FOLLOW US ON TWITTER

LIKE THE FANTASY SPORTS BOSS ON FACEBOOOK

Monday, February 27, 2017

2017 FANTASY FOOTBALL NEWS: GIANTS PLACE FRANCHISE TAG ON JASON PIERRE-PAUL

For the second time, the New York Giants have placed the franchise tag on defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.  Having decided to tag Pierre-Paul over defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins, the Giants go into the offseason believing it would be tougher bringing back their top pass rusher.  Pierre-Paul has said publicly that he would not play under the franchise tag again.

Analysis:  This could get quite ugly between the two sides as Pierre-Paul can be high maintenance and was clear he didn't want to be tagged again.  Stay tuned.


FANTASY FOOTBALL BREAKING NEWS: FRANCHISE TAG SLAPPED ON LE'VEON BELL

The Pittsburgh Steelers slapped the franchise tag on running back Le'Veon Bell, assuring he will return to the team in 2017 under the one-year deal or under a bigger pact that can be negotiated going forward.  

Analysis:  No shock here as there was no way the Steelers were going to let the best running back in football exits stage left.  The tag always angers players given the one-year nature of the deals but at least Bell will be compensated nicely for next season.  

2017 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING REPORT: TAMPA BAY RAYS

By Michael Wong

Port Charlotte, Fla.--The Tampa Bay Rays continue to operate on a shoestring budget and a never-ending conveyor belt of power pitching coming out of their farm system to try and remain relevant in the ultra-competitive AL East.  While it has become easy to discount the Rays' chances on a yearly basis, we have seen them rise up before with no expectations attached.  Let's check out some of the more pressing fantasy baseball issues circling the team.

1.  Chris Archer went down as a decent-sized disappointment last season after his big 2015 emergence.  Which way does he go for this upcoming season?  There is no denying the fact Archer forced a lot of his fantasy baseball owners to rip out their hair last year, especially in the first half when he compiled a hideous 4.66 ERA and 1.44 WHIP.  We told you all to buy low on Archer at that point though as he was still missing a high number of at-bats and his advanced numbers pointed toward a rebound.  That is exactly what happened as Archer pitched to a much better 3.25 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in the second half as he looked more like the ace pitcher he was expected to be.  And that second half performance is what we expect to see out of Archer for the majority of 2017 as the power righty remains one of the best strikeout artists in the game.  Consider that over the last two seasons, Archer has struck out 253 and 233 batters for 10.70 and 10.42 K/9 rates respectively.  That is ace stuff folks and also keep in mind that Archer's HR/9 rate went into outlier territory last season (1.34 compared to 2015's 0.81).  If Archer jobs back the HR/9 rate closer to his usual norms, he will be a low-3.00 ERA pitcher with a boatload of strikeouts again.  Big aggressively.  

2.  Speaking of young power arms, how good can Blake Snell be?  Snell is simply the latest in a very long line of power arms to come out of the Rays system (Archer, David Price, Jake Odorizzi) as he struck out guys at an insane 11.57 and 12.86 K/9 rates the last two years at Triple-A.  He was not too shabby on that front in his 89-inning debut with the Rays last season either as he logged a still high 9.91 K/9 rate.  Alas the problem with Snell is a big one and that is an utter lack of control (4.00 BB/9 at Triple-A and 5.16 BB/9 with Rays) and that could undermine him in his first full major league season.  Snell has the overpowering stuff to be a fantasy baseball ace in short order but his WHIP could be ugly if he doesn't find any sort of sense of control.  We have seen plenty of power arms come up and struggle with control and then figure things out, so Snell is still a must have sleeper.  The kid is going to be a good one.

3.  How much of a fluke was Brad Miller's performance last season?  Simply put, not even Miller's mom could have seen him hitting 30 home runs with 81 RBI in 2016.  Consider that Miller's previous MLB high was 11 and we have a major outlier candidate here.  Of course Miller was tapping into his prime years for the first time in his career and we have seen post-hype sleeper breakouts like this before.  However opposing pitchers won't be sleeping on Miller this time around and keep in mind he still batted a terrible .243 with all those homers last season and stole just 6 bases.  With an ugly 24.8 K/9 rate, Miller is unlikely to hit better then .260 at most and we think he is more of a 20-homer guy then a 30.  Very likely regression candidate who we would avoid.

