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Monday, January 22, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: CHRIS ARCHER SP TAMPA BAY RAYS

This piece should also maybe be titled "The Puzzle That is Chris Archer."  The Tampa Bay hard-throwing hurler is certainly a puzzle as he has the overpowering stuff to be a Chris Sale-type pitcher but in the end, the numbers just never get there.  At this time last season, I was all-in on Archer and owned him in the Experts League with big expectations.  While Archer once again remained a strikeout artist with few peers in punching out 249 batters in just 201 innings pitched, his final 4.07 ERA and 1.26 WHIP were a major disappointment.  So as we always do, let's dig in more on the numbers and find out if Archer can finally have that breakthrough campaign that his talent has always hinted at.

First let's look at Archer's numbers as a whole last season:

10-12
4.07 ERA
1.26 WHIP
249 K in 201 IP

These numbers are very similar to the 4.02 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and 233 K he has in 2016 as well.  The bottom line is that while Archer can completely lock down any opposing lineup in any given outing, he also is prone to blowing up as well.  The biggest bugaboo that has held Archer back has been his annually high home run rate and we all know that just one or two misplaced pitches in any one start could ruin an otherwise dominant outing.  Archer's HR/9 has been very ugly at 1.34 and 1.21 the last two seasons which has blown up the ERA higher than what his stuff would suggest.  Yes Archer did lower that rate last season which helped a bit but a .320 BABIP went the other way to raise the ERA and WHIP.  When you adjust Archer's ERA for the bad luck last season., his FIP mark goes down to 3.40 and XFIP to 3.55.  So that alone makes things look even better.  So it stands to reason that if Archer lowers his HR/9 again this season and he gets neutral BABIP luck, his ratios will look so much better.  His 11.15 K/9 was monstrous in 2017 and it reinforces how Archer is as good as it gets among all pitchers when it comes to strikeouts.  While a late-season elbow scare is concerning, we will surely recommend going all-in on Archer for the 2018 fantasy baseball season yet again.  The talent is so obvious and the price will be generous which makes drafting Archer a smart idea this spring.

2018 PROJECTION:  14-10 3.57 ERA 1.23 WHIP 244 K  




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Sunday, January 21, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT DEBATE: MOOKIE BETTS/CHARLIE BLACKMON OUTFIELDERS

It is time for another 2018 fantasy baseball Draft Debate and this time we look at the top tier of outfielders in determining who to pick once Mike Trout and Giancarlo Stanton are off the board.  The two names that are in firm contention for this spot are the Boston Red Sox' Mookie Betts and the Colorado Rockies' Charlie Blackmon.  Both guys are five-tool dynamos and both are worth late first-round selection.  As always, let's compare the two via the five standard fantasy baseball categories to determine who in fact should be picked ahead of the other this spring. 

RUNS:  This one is very close as Blackmon has just 25 more runs the last two years combined but the Rockies veteran gets the nod given the fact he is a firm leadoff guy, while Betts has moved among the first three spots in the order. 
ADVANTAGE:  Charlie Blackmon

STEALS:  While Blackmon at one time was a big stolen bases guy, reaching his 30's have eroded his steals to the teens.  Blackmon has 17 an 14 steals the last two years, while the much more active Betts has come in at 26 each of those seasons.  Betts is clearly running at a much higher clip than Blackmon and so he wins this one.
ADVANTAGE:  Mookie Betts

HOMERS:  This one is closer than you think as Blackmon's 37 homers last season seem like an outlier and the 27 he hit in 2016 looks much more believable.  Betts meanwhile has gone for 31 and 24 the last two seasons to stake his claim to this category.  What breaks the tier is that even if Blackmon goes back to 27 homers, he could still beat Betts with that number.
ADVANTAGE:  Charlie Blackmon

RBI:  Batting slightly lower in the order gives Betts the advantage here as Betts has 29 more RBI the last two seasons combined. 
ADVANTAGE:  Mookie Betts

AVERAGE:  Throw out the .264 Betts batted last season as that is a major outlier and he dealt with some horrid BABIP luck.  Betts is a .300 hitter as is Blackmon but the latter has been over .320 each of the last two seasons which gives him the nod/ 
ADVANTAGE:  Charlie Blackmon 

