Sunday, February 19, 2017


The decks have been cleared by more than a bit at New York Yankees spring training camp when it came to the much talked about first base competition featuring prospects Greg Bird, Tyler Austin,and recent veteran signing Chris Carter after it was learned on Friday that Austin would be down six weeks with a fractured left foot.  Austin suffered the fracture when fouling a ball of his foot during a batting practice session a few days prior and he was deemed the bigger threat to Bird as the starting first baseman heading into camp.  With Austin now out of the picture and likely slated to start the season in the minors when he does return, that leaves Bird in the firm driver's seat to anchor the position on Opening Day.  Bird himself though is far from a slam dunk and he came into camp having missed the entire 2016 season with a shoulder injury that needed surgery.  With that full year of crucial seasoning having been lost, it is imperative that Bird get up to speed quickly or else Carter and his 41 home runs last season will steal the gig.

Now as far as Bird is concerned, a quick trip down memory lane is needed.  It was in 2015 when Bird (originally a 2011 fifth round pick of the team) came p to the Yankees and slammed 11 home runs and drove in 31 batters in just 46 games.  What was readily apparent was Bird's tremendous natural power that brings quick comparisons to an Adam Dunn-type player.  Alas just like Dunn, Bird is quite strikeout-prone as he showed in posting a very high 29.8 K/9 rate in his Yankees debut that showed up in a shoddy .261 average,  In fact if not for a lucky .319 BABIP, Bird's average would have gone even lower.  Considering that Bird doesn't have speed to beat the BABIP curve consistently, count on his strikeouts having more of a negative impact on his average in 2017.  That means Bird needs to close out some of the holes in his swing as he has no stolen base speed to offset an average hit.  On the positive side, Bird's natural pop make him an easy guy to predict 25 home runs and 80 RBI for and those digits are very likely if he gets 500 at-bats.  Yes Carter is likely to play against lefties but Bird should get the majority of time at first base this season.

In terms of my personal opinion on Bird, you all know I shy away from power hitters who strike out as much as Bird does and who put a hurt on your average.  This is who Bird is at least for now and so I won't be buying outside of using him as a backup.  So should you.

2017 PROJECTION:  .259 23 HR 75 RBI 65 R 1 SB  


Updating an earlier item, Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson will miss the next 2-3 weeks of spring workouts/games with a calf strain that currently has him on crutches. Donaldson hurt the calf during drills on Friday and an MRI confirmed the injury and prognosis.  As long as there are no setbacks, Donaldson should be good to go for the start of the season.  Donaldson has had some injuries issues in spring training in the past but once the regular season gets underway, he has been quite durable in his career which means there is no reason to downgrade him in drafts.  Perhaps the only concession would be to pick Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado, and Kris Bryant before Donaldson but that is as far as I would go on this.


Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black stated on Sunday that he anticipates outfielder Charlie Blackmon will run more this season; noting on a few occasions that health was the main reason he dropped from 43 steals in 2015 to just 17 a year ago.  Black cited toe and foot problems that hampered Blackmon's running but it clearly had no bearing on his power as he hit a career-best 29 home runs.  Even with the drop in steals last season, Blackmon is a slam dunk outfielder 1 in 2017 fantasy baseball and well worth a second round pick in all formats.  What will be interesting to see if Blackmon can blend the uptick in power from last season; which is in outlier territory right now; to the push back upwards of his stolen bases.  If that does happen, a 25/35 season with a .280-.300 average is likely and those would be first round fantasy baseball numbers no matter the format.  Now Blackmon is 30-years-old which means he could in fact be losing speed (30 is the age that this starts to happen for many) and so don't automatically assume he will uptick back to his 40 steal days.  Again be that as it may, Blackmon is a fantasy baseball outfielder 1 no matter what happens with his stolen bases this season.