4.  We all know how great of a defender Kevin Kiermaier is but maybe we should start looking at him more closely in fantasy baseball as well?  It certainly seems that way as Kiermaier has put up 10/18 and 12/21 ratios in the home runs/stolen base categories the last two years.  Yes the .263 and .246 averages were very ugly but last season in particular actually showed growth there.  Consider that Kiermaier walked at a career-best rate in his BB/9 at 9.7 and his .278 BABIP was quite unlucky.  We are not saying Kiermaier will bat .300 or even .280 but .265 is very possible and looks better than last season's .243.  No one wants Kiermaier in drafts and so his dirt-cheap cost makes him a great outfielder 3 candidate you can snag very late.

5.  There should be restraint when it comes to how much we should pay at the draft table for closer Alex Colome right?  We think so due to the fact that as great a closer as Colome has become, he is a major trade candidate at the July deadline.  There is no guarantee that Colome will close with whatever team acquires him and so his 2017 draft cost is likely too inflated already.  Now Colome has the goods as evidenced by his excellent 1.91 ERA and 11.28 K/9 rate last season but the chances of him being traded are quite high.  


2017 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: ANTHONY DeSCALFANI SUFFERS ELBOW SETBACK

Cincinnati Reds hurler Anthony DeScalfani was scratched from his schedule Tuesday start due to renewed soreness and discomfort in his left pitching elbow.  DeScalfani has been extremely limited thus far in camp and the fact he has elbow discomfort could get him sat down for at least a week and maybe longer.  While he can be classified as unheralded, DeScalfani was quite good in 2016 as he pitched to a 3.28 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 123.1 innings.  While the ratios are nice, DeScalfani doesn't strike out a lot of batters and he is ideally would be yours SP 5.  This news though won't make us run out to get him even in that setup.


2017 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: HANLEY RAMIREZ DEALING WITH SORE SHOULDER

Boston Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez has only been able to man the DH spot for the team in early spring training games due to a bout of shoulder soreness.  Ramirez has admitted the soreness is a bit more painful than what would be considered minor but the fact he is playing in games is a good indication that he should be all right.  Keep in mind though that Ramirez has battled more than a few injuries over the last three years and that ultimately will determine where his fantasy baseball value will go this season.  With just first base eligibility and speed that has left the station, Ramirez is going to have a tough time replicating the 30 home runs he put up in 2016.  That means Ramirez is likely going to be a big overpriced this season and so you must be aware of what you are willing to spend on the veteran.


FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING WRAPUP: SUNDAY

-Entering into 2017 spring training, the New York Yankees made it clear that there would be a battle for the last two spots in the team's starting rotation.  Team brass didn't hide the fact they wanted Luis Severino to win one of those spots coming off his horrific 2016 campaign that got him sent back to the minors after his eye-opening 2015 debut.  The key with Severino was being able to develop a third pitch to go with his impressive fastball and and solid slider but his excellent work in the bullpen last season led many to think he would be better served there.  Alas Severino got off to a nice start Sunday by tossing two scoreless and hitless innings.  Severino remains attractive in fantasy baseball circles given his strikeout stuff but he needs to do much more of this to secure himself a spot.

-Starlin Castro is starting to become a boring veteran now that he doesn't run anymore and his average is mediocre.  Alas Castro was very good in his Yankees debut last season in reaching a career-best in home runs with 21 but with just a .270 average and 4 stolen bases.  He cracked a home run Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays and he has clear top 12 value as a second baseman in fantasy baseball 2017 with a nice price tag.  

-Wow was Tyler Glasnow overpowering in his spring debut Sunday as he struck out six of seven Baltimore Oriole batters he faced in his two scoreless innings.  There is significance upside here with Glasnow who has battled serious injuries in his past and some stark control problems.  His fastball is very capable of big strikeout totals though but his WHIP figures to be an issue.  

