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Thursday, February 28, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING WRAPUP: THURSDAY

-Raw but very intriguing Milwaukee Brewers pitching prospect Freddy Peralta tossed a scoreless frame on Thursday as he competes for the fifth starter's spot.  While Peralta really opened eyes with his ability to miss bats in his debut last season, his control was downright abysmal and likely indicates he may need a bit more seasoning before sticking in the majors.  Only in deeper formats should Peralta be on the sleeper radar. 

-Maybe it was just a coincidence but the Toronto Blue Jays signing veteran closer/setup man Bud Norris on Thursday after the team witnessed another epic meltdown by stopper Ken Giles garnered understandable attention.  Giles was absolutely pathetic as he walked three batters and gave up FOUR runs before mercifully being pulled.  We have seen way too much out of this from Giles whether it was in Philly, Houston, or now Toronto and while we love the high K rate, there is simply no way one can depend on him. 

-Consensus number 1 prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. picked up a double in three at-bats on Thursday but like with Fernando Tatis Jr., there is almost no way he breaks camp due to the Super 2 issue.  That still won't stop the hype machine as Guerrero Jr. is one of the best prospects we have seen in a very long time and is almost destined for greatness. 

-Randal Grichuk hit a home run on Thursday and has a clear starter's role to begin the season which he could not say during his St. Louis Cardinals days.  Grichuk is a flawed hitter as we all know as he strikes out a ton and will struggle to hit .250 but he can easily smack 30 homers for the cost of pennies on the dollar. 

-It was typical Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer on Thursday as he retired 9 of 10 batters and seems primed for yet another Cy Young run.  Now the clear number 1 fantasy baseball starter by a mile, there is a ton of mileage on Scherzer already but he seems safe for at least one more season. 

-New York Yankees shortstop Troy Tulowitzki went yard for the second time this spring on Thursday as he looks as spry as he has in years.  We all know the other show can drop at a moment's notice in terms of the annual injury woes of Tulo but he seems like a very good buy low candidate while he is standing upright. 

-It was a nice 2-for-3 day for New York Mets first base prospect Pete Alonso who is doing everything he can with the bat to claim the starter's gig to begin the season.  The defense is going to be a clear work in progress for Alonso but his stick already seems capable of 30 home runs without much effort. 

-Fresh off signing a new contract, St. Louis Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas tossed three scoreless frames on Thursday.  Now Mikolas had to dance out of trouble throughout as he gave up five hits and only stuck out one but the crafty veteran seems set to be an asset again.  What needs to be mentioned though is that Mikolas will likely have to adjust back to hitters this season as the latter no doubt went to town on video of him during the winter and given the lack of K's, a rise in ratios is likely.

-Count this peanut stand as major boosters of Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty who punched out five in two IP while giving up two runs.  Flaherty had a monster K/9 rate last season and seems primed to reach near ace-status in 2019. 

-Cardinals top closer candidate Jordan Hicks punched out three of the four batters he faced on Thursday as he begins to stake his claim to the gig.  While Hicks still has to prove himself worth of being the outright guy, he has the high velocity to be a major asset there. 


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: RHYS HOSKINS 1B/OF PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

 After what could only be described as an epic home run explosion from Philadelphia Phillies rookie outfielder Rhys Hoskins in 2017 (18 long balls in just 212 at-bats), there was no stopping the hype train from picking up unending speed as fantasy baseball drafts got underway the following spring.  While it is a fact that home runs are more plentiful than ever before, Hoskins represented the opportunity to get in on the ground floor for what many predicted would be a true monster performance in 2018.  Once again though, the optimism outpaced the actual game production of Hoskins for long stretches of last season and while he still put forth an excellent tally of 34 homers, 89 runs scored, and 96 RBI; there was a sense that the guy was a bit of a letdown.  The latter point gets driven home a bit more when you look at Hoskins' ugly .246 average and for the fact, it took an extra 448 at-bats to garner those additional 16 home runs.  So it goes for Hoskins as we head to 2019 fantasy baseball as this is still a somewhat flawed power hitter who seems to be in the same mold of a Giancarlo Stanton with regards to combining big home run ability with a strikeout-heavy approach that could result in yearly batting averages that are not helpful.  Turning just 26 in March, Hoskins has every right to approach 40 homers, 90 runs scored, and 100 RBI this season which is excellent three-category production but the threat of a shaky average mute some of last season's hype.  Also keep in mind Hoskins will re-gain first base eligibility early in 2019 as he moves back to the position full-time after the Phillies traded away Carlos Santana last winter.
2019 PROJECTION:  .263 39 HR 108 RBI 93 R 4 SB  

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY WATCH: CLAYTON KERSHAW (SHOULDER) MAKES 25 THIOWS THURSDAY

Los Angeles Dodgers ace starter Clayton Kershaw was able to make 25 throws from 60 feet on Thursday which marks his first work of spring training that didn't need to be cut short.  Kershaw came in off a couple of bouts with shoulder soreness which really got the alarm bells ringing in terms of fantasy baseball but at least we have a positive story to report on here.  Be that as it may, Kershaw still had some hills to climb in order to be ready to go for Opening Day and right now he has to be considered 40/60 at best to be able to be on the hill for that assignment. 


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY WATCH: KEVIN GAUSMAN COMES DOWN WITH SHOULDER SORENESS

On the heels of ace Mike Foltynewicz developing elbow soreness off his first spring training start, fellow Atlanta Braves starter Kevin Gausman has his own injury woes to worry about as he developed a bout of shoulder soreness.  After Gausman came over from the Baltimore Orioles last summer and immediately pitched very well (2.87 ERA), there was optimism he could put his past inconsistencies behind him.  Unfortunately, that optimism has to be put on hold as shoulder trouble can be deadly for a pitcher and is considered to potentially be worse than an elbow problem.  Stay tuned on this but Gausman needs to be downgraded a bit in your draft cheat sheets. 


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: MIKE FOLTYNEWICZ COMES DOWN WITH ELBOW SORENESS

The chaos is starting already around fantasy baseball and in particular the pitchers as Atlanta Braves 2018 breakout sensation Mike Foltynewicz has come down with a bout of elbow soreness off his first spring outing.  To say that Folty was phenomenal a year ago would be a gross understatement as the former wild enigma put it all together to the tune of a 2.85 ERA and 202 K's in just 183 innings.  Maybe the increase in workload is already affecting Folty this spring though as the elbow is a major concern going forward and already Opening Day could be in doubt since he will likely be shut down for at least a week and likely more.  Stay tuned on this but for now drop Folty down your cheat sheets some. 


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING WRAPUP: WEDNESDAY

-Be sure to get yourself some shares of Cleveland Indians 23-year-old pitching prospect Shane Bieber who tossed two scoreless frames with one K Wednesday and has some of the best control we have ever seen from someone so young.  With Bieber not beating himself with walks, the potent strikeout potential and upside is even greater and so an aggressive draft stab here is warranted.

-Greg Bird cracked a home run on Wednesday as he continues to swing a hot bat and make Luke Voit earn the starting 1B gig.  Now it does need to be said that Bird has a history of going nuts in spring training and then turning into mush when the games begin to count and we haven't even touched the injury issues.  Bird still retains some intriguing enough upside given his power bat but he is still a long ways away from being fantasy baseball-worthy again.

-Another young hurler I really like is the San Diego Padres' Joey Luchessi who gave up one run in two IP Wednesday.  Luchessi has a funky delivery that elicits a bunch of strikeouts and we all know his home ballpark is tremendous for a pitcher.  With a draft price that remains very affordable, Luchessi needs to be in an elevated sleeper position on your cheat sheets.

-Rafael Devers is looking to put a rough 2018 campaign behind him and he is off to a nice start there after going 3-for-3 with a homer on Wednesday.  Devers has easy power that jives well with Fenway Park and with a draft price that has gone down some this spring, the buying opportunity is very attractive.

-Mike Leake tossed three scoreless frames for the Seattle Mariners on Saturday but we all know there are limitations here such as a lack of K's and overall average stuff.  Still, Leake is a heady player who knows how to get outs and has often posted some very useful ERA's.  He retains SP 5 value for at least one more season given the advantages of his spacious ballpark.

-Yonder Alonso went yard for the second game in a row and since changing his launch angle, the veteran became a late-blooming power hitter to the tune of around 22-25 homers.  Of course in today's game that is a bit of a mediocre total and with a shaky average being part of the tradeoff, Pete Alonso is the only Alonso we are interested in.

-Trevor Story clubbed his first spring homer as he looks to build off his ridiculous performance in 2018 when he upped his steals by a wide margin and also finally hit for average.  It is certainly a lot to ask for Story to repeat such a performance and remember the dangers of paying for a career year.  Be that as it may, Story is a supremely gifted athlete who already has the advantages of Coors Field.

-It was an eye-opening spring debut for A's top pitching prospect Jesus Luzardo who punched out three in two scoreless frames as the hype will only grow from here.  Luzardo throws some real gas and he would be a lock for rotation to begin the year if not for the arbitration fiasco.  Draft the kid with confidence as he could be a real difference-maker right away.