New York Mets third baseman David Wright took part in a throwing session Sunday for the first time since before his surgery last season related to his spinal stenosis.  The Mets are still trying to determine if Wright is capable of manning third base and the throws that go with it and if not, he could enter into a platoon at first base with Lucas Duda who himself is no beacon of health with continued back woes.  If the latter develops, Wright would be on the wrong side of the platoon and have zero fantasy baseball value.  Even if he sticks at third, Wright is only for NL-only leagues and barely that as he won't play more than 3-4 times a week.  It is as sharp a decline as you can get from a guy who was a first round star earlier in his career.


The Arizona Diamondbacks will carry three catchers to begin the 2017 season which include Chris Hermann, Jeff Mathis, and Chris Iannetta; causing a headache for those in fantasy baseball trying to determine how the playing time shakes out.  Of course the only name with fantasy baseball value is Hermann who hit .284 with 6 home runs in just 148 at-bats last season but manager Torey Luvollo said he can see him playing in the outfield and some first base as well in order to get his bat in the lineup.  This is good news for anyone who wants to buy the very cheap Hermann in drafts this season and if he does carve out an everyday playing time role, some decent value can be had.  Those in two catchers formats needs to be more aware of this than those in singles but a Ryan Doumit-style impact could be had here if all breaks right.


The deep outfielders are up next in terms of the players I will target so let's get right to it.

Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Bryce Harper, Starling Marte, Charlie Blackmon, Trea Turner:  I have said year after year that I want a five-tool outfielder in the first two rounds of the draft and would be perfectly happy to get any of these six stars who fit that bill.  Turner carries the most risk due to the lack of a track record but he, Marte, and Blackmon could be had in Round 2 while the other three are first round guys.

Yoenis Cespedes/Nelson Cruz:  I group Crus and Cespedes together as they are the same player whose game is based on pure power and a decent average to go with it.  There is a lot of value to be had here but if I went this route, that means I got steals at another position earlier.

Ian Desmond:  You got to love the fact Desmond has signed into Colorado and Coors Field after finding his 20/20 skills for the third time in the last four years last season when he hit 22 homers and 21 stole bases.  The average is up-and-down but in Colorado Desmond stands an excellent chance of reaching a personal best there.

A.J. Pollock:  There are more than a few who are knocking Pollock this season which is utter nonsense.  I will gladly scoop up this five-tool gem in Rounds 3-4-5 and love every second of it,  This is a guy who was a top tier player in 2015 (20 HR, 39 SB, 111 R, 76 RBI, .315) but fluky injuries did in the 2016 encore.  Be aggressive here.

J,D. Martinez:  Basically Martinez is a cheaper version of Cruz and Cespedes.  He is a dependable .300 hitter with 30 home runs and his 2017 draft price is down a bit off an injury-marred 2016 campaign.

David Dahl:  Have to think the Rockies will make sure there is an everyday spot for Dahl in their crowded outfield and this is a future five-tool stud for sure.  Just think the draft price might get a tad too high to make a sensible investment.  It is always about discipline at the draft table guys.

Christian Yelich:  Yelich has the .300 average down pat but he is annoying us with the wild swings in home runs and steals.  If he can blend the two together, then look out.

Stephen Piscotty:  Always have a soft spot for this line-drive machine who is developing some power now as well.  Makes for a perfect OF 3.

Lorenzo Cain:  Cain's career-year in 2015 has been forgotten off his injury-impacted 2016 but that just makes him more of an attractive buy.  While the power is now anything more than 10-15 long balls, Cain can run to the tune of 30 steals and his terrific hitting approach makes him a good average bet as well.

Michael Brantley:  Yes I have been a big critic here but like with Mark Trumbo in 2016, I will come back on a guy if the draft price falls enough.  That more than has happened with Brantley whose 2016 as completely ruined with shoulder complications.  The guy is as good a pure hitter as there is in baseball and a light five category contribution can be had again if he stays healthy.