-Danny Salazar looked very good in his spring debut for the Cleveland Indians Sunday as he struck out 3 Chicago Cubs in two scoreless innings.  Salazar took a step back in 2016 after his monster breakout the year and he ended the year with a scary forearm/elbow issue.  No surgery was required but it served as a reminder that Salazar is a big injury risk given how hard he throws and his tailor-made Tommy John surgery makeup.  Also keep in mind that the control woes that sent Salazar back to the minors in 2014 reared its ugly head again last season.  The price has come down a bit on Salazar this season but he still commands a hefty penny.  

-Adam Jones hit a home run for the Orioles as he batted second for the team Sunday.  Fantasy baseball owners of Jones don't want him batting leadoff like he did for large stretches of last season as it hurt his RBI totals but either way he is still his 25-30 home run self but with a loss of stolen bases.  

-Talk about looking at a ton of prospective RBI, new Toronto Blue Jays DH Kendrys Morales smacked his first spring home run Sunday as part of his 2-for-2 day.  Morales is hitting behind both Jose Bautista and Josh Donalson which means an easy 100 RBI and in that ballpark, 30 home runs are likely as well.  With a draft price that is annually affordable, Morales is a tremendous buy.  

-Yu Darvish tossed 1.2 scoreless innings but he walked two and gave up a bunt single.  Not a clean effort but all we care about is Darvish making it through the spring intact.  He can lead baseball in strikeouts if his health cooperates.  

-I want Chris Archer on all of my teams this season as he has been as good a strikeout artist as there is in baseball the last two years.  Yes his ERA spiked over 4.00 last season but that is because of an out-of-whack home run rate.  Get back fully on board here.

-Rich Hill tossed two hitless innings for the Los Angeles Dodgers in his spring debut and once again it is jaw-dropping seeing how dominant he has been since coming back to the majors in late 2015.  Health is never a given here but on a start-by-start basis, few pitchers are better than Hill going back to the beginning of last season.  

-There is not a hotter player in fantasy baseball than New York Mets outfielder Michael Conforto who smacked his second spring homer Sunday and now has four hits in six at-bats thus far.  Right now there is no way Terry Collins can think of not having Conforto in the lineup when the season begins no matter how crowded the outfield/first base get.

-

Sunday, February 26, 2017

2017 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT SLEEPER: MITCH HANIGER OUTFIELDER SEATTLE MARINERS

When spring training gets underway and the exhibition schedule commences, it is always a good idea to cover the emerging stories and players that could pay off big as late round sleepers.  One such story is taking place in the revamped Seattle Mariners outfield as late bloomer Mitch Haniger has become the object of manager Scott Servais' eye.  Servais has done nothing but praise Haniger up and down since spring training got underway and he continued to do so on Saturday as he installed him as he batted him sixth for the Cactus League game that afternoon.  So with that said, let's dig in more on Haniger who clearly is becoming something to keep in mind as a late round pick.

Already at the advancing age of 26 for a player who has not done much in the majors, Haniger is your consummate late bloomer who traveled through the Milwaukee, and Arizona systems before landing in Seattle in the Jean Segura trade this past winter.  Already acknowledged as an excellent defender in rightfield, Haniger's bat began to talk at both Double-A and Triple-A last season for the D-Backs.  In total, Haniger cracked 25 home runs and stole 12 bases at the two levels which no doubt is eye opening but he did that damage in the offensive haven that is the PCL.  That means some of Haniger's numbers last season in the minors need to be taken with a grain of salt but clearly the guy has some tools in the power and speed department.  How that translates to one of the best pitching parks in the majors is the ultimate question but at least Haniger should be put on late round sleeper lists to see what he does have in terms of ability.  Haniger did hit only .229 in his 34 games with the D-Backs late last season but he also hit 5 home runs which again speaks to the power.  With a K/9 rate with Arizona that was not awful at 22 percent in his cup of coffee run and with Haniger drawing walks at a very impressive 9.8 BB/9 clip, there is a lot to like here.  Haniger has always drawn a bunch of walks in the minors, going as high as 12-plus percent with his BB/9 and that means he should be at least a decent average guy to go with solid power and the wheels to take some bases.  Again Haniger is an emerging story that needs to be looked at in fantasy baseball this drafting season and so let's see where this takes us.


