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Saturday, March 31, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL PROSPECT WATCH: MIGUEL ANDUJAR TO GET CALLED UP FOR SUNDAY

With the New York Yankees all of a sudden dealing with a rash of injuries, the team has decided to call up top third base prospect Miguel Andujar to join them for Sunday's game.  Andujar had a big start to spring training with a bunch of home runs in the first 10 days of exhibition play but then cooled off as he eventually was sent down to Triple-A with the Yanks having traded for Brandon Drury and signing Neil Walker.  Andujar obviously should be added everywhere he is available as he has big upside due to his terrific contact hitting approach and burgeoning power.  The Yanks wouldn't have called up Andujar if they didn't plan on playing him so this could be start of an extended run here for the kid. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL STATUS REPORT: DAVID PRICE SP BOSTON RED SOX

Back in the beginning of March, I did a piece on Boston Red Sox lefty David Price in discussing how he was shaping up to be a more than decent buy-low fantasy baseball ace-level starter and it all had to do with his drastically reduced sticker price and seemingly positive health.  The same couldn't be said of Price a year ago as he came down with elbow trouble early in spring training and then endured inconsistent pitching results.  More elbow trouble soon flared and Price also got involved in some run-ins with the team's front office and former player royalty.  It all resulted in Price finishing the year in the bullpen where he excelled but his overall 3.99 ERA left a lot to be desired.  Adding to the concern has been Price's fastball trending in the wrong direction, with his average velocity going from 96.5 in 2012 all the way down to 94.1 a year ago. 

Fast forward to present day and Price was one of the top stories in fantasy baseball on Friday as he tossed 7 innings of shutout ball which included just four hits and no walks with 5 K's versus the Tampa Bay Rays.  By all appearances, Price was throwing free and easy and looked like his old ace self.  There have been no mention of any sort of elbow trouble from Price going back to the start of camp and so at a still young age of 32, he could be primed for a move back toward at least SP 2 status if all goes according to plan.  This is why I said to invest in Price this season as his ADP slid tremendously an I fall back on the mantra that any player is of value depending on cost.  The upside looks very potent here and those who did buy low might be looking at one of the very best value plays for 2018 fantasy baseball. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL WRAPUP: FRIDAY

Felipe Rivero:  4 ER in .2 IP with an ERA of 54.00.  Unreal.  Is this the same guy who absolutely was lights out last season?  Rivero has only had one season of closing at a high level and so he does have to prove that wasn't a fluke.  He couldn't be off to a worse start.

Shane Greene:  3 ER in .2 IP with an ERA of 40.50.  This is one guy I told you to avoid at all costs among the 2018 closers to begin the season and had it down in writing both here and in our draft guide.  I don't trust Greene to even make it out of April with the gig but what's funny is that he actually performed the best out of the two closers in this game.

Jordan Zimmerman:  4 ER in 6 IP with 8 K with an ERA of 6.00.  The strikeouts were encouraging as Zim had a bit more jump on his fastball but this is just an AL-only play for now to see if it is sustainable.

Homer Bailey:  1 ER in 6 IP with an ERA of 1.50.  Not bad but just 3 K's speak to how the power is gone here.  Bailey can be a possible streamer but aren't you just sick of this guy by now?

Max Scherzer:  6 IP 5 H 0 ER 1 BB 10 K with an ERA of 1.50.  If you not admitting you would take Scherzer over Clayton Kershaw for 2018 fantasy baseball, then you are not being honest.

Gregory Polanco:  3/5 with his first HR while hitting .600.  I am still a sucker for the talent here and those who had a clue when it came to 2018 fantasy baseball took advantage of the discounted rate this spring.

David Price:  7 IP 4 H 0 ER 0 BB 5 K with an ERA of 0.00.  Well look what we have here.  A presumably healthy David Price who looked a lot like his old ace self.  I wrote a post a few weeks ago saying to buy low on him coming off such a rough narrative in 2017 and that strategy is paying off already.  I absolutely think as long as the elbow is sound, Price can pitch like the ace he always has been.

Randal Grichuk:  1/4 with his first HR while hitting .143.  Rogers Center paired with Grichuk's power all season will be a positive development but guys like this are a dime a dozen now in terms of good power and ugly average. 

Masahiro Tanaka:  6 IP 3 H 1 ER 1 BB 8 K with an ERA of 1.50.  The only run of course was a homer and so Tanaka continues to straddle the line dangerously with his gopher ball issues.  However few can generate such drastic movement on their stuff and so Tanaka can very well be one of the best SP 2's going.

Charlie Blackmon:  1/5 with his first HR while hitting .143.  Still leading off and still cracking home runs.  There is nothing really new to add here from a year ago as Blackmon has solidified his 25-homer power and the steals continue slide. 

Ian Desmond:  2/4 with his first HR while hitting .375.  Good sign that Desmond gets on the board already as he was brutal in spring training and needs suntan lotion from all the heat Ryan McMahon is putting on him.

Gerardo Parra:  1/4 with his first HR while hitting .250.  Parra remains one of the better deep league bargains as he always hits for average and can pop a few homers.  He als deserves props for holding off David Dahl who was everyone's darling a year ago. 

Robbie Ray:  5 IP 7 H 6 ER 3 BB 8 K with an ERA of 10.80.  I think there will surely be an ERA adjustment this season as I mentioned in piece on Ray back in March.  He got a bunch of BABIP love a year ago and so Ray was never to be confused with a 2.50 ERA guy.  There will be a boatload of K's for sure but Ray is more Chris Archer with the frustrating ebbs and flows of his ratios when luck is taken out of the equation. 

Brad Boxberger: scoreless ninth for his first save with an ERA of 0.00.  Boxberger succeding closing games a few years ago for the Tampa Bay Rays and so he could very well run through 2018 with the gig and a boatload of K's along the way.  This is why you never need to pay for saves.

Brandon Morrow:  0 IP 1 H.  Why would Morrow be able to get one out?  I mean he is a 2018 closer after all.

Rhys Hoskins:  2/5 with his first HR while hitting .500.  This is one much-hyped prospect who I was fully in on in terms of reaching for.  Easy power like this and to make matters more exciting, Hoskins draws a bunch of walks which means the average won't kill you.

Carlos Santana:  1/3 with his first HR while hitting .125.  I think Santana is another one of those boring veterans like Adam Jones who can still be very helpful.  Santana moved into a better offensive park in Philly coming from Cleveland and that alone should add 2-5 more home runs and 10 or so RBI. 

Nomar Mazara:  1/3 with his first HR while hitting .167.  No one has been talking about Mazara for 2018 fantasy baseball which I find puzzling since he is still a top-shelf prospect who can be the 2018 version of Michael Conforto a year ago. Remember prior to last year the fantasy baseball community was already bored of Conforto as well? 

Joe Panik:  1/3 with his second HR while hitting .429.  No Joe Panik all of a sudden hasn't become a power hitter.  Then again I might have said the same thing about Scooter Gennett at this time a year ago.

Johnny Cueto:  7 IP 1 H 0 ER 0 BB 4 K with an ERA of 0.00.  Well, I would say that is a nice way to get back into the good graces of the fantasy baseball community. 

Alex Wood:  8 IP 1 H 0 ER 0 BB 5 K with an ERA of 0.00.  I see you 7 one-hit innings Mr. Cueto and I raise you an extra frame.  Man Wood is so damn good and yet you get the sense the fantasy baseball community has never fully embraced him. 

Kenley Jansen:  took the loss with 1 ER in 1 IP with an ERA of 9.00.  Even Jansen is not immune to how every single closer sucks it this season. 

Ryan Braun:  1/4 with his first HR and 5 RBI while hitting .125.  Like with Johnny Cueto, I think Braun is a veteran guy slightly on the back nine of their careers who can still be very useful. 

Austin Hedges:  1/3 with his first HR while hitting .125.  With Mike Zunino on the DL, feel free to pick up his statistical twin. 

Brad Hand:  first blown save with 2 ER in 1 IP.  Unreal.  I mean you can;t make this stuff up with he closers this season.  I think Hand will be tremendous and am willing to look past this slop but outings like this early in the year are incredibly deflating. 

Mike Trout:  1/4 with his first HR while hitting .100.  That 0-for-6 on Opening Day is forgiven. 