Odubel Herrera:  My new favorite obsession is this burgeoning star.  While it is up for debate just how much power Herrera will hit for, the other four categories check out nicely.

David Peralta:  Was on his bandwagon prior to last season and am back on in giving Peralta a mulligan on his injury-marred 2016 campaign.

Josh Reddick:  The average has calmed down here the last few seasons and Reddick can go 25/15 in the HR/SB categories.

Kevin Kiermaier:  Few realize that Kiermaier has gone 10/18 and 12/21 the last two years.  Yes the average has been a problem but Kiermaier should have hit better than his .246 mark last season due to an unlucky BABIP.

Yasmany Tomas:  Yes he has not become the star many predicted but Tomas hit 31 home runs last season and has hit over .270 each of the last two years.  The critics have pushed Tomas' draft price down so much that he makes for a great OF 3.

Ender Inciarte:  Terrific leadoff man who can possibly score 100 runs and steal 25 bases with a .300 average.  Yes please.

Michael Conforto:  Really like the swing that Conforto has and this is a future 25 home run guy if he can get decent playing time in the New York Mets' crowded outfield.

Manuel Margot:  This kid can really run and Margot could be a quiet stolen base challenger if he makes the Padres out of camp as he should.

Saturday, February 18, 2017


Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona has endorsed Cody Allen to be the team's closer to begin he 2017 season; a move that was anticipated all along after Andrew Miller dominated in the important seventh-and-eighth inning into the postseason last year.  While Miller is more than capable of being a top five closer on any team, Allen has been terrific himself the last few years in striking out an insane amount of batters and posting ERA's of 2.99 and 2.51 for the Indians.  The setup here worked wonders for the Indians last season so there is no reason to make a change.  Allen should be drafted as a top ten fantasy baseball closer, while Miller should also be picked given his utter dominance in setup.


Oakland a's Bob Melvin stated on Thursday that the fourth and fifth spots in the team's rotation are up for grabs this spring but he expressed more than a little optimism when discussing the chances of emerging lefty prospect Jharel Cotton to claim one of the slots for 2017.  Melvin believes that Cotton has the inside track to the fourth spot in the team's rotation and while Sean Manaea is getting most of the love here from a fantasy baseball angle, it is time we take a closer look at the former.

Just 25 years of age, Cotton made his MLB debut in 2016 to very positive reviews as he posted an in-control 2.15 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, and 23 strikeouts in 29.1 innings.  Having been traded from the Los Angeleas Dodgers organization to the A;s in the Josh Reddick deal, Cotton has suddenly emerged in a very impressive way to say the least.  Yes his 2016 numbers were a very small sample size but Cottons changeup has been lauded as a major out pitch and his 11.00 K/9 rate in the minors prior to his promotion last season shows how he is adept at missing bats.  Now a .198 BABIP in his 29.1 innings with the A's show that quite a bit of batted ball luck was involved in Cotton achieving such sparkling ratios but there is something to work with her for a pitcher whose current ADP is in the 200's.

While we won't run out in the draft to pick Cotton, we are intrigued at the SP 5 possibilities here.  Cotton can pick up strikeouts and again his changeup is a very impressive out pitch.  Yes his 4.90 ERA at Triple-A last season is a major red flag but again you don't have to pay much to find out if Cotton has made inroads to being a somewhat dependable pitcher for the upcoming season.

2017 PROJECTION:  9-7 3.86 ERA 1.27 WHIP 156 K  


Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson was diagnosed with a strained right calf Saturday after and MRI on the injury was conducted at the team's behest.   Donaldson hurt the calf while running on Friday but both he and the Blue Jays hierarchy think it is not a major deal and that he will be ready to go for opener.  Of course calf strains can be very painful and long-lasting so we are not out of the worry woods yet with this.  Be that as it may, Donaldson once again is a slam dunk mid-first round pick who is actually being selected behind Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado, and Manny Machado in early drafts.  With all four guys being very similar in skill and impact, you can make the case Donaldson is the best buy of the four.  He should once again be in the MVP running if all breaks right on the health front.


