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Friday, January 15, 2021

2021 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: DJ LEMAHIEU 2B New York YANKEES

Perhaps all it took was Liam Hendricks finally opening the vault to offseason spending to get things moving but perennial Hot Stove stars the New York Yankees got in on the fun Friday by bringing back star second baseman DJ LeMahieu on a six-year deal worth $90 million.  Arguably the best pure hitter in baseball the last two seasons, LeMahieu has really exploded during that span with the Yankees after a solid but unspectacular beginning of his career with the Colorado Rockies.  Despite all of the advantages that playing in Coors Field brought forth, LeMahieu's career 92 OPS+ was below average.  With the Yankees the last two years that numbers has jumped sharply to a splendid 145+ as LeMahieu has batted .327 and .364 during that span.  Add in 36 total home runs in basically a little less than a season and half due to COVID-19 and LeMahieu at the age of 32 remains as good as ever.  So in terms of 2021 fantasy baseball, LeMahieu is as good a place to start in terms of shoring up your batting average numbers.  He is as close to a lock as you can get for someone to bat at least .315 and that number will likely be higher.  What's crazy too is that the power really jumped up after LeMahieu departed Coors Field which is not something you ever see but Yankee Stadium is obviously no slouch in term of being a home run park.   So while we remain wary of the 26 homers from 2019 possibly being an outlier, predicting 20 is very safe to go with 100-plus in both runs and RBI.  Add it all together and you get everything at a very high level from LeMahieu outside of steals and that is well worth a late second or early third round pick this spring.  

2021 PROJECTION:  .323 23 HR 104 RBI 109 R 4 SB  



2021 FANTASY BASEBALL FIRST BASEMAN RANKINGS

Some things never change in fantasy baseball and one firm rule that remains true to this day is that the first base position is where the majority of your power numbers will come from.  Every year we always say to be aggressive netting your first baseman early on in the draft and then to also come back here for your CI or UTIL bat as well.  This year's crop is deep as always but you want to get one of the top guys if you can.  


1.  Freddie Freeman

2.  Cody Bellinger

3.  Jose Abreu

4.  Pete Alonso

5.  Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

6.  D.J. LeMahieu

7.  Anthony Rizzo

8.  Luke Voit

9.  Matt Olson

10. Max Muncy

11. Pau; Goldschmidt

12. Josh Bell

13. Dominic Smith

14. Rhys Hoskins

15. Mike Moustakas

16. Eric Hosmer

17. Christian Walker

18. Ryan Mountcastle

19. Rowdy Tellez

20. Hunter Dozier

21. Trey Mancini

22. Carlos Santana

23. Jared Walsh

24. Miguel Sano

26. Andrew Vaughn

27. Jake Croneworth

28. Yuli Gurriel

29. Nate Lowe

30. Joey Votto



Thursday, January 14, 2021

2021 FANTASY BASEBALL CLOSING TIME: LIAM HENDRICKS TO TAKE OVER NINTH INNING DUTIES WITH WHITE SOX

Finally some free agent movement.  For the first time in this very slow moving Hot Stove season, a contract was signed for over $50 million and it was the continually aggressive Chicago White Sox who were the team to do it when they forked over $54 million on a three-year deal for closer Liam Hendricks.  Clearly in "go for it" mode heading into 2021, the White Sox push aside but solid but far from spectacular Alex Colome who remains a free agent himself.  

Now in terms of Hendricks, you can't name many pitchers who have been more dominant the last two seasons as he logged ERA's of 1.80 and 1.78, while posting obscene 13.00-plus K/9 rates.  Add in splendid control and solid home run rates and Hendricks is about as difficult a chore as it gets in all of baseball in terms of trying to get a hit off of the guy.  As you all know we never recommend opening the draft vault for closers but if you do choose to do so, Hendricks has to be right near the top of the list as an option under such a scenario.  With the White Sox likely in position to win a bunch of games this season with their emerging lineup and impressive rotation, Hendricks should be in line for a boatload of save chances this season.  In fact, a run at 50 saves is not out of the question if Hendricks stays healthy and the season doesn't get too interrupted.  So again the price will be high on Hendricks for 2021 fantasy baseball drafts given he is one of the few proven closers but at the very least you know you are getting a monster if you choose to take an early stab there.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