-We were reminded of the top-notch ability of San Diego Padres hitting prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. on Tuesday as he went yard for the second game in a row and really is looking like someone who will be up real soon once the season gets underway.  Like I said yesterday, there will some strikeout problems but Tatis Jr. is the real deal.  

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT SLEEPER: JOSE PERAZA 2B/SS CINCINNATI REDS

It takes the rare player to be a fantasy baseball sleeper in back-to-back springs but that is where Cincinnati Reds infielder Jose Peraza resides as we look towards the 2019 season.  A popular speed upside pick a year ago, Peraza came through in a major way with the following numbers:

.288
14 HR
58 RBI
85 R
23 SB
4.2 BB/9
11.0 K/9
.307 BABIP

Looking at the numbers above, Peraza killed it as he upped his power numbers significantly, hit for average once again, and remained a potent base stealer which also qualifying at multiple positions.  Be that as it may, Peraza's early 2019 draft costs remain quite affordable and given the gains we saw last season, another uptick in numbers could be possible since he turns just 25 in April. 

When digging into Peraza's game, the steals obviously jump out first and that is where a ton of his value will come from.  With steals being on the decline across baseball, Peraza is very valuable on that aspect alone as he has now gone for 21, 23, and 23 in that category the last three seasons.  Not monstrous steal totals mind you but very much effective as well.  Also with Billy Hamilton now elsewhere, Peraza could be more of a running threat this season as a catalyst to create offense on the upstart Reds.  Even if Peraza were to stay in the low-20's in terms of the steals, he still opened eyes by upping his homers from 2017's 5 to 14 a year ago.  Now there could be some outlier to the latter number but Peraza also swung for the fences more with a noticeable increase in hard-hit rate.  This makes sense as Peraza moves closer to his prime and taps into some more natural power.  If Peraza can hold last season's power gains to go with the steals, we have another valuable batch of numbers.  Finally, Peraza has shown himself to be a decent batting average guy despite being completely allergic to walks.  Think Dee Gordon here as a similar player who never walks but still hit for average due to an impressive contact rate and the speed to beat out dribblers.  Peraza certainly has the contact skills down pat as his 11.0 K/9 last season was phenomenal and will surely help keep the average in a positive region despite not walking. 

Putting everything together, Jose Peraza is one to watch this spring as an ascending player who really can help in all five categories in a somewhat quiet manner.  Even if he just repeats last season's numbers and doesn't improve on them, we are still talking about a very potent asset. 

2019 PROJECTION:  .290 11 HR 63 RBI 88 R 25 SB  


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING WRAPUP: TUESDAY

-Kansas City Royals closing candidate Brad Boxberger did himself no favors on Tuesday when he gave up 3 runs in .2 IP.  Boxberger is fighting it out with Wily Peralta for the closing gig for the Royals this season but he will have to do a whole lot better than that to be given the assignment. 

-Four walks and on earned run marred the first spring outing for Chicago Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish as he attempts to come back from a brutal 2018 campaign that was filled with injuries and scores of surrendered home runs.  Darvish was once a slam dunk fantasy baseball ace who had arguably the best strikeout stuff in the game but like with many Japanese pitchers who came over to the States, early success was soon followed by ongoing injuries and a sharp drop in performance.  Darvish once again looks like a very volatile pitcher who is likely not worth the aggravation. 

-How about the scorching hot start for Cincinnati Reds infielder Jose Peraza who is now up to 5-for-5 on the spring as he added his third steal for good measure on Tuesday.  Peraza is a very exciting sleeper heading into 2019 given his big-time speed and ability to also hit .300.  The hype train is starting to get going. 

-Miami Marlins reliever Sergio Romo punched out all three batters he faced on Monday as he tries to put himself towards the front of the line for saves this season.  While there won't be many save chances on the Marlins this season, Romo is the most capable in the pen to do the job given his high-K stuff. 

-Two hitless innings are in the bag for Atlanta Braves hard-throwing youngster Sean Newcomb on Tuesday.  While Newcomb remains a clear work in progress given his high walk rates, I have said on record he could be a prime Blake Snell 2018 candidate in terms of ironing out those issues to become a monster starter almost overnight. 

-Fernando Tatis Jr. is on the board with his first spring homer as top-tier power/speed prospect is already making a strong push to break camp with the San Diego Padres.  While Tatis Jr. will surely head down to the minors to begin the season for arbitration reasons, he could be up as early as the start of May where his 25//25 ability would be an instant sizable boost to his fantasy baseball owners.  Just keep in mind that Tatis Jr. does strike out a bunch and so the average may be lacking a bit. 

-A.J. Pollock picked up two more hits out of the leadoff spot for the Los Angeles Dodgers and it appears that he will stay there when the regular season gets underway.  This would be tremendous news for Pollock's fantasy baseball value which has been quite good when on the field but few players in the game deal with more injuries on a seasonal basis. 

-Remember not to sleep on Dodgers pitcher Kenta Maeda who is back in the rotation to begin 2019 and who has some serious strikeout upside as he showed throughout last season.  Maeda struck out 2 in one inning Tuesday and remains very capable of reaching high SP 3 status if he team leaves him alone. 

-Rockies ace Kyle Freeland is a guy I said to avoid this season as he pitched quite a bit over his head a year ago due to some lucky BABIP help and also for the fact his strikeout rate leaves one wanting.  Still, Freeland punched out two while giving up one run in two innings Tuesday as he looks to build on that campaign.  Be that as it may, we are totally on the side of saying Freeland is going to cause quite a bit of agita to his fantasy baseball owners this season. 


Tuesday, February 26, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL THIRD BASEMAN RANKINGS

The third baseman have become a must stop for early round supreme offensive production and so with that in mind, here are our initial 2019 fantasy baseball rankings at the position.

1.  Jose Ramirez
2.  Nolan Arenado
3.  Alex Bregman
4.  Javier Baez
5.  Kris Bryant
6.  Anthony Rendon
7.  Miguel Andujar
8.  Vladimir Guerrero Jr,
9.  Eugenio Suarez
10. Matt Carpenter
12. Justin Turner
13. Josh Donaldson
14. Travis Shaw
15. Wil Myers
16. Matt Chapman
17. Mike Moustakas
18. Rafael Devers
19. Maikel Franco
20. Jeimer Candelario
21. Jurickson Profar
22. Max Muncy
23. Brian Anderson
24. Matt Duffy
25. Miguel Sano
26. Asdrubal Cabrera
27. Ian Happ
28. Kyle Seager
29. Eduardo Escobar
30. Evan Longoria
31. Colin Moran
32. Jake Lamb
33. Yangervis Solarte



2019 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING WRAPUP: MONDAY

-Despite missing all of 2018 and then getting released by the Toronto Blue Jays over the winter, New York Yankees shortstop Troy Tulowitzki wasted little time getting himself back into a groove in spring training as he slammed a home run in Monday's game.  The homer came off Blue Jays ace Marcus Stroman and lends optimism that Tulo can be a useful fantasy baseball piece for as long as Didi Gregorious is out given the home ballpark.

-James Paxton already looks ready to go for the regular season as he tossed 2 scoreless and hitless innings with 3 K's.  While the ERA and WHIP could rise a bit given the move from Seattle to New York, Paxton remains a top-15 starter who can cruise past 200 K's if he can minimize his annual injury woes.

-While the struggles at the major league level have been pronounced, Twins outfielder Byron Buxton remains a tough guy to give up on as he went 3-for-3 with a home run in the team's spring game versus the Baltimore Orioles.  It is beyond obvious to state that Buxton's high-K struggles have seriously derailed his major league movement so far but boy if he can ever get that even semi-under control, the power/speed game could be significant.

-Another guy who looked to be in midseason form Monday was Cleveland ace Trevor Bauer who tossed 3 scoreless innings with 2 K.  Pretty much the entire Indians rotation can be considered to have fantasy baseball ace ability and in particular I am a proponent of Bauer and Mike Clevinger.

-Washington Nationals outfielder Victor Robles picked up a hit and a steal on Monday as he begins to grow the once-potent hype back to its previous levels before he was overtaken by Juan Soto among the team's prospects last season.  While Robles can be a major disrupter at the top of the order, he figures to bat in the bottom third since the Nats will use Adam Eaton and Trea Turner at 1-2.

-Arizona Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke continues to chug along despite turning 35 as he tossed two scoreless frames Monday.  Only reaching 88 on the gun, Greinke remains as crafty as they get but at this point should be graded more as a SP 2.

-A rare bright spot for Tigers pitcher Jordan Zimmerman who struck out four in two innings Monday but no matter, he still should be avoided EVERYWHERE as his stuff us a clear level or two below some useful early Washington days.

-Two scoreless for Mets number 2 starter Noah Syndergaard which is par for the course here.  No one would ever dispute Thor's monstrous power ace ability but the injury threat is real and significant.  Always on the short list to be the next Tommy John guy, Syndergaard is a "how lucky do you feel?" investment.

