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Sunday, February 14, 2016

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: MICHAEL BRANTLEY (SHOULDER) COULD RETURN LATE APRIL/EARLY MAY

The Cleveland Indians front office reportedly is expecting outfielder Michael Brantley to return from his November shoulder surgery sometime in late April or early May.  Brantley still has not been cleared to swing a bat and will proceed cautiously at the start of spring training so as not to suffer any setback.  However all signs have been positive to this point which is causing some optimism for an early return. 

Analysis:  Brantley is one of the best pure hitters in the game but his fantasy baseball outlook is very murky considering we have no real idea when he will get back into gear.  A May return is the best bet and so you have to weigh the cost of five months from the veteran. 

FANTASY SPORTS BOSS SPRING TRAINING CAMP TEAM PREVIEWS BEGIN THIS WEEK

That's right.  Spring training finally gets underway today and our own Michael Wong will literally visit every site first in Florida and then in Arizona as we preview each team from a fantasy baseball angle.  Be sure to keep checking back on a daily basis for the latest team discussion. 

 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

2016 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: ERIC HOSMER 1B KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Sometime when it comes to certain pitchers or hitters, a certain label just stick which as often happens, undermines that individual when it comes to evaluating his overall potential impact in fantasy baseball.  One such player who falls under this scenario is Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer who comes off a very good 2015 campaign but who also continues to be downgraded in the fantasy baseball community for a number of reasons.  For our latest Player Analyzer, let's dig in a bit deeper on Hosmer and find out what the story is here. 

While it seems like Hosmer has been around forever, he enters the 2016 fantasy baseball season at the still quite young age of 26.  With 27 being the age where a hitter's prime usually begins, Hosmer actually still has a season of upside possibly left to his name.  However for this feature, we will grade Hosmer on his current level of production and that looked like the following in 2015:

.297
18 HR
93 RBI
98 R
7 SB

Looking at the numbers above, one has to be impressed with the five category production from Hosmer.  The counting stats in runs and RBI both went over the 90 mark which is rare regardless of the position and Hosmer also started showing off the much-hyped pure hitting ability many talked about after he was drafted in the first round (third overall) in the 2008 draft as he batted over .290 for the third time in five seasons.  Also Hosmer has a bit of speed as he swiped 7 bases last season and three times he has gone for double-digits there.  So why does Hosmer still have a legion of critics?  One only has to look at his very ugly 2012 and 2014 seasons as the main reason for this.  Amid sky-high expectations for both campaigns, Hosmer fell flat on his face by batting just .232 and .270 respectively those years, while also only 14 and 9 home runs.  As a result, Hosmer went for a very cheap rate in 2015 drafts as many moved away from him for good after those two major letdowns.  However a few things need to be discussed here in fairness to Hosmer as well as what his real abilities are as he gets set to enter into his sixth season. 

The first issue with Hosmer is the fact he debuted at a ridiculously young age of 22 and thus not surprisingly went through some pronounced growing pains.  However those who play fantasy baseball are all in the "what have you done for me lately" mode and thus overlook this crucial issue.  Now that Hosmer is five years into his career, he is a much more stable hitter in terms of his numbers and thus for 2016, can be trusted like never before.  In addition to his age, Hosmer has also been hammered for his lack of breakthrough in the home run department.  His career-high in five seasons in terms of home runs is a modest 19 which he actually hit as a rookie in 2011 which got the hype machine going.  However Hosmer's profile really didn't suggest him being a major home run hitter as he all too often hit the ball on the ground which he continues to do.  Thus expecting 25-plus home runs was foolish in hindsight and that goes for 2016 as well.  Yes Hosmer has started putting more baseballs into the air which is the direction you want to see him going but anything more than 20 this season would be a bonus.  However when you combine 15-20 home runs with 90-plus runs and RBI with a good batting average, Hosmer makes the grade as a solid fantasy baseball first baseman and a tremendous UTIL/CI option.  The home runs coming in under 20 ideally make Hosmer more of the latter since you want at least 25 bombs from your starting first baseman to keep up with everyone else in your league but again the total package of the guy is still very decent. 

When you project Hosmer for 2016, again go with 90-plus runs and RBI due to a his high OBP (.363) and patience (9.1 walk rate).  Also Hosmer seems set now as a perennial .300 hitter due to his very good 16.2 K rate and again high walk number.  Throw in 15-20 home runs and a handful of steals and Hosmer has developed into a very good fantasy baseball option no matter where you place him this season on your squad. 