Friday, March 30, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL WELCOME TO THE SHOW: JOEY LUCCHESI SP SAN DIEGO PADRES

Already possessing one of the cooler names in baseball before throwing his first ever MLB pitch in a game that counts, San Diego Padres prospect Joey Lucchesi will get to make his debut Friday for the team in a move that has actionable status when it comes to the fantasy baseball community.  As far as Lucchesi is concerned, the 24-year-old was a fourth-round draft pick by the team in 2016 and he rose very quickly after a tremendous performance both at A-Ball (2.52 ERA) and Double-A (1.79 ERA) despite a fastball that mostly sits in the low-to-mid-90's. What makes Lucchesi so tough is that his offspeed offerings are already very polished as well.  Add in the terrific home ballpark and this could have some legs to it in terms of Lucchesi remaining viable for awhile in terms of fantasy baseball.  While we wouldn't throw him out there just yet since the season is literally two days old, Luchessi has enough upside and talent to be worth a speculative add. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL LINEUP ISSUES: BILLY HAMILTON BATTING NINTH FRIDAY

                                                                  

Add Cincinnati Reds manager Brian Price to the growing legion of MLB managers who choose to bat their pitchers in the eighth slot as that is exactly what he is doing for the team's Friday game as Price had decided to insert starter Homer Bailey in the eighth spot and use 2017 leadoff man Billy Hamilton out of the nine slot.  The main fantasy baseball issue here centers on Hamilton who of course will have a better chance to pick up steals batting leadoff and also bad his run totals but Price had hinted at making such a move during spring training.  It shouldn't come as a shock really as Hamilton is not a classic leadoff hitter since he doesn't draw walks and his pure hitting ability leaves a lot to be desired.  While no one doubts his 60-steal speed, Hamilton is as much a one-trick pony as you can get when it comes to 2018 fantasy baseball and he remained grossly overpriced at the draft table.  

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL WRAPUP: THURSDAY

Adam Jones:  1/5 with his first HR while hitting .200.  Yeah, no one seems to want him anymore but that will suit Jones fine as he marches toward 25 homers and 80-plus RBI. 

Jake Odorizzi:  6 IP 2 H 0 ER 2 BB 7 K with an ERA of 0.00.  Odorizzi has shown flashes of decent SP 3/4 ability in the past and he remains in a decent park in Minnesota.  He was off a bit in 2017 but Odorizzi could pay off nicely and go back to a mid-3.00 ERA.

Fernando Rodney:  1 ER in .2 IP with an ERA of 13.50.  Good to see that Rodney is already in midseason form. 

Dylan Bundy:  7 IP 5 H 0 ER 1 BB 7 K with an ERA of 0.00.  Sell, sell, sell. 

Brad Brach:  first blown save with 2 ER in .2 IP with an ERA of 27.00.  It starts already.  Nothing gets the hair follicles to pass away than closers in fantasy baseball.  Brach was named the fill-in for Zach Britton but his leash won't be very long with a very capable Darren O'Day behind him.  While there is no need to panic just yet, all Brach owners at least should have O'Day rostered. 

Ian Happ:  1/5 with his first HR while hitting .200.  A continuation of what was a torrid spring for Happ who has immense potential and is leading off for the Cubs at least versus the righties.  The only negative is strikeouts and there were three in this one.  Otherwise, Happ is on his way to stardom.

Anthony Rizzo:  1/4 with his first HR while hitting .250.  While everyone else was out chasing Freddie Freeman, the cheaper Anthony Rizzo will be just as good if not better.

Kyle Schwarber:  1/3 with his first HR while hitting .333.  We heard a lot of chatter about Schwarber losing weight which will help unleash his potential yada, yada, yada.  One game folks. 

Jon Lester:  3.1 IP 7 H 3 ER 3 BB 2 K with an ERA of 8.10.  He is toast.  Said it from the beginning and this extends what began unfolding the second half of last season. 

George Springer:  1/4 with his first HR while hitting .250.  Still leading off which is fantastic. 

Justin Verlander:  6 IP 4 H 0 ER 2 BB 5 K with an ERA of 0.00.  I got scared off from Verlander a few years ago when he had that disturbingly terrible season with the Detroit Tigers but man has he been money since. 

Jose Martinez:  3./4 with his first HR while hitting .750.  We got our first candidate for hot pickup of Week 1.

Yadier Molina:  1/3 with his first HR while hitting .333.  I am starting to think Molina will be starter-worthy in fantasy baseball ten years from now.

Noah Syndergaard:  6 IP 6 H 4 ER 0 BB 10 K with an ERA of 6.00.  Don't look at the four runs and to think for a second that Thor was anything but filthy in this one.  Syndergaard was a strikeout monster as always and only had a few misplaced fastballs that ended up homers as the wind was really blowing out.  It is all about health here of course but if cooperates, Thor will have no peer other than Chris Sale or Max Scherzer.

Carlos Martinez:  4.1 IP 4 H 4 ER 6 BB 5 K with an ERA of 8.31.  Yovani Gallardo anyone?  Man, I can't stand this guy as Martinez has zero control and is no fantasy baseball ace despite getting drafted as one. 

Eduardo Nunez:  2/4 with his first HR while hitting .500.  Hey Dustin Pedroia take some extra time to come back.  Please. 

Chris Sale:  6 IP 1 H 0 ER 3 BB 9 K with an ERA of 0.00.  This guy is ridiculous.  Sale does have some Dan Haren in him though in that he seems to always tire in late August.  Keep that in mind. 

Giancarlo Stanton:  3/5 with 2 home runs (2 for season) while hitting .600.  Yeah, I would say the trade is working out nicely so farth for the NY Yankees.  70 homers on tap? 

Brett Gardner:  1/5 with his first HR while hitting .200.   Often overlooked in yearly fantasy baseball leagues, Gardner could be a quiet 20/20 guy if all breaks right. 

Khris Davis:  2/5 with his first HR while hitting .400.  Back-to-back 40 home runs seasons and counting for Davis who thumps with the best of them but doesn't get as much pop due to some shaky averages.  The same story will likely be in play this season and he should have company on his own team with that profile.

Matt Olson:  1/5 with his first HR while hitting .200.  Olsen is the teammate we were referring to in the Khris Davis blurb and he struck out three times in this one to go with the homer and thus reinforce his shaky average outlook. 

Jose Abreu:  2/5 with his first HR while hitting .400.  There is something to be said for the ultra-consistency you are going to get out of Jose Abreu as he is a "write down in ink" guy when it comes to numbers which is very rare in today's fantasy baseball.  Also, the White Sox are going to be better then people think.

Matt Davidson:  3/4 with 3 home runs and 5 RBI while hitting .750.  No one ever should doubt Davidson's power but like with many sluggers of his ilk, utter lack of plate discipline has held him back from being more than just a home run specialist.  Can that change?  Hope spring's eternal as they say but obviously Davidson should be plugged in already if he is on your bench.

Tim Anderson:  2/4 with 2 home runs while hitting .400.  Known more for speed in the minors than power, Anderson has flipped the script in the majors.  There are quite a bit of tools here in terms of fanatsy baseball viability as Anderson stole a boatload of bases in the minors and the power is beginning to show up.  He should be owned everywhere but like the previous few names on this list (outside of Abreu), Anderson really needs to get to work on his plate approach (draw even a few walks) and if so, the guy can really explode.

Daniel Duffy:  5 ER in 4 IP with an ERA of 11.25.  Someone asked me about Duffy on Twitter prior to yesterday's games and I said run for the hills.  The guy has dealt with a ton of injuries the last few seasons and it seems to have sapped the oomph from his stuff.  Home runs are usually an indication of this and Matt Davidson can confirm. 

Clayton Kershaw:  6 IP 8 H 1 ER 2 BB 7 K with an ERA of 1.50.  We like to be ahead of the fantasy baseball curve and so we had Max Scherzer ahead of Kershaw this season and you can make the case Chris Sale deserves that nod too.  This has all to do with health and how Kershaw is less dependable than the other two.  He was a bit ragged by his lofty standards in this one but nothing to fret about yet. 

Ty Blach:  5 IP 3 H 0 ER 3 BB 3 K with an ERA of 0.00.  It was a nice outing for sure but don't be running out chasing this guy.  Blach doesn't generate many K's and so those days he is off, he will get his head handed to him. 

Nolan Arenado:  2/4 with his first HR while hitting .500.  The sun came up and Nolan Arenado hit a home run.  Both as predictable as it gets. 