2017 FANTASY BASEBALL BRIEF: MAX SCHERZER THROWS FASTBALL SUNDAY BUT WITH ADJUSTED GRIP

One of the biggest early storylines of 2017 fantasy baseball is the fractured knuckle on Washington Nationals ace starter Max Scherzer's index finger that has sounded alarms.  Scherzer himself fanned those alarms when he said last week he may not be ready to answer the bell for his Opening Day start due to experiencing pain when he tries to throw his fastball.  On the bright side, Scherzer was in fact able to throw his fastball during his bullpen session early Sunday but with an altered three fingers grip instead of two.  This is becoming quite a concerned now for Scherzer and his fantasy baseball owners when it comes to the fact he is still feeling the same pain with a two finger grip that he felt last August.  Clearly someone dropped the ball here in terms of not remedying the situation before spring training got underway and now we have to start toying with the idea of dropping Scherzer down a bit in your fantasy baseball pitching rankings.


2017 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: JASON KIPNIS SHUT DOWN FOR 5 DAYS DUE TO SHOULDER TROUBLE

Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been shut down the next five days due to a bout of rotator cuff pain in his shoulder.  Kipnis has already gotten a cortisone shot but manager Terry Francona admitted that he is a bit concerned about his availability moving forward.  Heading into 2017 fantasy baseball, Kipnis is generally regarded as a solid but unspectacular second baseman who carries much less flash then his earlier days when he was stealing 30 bases.  The numbers have been all over the map with Kipnis the last two seasons which makes him hard to nail down a value on but his draft price is quite cheap given the solid level production.  Obviously the injury will say a lot about what to do with Kipnis moving forward but for now it is a smart idea to drop him down your cheat sheets some.


2017 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING REPORT: DETROIT TIGERS

By Michael Wong

Lakeland, Fla.--The Detroit Tigers tried in vain to win a World Series for the recently late owner of the franchise Mike Illitch but unfortunately were not able to do so despite having some of the more productive players at their various positions in the game.  They return a star-sudden team again for 2017 but the vibe is that the Tigers are ready to tear it down and start over by shedding some of their aging but still very good star players.  So as always let's get to the most pertinent fantasy baseball issues concerning the club.  

1.  I guess Miguel Cabrera is not done being a fantasy baseball MVP bat is he?  Not so much as Cabrera was as good as ever in 2016 which did reverse a trend of two below expectation seasons in 2014 and 2015.  Having good health played a key role in Cabrera batting a scorching .316 with 38 home runs and 108 RBI.  Clearly Cabrera's batting eye is as good as ever, along with the potent power.  Still you have to keep in mind that Cabrera will be turning 34 in April and guys with his body type usually don't age well at all.  Perhaps telling is the 17.1 K/9 that Cabrera had last season was the second time in three years he hit that mark and was his highest since 2008 outside of that number.  Still draft Cabrera as a late first round pick but the risk is growing.  

2.  Like with Cabrera, Justin Verlander did the pitching comeback equivalent as his slugging first base teammate?  Yeah that one was a shocker as it looked like Verlander's arm was shot after years of very heavy inning usage resulted in a sky-high 4.54 ERA and a pathetic 6.95 K/9 rate.  Whether he was pitching through injury or not, Verlander came back with a 3.38 ERA in 2015 and then a Cy Young-worthy campaign in 2016 with a 3.04 mark.  Even more impressive was the fact Verlander posted the second-highest K/9 rate of his career at 10.04 which resulted in 254 strikeouts.  A tremendous season no doubt but count us as detractors as Verlander is 34 and still has that ridiculous mileage on his arm.  Plus Verlander's 1.19 HR/9 rate was by far a career-worst and his .255 BABIP was one of the luckiest marks in the majors.  Consider that Verlander's XFIP ERA was 3.78 and one gets the correct notion Verlander was not as good as his surface numbers indicated last season.  Big on name brand, Verlander will likely be a bit overpriced this season and thus one you might want to think twice about drafting.

