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Friday, February 22, 2019

2019 NFL DRAFT QUARTERBACK PROSPECTS

The 2019 NFL Combine starts this week and our own Eric C. Wright will be there reporting on all the happenings.  On a related front, we once again went to town on all the top prospects this season as part of our annual NFL Draft Guide which is available for sale on Amazon here:  https://www.amazon.com/Fantasy-Sports-Boss-Draft-Guide/dp/1795262974/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1550876998&sr=8-3&keywords=2019+nfl+draft+guide

As a sample, here is how we see the passers shaping up in the draft. 

QUARTERBACKS

Draft Grade:  C

Possible First-Round Picks:  Dewayne Haskins, Kyler Murray, Daniel Jones, Drew Lock

*Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State) 6-3 220 4.78:  With Oregon's Justin Herbert deciding to return to school for his senior season, the mantle of number 1 QB prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft goes to Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins.  That designation is based just as much on the potential/upside as it is raw ability as Haskins has terrific skills but lacks polish at this stage of his development.  The numbers were certainly of the video game variety in 2018 as Haskins tossed 47 touchdowns and just 8 picks for 4,580 yards going into the team's bowl schedule but the finer points of the passing game needs work.  Specifically speaking, Haskins is raw as 2018 represented his first year as a starter and despite the gaudy surface numbers; there are issues in terms of progressing through reads and footwork in and out of the pocket.  Also regarding the lack of experience, keep in mind that recent examples of high first-round picks who had just one year under center in college have included Mark Sanchez (disaster) and Mitch Trubisky (jury still out and well behind draft classmates Patrick Mahomes and DeShaun Watson).  While Haskins has good speed to keep a play going, he is not a burner by any means.  The arm is terrific though and Haskins has the strength to make almost all the throws.  Accuracy good but can still improve some.  If he takes to coaching while working through expected early growing pains, Haskins can turn into a star given the tools at his disposal.

*Kyler Murray (Oklahoma) 5-10 195 4.52:  Boy what a story this has turned out to be.  Having already secured a $4.66 million signing bonus as the first-round pick of the Oakland A's prior to the 2018 college football season, junior Oklahoma Sooners QB Kyler Murray secured an agreement with the MLB bosses to allow him to play one final year of football before beginning his baseball career.  Well, it is safe to say the A's may regret giving in to that request for years to come as Murray played at such a ridiculously great level in winning the Heisman Trophy and leading the Sooners to the college football semifinals last season, that he quickly decided last January to enter into the NFL Draft.  With divergent opinions being floated around about where he will be selected, the general consensus is that Murray carries so much name hype that he will likely squeeze into the Day 1 process.  On numbers alone Murray certainly belongs in the first-round club as he passed for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns; while also adding 1,001 yards rushing and another 10 scores.  Those are video game numbers folks and Murray's physical attributes seem NFL-friendly in terms of his above-average arm strength, impressive accuracy, and supreme athleticism/speed.  The issue that makes Murray so polarizing though is his frame as he stands a generous 5-10 and weighs a very slight 185.  While the whole lack of height debate has been quieted some by in the instant success of fellow Sooners QB Baker Mayfield last season, Murray's frame is very thin which makes the injury risk quite high.  Be that as it may, Murray's upside is sizable and the fact he can beat you both with the pass and with the run makes him incredibly tempting.

*Daniel Jones (Duke) 6-5 215 4.85:  While Dwayne Haskins and Kyler Murray will get most of the attention in terms of being the most talked-about 2019 NFL Draft QB prospects, count this peanut stand as big boosters of Duke's strong-armed Daniel Jones.  Already entering the draft with the often-overlooked bonus of operating an NFL-style offense for a head coach in David Cutcliffe who is renowned for his tremendous work in developing both Eli and Peyton Manning, Jones has the most upside of any quarterback in the 2019 draft in our view.  A solidly built 6-5/215; Jones possesses the crucial double bonus of being accurate and also having a strong arm.  Despite not possessing much in the way of speed, Jones showed some guts in 2018 by standing up in the pocket in the face of the pass rush to deliver throws down the field.  Mechanics could use some work as Jones has a long delivery in the mold of a Jameis Winston and he also has battled some injuries as well which is concerning.  If he does, in fact, come out for the draft, Jones could turn out to be a terrific upside selection. 

