FOLLOW US ON TWITTER

LIKE THE FANTASY SPORTS BOSS ON FACEBOOOK

Friday, January 29, 2021

2021 FANTASY BASEBALL SECOND BASEMAN RANKINGS: A FIRST LOOK

 The second baseman are up as we continue with our first look at the 2021 fantasy baseball position rankings:

1.  Ozzie Albies

2.  DJ LeMahieu

3.  Ketel Marte

4.  Jose Altuve

5.  Cavan Biggio

6.  Keston Hiura

7.  Brandon Lowe

8.  Jake Croneworth

9.  Kolten Wong

10. Mike Moustakas

11. Jonathan Villar

12. Jon Berti

13. Cesar Hernandez

14. Nick Madrigal

15. Jean Segura

16. Hanser Alberto

17. Gavin Lux

18. Adam Frazier

19. Luis Arraez

20. Tommy LaStella

21. Ryan McMahon

22. Starlin Castro

23. Rougned Odor

24. Scott Kingery

25. Donovan Solano

26. Luis Garcia


2021 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: KRIS BRYANT 3B CHICAGO CUBS



How quickly things change in the fantasy baseball world.  It seems like just yesterday that we are all fighting over one another to get any shares we could of Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant and that goes back to even before he played his first game in the majors. The number two pick of the 2013 draft, Bryant was blessed with supreme power and speed to go with a bat tailor-made to hit .300 on a yearly basis.  That potential began to flow out all over the place once Bryant did in fact debut in 2015 and by the very next season, was hitting .292 with 39 homers, 121 runs scored, 102 RBI, and 8 steals to stamp himself a top five fantasy baseball monster.  

Fast forward to present day and not only is Bryant unhappy and wanting out of Chicago, he has now put forth two ugly seasons out of the last three; which include 2020 when batted a career-worst .206 with all of 4 homers and zero steals in 34 games.  Ill health has been a theme during that three-year span for Bryant which no doubt has contributed to the numbers dip but an uptick in strikeouts has also been a cause.  Add in the personal distractions he is causing himself for wanting out of Chicago and Bryant has the least amount of fantasy baseball pop going into a season than ever before.

Before we proceed further, let's all take a collective big breath.  It needs to be said that Bryant is still only 29 and that in the last full non-COVID MLB season, he swatted 31 home runs with 108 runs scored, 77 RBI, and a .282 average.  Now the steals are likely almost gone for good as he has in fact reached an age where speed declines (just 6 total swiped the last three seasons) but this is just a tiny quibble.  Instead, focus in on the fact Bryant's power is just fine and he remains fully capable of posting a useful batting average over .280 as well.  Ultimately, Bryant may still feel some stress given his pending free agency and the solid possibility he will be on the move but that could be a good thing if he ends up in a hitting paradise like in New York with the Yankees or Toronto.  

All in all, Kris Bryant actually presents good value for 2021 fantasy baseball whose rough 2021 campaign will lessen the hype to the point he could be a steal.  There is some "search for the next big thing" with Bryant now that he has moved past the prospect stage but again this is a proven power-hitter who can help in four categories while remaining in his prime.  

2021 PROJECTION:  .281 28 HR 79 RBI 95 R 4 SB 


Wednesday, January 27, 2021

2021 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: J.T. REALMUTO CATCHER PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

 While it probably took longer than he would have liked, free agent All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto finally got his money as he inked a five-year extension with the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday worth $155.5 million.  Widely considered to be the best catcher in the game and the top target at the position in fantasy baseball drafts, right off the bat one big positive for Realmuto going forward is that he will remain in one of the best offensive ballparks in the majors.  Breaking things down a bit further, Realmuto does technically remain in his prime at the current age of 29 but he will turn 30 in March which is usually when some trouble begins to brew in terms of the offensive numbers for catchers.  One only has to look at recent All-Stars and even MVP candidates such as Buster Posey, Joe Mauer, and Russell Martin as recent examples of top-notch offensive catchers who really began to fall off when they reached their 30's and so this is something we should at least be aware of when deciding to cut a check on Realmuto this season.  Be that as it may, Realmuto showed no signs of slippage in 2020 when he smacked 11 home runs, drove in 32, and batted .264 for the Phillies in the shortened season and the last time he played a full campaign, the statistics looked like this:

.275

25 HR

92 R

83 RBI

9 SB

Those are just superb numbers for a catcher and Realmuto's power has really taken off the last two years due to some assistance from his home ballpark.  In addition, Realmuto is still running as he has swiped 13 bags the last two seasons but again at the age of 30 in March, we can't really depend on contributions there going forward.  Consider any stolen base at this stage a bonus but everything else looks primed for a nice repeat which include another 25 home runs and 90 RBI and runs scored.  Add it all up and Realmuto once again is the top catcher for 2021 fantasy baseball and should see his name called as early as Round 3.  While we think that is too pricey for a catcher due to all the days off and risk of injury, the per game production certainly is up to such a standard.

2021 PROJECTION:  .278 24 HR 93 RBI 95 R 7 SB  


Tuesday, January 26, 2021

MY 2021 MLB HALL OF FAME BALLOT

It is that fun time of the year again when we get to digest how the 400-plus members decided to lay out their MLB Hall of Fame ballots and the way it is looking, not a single member of the body will be able to reach the 75 percent needed for enshrinement.  With the Hall of Fame having delayed their 2020 ceremony to this July, no new additions needed to be forced in anyway and that is likely why Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Curt Schilling will all fall short yet again in their ninth year on the ballot.  So with all that said, here is how my ballot looked this year with selections below.  Feel free to debate.

1.  Curt Schilling:  When you get past all of the nonsense that Schilling espouses on while on social media, you really just can't argue the fact the guy was a money power pitcher who took his game to another level when the stakes were the highest.  Already renowned for the epic bloody sock performance with the Boston Red Sox, Schilling was as good as Randy Johnson when he won another World Series with the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Again this is not a vote on if Schilling is a bad guy or not and he doesn't carry around any PED stink which would call into question the validity of his on-the-field work.  So once again I voted Schilling for the ninth time in nine tries.

2.  Jeff Kent:  I am in the clear minority here as Kent annually struggles to net even 25 percent of the vote but I remain unbowed.  Anyone who saw Kent hit during his MVP San Francisco Giants days saw a rare second baseman who could hit .300-plus with immense power.  While Kent was also a prickly personality, the guy set some new bars at the second base position offensively and I think unfortunately his work was overshadowed by what Bonds was doing.  Kent will likely never get in but he has my vote again.

3.  Andruw Jones:  I have come around on Jones who makes the cut on my ballot for the first time as his career looks much better in totality in the rearview mirror.  Already known as one of the best defensive outfielders in MLB history, Jones also was an underrated power hitter who was a key contributor for the Atlanta Braves as a teenager.  I do think Jones will get more positive movement on his numbers as the years go by and ultimately think he has a chance to make it.

And that's it.  Just three.  I left 7 spots blank because I don't consider anyone else on the ballot a Hall of Famer.  Now the elephant in the room is me omitting Bonds and Clemens and I stayed consistent by doing so for the ninth time in nine trues on the ballot.  Both guys have major PED fumes coming from their numbers and that alone makes me take a firm pass.  I always consider a Hall of Fame vote to be for the very best and character is supposed to be taken into consideration.  But I take character towards the game and that is where Bonds and Clemens failed.  Both guys are as guilty as you can get without a positive test and it was in very bad form that both denied the obvious as vociferously as they did.  Clemens even took the charade to Congress which didn't end well for Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa.  I get the notion that we don't know who took steroids and who did but these two stand out for their brash defiance in the face of the evidence and I can't reward that.  The same will also hold true for me when David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez reach the ballot next year as well.  

In terms of the rest of the ballot, Scott Rolen gave me some pause but I don't think he did enough offensively.  Billy Wagner was beyond dominant but not in the postseason.  So that leaves me with just the three and I am fine with it.  Let's hear your thoughts.  