-Jon Lester punched out 3 in two scoreless innings on Monday and even though yours truly firmly believes he has lost a notch or two on his stuff, I also will say that he can be a big help the first half of the season before a typical fatigue in July given the advancing age.

-Colorado Rockies rookie infielder Garrett Hampson has the inside track to the starting second base job to open 2019 for the team as long as he doesn't stink up the joint this spring and so far, so good on that front as he went 2-for-2 with 2 runs scored Monday.  Hampson has speed to burn and possesses easy 30-steal ability if he can stick,  Considering how steals continue to decline across baseball, Hampson is shaping up as a very intriguing sleeper.

-Wilson Contreras remains a guy I remain with a steadfast belief in despite the brutal 2018 step back in development.  Contreras smacked his first spring homer on Monday which was a good sign however and if he can put last year's funk behind him, 20 long balls is very much in the realm of possibility.

Monday, February 25, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY WATCH: CLAYTON KERSHAW FEELS MORE DISCOMFORT IN SHOULDER DURING THROWING SESSION

Oh boy.  Just days after reporting shoulder discomfort at the start of spring training, Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw was forced to cut short a throwing session on Monday after he reported ongoing issues in the joint.  As of now, consider Kershaw to be shut down for at least a week and likely more as his Opening Day assignment is now in real jeopardy.  We are possibly seeing a massive decline in the once dominant Kershaw and the heavy usage he undertook earlier in his career can be blamed.  Expect an update sometime on Tuesday in terms of a plan but those who already own stock in Kershaw should be afraid. 


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING REPORT: MIAMI MARLINS

By Michael Wong

Jupiter, Fla.--This is not going to be pretty Miami Marlins fans.  One shouldn't be shocked if the Marlins are lacking in the fan department as a whole after the team traded not one but FOUR All-Star hitters (Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, J.T. Realmuto) to gut pretty much the entire roster.  Save for some aging veterans, this is a team that will be dominated by young players who are trying to make their hay in the majors.  As a result, there is little fantasy baseball appeal here but even in Miami there are still some useful options. 

1.  Now that Realmuto has been sent packing, it is time to shine for new catcher Jorge Alfaro who came over to the team from the Philadelphia Phillies in the deal.  Alfaro was previously lauded as a decent hitting catching prospect, in particular with an intriguing power bat.  The kid began to show that skill in 2018 when he slammed 10 homers in just 377 at-bats with a .262 average.  Alas, Alfaro has some MAJOR holes in his swing as his 36.6 K/9 was in Joey Gallo territory and without a lucky .406 BABIP a year ago, the average would likely have been in the .230 area code.  Be that as it may, Alfaro will have a long leash this spring and he could make a run at 20 homers if all breaks right for the cost of almost nothing.

2.  Good luck if you bother investing in the saves situation for the Marlins this season.  As it is, there will be few save chances to go around given the brutal state of the team and the current options centering on Drew Steckenrider and Adam Conley are not overly appealing.  The initial word is that manager Don Mattingly may go the matchup route with the righty Steckenrider and the lefty Conley but also keep in mind longtime veteran Sergio Romo is also a new addition.  Either way, this is one nasty mess of a situation. 

3.  The rotation for the Marlins is almost a complete joke as the very mediocre Jose Urena serves as the current "ace" but there is at least one interesting name to be aware of in the form of lefty Caleb Smith.  While Smith is recovering from the always scary shoulder injury a year ago, prior to the ill health he was opening eyes with a 4.19 ERA and 10.24 K/9.  Smith has good velocity on his fastball and while he struggles with walks as shown by a shaky 3.84 BB/9 last season, there is some deep league upside here due to the strikeout ability. 

4.  We keep waiting on outfielder Lewis Brinson to finally show the natural skills that made him such a highly acclaimed prospect a few years ago but the early returns are ugly.  Much in the way Byron Buxton has so far gone completely bust for the Minnesota Twins despite his otherwordly speed and power, Brinson is falling prey to the same struggles in terms of strikeouts and utter lack of hits.  With a K/9 of 29.6 a year ago, Brinson is showing no signs of curbing that gigantic problem and so all the speed and power in the world are meaningless unless the kid can simply get on base.

5.  It us a major struggle even supplying a fifth paragraph on the Marlins given how bad they are but maybe old veterans Neil Walker, Starlin Castro, and Martin Prado can help in NL-only leagues with an ability to contribute a solid average and the odd home run.  Yes we are reaching. 


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL SHORTSTOPS I WILL TARGET/AVOID

Boy is shortstop busting at the seams in terms of high-end offensive production and 2019 drives this point home since as many as 7 guys from here could be picked in the first two rounds.  With that said, here is who I am targeting and avoiding in drafts this spring.

SHORTSTOPS I WILL TARGET

Francisco Lindor, Manny Machado, Trea Turner, Alex Bregman:  While I like to go five-tool OF/1B among my first two picks, the slip in the first base position has me now considering SS-OF instead.  On that front, I would not hesitate in the least to take anyone from Lindor, Machado, Turner, or Bregman who are all five-tool monsters in any league.  All will require first round picks but all are fully worth the cost.

Jean Segura:  An annual favorite of this space, Segura is the perfect consolation prize if you miss out on the top guys I mentioned above.  Always dependable to contribute in all five categories, Segura tends to slip in drafts since he doesn't blow up any one category.  Still, the move to Philadelphia gives him a nice ballpark boost and another small uptick in numbers for Segura is likely. 

Corey Seager:  I know there is an understandable notion that Seager is a bit overrated which I won't ague with prior to 2018 but missing almost all of last season to Tommy John resulted in the draft cost here sliding into the range where he is actually quite attractive.  The bat has always been terrific and while you can knock Seager for not stealing bases, his ability as a .300 stick with 25 home run potential remains on par.

Jurickson Profar:  I love Profar for this season due to the fact he qualifies almost everywhere and the former top overall prospect helped in almost all categories a year ago.  The one area Profar was just mediocre in last season was average but even that number was depressed by an unlucky BABIP.  This is one stock still on the rise.

Jose Peraza:  Hey Peraza can hit and steal a bunch of bases too which automatically makes him one to target in today's speed-vanishing game.  There is even a smidge of power here too so Peraza has a lot to offer. 

SHORTSTOPS I WILL AVOID

Trevor Story:  Listen I was blown away by Story's 2018 as everyone else was but let's see him steal as many bases again and also hit for average which were outlier firsts last season. 

Carlos Correa:  I used to be a big fan of Correa but two straight seasons of serious injury and stolen bases that have dried up already are two major red flags.

Chris Taylor:  While I don't think Taylor will be as bad as he was in 2018, I am still on the side that says his 2017 breakout was a non-repeatable outlier breakout. 

Tim Anderson:  Another guy who was quietly very good last season in terms of power/speed was Anderson but his aversion to walks and annually hideous batting averages put a major dent into his overall contributions. 



Sunday, February 24, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING NEWS: MADISON BUMGARNER SHELLED FOR SIX RUNS IN 1 IP

Already under the microscope as a former ace starter who is looking like he is trending downward fast, the San Francisco Giants' Madison Bumgarner was absolutely rocked on his first spring outing Sunday in giving up SIX runs in 1 IP.  While Bumgarner started out good with a 1-2-3 first, he couldn't get anyone out in innings two as he hit a batter and gave up five hits.  Even though Bumgarner has a long history of getting hit hard in spring training, the fact he has been losing velocity for years now and saw his K/9 drop to mediocre levels in 2018 amid more injuries make this very concerning.  Like we have said with Clayton Kershaw, Bumgarner in our view is a major PASS candidate as he looks like yet another Giants former ace who has declined rapidly as he approached 30 like Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain before him.  NO way you want to be dealing with the fallout here. 


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL SHORTSTOP RANKINGS

We are up to the shortstops now as we continue our tour through the initial positions rankings for 2019 fantasy baseball.

1.  Francisco Lindor
2.  Alex Bregman
3.  Manny Machado
4.  Trea Turner
5.  Trevor Story
6.  Javier Baez
7.  Carlos Correa
8.  Jean Segura
9.  Adalberto Mondesi
10. Xander Bogaerts
11. Gleyber Torres
12. Corey Seager
13. Tim Anderson
14. Jose Peraza
15. Elvis Andrus
16. Chris Taylor
17. Jurickson Profar
18. Amed Rosario
19. Didi Gregorious
20. Paul DeJong
21. Willy Adames
22. Jorge Polanco
23. Marwin Gonzalez
24. Marcus Semien
25. Ketel Marte
26. Loudes Gurriel Jr.
27. Dansby Swanson 


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: SHOULDER TROUBLE THREATENS CLAYTON KERSHAW'S SPRING

Here we go again.  After a series of pronounced injuries over the last two seasons that went along with a noticeable dip in velocity, Los Angeles Dodgers ace starter Clayton Kershaw is dealing with a bout of shoulder soreness according to manager Dave Roberts.  While Roberts seem to make it a point to stress he think this is a short-term concern that doesn't threaten his Opening Day assignment, the act Kershaw is hurt again off health-plagued 2017 and 2018 campaigns.  And again this is a reminder of how we started sounded the alarm on Kershaw back in 2017 as the velocity began to dip and the home runs started flying out at a higher rate.  Those issues have only gotten worse since as Kershaw's average fastball velocity is now hovering around 90 and now this.  Once again we suggets staying far away from Kershaw this season as it is becoming quite obvious all those years of very heavy usage during his early 20's are now coming back to bite him.  We see this all too often with young arms who are not handled properly and with the Dodgers always playing into the postseason during Kershaw's tenure, the innings piled up beyond where they should have went.  Now Kershaw is paying for it and his fantasy baseball stock has never been lower. 


