting average), and his ground ball rate was so much higher than his career rate. Tiny sample size aside, the power looks like it returned and his BABIP is creeping up towards his career mark. It also helps that his 14.8% strikeout rate in the second half, an already fine number, is an improvement on his first half 19.6% strikeout rate. Finally, his 38.1% hard contact (25.3% in first half) and 23.8% line drive rates (22.0% in first half) back up my belief that his early season struggles should’ve been taken with a grain of salt. He’s crushing the ball in August with a 48.2% hard contact rate and with even more positive regression in his batted ball data on the horizon, we could see our expectations exceeded in the remaining weeks of the season. Elevated from ninth to second in the Blue Jays batting order on August 3, Travis hasn’t hit anywhere else since, responding with 2 HR, 8 RBI, and 5 runs scored. As long as he stays healthy, there’s serious game-changing fantasy production in 27-year old Devon Travis’ bat now that he’s healthy, and he makes for a fine stopgap for frustrated Jose Altuve owners still playing music chairs at their second base position with potential for rest-of-season value.
Hunter Renfroe (OF; SD) - 6% owned
Between Renfroe and teammate Franmil Reyes (7%), we’re looking at a the Friars own version of the Bash Bros. While Reyes has homered in three of his last four games, Renfroe actually homered in each of his last four games. Renfroe 1, Reyes 0. He’s going to be a streaky player, but there’s sneaky value in his bat. For example, this season he’s slashing .288/.366/.625 with 8 of his 12 HR when batting third (93 PA). If you’re thinking to yourself, “that feels arbitrary...” compare those numbers to his production when hitting fourth (101 PA): .226/.277/.409 with 2 HR. Where I think this difference is most relevant is in his corresponding walk and strikeout rate splits. When batting fourth, he walks 5.9% of the time compared to a 33.7% strikeout rate. When hitting third, he strikes out (I hope you’re sitting for this) ONLY 16.1% of the time with a much improved 11.8% walk rate. Talk about opposite ends of the spectrum. His first half 26.8% strikeout rate (194 PA) is down to 20% in the second half (60 PA), and while his second half walk rate is worse than his first half rate, he appears to be settling into the third spot of the Padres order since he’s hit there in six of his last seven games. There’s a lot more analysis I could give on Renfroe, but basically, besides his tremendous hot streak, there’s a lot of great signs in his plate discipline this season: career-low rates in swings outside the zone (31.1% vs. 35.7% in ‘16 and 33.5% in ‘17) and his swing rate (45.2% vs. 56.8% in ‘16 and 48.1% in ‘17) with improvements in his contact rate on balls outside of the zone, swinging strike rate, and contact rate. We’re seeing tangible improvements being made on a micro level that supports his success on the macro level and offers hope that this is a new Renfroe. That’s not to say there aren’t signs of regression in his profile, but the approach he takes when hitting third, and in turn success, is one of many interesting trends we’re seeing in Renfroe worth monitoring moving forward. Congrats are in order to anyone riding the Hunter Renfroe wave as a result of adding him on or before August 4. Outfield is an extremely deep position, so there are probably better options out there, but few offer the raw power upside Renfroe does. I’m getting way ahead of myself, but if he finishes 2018 making contact with much more regularity while keeping his strikeout rate around 20%, we’ll see Renfroe enter 2019 fantasy baseball drafts as a super trendy sleeper pick.
Tim Beckham (2B, SS, 3B; BAL) - 12% owned
It’s easy for me to recycle Tim Beckham since he’s only gained 5% ownership since appearing in last week’s Friday Fliers installment. It only takes a couple seconds to scroll down to read it, so I won’t repeat myself anymore than I already am, but we’re seeing results that prove my theory that the power was on its way is true as Beckham launched two home runs and muscled his way to a .636 SLG and .364 ISO in the last week. He walked less and struck out more in the past week compared to his second half 10.8% walk and 22.9% strikeout rates, but I did mention that I expected more power at the expense of batting average the rest of the way for Beckham. He’s a mini-Marwin Gonzalez, and I already added Beckham last week, so if you don’t set your expectations very high because of the fact that he plays on the Orioles, Tim Beckham is a low-risk, high-reward flier who’s been forgotten about following last season’s breakout performance with built-in value due to his tremendous versatility.
Prospect Special: Eloy Jimenez (OF; CHW) - 26% owned
Four days ago, we tweeted out that Eloy Jimenez was “really close” to a big league promotion, according to the Chicago Tribune. Four days later, we’re even closer than “really close.” Jimenez’s last home run was on Wednesday and his Triple-A numbers mirror’s those belonging to one of those players you create in a video game: triple slashing .371/.417/.681 with 9 HR in only 31 games (127 PA). That comes after slashing .317/.368/.556 with 10 HR in 53 games (228 PA) at Double-A this season, the level that many scouts and talent evaluators believe is the hardest level to transition to at any stop in the minors. Nowadays, strikeout rates north of 20% are becoming the norm, but Eloy’s been under 20% in 355 PA between Triple-A and Double-A this year (around 15%). He still walks at or below the MLB average (8.5%), but he’s been a high BABIP player in the minors the last couple of years and boasts fantasy superstar upside even if he lacks the speed element of a five-tool player. Put me on record as saying he’s a .300 hitter with 35+ HR and 100 RBI upside, assuming he plays a full season next year. Without even taking a dive into their numbers, Eloy feels a lot like the next J.D. Martinez. Don’t @ me. If you aren’t able to stash Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (31%), Eloy is quite the consolation. Outside of these two, there just don’t seem to be many impact prospect bats out there (excluding the Padres’ Luis Urias and Astros’ Kyle Tucker), so knowing Eloy will get a cup of coffee this season, it makes sense to stash now and/or trade before his highly-anticipated promotion.
Honorable mention: Jake Bauers (28%), Aledmys Diaz (19%), Randal Grichuk (12%), Jorge Polanco (9%), Phillip Ervin (2%), Adam Frazier (2%)
Brian Johnson (SP, RP; BOS) - 7% owned
Like Mike Montgomery, Brian Johnson was used primarily out of the bullpen for much of the year. Also like Montgomery, Johnson enjoys pitching out of the rotation with a 3.21 ERA in 42 IP compared to a 5.10 ERA in 30 IP as a reliever. A couple other notable starter/reliever splits for Johnson are his WHIP - 1.33 WHIP as starter, 1.47 WHIP as reliever - and his .278 BABIP as a starter compared to a .359 BABIP as a reliever. In 22.2 second half innings, Brian Johnson’s 10.72 K/9 is a serious improvement from his 7.66 K/9 rate in 49.1 first half innings. His second half walks are down (3.10 BB/9 in the first half vs. 2.78 BB/9 in the second half), and even though I see some regression in his profile and he’s giving up more homers than I’d like to admit, pitching on the Red Sox defense and run support gives him a very safe floor and chance at winning just about every start. Given his second half improvements and success in the Red Sox rotation, Brian Johnson makes for a strong streaming option with upside for a spot at the end of your team’s rotation for as long as he’s making starts. He’s lined up for his next start to be next Tuesday at the Phillies, so there’s also an unlikely, but outside shot he’s a two-start pitcher if he also pitches at home against the Rays on Sunday (8/19) in order to give the other starters an extra day of rest before they open a massive four game series vs. Cleveland. He’s must add in two-start weeks, but considering his floor in relation to other SP dart throws that are also under 10% owned, you can do way worse than Brian Johnson.
Tyler Glasnow (SP, RP; TB) - 16% owned
Fantasy managers are making things easy for me this week. Despite recording 9 of his 12 outs via the strikeout in his last start against Baltimore (I know, I know.), managers are still scarred from being burned by him in the past couple of seasons. You can make fun of the Orioles all you want, but in that game, Glasnow generated a 21.3% swinging strike rate on a slightly higher than league average 49.2% swing rate (46.5%). Aided by a 71.4% first pitch strike rate, we got to see the damage he can inflict when he gets ahead of hitters. The problem so far this season is his 53.4% first pitch strike rate, which is well below the 60.6% league average. More to his swing and miss upside, though, hitters only make contact 71.3% of the time against Glasnow compared to a league average 77.1% contact rate. Since I wrote about him in last week’s Friday Fliers, I will refer you there to gain more insight as to why I am super high on Glasnow. One final note in his two starts since being shifted to the rotation: the highest ERA peripheral (FIP, xFIP, SIERA) he’s earned in his first two starts is a 1.83 SIERA against the Angels on August 1, while the lowest ERA peripheral he’s earned is a -21 xFIP. I promise you, that’s not a typo. Understand he’s still getting stretched out to be able to handle a full starter’s workload after being used in the bullpen for so long, so he may not pitch every five days or deep into ball games. His 12.29 K/9 and 12.1% swinging strike rates give him a tremendous floor, and while his 4.14 ERA is troubling on the surface, his 3.58 FIP, 3.08 xFIP, and 3.29 SIERA are much more indicative of the starting pitcher he can be for the rest of this season and beyond. He’s only walked one of the last 25 combined batters he’s faced in his last two starts, so if that trend continues, we would witness a 2017 second half Blake Snell-like finish by Glasnow with even more strikeout upside than Snell’s sub-9 K/9. There’s obviously some concern due to Glasnow giving up a home run in each of his last two starts, but he’s the closest to realizing his potential at this point than ever this season so if I’m you, I’m adding him wherever he’s available right now. Did I mention he’s SP, RP eligible? It may not seem like a big deal, but the versatility is huge when the need arises.
Scott Alexander (RP; LAD) - 29% owned
Way back on January 28, I wrote about Scott Alexander in my “Rookie Revelations” article (see “Archives” under ‘Written Content’ tab). At the time, I wrote, “...it’s definitely fair to call Alexander one of the elite closer handcuffs in the game. While it’s hard to justify drafting Alexander ahead of closers with job security, I wanted to make sure to give Alexander the exposure in case anything happens to Kenley Jansen.” What prompted my boldness? Last season’s (beyond elite) league-leading 73.8% ground ball rate and rapid development since his 6 IP debut in 2015 with the Royals. Not much has changed this year, he’s still pitching to a 71.2% ground ball rate in 52.1 IP, and his 2018 batted ball profile looks very similar to last season’s. Even his ERA peripherals are very similar: 3.23 FIP/3.21 xFIP/3.11 SIERA in ‘17 vs. 3.36 FIP/3.31 xFIP/3.27 SIERA in ‘18. In the January article, I also said, “It may be a little early to be hyping Alexander, but I firmly believe he will be an elite relief pitcher this season and closer down the road. At least you can’t say you didn’t know about him!” With the terrible news that Kenley Jansen is again dealing with an irregular heartbeat, you can’t help but feel for the guy. Now that Jansen can step aside and take all the time he needs (expected to miss 4 weeks), Scott Alexander is ready to thrive in the spotlight. In the last 30 days, Jansen received 8 save opportunities, so it’s reasonable to expect at least a half dozen opps for Alexander while we wait for Jansen to return. He’s not giving you crazy strikeout per nine rates, but with an 11.6% swinging strike rate, he offers much more strikeout upside than other groundball pitchers (ex. Dallas Keuchel - career 9.2% swinging strike rate). I hate to be the guy to say it, but there’s even value in adding Alexander now in case Jansen is out longer than the expected four week. *knocks on wood* He’s been added in 23% of Yahoo leagues in the last day, but he should be added in almost all leagues. I want to leave you with one final thought: Alexander has a 28.1% soft contact rate this season that ranks third in MLB (min. 40 IP = 314 qualifiers) while his 23.7% hard contact rate is second only to Thor’s 22.4% mark. Like I said. Elite. If you’re reading this, it’s too late...
Prospect Special: Michael Kopech (SP; CHW) - 11% owned
The dude hurls gas, prompting Thor comparisons, and besides Forrest Whitley of the Astros, there isn’t another pitching prospect I’m more excited to see get called up. With 12.07 K/9 and 0.71 HR/9 rates in 113.1 Triple-A innings, backed up by 4+ years of minor league track record and success, I believe we see Kopech sooner rather than later. Last season, he threw 134.1 innings after throwing 56.1 innings in 2016, so the White Sox probably have him penciled in to toss about 30-40 more innings in 2018. If they promote Eloy, they almost have to promote Kopech this summer in order to bring the fans to the ballpark despite being so far out of contention. Having said that, I’m setting the over/under at two weeks and I’ll take the under. He’s thrown seven innings in back to back starts, only walking two batters in that span, with his last start coming on August 5. He has a 4.76 BB/9 rate this year, but if he continues to demonstrate the same control and command as he did in his last two starts (17K/ 2 BB), don’t be surprised if his next minor league start is his last. I predicted Mike Soroka’s promotion in one of the early-season Friday Fliers articles, so I’m hoping I still have some of my magic left for Michael Kopech. He may not give you more than a handful of starts, but if he’s pitching for the White Sox, he’s a must-start. If Eloy Jimenez wasn’t his teammate, Kopech would be getting a ton more hype than he is, so now is the perfect time to hop aboard the bandwagon. I kept the seat warm for you.
Honorable mention: Trevor Cahill (36%), German Marquez (25%), Derek Holland (21%), Matt Boyd (18%), Mike Minor (16%), Trevor Richards (11%)
2/3-mark Fantasy Baseball Awards
By: Carl Grove, Brandon Dombrowski & Michael Yachera | @cmgrove4 / @Dombro23 / @myach1 _91
CG: Jose Ramirez
BD: Mookie Betts
MY: Jose Ramirez
CG: Eugenio Suarez
BD: Trevor Bauer
MY: Rick Porcello
CG: Byron Buxton
BD: Kris Bryant
MY: Kris Bryant
CG: Trevor Bauer
BD: Gerrit Cole
MY: Trevor Bauer
CG: Trevor Story
BD: Andrew Benintendi
MY: Christian Yelich
Player I was wrong about
CG: Javier Baez
BD: Javier Baez
MY: Aaron Nola
CG: Ian Desmond
BD: Didi Gregorius
MY: Ian Desmond
By: Michael Yachera | @myach1_91
Tim Beckham (2B, SS, 3B; BAL) - 7% owned
You’re probably sitting there wondering how on Earth anyone on the Orioles can be fantasy relevant, but hear me out. Beckham broke out last season with 22 HR and a .278 batting average in 137 games between the Rays and Orioles. He’s been limited to only 56 games this season, but now that he’s back it’s time to take notice. Entering Friday (8/3), Beckham is walking 17.9% of the time compared to a 20.5% strikeout rate since July 25. Compare this to his season walk and strikeout rates of 7.5% and 25.5%, respectively. His .305 BABIP is a long ways off his .365 BABIP from 2017, so you can expect Beckham to go on a few hot streaks to pull up his .235 batting average. Speaking of streaks, the versatile infielder is in the midst of a four-game hit streak, and in the last 10 days he’s gone 11-32 (.344) with an .868 OPS. To me, Beckham’s expected positive regression binge will yield power more than batting average. His .101 ISO and 31.0% hard contact rate going into Friday is a far cry from his 2016 (.187/36.1%) and 2017 (.176/39.1%) marks. Even despite the heater he’s on in the last 10 days, his ISO is only .063 in that same span, although there’s a lot to be encouraged by with a 37.5% hard contact. Finally, his 7.8% HR/FB rate is less than half of last year’s 20.6% HR/FB mark and almost half of his 16.1% career HR/FB rate. He hit out of the leadoff spot for a while, but was bumped down to No. 2 on August 2 and has hit there in all three games since. His late-season surge is supported by a strong 21.2% line drive rate, and I expect his 22.8% soft contact rate to end up closer to 16.5%, which is about halfway between last season (15.5%) and his 17.9% career rate. His pre-/post-All-Star break splits are very telling, and with both a lofty spot in the batting order and positive regression (currently) on the way, the power stroke that’s in tow for the versatile infielder will reward those managers willing to look past the Orioles recent fire sale.
Leonys Martin (OF; CLE) - 7% owned
If this takes half as long to write as it took me to finish writing about Tim Beckham, this thing will never get done. With that being said, all I can say about Leonys Martin is you can only add him if you can get over the ugly fact that he’s going to hit in the bottom third of the Indians’ batting order. Now that that’s out of the way, he’s got 11 HR and 7 SB in 80 games (342 PA), and with home runs in back-to-back games, I expect to see Leonys Martin see close to everyday at-bats. What’s most intriguing about him to me is his by far and away career-best 38.5% hard contact rate (career 27.7%). His highest hard contact rate outside of this season is 29.5% in 2016 as a member of the Seattle Mariners. He’s changed his profile enough for me to believe his new flyball revolution approach is legit: he’s got a 36.2% groundball rate (career-best) to go with the highest flyball rate of his career (46.0%), while his contact rate is less than 1% off from his career contact rate. Martin’s also on pace to finish with the second highest ISO of his MLB career (.166), so it’s no surprise he’s also on pace for a career-best .422 SLG. It’s also worth noting that his .327 OBP would represent a career-high if you exclude the 8 games he played in 2011, while his 15 HR in 2016 is the most he’s finished a season with. I expect him to set a new high water mark this year in HR while posting strong OBP and runs scored totals the rest of the way. With the Indians lineup so good, I believe it’s possible for the bold manager to roster and start Leonys Martin as one of the last outfielders or utility bats since he the lineup should turn over enough for him to see at least four plate appearances more often than not. For those teams needing OF help, just remember that history favors the bold.
Honorable mention: Jonathan Villar (44%), Jake Bauers (27%), Nick Ahmed (17%), Austin Hedges (14%), Russell Martin (14%), Nick Williams (11%), Harrison Bader (7%), Austin Slater (2%), Rosell Herrera (2%), Adam Frazier (1%)
Trevor Richards (SP; MIA) - 9% owned
Since his start on July 14, each of Richards’ starts were better than the last. In those 23.2 IP, he’s got a Jose Fernandez-like 0.76 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and 25 K/7 BB. With a filthy plus-plus changeup, I believe Richards has the “out” pitch needed to succeed long-term as a starter despite averaging just over a strikeout per inning. Walks plagued Richards so far this season, as he’s averaging 4.03 BB/9 (10.4% walk rate) in his 80.1 IP on the Marlins, but his 2.7 BB/9 (7.7% walk rate) over the last 23.2 IP tells me things are clicking for the righty. What’s always been Richards strength is keeping the ball in the yard, and to that point he’s never allowed more than 0.92 HR/9 at any of the five stops in his minor league career. Richards’ 0.56 HR/9 rate as a member of the Marlins echoes his minor league track record, so if he’s able to show much improved control along with keeping the home run status quo, his floor feels very safe in my mind. There’s considerable built-in risk with Richards since he pitches for the Marlins, but I’m also not encouraged by his 24.6% line drive rate, or his 41.7% hard contact rate, for that matter. I’ll push those concerns to the side for now, though, because his 19.6% line drive rate since July 14 is a marked improvement on top of the fact that he’s been highly productive despite a 39.7% hard contact rate and similar ground ball rate (39.3% GB rate vs. season 37.9% GB rate) in the same span. I want to make it known that Trevor Richards won’t be THIS good and that regression is certainly coming, making him someone you want to sell high on if possible, but with the upside to give managers a quality start with six or more strikeouts every from start to start, there’s more rest of season appeal here than meets the eye.
Tyler Glasnow (SP, RP; TB) - 6% owned
We talked Tyler Glasnow in our post-Trade Deadline Special podcast a couple days ago, and while Chris Archer was getting most of the attention from the trade that sent him to the Steel City, both Carl and I felt Glasnow benefits the most from that deal. We know the pedigree and upside that he’s got despite his struggles as a Major Leaguer, but what we don’t focus on is how much he’s improved from 2017 to 2018. His HR/9 is basically cut in half, he’s upped his K/9 from 8.13 to 11.75, and his swinging strike rate bounced back from 8.2% to 11.5% (11.6% in 2016). Opposing hitters are swinging at the same percentage of pitches, but they’re making contact on balls outside of the zone almost 10% less this season (60.8% in ‘17 vs. 50.0% in ‘18) while making contact almost 8% less on pitches in the zone. His 1.42 WHIP this season is a byproduct of his 52.4% first strike rate, so getting ahead of hitters will be something he needs to do in order to reach his potential (career 55.9% first strike rate). When hitters do make contact, they’re only registering hard contact an elite 27.7% of the time. I love seeing his 18.0% line drive rate because it tells me much of his success is sustainable as long as he’s limiting self-inflicted damage, but what I love most is his 56.8% ground ball rate. As I mentioned on the podcast with Carl, that’s Dallas Keuchel-like, and the difference between Glasnow and Keuchel at that point is Glasnow’s huge strikeout upside. That groundball rate is almost 12% above his 48.6% career groundball rate, so that’ll be something I watch closely the last couple months of the season. If he can stay anywhere above 55% and maintain his HR/9, his success will hinge upon his control (which has actually gotten worse in the second half). He will need to get stretched out again and Glasnow is as boom or bust as it gets, but now that he will presumably be used as a traditional starter again, hope that he can be a season-changing arm in 2018 is revitalized. The Rays coaching staff was able to fix Blake Snell’s control issues last season and we know how that turned out, so I urge managers not to give up on the 24 year old righty. We may be a year too early on Glasnow, but despite finishing with a 4.67 ERA, he pitched to a 3.52 FIP and 3.28 xFIP in the first half.
Closer Bonus: Thyago Vieira (RP; CHW) - 0% owned
Who? Fair enough. Cue the closer carousel music. He pitched an inning for the Mariners last season and then was traded to the White Sox. Called up last Friday, Vieira saw a save opportunity in only his third game with the Pale Hose, one he converted with two strikeouts despite allowing a walk. The righty gases with a fastball that averages almost 98 MPH, and in 41 IP this season at Triple-A, Vieira registered a 10.98 K/9 rate with an excellent 0.44 HR/9. As is often the case with pitchers, walks are a problem for Vieira, but a perfect storm is brewing; with former closer Joakim Soria out of the picture, Jace Fry struggling as of late, and Nate Jones injured, there will be save opportunities up for grabs. If you want to avenge Joakim Soria’s evaporation into fantasy baseball obscurity, give “Thyanos” a look since the White Sox are probably just as interested in finding out what they have in him as we are. I’m not trying to imply anything about Vieira here, but one of the 0% owned relief pitchers who previously appeared on the Friday Fliers section goes by the name “Sir Anthony…” On a similar White Sox note, stash Eloy.
Honorable mention: Lou Trivino, (37%), Trevor Cahill (30%), Lance Lynn (27%), Jose Leclerc (23%), Derek Holland (17%), Robert Gsellman (16%), Matthew Boyd (13%), James Shields (8%), Felix Pena (2%), Yefry Ramirez (1%)
By: Michael Yachera | @myach1_91
Chad Pinder (2B, SS, OF; OAK) - 2% owned
Since June 29, there are 289 players who amassed at least 30 plate appearances. When it comes to keeping the ball off the ground, Chad Pinder’s 15.8% ground ball rate ranks second best in MLB (10 games, 32 PA). Equally impressive, if not more so, is his 31.6% line drive rate in the same span, which ranks him 29th of those 289 qualifiers. His season numbers across 65 games (217 PA) won’t blow you away, but if you take a closer look, there’s standalone value and definitive signs of improvement. He’s got a .332 OBP and provides above-average pop, supported by his .204 ISO, nearly 20% HR/FB rate, and whopping 49.3% hard contact rate. It feels a lot like Pinder is the next Paul DeJong, but that’s a thought I’m floating out there without even comparing the two players Fangraph pages. I expect his ho-hum 7.8% walk rate on the season to improve as the season goes on since Pinder appears to be slowing things down at the plate, reflected in his 12.5% walk rate over the last 10 games. If you think that improved walk rate looks good, imagine how Chad Pinder’s identical 12.5% soft contact rate for the season makes me feel?! Worries that Pinder may limited to starts against lefties may not go away any time soon, as he’s only hitting .238 in 115 PA against righties in 2018. What I love seeing, though, is how he’s not afraid of the challenge: since June 29, Pinder’s gone 6-16 (.375) with 2 HR, 4 RBI, 3 runs scored, and a 4 K/ 2 BB ratio in 19 PA. There isn’t a lot of speed in his legs, but with plenty of pop and rapid improvements over the last three weeks or so, I’m intrigued by Pinder and his upside on a team that trails the Mariners’ second Wild Card spot by three games.
Jake Bauers (1B; TB) - 17% owned
In case anyone was wondering, I add players I feature in the Friday Fliers installments to my fantasy rosters. More than I can count on two hands, in fact. Jake Bauers is the most recent Flier I’ve committed a roster spot to, and I am as excited to witness his second half as I am about anyone on my fantasy teams. His 155 PA (36 games) are enough for me to begin drawing conclusion from, so here’s the shorthand: He walks 14.8% of the time compared to a 21.3% strikeout rate. 24.5% line drive rate. Compared to the league average of 30.6% of swings at balls outside the zone, Bauers only chases 24.3% of the time while making contact more than 5% better than the league average on balls outside of the zone. He gets on base to the tune of a .368 OBP and with a .244 ISO and nearly .500 SLG, he’s got power on top of power. I added Bauers upon his call-up this season, along with Willy Adames, but I ended up dropping both after a couple of ineffective weeks. I was fortunate to be able to re-add Bauers off the wire, and I won’t be dropping him any time soon. There’s serious rest of season value here because of Bauer’s mature approach and prodigious power. Finally, I expect improvement on his .252 batting average since he was a .270+ hitter at both Double-A and Triple-A prior to his Big League promotion. If you’re considering adding Ryan Zimmerman, I highly suggest you reconsider and think about adding Bauers instead. Depending on the depth and competitiveness of your league, I think Bauers is definitely capable of being your starting 1B based on what I expect his rest-of-season production to be.
Honorable mention: Willie Calhoun (13%), Cameron Maybin (3%), Jackie Bradley Jr. (20%), Niko Goodrum (25%), James McCann (10%), Jesse Winker (28%), Kolten Wong (2%)
Brian Johnson (SP, RP; BOS) - 3% owned
I streamed Brian Johnson in his last start just before the All-Star break, and while he couldn’t make it through five innings (4.2), he gave up only two hits against Toronto. He was charged with two earned runs because of a two-run homer to Teoscar Hernandez and he did walk four batters, but he recorded five strikeouts and improved on his starter/reliever splits. As a reliever (30 IP), Johnson’s pitched to a 5.10 ERA while hitters slash .293/.336/.431, but he’s got a 2.79 ERA as a starter (19.1 IP) and a .253/.333/.400 opposing triple slash. Playing for the Red Sox automatically gives Johnson, and any Red Sox pitcher for that matter, a good chance at winning any given start, plus he’s expected to make at least one more start due to injuries to Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez. ERod’s injury is apparently pretty serious, so it’s possible Johnson stays in the rotation a little longer given his success as a starter. Similar to Mike Montgomery, Brian Johnson has much more value as a starter than a reliever, which makes taking a flier on Johnson worth your while. He’s slated to pitch at Detroit on Saturday, which I expect him to win, and he’s still in the process of stretching out his arm, but if ERod’s injury takes longer to heal or the Red Sox are dealt anymore blows to their rotation, you can bet Johnson will remain in the rotation and pitch deeper into games, giving him even more value. My recommendation is to add him for his Saturday start, then hold until we get more clarity about the Red Sox banged up rotation.
Nick Kingham (SP; PIT) - 15% owned
After hitting a rough skid over the last couple of months, I think Kingham is back on track. In his last two starts, both against quality opponents in Philadelphia and Milwaukee, Kingham won both starts despite giving up three home runs, going 12.1 IP with a 14 K/2 BB ratio, a 2.92 ERA, and 0.92 WHIP. Add it all up and he’s ranked #55 overall in standard 5x5 H2H categories leagues over the last two weeks. It’s a tiny sample size, I know, but he’s got some impressive numbers through his first 50.2 IP. First, his 35.4% hard contact rate is very strong and helps him limit damage when hitters make contact against him. Next, Kingham’s 2.13 BB/9 shows he’s got great control and can sustain his improvements of late. Finally, he’s got a safer floor than most pitchers floating around on waiver wires due to his strikeout abilities: Kingham’s 9.06 K/9 is supported by a healthy 11.3% swinging strike rate. On the surface, a 4.26 ERA is undesirable, but his 3.89 xFIP and 3.69 SIERA should give you reason to take a deeper look. Home runs have been Kingham’s Achilles heel, giving up 10 already this year, but he’s got a sub-1.00 HR/9 rate track record in the minors that I’ll defer to since he’s adjusting to the world’s best hitters. In 49.1 Triple-A innings this season, Kingham pitched to a 2.19 ERA with a 2.64 FIP and 3.23 xFIP to go with a 9.30 K/9, so there’s definite upside here. If Kingham can change his homer happy ways, you can bet his ownership is going to skyrocket. His recent performance is a look into his upside, and while he won’t be that good rest-of-season, he has the potential to give a boost to the rotations of countless fantasy teams.
Honorable mention: Ryan Tepera (25%), Wade LeBlanc (26%), Domingo German (24%), John Gant (3%), Clay Buchholz (18%), Pedro Strop (21%), Trevor Cahill (17%)
By: Michael Yachera | @myach1_91
Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF; BOS) - 18% owned
I was unable to write last week’s Friday Fliers installment, so the last time you got your weekly Friday Fliers was two weeks ago to the date. Since then, coincidentally Jackie Bradley’s first appearance in this section, he’s swung a stick as hot as anyone in the league. Before I expand on this point, keep in mind his ownership percentage remains unchanged at 18%. 1) JBJ set a new career-high in SB (10); 2) out of 247 hitters in the past two weeks, JBJ is one of 36 players to record a 50%+ hard contact rate (50%); 3) he’s one of 75 players in the last two weeks to have a line drive rate north of 25% (25.9%); and 4) he is one of only six hitters to have a 0% soft contact rate in the last 14 days, joined by sluggers Salvador Perez, Eugenio Suarez, Joey Gallo, and Mitch Haniger (plus Carlos Asuaje). Robust hard contact and line drive rates, along with a low soft contact rate, are always a good sign for slumping players to bust out; Jackie Bradley Jr. is no exception. I believe there’s third outfield/utility player value in deeper sized leagues here and a big second half is in order because of the counting stats the Red Sox loaded lineup offers, his pop, and inclination to run at a career pace this season. We talked JBJ on our 7/9 podcast, and both Brandon and Carl were also on board with adding JBJ, so he's got the Fantasy Gospel stamp of approval.
Martin Prado (3B; MIA) - 1% owned
Here’s a familiar face. Prado recently returned on July 5 from a lengthy DL stint for a bum hammy, but you wouldn’t know it by the way he’s looked: 8-24 (.333) with 1 HR, 5 RBI, and 4 runs scored. To make sure this wasn’t a mirage, I took a look at his batted ball profile: 31.6% line drive rate, 10.5% soft contact rate, and a 21.1% fly ball rate. He started off the season’s first two months with a similar 33.3% line drive rate, so I’m no too worried about regression there. The same can be said of his appealing soft contact rate, which stands at 13.4% in the first half of the season (30 games). On the other hand, positive regression is in that fly ball rate, checking in at 28.9% this year, while it’s 31.1% both for his career and in 2017. He’s not a high-upside guy, but with more steady production on the horizon, he should at least be a batting average boost with the occasional big game (health permitting). I could also see him being a shut down candidate later on this season, but you could theoretically cross that bridge when you get to it. Prado’s appeal is limited to deep leagues, but he’s also someone who you could take a chance on as a no-risk DFS play in good matchups now that he’s showing signs of life.
Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS; SD) - 7% owned
In his last 30 days, he’s gone 25-104 (.240) with 1 HR, 8 RBI, 7 runs scored, and 1 SB. That’s good for #724 overall in 5x5 h2h categories leagues. In his last 14 days, he’s nosediving to the tune of 8-46 (.174) with no home runs, 2 RBI, 3 runs scored, and 1 SB (#824 overall). I’m not talking about Fernando Tatis Jr., I’m talking about the man keeping his warm, Freddy Galvis. Fantasy baseball analysis aside, that’s just awful production for a 6-year veteran who has yet to finish a season with an OPS above .690. The heir to the Padres’ shortstop throne is Fernando Tatis Jr., the son of former Major Leaguer Fernando Tatis, and I expect a changing of the guard to be made at some point in the second half of 2018. Tatis Jr. is the type of bat that can be a difference maker, and his call-up will be met with much more hype (and for good reason) than players like Jake Bauers, Willy Adames, and Joey Lucchesi to name a few from this season. In 83 games this season at the Double-A level, Tatis Jr. is slashing .290/.361/.515 with 15 HR, 42 RBI, 75 runs scored, and 14 SB (18 attempts). He’s recovered tremendously after beginning the season in awful fashion (.177 average in 96 April at-bats), and while he’s always going to be a high strikeout, average to slightly below-average walk player, the power/speed combo this 19 year old kid has is undeniable. With a .225 ISO and high BABIP tendencies, I’m trying to stash Tatis Jr. if possible. The righty is hitting .303 against righties, and his .260 average against lefties has room for improvement. Fans’ calls to promote the minor league All-Star will grow louder by the day as the Padres look to aggressively rebuild, so if you missed out on the other Jr. (Vladimir Guerrero Jr.), I would argue Tatis Jr. is the second best prospect hitter that could be called up in the second half following Gleyber Torres’ and Kyle Tucker’s promotions. He’s also going to be playing in this year’s Futures Games, which I recommend watching as it showcases the best up and comers from around the world. One last point I’ll make about Tatis Jr., and something I love about his mental make-up, is that while he knows he’s good, he repeatedly expresses that he doesn’t want to waste his talent. With that kind of drive to be great to go along with his five tool potential, he’s going to be an All-Star and reminds me a lot of Javy Baez of the Cubs. If your virtually guaranteed a playoff spot, and you have the ability to stash Tatis Jr., you could have an immediate impact player at a premium position a la Gleyber Torres. Stash now. Definitely find a way to stash if (or should I say when) Galvis struggles out of the second half gate. I could literally go on and on here, but I think Tatis Jr. gets called up in mid-August at the earliest, assuming he keeps crushing the ball the way he has the last two months or so.
