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Thursday, February 22, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL TRADE FALLOUT: PIRATES PICK UP ALL-STAR OUTFIELDER COREY DICKERSON FROM RAYS

The Tampa Bay Rays were at it again in terms of wheeling and dealing on Thursday as they sent 2017 All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson to the Pittsburgh Pirates for RHP Daniel Hudson, infielder Tristan Gray, and cash.  Last season Dickerson earned an All-Star nod as he belted 27 home runs and batted .282 for the Rays but the team shockingly DFA'd him earlier this week as part of a series of moves that also included the signing of Carlos Gomez and the trade of Steven Souza to the D-Backs.  In terms of Dickerson, he will remain in a pitching-leaning ballpark with the Pirates and pretty much replaces the traded Andrew McCutchen in the outfield in joining Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco.  Dickerson's arrival also means that Pirates outfield prospect Austin Meadows won't be a factor at the major league level for awhile as well.  In the end, Dickerson remains a very affordable 25-home run bat who also will help with decent counting stats and an average that won't kill you.  Keep him firmly in the OF 3 realm on your cheat sheets this spring.


******PICK UP YOUR COPY OF OUR 2018 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT GUIDE THROUGH AMAZON HERE:  https://www.amazon.com/Fantasy-Sports-Baseball-Draft-Guide/dp/1978333773/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1518955583&sr=8-4&keywords=2018+fantasy+baseball

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: BRENT HONEYWELL DIAGNOSED WITH FOREARM STRAIN

Updating an earlier item, Tampa Bay Rays top pitching prospect Brent Honeywell has been diagnosed with a strained forearm and will head for additional testing to see if the UCL in his elbow is damaged. 

Analysis:  Not good. A forearm arm is often a precursor to Tommy John surgery and so Honeywell may be done in 2018 before throwing a pitch that counts. Obviously this is horrendous news for all involved and Honeywell becomes potentially the 2018 version of Alex Reyes last season around this time in spring training. 

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING INJURY NEWS: BRENT HONEYWELL SUFFERS APPARENT INJURY AT CAMP THURSDAY

In what could be a very disconcerting bit of news, top Tampa Bay Rays pitching prospect Brent Honeywell exited the field from team workouts Thursday with a team trainer after suffering an apparent injury.  A field reporter said that Honeywell was uttering profanities and clearly was upset and so now we have to think there is a problem with his elbow.  Honeywell of course is the type of young, hard-throwing pitcher that is always a risk for Tommy John surgery and so we now may have our first big casualty of the spring.  As if things can't get any worse for the Rays who have earned a ton of scorn lately with the trades of Evan Longoria, Steven Souza, and cutting of All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson.  Stay tuned.


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL SIGNING FALLOUT: CARLOS GOMEZ MESSING UP PLANS IN TAMPA

Yeah so that whole Mallex Smith fantasy baseball sleeper thing lasted all of 24 hours.  That is how long it took the Tampa Bay Rays to sign veteran outfielder Carlos Gomez to a one-year deal on Wednesday that effectively takes the corner spot that could have gone to Smith and his 30-stolen base speed for 2018 and thus the team once again draws the ire of the fantasy baseball community.  Gomez will now join Kevin Kiermaier and Denard Span as the starting options in the outfield for the Rays this season and thus Smith is out of a chance at least for now and likely will begin 2018 in the minors.  Now as far as Gomez is concerned, the move to Tampa is a decent one for his fantasy baseball stock as he will get an everyday gig to himself and thus have the chance to put up some useful counting numbers once again.  Despite the move, Gomez is an old 32 and is clearly in the journeyman phase of his career as he has moved from Milwaukee to Houston to Texas and now Tampa Bay the last two seasons.  Last year Gomez showed he was not done entirely yet though as he put up the following numbers:

.255
17 HR
51 RBI
51 R
13 SB

Those numbers are not horrible but they straddle the OF 3/4 landscape in leagues that start three at the position and now Gomez moved into a pitcher's park after being in a major offensive haven with the Rangers a year ago.  Never a batting average help even during his brief first-round fantasy baseball days due to a high total of yearly strikeouts, Gomez is now into the boring veteran phase of his career that will have him as nothing more than a late-round pick.  Considering the ballpark downgrade and average hit, you are best left avoiding Gomez this season. 


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING REPORT: WASHINGTON NATIONALS

By Michael Wong

West Palm Beach, Fla.--Is THIS finally the year the Washington Nationals win it all?  It seems like the last five years this has been the ultimate question centering around the team's spring training and that effort so far has been an abject failure despite some very impressive regular seasons performances.  2018 takes on some extra urgency with the free agency status of outfielder Bryce Harper and the fact a major chunk of the rest of the team are on short-term deals.  So with that said, here are some of the fantasy baseball storylines centering around the team this spring.

1.  Is Bryce Harper overrated in terms of fantasy baseball?  There is not a more hyped player in the game on a yearly basis outside of maybe Mike Trout than Bryce Harper.  Unlike Trout however, Harper has not put forth the blockbuster numbers on a yearly basis as a status like that would require.  The fact of the matter is that Harper has reached 30 home runs just ONCE in six MLB seasons and he has also has NEVER reached 100 RBI.  Throw in some serious injuries over the years and a constant ebb-and-flow in the steals column and Harper is quite volatile for a guy who is a locked-in first-round pick this spring.

2.  Anthony Rendon should absolutely be considered a top tier third baseman.  This goes without saying as Rendon put forth an MVP campaign in 2017 when he clubbed 25 home runs, collected 100 RBI, scored 81 runs, and batted .301.  Locked in the middle of a loaded lineup, Rendon's natural hitting ability has jived nicely with his burgeoning power.  Add in the fact Rendon will come cheaper than the Kris Bryants, Nolan Arenados, and Manny Machados of the word and this is one terrific fantasy baseball buy.

3.  How many more Cy Youngs can Max Scherzer win?  It seems like each and every season Scherzer is a candidate for the Cy Young and 2018 should be no different.  This site has constantly stuck with the opinion that Scherzer is a better pitching investment than Clayton Kershaw given the fact he has much better durability and we stand to that mantra for 2018 as well.  Still in his prime years, Scherzer should come close to or hit 20 wins with his customary monster K totals and splendid ratios.  

4.  What is the status of Daniel Murphys knee?  Microfracture surgery was performed on Murphy last winter and that is a very scary surgery for any player at any position.  This is especially true for someone who is moving toward his mid-30's like Muprhy is.  While the Nats keep saying Murphy will be ready for Opening Day, this is looking like quite the scary investment given what we know here.

5.  Remember to not forget about Adam Eaton!  It is easy to do so after Eaton missed virtually all of 2018 recovering from a torn ACL but he is expected to be 100 percent for Opening Day and thus front a massive lineup that should make scoring 100 runs easy as pie.  Throw in some moderate speed and power and Eaton could be a snaky OF 2 play this spring.  


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL PROSPECT WATCH: FORREST WHITLEY PINCHED 50 GAMES FOR PED'S

                                                                  

Ugh.  These guys never learn and I guess they start early as it was revealed Wednesday that top Houston Astros pitching prospect Forrest Whitley was suspended 50 games for a PED violation.  While it was not known what substance Whitley tested positive for, he is now going to be out for the 50 games and thus eat into a major chunk of development time prior to any possible promotion.  Prior to the suspension, Whitley was right there as one of the very best pitching prospects in baseball as he registered a 2.83 ERA and punched out a massive 143 innings in 92.1 innings last season in the minors but now any possible arrival with the Astros as soon as May will likely be pushed back until July or even later.  As a result, Whitley needs to be knocked down a few pegs in your cheat sheets with regards to 2018 fantasy baseball but he should still be a major person of interest given the talent level we are discussing. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL ISSUES: SIGNING OF CAMERON MAYBIN COMPLICATES THINGS FOR LEWIS BRINSON

The Miami Marlins have made it an art form to tick off their fans this offseason as they set forth on a massive rebuilding effort that included trading away second baseman Dee Gordon, and outfielders Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna.  They stepped things up on Wednesday by actually annoying their fans by SIGNING someone when they came to terms with 30-year-old journeyman outfielder Cameron Maybin.  The reason Maybin's arrival figure to cause some more agita to the Miami fans is his presence may now give the team reason to send top outfield prospect Lewis Brinson to the minor leagues to begin the year and gain some more seasoning.  Maybin is nothing but a placeholder on a one-year deal but the Marlins could very well option Brinson to save some long-term money instead.  Now as far as Maybin is concerned, this is his second go-round with the Marlins as he was once part of the Dontrelle Willis trade and he has made stops in Detroit (twice), in Los Angeles with the Angels, San Diego, and Atlanta.  Through it all, he has been a poor average hitter whose best asset has been stealing bases.  Maybin actually did the latter at a high rate in 2017 as he swiped 33 bags and hit 10 home runs but batted just .228.  The same scenario should be in play again this season and so those who use five starting outfielders can have some use for Maybin.  Ultimately though, his arrival in Miami is more annoying than a positive. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT SLEEPER: WILLIE CALHOUN OUTFIELDER TEXAS RANGERS