WINNER:  Charlie Blackmon

Yes Blackmon gets the check mark but this was still very close.  In fact, you can make the case Betts is the better value as he is a first-round talen who may fall into Round 2 this spring.  That my friends is a great pick to make under that scenario. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: CARLOS GOMEZ OUTFIELDER

Halfway through the 2016 season, it certainly looked like veteran outfielder and former first-round fantasy baseball star Carlos Gomez was going through one of the more rapid early declines in recent memory.  Gomez earned that classification by getting pink slipped by the Houston Astros after just 85 games that year when he hit all of .210 with 5 home runs in 295 at-bats.  Years of leg injuries seemed to take a toll on Gomez’ production and he was forced to accept a mid-year signing by the Texas Rangers to salvage his season.  Likely getting a boost from a fresh start, Gomez showed the Rangers that he was not done just yet as he sparked the team in the second half by batting .285 with 8 home runs and 5 steals; production that earned him a one-year extension for 2017.  While expectations remained muted for Gomez entering into last season, he did well enough by posting a 17/13 ratio in the HR/SB columns and played good defense in the outfield.  Alas Gomez batted just .255 and his 29.8 K/9 showed that the holes in his swing are getting bigger than ever.  Now facing free agency, Gomez is still just going to be 32 when the 2018 season kicks off.  It would stand to reason that Gomez biologically still has a few solid seasons left in the tank but he is losing air in the tires almost everywhere you look.  For one thing, the 13 steals Gomez had last season were his lowest since 2009 and the K/9 has now been over 29.0 each of the last two years after coming in at a very solid 21.2 in 2015 before the overall offensive slide began.  Injuries are also becoming too numerous to chronicle which further adds to the risk here.  While Gomez has quietly had a very good career (which included that short run of first-round five-category production), the tea leaves all suggest this is a player in an unending early career decline. 

2018 PRODUCTION:  .251 14 HR 48 RBI 54 R 11 SB  
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2018 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT DEBATE: CHRIS SALE/MAX SCHERZER

The 2018 fantasy baseball is quickly approaching and so some draft nuances need to be ironed out.  The first one worth diving further into is at the top of the starting pitching tier once Clayton Kershaw is off the board.  The next two names who will likely come up the most in terms of who to select next among this position are Washington Nationals two-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer and Boston Red Sox 300-K monster Chris Sale. As always, let's compare the two with the four standard pitching categories to figure out who to pick ahead of the other this spring.

STRIKEOUTS:  Boy are both of these guys nuclear strikeouts artists.  While both habitually reel off 250-plus K's with ease, Sale has been the only one who reached the hallowed 300 mark which he did a year ago with a ridiculous 308.  Last year Scherzer had a still very impressive 268 but Sale gets the slight edge.
ADVANTAGE:  CHRIS SALE

ERA:  With Sale having stayed in the American League his entire career to this point, he has had to face the tougher lineups each season and each time out compared to the Nationals version of Scherzer who has picked up the weaker NL batters.  As a result, Scherzer has beaten Sale in ERA the last three seasons.  That trend should continue as both stay in their respective leagues.
ADVANTAGE:  Max Scherzer 

WINS:  Over the last four seasons, Scherzer has a total of 68 wins, while Sale comes in at 59.  With Scherzer being in a weaker overall division in the NL East compared to the blockbuster AL East, give Scherzer the win.
ADVANTAGE:  Max Scherzer

WHIP:  Scherzer's advantage pitching in the NL East allowed him to come out on top of Sale each of the last three years as well and that should not change this season as well given the setup in their leagues.  
ADVANTAGE:  Max Scherzer

WINNER:  Max Scherzer

 So as you can see, Scherzer is the one to go with here and it is easy to see why given the setup in the NL East.  Yes Sale is a bit more flashy this spring coming off a 300-K campaign but Scherzer is the more stable and dependable pick.  


