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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: MANNY MACHADO SS/3B SAN DIEGO PADRES

It took for the start of spring training but the Manny Machado sweepstakes have mercifully come to an end after the shortstop/third baseman came to terms on a 10-year deal worth $300 million with the San Diego Padres.  There is an opt-out after Year 5 but Machado will now call spacious Petco Park home which is not the greatest development for his fantasy baseball prospects despite his otherwordly talent.  Now in terms of the numbers, Machado was once again a five-tool monster in 2018 in a year split between the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers:

.297
37 HR
107 RBI
84 R
14 SB
9.9 BB/9
14.7 K/9
.304 BABIP

Clearly Machado still has his five-tool ability down pat and in particular, it was nice to see the steals again which had started to fluctuate wildly over the last few seasons.  The fact Machado is still just 26 and tremendous walk and strikeout rates mean he will likely be within those numbers again in 2019; with maybe a bit less in the home runs, RBI, runs departments given the fact he will now call Petco Park home.  The Petco Park environment is a bummer for those who were hoping Machado would land in a launching pad park like in New York with the Yankees or in Philadelphia.  Be that as it may, Machado is still worth a late first-round pick after his nice payday. 


Monday, February 18, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: WHIT MERRIFIELD 2B/OF KANSAS CITY ROYALS

As spring training camps opened and the first drafts got underway for 2019 fantasy baseball, it was a good time to take stock of the game as a whole in terms of themes and where certain positions stand.  In the not to recent past we have had the steroid home run era, followed by a pitching dominant run, followed now by a more recent long ball comeback.  Through most of that era, stolen bases remained pretty much unchanged in terms of this being a potent part of the game and thus, a solid number of players were key contributors there.  Alas, 2019 has brought about change on that front and none of it good as the stolen base all of a sudden is becoming endangered right before our eyes.  Where at one time 60-steal seasons were a yearly occurrence, we now have the Kansas City Royals' Whit Merrifield leading the majors in 2018 with only 45.  While 45 is a tremendous number on the surface, the fact this total led the league tells you all you need to know about how the stat is becoming quite scarce.  As a result, guys like Merrifield and the increasingly few who steal bases in high numbers are commanding a very high price at the draft table and changing strategies on how to handle the category.  

Now in terms of Merrifield the player, speed is clearly the name of the game here as last season's 45 years followed 34 the year prior when he first put his name on the map.  Having cemented his status as a top-of-the-order guy for the Royals where the steals play very well, Merrifield also has shown an ability to hit for average (.280 or better each of the last three seasons) and also knock a few homers as well.  While the 19 homers Merrifield hit in 2017 seemed to be a bit of an outlier, the 12 he smacked a year ago are still a decent total for someone who helps everywhere else.  Then there is the eligibility as Merrifield qualifies both at second base and the outfield to begin the season.  With the Royals being arguably the most aggressive baserunning team in the game, count on Merrifield once again going north of 40 steals and also scoring 80-plus runs with his average coming in around .300.  While the cost will be high, Merrifield is someone you should feel comfortable with targeting as early as the third round this spring in your draft as the durability and dependable numbers make him well worth the investment.  

2019 PROJECTION:  .294 14 HR 65 RBI 88 R 44 SB  


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL CLOSING TIME: NO CRAIG KIMBREL IN BOSTON MEANS GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY FOR MATT BARNES OR RYAN BRASIER

While the free agent market for All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel moved as slow as rush hour traffic in downtown Los Angeles this past winter, it was widely assumed by most in the industry that the veteran would eventually re-up with the team. Even when camps opened, this was still the consensus line of thought.  Alas, it took Red Sox chairman Tom Werner to come out on Monday and say it was "unlikely" the team would bring back Kimbrel and so now focus needs to shift towards who will take over saves for the upcoming season.  Given that the Red Sox are still considered to be the top team in baseball once again, there should be plentiful saves for whomever gets the assignment and on that front, speculation should center on either Matt Barnes or Ryan Brasier. 

When you compare the two, it would appear as though Barnes should be considered the favorite given his extreme strikeout ability which is always a major prerequisite for finishing games.  In fact, Barnes was downright Kimbrel-esque on that front last season as his 14.01 K.9 was downright massive and it helped mask what was a bit of an elevated 3.65 ERA considering how much heat he possesses. The problems with Barnes is that he has almost no experience closing games and his horrible 4.52 BB/9 a year ago is some downright brutal control that is not such a good thing for high-pressure ninth-inning situations.  As far as the first issue, we all know there have been endless power arms who dominate in the seventh and eighth but moving into the ninth causes them to turn to mush due to mental weakness.  We are not saying this is what is in store for Barnes if he closes games but it is surely an unknown.  Then there is the awful control which is always a problem no matter the inning.  At the very least though, Barnes should be in line as the favorite due to his overpowering nature.  With regards to Brasier, he is a bit of a mystery as he didn't pitch at all in 2017 and only logged 33.2 innings with the team where he put forth an impressive 1.60 ERA.  While Brasier is not a strikeout guy (7.75 K.9), he has very good control (1.87 BB/9) which is a nice bonus.  Given that Brasier is still finding his way after not pitching in 2017, we still think he is a step or two behind Barnes in terms of closer hierarchy. 

If you break it all down, we would tab Barnes as the guy who will likely lead the Red Sox in saves this spring but the exhibition schedule is likely to determine where this goes.  With just one spot to work with, Barnes would be the add but this could be another spring fluid situation. 