Sometimes a hitter just has "It."  That certain "It" centers on a hitter's innate ability to not only consistently put bat to ball but also control the strike zone with a keen eye.  Some present-day examples of such hitters include Joey Votto, Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Jose Altuve; all guys who should hear their names called during the first two rounds of mixed league fantasy baseball drafts this spring.  Well a new member to that illustrious group may be ready to reveal himself down in Texas in the form of outfielder Willie Calhoun who carries all the same traits of those listed above and who is primed to be one of the very best rookies in the game this season.  Having turned just 23 this past November, Calhoun is slated for an everyday outfield role on the Rangers this season and he comes of a huge 2017 campaign in the minors which include a total of 31 home runs, 93 RBI, 80 runs scored, and averages of .298 (Dodgers) and .310 (Rangers) among the two Triple-A stops he made last season.  Needless to say, those are some very impressive offensive numbers and looking under the advanced hood shows even greater ability.  It is here where we really can see what a terrific pure hitter Calhoun is as his 11.8 K/9 (Dodgers) and 10.0 K/9 (Rangers) at Triple-A last season show extreme contact ability that will lead to a string of .300 averages at the major league level and that is without even taking into account how great hitting in Texas can be.  Add in the monster power and Calhoun looks like he may be the next big .300-hitting/30-HR slugger that draws comparisons to a Yoenis Cespedes and J.D. Martinez.  In case you forgot, both of those guys are OF 1's on ability alone and Calhoun could become that guy before too long.  This kid is going to be a real player and now is the time to get him into bold lettering on your cheat sheets.


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL TRADE FALLOUT: YANKS PICK UP BRANDON DRURY FOR 3B, D-BACKS LAND STEVEN SOUZA IN SPRING BLOCKBUSTER

The New York Yankees have seemingly been connected to Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Brandon Drury going back to last summer and they finally got their man late Tuesday via a three-team deal that also included the Tampa Bay Rays.  The other big name in the deal is Rays outfielder Steven Souza Jr. who becomes the latest talented player to be dealt away by Tampa Bay which has earned the wrath of Kevin Kiermaier and other alumni from the team.  Let's break it all down by a player:

Brandon Drury:  The Yankees clearly made this move for Drury to fill third base and thus give top prospect Miguel Andujar more time to develop.  It also removed the possibility of the Yanks beginning 2018 with two rookies on the left side in Andujar and shortstop Gleybar Torres.  As far as Drury is concerned, the 25-year-old batted .267 with 13 home runs in jusy 480 at-bats and now he gets to stay in a prime hitter's park in moving to Yankee Stadium.  While Drury doesn't walk much, his 21.5 K/9 was decent enough but his average doesn't figure to help.  Overall, this is an AL-only starting play and a backup option in mixed leagues.

Steven Souza Jr.:  Souza's move from Tampa Bay to Arizona is certainly a ballpark improvement but with the humidor being added to Chase Field this season, it may not result in the total spike offensively one would think.  Regardless, Souza had a tremendous 2017 where he slugged a career-best 30 home runs, stole 16 bases, and batted just .239.  The 30/16 power/speed combo stands out big-time here and that keeps Souza as a top OF 3 options.  He can't be graded any higher due to the fact his average is an annual problem due to a K/9 rate that is always very high.  Last season was no different in the latter category as Souza's 29.0 K/9 rate was nasty and that is why the average will remain an issue.

Meanwhile, the Rays get two prospects in second baseman Nick Solak and lefty Anthony Banda as they try and continue their rebuild.


******PICK UP YOUR COPY OF OUR 2018 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT GUIDE THROUGH AMAZON HERE:  https://www.amazon.com/Fantasy-Sports-Baseball-Draft-Guide/dp/1978333773/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1518955583&sr=8-4&keywords=2018+fantasy+baseball

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY WATCH: MICHAEL CONFORTO (SHOULDER) HITTING OFF TEE

                                                                   

New York Mets outfielder Michael Conforto is making steady progress in his recovery from a very serious shoulder operation last summer as he was able to hit off a tee Tuesday at the team's spring training complex.  While Conforto is not due back to the team until sometime in May after he severely dislocated his shoulder on a swing last summer, the fact he is hitting off a tee is a very positive development nonetheless.  The Mets and Conforto are sort of in uncharted injury territory as it is extremely rare for a hitter to dislocate his shoulder on something as routine as a swing and so trying to nail down exactly when he will be able to return is tough.  Be that as it may, Conforto was spectacular in his breakout campaign a year ago before the injury and his very depressed draft cost this time around makes him a potential steal if he can give you five good months.  Take today's news as a positive and feel a bit more secure in investing in Conforto going forward.


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING REPORT: TAMPA BAY RAYS

By Michael Wong

Port Charlotte, Fla.--The Tampa Bay Rays made the news this week but not for anything good if you asked some of the players down here in Port Charlotte.  Specifically speaking, the Rays trading away pitcher Jake Odorizzi and cutting loose 2017 All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson led veteran Kevin Kiermaier to opine publicly how disappointed he was with the transactions.  It also led to the team former All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria (who was dealt to the San Francisco Giants weeks ago) to say pretty much the same thing.  The moves do signal that ownership believes the Rays can't compete with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox this season and actuality, this is not the worst strategy to take as the team looks to rebuild again.  With that said, here are some fantasy baseball topics that need to be discussed with an eye toward 2018.

1.  So who else should be on the move soon?  Well, you can start with closer Alex Colome who had a bit of an inconsistent 2017 campaign in terms of being the next guy to go.  The Rays as a rebuilding team don't have a need for a closer like Colome and so it should only be a matter of time before he is shipped elsewhere.  That means those who have an interest in drafting Colome this spring need to realize they are not likely going to get six months of saves from him this season and so you may want to take a pass here.  In addition, Kiermaier could also be on the move as well.

2.  Christian Arroyo will now take over third base for Longoria!  The main return from the Giants in the Longoria deal is Arroyo who was the 25th overall selection in the 2013 draft.  Right now Arroyo is really more known for his glove than his offensive game and so he should only have minimal interest in AL-only formats.

3.  Don't sleep on Wilson Ramos as your under-the-radar catcher option.  It seems like every season the talented but injury-prone Ramos gets overlooked in fantasy baseball drafts but that just means you can take advantage without paying too much for his services.  Ramos is the rare catcher that can hit for power and also not kill you in the average department and the plan is for him to DH on the days he is not behind the plate which means very good counting stats are on tap here as well.  If you choose to wait on drafting catcher this spring as you should, Ramos is a terrific place to look for your catcher.

4.  Let's talk about Chris Archer.  When will the talent catch up to the ratios?  Our own Fantasy Sports Boss loves Archer each and every season and there certainly is a lot to like here.  For one thing, Archer is one of the very best strikeout artists in the major leagues with massive K totals of 252, 233, and 249 the last three years.  The issue with Archer is that his ERA's have hovered at or above the 4.00 mark during that span which is much higher than one would expect given all the K's.  The main reason for this is the fact Archer continues to give up home runs by the boatload and this can be a very frustrating thing to deal with in terms of fantasy baseball.  With XFIP and FIP ERA's that go quite a bit lower than Archer's actual numbers there showing how good he can be if the home runs come down, the interest needs to remain high here given the major talent at hand.

5.  Jacob Faria and Blake Snell seem like the next wave in power arms coming from the Rays system huh?  Yes, sir as both Snell and Faria can miss bats just like Archer, David Price, and soon Brett Honeywell.  While Honeywell may not be up until June, Faria and Snell both should break camp with the Rays and thus both carry some intriguing fantasy baseball upside.  We prefer Faria over Snell given his better peripherals and control but either guy is what you use a late-round pick on.