*****PICK UP YOUR COPY OF THE FANTASY SPORTS BOSS 2018 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT GUIDE:  EARLY OFFSEASON EDITION ON AMAZON.  USE THE LINK BELOW TO PURCHASE.*****

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Saturday, January 20, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT BUST: JUSTIN SMOAK 1B TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Fool me once shame on you.  Fool me twice shame on me.  This tried-and-true premise looks to be reserved for anyone interested in drafting Toronto Blue Jays slugging first baseman Justin Smoak for 2018 fantasy baseball and this is especially true after what looked to be a big breakout campaign from the former first-round pick and much-lauded prospect just the year prior.  By now the story of Smoak is well-worn as the former 11th overall pick in the 2008 draft was once traded for Cy Young-winning pitcher Cliff Lee and who was deemed the next great first base slugger by anyone who saw him rise through the minor league ranks.  Well as so often happens, the hype failed to meet the actual production and soon Smoak was putting up a string of .220-hitting seasons whether he was playing in Seattle with the Mariners or with the Blue Jays.  Even as recently as 2016, Smoak was forced into part-time duty mostly versus lefty pitching as his bat continued to lag (.217 with 14 home runs in 341 at-bats).  Be that as it may, Smoak was given another chance by the Blue Jays in 2017 and the rest as they say is history as he went on to put up tremendous overall offensive numbers to the tune of:

.270
38 HR
95 RBI
85 R
0 SB

Having always possessed big-time power, Smoak really showed off that skill last season as his career-high 637 at-bats helped in the cause.  What really helped Smoak as well was a new contact-driven approach that helped him drastically shave his previously gross 32.8 K/9 in 2016 all the way down to just 20.1 a year ago.  Throw in a 11.5 BB/9 rate that was very good and Smoak for once was not an average killer.  So all seems right now correct?  I mean the talent was always there, Smoak is striking out less, and playing with confidence so he should be safe for investment this season right?  Not so fast Jack.

Digging into the numbers a bit more, there is still some major cause for concern here.  While Smoak was hot as a pistol during the first half of the season (.294, 23 HR,), he was actually back to being the pre-2017 ugly slugger in the second half (.241, 15 HR).  Opposing pitchers found some new holes in Smoak's swing and his K/9 rose.  So in actuality, we still only have one single half of Smoak performing like a guy worthy of daily usage in fantasy baseball and the rest is all garbage.  Not enough of a sample size to recommend him as anything more than a UTIL or CI this season.  There are some who are planning to get Smoak cheap for 1B and fill out other spots on the diamond first.  In theory this may seem like a good idea but Smoak still has a ton of red flags attached to his name that depending on him for the all-important first base spot is filled with trouble.  So do yourself a favor and resist the urge to overinflate last season's numbers from Smoak and proceed with some more caution.

2018 PROJECTION:  .257 27 HR 88 RBI 80 R 0 SB


*****PICK UP YOUR COPY OF THE FANTASY SPORTS BOSS 2018 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT GUIDE:  EARLY OFFSEASON EDITION ON AMAZON.  USE THE LINK BELOW TO PURCHASE.*****

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2018 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT SLEEPER: JOSE PERAZA 2B CINCINNATI REDS

We admit to possibly going a tad overboard hyping Cincinnati Reds infield prospect Jose Peraza heading into the 2017 fantasy baseball but it was difficult not to be seduced by the offensive skills the speedster possesses.  Peraza hinted at what he was capable of while debuting for the team in 2016 as he batted .324, hit 3 home runs, and swiped 21 bases in just 256 at-bats.  Those were tantalizing numbers in a small sample size and combined with being very young, it appeared as though a breakout was at hand for 2017.  Unfortunately, we didn't give enough thought to Peraza being just 23 and thus likely having to undergo some adjustments at the major league level.  A very tough beginning to the season (.226 March/April) made it seem more likely that Peraza would be sent back down to the minors than being a help in fantasy baseball but from that point forward the kid wound up doing all right.  While the overall numbers fell short of expectations in terms of fantasy baseball (.259, 5 HR, 23 SB), the Reds seem prepared to see it through with Peraza for the 2018 season.  Turning just 25 in April, Peraza could very well make do on his remaining potential this season and the lowered draft price this time around makes him an interesting buy-low candidate.

2018 PROJECTION:  .277 6 HR 40 RBI 66 R 28 SB 
*****PICK UP YOUR COPY OF THE FANTASY SPORTS BOSS 2018 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT GUIDE:  EARLY OFFSEASON EDITION ON AMAZON.  USE THE LINK BELOW TO PURCHASE.*****

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