2016 PROJECTION:  .308 19 HR 95 RBI 98 R 8 SB 

 

2016 FANTASY BASEBALL PROSPECT WATCH: JACOB NOTTINGHAM C MILWAUKEE BREWERS

The Milwaukee Brewers were at it again Friday night as they continued their massive rebuild in purging their roster of veteran players.  Having already sent packing Francisco Rodriguez, Adam Lind, and Jean Segura, the Brewers added Khris Davis to that ever-expanding list by moving him to the Oakland A's for a package that was highlighted by catching prospect Jacob Nottingham.  With us deciding it is time for our first PROSPECT WATCH of the season, let's get a better read on the well-regarded Nottingham and see what this means for fantasy baseball going forward.

Before we go further, the arrival of Nottingham is intriguing on a number of fronts.  First it stands to reason that the arrival of Nottingham could mean that veteran Brewers backstop Jonathan Lucroy could be the next man out of town.  Or it could mean that Lucroy will move to first base where his solid bat would be more fresh and Nottingham would get a look behind the dish after a few months of seasoning.  Either way this bears watching. 

Now in terms of Nottingham the player, he is a former sixth round pick (first in that round) back in 2013 by the Houston Astros and the 20-year-old comes off a nice A-ball season for the Astros and A's where he hit a combined 7 home runs and batted .299 and .314 respectively in the two organization's farm systems.  There is quite a bit of hype literally "brewing" for Nottingham in terms of his hitting ability and the fact he uses the tools of ignorance.  He will move to Double-A for 2016 and that will begin his time clock in terms of a future possible MLB promotion.  Of course given the fact Nottingham has yet to play in Double-A, the chances of a promotion this season are very slim; with a possible September call-up being in the cards.  As a result, this is more of a 2017 storyline but again it will be interesting to see what the team does with Lucroy.  The bottom line here is that Nottingham has burgeoning power, a good batting eye, and the skills to be an rare offensive contributor for a catcher. 

When you put it all together, Jacob Nottingham is another prospect to add to your PROSPECT LIST if you haven't done so already.  Again we are looking at September 2016 or more likely 2017 in terms of a debut but you don't want to get caught napping here either. 

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FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: MASAHIRO TANAKA (ELBOW) UNDER NO RESTRICTIONS FOR SPRING TRAINING

New York Yankees ace SP Masahiro Tanaka is under no restrictions for spring training despite still throwing with a partial tear in his UCL.  Tanaka held back from throwing his four-seam fastball last spring before ramping up with the pitch as the season went on and he will be allowed to throw as many innings as he can for 2016.  Of course it is only a matter of time before the elbow years, with Adam Wainwright a good example.  Wainwright pitched for a few seasons with a partial tear in his own UCL before he tore it completely.  Again proceed cautiously with Tanaka this drafting season. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: JOE PANIK (BACK) PROCLAIMS HIMSELF 100 PERCENT HEALTHY FOR 2016

San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik claims he is 100 percent healthy for the start of spring training after he was shut down last August with back trouble.  Panik looks to build off an All-Star 2015 season when he hit .313 with 8 home runs without having a full allotment of at-bats. 

Analysis:  We already did a piece on Panik this winter (http://www.thefantasysportsboss.com/2016/02/2016-fantasy-baseball-draft-sleeper-joe.html) and he remain a major sleeper for 2016.  A lock for a .300 average, Panik has developing power that could approach 15 home runs this season and also some nice counting statistics. 

 

2016 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: KHRIS DAVIS OUTFIELDER OAKLAND A'S

There was some late winter action on the eve of spring training on Friday night, as the Milwaukee Brewers sent outfielder Khris Davis to the Oakland A's for two prospects which were highlighted by well-regarded catcher Jacob Nottingham.  While Davis is by no means a star, he likely helped more than a few fantasy baseball teams lock up a league title during the second half of 2015 on the literal strength of a major power surge during those last three months.  As we look toward 2016, let's see what Davis has in store statistically. 

As I noted earlier, Khris Davis is not a star by any means and in actuality is pretty much a power hitting specialist in terms of his fantasy baseball impact.  With power in such increasingly short supply these days however, Davis no doubt has a place on any team in the fantasy baseball community.  After a rough start to his 2015 campaign, Davis rallied big time as a big force down the stretch as he put the finishing touches on the following numbers:

.247
25 HR
66 RBI
54 R
6 SB

The 25 home runs really stand out here and Davis actually hit 21 of those in his big second half which titled the scales in some leagues for those who took him aboard.  One such owner who undertook that strategy was yours truly who needed a power boost in the worst way last July and who would up sticking with him in my winning Experts League team the rest of the way.  Be that as it may however, I won't be chasing Davis in this season unless he falls into my lap as a backup outfielder in the very late rounds.  Even then I very well will take a pass as late round picks should be about upside and Davis has none as he is already 28.  Be that as it may, let's get back to the numbers.