******PICK UP YOUR COPY OF OUR 2018 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT GUIDE THROUGH AMAZON HERE:  https://www.amazon.com/Fantasy-Sports-Baseball-Draft-Guide/dp/1978333773/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1518955583&sr=8-4&keywords=2018+fantasy+baseball

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL PROSPECT WATCH: NICK SENZEL GETTING CHANCE TO STICK AT SS OR 3B THIS SPRING

Cincinnati Reds top infield prospect Nick Senzel is getting reps both at shortstop and third base this spring as the team looks for every way to get him onto the field from the jump this season.  The second overall pick in the 2016 drafts, Senzel was terrific both at A-Ball and Double-A last season for the Reds as he hit .305 and .340 respectively at both levels and hit a combined 14 home runs and stole 14 bases.  The power/speed/average game is very apparent here and since the Reds are in full rebuild mode, Senzel has an excellent chance of supplying fantasy baseball numbers right away this season.  He needs to be moved up cheat sheets and quickly. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL HOT STOVE NEWS: PHILS AND JAKE ARRIETA STEPPING UP TALKS

The Philadelphia Phillies have stepped up contract talks with free agent starting pitcher Jake Arrieta according to multiple sources, with one saying there could be a framework for a deal already in place.  With big name free agents having found homes in recent days, Arrieta and third baseman Mike Moustakas become the top names left on the board.  The Phillies have made some moves this winter to try and get back into contention but they remain in need of an ace-level starter which Arrieta qualifies for.

Analysis:  Arrieta is an interesting name for 2018 fantasy baseball as he has a somewhat hot-and-cold 2018 campaign and has seen his fastball velocity dip a bit the last two seasons as well.  Throw in the always high injury risk here and Arrieta is not without red flags.  However he still showed he is capable of missing bats last season and thus he can make the SP 2 grade in 2018 no matter where he signs. 


Monday, February 19, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL ISSUES: KEVIN KIERMAIER REMAINS QUITE UNDERRATED

While the Tampa Bay Rays continue to try and trade away anything that is not nailed down (with the latest being the release of outfielder Corey Dickerson and trade of SP Jake Odorizzi), one guy that remains on the roster and who has very impressive value both offensively and defensively is Kevin Kiermaier.  The speedy outfielder already has a firm reputation of being arguably the best defensive player at his position in the game but Kiermaier's offensive game has really developed the last two seasons as well.  In fact, despite many in the fantasy baseball community collectively yawning when they hear his name, Kiermaier has put up HR/SB ratios of 12/21 and 15/16 the last two seasons which are very impressive ratios to say the least.  Despite that very solid level of production, Kiermaier is still being widely ignored in early 2018 fantasy baseball drafts.  The reason for this is twofold, with the first being the fact that Kiermaier has been a batting average liability throughout his still-young career, which included marks of just .263, .246, and .276 the last three seasons.  Kiermaier tends to strike out too much (23.5 K/9 a year ago) and with just all right walk rates, don't count on things changing much here going forward.  In addition, Kiermaier gets knocked because of the screen in Tampa Bay which is right at the top of the list of the most irrelevant teams in all of baseball.  With the Rays drawing just barely over $1 million, that doesn't figure to change.  The bright side here is that this will help you at the draft this spring since Kiermaier is just now reaching his prime at the age of 27 and remains very capable of at the very least a 15/15 ratio in the HR/SB columns and if he hits .270, then the overall picture looks even better.  There are few outfielders who can come cheaper and still put forth good OF 3 numbers and Kiermaier fits this bill squarely this spring.


******PICK UP YOUR COPY OF OUR 2018 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT GUIDE THROUGH AMAZON HERE:  https://www.amazon.com/Fantasy-Sports-Baseball-Draft-Guide/dp/1978333773/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1518955583&sr=8-4&keywords=2018+fantasy+baseball

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL HOT STOVE SIGNINGS: J.D. MARTINEZ FINALLY LANDS IN BOSTON

After week of back-and-forth discussing that sometimes turned nasty, the Boston Red Sox and free agent outfielder J.D. Martinez finally came to an agreement on a deal late Monday.  Martinez gets well over $100 million in the deal but the exact figure is not yet known at this point.  In terms of fantasy baseball, Martinez re-solidified his OF 1 standing in signing into one of the best offensive parks in the game.  He comes off a ridiculous 2017 campaign where Martinez slammed 45 home runs and collected 108 RBI in just 489 at-bats last season.  Reaching the 40-home run mark is very much in play again for Martinez this season and he should find his name being called in the third round of most mixers this spring.  Still in his prime at the age of 30, Martinez is a firm four-category producer (HR, RBI, R, average) in fantasy baseball 2018 and his being released by the Houston Astros a few years ago remains one of the more ridiculed moves in recent MLB history. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL SLEEPER ALERT: RYAN McMAHON BEGINNING CAMP AS STARTING 1B

The Colorado Rockies have confirmed that first base prospect Ryan McMahon will begin spring training as the team's starter at the position, while last year's incumbent Ian Desmond will shift to the outfield.  The fact the Rockies already have named McMahon the starter is quite a statement in terms of their confidence in the kid and their expectations for 2018.  Having been drafted in the second round back in 2013 by the Rockies, McMahon put himself firmly on the prospect radar a year ago by hitting 20 home runs and stealing 11 bases combined at Double-A and Triple-A; while also batting .an insane .326 and .372 at both levels respectively.  While it is fair to question the overall power of McMahon, he will surely get a home ballpark boost there and the average has been scorching at any level.  Throw in some bonus steals and there is a lot going on here for 2018 fantasy baseball. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL HOT STOVE SIGNINGS: CHRIS TILLMAN RE-UPPING WITH ORIOLES

Just days after signing free agent starter Andrew Cashner, the Baltimore Orioles reportedly have reached an agreement with veteran Chris Tillman to return to the team in 2018.  Having logged multiple productive years in the team's rotation, Tillman had a putrid 2017 campaign where he got hurt and put forth the following numbers:

1-7
7.84 ERA
1.89 WHIP
93.0 IP

Clearly, those numbers need to be completely tossed aside and since Tillman will be just 30 this April, he should be able to come back and post a decent year like he did previously if he can stay healthy.  Keep in mind that from 2012-16, Tillman logged an ERA under 4.00 in three of those four campaigns despite pitching in the always tough AL East.  Be that as it may, Tillman' typically mediocre K/9 rate mostly keeps him in SP 5 territory in all fantasy baseball leagues.


******PICK UP YOUR COPY OF OUR 2018 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT GUIDE THROUGH AMAZON HERE:  https://www.amazon.com/Fantasy-Sports-Baseball-Draft-Guide/dp/1978333773/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1518955583&sr=8-4&keywords=2018+fantasy+baseball

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY WATCH: TROY TULOWITZKI (FOOT) NOT A GIVEN FOR OPENER

No stranger to injury, Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is not guaranteed to be ready for Opening Day as he continues to recover from missing the last two months of last season with ligament damage in his foot.  Tulo is also dealing with a bone spur in the same foot and was noticeably limping during his early days in spring training.  In terms of fantasy baseball, Tulo has pretty much lost all relevancy in standard mixed leagues given his declining overall offensive production and due to the injuries that have been a constant throughout his career (including his first-round days with the Colorado Rockies).  While at one time Tulo was a five-tool superstar in fantasy baseball, he should pretty much be ignored at drafts this spring and that was going to be the case even without the latest injury issue.


******PICK UP YOUR COPY OF OUR 2018 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT GUIDE THROUGH AMAZON HERE:  https://www.amazon.com/Fantasy-Sports-Baseball-Draft-Guide/dp/1978333773/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1518955583&sr=8-4&keywords=2018+fantasy+baseball

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING REPORT: PITTSBURGH PIRATES

By Michael Wong

Bradenton, Fla.--The Pittsburgh Pirates seem to have raised the white flag on the 2018 baseball season before even one meaningful pitch has been thrown.  At least this is what has been intimated by none other than the team's prospective starting third baseman David Freese.  It was Freese who sounded the alarm at the start of camp in regards to the offseason maneuverings by the Pirates which included trading away the team's former All-Star MVP in outfielder Andrew McCutchen.  While the Pirates had a nice run of contention, this is a team that is undertaking a rebuild despite not saying so publicly.  Let's check out some of the more prominent fantasy baseball related questions as spring training gets fully underway here with a full-squad workout on tap Monday.

1.  Can Starling Marte move past last year's PED suspension to fill McCutchen's spot at the top of the outfield hierarchy?  While it was Dee Gordon in 2016, it was Marte last season who served as the biggest name suspended 80 games by MLB for testing positive for a banned substance.  Needless to say, Marte's owners got burned badly as they had to wait for his return through the majority of the first-half of the year.  When he did return, Marte still showed off his big-time athleticism in stealing 21 bases in just 309 at-bats; while also hitting .275 with 7 home runs.  Obviously coming back from a PED suspension, we have to wonder how much of Marte's previous level of production was inflated by the juice but at the very least, he should remain one of the more potent base stealers in the game and that statistic is getting tougher to come by every season.  Even if Marte hits just 10-15 home runs, he should be in line for 40 steals, 80-plus runs, and a solid average.  This is still a low-end OF 1 who can be had for the price of an OF 2.