2021 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT SLEEPER: ANDRES GIMENEZ SS CLEVELAND INDIANS

 The "other" guy in the blockbuster New York Mets acquisition of star shortstop Francisco Lindor and starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco from the Cleveland Indians was the top prospect the former sent to the latter in the deal.  We of course are referring to speedy shortstop Andres Gimenez who along with Ahmed Rosario head over to Cleveland in the deal and both guys will have a prime chance to start from Opening Day for the club and have a chance to further unveil the talents that made both guys much talked about prospects while coming up the Mets system.

In terms of Gimenez, he made his debut at the ripe old age of 21 for the Mets in 2020 as injuries absolutely ravaged the team and while obviously very young and raw, opened a bunch of eyes by putting up the following numbers:

.263

3 HR

12 RBI

22 R

8 SB

All of those numbers were accumulated in just 49 games and the 3 homers and 8 steals reveal some burgeoning power/speed game that Gimenez carries around.  The fact that Gimenez will only be 22 for the majority of the 2021 season shows you how much upside he carries around and in a game where stolen bases are becoming a rare and VERY pricey commodity, the kid carries some sizable upside in terms of fantasy baseball.  With a full allotment of games and at-bats this season, Gimenez has the natural speed to crack 20 steals easy and maybe even push for 30 if he adjust well enough to major league pitching.  Keep in mind Gimenez hit only .250 at Double-A in 2019 and while the .263 was much better in the majors last season, count on opposing pitchers making it difficult on the kid this season now that they have some video on how to approach him.  Still a 21.2 K/9 rate last season was solid for a rookie but Gimenez does need to show more patience as evidenced by his tiny 5.3 BB/9.  With the Indians insisting on Gimenez being the one to front their return package for Lindor, count on the team giving him a long leash to show what he can do.  Still well off the fantasy baseball radar of many, all it will take is a late round pick to possibly net a speedy breakout shortstop this season.  

2021 PROJECTION:  .255 5 HR 34 RBI 67 R 19 SB  


2021 NFL DRAFT PROSPECT PREVIEW: JUSTIN FIELDS QB OHIO STATE

Heading into the 2020 season, there seemed little debate that Ohio State QB Justin Fields would be the locked-in number 2 overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft behind Clemson's Trevor Lawrence.  Fast forward through the fall/winter college football season and that previously held premise is no longer etched in stone.  Now it does need to be mentioned that Ohio State had about as disjointed a season as a school could have given the Big Ten's late start and the fact the Buckeyes deal with some serious COVID issues throughout.  Perhaps that is the reason Fields ran hot and cold at times and thus, opened the door for BYU's Zach Wilson to stake his claim to the second ranked QB in the draft.  In terms of the positives, you would have a very tough time finding a quarterback who has as pronounced an athletic skill set as Fields who combines breathtaking speed/agility with above-average accuracy and a knack for throwing on the run.  Fields also showed unbelievable toughness and the knack for rising to the occasion when he tossed 6 touchdown passes in the CFP semifinals in beating Clemson after taking a vicious hit to the ribs early in the game.  There are some downsides that interested NFL teams need to consider however; with the most concerning being Fields' struggles going through his reads and being able to consistently make throws while facing the rush in the pocket and that is what we saw from him in the National Championship Game defeat against Alabama.  The latter is certainly a red flag as these were the same concerns that many had about Akili Smith and Robert Griffin III when those two pronounced NFL busts came out of college and struggles against Northwestern in the Big Ten championship only reaffirmed the matter.  Finally, there is the not so small matter that Ohio State historically has not produced any decent NFL passers; with fresh memories of the comical career to this point of Dwayne Haskins still fresh in the mind. That being said, Fields has drawn a lot of DeShaun Watson companions since 2019 began and that is not a bad place to be in terms of projections.  Whether or not he can get there makes Fields more of a risk now than he appeared to be the season prior.  