The arbitration hearing between Dellin Betances and the New York Yankees concluded with the team beating the player early Saturday morning but things were far from over between the two sides.  In what can be described as a "spiking the football" move, Yankees CEO Lonn Trost went public with his disgust for the hearing and argued that Betances was being done a disservice by his agent.  Betances then quickly fired back with pointed criticism of the team and Trost and hinted that maybe he won't be as readily available to the team in 2017 when it comes to pitching multiple innings or coming in with men on base.  While Betances' fantasy baseball value is limited due to the fact he doesn't save with a healthy Aroldis Chapman in town, his incredibly low hit rate and 15.00-plus K/9 rates make him a setup man to use in innings-capped leagues. There looks to be added drama to the situation however by the looks and sounds of it.


Talk about icing on the cake.  Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout said early Saturday that he plans to steal 40 bases this season.  Already the consensus number 1 pick in fantasy baseball leagues, Trout wants to further cement himself as the best player in the game.  After a few lean running years from 2014-15, Trout shot back up to 30 steals last season as he looked more like the stolen bases monster he was when he first made hay with the Angels.  There is simply nothing Trout can't do at an exceptional level and a 40/40 campaign is not out of the question.  If there was any debate about Trout being the top pick in all leagues, let this cement his status.



In this sudden third base era of massive superstar sluggers exploding from the position led by Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant, Josh Donaldson, and Manny Machado, it is easy to get lost in the shuffle if you are a tier or two below this special group.  There were some decent to very good performances elsewhere at third base last season as well but these players flew somewhat under the radar when compared to what their All-Star brethren put forth.  That is exactly what happened with Detroit Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos who had a career year in 2016 that got very little overall attention.  Long considered a top prospect in the Tigers system, it took Castellanos a few years to find his major league footing as he hit just .259 and .255 his first two full season in the bigs.  Castellanos broke through last season however as he posted a career-best .285 average and another personal high in home runs with 18 in 447 at-bats.  While he didn't exactly light the world on fire, Castellanos goes into 2017 still just 24-years-old and with some more possible ceiling to tap into.  The question now is whether or not last season was the best that Castellanos has to offer or if in fact there is more to give.

When evaluating Castellanos overall, there are some clear trends here.  One is that Castellanos will never be a .300 hitter if he continues to strike out at the 24.8 K/9 rate he did in 2016.  Castellanos has always been strikeout-prone and last year was right with his career norms which is not a good thing.  In fact Castellanos should have hit around .255 again but he got some very generous BABIP luck to the tune of a non-repeatable .345 mark there.  Castellanos has been more of a .320 BABIP guy; which while still in the lucky range; means his average is likely to slide this season.  In addition, Castellanos has zero speed as he has a grand total of four steals in his last three seasons combined.  So any average hit won't be offset by a push upward in steals.  Also one has to wonder how much power is left in Castellanos' bat.  Yes he did up his home run per game rate last season and that is not a total fluke as he continues to gain strength and seasoning.  However he has never profiled as a guy who would be capable of serving as a consistent 25-home run threat so Castellanos' ceiling is not impressive there.

When you put everything together, Nick Castellanos looks like a very low-end starting option in 2017 fantasy baseball mixed leagues and more accurately is best served as a top backup option.  The flash is just not there and Castellanos just doesn't do any one thing exceptionally well.  Solid player but not a difference-maker no matter you how look at him this season.

2017 PROJECTION:  .263 19 HR 70 RBI 65 R 1 SB  

Friday, February 17, 2017



Another day and another injury in fantasy baseball as Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez will sit the next two weeks of workouts on the sidelines due to a bout of tennis elbow.  Gonzalez felt pain in his elbow which now has his availability in doubt for the WBC.  He comes into the 2017 season off a rough 2016 campaign where he hit just 18 home runs but batted a solid .285 with 90 RBI.  With some serious shoulder trouble in his past, one has to wonder if Gonzalez's power is now in the decline phase.  Despite that, Gonzalez remains a big RBI guy in the middle of a solid lineup and his average has remained steady.  He no longer is worthy of being a starting fantasy baseball first baseman however and is more suited for a UTIL or CI spot.