2.  Jameson Taillon seems poised to graduate into a top-shelf pitching talent!  Boy if anyone deserves a complete do-over from 2017, it was Taillon who thankfully was able to beat back a bout with testicular cancer and other less serious injury issues.  While his 4.44 ERA and 1.48 WHIP were no doubt ugly in his 133.2 innings, Taillon has the stuff that makes him a future front-of-the-rotation arm.  Keep in mind that Taillon was the second overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft who put up some very impressive minor league performances prior to arriving with the Pirates.  Now while Taillon doesn't have the major strikeout ability to make te ace grade in fantasy baseball, he does have the stuff to be a solid SP 3 if all breaks right in 2018 for the cost of pennies on the dollar.  

3.  Don't forget about Gregory Polanco in terms of 2018 reclamation projects!  It is hard to imagine that a 26-year-old player can be considered a reclamation project but that is what happens when you have a horrible season all the way around like Gregory Polanco had in 2017.  Battling endless leg/hamstring problems, that kept him planted on the DL, Polanco hit just .251 with 11 home runs and 8 steals in 411 at-bats.  Polanco previously was considered the next in line with regards to the Pirates churning out five-tool outfielders and while he still has that potential, this looks like a make-or-break year for the guy.  Be that as it may, the draft cost has dropped sharply here which means a tidy profit could be had as well if you buy low.

4.  Will Felipe Rivero get traded?  That is the risk that those who invest in the Pirates closer are facing as a top-shelf bullpen arm on a rebuilding team is never a good match.  There is a solid chance Rivero gets moved by the July 31 trade deadline and the risk of landing in a situation where he will pitch in setup would obviously destroy his at the moment impressive fantasy baseball value.  As a closer right now, Rivero is a top five stopper as he comes off a dominant 2017 campaign where he seemingly punched out every batter he faced.  The risk is there though for him to not be earning saves when leagues are decided.

5.  Can Josh Bell hit for consistent power?  Whether or not Bell can replicate his 2017 power output will ultimately determine where his fantasy baseball value will sit in 2018. Previous to last season, Bell was known more for a decent average and moderate power but he reversed course there with the Pirates last season as he batted just .255 but with 26 home runs.  It is very possible that Bell grew into his power at the age of 25 but having never performed at that level previously there, be careful of it being an outlier.  


******PICK UP YOUR COPY OF OUR 2018 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT GUIDE THROUGH AMAZON HERE:  https://www.amazon.com/Fantasy-Sports-Baseball-Draft-Guide/dp/1978333773/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1518955583&sr=8-4&keywords=2018+fantasy+baseball

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY WATCH: PIRATES SP JOE MUSGROVE TO BE SHUT DOWN A "FEW DAYS" DUE TO SORE SHOULDER

By Michael Wong

Bradenton, Fla.--Recently-acquired Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Joe Musgrove will be shut down for "a few days" after the righty came down with a bout of shoulder soreness on Sunday.  The soreness forced Musgrove to scatch his scheduled bullpen sessions and some testing may be on tap now according to a team source connected to the front office.  Having just come over to the team in the Gerrit Cole trade, Musgrove had a good shot at securing a starting rotation spot this spring.  While he had only marginal value in NL-only formats with regards to fantasy baseball, Musgrove is already now going to be behind in spring workouts. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: ZACK GREINKE SP ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

That major gust of wind that emanated from our West early on during the 2017 MLB season was a collective sigh of relief from the Arizona Diamondbacks front office and managerial staff when it came to the performance of ace pitcher Zack Greinke.  After all, it was just the year prior where Greinke did a complete face plant during the first year of his six-year deal worth $206.5 million with the D-Backs when he looked nothing like an ace in recording a 4.37 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and struck out just 134 batters in 158.2 innings.  Certainly not the return on investment the team was looking for and Greinke overnight became a pariah of the fantasy baseball community as a result.

Fast forward to the end of 2017 and Greinke did more than enough to re-graduate himself into a fantasy baseball ace as he recorded the following numbers:

17-7
3.20 ERA
1.07 WHIP
215 K in 202.1 IP (9.56 K/9)

Those were once again SP 1 number but they came with an SP 3 price tag in terms of 2017 drafts.  Clearly, Greinke won't come that cheap again this season but now many are wondering which guy will show up in 2018.  Should those in the fantasy baseball community disregard that worthless 2016 campaign or should some trepidation be felt since Greinke will be 34 and with a lot of mileage on his arm this season?  Well count this peanut stand as a firm BUYER on Greinke and for a number of reasons.  The first is that Greinke figured out how to tame Chase Field last season unlike in 2016 and that went a long way toward fixing his problems.  Overall, Greinke went 13-1 with a 2.87 ERA at Chase Field last season and now we have the humidor coming to the ballpark for 2018 as well which will only help him further.  Perhaps the greatest weakness of Greinke over the years has been his propensity for giving up home runs and his 1.11 HR/9 last season was not great despite the swell overall numbers. The humidor will surely take away a batch of homers from Chase Field this season and again, this will only serve to boost Greinke's ratios.  In addition, Greinke's K's came all the way back last season as he went back over 200 strikeouts despite a fastball average velocity that has been dipping going back to 2015.  While Greinke is getting up there at 34, count on at least one more very good season out of the guy for a moderate draft cost.

All in all, Zack Greinke should be fully trusted for 2018 fantasy baseball and he can make the grade as your staff ace once again.  The humidor and statistical comeback from last season combined should see to this.

2018 PROJECTION:  16-8 3.22 ERA 1.10 WHIP 198 K  


Sunday, February 18, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL ISSUES: ARRIVAL OF ERIC HOSMER SEND WIL MYERS BACK TO THE OUTFIELD

We already have discussed in-depth earlier in the day what the arrival of first baseman Eric Hosmer to the San Diego Padres means for his fantasy baseball value but there are some other ramifications in play as well.  The biggest is the fact that the Padres' incumbent first baseman Wil Myers will now shift back into the outfield which was the position he held when first coming up with the Tampa Bay Rays.  Myers had lost outfield eligibility for 2018 fantasy baseball prior to the transaction but he will now gain it back after between 5-20 games at the position depending on your league's rules.  Added versatility is always a bonus for a player's fantasy baseball value and so Myers should be bumped up a bit to the fourth-round range.  While Myers' batting average has never been pretty, he has quietly been one of the better power/speed options in the game the last two years in recording splits of 28/28 and 30/20 respectively in terms of those two categories.  That is a very nice ratio for fantasy baseball purposes and so any average hit can be looked over some when it comes to Myers.

In addition, you can forget both Hunter Renfroe and Jose Pirela as fantasy baseball options for 2018 given the arrival of Hosmer.  There was a chance for either Renfroe or Pirela to claim an outfield spot prior to the Hosmer signing but that went out the window.  Take both guys off of your cheat sheets this spring.


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2018 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: ERIC HOSMER 1B SAN DIEGO PADRES

He just had to pick the Padres didn't he?  As a longtime fan of Eric Hosmer and someone who has made more than a few excuses for the guy in the past through some disappointing campaigns, to say I was annoyed that he signed on with the Padres late Saturday night is a big understatement.  Of course, I can't blame Hosmer for passing up $144 million he got from San Diego but from a fantasy baseball perspective, this is not an ideal landing spot obviously.  By now we all know that Petco Park is as big an offensive drain as you can when it comes to offense/runs and Hosmer's 2018 fantasy baseball value takes a hit due to the landing spot alone.  This is especially true for a guy like Hosmer who has been killing worms for years as one of the more pronounced ground-ball hitters in the game and he could have used any advantage a new home ballpark could have given him leaving Kansas City which is no picnic for hitters either.  Be that as it may, this is what we have to deal with so let's dig back in here by revisiting Hosmer's 2018 numbers:

.318
25 HR
94 RBI
98 R
6 SB

As a former third overall pick in the 2008 draft, Hosmer always had had the pedigree and so his numbers above look pretty darn good on paper.  On paper is the key word here though as Hosmer remained an extreme ground-ball guy last season with a very high 55.6 of his balls sailing through the grass and just 22.0 becoming flies.  That is a horrific ratio for sure but Hosmer still made it work enough to smack 25 homers for the second year in a row.  What needs to be said though is that it took over 650 at-bats each season for Hosmer to get there so his home run rate is actually pretty bad and when you consider how the long ball went crazy all across baseball last season, 25 is not looking as impressive as it once did. 

Making matters worse for Hosmer, there is the fact that his .318 average from last season looks fluky as well.  Hosmer's .351 BABIP a year ago was incredibly lucky and one of the highest marks in baseball.  Keep in mind that previous to last season, Hosmer only hit over .300 once in his previous six MLB campaigns and so we need to job back his expected batting average for 2018 to the .300 range.  Yes, .300 is still an impressive place to be but you certainly can't pay for .318.  Finally, while Hosmer was a double-digit stolen base guy as recently as 2013, he has just 11 total the last two years and at the age of 28, already seems like he is finished running.

