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Saturday, March 23, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL STARTING PITCHING RANKINGS: 81-100

If you are really desperate for starting pitching help this season, these are the scary names to look at.

81. Mike Leake
82. Danny Duffy
83. Trevor Cahill
84. Matt Boyd
85. Lance Lynn
86. Jake Odorizzi
87. Reynaldo Lopez
88. Wade LeBlanc
89. Andrew Suarez
90. Josh James
91. Trevor Richards
92. Chris Paddock
93. C.C. Sabathia
94. Dylan Bundy
95. Jamie Barria
96. Drew Smyly
97. Alex Cobb
98. Ryan Yarborough
99. Jakob Junis
100. Jordan Zimmerman

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL STARTING PITCHING RANKINGS: 61-80

Numbers 61-80 are up as we continue our tour through the starting pitching rankings for 2019 fantasy baseball:

61. Robbie Erlin
62. Sonny Gray
63. Mike Minor
64. Brent Honeywell
65. Marco Gonzales
66. Freddy Peralta
67. Nick Pivetta
68. Kevin Gausman
69. Marcus Stroman
70. Jimmy Nelson
71. Alex Reyes
72. Julio Urias
73. Jake Arrieta
74. Yusei Kikuchi
75. Luke Weaver
76. Caleb Smith
77. Joe Ross
78. Brandon Woodruff
79. Vince Velasquez
80. Mike Soroka

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL STARTING PITCHING RANKINGS: 41-60

Moving right along with our starting pitching rankings as we delve into the 41-60 tier.

41. Ross Stripling
42. Yu Darvish
43. Jon Lester
44. Tyler Glasnow
45. Jose Quintana
46. Luis Castillo
47. Joe Musgrove
48. Jon Gray
49. Nathan Eovaldi
50. Zack Godley
51. Cole Hamels
52. Dallas Keuchel
53. Michael Pineda
54. Rich Hill
55. Tyler Skaggs
56. Gio Gonzalez
57. Hyun-Jin Ryu
58. Forrest Whitley
59. Mike Fiers
60. Matt Strahm

Monday, March 18, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL STARTING PITCHING RANKINGS: 21-40

The next batch of fantasy baseball starting pitching rankings are here so let's see who made the cut from 21-40.

21. German Marquez
22. Jameson Taillon
23. David Price
24. Zack Wheeler
25. Miles Mikolas
26. Shane Bieber
27. Masahiro Tanaka
28. Charlie Morton
29. Mike Foltynewicz
30. Luis Severino
31. Rick Porcello
32. J.A. Happ
33. Chris Archer
34. Robbie Ray
35. Kyle Hendricks
36. Kenta Maeda
37. Eduardo Rodriguez
38. Madison Bumgarner
39. Joey Lucchesi
40. Kyle Freeland


Sunday, March 17, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: JUSTIN UPTON OUTFIELDER LOS ANGELES ANGELS

After missing virtually all of spring training games to this point with an injured knee, Los Angeles Angels outfielder Justin Upton has been fully cleared to make his Cactus League debut on Tuesday versus the Colorado Rockies.  With the season just a few weeks away, it was very important for Upton to make his way back onto the field and so the risk in investing in him during drafts has been lessened as a result.  So with that out of the way, now it is time to dive back into Upton's profile in terms of 2019 fantasy baseball. 

When it comes to Upton and his numbers, few players and more stable.  While it is true Upton is aging a bit as he enters into the season at the age of 31, he remains on top of his game in coming off a 2018 campaign that saw him post:

.257
30 HR
85 RBI
80 R
8 SB
28.7 K/9
10.4 BB/9
.321 BABIP

Having extended his 30-home run campaigns to four in a row last season, it is easy to see that power is the most bankable commodity for Upton.  Even though he has dealt with a knee issue this spring, Upton has also been one of the most durable players in the game as he has logged 8 straight seasons of 600-plus at-bats.  The latter is nothing to sneer at since durability is such a precious and often overlooked aspect of evaluating a player and also on that front, we get a nice amount of counting numbers in runs and RBI for Upton.  So at the very least, you get three categories of terrific production from Upton on yearly basis and never really have to worry about him missing games. 

Now as far as the downside, we could be seeing the end of Upton as a runner as he had just 8 swipes last season which was down from 14 the year prior.  This would not be a total shock as Upton has passed the age of 30 when the steals begin to evaporate for all players and so it is not a smart idea to project that into his value in drafts this spring. 

Finally, the batting average for Upton has become a red flag of late as he has batted under .,270 in three of the last four seasons.  A lot of that has to do with Upton's horrific strikeouts rates which went up to 28.7 a year ago.  That is a very nasty number and will do damage to anyone's average.  Luckily, Upton draws walks (10.4 BB/9 last season) and also has decent BABIP's on a yearly basis which helped him from going into the .230 gutter.  Still, the average is a negative no matter how you slice it. 

When you combine all of the number, Justin Upton remains a top OF 2 and maybe a low-end OF 1 in fantasy baseball for 2019 but keep in mind he is getting a tad older and perhaps the injury woes this spring are a reminder of this. 

2019 PROJECTION:  .255 32 HR 89 RBI 93 R 7 SB  


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL TOP 20 STARTING PITCHERS

The starting pitchers are up as we continue our tour around the fantasy baseball positions with the season fast approaching/

1.  Max Scherzer
2.  Jacob DeGrom
3.  Justin Verlander
4.  Chris Sale
5.  Gerrit Cole
6.  Corey Kluber
7.  Aaron Nola
8.  Blake Snell
9.  Trevor Bauer
10. Walker Buehler
11. Carlos Carrasco
12. Noah Syndergaard
13. Clayton Kershaw
14. Patrick Corbin
15. James Paxton
16. Stephen Strasburg
17. Mike Clevinger
18. Jose Berrios
19. Jack Flaherty
20. Zack Greinke


Saturday, March 16, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT SLEEPER: MAX KEPLER OUTFIELDER MINNESOTA TWINS

When the Minnesota Twins inked outfielder Max Kepler to a contract extension earlier in spring training, it signaled that the team was all-in on their young slugger and that they envision some good times ahead in terms of numbers.  Having turned 26 this past February, Kepler came off a 2018 campaign that was decent but also lacking in some areas as the numbers came in as follows:

.224
20 HR
58 RBI
80 R
4 SB
.236 BABIP
15.7 K/9
11.6 BB/9

Looking at the numbers above, the home runs were pretty decent and the runs scored not too shabby as well.  The .224 average was hideous though and that statistic really carried the day for Kepler in terms of how the fantasy baseball community viewed him.  While that number was quite ugly, it is imperative that you dig in deeper under the hood on Kepler and on that front, things actually look pretty promising.  For one thing, Kepler's .236 BABIP was tremendously unlucky and that alone helped drive the average down.  In addition, Kepler actually was terrific both with his walk rate (11.6 BB/9) and strikeouts (15.7 BB/9) as those numbers combined together look more like someone who can hit .300.  With Kepler looking like he has another level of power to tap into, we could be looking at 25 homers with a vastly improved average and solid counting numbers in runs and RBI this season for the price of a very late-round pick.  While Kepler is quite boring on the surface due to the fact he doesn't steal bases, upside plays like this in the late rounds can serve as league winners. 

2019 PROJECTION:  .267 23 HR 74 RBI 88 R 6 SB  


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT SLEEPER: ADALBERTO MONDESI SS KANSAS CITY ROYALS

For the kid once known as "Raul Jr.", it is not an understatement to say that Kansas City Royals shortstop prospect Adalberto Mondesi will be among the most-hyped "have to have him" players entering into 2019 fantasy baseball drafts.  While Mondesi's ugly hitting struggles prior to last season were well-documented, it appeared that a change in his stance at the dish while in the minors have unlocked what can only be described as tremendous pure physical talent.  It is very rare to find a player who is built both for high-end power and speed like Mondesi is and his 75-game run with the Royals a year ago (.276, 14 home runs, 32 stolen bases) was a league-clincher for many who were lucky enough to pick him up off waivers.  Even though it is far from an exact science, extrapolating Mondesi's half-season run with the Royals last season would result in absolutely silly numbers and that will fuel the hype train as 2019 drafts arrive.  So in terms of what to do with Mondesi in such a crazed environment, it is would be an impossible sell to avoid paying what is expected to be a very high price for the power/speed marvel this spring but we also need to remind you of the endless cases of guys with similar half-year explosions falling on their faces the following year.  It is under this conservative breath where you need to really focus in on the fact that despite all the beautiful surface numbers last season, Mondesi's plate approach remain very ugly as his 3.8 BB/9 was pathetic and the 26.5 K/9 were nothing to write home about either.  So that .276 Mondesi hit last season is unlikely to be repeated going forward if those advanced metrics don't improve and remember this is still the same guy who hit .170 and .185 during trial looks with the team from 2016-17.  In the end, you really don't want to get caught up in the craziness that will be Mondesi's 2019 draft cost because the jury is still out here on what kind of overall offensive player he can be.
2019 PROJECTION:  .253 23 HR 65 RBI 77 R 44 SB  

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL OUTFIELDERS I WILL AVOID

I already shared with you the outfielders I will make it a point to target in drafts this spring.  The flip side are those I will avoid so let's see who likely won't be on my rosters this spring.