Honorable mention: Miguel Sano (44%), Max Kepler (20%), JT Riddle (2%), Johan Camargo (20%), Jason Kipnis (32%), Nick Williams (6%), Jackie Bradley Jr. (18%), Jesse Winker (17%), Pablo Sandoval (2%)
Felix Pena (SP, RP; LAA) - 7% owned
Pena’s 1.69 ERA is Top-25 in the past two weeks, but he’s actually got the second best FIP (1.26) and third best xFIP (2.17) of 120 qualifiers in that span. He’s also only walking 1.7 BB/9 (2.42 BB/9 in 2018) with a 11 K/9 rate (10.88 K/9 in 2018) and his 4.9% BB/9 is #31 of the aforementioned 120 qualifiers. His 12.9% swinging strike rate supports his strikeout production, but I really love his ability to limit hitters' contact on pitches outside of the zone: 52.9% O-contact vs. league average 62.8% O-contact. 27 strikeouts to only six walks is impressive in a player’s first 22.1 IP and suggests sustainability, and his ERA peripherals show he’s been better than advertised: 3.63 ERA, but a 3.40 FIP, 3.04 xFIP, and a 3.08 SIERA. Pitching on a team that offers strong run support like the Angels gives Pena an even safer floor. As long as he can keep the ball in the park, I like Pena’s chances of being a valuable fantasy contributor down the stretch. My only concern is that last year Pena only threw 73.1 innings, and he’s already at 55.2 IP in 2018, so his usage may be sporadic in the second half. As long as he's starting, I'm interested in Pena and what he can do given this filthy two week run he's been on.
Yefry Ramirez (SP, RP; BAL) - 0% owned
Since it’s Friday the 13th, I have to pick a flier that’s equally as unlucky. To start his major league career, he faced the Red Sox. He held the Mariners scoreless through five next, and then followed that up by giving up two runs (one earned) across five innings on the road in Philadelphia. To top that off, the Yankees visited Baltimore to open this week, though Ramirez showed plenty of mettle, posting the highest swinging strike rate of his first four starts (18.5% SwStr%). He’s never walked more than two batters in any of his first four starts, either, and he does a decent job of limiting homeruns. Random, but incredible fact about Ramirez: he hasn’t had a season BABIP above his current .294 BABIP since 2013 in Rookie ball. Ramirez was optioned to Triple-A three days ago, but since Andrew Cashner hit the DL because of his neck, the O’s recalled Ramirez to make Cashner’s formerly scheduled home start this Saturday against the Rangers. It’s a matchup that’s finally in Ramirez’s favor as Rangers hitters are triple slashing .232/.316/.391 against righties and .225/.300/.366 on the road in 2018. With Bundy and Gausman rumored to be moved at this season’s deadline, there could be even more security in the Orioles rotation. It’s going to be hard justifying starting Ramirez against AL rivals Yankees and Red Sox, but there’s streamer appeal here and, I believe, end of rotation appeal, as well. I’m living bold with this flier, but there’s a lot of metrics in his profile that I can’t ignore. I’ll leave you with one more (remember his first four opponents?): Ramirez is pitching to a 28.3% hard contact rate with a 17.0% soft contact rate.
Luiz Gohara (SP, RP; ATL) - 3% owned
Entering 2018, Gohara was a trendy sleeper in the fantasy baseball community. His season hasn’t gone as scripted, though, starting only one game out of nine appearances. That’s all about to change, however. Per Rotoworld, “Gohara is presumably going down to get stretched back out into a starting role and will likely join the Braves rotation shortly after the All-Star break, following a couple of extended outings at Gwinnett [Triple-A].” Neither Brandon McCarthy nor Max Fried are expected to return from the DL after the All-Star break, which is why Gohara should be needed to start. Whether he remains in that role or not is another story, but that’s what makes Gohara an excellent Friday Flier. Gohara haters will point to his 5.95 ERA, but he’s only pitched 19.2 IP for the Braves in 2018 and he’s got a 55.6% left on base rate that should improve. He had success away from SunTrust Park last season, posting a 3.75 ERA and 1.17 WHIP with hitters triple slashing .261/.292/.391 in 12 IP. His 12.6% swinging strike rate gives me confidence in his floor, and playing on the Braves gives him a chance at a win every time he takes the mound. He won’t make any starts between now and the second half, so he’s useless for the next few days, but I suggest beating the rush by adding Gohara before the All-Star break if possible since I expect his ownership to swell up after the Midsummer Classic. If you missed out on drafting Gohara, this is your second chance...I will be adding Gohara everywhere I can.
Honorable mention: Ryan Tepera (25%), Colin McHugh (33%), Domingo German (26%), Victor Arano (26%), Frankie Montas (9%), German Marquez (10%), Andrew Heaney (44%), Lou Trivino (25%), Ryan Borucki (7%)
By: Michael Yachera | @myach1_91
Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF; BOS) - 18% owned
Bradley Jr. took a step back last year following his breakout 2016 season, and so far in 2018 he’s been even more of a disappointment. Back on June 24, I tweeted about JBJ’s 3-3 day in which he also stole a base against the Mariners. I ended that tweet wondering, “...sign of things to come?” In his very next game, JBJ went 3-4 with 1 HR, 4 RBI, and 2 runs scored. Yesterday, he went 1-3 with a 2-run homer. This one’s more of a hunch to me, but the numbers also support a breakout. Compared to a career .292 BABIP, JBJ only has a .255 BABIP as of this morning, plus he’s hitting the ball to the tune of career-bests in hard contact (36.5%) and line drive (21.0%) rates with another career-best 12.0% soft contact rate (16.0-17.5% from 2015-2017). There’s positive regression in both his 10.5% HR/FB rate (14.5-17.9% from 2015-2017) and .133 ISO (career .164 ISO), and he’s already matched his stolen base output from 133 games last season (8), so he’s in the midst of setting his career-high number of stolen bases. Now is the time for opportunistic fantasy baseball owners to make the add while we watch JBJ turn his season around.
Jose Bautista (3B, OF; NYM) - 6% owned
I’m not going to lie, I thought we heard the last of Jose Bautista from a fantasy relevance standpoint once he was cut from the Braves after a disastrous tenure. In his last three weeks, though, Bautista is showing he’s got plenty left in the tank. During that span, Bautista played in 18 games, seeing 53 PA. While his .231 batting average is more than enough for skeptics to emphasize, I’m more impressed by some other advanced stats: First, he’s got an absurd 26.4% walk rate that fuels his .434 OBP. Then there’s his .256 ISO, which blows away last season’s .164 ISO. Thirdly, his 4.2% soft contact rate in that span obviously screams regression, but he simultaneously maintained an elite 45.8% hard contact rate. Finally, his .318 BABIP in those 18 games is reminiscent of his 40 HR season in 2011 (.309 BABIP). The Jose Bautista over the past three weeks isn’t what we can expect for the rest of the season, but if there really is enough thump in his bat left for one last run, his infield/outfield versatility could help some owners in need of power production.
Honorable mention: Albert Almora Jr. (11% owned), Addison Russell (38% owned), Jose Peraza (51% owned), Kike Hernandez (37% owned), Max Muncy (68% owned), Derek Dietrich (59% owned), Jake Bauers (8% owned), Alen Hanson (5% owned), Manny Margot (31% owned), Gregory Polanco (60% owned)
Wily Peralta (SP, RP; KC) - 13% owned
It looks like the Royals’ new closer following the Kelvin Herrera trade is Wily Peralta, who snared two saves since Herrera was shipped to the Washington Nationals. The former starter-turned-closer isn’t very hard to figure out. What you see is what you get: he’s only pitched 4.2 IP this season in the Majors, but he’s walked four batters as a member of the Royals. In Triple-A this season, he held a 5.40 BB/9 across 35 IP after a 5.02 BB/9 rate in 57.1 IP as a member of the Brewers last year. Why invest in someone like this? He’s got career-best 11.57 K/9 and 10.5% swinging strike rates and the best fastball of any of the arms in the Royals bullpen. Compared to 2017, Peralta is throwing his sinker 10% less, while upping his changeup usage by almost 13% this season. Anytime a pitcher is experiencing career-best levels of success in conjunction with mixing up their pitch types, I’m interested in closely following that player. There’s certainly a lot of risk involved here since his lack of control is an easy way for him to lose the closer role and because he pitches for a team that I don’t foresee many save opportunities arising in what’s left of this season, but Peralta is someone for save-needy owners to add for the short-term with potential rest of season value.
Mike Montgomery (SP, RP; CHC) - 33% owned
Mike Montgomery is a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide of sorts. As a reliever, and in 25.1 IP, he’s got a 5.33 ERA and 1.46 WHIP with a 15 K/ 10 BB ratio as opposing hitters slash .273/.349/.388 against him. When he toes the rubber as a starter, though, he’s a beast: 2.02 ERA and 0.93 WHIP with a 25 K/ 9 BB ratio and a .186/.245/.281 triple slash. With news that Yu Darvish is expected to seek a second opinion on his triceps from his regular doctor during his tenure on the Rangers, Mike Montgomery will remain a starter in the Cubs’ rotation indefinitely. With sights set on a World Series run, I expect the Cubs to slow play Darvish’s return from the DL so we may not see him until mid-August at the earliest. That’s purely speculation, but we all know about Yu’s injury history and durability concerns, which only seem to be at their worst this season. How Monty’s only 33% owned when his splits as a starter are THAT good, I don’t know. If he’s available in your league, add him now for a short-term stud that could remain in the rotation for the rest of the fantasy baseball season. My final reason to add him for potential rest of season value: I think Montgomery’s success as a starter only increases the likelihood the Cubs employ a 6-man rotation upon Yu Darvish’s return to keep all their arms fresh for a deep playoff run. Again, that’s just my opinion, but it’s a scenario that’s been considered by the Cubs before.
Honorable mention: Hector Rondon (48% owned), Zach Eflin (47% owned), Marco Gonzales (51% owned), Seranthony Dominguez (49% owned), Freddy Peralta (62% owned), Reyes Moronta (2% owned), Nathan Eovaldi (7% owned), Ian Kennedy (9% owned)
By: Michael Yachera | @myach1_91
Lewis Brinson (OF; MIA) - 7% owned
Brinson appeared a couple days ago in the “Hard Contact Trends” article, but I want to expand on him here since he’s doing more than just hitting the ball hard enough to qualify him as a Top-20 player based on hard contact rate over the last 14 days. He finished March and April with a .232 BABIP, followed by a putrid .159 BABIP in May, but this month he’s got what I believe to be a low .325 BABIP for a player of his excellent power and speed; specifically, I see Brinson’s upside closer to a .340+ BABIP. Another sign of growth from Brinson this season is seen in his groundball to flyball rate as the season wears on: 2.13 GB/FB in March/April, 1.55 GB/FB in May, 1.25 GB/FB in June. Less ground balls means less easy outs. I also find his 16.3% line drive rate this month to be low for a player with a 62.8% hard contact rate in the same span, so I expect both positive regression there and an increase in his BABIP as long as he’s making such high quality contact. While Brinson’s 67.2% contact rate is much lower than I would like, it’s actually up almost 5% from last season (62.7%). Another great plate discipline trend that shows improvement is his outside contact rate: 46.8% in 2017 compared to 55.0% in 2018. He’s still got a lot of swing and miss in his game (17.6% SwStr%), but he’s swinging at pitches outside the zone less while swinging at pitches in the zone much more (56.5% in ‘17 vs. 72.3% in ‘18). If you want to complain about Sweet Lew having only one stolen base this year, I’ll counter that with his mere two stolen base attempts. He’s not running and I think it’s got more to do with him hitting in the lower half of the order than anything. Now that he’s settling in, it shouldn’t be long until he receives a promotion to the top-third of the order where he can really set the table and re-enter our circle of trust. Just don’t say you didn’t hear it first here at the Fantasy Gospel!
Kendrys Morales (1B; TOR) - 12% owned
In his last 7 days, he’s ranked #38 overall in standard mixed 5x5 H2H categories leagues. In his last 14 days, he’s still #64 overall. Even though he barely missed the 50%+ hard contact rate cut-off in my article from Wednesday, I still had to include him because of his recent play. I’ve added several shares of him to my many fantasy baseball teams, so I encourage you to do the same while you still can. Although he’s been pretty awful for most of this season, his 8.4% walk rate is better than his career 7.3% mark and his 21.2% strikeout rate is slightly improved from last season (career 18.4%). It’s also worth noting his ground ball rate’s nearly 4% better than it was last year. I expect positive regression in his 13.2% HR/FB rate, which was above 19% in each of the last two seasons and stands at 15.8% for his career. When he makes contact, Morales is only hitting the ball softly 14% of the time (career 13.3% Soft%), and even though his outside contact rate is down nearly 9% from 2017, he’s swinging at pitches outside the zone just over 3.5% less than he did last year. His contact rate at pitches in the zone is back up to his career norms after a one year dip, and his swing rate at pitches in the zone appears to be calling for some serious positive regression. His power numbers are on the rise after a quiet start to the season and with all the other improvements and positive regression I see in his profile, on top of playing in a power-friendly division, Kendrys’ ownership tag will skyrocket en route to helping owners willing to give him a second chance make serious playoff pushes.
Honorable mention: Franklin Barreto (1% owned), Jason Heyward (8% owned), Cory Spangenberg (2% owned), Jon Jay (32% owned), Randal Grichuk (11% owned), Yan Gomes (24% owned), Mark Trumbo (20% owned)
Shelby Miller (SP; ARI) - 7% owned
We only saw 22 IP from Shelby Miller in 2017, but he showed an improved K/9 that was the highest it’s been since 2013 as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. I actually remember adding and starting Miller for his lone start in his Big League debut back in 2012, so you can imagine how disappointed I was seeing him devolve into a shell of his former prospect-self from 2014-2017. What jumps out to me about 2018 Shelby Miller is his rehab performance: 13.89 K/9 in two starts at High-A (11.2 IP) and 11.74 K/9 in two starts at AA (7.2 IP). These are the strikeout rates we used to see from Miller as he was a fully hyped first-round (19th overall) prospect out of the 2009 MLB Draft. He’s struggled with his command since 2016, and he’s walked six batters against 10 strikeouts in his Double-A rehab stint this season, so there’s obvious risk involved with Miller, but he’s lined up as a two-start pitcher in Week 12 against the Marlins in Miami and at home against the Giants. Now’s as good a time as any to make the speculative add, especially pitching on a team with solid defense and run support. I’m taking a flier in all but the shallowest of leagues hoping his control issues don’t hurt him too badly.
Greg Holland (RP; STL) - 21% owned
Forget about the Greg Holland we’ve seen this season before June 19, the day he was activated from the DL for a right hip impingement. Since his return to the Cardinals’ bullpen, Holland’s fired off two perfect innings while throwing 20 of 25 pitches for strikes in the process, a far cry from the 8.80 BB/9 Greg Holland we saw leading up to his DL stint. The cherry on top is the four strikeouts he’s recorded in those two perfect innings. As I said on one of our podcasts with Brandon, the closer job is Bud Norris’s to lose, but Norris has allowed 3 ER in only 6 IP in June. He’s also only playing on a 1-year/$3 million contract compared to Hollands’ staggering 1-year/$14 million dollar deal signed this past offseason, so I personally believe the Cardinals would prefer Holland in the closer role sooner than later. Some fantasy baseball managers may wonder about Jordan Hicks as the potential Norris replacement, but I think the Cardinals would rather keep his first year arbitration cost as low as possible and thrusting him into that closer role has the potential of driving up those arbitration costs. Holland already found himself pitching in the 8th inning with his team losing 3-4 against the Phillies after earning a hold in the 7th inning the day before, so the team appears to be aggressively pushing him into high-leverage situations. Many owners still believe in Holland despite his long DL stint and struggles looking at his ownership level, and since he’s free from Colorado, owners should feel confident in this version of Holland after leading the NL in saves last season. Norris blew four saves last season, and already blew two saves this season, so the playoff-hopeful Cardinals (2 GB from 2nd Wild Card) should have no issues justifying making a switch in the near-future should Norris falter.
Honorable mention: Shane Bieber (17% owned), Brent Suter (22% owned), Freddy Peralta (26% owned), Ryan Tepera (37% owned), Andrew Heaney (48% owned), Tyler Glasnow (4% owned), Frankie Montas (23% owned), Domingo German (45% owned)
Hard Contact Trends (Hitters)
By: Michael Yachera | @myach1_91
For this article, I wanted to look at the hard contact rate leaders over the last two weeks to identify players that may be available in medium to super-deep leagues and determine whether their hard contact trends in the last 14 days are in line with what their doing this season as a whole or if it’s just a small blip on the radar that we can ignore (I’m looking at you Alcides). I left off the players that I believe to be owned in the vast majority of leagues who don’t need hard contact rates to tell you that they’re good. I also limited myself to discussing players that have hard contact rates above 50% in the last 14 days, except for one bonus player I felt compelled to mention. Shoutout to Fangraphs for the assist here, and as always, hit me up if you agree or disagree with this analysis or for anything else fantasy baseball. Ownership tags according to Yahoo leagues. * denotes career-high.
#6 Marwin Gonzalez (1B, 2B, SS, 3B, OF; HOU) - 68% owned:
60.7% hard contact rate last 14 days | 38.6%* hard contact rate 2018 | 31.0% career hard contact rate
-I was always on the Marwin Gonzalez bandwagon following last season’s breakout performance, so maybe I’m chasing his .303/23/90/67/8 line, but he’s still supplying plenty of value this season after a slow start. Last year’s .226 ISO was much greater than his career .153 mark (.142 in 2018), so that explains his mere 5 HR in 67 games this season. Under the hood, though, he’s the owner of a career-best 23.1% line drive rate, and his ground ball and soft contact rates are better this season than in 2017. Gonzalez is striking out a career-worst 25.3% of the time this season, but in the last 14 days his 19.1% strikeout rate nearly mirrors his career 19.9% mark, which tells me he’s seeing the ball a lot better lately. Good times are ahead.
#7 Daniel Descalso (1B, 2B, 3B, OF; ARI ) - 33% owned:
58.3% hard contact rate last 14 days | 44.6%* hard contact rate 2018 | 28.9% career hard contact rate
-After finishing 2017 with a career-high 37.0% hard contact rate, Descalso’s encore season is making him a very strong DFS play given his sometimes erratic playing time, but he’s still ownable in leagues that allow for daily lineup changes. Of course regression is to be expected, but the way he crushes the ball when he makes contact over the last 14 days, in addition to his upwards HR/FB career trend, is evidence to me that his soaring hard contact rate over the past couple of seasons is a sign that his breakout is upon us. Call him a late bloomer.
#11 Nick Ahmed (SS; ARI) - 6% owned:
56.3% hard contact rate last 14 days | 38.0%* hard contact rate 2018 | 27.6% career hard contact rate
-In 2016, Ahmed’s hard contact rate was 27.3%, in 2017 it was 32%, and we’re seeing him continue this upward career trend in 2018. What’s more, his 14.6% HR/FB rate last season looked like an outlier until he also improved that mark to 15.9% this year. Ahmed is building on last year’s career-high .168 ISO with a .202 ISO this season, too. His soft contact rate of 16.8% is nearly 5 points below 2017’s 21.1% soft contact rate, and topping all of that growth is a hearty 25.6% line drive rate after finishing 2016 and 2017 with 20%+ line drive rates. He’s got a .244 BABIP that falls below his career .258 BABIP (.295 BABIP in ‘17), so there’s definitely a lot of room for improvement and production. Much like Descalso, Ahmed doesn’t have everyday at-bats, so he’s much easier to roster in daily lineup leagues, but he’s someone you can call upon if you need a SS and/or utility bat in deep or NL-only leagues.
#13 David Peralta (OF; ARI) - 71% owned:
56.1% hard contact rate last 14 days | 48.7%* hard contact rate 2018 | 35.1% career hard contact rate
-While Peralta’s cruising along to Top-90 value in standard mixed 5x5 categories leagues, some fantasy baseball analysts may argue his 23.3% HR/FB rate is unsustainable with a 14.6% career HR/FB rate on his resume. I recommend “buying high” high on David Peralta if there’s a manager who’s trying to “sell high.” Peralta doubters may argue his .223 ISO is well above his .150 ISO in ‘17 (14 HR in 140 games) and .181 ISO the year before (4 HR in 48 games). Even when he posted a career-best .522 SLG and .210 ISO in 2015, Peralta only finished with 17 HR in 149 games. I counter that by saying he’s converted almost 5% of his ground balls into fly balls this year; by getting more balls in the air, combined with hitting them at such career-high levels, it’s easy to see his 16.8% soft contact rate (career 17.4% soft contact) helping keep that HR/FB rate near the 20% mark. Finally, there’s more juice to squeeze since his .315 BABIP is below his career .337 BABIP. Buy now before shallow and mid-sized Peralta owners realize this season’s breakout is real.
#15 Lewis Brinson (OF; MIA) - 7% owned:
55.6% hard contact rate last 14 days | 37.6%* hard contact rate 2018 | 36.9% career hard contact rate
-I had to make sure to include Brinson as an honorable mention in last week’s Fanmail Friday article because he’s beginning to show off that prospect pedigree, so it’s no surprise to me that Brinson is Top-15 in hard contact rates over the last 14 days. In that same span, he’s hitting 12-45 (.267) with 2 HR, 9 RBI, and 4 runs scored. He’s hitting sixth in a poor Marlins lineup, so I believe it’s only a matter of time until they give him another look at or near the top of the order. Hard contact rates aren’t recorded in the minors, but we do know that his 50.9% ground ball rate this season looks much better than last year’s 56.7% mark. His June triple slash is just a glimpse into his upside: .283/.322/.604. I’m going to include a full write up on Brinson in this week’s Fanmail Friday, so I don’t want to steal my own thunder, but Brinson is someone you NEED to add to your watch list now if you don’t want to buy into his body of work over the last three weeks. He’s still an infant in this league in the context of service time, so if you’re one of the contingent proclaiming Brinson’s a bust then you don’t deserve the rewards Brinson owners will reap in the near future.
#17 Gerardo Parra (OF; COL) - 7% owned:
54.8% hard contact rate last 14 days | 33.0% hard contact rate 2018 | 29.9% career hard contact rate
-With only a .399 SLG and .099 ISO in 2018, Parra’s power numbers have taken a big hit. He’s still a reliable source for batting average, but his fly ball rate is down nearly 3% from last season (27.5% fly ball rate in ‘18) and his HR/FB rate took about a 4% hit, as well (6.4% HR/FB in ‘18). His 24.6% line drive rate gives me confidence he’s going to continue hitting, but it’s hard to see this recent hard contact surge continuing. If you need to stream a bat, Parra is a good play, but it’s hard to justify adding Parra over many of these players as well as other free agents available in your league. Congrats are in order if you’ve owned Parra for the past two weeks or so, though.
#19 Jurickson Profar (2B, SS, OF; TEX) - 48% owned:
54.4% hard contact rate last 14 days | 30.5% hard contact rate 2018 | 27.7% career hard contact rate
-I first wrote about Jurickson Profar on May 4 in the Friday Fliers section following Elvis Andrus’ injury. Profar’s far exceeded my expectations in the last month, earning himself the #31 overall rank in standard mixed 5x5 categories leagues by going 26-101 (.257) with 6 HR, 21 RBI, 20 runs scored, and 2 SB. In the month of June: he’s striking out 5.6% of the time (12.6% in 2018), only hitting ground balls 40.7% of the time (42.3% in 2018), and he’s got a 47.5% hard contact rate in addition to .270 ISO (.239 ISO in May). He had HR/FB rates below 6.9% in each of the first three months of the season, but his HR/FB leaps up to 21.7% this month, along with a nearly 10% increase in fly balls from May to June. His fly ball rate’s sustainable to me, and while the HR/FB rate may not be, if he continues with a 45%+ hard contact rate to go with a .200+ ISO, I can see Profar turning back the clock to his pre-injury prospect hype days. I’m rooting for this guy.
#22 Jesse Winker (OF; CIN) - 4% owned:
53.1% hard contact rate last 14 days | 41.1%* hard contact rate 2018 | 39.1% career hard contact rate
-Similar to Parra, Winker’s power production is suffering as a result of his .345 SLG and .095 ISO. He finished 2017 with a healthy .529 SLG, but that was in only 137 PA (47 games). Winker’s profile is an odd one because I can see positive regression based off his 23.0% line drive rate, a greatly reduced 41.2% ground ball rate (52.6% in 2017), and an increased fly ball rate (35.8%). That’s the exact type of growth I want to see from a young hitter: converting ground balls into fly balls and line drives. Further, any hitter with a 40%+ hard contact rate is one I’m going to want to look more into. Adding to the curious case of Jesse Winker is his excellent 12.5% soft contact rate and with a career .299 BABIP, there’s room for Winker to improve on his .287 BABIP this year. He’s got a 5.1% HR/FB rate versus a career 11.2% mark, so the extra base hits should come sooner than later. Winker’s worth a spot on your watch list.
#25 Alcides Escobar (SS; KC) - 2% owned:
51.4% hard contact rate last 14 days | 34.6%* hard contact rate 2018 | 22.2% career hard contact rate
-Despite scorching the ball when making contact over the last 14 days, Escobar is still 3-45 (.067) with 1 HR, 2 RBI, and 2 runs scored. Nothing to talk about here, but I never thought I’d say these words: I feel bad for the 2%.
#29 Luis Valbuena (1B, 3B; LAA) - 2% owned:
50.0% hard contact rate last 14 days | 38.8%* hard contact rate 2018 | 32.3% career hard contact rate
-With Zack Cozart being on the DL, Valbuena has seen more regular at-bats as the primary 3B fill-in, but he’s mired in a 6-42 (.143) slump in the last two weeks with only 1 RBI and 1 SB in that time. As much as I love Valbuena following his 2017 breakout season, I would say he’s better left on the wire because he’s really struggling this month with 20 K/4 BB and a weak .151/.207/.208 triple slash in June. I expect him to turn it around, but he shouldn’t be rostered until his peripherals catch up to his hard contact rate over the course of the last two weeks.
Just missed: Kendrys Morales (1B; TOR) - 11% owned
48.5% hard contact rate
-We called Kendrys Morales a strong buy-low a week ago or so on the Fantasy Gospel Twitter account, and he’s been raking lately to the tune of a .350 average in the last 14 days. We’re seeing his batting average climb and I expect the power to follow after posting five consecutive 20+ HR seasons before 2018, making Kendrys Morales a hot free agent that I can confidently recommend adding as a utility bat where he’s available.
By: Michael Yachera | @myach1_91
Alen Hanson (2B, OF; SF) - 8% owned
With the Evan Longoria injury being significant, the sea just parted for Hanson to see near every day at-bats at third base. After 5 starts at 3B, Hanson will officially become 3B eligible, only adding to the value he brings to his owners. I first featured Hanson back on May 11 when he was 15% owned, so I’m surprised to see owners take their time adding him this time around. Entering June 15, Hanson is slashing .338/.377/.690 to go with a whopping .442 wOBA for those managers who care about that number. He’s only striking out at a 14.3% clip (11 K/5 BB in 71 PA) and, despite sacrificing his 9.8% line drive rate for a 47.5% fly ball rate, he’s got what I believe to be a sustainable-ish 17.2% HR/FB rate - closer to 15% is what I expect - because of his 36.1% hard contact rate. His 9.9% swinging strike rate is above the 10.6% league average, and because I believe maintaining his .339 BABIP is possible because of his speed and ability to make hard contact, I don’t expect a whole lot of regression outside of his .352 ISO. One more and I’m done: per Fangraphs, Hanson is hitting 12-27 (.444) in “medium leverage” situations and 4-8 (.500) in “high leverage” situations. Add now, thank me later.
Cory Spangenberg (2B, 3B, OF; SD) - 2% owned
I’ve always taken the “glass is half-full” approach when it comes to Spangenberg, mainly because I am enamored by his upside. He’s really struggling on the season, slashing .217/.246/.411 in 135 PA (47 games), but like teammate Manny Margot, things are starting to click: 7-22 (.318) with 1 HR, 2 RBI, 5 runs scored, and 2 SB in his last week entering Friday. While those numbers don’t jump out at you, they’re good enough to rank Spangenberg #44 overall in that span. He’s really struggling against lefties this season (.150 in 20 AB), but he hits just a shade below .230 against LHP for his career so that number should get better. Zooming out to a larger sample size, his June numbers are very healthy: 12-41 (.293) with 3 HR, 6 RBI, 9 runs scored, and 2 SB with a .919 OPS. That’s the type of upside I dream of when I daydream about Cory Spangenberg. His June turnaround is fueled by his sharp increase in fly ball rate, which stands at 37.9% this month. In March, April, and May his fly ball rate was below 28.6%, and his lowest line drive rate of this season’s first four months is this month’s hearty 24.1%. There’s a lot of positive regression in his profile, mainly his .275 BABIP compared to his .333 career BABIP. He also needs to improve his subpar 3.0% walk rate (career 6.6%), but what he’s done the first two weeks of June is something for owners to keep close tabs on if they don’t want to take the plunge right away like I may have done on several occasions the past couple of seasons.
Honorable Mentions: Lewis Brinson (7% owned), Scott Kingery (22% owned), Manny Margot (28% owned), Luis Valbuena (2% owned), Matt Duffy (10% owned), Scott Schebler (22% owned)
Domingo German (SP, RP; NYY) - 14% owned
I hesitated to use an add on a pitcher yesterday when I needed runs and home runs, on a day with a short slate of games no less, so I went ahead and added Jake Bauers over Domingo German. Bauers promptly went 0-3 with a run scored in the morning game while German went nuts at night to the tune of a 28.6% swinging strike rate FOR THE GAME while out-dueling Blake Snell in the process to get credited with the win. Perhaps more impressive was his 10 strikeouts across 6 IP against only 2 walks, as his season walk rate stands at 3.54 BB/9 after last season’s 5.65 BB/9 mark (14.1 IP). He’s got a 10.63 K/9 rate through 53.1 IP this season, and while his 1.52 HR/9 rate is concerning, his 5.23 ERA is more a result of bad luck than anything to me: 4.27 FIP, 3.68 xFIP, and 3.52 SIERA. It’s also due to his inflated walk rate, but in June, we’re seeing Domingo German cut his walk rate to 1.93 BB/9 in 18.2 IP. My gut tells me we’re a year too early on German (evidenced by his HR/9, hard/soft contact, and line drive rates), but I’m adding him now in case I’m wrong. He’s not a must-start or anything like that against playoff-caliber teams like the Red Sox, Astros, or Angels to name a few, but in the right matchups and two-start weeks (Week 12, anyone?), he’s a very strong streaming option with a strikeout floor that’s very difficult to find floating on the wire.
Dylan Covey (SP, RP; CHW) - 19% owned
Don’t look at the Dylan Covey from 2017 who finished with a 7.71 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, and only 5.27 K/9. Look at the Dylan Covey of 2018, including his minor league numbers. Through 35.1 IP as a member of the White Sox, Covey’s got a 2.29 ERA, 2.15 FIP, 3.30 xFIP, and 3.48 SIERA. In 38.2 IP as a minor leaguer in AAA, Covey registered a 2.33 ERA, 3.84 FIP, and 3.59 xFIP. In summary, he’s been a sub-4 ERA pitcher, but what earns him a spot on this week’s fliers list is the dramatic improvements in his strikeout and HR/9 rates as of 2018. He’s over 8 K/9 and only gave up 3 HR this year between Triple-A and the White Sox (0 HR allowed on White Sox). Opposing hitters are only registering hard contact 29.5% of the time in addition to a low 15.2% line drive rate. Always a ground ball pitcher, he’s taking that skill to another level with a 61.0% ground ball rate on The Pale Hose. That’s Dallas Keuchel-like for those who don’t know. Finally, his 2.80 BB/9 rate is a marked improvement from his 4.37 BB/9 rate last season, which was already trending in the right direction this year in Triple-A (3.49 BB/9). I believe his pitch usage is the reason behind much of his success. Last season, Covey threw 29% fastballs to this season’s 2.2%. He used his sinker 31.5% of the time in 2017, but in 2018 he’s throwing the sinker a staggering 65.3% of the time. It appears to be working, but it remains to be seen whether Covey will continue his sub-3 ERA ways. With his robust groundball rate, spike in strikeouts, and appealing peripherals, I’m taking a flier wherever I can. One thing that’s almost guaranteed, though: don’t expect many wins playing for the White Sox.