Drew Lock (Missouri) 6-3 226 4.85:  While Missouri's Drew Lock has the classic NFL-type body build you look for in a pro passing prospect, there was a feeling he took a step back in his development during an up-and-down 2018 performance.  In terms of the positives, Lock has a rocket for an arm that can make every single throw the next level requires and he also has the underrated athletic ability that showed itself through six rushing scores last season.  What was not so hot was Lock coming up small in quite a bit of Missouri's bigger games in 2018 and he can be careless with the football in terms of forcing throws that get picked off.  A bit on the quiet side according to the team's beat reporters, Lock seems to be a "love him or hate him" prospect in the eyes of most. 

*Will Grier (West Virginia) 6-2 221 4.80:  The numbers were predictably excellent for West Virginia QB Will Grier in 2018 as he operated the always explosive Dana Holgorsen passing offense but that doesn't mean the junior has what it takes to be a potential franchise passer for his prospective NFL team.  There is also a checkered history here as Grier tested positive for steroids in 2015 while with the University of Florida and his attitude was questioned at times during his collegiate career as well.  Now in terms of the tools, Grier does check out nicely in terms of possessing a quick release and his accuracy is above-average.  This makes Grier more ideal for a West Coast offense at the NFL level but his lack of a cannon arm could lead to him being exposed beyond such a setup. 

Ryan Finley (N.C. State) 6-3 208 4.80:  Solid but unspectacular is the apt description for N.C. State senior QB Ryan Finley.  What quickly jumps out about Finley and which serves as a very important plus for his NFL stock is the fact the guy is very accurate and throws a terrific ball.  Finley showed himself to also be very adept at putting the football where his receivers can keep stride and continue down the field after making the catch.  In addition, Finley was careful to limit interceptions and made good decisions in the pocket.  These skills helped overcome some arm strength issues and also some negatives concerning reading through progressions.  Finley often latched onto his first read and checked down at the first sign of trouble.  While effective at not turning the ball over, Finley also lacked flash.  At the very least, however, there is a potentially bright future here given the impressive accuracy. 

Clayton Thorsen (Northwestern) 6-4 227 4.75:  Very experienced senior passer who did as well as could be expected on Northwestern teams that didn't exactly supply him with much in the way of help, QB Clayton Thorsen is catching some decent mid-round attention.  While Thorsen's 15/14 TD/INT in 2018 was not pretty, the underlying indicators were decent as the overall ball placement and accuracy were quite good.  While Thorsen was guilty of forcing throws into tight quarters which resulted in a majority of his picks, his plus athleticism made him a dual threat runner/passer.  Overall Thorsen is a heady player whose extensive tenure as Northwestern's starting QB will help shorten the learning curve at the next level and also help overcome some arm strength negatives.

*Jarrett Stidham (Auburn) 6-2 210 4.65:  One QB who saw his draft stock take a hit during the course of the 2018 season was Auburn's Jarrett Stidham.  Expected to contend for a national championship, both Stidham and Auburn as a whole struggled for long stretches that ultimately resulted in a down year for the program.  What was really troubling with Stidham's 2018 performance was that he did his worst work in Auburn's biggest games; including flops versus LSU and Mississippi State.  What quickly catches the eye is that Stidham has an erratic arm and he all too often throws the football off balance.  Stidham also has some happy feet in the pocket which is a sizable negative and he tends to sail the football past the intermediate level.  On the plus side, Stidham is very athletic for a QB and he can be a threat running the football when needed.  Accuracy is also above-average which is always one of the most crucial skills to possess in terms of NFL passing prospects.  This one could go either way.

*Tyree Jackson (Buffalo) 6-7 245 4.73:  Looking to capitalize on a very weak QB draft class for 2019, Buffalo junior Tyree Jackson decided to come out early in going against consensus advice to stay in school.  While Jackson tossed a very impressive 28 touchdowns last season, the red flags centered on a shaky 55.3 completion rate and he averaged a paltry 7.7 per pass attempt.  Clearly, Jackson is a work in progress but there is some solid upside here given the imposing frame and good speed. 

Kyle Shurmur (Vanderbilt) 6-4 225 4.82:  Two things quickly jump out here when it comes to Vanderbilt senior QB Kyle Shurmur.  The first is that he is the son of New York Giants head coach Pat which can only be seen as a plus in terms of development.  The second is that Shurmur broke almost all of the school passing records of longtime NFL veteran and former first-round Vanderbilt star Jay Cutler.  While no one mistakes Shurmur as anything but a mid-round pick, he kept on getting better during his three years as the Commodores' starter.  The accuracy checks out nicely here and Shurmur also protected the football.  Also, the arm strength is just average and Shurmur often has to step up firmly in the pocket to get the power to sling it down the field.  While there is nothing flashy here to speak of, Shurmur is well worth looking into as a developmental prospect. 