J,D. Martinez:  Listen I respect the massive power and batting title average of Martinez as much as anyone but I am more into five-tool outfielders with a first-round pick and not a fourth category stud.  Since Martinez will likely require a Round 1 pick in almost all fantasy baseball leagues this spring, I will pass.

Giancarlo Stanton:  With power as pronounced as it has been since the steroid era, I won't be investing high round draft capital in Stanton who still brings to the table a shaky average with all the power. 

George Springer:  Springer is one of those guys you always feel like should provide some more for the high draft cost.  Whether it is the mediocre average or underwhelming steals, Springer doesn't do it for me. 

Dee Gordon:  Speed guys can completely fall off the cliff when they reach 30 and it may not be a coincidence that Gordon had his worst season in 2018 since becoming an everyday guy. 

Chris Taylor:  I correctly predicted that Taylor was playing well over his head in 2017 and last season proved me right. 

A.J. Pollock:  You all know I was once a huge fan of Pollock but boy I just can't deal with the injuries and now sliding batting average anymore., 

Joey Gallo:  Sure 40 homers are nice but the .200 average takes a ton of that value away. 

Ryan Braun:  He is a longtime pariah to me and now he is looking well on the back-nine of his PEd career. 

Michael Brantley:  I really don't see Brantley staying healthy two seasons in a row and his overall offensive game is solid but far from spectacular. 


Friday, March 15, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY WATCH: LUIS SEVERINO LIKELY OUT AT LEAST MAY AND MAYBE LONGER

A bad situation appears to be getting worse when it comes to the health and eventual return of New York Yankees ace Luis Severino if one listened to their GM.  On Friday while taking part in an interview with WFAN NY Radio, Cashman stated that it will likely be May 1 at the earliest that Severino would return to the team and that it could be even longer.  Out since the beginning of spring training with shoulder soreness, Cashman made it seem that Severino making it back by May 1 is just case scenario and also hinted that he will be treated with kid gloves prior to the return.  This is obviously nothing but bad news for Severino's owners who were hoping for a mid-April return but now one full month of prospective numbers seems to be falling by the wayside and maybe more.  Having engineered a truly horrible second half of 2018 after an ace-level first half, one has to wonder if the shoulder trouble began to flare then for Severino without him feeling pain.  Given how ugly the results were, Severino clearly was not right and he is one of the bigger early spring injury casualties.  Those who still haven't drafted should only be selecting Severino as an SP 3 due to the uncertainty surrounding him. 


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: CARLOS CORREA SS HOUSTON ASTROS

Amazingly having turned just 24 this past September, Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa's status as a top-tier fantasy baseball talent is completely secure despite a somewhat difficult 2018 campaign caused mainly due to a lengthy DL stint for a back problem.  Missing a month-and-a-half during the summer as a result of the injury wound up causing Correa's offensive numbers to plummet since his reduced 468 at-bats came out to just 15 home runs, 65 RBI, and a very ugly .239 average.  Before going into why we remain so high on Correa off such a rough year, let's get the remaining negatives out of the way first.  One such issue concerns Correa completely applying the brakes on the running game as he has now stolen a total of just 5 bases in the last two seasons combined.  It is strange that Correa has already kicked this part of his game to the curb given his youth but perhaps injuries have caused him to re-think the risk the whole exercise brings.  Beyond the decline in steals, Correa's power has been of the good-but-not-great variety as he has yet to hit more than 24 home runs in four MLB seasons.  So while we again can go back to the youth as a reason why Correa may not have grown into his power peak just yet, it should be noted he is not in the class of Manny Machado, Francisco Lindor, or Trevor Story on this front.  With all that said, Correa's present and future remain very bright as he operates toward the top of the very potent Astros order and it was only in 2017 where he batted .315 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI for the team.  As far as the average dip a year ago, Correa dealt with an unlucky .282 BABIP that was way down from .328 and .352 tallies from 2016-17 and so a rebound there seems likely.  So once you take into account the remaining upside and the likelihood Correa will have better health/batted ball luck this season, a strong case can be made of him being a decent second-round pick this spring in your draft. 
2019 PROJECTION:  .288 27 HR 88 RBI 89 R 4 SB  

Thursday, March 14, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL OUTFIELDERS I WILL TARGET

Since we went 100 deep with our 2019 fantasy baseball outfielder rankings, we have separated the typical "target/avoid" piece to just the guys yours truly will look towards in drafts this spring.  Tomorrow check back for those I will avoid.

OUTFIELDERS I WILL TARGET

Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Christian Yelich, Ronald Acuna Jr.:  All four outfielders are of the five-tool variety and all are worth a first-round pick.  While you can quibble a bit on Acuna Jr. being more of a second-round guy, anchoring your team with one of these monsters is an excellent way to begin the draft.

Bryce Harper:  A full season of Harper in the launching pad in Philly?  Yes please and this from someone who has been a big critic of his.

Andrew Benintendi:  The 20/20 ability is already there and Benintendi still has a season or two before he reaches his prime.  I have no qualms making him a third-round pick.

Starling Marte/Whit Merrifield:  I have these two together as they are essentially the same player.  Lots of steals, some pop, and a solid average.  Merrifield does have the better versatility though.

Nick Castellanos:  Now a full-time outfielder, Castellanos has an easy 23-26 homers in his bat already and the 30 mark is not far behind.  Even better is if he gets traded which seems likely.

Lorenzo Cain:  One of my all-time favorites, you never take a loss investing with this always underrated five-tool outfielder.

Michael Conforto:  Yes I am a New York Mets fan but I would be all-in on Conforto anyways given his easy 30 homer power and remaining youth.

Ender Inciarte:  Always have been a big fan of Inciarte and now he will likely move back to leadoff where he is a good bet for 100 runs, 10 homers, and 25 steals at least.

David Dahl:  I think the hype is getting a bit too much here but I am a big booster of Dahl's potential given the Coors Field backdrop.

Yasiel Puig:  There is always a bust factor when investing in Puig but he was pretty darn good on a per game basis last season and now he moves into a prime hitter's park.

Mallex Smith:  Lots of steals here and like with Ender Inciarte, there is a bit of pop here as well.

Nomar Mazara:  The 20 home run baseline is already established but you get the feeling there is more where that came from.  I am buying.

Max Kepler:  Cheap pop.

Franmil Reyes:  Cheap pop 2.0.

Jurickson Profar:  Always been a big fan of Profar and he finally began to show what all the fuss is about last season.  There should be more in the well from the looks of it.








Wednesday, March 13, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL OUTFIELDER RANKINGS: 81-100

The last batch of outfielder rankings are set before we delve in on the pitchers.  Let's see how should be among your selections in the last few rounds of your draft.

81. Marwin Gonzalez
82. Nick Williams
83. Derek Dietrich
84. Steven Souza Jr.
85. Teoscar Hernandez
86. Daniel Palka
87. Scott Schebler
88. Cedric Mullens
89. Matt Adams
90. Adam Duvall
91. Mark Trumbo
92. Michael Taylor
93. Albert Almora Jr.
94. Alex Gordon
95. Nick Goodrum
96. Adam Duvall
97. Melky Cabrera
98. Delino DeShields Jr.
99. Jay Bruce
100.Jose Pirela


2019 FANTASY FOOTBALL BREAKING NEWS: LE'VEON BELL SIGNS ON WITH THE JETS

Was the holdout worth it?  It certainly doesn't appear to be on the surface for running back Le'Veon Bell who agreed to a four-year deal worth $52.5 million last night with the New York Jets.  After sitting out the entire 2018 season and losing millions in the process, the Bell market failed to develop the way both he and many in the industry anticipated and so the multi-talented star ends up with $35 million guaranteed when the expectation was that this number would be much higher.  The fact of the matter is that Bell likely scared off quite a bit of potential suitors not only with his diva act last season but also for the run-ins with both the law and the league in terms of past drug use.  Be that as it may, Bell does end up in a good spot on a Jets team who will ride him heavily both in the run and pass game and the team also shored up their offensive line by trading for Pro Bowl guard Kelechi Osemele.  In terms of fantasy football, Bell should slide right back into the mid-first round territory and sit behind Todd Gurley (as long as the knee checks out), Saquon Barkley, and maybe only Christian McCaffrey.  