Honorable Mentions: Shane Bieber (4% owned), Justin Miller (15% owned), Anibal Sanchez (18% owned), Joe Jimenez (9% owned), Ryan Tepera (27% owned)
Early-Season Fantasy Baseball Awards
By: Carl Grove, Brandon Dombrowski & Michael Yachera
@cmgrove4 | @Dombro23 | @myach1_91
With about 40% of the 2018 MLB season in the books, we wanted to beat the midseason award rush by handing out some fantasy baseball awards of our own! We hope you enjoy! Send questions, comments, analysis, etc. to us on Twitter, by clicking on the "Socialize With Us!" tab at the top of the page, or you can send us an email at email@example.com.
CG: Mookie Betts
MY: Mookie Betts
BD: Mookie Betts
CG: Michael Brantley
MY: Gerrit Cole
BD: Ozzie Albies
CG: Byron Buxton
MY: Corey Seager
BD: Clayton Kershaw
CG: Gerrit Cole
MY: Blake Snell
BD: Trevor Bauer
CG: Eddie Rosario
MY: Andrew Benintendi
BD: Scooter Gennett
Player I was wrong about
CG: Tommy Pham
MY: Rougned Odor (BOLDLY predicted him for a 30/20 season…)
BD: Javier Baez
CG: Javier Baez
MY: Brian Dozier (.239 BA/.217 xBA | .413 SLG/.374 xSLG | .317 wOBA/.299 xwOBA)
BD: Eddie Rosario
By: Michael Yachera | @myach1_91
Daniel Palka (1B, OF; CHW) - 6% owned
I first spotlighted Daniel Palka in the Friday Fliers section about a month ago on May 11, and at that time he was only 1% owned. In his 79 PA since (22 games), Palka registered 3 HR, 10 RBI, 8 runs scored, 1 SB, with nine of his 20 hits counting as the extra base variety to go along with his .267/.304/.493 triple slash. Those numbers are very useful to me, possibly as a third outfielder or utility bat, so I’m having a hard time understanding what’s taking so long for the fantasy baseball community to take notice. Back on May 11, Palka had a .615 SLG, and while I wrote that I expected that number to regress, he’s still rocking a .535 SLG as of this writing. What’s most surprising to me is his .325 BABIP, as it was .286 when I first featured Palka, but with a 41% hard contact rate and sustainable 18.8% HR/FB, I’ve never been more confident in Palka’s rest of season outlook than I am now. Even though strikeouts will remain a constant, the same can be said about the power that Palka and his .263 ISO provide. The doubters and naysayers may point to his limited playing time (119 AB at the MLB level), but I see a lot of similarities in what he’s done so far with the White Sox with his production and profile in the minors. If his name was Albert Pujols, instead of Daniel Palka, while slashing .272/.303/.535 with 6 HR, 20 RBI, 14 runs scored, and 2 SB in only 33 games, I think this ownership tag would look very different: Pujols (41% owned) only has 8 HR, 32 RBI, 22 runs scored, and 0 SB to go along with a .252/.289/.403 triple slash in 120 more PA.
Pablo Sandoval (1B, 3B; SF) - 2% owned
No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you...Pablo Sandoval is back! Despite a career-worst 26.8% strikeout rate, Kung Fu Panda is slashing .282/.330/.447 and is sporting career-bests in ISO (.165), hard contact rate (43.2%) and HR/RB (18.2%) to go along with his 4 HR, 18 RBI, and 9 runs scored in 112 PA (49 games). He looks revitalized and while his .357 BABIP is sure to regress, I would consider taking a flier on Sandoval because of his tremendous improvements in his plate discipline. It starts with him swinging less: he’s only swinging at 46.8% of pitches this season compared to a career 57.1% swing rate. For his career, Pablo swings at 44.5% of pitches outside the zone, but in 2018 we’re seeing him swing at pitches outside of the zone only 37.3% of the time. In fact, his previous career-best O-Swing% was 40.6% in 2009 when he finished with 25 HR, 90 RBI, 79 runs scored, and a .330/.357/.556 triple slash. Currently, his 74.7% contact rate is well below his career mark of 82.2%, so I can see even better times ahead for Pablo Sandoval. Finally, he’s been seeing action at 2B lately (2 games), so gaining that positional eligibility in the short-term would make him even more valuable. I don’t blame you for doubting me on this one, but it wouldn’t hurt to just throw him on your watchlist and see what happens before reaching a conclusion on his value this season.
Honorable Mentions: Franmil Reyes (OF; SD - 18% owned), Jake Bauers (1B; TB - 5% owned), Scott Schebler (OF; CIN - 15% owned), Alen Hanson (2B, OF; SF - 6% owned)
Brandon McCarthy (SP; ATL) - 14% owned
AS LONG AS HE’S HEALTHY, Brandon McCarthy makes for another appealing Atlanta Braves arm. Despite a 4.83 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, and 1.28 HR/9 rate, BMac is 5-2 and has a 4.22 FIP, 3.60 xFIP, and 4.00 SIERA. His .342 BABIP, 18.8% HR/FB, and increased slider usage is why I believe better days are ahead, compared to his career marks: .299 BABIP (.303 BABIP in ‘17), 10.7% HR/FB, and 2.2% slider usage. His 6.6% swinging strike rate leaves a lot to be desired, but he’s getting both (roughly) a strikeout per inning and ground balls at the second-best rate of his career while hitters are only making hard contact 32.2% of the time they make contact against McCarthy. With 52 K/19 BB, I think he’s a safe streaming option, but if positive regression hits him the way I anticipate, his ownership tag should double, if not triple. He’s pitching tonight against his old team, the Dodgers, and if he comes out of that looking good then do not hesitate to stream him against the Mets next Wednesday. Assuming he corrals the Mets, there’s certainly potential for rest of season value (or at least until he gets hurt again) since he should kick off the following week (Week 12) as a two-start pitcher. If you just lost Ohtani, or you’re waiting for Yu Darvish and/or Noah Syndergaard, McCarthy also makes sense because of his strong run support and the excellent defensive play around him.
Andrew Suarez (SP; SF) - 2% owned
If a player had a 3.89 FIP, 3.22 xFIP, 3.39 SIERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 42 K/8 BB across 43.2 IP, most managers would jump at the opportunity to add that player in case that type of success continued. Now’s your chance to do exactly that with Andrew Suarez. He’s known for excellent control throughout the minors, and that theme has continued to the tune of a 1.65 BB/9 rate. His 1.44 HR/9 is alarming, but I want to follow that up by saying his minor league track record tells me that number should improve greatly: 0.40 HR/9 (AA) and 0.71 HR/9 (AAA) in 2017, plus 0 HR allowed in Triple-A across 16.2 IP this year. Suarez’s .314 BABIP is also in line with what I would expect from looking at his BABIP in the minors, so I’m not calling for much regression here. Batters do have a .265 batting average against him this season, which is also what I expect based off his minor league track record, but he pitches in a spacious home park and has an uncharacteristic 18.4% HR/FB rate that should improve. He doesn’t blow anyone away with his arm, but he does command five pitches (fastball, sinker, slider, curveball, changeup), which can explain why his 8.66 K/9 overachieves his mere 7.3% swinging strike rate. I can definitely see his 63.4% left on base mark improving by 5-10% and he’s also getting batters to hit the ball on the ground about half the time. Don’t look at his 2-4 record or add him expecting a high win probability every start. Instead, consider Andrew Suarez an end-of-the-rotation arm that has a safe floor with some upside for strikeouts.
Honorable Mentions: Paul Blackburn (SP; OAK - 1% owned), Frankie Montas (RP; OAK - 28% owned)
By: Michael Yachera | @myach1_91
Harrison Bader (OF; STL) - 8% owned
I’m 100% all aboard the Darth Bader bandwagon, so much in fact I added him yesterday when he was 1% owned. Almost immediately after adding him, the Cardinals released their lineup card...guess who was hitting second?! Bader, accustomed to hitting 5th or 6th lately, responded to the promotion by going 3-5 with two runs scored and a stolen base, which caused a 7% ownership increase in a matter of hours. In the last 7 days, according to Yahoo standard 5x5 H2H categories leagues, Dark Bader’s assault on the fantasy baseball galaxy equates to 16th overall value: 10-21 (.476) with 2 HR, 3 RBI, 5 runs scored, and 2 SB. Bader’s appearance on the Friday Fliers is because of the crowded Cardinals outfield situation. Even though the Cardinals helped Bader’s cause by optioning Tyler O’Neil to the minors, he’s still fighting for at-bats against the likes of Dexter Fowler, Tommy Pham, and Marcell Ozuna, although Fowler seems like the obvious candidate to cede playing time to Bader. In 2017, Bader’s 92 PA (32 games) resulted in a .235/.283/.376 triple slash with 3 HR and 2 SB. After 104 PA this season (42 games), Bader’s slashing .290/.365/.484 paired with 5 HR and 6 SB. If that doesn’t convince you, maybe his 2% increase in walk rate from last season will, his .194 ISO that I believe can increase (career-best .214 ISO in 2016), or his nearly 3% improvement in swinging strike rate will (12.% in 2017 vs. 9.5% in 2018). I can go on and on, to be honest, but just know his contact rates (O-contact % & contact %) only back up his breakout and his .344 BABIP is very sustainable for a player with the power/speed combo of Harrison Bader. Since it’s Mike Matheny, though, there’s no knowing how the outfield will shake out, but with both the way Bader’s been playing and the development he’s shown, he could be a monster for the rest of the season (a la Tommy Pham from 2017). ADD HIM NOW!
UPDATE: As of this writing, Bader is hitting second for the Cardinals (second straight day).
John Ryan Murphy (C; ARI) - 1% owned
Manager Torey Luvollo talked the talk, recently stated that he wants to get Diamondbacks catcher John Ryan Murphy more at-bats due largely in part to Alex Avila’s season-long struggles, but also because Murphy’s been quietly producing when given a chance. With a .613 SLG, 7 HR, and 15 RBI in only 79 PA (32 games), Murphy’s upside is even more intriguing, given the strength of the lineup around him, if he really does see more at-bats. His .347 ISO is off the charts, but his profile tells the story of a hitter who may be shifting his approach. Normally a sub-50% fly ball rate hitter, we’re seeing Murphy’s fly ball rate skyrocket (no pun intended) to 61.5% while his ground ball rate is a measly 17.3% (37.6% career rate). His line drive rate is a strong 21.2% as well, which is almost identical to his 21.9% rate, so Murphy may be another hitter seeing results after buying into the fly ball revolution. His 9.7% swinging strike rate is certainly palatable, his 3.8% walk rate is below his 5.4% career mark, and his 29.1% strikeout rate has room for improvement (career 25.4%). I can actually see his .289 BABIP improve, especially considering his 49.1% hard hit rate. If John Ryan Murphy plays again today, he will have played in three of the D’Backs last four games, so managers desperate for catching help should quickly shift their focus to the former 2009 second rounder (Yankees) in case Lovullo actually walks the walk.
Justin Anderson (RP; LAA) - 4% owned
For managers brave enough to roster bullpen arms on this committee, Justin Anderson’s been lights out lately. Although he did not record a save in the last two weeks, Anderson did post 6.1 IP of scoreless ball with a win, eight strikeouts to four walks, and a shiny 0.95 WHIP. If you’re wondering why he hasn’t earned a save in that span, it’s because the Angels only had TWO save opportunities (both converted by Blake Parker). Anderson’s 12.42 K/9 is what you want to see from a closer, but his 5.40 BB/9 rate is what’s holding him back, but in the last two weeks opponents hard contact rate is legendary: 7.7%. I have hope that Anderson can step into the closer role and run away with it if (or should I say, when) Parker falters because of his improvements this season: In March and April, Anderson finished with a 6.14 BB/9 rate, while that number improved to 5.11 BB/9 in May. Blake Parker’s 10.17 K/9 isn’t exactly elite, but he limits self-inflicted damage in the form of 2.81 BB/9. When it comes to first pitch strike rates, Parker’s 51.9% is awful, although Justin Anderson’s 50.7% mark is even harder to feel confident in. What Anderson does have going for him over Parker, though, is a 62.5% contact rate compared to hitters making contact against Parker at a 74% clip. Parker’s hard contact rate is also almost 40% compared to Anderson’s hard contact rate of 29.7%, so taking a flier on Anderson will provide you strong ratios in the short-term and could end up paying off for the rest of the season.
Brent Suter (SP, RP; MIL) - 6% owned
In his last two weeks, across 16.1 IP, Brent Suter is ranked #68 overall with a 3.31 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 3 wins, and 18 K/3 BB. Those matchups weren’t cake walks either: the Cardinals, the Diamondbacks, and the Twins. A bullpen arm to start the season, Suter is in the Brew Crew’s rotation because of Wade Miley’s oblique injury, so there’s a chance his role as a starter is only temporary. He ended May with 26 K/5 BB in 28 IP, and even though he did give up 8 home runs, hitters slashed only .246/.284/.523 against him. Those numbers are very encouraging to me, and I don’t believe he will give up another 8 HR in June since he only gave up three over 30.1 IP in March and April. Suter also raised his K/9 to 8.36 in May from 6.53 K/9 in March/April, which played a strong role in his 3.70 FIP last month. Currently sitting at a 4.63 ERA, Suter’s 4.00 xFIP and 4.10 SIERA feel a bit overly conservative. I think he can be a sub-4.00 ERA starting pitcher that will provide a decent amount of wins and strikeout totals as long as he continues to pitch the way he has in the past couple weeks or so. His 1.14 WHIP during May also gives me confidence that Suter makes for a solid choice as an end of the rotation arm in the short term. He’ll be facing the White Sox on June 3 in Chicago, and due to the appealing nature of that matchup, I would feel comfortable adding him for that start. Miley isn’t eligible to return until July anyway, and it’s always possible Suter locks up a rotation spot by then if he continues to shine, so I recommend Suter as a cheap option for managers dealing with the significant SP injuries we’ve seen this past week.
By: Michael Yachera | @myach1_91
Some of you may have noticed the Fantasy Gospel’s gone radio silent for the past few days, with the exception of my flurry of (ill-advised?) #WeddingWeekend trades. We were all in the Windy City celebrating Brandon’s wedding and nearly half of our 14 team keeper league was present. I’m on the playoff threshold as of this writing and the difference between the teams in 5th and 13th place is still only 11.5 games. Long story short, this past weekend cemented itself as the best weekend of my life. In consideration for sparing you the details, I want to give one last shout out to Brandon and his new bride while wishing them all the success in the world.
I’m dropping this treat because I’ve missed fantasy baseball and writing about it, so here’s some random thoughts of mine as they relate to players involved in recent transaction trends. Ownership percentages and ranks below according to Yahoo, based on standard 5x5 categories H2H scoring.
Devin Mesoraco (C; NYM) - 16% owned
I’ll be the first to admit, I wrote off Mesoraco long before his trade to the Mets, but if all he really needed a change of scenery then I’m beyond intrigued by dumping my current catcher for the former 2014 All-Star. Acquired on May 9, he’s performing way above the average level of production at his position. In his last two weeks: 11-33 (.333) with 4 HR, 9 RBI, and 10 runs scored, which is good for 28th best overall. Why the change of heart? In March/April (14 games), Mesoraco was walking 2.8% of the time vs. a 25.0% strikeout rate. In May (19 games), however, he’s much-improved approach is yielding a 11.3% walk rate and 16.1% strikeout mark. Plawecki is returning from the DL as Mesoraco’s backup, and while health is not the reason you can depend on Mesoraco, it looks like there’s life in his bat after all. If you’re looking to cut bait on your catcher, this is a guy I’m behind.
Max Stassi (C; HOU) - 3% owned
If you’re looking for a catcher on a better team with the hopes of more counting stats, pivot to Stassi. Houston starter Brian McCann just hit the DL, clearing more regular at-bats for Stassi in the short-term, and he’s been hitting very well up to this point in his limited action: 6-18 (.333) with 1 HR, 4 RBI, and 5 runs scored. Despite his 32.6% strikeout rate, Stassi is getting on base at a .371 clip and his .225 ISO are .525 SLG are excellent. I see regression in his profile because of his .426 BABIP & below average contact rates, but his hard contact rate of 41.2% convinces me that the power numbers aren’t a fluke. Just don’t expect a .300 batting average (or anything close to it) to be the norm. He walks at a near 8% mark, which is okay with me, so Stassi represents a short-term option compared to Mesoraco’s potential rest of season upside.
Picking Up (Serious) Momentum
Daniel Mengden (SP; OAK) - 59% owned
Back on April 13, when he was only 2% owned at the time, I first endorsed Mengden as a player to add in our weekly “Fantasy Fliers” installment for managers shuffling the back end of their rotations. Again, on May 19, I recommended 7% owned Mengden in the “Fantasy Fliers” section Between 4/13 and 5/19, all Mengden did was put up a 2.62 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 24 K/3 BB rate across 34.1 IP while holding hitters to a .254/.271/.437 triple slash. The 5 wins so far are a bonus for Mengden, but he’s certainly deserved everything he’s done to this point after starting the season with a 6.19 ERA through his first 16 IP. Added in 28% of leagues in the last day, Mengden is finally beginning to earn his respect after he’s locked down some playoff-caliber teams in the process. Those numbers remind me of Keuchel’s, and even though I’m not saying Mengden is the next Cy Young pitcher, he’s certainly worth an add for owners who were hit hard by the Noah Syndergaard news. His ERA peripherals indicate regression, but it’s time to give him a look across a majority of formats despite his low strikeout totals.
Seranthony Dominguez (RP; PHI) - 25% owned
In his last 30 days, Dominguez is ranked #64. In his last 14 days, #40 overall. In the last week, he’s a Top-55 player. On May 5, in the “Friday Fliers” section, I wrote the following: "Sir Anthony's" big league promotion flew under the radar four days ago, but Dominguez shouldn't take long to become a fantasy baseball mainstay.” I can’t admit I knew it’d happen this fast, but Dominguez is a player who’s picking up serious fantasy momentum. 10 K/9, a 19.1% swinging strike rate, and ZERO walks through 11.2 IP is seriously impressive stuff for this potential fantasy baseball wildcard. I still believe he can close for Philly, but I do believe it’s possible his 2018 success parlays him into an Andrew Miller-type set up role. I’m not going to even try to read Gabe Kapler’s mind, but I will add Dominguez (and I already have) for his ratios and frequent, multi-inning usage with the hopes Kapler has an epiphany ASAP and let’s his best bullpen arm close out games for a young team with hopes of sneaking into the playoffs.
Trevor Cahill (SP; OAK) - 31% owned
Cahill was rolling until he hit the DL and he picked up where he left off since his return. Very few of us can say we’ve reaped the benefits of his first 44 IP, but he’s currently holding down a 2.25 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and 41 K/9 BB rate. Durability is a concern, but his 3.11 FIP, 2.85 xFIP, and sterling 3.01 SIERA are the nails in the coffin for owners doubting Cahill’s encore to last season’s first half dominance. The 10.4% soft contact rate and 44.3% hard contact rate give me anxiety at first, but his elite 60.2% groundball rate and low line drive/fly ball rates calm my nerves. You won’t get many wins from Cahill, but both his strikeout ability and low WHIP gives him a tremendous floor, plus he’s shown consistency this season that I believe more owners should be buying into.
Joe Jimenez (RP; DET) - 4% owned
He’s pitching MUCH better of late, and if the Tigers move closer Shane Greene (arbitration-eligible for second time this offseason) at some point this season, Jimenez is the one I’m putting my money on to run away with the new closer gig. Add in holds leagues now, add to your watch list in all others.
Carlos Gonzalez (OF; COL) - 28% owned
Despite seeing his playing time cut sharply, Gonzalez is hitting 9-27 (.333) with 1 HR, 5 RBI, and 2 runs scored. He followed up his 4-4 (1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 runs scored) day against the Reds on 5/27 by going 2-4 against the Giants. Now, today, he’s hitting fourth in the lineup, so if he begins seeing more regular at-bats and continues hitting, the power and production will return. The Rockies are playing all of their games this week at home, so he’s appealing for that reason, but at the very least, I suggest keeping an eye on CarGo this week to see how he is used/performs.
By: Michael Yachera | @myach1_91
Daniel Mengden (SP; OAK) - 7% owned
Just over a month ago (4/13), I recommended Daniel Mengden in our “Friday Fliers” installment. In the time between then and now, Mengden has thrown 34.1 innings, while registering a 2.62 ERA, 24 K/3 BB (THREE!), and a .254/.271/.437 triple slash line against opposing batters. Those numbers will play in any format, even if the strikeout total is underwhelming. Mengden recorded a win against the hot-hitting Red Sox on 5/13, so I am even more confident in him than I was a month ago. If you are looking to bolster the end of your rotation, Daniel Mengden is someone I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend again. By now, at least, you should bump Mengden up as a safe streaming option compared to many of the wild cards available on a daily basis.
Kyle Freeland (SP; COL) - 37% owned
On Friday (5/19), Freeland secured his fourth win of the season against the Giants, finishing with 5 K, 1 BB, and 1 ER in 6.2 IP. Now sitting on a 3.17 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 49 K/18 BB in 54 IP, it’s time to take notice of yet another Colorado Rockies pitcher. Freeland’s 24.3% soft contact rate mirrors last season’s rate and he’s significantly improved his hard contact rate from 32% in 2017 to 25.7% this season. Despite his below average strikeout ability (8.17 K/9), his profile is littered with signs of development and growth from 2017. I don’t expect him to be THIS good, but with his ERA peripherals all under 4.03, I feel good about Freeland’s rest of season value. What about his home/away splits, you ask? At home: 1.40 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 19 K/8 BB, and a .197/.278/.338 triple slash line in 19.1 IP. On the road: 4.15 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 30 K/10 BB and a .231/.286/.375 triple slash. The walks should catch up to him if they maintain the home rate he has, but his WHIP splits tells me he’s limiting damage both at home and on the road. In the last day, Freeland was added in 22% of Yahoo fantasy baseball leagues, so he’s a name you can’t wait around to add for too long.
Jonathan Villar (2B, OF; MIL) - 43% owned
Villar sat for five of six games in from May 6-12, but I think that extended benching really lit a fire under his butt. In his five games from May 13 through yesterday, he’s hitting a scorching 9-20 (.450) with two doubles, one home run, five runs scored, a stolen base, and three runs batted in to go with five strikeouts against zero walks. During that same time, he’s slugging .700 and he showed a more patient approach only striking out 22.7% of the time (29.8% on the season). If this trend continues through the weekend, and you are in need of runs and stolen bases, Villar represents a season-impacting player. Villar finished with 23 SB in only 436 PA (122 games), and that was with a weak .293 OBP, so Cano owners still struggling to find a rest of season replacement should keep tabs on this dynamic hitter who is getting on-base at a .336 clip and has a profile that indicates positive regression is in store going forward.
Jedd Gyorko (1B, 2B, 3B; STL) - 23% owned
Now that the dust has settled from Paul DeJong’s fractured hand, it looks like Mike Matheny wants Gyorko to be his near-everyday SS. As if Gyroko’s versatility wasn’t one of his best assets, he’s about to get even more appealing. Already walking a career-best 14.1% of the time, Gyorko is also striking out at a career-best 20.5% rate (career 22.6%) and is slugging over .500 through 78 PA (26 games). Gyorko needed more at-bats this season, and Matt Carpenter’s season-long struggles only exacerbated that fact, but now is the time to pounce on Gyorko since that path has opened up. His 16 K/11 BB ratio is notable for a player who only walked 47 times last season across 426 PA, and he’s smacking the ball to the tune of a 42% hard contact rate (career-best). He’s already known for his power, averaging 25 HR for the Cardinals in under 127 games a year the last two seasons, and while there’s some regression in his profile (BABIP/AVG), his 24% line drive rate and 16% soft contact rate make me believe both the regression will be minimal and that he’s setting himself up for a career season. With SS eligibility right around the corner, Gyorko is someone who needs to be added as an injury replacement (Cano, DeJong, Zimmerman, Panik, etc.) or utility bat that can play anywhere in your lineup but catcher and outfield.
Mini Sell High Wednesday & Week 7 Trade Values- 5/16/18
By: Brandon Dombrowski | @Dombro23
The Trend continues with High Profile Players rebounding and statistics starting to normalize. There was only (1) name that stuck out to me this week for Sell High Wednesday. We are also going to introduce the Fantasy Gospel Trade Value Chart for the 1st Time this Year!
Ender Inciarte OF ATL - We will continue the theme with another Atlanta Braves outfielder this week who has been tearing it up recently - Ender Inciarte. Ender's Game is up to a .263/.315/.365 Triple Slash with 23 R, 3 HR, 18 RBI, 17 SB to go along with a 13:27 BB to SO Ratio after a slow start to the year for the established Outfielder. If we extrapolate these numbers to a 162 game pace (Career Average is 134 Games since 2014) he is tracking to finish with 96 R, 12 HR, 75 RBI & 71 SB. Those numbers are quite surprising to start the year as last year he finished with a .304/.350/.409 Triple Slash and 93 R, 11 HR, 57 RBI, 22 SB to go with a 49:94 BB to SO Ratio. He has shown signs of positive regression with his RBI and SB numbers this year and is on pace to finish with about the same Runs and Home Runs total. Ender is going to far surpass his record SB total he set last year at 22 as he already has League Leading 17 SB on the year. I see him finishing up with about 40-50 SB this year and maintaining his value as a top 50-75 Fantasy Player however I do not see him finishing as the 28th Overall Ranked Player (10th Ranked OF) in 5x5 Standard Categories Leagues, 35th Overall Ranked Player (16th Ranked OF) in Points Leagues. With a late 2nd to early 3rd round value currently I would see if you could Sell High and get a player that offers more upside like Starling Marte or Tommy Pham. Do what you can to Sell High as he is over performing!
FANTASY GOSPEL TRADE VALUE CHART WEEK 7
Rank # Name Current Value
1 Mike Trout 100
2 Mookie Betts 97
3 Jose Altuve 93
4 Nolan Arenado 92
5 Bryce Harper 92
6 Trea Turner 90
7 Charlie Blackmon 89
8 Manny Machado 88
9 Freddie Freeman 86
10 Carlos Correa 84
11 Paul Goldschmidt 82
12 Kris Bryant 81
13 Max Scherzer 80
14 Chris Sale 79
15 Corey Kluber 78
16 Aaron Judge 77
17 Giancarlo Stanton 76
18 Joey Votto 74
19 Anthony Rizzo 74
20 J.D. Martinez 73
21 Francisco Lindor 72
22 Jose Ramirez 72
23 Gerrit Cole 71
24 Gary Sanchez 70
25 George Springer 70
26 Cody Bellinger 68
27 Clayton Kershaw 67
28 Justin Verlander 67
29 Luis Severino 67
30 Stephen Strasburg 65
31 Noah Syndergaard 67
32 Zack Greinke 65
33 Starling Marte 64
34 Jose Abreu 64
35 Jacob deGrom 63
36 Brian Dozier 63
37 Rhys Hoskins 63
38 A.J. Pollock 62
39 Tommy Pham 62
40 Dee Gordon 60
41 Lorenzo Cain 59
42 Nelson Cruz 59
43 Edwin Encarnacion 58
44 Josh Donaldson 57
45 Carlos Carrasco 57
46 Anthony Rendon 56
47 Jean Segura 55
48 Carlos Martinez 54
49 Christian Yelich 53
50 Aaron Nola 53
- Andrew Benintendi 51
- Didi Gregorius 51
- Justin Upton 50
- Khris Davis 50
- Xander Bogaerts 49
- Yu Darvish 49
- Buster Posey 48
- Joey Gallo 48
- Alex Bregman 47
By: Carl Grove / @cmgrove4
Paul Goldschmidt (1B) - 99% Owned
What in the world is wrong with Paul Goldschmidt? Currently Goldschmidt is batting .210 with only 4 hrs, 2 sb, and 12 rbi. Yes! Thats only 12 rbi through 40 games. Those stats equate to the 344th best player in standard 5x5 root leagues. He is currently not performing anywhere close to where he was taken on draft day and could be considered one of the biggest busts so far this season. When looking at his advanced statistics they seem to be in line with last season and his career norms such as his still high BB% at 15.2%. The alarming numbers to me are Goldy’s K% and his soft contact %(soft%). His K% has jumped all the way to a career high 31.0% while his Soft% has also increased to a career high 22.2%. When looking at his career high K% it is hard to find out the reasons for it because Goldy still a relatively similar contact%, O-Swing%, and SwSt% compared to his career numbers. Due to this I expect his K% to come back down to more of a career norm. Goldschmidts power has also been a big disappointment with only 4 hrs in 40 games. Goldy currently has a .378 SLG, .717 .OPS, and .168 ISO which would all be career lows. When looking at Goldy some of the underlying power numbers are alarming especially with the introduction of the humidor this year and the small sample size of his effects. This being said, I would be looking to buy low on Goldy waiting for a turnaround.
A.J. Pollock (OF) - 98% Owned
Breaking out this year, A.J. Pollock has been carrying the Dbacks offensively batting .301 to go along with 11 hrs, 9 sb, and 33 rbi. This is someone I would be looking to buy high on. I think his success so far this season is sustainable when looking at his statistics. He currently has a .327 BABIP which seems fairly normal when looking at Pollocks profile so big time regression doesn’t seem imminent. A.J. currently has a .336 ISO, .637 SLG, and .995 OPS to show off the power that he’s produced so far this season. Backing up the power that A.J. has shown, is his career high in hard contact with a 45.5% to go along with a career low in soft contact % of 9.8%. So far Pollock has been helping owners in all categories and I expect that to be a trend that continues all season. A.J. was a steal on draft day.
David Peralta (OF) - 69% Owned
Basically the everyday leadoff man for the Dbacks, Peralta has hit to a .296 AVG with, 19 runs, 7 HRs, 21 RBI and 1 SB. Peralta had a brief injury scare where he was hit on the hand by a pitch but luckily avoided a dl stint and was able to rebound and regain his spot atop of the Dbacks lineup. Walking at a career best 11.0% Peralta is able to produce a career best .381OBP. Even without the ability to steal a lot of bases at the top of the lineup he is able to get on base and provide power with 7 HRs so far. The power seems legit from Peralta because his 47.5% Hard contact rate to go along with his .222 ISO. Peralta seems like a solid fantasy option atop of the Dbacks lineup.
Daniel Descalso (1B,2B,3B,OF) - 9% Owned
A big question mark for me with Descalso would be playing time once Jake Lamb comes back in a week but as of now he is producing batting towards to top of the lineup. Currently with only a .265 AVG Descalso has been able to produce 13 runs, 4 HRs, and 19 RBI in 38 games. Descalso big advantage in terms of fantasy is his position ability. That being said Descalso’s numbers might be legit with a .358 OBP and 12.2% BB%. To go along with those numbers is Descalso’s increase in power. Current Descalso has a career best .245 ISO to go along with a best .510 SLG. He is also hitting a career best 42.3% Hard contact rate with only a 15.4% soft contact. Hitting the ball hard while also pulling the ball at a career high 51.3% with a 48.7% FB percent and 24.4% LD percent leads me to believe that Daniel Descalso’s power is legit. Descalso is currently available in the majority of leagues and would be a great stop gap or bench bat in many of those leagues.
By: Michael Yachera | @myach1_91
Seranthony Dominguez (RP; PHI) - 0% owned: "Sir Anthony's" big league promotion flew under the radar four days ago, but Dominguez shouldn't take long to become a fantasy baseball mainstay. He's risen through the minors very quickly since he never pitched above A-ball before 2018, and he ended up pitching in 11 games between AA and AAA before this week's promotion. Armed with a power fastball and a slider, I wouldn't be surprised to see Sir Anthony usurp Hector Neris' role as the closer this season. Neris owns a 3.95 ERA and 1.54 WHIP to go along with 17 K/9 BB in 13.2 IP, but with a 52.5% first pitch strike rate, two losses (1-2 record), and two blown saves in nine opportunities, I can't imagine Neris' leash being too long. I included teammate Victor Arano as someone who could see save opportunities, but Dominguez has sat down all six of the batters he's faced so far since his call up without surrendering a single hit or walk. It's early, but the Phillies are a team with sights on playoffs, so if Hector Neris' falters continue, my money is on Dominguez as long as he continues to carry over the success he's had at AA and AAA this season. We could be looking at the Phillies' closer of the future in Sir Anthony.
Tyler Clippard (RP; TOR) - 49% owned: Clippard appears on the Friday Fliers because the Blue Jays' closer Roberto Osuna was arrested this past Tuesday by police in Toronto for assaulting a woman. In my mind, I wouldn't plan on Osuna returning this season. That brings us to Clippard. On Wednesday, when a save opportunity arose for the Blue Jays, manager John Gibbons elected to use Clippard in the closer's role, who excelled with two strikeouts and a scoreless inning despite allowing a hit. Gibbons used Seung Hwan Oh in the 6th inning, John Axford, and then Ryan Tepera before turning the ninth over to Clippard. After recording his save Wednesday, Tyler Clippard earned a save for his eighth-team, which leads me to believe his manager has enough faith in Clippard that he can remain the Blue Jays' closer for the rest of the season.