When you put it all together, Eric Hosmer looks like a top ten fantasy baseball first baseman once again for 2018 but you need to strongly resist the urge to pay for his 2017 numbers.  Hosmer simply hits too many balls on the ground to be anything more than a 25 home run guy AT BEST and his new home ballpark will cause the average to dip as well.  This guy could go down as one of the more overrated bats in spring drafts. 

2018 PROJECTION:  .303 23 HR 95 RBI 93 R 5 SB  

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Saturday, February 17, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL TRADE FALLOUT: RAYS ACQUIRE 1B C.J. CRON FROM ANGELS, DFA COREY DICKERSON

In what can only be described as a shocker, the Tampa Bay Rays DFA's outfielder Corey Dickerson late Saturday after completing a trade with the Los Angeles Angels for first baseman C.J. Cron.  The Rays bought low on Cron who has hinted at above-average power/pure hitting ability the last few seasons with the Angels but who at the same time has never been able to put a complete season together.  Meanwhile, the Rays DFA Dickerson who hit 27 home runs, drove in 84 runs, and batted .282 for the team in 2017. 

Now as far as Cron is concerned, he hit 16 home runs in just 373 at-bats last season which was a terrific ratio but his .248 average left a lot to be desired.  Again, Cron has hinted at some very good ability with the bat and but he remains rough around the edges as shown by his high 25.7 K/9 and underwhelming 5.9 BB/9 ratios from a year ago.  Be that as it may, he will get consistent playing time for the first time in his career with the Rays this season and so 20 home runs is absolutely in play here for 2018 and thus some fantasy baseball sleeper value.

With regards to Dickerson, expect him to find a new home shortly and he remains a very solid OF 3 in terms of fantasy baseball given his proven 25-home run power and decent batting averages in the past.  If Dickeson can find a better hitting ballpark, his value will go up even more so.


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING REPORT: MIAMI MARLINS

By Michael Wong

Jupiter, Fla.--So what's left?  That is the question centering on the 2018 Miami Marlins who were once again stripped of almost all their workable parts during the winter as new CEO Derek Jeter went to work overhauling the minor league system and opening up payroll for the future.  Gone in trades are All-Star outfielders Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, All-Star second baseman Dee Gordon, and emerging star outfielder Christian Yelich.  What remains is a collection of young players and aging veterans who will have to endure what could be a brutal 2018 campaign.  So with that said, let's try to dig into the few fantasy baseball issues surrounding the team.

1.  Will there be any saves to collect?  No many that's for sure.  Right now veteran sinkerballer Brad Ziegler has to be considered the front-runner for saves but honestly he should be at the very bottom of the closer rankings given his soft-tossing stuff and coming off a rough 2017 campaign.  The better thing to do here is to speculate on future closers, of which the Marlins have two in Kyle Barraclough and the more intriguing Drew Steckenrider.  Steckenrider has a ton of potential as a high-K guy like Barraclough but both men really need to curb the walks.  Either way, not many saves will be showing up here.

2.  How long will J.T. Realmuto stick around?  It certainly looks like Realmuto is the next one to go and there figures to be a ton of interested in the smooth-hitting catcher.  Realmuto has really developed into a fine player and he is the rare catcher in fantasy baseball who can contribute in all five standard ROTO categories.  The Washington Nationals remain very interested here and a deal could occur at any time.  Like with Stanton and Yelich, any deal to a more offensive ballpark will add even more value to Realmuto's name.

3.  Justin Bour remains a tremendous value!  While his name elicits a yawn in the fantasy baseball community, first baseman Justin Bour continues to quietly put up very solid numbers every season.   Having improved against lefties in 2017, Bour can supply an easy 25 homers and 80 RBI with a .280 average is he can dodge the injuries that have derailed him the last few seasons.  That would work tremendously in your UTIL or CI spot.  

4.  Lewis Brinson could have a Byron Buxton 2017 breakout in 2018.  The comparisons between top Marlins outfield prospect Lewis Brinson and the Minnesota Twins' Byron Buxton are clear as both guys have been lauded for insane potential/skills but also have struggled to hit when given the chance against major league pitching.  It took Buxton three seasons of chances with the Twins before the proverbial light bulb began to go off last season and Brinson may need another year himself before going down that path.  Still, Brinson can run like the wind and his power is really becoming potent.  We could be looking at a 15/30 season as soon as 2018 but there will be average issues.

5.  Are there are starters here who can help?  The biggest red flag on the 2018 Miami Marlins is the rotation which looks to be one of the very worst in all of baseball.  When you are fronted by journeyman Dan Straily, you have problems.  Straily himself is the only arm worth checking out in drafts and only as your SP 5.  Dillon Peters is also interesting but he is more of a guy to watch early on in the season then someone you want to draft.


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2018 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT SLEEPER: AMED ROSARIO SS NEW YORK METS

Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager......Amed Rosario?  The "Big Three" at the top of the shortstop rankings when it comes to 2018 fantasy baseball is no doubt an immense collection of superstar names that are all capable of first-round standing in drafts this spring and this trio also is ushering in a new era of the star shortstop that brings to mind the revolution begun under Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra, and Derek Jeter.  Just like Miguel Tejada soon became a fourth member of that star threesome, New York Mets sophomore shortstop Amed Rosario is aiming to place his name alongside Lindor, Correa, and Seager as soon as this season.  Still just 22-years-old, Rosario has universal acclaim as a top shortstop prospect who profiles as someone who could be a five-category star real soon and his 2018 fantasy baseball outlook shines bright despite some issue that do in fact need to be ironed out before reaching such lofty heights.  Be that as it may, Rosario really started to show off his talents last season when he went out and put up the following numbers at Triple-A:

.328
7 HR
58 RBI
66 R
19 SB

The power/speed game was very evident here and the .328 average also showed that Rosario could handle the strike zone with aplomb as well.  Mets fans and Rosario's fantasy baseball owners were hollering for his promotion as early as last May but it wasn't until August when the call came.  As expected, Rosario struggled at times during his debut but he again showed tantalizing tools:

.248
4 HR
10 RBI
16 R
7 SB

Right now the steals and speed are the top tools that Rosario will bring to the 2018 fantasy baseball table and the power is also starting to reveal itself as well.  Nothing we have seen so far has suggested Rosario won't reach his five-tool heights but things need to be tempered a bit for this season.  For starter's, Rosario will likely bat eighth to begin the year and this is a dreaded lineup spot to be in considering the pitcher will bat right behind him and thus offer no protection.  In addition, Rosario really needs to get to work on his patience as his 1.8 BB/9 and 28.8 K/9 rates were simply ridiculous in his 46 games with the team last season.  Yes, the talent is obvious but there will likely be some more growing pains on the way to stardom for Rosario this season.  This needs to be factored into his fantasy baseball draft cost and automatically assuming top 10 production right out of the gate would be silly.  Instead, take a patient approach with Rosario where you draft a backup or complement at the position to get through the inevitable Rosario struggles and by the second half, things should be a lot better in terms of production.

2018 PROJECTION:  .259 11 HR 48 RBI 77 R 22 SB  


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Friday, February 16, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL HOT STOVE SIGNINGS: METS INK JASON VARGAS TO HELP INJURY-RIDDLED ROTATION

The New York Mets officially agreed to terms with free agent pitcher Jason Vargas on Friday, inking the 2017 All-Star to join a rotation that has been shredded with injuries the last few seasons.  While Vargas is aging as he just turned 35, he showed last season that he can still get batters out coming off a Tommy John elbow surgery:

18-11
4.16 ERA
1.33 WHIP
134 K

While the overall numbers were solid, it was a clear tale of two halves for Vargas who pitched to a 2.62 ERA in prior to the All-Star Break but then was abominable to the point of recording a 6.38 mark in the second half.  Be that as it may, the overall picture remains the same with Vargas in terms of him being a strikeout-averse pitcher who is as much of a contact guy as you can get.  Vargas' 6.71 K/9 rate last season was abysmal and with little margin of error, any one start is prone to blowing up badly.  In terms of fantasy baseball, Vargas barely holds SP 5 value in mixers and ideally you want to avoid the guy outright.


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2018 FANTASY BASEBALL ISSUES: HUMIDOR EXPECTED TO DECREASE CHASE FIELD HOMERS BY 30 PERCENT

Already the news that the Arizona Diamondbacks will install a humidor at Chase Field for 20018 is having major reverberation in the fantasy baseball world.  Studies conducted on the effect of the humidor in Coors Field and how it will correspond to Chase Field have concluded that home runs in the latter could drop 30-40 percent.  That is a huge drop and it make sense when you look at the science of it and how Coors saw a similar dip in homers when they installed it.  This is a significant issue now facing first-round Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt who prior to this news, was on average going to be the third overall player drafted behind Mike Trout and Jose Altuve.  If Goldy seems a 30 percent drop in homers, he could slide to the 25 range and also inch back in runs and RBI as well.  This is enough to drop Goldy down to the back-end of Round 1 in this peanut stands opinion. with my view being that Mookie Betts, Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant, and Bryce Harper should all be picked ahead of him this spring. 