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

2019 FANTASY FOOTBALL BREAKING NEWS: ODELL BECKHAM JR. TRADED TO THE CLEVELAND BROWNS

Just days after consensus number 1 wideout Antonio Brown was dealt to the Oakland Raiders, the New York Giants pulled the plug on their 'giant' Odell distraction by trading their star wideout to the Cleveland Browns for a first and third-round pick.  Safety Jabril Peppers will also head to New York but obviously, the big news is Beckham being sent packing just one year after signing a massive extension with the Giants.  Clearly, Browns QB Baker Mayfield stands to benefit the most out of this as the already studly rookie passer will now become a tremendous investment for 2019 fantasy football given the fact Beckham joins Jarvis Landry to give him arguably one of the best pair of receivers in the game.  As far as Beckham is concerned, getting away from the aging Eli Manning will also serve as a nice boost as he holds his standard top-five overall receiver label.  In totality here, the Giants seem ready for a possible tank job for Tua Tagovailoa this season and it could be tough sledding for QB Saquon Barkley facing so many stacked defensive lines. 


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: JOEY GALLO 1B/3B/OF

It was not all that long ago when the home run in fantasy baseball became a valued commodity as the pitching fraternity dominating the proceedings and much of the reasoning behind this development was major league baseball moving away from the steroid era.  As a result, those batters who were capable of launching 30-plus and especially 40-plus home runs were incredibly valued and went for a premium price at the draft table.  Fast forward to present day and the home run in fantasy baseball is now an oversaturated statistic to the point that 25 long balls are looked at with a yawn.  Be that as it may, there is still something magical about the 40-home run plateau and those still rare number of players who can get there.  One such player is Texas Rangers slugger Joey Gallo who has achieved the feat in back-to-back campaigns and who goes into the 2019 season at just the age of 25.  Of course, the downside with Gallo is a significant one and it centers on his truly pitiful batting average which has come in at .209 and .206 the last two seasons.  The blame for that goes squarely on Gallo's pathetic strikeout rate which has come dangerously close to the 40.0 since reaching the majors.  With all that said, let's dig in again on Gallo in order to see if he can change this up-and-down narrative heading into the new season.

The most obvious talking point with Gallo is his true three-outcome approach which means any one of his given at-bats results in either a strikeout, a walk, or a home run.  Gallo takes this result to the extreme as he walks a ton, strikes out at a ridiculous pace, and swats 40 homers in between.  2018 was no different as Gallo put up the following numbers:

.206
40 HR
92 RBI
82 R
3 SB
35.9 K/9
12.8 BB/9
.249 BABIP

So as you can see, Gallo helps in a big way in home runs and also is a prime asset in RBI and a decent contributor in runs due to a high OBP helped by the 12.8 BB/9.  Unfortunately, a lot of the value from those homers gets eaten away by the vast negative from the batting average which at .206 is a huge problem.  When you strike out at higher than a 35.0 percent clip, the average is going to be pathetic no matter how much you walk and this is the scarlett letter that Gallo carries around.  Be that as it may, Gallo's homers are monstrous and as an added bonus, he carries eligibility at first base, third base, and the outfield which should not be overlooked.  Still, you really need to make sure you are covered in the batting average category if you invest Gallo and his massive hot and cold streaks make him one of the most aggravating players to own.  

2019 PROJECTION:  .215 42 HR 95 RBI 86 R 5 SB  


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: LUIS CASTILLO SP CINCINNATI REDS

If one were to poll the original Luis Castillo fantasy baseball owners in 2018, the general consensus reaction to the experience would undoubtedly be a negative one.  Having entered into the season as one of the more sought after sleepers on the heels of a very impressive 2017 debut (3.12 ERA, 9.87 K/9, 1.22 WHIP), predictions that Castillo was the next big power arm were being floated around the fantasy baseball community.  As so often happens when the hype gets out of hand, things went in the wrong direction for Castillo early on in the season as he was battered unmercifully to the tune of an unfathomable 5.49 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, and an 8.36 K/9).  Pretty much everything went wrong for Castillo during this span and it was easy to see that the kid was completely shell-shocked and lacking zero confidence.  It also was at this point where many Castillo fantasy baseball owners jumped ship in sending him to their league’s waiver wire en masse which was understandable considering how brutal the numbers were.  However, the Reds deserve credit for sticking with Castillo through the struggles and pretty soon their patience was rewarded when the righty went on a second-half tear in logging a 2.44 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and 9.36 K/9 rate.  As a result of that run, many original Castillo owners were left seething even more than they were before as they watched an opposing league member snatch him up and gain the benefit of those tremendous numbers.  So in terms of the totality of the season, it is easy to see that Castillo worked through a sophomore slump and figured things out on the fly in terms of how to adjust back against hitters who gained a book on his approach the previous winter.  While it is foolish to compare the two halves of 2018 in projecting Castillo for next season, we can draw some conclusions that are bankable.  The most potent would be Castillo’s propensity for collecting strikeouts which have always been a part of the statistical equation here and has resulted in 263 K’s in 259 career major league innings.  Also not to be overlooked is the fact Castillo’s BABIP of .282 was in the unlucky territory last season and so his composite 4.30 ERA should have been lower.  With the walks also checking out nicely (2.60 BB/9), Castillo only has to work on keeping his very high home run rate (1.49 HR/9) in check in order for him to achieve optimum efficiency.  So what we have here is a fantasy baseball stock that will be much quieter this spring then it was compared to a year prior but that just means the payoff can be more potent given the fact Castillo still retains the vast upside that made us all chase him in the first place.
2019 PROJECTION:  12-11 3.77 ERA 1.24 WHIP 179 K 

Monday, March 11, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL STOCK WATCH: ENDER INCIARTE COULD BE BRAVES' LEADOFF MAN, RONALD ACUNA TO GO TO CLEANUP

Lineup decisions are always a severely underrated aspect of evaluating players in yearly fantasy baseball leagues and the Atlanta Braves have one of the more intriguing decisions to make in terms of who will bat leadoff for them in 2018.  Last season it was a combination of first Ender Inciarte and then superstar rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. who finished up in that precious spot for the team and their respective fantasy baseball values were swayed on both fronts.  While Inciarte had the leadoff spot unfairly taken away from him in our opinion, his speed-centric game was not a good match for the lower third of the order which is where he languished once Acuna came up.  While Acuna was every bit the stud we all anticipated him to be, it appears as though the Braves will shake things up among the two again this season.  For most of the spring training slate to this point, Inciarte has been the team's leadoff man as he was again on Monday when he picked up another stolen base and doubled twice.  Acuna Jr. meanwhile batted cleanup where he slammed a home run.  With both guys seeming to be natural for those two spots, count on this being the setup for Opening Day.

Now in terms of fantasy baseball, anyone owning stock in Inciarte will love to see him as the leadoff guy where his game is best suited.  While Inciarte has a bit of pop that could result in a helpful 10 home runs or so, steals, runs, and average is the name of the game here.  The steals in particular as where it's at for Inciarte who swiped 28 bags a year ago.  Add in the .280-plus average which is pretty typical of Inciarte and you have yourself a very valuable OF 3 candidate.  Acuna Jr. meanwhile will surely see fewer steal chances in the cleanup spot which is a bit of a letdown but he figures to make for this with more RBI.  Either way, both guys should be fine fantasy baseball assets this season by the looks of the current arrangement. 




2019 FANTASY BASEBALL OUTFIELDER RANKINGS: 61-80

The second-to-last batch of outfielder rankings almost put the finishing touches on this always deep and at the same time very key fantasy baseball position. 