Easton Stick (North Dakota State) 6-2 221 4.75:  Another small-school kid from the same program that brought superstar Philadelphia Eagles passer Carson Wentz to NFL stardom, North Dakota State QB Easton Stick opened some eyes with a very good performance at the East-West Shrine Game.  As far as Stick is concerned, the athleticism jumps off the page as he scored 11 rushing touchdowns to go with 22 through the air a year ago as a senior.  An experienced three-year starter, Stick uses his speed to buy extra time in the face of the rush and this helps to somewhat overcome what can only be described as an average arm.  Short-to-intermediate routes are where Stick will make hay as a possible NFL passer as there will not be much in the way of deep passing success but this kid is our favorite late-round QB prospect. 

Brett Rypien (Boise State) 6-2 200 4.77:  The nephew of former Washington Redskins Super Bowl winning QB Mark, Boise State senior passer Brett Rypien could be a late-round pick or free agent developmental signing based a good deal on that pedigree.  Rypien had a very good senior season that included 30 passing scores and just 7 picks and operating four years as the team's starter can be seen as nothing but a positive.  The accuracy is very impressive here and combined with Rypien's smooth delivery, this should net him a long look as a Day 3 selection.  On the negative side of things, Rypien's lack of a cannon limits his effectiveness going down the field and he needs to add some bulk to adequately hold up to NFL pounding. 

Jordan Ta’amu (Mississippi) 6-2 210:  While it certainly plays second fiddle to the Senior Bowl, the East-West Shrine Game often has served as a draft launch point for some less heralded players and that appeared to be the case for Mississippi QB Jordan Ta’amu.  It was Ta’amu who really stood out in the game this past January as he showed a strong arm, impressive quickness in and out of the pocket, and improved accuracy.  The latter development was significant as one of the biggest question marks about Ta’amu was his somewhat shaky accuracy while with the Rebels; while he also didn’t show the best pocket awareness.  Be that as it may, Ta’amu’s impressive work in the Shrine Game puts him squarely on the Day 3 developmental radar. 

Trace McSorley (Penn State) 6-0 195 4.82:  Life without superstar running back Saquon Barkley was not kind to Penn State QB Trace McSorley in 2018 as the senior passer saw major statistical erosion almost across the board.  With McSorley unable to lean on Barkley to consistently balance out the offense, the passing game sagged at times as he went into the team's bowl game with just 16 passing scores, a 53 percent completion percentage, and 2,284 yards (down from 26/65 %/3,228 respectively).  Last year's performance also served to expose the prospect limitations on McSorley who is severely lacking in size and possesses just moderate arm strength.  What McSorley has going for him is a quick release, decent accuracy, and the ability to pick up yardage on the ground but overall it is not enough to make him more than a late-round pick. 

Jacob Dolegala (Central Connecticut) 6-6 235 4.80:  Small-school passer who has gotten some buzz given the massive 6-6/235 frame, Central Connecticut QB Jacob  Dolegala has a very strong arm that can make almost all the throws.  In addition, Dolegala possesses ideal size that can surely withstand an NFL pounding.  Level of competition is a major concern though and Dolegala will need a good season or two of seasoning before he would be ready to possibly take the field. 

Kyle Kempt (Iowa State) 6-5 210 4.84:  Injuries torpedoed the senior season of Iowa State quarterback Kyle Kempt which makes it somewhat challenging to formulate a firm draft outlook on the kid.  An MCL injury in his knee knocked Kempt out for the majority of the Cyclones' season and opened the door for freshman Brock Purdy to ignite the team in his place.  As of this writing, it is not known whether or not Kempt will return to college after being given a sixth year of eligibility but if he does, it will obviously be elsewhere given the ascension of Purdy.  In terms of ball skills, Kempt has a very quick release, solid mechanics, and footwork in the pocket.  Being technically sound is where the strengths lie here as Kempt is not overly athletic and doesn't have a cannon for an arm. 

Gardner Minshew (Washington State) 6-2 220 4.83:  Mike Leach offensive product who put up 36 passing scores as a senior in 2018, Washington State QB Gardner Minshew is a limited player overall in terms of natural skills.  A quick release and solid accuracy does put Minshew on the late round/free agent prospect map however and of course, the mustache is awesome. 