The New York Yankees vowed to stage a first base competition for 2017 spring training; with the derby centered on two prospects and one veteran.  The veteran was newly signed slugger Chris Carter and the prospects were the powerful Greg Bird and the multi-tooled Tyler Austin. Well just a few days into camp, Austin's name has been scratched from the competition as he was diagnosed Friday with a fractured foot that will sideline him for six weeks.  Austin suffered the break when fouling a pitch off his foot during team workouts and so he is out for pretty much the rest of spring training.  Bird now has the clear inside track to the starter's role as long as he keeps his strikeouts in check.  In addition, Austin was also a competitor for an outfield spot along with Aaron Judge but the latter now gets the favorite tag there.


Fingers have gotten a lot of attention so far in spring training as two mammoth sluggers have been held back by them of all things coming into spring training.  Fortunately for both Chicago White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier and Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, their finger/thumb injuries are healed enough for them to be full spring participants in workouts.  Both guys are among the best pure power hitters in the game and Frazier throws in 15-steal speed as a bonus.  Alas both also do a ton of damage to your team batting average, with both guys going under .230 last season.  While Davis is someone I avoid every year, Frazier's decreased draft price this season has attraction due to his ability to steal some bases and for the fact his dip in average last year was an outlier given his career rates.  Yes he is far from a batting title contender but Frazier is more of a .260 batter then someone who goes under .230.  If you miss out on the top tier third baseman, Frazier is a decent and cost-effective option.



While he was not much of a base stealer, Baltimore Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy was an annually affordable fantasy baseball asset that was good for 20-25 home runs and solid counting stats in runs and RBI to go with a .265-ish average,  There was something to be said for Hardy's consistency and while I always preach going with speed from your middle infielders, Hardy was a good buy almost every year for those who had their speed covered elsewhere.  Alas the end is near for Hardy who has dealt with serious injuries the last two years and already a week into spring training is now headed for an MRI on his back.  That sounds very ominous for a guy like Hardy who is 34 and hit just 9 home runs in 405 at-bats last season.  The Orioles seem very concerned here and so anyone in AL-only formats who had some mild interest in Hardy should get ready to remove him from your draft sheets.  in mixers, Hardy should not be drafted even as a a backup.



Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre has been putting the finishing touches on what has turned out to be a Hall of Fame career the last few seasons, with the latest being a tremendous comeback campaign in 2016 when he hit 32 home runs, collected 104 RBI, and batted .300 which reversed a 2014-15 trend of sliding offensive numbers,  Now turning 38 in April, Beltre is clearly on the back nine of his career but he has become the latest David Ortiz example of a guy we can't ever doubt in terms of performance all the way to retirement.  Alas with age comes an increased chance of injury and Beltre showed he was not immune to this as it was revealed on Friday he suffered a Grade 1 calf strain during Thursday's workouts.  The injury means Beltre will not likely be able to play for the Dominican Republic in the upcoming WBC but otherwise he is slated to miss only 2-3 weeks before returning to spring workouts.  The fact Beltre won't be playing in the WBC is actually good news for those who already own him in fantasy baseball or are planning to do so.  The WBC is a landmine for star players and an injury here is doubly frustrating to owners of these hitters and pitchers given the exhibition nature.  Be that as it may, Beltre seems to be quite a safe investment once again in 2017 fantasy baseball and a decently priced on at that since his ADP is a bit lower then it should be given the age discrimination.  Be aware though that injury is something that no aging player can avoid and so Beltre needs a decent backup to cover yourself.  