Sal Romano (SP; CIN) - 1% owned: With season-long numbers like a 3.83 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 26 K/17 BB in 42.1 IP, it's easy to see why Sal Romano is only 1% owned. In the last two weeks, however, Romano pitched 16 innings, good for a win, 10 K/5 BB, 2.25 ERA, and a 1.13 WHIP. He's coming off his best start of the season on May 9 when he pitched 6 innings, giving up four hits, only one walk to seven strikeouts, and did not allow a home run for the first start in his last 6 starts. His strikeout rate feels too low for someone who can crank their fastball up to 95 mph, but he throws his fastball a whopping 69.9% of the time (changeup: 6.9%/curveball: 23.1%), which explains his measly 4.7% swinging strike rate. What's so appealing about Sal Romano? A strong 24.3% soft contact rate, a nice, low 31.6% hard contact rate, and an elevated fly ball rate this season in relation to his track record as a minor leaguer and in his first 87 IP in the Majors last year. It's very possible Romano's ERA and WHIP get worse (as indicated by his FIP, xFIP, and SIERA), but I also believe it's possible Romano's beginning to figure things out as evidenced by his last two starts. He's never going to blow us away with strikeouts, but if he can keep his walks and home runs down, he's doing enough to provide streamer value with a little room for more upside if he can improve his strikeout rates (approx. 7 K/9 in minors | 7.55 K/9 last season).
Alen Hanson (2B, OF; SF) - 15% owned: A player I just added to my roster earlier this week, Allen Hanson was once a well-known prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. Traded to the Giants in 2017, Hanson tore the cover off the ball in Triple-A this year to the tune of 3 HR, 9 RBI, 17 runs, and 6 SB in only 71 PA (18 games played). During this tiny sample size, Hanson's ISO was .258. In 11 games played for the Giants this season, Hanson owns a .263 ISO. In the past two weeks, Hanson is 11-41 (.268) with 3 HR, 11 RBI, 6 runs scored, and 2 SB in addition to his game Thursday in which he went 1-3 with a 2-run HR. He's only hitting 15.6% of balls softly, and his 34.4% hard contact rate is by far and away a career-best (previous best 21.3% in 2017). With only a 9.4% line drive rate, the regression that will hit Hanson's fly ball rate shouldn't severely limit his production. His .268 BABIP in his disastrous 2017 (.221/.262/.346) is nearly identical to this season's .267, so I believe Hanson has really turned a corner and represents a tremendous power-speed flier that is worth a speculative add until Joe Panik returns in case the Giants are forced to keep Hanson's bat in the lineup if he keeps this up.
Daniel Palka (1B, OF; CHW) - 1% owned: On May 4, 2018, Phil Miller of the Star Tribune (Minnesota) wrote an article about Dan Palka that is hard to ignore (link). To summarize, the Minnesota Twins' assistant hitting coach Rudy Hernandez helped Daniel Palka learn that he could "wait a split-second longer to recognize breaking balls, take them the opposite way, and still ratain his home run power while cutting down strikeouts" while playing in Venezuela last October. Palka was cut from the Twins 40-man, but the White Sox claimed him and called him up on April 24 when Avisail Garcia hit the DL. In his last two weeks, Palka is hitting 11-35 (.314) with 3 HR, 9 RBI, 6 runs scored, and even stole a base! The batting average won't be that high normally (.263 in the last week), but he's got a .615 SLG in 11 games this season and only a .286 BABIP, so it's difficult for me to see much regression. He's not walking (2.5% as member of White Sox), but his 20.0% strikeout rate is a marked improvement over his minor league career strikeout rate (approximately 27%), which makes adding Daniel Palka very appealing if I'm looking to shuffle the end of my bench for a player who can provide decent average with a ton of power. It also doesn't hurt playing at Guaranteed Rate Field, a ball park that yielded the seventh most HR in MLB last season according to ESPN's Ball Park Factors. Don't wait too long to add Palka is you prefer to take a wait-and-see approach with him this next week.
Sell High Wednesday - 5/9/18
By: Brandon Dombrowski | @Dombro23
In Week 6 we are starting to see a lot of the Highly Ranked Preseason Players come on strong and quite a few relaity checks for players who started the year Hot. Let's take a look at some players who are newcomers to the Top 50 as well as some players who have yet to regress from their Hot Starts.
Nick Markakis OF ATL - We may as well call Nick Markakis the Iron Man of Baseball. Since 2006 he has only missed 107 out of 2,106 games total in his Career. In those 13 years he has never been known to be an Elite Top Round Fantasy Asset but he boasts Career Averages of .288/.359/.424 with 76 R, 13 HR, 69 RBI, 5 SB & a 60:83 BB to SO Ratio. So far this year he is Ranked #25 in Points and #39 in Categories Leagues with a stat line of .333/.417/.533 with 21 R 6 HR, 25 RBI, 0 SB, and a 20:13 BB to SO Ratio. He also is currently Tied for 6th in Hits with 45 and is the first time in his long tenured Career that he has been able to produce a BB% higher than his K% (12.8 BB vs. 8.3% K - Career Average is 9.6% BB vs. 13.2% K). Markakis is well outperforming his Career Lines and I believe he is due for some Major Regression in the coming months. See what you can do about getting a Top 50 Caliber Player in return for him. Sell High.
Matt Adams 1B, OF WSH - When we think of the Washington National's best players, Matt Adams wouldn't even be mentioned among the Top-5, but in the last two weeks Matt Adams has been arguably the team's MVP: 17-41 (.415) with 8 HR, 20 RBI, and 14 runs scored. Coming off a resurgent season in 2017 (20 HR, 65 RBI, .841 OPS), Adams is someone you want to flip ASAP. His 40.4% hard contact rate represents a career-best, but he's only had a 40+% hard contact rate once in his previous six seasons. He's also hitting the ball at a career best soft contact rate (10.5%), but that rate is noticeably below his 14.5% career mark. Further supporting expected regression is his other-worldly 41.7% HR/FB rate (career 15%) and career-best 28.1% ground ball rate (career 37.3%). Adams' fly ball rates from 2017 (42.7%) and this season (42.1%) tell me that his 2018 line drive rate of 29.8% is what will be converted into groundballs. His career 21.2% LD% is actually better than last season's 18.4% rate, so I wouldn't be surprised to see less line drives and a lot more groundballs in Adams future and, in turn, his ownership tag take a tumble. Ranked #44 overall in standard Yahoo 5x5 categories leagues, it's hard to see his value getting any higher, making Adams the perfect sell-high player to a manager dealing with a litany of injuries. For those Matt Adams owners attempting to sell high, you can use Adams' career-best walk rate (14.9%) to try to inflate his value during negotiations, and I would be targeting a buy low type of player who is starting slowly (Jay Bruce, Kyle Seager, or Justin Smoak for example).
Chad Bettis SP COL - It's never an easy thing to sell a Colorado Rockies pitcher to another manager, but in the case of Chad Bettis, he's actually had tremendous success so far this season. On the surface, his 4-1 record and 2.05 ERA and 1.05 WHIP are quite impressive, but the reason behind his hot start is obvious: 10.2 IP at home compared to 33.1 IP on the road. When pitching anywhere but Colorado in 2018, Bettis owns a flashy 1.35 ERA and 0.99 WHIP. At home, however, his ERA jumps up to 4.22 to go with a 1.22 WHIP. More concerning, perhaps, is that he is below average in several categories: 8.6% swinging strike rate (league average 10.6%/career average 8.7%), 5.52 K/9 (league average 8.69 K/9 | 5.83 in 2017), .224 BABIP (league average .292/career average .308). That BABIP is probably due for more regression simply because Bettis pitches in Colorado, and his peripherals only support his status as a sell-high player (4.14 FIP/5.53 xFIP/4.86 SIERA). When you're shopping Bettis, just keep your expectations in check, but we're deep enough into the season that a manager may believe he's not a fluke. Finally, don't hesitate to include Bettis as a "throw-in" to sweeten a deal if it means you will be able to land the player you want since Bettis can't pitch any better than he has to this point in 2018.
Setup Men and Speculative Saves
By: Carl Grove / @cmgrove4
Chris Devenski (RP, HOU) - 53% Owned
Devenski is already a proven fantasy commodity coming off of an extremely productive 2017 in which he posted 8 wins, 4 saves, 2.68 ERA, .942 WHIP, and 100 Ks. So far this season he has improved upon those numbers posting a 1.29 ERA with a .929 WHIP. To go along with the elite ratios are 1 win and 2 saves. Devenski has slightly improved on his K/9, BB/9, and cut his HR/9 in half compared to last season. When you look at his peripherals Devenski has a 2.58 FIP, 2.68 xFIP, and 2.41 SIERA. To go along with Devenski’s elite production is the fact that the Astros have been mixing saves with Giles having 3, Devenski with 2, and Brad Peacock with 1. I still believe that Ken Giles will finish the year as the Astros saves leader but with Devenski’s elite ratios and potential for wins, saves, and Ks he should be owned in the majority of leagues.
Nate Jones (RP, CWS) - 30% Owned
Health is always an issue for Nate Jones having only pitched a full season once in his prior 3 seasons. That being said, Nate Jones has the talent and I believe is the White Sox best relief pitcher. Currently, Jones has 1 save on the year compared to the current closer Joakim Soria with 4. Nate Jones also has 2 wins to go along with a 2.03 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. Coming into the season I thought Nate Jones was going to be the closer for the White Sox and by years end I think that will happen. Jones has the ability to strikeout batters with a 10.13 K/9 and 14.7 SwSt%.
Kyle Barraclough (RP, MIA) - 29% Owned, Drew Steckenrider (RP, MIA) - 10% Owned
Brad Ziegler has struggled as the Marlins closer even without blowing a save this season. He currently has a 6.28 ERA with a 1.40 WHIP and the inability to strike batters out with a 6.91 K/9. I would be looking first at Kyle Barraclough as the next in line if a change in closer was to happen followed by Drew Steckenrider. Kyle Barraclough has 1 save with a 1.84 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. Kyle Barraclough has the ability to strike batters out with a 13.8 SwSt% and 14.11 K/9. Drew Steckenrider also has the ability to make bats miss with a 12.0 SwSt% and 12.38 K/9. To go with the swing and miss in his game is a 1.13 ERA and .75 WHIP. Drew Steckenrider is a relief pitcher who can help with ratios while also accumulating Ks and potentially wins with 1 so far this season. If i was speculating saves first I would go with Barraclough but if I was looking for ratio help similar to what an Andrew Miller or Archie Bradley might do than Steckenrider would be my add.
By: Michael Yachera | @myach1_91
Jurickson Profar (SS, OF; TEX) - 3% owned
After going 1-2 on Thursday with 2 runs and an RBI-triple, Profar has really piqued my interest of late. Since smacking a 2-run home run on April 28, all the former top prospect has done is produce: 7-23 (.304) with 5 runs, 1 HR, and 7 RBI. Still only 25, Jurickson Profar's triple slash line now stands at .244/.350/.384 across 27 games, and despite the limited production so far, his on-base rate is very impressive. He will see everyday at-bats until Elvis Andrus returns from injury, but if Profar continues hitting the way he has in the past week, the Rangers will have to find a way to keep his bat in the lineup. Last season in Triple-A, Profar showed well by slashing .287/.383/.428 in 383 PA (87 games) to along with 7 HR, 50 runs scored, 45 RBI, and 5 SB, so I believe we could be seeing similar production from Profar this season, at least in the short-term. He's hit third in the Rangers order in three of the teams' last four games, and if that becomes a trend I am even more interested in Profar. The ceiling we once knew is long gone, but I still believe that Jurickson Profar can regain fantasy relevance in the short-term and, hopefully, as a dependable super utility player once Andrus is activated from the disabled list.
Robinson Chirinos (C; TEX) - 13% owned
Continuing the Rangers theme, Robinson Chirinos has also really swung a hot bat of late. Since April 23, he's gone 8-27 (.296) with 4 HR, 5 runs scored, and 6 RBI (7 games). Chirinos is one of my favorite under the radar catchers and he's got plenty of power to offer, coming off a career-best 17 HR and .255/.360/.506 slash line in 88 games last season, but durability is a very real concern. In fact, in his six seasons prior to 2018, Chirinos never played more than 93 games. Playing in Arlington compliments his power, so add him now if you are in need of a catcher. Ride the hot streak until his wheels fall off, and who knows, maybe this is the season he sets a career-high in games played. Being the first catcher to ever appear on the "Friday Fliers" article should indicate how aggressively I would be adding Chirinos if I needed to drop my current catcher for a new one.
Jeremy Hellickson (SP; WAS) - 3% owned
Coming off 5.2 scoreless innings with four strikeouts against the Pirates, Hellickson only allowed three hits and no walks, improving his season numbers to 3.00 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 13 K/4 BB across 21 IP. He only threw 61 pitches in that outing, and yesterday represented his longest outing of his first four starts. It's far from ideal to roster a pitcher who you can't rely on to pitch deep into games, especially one who has below average strikeout ability like Hell Boy does (5.57 K/9), but pitching on the Nationals gives him much better defense and run support. With two starts on tap for Hellcikson next week, he's definitely worth taking a flier on as he hopes to build up his pitch count. Matchups against the Padres and D'Backs may be daunting, but Hellickson represents a quality streamer (and possibly more) for several reasons: 1) 71.6% first strike pitch rate (previous career-high 63.8%); 2) only a 31.3% hard contact rate (career 29.8%); and 3) a 25% soft contact rate that ranks 20th out of 136 starting pitchers with at least 20 IP (20.8% in 2016). There's certainly regression in his profile, but I'm cautiously optimistic the regression won't hit that hard after looking at his pitch usage. Last season, Hell Boy threw his sinker 26.2% of the time and his curveball 12.7% of the time. This season, in contrast, we're seeing his sinker only 15.4% of the time while he's upped his curveball usage to 22.1% (career-high). The early returns are encouraging (career-best BB/9 & WHIP), so this will be a big week for Hellickson and his bid for a return to fantasy relevance and the back end of your rotation. Among the middling two-start pitchers for Week 6, Hellickson is one of the safer bets, in my opinion, so don't be afraid to give the former Rookie of the Year a look if you need to add an arm for the upcoming week.
Darren O'Day (RP; BAL) - 12% owned
It wouldn't be a true Friday Fliers article if I didn't include a relief pitcher who could earn some save opportunities in the near future. With that being said, come on down, Darren O'Day! Here's a quick look at what he's doing: 11.37 K/9 (career-best), 1.42 BB/9 (career-best), and 16 K/2 BB to go with his 3.55 ERA and 0.95 WHIP. With Brad Brach in the picture, it's fair to assume you're wondering, "Why Darren O'Day?" Last Sunday, after Kevin Gausman exited his start in the sixth inning vs. the Tigers with a two run lead, it was Brad Brach who was summoned to finish the sixth and seventh innings. Mychal Givens acted as the the bridge to the ninth inning, where one Darren O'Day struck out two of the three batters he faced to secure his second save of the season. Two days later, and the last time Brad Brach pitched, he took the loss against the Angels in the ninth inning when asked to preserve the tie. He failed to record an out, though, and in the meltdown he allowed three hits, one walk, and an earned run. Brach's season-long 6.55 ERA, 2.00 WHIP, and 13 K/7 BB are hard to look at, and when O'Day pitched last night, he was used in the ninth inning while Givens was used in the fourth inning. My guess is O'Day will be called upon for the majority of save opportunities until the Orioles get their all-star closer Zach Britton back in the next month or so because of both Brach's most recent struggles and Givens' fluid usage.
Sell High Wednesday - 5/2/18
By: Brandon Dombrowski | @Dombro23
Week 5 has arrived! It's sell High Wednesday here at The Fantasy Gospel HQ and we are going to look at (3) Guys you should look to Sell High!
Asdrubal Cabrera 2B, SS, 3B NYM - Asdrubal has had a flaming hot start to the Year posting a .337 / .388 / .567 Triple Slash Line to go along with 20 R, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 0 SB and a 18 to 9 SO to BB Ratio. He is also sporting his highest ISO (.231) and BABiP (.361) ever in his 11 Year MLB Career compared to his average ISO (.152) and BABiP (.309). Cabrera's Career Averages are around .271/.332/.423/ to go along with 62 R, 13 HR, 57 RBI, 8 SB and a 1006 SO to 445 BB Ratio. He is currently putting up solid Mid-3rd Round Value in Standard Categories Leagues (36th Overall) and in Points Leagues (32nd Overall). If I owned Asdrubal I would float some offers out to see if you could get a player with a higher floor as you never know when the bottom is going to fall out from his great start. I would try to get a guy like Jose Ramirez who started out slow but has come on very strong of late and has similar eligibility if you are willing to drop the SS tag. Sell High.
Rick Porcello, SP BOS - Rick Porcello has been very impressive to begin the 2018 Year and is reminding everyone why he Won a Cy Young in 2016. He currently is rocking a cool 2.23 ERA, .84 WHIP, 2.06 FIP, 3.16 SIERRA to go along with a 0.9 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and a stellar 0.2 HR/9. SHEESH. When comparing these stats to his 2016 CY Young year his ERA, WHIP, FIP, H/9, HR/9, BB/9 are all considerably lower and his SO/9 is up. What do we make of this? Is he back to his old form? When we dive deeper into his Career Averages you will find a 4.21 ERA, 1.306 WHIP, 3.98 WHIP, 4.01 SIERA, 1.0 HR/9, 2.0 BB/9 and a 6.4 SO/9. Although I expect him to regress closer to his Career Averages, you need to give him some respect as he has been able to post a 9.1% Swinging Strike Percentage (Career Avg. 7.8%) and keep his HR to FB Percentage down at 2.6% (Career Avg. 11.7%). Sell High and see if you can get good value return on this ex CY Young if the deal is sweet enough.
Johhny Cueto, SP SF - Historically, Johnny has been an amazing pitcher in this league in 2008 with the Reds and has elite Swing and Miss ability few SP's have. He has been a Godsend so far this year for owners producing a 10.3% Swinging Strike Percentage (Career Avg. 9.4%), 3.73 SIERA (Career Avg. 3.87), 2.79 FIP (Career Avg. 3.75) and a spectacular 3.3% HR to FB Percentage (Career Avg. 10.1%). As of yesterday afternoon (May 1st) Johnny landed on the DL with Elbow inflammation and there is no news out as of right now that points to this being extremely serious. As an owner, I would have been trying to Sell High and use his 0.84 ERA, 0.688 WHIP to help convince other owners to bite. With him landing on the DL it makes his value go down slightly but if there is a way you can manage to Sell High on this start while getting a SP that is returning similar value to Cueto (Late 2nd Early 3rd Round Value) then pull the trigger!
By: Michael Yachera | @myach1_91
Jesus Aguilar (1B, MIL) - 3% owned
Aguilar appears here because of the injury suffered by the Brewers' slugger Eric Thames (torn UCL in thumb). Coming off a career year in 2017 where he finished with 16 HR and 52 RBI in only 311 PA (133 games), Aguilar improved his 30%+ strikeout rate in 2016 and 2017 incrementally before this year's huge improvement of 11.6%. His high BABIP is fueled by his 29.4% ground ball rate, but his line drive rate is 29.4% and was 21.3% last season, so regression shouldn't hit his line drive rate too hard. Further, his 41.2% fly-ball rate this year is sustainable, to me, as it was 37.7% and stands at 36.9% for his career. His 7.1% HR/FB rate is more than 10% below his career mark, so the power should definitely show up sooner than later. It's also worth mentioning that Aguilar cut his SwStr% down to 9.2% this season, which is a great development from his 14.5% SwStr% in last year's breakout season. His contact rate is 81.9% so far, greatly improved from 2017 (68.8%), and with more consistent at-bats for the next couple of months, I like Aguilar a lot in leagues where I can make daily lineup changes in the event he sits.
CJ Cron (1B, TB) - 18% owned
CJ Cron has been picking up some momentum in deeper leagues for good reason. In his first 21 games, Cron's recorded 5 HR, 15 RBI, 9 runs scored, and a .268/.315/.500 triple slash. I'm buying his hot start for several reasons. First, his BABIP is a sustainable .315 (career .299), so his .268 AVG should hold steady (career .262). Second, Cron's line drive rate is actually down a lot from last season (16.9% in '18 vs. 22.8% in '17), which makes me expect positive regression in his LD% (career 20.8%). Finally, after hitting fourth for 14 games this season, Cron moved up to the second spot ever since April 20 and has a 1.089 OPS since being bumped up in the order. He comes with some contact concerns, specifically outside out the zone, and he doesn't walk much, but he's worth a utility spot for teams dealing with injuries and offers some rest of season appeal as well (career-best .232 ISO & SLG).-
Albert Almora Jr. (OF, CHC) - 5% owned
Since April 19 vs. the St. Louis Cardinals, Albert Almora has led off for every one of the Cubs' seven games game through April 26 (Thursday) and has hit .344 with 4 RBI and seven runs scored. He's upped his slash to .310/.365/.466 as of this writing, so wise managers should add Almora Jr. now in case he sticks as the everyday lead off man for a high-powered offense that hasn't found their stride yet. For now, so far so good.
Josh Fields (RP, LAD) -7% owned
With a hideous 5.59 ERA, 1.55 WHIP and 3 HR allowed in his first 9.2 IP (5 HR in 68.1 IP in 2017), one has to wonder if a phantom DL stint is in store for Kenlsey Jansen if he continues to give up as many hits and runs as he has to begin the year. Enter Josh Fields, who secured a save for the Dodgers on April 23 when Jansen was unavailable due to pitching back-to-back nights the days before. Fields has a 11.45 K/9, 2.45 BB/9, and 10.7% SwStr%, and his 0.82 ERA is backed by his 14 K/3 BB ratio, 0.91 WHIP and 1.46 FIP.I've been seeing a lot of Tony Cingrani adds being made lately, but I believe it will be Josh Fields stepping in as closer in the even the Dodgers place Jansen on the DL, which would give Josh Fields great short-term value.
Mike Soroka (SP, ATL) - 3% owned
After giving up three hits and three walks across seven scoreless innings on April 23 for Triple-A Gwinnett, per Rotoworld, "...recent comments from Atlanta's brass suggest that he's 'close' to being ready at the MLB level." A first rounder in the 2015 draft, Soroka offers a safe strikeout floor (9.53 K/9 in Triple-A) and has shown tremendous control throughout his minor league career (1.99 BB/9 in Double & Triple-A). Soroka hasn't allowed a HR yet this season, and he gave up 13 in total across 296 IP between A and AA ball in 2016 and 2017. He's humming along this season to a 1.99 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and 24 K/5 BB ratio in 22.2 IP this season, and after throwing 143 innings in 2015 and 153.2 IP last season, I expect Soroka to be able to handle at least 165 IP this season between Triple-A and the Majors. If you have the room, I suggest adding Mike Soroka since he's the starting pitching prospect I expect to be called up the soonest.
Addison Reed (RP, MIN) - 30% owned
I have to give a heads up about Addison Reed, as Fernando Rodney blew his third straight save as I was writing this on April 26. As a result of this terrible trifecta, Rodney's ERA jumps to 6.75 to go with his 2.10 WHIP. Meanwhile, Addison Reed secured a hold in the same game after pitching the seventh inning with a strikeout (allowed ER on an Aaron Hicks sac fly). The Twins now sit at 8-12 and presumably have playoff aspirations, so I wouldn't be surprised to see them make a switch in the near future if Rodney doesn't show well in his next couple of appearances. Addison Reed is a former closer, and he's secured a 40 save campaign in his career, so he's a logical choice for the Twins to annoint as the heir to Rodney's closer role. Reed has a reliable 60.4% first strike pitch rate, as well as a healthy 12.2% swinging strike rate, and his 12 K/3 BB ratio (12 IP) plays in his favor should the Twins demote Rodney. This is a situation worth monitoring closely, in my opinion, as Reed could finish with 20+ saves if he soon becomes the Twins' closer.
Buy Lows - 4/24/18
By: Carl Grove / @cmgrove4
Welcome to Week 4 of fantasy baseball. Hope everyones team is crushing it so far this season. Today we will be looking into some buy low targets to help your team keep up the dominance.
Joey Votto (CIN) 1B - One of the most consistent fantasy players across his career, Joey Votto is off to an extremely slow start with a .247 avg. To go a lot with that below Votto like average is only 2 runs scored and 7 rbi through 91 plate appearances. That being said, Votto’s K% is still a low 13.2% which is exactly the same as his BB%. With a 1.00 BB/K he is producing a .352 OBP which would be the worst in his career.He is also sporting a .288 BABIP which would be the lowest in his career. I expect that to improve as the season goes on because as the season heats up so does Votto. When looking at his career splits he starts slower and improves each month throughout the year. He has a career .312 avg. Buy low on Joey Votto if his manager is panicking
Francisco Lindor (CLE) SS - The Cleveland Indians as a whole are off to an extremely slow start offensively producing the 26th most runs this season compared to 7th in 2017. Francisco Lindor has definitely been a factor in the slow start with a slash line of .224/.290/.353. All 3 of those would be by far the lowest in Lindor’s 4 year career. Last year Lindor broke out in terms of power hitting 33 HRs to go along with 15 steals. To go along with the HRs and SBs he has scored 99 runs the previous 2 seasons. So far this season he only has 2 HRs but still has 4 SBs and if you project that out to 150 game sample that would be 15 HRs and 30 SBs with him being in a slump. With a 40% hard contact and only 16.5% soft this season I am actively trying to buy Lindor if possible.
Chris Archer (TB) SP - So far extremely disappointing with a 6.59 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP. Yes, thats a 6.59 ERA so far for Chris Archer. Archer has yet to reach the 7 inning mark in any of his first 5 starts. This is a guy who has thrown over 200 innings the previous 3 seasons and the season before that was at 194.2. To go along with the previous 3 seasons his lowest strikeout total was 233 Ks. Consistently going over 200 plus innings and 230 Ks Chris Archer seems extremely safe in Points leagues. His K% is down by 5% this season compared to last season but he has improved his Swinging Strike%. With slightly more swings and misses this season I expect his K% to improve. Also with a 4.64 FIP, 3.77 xFIP, and 3.78 SIERA its safe to say that his 6.59 ERA will improve as well. Buy Chris Archer.
By: Michael Yachera | @myach1_91
Andrew Heaney (SP, LAA) - 7% owned
Andrew Heaney's body is the only thing truly holding him back from fulfilling his Top-10 potential (9th overall in 2012 Draft). He underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2016 after making only one start, but his return to the mound in 2017 raised some eyebrows. In 2015, and across 105.2 IP, Heaney registered a 6.64 K/9 rate, which was in line with his 2015 rate (6.14K/9). Last season, however, his K/9 leapt up to 11.22 K/9, but this development was eclipsed by his 12 HR in 21.2 IP, which qualifies as an outlier for Heaney (career 1.56 HR/9). Wise managers would see his 7.06 ERA wasn't well-deserved; a contention supported by his 4.37 xFIP and 4.05 SIERA. In his first start, Heaney struck out seven batters while only walking one, giving him a career-best 12.6 K/9 rate on the season as of this writing. In his High-A tune-up for his 2018 debut, Heaney threw up six strikeouts to only one walk, so I am very interested in seeing whether Heaney can return to or improve on his 2.42 BB/9 career mark (1.80 BB/9 in 2018). With the increased K/9 rate, above average SwStr% (12.6% or better since 2016), and refined control, Heaney looks poised to take a step forward in his long-anticipated development. He pitched under 40 innings last season, so he's likely going to be handled with care this year, but as long as he's healthy I'm intrigued. Add him ahead of his start against the San Francisco Giants tonight, if possible.
Victor Arano (RP, PHI) - 2% owned
This flier is for deep leaguers and managers looking for tidy ratios, but he could end up being a waiver wire darling in 2018 if Hector Neris' grip on the closer role ever loosens. Interesting note: Neris was removed from the closer role last season under then-manager Pete Mackanin, and even if he was re-instituted as the closer, I believe the Phillies now have a better option in their bullpen to close. Enter Victor Arano: the 23 year old righty faced 25 hitters this season and retired all 25. 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP, and 9K/0BB in 8.1 IP so far with a 22.6% SwStr% and 11.05 K/9. Not sustainable, you're thinking? Last season, in 10.2 IP, Arano finished with 10.97 K/9 and 19.2% SwStr% and is sporting 0.65 FIP, 1.28 xFIP, and 0.88 SIERA so far this year. With a track record of tremendous control, limiting HR, and significantly better first pitch strike rate compared to Neris this season, I wouldn't be surprised to see Arano's ownership numbers steadily rise this season as Neris's career-worst walk rate (4.05 BB/9) and second-worst 1.35 HR/9 mark give first year manager Gabe Kapler even more reason to contemplate demoting Neris once and for all. Neris, 5.40 ERA and 1.35 WHIP, has one blown save already and maintains a 8K/3BB ratio through 6.2 IP. For owners speculating for future closers later this season, Arano makes for a tremendous flier and will offer very strong ratio help in the short-term.
Teoscar Hernandez (OF, TOR) - 27% owned
When asked about Teoscar Hernandez's roster status on Thursday, manager Jay Gibbons,was noncommittal, per Rotoworld. While Gibbons admitted he doesn't think Hernandez has anything left to prove in Triple-A, Kendrys Morales is set to be activated from the DL today, putting Toronto in a bit of a pickle. Randal Grichuk cannot be optioned anymore, so the Blue Jays would have to carry five outfielders potentially (Grandson, Pillar, Grichuk, Pearce, and Hernandez) in order to keep Hernandez on the big league team, but that would make consistent at-bats difficult for him. Teoscar Hernandez's .421/.450/.842 triple slash with 1 HR, 6 RBI, 4 runs scored, and 1 SB in only 4 games this season isn't as incredible when you consider his 26 game cameo last season after being traded to the Blue Jays in which he smoked opposing pitchers for 8 HR, 20 RBI, 16 runs scored, and a .908 OPS (.602 SLG) in 95 plate appearances (26 games). He also stole 33 bases across 123 games in 2013, and finished with 16 SB in 105 games last season in Triple-A, so he's more than a one trick pony. I recommended Hernandez in last week's "Week 3 Preview" podcast, and his ownership more than quadrupled since that time. If Hernandez is given regular at-bats going forward, he is a must add for his power/speed upside as long as he's hitting second in what's been an unexpectedly productive Blue Jays offense. Friday will be a big day for Hernandez.
Jeimer Candelario (3B, DET) - 7% owned
On April 13, I told our listeners on our Weekend Primer podcast to add Candelario as a stopgap for Josh Donaldson and since then, he's hit 9-17 with 3 HR, 6 RBI, and 3 runs scored while hitting second in the Detroit Tiger's batting order. Why is Candelario worth an add? Last season he connected on pitches outside the zone at a 56% rate (142 PA across 38 games), but he's upped that mark to 67.2% in 2018 and is making more contact overall. With a .284/.360/.537 triple slash to date and profile calling for improvement (.302 BABIP vs. .351 BABIP in 2017), Candelario is worth an add in medium and deep leagues as a potential rest of season utility or corner infield bat. He's blazing hot right now with three consecutive multi-hit games and homers in each of his last two, so managers skeptical of him due to his slow start should give this 24 year old switch hitter a second chance as one of the Tigers' pieces of the future begins his first full season in the Majors. Strikeouts are a part of his game, but Candelario offers walk rates close to 10% and will have a dependable batting average to go along with his career-best .222 ISO this season. Add and enjoy.
Sell High Wednesday - 4/18/18
By: Brandon Dombrowski | @Dombro23
Welcome to Week 3! It's sell High Wednesday and today we will be looking at a few players - two of which are tearing it up in the BAY AREA. Let's get into it:
Jed Lowrie 2B OAK - Jed has turned back the clock to start the 2018 Year. He currently is posting a .357/.407/.595 triple slash line to go along with 9 R, 18 RBI (League Leader), 5 HR, 0 SB, 7:15 Walk to Strikeout Ratio and a 1.002 OPS. Being a journeyman in this League, he has not batted over .300 in his Career and the last time he was close was in 2013 with a .290 BA. He has only stolen 7 total Bags in his CAREER. With this Hot Streak a smart owner would do whatever they can to shop and try to get their hands on any Player with Top 100 Potential. The J Man is returning 1st-2nd Round value and that is going to be good enough to turn some heads in Trade Talks. Sell High.
Javier Baez 2B, SS CHC - El Mago is off to a scorching start sporting a .235/.339/.667 triple slash line to go along with 12 R, 5 HR, 16 RBI, 1 SB , 6:13 Walk to Strikeout Ratio and a 1.006 ops. He has been returning late 2nd to Early 3rd Round value so far this year which is well above his 10th to 11th Round value just 4 weeks ago. El Mago has managed to improve his plate discipline and is Striking Out WAY less than last year so far. He has managed to already get 6 walks on the young year which puts him on pace for somewhere between 55-60 walks which is just under the total for his Career so far (64 in 1267 Plate Appearances since 2014). Yes, El Mago may have improved in the offseason, there is no doubt about that, but there is no way he will continue putting up the current value he is posting at the current moment. Sell High where you can if it means getting back a Top 50 caliber player in return.