DJ LeMahieu:  1/4 with his first HR while hitting .250.  All the respect to LeMahieu for hitting .300 consistently and scoring a bunch of runs but he needs to do more of this before we jump out of the chair in excitement. 

Jon Gray:  4 IP 6 H 3 ER 3 BB 4 K with an ERA of 6.75.  The guy can't ever seem to get out of his own way.  This is Gray's last chance to show his massive K potential can be fantasy baseball-worthy or else I am moving on for good. 

Ozzie Albies:  1/5 with his first HR while hitting .200.  I own Albies in both of my competitive fantasy baseball leagues this season which shows how I get weak in the knees thinking about him.  I can totally envision a .280 average with 15 homers and 30 steals.  In other words, a second round pick in 2019. 

Freddie Freeman:  1/2 with his first HR while hitting .500.  MVP 2018 is off and running. 

Aaron Nola:  5 IP 3 H 1 ER 1 BB 3 K with an ERA of 1.69.  We alwasy like to remind you that yours truly pushed you all to draft Nola back in 2016 and stuck with it.  Some rough patches but boy is this a slam dunk ace. 

Hector Neris:  3 ER in .2 IP with an ERA of 40.50.  Phillies bullpen started this way last year as well.  Amazing how much crap is already falling from the closer tier.  NEVER DRAFT CLOSERS EARLY.

Corey Kluber:  8 IP 6 H 2 ER 1 BB 8 K with an ERA of 2.25.  Kluber usually struggles in April so this is a nice sign. 


Thursday, March 29, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL GAME DAY: IAN HAPP STARTS WITH A BANG

The Derek Jeter in Miami as the team's CEO lasted all of one pitch before his team fell behind 1-0 and that was courtesy of Chicago Cubs second baseman/Ian Happ who unloaded on Jose Urena's first offering and deposited it over the outfield wall.  The homer extended Happ's scorching spring where he was arguably one of the best performing hitters in all of baseball and even prior to that, yours truly was begging you all to draft him in your league's given the massive talent on hand.  I put my money where my mouth was as I reached for Happ in the Experts League and needless to say, I couldn't be happier with the start.  There is the chance that Happ could go real close to a 30/15 season for the Cubs and his fantasy baseball owners and thus, he would go down as one of the best values overall for 2018.  


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY WATCH: TYLER FLOWERS COULD HEADED TO DL WITH STRAINED OBLIQUE

                                                              

Atlanta Braves catcher Tyler Flowers suffered a dreaded oblique strain during the team's opener Thursday and a DL stint is very possible.  Flowers was looked at as a decent catcher in two-catcher fantasy baseball formats but this is not the way he or his owners wanted the start of the season to go.  Stay tuned for an update but with almost all oblique strains, a DL stint is almost inevitable. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL CLOSING TIME: HUNTER STRICKLAND NAMED CLOSER FOR GIANTS

                                                                 

Mercifully the fantasy baseball community will be spared the Sam Dyson as closer horror show as San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy announced that setup man Hunter Strickland would serve as the team's closer while incumbent Mark Melancon is on the DL with ongoing arm soreness/trouble.  Dyson got absolutely hammered all spring training with an ERA over 11.00 and so the only choice Bochy had was Strickland or lefty Tony Watson.  As often happens, the righty won out and so Strickland should be added where available.  He has been a solid setup man with a high K rate for the last few seasons and he could very well be a decent option while Melancon is sidelined.  

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: GREG HOLLAND TO SIGN WITH CARDINALS

The St. Louis Cardinals are on the verge of signing free agent closer Greg Holland according to MLB insider Jon Heyman. With the Cardinals having gone through all of spring training without a closer, Holland figures to fill that role when he is ready to go likely in mid-April. That means those who added Dominic Leone this spring are only going to get a few weeks of saves out of him. As far as Holland is concerned, he was pretty good for most of 2017 before fading late but he still should be graded as a solid mid-tier stopper.  

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL LINEUP ISSUES: LEWIS BRINSON LEADING OFF OPENING DAY FOR MARLINS

Having already secured a spot on the team to begin the 2018 season, Miami Marlins top outfield prospect Lewis Brinson will bat out of the precious leadoff spot for the team for Opening Day versus the Chicago Cubs.  Brinson comes off a big spring where he batted .328 and of course, he carries some sizable power/speed ability that has drawn comparisons to Minnesota's Byron Buxton.  Like with Buxton however, Brinson struggles with strikeouts and so his average may be an issue in the immediate future.  The potential still warrants a long look from the fantasy baseball community to begin the year as the rebuilding Marlins have every reason to give Brinson a long look and work his way through any sort of struggles.  If all breaks right, Brinson could very well post a line in the neighborhood of .260 with 15-20 home runs and 25-plus stolen bases. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL OPENING DAY

Finally.  After endless weeks of spring training and drafts, the 2018 fantasy baseball season is now upon us as Opening Day has arrived.  Opening Day always carries with it extra excitement in fantasy baseball and also things do tend to get grossly blown out of proportion as well in terms of first week performances.  We also always see no-names guys like Gabe Kapler, Chris Shelton, Kirk Niewenhuis and others get scooped up due to the fact they hit one or two home runs in the first week and many then think a breakout is on the way.  That is just par for the course here but what you need to know from this vantage point is the following:

-Our highly acclaimed daily WRAPUP will start appearing again tomorrow morning.  The Wrapup has taken on a cult following and is easily our most read feature on the entire site.  Be sure to check back every morning to read our discussion on the previous day's developments.

-Also be sure to follow us on Twitter (@RotoBoss) as we do updates in real time which include injuries, closer changes, and home runs.

-Our weekly features include Closing Time where we look at the week's closer news and happening; plus we continue to update any closer changes on the site instantly as they happen. 

-Crisis Point is another major feature here where we delve in on struggling big-name players and discuss if their issues are an anomaly or legit.

So strap in and let's go.  This should be fun. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL STATUS REPORT: RYAN McMAHON BREAKOUT SETUP IN PLACE

                                                               

When 2018 spring training first got underway around baseball, we told you all to keep a close eye on what happens with Colorado Rockies first base prospect Ryan McMahon in terms of making the team and thus being put in position for a possible breakout.  A very smooth-swinger who has some good but not great power, McMahon reminds you of a John Olerud-type player which certainly carries some intriguing potential in fantasy baseball.  After all, McMahon batted a scorching .326 (Double-A) and .374 (Triple-A) last season with 20 combined home runs and even managed 11 stolen bases which can be very valuable at the speed-deprived first base.  Still just 23, McMahon will likely split time at first base early on with Ian Desmond but a hot start by the former could absolutely push the disappointing veteran.  Again we are talking about a lock for a .300 hitter here and maybe quite higher to the .315 range given how McMahon both draws walks and doesn't strike out much in the least.  Yes, he is a bit groundball-heavy but McMahon's location in Coors Field for his home runs and incredibly advanced hitting approach for his age make him a potentially major fantasy baseball value going forward into the season.  While he carries only UTIL eligibility right now, McMahon should be added everywhere and quick. 


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: SALVADOR PEREZ DOWN 4-6 WEEKS AFTER TEARING MCL

                                                               

You just can't make this stuff up.  Just 24 hours before Opening Day, Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez will miss the next 4-6 weeks after tearing the MCL in his knee after falling while carrying his luggage.  Seriously.  All of Perez's fantasy baseball owners are likely sitting there with mouths agape over this and the loss is monstrous since he is one of just a handful of catchers who can supply some high-impact offensive numbers at the always shallow catcher position.  In 2018 Perez smacked 27 home runs and collected 80 RBI while batting .268 and so those are numbers that are almost impossible to replace at catcher.  Drew Butera will take his place but he has almost zero value.  Some possible replacements center on Russell Martin, Christian Vasquez, Chris Iannetta, and Jorge Alfaro but either way, this is a major gut punch with the season upon us. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL LINEUP ISSUES: AMED ROSARIO BATTING NINTH OPENING DAY

The New York Mets have taken a page out of the Tony LaRussa playbook as new manager Mickey Callaway will bat top shortstop prospect Amed Rosario ninth for the team's Opening Day game versus the St. Louis Cardinals and in the process will hit pitcher Noah Syndegaard eighth.  The bigger news here is that Rosario is in a dead spot as a bottom of the order hitter in a National League lineup and so at least for now, his 2018 fantasy baseball outlook is handicapped quite a bit since he won't be protected well and have his total plate appearances curbed.  While we are bullish on Rosario long-term, we said from the beginning he may not pop until the second half or even 2019 given the current lack of plate discipline and lineup issue. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL LINEUP ISSUES: BYRON BUXTON BATTING EIGHTH FOR OPENER

