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Monday, January 23, 2017

FANTASY BASEBALL CLOSING TIME: KEEP AN EYE ON MATT BUSH FOR TEXAS CLOSING SPOT

Sometimes before a fantasy baseball season even gets started, you just know that a certain prospective closer is going to fail and likely quickly.  Think Fernando Rodney at any of his million stops, or more often with an unproven guy who doesn't have a high K rate, these closers are guys you don't drat but instead select their backups in forecasting the doom which seems imminent.  Such a situation could very well unfold in Texas where closer chaos has reigned for the last two seasons.  Whether it was Neftali Feliz or Shawn Tolleson, the ninth inning for Texas has been an annual adventure and 2017 looks like it could be more of the same.  Right now the Rangers are going to go into the season with San Dyson in the ninth and on the surface this would be understandable when you see he converted 38 saves with a 2.43 ERA and 1.22 WHIP.  Terrific looking numbers for sure but they don't tell the whole story with Dyson.  For one thing, Dyson's 2.4 K/BB rate is pretty poor and is a recipe for disaster in the ninth inning.  Also Dyson got quite a bit of batted ball luck last season and when his ERA was adjusted, came out to a more troubling 3.62.  Finally, Dyson's overall K/9 rate last season was a below-average 7.0 for a bullpen arm and that alone is a huge red flag.  With Dyson not being able to generate a good number of outs though strikeouts, he is in big potential trouble for issues when his BABIP luck evens out this season.  Guys who don't miss bats like Dyson are almost always going to give away the closing gig at some point and it seems here it would just be a matter of time before this would occur.

Now in terms of who would be next in line, scratch of Jake Diekmann who does throw hard but who is out until the All-Star Break after undergoing surgery on his intestines for collitis.  That leaves the very hard-throwing and very interesting Matt Bush.  Of course Bush is interesting because of his previous journey in making it to majors as a 30-year-old rookie last May.  Bush dealt with a great deal off personal trouble with substance abuse prior to turning his life around and just by making it back he is a success.  Upon his promotion, Bush quickly got into he eighth inning where his explosive fastball (which made him such a talked about prospect in the first place in going number 1 overall in 2004) ranked fifth in the majors at an average of 98.2,  61 strikeouts in 61.1 innings ensued.  What was really positive was the fact Bush also had good control in posting a 2.04 BB/9.  This is very rare for a rookie and also a guy who throws such power stuff.  As he goes into the 2017 season, Bush looks like a very good candidate to close eventually and his role in the eighth inning would make him the heir apparent on bullpen setup.

So when you evaluate whether or not to draft Sam Dyson this season, be sure you back him up with Matt Bush.  Ideally we would punt on Dyson and pick Bush in the late rounds where you could easily end up with the better pitcher.  This one is too obvious to not happen this season.


2017 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT DEBATE: FRANCISCO LINDOR/XANDER BOGAERTS

Time for another 2017 fantasy baseball draft debate and today we go back into the shortstop position where we already settled on Corey Seager being the better pick over Carlos Correa.  Right below those two arguably sit Boston's Xander Bogaerts and Cleveland's Francisco Lindor.  So as always let's compare the two using the standard five ROTO categories to determine who should go before the other.

AVERAGE:  This one is very close as both guys are locking themselves in as firm .300 hitters, with Bogaerts coming out on top in 2015 and Lindor flipping the script in 2016.  What breaks the tie though is that over the last two years, Lindro's K/9 has been tremendous at 15.8 and 12.9 percent, while Bogaerts clocks in at 15.4 and 17.1.  With luck being equal, Lindor gets the nod.
ADVANTAGE:  Francisco Lindor

HOME RUNS:  Neither guy is a thumper by any means but Bogaerts seems to be growing into his power after slugging 21 last season, while Lindor has went for 12 and 15 the last two years.  Bogaerts has the body type and upward trajectory to continue to grow there, while Lindor seems like 20 would be the absolute best case scenario.
ADVANTAGE:  Xander Bogaerts

STEALS:  Lindor has won this battle each of the last two seasons over Bogaerts and he profiles as the faster and overall better steals guy going forward.  Since the start of 2015, Lindor has a total of 31 steals to Bogaerts' 23.
ADVANTAGE:  Francisco Lindor

RBI:  This one is all Bogaerts as he has a total of 170 RBI to Lindor's modest total of 129.  No contest.
ADVANTAGE:  Xander Bogaerts

RUNS:  While Lindor impressed with 99 runs scored last season, Bogaerts blew past him with 115 and has bested his Cleveland counterpart each of the last two seasons.  Solid win by the Red Sox shortstop.
ADVANTAGE: Xander Bogaerts

WINNER:  Xander Bogaerts

Bogaerts has sizable wins in runs and RBI and that gives him the nod over the terrific Lindor.  Again you really can't go wrong either way but Bogaerts is the pick.