On the flip side, ace SP Zack Greinke looks like an even better investment given the more friendly confines for pitchers in Chase Field.  Greinke came back with an excellent ace campaign in 2017 after his ugly 2016 and his biggest bugaboo has always been giving up home runs.  With homers now being less of a problem this season at Chase, Greinke should remain a more affordable ace-caliber pitcher for fantasy baseball during drafts. 


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2018 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING REPORT: BALTIMORE ORIOLES

By Michael Wong

Sarasota, Fla.--The Baltimore Orioles are becoming old news in the AL East as the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees on paper appear destined to battle it out throughout the 2018 season for the division title.  While the Orioles possess some impressive hitters, their pitching staff looks very shaky and they will also be without All-Star closer Zach Britton for months as he recovers from a torn Achilles tendon.  Despite all this, no Buck Showalter-led team can ever be counted out and so count on the Orioles forcing the Yanks or Red Sox to earn the division.

1.  Manny Machado moves back to SS full-time!  Showalter surprised many when he said a few weeks before the beginning of spring training that it would be 2017 incumbent third baseman Manny Machado who would be the team's everyday shortstop to begin the 2018 season; while Tim Beckham would man the hot corner.  As far as Machado is concerned, he went as a first round pick in most fantasy baseball leagues last season but disappointed some by hitting just .259.  Still, Machado deserves a mulligan there as he suffered from some horrific BABIP luck all season and his other numbers were tremendous as he hit 33 home runs, drove in 95, and even ran a bit again with 9 steals.  Just now entering into his prime, Machado is a first-round talent once again who may be able to slip into Round 2 based on the fluky average.  Bid aggressively.

2.  Can Dylan Bundy be depended upon as a top-end starter?  While there is no denying the fact Bundy was very good for long stretches of 2017, he still finished the year with a shaky 4.24 ERA and middling 8.06 K/9.  When you consider that Bundy's .273 was lucky and that his ERA should have been worse, you can see that trouble lies ahead.  Since Bundy doesn't have the K/9 rate to overcome any BABIP regression, there could be major problem on the horizon here.  Be sure not to draft Bundy as anything more than an SP 4.

3.  Why is everyone so down on Adam Jones?  Jones now serves as your classic example of what many in the fantasy baseball community call a "boring veteran."  Now 32, Jones is getting a bit up there in age but he is still showing good thump as he hit 26 home runs last season and his numbers the last few years have remarkable been consistent.  What Jones gets knocked for is the fact he doesn't steal bases anymore and his average has slipped down to the .270-280 range which is not horrible but not great either.  Be that as it may, if you can sang Jones as your outfielder 3, you did very good.

4.  Can Brad Brach hold the closer fort again until Britton returns?  Absolutely as Brach has closer-type stuff and he did well in Britton's place last year as well.  The Orioles may flip Brach to another club by the middle of the season if the Orioles do fall out of contention but any discount you can get with the guy can result in a nice value play this season.

5.  Can Jonathan Schoop be considered a top-tier fantasy baseball second baseman?  It certainly looks like it as Schoop was insanely good as he smashed 32 home runs, drove in 105, and batted .293 in 2017.  While we don't totally by the average, Schoop's power is completely legit and that skills is very rare at second base.  Yes, there is no speed to be had here which is not what you want from a middle infielder in fantasy baseball but Schoop is fully worth being grouped into the top tier at this spot.


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Thursday, February 15, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL HOT STOVE SIGNINGS: RED SOX BEING BACK EDUARDO NUNEZ ON A ONE-YEAR DEAL

There is finally some movement in the forever stagnant free agent fraternity with spring training fully underway across baseball, as Thursday has brought not only the signing of pitcher of Andrew Cashner by the Baltimore Orioles but also the Boston Red Sox bringing back utility infielder Eduardo Nunez on a one-year deal.  While terms are not disclosed as of yet, Nunez' returning to Boston keeps his in a prime ballpark in terms of offensive potency.  The plan is for Nunez to be the starting second baseman for the Red Sox until Dustin Pedroia comes back from winter surgery and when the latter returns, he could slide into a utility role that includes starts in the infield and outfield.  In terms of numbers, Nunez put up the following numbers a year ago:

.288
12 HR
60 R 
58 RBI
24 SB

This marks the second straight season Nunez had a nice fantasy baseball campaign going back to his 2016 breakout with the Minnesota Twins when he hit .288 with 16 home runs and 40 steals.  Still just 30, Nunez seems poised for another 10-14 home runs season with 25-plus steals.  Nunez has terrific contact skills and draws walks at a high clip which will always help him hit .300 and he is severely underrated in terms of his power/speed game and eligibility all over the diamond.  He should be heavily targeted in drafts this spring as a result.  



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2018 FANTASY BASEBALL STOCK WATCH: DANNY SALAZAR FACING UPHILL BATTLE TO BE READY FOR OPENER

Cleveland Indians hard-throwing starting pitcher Danny Salazar has a unique love-hate relationship with many in the fantasy baseball community.  On the one hand, we all are seduced by Salazar's 100-mph fastball and insane strikeout rates since he became a regular with the Indians a few years back.  On the flip side, we grow very frustrated with Salazar's endless walks and penchant for getting hurt.  2017 saw a combination of all those issues and as far as 2018 is concerned, we now get word that Salazar may not be ready to answer the bell when the regular seasons begins as he sits a "few weeks" behind the rest of the rotation according to manager Terry Francona due to a January bout with right shoulder rotator cuff inflammation.  The fact Salazar is already dealing with injury speaks to how risky a player he is to invest in and 2018 is looking like it will be no different.  Again, the potential is massive here as Salazar is capable of a monster ace season like rotation-mate Carlos Carrasco had a year ago but he may eventually need a bullpen gig given the fact starting keep leading to injuries.  Be that as it may, we are in a clear holding pattern with Salazar for 2018 fantasy baseball.  On the one hand, he should come much cheaper at the draft table this spring which could lead you to invest yet again but the fact he is injured already leads one to believe it could be another frustrating go of it this season. 


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2018 FANTASY BASEBALL HOT STOVE SIGNINGS: ANDREW CASHNER INKS TWO-YEAR DEAL WITH ORIOLES

Always on the lookout for affordable pitching to complement their annually potent bats, the Baltimore Orioles inked free agent veteran pitcher Andrew Cashner on Thursday to a two-year deal worth $16 million.  It is a decent haul for Cashner who capitalized on a very solid 2017 campaign that shocked many when he pitched to a 3.40 ERA and won 11 games for the Texas Rangers.  Alas, Cashner had a lot of smoke-and-mirrors helping him out last season as his .266 BABIP was very lucky and when adjusted, resulted in much more ugly FIP (4.61) and XFIP (5.30) ERA's.  Those latter two marks were much more indicative of the type of pitcher Cashner is as he no longer is the hard-thrower he was when he first arrived on the major league scene with the San Diego Padres and his 4.64 K/9 rate a year ago was completely laughable.  Having such a pathetic K/9 rate means Cashner has zero margin for error and needs a ton of BABIP luck again to even be a help in ERA and WHIP.  Throw in the fact he will be operating in the toughest division in baseball in the AL East and there are more than enough reasons to avoid Cashner completely in 2018 fantasy drafts.  In fact, we would be leery of Cashner even in AL-only formats given his utter lack of K's and the reality that things could go very wrong this season.


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FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: RYON HEALY DOWN 4-6 WEEKS DUE TO HAND SURGERY

Seattle Marines third baseman Ryon Healy will miss the next 4-6 weeks due to undergoing surgery to remove a bone spur in his hand. Healy had been complaining of pain in the hand since January and subsequent testing Wed. showed the spur. Having come over to Seattle through a winter trade, Healy still has a chance to be ready for Opening Day if he hits no snags in rehab. He is a solid 25 homer slugger who can be a cheap help for your bench so don't downgrade Healy too much just yet. 