The Minnesota Twins have put out their Opening Day lineup and there was a bit of a surprise in terms of on the cusp star outfielder Byron Buxton Batting ninth; while second baseman Brian Dozier leads off.  Eighth is not a good spot to bat by any means when it comes to fantasy baseball as it cuts down on plate appearances and then countings statistics as a result.  Be that as it may, Buxton is so supremely gifted that he should be moving up the order real quick and settle anywhere from leadoff to fifth.  Don't overreact to this development too much and still grade out Buxton as a potential four-tool (outside of average) outfielder this season. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL STOCK WATCH: NATE JONES MAKING FIRM PUSH FOR WHITE SOX CLOSER GIG

Signed long-term and pitching great during spring training?  Signed on a short-term deal and looking shaky this spring?  This has been the split performance by the Chicago White Sox' Nate Jones and Joakim Soria this spring, with the latter having entered into exhibition play as the de facto closer for the team.  On paper, this made sense since Jones was coming back from 2017 surgery that virtually wiped out his entire year, while Soria is a veteran arm who has closed at a solid level for multiple MLB teams in the past.  Be that as it may, there is no question that Jones has been the much better pitcher this spring as he went into Tuesday's action with 6.1 scoreless frames and 8 strikeouts to show that his closer-worthy stuff is still very much intact.  Meanwhile, Soria got blasted badly during his first spring appearance and he has struck out just one batter in 4 innings.  Clearly, Jones has been the better pitcher and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if today he is named the closer.  If the rebuilding White Sox want to go the conservative route, then I believe Jones will be the guy by May since Soria can't be trusted and his stuff looks to be a level or two below his early potent days.  So as I have said for most of spring training, pick up Jones where available as he could really pay off big as an early waiver wire gem.  

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: KEONE KELA LIKELY TO BEGIN YEAR AS TEXAS CLOSER

After much speculation, the Texas Rangers are reportedly planning on going with Keone Kela as the team's closer to begin the year and not the presumed Alex Claudio whose soft-tossing approach is better suited for setup. Team management hinted at such a move last week as well when Claudio was mentioned as a multiple inning weapon out of the pen and not a one inning specialist like what we see out of closers. Kela certainly fits the closer profile given his high K rate and sub-3.00 ERA in 2017 and so he shiukd be added everywhere.  

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY WATCH: IAN KINSLER (GROIN) STATUS FOR OPENER IN DOUBT

                                                                 

Los Angeles Angels second baseman Ian Kinsler may not be ready for Opening Day due to a nagging groin strain that continues to limit his on-field work.  Having been acquired by the team during the winter, Kinsler has missed the last two exhibition games for the team due to the groin soreness but no word on a possible DL stint has been openly discussed as of yet.  In terms of Kinsler's fantasy baseball outlook for 2018, he can still score a bunch of runs, pop a few homers, and collect some RBI but the speed looks to be shot and the batting average is slipping as well.  While you salute the excellent career, Kinsler is mostly a bottom-level daily starting second bse option and more ideally a backup if possible.


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL STOCK WATCH: ZACK GREINKE POSTS FANTASTIC SPRING DESPITE DIMINISHED HEATER

                                                      

There has been a lot of talk this spring regarding the disturbing drop in fastball velocity from Arizona Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke and rightfully so given the fact he was being drafted as a fantasy baseball ace when leagues began forming back in late February.  Greinke's ADP has slid since we first gained word that his average fastball velocity was coming in just at the mid-80's and so visions of home runs sailing over outfield fences at a high clip during his outing began to percolate and disturb the overall picture here.  As worth of concern as the whole issue has been, Greinke still managed to have an excellent spring training, which he finished in grand style by tossing a six-inning gem with one hit given up to finish with just a tiny 1.04 ERA and 6 K's in 8.1 IP.  Greinke still has more than a clue about how to set up hitters even without his old fastball and so maybe we all worried about this a bit too much.  However we are only a few years removed from a very ugly 2016 campaign from Greinke that saw a slew of homers go out in his starts and question whether he was even an SP 3 anymore.  This one could easily go in either direction however and it is one of the main topics worth monitoring early on during the season.


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: J.T. REALMUTO (BACK) TO BEGIN YEAR ON DL

                                                                 

With the season getting underway in days, the Miami Marlins were forced to place All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto on the 10-day DL to begin the new season due to the bone bruise he suffered on his back last week.  While Realmuto has made some progress, the Marlins want to play it safe in order to not have him suffer any sort of setback.  Right now the plan is for Realmuto to miss only the first week or two of the season and so this is not a major deal when it comes to his fantasy baseball outlook for 2018.  Be that as it may, you never want your best players to miss any games and so this is at least a bit of an annoyance.  Some possible short-term Realmuto replacements could include Christian Vaszuqez, Chris Iannetta, or Russell Martin.  

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING INJURY NEWS: JOSE RAMIREZ (FINGER LACERATION) READY FOR OPENING DAY

                                                                 

Cleveland Indians 2B/3B Jose Ramirez suffered a finger laceration grabbing a bat during the team's exhibition outing Tuesday but he is expected to be ready to go for the team's opener.  Coming off a tremendous 2017 breakout campaign, Ramirez only has to try and prove that his power uptick last season is legitimate.  Already one of the better pure hitters in baseball with 20-steal speed, Ramirez is the true definition of a five-tool player in 2018 fantasy baseball and luckily the finger won't be any issue.  


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL CLOSING TIME: MARK MELANCON COULD BEGIN YEAR ON DL DUE TO ONGOING ARM DISCOMFORT

                                                              

It didn't take long for San Francisco Giants closer Mark Melancon to annoy his fantasy baseball owners to no end as we now get word that the former All-Star may begin the 2018 season on the DL due to admittedly still feeling pain in his pitching arm.  Coming off surgery last September to remedy a problem in his pronator area, Melancon had admitted that his arm has been an issue pretty much for all of spring training and that is obviously a tremendous red flag going into the new year.  Already showing as diminished fastball and stuff that was more hittable than ever a year ago, Melancon's career is beginning to quickly spiral out of control.  The fallout here centers on Sam Dyson taking over the role if Melancon were to in fact begin the year on the DL and that also is a very scary proposition considering how horrible Dyson pitched for large stretches of 2017.  To drive that point home, Dyson got destroyed all spring which makes picking him up something that may hurt you more than help you.  In fact, it would be better to take a chance on the more effective Tony Watson as the Giants have nothing to lose by going that route.  Already having lost pitchers Jeff Samardzjia and Madison Bumgarner to injuries, the Giants' season is already going into the toilet.


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: POSSIBLE TOMMY JOHN ON TAP FOR A.J. PUK

Here we go again.  Tell me where you have heard this before:  A young.hard-throwing pitcher comes down with elbow pain and then is found to have a compromised UCL that will require Tommy John surgery.  This line of news has been written or reported seemingly non-stop over the last five seasons and we are well past the point of epidemic proportions.  This is why I say every season to try and avoid young pitchers who throw hard no matter how alluring the player may be.  Add Oakland A's top pitching prospect A.J. Puk to this ever-growing list as reports indicate there is an issue with his UCL and is headed for a dreaded second opinion.  Already there are whispers Tommy John surgery is needed and so we have to go with that assumption which means Puk will be out for all of 2018.  Hope you are feeling lucky if you are a Carlos Carrasco, Noah Syndegaard, Daniel Duffy, Luis Castillo, Robbie Ray, and on and on it goes.  


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY WATCH: NATS PLACE 2B DANIEL MURPHY ON 10-DL AS RECOVERY FROM KNEE SURGERY CONTINUES

                                                                  

As expected, the Washington Nationals placed All-Star second baseman Daniel Murphy on the 10-day DL Tuesday as he continues to ramp up activities coming back from microfracture knee surgery.  While Murphy has not suffered any setbacks, he simply ran out of time this spring training to get himself for Week 1 given the serious nature of the procedure.  While Murphy is taking part in spring activities, he is slated to not be ready to return until sometime in mid-to-late April.  In terms of 2018 fantasy baseball, we said from the beginning to try and avoid Murphy in drafts unless he came real cheap given how tough coming back from microfracture can be.  Now that he is in his mid-30's, Murphy is becoming more of a risk by the season. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: BRAD BOXBERGER NAMED DIAMONDBACKS CLOSER

In yet another indication that teams are now valuing the setup role just as much as their closer, the Arizona Diamondbacks have named Brad Boxberger to be the stopper to begin the year over the presumed Archie Bradley.  Bradley's ability to excel in setup and pitch multiple innings was likely the impetus for Boxberger being given the role and so the latter needs to be picked up everywhere.  As far as Boxberger is concerned, he did well closing games for the Rays a few years ago and had the very high K stuff to be solid again. The negatives center on occasional problems with walks and homers which means Bradley owners should still keep him around.   