2021 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: BRAD HAND CLOSER WASHINGTON NATIONALS




It has been well-documented over the last few years that despite winning a World Series Championship, the Washington Nationals have had some of the most pronounced bullpen struggles in all of baseball.  That included a revolving door at closer as the team searched for any sort of stability there without much success.  Well perhaps that was remedied for at least 2021 after the Nats came to agreement on a one-year deal worth $10.5 million with free agent All-Star closer Brad Hand on Sunday.  Despite getting cut loose by the Cleveland Indians this winter in a move that was designed to cut costs for the team and not about anything performance-related, Hand ends up in a good place on a contending Washington team that tends to play tight games and supply a high amount of save chances due to their stout starting rotation.  Certainly Hand did his job in 2020 as he recorded an MLB-leading 16 saves with a 2.05 ERA , 0.77 WHIP, and 29 strikeouts in just 22 innings pitched.  That performance marked the fourth time in the last five seasons that Hand has recorded an ERA under 3.00 and also in that span, he has posted a K/9 rate over 11.00' with him going over 13.00 twice in that same range.  Turning just 31 in March, Hand remains at the top of his game and should be included in the Liam Hendricks, Aroldis Chapman, Josh Hader tier as top closers for 2021 fantasy baseball.  

Monday, January 25, 2021

2021 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: Luis Castillo SP CINCINNATI REDS

About a week ago there was hot rumor going around that the New York Yankees were close to acquiring fireballing Cincinnati Reds starter Luis Castillo.  What made the rumor so believable is that it was a classic Yankee move in terms of picking up a high upside young player from a small market club and with their rotation in major need of help, it made sense Castillo could be the guy to fill that void.  Alas, the rumor was nothing but that and Castillo remains a Red operating in a major home run ballpark.  Despite the offensive leanings of the park, Castillo is a no doubt top ten fantasy baseball ace who goes into the 2021 season in his early prime years at the age of 28.  With four seasons of MLB experience under his belt, Castillo has now logged an ERA under 3.50 in four of them which included last season's numbers:

4-6

3.21 ERA

1.23 WHIP

.232 BAA

11.44 K/9

Again like all players, it was a small sample size but these numbers look close to the 3.40 ERA and 10.67 K/9 from 2019.  Both categories came in with very impressive results and Castillo's ability to miss bats at a very high clip places him firmly in that fantasy baseball ace tier.  Add in some solid durability and Castillo seems quite safe in terms of investment for 2021.  What really makes Castillo stand out as well is his extreme velocity as he averaged a ridiculous 97.7 on his fastball last season which went a long way in piling up the K's.  While Castillo's control is not overly smooth, his 3.09 BB/9 last season was far from terrible.  If Castillo improves that number even more when combined with all the K's, we could be looking at top five starting pitching value instead of top ten here.  

In the end, Luis Castillo represents some terrific value in terms of him being a more affordable starter who also qualified as an ace for fantasy baseball.  He certainly won't cost what a Jacob DeGrom or Gerrit Cole would and so those who want to spend a bit less on their first pitcher can certainly look in this guy's direction. 

2021 PROJECTION:  14-10 3.23 ERA 1.20 WHIP 215 K


Sunday, January 24, 2021

2021 FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: YANKS ACQUIRE SP JAMESON TAILLON FROM PIRATES

Days after trading away veteran starter Joe Musgrove, the Pittsburgh Pirates continued with their teardown on Sunday by sending once promising pitching prospect Jameson Taillon to the New York Yankees for a package of minor leaguers.  While Taillon has not exactly lived up to his past status as the number 2 overall pick in his draft class, he has generally been very solid in pitching to a 3.20 ERA and winning 14 games back in 2018.  Capable of reaching the upper-90's with his fastball and possessing solid secondary stuff, the train came off the tracks for Taillon in 2019 when he tore the UCL in his elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery for the SECOND time.  The fact Taillon has now had the procedure twice makes his potential impact a true mystery when he gets back on the mound this spring but the low cost the Yanks in terms off to giving up any of their top prospects was well worth it.  Having already taken another low-risk bet on former two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, the Yanks are trying to bridge the gap behind Gerrit Cole and the return of hard-throwing former ace Luis Severino.  Add in the unknown in terms of future performance of mid-tier arms Jordan Montgomery, Clarke Schmidt, and Deivi Garcia and the move makes sense.

In terms of 2021 fantasy baseball, Taillon is not really someone you want to chase and that goes even in deep leagues.  While Taillon held down SP 3/4 value previously, his move to the AL East and not possessing what you would call big strikeout stuff (a modest 8/43 K/9 has been his personal best), it is best left to leave him in the SP 5 tier at best.  In fact, we would go much heavier on Kluber and Severino then Taillon for that matter.  Add it all together and this is a move that helps the Yanks more in real-life baseball than it could help you in fantasy baseball.  