61.  Nick Markakis
62. Byron Buxton
63. Randal Grichuk
64. Franmil Reyes
65. Austin Meadows
66. Gregory Polanco
67. Manuel Margot
68. Kevin Kiermaier
69. Chris Taylor
70. Yoenis Cespedes
71. Jackie Bradley Jr.
72. Kyle Tucker
73. Max Kepler
74. Josh Reddick
75. Ben Zobrist
76. Avisail Garcia
77. Matt Kemp
78. Jorge Soler
79. Brett Gardner
80. Kole Calhoun


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: JOEY VOTTO 1B CINCINNATI REDS

The curious case of Joey Votto circa 2018 has confounded many in the fantasy baseball community as drafts are fully underway in the industry.  Universally considered of of the very best pure hitters of his generation, Votto had an absolute blockbuster campaign in 2017 when he slammed 36 home runs, scored 100, collected 100 RBI, and batted .320.  With Votto showing no signs of slowing down despite reaching his 30's, he once again was in the late round 1/early round 2 territory when drafts got going last spring.  Alas, Votto proceeded to put forth a very disappointing 2018 campaign that included drastic dips in almost all the key offensive categories.  When the dust settled, Votto completely went bust to the tune of the following numbers:

.284
12 HR
67 RBI
67 R
2 SB
17.3 BB/9
16.2 K/9
.333 BABIP

The fact that those digits above came in a massive 623 at-bats and that Votto still carried around a very lucky .333 BABIP made his erosion even more disturbing when looked through any lens.  So the main question concerning Votto this spring is whether or not this is his new statistical normal and whether at the age of 35, he is done as a prime fantasy baseball contributor. 

As we always do, digging into the numbers is key and on that front, there are mostly negatives.  As we noted earlier, Votto saw a sizable batting average dip DESPITE carrying such a lucky .333 BABIP and his power fell completely off the map as well in doing from 36 to just 12 homers despite collecting 623 at-bats.  The age factor is real and could absolutely be a main factor in Votto's decline and this from a guy who has a history of knee trouble that could also be hurting the power.  Now Votto's eye is still as good as it gets as shown by the insane 17.3 BB/9 and miniscule 16.2 K/9 but Votto's fly ball rate totally plummeted from 38.0 percent in 2017 down to just 31.1 a year ago.  With Votto's line drive rate going up in turn, we could be seeing a transition here from a guy who was a tremendous power hitter to someone who is more of a singles/doubles weapon.  As we all know, age does not discriminate and in Votto's case, the numbers dip pretty much across the board is too stark to ignore.  While we still laud Votto's well-earned reputation as one of the best hitters in the game, his profile shift on that front has turned him into more of a CI or UTIL guy in fantasy baseball. 

2019 PROJECTION:  .298 17 HR 86 RBI 88 R 6 SB  


Sunday, March 10, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL OUTFIELDER RANKINGS: 41-60

Here are the 2019 fantasy baseball outfielder rankings in terms of who made the cut for number 41-60. 

41. Adam Eaton
42. Ender Inciarte
43. Andrew McCutchen
44. Harrison Bader
45. Corey Dickerson
46. Stephen Piscotty
47. Kyle Schwarber
48. Ryan Braun
49. Domingo Santana
50. Billy Hamilton
51. Brandon Nimmo
52. Odubel Herrera
53. Hunter Renfroe
54. Shin-Soo Choo
55. Jose Martinez
56. Jesse Winker
57. Ian Happ
58. Brandon Belt
59. Trey Mancini
60. Ramon Laureano


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: GRADE 1 OBLIQUE STRAIN TO SIDELINE VLAD GUERRERO JR. 3 WEEKS

The consensus top prospect in baseball by a mile, Toronto Blue Jays third base property Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will miss the next three weeks after being diagnosed with a Grade 1 oblique strain.  While it was assumed Guerrero Jr. would be sent to the minors to begin the season due to service time concerns, the oblique strain now could push things back to a May debut instead since he will have to get back up to speed in terms of facing pitching.  All in all, this is just a small bump along the road to stardom for Guerrero Jr. who is about as can't miss a prospect as you can get.  Even if he were to come up at or around May 1, Guerrero is still fully capable of 25 homers, at least 80 RBI, and an average well above .300 given his insane contact skills. 


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT SLEEPER: MATT STRAHM SP SAN DIEGO PADRES

With Manny Machado sucking up almost all of the energy in the San Diego Padres' camp this spring, it can be easy to overlook some of the other intriguing aspects of the roster such as catcher Francisco Mejia (still tearing it up with another homer Saturday), closer Kirby Yates, and starting pitcher Joey Lucchesi.  Lucchesi has some company though when it comes to a high-K upside arm in the Padres rotation and it comes in the form of deceptive lefty Matt Strahm who just put the finishing touches on another dominant spring outing on Saturday when he punched out 8 batters in just 4 innings without a walk and allowing just two hits.  That sparkling effort brought Strahm's spring run of scoreless frames to 9 and with 12 strikeouts to go with it.  Clearly there is some sizable strikeout potential here and some intriguing overall skills that have Strahm shaping up as a fast-rising fantasy baseball sleeper.

Now in terms of the particulars, Strahm was originally just a  21st round pick back in 2012 and it certainly took him awhile to reach the majors as he already is 27.  With that said, Strahm has been nothing but a strikeout machine every step of the way and he finally solidified a spot in the majors in 2018 when he was incredibly impressive to the tune of a 2.05 ERA and 10.13 K/9 for the Padres while pitching both in relief and in making five starts.  With an average fastball velocity that sits in the solid but unspectacular 94 range, Strahm gets a bunch of his K's through some wicked movement on the heater that makes it a tremendous handful.  While this does lead to walks (3.08 BB/9), Strahm clearly knows how to pitch and the high amount of strikeouts are always something we look for when investing late rounds picks in a pitcher.  Now we are not saying this Strahm spring success story will carry over into the regular season but the guy is certainly worth our attention.



Friday, March 8, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING REPORT: HOUSTON ASTROS

By Michael Wong

West Palm Beach, Fla.--The Houston Astros are back as one of the favorites to win the 2019 World Series and this has been the status they have held for the last three spring trainings which of course included a championship.  While the Astros fell short in attempting to defend their title last season in losing to the Boston Red Sox, they are primed for another prime season but with a bit of an understanding that the window is already closing.  With free agency set to hit a number of key players, the Astros are all-in to win.  So with that said, let's check in on some of the pertient fantasy baseball issues surrounding the team this spring.

1.  Someone should really try to figure out how ace starter Justin Verlander found the Fountain of Youth as that is the only way to explain how the future first ballot Hall of Famer had his BEST season ever in 2018 at the age of 36.  In logging a 2.52 ERA and 0.90 WHIP with 290 strikeouts, Verlander put forth the best K rate of his career and also posted a personal-best sub-2.00 BB/9.  The feat is even more amazing when you consider the massive amount of mileage on Verlander's arm but he seems to be one of those rare rubber-armed pitchers who never get old or feel fatigue.  While you can choose to worry about age, we won't as Verlander should continue to be graded as a top five SP.

2.  Astros shortstop Carlos Correa is a bit of a strange statistical case on a number of fronts, with the first being that he suddenly decided to stop running starting in 2017 when he was just 22.  Then there have been the injuries which have resulted in long DL stints each of the last two seasons which have further earned Correa scorn.  As a result of all this, Correa saw his stock drop for 2019 fantasy baseball as he no longer can be considered a five-tool guy and now the injury threat needs to be factored into cost.  Be that as it may, Correa is still a few seasons away from his prime and 30 home runs and 90 RBI is very much in play if he can stay healthy.

3.  If you want a deep sleeper to target this spring, try 1B/DH Tyler White who has a long history of hitting the ball hard in the minors and who may have finally started to figure out MLB pitching at the age of 27 in 2018.  Having hit 12 home runs in just 210 at-bats last season, White has shown his .311 career minor league average is no fluke and so 25 homers could be in the offing as the team's everyday DH and semi-first baseman.

4.  While it may be just talk, outfielder George Springer has said he wants to steal more bases this season and that would be welcome since that part of his game has completely fallen by the wayside despite being a major force there in the minors.  Even without the steals being part of the picture though, Springer has proven to be a force with 29, 34, and 22 homers the last three seasons to go with over 100 runs scored in each campaign.  Still, there are warts as Springer has put up mostly mediocre batting averages and his positioning in the leadoff spot has hurt the RBI chances.  If Springer does decide to start running again though as he has so far in spring training, then we are looking at an even more potent OF 1.

5.  Since his arrival to the majors, it seemed only a matter of time before SS/3B Alex Bregman turned into a star and that has taken place already in short order.  Showcasing a monster power bat to go with the ability to pick up some steals, Bregman is a true five-category phenom who is worth a late first-round pick in drafts this spring.  Even better, the guy is pretty entertaining on social media as am added bonus.