2017 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: TIM ANDERSON SS CHICAGO WHITE SOX

The Chicago White Sox ushered in a prime piece of both their present and future in 2016 by promoting speedy former 2013 first round pick (17th overall) Tim Anderson.  While there were some expected cold spells, the young shortstop was very impressive as a rookie by hitting 9 home runs, stealing 10 bases, and batting .283 in 431 at-bats.  In fact it was quite disappointing that Anderson didn’t run nearly as much as expected but keep in mind this is a guy who swiped 49 bags ay Double-A as recently as 2015.    We do fully expect Anderson to run much more frequently this season and a push toward 25 steals would not be a shock.  Anderson does have to do much better on the strikeout front as his 27.1 K/9 rate would have been disastrous to the average if a very lucky .375 BABIP didn’t go along for the ride.  He also needs to show much better patience as Anderson’s 3.0 BB/9 was pathetic and again will threaten the batting average.  With burgeoning power that is starting to show, there are still a bunch of tools to work with here.  Just don’t be surprised if Anderson’s average jogs back to mediocre territory this season. 

2017 PROJECTION:  .266 12 HR 45 RBI 65 R 19 SB  

Sunday, January 22, 2017

2017 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT BUST: ADAM DUVALL OUTFIELDER CINCINNATI REDS

Often in fantasy baseball, we find hitters or pitchers who literally come out of the blue to put up some big-time numbers but then the next season fade back into oblivion as the opposing adjusts to their tendencies.  While there is no guarantee, Cincinnati Reds slugging outfielder Adam Duvall could be such a candidate for 2017 fantasy baseball.  Duvall of course was the Home Run Derby participant who himself came out nowhere to slug a bunch of home runs in a very eyebrow-raising first half performance (.249, 23 HR, 61 RBI) which helped earned him the invite to the midsummer exhibition.  What was interesting though about Duvall was the fact he was already 27 when he "broke out" for the Reds last season but that solid first half would soon descend into a very ugly second half as opposing pitchers adjusted and took advantage of the giant holes in his swing.  Consider that Duvall sank to a very ugly .231 average with just 10 home runs and 42 more RBI during the second half a he looked so much more like the Quad-A guy he was prior to the start of 2016.  Now 28 and entering into the new season with a starting spot locked up, Duvall will be drafted on the totality of his 33 homers and 103 RBI last season.  Instead focus in on the horrid .241 average and the fact Duvall scored just 65 runs and his six steals are about as good as you can expect there.  Duvall is just a two-category guy who may not even be that this season as pitchers now have a firm book on his weaknesses.  Guys who can hit home runs and have an ugly batting average are all over the waiver wire each and every season so there really is no reason to chase such a limited hitter as Duvall is.

2017 PROJECTION:  .236 25 HR 88 RBI 63 R 5 SB  


FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: YORDANO VENTURA DIES IN A CAR ACCIDENT

According to multiple reports. hard-throwing Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura died in the Dominican Republic in a car accident.

Analysis;  Just months after Jose Fernandez died in a boating accident, Ventura succumbs to injuries sustained in a car accident.  Obviously a big loss for the Royals and Ventura's family and out deepest condolences are sent.  It has been a rough offseason for Major League Baseball to say the least.


FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: ADAM JONES OUTFIELDER BALTIMORE ORIOLES

There is a certain factor among players in yearly fantasy baseball leagues that are classified as "boring veterans."  These are players who, while still quite effective with their numbers, have been around for long enough to the point that the fantasy baseball community gets "bored" with them and starts abandoning these hitters or pitchers in search of someone likely younger with more flash.  Think Miguel Cabrera, Elvis Andrus, Carlos Gonzalez, Jason Kipnis, and the subject of this post, Baltimore's Adam Jones.  A longtime favorite of this writer, Jones is arguably one of the most yearly consistent players in all of fantasy baseball.  Consider that over the last six seasons, Jones has averaged 86 runs, 29 home runs, and 89 RBI's,  Jones' batting averages also seems to stick itself in the .275-.285 range as well.  Still only 31 and operating in the a top five power park, Jones should be set for another outfielder 1 seasons in 2017 fantasy baseball by the looks of things.  What is interesting though is that in early mocks, Jones is being drafted as a low-end outfielder 2 which brings us back to the boring veteran label.  Now I will admit myself that Jones is likely no longer an outfielder 1 for reasons we will discuss but at the very least he is a top outfielder 2 given the consistency and still in his prime bat.  So let's dig in and find out what is going on here.