Sunday, January 10, 2021

2021 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: CARLOS CARRASCO SP New York METS

Overlooked in the trade where the Cleveland Indians dealt star shortstop Francisco Lindor to the New York Mets was the team also including veteran starter Carlos Carrasco as well.  Long a major favorite of this publication, Carrasco has had a tremendously underrated career to this point and at the age of 34 and coming off a terrific 2020 campaign, the guy one again looks like a nicely priced SP 2.  

Digging in on a little Carrasco history, the power starter really broke through in 2014 in putting injuries and wildness behind him.  From that point forward, Carrasco has been one of the most underrated power arms in the game who in five of the last seven seasons has logged an ERA under 3.50.  Add to that a strikeout ability where he K/9 has been over 10.00 in five of those seven seasons and one can really see why we love owning Carrasco so much.  One of those "off" seasons from Carrasco came in 2019 when he put forth a 5.29 ERA but throw this out given the fact he was coming off leukemia and his body was simply not ready for pitching.  Last season showed that Carrasco was all the way back as his 2.91 ERA and 10.85 K/9 could attest and with 3 seasons of over 200 K's in the books, count on anything big season in store for the veteran in 2021.  

Now in terms of this season, Carrasco showed a year ago the strikeout ability is still very much there and the stuff remains as tough to hit as ever.  Yes Carrasco is getting up there at the age of 34 during the season but we feel strongly that at least for 2021, he should be fine.  You do have to worry about some August-September fatigue given how little has pitched the last two seasons in terms of raw innings but you can say the same thing about almost every other pitcher given the shortened 2020.  Add in the fact Carrasco will now pitch in the National League with their weaker lineups (especially if the DH is not brought back to the league) and we are firmly grading him as an SP 2.  The best part is that Carrasco may be able to be had at an SP 3 price and so we are buying all the way.  

2021 PROJECTION:  14.8 3.38 ERA 1.17 WHIP 215 K


Saturday, January 9, 2021

2021 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: KYLE SCHWARBER OUTFIELDER WASHINGTON NATIONALS

In this slow as molasses MLB offseason, any signing is worth delving into and so it goes that the Washington Nationals threw a one-year deal at slugging outfielder Kyle Schwarber on Saturday.  Once a highly touted prospect with the Chicago Cubs, Schwarber drew a ton of excitement with his massive power and very good bating eye.  Unfortunately, Schwarber's career-long struggles with strikeouts have really put a major hurting on his batting average and led to some very long slumps.  Add in some pronounced injuries and that is why the Nats were able to get Schwarber so cheaply.  So as we look towards the 2021 season, let's dig in a bit more to see where he could be headed with his numbers.

While it seems like Schwarber has been around forever, he is still just 27 and so conceivably is just entering into his prime years.  Unfortunately, his 2020 season was ugly as he batted just .188 with 11 home runs in 224 at-bats.  Taking the numbers a bit with a grain of salt given how crazy 2020 was, it is still clear that Schwarber will remain a good home run/poor batting average guy.  While you love the continued patience (13.4 BB/9), the nasty 29.5 K/9 rate makes it tough to stomach Schwarber as an everyday fantasy baseball bat outside of deep leagues.  The fact of the matter is that guys with Schwarber's hitting profile are a dime a dozen and are littered on most fantasy baseball leagues waiver wires.  Feel free to add Schwarber as a late round power bat to plug in when needed but using him as anything more than that is a recipe for failure given that the impressive power is negated by the nasty batting average.  