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: JOC PEDERSON OUTFIELDER LOS ANGELES DODGERS

We maybe received some optimistic news from Los Angeles Dodgers faded outfield prospect Joc Pederson last season as the slugger may finally have refined his batting approach enough to where we can think about diving back in here for 2019.  Prior to last season, there was almost no way you could stomach owning Pederson for long as some truly horrific strikeout problems sent both his batting average and overall fantasy baseball stock deep down into the toilet.  While the power remained steady given how naturally strong Pederson is, the all-or-nothing aspect of his game blended in with dozens of other similarly-skilled hitters that took up residence on the waiver wire.  With all that said though, Pederson made some firm gains in the strikeout area last season as his 19.2 K/9 was a career-best and actually went slightly above league average.  Considering that Pederson's K/9 was a brutal 27.3 in 2016, you can see how well he has worked to fix this issue.  With Pederson also drawing walks like he always had done previously (9.0 BB/9), it only took a very unlucky .253 BABIP from preventing his .248 average from going higher.  While Pederson's big minor league stolen base numbers will never surface in the majors by the looks of it (just one steal in 2018), we can see a move towards 30 homers and a .260 average if he can hold last season's strikeout gains.  This is certainly enough to put Pederson back in play as a decent bench outfielder this spring.
2019 PROJECTION:  .257 28 HR 67 RBI 65 R 2 SB

Thursday, March 7, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL OUTFIELDER RANKINGS: 21-40

We already shared our top 20 fantasy baseball outfielders for 2019 and so now let's dig a bit deeper on who makes the cut from 21-40.

21. Khris Davis
22. Yasiel Puig
23. Mitch Haniger
24. Michael Conforto
25. Marcell Ozuna
26. Tommy Pham
27. David Dahl
28. A.J. Pollock
29. Michael Brantley
30. Nick Castellanos
31. Wil Myers
32. Joey Gallo
33. Aaron Hicks
34. Eloy Jimenez
35. Mallex Smith
36. Nomar Mazara
37. Victor Robles
38. Ian Desmond
39. David Peralta
40. Dee Gordon


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT SLEEPER: JACK FLAHERTY SO ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Want a true dark horse contender to win the 2019 NL Cy Young Award?  Try the St. Louis Cardinals' hard-throwing righty Jack Flaherty who in 2018 stamped his claim as one of the very best young pitchers when baseball when he put up the following number:

8-9
3.34 ERA
1.11 WHIP
10.85 K/9
3.52 BB/9
1.19 HR/9
.257 BABIP

When you look at the numbers above, the strikeouts quickly jump out and certainly the point is driven home when you see that Flaherty punched out 182 batters in just 151 innings.  What is interesting about Flaherty's stuff is that his 93.8 average fastball velocity a year ago is not overly potent but it is the knee-buckling offspeed stuff that nets a ton of swings and misses.  In particular, Flaherty's slider is about as good as there is in baseball and the curveball is just as impressive.  The wicked movement does lead to walks as shown by the high 3.52 BB/9 but Flaherty seems absolutely capable of sailing past the 200-K plateau this season and in the process become a top 10-15 fantasy baseball starter overall.  There are warts such as the walks and also the fact Flaherty's .257 BABIP last season was on the lucky side but at just the age of 23, there is some immense growth possibly remaining on the kid as he continues to develop.  This may be the last chance to ever buy Flaherty this cheaply though so be sure to get on board this spring. 

2019 PROJECTION:  14-8 3.38 ERA 1.14 WHIP 215 K  


Wednesday, March 6, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: LORENZO CAIN OUTFIELDER MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Sometimes annual MVP candidates can come in non-traditional packages; with an overall excellent game overcoming the tendency for voters to succumb to the appeal of big offensive number candidates.  Such a player in 2018 was Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain who not only once again played Gold Glove defense but also put forth multi-category production which was highlighted by 10 homers, 90 runs scored, 30 stolen bases, and a .308 average.  Severely underrated throughout his career, Cain's advanced metrics all were superb as well as he posted 11.5 BB/9 and 15.2 K/9 rates that helped him become a constant weapon on the bases.  While Cain is aging a bit as he turns 33 in April, he shows no signs of slowing down with his speed and in turn, ability to swipe bases.  It is crucial though that Cain holds onto this skill since a great deal of his fantasy baseball value comes from runs and steals.  Beyond the steals, Cain has been an annual batting average star, with three of his last four seasons ending up with marks over .300.  With Cain also scoring a ton of runs atop a very potent Brewers lineup and remaining capable of reaching double-digits in homers, the guy should continue being a major target for all in 2019 fantasy baseball drafts.  Annually one of our favorites in these pages, count this publication as aggressive Cain hounds.
2019 PROJECTION:  .314 11 HR 45 RBI 98 R 28 SB 

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING REPORT: WASHINGTON NATIONALS

By Michael Wong

West Palm Beach, Fla.--For the first time in nearly a decade, the Washington Nationals headed to spring training without Bryce Harper.  While the rumors persisted the Nats would jump in at the last minute and re-sign their former MVP, Harper officially departed last week and to the team's divisional rival the Philadelphia Phillies.  Despite the monster-sized loss, the Nats didn't sit idly by this past winter as they inked the top free agent pitcher on the market in Patrick Corbin and are now rumored to be in on closer Craig Kimbrel.  With that said, let's take a look, at some of the more notable fantasy baseball issues surrounding the team.

1.  With Harper and his thump now in the City of Brotherly Love, the Nats are going to turn to more of a smaller-ball approach and this could work very well given the presence of potential superstar Trea Turner and perennially intriguing but always injured Adam Eaton at the top of the order.  Right now the plan is for Eaton to lead off and Turner to bat second (which will continue to frustrate Turner's owners) but there figure to be a ton of runs and steals to be had from this duo.  Turner of course is the headliner as the fantasy baseball first round pick hit 19 homers, stole 43 bags, and batted .271 a year ago but those numbers seem like the floor for him going forward.  Still just 25, Turner can easily be a 60 steal guy if he avoids the injury misfortune that has hit him at times and the average should come up as well since he draws walks (9.3 BB/9) and doesn't strike out a ton (17.8 K/9).  Yes you want to see Turner leading off which will only help pad the steals but Eaton is certainly capable there as a .300 hitting/15-homer/100-run potential OF 2.  Eaton has been incredibly fragile with his health though so be sure not to go overboard with the investment here.

2.  When Kansas City Royals annual All-Star catcher Salvador Perez went down with a torn UCL in his elbow that will require surgery and keep him out for all of 2019, my thoughts became even more cemented about the wisdom to once again wait on drafting the position and instead double down on both Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki this season. Both guys had quietly very good years in 2018 (Gomez at .266 with 16 homers and Suzuki at .271 with 12 homers).  If you draft both, you get an above-average catcher to use DAILY and not have to deal with missed games.  Combine the power together and you get 28 homers and a solid average.  Works for me.

3.  The Kimbrel rumors are interesting and also potentially bad news for current closer Sean Doolittle in terms of the latter losing save chances. Kimbrel would certainly be the closer if brought aboard as he is on a potential Hall of Famer track but that is not to take away what a tremendous and sometimes dominant pitcher Doolittle has also been.  The problem with Doolittle is that he is always hurt and when he does get injured, the stint on the DL is a long one.  Also with Doolittle being a lefty, he can work more ideally in setup for matchup purposes while Kimbrel finishes things off.  As a result, be careful what you spend on Doolittle until this situation works itself out.

4.  My colleagues in New York already wrote about Nats ace Stephen Strasburg and why he rightfully is once again a bust candidate this season and maybe that is why the team shelled out so much for Corbin over the winter.  Coming off a career-year in 2018 when he logged a 3.15 ERA and struck out 246 batters, Corbin seems set to win a bunch of games with possibly similar numbers in 2019.  The problem with Corbin is that he has nowhere to go but down and you ideally should avoid paying top fare for a career campaign.  In addition, there is a decent injury risk here as Corbin throws with a bit of a rough delivery and already has a Tommy John in the bag.  If you can, try and procure Corbin as an SP 2.

5.  Look out opposing pitchers as Juan Soto is ready to put a hurting on you.  Then 19-year-old defied all expectations by coming up and slamming 22 home runs in 494 at-bats and hitting .292.  While you should always worry about a sophomore slump, Soto is about as advanced a hitter as you can get for his young age and the power should only grow from here.  We could be seeing the next J.D. Martinez here so get ready to pay through the nose.