Nick Fitzgerald (Mississippi State) 6-5 230 4.74:  With Mississippi State senior QB Nick Fitzgerald known more for his running than passing acumen while in college, this is obviously not conducive to making an NFL roster while operating under center.  It does need to be said though that in the copycat NFL, the nice success of New Orleans Saints backup gadget QB Taysom Hill in 2018 could give Fitzgerald a chance to get into the late Day 3 realm with the idea he could be used in the same way once in the pros. 

Justin Hansen (Arkansas State) 6-4 218 4.81:  System passer on the small school level which resulted in some big numbers against lesser competition, Arkansas State senior QB Justin Hansen could end up being signed as a free agent.  While Hansen has good arm strength and size, the lack of touch on his throws show the limitations here. 

Jake Browning (Washington) 6-2 205 4.73:  Washington QB Jake Browning held some draft buzz going into the 2018 but that faded as he more than did his part to sink what turned out to be a disappointing season for the team.  While he does have vast starting experience going back to his freshman season, Browning did throw for 43 scores as a sophomore which is nothing to scoff at.  Overall, Browning is a classic case of an excellent collegiate player who doesn't have the skills/physical makeup to make it as a pro. 

Brad Mayes (Lehigh) 6-2 220 4.75:  Lehigh QB Brad Mayes struggled badly at times in 2018 in putting up a shoddy 10/13 split in TD/INT but the small-school kid went 31/12 in those areas just the season prior.  Quick release and a solid enough arm may net a free agent look. 

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY WATCH: ANGELS OUTFIELDER SHOHEI OHTANI HITS OFF TEE FRIDAY, LIKELY WON'T RETURN UNTIL MAY

Los Angeles Angeles pitcher/DH Shoehei Ohtani hit off a tee for the first time since Tommy John elbow surgery last summer but his anticipated return to major league action is expected to be sometime in May.  While Ohtani will not throw a single pitch this season due to the Tommy John, he is expected to be fully cleared to return as a full-time hitter who can play some first base, the outfield, and DH.  Even though most of the attention Ohtani generated a year ago centered on pitching, he was still very productive with the bat in swatting 22 home runs in just 367 at-bats.  While Ohtani's 27.8 K/9 rare was ugly, his .285 average was solid as was the 10.1 BB/9 rate.  Ohtani even threw in 10 steals for good measure and so there is a lot to like here for a guy who is likely not going to cost much at the draft table.  As your UTIL or a prime backup bat, Ohtani looks like a good value. 


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: TWINS BRING IN MARWIN GONZALEZ ON TWO-YEAR DEAL

Supreme utility man Marwin Gonzalez is one of those classic fantasy baseball hitters who yield a major portion of their value based almost solely on qualifying for a high number of positions and it was likely this versatility that led the Minnesota Twins to bring him in on a two-year deal on Friday.  In terms of that eligibility, Gonzalez will head into the 2019 season carrying qualification at first base, second base, shortstop, and the outfield and so he serves as a tremendous bench weapon that you can plug in all over the field when needed.  Gonzalez is not too shabby with the bat either as he comes off a 2018 where he hit 16 homers drove in 68 batters, and scored 61 runs.  There are clear limitations though such as Gonzalez losing almost all of his previous average speed (just 2 steals last season) and his .247 average was way down from the last year's mark of .303.  Still, the reason you are drafting Gonzalez is because of his massive eligibility haul and that won't change this season in his new home.
2019 PROJECTION:  .255 15 HR 74 RBI 65 R 4 SB  

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING REPORT: DETROIT TIGERS

By Michael Wong

Lakeland, Fla.--The rebuild is on and in full swing for the 2019 Detroit Tigers and with wins not being much in the way of achievable goals this season, more talk on who they possibly will ship out before or at the July 31 trade deadline will dominant team chatter.  With youth dominating both the rotation and the field, there is mostly just upstart late-round plays here in terms of 2019 fantasy baseball; with just a select few veterans to keep things interesting.