Sean Manaea SP OAK - Last year, Sean Manaea was a name a lot of people were anointing as the Oakland A's next "Ace". Fast Forward one year and you can begin to see why people were so high to begin with. He has been able to muster a 1.63 ERA and .72 WHIP to go along with a 4 Walks to 20 Strikeouts. His HR/9 is up to 1.3 from last years 1.0 and his SO/9 is down from 7.9 to 6.5. Another cause for concern is his FIP is at 4.03 which is right along the lines of his Career FIP at 4.08. All of this and yet he is till ranked as a Top 10 SP in Fantasy this year so far in 4 Starts. I would do what you could to float some offers out for any of the High Tier Arms such as Corey Kluber, Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale, Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander, . If you fail to get a bite from any of those SP's in the tier below you will find Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Jameson Taillon, Jose Berrios and Luis Severino all of which I would take over Sean Manaea. In summary - see what you can do to move him but don't be surprised if you start to see his numbers slip back down to his Career averages of a 3.92 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. Sell High.
Slow Starts - Buy Low Monday 4/16/18
By: Carl Grove / @cmgrove4
Starting on Mondays, I will be looking into guys that are underperforming or off to slow starts in which I am targeting via trade. There are many candidates that fall under this category because of the smaller sample size and being so early in the season. I expect many of these guys to break out of there slump in a big way.
Edwin Encarnacion (CLE) 1B - Edwin Encarnacion is off to an extremely slow start this season having only 7 hits through 48 at bats which comes out to a .146 avg. Many Edwin investors are probably extremely frustrated with this slow start especially having invested so highly on draft day. Unfortunately, Encarnacion regularly starts slow with March and April being his worst months in terms of batting avg, obp, slg, and ops. As the weather heats up so does Edwin with June being his best month of baseball. Last year after the first month Edwin had a .200 avg but was able to finish with a .258 avg. That being said, most investors did not draft Edwin for his batting average but instead for his power and rbi potential. This season he already has 3 homeruns with one being fairly impressive because it was inside the park. Edwin currently has a .138 Babip which would be a career low by a wide margin. He also currently has a 34.4% hard contact rate which is slightly above his career average. In conclusion, I think that Edwin’s slow start is a common occurrence and this season’s can be linked to bad luck especially when looking at his Babip. Now is the time to buy.
Matt Carpenter (StL) 1B,2B,3B - Coming off a disappointing 2017 season it is discouraging to see Carpenter off to such a slow start in 2018. In 2017 Carpenter dealt with many injuries in which he was able to play through one being his shoulder. Than coming into spring Carpenter was shut down for a little with back and shoulder soreness. The minor injuries are definitely a concern when drafting Carpenter but he says he has put them behind him coming into the season. Carpenter currently has a .207 Babip which would be a career low meaning that some of the disappointment and lack of production could be due to bad luck. He currently has a career high 22.6% walk rate. With such a high walk rate Matt Carpenter is able to produce a .355 obp with only a .174 avg. When Carpenter does make contact he is able to make good contact with a career best 6.5% soft contact. To go along with that he has a LD(line drive)% and FB(fly ball)% that is slightly above his career average. Everything considered Matt Carpenter is better in points league than in categories leagues because of his plate discipline but this is someone I would be trying to obtain everywhere due to his position eligibility.
Yu Darvish (ChC) SP - It has been a disappointing start for the newest member of the Chicago Cubs who is coming off of a horrible World Series showing. When looking at his first 3 starts Yu has an unusable 6.00 ERA to go along with a 1.53 WHIP while pitching more than 5 innings only once. However, Yu has still been able to get 17 Ks in those 15 innings so far. That comes out to 10.20 K/9. The bigger concerns are his 4.20 BB/9 and 1.80 HR/9 which would both be career highs. Yu also has the worst 21.4% HR/FB ratio in his career. I expect most of these numbers to normalize closer to his career marks. That being said, Yu is inducing the highest soft contact % in his career while also inducing his second lowest hard contact %. When looking only at his 3rd start this year Yu was on cruise control til the 5th inning in which he seemingly melted down after a balk giving up all 4 runs in that inning. Yu even stated “after the balk, I was thrown off-guard. It went downhill from there.” Yu seems to be struggling so far with his new team and with his next scheduled start coming in Coors Field the struggles might continue. In conclusion, I believe now is the time to buy into Darvish who has shown some of his upside in his start at Milwaukee.
By: Michael Yachera | @myach1_91
Every Friday this season, I will be identifying several players that are floating on the majority of leagues’ waiver wires that I believe are worth a speculative add. Their value may only be short-lived or it may be for the remainder of the season. Either way, these are going to be players I would take fliers on in my own leagues, so I’m not just endorsing guys I have no serious interest in. At this point so early in the season there are more than a handful of fliers that I want to stash away on my teams, which makes this first installment challenging for me, but I’m going to limit myself to two bats and two arms. Ownership levels are according to Yahoo! Get ready to soar with these fliers:
Jose Peraza (CIN) 2B, SS - 27% owned
It only took 72 games for Jose Peraza in 2016 to set the fantasy baseball world ablaze: a .324/.352/.411 triple slash line to go along with 21 stolen bases and 25 runs scored. His follow-up performance in 2017 extinguished the spark he ignited, but I believe there’s some hope for him this season with Eugenio Suarez’s injury opening up at-bats for Peraza. The first thing that stands out to me about Peraza in 2018 is that out of 198 qualifiers, Peraza’s 38.7% soft contact rate is the third worst in the league. How bad is it in relation to Jose Peraza’s numbers? Try a career 25% soft contact rate. Add in his measly 12.9% hard contact rate (fifth lowest in the league) vs. his career hard contact rate of 20.6% and I believe there’s much more production to come. Zero walks (0!) is certainly concerning in 39 plate appearances, but that should improve while his strikeout rate (20.5%) calls for regression when compared to his career 13.5% mark. Finally, his .027 ISO is lower so far than it was in ‘16 and ‘17 (.087 & .066, respectively), so even though you aren’t adding him for his home runs, there are strides to be made as far as power goes. With back-to-back 20+ SB seasons under his belt heading into 2018, Peraza is already on pace to record his first ever 30+ SB campaign this year. With as many as 64 SB in a single season (2013), it’s the speed that will make Peraza relevant once again for fantasy owners as long as he’s seeing the everyday at-bats he is and hitting second in the Reds lineup.
Kole Calhoun (LAA) OF - 26% owned
How Calhoun ownership is this low, I’ll never understand. In 13 games so far this season (58 PA), Calhoun’s managed to produce 1 HR, 9 RBI, 10 runs scored, and 1 SB despite slashing .250/.276/.339. That’s good enough for Top-125 value in standard 5x5 categories leagues for those keeping score. Consider the fact that Calhoun’s 9.1% HR/FB rate has him the 35th worst of 142 qualifiers with at least one home run and is also below his career mark of 12.5%. That number will improve, though, because his fly ball rate (27.5%) is far below his career 35.7% mark while his 47.5% ground ball rate is also due to regress closer to the 41.8% rate for his career. His wimpy .098 ISO so far in 2018 should also improve, especially considering he’s finished with a .148 ISO or better for the last five years, so this could be the year we finally see 20 HR from Calhoun. Finally, he hasn’t displayed the plate discipline we’re used to seeing, evidenced by this year’s 3.8% walk rate compared to the previous two seasons in which he’s walked 10% of the time or more. He’s playing on an improved lineup, hitting fifth, and has a lot of room for improvement on what’s already been a productive season so far. Even though we are enamored with the 30+ HR players, it’s guys like Calhoun that really round out your roster and give you a safe floor for production on a daily basis.
Nick Pivetta (PHI) SP - 20% owned
I think I’ve been talking about Nick Pivetta more than any other player in the past few days. It’s a travesty that he’s only owned in a fifth of leagues, but I’m going to do everything I can to correct that: a 2.70 ERA with 19K/2BB and no home runs allowed through 16.2 IP this season. That’s remarkable for a guy who gave up 25 HR last year in only 26 starts. What’s even more remarkable? His ERA peripherals: 1.31 FIP, 2.35 xFIP, and a radiant 2.40 SIERA (6.02 ERA/4.87 FIP/4.26 xFIP/4.32 SIERA in 2017). He’s upped his swinging strike rate from 8.7% in 2017 to 11.4% in 2018 and improved his first pitch strike rate from 59.3% last season to 66.2% this year (league average 59.3%). What’s gotten into him, you’re probably asking? Last season Pivetta relied on his fastball 66% of the time while throwing his curveball 15.5% of the time. This year, however, he’s relying much less on his fastball (57.9%) and is instead unleashing his curveball much more in 2018 (26%), which is the main reason why I believe we are seeing him excel (Note: I’ve been saying cutter previously on air, but it’s actually his curveball. My apologies.) Once projected as a fourth starter, Pivetta is looking at least like a middle of the rotation-type arm with considerable strikeout potential (10.26 K/9) and upside for more if he can limit walks like he’s done so far. Make sure to give Pivetta a long leash if you do add him because I believe he’s a strong rest of season add (3-5 starts at least).
Daniel Mengden (OAK) SP - 2% owned
Daniel Mengden isn’t going to blow anyone away with insane strikeout totals or 98 MPH velocity, but he’s quietly an intriguing end-of-the-rotation starter. While his 6.19 ERA doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, his peripherals tell a different story. Across 16 IP, Mengden’s 2.74 FIP ranks #21 of 98 qualifiers, ahead of studs like Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, and Noah Syndergaard. Obviously, we’re looking at a tiny sample size, but the early returns have been encouraging. 12 strikeouts to only 2 walks is good for a 1.13 BB/9 rate, and this is sustainable to me since his 1.88 BB/9 last season proves Mengden does a great job of limiting walks. Mengden also helps himself with his career 1.10 HR/9 rate, and has only given up one home run so far this season. He’s also sporting a horrific 35.7% left on base rate, which is well below last season’s 79.2% mark, so it’s reasonable to expect better performances going forward. Finally, Mengden recorded a 1.05 WHIP across 43 IP in 2017 so his 1.31 WHIP in 2018 can improve as well. While he doesn’t have the best defense behind him, I see Daniel Mengden as a sub-4.00 ERA pitcher who could give you a low-risk back end rotation arm.
Hot Starts - Sell High Wednesday 4/11/18
By: Brandon Dombrowski
It's Week 2 (maybe Week 3 depending on how your Commissioner set up your league settings) and we are going to look at 3 more Sell High Candidates returning Top round value so far this season.
Didi Gregorius NYY SS - Didi's hot start can be easily contributed to his April 3rd game against the Rays where he went 4/4 with 3 R, 2 HR and 8 RBI. Comparing his totals for the year, 14/36 with a .389 BA, 10 R, 3 HR, 10 RBI and 2 SB its easy to see why he is an early Sell High Candidate. Currently putting up Top 10 or 1st Round Value, an owner would be smart to fish around for a Star Player if it means trading for them straight up. I do not expect Didi to continue this pace, his numbers should fall back in line near his career averages since being a full time player of .266/.313/.414 with 56 R, 13 HR, 54 RBI and 4 SB. Granted, these averages look low, especially for hitting in the heart of the Yankees stacked lineup, but he should be able to improve and finish with numbers across the board that are better than his current career averages. Sell High if you can.
Hanley Ramirez BOS 1B - I may be as shocked as everyone else, Hanley is legitimately doing his damnest to turn back the clock to 2008-2010 and show that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank. He currently boasts a .359/.395/.487 triple slash line to go along with 6 R, 1 HR, 11 RBI and 3 SB which is good enough to return 1st Round value early on this year. I believe his 3 SB are skewing his current rank and if we dive deeper, since the beginning of the 2015 Season he has only managed to swipe 16 SB (only 1 SB in 2017). He has been an early spark plug in the Red Sox lineup and can surely finish as a Top 20 1B but he will not be able to continue the pace of the numbers he is currently putting up. Selling High for anyone with Top 5 round value seems like a steal.
Charlie Morton HOU SP - Currently returning 3rd to 4th Round value is Charlie Morton. He is currently cutting through batters so far this year sporting a 2-0 record with 12 IP, 13 K, 0.00 ERA, 1,00 WHIP, 2.59 FIP and a 0.00 HR/9. These are Ace numbers people - and if we revert to Charlies Career averages he should fall more in line with 6.9 SO/9, 4.36 ERA, 1.402 WHIP, 3.99 FIP and a 0.70 HR/9. If I currently owned Charles, I would be actively sending offers to everyone in your league trying to get anyone to overpay for him if it means you are going to get a 4th - 6th Round value at SP. Players like Jose Quintana, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and Luis Castillo come to mind. Maybe you even see if you can get Madison Bumgarner away from whomever is stashing him at the moment. Sell High if you can as these numbers are SURE to drop.
Hot Starts - Sell High Wednesday 4/4/18
By: Brandon Dombrowski
There have been quite a few pleasant surprises in this young 2018 MLB Season. Lets dive in and take a look at a few players I would Sell High on after a week of play:
Adam Eaton WSH OF - After missing almost all of last year, Adam Eaton is showing that he can be a reliable fantasy asset after the first week. He has played 5 out of 6 games (Missed 1 game for rest) and is on pace to play 135 games. Eaton is currently posting a triple slash line of .429/.478/.810 and if we extrapolate his statistics he is on pace to finish with 216 R, 54 HR and 135 RBI's (currently has 0 SB but i will peg him to at least swipe 10 bags). These are by far and away 1st round value numbers for a player whose ADP was around 151 so do what you can to sell hi on his scorching hot start if it means coming away with a Top 50 caliber player.....
Kevin Pillar TOR OF - You can address all of your Thank You's for Kevin Pillar's hot start to Dellin Betances after allowing 3 SB on a single play in their March 31st win over the Yankees. Kevin is currently posting a smooth .381 BA along with 6 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI and 3 SB through 6 games. Map that out and he is on pace for 162 R, 27 HR, 54 RBI and 81 SB. Kevin Pillar's career averages stand at a .264 BA with 47 R, 8 HR, 34 RBI, 11 SB and a paltry 93 Walk to 327 Strikeout Ratio. No doubt he is off to a hot start but I would be doing everything humanly possible to dump this guy for ANYTHING of value that could help you in the long run as his career numbers show the true story.
Tim Anderson CHW SS - He's fuego fellow Gospelers - already having 6 R, 3 HR, 4 RBI and 3 SB in his 4 Games so far Timmy is lighting the SS position on FIRE. He is on pace to finish with 243 R, 122 HR, 162 RBI and 122 SB while having a triple slash line of .375/.412/.938. Let's be real here people, Timmy will be lucky to finish with 70 R, 20 HR, 60 RBI and 15 SB however I do see him being a threat to be a 20-20 Player. This is a Sell High article though, and if you can find someone to take him off your hands for a Top 100 player I would do it no questions asked.
Opening Day: Streamer Special
By: Michael Yachera
The wait is over. Opening Day is upon us. Most of us have our rosters locked, setting and forgetting our fantasy studs like Kershaw, Syndergaard, Kluber, and Verlander. For those managers who are looking for an extra starter today, however, you may want to continue reading further. I'm selecting one NL and one AL starting pitcher that I believe is in play as an option to stream today (ownership levels are according to Yahoo). Good luck to everyone playing fantasy baseball this season!
NL: Jose Urena - MIA vs. CHC (18% owned): This pick is bold, I'll admit that. The Cubs are obviously are daunting opponent, but Urena could turn some heads this Opening Day. Last season, Urena quietly broke out and became a popular DFS and streamer-worthy player. I'm willing to roll the dice on Urena for one reason: he's pitching at home. Last season, the 26 year old registered a solid 3.21 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in 17 games (14 starts). He won't wow you in terms of strikeout upside (5.99 K/9 & 8.2% SwStr%), but his ground ball rate last year was below his career average and even lower than his rate from 2016 so I wouldn't be surprised to see that normalize this season. His hard contact rate has decreased in each of the past two seasons and sat at a steady 31.8% in 2017. Finally, ESPN's Ball Park Factors scored Marlins park as #28 in runs scored and #25 in HR last season. It's highly unlikely Urena goes 7+ IP and gets the win, but on a day where the pickings are slim, starting Urena in his home park makes a lot of sense...on paper at least.
AL: James Shields - CHW @ KC (2% owned): For years, James Shields was one of the most steady and reliable fantasy starters one could find, but now he's pretty much an afterthought. In each of the past three seasons, we saw his HR/9 rate rise, bottoming out at an obnoxious 2.08 HR/9 last year and his 4+ BB/9 in each of the past two seasons can't be unseen. What many fail to realize, though, is that he still maintained a strong 10.2% SwStr% in 2017. Shields posted a strong 10K/3BB rate in 10.2 IP this spring, and the last time Shields averaged a strikeout per inning was his 2012 season as a member of the Rays where he posted a 8.82 K/9 and 11% SwStr% (7.92 K/9 in 2017). Despite giving up three homers in Spring Training, I'm comforted knowing that Kauffman Stadium ranked #27 last season in HR according to ESPN's Ball Park Factor and that the Royals lineup isn't expected to be as strong as it was last season. It's a new season, so I want to give James Shields a clean slate. I'm not predicting him to return to his All-Star or Cy Young candidate ways, but I also believe that this is a great matchup to roll the dice on him to see if he has a chance at producing against better teams.
By: Michael Yachera
Sometimes for fun, I look at league leaderboards for various statistic, batted ball profiles and at random players' numbers. I'm sure people would rather be doing other things when they're bored, but there are times couch surfing Fangraphs comes in handy. Exhibit A:
What you're eyes are feasting on is a list of nine players (out of 318 qualifiers with 250 PA min.) who had under a 13% soft contact rate while also recording over a 40% hard contact rate in 2017. Of the Top-25 players in soft contact rate last year, only these nine made the cut, which seems at the very least noteworthy and worth a share. Here's a quick honorable mention for those just barely missing the cut: Justin Turner, Domingo Santana, Wellington Castillo, Victor Martinez, and Dexter Fowler.
If you listen to our podcasts, you know I mention soft and had contact rates quite a bit. I highly value these rates because they tell me the quality of contact hitters are making. If a player's numbers are underwhelming (i.e., a poor BA), I look to his soft/hard contact percentages to see if the batting average is supported by a low hard contact rate and high soft contact rate. If that low batting average is supported by a high hard contact rate and low soft contact percent, then I am expecting that player to turn things around. If the soft contact rate is high, though, with a low hard contact rate, I'm not expecting things to get better for that player. On the other hand, players performing better than expected who maintain a high contact rate with a low soft contact rate will keep producing and should NOT be considered "sell-high" unless the offer makes your team definitively better. As always, it's important to consider players' career hard and soft contact percentages, but if there's a clear upward or downward trend spanning multiple seasons, I would prioritize the trend(s) over career rates. There's a few players on here that don't need to be analyzed since you pretty much know what you're getting from Goldy, Jay Bruce, Chris Davis, and Corey Seager. I was surprised to see some of these players on this list, but for many of those surprises I'm counting on a breakout 2018 season.
Alex Avila: Avila is tough to predict, given that his soft/hard contact rates for his career are 11.3%/36.6% and he hasn't hit over 40% since 2009. My instinct tells me he will not duplicate his sub-13%/40+% ways, especially since he's been under 33% hard contact in the two seasons before last. As much as I want Avila to succeed in Arizona, I'm going to say that he won't finish 2018 with a 40+% hard contact rate, but because his soft contact numbers were above 10% only once in the last five seasons, Avila does a good job of limiting easy outs. The trends that I mentioned above are present in Avila's batted ball profile, as his LD% and GB% has improved in each of the last three seasons, so I believe Avila will be able to finish with a hard contact percentage close to 40 and will be own able in two catcher leagues and a productive low end-catcher at worst.
Miguel Cabrera: For the first time since 2004 we saw Miggy strikeout more than 20% of the time (20.8%). He (literally) limped to a .246/.329/.399 slash line in only 130 games while hitting a career-low .149 ISO (career .236). As a result, Miggy's ADP has really taken a hit, but you won't hear any complaints from me. Critics of Miggy may claim his decline is real and point to a sub-.200 ISO in two of the last three seasons, but he's still been a part of the sub-13/40+ club for all three of those seasons and his hard contact rate is trending up in each of the last three seasons. One final point on Miggy is that we shouldn't be afraid to draft him for this season is because he finished with a career-high LD% in 2017, supported by a ground ball rate under 40% for the first time in since 2013. Currently drafted as a low-end 1B, Cabrera's batted ball profile leads me to believe he can quickly make us forget about his disastrous 2017 season.
Aaron Judge: Many people are doubtful Judge can duplicate the success he experienced in 2017, but I would not consider myself one of those people. More about my feelings for Judge can be heard in our "OF Draft" podcast, so I will make this quick here: Last season's 11.2% soft contact rate wasn't even the best rate of his short career, as his soft contact percentage stood at 9.3% in his first 95 PA. To be clear, soft/hard contact rates are not going to be the answer to what is the apparent Aaron Judge mystery, but it's hard to expect serious regression when his soft and hard contact rates support what he did in 2017 in my opinion. His breakout is a result of doubling his walk rate from 2016 to 2017 and cutting his strikeout rate by almost 14%, and as long as he stays healthy, Aaron Judge will silence doubters in 2018 and his inclusion in this elite club only serves as further proof.
Nick Castellanos: Coming off a breakout season, Nick Castellanos is also another perfect example of prioritizing recent trends over career numbers. In each of the last three seasons, his soft contact rates held below 12%, but his hard contact rates improved upon the prior season: 32.8% in '15, 35.7% in '16, and a robust 43.4% last year. For his career, Castellanos' 36.6% hard contact rate appears weak, but with the many improvements he's shown in his batted ball profile and statistically, I'm buying Nick Castellanos wherever I can. It doesn't hurt he rocked a career-high ISO in 2017, either, so I urge you to take a break from making the sexy pick and bank on Castellanos for what I believe to be even be even more production than we saw in 2017.
Matt Carpenter: Another tricky player to analyze because of his underwhelming 2017 numbers, Matt Carpenter only gets trickier when you consider he was also a member of this prestigious club in 2016 as well when he performed similarly to last season. What's even more strange, during his breakout 2015, Carpenter would not have qualified for this club. As a result, I think the 28 HR from that season represents a career-season for Carpenter. There's no doubting he is going to provide versatility and production, but I'm not so sure he's a lock for 25 HR anymore. The value he does provide on top of 20 HR is his career .377 OBP, which gives him an excellent run scoring floor. Don't be afraid to give Carpenter a look after you find yourself a starting 1B.
By: Michael Yachera
It's been over a week since we posted some written content to the Fantasy Gospel website, and for that we apologize!
Having said that, I have been lucky enough to mock draft with Carl and a few our followers/listeners in the interim, and I must say that I had a great time mock drafting with them. I'm looking forward to doing more mock drafts with you all, so please give us a holler on Twitter if you're ever in the mood to mock. Now, let's talk fantasy baseball.
We started posting some Twitter polls asking about which player you would rather draft. Our first poll pitted Manny Machado against Carlos Correa. Initially, I believed Correa would win, but Manny Machado just barely edged Correa as the shortstop you would rather draft. Currently, we're polling about which 1B you would rather draft, assuming Paul Goldschmidt was no longer on the draft board. I'm anxious to see how that turns out since the results are neck and neck, and I'm honestly surprised Anthony Rizzo is as distant a third option as he is to Freeman and Votto. This article is similar to the Twitter polls we've been posting, but for this article I'm going to tell you the players that I'd rather draft between players drafted at similar Yahoo ADP's.
Carlos Correa (15.7 overall) vs. Many Machado (21.9 overall)
I have to revisit this one because I am stunned by the results of the Twitter poll. I've been on record comparing these two players before, so I don't want to keep beating a dead horse, but I will say that I have to draft Correa over Machado this season after he posted a .550 SLG while Machado underwhelmed with a .471 SLG in 2017. Correa is also more bankable when it comes to batting average, evidenced by his .315 average in 2017 versus Machado's career .279 mark. I think it's possible the Twitter voters prefer Machado because of his positional versatility, but I'm all in on Carlos Correa this season.
Who I'd Rather Draft: Carlos Correa
Mookie Betts (7.4 overall ) vs. Bryce Harper (8.8 overall)
This one is a little easier than you may think, at least for me. The biggest limitation on Bryce Harper fulfilling his Lebron-like hype as the first overall pick in the 2010 draft appears to be his inability to play a full season. Only twice in his six year career has Bryce Harper played more than 140 games and in half those seasons he played less than 120 games. With only one season of double digit stolen bases in the last four seasons, Harper can't say he's swiped 20+ bags in each of the last three seasons like Betts can. Betts walked almost as many times as he struck out last year (79K/77BB) and I fully believe Betts is a .300 hitter despite his .264 batting average in 2017 (career .292 BA). Harper's got Betts beat in the power department, but seeing as Harper can't seem to stay healthy, Harper's floor is lower despite a sky-high ceiling. With a Top-10 investment required for either of these guys, I want to make sure the player I draft sees the field as much as possible, which makes Betts the safer pick at this ADP.
Who I'd Rather Draft: Mookie Betts
Chris Sale (13.5 overall) vs. Corey Kluber (15.1 overall)
We wrote about Chris Sale a month ago in our "Bold Predictions" article, and Brandon and I boldly predicted he would finish higher ranked than Clayton Kershaw this season. With that in mind, I obviously have to side with Chris Sale here as his 2017 season was eye-popping to say the least. I made a pretty strong case for Sale in that article, so I definitely encourage you to check that out (along with nine other Bold Predictions) on the 'Archives' tab of the Written Content page, but here's one that I have to repeat: Sale posted a strikeout percentage of a whopping 36.2% (career-best) and recorded a SwStr% of 23.3%, which was just a shade under his career-best 2015 mark of 23.8% when he led the American League with 274 Ks. Sale is posting career numbers and rates despite the mileage on his arm, so I 'd rather ride the tsunami-sized Sale wave than try to spend hours looking at his Fangraphs page trying to find reasons not to draft him.
Who I'd Rather Draft: Chris Sale
Stephen Strasburg (24.4 overall) vs. Madison Bumgarner (24.8 overall)
The injury-prone label definitely applies to Stephen Strasburg, but in 2017 he actually finished with the third most IP of his eight year career. MadBum, as we know, suffered a scary injury of his own and failed to reach 200 IP for the first time in the last seven seasons. While he is expected to be close to, or surpass, the 200 IP mark in 2018, I'm troubled by the post-injury Bumgarner before us. MadBum's HR/FB rate rose every month from July-September/October while his soft contact rate also decreased from the first half to the second half. He gave up nearly 7% more fly balls in the second half compared to the first half, too, and with a SIERA of 3.94, 4.07 xFIP, and 3.95 FIP, I'm not touching MadBum. Finally, MadBum's 2017 respectable 8.19 K/9 doesn't compare to Strasburg's healthy 10.47 K/9. Better defense, better run support, and better 2017 numbers only mean one thing.
Who I'd Rather Draft: Stephen Strasburg
Jose Ramirez-ATL (28.0 overall) vs. Cody Bellinger (28.6 overall)
Not to be confused with the Atlanta Braves' Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Joe (aka "Jose Ramirez) brings something Bellinger doesn't: speed. Bellinger has a higher HR and RBI floor, but Ramirez recorded as many as 38 SB in a single minor league season. It's also true that Bellinger had a lower BABIP than Ramirez in 2017, posting a .299 BABIP to Ramirez's .319. And if you want to argue that Ramirez's BABIP should regress in 2018, I would argue that it won't because it actually regressed in 2017 from his .333 BABIP in 152 games in 2016 and a whopping .400 BABIP during a brief 15-game cup of coffee in 2015. Meanwhile, Bellinger's highest minor league BABIP was in 2014, standing at .381 in Rookie ball. Finally, Bellinger's K% was north of 25% last year, while Ramirez finished with a rate nearly identical to his career K% (10.4% in '17, 10.9% for career). Jose Ramirez brings 2B and 3B eligibility to the table on top of all that, so I'll take the safe floor, speed advantage, and OBP Ramirez provides instead of chasing Bellinger's historic 2017.
Who I'd Rather Draft: Jose Ramirez
Zack Greinke (48.2 overall) vs. Luis Severino (49.4 overall)
This is probably one of the tougher toss-ups of this article, and before I did some research on these players, my instinct was to side with Luis Severino because of his youth (10 years younger than Greinke) and electric stuff. Severino's K/9 is slightly better, as is his HR/9, but with the Humidor being installed in Arizona, it's reasonable to expect Greinke's HR/9 rate to improve to Severino's level. Greinke's got a better BB/9 rate (2.00) than Severino (2.37), but Severino counters that with a better BABIP (.272 for Severino vs. .285 BABIP for Greinke). I had real durability concerns about Severino heading into 2017, but after 193.1 IP in 2017, it's hard for me to justify those concerns in 2018. Both play in above average offensive divisions, so what breaks the tie for me in this case is to look at their pitching peripherals from last season. Greinke's look like this: 3.20 ERA, 3.31 FIP, 3.34 xFIP, & 4.11 SIERA. Severino's are as follows: 2.98 ERA, 3.07 FIP, 3.04 xFIP, & 3.25 SIERA. Maybe I'm crushing on Severino more than I should, but his 2017 batted ball profile shows me a pitcher who excelled at getting ground outs and strikeouts (50.6% ground ball rate & 29.4% strikeout rate), and those types of pitchers (to me) are ones I prioritize. The SwStr% from 2017 are almost identical (12.4+%), so I'm siding with the peripherals to make this decision.
Who I'd Rather Draft: Luis Severino
Anthony Rendon (60.3 overall) vs. A.J. Pollock (60.8 overall)
A.J. Pollock keeps himself in this conversation because of his wheels after stealing 20 bags in 112 games during 2017 and as many as 39 in 157 games back in 2015. Pollock, Arizona's leadoff hitter, surprisingly had a higher K% last season (15.2%) compared to Anthony Rendon, who finished under 14%. Despite Pollock's huge 2015 season, he's neither had multiple 20 HR seasons or even a single 100 RBI season. 2017 marked Rendon's third straight 20 HR season and his first 100 RBI campaign. It's easy to see how managers are looking for Pollock to rebound this season given his speed floor, but Rendon recorded better AVG, OBP, and SLG last season and is a much safer pick, especially given the depth of outfield compared to third base. We debated whether A.J. Pollock should be considered injury prone in our "Outfielder Draft Pt. 1" podcast episode, and I can't help but worry about Pollock's health (relative to Rendon). If Pollock fell a couple rounds, then I wouldn't hesitate to grab him, but here in the Top-5 or 6 rounds I consider position scarcity and want to take as little risk as possible.
Who I'd Rather Draft: Anthony Rendon
Dallas Keuchel (68.1 overall) vs. Aaron Nola (69.0 overall)
Aaron Nola received so much preseason sleeper hype that he's now no longer considered a sleeper, in my opinion, and he's now firmly in bust territory. Being drafted as a SP2 as the 18th drafted SP, there will be a lot of pressure on Nola to improve on his 2017 season. In many respects, Nola and Keuchel had similar seasons, posting nearly identical HR/9 rates, BB%, xFIP, and SIERA. Keuchel, though, pitches to contact while Nola is a high-strikeout, fly balll pitcher. I am a big Keuchel advocate after drafting him late last season. A lot of anti-Keuchel propaganda emphasizes his first and second half splits, but that is a gross mischaracterization in my opinion. His second half left a lot to be desired, given his .251/.326/.395 triple slash after his insane .182/.238 /.275 line in the first half, BUT guess what? In the months of September and October, Keuchel finished with an improved line of .233/.310/.345. To me, his midseason injuries really weighed down his second half splits, and he bulked up this offseason in an effort to improve his durability by adding 15 pounds to his 6' 3" frame. Adding to my case for Keuchel is the fact that he's playing for a new contract since he's scheduled to become a free agent after this season. Perhaps in a keeper/dynasty league I would draft Aaron Nola because his strikeout ability keeps his floor high and his youth, but for 2018 I'd rather draft Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel will provide better ERA, WHIP, and win potential more often than Nola, I believe, and Keuchel's playing on one of the best offensive and defensive teams we have seen in recent memory. It's also noteworthy for me to point out that in many ways, Nola's 2017 numbers took a step back from his 2016 season. I suggest you take a look at that before drafting Aaron Nola as a Top-20 SP.
Who I'd Rather Draft: Dallas Keuchel
Mock Draft Monday
By: Michael Yachera
Now that Yahoo Fantasy Baseball is open for business, I wanted to get to mock drafting ASAP. I will be mocking throughout Spring Training and I intend to employ various draft strategies with each mock draft I participate in. Afterwards, I’ll break down the draft and mix in some of my “in-the-moment” thoughts leading up to my picks along with some useful fantasy analysis. As I mentioned in the Fanmail Friday (2/16/18) podcast, I recommend that the average fantasy baseball manager mock draft 3-5 times before your draft day, but even doing it once before your draft will get you a rough idea of what you can expect during your draft. Every league is different, with different scoring systems and managers who make picks many of us would never consider, but the mock drafts I will be dabbling in are 12-team, H2H, 5x5 standard categories mixed leagues (AVG, R, HR, RBI, SB, W, SV, K, ERA, WHIP) unless I indicate otherwise.