2021 PROJECTION:  .229 23 HR 65 RBI 61 R 2 SB





2021 NFL DRAFT PROSPECT PREVIEW: TREY LANCE QB NORTH DAKOTA STATE

Trey Lance:  Following in the footsteps of Carson Wentz, it looks like the North Dakota State Bison will see a second quarterback selected in the first round of an NFL Draft despite their FCS standing as junior Trey Lance should hear his name called among the first 32 picks.  What is really interesting here however is the fact Lance comes off a 2020 campaign where the Bison played just a single game and it was one where he was shaky passing the ball in completing half his throws for 149 yards with 2 TD's and one pick.   On the flip side, Lance showcased his impressive running ability by picking up 143 yards on the ground with two more scores and it is that diverse skill set that has so many NFL executives intrigued.  What really got the hype going was Lance's ridiculous 2019 season when he posted a 28/0 ratios in TD's/INT's; while rushing for over 1,000 yards as well.  What will help Lance in term of his draft prospects is the fact Wentz has generally played well since coming into the league (2020 notwithstanding) and that will take some of the nervousness out of picking him so high given that track record.  Be that as it may, Lance is facing a sizable learning curve in the NFL since he barely played a year ago and the overall level of competition at the Bison level is a clear cut below the FBS.  The tools are certainly there though as Lance can make all the throws and in particular hit into the tight windows to succeed in the pros.  Ball placement can improve a bit but combining the big arm with his high-end speed, Lance should certainly make a push to be among the first 15 picks of the draft this spring.  

2021 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: FRANCISCO LINDOR SS NEW YORK METS

The Steve Cohen Era may have gotten off to a slower start than most New York Mets fans anticipated but boy was that remedied this week when the pulled acquired not only superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor from the Cleveland Indians but also All-Star level starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco for a package that was highlighted by shortstops Andres Giminez and Amed Rosario.  Clearly Lindor is the story of the deal and his first round pedigree remains for 2021 fantasy baseball despite a bit of a disappointing campaign in the COVID-19 shortened 2019.  As always lets take apart the deal and see how this impact the included players' fantasy baseball value.

Francisco Lindor:  The stud piece in the trade in every way, the 27-year-old Lindor heads to the Mets still in his prime and set to bat third for the team for 2021.  By now it is old news that Lindor is a five-tool monster fantasy baseball asset and one who should once again be in the talks as a late first round pick this spring.  While Lindor batted a disappointing .258 last season, we pretty much can take all the numbers from last season with a grain of salt which will be a theme in evaluations for most guys going forward.  Instead lets gaze back to 2019 when Lindor put up the following numbers:

.284

32 HR

74 RBI

101 R

22 SB

Those numbers are of the blockbuster variety and the power/speed game itself is a major asset at the shortstop spot in fantasy baseball.  Even last season in 60 games Lindor swiped 6 bags and hit 8 homers and so we can still safely project the steal to be there with the 30-home run power.  Add in the guarantee of 100 runs and a solid chance at 100 RBI in a better Mets lineup and you start to see why Lindor is as good as it gets out there.  Perhaps the one tiny quibble we can make here is the fact Lindor has hit under .280 in three of the last four seasons but that is a small price to pay for the rest of the statistical bonanza.  Yes Lidor's fly ball rate has taken off in possibly an indication he is selling out for more power but again this is a first round pick all the way who could really take off in a stacked Mets lineup.  

2021 PROJECTION: .278 30 HR 104 RBI 111 R 16 SB

Friday, January 8, 2021

2021 FANTASY BASEBALL CATCHER RANKINGS

Here is our first batch of 2021 fantasy baseball catcher rankings.  As always the position is a cesspool of low averages and minimal production like tight end in fantasy football.  

1.  J.T. Realmuto:  Still no home yet but remains the elite.  Just keep in mind steals could vanish at moment's notice.  

2.  Wilson Contrearas:  The Cubs don't appreciate him but you should.  

3.  Gary Sanchez:  I won't chase him as always but perhaps short season did more damage than what would have been in a full year.

4.  Salvador Perez:  Don't sleep on the always dependable veteran.

5.  Yasmani Grandal

6. Travis D'Arnaud:  We waited year and years and years but finally the guy is showing up.

7.  Will Smith

8.  Mitch Garver

9. James McCann:  Being paid like a top guy but I have concerns with struggles versus righties and fading in second half.  I would avoid.  

10. Christian Vasquez

11. Sean Murphy:  I'm very intrigued here.  So should you.  

12. Austin Nola

13. Yadier Molina:  Yeah this hurts me to do but it is finally time to move on.  I think.  

14. Pedro Severino

15. Max Stassi

16. Jorge Alfaro:  The power is there but that average is a joke.

17. Buster Posey:  I nailed his decline right on schedule when it happened.  

18. Sam Huff

19. Tom Murphy

20. Daulton Varsho