Tuesday, March 5, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: MATT CHAPMAN 3B OAKLAND A'S

Oakland A's 2014 first-round pick Matt Chapman didn't take long to turn himself into a star for the 2018 AL Wild Card winners as a somewhat slow start to the season ended with the guy garnering some MVP attention due to excellence both offensively and defensively.  Quickly showing himself to be a human vacuum glove at first base, Chapman was certainly no slouch with the bat either as he hit .278 with 24 home runs and 100 runs scored while working near the top of what became a powerhouse Oakland lineup.  While the rest of Chapman's statistical haul was not overly impressive (1 stolen base, 68 RBI), there is every reason to believe he has another tier of production to reach given the fact he will turn just 26 in April.  Typical of an Oakland hitter, Chapman does a nice job drawing walks (9.4 BB/9) but in order for him to realize his optimal batting average potential, he needs to cut down a bit on the high 23.7 K.9 rate.  Considering the usually affordable price tag for West Coast hitters due to the late night starts of their games on the East Coast, Chapman is shaping up to be a very nice value play with some remaining upside for those who smartly take a look here in drafts.
2019 PROJECTION:  .284 26 HR 105 R 74 RBI 2 SB

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY WATCH: LUIS SEVERINO SHUT DOWN FOR 2 WEEKS, WILL BEGIN YEAR ON DL

Updating an earlier item, New York Yankees ace starter Luis Severino will be shut down for the next two weeks due to inflammation in his rotator cuff.  As a result, Severino will being the 2019 season on the DL and could be aimed at a mid-April return.  Severino was scratched from his outing on Tuesday due to experiencing pain in the shoulder which was confirmed in the MRI and so his loss is a big one considering he is widely considered a top ten fantasy baseball hurler.  The loss of Severino could also spur the Yanks to look into Dallas Keuchel or Gio Gonzalez who remain free agents but for now hard-throwing but unpolished Domingo German is the next man up.


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: TWINS' MIGUEL SANO OUT UNTIL MAY AFTER ACHILLES DEBRIDEMENT

The injuries are coming from all corners on Tuesday as Minnesota Twins third baseman Miguel Sano will miss all of April and possibly a portion of May due to undergoing debridement surgery as a result of a cut on his Achilles tendon.  The injury is just the latest blow for Sano whose career has really gone off the rails of late, including a 2018 where he was accused of domestic violence and struggled so bad with the bat he was sent back to the minor leagues.  While Sano's power remains very potent, the string of ugly batting averages and very high strikeout rates made him a one-tick power pony in terms of fantasy baseball.  Now Sano can be scratched off most cheat sheets given the surgery and with the news that Luis Severino is headed for an MRI on his shoulder, the injuries are really becoming a major problem for many in the fantasy baseball world. 


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY WATCH: LUIS SEVERINO SCRATCHED WITH SHOUDLER SORENESS

Here we go again!  Just weeks after Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw came down with a bout of shoulder soreness that likely will have him begin the 2019 season on the DL, now we get new that number 1 New York Yankees starter Luis Severino was scratched from his spring outing Tuesday with the same ailment.  As we have said too many times to count, shoulder woes for a pitcher is a serious as it gets since it often steals velocity and can quickly turn a very good pitcher into an ordinary one.  Perhaps we got a glimpse of potential trouble in Severino's shoulder during his downright brutal second half of 2018 after a Cy Young-worthy first and also keep in mind the young hurler has throw a TON of innings each of the last two seasons.  So what we have now is a big unknown in terms of severity and Severino has already been schedule for some testing which hopefully will add clarity to this.  Either way, Severino could have a tough time being ready to go for Opening Day given the likelihood he will be shut down for a bit and then have to ramp up again if cleared.  Those who already own stock in Severino could be in trouble here though so check back for some updates on this later. 


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT BUST: STEPHEN STRASBURG SP WASHINGTON NATIONALS

Maybe we should rename the "Fantasy Baseball Draft Bust" the "Stephen Strasburg Fantasy Baseball Draft Bust."  This would make sense since Strasburg has made our BUST list each of the last FOUR seasons and this spring makes it five and for good reason.  Despite annually carrying very expensive draft capital, Strasburg has almost always gone down as an overall disappointment due to massive injuries and an ERA that always seems to be a bit too high given the overall potency of his stuff.  Rightfully lauded as a supreme power pitching prospect when he first arrived on the scene, Strasburg was breathtaking in his ability to seemingly strike out everyone with mind-bending velocity and movement. Unfortunately, Strasburg has NEVER been able to stay healthy and as sure as the sun coming up in the morning is, so is his annual DL stint and maybe more than once as well.  Put it all together and Strasburg is not for the faint of heart. 

Now in terms of 2018, here is where Strasburg came in with his numbers:

10-7
3.74 ERA
1.20 WHIP
.237 BAA
10.80 K/9
2.63 BB/9
1.25 HR/9
.309 BABIP

Looking at the above numbers, you can see trouble almost everywhere for Strasburg and yes he spent more time on the DL last season in amassing just 130 innings.  Already a lousy investment based on the low inning totals and ongoing injuries, Strasburg's .237 BAA and 3.74 ERA were far from that of the supposed ace.  While still just 30, Strasburg's injuries appear to be taking a bite out of his stuff as his 95.2 average fastball velocity was a career-low and it is not just a coincidence that his HR/9 went up to a very scary 1.25.  So while Strasburg remains on a very good team capable of helping him win games and also still possessing impressive strikeout ability, the guy has become such an annual headache that you really should do your best to avoid this potential landmine.  We have seen this story way too many times now to think it will be any different this season. 

2019 PROJECTION:  12-8 3.56 ERA 1.23 WHIP 167 K  


Monday, March 4, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL OUTFIELDER RANKINGS: 1-20

The outfielders always require a number of separate postings in terms of position rankings and we begin with our top 20 for 2019 fantasy baseball.

1.  Mike Trout
2.  Mookie Betts
3.  Christian Yelich
5.  J.D. Martinez
6.  Bryce Harper
7.  Aaron Judge
8.  Charlie Blackmon
9.  Ronald Acuna Jr,.
10.Giancarlo Stanton
11. Juan Soto
12. Starling Marte
13. Rhys Hoskins
14. Whit Merrifield
15. Andrew Benintendi
16. George Springer
17. Eddie Rosario
18. Cody Bellinger
19. Lorenzo Cain
20. Justin Upton

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: AHMED ROSARIO EXITS AFTER HBP TO HIS LEFT HAND

Already known as one of the most snakebit teams in all of baseball when it comes to injury, the New York Mets then saw potential star shortstop Ahmed Rosario exit the team's spring training game versus the Boston Red Sox Monday after taking an HBP to his left hand.  Rosario was examined on the field before leaving for testing but this comes on the heels of third baseman Jed Lowrie dealing with a knee problem and 1B/3B Todd Frazier suffering an oblique strain.  Honestly, nothing gets the tension mounting among the fantasy baseball community then seeing the term "HBP" and "hand" in the same sentence as one of their batters.  Historically, it is about a 50/50 chance a break occurs and so Rosario could be in jeopardy of missing extended time.  The real shame of it all is that Rosario really turned it on in the second half of 2018 and has been red hot this spring as well.  Capable of hitting for average, stealing a bunch of bases, and popping some homers, Rosario's loss would be a decent one.  Check back later for an update on this. 


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: JOSE ALTUVE 2B HOUSTON ASTROS

While Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout once again was the consensus number 1 pick in most 2018 fantasy baseball leagues, there was a case to be made that Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve was worthy of such a distinction as well.  After all, Altuve was coming off what could only be described as a statistical bonanza the previous season when he won his third career batting title with a .346 mark; while also adding 24 home runs, 112 runs scored, 81 RBI, and 32 steals.  Also, while it seemed like Altuve has been around forever, he was actually just reaching his prime years in turning 28 that May.  So with Altuve's blockbuster five-tool ability well-established, those who did tab him number 1 overall likely didn't hear much of an argument from their league.  While Altuve was certainly fully deserving of not lasting past at worst the second pick in drafts last spring, the pint-sized dynamo actually had a bit of a tough time during the course of the 2018 season.  The biggest issue was Altuve being placed on the DL for the first time in his career with an injured knee and his 599 at-bats represented his lowest total since breaking in as a rookie in 2011.  Fewer at-bats meant fewer counting stats as Altuve came in at 13 home runs, 61 RBI, 84 runs scored, 17 steals, and a .315 average.  All five of those categories were sizable declines from not only 2017 but 2016 as well and there are multiple talking points to look at here.  The first is that Altuve's power decline is something to watch going forward as the 20-plus homers he hit in 2016-17 seemed a bit beyond what he was capable of given the advanced indicators.  In addition, any slip in stolen bases (Altuve lost 15 from 2017 to last season) need to be looked at closely given the trend of players losing some speed as they approach 30.  While Altuve will just be turning 29 in May, he has quite a bit of wear and tear on him already given the massive amount of plate appearances and games played he has undertaken since arriving with the Astros in 2011.  Perhaps the least concerning from this peanut stand was the average dip as .317 is still an excellent number and both Altuve's walks (9.2 BB/9) and strikeouts (13.2 K/9) remained right with career levels.  It very well could be the bum knee negatively impacted Altuve even when he did return from the DL last season and so a mini-mulligan could be given for his "disappointing numbers last season.  When you break it all down, we still think Altuve is every bit at the top of his game and should not last past the top five picks in all 2019 drafts this spring.
2019 PROJECTION:  .329 16 HR 84 RBI 115 R 28 SB  