For this mock draft, I wanted to stay away from pitching for the first nine (9) rounds because of how risky early round pitchers can be (Noah Syndergaard and MadBum, anyone?). I made sure to fill out my offensive lineup, with the exception of catcher because I did not want to overpay for Gary Sanchez or Willson Contreras. I decided to wait to draft a catcher until my second to last pick, leaving my final pick for a flier that I could cut loose at any time without losing anything on my investment. Here’s a look at my draft results:
I chose to draft out of the 11th overall slot because I will be drafting in that same position on my draft day in the league I am in with Carl and Brandon. After completing this mock, Yahoo gave me a C+ draft grade, but I can’t help but feel that I got robbed. My post-draft weaknesses were W, K, ERA, and WHIP according to Yahoo, so with six 10+ win pitchers from 2017 on my roster and only one arm with a 4.00+ ERA I can’t help but feel Yahoo must still be working out some kinks in their fantasy baseball platform. I am very interested to hear what you all think, especially whether you feel the C+ grade is a true reflection of my squad, so don’t hesitate to reach out on Twitter, on our website, or via email. Let’s get into the breakdown!
In the first round, my decision came down to Carlos Correa or Giancarlo Stanton. Some may argue Manny Machado should be considered at eleventh overall, but because Correa posted a .500+ SLG in 2017 compared to Machado’s sub-.500 SLG (.471), I am a big believer in Correa this season. I also felt that I would get either Giancarlo Stanton or Machado in the second round because so many people love Charlie Blackmon. As a former Blackmon owner last season, I certainly understand how his gaudy numbers out of the leadoff spot last year could interest so many people this year, but A) the Rockies are considering moving Blackmon down in the order to put him in more run producing positions (potentially less runs scored and stolen bases), and B) Blackmon’s home/away splits CANNOT be ignored: .391/.466/.773 at home vs. .276/.337/.447 on the road. Those types of splits for a late first/early second round player are what I want to avoid, especially from a player who is a part of the deepest position in fantasy baseball. It also doesn’t hurt to have shortstop insurance in the form of Manny Machado, who will also retain his third base eligibility from 2017. Armed with two potential Top-10 players after the first two rounds, I was riding high going into Round 3.
At this point, if I was not employing my “bat-only” strategy, I would’ve jumped at the chance to draft Carlos Carrasco. That was not the point of this mock draft exercise, though, so I took a player in Dee Gordon that I feel is going to be as sure of a 30 SB player as there is. Since the other options I considered along with Gordon were all outfield except Dozier, my decision came down to the two remaining second baseman. I don’t particularly like drafting 1B/OF early unless they are five tool players and/or are essentially locked in for 40 HR and 100+ RBI seasons, so I didn’t even waste any time considering Encarnacion, Upton, Marte, or Ozuna in the third round. Since Dozier does not offer the same batting average, runs, and stolen base floor that I believe Gordon does, I quickly selected Gordon. Once it was my turn in the fourth round, I swiftly selected Encarnacion since he is the most likely of the group that I considered in the first round to reach the 40 HR 100 RBI mark. I did not need to reach for Posey, either, because of my plan to take a catcher with my second to last pick.
I waited, with baited breath, and literally felt every second pass as if it were an eternity....waiting for Buxton to fall to me. I knew that I had to have a contingency plan in place in case I did not get to pick Buxton, so I decided to select a player in the fifth round that would enhance one or more of my teams’ current strengths. With Correa, Machado, and Dee Gordon, I felt that runs scored was a huge strength, while Gordon offered a solid foundation to build up my teams stolen base potential. As Carl loves to say, speed is a scarcity in today’s game, so I wanted to make that a secondary focus in this mock draft. Accordingly, I resolved to draft Billy Hamilton, even though I am not a fan of his career .298 OBP since he would assure me of 80+ runs and 50+ SB by season’s end. I could have selected Bregman in the fifth round, but because of the speed Buxton brings to the table and the fact I did not need to select another SS/3B eligible player, I did not spend too much time considering Bregman instead of Buxton. Once he was available to me in the sixth round, however, it was a no-brainer pick to select him since he offers a higher ceiling than Cano, Bogaerts, Khris Davis. I also did not select Miggy because of his declining production, durability concerns, and because I already drafted Encarnacion to be my starting first baseman. After six rounds, I was really feeling good about my non-pitcher strategy so far.
Since I had my infield set, I was ready to set my outfielders. With Cespedes, he does carry injury risk, but he had a very impressive season last year despite only playing half a season as he slashed .292/.352/.540 along with 17 HR. In fact, his .892 OPS in 2017 topped his previous career-best .884 OPS from 2016, and that number has improved in each of the past three seasons. When able to play a full season, Cespedes offers 20 HR and 100 RBI potential, which I do not see from Braun, LeMahieu, Cain, or Story. In the eighth round was where I started having to make some tough decisions. As much as I like Jean Segura, I boldly predicted Rougned Odor to reach the 30 HR/20 SB plateau this season. It’s probably more likely that I am wrong than I am right, but at this point I was thinking at least Odor is a steady 30 HR bat that will be a very productive starting utility bat.
My ninth round pick was simple because I am such a big Carlos Santana supporter. He’s going to be counted on in Philadelphia and has proven himself to be capable of 25-30 HR, but I think 30+ is in the cards in 2018 because he is moving from the #17 ballpark in HR to the #1 ballpark in HR according to ESPN’s 2017 MLB Park Factors. As my final, non-catcher starting bat, I expect Santana to greatly outplay his ADP. With Round 10, I began selecting pitchers. Luke Weaver has the safest floor, evidenced by fantastic control (72K/17BB) and his 3.17 FIP from ‘17 as just a rookie. I strongly considered picking Cody Allen instead, but I felt uncomfortable making a closer my first drafted arm and decided to take the player I will be keeping in the league that I am in with Carl and Brandon. Stroman isn’t a bad starting pitcher, but he lacks the strikeout upside to be my team’s SP1 and Johnny Cueto’s blister problems scared me off enough to pass on him. In the 11th round, my fingers were crossed in hopes that I could select Zack Godley or Luis Castillo, but neither were meant to be. Longoria’s floor is too low to me, nor did I want to take a risk on Sonny Gray pitching in a tough American League East division after he posted a 4.87 FIP in his 11 starts as a member of the Bronx Bombers. Eaton is going to be the starting outfielder on many fantasy baseball teams, so having him on my bench as Yoenis Cespedes insurance felt like an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Round 12 was where I decided I felt comfortable grabbing a closer, and since the Nationals were searching for a closer even after acquiring Sean Doolittle last season, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw someone else closing for the Nats by the end of the 2018 season. Because Iglesias offers significantly more strikeout upside, he made the most sense for me in Round 12.
In Round 13, I was very close to selecting Michael Fulmer instead of Arodys Vizcaino. There’s definitely an argument to be made since the 2017 All-Star owns career 3.45 ERA and 3.71 FIP marks, and he actually dealt with some bad luck last season, but I believe his 2018 outlook is dampened by both playing on a poor team and a weak K/9. Arodys Vizcaino, on the other hand, offers the 10+ K/9 rate we love to see and his SwStr% looks like this: 11.5% in ‘15, 13.8% in ‘16, 14.7% in ‘17. He lacks the command you need from an elite closer, but both his 38.5% ground ball rate in ‘17 and BB/9 are expected to improve. I could have also selected Trevor Bauer, but I was content to pick between Fulmer and Bauer when it was my turn in Round 14. Between the two, Fulmer has a safer floor, while Bauer possesses more upside. After seeing Fulmer go the pick before mine in Round 14, my decision was made. Round 15 is where I started believing that I could take chances, and who better to chance on than Ronald Acuna when considering alternatives such as Pomeranz, Nunez, and several other wild card pitchers. In retrospect, I probably should have selected Charlie Morton in Round 16, but I am a very big believer that Marwin Gonzalez will again see 500+ plate appearances in 2018. I also love the positional versatility he offers in case one of my starters is sent to the 10-Day DL. I thought about drafting Morton, but ultimately chose the bat because I think pitching is deeper than offense in the middle to end rounds of drafts.
I was very surprised Clevinger fell to me in Round 17, so I immediately scooped him up there. I shared some of my thoughts on Clevinger in the 2/16 Fanmail Friday podcast, so I encourage you to give that a quick listen, but I expect Clevinger’s ADP to shoot up if his Spring Training numbers look the same as his numbers as a starter in 2017. Essentially, I’m not banking on being able to get him this late again. In Round 18, I was faced with Faria, Treinen, or Archie Bradley. I love Greg Holland, but with him being unsigned I didn’t feel comfortable selecting him over the others I just mentioned. I selected Faria because of the composure he demonstrated as a rookie in 2017 along with his 12% swinging strike rate, and more on him can be found in the Rookie Revelations article I wrote on the Fantasy Gospel website. In Round 19, I opted for Tyler Chatwood because he is going to be freed from the pitcher’s hell that is the Mile High City and has posted strong road splits in several seasons, so I felt he had a very safe floor especially this late in the draft. Patrick Corbin made a lot of sense for me in Round 20 because I think he will carry over the production from his 2017 second half into 2018. Corbin’s ceiling remains high because of his elevated SwStr% (11% in ‘17; 10+% in career), so I didn’t hesitate to draft him ahead of Odorizzi.
With my third to last pick, it was either Trey Mancini (who I’ve been man crushing on for several months now) or Kela. Since my bats were deep and Seung Hwan Oh is no longer a bullpen option in Arlington, Kela’s 2018 fantasy arrow is now beginning to perk up. As intended, I selected a catcher in the second to last round. Christian Vazquez was the best option remaining at the catcher position at that point in the draft and he looked like a different player in the second half of last season. My Mr. Irrelevant was FELIX HERNANDEZ, who could end up as a SP3 with a very small outside shot of SP2 relevance. With him being my last pick, though, I can drop him if he doesn’t pass the eye test in his first few starts. No risk, high reward. Let me know what you think about this exercise, what you would have done the same or different, give some ideas for future mock draft exercises, and tell me whether you found it helpful!
By: Carl Grove, Brandon Dombrowski, & Michael Yachera
After the clamor about the Yu Darvish signing has now settled down, we want to bring you the first ever sleeper six-pack. We each selected two players we view as sleepers heading into the 2018 season, and we will continue to curate sleepers for your reading pleasure throughout the course of the year as we approach various season benchmarks (i.e., quarter mark, All-Star break, September call-ups, etc.). Enough jibber, jabber...here are the players you don’t want to underestimate in your drafts.
BD: Jamison Taillon - An unforseen battle with Testicular Cancer ended the young 25 Year olds first full season in the majors early. This, though extremely serious, is not the first time Jamison has dealt with with adversity as he needed to have Tommy John to Repair his UCL during the 2014 season. The 2nd Overall pick from the 2010 MLB Draft has all the tools to become an elite top of the rotation starter and with both Gerrit Cole on the Astros and Tyler Glasnow struggling tremendously, the Pirates organization is eager for Taillon to begin showing why he was labeled such a highly touted prospect. Digging into some statistics from last year, Taillon started 25 Games and was able to get through 133.2 innings (5-⅓ Innings per Game). He saw his ERA rise from 2016 from his 18 Games started and 104 Innings from 3.38 to 4.44 and his WHIP rise from 1.12 to 1.48. Both of these stats give me cause and concern for what the future holds, but let us not forget that his FIP (3.71 to 3.48), HR per 9 (1.1 to .7), and K’s per 9 (7.4 to 8.4) all saw steady increase and improvement. He did struggle last year with the accuracy of his pitches more than doubling the previous years total from 1.5 BB per 9 to 3.1. I do believe that he can re-correct himself back down to a more palatable 1.6-2.2 Range from the previous year. I understand the concern with Taillons injury history - but are we really willing to write off a 2nd overall pick who has worked his way back from TJ and also been diagnosed with cancer all within the last 3 years (He’s still only 25!!)? I am not, and that is why I believe he will outperform his current projections finishing in the top 30 In SP’s and roughly between 105-125 overall. I see him starting around 30 games (150 IP) this year for the Bucs with 13+ Wins posting a 3.5-3.7 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP, 1.7 BB per 9 and a K per 9 Rate just at 9.0 or 1:1 (150 K’s)..
Tommy Pham - Every year we get a player who has a surprising breakout above his career numbers - only for him to regress the following year. I do not see Pham regressing - I see him finishing 2018 as a 25-25 guy with .290+ BA and a Top 50 Player outperforming his ADP by about a full round at least. To be fair, Pham will be 30 this year - but - last year was his first year in which he was given regular at bats and started more than 78 Games. He finished as the 17th overall hitter with a .368 BABIP, 26.7 HR/FB% and hitting 51.7% of his balls in play on the ground. If Pham repeats his counting stats while maintaining that profile (especially in an improved Cardinals lineup) expect Pham to continue where he left off in 2017.
MY: Blake Snell - For Blake Snell, last season was a tale of two halves. In 10 first half starts, Snell registered an 0-5 record with a 4.85 ERA and horrific 5.88 BB/9 across 52 innings before being sent down to Triple-A. After the All-Star break, though, the Rays felt confident enough in the adjustments Snell made and he really seemed to turn a corner. In 14 second half starts, Snell went 5-2 with a 3.49 ERA and significantly lowered his free passes to the tune of 2.91 BB/9. His first half 1.63 WHIP melted into a 1.13 WHIP in the second half of the season and what makes me most excited is that his second half 3.56 WHIP is nearly identical to his second half ERA, which tells me his post All-star break performance is for real. His soft contact rate in each half of 2017 was below 20%, which is even more notable given his first half struggles, and he cut his 36.5% hard contact rate from the first half down to 30.2% in the second half. His floor is fairly high because of strike out ability (10.9% SwStr%), but the cherry on top is that Snell threw 218 IP between the Bigs and Triple-A last season, so I have zero concerns about either his durability or any potential innings limits imposed on him. As long as he continues to throw the way he did following his return to the Majors last season, I expect Snell to become a SP2/3 pitcher.
Chris “Crush” Davis - I think many of us forget that Chris Davis is only two seasons removed from a whopping 47 HR, 117 RBI, 100 R season because his either his putrid batting average or reputation for a 30+% strikeout rate is pretty much everyone’s first thought when we hear his name. Let’s also not forget his 103 R, 53 HR, and 138 RBI season in 2013. Further weighing down Davis’ perceived value is the depth of his position and alternatives available. I’m think it’s important, though, to really think about giving Davis a shot because of the low risk involved in drafting him. Both his .215 batting average and .423 SLG last season were far below his career .246 batting average and .490 SLG, and the same disparity is seen in his .309 OBP from last season compared to his career .328 OBP. What will be crucial for Davis to return to his 2015 form will be for him to cut down on his K% (31.0% in 2015 vs. 37.2% in 2017) as well as convert some of his ground balls (GB%: 31.8% in ‘15 vs. 36.7% in ‘17) to fly balls (FB%: 43.5% in ‘15 vs. 39.8% in ‘17) so his career 24.8% HR/FB can get him back into the 40 HR club. Remember, Crush also missed a chunk of last season with a Grade-1 oblique strain, so it’s possible that had a major effect on his underwhelming production. Davis is also usually much more durable, as he’s played in 157+ games each of the two seasons before 2017 and played in 160 games during his magical 2013 season, and he’s one of the players the Orioles count on to score. As a utility or bench bat (at worst), I think you can do a lot worse than Chris Davis given the low investment he requires. If we see him return to his 2015 form, though, you will leave your league mates begging you for your secret about how you knew Crush was back. Whether you spill the beans about the Fantasy Gospel is another thing.
CG: Delino Deshields - Stolen bases seem to be a hard commodity to find in fantasy baseball in recent years, which is why I am all in on Delino Deshields in 2018. Deshields has elite speed and is going towards the end of drafts or not at all. His 40 yard dash time was 4.27 seconds. To put that in perspective and compare to football, that would be the 6th fastest time ever recorded at the NFL combine. Now let’s compare that to the MLB. In 2017 Deshields ranked 6th in sprint speed at 29.3 feet per second tied with the steals leader Dee Gordon. In the 2017 season Deshields was able to swipe 29 bases which was 4th in the American League tied with Byron Buxton. Deshields stole those bases in a part time role playing in 120 games. If you rate that to 162 games that would have been 39 stolen bases. 39 bags would have led the American League in stolen bases. This is a guy who back in 2012 playing in A and A+ ball had 101 stolen bases. YES 101!!!! Deshields is projected to be an everyday player in that Rangers lineup. Last season he was able to get his walk rate back up to 10% while slightly lowering his K%. If he is able to improve upon those numbers he will be a steal in the draft. No pun intended.
Jose Peraza - Getting a lot of hype coming into the 2017 season Jose Peraza ended up being a major disappointment. That being said, Im doubling down and betting on Jose Peraza this season. Jose Peraza has little competition at the moment for the starting shortstop job in Cincinnati, almost guaranteeing playing time and at bats early in the season. According to multiple website he is projected to bat 2nd in the hitter friendly Great American Ballpark. That would be great for his run scoring opportunities with Joey Votto behind him. In 2016 Peraza had a .324 BA and 21 steals in 72 games. If you rate that out to a full season of 162 games thats 47 stolen bases. This is what led to all the buzz coming into 2017 which he was unable to capitalize on eventually losing his everyday job to Scooter Gennett. Even with the horrible 2017 Jose Peraza was still able to get 23 stolen bases. This is a guy who had 60 plus stolen bases in 2013 and 2014 in the minor leagues. While also having a career 13% K rate I don’t see him repeating his .259 BA from last season and project him closer to a .280 BA. Im projecting a rebound for Jose Peraza in 2018 and a big time fantasy steal coming at his current ADP. He has legitimate 40 stolen base potential coming into the 2018 season and is a cheap source of steals at a minimum.
Players I’m Drafting
By: Michael Yachera
Before getting into this article, I want to set out the context in which I’m writing it. I am the commissioner of a 14-team, head-to-head mixed league where each team keeps two bats and two arms. Of course, Carl and Brandon are a part of this league, which I would consider to be highly competitive, and we are entering Year 2 of our planned 3-Year keeper league. I will be keeping Nolan Arenado and Aaron Judge (who I drafted in the 20th round last year, 276 overall) as my bats, while I’m keeping Luke Weaver and Jose Berrios. We also have the luxury of a N/A slot, reserved mostly for a minor leaguer.
With that in mind I wanted to write an article, call it a cheat-sheet for my league mates if you will, to share with everyone the players that I have to draft this year because I can’t risk losing them to any of the other savvy owners in our league. If the player falls to me in the draft and I don’t think I will get him in the next round, I’m pulling the trigger. I want to draft them this season because I like both what they are going to do this year as well as next in the event one of my keepers is no longer an option entering next year’s draft (i.e., injury, suspension, etc.). Now that we got the formalities out of the way, let’s get to it.
1. Rhys Hoskins
For many, Hoskins explosion onto the fantasy baseball scene last year came out of nowhere, but he was raking in the minors and forced his way onto the Major League roster. In 2016, he slugged 38 HR with 116 RBI and followed that up with a 29 HR and 91 RBI campaign in 115 games last season in the minors before his call-up. Once promoted, he crushed Major League pitching to the tune of 18 HR and 48 RBI in only 50 games. What got me so excited about Hoskins in 2017 was his ability to limit ground balls (31% GB rate) while lifting the ball at an elite rate (45.2% fly-ball rate). Sure, he won’t repeat his 31.6% HR/FB, but with HR/FB rates of 19.9% in 2016 and 18.2% in Triple-A last season, the regression that will hit Hoskins doesn’t feel so extreme. His 12.7% soft contact percentage is truly elite and his hard contact rate of 46.0% ranked #4 overall among batters with a minimum of 200 plate appearances, finishing better than other elite hitters like Aaron Judge, Paul Goldschmidt, and Cody Bellinger. With potential like that in Hoskins’ bat, I’m definitely going to make sure I don’t miss out on Rhys Lightning like I did on several occasions in 2017.
2. Jeimer Candelario
If not for being a part of the Cubs loaded farm system, I think we would’ve definitely known about Jeimer Candelario years ago. It’s also worth noting his 2016 debut that lasted only 5 games should not be held against him, nor should his 11 games in 2017 with the Cubs. What I really encourage you to do is consider his 27-game stint with the Tigers after he was traded. Despite his awful stretch with the Cubs last season, Candelario still owned a .351 BABIP last season (.392 BABIP on the Tigers). He also hit .330/.406/.468 with the Tigers along with 2 HR and 13 RBI and a 18K/12BB ratio in 106 plate appearances. He logged a .840 OPS across two levels in 2016 while finishing 2017 with a .874 OPS on the Tigers, so I think there’s room for improvement, specifically lifting the ball a lot more (36.1% fly ball rate) and raising his LD% (18.6% rate). If he is able to do so, I think he will tap into some career-high power. He’s displayed an ability to be a .300 hitter (.333 in 2016 in Triple-A), and came very close last season as a member of the Tigers. Assuming he can cut his 45.5% ground ball rate from last year, I really like the odds of Candelario being one of the best fantasy bats on the Tigers in 2018.
3. Jorge Soler
Perennial underachiever Jorge Soler is probably an afterthought by now, but as a late, late round bat I think you can do much worse. Soler heads into 2018 reportedly in the best shape of his life, as he lost 20 pounds and he’s apparently retooled his swing according to Maria Torres of The Kansas City Star. Even though he’s slated to be the Royals everyday DH, Soler looks to be running out of chances as a Major Leaguer and could lose the job in Spring Training theoretically. But for now, I’m going to make Soler a late round pick because he’s finally going to get everyday at-bats and is loaded with upside. Soler showed what appeared to be rejuvenated as a member of the Royals, and his Triple-A .952 SLG last year supports my belief since it was his highest slugging mark since 2014 in Triple-A (.996). If he can sharply cut his easy outs (14.8% IFFB, 32.7% strikeout rate, career 14.5% swinging strike rate) and up his hard contact rate (31.1% in ‘16 & ‘17), I think we will see Soler outperform his Steamer projections of .242/.331/.436 with 21 HR and 64 RBI in 595 plate appearances (129 games) on Fangraphs. He’s had an ISO above .240 at every level from Rookie ball to the pros, so he’s got the elite power you look for in a keeper. The stars are aligning for the 6’ 4”/218 lb. Soler and even though he isn’t going to be counted on for stolen bases, 2018 is going to be the year he ressurects his career.
4. Lance McCullers Jr.
LMJ is a tricky draft pick that will certainly comes with inherent risk. He’s been very injury prone (back, elbow) in his brief three year career, and his career-high 125.2 IP is not the type of floor you expect from a keeper/elite pitcher. He’s also going to be clawing for a rotation spot in Spring Training after the Astros landed ace Gerrit Cole. On the flip side, I have zero concerns about his velocity and he maintained excellent 12.0+% swinging strike rates in ‘16 and ‘17. Even better, his 4.25 ERA in 2017 is a lot easier to look past when considering his 3.10 FIP, 3.17 xFIP, and 3.41 SIERA. He also only gives up .64 HR/9 in his career to go with a 10.15 K/9 rate. His career WHIP is 1.30, so we can’t expect that to improve significantly, but LMJ registered a career high 61.3% ground ball rate and career-best BB/9 (3.03) last season. The signs of improvement are there, and he’s displayed higher floors in prior seasons, so I really like McCullers Jr. to put it all together in 2018. In fact, if you look at his 2017 splits, his pre-All-Star break numbers reveal the type of potential a healthy, productive McCullers carries. The only downside to drafting him is that you’re probably not going to get 180+ out of him this year, but if I’m looking at this season and next then I like McCullers Jr. to get to that number in 2019. Things may change a month from now, but I have to draft LMJ because of his ace-like potential and (expected) rotation spot on one of the best teams in the league.
5. Garrett Richards
Garrett Richards is someone I have to draft because even though he only threw 27.2 IP in 2017, he demonstrated the ability to hit the 200+ IP mark in 2015 and averaged about 155 IP from 2013-2014. I also have to point out that despite undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2016, Richards recorded the fastest slider of his career at 89.4 mph and essentially regained the same velocity as his pre-surgery readings (95.4 mph-97.1 mph) on his fastball in 2017 (96.1 mph). He also recorded a career-best 2.28 BB/9 rate last year, so I am convinced he not only regained his control, but improved it as well. Richards even finished with the second lowest HR/9 rate of his career and only gives up 0.69 HR/9 across seven seasons. I love his 27% hard contact rate (career 26.1%) and his 24% soft contact rate from last year, and it’s hard to argue that he didn’t look better after Tommy John surgery than before. Assuming he can stay healthy, I expect Richards to have a career season in 2018, especially now that he should have plenty of run support. He may not get 200 IP this year, but I can reasonably see him pitching 140+ IP of dominant ball with upside for 190+ in 2019. I’m probably in the minority with Richards, but I’d rather be the one that owns him than the one that plays against him.
6. Prospect Special: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
At this point, I think it’s fair to say we all know who Ronald Acuna is. He was even a topic of debate in our “Bold Predictions” article, but despite the fantasy baseball masses opinion, I’m a believer that it’s actually Vladimir Guerrero Jr. who is the best prospect in baseball. He’s been compared to our generation’s only Triple Crown Winner (bonus points if you can guess who that is!), and ranks as high as #3 on MLB.com’s Top-100 Prospects. He only turns 19 in March, so we’re not even seeing him scratch the surface of his potential. For example, he destroyed High-A pitching last year with a .333/.450/.494 line and 6 HR and 31 RBI in only 48 games....as a teenager. Even more impressive is he did so with a 48.6% ground ball rate and whopping 30.2% infield fly ball rate. His HR/FB rate has increased as he’s progressed through the minors, and I love that number to continue to stay at or above his High-A mark of 14% HR/FB as he cuts down on his unsightly GB%. His approach is way beyond his years, which is supported by both his 28K/36BB rate (High-A) and 34K/40BB ratio (Low-A) in 2017. For a frame of reference, near-unanimous top prospect Ronald Acuna had plenty more strikeouts compared to walks, a 35.1% GB rate, and .287/.336/.478 slash line during his time at High-A in 2017. I understand that Acuna runs unlike Guerrero Jr., but I truly believe that Guerrero Jr.’s bat is going to be better and that we will see him at some point in 2018. I’ll wait to let another manager draft Acuna, but then I will make sure to grab Guerrero Jr. ASAP so I’m not banging my head against the wall up for the remaining seasons of our keeper league.
By: Carl Grove, Brandon Dombrowski, & Michael Yachera
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Follow us on Twitter! @fantasy_gospel
Over/Under: 49.5 HRs and 104.5 RBI for Giancarlo Stanton.
CG: UNDER ON HR - OVER ON RBI - I feel like a pessimist saying this but I’m taking the under on HRs. Coming off of 59 HRs last season and moving to a better ballpark makes the over very enticing. Only 2 players had over 50 HRs in 2017, one being Stanton and the other being new teammate Aaron Judge. Last season was the only season in which Stanton hit over 37 HRs. Im projecting 45 HRs for Stanton this season. Im taking the over on RBI with very little doubt. Coming off of 132 RBI last season, moving to a better ballpark, and to a better offense(2nd scoring offense) Staton is going over the 105 RBI mark easily.
BD: UNDER ON HR’S - OVER ON RBI’S - Last year, without Giancarlo, the Yankees finished 2nd in Runs Scored, 1st in HR’s, 2nd in RBI’s, 3rd in OPS and 4th in SLG. Look for those numbers to increase and for the Yankees to be the number 1 overall Batting Team next year. As for Giancarlo, I do not see him reaching the 50 HR mark pending his health. Remember, in the 2015 and 2016 season Giancarlo only played 74 games in 2015 and 119 games in 2016 due to nagging injuries (though he was still able to hit 27 HR’s in each of those seasons). Stanton also grounded into 13 Double Plays meaning he theoretically could have improved upon his 132 RBI’s - which is insane! I see him appearing in 135 games this year and coming in with a .265 BA, 45 HR’s and 110 RBI’s.
MY: OVER - Stanton has slugged over .600 (SLG) and registered an ISO of .300+ in three different seasons, including a career-high .631 SLG and .350 ISO last year. His BABIP last year (.253) is actually lower than his career BABIP of .317 and he’s finally shown what he’s capable of when he can play an entire season (remember 2014?). Heck, he even owns a .625 SLG at Yankee Stadium! Microscopic sample size aside, he plays half his games in the #2 stadium for HR according to last year’s ball park factors, is in a division known for it’s offensive output, and is protected in front, behind, and on all sides by the lineup around him. Get ready to see Stanton raise the career-highs he set in 2017 to an entirely new level in 2018 now that he proved his health.
Over/Under: 200 Innings, 199.5 Ks and a 3.00 ERA for Madison Bumgarner.
CG: OVER - Over on all 3 categories. Prior to last season Mad Bum has thrown for 200 plus innings 6 straight years, 199 plus Ks 4 straight years, and a sub 3.00 ERA 4 straight years. Even with the injury in 2017 Mad Bum was able to throw 111 innings with the majority coming in the second half of the season. We have seen Bumgarner go from 111 innings in 2010 to 204 the following year so the jump back to 200 seems very reasonable. If he reaches 200 plus innings i project 200 plus Ks to follow along. He had 251 Ks in 2016 and was able to show that he was able to regain his velocity from that year. My main concern is his increased hard contact rate and home run rate which is why I’m projecting a 3.30 ERA.
BD: OVER - Can the Bum regain form and stop pursuing his quest for Moto X Games glory? Before last year he had 30+ Starts, 200+ IP, 3.0 ERA with 1.08 WHIP and at least 214 K’s for 6 straight years. His current career numbers stand beastly at 104-76 with a 3.01 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and a .983 K / Inning ratio but last year his FIP rose all the way to 3.95 which is .76 higher than his career mark. I am concerned about Bum being able to regain CY Young form but totally expect him to be on the mound for 30+ Starts and 200+ IP while topping 200 K’s. I however see his ERA somewhere in the 3.3 - 3.6 range as opposed to below 3.0.
MY: UNDER - I don’t like MadBum to reach any of the above marks because he pitched worse as the season went on in 2017 after returning from a serious dirt biking injury. He made at least four starts in each of July, August, and September/October, but saw opposing batters’ OPS rise from .636 in July, to .682 in August, and finally a .879 OPS mark in the final month plus of the season. In addition to this, his monthly home run total rose each month from 4 to 5 to 6. I will say his K/BB ratio was always above 4.00, so it’s not like he’s lost what he had completely. Ending the final month with a 4.91 ERA, though, is not something we are accustomed to seeing since Bumgarner’s generally gotten stronger as the season wears on. He’s got the heart of a warrior, so it’s entirely possible I eat my words when 2018 concludes, but take a look at his splits before you invest an early round pick on MadBum when there’s alternatives with safer floors.
Over/Under: 69.5 SB for Trea Turner.
CG: UNDER - In 162 games last season Trea Turner was on pace for 76 steals. That being said I’m taking the under of 70 stolen bases in 2018. Here’s a list of steals leaders in the past 6 seasons. 2017 Dee Gordon (60) 2016 Jonathon Villar (62) 2015 Dee Gordon (58) 2014 Dee Gordon (64) 2013 Jacoby Ellsbury (52) 2012 Mike Trout (49). No player has reacher the 70 stolen base mark since 2009 and only 3 players have reached 70 since year 2000 making 70 seem extremely high. I think Trea Turner has a legitimate shot at 65 SBs this season.
BD: UNDER - Last year if Trea would have managed to stay healthy (only appeared in 98 Games) he would have been on pace for 76 SB’s - thats godly! 69.5 is not a far stretch away from 76 and Trea has shown to be an elite swiper of the bags. In his 198 Games he has managed to swipe 81 bags - an impressive number. I am, however, not a believer that he will reach the 70 SB Club this season. History tells us that the last 3 players to reach 70 SB in a season were:
Jacoby Ellsbury - 70 SB’s in 2009
Jose Reyes - 78 SB’s in 2007
Scott Podsednik - 70 SB’s in 2004
The last player to even sniff getting close to 70 SB’s was Juan Pierre in 2010 with 68 SB’s. This one isn't going to happen people - im sorry, but Trea will still be able to muster a 60+ SB season which will lead the league this year. Not a bad consolation.
MY: OVER - Using the last player to finish with 70 SB in a season as a reference, Jacoby Ellsbury, we can see his SB/game was 0.4575 in 153 games. Last season, despite playing in only 98 games, Turner’s SB/game rate was higher at .4694. Assuming full health (approx. 153 games to account for rest days in-season), Turner would have finished with 72 SB if he maintained that rate. Last season’s SB league-leader was Dee Gordon, who finished with 60 SB. He was thrown out a whopping 16 times though, and only had a 79% stolen base success rate. Turner, on the other hand, finished both 2016 and 2017 at 85%, while Dee Gordon’s never recorded a SB% that high. Also interesting is that Turner’s 2016 OBP was .370, but only .338 last season, so he didn’t run as much as he could have in 2017 in my opinion. As long as he plays a full season, I fully believe this is the year Turner flies past the 70 SB plateau.