1.  Speaking of veterans, where to place Tigers 1B/DH Miguel Cabrera in draft terms this spring is one of the more talked-about fantasy baseball items.  While clearly aging as he turns 36 this April, Cabrera showed when on the field a year ago that he can still hit and hit with authority.  A .290 average with 3 homers and 22 RBI in 38 games bore this out and the exit velocities were right there with his MVP days as well.  Those factors add weight to going in on Cabrera at least one more time this spring and the drastically reduced draft cost adds to the allure.  Be that as it may, Cabrera is battling injuries now on a yearly basis which jive with the advancing age and bid-bodied sluggers such as he often age poorly.  So it really comes down to cost here and when looked through that prism, using Cabrera as a UTIL or CI bat makes sense.

2.  Nick Castellanos was a favorite of this space a year ago and all in all, the third baseman/outfielder came through with 23 home runs, 88 RBI, and a .293 average.  Turning 26 this March, Castellanos is only now moving into his prime years and so that expected run of 30 homers last season could have been just a year premature.  All in all, there is a lot to like here from the smooth-swinging Castellanos and like with Cabrera, the price is not overly high.

3.  On the short list for the worst closer in fantasy baseball, Tigers "stopper" Shane Greene is back again to make saves an adventure in the ninth inning.  This is clearly a way for the Tigers to possibly boost the limited trade value Greene has but he also is so mediocre that it would shock no one if he is out of the gig by the end of April.  Potential replacement Joe Jimenez would then become quite interesting he has the type of high-K stuff needed for closing games.

4.  While on the surface Tigers starter Matt Boyd had a decent 2018 campaign with a 4.39 ERA and 1.16 WHIP, the sort-tosser got a bunch of batted ball help to boost his ratios above where they should have been.  In other words, you best left to avoid Boyd even in AL-only setups.

5.  You talk about scary pitching, the back end of the Tigers rotation consisting of Jordan Zimmerman, Matt Moore, and Tyson Ross rival the Baltimore Orioles in terms of ghastly ability.


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL SECOND BASEMAN I WILL DRAFT/AVOID

The second baseman I will draft/avoid are up next and usually I take a more conservative route here save for getting Jose Altuve early in Round 1.  With that said, these are who make my own personal cut. 

SECOND BASEMAN I WILL TARGET

Whit Merrifield:  I already spoke a few days ago about my love for Merrifield and that is even more so this season given the dearth of stolen bases around the league.  Also add in eligibility at first, second, and the outfield in some leagues and Merrifield is looking like a big target of mine and should be of yours also. 

Jonathan Villar:  If you fail to get Merrifield, you can get Merrifield-lite in Villar who could actually top him in steals as he leads off for a Baltimore Orioles team who will be looking for him to create some havoc for a team in desperate need of offense.  This is a big of an about-face for me in that I was a huge Villar critic a few years ago off his career-year with the Milwaukee Brewers but now he is priced right. 

Rougned Odor:  The criticism and negativity surrounding the Texas Rangers second baseman is unfair as the kid was rushed to the majors and is still only 25 as we got into the new season.  Also keep in mind Odor has two 30-homer seasons under his belt already and has stolen between 12 and 15 bags each of the last three years as well.  Yes there are sizable holes in his swing but Odor is a major buy-low candidate who has immense upside.  A 35/15 campaign is not out of the realm of possibility. 

Daniel Murphy:  Murphy is aging and his steals are gone for good but the guy can still hit with the best of them and now gets Colorado as his home ballpark.  I am buying.

Joey Wendle:  A .300 average with 7 homers and 16 steals as a rookie and with an affordable draft price given the Tampa Bay screen makes Joey Wendel a very good target in the draft.  A career .288 hitter in the minors, Wendle seems legit.

Nick Senzel:  The prospect hype has dimmed some with Senzel after his injury-marred 2018 campaign but the power/speed/average upside is tremendous. 

Jeff McNeil:  The New York Mets' lineup is pretty crowded right now but we all know injuries will happen which will give this Daniel Murphy clone a chance to further show his impressive bat.

SECOND BASEMAN I WILL AVOID

Dee Gordon:  Already did my piece on why Dee Gordon is shaping up as a decent bust.  Scroll down to read it. 

Yoan Moncada:  The power/speed ability is obvious but a plus-.30.0 percent K/9 rate is a non-starter for me.

Brian Dozier:  Always a flawed overall hitter whose power/speed game helped gloss over the average hit, the steals are now on shaky ground as Brian Dozier gets older. 

Robinson Cano:  There is some decent bounce back appeal but the aging Cano coming off a PED suspension is not something I will try on again. 


