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Friday, February 26, 2021

2021 FANTASY BASEBALL ISSUES: FLY BALL PITCHERS PRESENT DECENT VALUE

 Hear us out.  The notion of investing in fly ball pitchers during this insane home run binge the last few seasons would seem to be a strategy to ensure your team finishes in the basement of your fantasy baseball league but 2021 will bring some change on what became a very frustrating development for everyone attached to the game.  So while fans no doubt love the long ball, we had reached a point of overkill the last few seasons as the "juiced" baseball fly out left and right all game long.  Thus, pitchers who were of the fly ball variety saw their ERA's and WHIP's inflate a bit unfairly as one or two bad pitches in an otherwise dominant game did tremendous damage to bottom line numbers.  Alas, MLB came out a few weeks ago and not only admitted to the juiced ball in not so many words but that they were deadening it for 2021 with  the expectation that home run totals would drop sharply.  So what does this mean for 2021 fantasy baseball?  That means those fly ball pitchers who avoided before are not set up to see the biggest boost to their values this season as their ERA's and WHIP's will settle this season more than those who get most of their outs on the ground.  

Taking this a step further, here are the more notable fly ball pitchers who should earn an extra look or a few extra draft dollars this spring:

1.  Julio Urias

2.  Lance Lynn

3.  Gerrit Cole

4.  Tyler Glasnow

5.  Chris Bassitt

6.  Kyle Hendricks

7.  Marco Gonzales

8.  Mike Fiers

9.  Andrew Heaney

10. Jon Lester

11. Trevor Bauer

12. Zack Greinke

13. Johnny Cueto

14. Martin Perez

15. Aaron Civale

16. Mike Minor

17. Zach Davies

18. Clayton Kershaw

19. Jose Berrios

20. Lucas Giolito


2021 FANTASY BASEBALL ISSUES: LAST CHANCE TO GET DOMINIC SMITH BEFORE HUGE BREAKOUT



Bank on it.  Put it in ink.  Bet the house.  New York Mets first baseman/outfielder Dominic Smith will become the next big slugger in fantasy baseball as soon as the 2021 season commences.  So confident are we that Smith will post a monster season that we suggest reaching a round or two early over his current draft ADP in order to ensure you have a piece of the action.  Already Smith has hinted at what is to come after he quietly earned some MVP consideration in the shortened 2020 season when he hit 10 home runs, collected 42 RBI, and batted a smooth .316 as he and not Pete Alonso became the slugging talk of the team.  

Now in terms of delving in on the particulars, Smith has always been lauded for both his power and ability to hit for average as he was originally the 11th overall pick in the 2013 MLB draft and soon he was tearing things up in the minor leagues.  Alas, Smith would then stumble a bit as an undiagnosed sleep apnea condition left him constantly tired and sapped his concentration and some power.  The issue also led to some run-ins with the Mets front office that included being deactivated by the team for the Grapefruit League opener at the start of 2019.  Once Smith was diagnosed however, he quickly began correcting the condition by hooking up to a BIPAP machine at night to aid in breathing and the results since have been dramatic.  Not only was Smith terrific in 2020 but he also batted .282 with 11 home runs in 197 at-bats in a partial 2019 campaign that saw him fall prey to injury.  Fast forward to 2021 and all is in place for Smith to work either as a cost-effective starting fantasy baseball first baseman, a terrific UTIL or CI option, or as strong as an OF 2 this season.  

We already have noted the natural power that Smith possesses and he was on pace for around 30 home runs if 2020 was of the 162-game variety.  Still just 25, Smith has not even reached his prime just yet which speaks to how exciting an investment he is this spring.  Not only a power hitter, Smith has the chops to hit .300 or better yet again as his 22.5 K/9 rate is league average and he draws enough walks with a 7.0 and 9.6 BB/9 marks the last two seasons to keep pitchers honest.  Add in the RBI and runs opportunities that will come in a stacked Mets lineup and eligibility both at first and the outfield and Smith is quite possibly out favorite sleeper of the upcoming season.  So do yourself a favor and get some shares here because you miss out on what is looking like a monster breakout.  

2021 PROJECTION:  .304 28 HR 98 RBI 88 R 2 SB  


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

2021 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: WILL SMITH CATCHER LOS ANGELES DODGERS

 By now it is common knowledge in fantasy baseball that the catcher position is one big cesspool on part with tight ends in fantasy football.  Every season there are 2 or 3 very good options and then nothing but question marks from that point onward.  With Yankees slugging catcher Gary Sanchez doing his best to act like the worst hitter in all of baseball a year ago, the position is even more volatile than ever.  Which brings us to the Los Angeles Dodgers' Will Smith who at the age of just 26 in March is shaping up to make a run at the top spot at the position during the 2021 season.  Already lauded for impressive power while coming up the minor league ladder, Smith's knack for drawing walks at an above-average rate allowed him to bat .289 a year ago after a .253 rookie debut in 2019.  Even better, the knock on Smith while in the minors was that he was a strikeout machine but after posting a K/9 rate of 26.5 as a rookie, a new approach at the dish he unveiled last season helped him lower that mark to a swell 16.1.  The latter number is very rare for a catcher in today's game and when you combine the tidy average with the fact Smith cracked 8 home runs in just 137 at-bats a year ago, you can really see the potential that is at hand here.