Over/Under: 29.5 HR in 2018 for Francisco Lindor.
CG: UNDER - Coming off of a 33 HR season Lindor broke out in HRs, more than doubling his previous career best. In 2017 his Fly Ball % increased significantly from 28.4% to 42.4%. He was also able to increase his Hard Contact % from 27.5% to 35.2%. To go along with the huge increase in fly balls was a drop in Ground Ball % from 49.2% to 39.2%. All that being said, I think Lindor will come up short and hit 28 HRs. Im taking the Under.
BD: OVER - Mr. Lindor has been a model for durability having played 158 in 2015 and 159 games in 2016. Last year he broke out for career highs in HR’s (33) and RBI’s (89) while seeing a decline in SB’s (down to 15 in 2017 from 19 in 2016) and BA (down to .273 in 2017 from .301 in 2015). Lindors Batted Ball Data shows tremendous improvement as he posted career highs in the following categories:
14% HR/FB Ratio
39.2% Groundball (Career Low)
35.2”% Hard Hit
The data above suggests he will continue to improve. I see Lindor being able to replicate his HR total and come in right around 32-35 HR’s in 2018.
MY: OVER - Frankie Lindor never hit more than 6 HR in a season as a minor leaguer, so when we saw 15 HR in 2016 it raised some eyebrows. What he did last season, though, was something no one saw coming: 33 HR and a whopping 44 doubles with an .505 SLG. With only 15 HR in 2016 as his second highest HR total, it’s easy to doubt that he will swat 30 HR again this season. With a 16.6% soft contact percentage for his career and 14.3% rate in 2017, I am very encouraged, however. His batted ball profile shows his GB% decreased from 49.2% to 39.2% in the last two years and his hard contact percentage shot up last year 8%+ from ‘16 to ‘17, while his 2017 HR/FB rate is very close to what he’s already done in 2015 (13%). Nothing jumps out at me and gives me the feeling his power was an outlier, and his batted ball profile improves with each season since breaking into the Bigs. With room for improvement (ex. Lindor was NOT in Top-45 of qualifiers for GB%), the best days of Lindor’s career are firmly ahead of him despite his monster 2017. Once he shows his power is legit this season, the next thing we will be talking about is Lindor’s speed, so I’m very excited to see whether he can become a 25/25 player (career-high 27 SB in minors) either this season or in the near future.
Over/Under: 34.5 HR’s in 2018 for Bryce Harper.
CG: UNDER - Dodging a scary injury in 2017 Bryce Harper only played 111 games but was on pace for 42 HRs in 162 games. He’s reached that mark before in 2015 when he also hit for 42 HRs. Other than 2015 Harper has never even hit for 30 HRs. Harper is also an injury risk having only played 140 games or more twice in his 6 year career. The under seems like the safe bet.
BD: OVER - Can Bryce return to 2015 form is the question I have been repeatedly asking myself this offseason. He suffered a bad luck injury to his knee last year after slipping on 1st Base trying to beat out a ball which made his 2017 campaign only 111 Games instead of his previous two year totals of 153 in 2015 and 147 in 2016. Still just 25 years young, I expect Harper to return to form. Last year he was able to hit 29 HR’s which would have put him on pace for 39 HR’s in 150 Games (Bryce has never played more than 153 Games in a year). With his high ADP (5) owners will be looking for him to bounceback and perform more along the lines of his 2015 MVP year where he boasted an unbelievable .330 BA, .649 SLG and a 1.109 OPS to go along with 118 R, 42 HR’s and 99 RBI’s with 6 SB’s. I see him coming in at around 37 HR’s this year with the potential to crack 40 HR’s pending if he can reach 140+ Games played.
MY: UNDER - I know that as soon as I take this under, Harper is going to go HAM. I want to be clear here, I’m not doubting the power or ability. Instead, I’m taking the under because of his style of play. In six seasons, Harper played more than 140 games only twice. As a result, he’s only crossed the 30 HR mark once. It’s also worth noting that his 24.0% HR/FB rate last season was the second best of his career and was almost 5% higher than his career rate, so it’s entirely possible we see a HR/FB regression from 2017. I love Bryce Harper as much as the next guy, but as good as he’s been, we’ve never seen what he’s capable of in a full season outside of 2015. The upside is obviously tantalizing, but it might be time to start paying closer attention to limitations on his production because of his inability to play 140+ games.
Over/Under: 10.0 K per 9 Ratio, 3.75 ERA and 1.20 WHIP for Chris Archer.
CG: OVER - Archer has a 10.7 K/9 over his last 3 seasons with a career 9.7 K/9. He has a career 3.63 ERA but over the last two seasons has a 4.05 ERA. To go along with his ERA is a career 1.214 WHIP and over the last seasons that number has also increased slightly to 1.25. Chris Archers numbers seem to be fairly consistent the last two seasons which is why I’m taking the over on all 3 stats.
BD: OVER - I feel like every year we circle the wagon and try to pinpoint Chris Archer as a SP with elite talent. Archer hasnt had the best luck the last 2 years as his ERA has crept to 4.02 in 2016 and 4.07 in 2017 which is nowhere near his 3.63 career average. His WHIP has remained above his carer average of 1.21 the last 2 years as well at 1.24 in 2016 and 1.26 in 2017. He also has had a major issue with giving up HR’s as he finished with a 1.3 HR/9 in 2016 and a 1.2 HR/9 in 2017. Honestly the only thing that is keeping me from disliking Chris Archer for the upcoming season is that he is able to produce elite an elite level K/9 ratio above 10.0 which can greatly help your team in the K department. My prediction for Archer in 2018 will be more along the lines of 180 IP, 4.0 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and a 10.5 K/9 ratio.
MY: UNDER - As far as a 10K/9 and 3.75 ERA are concerned, I feel very confident that he should beat both of these marks in 2018. He sported career-high swinging strike rates (13.4%) and a 11.15 K/9 last season and should able to maintain a 10 K/9, in my opinion, because he recorded 11.05 K/9 in 2012 and finished with a 10+ K/9 rate in each of the prior three seasons. Even though his ERA left a lot to be desired the last two seasons, his FIP, xFIP, and SIERA indicate he was the victim of bad luck: 3.81 FIP, 3.41 xFIP, 3.50 SIERA in 2016; 3.40 FIP, 3.35 xFIP, and 3.44 SIERA in 2017. I expect some of that bad luck to recede, so a sub-3.75 ERA season is clearly within reach. My only hesitation lies with his WHIP, as he owns a 1.21 WHIP for his career and finished with a 1.24+ WHIP in ‘16 and ‘17. His GB% (career 45.7%) in 2017 was a career-low 42% and he gave up a career-high 39.4% hard contact rate (career 33.0%), so I’m looking for both numbers to normalize this year. Assuming he is able to do so, I think he can finish just under his career 1.21 WHIP mark and re-establish himself as a top-tier fantasy pitcher.
By: The Fantasy Gospel
(Carl Grove, Brandon Dombrowski, Michael Yachera)
Since we’re still waiting for Spring Training to begin, and in the eye of the storm that is everyone’s 2018 Ranks, the Fantasy Gospel wants to change things up for a minute by bringing you a few bold predictions along with some commentary. Give us some of your bold predictions through email or Twitter! Let’s get right to it!
email@example.com | @fantasy_gospel
1. Chris Sale will finish the 2018 season ranked higher than perennial No. 1 SP Clayton Kershaw.
CG: 2017 was an outstanding year for Chris Sale who finished with 308 Ks in 214 innings. I don’t want to bash Chris Sale because he is an elite pitcher who i have as my 4th SP this year, but last year seemed like a career year to me. 308 strikeouts is his career high which translated to a career best 12.9 Ks per 9. To go along with that is a tie for his career best 1.8 walks per 9. That being said, Sale still owned an era of 2.90. Now let’s compare those numbers to Clayton Kershaw who has been the best pitcher in baseball over the past decade. After 10 years Kershaw owns a career 2.36 era which is higher than any of his previous 5 years. In 2017 Kershaw pitched to a 2.31 era while striking out 202 making it his 4th consecutive year with a strikeout per 9 of 10.4 or higher. His 2.31 era was due to his career high in home runs given up at 23 which happens to be one 1 less than Sale who gave up 24 but played 5 more games. The main issue with Clayton Kershaw and the reason there is even minor speculation as to who is the best fantasy pitcher in baseball is all due to his workload and back injuries. The previous two season Kershaw has missed time with a back injury. This has caused him to fail to reach 200 innings the previous 2 seasons while Sale has reached that mark 3 straight years. That being said Clayton Kershaw is still only 30 years old and has a proven track record as the elite fantasy pitcher. Kershaw is my number 1 ranked starting pitcher and will finish the season better than Chris Sale.
BD: Sign me up for Chris Sale at #1 SP as you can see on my ranks page. I was able to acquire this gem last year in our keeper league and am looking forward to him improving his performance and efficiency from last year. Sale led the MLB in pitches per game at 107.1 and though the left-hander was incredibly successful early last season, and started the All-Star Game for the American League for a second year in a row, his September and Postseason were out of character. Per NBC Sports Boston Sale is focusing on becoming more efficient with his pitch location as well as doing a better job of trying to minimize situations where he is putting himself down in counts - or at risk. Sale crossed the 300-strikeout plateau for the first time in his career in 2017 and probably would have taken over the Red Sox Record from Pedro Martinez (313 Ks in 1999) had he made one more start. Sale finished with 308 K’s. With Kershaw failing to throw more than 175 IP the last two seasons and his FIP being significantly higher than Sale last season (3.07 vs. 2.45) I feel more comfortable putting my faith in Chris for the coming year who will have over 200 IP and again sniff near 300K’s.
MY: It’s probably true that few others are blaring the Sale trumpet as loud as I am this season, but I don’t think my faith is misplaced. With a career-best finish in Cy Young voting last season (second place), it’s hard to make the argument that his age or one tremendous season precludes him from being better than Kershaw in 2018. An All-Star every year since 2012, Sale finished Top-6 in Cy Young voting in each of the last six seasons while posting career high numbers in multiple categories in 2017. After throwing a league-high 232.2 innings in 2015, Kershaw failed to throw more than 175 IP in each of his last two seasons as he couldn’t seem to put his chronic back issues behind him. Combine that with last year’s sub-30% strikeout percentage for the first time since 2013, and his lowest SwStr% of his last three seasons, and Kershaw may have just crossed the threshold of his prime and entered the very primitive stages of his decline. Sale, meanwhile, posted a strikeout percentage of a whopping 36.2% (career-best) and recorded a SwStr% of 23.3%, which was just a shade under his career-best 2015 mark of 23.8 when he led the American League with 274 Ks. A quick look at FIP is interesting, as Kershaw’s was over 3.00 (3.07) for the first time since 2010; on the other hand, Sale’s FIP stood at a career-best 2.45. Of note, Sale is only going to be 29 this season and has thrown 1324.1 career innings. Even though he’s only going to be turning 30 this season, Kershaw’s thrown for almost 2,000 innings (1935 IP) in his 10-year career. He may not top the 300 K mark again in 2018, but I’m willing to bet on more IP and better production from Sale this season.
2. After just falling short of reaching the 30 HR and 20 SB club last season, Jose Ramirez (29/17) AND Rougned Odor (30/15) both accomplish the feat in 2018.
CG: First let’s look at how many people reached the 30 HR and 20 SB club last season. Mike Trout (of course) and Wil Myers were the only 2 players in the club. So do I think that Ramirez and Odor have a chance to join the club? No, no i don’t. First lets look at Jose Ramirez. Ramirez had a career year last season hitting 29 HRs. His previous career high was 11 which was back in 2016. Previously before that he never hit double digit HRs in his professional career which began in 2011. It’s hard to predict that Ramirez will continue to improve on such a drastic increase in HRs. I predict a regression to 24 HRs for Ramirez in 2018. Now lets look at Ramirez SB potential. Ramirez has always had speed getting double digit steals every year. In 2016 he had 22 SB with his best being in the minors in 2013 with 38 SB. Other than those 2 years Ramirez usually falls just short of the 20 SB mark. To me Jose Ramirez has a better chance to reach 20 SB than 30 HRs. Now let’s look at Rougned Odor. Odor has hit 30 plus HRs the previous 2 seasons and hits in one of the most friendly hitter parks. Last season Odor still reached 30 HRs with a .204 BA. If he is able to improve his average to his career .247 BA a few more HRs are possible. The 20 SB is what seems extremely difficult to reach. Odor had 15 SB in 2018 which was a career best. To go along with those stolen bases was a 71.4% success rate. I predict Odor to repeat and get another 15 SB in 2018. My 2018 prediction for Ramirez is 24 HRs with 18 SB and for Odor is 29 HRs with 15 SB.
BD: As much as I want to hop on this bandwagon no matter which angle I look at this - there is no way that either accomplish the feat this year. Rougned Odor’s OPS and AVG last year dipped to .649 and .204 - the lowest of his 4 year career although he managed to still hit 30 HR’s and swipe 15 Bags (which in my opinion is one of the oddest stat lines I’ve seen in recent memory). I can’t tell what to make out of Odor - is he a guy who has the potential to continue to hit over 30 HR’s? Of course. Is he a guy who can up his Stolen Bases by over 200% from his career average of 9.75 per season to above 20? HELL NO. Albeit he has improved as his career has progressed posting totals of 4 SB in 114 games in 2014, 6 SB in 120 games in 2016, 14 SB in 150 games in 2016 and 15 SB in 162 games in 2017 but I do not feel like 20 is an achievable number. Odor is set to improve on most of his batting categories moving forward in 2018 after posting career lows in Batting Average, OBP, SLG, OPS and having a career high of 162 Strikeouts. Let me put it this way - he can’t be as bad as last year. Crazy I am saying this about a guy who had 30 HR / 15 SB’s.
Jose Ramirez, unlinke Odor, is a guy I can rally (a little more) behind and convince myself he can (maybe) make it to the elusive 30 HR / 20 SB club. Jose has hit the 20 plus SB mark once before in 2016 and has posted the following totals throughout the years - 10 SB in 68 Games in 2014, 10 SB in 91 Games in 2015, 22 SB in 152 Games in 2016 and 17 SB in 152 Games in 2017. I can see Ramirez getting right at or slightly above 20 SB’s due to the lineup he is currently in and what he brings to the table speed and OBP wise. Jose had a career high OBP last year of .957 which basically shits all over Odor’s down year last year. When taking a look at his Power however - there is cause for concern. Ramirez did hit a rather flukey 29 HR’s last year which are more HR’s than he hit combined in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 Seasons (19). I do believe he will finish up at or around 25 HR’s this year but if he can repeat his success from last year - he has a legitimate shot at making the 30 HR / 20 SB Club.
MY: I understand that the prospects of both players reaching this plateau is daunting to say the least, but if anyone thinks they can do it...it’s me. Starting with JOSE RAMIREZ, who may not reach the mark because of his power (or lack thereof?). With 22 SB in 2016, Ramirez has displayed the ability to do it, in addition to previously stealing as many as 38 bases as a minor leaguer. We saw Ramirez hit 29 HR last season, but his second highest HR total was only 11. Even as a minor leaguer, his career best was 6 HR. Along with so many other fly-ball revolutionaries last season, Jose Ramirez’s power numbers took a significant leap. He also greatly reduced his ground balls and turned in a career-best 38.9% ground ball rate that ranked ahead of several 30 HR hitters like Lindor, Cruz, and Blackmon to name a few. Finishing with a career-high hard contact percentage gives me further assurances his power is for real. Power, on the other hand, has never been an issue for ROUGNED ODOR. He’s a lock for 30 HR in what should be a bounce back season. I may be wrong (and if I am I would love to hear about it), but it’s Odor’s inability to hit for a high average and maintain an on-base percentage above .300 that makes it feels like a longshot for Odor to break the 20 SB mark. What many fantasy managers probably don’t know, though, is that he ended up with 27 SB in 2013 as a minor leaguer in High-A ball. In 2016, Odor stole 14 bases, and followed that up with 15 last season, so I am encouraged by this upward trend seeing as we know his potential upside. Odor struck out a career high 24.9% of the time and finished with the worst OBP of his career last season, but I expect those number to look much better in 2018. His career-high number of walks last year offers evidence of his efforts to become a more patient hitter. Improving on his K and BB rates, in turn, should raise his OBP which will give Odor more opportunities to steal bags. With age on his side, this 24-year old is as close to a 30/20 season as he’s ever been.
3. James Paxton finishes as a Top-10 SP this season.
CG: On a per game basis James Paxton definitely has the ability and talent to be a top-10 sp. In 2018 Paxton saw his strikeout rate jump to a career best 10.3 per 9. His swinging strike percent was a career high 20.8%. Paxton has elite ability but struggles with his availability due to health. Last season he only threw 136 innings in the majors. His career high in innings was in 2016 when he had threw for 171. Health has always been an issue for Paxton and I personally don’t ever see him becoming a 200 inning pitcher. On a per game basis Paxton has a legit shot to be a top 10 starting pitcher but with health risks I don’t see him throwing enough innings to finish as a top 10 overall pitcher.
BD: PENDING INJURY DISCLAIMER: If James Paxton can stay healthy and start more than 25 Games next year he will be a Top 10 SP. Pax was able to make an elite jump last year by improving across the board in most all pitching categories. His ERA went from 3.79 in 2016 to 2.98 in 2017. His Strikeouts per 9 jumped above 10 for the 1st time in his career (117 K’s in 121IP in 2016 and 156 K’s in 136IP in 2017). He was also able to maintain his FIP below 3 for the second year in a row (2.80 in 2016 and 2.61 in 2017). Through a rather injury riddled 2017 Pax was still able to start 24 games and show everyone his true talent and what he is capable of. If he can prove to me he can carry the load of being in the rotation for an entire year without having any setbacks I believe Pax will be a surefire Top 10 SP ranging anywhere as high as 7th or as low as 10th.
MY: There is no debating how good James Paxton is. In 2017, Big Maple led all starters with at least 130 innings with a 0.60 HR/9 rate and finished Top-5 in infield flyball percentage at 13%, an IFFB% mark that is better than aces, Scherzer, Strasburg, and Kluber. He’s a definite sub-3.00 ERA pitcher and looks the part of a future Cy Young winner whenever he pitches. As we all know by now, it all depends on whether Pax can avoid the DL enough throughout the season to make at least 30 starts. His workload from 2015-2017 looks like this: 67 IP in 13 starts, 121 IP in 20 starts, and 136 IP in 24 starts. He dealt with pectoral and elbow strains last year, but avoided any serious injury so I would like to think his body gradually becoming accustomed to the grind of a 162 game season after seeing career highs in innings pitched and starts. In fact, he threw 145.2 IP back in Triple-A, which gives me confidence that 150 IP is going to be a reasonable floor in 2018. Depth Charts and Steamer both project 176 IP for Paxton in 29 starts, but last year Paxton averaged roughly 5.67 IP/start. He averaged an increase of about 5 starts per season over the last three years, so if he averages the same IP/start as his rate last season and made 29 starts in 2018, he would finish with 164 IP. Comparing Paxton to other pitchers who failed to exceed 165 IP last season isn’t entirely fair, but it shows he isn’t making it as deep into games as other elite SP are and highlights how badly he needs to be pitching every five days in order to fulfill his true Cy Young potential. His rates should be off the charts once again in 2018, but I’m not counting on 30 starts from Paxton this season and, in turn, a Top-10 finish. If you draft him, my advice is to get swap him for another elite SP that is more durable and averages better than 6 IP/start in order to protect that type of investment.
4. Ronald Acuna won’t be the best rookie in 2018.
CG: This is FALSE. Ronald Acuna will be the most impactful fantasy rookie in 2018. The only knock on Acuna is that he probably won’t be on the opening day roster and will have to wait about a month for his call. Other than that this guy is an absolute beast at the plate. Last season Acuna moved through 3 minor league levels improving at each one. His overall line in 139 games is a .325 BA, 21 HRs, with 44 SB. He has legit speed and power. His splits vs RHP and LHP was vitally identical in 2017. Against RHP he had a triple slash line of .326/.376/.530 compared to LHP .320/.361/.490. Once this guy gets a shot in the majors he will be a fantasy stud for years.
BD: Shohei Otani (The Batter) - Coming from the JPPL their will certainly be a learning curve between the rigorous schedule and talent jump in coming to the MLB. I fully expect Shohei (The $) to make his transition to DH or maybe OF seamlessly. In the JPPL he is a Career .286 hitter and has shown his ability to productively get one base posting an OPS of 1.004 and .942 his last (2) season respectively. He also has posted a slugging percentage of .500 for his career. Remember, this kid is only 23 and will surely be an asset moving forward for the Angels Organization. Ronald Acuna will end up being the more hyped and talked about Rookie for the coming year and in the long run be the better player in my opinion but will struggle to produce at the same level he currently is in the Minors this year (2017 - .325 BA, .522 SLG, .896 OPS, 88 R, 21 HR, 82 RBI and 44 SB). Look for Shohei to be better this year but it won’t be long before Acuna’s talent takes over.
MY: In a prospect class that is oozing with talent, I think MICHAEL KOPECH is a legitimate threat to be the best rookie of 2018 . Kopech was acquired by the White Sox in the Chris Sale trade and is regarded by many as a Top-3 SP prospect. He’s a righty power pitcher armed with an 80/80 grade fastball, drawing comparisons to one, Noah Syndergaard. Walks have been a thorn in his side throughout his minor league career, but Kopech ended the second half of last season showing much improved control and received an invitation to Spring Training because of it. His K upside is tremendous (11.5 K/9 between Double-A and Triple-A in 2017) and he rarely surrenders four baggers as we saw the worst HR/9 rate of his professional minor league career last season (0.4 HR/9). Of ALL (emphasis here) starting pitchers with at least 130 IP last year, James Paxton led the league with a 0.60 HR/9 mark. Think about that for a minute...Kopech is expected to open the season in Triple-A, but if he continues to mow down hitters and build his second half momentum in 2018, he will force his way up on a team that already anticipates making several prominent call-ups this upcoming season.
5. Byron Buxton (FINALLY!) breaks out and finishes as a Top-10 outfielder.
CG: This is the year that Byron Buxton finally breaks out offensively. Still even with a disappointing 2017 Buxton was able to finish 5th in the majors in stolen bases which is becoming a harder category to find in fantasy. Buxton ranks 2nd in sprint speed running 29.9 feet per second. Dude can fly on the base paths. The issue with Buxton in 2017 was his ability to get on base limiting his stolen base and run scoring ability. This being said Buxton improved significantly in the second half of the season. The first half of the season Buxton owned a triple slash line of .216/.288/.306 compared to .300/.347./546 in the second half. In 2017 he was also able to lower his SO% by 6% compared to the previous year while also slightly improving his BB%. It’s not too long ago that Byron Buxton was the number 1 overall prospect for multiple years over guys like Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa, and Francisco Lindor. Don’t sleep on Byron Buxton in 2018.
BD: Trust me - I feel like we have boarded this train every year for the last (3) years, but people the time has come. I am ready to BUY BUX - kind of sounds like Byron Bux lol. Buxton was able to play just about a full year (140 Games vs 138 in the 2 years prior) and had career highs in Batting Average .253, OBP .314, OPS .728. To really dive in and examine how much of an impact he had on the Twins look no further than the fact he finished 18th in the AL MVP voting last year (Carlos Correa was at 17th). We are currently looking at a 3.5 - 4 Tool player that can hit .250 with 70 R, 15 HR, 70 RBI and 30 SB with a potential to become a 4.5-5 Tool Player by improving in every one of those categories as he grows in the coming years. In keeper or dynasty leagues I would make a point to hop on this bandwagon for his current ADP of 65 in a heartbeat.
MY: The time has come. Enough is enough. 2018 is the year we finally see Byron Buxton set his fantasy floor. In the first half of the season, Buxton slashed another uninspiring .216/29/5/16 line with 16 SB, but played with a new swagger in the second half and slashed .300/40/11/35 with 13 SB. He eliminated the leg kick from his swing and the results are speaking for themselves. His first half OBP soared from .288 to .347 in the second half and he fell just short of a .900 OPS. He smoked the ball with a .246 ISO in the second half, which should regress, but with a soft contact rate of 13.4% in the same span Buxton was Top 25 in the league in that statistic (ahead of studs Bellinger, Freeman, & Kris Bryant), Buxton showed a glimpse of his upside. I’m confident Buxton’s floor of 20+ HR is safe with the changes to his swing and I won’t even get into his speed, other than stating that I think his 35+ SB floor is reasonable to expect, especially if his batting average is around the .300 mark. If that’s the case, then I think he’s good for 90+ runs. Add all that up and you have a Top-10 OF, and what’s absolutely terrifying to his real life and fantasy opponents is that Buxton demonstrated he’s only beginning to scratch the surface of his potential.
6. Archie Bradley will be a Top-10 closer.
CG: Proving why he was recently a top prospect Archie Bradley is coming off a career year with a 1.73 era in 73 innings. Bradley basically improved in every statistical category. Improving his HR%, SO%, and BB%. Now with Fernando Rodney in Minnesota the closer role is open in Arizona. Last season Rodney finished 4th in saves meaning there will be plenty of opportunity. There is still hype about the installment of a humidor for 2018 but no actual conformation as of yet. If the humidor is installed it should help the pitchers in one of the most hitter friendly environments. With all this being said I do see Archie Bradley taking over as the closer in Arizona but not finishing as a top 10 fantasy closer.
BD: With the Arizona Diamondbacks being in the top ⅓ of the league in Save Chances there will be plenty of opportunity for Archie to ease into his Closer position this season. Fernando Rodney was shaky at best last year and quite frankly lucky to have only blown 6 saves. With Elite Fantasy Closers coming a Dime a Dozen last year - look for Bradley to come in around the bottom of the Top 10 at about 34 Saves this year. 10th Place last year was Wade Davis with 32 Saves. We will see how Archie settles in after that debacle of a NL Wild Card Game he had last year - Hero to Zero to Hero? in a blink of an eye.
MY: I am a HUGE Archie Bradley fan and the reasoning for my belief that he will be a Top-10 closer is simple. As a team, the Arizona Diamondbacks saw the 11th most save opportunities. Fernando Rodney finished with 39 saves, and could’ve had more with six blown saves. Only three closers last season (Alex Colome, Kenley Jansen, and Greg Holland) finished with 40+ SV and I believe Bradley simply has better stuff than Rodney that will translate nicely to fantasy value. He finished in the Top-10 among relievers in ERA (1.73, #8) and left on base percentage (88.2%, #9), a LOB mark that ranks him ahead of every closer not named Kimbrel, Knebel, Jansen, and Hand. Maybe he regresses, but the hype he generated as he progressed through the minors is evidence that he possesses the upside to finish as a Top-10 closer. Now, all he needs is chance.
7. Carlos Carrasco wins the American League Cy Young award in 2018.
CG: Carlos Carrasco wins the American League Cy Young award in 2018. Last season he finished 4th behind Kluber, Sale, and Severino. 2018 is the year Carlos Carrasco wins the American League Cy Young. Carrasco finally reached the 200 inning mark in 2017. Improving his Swinging Strike Percentage to a career best 22.1% allowed him to also achieve a career high in Ks(226). On a competitive Indians team he was able to win 18 games last season with only 6 losses but 8 no decisions. Carlos Carrasco is a fantasy Ace and I see him improving upon his 2017 season. Congratulations to your 2018 AL Cy Young Carlos Carrasco.
BD: Carlos “Tabasco” Carrasco is ready to spice things up in 2018. Carrasco has shown steady improvement in 2 of the last 3 years and is ready to take yet another step in solidifying his campaign for the Cy Young Award in 2018. Tabasco holds an 8.9 K per 9 rate that he was able to get over 10 in 2015 (10.6) and 2017 (10.2). Over the last 4 years he has had a lower WHIP than his career average that has continued to improve. He also was Top 10 in the MLB in HR’s Allowed per 9 (.9) and Walks Allowed per 9 (2.1). There is only one factor that concerns me about Tabasco, his career 3.42 FIP. He needs to get that more in the 2.4 - 2.7 range if he wants to think about stealing the future 2018 Cy Young crown from my current prediction, Chris Sale.
MY: Not many fantasy baseball analysts or managers think of Carlos Carrasco when they consider the best starting pitchers in the American League, but last season he injected himself into that conversation with a fourth place finish in AL Cy Young voting. Carrasco recorded a league-high tying 18 wins along with a 3.29 ERA and 1.10 WHIP, numbers supported by his SIERA and FIP. His K/9, BB/9, K/BB, HR/9, and contact outside of the batting zone rates last season were all significantly better than the league average and playing on one of the best (defensive) teams in the league doesn’t hurt, either. Adding to my belief that Carrasco will win the American League Cy Young in 2018 is because he’s got tremendous upside, room for growth, and with a safe floor because he’s very good at keeping the ball in the park. In 2017, he ranked 17th of qualified starting pitchers in HR allowed with 21, besting other Cy Young pitchers Scherzer, Kershaw, Arrieta, and Greinke while tallying the eighth best swinging strike percentage (13.4%), better than Strasburg, Severino, and Jimmy Nelson. Carlos Carrasco took a giant step forward in his development last season, and if he can improve on those numbers and metrics in 2018, there will be enormous pressure on Chris Sale and Kluber to duplicate their performances from a year ago.
8. Evan Longoria resurges with a .290 BA 30 HR 100 RBI year for the first time since 2009.
CG: Do I think Evan Longoria is going to have a career year? HELL NO!! Evan Longoria has had a great career but has only hit .290 or better once in his 10 year career. Longo is a career .270 hitter who is coming off of a season hitting .261. Now when you look at Longoria power he has hit 30 plus HRs in 4 of 10 seasons making 30 seem like a reasonable ask until the offseason move to AT&T Park. Longo is moving from Tropicana Field which ranked 22 in HRs last season to an even worse park. AT&T Park ranks dead last in HRs last season. Now lets move to 100 RBI. Longo has hit the 100 plus RBI mark just twice in his career with the most recent time coming in 2010. Maybe the change in teams could produce more runs? Wrong! The San Francisco Giants were second to last in runs scored last season. The move to San Francisco hurts Evan Longoria’s fantasy value in my opinion and I project him to finish closer to a .260 BA with 24 HRs and 85 RBI.
BD: It’s an even year in San Francisco and though the streak has been broken - the Giants have done a great job bringing in Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen to try and reshape a Franchise who seemed to lose their way in 2017. Looking at Evan Longoria’s career numbers he boasts a .270 BA with a .341 OBP, .483 SLG and a .823 OPS. He also has averaged 26.1 HR’s per year for the last 10 years as well as being 1 year removed (2016 Season) from hitting 36 HR’s and finishing 19th in the AL MVP Race. Evan posted a career low in Strikeouts with 109 last year in 613 at bats, a 17.7% SO Rate. Though he will not benefit from the ballpark switch (AT&T #27 in Runs Scored and Tropicana #24) I do belief this change in scenery to a Championship Caliber Franchise with die hard fans and support will give Longo the motivation he needs to strive for greatness in his new City. With the middle of the Giants order to feature the likes of Buster Posey, Andrew McCutchen Joe Panik and Hunter Pence - Evan should be able to post numbers more along the line of his 2016 campaign in Tampa Bay.
MY: As great as Longo has been throughout his career, his 2017 batted ball profile gives me several reasons to believe that he won’t finish with a .290/30/100 line. Using his 2016 season as a baseline when he slashed .298/36/98, Evan Longoria nearly doubled his groundball to flyball ratio in 2017 (.68 GB/FB in ‘16, 1.18 GB/FB in ‘17). His GB% shot up from 31.9% a couple seasons ago to 43.4% last year and his 36.8% flyball rate (sixth worst in MLB among 3B qualifiers) was was the first time he fell below 40% in his 10-year career. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Evan Longoria improve on his disappointing 2017 season, but I can’t see him clocking 30 HR this season for those reasons on top of his career-low .163 ISO last year and the move to a slightly more spacious home ballpark. I believe the 30 HR days we grew accustomed to from Longo are firmly in the rear view mirror, but he’s still going to give you one of the safest floors among the other mid-tier 3B.
9. Thor will regain his 2016 pre-injury form and be a CY Young Contender.
CG: 2017 was an unfortunate year for Noah Syndergaard who missed the majority of the season with a torn lat muscle. Syndergaard is the hardest throwing starting pitcher in the majors. In 2016 he recorded the hardest average fastball ever at 97.6 mph since the stat began in 2002. That year he also had the fastest slider and change up in the league. Syndergaard only reached 30 innings last season but was able to come back late in the year for a non contending Mets team. For me the only part of the question that matters is Thor’s health and not a matter of his ability. In 2016 Thor was able to reach 180 innings and in 2015 reached the 150 inning mark. I predicted a healthy Thor for 2018 who will end up around the 150 inning mark once again.
BD: Noah will look to rebound after torn lat muscle due to incompetence last year caused him to only start 7 games down from his 31 the year prior. A gunslinger with easy 200IP and 200K potential I forsee Thor being able to put together a health season and start 30 or more games while maintaining over a 10,0 K per 9 average with a sub 3 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. Noah will be able to build upon one of the best HR per 9 ratios in the league at .7 for his career and use his deadly slider to put away batters efficiently this year. I firmly believe that Thor will be in conversation for the CY Young this year but the Mets Organization continues to show that they have no idea how to put together a competent lineup to help their solid rotation with run support. My prediction is that he will finish Top 5 in voting.