Sunday, March 3, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: DANIEL MURPHY 1B/2B COLORADO ROCKIES

Already facing an initial stint on the DL to begin the 2018 season as he recovered from very scary micro fracture knee surgery, aging second baseman Daniel Murphy was stamped firmly on our "DO NOT DRAFT" list in these pages last spring.  As it turned out, Murphy didn't return to the Washington Nationals until mid-June and it wasn't until the second half of the season where the All-Star finally began to show the smooth-hitting skills that made him a mid-career renaissance story.  Having been traded to the Cubs once the Nats waved the white flag in August, Murphy finished with another solid average (.299) and still managed 12 home runs in 351 at-bats after working off the rust coming back from the surgery.  As he entered into free agency in his age-34 season, there are valid questions about whether Murphy is now into the decline phase of his career.  What we can say is that perennial .300 hitters like Murphy tend to hold onto this skill as they begin to age and so we have no qualms saying the guy should post another good number there in 2019.  Also, with walk and strikeout rate that remain right along career norms, Murphy is not really showing outward signs of dropping off as a hitter.  The real question mark centers on health and this is where things may get dicey as Murphy has long had knee trouble which took a rougher turn when he had the micro fracture surgery.  It is imperative that the threat of more health trouble is factored into whatever draft price Murphy comes attached with this spring but on the flip side, an expected drop in ADP also makes him somewhat of a bargain as well.  Adding some more optimism to the bottom line here, Murphy’s signing with the Colorado Rockies as a free agent last December puts him into one of the best hitting ballparks in the major leagues which will likely boost Murphy’s offensive numbers some and placing a prop bet on him to win the batting title this season would not be the worst idea in the world.  Finally, Murphy is expected to play first base for the Rockies which will give him eligibility at both infield positions on the right side as an added bonus.  So as long as you can get Murphy in the middle rounds and not any earlier, we are willing to sign off on one more season of usage.
2019 PROJECTION:  .294 20 HR 88 RBI 89 R 2 SB  

2019 NFL COMBINE REPORT: QUARTERBACKS TOOK CENTER STAGE WITH VARYING RESULTS

By Eric C. Wright

Indianapolis, IN.--The quarterbacks took center stage on Day 2 of the NFL Combine and there were some apparent strengths and struggles for those who decided to take part.  We say decided as Oklahoma's Kyler Murray decided to sit out amid increasing reports the Arizona Cardinals will take him with the number 1 pick.  In terms of those who were in fact involved, here are some quick takeaways.

HELPED THEIR CAUSE

-Right at the top, Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins showed why he is the top player at the position as he threw a very easy ball and was generally very accurate.  Yes the plus-5.00 40 time got a lot of attention but Haskins won't be drafted on his ability to run but instead on his rifle arm.  Nothing in terms of the throwing aspect of things hurt his stock. 

Missouri's Drew Locke also showcased a free and easy delivery and a true cannon capable of making any throw.  The accuracy was good but the issue that will dog Locke is why he came up small in so many big games for the team in college.  Denver's John Elway appears to be a fan though.

In terms of the rest of the field, plus marks got to N.C. State's Ryan Finley, Duke's Daniel Jones, Northwestern's Clayton Thorsen, and especially Auburn's Jarrett Stidham helped their draft stock.  Stidham in particular was downright fantastic as his accuracy was impeccable and he was the most impressive of any passer on the field in that regard. 

-Those who did some good things but also showed some struggles were Washington's Jake Browning, Iowa State's Kyle Schurmer, Mississippi State's Nick Fitzgerald, and Will Grier of West Virginia.  All graded out well in accuracy on short-to-intermediate throws but things went downhill when going deep.  Fitzgerald surprised a bit with his accuracy early on in drills as he was more of a runner than a pure thrower in college but he could be slated for a Taysom Hill role in the NFL. 

HURT THEIR CAUSE

-Now on the downside of things, Boise State's Brett Rypien and Penn State's Trace McSorely had the most difficult days among the passers.  Both guys really struggled with accuracy and it was obvious to all who were witnessing them.  Both likely are on the bubble to even get drafted after such a performance.  In addition, Buffalo's Tyree Jackson showcased a true cannon of an arm but he too struggled with accuracy in drills. 


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL THIRD BASEMAN I WILL DRAFT/AVOID

Just like I noted with shortstops, the lack of top-end first base talent this season beyond Freddie Freeman and Paul Goldschmidt makes it more of an option to go SS-five-tool OF or 3B-five tool OF among the first two rounds of the draft.  So on that front, here are the fantasy baseball third baseman I am looking to target and avoid.

THIRD BASEMAN I WILL TARGET

Nolan Arenado, Jose Ramirez, Manny Machado, Alex Bregman:  I love all four of these guys as do 99 percent of the fantasy baseball community for the battle will be fierce to secure them.  There should be no hesitation to draft any of them in Round 1 or early in Round 2 and in terms of fears regarding Machado going to San Diego, righty power actually plays well enough there to make this a minimal issue.

Kris Bryant:  Yeah this has become an interesting case with Bryant struggling badly last season and even seeing his numbers slip in the power department in 2017.  Shoulder trouble seems to be have been the case but the key here is that no surgery was performed which makes Bryant risky again this season. If the price is right though such as in the middle-to-late part of Round 2, I will take a stab.

Miguel Andujar:  Andujar is the real deal all the way around as his swing is a thing of beauty.  Add in 27 homers as a ROOKIE and a run to 30 is almost assured this season.

Rafael Devers:  While Andujar justifiable gets most of the attention among the rookie third base performances last season, don't sleep on this guy as Devers himself has 30 homer power and a long history in the minors of hitting for a good average.  Buy while the price is low. 

Eugenio Suarez:  One of the most underrated players in all of fantasy baseball, Suarez is a completely legitimate 25-30 homer guy who can hit .280.  Sigh me up.

Mike Moustakas:  I have been a huge critic of this guy in the past as his price has gone above where it should be during that time frame but now he has gone so far the other way in terms of cost that I am willing to buy.  The power plays very well in Milwaukee as well so Moustakas should be on your radar again.

Joey Wendle:  There is a lot to like here in Tampa's Joey Wendel who hit 7 homers and stole 16 bags in 2019.  This kind of power/speed upside is always worth a second look.

THIRD BASEMAN I WILL AVOID

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.:  Yes this is a buzzkill pick but I am not going to be drawn into the bidding here when Vlad will likely not come up until May.  The talent is otherworldly no doubt but outside of keepers I will spend my draft money more prudently. 

Justin Turner:  Listen I love Turner's pure hitting and underrated power as much as the next guy but injuries are becoming a seasonal issue and he is aging as well which makes the first negative so much more of a threat.

Wil Myers:  Tired of the injuries and also annually ugly batting average of San Diego's Will Myers. 

Matt Carpenter:  Sorry I am not paying for a career-year from a guy approaching his middle 30's. 

Josh Donaldson:  Could rebound with a new start in Atlanta but I am not paying to find out. 


Saturday, March 2, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: NOMAR MAZARA OUTFIELDER TEXAS RANGERS

Now three years into his still very young MLB career, Texas Rangers outfielder Nomar Mazara has the consistency thing down pat as he has hit exactly 20 home runs in each of those campaigns.  Last season those 20 homers were paired with 77 RBI, 61 runs, and a shoddy .258 average but it remains important to mention Mazara will turn only 24 this April which means some upside remains.  Be that as it may, the current version of Mazara is a bit underwhelming as he took a step back both in walks (7.5 BB/9) and strikeouts (21.6 K/9) last season compared to 2017 and he has no speed to speak of with just 3 career steals.  Since there are no steals to be had, it is imperative Mazara hit for average and around 25 homers to hold OF 3 value in fantasy baseball leagues but he is not quite there yet.  Still, Mazara can easily reach those figures in 2019 or soon thereafter given his youth and the ballpark is certainly an attraction.  So a late-round pick seems like a smart idea given the upside Mazara still brings to the table.
2019 PROJECTION:  .267 21 HR 79 RBI 65 R 1 SB 

2019 NFL COMBINE DAY 1 REPORT: RUNNING BACKS/OFFENSIVE LINEMAN

By Eric C. Wright

Indianapolis, IN.--Day 1 of the 2019 NFL Combine got underway on Friday as the running backs, offensive lineman, and even some special teamers did their drills in front of the league personnel.  Let's check out some of the positives and negatives as the draft moves near.