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: EDDIE ROSARIO OUTFIELDER MINNESOTA TWINS

Maybe I have a soft spot for Minnesota Twin outfielders.  As my habitual readers will recall, former Twins veteran Torii Hunter was an annual favorite of mine who always found his way onto my roster no matter the cost.  With Hunter now in retirement, perhaps current Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario will fill the void for yours truly and certainly, the numbers show that he is up to the task.  It was a year ago at this time back in 2017 when I first broached the burgeoning talents on Rosario and boy did he come through to the tune of 27 homers, 78 RBI, 79 runs scored, 9 steals, and a .290 average.  Despite the major haul, Rosario was still relatively affordable the following spring due perhaps to the discrimination of Target Field and once again he made our sleeper cut.  Rosario went absolutely nuts the first half in particular as he batted .311 with 19 homers and 60 RBI but a late August quad injury caused some understandable late strugglest which resulted in final numbers looking as such:

.288
24 HR
77 RBI
87 R
8 SB
5.1 BB/9
17.6 K/9
.316 BABIP

Without the late quad injury, Rosario likely would have been around the 27 homers from 2016 but either way we are looking at a guy who is now just entering his prime at 27 and who is quietly one of the best five-category producers out there.  With Rosario having cured some early strikeout issues, the only knock here is a severe lack of patience but so far there has been no average hit.  Since the draft cost remains affordable, it is crazy that Rosario is not getting the respect he deserves.  This is one spot where that is not an issue and so Rosario should be considered a possible OF 1 player who can be had for much less. 

2019 PROJECTION:  .286 26 HR 84 RBI 95 R 10 SB  



Saturday, February 23, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING REPORT: NEW YORK METS

By Michael Wong

Port St. Luice, Fla.--The New York Mets kicked off their exhibition schedule on Saturday versus the Atlanta Braves and already the Pete Alonso hype is getting gargantuan as the hulking slugger swatted a home run on the first pitch he saw.  New arriving second baseman Robinson Cano contributed an RBI single and potential sixth starter Hector Santiago tossed a scoreless frame with a walk and a hit batter which failed to quiet the Gio Gonzalez talk.  So with the 4-3 Mets win in the rearview mirror, let's discuss some of the more pressing issues in the team's camp.

1.  We might as well start with Alonso who wants to be called "Pete" now but no matter what he is called, there is no denying the massive power the prospective first baseman brings to the table.  Alonso went nuts to the tune of 36 total home runs at Double and Triple-A last season and he has the inside track to the starter's gig over Dominic Smith and Todd Frazier.  Obviously, power is the name of the game here and Alonso can be an easy 30 homer guy right out of the gate if he does make the team.  The concerns center on a high strikeout tendency which could hurt the average and also a shaky glove which we also saw Saturday as Alonso committed an error.  The bottom line here is that Alonso is still a work in progress as a hitter which will cap his potential fantasy baseball value but he is also one of the top sleeper rookie adds this spring in drafts given the awesome power.

2.  So what can Mets ace Jacob DeGrom do for an encore?  Wow was the 2018 NL Cy Young winner beyond tremendous last season as he posted a ridiculous 1.70 ERA and monstrous 11.16 K/9 rate despite getting brutal run support.  With an average fastball velocity that is right there at the top of major league baseball, DeGrom is a slam-dunk top-tier fantasy baseball ace who you can argue sits right behind Max Scherzer in 2019 drafts.  Now obviously DeGrom is not going to post a 1.70 ERA again but a mid-2.00 ERA with another 220 strikeouts are almost a lock.

3.  We would be remiss if we didn't mention new Mets catcher Wilson Ramos who has been a favorite of this site for years given his terrific hitting ability for the position but also for annually affordable draft costs due to pronounced injury history.  Yes the injuries are a major concern but Ramos is right there as the best hitter among all catchers.  Ramos has now hit over .300 in two of the last three seasons and he is fully capable of 15-20 homers as well.  The problem is that Ramos no longer has the DH option to rest his body and at the age of 31, more injuries are likely.  So in essence, you are drafting trouble which is almost guaranteed but still Ramos may be worth the risk given the brutal state of catching these days.

4.  Boy does Michael Conforto have a beautiful swing and that skill is what enabled him to reach the Mets in such a rapid fashion after being drafted.  The power is easy as well as we have seen when Conforto hit 27 and 28 home runs the last two seasons.  There was a very serious shoulder dislocation in between those campaigns but Conforto finally went into spring training healthy and 30 home runs with a career-best average are certainly within play.

5.  While Jacob DeGrom rightfully gets the majority of pitching pub, it needs to be said that it wasn't so long ago when Noah Syndergaard was the hype machine arm in the Mets rotation.  After lighting baseball on fire with his 100-mph missiles in a truly dominant 2016 breakout, Thor has had significant injury woes in each of the last two seasons to dull the upward trajectory.  Be that as it may, Syndergaard retains the nuclear arsenal that is capable of a Cy Young in any given season and so he should still be drafted by the end of Round 4 given the vast upside. 


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: MITCH HANIGER OUTFIELDER SEATTLE MARINERS

                                                               

Finally we got some games!  The Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues get fully underway on Saturday but Friday night officially kicked things off when the Seattle Mariners took on the Oakland A's and it was in that game where the first newsbreaker performance from a name player took place as outfielder Mitch Haniger slugged a home run and scored two runs overall.  The outing was a reminder of just how good Haniger was in 2018 when he put up the following numbers that stamped him as a top 10-15 fantasy baseball outfielder:

.285
26 HR
93 RBI
90 R
8 SB
21.7 K/9
10.2 BB/9
.336 BABIP

Looking at the numbers above, Haniger contributed in all five standard ROTO categories and fulfilled the promise that made him a spring sleeper both prior to 2017 and last spring.  Injuries had derailed the progress on Haniger for awhile but he managed to avoid major health trouble which helped put forth the major breakout.  Now in looking ahead to 2019, we don't know yet if Haniger will bat leadoff again like he did during the second half of last season but if not, surely the second or third spot will be his which still means a ton of at-bats.  Then there are the numbers as Haniger is now in his prime and so a repeat of 2018's statistics is absolutely attainable and maybe even a slight improvement.  Now a .336 BABIP was well into lucky range which means the average could dip a bit but otherwise Haniger is looking like a five-tool outfielder who can be had as late as Round 4 or 5.  

2019 PROJECTION:  .280 27 HR 95 RBI 98 R 7 SB


Friday, February 22, 2019

2019 NFL DRAFT QUARTERBACK PROSPECTS

The 2019 NFL Combine starts this week and our own Eric C. Wright will be there reporting on all the happenings.  On a related front, we once again went to town on all the top prospects this season as part of our annual NFL Draft Guide which is available for sale on Amazon here:  https://www.amazon.com/Fantasy-Sports-Boss-Draft-Guide/dp/1795262974/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1550876998&sr=8-3&keywords=2019+nfl+draft+guide

As a sample, here is how we see the passers shaping up in the draft. 

QUARTERBACKS

Draft Grade:  C

Possible First-Round Picks:  Dewayne Haskins, Kyler Murray, Daniel Jones, Drew Lock

*Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State) 6-3 220 4.78:  With Oregon's Justin Herbert deciding to return to school for his senior season, the mantle of number 1 QB prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft goes to Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins.  That designation is based just as much on the potential/upside as it is raw ability as Haskins has terrific skills but lacks polish at this stage of his development.  The numbers were certainly of the video game variety in 2018 as Haskins tossed 47 touchdowns and just 8 picks for 4,580 yards going into the team's bowl schedule but the finer points of the passing game needs work.  Specifically speaking, Haskins is raw as 2018 represented his first year as a starter and despite the gaudy surface numbers; there are issues in terms of progressing through reads and footwork in and out of the pocket.  Also regarding the lack of experience, keep in mind that recent examples of high first-round picks who had just one year under center in college have included Mark Sanchez (disaster) and Mitch Trubisky (jury still out and well behind draft classmates Patrick Mahomes and DeShaun Watson).  While Haskins has good speed to keep a play going, he is not a burner by any means.  The arm is terrific though and Haskins has the strength to make almost all the throws.  Accuracy good but can still improve some.  If he takes to coaching while working through expected early growing pains, Haskins can turn into a star given the tools at his disposal.