Saturday, January 23, 2021

2021 FANTASY BASEBALL ISSUES: FERNANDO TATIS JR. IS THE NUMBER 1 OVERALL PICK

2020 MLB playoffs -- Fernando Tatis Jr. explodes onto the October sceneDon't overthink it.  Don't even debate it.  San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. is the number 1 player for 2021 fantasy baseball and he should be picked at the top of all drafts this spring that he is eligible in.  So while recent bias may lean with Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout or maybe Christian Yelich gets some love due to fresh memories of 2019, Tatis Jr. is the guy in our book as we will explain.  

First, it has been instant success for Tatis Jr. since arriving on the scene in 2019 and the fact he literally became a star overnight is even more impressive considering how hyped he was coming up the minor league ladder.  Blessed with the ability to run like the wind and hit the ball a mile, Tatis Jr. had prospective fantasy baseball players drooling with anticipation about what he could end up producing with the Padres. Coming up at the age of 20 in 2019, Tatis went out and cracked 22 home runs, stole 16 bases, and batted an unexpectedly good .317 in 84 games before injuries interrupted the fun.  The average like we said was surprising since Tatis was a high strikeout guy in the minors and the assumption was that the his average would sink as a result of that struggle.  So while Tatis Jr. did strike out a bunch (29.6 K/9) as a rookie, he offset the possible damage some with a 8.1 BB/9/.  In addition, guys with blazing speed like Tatis Jr. often can beat the BABIP curve and his insane .410 mark there more than more this out.  

Fast forward to 2020 and despite the tiny season, Tatis Jr. kept the statistical train going as he posted the following in 59 games:

.277

17 HR

11 SB

45 RBI

50 R

.277

.306 BABIP

23.7 K/9

Once again, Tatis Jr. was a monster and his numbers extrapolated over a full season would have been insane.  Perhaps the most exciting part of this however is the fact Tatis Jr.'s K/9 rate dropped to 23.7 which is actually league average and showed the rapid development in his approach.  If Tatis Jr. can keep that mark going, a .300 average with his speed is a given and when combined with the crazy numbers in the other four categories, you can see why the kid should be the top pick in all fantasy baseball leagues this spring.  Power/speed guys like Tatis Jr. are as valuable as it gets in fantasy baseball and so again there is no debating he should be the top guy.  With Trout no longer swiping bags and Yelich reaching the age he will likely decline there as well, be sure you don't overthink this.  

2021 PROJECTION:  .307 34 HR 95 RBI 109 R 28 SB 


Friday, January 22, 2021

2021 NFL DRAFT PROSPECT WATCH: KENNETH GAINWELL RB MEMPHIS

Tragedy befell Memphis running back Kenneth Gainwell last season as he suffered tremendous COVID-19 loss in his family and that spurred him to skip the 2020 campaign.  While it is not ideal for a prospect to miss an entire season, one can certainly understand given the circumstances Gainwell dealt with.  Focusing in on his ability Gainwell looks like a clone of Alvin Kamara in terms of both guys having a knack for explosive running ability; while also serving as tremendous receivers.  In terms of the receiving game, Gainwell might be the best at that particular skill among all running backs in the 2021 NFL Draft and at the very least puts him on track to be a key weapon on that side of the offensive attack right away at the next level.  Keep in mind that Kamara came into the league as a third-round pick off a boatload of catches while in college and Gainwell certainly more than made his mark there as well while with Memphis.  Physically Gainwell doesn't run with the strength that Kamara does and won't be able to create for himself in tight unless he adds some more weight.  Once the rust is knocked off after being away from the field for as long as he has, Gainwell could very well turn out to be an instant-impact player right away.  