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL CLOSING TIME: BLAKE PARKER THE FAVORITE FOR FIRST SAVE CHANCE ON ANGELS TO BEGIN YEAR

Despite some earlier reports that Cam Bedrosian was in the lead to be the Los Angeles Angels closer to begin the 2018 season, a report that came out late Monday night from Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register suggested that 2017 revelation Blake Parker would in fact remain first-in-line when the save chances are presented early on in the season.  Of course this bit of news should be taken with a firm grain of salt given the fact Parker has been beyond hideous this spring, while Bedrosian has always hinted at having closer-worthy stuff.  In Parker's defense, he was terrific a year ago in posting a 2.54 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, and striking out 86 batters in 67.1 IP but his leash is likely going to be short if he struggles out of the gate.  We have seen many closers come out of nowhere like Parker did a year ago and then go into the toilet the following season (call it the 'Derrick Turnbow Effect') and it would not surprise me in the least if this is what happened to the guy.  Keep Bedrosian close just in case.

-Two names to be aware of early on are A.J. Ramos of the New York Mets and Nate Jones of the Chicago White Sox.  You know what?  Add Kyle Barraclough as well as these three represent the best chance for setup men who could easily take over their team's closer role before the month of April is through.  In Joakim Soria, Jeurys Familia, and Brad Ziegler, all three of these veteran arms have major warts/question marks that make their long-term standing as their team's closer very shaky.  Ramos, Barraclough, and Jones should all be owned as a hedge and like I said, it would not be a shock in the least if they lead their teams in saves this season. 


Monday, March 26, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL AL CY YOUNG DARKHORSE WINNER

Every year at this time yours truly tries to see into the future and select a pitcher both in the AL and NL who COULD win the Cy Young Award but probably won't.  While it would be easy for me to say that Clayton Kershaw or Corey Kluber will win the award, what would be the fun in that?  Instead, I like to pick a pitcher from each league who I think could be a good candidate for the Cy Young but coming a bit off the radar to so do.  So it is in that vein that I went with the following picks in each league:

AL DARKHORSE CY YOUNG WINNER-JOSE BERRIOS (TWINS):  In terms of raw talent, Berrios is right up there with anyone as he possesses some very potent strikeout stuff which is centered on an upper-90's fastball and knee-bending offspeed offerings.  While Berrios did a face plant when he first got a taste of the majors, he got better as the year went on in 2017 and finished with very solid numbers for his first full year in the majors (14 wins, 3.89 ERA, 1.23, 139 K in 145.2 IP).  Still just a baby at 23, Berrios has another level or two of ceiling left to reach and 2018 could be the start of that trend.  I like his chances to become a top 15 starter this season and come close to 200 strikeouts as well. 

NL DARKHORSE CY YOUNG WINNER-ZACH GODLEY (D-BACKS):  I feel even more strongly about Godley's chances to be in the Cy running than Berrios and I am so into the guy this season that I made sure to snag him in one of my two competitive fantasy baseball leagues this season.  Godley is an interesting case in that he was previously a struggling pitcher in the minors/majors before he adjusted his delivery prior to 2017 which unleashed some burgeoning velocity.  Godley now routinely hits the mid-90's with his fastball and his offspeed stuff is off-the-charts at times.  In addition, all of Godley's advanced metrics point to him being an ace real soon and already his 2017 numbers (3.37 ERA, 9.58 K/9).  Hopefully, you got your hands on Godley this spring as the guy is set to do some terrific things and in the process, solidify himself as a top overall pitcher. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: DEJA VU FOR GREG BIRD WHO IS OUT 6-8 WEEKS AFTER SECOND FOOT SURGERY

                                                      

Unbelievable.  New York Yankees first baseman Greg Bird needs to petition not to be involved in spring training games going forward as for the second year in a row, he suffered a foot injury that will require surgery.  The latest setback for Bird centered on how he was first scratched from his Saturday exhibition start due to soreness in his foot and a subsequent X-Ray was not clean.  That led to an MRI that showed a broken bone on Bird's ankle that needs to be surgically repaired.  The surgery will now keep Bird out for the next 6-8 weeks which brings back memories of last season when he had a procedure on the same foot that cost him the majority of the year.  While Bird struggled mightily this spring, he was still in an excellent spot in a packed Yankees order that would give him ample protection to come close to 30 home runs and 90 RBI.  Now Bird is down until late May or June and so his loss is a big one.  As far as who will take his place, the Yanks can use a combination of the recently-signed Neil Walker and minor league first baseman Tyler Austin.  Neither is an exciting fantasy baseball option but the bigger news is that top third base prospect Miguel Andujar is not in the plans as of yet.  Just another big injury development with the fantasy baseball season just days away from getting going. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: TIM ANDERSON SS CHICAGO WHITE SOX

On the strength of some tremendous stolen base campaigns while in the minor leagues, Chicago White Sox shortstop prospect Tim Anderson caught quite a bit of sleeper attention when it came to 2017 fantasy baseball drafts.  So then it would stand to reason that instead of steals, Anderson's biggest offensive contribution in 2017 would be the 17 home runs he hit in 606 at-bats.  While Anderson did swipe 15 bags, the power was a pleasant surprise and changes the outlook a bit going forward in terms of possible fantasy baseball impact.  We firmly believe Anderson will get his stolen base timing down and see an uptick in that category for 2018 and if the power holds, we are now talking about a 20/20 possibility.  There are some negatives that Anderson does have to get a hold of; with the biggest being a high-K/low-walk problem that will make the batting average very dicey unless improvements are made.  We saw this in spades last season as Anderson’s 2.1 BB/9 was one of the all-time lowest marks for a hitter who received over 600 at-bats and the 26.7 K/9 was pretty miserable as well.  Hence the .257 average Anderson put forth was no surprise given the ugly advanced rates he carried around.  Be that as it may, Anderson should be on sleeper lists again this spring given the power/speed game that is quite rare at the shortstop position and any gains in average will make him that much more valuable.

2018 PROJECTION:  .263 19 HR 66 RBI 78 R 22 SB

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: DINELSON LAMET DOWN UNTIL MAY WITH SORE ELBOW

                                                            

And another one bites the dust.  That uttered phrase can certainly apply to another young pitcher going down with injury and also for another key 2018 fantasy baseball player overall falling by the wayside with the start of the new season oh so close.  San Diego Padres upstart power pitcher Dinelson Lamet was the latest hurler to go down as he was forced out of his final exhibition outing with soreness in his pitching elbow which instantly sparked fears of Tommy John considering his young age and hard-throwing approach.  Luckily, no structural damage was discovered but Lamet will be shut down for a bit and not return until May.  While he was not considered a top starter for 2018 fantasy baseball by any means, Lamet presented some sizable upside based on his top-shelf fastball that elicited 139 strikeouts in just 114.1 innings as a rookie in 2017.  Once again we have been reminded not only of the fragility of pitchers but especially young ones such as Lamet whose elbows/shoulders strain heavily under the 100 pitches per start routine every five days.  Now in terms of what to do with Lamet, he is too talented to simply just discard onto the waiver wire and so stashing him on your DL spot is the way to go if possible.  The injuries are coming fast and furious in this last week or so however so even those spots might be getting clogged up by the looks of things. 