Thursday, February 21, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: JOSE ABREU 1B CHICAGO WHITE SOX

For the first time in five MLB seasons since coming over from Cuba, Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu went down as a fantasy baseball disappointment.  Having established himself the previous four years as one of the most consistent players in the game, Abreu saw his offensive numbers fall across the board as a barren White Sox lineup lent little support and health woes that cropped up during the second half of the season furthered the trouble.  In the end what we got out of Abreu were just 22 home runs, 78 RBI, and a .265 average which all went down as career-low totals for the slugger.  While those numbers fell short of what was anticipated, some perspective is needed here on a number of key fronts as we look toward his potential impact for the upcoming fantasy baseball season.  For one thing, Abreu will still be just 32 when the 2019 season gets underway which still represents prime years for a power-driven player.  In addition, Abreu’s advanced metrics show a hitter who is still the same guy he has always been since making his debut in 2014 when he slammed 36 home runs, collected 107 RBI, and batted .307.  Both Abreu’s BB/9 (6.7) and K/9 (19.7) rates were in the middle range of his historical performances in those categories and one of the main reasons the batting average fell to .265 last season (after previously never going under .290) was due to the fact his .294 BABIP was a major outlier compared to those career norms.  Digging into that crucial last point a bit more, Abreu’s BABIP during his first four years in the majors ranged from .327 and .356 which right there tells you last season’s .294 was a primary cause for the batting average tumble.  Taking this a step further, if you were to throw out the highest and lowest BABIP’s of Abreu’s five-year career (see you later .294 and .356), the remaining three marks would be .333, .327, and .330 which are almost clones of one other.  So it stands to reason that Abreu’s typical BABIP is around .330 which is a sizable leap from the .294 of a year ago and this also means a batting average uptick in 2019 to around .290 is likely.  What will also help the average and the rest of Abreu’s counting numbers would be good health and that was not part of the equation for the first time in his career last season as well.  Having previously never had a season without at least 622 at-bats, Abreu’s paltry 553 total in 2018 compared to his career norms is an easy to spot indicator of why he fell away from the 30-HR/100-RBI mark.  In the midst of what was his best hitting stretch of the season during the month of August, Abreu first was forced to undergo emergency surgery for a strangled testicle (it hurts just typing this).  Things then got even more bizarre in mid-September when Abreu was hospitalized due to complications from an ingrown hair and that proved to be the final nail in the coffin for his 2018 season.  So as you can see, Abreu’s injuries were not of the baseball variety and really were as fluky as can be which means we don’t have to worry about him being a constant source of DL frustration going forward.  With Abreu hopefully having better luck on the freaky injury front, the counting totals should rebound to where they should be.  So in putting this all together, it is easy to make a case that Abreu will go right back to the upper-tier fantasy baseball first baseman he historically has been before his very difficult 2018 clouded the picture a bit.  With some very unlucky health and a tough BABIP combining to do an unfair number on Abreu a year ago, our advice is to take advantage of the draft discount this spring and dive back in here without hesitation.
2019 PROJECTION:  .288 26 HR 98 RBI 84 R 1 SB

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY WATCH: JED LOWRIE ON WAY BACK TO NEW YORK TO GET KNEE LOOKED AT

When it comes to injury news, the New York Mets have the market cornered the last few seasons as they have been at or near the top of MLB in games missed due to health concerns.  It took only a few days of spring training for the trend to continue as new infield arrival Jed Lowrie is now headed back to New York to get an MRI on his sore knee.  The knee has been bothering Lowrie for more than a week now and so the team felt it was prudent to receiver a closer look at the joint.  Signed to primarily play third base, Lowrie was an All-Star in 2018 when he clubbed 23 home runs with 99 RBI and batted. 267 for the Oakland A's.  Now in terms of fantasy baseball, Lowrie is a borderline starter in deeper mixed leagues and obviously has more value in NL-only.  Now the MRI could be just precautionary in nature but this is something that bears watching for the time being with regards to Lowrie's immediate outlook. 


Wednesday, February 20, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT BUST: DEE GORDON 2B/OF SEATTLE MARINERS

The speed leaves the station at 30.  One of the more tried-and-true methods for projecting speed-oriented players in yearly fantasy baseball leagues centers on the notion that the age of 30 is when the acceleration and explosion while running begin to erode and sometimes very sharply.  Whether it was a stark case such as Marquise Grissom back in the day or Charlie Blackmon more recently, turning 30 is always a danger zone for guys who have a bunch of value tied into stolen bases.  Yet another example of such a trend appears to be taking shape in Seattle in the form of second baseman/outfielder Dee Gordon who in 2018 endured his worst year since becoming an everyday pro and who was so bad at times that he yielded the leadoff spot to Mitch Haniger.  With the Mariners having also brought in uber-speedster Mallex Smith to also contend for leadoff duties in 2019, Gordon is looking to be in major trouble in terms of prospective value going forward.