By Michael Wong

Tampa, Fla.--The 2017 New York Yankees are an interesting paradox in terms of the team fully embracing a rare youth movement not seen here in over 20 years, while also claiming they are very much a contender for the postseason.  What is not up for the debate is the massive farm system the Yanks have put together after unloading Ivan Nova, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman last summer.  That and some other issues are on the table as we look ahead to 2017 fantasy baseball:

1.  Speaking of the youth movement, can Aaron Judge and Greg Bird stop striking out enough to be worthy of usage?  That is the ultimate question when it comes to both as Judge and Bird are free swingers who can hit the baseball a mile when they make contact.  The challenge seems to be even bigger for Bird who has to come back from missing all of 2016 with injury.  Judge meanwhile put up a ridiculous 44.2 K/9 rate last season and the .179 average was hideous.  Meanwhile Bird opened eyes by cracking 11 home runs in just 178 at-bats in 2015 but he too whiffed a ton (29.8 K/9).  The arrival of Chris Carter complicates things for Bird as well and so both these guys can't be counted on as anything but late round fliers.

2.  Can Masahiro Tanaka make it through yet another season with a UCL tear in his elbow?  It is amazing that Tanaka still has not succumbed to Tommy John surgery as he has now pitched with the partial tear in his elbow for two-plus seasons.  In fact Tanaka is excelling despite the injury as he put forth a 3.07 ERA and won 14 games in 2016.  Still underneath the surface you can see how the UCL is hurting Tanaka as his K/9 rate has gone from 9.31 as a rookie in 2014 all the way down to last year's mediocre 7.44.  Throw in the AL East challenges and Tanaka should be drafted as your SP 3 and nothing more given the risk.  Considering his ADP is currently that of an SP 2, you are encouraged to take a pass here.

3.  The back end of the Yankee rotation looks quite scary huh?  The Yanks are having an open competition for TWO rotation spots as they look at Chad Green, Luis Severino, Adam Warren, and others.  Severino is the one that stands out of course as it was only 2015 when he came up and opened eyes to the tune of a 2.89 ERA and 8.09 K/9 rate as a rookie.  Amid heightened expectations, Severino was a disaster in the Yankee rotation last year as he began 0-6 with an ERA north of 7.00 and was sent to the minors twice.  Severino did excel in the bullpen but the Yanks want him to try and start again in 2017.  Ultimately Severino needs to develop better secondary stuff as he can't rely on his heater as a starter.  The lack of a third pitch in particular make it a strong possibility Severino will end up in the bullpen again.  Don't chase him this time around.

4.  Just how much of a disaster is Jacoby Ellsbury now?  An epic one for sure as GM Brian Cashman no doubt stays up at night wondering what in his right mind possessed him to dole out a seven-year deal to the oft-injured and quickly fading outfielder.  With four more years still to go on his deal, Ellsbury will be put out there as the team's leadoff guy again but the fantasy baseball outlook has sank drastically to OF 3 status.  Now a very old 33, Ellsbury hit just .263 last season and stole just 20 bases.  Ellsbury needs to post a good average and at least 30 steals to be a decent weapon in our fake game but don't hold your breath there.  Avoid him at all costs this season.

5.  What are the chances Gary Sanchez goes down as grossly overdrafted this spring?  There is at least a solid chance of that happening as Sanchez is the latest "IT" player that everyone wants which causes his draft price to soar past where it should.  Listen there is no denying the fact that Sanchez was the epitome of a hitting monster when he was called up last season; hitting 20 home runs in just 229 at-bats.  As incredible as that performance was, Sanchez still stuck out in a very high 24.9 percent of his at-bats and September was very ugly as he batted just .225 for the month as opposing pitchers began to get a book on his strengths.  We have been on record saying that Sanchez is quite overrated this season and a .265 average is very possible to go with the 20-30 home runs power.  Those are terrific numbers but maybe not worth a third round pick.