Sunday, March 25, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL PROSPECT WATCH: SCOTT KINGERY 2B PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Well all righty then.  While much has been made on a yearly basis regarding the joke that is MLB teams stashing their top prospects in the minor leagues to begin the year for a few weeks to preserve their service time, it becomes a breath of fresh air when a team decides to buck this very frustrating trend.  Such a team this season is the Philadelphia Phillies who will open the season with top second base prospect Scott Kingery in the starting lineup and for good measure, they handed him a six-year contract on Sunday to boot.  This is big news in the fantasy baseball community due to the fact Kingery looks an awful lot like a former first-round stud Phillies second baseman by the name of Chase Utley and that alone should send the excitement meter into overdrive.  Like with Utley, Kingery has five tool potential given that he hits .300 and has burgeoning power/speed,  Last season at Double-A, Kingery exploded to the tune of 18 home runs, 19 steals, and a .313 average.  That earned him a promotion to Triple-A where he posted a similarly impressive 8/10/.294 line.  If Kingery is still sitting out there on your league's waiver wire, run and pick him up ASAP.  This could be some story unfolding both in Philly and in the fantasy baseball world. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL UPDATED THIRD BASEMAN RANKINGS

1.  Nolan Arenado
2.  Kris Bryant
3.  Manny Machado:  Keep in mind that Machado will gain SS eligibility where he will be even more valuable.
4.  Jose Ramirez
5.  Anthony Rendon
6.  Josh Donaldson:  Already Donaldson is banged up which further validates concerns his body is beginning to betray him.  Be very careful here.
7.  Miguel Sano:  No suspension will be given to Sano so at least that is one concern put to the side.  The other remains his massive K rate making hitting even .260 a challenge.
8.  Alex Bregman
9.  Nick Castellanos:  LOVE HIM, LOVE HIM, LOVE HIM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
10.  Mike Moustakas:  Finally back in the majors after re-upping with the Royals, Moustakas has a lot to prove in terms of validating his 2017 numbers.
11. Justin Turner:  A broken wrist already had the often-banged up Turner shelved until May.  Ugh.
12. Jake Lamb:  Thinking the humidor will hurt him more than Paul Goldschmidt.
13. Travis Shaw
14. Rafael Devers
15. Kyle Seager
16. Adrian Beltre
17. Joey Gallo
18. Eduardo Nunez:  Will get all the starts at second until Dustin Pedroia returns but then go to a utility guy.
19. Eugenio Suarez
20. Matt Olson
21. Todd Frazier
22. Evan Longoria
23. Ryon Healy
24. Maikel Franco
25. Matt Carpenter
26. Jedd Gyorko
27. Chase Headley
28. Wilmer Flores
29. Martin Prado
30. Eduardo Escobar
31. Matt Chapman
32. Matt Davidson
33. David Freese
34. Ryan Schimpf

Saturday, March 24, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY WATCH: BE VERY AFRAID GREG BIRD OWNERS

                                                               

Updating an earlier item, New York Yankees first baseman Greg Bird is headed for an MRI and a CT scan in order to determine the severity of the foot soreness that forced him out of competing in Saturday's exhibition game.  This would stand to reason that the X-Rays that were done on Bird earlier in the day were not clear and that more clarification is needed on the area.  This is a very bad sign for Bird and his fantasy baseball owners as this was already the same foot that was surgically repaired a year ago and so you need to prepare for a contingency plan the way things are looking.  Stay tuned for another update. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL ISSUES: YANKS LIKELY TO USE AARON JUDGE AT LEADOFF VERSUS LEFTIES

With stolen bases down to just 0.52 per game, MLB teams more than ever are going the non-traditional route when it comes to who mans their leadoff position.  Just like when the Cubs decided to have hulking slugger Kyle Schwarber operate as a the team's leadoff hitter to begin 2017, it looks like the New York Yankees will be doing the same with 52-homer monster Aaron Judge versus lefties.  Judge was the team's leadoff batter during Friday's exhibition outing (he went 1-for-4) and manager Aaron Boone apparently liked what he saw enough to say he will likely be there on Opening Day when they face lefty J.A. Happ and the Toronto Blue Jays.  Following Judge on that alignment would be Giancarlo Stanton. Greg Bird, and then Gary Sanchez; with the speedy Brett Gardner ninth.  When a righty is on the mound, Judge would drop to second behind Gardner followed by Stanton, Sanchez, and Bird.  In terms of what this will do for Judge and his fantasy baseball value, leadoff generates the most at-bats in a game which is what you want from all of your fantasy baseball hitters.  The leadoff spot as a result boosts counting numbers across the board outside of average and so this is nothing but a good thing for Judge.  Yes he may not have a guy to drive in during the first inning but the lineup will then quickly turn over from there with Gardner in front of him the rest of the game.  Nothing but a good thing. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY WATCH: GREG BIRD SCRATCHED WITH FOOT SORENESS, HEADED FOR TESTS

                                                            

In a bit of disconcerting news, New York Yankees slugging first baseman Greg Bird was scratched from his scheduled spring training outing Saturday due to a bout of foot soreness that is being checked on by team doctors as we speak.  The disturbing part here is that it is the same foot that Bird had surgery on in his injury-wrecked 2017 campaign and so we can't take anything for granted here.  While Bird has struggled this spring, he is in an excellent spot in the middle of the Yankees' order this season and should get plenty of juicy pitches to hit with Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez surrounding him.  A run at 30 home runs and 90 RBI is very possible but obviously, the health has to fall in line.  Stay tuned for an update. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY WATCH: CHRIS SALE DEPARTS AFTER TAKING COMEBACKER TO LEG

                                                              

Just 24 hours after San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner was lost until May due to a fractured hand suffered on a comebacker, Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale departed his outing Saturday after taking one off his leg.  On the positive side, Sale seemed to be all right visibly and he was able to walk off under his own power.  He is currently undergoing X-Rays to rule out any sort of fracture or break.  Obviously losing Sale for even one start would be a major loss for his fantasy baseball owners but this has been some stretch of late in terms of injuries taking down big names.  Stay tuned. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL STOCK WATCH: IAN HAPP 2B/OF CHICAGO CUBS

                                                                

Three weeks ago when yours truly took part in the annual Fantasy Sports Boss Fantasy Baseball Draft, I like everyone else had a list of "must have" players I would do everything short of pure draft insanity to get my hands on.  Right near the top of that list was Chicago Cubs second baseman/outfielder Ian Happ who I fell hard for in 2017 when he came up as a top prospect and proceeded to put up the following numbers:

.253
24 HR
68 RBI
62 R
8 SB

Mind you those totals above were in just 364 at-bats which speaks to how potent a bat Happ has and it also reveals a player who can run a bit too as evidenced by the 8 steals.  Fast forward to present day and Happ has gone absolutely bonkers this spring to the tune of hitting .341 with SIX home runs this spring while working primarily out of the leadoff spot.  While we all knew Happ had immense power, it is even more exciting when you take into account the fact that Joe Maddon has used him almost entirely out of the leadoff spot.  That means more at-bats and more counting stats for Happ who certainly looks poised to hit 30 home runs, steal around 10 bags, and go north of 80 in runs and RBI.  About the only concern we have here is Happ's batting average; which will it has been fantastic this spring; is a valid worry given the fact he strikes out a bunch.  Even if Happ were to hit just .270, the rest of his numbers would make him a monster for 2018 fantasy baseball and so I feel very fortunate I was in fact able to snag him in the Experts League draft.  Literally the sky is the limit for Happ who seems poised to hit stardom this season.  


Friday, March 23, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING INJURY NEWS: MADISON BUMGARNER SUFFERS FRACTURED HAND

                                                                  

Last year it was a dirt bike accident that tore up Madison Bumgarner's shoulder and kept him out for two months.  This time around it is a fractured hand that will sideline Bumgarner until at least mid-May and likely longer after getting drilled by a comebacker in his Friday outing.  The San Franciso Giants ace just can't catch a break over the last season-plus and obviously this a huge blow to his fantasy baseball owners where most have him as their number 1 starter.  A more official timeline regarding how long Bumgarner will be out is expected soon but this is a tremendous injury right before the start of the season. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL ISSUES: MORE FOREARM PAIN A BAD OMEN FOR CHRIS ARCHER

When it comes to Tampa Bay Rays ace pitcher Chris Archer, you won't find a bigger fan than this peanut stant.  I have been a major booster of Archer the last few seasons and personally owned him in my winning Experts League last season.  With 240-strikeout ability and a nuclear fastball, Archer has ace-like stuff but only needed to refine a third pitch and curb some homers to become a true lockdown stud.  Unfortunately I decided to pivot away from Archer this spring and it had more to do with the scary forearm pain that led to some Tommy John whispers during the second half of 2017.  While Archer made it through that scare all right, once those symptoms begin, they usually return.  Archer did have to leave his outing on Friday after taking a comebacker on his forearm which is obviously not related to his previous issue in the area but again I have this nagging feeling that Tommy John could be in the offing in much the same way we almost all feel with Noah Syndegaard having to eventually undergo the procedure.  That is why I avoided Archer in drafts this spring as I think there will be more trouble ahead for a guy who fits the classic TJ profile. 