*Kyler Murray (Oklahoma) 5-10 195 4.52:  Boy what a story this has turned out to be.  Having already secured a $4.66 million signing bonus as the first-round pick of the Oakland A's prior to the 2018 college football season, junior Oklahoma Sooners QB Kyler Murray secured an agreement with the MLB bosses to allow him to play one final year of football before beginning his baseball career.  Well, it is safe to say the A's may regret giving in to that request for years to come as Murray played at such a ridiculously great level in winning the Heisman Trophy and leading the Sooners to the college football semifinals last season, that he quickly decided last January to enter into the NFL Draft.  With divergent opinions being floated around about where he will be selected, the general consensus is that Murray carries so much name hype that he will likely squeeze into the Day 1 process.  On numbers alone Murray certainly belongs in the first-round club as he passed for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns; while also adding 1,001 yards rushing and another 10 scores.  Those are video game numbers folks and Murray's physical attributes seem NFL-friendly in terms of his above-average arm strength, impressive accuracy, and supreme athleticism/speed.  The issue that makes Murray so polarizing though is his frame as he stands a generous 5-10 and weighs a very slight 185.  While the whole lack of height debate has been quieted some by in the instant success of fellow Sooners QB Baker Mayfield last season, Murray's frame is very thin which makes the injury risk quite high.  Be that as it may, Murray's upside is sizable and the fact he can beat you both with the pass and with the run makes him incredibly tempting.

*Daniel Jones (Duke) 6-5 215 4.85:  While Dwayne Haskins and Kyler Murray will get most of the attention in terms of being the most talked-about 2019 NFL Draft QB prospects, count this peanut stand as big boosters of Duke's strong-armed Daniel Jones.  Already entering the draft with the often-overlooked bonus of operating an NFL-style offense for a head coach in David Cutcliffe who is renowned for his tremendous work in developing both Eli and Peyton Manning, Jones has the most upside of any quarterback in the 2019 draft in our view.  A solidly built 6-5/215; Jones possesses the crucial double bonus of being accurate and also having a strong arm.  Despite not possessing much in the way of speed, Jones showed some guts in 2018 by standing up in the pocket in the face of the pass rush to deliver throws down the field.  Mechanics could use some work as Jones has a long delivery in the mold of a Jameis Winston and he also has battled some injuries as well which is concerning.  If he does, in fact, come out for the draft, Jones could turn out to be a terrific upside selection. 

Drew Lock (Missouri) 6-3 226 4.85:  While Missouri's Drew Lock has the classic NFL-type body build you look for in a pro passing prospect, there was a feeling he took a step back in his development during an up-and-down 2018 performance.  In terms of the positives, Lock has a rocket for an arm that can make every single throw the next level requires and he also has the underrated athletic ability that showed itself through six rushing scores last season.  What was not so hot was Lock coming up small in quite a bit of Missouri's bigger games in 2018 and he can be careless with the football in terms of forcing throws that get picked off.  A bit on the quiet side according to the team's beat reporters, Lock seems to be a "love him or hate him" prospect in the eyes of most. 

*Will Grier (West Virginia) 6-2 221 4.80:  The numbers were predictably excellent for West Virginia QB Will Grier in 2018 as he operated the always explosive Dana Holgorsen passing offense but that doesn't mean the junior has what it takes to be a potential franchise passer for his prospective NFL team.  There is also a checkered history here as Grier tested positive for steroids in 2015 while with the University of Florida and his attitude was questioned at times during his collegiate career as well.  Now in terms of the tools, Grier does check out nicely in terms of possessing a quick release and his accuracy is above-average.  This makes Grier more ideal for a West Coast offense at the NFL level but his lack of a cannon arm could lead to him being exposed beyond such a setup. 

Ryan Finley (N.C. State) 6-3 208 4.80:  Solid but unspectacular is the apt description for N.C. State senior QB Ryan Finley.  What quickly jumps out about Finley and which serves as a very important plus for his NFL stock is the fact the guy is very accurate and throws a terrific ball.  Finley showed himself to also be very adept at putting the football where his receivers can keep stride and continue down the field after making the catch.  In addition, Finley was careful to limit interceptions and made good decisions in the pocket.  These skills helped overcome some arm strength issues and also some negatives concerning reading through progressions.  Finley often latched onto his first read and checked down at the first sign of trouble.  While effective at not turning the ball over, Finley also lacked flash.  At the very least, however, there is a potentially bright future here given the impressive accuracy. 

Clayton Thorsen (Northwestern) 6-4 227 4.75:  Very experienced senior passer who did as well as could be expected on Northwestern teams that didn't exactly supply him with much in the way of help, QB Clayton Thorsen is catching some decent mid-round attention.  While Thorsen's 15/14 TD/INT in 2018 was not pretty, the underlying indicators were decent as the overall ball placement and accuracy were quite good.  While Thorsen was guilty of forcing throws into tight quarters which resulted in a majority of his picks, his plus athleticism made him a dual threat runner/passer.  Overall Thorsen is a heady player whose extensive tenure as Northwestern's starting QB will help shorten the learning curve at the next level and also help overcome some arm strength negatives.

*Jarrett Stidham (Auburn) 6-2 210 4.65:  One QB who saw his draft stock take a hit during the course of the 2018 season was Auburn's Jarrett Stidham.  Expected to contend for a national championship, both Stidham and Auburn as a whole struggled for long stretches that ultimately resulted in a down year for the program.  What was really troubling with Stidham's 2018 performance was that he did his worst work in Auburn's biggest games; including flops versus LSU and Mississippi State.  What quickly catches the eye is that Stidham has an erratic arm and he all too often throws the football off balance.  Stidham also has some happy feet in the pocket which is a sizable negative and he tends to sail the football past the intermediate level.  On the plus side, Stidham is very athletic for a QB and he can be a threat running the football when needed.  Accuracy is also above-average which is always one of the most crucial skills to possess in terms of NFL passing prospects.  This one could go either way.

*Tyree Jackson (Buffalo) 6-7 245 4.73:  Looking to capitalize on a very weak QB draft class for 2019, Buffalo junior Tyree Jackson decided to come out early in going against consensus advice to stay in school.  While Jackson tossed a very impressive 28 touchdowns last season, the red flags centered on a shaky 55.3 completion rate and he averaged a paltry 7.7 per pass attempt.  Clearly, Jackson is a work in progress but there is some solid upside here given the imposing frame and good speed. 

Kyle Shurmur (Vanderbilt) 6-4 225 4.82:  Two things quickly jump out here when it comes to Vanderbilt senior QB Kyle Shurmur.  The first is that he is the son of New York Giants head coach Pat which can only be seen as a plus in terms of development.  The second is that Shurmur broke almost all of the school passing records of longtime NFL veteran and former first-round Vanderbilt star Jay Cutler.  While no one mistakes Shurmur as anything but a mid-round pick, he kept on getting better during his three years as the Commodores' starter.  The accuracy checks out nicely here and Shurmur also protected the football.  Also, the arm strength is just average and Shurmur often has to step up firmly in the pocket to get the power to sling it down the field.  While there is nothing flashy here to speak of, Shurmur is well worth looking into as a developmental prospect. 

Easton Stick (North Dakota State) 6-2 221 4.75:  Another small-school kid from the same program that brought superstar Philadelphia Eagles passer Carson Wentz to NFL stardom, North Dakota State QB Easton Stick opened some eyes with a very good performance at the East-West Shrine Game.  As far as Stick is concerned, the athleticism jumps off the page as he scored 11 rushing touchdowns to go with 22 through the air a year ago as a senior.  An experienced three-year starter, Stick uses his speed to buy extra time in the face of the rush and this helps to somewhat overcome what can only be described as an average arm.  Short-to-intermediate routes are where Stick will make hay as a possible NFL passer as there will not be much in the way of deep passing success but this kid is our favorite late-round QB prospect. 

Brett Rypien (Boise State) 6-2 200 4.77:  The nephew of former Washington Redskins Super Bowl winning QB Mark, Boise State senior passer Brett Rypien could be a late-round pick or free agent developmental signing based a good deal on that pedigree.  Rypien had a very good senior season that included 30 passing scores and just 7 picks and operating four years as the team's starter can be seen as nothing but a positive.  The accuracy is very impressive here and combined with Rypien's smooth delivery, this should net him a long look as a Day 3 selection.  On the negative side of things, Rypien's lack of a cannon limits his effectiveness going down the field and he needs to add some bulk to adequately hold up to NFL pounding. 

Jordan Ta’amu (Mississippi) 6-2 210:  While it certainly plays second fiddle to the Senior Bowl, the East-West Shrine Game often has served as a draft launch point for some less heralded players and that appeared to be the case for Mississippi QB Jordan Ta’amu.  It was Ta’amu who really stood out in the game this past January as he showed a strong arm, impressive quickness in and out of the pocket, and improved accuracy.  The latter development was significant as one of the biggest question marks about Ta’amu was his somewhat shaky accuracy while with the Rebels; while he also didn’t show the best pocket awareness.  Be that as it may, Ta’amu’s impressive work in the Shrine Game puts him squarely on the Day 3 developmental radar. 