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL ISSUES: HUMIDOR IN CHASE FIELD A MINOR BUMMER FOR PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT AND COMPANY

The humidor is spreading.  Following in the footsteps of the Colorado Rockies a few years ago, the Arizona Diamondbacks will install a humidor at Chase Field for the 2018 season.  A climate-controlled environment will be set up to house the team's baseballs and the humidor has been shown to negatively impact the distances that baseballs kept here travel.  In fantasy baseball terms, this is not such good news for any Diamondbacks slugger, with first baseman Paul Goldschmidt heading this list.  There are even further studies that have been done that the dry desert air in Arizona will hurt the distance the balls will travel even more than in Colorado and so that is another factor to be considered as well.  So while Goldy is still a top five pick overall in 2018 fantasy baseball, this big of news could help break the tie between him and say a Mookie Betts, Bryce Harper, or Giancarlo Stanton in the first round.  Yes the overall impact on Goldy may result in just a few homers and RBI being removed from his bottom line numbers but it is something to be aware of either way when it comes to drafts this spring.


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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY WATCH: CONCERN ABOUT MARINERS 3B RYON HEALY'S HAND

Brand new Seattle Mariners third baseman Ryon Healy has caused some concern among the team's hierarchy as he will head for testing on his right hand which has been giving him some pain for the better part of a month.  No details have emerged as of yet regarding what the issue is but the fact the Mariners ordered tests means they are concerned enough here with regards to what truly is going on with Healy's hand.  Having come over in a winter trade from the Oakland A's, Healy has solidified himself as a solid late-round third baseman power option who could provide 25-home run power with decent counting numbers.  While we won't panic yet, check back for details here and those in AL-only formats should be prepared to adjust his spring ranking. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL BRIEF: METS PITCHING COACH PREDICTS JEURYS FAMILIA WILL LEAD TEAM IN SAVES

New York Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland spoke openly on Wednesday regarding how he believed incumbent closer Jeurys Familia would lead the team in saves this season and get the majority of looks in the ninth inning despite new manager Mickey Callaway saying he would use a strict committee there. 

Analysis:  Familia is the guy we have said all along has the most fantasy baseball value among the strong collection of Met bullpen arms but there is a legitimate concern about how he will perform coming off a serious shoulder surgery a year ago for a blood clot.  That means anyone who drafts Familia needs to quickly back him up with the accomplished A.J. Ramos as well.  

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL STOCK WATCH: TODD FRAZIER COULD LEAD OFF FOR NY METS

New Mets manager Mickey Callaway is already making waves since being names the team's skipper back in December, with his unconventional ways becoming very apparent early on.  For starter's, Callaway has already firmly stated that he will use a strict committee to finish games this season; speasing out saves among Jeurys Familia, A.J. Ramos, Jerry Blevins, and Anthony Swarzak.  The latest gem came on Tuesday when Callaway suggested that recently-signed third baseman Todd Frazier may lead off games for the team when spring training ends.  Frazier would no doubt be an odd choice to lead off since he hit just .213 last season and stole all of 4 bases.  Be that as it may, Frazier's .344 OBP was strong and he drew walks at a very high 14.4 BB/9 clip a year ago which jives nicely with the leadoff spot.  Obviously if this comes to fruition, Frazier's fantasy baseball outloook would improve for 2018 given the additional at-bats he would receive and a boost in runs and home runs would likely result as well.  Frazier could also possibly decide to run a bit more as well and he has stolen as many as 15 bases as recently as 2016.  Overall however, Frazier is just a low-end starting option in 12 team mixed fantasy baseball league's this spring even if he does end up leading off games as part of Callaway's latest odd decision.


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2018 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING REPORT: NEW YORK YANKEES

By Michael Wong

Tampa, Fla.--The New York Yankees enter into thee 2018 season among the short list of favorites to win the World Series.  Having seen their "rebuild" sped up by a year when they qualified for the postseason (and won the wild card game and a series), the Yanks then went out and make the move of the winter by acquiring the top slugger in the game in outfielder Giancarlo Stanton to pair with fellow 50-home monster Aaron Judge.  So with that that as the backdrop, let's check out some issues surrounding the team from a fantasy baseball angle this spring.

1.  Can Stanton crack 70 home runs?  That is the ultimate question making the rounds here in Tampa as Stanton comes off a 59-homer campaign in 2017 with the Marlins.  When you consider that the ballpark in Miami is as pitching-leaning as they get and then take into account Stanton will move into arguably the best power park in the American League at Yankee Stadium, it is easy to see a path for another 11 long balls here.  The only issue that would stand in the way is Stanton's history of ill health and that history is filled with some serious injuries.  Many have been of the fluke variety however and so Stanton represents a mid-first round superstar in fantasy baseball terms who should light up runs, homers, and RBI at the very least.  The average has been a hit-or-miss during his career but even there, Stanton has made inroads on his past strikeout issues.  This should be fun to watch.

2.  Speaking of massive sluggers, what can Aaron Judge do for an encore?  What is funny is that Stanton's arrival has overshadowed Judge a bit and that is amazing when you consider he smacked 52 homers, scored 128 runs, and drove in 114 as a rookie.  Judge is as powerful a slugger as there is this side of Stanton and another 50 homers seems like a good bet.  What we have to worry about here though is a potential sophomore slump as opposing pitchers will be much more careful going up against Judge this season and they also figure to attack the holes in his swing which could really hurt the batting average here.  For all the amazing things that Judge accomplished a year ago, his 30.7 K/9 rate was disgusting and a .260 average could be the result if no inroads area made there.  So while Stanton is a locked-in first round pick this spring, Judge may find himself more in the early round 2 realm.

3.  Will the Yankees really go with an all-rookie left side of in the field?  On talent alone, the Yanks have two superb infield prospects in shortstop Gleybar Torres and third baseman Miguel Andujar.  However both guys severely lack experience and that could result in some stark growing pains early on in the season.  Torres is the more lauded of the two and rightly so as he has five-tool potential at shortstop.  Andujar is no slouch though as he has terrific contact skills and power that is beginning to bubble to the surface.  Both guys are major fantasy baseball sleepers this spring but both are far from sure things.

4.  Which Masahiro Tanaka will show up this season?  It certainly was a tale of two halves when it came to the Yankees' ace a year ago as Tanaka was simply brutal the first half of the year (5.47 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 23 HR) and then was an ace again in the second half (3.77 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 12 HR).  The home runs were the big problem here and Tanaka can be a guy who causes a lot of stress in any given start due to the threat of a long ball unraveling a good outing.  Be that as it may, Tanaka's swing-and-miss stuff was a good last season as it was since his rookie campaign and the fact he will come so much cheaper this season in fantasy baseball drafts make him a good buy low candidate.

5.  Can Greg Bird finally stay in one piece?  That is the million dollar question here as Bird has a world of talent but insane injury trouble have ruined each of his last two MLB seasons.  2017 saw Bird have a scorching spring training but then fall prey to a stubborn ankle injury in April that resulted in surgery.  The procedure kept Bird out until September but then he came back and showed the big-time power that made him such a big prospect.  With Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez getting most of the pub, Bird is falling under the radar heading into the 2018 season and this will make him a swell buy in fantasy baseball drafts this spring.  Count us as potential buyers as Judge has 30-home run potential.


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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING REPORT: NEW YORK METS

By Michael Wong

Port St. Luice, Fla.--My annual tour of all 30 MLB spring training camps kicks off today at Port St. Luice, Florida which is the longtime Grapefruit League home of the New York Mets.  Like with every team I will profile this spring, there are more than a few storylines worth discussing in terms of their relationship to fantasy baseball and so let's not waste any more time in getting right to it.

1.  There will be a closer carousel all season by the sounds of it!  Yes, spring training has only just begun and already we have a full-blown closer committee in our midst with the New York Mets.  New Mets manager Mickey Callaway soon after his hiring came out and said as much in plainly spoken terms; including not only incumbent stopper Jeurys Familia as an option but also A.J. Ramos, Anthony Swarzak, and Jerry Blevins.  While Familia would be the one you would place your best on with regards to whom may lead the Mets in saves this season, this setup already looks to be one full of annoyance and frustration.

2.  Noah Syndergaard scrapped his "Thor" weightlifting program this past winter!  Anyone who saw Syndergaard here last spring (which I did) was no doubt disturbed by how muscular and immense he looked from a physical standpoint.  Already possessing the best pure fastball in the majors, Syndergaard seemed to push the button unnecessarily last winter with the weightlifting program.  Those fears were well-founded as Syndergaard suffered a torn lat muscle after just a month's action and missed the remainder of the season (save for a September one-inning cameo).  No doubt, Syndergaard was as big a fantasy baseball bust as you could get last spring and it underscored the risk of drafting pitchers so high.  Now 100 percent health-wise going into camp, Syndergaard still carries a ton of risk given how hard he throws and how he would be the guy to bet on if you were to predict the next Tommy John victim.  Yes the talent is breathtaking but tread carefully here.