Now entering into his fourth Major League season, Davis has hit 22 and 27 home runs the last two years so his baseline is established in between that area.  Davis has very impressive natural power but keep in mind he gets a ballpark downgrade moving from Milwaukee to spacious O.Co Coliseum in Oakland.  That will make repeating last season's 27 home runs unlikely and Davis should be graded out more in the 22-25 range instead with about 65 RBI.  A .323 OBP was all right last season but Davis has yet to pass 70 runs in his first three seasons and even that number is likely a reach for 2016. 

As far as the steals and batting average, let's take them one at a time.  The average was ugly at .247 in 2015 and for his career now Davis is at a shaky .250.  He looks like your classic high K/solid power hitting slugger and that won't change now.  The major drawback here is that Davis struck out in an insane 27.7 of his at-bats a year ago and going to a new league with new pitchers will not likely change that mark.  That means unless he gets BABIP help, Davis will struggle to bat even .250 which is a problem.  In addition, the six stolen bases Davis had a year ago pretty much represent what he is fully capable of doing there as he simply has average to below-average speed. 

When you put it all together, Khris Davis is nothing but a bench option you can use in a pinch in three-outfielder mixed league formats or an OF 4 or 5 in five outfielder setups.  Again we respect the power here but Davis overall has a bit too any holes in terms of his fantasy baseball impact for our liking. 

2016 PROJECTION:  .245 23 HR 63 RBI 56 R 5 SB 

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Friday, February 12, 2016

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: A'S COMPLETE TRADE WITH BREWERS FOR KHRIS DAVIS

The Milwaukee Brewers continued with their housecleaning on Friday as they agreed to trade power-hitting outfielder Khris Davis to the Oakland A's for two minor leaguers, highlighted by catcher Jacob Norringham.  Davis comes off a solid 2015 season when he hit 27 home runs and drove in 66 batters. 

Analysis:  The Brewers have moved anything that is not nailed down this winter as Davis joins Francisco Rodriguez, Jean Segura, and Adam Lind as veterans who were sent packing.  Davis has very good power as the 27 home runs showed last season but he faces a sharp downgrade in terms of his new home ballpark and his batting average (.247 in 2015) has long been an issue. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: JENRRY MEJIA BUSTED FOR PED A THIRD TIME, BANNED FOR LIFE

Twice-suspended relief pitcher Jenrry Mejia was busted for the third time for PED's in less then a year, triggering a lifetime ban from Major League Baseball. 

Analysis:  Wow.  I mean really?  How stupid and utterly ridiculous Mejia is.  The guy is a complete disgrace and luckily won't be heard from again in Major League circles. 

2016 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: MIGUEL SANO 3B MINNESOTA TWINS

The 2015 fantasy baseball was not unlike any other in recent memory when it came to the massive and well-chronicled explosion of the third base position right at the top.  Joining MVP Josh Donaldson were other monster All-Star hitting stars at the hot corner that included Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado, and Kris Bryant.  While those four got most of the hype and pub, one could argue that a fifth youthful third baseman also should have been added to this group in the form of powerful Minnesota Twins slugger Miguel Sano.  Long considered one of the top prospects in baseball the last few years due to his Giancarlo Stanton-like power, Sano hit a detour in 2014 when he missed the entire season due to being forced to undergo Tommy John elbow surgery.  Back a year later and with good health, Sano picked up right where he left off by hitting 15 home runs in only 286 at-bats at Triple-A before the Twins promoted him during the summer.  From that point onward, Sano was downright spectacular at times as he slammed 18 more home runs in just 335 at-bats.  Better yet, Sano even put up a respectable average at .269.  Now going into the 2016 season, Sano will be an outfielder for the Twins as Trevor Plouffe stays at third base.  No matter where he plays though, you want to own Sano in fantasy baseball for the sole purpose of that power.  Let's get into Sano a bit more and find out how good he can be in 2016.

Stating the extreme obvious, Sano is a monster power hitter in the making who can maybe challenge for the home run title as soon as this season.  The power is that immense as Sano should with his 35 home run pace last season with the Twins.  30 home runs should be a lock for Sano this season and there is the outside chance he could challenge 40 if he gets enough pitches to hit.  The RBI will follow along with the power as well, with 80-90 RBI in the cards as well.  Also with a .385 OBP, Sano gets on base at a high clip to help in runs as well.