Trace McSorley (Penn State) 6-0 195 4.82:  Life without superstar running back Saquon Barkley was not kind to Penn State QB Trace McSorley in 2018 as the senior passer saw major statistical erosion almost across the board.  With McSorley unable to lean on Barkley to consistently balance out the offense, the passing game sagged at times as he went into the team's bowl game with just 16 passing scores, a 53 percent completion percentage, and 2,284 yards (down from 26/65 %/3,228 respectively).  Last year's performance also served to expose the prospect limitations on McSorley who is severely lacking in size and possesses just moderate arm strength.  What McSorley has going for him is a quick release, decent accuracy, and the ability to pick up yardage on the ground but overall it is not enough to make him more than a late-round pick. 

Jacob Dolegala (Central Connecticut) 6-6 235 4.80:  Small-school passer who has gotten some buzz given the massive 6-6/235 frame, Central Connecticut QB Jacob  Dolegala has a very strong arm that can make almost all the throws.  In addition, Dolegala possesses ideal size that can surely withstand an NFL pounding.  Level of competition is a major concern though and Dolegala will need a good season or two of seasoning before he would be ready to possibly take the field. 

Kyle Kempt (Iowa State) 6-5 210 4.84:  Injuries torpedoed the senior season of Iowa State quarterback Kyle Kempt which makes it somewhat challenging to formulate a firm draft outlook on the kid.  An MCL injury in his knee knocked Kempt out for the majority of the Cyclones' season and opened the door for freshman Brock Purdy to ignite the team in his place.  As of this writing, it is not known whether or not Kempt will return to college after being given a sixth year of eligibility but if he does, it will obviously be elsewhere given the ascension of Purdy.  In terms of ball skills, Kempt has a very quick release, solid mechanics, and footwork in the pocket.  Being technically sound is where the strengths lie here as Kempt is not overly athletic and doesn't have a cannon for an arm. 

Gardner Minshew (Washington State) 6-2 220 4.83:  Mike Leach offensive product who put up 36 passing scores as a senior in 2018, Washington State QB Gardner Minshew is a limited player overall in terms of natural skills.  A quick release and solid accuracy does put Minshew on the late round/free agent prospect map however and of course, the mustache is awesome. 

Nick Fitzgerald (Mississippi State) 6-5 230 4.74:  With Mississippi State senior QB Nick Fitzgerald known more for his running than passing acumen while in college, this is obviously not conducive to making an NFL roster while operating under center.  It does need to be said though that in the copycat NFL, the nice success of New Orleans Saints backup gadget QB Taysom Hill in 2018 could give Fitzgerald a chance to get into the late Day 3 realm with the idea he could be used in the same way once in the pros. 

Justin Hansen (Arkansas State) 6-4 218 4.81:  System passer on the small school level which resulted in some big numbers against lesser competition, Arkansas State senior QB Justin Hansen could end up being signed as a free agent.  While Hansen has good arm strength and size, the lack of touch on his throws show the limitations here. 

Jake Browning (Washington) 6-2 205 4.73:  Washington QB Jake Browning held some draft buzz going into the 2018 but that faded as he more than did his part to sink what turned out to be a disappointing season for the team.  While he does have vast starting experience going back to his freshman season, Browning did throw for 43 scores as a sophomore which is nothing to scoff at.  Overall, Browning is a classic case of an excellent collegiate player who doesn't have the skills/physical makeup to make it as a pro. 

Brad Mayes (Lehigh) 6-2 220 4.75:  Lehigh QB Brad Mayes struggled badly at times in 2018 in putting up a shoddy 10/13 split in TD/INT but the small-school kid went 31/12 in those areas just the season prior.  Quick release and a solid enough arm may net a free agent look. 

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY WATCH: ANGELS OUTFIELDER SHOHEI OHTANI HITS OFF TEE FRIDAY, LIKELY WON'T RETURN UNTIL MAY

Los Angeles Angeles pitcher/DH Shoehei Ohtani hit off a tee for the first time since Tommy John elbow surgery last summer but his anticipated return to major league action is expected to be sometime in May.  While Ohtani will not throw a single pitch this season due to the Tommy John, he is expected to be fully cleared to return as a full-time hitter who can play some first base, the outfield, and DH.  Even though most of the attention Ohtani generated a year ago centered on pitching, he was still very productive with the bat in swatting 22 home runs in just 367 at-bats.  While Ohtani's 27.8 K/9 rare was ugly, his .285 average was solid as was the 10.1 BB/9 rate.  Ohtani even threw in 10 steals for good measure and so there is a lot to like here for a guy who is likely not going to cost much at the draft table.  As your UTIL or a prime backup bat, Ohtani looks like a good value. 


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: TWINS BRING IN MARWIN GONZALEZ ON TWO-YEAR DEAL

Supreme utility man Marwin Gonzalez is one of those classic fantasy baseball hitters who yield a major portion of their value based almost solely on qualifying for a high number of positions and it was likely this versatility that led the Minnesota Twins to bring him in on a two-year deal on Friday.  In terms of that eligibility, Gonzalez will head into the 2019 season carrying qualification at first base, second base, shortstop, and the outfield and so he serves as a tremendous bench weapon that you can plug in all over the field when needed.  Gonzalez is not too shabby with the bat either as he comes off a 2018 where he hit 16 homers drove in 68 batters, and scored 61 runs.  There are clear limitations though such as Gonzalez losing almost all of his previous average speed (just 2 steals last season) and his .247 average was way down from the last year's mark of .303.  Still, the reason you are drafting Gonzalez is because of his massive eligibility haul and that won't change this season in his new home.
2019 PROJECTION:  .255 15 HR 74 RBI 65 R 4 SB  

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING REPORT: DETROIT TIGERS

By Michael Wong

Lakeland, Fla.--The rebuild is on and in full swing for the 2019 Detroit Tigers and with wins not being much in the way of achievable goals this season, more talk on who they possibly will ship out before or at the July 31 trade deadline will dominant team chatter.  With youth dominating both the rotation and the field, there is mostly just upstart late-round plays here in terms of 2019 fantasy baseball; with just a select few veterans to keep things interesting.

1.  Speaking of veterans, where to place Tigers 1B/DH Miguel Cabrera in draft terms this spring is one of the more talked-about fantasy baseball items.  While clearly aging as he turns 36 this April, Cabrera showed when on the field a year ago that he can still hit and hit with authority.  A .290 average with 3 homers and 22 RBI in 38 games bore this out and the exit velocities were right there with his MVP days as well.  Those factors add weight to going in on Cabrera at least one more time this spring and the drastically reduced draft cost adds to the allure.  Be that as it may, Cabrera is battling injuries now on a yearly basis which jive with the advancing age and bid-bodied sluggers such as he often age poorly.  So it really comes down to cost here and when looked through that prism, using Cabrera as a UTIL or CI bat makes sense.

2.  Nick Castellanos was a favorite of this space a year ago and all in all, the third baseman/outfielder came through with 23 home runs, 88 RBI, and a .293 average.  Turning 26 this March, Castellanos is only now moving into his prime years and so that expected run of 30 homers last season could have been just a year premature.  All in all, there is a lot to like here from the smooth-swinging Castellanos and like with Cabrera, the price is not overly high.

3.  On the short list for the worst closer in fantasy baseball, Tigers "stopper" Shane Greene is back again to make saves an adventure in the ninth inning.  This is clearly a way for the Tigers to possibly boost the limited trade value Greene has but he also is so mediocre that it would shock no one if he is out of the gig by the end of April.  Potential replacement Joe Jimenez would then become quite interesting he has the type of high-K stuff needed for closing games.

4.  While on the surface Tigers starter Matt Boyd had a decent 2018 campaign with a 4.39 ERA and 1.16 WHIP, the sort-tosser got a bunch of batted ball help to boost his ratios above where they should have been.  In other words, you best left to avoid Boyd even in AL-only setups.

5.  You talk about scary pitching, the back end of the Tigers rotation consisting of Jordan Zimmerman, Matt Moore, and Tyson Ross rival the Baltimore Orioles in terms of ghastly ability.


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL SECOND BASEMAN I WILL DRAFT/AVOID

The second baseman I will draft/avoid are up next and usually I take a more conservative route here save for getting Jose Altuve early in Round 1.  With that said, these are who make my own personal cut. 

SECOND BASEMAN I WILL TARGET

Whit Merrifield:  I already spoke a few days ago about my love for Merrifield and that is even more so this season given the dearth of stolen bases around the league.  Also add in eligibility at first, second, and the outfield in some leagues and Merrifield is looking like a big target of mine and should be of yours also. 

Jonathan Villar:  If you fail to get Merrifield, you can get Merrifield-lite in Villar who could actually top him in steals as he leads off for a Baltimore Orioles team who will be looking for him to create some havoc for a team in desperate need of offense.  This is a big of an about-face for me in that I was a huge Villar critic a few years ago off his career-year with the Milwaukee Brewers but now he is priced right. 