Now of course we still have to see what Smith will do across a full MLB season and it is likely that the rigors of donning the tools of ignorance for six months would have sent the average downward from the .289 of last season.  On the flip side, Smith would have also easily cleared 20 home runs at his pace and 75 RBI would have been in play as well.  So we are talking about some very impressive and rare offensive numbers for a catcher and that makes Smith a prime target in drafts this spring given these tools.  Yes the cost will be high for someone who is still not a finished product but Smith's path is clearly on the upswing as we head into the new season.  

2021 PROJECTION:  .263 23 HR 74 RBI 63 R 2 SB  

Monday, February 22, 2021

2021 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING WRAPUP: MONDAY

Some news and notes from around the game as fantasy baseball spring training has begun:

-Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins was medically cleared to play from his elbow issues and is expected to be ready for Opening Day.  Like from the moment he arrived on the scene, Hoskins is a pure power hitting asset who will help in homers and runs and not much else.  Add in some ugly batting averages and Hoskins is now looking like just another power specialist after he caught some early hype in fantasy baseball. Try to avoid.

-Great news for Baltimore Orioles outfielder Trey Mancici who will have no restrictions in spring training after coming back from cancer surgery.  Remember that Mancici had a career-year just prior to the cancer diagnosis and is quietly a 25-home run bat who can also hit for average.  Think Mike Morse from back in the day which makes him a very useful OF 3.

-The Milwaukee Brewers are taking a hard look at Jackie Bradley Jr.  Bradley Jr. made some inroads with his batting approach a year ago and can hit 15 homers and steal 8-10 bags so don't ignore him in five OF formats.  

-Ian Kennedy signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers.  After doing decent enough work as a closer for the Kansas City Royals, Kennedy could eventually work his way to the ninth if things break down in front of him.  

-Jeremy Jeffress signed a minor league deal with the Washington Nats but he is in no way a threat to Brad Hand as the team's closer.

-Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto is taking up his new approach at the dish and a big finish to his 2020 season lends some credence that there could be some sneaky value as a CI or UTIL bat for at least one more season.  

-Kansas City Royals starter Brad Keller is going to incorporate his changeup more this season after he found some nice success with it in 2020 when he logged a 2.47 ERA in 54.2 innings.  Despite the nice season, Keller should be ignored almost everywhere.  


2021 FANTASY BASEBALL ISSUES: BREWERS ARE PITCHING SLEEPER CENTRAL

If you are a guy like yours truly who is always on the lookout for nicely priced starting pitchers with high upside instead of paying massive freight in there early rounds, the Milwaukee Brewers have some deals for you.  While known more for their hitting over the years, the Brew Crew have not one but TWO prime pitching sleepers who carry the immense potential to each reach ace status for the price of an SP 2 or 3 draft cost.  We are referring of course to Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes who both have sizable strikeout ability and also advanced rate stats that scream out future number 1 or 2 starter.  

Let's start off with Woodruff who figures to come at a higher cost than Burnes due to his linear growth the last few seasons.  For one thing, Woodruff has really upped his strikeout ability the last four seasons as he went from an ugly 6.7 rate in 2017 all the way up to 11.1 a year ago.  Add in K rates over 10.0 in both 2018 and 2019 and Woodruff has more than proven his high upside ability in the strikeout realm alone.  Then when you add in the fact he has logged ERA's of 3.62 and 3.05 the last two seasons and WHIP's of 1.14 and 0.99 in that span and boy is there a lot to like here.  What really makes Woodruff stand out even more is that he is a groundball pitcher and has uncanny control for someone who strikes out as many guys as he does.  With BB/9 rates of 2.22 and 2.20 the last two seasons, Woodruff pretty much checks all of the boxes in terms of his ability reeking of the ace variety.  Yes he is a late bloomer at the age of 28 and the 121.2 innings he tossed in 2019 are an MLB high for him which calls into question whether Woodruff can sustain this level of pitching over a full 162-game season but at least for the first half of 2021, the number could be insanely good.  Worst case scenario is that you can also sell high on Woodruff when July comes around as he should tire from that point on but that is a concern for a future date.  

In term of Burnes, he is the younger of the two at 26 but also someone who has less of a track record after pitching to a horrid 8.82 ERA in 2019.  Burnes pitched mostly out of the bullpen that season however and in the shortened 2020 campaign, he was terrific with a 2.11 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 59.2 innings pitched. Add in an immense 88 K's in 59.2 innings and boy as Burnes a terrific strikeout artist.  Unlike with Woodruff though, Burnes has rough control with 3.67 and 3.62 BB/9 rates the last two seasons but anyone who can punch out as many batters like he can puts him in the sleeper tier for the late middle rounds. 

When you look at both guys through a prism, Woodruff is the one who really can reach ace status, while Burnes could be an SP 3 if all breaks right.  What you are certain of is receiving a ton of strikeouts between the two of them and the upside to really pay off as upside picks.