2018 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: JEFF SAMARDZJIA TO MISS APRIL WITH STRAINED PEC

                                                     

After getting blasted all spring training when out on the mound, San Francisco Giants veteran starter Jeff Samardzjia will now take a seat for most or all of April due to being diagnosed with a strained pectoral muscle on Thursday.  Derek Holland will take Samardzjia's place in the rotation (zero fantasy baseball value) but the bigger story is the latter's absence.  When it came to Samardzjia's stock coming into spring training, count this peanut stand as a fan of his given the fact he still retains his 200-strikeout ability and also had advanced ERA's that were better than his actual 4.42 mark a year ago.  Blessed with excellent control (as shown by a terrific 1.14 WHIP), Samardzjia instead dealt with some rough luck with the batted ball last season which helped inflate his ERA into fluky territory.  The one caveat though is the home run ball and Samardzjia has struggled with that throughout his career and especially this spring.  Any one start is always at risk due to a home run or two from guys like this and so Samardzjia still carried some risk on that front.  Now that all seems moot as one month of production is headed down the drain for Samardzjia and that is the bigger story in terms of his immediate fantasy baseball outlook.



2018 FANTASY BASEBALL UPDATED SHORTSTOP RANKINGS

Let's address the shortstops as we continue to fine-tune our 2018 fantasy baseball position rankings with the season close upon us.

1.  Trea Turner
2.  Carlos Correa
3.  Francisco Lindor
4.  Corey Seager
5.  Alex Bregman
6.  Didi Gregorious
7.  Jean Segura
8.  Xander Boagaerts
9.  Elvis Andrus
10. Javier Baez
11. Zack Cozart
12. Trevor Story
13. Chris Owings
14. Tim Beckham
15. Ames Rosario
16. Tim Anderson
17. Marcus Semien
18. Paul DeJong
19. Orlando Arcia
20. Addison Russell
21. Andrelton Simmons
22. Brandon Crawford
23. Ketel Marte
24. Jose Peraza
25. Asdrubal Cabrera
26. Marwin Gonzalez
27. Troy Tulowitzki
28. Dansby Swanson
29. Freddy Galvis
30. Jose Reyes
31. Jordy Mercer
32. Yunel Escobar
33. Aledmys Diaz
34. Jose Iglesias
35. J.J. Hardy
36. Alicides Escobar
37. Jorge Polanco
38. Chad Pinder
39. Eduardo Escobar
40. Miguel Rojas

-We finally placed Trea Turner at the head of the shortstop list but still feel a bit uneasy using a first-round pick on a guy who has yet to play a full MLB campaign.  Be that as it may, this is some massive talent.
-Corey Seager is not getting the credit he deserves as a top-tier fantasy baseball shortstop and it just goes to show you the short memories many have here as he was a late first round pick in 2016.  Yes the numbers dipped a bit a year ago but that was due to injury,  Take advantage of any discount supplied.
-Chris Owings is massively underrated this season as he was on his way to a career-year in 2017 before injury interrupted things.  This is an easy 15/15 guy with multiple positions to his name.
-Marwin Gonzalez had a nice campaign in 2017 but we are not buying the totality of the numbers.  plus, playing time may not be as consistent this season.


Thursday, March 22, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL STOCK WATCH: WHIT MERRIFIELD 2B KANSAS CITY ROYALS

If there were balloting to determine who would be the fantasy baseball MVP of spring training, Kansas City Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield would have to be a front-runner to claim the fake prize.  After all, Merrifield has been arguably the most productive overall player when it comes to fantasy baseball-friendly numbers this spring, with the latest gem being a 3-for-4 performance Tuesday that included a home run.  That brought Merrifield's spring output to a ridiculous .465 average, 4 home runs, and 3 stolen bases; which is the type of monster five-category production usually reserved for first and second round talent in drafts this spring.  The bigger picture here perhaps is that Merrifield is already doing an exemplary job of showing that his 2017 breakout was no fluke and that he may be able to even better the numbers he put up last season:

.288
19 HR
78 RBI
80 R
34 SB

What always stood out about Merrifield's performance a year ago was the power and steals as his 19/34 split was beyond tremendous and extremely impactful in fantasy baseball terms.  The steals were not completely surprising though as Merrifield has blazing speed and was always a big stolen base guy during his minor league development.  Instead, the power was a surprise as Merrifield was never a bit home run hitter on the farm and so there were many wary eyes wondering if the 19 homers were legit and would carry over to 2018.  While it is a small spring sample size, Merrifeld so far is showing that number was in fact legit and that combined with his 30-steal speed, another big-time season could be in the offing.  It is entirely possible we are looking at a 20/40 campaign from Merrifield with a useful average this season and that output would cement him as one of the better five-category guys in the game.  While we won't fully jump on the bandwagon just yet, Merrifield is looking capable of more.  Kudos to those who bought in again.  


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL STOCK WATCH: MIKE ZUNINO CATCHER SEATTLE MARINERS

I think Mike Zunino homered again.  What a night it was for the Seattle Mariners backstop as he homered three times and added a single for good measure to continue what has been a huge spring in the Cactus League.  Those numbers are now up to 5 home runs and 11 RBI for the spring as Zunino is possibly hinting that a career-year campaign could be in store.  He certainly is well protected in a massive Seattle lineup this season that added Dee Gordon to knock in and collect RBI, plus old veterans Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz still doing their home run thing.  Now 26 years old and entering into his prime, the question with Zunino from a fantasy baseball perspective is not about power/home runs but instead if he can make enough gains to get his batting average out of the gutter.  The bottom line here has always been that Zunino has tape-measure power capable of an easy 30 home runs if he gets enough at-bats.  Already Zunino has put up home runs totals of 25 and 27 the last two years and so a jump to 30 is not out of the question at all.  Instead, the average is going to determine how high in value Zunino goes in fantasy baseball 2018 and in actuality, his owers would have no problem in bottling up his .251 mark from last season and carry it over to this year if possible.  Unfortunately, Zunino's .251 average last season was fluky due to a completely unsustainable .355 BABIP and so when you take that into account, he was much more like a .220 guy or even worse.  We saw worse because Zunino makes Adam Dunn blush with his strikeouts as his 36.8 K/9 last season was beyond hideous and is in Joey Gallo territory.  So it is imperative Zunino get that even remotely under control so that he has a chance at .250 which seems to his ceiling number there given the hitting profile.  The power is immense though and at catcher, we can accept some of an average hit.  Just not too much.  In the end, Zunino's 30 homers will be plenty valuable but inroads in the average department need to be seen. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY WATCH: FOOT CONTUSION A REMINDER OF FRAGILITY OF CARLOS CARRASCO

                                                              

Hey Carlos Carrasco is hurt AGAIN!  Surprised?  Don't be because as tremendous a pitcher as Carrasco is on a yearly basis, he also is one of the most injury-prone players in all of fantasy baseball regardless of position.  This time around it was a foot contusion when he was hit by a line drive during the fifth inning of his Wednesday spring start but the bigger news is that no breaks were found.  While Carrasco dodged a health bullet this time (all signs are he will be ready to go when the season starts), anyone who invests here has to accept the very sizable risk that there will be more injury woes going forward.  Simply put, some hitters and pitchers can't ever seem to avoid getting hurt for one reason or another and Carrasco is that guy.  His history arm trouble is too numerous to list and it could possibly be a delivery issue causing the problems like what we have seen with Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg in the past.  You almost get the sense that you are on borrowed time when it comes to owning Carrasco (sort of like owning the New York Mets' Noah Syndegaard as well) and so that needs to be factored into where you draft the Indians' number 2.  For now though, enjoy the healthy version of Carrasco while it lasts.  That is because it won't last. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL STOCK WATCH: MICHAEL CONFORTO SEEMS READY TO MAKE TRIUMPHANT RETURN

                                                               

While we always advise holding your fantasy baseball drafts as close to the start of the season as possible in order to steer clear of any exhibition injuries (right Justin Turner owners?), the one advantage of holding them early in spring training is that some undervalued players that could pay off big when the games begin to count could start to become pricey again.  Such is the case now with New York Mets outfielder Michael Conforto, who up until his return to game action a few days ago, was being drafted in the middle rounds as he was forecasted to miss all of April recovering from serious shoulder surgery last summer.  Well don't look now but it appears as though Conforto is set to make a triumphant return to the Mets and at the same time, reward those owners who bought low on him this spring.  The latest piece of evidence was Conforto homering twice during a minor league scrimmage Wednesday and then pronouncing himself "closer" in terms of being game-ready.  With no setbacks to speak of, Conforto may need only a week or two of April to get himself ready to return to the Mets.  This is fantastic news as Conforto has a world of talent and the natural power to be a perennial 30-homer star.  The big concern with the shoulder dislocation he suffered last summer was that perhaps maybe his home runs swing would not be as potent but that doesn't seem to be the problem now.  Dive fully in now on Conforto who still can hit 30 homers with a .280 or so average even if he does miss the first week or two.  