Rougned Odor:  The criticism and negativity surrounding the Texas Rangers second baseman is unfair as the kid was rushed to the majors and is still only 25 as we got into the new season.  Also keep in mind Odor has two 30-homer seasons under his belt already and has stolen between 12 and 15 bags each of the last three years as well.  Yes there are sizable holes in his swing but Odor is a major buy-low candidate who has immense upside.  A 35/15 campaign is not out of the realm of possibility. 

Daniel Murphy:  Murphy is aging and his steals are gone for good but the guy can still hit with the best of them and now gets Colorado as his home ballpark.  I am buying.

Joey Wendle:  A .300 average with 7 homers and 16 steals as a rookie and with an affordable draft price given the Tampa Bay screen makes Joey Wendel a very good target in the draft.  A career .288 hitter in the minors, Wendle seems legit.

Nick Senzel:  The prospect hype has dimmed some with Senzel after his injury-marred 2018 campaign but the power/speed/average upside is tremendous. 

Jeff McNeil:  The New York Mets' lineup is pretty crowded right now but we all know injuries will happen which will give this Daniel Murphy clone a chance to further show his impressive bat.

SECOND BASEMAN I WILL AVOID

Dee Gordon:  Already did my piece on why Dee Gordon is shaping up as a decent bust.  Scroll down to read it. 

Yoan Moncada:  The power/speed ability is obvious but a plus-.30.0 percent K/9 rate is a non-starter for me.

Brian Dozier:  Always a flawed overall hitter whose power/speed game helped gloss over the average hit, the steals are now on shaky ground as Brian Dozier gets older. 

Robinson Cano:  There is some decent bounce back appeal but the aging Cano coming off a PED suspension is not something I will try on again. 


Thursday, February 21, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: JOSE ABREU 1B CHICAGO WHITE SOX

For the first time in five MLB seasons since coming over from Cuba, Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu went down as a fantasy baseball disappointment.  Having established himself the previous four years as one of the most consistent players in the game, Abreu saw his offensive numbers fall across the board as a barren White Sox lineup lent little support and health woes that cropped up during the second half of the season furthered the trouble.  In the end what we got out of Abreu were just 22 home runs, 78 RBI, and a .265 average which all went down as career-low totals for the slugger.  While those numbers fell short of what was anticipated, some perspective is needed here on a number of key fronts as we look toward his potential impact for the upcoming fantasy baseball season.  For one thing, Abreu will still be just 32 when the 2019 season gets underway which still represents prime years for a power-driven player.  In addition, Abreu’s advanced metrics show a hitter who is still the same guy he has always been since making his debut in 2014 when he slammed 36 home runs, collected 107 RBI, and batted .307.  Both Abreu’s BB/9 (6.7) and K/9 (19.7) rates were in the middle range of his historical performances in those categories and one of the main reasons the batting average fell to .265 last season (after previously never going under .290) was due to the fact his .294 BABIP was a major outlier compared to those career norms.  Digging into that crucial last point a bit more, Abreu’s BABIP during his first four years in the majors ranged from .327 and .356 which right there tells you last season’s .294 was a primary cause for the batting average tumble.  Taking this a step further, if you were to throw out the highest and lowest BABIP’s of Abreu’s five-year career (see you later .294 and .356), the remaining three marks would be .333, .327, and .330 which are almost clones of one other.  So it stands to reason that Abreu’s typical BABIP is around .330 which is a sizable leap from the .294 of a year ago and this also means a batting average uptick in 2019 to around .290 is likely.  What will also help the average and the rest of Abreu’s counting numbers would be good health and that was not part of the equation for the first time in his career last season as well.  Having previously never had a season without at least 622 at-bats, Abreu’s paltry 553 total in 2018 compared to his career norms is an easy to spot indicator of why he fell away from the 30-HR/100-RBI mark.  In the midst of what was his best hitting stretch of the season during the month of August, Abreu first was forced to undergo emergency surgery for a strangled testicle (it hurts just typing this).  Things then got even more bizarre in mid-September when Abreu was hospitalized due to complications from an ingrown hair and that proved to be the final nail in the coffin for his 2018 season.  So as you can see, Abreu’s injuries were not of the baseball variety and really were as fluky as can be which means we don’t have to worry about him being a constant source of DL frustration going forward.  With Abreu hopefully having better luck on the freaky injury front, the counting totals should rebound to where they should be.  So in putting this all together, it is easy to make a case that Abreu will go right back to the upper-tier fantasy baseball first baseman he historically has been before his very difficult 2018 clouded the picture a bit.  With some very unlucky health and a tough BABIP combining to do an unfair number on Abreu a year ago, our advice is to take advantage of the draft discount this spring and dive back in here without hesitation.
2019 PROJECTION:  .288 26 HR 98 RBI 84 R 1 SB

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY WATCH: JED LOWRIE ON WAY BACK TO NEW YORK TO GET KNEE LOOKED AT

When it comes to injury news, the New York Mets have the market cornered the last few seasons as they have been at or near the top of MLB in games missed due to health concerns.  It took only a few days of spring training for the trend to continue as new infield arrival Jed Lowrie is now headed back to New York to get an MRI on his sore knee.  The knee has been bothering Lowrie for more than a week now and so the team felt it was prudent to receiver a closer look at the joint.  Signed to primarily play third base, Lowrie was an All-Star in 2018 when he clubbed 23 home runs with 99 RBI and batted. 267 for the Oakland A's.  Now in terms of fantasy baseball, Lowrie is a borderline starter in deeper mixed leagues and obviously has more value in NL-only.  Now the MRI could be just precautionary in nature but this is something that bears watching for the time being with regards to Lowrie's immediate outlook. 


Wednesday, February 20, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT BUST: DEE GORDON 2B/OF SEATTLE MARINERS

The speed leaves the station at 30.  One of the more tried-and-true methods for projecting speed-oriented players in yearly fantasy baseball leagues centers on the notion that the age of 30 is when the acceleration and explosion while running begin to erode and sometimes very sharply.  Whether it was a stark case such as Marquise Grissom back in the day or Charlie Blackmon more recently, turning 30 is always a danger zone for guys who have a bunch of value tied into stolen bases.  Yet another example of such a trend appears to be taking shape in Seattle in the form of second baseman/outfielder Dee Gordon who in 2018 endured his worst year since becoming an everyday pro and who was so bad at times that he yielded the leadoff spot to Mitch Haniger.  With the Mariners having also brought in uber-speedster Mallex Smith to also contend for leadoff duties in 2019, Gordon is looking to be in major trouble in terms of prospective value going forward.

Now in terms of last season, Gordon's numbers came out as follows:

.268
4 HR
62 R
36 RBI
30 SB
1.5 BB/9
13.6 K/9
.304

Looking at the numbers above, the numbers were absolutely pathetic outside of steals and even there Gordon showed trouble.  For one thing, the 30 steals snapped a streak of 58 or more in three of the last four seasons and the one time he missed that mark in 2016 due to a PED suspension, Gordon likely would have gotten there.  Needless to say, the drop in steals was quite sharp and the loss of leadoff duties correlates perfectly there.  Even in terms of success rate, Gordon showed red flags as he was caught 12 times which speaks to a possible loss of explosion.  The Mariners certainly were not happy with their initial return on Gordon and the fact they pulled him from the leadoff spot bears this out fully.

As far as the rest of the numbers, they were horrific as Gordon's 1.5 BB/9 was ridiculous and the .268 average mediocre.  With absolutely no power to speak of, Gordon is almost useless when not stealing a high number of bases.  Since he is no longer a leadoff hitter, the steals won't flow naturally and so Gordon is someone you really don't want to bother with given all of the other vast negatives.  Like with Billy Hamilton the last few seasons, Gordon is now just a declining one-category pony and not worth the increasing aggravation. 

2019 PROJECTION:  .275 2 HR 34 RBI 65 R 28 SB  


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING REPORT: TORONTO BLUE JAYS

By Michael Wong

Dunedin, Fla.--It will be a long season for the 2019 Toronto Blue Jays.  Stuck in the always brutal AL East with top-tier powers the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees; not to mention the always tough Tampa Bay Rays, the Blue Jays are only going to be looking down on the Baltimore Orioles which is not saying much since the latter will likely be the worst team overall.  The Blue Jays put themselves in this position but moving on from veterans Troy Tulowitzki, Josh Donaldson, Marco Estrada and will likely find new homes for Justin Smoak, Kevin Pillar, and others sometime this season as well.  So with all that said, let's see if there is anything of use on the team in terms of 2019 fantasy baseball.

1.  With Smoak having shown last season that his 2017 career-high was of the outlier variety, he is looking at barely being a UTIL or CI option in deeper leagues.  While no one doubts the 25-30 home run power, Smoak hitting over .250 will be an accomplishment and he has little protection in the lineup which will hurt his counting numbers.

2.  There is at least one underrated veteran asset on the team in outfielder Kevin Pillar who quietly has put up home runs/stolen base ratios of 16/15 and 15/14 the last two seasons.  Even though Pillar's utter lack of walks cap his average in the .260 range, the fact he can continue to help in the power/speed categories mean there is a spot for him as an OF 3 and especially in those leagues that use five starters at the position this season.