3.  Speaking of pitches, what can Michael Fulmer do as an encore to his 2016 Rookie of the Year performance?  After a very rough start his first few major league outings, Fulmer was simply unhittable for a large chunk of the summer as he went on to pitch to a splendid 3.06 ERA and 1.12 WHIP.  No doubt terrific numbers but the sophomore slump is in play here as Fulmer was a bit lucky in gaining the numbers he did last season.  For one thing, Fulmer's .268 BABIP was very lucky and his FIP ERA of 3.76 and XFIP ERA of 3.95 tell a different story about his ability.  Also keep in mind Fulmer is not a strikeout pitcher as shown by his 7.47 K/9 rate as a rookie.  When his luck regresses this season and without having the strikeouts to overcome this to a degree, Fulmer could be a decent bust.  

4.  Is is time to stop expecting greatness out of Justin Upton?  While a very good player, we are not going to see Justin Upton the superstar first round pick.  The guy is as streaky a hitter as you can get in the majors leagues, seemingly alternating one horrid month with a scorching one.  By the end of the season, Upton usually has his 25 home runs and 90 runs and RBI but he is losing steam as a base runner (just 9 steals last season) and his average has become very nasty (.251 and .246 the last two years).  Again a very solid outfielder 2 but Upton is never going to be the star many predicted he would be.  

5.  Is Francisco Rodriguez on borrowed time as a closer?  There are only a few closers we wouldn't touch more than Rodriguez as he continues to leak velocity and now is allowing a ton of home runs.  In fact it seems like almost a given Rodriguez will be replaced out of the ninth inning given his age and vastly declining stuff and so a long look needs to be given to Bruce Rodon and Alex Wilson.  Rodon has the fireballing stuff but awful control, while you can say the opposite of Wilson.  Whichever way you look at this situation, the closing setup in Detroit is looking scary to say the least.  


2017 FANTASY BASEBALL BRIEF: JOE MADDON HINTS THAT JAVIER BAEZ WILL BE PART-TIME PLAYER

Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon came out and suggested that infielder Javier Baez will "have a tough time" getting consistent playing time, at least early in the season given the presence of Kyle Schwarber returning to everyday duty.  With Addison Russell and Ben Zobrist manning the other middle infield spots, Baez is likely looking at utility/backup duty unless injuries open up more time.  While Baez still strikes out too much, he retains very intriguing power/speed upside to go with eligibility all over the diamond.  At least for now though, Baez' 2017 fantasy baseball value is looking a bit overinflated at the draft table.


2017 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: ZACH BRITTON DECLARES HIMSELF 100 PERCENT RECOVERED FROM OBLIQUE

                                                                

Baltimore Orioles closer Zach Britton proclaimed himself recovered from the oblique pain he was dealing with over the last week.  Britton will be allowed to take part in a bullpen session as a result sometime in the coming week and thus he has no restrictions moving forward.  Obviously Britton's insane 2016 performance puts him at the top of the 2017 closer grid but we still would go with Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen before calling his name.


FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING WRAPUP: SATURDAY

-Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts is the consensus number 2 player in 2017 fantasy baseball coming off his insane 2016 campaign where he established himself as the best five-tool player in the game behind Mike Trout.  Betts got off to a nice spring start Saturday when he went 2-for-3 with two runs scored.  What is interesting is that it will be second baseman Dustin Pedroia and NOT Betts who will lead off for the Red Sox this season, helping the fantasy baseball value of both.  For Pedroia, it will lead to 100-plus runs and his customary .300 average, while Betts can pad his RBI and other five categories.

-It looks like the New York Mets are already looking for a way to get Michael Conforto's bat on the field as manager Terry Collins said Saturday he will allow Neil Walker and Jay Bruce to get reps there.  It just how happened that incumbent first baseman Lucas Duda was sidelined for Saturday's game with renewed back pain that goes back to 2016.  With Duda now clearly being a guy who we can say has a chronic back problem, Conforto could very well claim a starting outfield spot, with Bruce manning first.  Conforto has a home run and two RBI already this spring in two games and his post-hype sleeper upside is very immense.  Count me as a firm believer in the ability.

-Nelson Cruz is already on the home run board as he hit his first of the spring on Saturday.  After swatting 43 a year ago, Cruz is right there as one of the best low-end outfielder 1's in fantasy baseball this season.  He is aging a bit but Cruz is showing no signs of letting up.  What is perhaps most impressive is the fact Cruz is doing his best career work later in his career and at a prime pitching outpost.