Of course when it comes to Miguel Sano, we have to discuss the giant issue of his batting average which was a fluke at .269 in 2015 due to an insanely lucky .396 BABIP.  With a lack of pure speed, there is no way in hell Sano approaches that kind of BABIP again and this alone will make his average tumble.  In addition, Sano has some of the most pronounced strikeouts issues of any hitter for 2016 fantasy baseball, with his 2015 K rate of 35.5 percent showing just how bad he is there.  That 35.5 percent is Joey Gallo territory which is not where you want any hitter to be.  With the BABIP dropping and the K rate going over 30 percent again this season, Sano may not even be able to hit .240.  That is a big negative and at least throws some cold water on his prospects as an overall investment.  Throw in a lack of speed that will result in a single-digit number in steals and Sano is a big negative in two standard categories. 

Of course when you invest in Sano, you ignore the average and runs and are blinded by the power.  We get that but it also is not the best way to go about using your draft dollars.  Remember that the hurt Sano puts in your overall team batting average takes some sizzle away from the extreme power numbers and that needs to be addressed.  We love the third base/outfield versatility and 35 home run power but Sano is still quite flawed. 

2016 PROJECTION:  .244 34 HR 88 RBI 78 R 4 SB 

 

2016 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT SLEEPER: RANDAL GRICHUK OUTFIELDER ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Annually lauded as having one of the best run organizations in Major League Baseball, a main part of the ongoing success of the St. Louis Cardinals centers on their very fertile farm system that continually churns out high quality pitchers and hitters.  With the core of the Cardinals aging as Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, and Adam Wainwright all slipping as they continue on in their mid-30's, the need for youth is quite pronounced.  Enter in promising powerful outfielder Randal Grichuck who is set to be an everyday member of the batting order this season and thus carries with him some nice fantasy baseball value.  As always let's dig in deeper and find out what he is capable of providing his owners in 2016. 

A baby at the age of 24, Grinchuk comes off a 2015 season where he played regularly for the first time and the results were very intriguing as he batted .276 with 17 home runs and 49 RBI in just 250 at-bats.  What easily stands out about Grichuk is the power as his rate last season was toward the tremendous mark of 30 home runs if he had played a full year.  It is this power that carries the value for Grinchuk as he does have some overall shortcomings which we will discuss.  Getting further into it, Grichuk hit 28 home runs in 2014 in a season mostly spent at Triple-A (with 3 more bombs in his initial cup of coffee run with the Cards).  With a full season of at-bats, Grichuck could very well threaten 25 home runs and 75 RBI as he cements his spot in the middle of the order for years into the future.  Grichuck also had a decent enough OBP in 2015 at .329 which means he should be a 70-plus guy in runs as well to make him a three category help.

Now as far as the negatives, Grichuk struggles with strikeouts as he whiffed in a ridiculously high 31.4 percent of his at-bats last season.  If not for a very lucky and unsustainable .365 BABIP, Grichuk would have been more of a .250 hitter then a .276 one.  And even going back to his minor league days, Grichuk tended to strike out as well which makes him a batting average liability and takes some value away from his power.  In addition, Grichuk is not a base stealer either which puts him again as just a three-category guy with upside. 

When you put it all together, Randal Grichuk reminds one of a Jay Bruce player who can hit a high number of home runs, help in runs and RBI, and hurt you in average.  He comes cheaper then Bruce so Grichuk is the better buy but keep in mind the kid is not as flashy a fantasy baseball investment as some other young hitting sleepers for the 2016 season.  Draft him accordingly based on that assessment. 

2016 PROJECTION:  .259 24 HR 73 RBI 70 R 2 SB 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: ORIOLES TO ADD EITHER DEXTER FOWLER OR TRADE FOR JAY BRUCE

The Baltimore Orioles are very busy on the eve of spring training as they continue to negotiate with free agent SP Yovani Gallardo, while also talking with free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler.  With prices coming way down on the few remaining free agents, the Orioles are trying to take advantage and add a few more pieces before spring training begins.  However both Ken Rosenthal and Jon Heyman report that Jay Bruce remains a big target in a possible trade, with the O's dangling some key minor league pieces. 

Analysis:  It sounds like the Orioles are ready to strike here.  Bruce is a vastly overrated fantasy baseball outfielder who never completely panned out considering the hype when he first came up.  He is strictly just a home run specialist and nothing more.  As far as Fowler and Gallardo, both are very useful pieces but both have their warts as well.