-Penn State may be churning out another stud running back for the second time in two years.  On the heels of Saquon Barkley putting forth maybe the best Combine performance of all time that netted him the second overall pick last April, his replacement Miles Sanders was very impressive in all the drills on Friday.  Showing great hands catching the football, good 40's times, and cutting ability, Sanders is putting himself in high Day 2 territory. 

Other backs who really helped themselves and boosted their draft stocks at the position on Day 1 undoubtedly were Notre Dame's Dexter Williams, Ohio State's Mike Weber (the Buckeyes ALWAYS produce productive backs to the league), and Washington's Miles Gaskin.  Now in terms of Gaskin, he was a favorite of ours which we wrote about in our annual draft guide (for sale on Amazon) as his ability to both run and catch the football are tailor-made for today's game.  This PPR fiend in fantasy football.  Gaskin is also one of the strongest backs among his class as he did 24 reps at 225 on the bench.  Unfortunately, his 40 time of 4.60 was not overly impressive but Gaskin is a guy who has better game speed than actual.  Speaking of 40 times, Justice Hill of Oklahoma ran a scorching 4.40 in the dash and also supplied a 40 inch vertical.  Tremendous speed and explosiveness here for sure. Finally, Florida's Jordan Scarlett and Temple's Ryquell Armstead both ran under 4.5 which his obviously noteworthy and it helps Scarlett who has been dogged by off-the-field issues.

-Kansas State's Alex Barnes looked like an offensive lineman on the bench as he did a masssive 34 reps.  While a bit slow of foot as he showed in going over 4.6 in the 40, Barnes caught the football well and absolutely helped himself in terms of being a power complement to a speedy back (maybe Armstead) at the NFL level.  Keep in mind that last year Barkley and Nick Chubb both had 29 reps and each was terrific as a rookie.

-David Montgomery was a breaking tackling machine and caught everything in sight at Iowa State but he didn't refute questions he is lacking in speed as he ran a 4.63.  Also Montgomery did drop a pass during drills so it was not an overly good day for him. 

-Speaking of rough days, Georgia power back Elijiah Holyfield and LSU's Nick Brosette struggled badly. Both ran very slow times in the 40 and both were among the worst performers among the backs catching the football.  Each man is destined for Day 3 status at best.

-In terms of the linemen, Boston College's Chris Lindstrom and N.C. State's Garrett Bradberry stood out the most.  Bradberry in particular shined in pretty much every drill and considering he was already the best center by a mile, he could be moving into late first-round territory. 

-On the small school level, Trey Pipkins of Sioux Falls did a nice job in agility drills and so he could have solidified a Day 2 selection.  Remember there has been a high number of blockes who have arrived from the small school level and done very well in the NFL so Pipkins also has that going for him.

-Some other positives:  Penn State's Ryan Bates, Ohio State's Michael Jordan, and pretty much every Wisconsin blockers Michael Deiter and Beau Benzschawel all helped themselves.  On the negative side, Oklahomas Dru Samia seemed very stuff in his movement and lateral agility and Arkansas' Hjalte Froholdt had pretty much the same struggle. 

-In terms of the top blockers, Washington State's Andre Dillard was fantastic and aced every drill on Day 1.  He has solifidied himself as the top blocker in the entire draft in our opinion over Alabama's Jonah Williams who was good but not great like Dillard was. 


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: BRYCE HARPER OUTFIELDER PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

While shortstop Manny Machado made a run for the top contract of the winter, fellow free agent outfielder Bryce Harper blew away the field when he finally inked a 13-year deal worth $330 million earlier in the week with the Philadelphia Phillies.  The move was as good as could be for Harper in terms of ballpark potency as he goes to a launching pad in Philly that should allow him to post his best ever power numbers and make a run at his second MVP.   Harper certainly did what he could to maximize his earnings potential in 2018 as he hit 34 homers, drove in 100 batters, and scored 103 runs for a surprisingly listless Washington Nationals team.  What was also encouraging to see was Harper stealing 13 bases which were the second-highest total of his career and came just a year after compiling only 4 in 2017.  It wasn't all positive however as Harper's average struggled to reach even .220 during the early summer and he needed a hot to finish to post a still ugly .249 mark.  What is really shocking is that this is the second time in the last three seasons Harper has failed to hit .250.  A lot of that volatility has been as a result of some rapidly fluctuating BABIP marks and in 2018 that number was slightly in the unlucky realm at .289 but also WAY down from .356 the season prior when Harper batted .319.  What we do then is look at some of the advanced metrics and here it is mostly good as Harper walks at some of the highest rates in baseball which will only help a batting average but his strikeouts have trended up of late in rising to 24.3 last season.  Since it is tough to get a true gauge here given all the conflicting numbers, we instead should fixate on the supreme power game and remaining speed.  Add in the new ballpark boost and Harper is a slam-dunk pick in the middle of the first round. 
2019 PROJECTION:  .288 35 HR 97 RBI 104 R 11 SB 

Friday, March 1, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: ROYALS CATCHER SALVADOR PEREZ HAS DAMAGE IN HIS UCL

Already a historically inept position as we head towards 2019 fantasy baseball, one of the few top dogs among catchers this season is Kansas City Royals veteran Salvador Perez.  Unfortunately it looks like Perez is headed for Tommy John surgery as Jon Heyman has reported damage in his UCL.  Martin Maldonado apparently will be signed in his place but this is a huge loss for the catching fraternity and those who own stock in Perez already this season. 


2019 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING REPORT: ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Jupiter, Fla.--The St. Louis Cardinals have universally been known as one of the premier organizations in baseball; combining constant yearly contention and some World Series appearances thrown in as well.  Unfortunately, the Cards have had a bit of a playoff drought the last few seasons and it is a development the team is trying their best to prevent from becoming a trend.  So with that in mind, here are some of the more pressing subjects about the team going into the new season from a fantasy baseball perspective.

1.  One of the young players who the Cardinals will look to lead them into a new era of playoff baseball undoubtedly is outfielder Harrison Bader whose 2018 rookie campaign opened a bunch of eyes when he hit 12 home runs and stole 15 bases in 138 games.  Alas, Bader is still a clear work in progress as he his 29.3 K/9 was brutal and pronounced struggles versus righties is a slash trend no hitter wants.  That being said, the former third-round pick has decent upside and we all love power/speed assets such as Bader in terms of how it helps in fantasy baseball.  So while we won't suggest chasing Bader in drafts this spring, he does warrant inclusion as a mid-round upside pick.

2.  One of the more pressing questions regarding any player in baseball this spring is whether Cardinals veteran 1B/3B Matt Carpenter can repeat the staggering 36 home runs and 111 RBI he compiled a year ago.  While Carpenter had solidified himself previously as a solid 25-homer bat, the jump to 36 last season seems to reek of being an outlier and when you factor in the guy is 33 and with a long injury history, the risk of a repeat seems minimal.  Remember, you never want to pay for a career-year and especially for someone who is aging with a checkered health past.

3.  It can be considered a bit of a bummer for new Cards first baseman Paul Goldschmidt trading the launching pad in Chase Field in Arizona to the pitching-leaning confines of his new home but the fact of the matter is that the perennial All-Star remains in play as one of the very best at his position.  Even after a very scary brutal start to 2018, Goldy rebounded to hit 33 homers and collect 95 RBI while batting .290.  There should be no issues for Goldy in terms of average, homers, RBI once again this season as he remains in his prime at the age of 31 but his once solid ability to help in steals is quickly becoming a thing of the past.  Consider that Goldschmidt stole a massive 32 bags in 2016 but then slipped to 18 and then 7 the subsequent two seasons.  That looks like a clear trend to us and remember that turning is usually when the steals begin to drop for a player.  As long as you don't pay for steals, an investment in Goldy should go nicely again.

4.  The Cardinals rotation have a real gem on their hands in power-armed Jack Flaherty and a 10.85 K/9 rate and 3.34 ERA last season seem to be him just scratching the surface at the age of 23.  Still Flaherty needs to get his 10 percent walk rate under control to fully unleash his full potential but there are few better young power arms in the game.  Bid aggressively.

5.  It appears as though Andew Miller will be the favorite for saves in the Cardinals bullpen instead of the emerging Jordan Hicks but this also appears to be a bit of a fluid situation subject to change.  We say Miller should be considered the favorite due to his vast experience edge over Hicks and for the fact he has been a monster strikeout pitcher when healthy.  That health didn't follow Miller into 2018 however and so there is some concern on that front.  Keep an eye on both this spring but Miller is the guy to target.