-Mike Montgomery pitched a scoreless inning with two walks in his spring debut for the Chicago Cubs.  Manager Joe Maddon went on record saying both Montgomery and Brett Anderson could split the fifth spot to protect their health and innings, with the former carrying some solid upside as a power arm.  Not the worst way to spend a late round pick.

-Washington Nats outfielder Bryce Harper seems set to destroy opposing pitching as he went 2-for-2 Saturday with a mammoth home run.  With Harper's shoulder now healthy, it wouldn't shock me in the least if he brought back his 2015 video game numbers.

-Anyone who has been a firm reader of this site knows how much love I have for Christian Yelich and his overall ability.  While he has been too groundball heavy thus far in his career, he launched a home run Saturday which was perhaps a nice sign moving forward.  Coming off a 21-home run season where he collected 98 RBI, and batted .298, Yelich can go even higher in 2017 given the fact he is just 25.  While he ran less last season, Yelich could easily be a 25-stolen base guy to go with a .315 average and 20-plus home runs.  I want him.

-Victor Martinez cracked a home run Saturday as part of his 1-for-3 day.  While Martinez is approaching 40, the fact he DH's on most days preserves his body and makes one think he can squeeze out one more decent year.  He has hit for big power in two of the last three years but the hom runs can be a bit volatile overall with Martinez.

-Hector Neris did himself no favors by blowing a save for the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday.  While he did get the win, Neris did not give the Phils management a reason not to go back to the soft-tossing Jeanmar Gomez to close games to start 2016.  I am thinking more and more Joaquin Benoit is the handcuff to Gomez.

-I absolutely want Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco on all of my teams.  Polanco stole two bases on Saturday as part of his 3-for-3 day.  While he was hampered by injuries last season, a fully healthy Polanco could easily vault himself to top tier outfielder 1 status this season.

-Maikel Franco went yard twice Saturday for the Phillies and keep in mind this is a guy I have liked for awhile now.  Off a somewhat disappointing but still solid 2016, Franco comes a bit cheap in 2017 fantasy baseball which makes for a nice buying opportunity.  I would pounce.

-

Saturday, February 25, 2017

2017 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALZYER: YU DARVISH SP TEXAS RANGERS

                                                                    Yu Darvish

A nice value play presented itself among the starting pitching fraternity last spring when it came to Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish.  While Darvish was expected to begin the 2016 season on the DL as he further recovered from Tommy John surgery, he reputation as arguably one of the very best strikeout artists in fantasy baseball made him one to target in drafts given his depressed cost.  I was one of those who took advantage of the discount on Darvish as I selected him in the Experts League draft.  Well as it often happens, the best laid plans didn't go according to the script as Darvish quickly came down with shoulder trouble after returning in May; an injury that sent him right back to the disabled list.  Even when he came back in June, Darvish mixed some good and bad the rest of the way; while being particularly rough in September/October as he posted an ugly 4.40 ERA when his owners needed him to pitch well the most.  For the entirety of his 100.1 innings in 2016, Darvish registered an ERA of 3.41 which was not bad coming off Tommy John and even more encouraging, his dominant 11.84 K/9 rate was just off his career-best of 11.89 set in 2013.  Finally, Darvish actually shocked everyone when he put up a career-best 2.78 BB/9; a mark that was double impressive coming off the surgery.  For a guy who annually struggled badly when it came to walks and high pitch counts costing him wins, this was a nice memory to take into 2017 fantasy baseball.

Now digging in more on the upcoming season, Darvish entered into spring training with a clean bill of health and has had no problems thus far.  At a still young 30, Darvish has every right to go right back to his ace level in fantasy baseball and he surely will make a run at another strikeout title if he can avoid elbow/shoulder trouble.  And if Darvish can keep up with a BB/9 rate under 3.00, a mid-2.00 ERA is in the cards as well.  Finally with a draft price that is cheaper then the Noah Syndegaard's, Corey Kluber's, and Madison Bumgarner's of the world, Darvish is looking like a nice buy.  He just has to stay healthy though which is far from a given when it comes to guys who throw as hard as he does and with the history of pitching insane inning totals in Japan.