3.  Ken Giles has the closer role to himself heading into the 2019 season but this is now his third different team despite still being only 28.  The problem with Giles as we vividly saw when he punched himself in the face after a blown save last season is that he seems to lack the mental strength needed to consistently finish games.  Now no one would doubt for a second the overpowering fastball that Giles brings to the table but walks and home runs have cropped up as problems the last few years to derail his progress.  Given that the Blue Jays are far from contenders, maybe having to deal with less pressure will help Giles get himself fully on track.  With a depressed draft cost this spring, he is worth another look.

4.  It was a season to forget in 2018 for Blue Jays ace Marcus Stroman who dealt with constant injuries and saw his numbers go into the gutter with a 5.54 ERA and ugly 6.77 K/9.  Obviously, injuries played a solid factor in the terrible results but even prior to that, Stroman was not someone we touted here given his just average strikeout rates and his inclusion in the brutal AL East.  Add in the fact wins will be tough to come by this season and Stroman should be avoided.

5.  Keep an eye on the spring performance of infielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. who really opened eyes with 11 home runs and a .281 average in just 75 games as a 2018 rookie.  Like with Pillar, Gourriel doesn't walk but the power is legit and the strikeout rate is decent enough so that the average may not be a killer to you.


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

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

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

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

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


Monday, February 18, 2019

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL,SECOND BASEMAN RANKINGS

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

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

Sunday, February 17, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING REPORT: PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

By Michael Wong

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 16, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL FIRST BASE PRIMER: THOSE WILL DRAFT/AVOID

With the initial batch of first baseman fantasy baseball rankings having been posted earlier in the day, here is how yours truly will handle the following players in terms of my interest in drafting them or avoiding them altogether. 

FIRST BASEMAN I WILL DRAFT

Freddie Freeman, Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rizzo:  As I have said numerous times in the past, I am always interested in having a first baseman and five tool outfielder among my first two picks but this season the top-tier at the position are limited to these three.  I would be fine owning any of these perennial All-Stars and that goes for Goldy who I think simply had an extended slump to begin 2018 and nothing more.  Yes, the steals are likely eroding for good but the new start in St. Louis should further reinvigorate him.  Rizzo is another one who is likely looking at improved numbers across the board this season after he too came out of the gates slow.  The advanced metrics were all friendly for Rizzo though as his K rate was never lower and he continues to draw walks.  Get back on board fully.  Finally, Freeman can be a bit annoying with the injuries and fluctuating power but this is truly one of the best hitters in the game.

Jose Abreu:  Now moving squarely into the boring veteran category, Jose Abreu still is as consistent as they get in terms of 25 homers, 90 RBI, and a useful average.  Sign me up.

Miguel Cabrera:  Yes the injuries are becoming a big problem for the aging Cabrera but when on the field, his hitting has been as good as ever as the exit velocities all check out and the power is still apparent.  With the draft price as cheap as ever, Cabrera is worth one last look.

Ian Desmond:  One of the most beat up players in fantasy baseball the last few seasons given the fact he has not exactly exploded since landing in the friendly confines of Coors Field, Desmond is still doing the 20/20 dance and qualifies at more than one spot on the diamond. 

Jose Martinez:  Having hit .300 each of the last two seasons with moderate power, Martinez will work nicely in your CI or UTIL slot as he helps everywhere but stolen bases.

FIRST BASEMAN I WILL AVOID

Edwin Encarnacion:  There is no debating the fact the power remains potent but everywhere else seems to reveal trouble when it comes to Seattle Mariners first baseman Edwin Encarnacion.  Now in his mid-30's, Encarnacion is striking out like never before and his walk are way down also.  Those are trends you don't want to see in terms of possible ownership.

Max Muncy:  It was an amazing breakout for the Los Angeles Dodgers' Max Muncy during the first half of the 2018 season but a lot of those good vibes went away after the break as opposing pitchers began to figure him out.  While you like the eligibility at first and second base, Muncy could be another flash in the pan who got exposed the more he played. 

Matt Carpenter:  Kudos to St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Matt Carpenters for going nuclear with his power a year ago but I am not paying for a career-year and also given the injury issues which have cropped up lately. 


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL FIRST BASEMAN RANKINGS

1.  Freddie Freeman
2.  Paul Goldschmidt
3.  Anthony Rizzo
4.  Rhys Hoskins
5.  Cody Bellinger
6.  Matt Carpenter
7.  Jose Abreu
8.  Joey Votto
9.  Jesus Aguilar
10. Miguel Cabrera
11. Whit Merrifield
12. Matt Olson
13. Edwin Encarnacion
14. Ian Desmond
15. Daniel Murphy
16. J.T. Realmuto
17. Travis Shaw
18. Max Muncy
19. Joey Gallo
20. Eric Hosmer
21. Robinson Cano
22. Luke Voit
23. Jose Martinez
24. Brandon Belt
25. Yuli Gurriel
26. Jay Bruce
27. C.J. Cron
28. Buster Posey
29. Jurickson Profar
30. Ryan Braun
31. Peter Alonso
32. Ryan Zimmerman
33. Ryon Healy
34. Miguel Sano
35. Tyler White

  

Friday, February 15, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING REPORT: NEW YORK YANKEES

By Michael Wong

Tampa, Fla.--The New York Yankees didn't sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado (yet?) but still improved a team that won 100-plus games in 2018 and gave the World Series-winning Boston Red Sox their toughest test in the postseason.  With the rotation serving as a main point of concern, GM Brian Cashman moved quickly to trade for Seattle's ace James Paxton and then re-signed both C.C. Sabathia and J.A.Happ.  While the loss of star shortstop Didi Gregorious until around July is a big loss, Cahsman did his best to fix that issue as well by signing former Colorado Rockie infielders Troy Tulowitzki and D.J. LeMahieu.  It is these and some other issues that confront both the team and those who will garner ownership in terms of fantasy baseball in 2019.

1.  Perhaps the player who carries the most concern/intrigue going into spring training is catcher Gary Sanchez who had a season to forget in 2018 as he battled injuries and was hideous at the dish to the tune of a .186 average.  Despite the horrid year, Sanchez still was the same stud who cracked 33 homers the year prior and expectations remain very high here given that he is still only 26.  With catcher looking as barren as ever when it comes to capable offensive players, Sanchez will continue to demand a high cost at the draft table.  In terms of where he will go from here, a fully healthy Sanchez will surely be nothing but a positive and the fact he dealt with a shoulder problem which is about as bad an injury as there is for a hitter could mean a quick move back to superstar numbers.  Digging a bit deeper, Sanchez' .197 BABIP was comically unlucky last season and his 12.3 BB/9  rate remains supreme.  Those are both very good indicators Sanchez could easily return to hitting .260 or better with all of that natural power.  Again, we always advise avoiding paying the freight for catchers but Sanchez seems worth the bounce back cost if you decide to go that route.

2.  While he heard his name in trade rumors all offseason, the Yankees ultimately held onto third baseman Miguel Andujar which will turn out to be the correct call given how tremendous a natural hitter the kid is.  Coming off a monster 2018 debut when he slammed 27 home runs, collected 92 RBI, and batted .297, Andujar is already a terrific offensive player who is still a few years away from his prime.  30 home runs and 100 RBI with a .300 average is certainly not out of the question here for Andujar this season and this may be the last time he ever comes this cheap.  Get on board.

3.  In one of those rare numbers quirks, there was a strong consensus that slugging outfielder Giancarlo Stanton had an "off" year in 2018 despite hitting 38 home runs, scoring 102, and collecting 100 RBI.  That's what happens when you hit 59 bombs the season prior and then move into an offensive haven that is Yankee Stadium amid great fanfare.  Be that as it may, Stanton took some time to adjust to his new home and the high expectations that come along with it but his numbers overall still graded out very well.  Of course, Stanton's ugly 29.9 K/9 didn't help his .266 average but it is not like he hit .230 either.  Now with a full year in the city under his belt, Stanton could easily sail past 40 dingers this season with his customary 100-plus tallies in runs and RBI.

4.  It will be interesting to see how the numbers are impacting for James Paxton after moving from a prime pitcher's park in Seattle to the launching pad that is Yankee Stadium after coming over in a winter trade.  While he rightfully carries an injury-prone tag due to annual DL stints that all Stephen Strasburg owners would understand, Paxton's extreme strikeout rates (11.68 K/9 last season) make him very attractive for fantasy baseball purposes.  Still, you have to forecast some increase in ERA and WHIP for Paxton given his new park and division and the injury threat won't be going away any time soon which further adds to the risk here.  In other words, don't break the bank for Paxton at the draft table but let him come to you.

5.  First baseman Luke Voit is a bit of a puzzle as the power explosion he put up out of the blue during the second half of 2018 failed to match his minor league rates and evoke some Shane Spencer memories for followers of the club.  Right now Voit has the inside track to the starting job over the forever hurt Greg Bird but the leash may not be as long as you would think here.  While we respect what Voit accomplished last season, you never should pay for career seasons and especially when they are such a shock like this situation.