So why has Jones seen some disrespect at the draft table and entered into the "boring" veteran tier?  The most likely reason is that Jones no longer steals any bases.  Early in his career while coming up with Seattle and then after arriving in Baltimore, Jones was good for 10-16 steals (a level he reached in 5 of 6 seasons from 2008 to 2013) but he has only swiped a total of 5 combined the last two years which speaks to how that tool is no longer in the arsenal belt.  When a player loses steals, this does more to remove the "flash" portion of their outlook in the eyes of the fantasy baseball community and that is what we are seeing with Jones.  In addition but not as direct, Jones has seen his average dip to a shaky .269 and .265 the last two years after he was between .280 and .290 each season from 2010 to 2014.  What is starting to happen with Jones is that since he is losing his speed, his BABIP is dipping below .300 and into unlucky territory.  No longer having the speed to beat the BABIP curve, Jones' average has dropped.  With his BABIP being .280 and .286 the last two years, it looks like Jones will be dealing with some poor luck there going into the future which makes him more likely to hit .265 then .280 again.  Also Jones' line drive rate was his worst in seven years in 2016 so that adds to why the average is sinking.  On the positive side, Jones is still cracking home runs like usual, with his 29 last season right there at his career norms.  Throw in 83 RBI and 86 runs and Jones is filling up three categories nicely.

So while Adam Jones no longer has the flash he once did, he is doing more than enough to serve as your outfielder 2 for 2017.  The guy can help anchor your power numbers and his usual durability stands to make him less volatile others around his draft spot.

2017 PROJECTION:  .267 28 HR 90 RBI 93 R 2 SB  


Saturday, January 21, 2017

2017 FANTASY BASEBALL OUTFIELDER RANKINGS: 81-100

81, Manuel Margot:  See our Draft Sleepers for details on this speedster.  Looks like a young version of Ben Revere.
82. Shin-Soo Choo:  Can still hit for power in a great ballpark but Choo's injuries and total elimination of speed make him just a boring veteran.
83. Ben Revere:  Healthy, fresh start, and good track record makes Revere a good guy to buy low on as your speed merchant.
84. Scott Schebler:  Hit .311 with 13 homers at Triple-A last season and will get a good chance to stick on the rebuilding Reds this season.
85. Denard Span:  Shocked with 21 home runs last season but that number is a big outlier for Span and his career.  Drop to just 5 steals and a shoddy .266 average shows Span's age.
86. Hyun-Soo Kim:  Kim showed in part-time duty last season that he can handle the bat but he needs to play more to gain additional fantasy baseball prominence.
87. Robbie Grossman:  Looks like a Quad-A player to me but Grossman is still just 27 and hit 11 homers in just 332 at-bats last season.
88. Alex Dickerson:  Power/speed guy who lit up Triple-A last season (.382 in two months there) but Dickerson is already 27 and has to show he is not another Quad-A guy.
89. Gerardo Parra:  Parra's first season in Colorado didn't go well and now he could be pushed to the bench by David Dahl.
90. Angel Pagan:  Can still run a bit and hit around .280 but Pagan is clearly on the down slop of his career.
91. Seth Smith:  If you play him just against lefties in a platoon on your roster, Smith can help with his power.
92. Kevin Pillar:  Was very disappointing last season when it looked like Pillar was on the verge of becoming a decent power/speed guy.  Now likely getting squeezed out of a meaningful role.
93. Colby Rasmus:  We have tired of the all-or-nothing game of Rasmus who will destroy your team average while hitting some bombs.
94. Paulo Orlando:  Get set to move up Orlando is he nets a starting job this spring as he is a solid hitter who can run.
95. Brandon Drury:  Opened some eyes with good overall hitting early on last season but Drury is just a bench outfielder.
96. Nori Aoki:  Can hit .280 in his sleep but Aoki is not running anymore.
97. Franklin Gutierrez:  The nice 2015 story didn;t carry over into 2017.  Gutierrez could already be out of chances in Seattle.
98. Michael Taylor:  Only has value if injures open up an opportunity.
99. Trayce Thompson:  Yet another in a huge fraternity of guys who can hit for power and not average.
100.Socrates Brito:  Can run all day but again needs a chance.


2017 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT SLEEPER: MANUEL MARGOT OUTFIELDER SAN DIEGO PADRES

The other day we profiled San Diego Padres outfield prospect Hunter Renfroe whose big power puts him in position to gain a corner spot there to begin the 2017 season.  Centerfield should also stand a good chance of seeing a Padres rookie manning the spot but this time it is a player built more on speed and average than power.  We are of course talking about 22-year-old Manuel Margot and the former Red Sox farmhand certainly looks like a person of interest for fantasy baseball purposes this season.  Ever since he made his pro debut back in 2012, Margot has racked up steals by the boatload as that is clearly the greatest strength of his offensive approach.  Margot began to really pair that speed with a good average at Triple-A in 2016 for San Diego as he hit .304 and scored 98 runs and swiped 30 bases.  That is a three-category asset based on the numbers Margot compiled and he has the look of a classic leadoff guy based on his solid K/9 rate (18.9 at Triple-A) who can bring those skills to the majors.  Think a younger Ben Revere here as Margot profiles the same.  There is pretty much no power here to speak of and so he you need to cover that category somewhere else but Margot has a real chance to claim the leadoff spot for the Padres this season and help you in runs, average, and steals.  That is well worth a late round grab.

2017 PROJECTION:  .278 1 HR 79 R 45 RBI 24 SB