2017 PROJECTION:  14-7 3.15 ERA 1.24 WHIP 217 K  


2017 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: ONGOING BACK PROBLEMS COULD OPEN DOOR TO MICHAEL CONFORTO AT 1B

All throughout the winter I have told you all not to give up on sweet-swinging New York Mets outfielder Michael Conforto who looks like as big as post-hype sleeper about to make good as I have seen this season.  Yes Conforto was brutal once April was in the books last season but the kid deserves a mulligan given the fact he had very little seasoning at the minor league level before the Mets rushed him to the majors in 2015.  That showed when he struggled to adjust through a slump in the middle of 2016 and it helped get him sent back to the minors.  However Conforto is universally lauded in the baseball circle and his future projections by almost everyone has him as a 25-homer guy with a .280-.300 average.  He got his spring off to a nice start by homering in the team's exhibition opener and now we get word that Mets first baseman Lucas Duda is already dealing with back pain.  Keep in mind Duda missed half of 2016 with ongoing back trouble and we could be looking at a chronic thing here.  With Duda's status very iffy, the opportunity is there for Conforto take hold of the starting first base job which will add versatility to his name and also get his bat into the lineup.  The Mets outfielder is very crowded with Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson, and Yoenis Cespedes and so Duda missing games is the only way Conforto will play at a consistent basis.  The stock on Conforto is pointing up and this could get very promising indeed.  


FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: J.D. MARTINEZ SCRATCHED FROM SAT. LINEUP WITH SORE PECTORAL

                                                             

Detroit Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez was scratched from the team's exhibition lineup Saturday with what the team is calling a sore pectoral muscle.  No word on the severity or when/how Martinez injured the pectoral but the Tigers will likely treat him with a cautious approach this early in the spring.

Analysis:  Count me among those who are big fans of Martinez who is quite underrated as a proven 30-homer bat who also can hit for average.  With so many sluggers in today's game also toting nasty averages, this is not something to look past when weighing Martinez' value.  He is a top OF 2 bat in 2017 fantasy baseball.


2017 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING WRAPUP: FRIDAY

We finally have some games to discuss so let's get our first WRAPUP of the season underway.  

-One of my favorite sleepers for 2017 fantasy baseball is Cincinnati Reds infielder Jose Peraza who has insane speed and the hitting approach to post annual .300 averages.  Peraza now is the team's everyday second baseman and he got off to a nice start Friday by going 1-for-3 with and RBI single and a steal.  There will be a ton of steals out of Peraza this season and honestly I think he can be a better version of Dee Gordon both in average and runs and maybe not that far behind in steals.  Bid aggressively.  

-I still believe in Michael Conforto and so should you.  While the New York Mets outfield is packed, Conforto's live bat will determine what happens.  He slammed a home run Friday as part of a 2-for-3 day against the Boston Red Sox.  Yes 2016 was ugly but keep in mind Conforto hardly played in the minor leagues before making his Mets debut in 2015.  That lack of seasoning showed when things got tough last season and Conforto could not adjust.  He still has a sweet swing and burgeoning power that could translate to 25 homers.  Don't give up on him.

-Aaron Judge hit the scoreboard as he cracked his first home run of the spring for the New York Yankees.  The issue with Judge has never been his Babe Ruth power but instead his contact rate.  He struck out in almost half of his at-bats as a rookie in 2016 and that won't cut it no matter how many homers he hits.  I personally am prejudiced against ugly averages sluggers and Judge is every bit of that.  Limited player in fantasy baseball whose ceiling only goes to where the power travels to.

-Coming off a career-best 20 homer runs last season, Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorious hit his first bomb of the spring Friday.  The question with Gregorious is how legit was his 20 home run total last season considering he hit 9 the year prior,  He is at that magical age of 27 though which could add credence to it.  Either way, Gregorious doesn't run and his average won't ever get much better than .280 or so.  You want steals from your middle infielders and Gregrious is far from that.  Not my fantasy shortstop.

-Madison Bumgarner gave up two hits and two runs in his one inning of work in his spring debut Friday but he always gets hit hard during the exhibition slate.  What I am more worried about is the insane inning totals Bum has put on his arm the last five years.  Perhaps the one mph loss on his fastball last season was a sign of things to come but either way Bumgarner is too pricey for me as someone who avoids pitching early.