MY: I looked into any Thor injury updates I could find, but there isn’t much out there. One interesting piece I did find was by northjersey.com’s Matt Ehalt. Apparently, Syndergaard is spending this offseason working out with his former strength and conditioning coach from his stint as a Blue Jay. His new workout program includes exercises that inhibit and strengthen his lats, and according to Thor, his body’s “never felt better.” It’s a very detailed and revealing article that I will include the link for in case anyone is interested in a quick read (LINK). Going along with the bold predictions theme, I’m gonna predict we see a healthy Thor. He should have gotten over the mental hurdle of returning to game action post-surgery since he returned at the end of last season, and by implementing a new offseason workout routine that addressed the perceived flaws in his former routine, I’m predicting the pre-injury Thor to reward managers willing to take the enormous risk on him in drafts.
10. Kyle Schwarber will finally breakthrough and hit at least .250 with 80 R, 35 HR and 90 RBI.
CG: Schwarber was recently a top prospect who dealt with a major knee injury in 2016. 2017 being his first year back expectations were extremely high. With those high expectations came big disappointment. Schwarber hit for a career high 67 Runs, 30 HRs, and 59 RBI to go along with a low .211 BA. My two main concerns with Kyle Schwarber for 2018 will be how playing time shakes out and his batting average. In 2017 Schwarber reached 486 PA. If that number jumps up to the 600 plus mark than these bold projections are reachable. With a crowded outfield and infield regular playing time seems harder for Schwarber. To go along with the increase in PA Schwarber needs to improve upon his BA. If he his able to hit for a better average than the Runs, HRs, and RBIs should increase along with it. This offseason Schwarber has rededicated himself to working out and has lost 20 lbs. This should only help him get on the field more this season. When looking at it I don’t see Kyle Schwarber reaching any of those marks in 2018 but he has the best chance at reaching 35 HRs.
BD: Schwarber was able to play 129 games last year with 422 at bats after being sidelined a full season with a gruesome knee injury. He posted career lows in almost all statistical categories and had some serious issues with plate plate discipline and his swing. Checking in on Schwabers offseason he has taken his bad year to heart and not only has lost 20 lbs but is on a “mission” to become MVP and a Gold Glover while playing in all 162 games. Schwarber was able to overcome some adversity in 2016 when he was able to return to the lineup and produce during the World Series after the aforementioned knee injury above. If we dive in deeper and take a look at his 2015 pre injury rookie year statistics in 69 games and 232 AB he was able to muster 52 R, 16 HR, 43 RBI with a .246 BA, .487 SLG and .842 OPS. If we extrapolate those statistics on a 162 Game basis he was on pace to finish with 545 AB, 122 R, 38 HR and 101 RBI. With Scharbers new outlook on his diet and focusing on regaining his pre injury form I am ready to buy into him as an OF2 or OF3 in 10 to 12 team leagues. I do believe that Kyle is able to breakout with batting at or over .250 with 80 R, 35 HR, 90 RBI or more.
MY: As much of a pro-Schwarber guy as I am, even trading for him midseason last year, the Cubs have so many everyday players with positional versatility up and down the lineup that it’s hard to feel confident he will be able to see enough at bats to reach those numbers. Per FanGraphs.com, Depth Charts only projects Schwarber to play 108 games while Steamer predicts 117. If you feel that these numbers are too low, you definitely aren’t alone. At this point, though, it's a guessing game as far as how much he will play. With a career-high of 59 RBI last season in a limited number of at-bats, his poor ability to make contact, and competition for at bats, I just don’t see 2018 as being the season that we see Schwarber finishing with .250/80/35/90 or fully live up to his promise. However, I do want to make clear: IF Schwarber gets everyday at bats, I think he’s be in for a tremendous season (career best .246 ISO) and would instantly be playable as an OF2/3 depending on the league size and would be a bargain at what should be a low ADP.
For this article I wanted to choose 5 arms and 5 bats from the 2017 Rookie Class, but narrowing down the list from Baseball-Reference.com was a lot easier said than done. This rookie class is very deep, so I’ll provide a link to make it easier for you to see them all in one place: LINK.
An adage that applies not only to fantasy baseball, but to all fantasy sports, is to not always be blinded by the glare that illuminates from a player’s shiny rookie season stats when looking ahead to (and drafting in) the next season. Not all that glitters is gold, but I did a little panhandling and here’s what I came up with!
In 2017, we saw several notable starting pitching prospects make their debuts (JOSH HADER, SEAN NEWCOMB, FRANCIS MARTES) as well as some unexpected risers (JORDAN MONTGOMERY, DINELSON LAMET, JAKE FARIA) storming their way onto the scene. As a whole, this class is deeper than anyone expected and will provide abundant fantasy value for managers looking for lower risk, mid-late round values that won’t break the bank. Below are five 2017 Rookies that I am confident will replicate, if not building on, their success from last year.
1. Luis Castillo—SP, Cincinnati Reds
Call me biased, but as a Luis Castillo owner last season I was blown away by his ace-like numbers and was left wanting more when the Reds shut him down near the end of the season. In 15 starts across 89.1 innings, Castillo held hitters under a .200 average while registering a 98K/32BB ratio, 3.12 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. Many experts may argue that giving up 11 HR in only that many innings is a cause for concern over the course of an entire season, but his 1.11 HR/9 was actually below the league average of 1.27. Consider, also, that in his five year minor league career Castillo gave up a TOTAL of 14 HR. Out of all pitchers in 2017 that threw at least 80 innings, Castillo was Top 50 (#48 of 167 pitchers) in hard contact % (29.7%), so despite several bad pitches that were deposited into the seats, I think I’m going to chalk up his gaudy HR total in 2017 to nerves that naturally come along with the transition from the minors to the pros. Despite having a 3.22 BB/9 (also below league average), he registered sub-1.5 BB/9 marks in High-A and Double A, so it certainly isn’t unrealistic to expect improvement in this area. It’s easy to argue that his .247 BABIP is due for regression, but assuming he can regain the command he showed in the minors--or at least improve on his 3.22 BB/9 mark--and keep his HR total in check, I am very excited by this second year player. My only concern with Castillo in 2018 is a curtailed innings total as he took a step back from his career high of 131.2 IP in 2016. Don’t be surprised to see Castillo as a SP3 with SP2 upside this season, and hopefully the Reds can skip his starts or push him back to ensure he pitches as deep into the season as possible. This offseason is the last time you will get Castillo this discounted in fantasy drafts for hopefully a very long time.
2. Luke Weaver—SP, St. Louis Cardinals
Even though we saw Luke Weaver pitch in 2016, he didn’t officially become a rookie until 2017 because of service time considerations. Whether you call him a rookie or second year player, there is no argument that the former first-rounder will deliver on his promise this season. His success in both Triple-A and the Majors last season should have put to bed any concerns that creeped up in 2016. He was #21 of 274 players last season in hard contact %, tied with Kenley Jansen and Danny Salazar. Weaver’s K% of 28.6 and K/BB% of 21.8 last season towered over the league averages of 21.6% and 13.1% respectively. Consider his above average .335 BABIP, 3.29 SIERA, 2.93 xFIP, and 3.17 FIP, and it’s easy to argue he should improve on his 2017 ERA of 3.88. Holding a 72K/17BB ratio from last year and established command throughout his minor league career also adds fuel to the Luke Weaver Breakout Year fire. With his team being in contention, no real concerns about innings limits, and some serious prospect pedigree, this is the year Weaver enters the SP2/SP1 conversation. He is the next great Cardinals pitcher and should be considered “MUST DRAFT” on every manager’s draft day cheat sheet.
3. German Marquez—SP, Colorado Rockies
It’s hard to remember the last time anyone really recommended a Colorado Rockies starter for an entire
season, but German Marquez didn’t seem to be fazed by pitching in the Mile High City. Only 22 years old,
the rookie posted an impressive 4.39 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, and 147K/49BB ratio over 162 IP. Obviously, pitching in Coors will inflate a pitchers HR total, Marquez served up 25 bombs. He’s not going to blow anyone away with a below average K/9 of 8.17 (league average = 8.34), but his ability to limit walks is evidenced by an above average BB/9 and 7% walk rate. The most surprising stat about Marquez can be found by looking at his home/away splits: 4.59 at Coors, 4.19 on the road. He’s arguably better at home, in fact, as his walks, Ks, and batting average against are better than when he pitches on the road. His SIERA and xFIP from last season were better than his ERA, while his FIP was almost identical. Marquez’s biggest hurdle appears to be right-handed batters. Lefties slash .278/.340/.417 with six HR while righties mash to the tune of .263/.325/.528 and 19 HR. To take a step forward this season, the right-hander Marquez will need to be able to limit the damage righties do against him. Doing so will make him a sub-4.00 ERA, workhorse-like pitcher with a very safe floor on most nights. I believe you can count on Marquez as a SP3/4, or at the very least a reliable streaming option.
4. Scott Alexander—RP, Los Angeles Dodgers
If this is the first time you’ve heard about Scott Alexander, you’re probably not alone. He was drafted way
back in 2010 as a 6th rounder by the KC Royals. He made his debut in 2015 and pitched only 6 innings that season. He appeared in 19 innings during the 2016 season and showed marked improvements in almost all statistical categories. Last season, the Royals used Alexander in 58 games where he registered a 2.48 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 59K/28BB ratio across 69 IP. This offseason, Alexander was then dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a three team trade between LAD, KC, and the White Sox where he’s expected to serve as a setup man to elite closer Kenley Jansen. What makes a guy go from relatively unknown to setting up the closer of a championship-caliber team? David Laurila of FanGraphs has a well-detailed piece on Alexander’s One-Seam Power Sinker with an interview included (link). In short, Scott Alexander held a league-leading 73.8% ground-ball rate in 2017 and he watched Dallas Keuchel a lot when he first came up to the majors. Based on this and the fact that he will be getting advice from teammates/fellow lefties Clayton Kershaw and Alex Wood, it’s definitely fair to call Alexander one of the elite closer handcuffs in the game. While it’s hard to justify drafting Alexander ahead of closers with job security, I wanted to make sure to give Alexander the exposure in case anything happens to Kenley Jansen. Because he only gained rookie status in 2017, I think it’s safe to assume Dodgers will have him for the long term. Although the Dodgers signed Jansen to a five year deal last January that lasts through the 2021 season, let’s not forget that same deal included an opt-out clause after the 2019 season. For those dynasty/keeper league owners in deep leagues, Alexander is an excellent option at the end of your bullpen. It may be a little early to be hyping Alexander, but I firmly believe he will be an elite relief pitcher this season and closer down the road. At least you can’t say you didn’t know about him!
5. Alex Meyer—SP, Los Angeles Angels
A forgotten 28 year old first-rounder from the 2011 Draft who dealt with a litany of injuries that held him to 95.1 IP since making his MLB debut in 2015 and a career 4.63 ERA is rarely going to feel like a revelation, but Alex Meyer is a hulking 6’9”, 225 lb. righty who flashed his potential more times in 2017 than ever before as a big leaguer. Righties played themselves to a wimpy .164/.289/.264 slash line and at home Meyer was elite, posting a 1.36 ERA, 0.98 WHIP where visiting hitters must have had nightmares the night before facing Meyer since they hit .154/.375/.167 against him. That home slash isn’t a typo...believe me, I checked and double-checked several times. His road splits of 7.16 ERA and 1.84 don’t even require any commentary, but it’s hard to see his 5.61 BB/9 getting much worse, so he should improve on those numbers. Despite this, he posted a 3.74 ERA last season and the K upside is there (10.10 K/9). His 2017 (0.80) and career (1.04) HR/9 are well below the last season’s league average of 1.27 HR/9. Meyer has Danny Salazar-like upside with a significantly less price tag. I strongly recommend taking a flier on Alex Meyer later in the draft, especially with a lineup expected to be able to score more runs in 2018. Mock drafting is often helpful to get a feel for how late a player gets drafted so you will know about how long you can wait, but obviously every league is different.
While an unexpectedly high number of 2017 Rookie pitchers made significant fantasy contributions, two rookie bats really stole the hearts of fantasy managers. We started off with AARON JUDGE’s ridiculous start to the 2017 season, all the while hearing experts telling us, “This can’t last” and urging to “sell hi” everywhere. If it weren’t for a shoulder injury that lingered for weeks in the middle of the season, there’s no telling what kind of rookie numbers we would have seen from this truly special player. Just as we were starting to fully buy into Judge, along comes CODY BELLINGER. Both rookies led fantasy experts and managers alike on countless debates as to who the better player was. Regardless of who you have to “settle” on, you’re getting yourself an early round talent, and owning one of these two studs only gets better for those managers who play in dynasty and keeper formats. Now that the only two all-stars from the 2017 Rookie Class got their props, let’s look at five other rookie bats from 2017 that I expect to provide excellent fantasy production in Year 2.
1. Rafael Devers—3B, Boston Red Sox
For several seasons, the Red Sox searched in vain for an everyday third baseman. Pablo Sandoval was
expected to be that guy, but his BoSox tenure was marred by disappointment and his teammates and the
fans never seemed to truly embrace him. Enter Rafael Devers, who soared through the Red Sox farm system despite repeated statements by management that they wanted Devers to get experience at the minor league level so they wouldn’t call him up too soon like they did Yoan Moncada. After earning a promotion to Triple-A in 2017 at just age 20, Devers tore the cover off the ball hitting .400/.447/.600 and forced a call up to the big leagues on July 25. His advanced approach, ability to hit to all fields, and success at getting on base resulted in 10 HR and a .284/.338/.482 slash line over 240 plate appearances (58 games). He even stole seven bags and hit a homerun off of Aroldis Chapman as a rookie! Most projections have Devers hitting about 20 HR with around 70 RBI, but those projections are also for about 550 plate appearances (approximately 135 games). My gut felt me these projections were very low, but considering his defense is a liability at times (14 errors in 56 games) he could definitely lose late game at bats because of defensive replacements. If he improves on his defense, though, Devers should play more than 135 games, which would really increase his value. Eduardo Nunez shared third base duties with Devers last season down the stretch, but Nunez is also a free agent. If he does not return, the playing more than 135 games obviously increases as well. Devers may be the type of player that I am going to be a year too early on, but drafting him as a utility and/or bench bat makes sense because of his upside as a pure hitter and spot among a high-scoring offense. He was on pace for almost 30 HR as a rookie, so it’s hard to deny the future as a high-end fantasy mainstay this 21 year old kid has and in a lot of ways he reminds me of a poor man’s Jose Abreu. This is another bat for dynasty/keeper league owners that I highly recommend to target in the mid-late rounds of drafts.
2. Ozzie Albies—2B/SS, Atlanta Braves
Only two weeks removed from his 21st birthday, Ozzie Albies has a long, bright career ahead of him.
Coming into the season, Albies was ranked as the #11 prospect by both Baseball America and MLB.com.
The speedy middle infielder got on base better than either of his two seasons in Triple-A, after posting .400+ OBP in every stop of the minors through Double-A. When he’s on base, he doesn’t just stand around, either. In 2017, Albies stole a combined 29 bags with eight coming in 57 games at the major league level. If his OBP skills in the pros was any indication, then his 2017 .316 BABIP (league average .300) should improve. The lowest BABIP of his minor league career stands at .342, outside of his first taste of Triple-A in 2016. Further proving his patient approach is an above average ability to take a base while limiting his strikeouts: 36K/21BB in 244 plate appearances and a 14% strikeout rate (league average 21.6%). With only six home runs last season, you aren’t looking for HR from Albies, but in a top-heavy shortstop landscape and an early round price tag for the top at the position, Albies sneaky value is boosted by his position in the batting order. He never hit outside of either the leadoff or second spot since August 30 last year and finished the season leading off for the final three games. If his growth continues in 2018, I love Albies as a guy capable of finishing with a .290/.330/.820 line and 5 HR, 50 RBI, 80 runs and 25 SB. Playing on a relatively small market team has kept him from really garnering the national attention he deserves, but he and the lineup around him looks poised to improve on the Braves’ 2017 season. Don’t be surprised if Albies establishes himself as a top-10 shortstop this season.
3. Paul DeJong—2B/SS, St. Louis Cardinals
I’ve always urged managers never to look at a tiny sample size as anything more than it is...tiny. So when a
player hits an eye-whopping .486 ISO and 4 HR in 45 plate appearances (10 games) at the Rookie ball
level, I would shrug that off. When that same player mashes Triple-A pitching (.271 ISO) and then swats 25
HR in 443 plate appearances (108 games) in just over half a season, that .486 looks a lot more relevant. With a .247 ISO and .532 SLG at the major league level, DeJong looks the part of the elusive 30 HR bat from the middle infield positions. His 28K% is a bit of a drag (league average 21.6%), but in today’s environment a .275 hitter with 35+ home runs is going to be highly regarded. He doesn’t walk much, but his .325 OBP last season was right on par with the league average of .324. DeJong’s .285 batting average last season also gives hope that we don’t have to call it a fluke as he demonstrated an ability to hit for average in the minors. You also don’t have to draft him in the early rounds because he doesn’t steal bases, but don’t let him fall too much since he provides tremendous versatility at two premium positions and will be a reliable source of power and above average batting average in 2018. This upcoming season will officially put DeJong on the fantasy map, so make sure you at least consider DeJong as an alternative to a Brian Dozier or Manny Machado. I might sound crazy, but I 40 HR isn’t out of the question to me.
4. Matt Olson—1B, Oakland Athletics
Player A, in his first season and across 216 plate appearances (59 games), finished with 24 HR, 45 RBI,
and 1.003 OPS. Player B, in 529 plate appearances (130 games), ended the same season with 16 HR, 60
RBI, and a 14-year career-low .728 OPS. Can you guess who the former Triple Crown winner Player B is? While it’s my belief that Miggy Cabrera can’t be that bad in 2018, I want to show the value that will be there in the mid to lower tiers of first basemen. Why invest in Cabrera hoping his body is 100% and that he won’t wear down as he as done at an alarming rate the past couple seasons. Since mock drafts aren’t open, we don’t have the ability to look at ADP’s, but I’m willing to bet Miggy’s ADP is higher than it should be this draft season. My gut feeling about Matt Olson, meanwhile, is that he will significantly outperform his ADP. All this dude did in the minors was swat: 23 HR in 134 games in 2013, 37 HR in 138 games in 2014, and 23 HR in 79 games last season before his MLB call-up. That’s 47 total homers in 138 games between Triple-A and the Majors in 2017 for the 23 year old lefty in case you didn’t feel like doing the math. Those numbers are ridiculous, and while he may not repeat a 40 HR season in 2018, he will get awfully close and will cost a fraction of the brand name first baseman like Goldy, Miggy, Rizzo, and Freddie to name a few. Olson isn’t hitting for average, but in today’s hitting environment that doesn’t necessarily kill his value since many of his first base colleagues will have batting averages in the neighborhood of Olson’s .259 from last season. He was owns a career .249 BA in the minors, so just a shade above .250 is reasonable to expect. Oakland struck gold with this kid, and along with his teammates Khris Davis and Matt Chapman, the Bash Brothers fever should be infecting the Bay once again in 2018 after it was thought to be long gone.
5. Matt Chapman—3B, Oakland Athletics
Matt Chapman was drafted in the first round of the 2014 MLB Draft and entered 2017 as a Top 100 prospect
according to Baseball America and MLB.com. In 2016, between Double-A and Triple-A, Chapman slugged 36 HR with 96 RBI in 589 plate appearances (135 games). Last year, between Triple-A and the Bigs, he finished with 30 HR and 70 RBI in 530 plate appearances (133 games). Chapman is part of the new wave of young talent that is overtaking the Athletic’s roster, and he shouldn’t face too much competition for playing time because he flashes a nifty glove at the hot corner. Similar to teammate Matt Olson, Chapman isn’t going to be drafted because of his ability to hit for a high average. A respectable .244 BA in his minor league career is much more acceptable when his career .518 SLG and .845 OPS are also considered. Chapman will be able to get on base, too, so with a rapidly improving lineup around him, I like Chapman to establish himself this season as a Top-10 3B. Because the position isn’t as top heavy as it once was, you can wait on Chapman similar to waiting on a first baseman like Olson. Oakland doesn’t get a lot of national attention, but they’re a young team on the rise, in my opinion, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Chapman improve on his 2017 slash of .234/.313/.472 after his call-up in the middle of June. He completely lacks brand name recognition, but Matt Chapman will provide savvy fantasy owners value in the later rounds of fantasy drafts. If WAR means anything to you, his 2017 WAR for position players as a member of the Athletics was 3.6, finishing third among all rookies, right after Aaron Judge (7.7) and Cody Bellinger (4.2). To put that in further perspective, Chapman finished better than the likes of Benintendi, DeJong, teammate Olson, Rhys Hoskins, and Ian Happ. Not bad for a guy not many of us have heard of.
I’m Watching Yu…
Carl Grove & Michael Yachera
Despite waiting out the weeks and months that make up MLB’s agonizingly slow offseason, we’re still a couple weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting to their respective teams’ spring training facilities. Several players will be wearing new uniforms this upcoming season, several all-star caliber free agents are still deciding what uniform they will don in 2018, and some players’ paths to playing time in 2018 opened up as a result of some offseason transactions. Whatever their reasoning is, this article is meant to provide you with eight players we will be watching intently leading up to fantasy drafts. If you haven’t already done so, listen to the Fantasy Gospel’s second podcast in order to find out who our other four players to watch are!
MY: It was impossible to focus on just four players I am intrigued by as we prepare for the start of Spring Training! Three players below remain unsigned, so where they end up will definitely have an impact on how I will value them heading into fantasy drafts. The fourth player I chose is expected to see an everyday role in 2018 due to the departure of one of his teammates, but I want to see what his role looks like during Spring Training before I am confident saying he can (and will) be a very useful fantasy commodity.
1. Yu Darvish-SP
Four-time all-star Yu Darvish remains the most intriguing free agent SP on the market. As of January 23, Darvish is rumored to be interested in playing for as many as six teams, with the Brewers, Cubs, and Twins appearing to be the most active in free agent talks. In fact, the Cubs just recently signed catcher Chris Gimenez, Darvish’s personal catcher while with the Rangers, to a minor league deal on 1/22, while the Brewers presented the free agent with a five year deal. I wanted to take a look at Yu’s splits because my instinct told me he would fare better on a National League team. Here’s what I found:
vs. AL 4.06 ERA/1.30 WHIP (27 games)
vs. NL 2.25 ERA/1.06 WHIP (2 games)
vs. AL 3.03 ERA/1.10 WHIP (28 games)
vs. NL 1.59 ERA/0.88 WHIP (4 games)
vs. AL 3.31 ERA/1.30 WHIP (19 games)
vs. NL 1.64 ERA/1.05 WHIP (3 games)
vs. AL 3.39 ERA/1.09 WHIP (14 games)
vs. NL 3.52 ERA/1.24 WHIP (3 games)
vs. AL 3.55 ERA/1.18 WHIP (19 games)
vs. NL 4.39 ERA/1.12 WHIP (12 games)
Besides his tremendous upside, Darvish comes with a lot of risk. He missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery and hasn’t made 20 starts in a season since 2013. Injury concerns aside, I was surprised by Yu’s inflated ERA against NL teams last season, but judging by his 10 HR allowed last season to NL opponents, pitching in the NL West is definitely no easy task. I also discovered that Darvish’s K/9 rate dropped below double digits for the first time in his career against AL hitters in 2017 (9.2 K/9). Against NL hitters, on the other hand, Yu holds a dominant 11.7 K/9, which is good for the third highest rate against NL opponents in his five year career. I think a move to the NL will help to keep Darvish’s value afloat, but it is fair to wonder whether he will return to his Cy Young runner-up form from 2013. If the 31 year old signs with an American League team, I would be less inclined to draft him at his price tag because his ERA, WHIP and K rate is likelier to be worse than if he pitched for a National League team. Add to this the fact that I can’t invest a early to high-mid round pick on a SP that isn’t even a lock for 20 starts. It appears that he will sign with a contender, but in my opinion, what league Darvish calls home will not make or break his 2018 season. A permanent move to the NL makes him more attractive on draft day, but be weary of the injury history and durability concerns that are beginning to manifest themselves in the form of home runs allowed and declining strikeout rates against certain opponents. I’m only taking my chances on him if he signs with a NL team and falls to me in the middle rounds of the draft as a SP3.
2. Alex Cobb-SP
If he signs with a National League team (Cubbies?), I’m instantly jumping on the Cobb train and it will be nothing but full speed ahead. Although he’s played in the American League his entire career, Cobb has (in my opinion) enough of a sample size pitching against NL opponents to make this claim. In 16 starts that span 104.1 IP, he sports a dominant 2.50 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 101K/24BB ratio. He only gave up six homers to NL hitters, too. Talk about dominance. To put that in perspective, against the Yankees alone (90.1 IP), Cobb’s given up 11 HR in his career. Against AL teams last season, Cobb held a 4.14 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. I may be guilty of being selective with his stats here, but I have to add that of the six teams with a sub-1.00 WHIP against Cobb, four are from the NL. I can continue to manipulate the numbers, but I think you get my point. If Cobb signs with a NL team, I’m easily ranking him inside my top 15 starting pitchers and making sure to invest everywhere I can.
3. Raimel Tapia--OF
Because the Colorado Rockies feature some of baseball’s best hitters-Charlie Blackmon, Nolan Arenado, and DJ LeMahieu-it’s easy to forget they also have a couple of youngsters ready to steal some of that attention away from their big league teammates. I am referring to Brendan Rodgers and Raimel Tapia, and because Trevor Story is blocking Rodgers we will have to talk about the shortstop of the future in another article. The lefty Tapia will turn 24 in early February, hails from the Dominican Republic, and was a top 50 ranked prospect entering the 2017 season according to Baseball America and MLB.com. He had a disappointing showing when he got his first cup of coffee with a .262/.293/.263 line in 41 plate appearances (22 games), looking nothing like the guy who raked to a .328/.361/.458 line with a 61K/27BB ratio in just over 560 plate appearances for the Rockies’ Double-A and Triple-A teams during 2016. Tapia came back, stronger than ever, in 2017 and posted Triple-A numbers of a nearly .400 OBP and .500+ SLG that set the stage for his call-up. While he played mainly as a reserve for the Rockies last season, it was the way he ended the regular season that gives me so much optimism, hitting 9 for 25, or good for a .360 batting average. There are several reasons that I will be watching Tapia. First, I want to see where he hits in the order. If he’s hitting lower in the order, then he’s not holding very much value because his on-base skills aren’t likely to result in as many runs scored compared to Tapia hitting in the top half of the order. Secondly, I want to see how often Tapia plays since the Rockies have an abundance of outfielders. Blackmon isn’t sitting, so we are left with Ian Desmond, David Dahl (potentially), Gerardo Parra, and Tapia as capable outfielders. If Tapia struggles in Spring Training and David Dahl shows us the potential that we hoped for last year, I can see the Rockies opting to begin Tapia in the minors to work on defense and get every day at-bats. Thirdly, if Carlos Gonzalez does not re-sign with the Rockies, Tapia’s chances of an everyday job are enhanced greatly (assuming he holds off Dahl). Finally, I wanna watch to see if Tapia runs. With a career high 33 stolen bases (122 games) in the minors, it’s impossible to deny Tapia has wheels. In his abbreviated 2016 debut season, though, Tapia only stole three bases. Last season, in 70 games, he stole an underwhelming eight bags. I want to see if Tapia is terrorizing the basepaths this Spring Training because he is at his best when doing so. If he isn’t running very much, isn’t hitting in the top half of the order, and is being outplayed by David Dahl, I don’t mind taking a flier on someone else. If, however, Tapia is doing just the opposite and CarGo is gone, I think Tapia could be a very sneaky value and will make some managers look like bargain bin bosses.
4. Carlos Gonzalez--OF
We haven’t heard much about Carlos Gonzalez during this offseason, but he’s been linked to at least the
D’Backs, Red Sox, and Orioles. While he hasn’t ruled out a return to the Rockies, it’s hard to imagine the 32 year old re-upping. In what is presumed to be his final season as the Rockies everyday outfielder, CarGo whimpered to a .262/.339/.423 finish with only 14 HR and 57 RBI in 534 plate appearances (136 games) during 2017. With his fantasy value at a near all-time low, it’s fair to assume where he ends up will play a very important role in whether he maintains his fantasy relevance for at least another season or whether he fades away into the depths of the free agent wire. With this in mind, I wanted to look at Gonzalez’s numbers at some of the ballparks of the teams he’s been linked with so far this offseason.
Camden Yards: .273/.333/.364; 0 HR, 2 RBI, 0 SB, 3K/1BB in 12 plate appearances (3 games)
Chase Field: .283/.354/.516; 12 HR, 32 RBI, 5 SB, 65K/23BB in 243 plate appearances (59 games)
Fenway Park: .333/.353/.545; 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 SB, 7K/1BB in 34 plate appearances (8 games)
Obviously, the sample sizes for both AL East teams are too small to make any concrete conclusions as to how productive CarGo could be if he ends up playing for either the Red Sox or Orioles, but that is not the case with his numbers at Chase field. It may be hard to give Gonzalez an everyday role if he plays on the D’Backs, but he could thrive in a reserve role against righties since CarGo proudly owns a career line of .301/.368/.546 and hit 158 of his 215 career HR vs. RHP. His career slash against southpaws, on the other hand, looks nothing like a must have bat: .261/.297/.435. I would love to see the D’Backs bring in CarGo on a cheap deal and platoon him in the outfield against righties. The D’Backs have more right-handed bats than lefties, so there is a need for him in the desert. It’s hard to see Gonzalez having much fantasy value this season beyond being a platoon player or riding a hot streak, but I would be weary of a move out of the NL West. He is more than productive at Chase Field, and we all know how greatly playing at Coors can inflate a player’s stats. Maybe the Fenway stats look good, but it’s hard to maintain that type of production with such a poor K:BB rate. His career is definitely winding down, but I won't be interested in Carlos Gonzalez if he leaves the comfort and familiarity of the NL West.
2017 was a rough season for the future first ballot hall of famer Miguel Cabrera. Having the worst year of his career in 2017 Cabrera hit to a .249 ba, .399 slg, .728 ops, and 60 rbi. All of these are career lows during his 15 years in the MLB. To go along with those careers lows were 50 runs and 16 home runs which are the second lowest totals in his career. Adding no steals, which was expected, led to very little fantasy value in the 2017 season. Now the question is what happened in 2017? Was it age? Was it health? Was it a combination of the two? Going into the 2018 season Cabrera will be 35 years old but has produced 100 rbi or more in 12 of 15 seasons. Cabrera also owns a career .317 ba, .553 slg, and .998 ops. If Cabrera is able to get back closer to his career marks in the 2018 season he will be a steal at his adp.
Arguably the most exciting signing in the offseason was Shohei Otani who is now a member of the Los Angeles Angels. Otani has talent as both a pitcher and hitter making him a potentially rare two-way player. Otani has a career 10.3 K per 9 and pitched to a 1.86 era with a 0.96 whip in 2016. In that same year at the plate he was able to hit 22 home runs with a .322 ba in 104 games. At age 23 Otani has the potential to be a legitimate ace in this league who can also contribute with his bat. The question is how with the Angels attempt to use him and can his arm hold up thru an entire season while also batting regularly? Already diagnosed with a first degree UCL sprain in his right elbow Otani comes with injury risk as well.
Jimmy Nelson broke out for a career year in 2017 but unfortunately his season was cut short due to injury. Nelson was injured while sliding back to first base and suffered a rotator cuff strain along with a partially torn anterior labrum that required surgery. Nelson still managed 29 starts and 175.1 innings before the injury. In 2017 Nelson was able to increase his strikeouts per 9 from 7.0 to 10.2. In total, he was able to strike out 199 in those 175.1 innings while at the same time decreasing his walks per 9 from 4.3 to 2.5. Walking less and striking out more helped Nelson pitch to a career best 3.49 era. That being said Nelson is projected to miss the beginning of the season still recovering from surgery but is someone to keep an eye on during Spring Training because this is when he is set to begin his throwing program.
2017 was a tough year for Trevor Story who was 5th in the majors in strikeouts with 191 total Ks. The ability to not cut down on strikeouts helped Story produce a low .239 batting average even with the inflation of Coors Field. Story is able to produce fantasy value even with his low batting average due to his power at the position. With the down year Story still hit for 24 home runs in 145 games which was tied for 4th amongst shortstops. The issue with Story isn’t his power but his plate discipline. With a 34.4 percent strikeout rate it is almost impossible to project Story’s batting average to improve. To go along with this problem is an increased pressure because the Colorado Rockies have one of the best shortstop prospects waiting in the minors. Brendan Rodgers who is only 21 years old and unanimous top prospect hit to a .336 average across 2 leagues last season in the minors. Rodgers still might be a year away from making his major league debut but the seat his hot for Trevor Story.