Now in terms of last season, Gordon's numbers came out as follows:

.268
4 HR
62 R
36 RBI
30 SB
1.5 BB/9
13.6 K/9
.304

Looking at the numbers above, the numbers were absolutely pathetic outside of steals and even there Gordon showed trouble.  For one thing, the 30 steals snapped a streak of 58 or more in three of the last four seasons and the one time he missed that mark in 2016 due to a PED suspension, Gordon likely would have gotten there.  Needless to say, the drop in steals was quite sharp and the loss of leadoff duties correlates perfectly there.  Even in terms of success rate, Gordon showed red flags as he was caught 12 times which speaks to a possible loss of explosion.  The Mariners certainly were not happy with their initial return on Gordon and the fact they pulled him from the leadoff spot bears this out fully.

As far as the rest of the numbers, they were horrific as Gordon's 1.5 BB/9 was ridiculous and the .268 average mediocre.  With absolutely no power to speak of, Gordon is almost useless when not stealing a high number of bases.  Since he is no longer a leadoff hitter, the steals won't flow naturally and so Gordon is someone you really don't want to bother with given all of the other vast negatives.  Like with Billy Hamilton the last few seasons, Gordon is now just a declining one-category pony and not worth the increasing aggravation. 

2019 PROJECTION:  .275 2 HR 34 RBI 65 R 28 SB  


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING REPORT: TORONTO BLUE JAYS

By Michael Wong

Dunedin, Fla.--It will be a long season for the 2019 Toronto Blue Jays.  Stuck in the always brutal AL East with top-tier powers the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees; not to mention the always tough Tampa Bay Rays, the Blue Jays are only going to be looking down on the Baltimore Orioles which is not saying much since the latter will likely be the worst team overall.  The Blue Jays put themselves in this position but moving on from veterans Troy Tulowitzki, Josh Donaldson, Marco Estrada and will likely find new homes for Justin Smoak, Kevin Pillar, and others sometime this season as well.  So with all that said, let's see if there is anything of use on the team in terms of 2019 fantasy baseball.

1.  With Smoak having shown last season that his 2017 career-high was of the outlier variety, he is looking at barely being a UTIL or CI option in deeper leagues.  While no one doubts the 25-30 home run power, Smoak hitting over .250 will be an accomplishment and he has little protection in the lineup which will hurt his counting numbers.

2.  There is at least one underrated veteran asset on the team in outfielder Kevin Pillar who quietly has put up home runs/stolen base ratios of 16/15 and 15/14 the last two seasons.  Even though Pillar's utter lack of walks cap his average in the .260 range, the fact he can continue to help in the power/speed categories mean there is a spot for him as an OF 3 and especially in those leagues that use five starters at the position this season.

3.  Ken Giles has the closer role to himself heading into the 2019 season but this is now his third different team despite still being only 28.  The problem with Giles as we vividly saw when he punched himself in the face after a blown save last season is that he seems to lack the mental strength needed to consistently finish games.  Now no one would doubt for a second the overpowering fastball that Giles brings to the table but walks and home runs have cropped up as problems the last few years to derail his progress.  Given that the Blue Jays are far from contenders, maybe having to deal with less pressure will help Giles get himself fully on track.  With a depressed draft cost this spring, he is worth another look.

4.  It was a season to forget in 2018 for Blue Jays ace Marcus Stroman who dealt with constant injuries and saw his numbers go into the gutter with a 5.54 ERA and ugly 6.77 K/9.  Obviously, injuries played a solid factor in the terrible results but even prior to that, Stroman was not someone we touted here given his just average strikeout rates and his inclusion in the brutal AL East.  Add in the fact wins will be tough to come by this season and Stroman should be avoided.

5.  Keep an eye on the spring performance of infielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. who really opened eyes with 11 home runs and a .281 average in just 75 games as a 2018 rookie.  Like with Pillar, Gourriel doesn't walk but the power is legit and the strikeout rate is decent enough so that the average may not be a killer to you.