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL,SECOND BASEMAN RANKINGS

The second baseman are up next as we continue our look, at the initial positions rankings to begin the new fantasy baseball season.

1.  Jose Altuve
2.  Javier Baez
3.  Whit Merrifield
4.  Ozzie Albies
5.  Gleyber Torres
6.  Scooter Gennett
7.  Jonathan Villar
8.  Daniel Murphy
9.  Travis Shaw
10. Rougned Odor
11. Robinson Cano
12. Dee Gordon
13. Cesar Hernandez
14. Nick Senzel
15. Jed Lowrie
16. Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
17. Yoan Moncada
18. Brian Dozier
19. Jonathan Schoop
20. Jeff McNeil
21. Ketel Marte
22. Marwin Gonzalez
23. Joey Wendle
24. Ian Kinsler
25. Jason Kipnis

Sunday, February 17, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING REPORT: PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

By Michael Wong

Clearwater, Fla.--As of this writing, the Philadelphia Phillies have still not officially signed either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado despite the former at least rumored to be nearing a deal.  Even without those two though, the Phillies did some nice things over the winter such as trading for shortstop Jean Segura and signing outfielder Andrew McCutchen and prospective closer David Robertson.  Given the offensive leanings of their ballpark, the Phillies present a bunch of fantasy baseball-friendly options for their potential new owners this spring.

1.  The hype machine went into overdrive last spring when it came to Phillies 1B/outfielder Rhys Hoskins as he came off a ridiculously potent half-season debut the year prior as visions of an easy 40 home runs danced in the heads of many when drafts got underway last March.  Alas, Hoskins had a bit of a slow start to the year and overall let some of his owners down despite 34home runs and 96 RBI.  The .246 average in particular was ugly for Hoskins as his fly ball rate was a very high 51.5 percent.  On the flip side though, Hoskins' 13.2 BB/9 rate was terrific and his 22.7 K/9 was not awful by any means for a pure slugger.  While the draft price remains high here, Hoskins can very easily go past the 40 homer mark this season with an average that improves to .260 or better as his unlucky .272 BABIP figures to move back somewhat towards the mean.

2.  Underrated on a yearly basis, shortstop Segura is primed for another very good season in moving from spacious Safeco Field to the much more potent launching pad in Philadelphia.  Turning just 29 in March, Segura continues to help in all five standard ROTO categories as he did in 2018.  The 10 home runs Segura hit last season should improve in his new digs and the fact he swiped 20 bags a year ago show the speed is still very much a factor.  Also having hit .300 or better each of the last three seasons, Segura's boring veteran label makes him a terrific buy after Round 2.

3.  The arrival of the veteran Robertson to the back of the Phillies' pen should have him in the closing conversation with hard-throwing youngster Seranthony Dominguez.  Be that as it may, manager Gabe Kapler seems to relish not having an official closer and so both guys could see time finishing games.  Robertson does have the vast experience edge over Dominguez though and so you need to go with the former Yankee if you have just one spot to use. 

4.  Another boring veteran who is still quite productive is McCutchen who is now going to his fourth team in one season-plus.  While the steals could vanish for good as soon as this season, McCutchen is money in the bank in terms of 20-plus home runs and 80-plus numbers in RBI and runs scored.  Given the durability here as well, McCutchen's top OF 3 status holds true for at least another season.

5.  Having just donned a Phillies uniform a week ago, All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto separated himself from the rest of the catching pack even more from an offensive standpoint.  Realmuto's move from Miami to Philly puts him in a much better ballpark in terms of numbers and 20 bombs with 80 RBI and runs are going to be in play.  While we wouldn't bank on many steals anymore, it is easy to see that Realmuto stands alone in terms of being a high-end hitting catcher this season. 


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT SLEEPER: TYLER GLASNOW SP TAMPA BAY RAYS

The Tampa Bay Rays are known for a horrible ballpark, horrible attendance, and a knack for developing high-end power pitchers.  While the first two issues are undoubtedly negative, the third has been one that has resulted in some terrific fantasy baseball sleepers over the years and also the development of slam dunk aces as well.  The latest candidate for such development could very well be hard-throwing but erratic Tyler Glasnow who is already hitting 98 on the gun in the early stages of spring training.  Already lauded for a very potent fastball, Glasnow stalled out in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization due to some truly terrible control which ultimately led the team to deal him to the Rays last summer.  Still just 25, Glasnow pitched better once with the Rays last season and wound up finishing the year with a very impressive 136 K in 111.2 IP which will get the attention of anyone in the fantasy baseball community.  Add in the early velocity explosion and Glasnow is picking up steam as a prime sleeper this spring.

Digging in a bit more on Glasnow, the power repertoire is very obvious and the fact he averaged 97.3 on his fastball last season didn't get the attention it deserved.  That is likely due to the walks of which there have been plenty so far but that is par for the course with most young power arms in their early development.  The question is whether or not Glasnow can improve in that area but 2018 perhaps hinted that he very well could.  While Glasnow's 2018 4.27 BB/9 was ugly, it was vastly improved from the 6.39 and 5.01 marks the previous two seasons.  If Glasnow can further dip that number and combined with the tremendous 10.96 K/9 a year ago, we have something very interesting here.  Of course, the AL East is brutal and wins may be tough to come by but there is little debate Glasnow is an impressive arm who has the raw stuff to serve as a sizable sleeper this season.  Given that the price is not going to be overly high this spring, Glasnow should be a prominent name on your draft cheat sheets.

2019 PROJECTION:  10-7 3.75 ERA 1.32 WHIP 177 K