3.  Travis D'Arnaud hinting that THIS could finally be the year he becomes a top hitting catcher!  Yet another spring tradition in these parts centers on how talk begins about how Mets catcher Travis D'Arnaud is really to realize what was once vast potential.  Having been traded twice for Cy Young-winning pitchers, D'Arnaud was considered to be a crown jewel prospect who can really hit for power.  Unfortunately, the only thing consistent with D'Arnaud has been his .240 averages and insane injury history.  Last year was no different as D'Arnaud had yet another DL stint and batted just .244.  However, D'Arnaud overhauled his spring during the second half of the season and September was his best month as he hit .297 with 6 big homers for the month.  If D'Arnaud can carry that over to 2018. we could have something here.  Try him out one more time.

4.  How good can Amed Rosario be?  Boy the Mets have a superb prospect on their hands in shortstop Amed Rosario who reeks of five-tool ability.  Alas, some cold water needs to be thrown on him initially as the Mets will bat him in the dreaded eighth slot to begin the year and Rosario really struggled with his patience during his late 2017 rookie debut.  Be that as it may, Rosario looks like the next Elvis Andrus in terms of his 30-steal speed and ability to eventually hit for some decent enough power.  Whether Rosario can hit .300 will be the determining factor regarding how high his stock can go.

5.  Yoenis Cespedes is the hitting version of the ill health the pitching staff suffered from a year ago!  In terms of talent, Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes is as good a player as there is in the game.  His power is immense and Cespedes' batting average has improved since coming to New York.  Unfortunately, Cespedes caught the injury bug which took down almost the entire starting staff a year ago as he accumulated just 291 at-bats and supplied all of 17 home runs and 42 RBI.  Cespedes himself has vowed to cut down on his own insane gym workouts and he looked svelte during the offseason.  Still just 32, Cespedes could easily go right back to being the OF 1 monster he always has been with even just 500 at-bats and so a mulligan should be given for 2017.


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Monday, February 12, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL CLOSING TIME: KEEP AN EYE ON BUD NORRIS IN ST. LOUIS

With the St. Louis Cardinals having let 2017 closer Seung-Hwan Oh depart to the Texas Rangers in free agency and before that saw the promising but inconsistent Trevor Rosenthal succumb to Tommy John surgery, there remains a hole in the ninth inning for the team as 2018 fantasy baseball gets set to launch.  While Greg Holland remains a very valuable piece that could be had on the market, the Cardinals have not gone that route yet and instead on Monday, inked lefty reliever Bud Norris who actually could be a possible solution himself for the closer role this season.  By now it is well-established that Norris has been a failed starting pitcher through various stops around the major leagues but the Los Angeles Angels may have stumbled onto something by placing him in the closer role during the middle portion of 2017.  Almost immediately, Norris saw an uptick in velocity with his fastball and the one weapon the veteran always seemed to have previously was a heater that could net strikeouts.  Well Norris took to the role quickly and overall saved 19 saves and punched out 74 batters in just 62 innings.  Yes, Norris' 4.21 ERA and 1.34 WHIP were ugly that was helped by three failed starts prior to going to the bullpen.  Now as of this signing, the Cardinals have not said if Norris will be involved in saves and we are more prone to liking the chances of Tyler Lyons more at the moment.  However like Oh in Texas and Addison Reed in Minnesota, Norris should at least be watched in spring training and perhaps early in the regular season in order to get a better read on his outlook.  With the Cardinals in need of a steady presence in the ninth inning, Norris make be able to fit the bill.


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2018 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT SLEEPER: LUIZ GOHARA SP ATLANTA BRAVES

Can you be a prime pitching fantasy baseball sleeper and also be somewhat off the radar?  Yes if you are Atlanta Braves property Luiz Gohara.  As spring training gets underway and fantasy baseball drafts move closer, Gohara is a 21-year-old fireballer who is simply not getting the hype he should based on talent.  While Gohara's 4.90 ERA debut with the Braves in late 2017 was nothing to write home about, the overpowering fastball and developing offspeed stuff should have the righty as one of the more talked about pitching sleepers coming into the season.  It simply hasn't happened that way just yet and while that could still change, Gohara looks like a prime buying opportunity who could really result in some major upside if all breaks right.

Now in digging in more on Gohara, the former Seattle Mariners farmhand has always been about big strikeout totals during his minor league stops and 2017 was no different as he put up a 10.38 K/9 in Double-A and then followed this up with a 12.33 mark in Triple-A before the late promotion to the Braves.  While Gohara;s control has come-and-gone at times, he has done a nice job keeping the ball in the park at most levels and this is a major skill to own given the power-leanings of the new Atlanta ballpark.  This will add more potential to Gohara's bottom line and keep in mind he averaged a scorching 97 on his fastball with the Braves in his cup of coffee run a year ago.  So while you would like the ballpark to be a bit better in terms of investing in young pitching, Gohara has so much going for him overall that he should be on any sleeper list this spring. The talent is way too obvious. 


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2018 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT SLEEPER: MIGUEL ANDUJAR 3B NEW YORK YANKEES

With spring training set to get underway around all of baseball, the rosters of every MLB team will now begin to come into more focus.  The New York Yankees are in the same boat as every other organization around the game but they also go into Grapefruit League games with the excitement of having the TWO greatest home runs hitters at their disposal in Aaron Judge and the recently acquired Giancarlo Stanton.  Needless to say, the Yankees outfield is downright silly and the pitching staff looks equally as potent.  Perhaps the only question marks regarding the 2018 Yankees center on the left side of the infield which as of this writing will likely be manned by two rookies in shortstop Gleybar Torres and third baseman Miguel Andjujar.  While Torres deservedly gets much more hype given his status as a true top tier prospect, Andujar carries quite a bit of promise himself centering on what looks like a potentially potent bat.  

In terms of Andujar the player, he has been considered one of the crown jewels of the Yankees farm system for a few years now and he won't even turn 23 until this March.  Andujar really put himself on the map both in real and in fantasy baseball in 2017 as he excelled both at Double-A and Triple-A before a small five game run with the Yanks last season when he batted .571.  As far as Double-A was concerned, Andujar hit .312 with 7 home runs and 2 steals in 272 at-bats and then followed that up with .317/9/3 in 250 at-bats at Triple-A.  By the looks of it, Andujar really has some smooth stick and his power is starting to show up as well.  While Andujar does need to work on his patience (habitual low BB/9 rates), he does make very high contact that result in beautiful-looking K/9 rates in the lower teens.  That really serves as a boost for hitting .300 and when combined with the emerging power, Andujar has some very intriguing upside.  Capable of also adding a few steals, Andujar just needs a shot to show what he could do this season to unleash his potential.  

At the very least, opportunity alone has Andujar down as a solid mid-round fantasy baseball sleeper and his offensive skills will jive nicely with the awesome ballpark he would play in.  Better yet, Andujar is still off the fantasy baseball radar enough to make him a rare Yankees prospect you won't have to pay through the nose to get.


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Sunday, February 11, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT SLEEPER: DeLINO DeSHIELDS OUTFIELDER TEXAS RANGERS

One of the prime themes of the 2018 fantasy baseball season is the sudden dearth of steals around the league, while power has exploded everywhere.  What this means is that guys who can pick up steals in bunches such as Trea Turner, Jose Altuve, Billy Hamilton, and Jose Ramirez are more valuable than ever.  It also means that there are fewer sleeper steal options to check out in the middle-to-late rounds of drafts as well.  While this is clearly a stark trend, Texas Rangers outfielder DeLino DeShields Jr. certainly is on the sleeper radar when it comes to steals and he has been for the last two years as well.  While DeShields can run like the wind, his ability to hit major league pitching has held him back before but in 2017 he seemed to suggest the light bulb has gone on there a bit to add to the hype.  On that front, these are the numbers DeShields posted in his 376 at-bats with the Rangers a year ago:

.269
6 HR
22 RBI
75 R
29 SB

Looking at the numbers, DeShields is at the very least a good two-category guy; contributing nicely in runs and especially in stolen bases which is his ultimate calling card.  DeShields' .269 average last season though was big progress from the .209 he batted in 2016 and that was helped by him improving both his BB/9 and K/9 rates last season.  In particular, DeShields' 10.0 BB/9 was classic leadoff stuff and so DeShields at the age of 25 could very well be figuring things out against major league pitching.  If DeShields gets on base at a consistent clip like he did a year ago, the steals could be immense and make a literal run at 40 or more.  Yes there is not much power to speak of here as you will take big hits in homers and RBI but DeShields' improvement as a hitter and raging speed do in fact make him a super mid-round selection for those in search of increasingly tough to find speed.  

When you put it all together, DeLino DeShields seems like a prime post-hype sleeper worth checking out this spring and his overall outlook has never been brighter at this point leading up to a new season.  Take advantage of the discount here and reap some steals reward.

2018 PROJECTION:  .257 8 HR 38 RBI 84 R 39 SB 


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