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY WATCH: JOSE ABREU (HAMSTRING) TRYING FOR FRIDAY RETURN

                                                                  

Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu is aiming to return to Cactus League action Friday despite suffering a strained hamstring on Tuesday.  The hamstring injury Abreu suffered was deemed mild and that is a very positive development with the season just a week away from starting.  Abreu is an ultra-consistent first baseman who is almost a lock for 30 homer, 100 RBI, and a .300 average.  That type of consistency is worth a little extra on draft day.


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2018 FANTASY BASEBALL STOCK WATCH: MICHAEL BRANTLEY OUTFIELDER CLEVELAND INDIANS

                                                                    

Yes him again.  While no one has been a bigger critic of Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Brantley over the years, the fact he is now taking part in Cactus League games for the team is a positive development as he tries to make his way back from yet more surgery.  Already with pronounced shoulder woes in his past, Brantley is recovering from serious ankle surgery last Octobert and he has taken baby steps along the way in making his comeback.  Even prior to all of the injuries, yours truly has been harsh on Brantley (and rightly so) due to the fact he was very overpriced/overrated for a time before his health began to go ill.  While no one will dispute that Brantley is not one of the very best pure hitters in baseball, his light power and moderate speed made him more of an OF 3 when other were paying OF 2 prices for him.  Just like with any player in fantasy baseball however, I always say that anyone has value depending on cost and in Brantley's case, he has never come cheaper given all the missed time of late.  Brantley is in fact worth an add if he is sitting on your league's waiver wire as he can still hit .300 and contribute good counting nunbers in runs and RBI given his annually high OBP's.  The power and speed are another matter however as Brantley may only be capable of a 10/10 split there given how his body has betrayed him.  Ideally, Brantley works best in five outfield formats as he can help boost your team batting average and give you a bit of everything without excelling anywhere. 






2018 FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING INJURY NEWS: DANIEL MURPHY RULED OUT FOR OPENER

                                                                   

As it was anticipated, Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy will begin the 2018 season on the DL as he continues to recover from offseason microfracture knee surgery.  While Murphy's recovery has been a bit on the slow side, he has been taking consistent batting practice and infield drills the last few weeks.  It is expected he will be able to return sometime in mid-April but there are some red flags here from a fantasy baseball angle given the seriousness of the surgery and for the fact Murphy is approaching his mid-30's.  The steals have long left the station here and so now Murphy has to continue hitting for a high average with the 25 home run power he began putting forth the last few seasons.  There is a bit of unknown with all of this and that is why we suggested avoided Murphy in drafts this spring. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL UPDATED SECOND BASEMAN RANKINGS

It is time to now check out the new 2018 fantasy baseball second baseman rankings as we update things before the seasons gets going.  

1.  Jose Altuve
2.  Anthony Rizzo (for those he qualifies in)
3.  Jose Ramirez
4.  Dee Gordon
5.  Brian Dozier
6.  Jonathan Schoop
7.  Daniel Murphy
8.  Robinson Cano
9.  Rougned Odor
10. Whit Merrifield
11. Ozzie Albies
12. Chris Taylor
13. D.J. LeMahieu
14. Javier Baez
15. Scooter Gennett
16. Yoan Moncada
17. Jason Kipnis
18. Ian Kinsler
19. Starlin Castro
20. Matt Carpenter
21. Paul DeJong
22. Eduardo Nunez
23. Jonathan Villar
24. Jose Peraza
25. Brandon Phillips
26. T.J. Rivera
27. Cesar Hernandez
28. Yangervis Solarte
29. Dustin Pedrioa
30. Brandon Drury
31. Neil Walker
32. Jed Lowrie
33. Joe Panik
34. Ben Zobrist
35. Yolmer Sanchez
36. Kolten Wong
37. Logan Forsythe
38. Eric Sogard
39. Chad Pinder
40. Devon Travis
41. Brad Miller

-For those leagues that have Anthony Rizzo qualifying at second base, he stands in front of everyone but Jose Altuve.  While the eligibility is a bit of a farce, Rizzo looks great at second.
-Robinson Cano's ADP has slid sharply this year but he is still productive and is now in the middle of what looks to be a tremendous lineup.
-Whit Merrifield has hit for power this spring which is a good sign as he tries to show his production there last season was not a fluke.  
-Keep an eye on Cesar Hernandez who has quietly been solid the last two years and is very cheap in terms of where you can get him in the draft.


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL HOT STOVE SIGNINGS: ALEX COBB SET TO SIGN WITH ORIOLES

                                                               

The last big free agent pitching chip will finally sign on the dotted line Tuesday as multiple reports indicate that Alex Cobb will sign a contract with the Baltimore Orioles.  The deal will be for three years and around $50 million and is a nice haul considering the fact the season starts next week and Lance Lynn settled for just one year with the Minnesota Twins last week.  As far as Cobb is concerned, he has successfully made it back from Tommy John elbow surgery to once again be a very good SP 3/4 but his previously solid K/9 rate has not come all the way back to pre-surgery levels.  In addition, we would prefer Cobb not to have signed back into the AL East after previously being with the Tampa Bay Rays and so he has to stay in the SP 4 range given the tough competition he will face in the division.  Cobb is completely capable however of supplying a useful mid-3.00 ERA and solid WHIP, while posting around 150 strikeouts.  Just don't count on seeing him with the O's until sometime in late April since he will have to gear up his innings and arm after missing almost all of spring training. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: JOSE ABREU DIAGNOSED WITH HAMSTRING STRAIN

                                                           

With just a little more than a week to go before the start of the 2018 fantasy baseball season, the injuries are coming fast and furious and to big-name players as well.  Just one day after Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner was lost until the end of May with a broken wrist due to an HBP, Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu was diagnosed with a strained hamstring on Tuesday.  What becomes very crucial now is the severity of the strain as anything more than a Level 1 means Abreu will begin the year on the disabled list.  The timing of course is brutal here as Abreu is a top 5-6 fantasy baseball first baseman this season everywhere and his ultra-consistency with his offensive numbers since coming over from Cuba made him a great buy at the draft.  Stay tuned for an update here but be prepared to have a backup handy in case the DL is necessary. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL CLOSING TIME: DOMINIC LEONE HAS CHANCE TO RUN WITH CARDINALS' CLOSER GIG

                                                               

Every spring in fantasy baseball, we have a handful of unsettled closer situation that early drafts a bit of a crapshoot when it comes to handicapping which guy is likely to emerge with the gig once the games start to count.  One such place this scenario took place in was in St. Louis Cardinals camp where manager Mike Matheney refused to say who or if he even had a closer in mind.  This didn't stop those in the fantasy baseball community from speculating however, with Tyler Lyons and Luke Gregerson getting 99 percent of the attention.  Well don't look now but it appears that new arrival Dominic Leone is poised to steal the gig outright and possibly be the latest "out of nowhere" closer who could excel throughout the upcoming season.  Now as far as Leone's history, he was picked up during the offseason from the Toronto Blue Jays after posting a career-year which included a 2.56 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 81 K's in 70.1 IP.  Those certainly look like closer-worthy numbers but Leone was considered to be in line for just a setup role since he had no experience finishing games and that both his somewhat short stints for the Jays in 2015 and 2016 were horrendous.  Well, Leone has been very good this spring in pitching to a 1.80 ERA and successfully locking down 3 saves as well.  That has seemingly swayed Matheney into giving Leone a shot to be the closer when the opener arrives next week which really no one saw coming back in February.  This is the name of the game here however as closers emerge from leftfield each and every season and some potential gems always reveal themselves in this manner as well.  Yet more evidence you never need to draft a closer early.