********BE SURE TO PURCHASE YOUR E-BOOK COPY OFT HE FANTASY SPORTS BOSS 2021 NFL DRAFT GUIDE FOR $7.99*******





2021 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: MICHAEL BRANTLEY OUTFIELDER HOUSTON ASTROS



Despite the fact that he will turn 34 in May, the Houston Astros refused to let sweet-swinging outfielder Michael Brantley depart in free agency and his return is especially important after All-Star George Springer took off for Toronto last week.  Now in terms of Brantley, it is not a stretch to say that he may be the best pure hitter in baseball now that Joey Votto has declined and the numbers back it up with the annually high averages and miniscule K rates.  Having hit .300 with 5 homers in the partial 2020 season, Brantley showed no dropoff there as his 15.0 K/0 was insanely good.  

Moving back to full season 2019 is a better indicator of forecasting Brantley this season and that campaign saw him put up the following numbers:

.311

22 HR

90 RBI

88 R

3 SB

Starting with the average, Brantley's .311 mark was the 5th time in the last 7 seasons he has hit .300 or better and that should continue unabated into 2021 given that the splendid K/9 rates remain well under 20.0.  While that number did climb to 15.0 last season, the small sample size applies and again even that number is tremendous.  In addition, Brantley's RBI/runs marks are right on target as he is almost a lock for 90/90 if the health permits.  Brantley not only puts forth great strikeout rates but also habitually registers BB/9 marks in the double digits to increase his chance to score runs.  

Now we get to the power and 2019's 22 homers were a career-high for the veteran.  Surely Brantley benefitted from the tight baseball like everyone else and his rate last season fell more in the 15-20 range he is more accustomed.  While it would not be a total surprise is Brantley went for another 22, the smart money is to expect 20 at most and consider anything else a bonus.

Finally, Brantley is not a base stealer anymore with 5 total thefts the last two seasons combined and so even 10-12 is likely asking too much.  That part of his game seems to have fallen by the wayside due to age and so count on four categories of very solid production in a low end SP 2 sense.  Not the most exciting player by any means but Brantley still makes the grade as a stalwart every day fantasy baseball mid-tier outfielder. 

2021 PROJECTION:  .308 19 HR 92 RBI 90 R 7 SB  


Thursday, January 21, 2021

ORDER YOUR PAPERBACK OR E-BOOK VERSION OF THE FANTASY SPORTS BOSS 2021 NFL DRAFT GUIDE

 Let's go!!  After a one-year hiatus, our annual NFL Draft Guide is back and better than ever as we analyzed and ranked over 500 players in leaving no stone unturned covering the annual extravaganza.  In addition to our rankings/analysis, we also included:

-The Anatomy of a QB Bust:  Here we go back over the last 20-plus years trying to figure out what went wrong in terms of colossal quarterback draft busts such as Ryan Leaf, Robert Griffin III, and more recently Dwayne Haskins.  From this study, we identified 6 different themes that serve as red flags going forward to use as a means to try and figure out the indicators for future trouble with the position.  

-NFL Draft Position Factory:  Join us for a look through the last ten years of drafts where we figure out which schools have a knack for supplying top players at each position on the field.  

-2021 NFL Mock Draft:  Once again we try to predict how the first 32 picks of the draft will go.

All this and much more.  Use one of the BUY NOW tabs to the right of the homepage to purchase.



2021 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: GEORGE SPRINGER OUTFIELDER TORONTO BLUE JAYS

After seeing targets D.J. LeMahieu and Francisco Lindor end up elsewhere despite having tons of money to spend, the Toronto Blue Jays perhaps panicked a bit in handing out $155 million over 6 years to bring aboard outfielder George Springer.  Having developed from a top prospect into an All-Star outfielder for the Houston Astros, Springer at 1 gets his payday at a bit of an older age which was the main reason why the cash-flush New York Mets refused to go beyond 5 years for him.  That being said, Springer cracked 39 home runs in 2019 with 96 runs and RBI, 6 steals, and a .292 average to put forth a true five-category season for fantasy baseball purposes.  So as we head into 2021, let's dig in a bit more here to see if an encore is possible.

Even in the shortened 2020 campaign, Springer was excellent with 14 homers in just 51 games; albeit with a .265 average.  Still with a career-best 17.1 K/9 rate, Springer was a bit unlucky (.259) which depressed his average a bit.  Now we have to say at this point we admittedly have not been big boosters of Springer in the past. What we didn't like about Springer is that he didn't steal many bases despite well above-average speed.  In addition, Springer's batting average has not been great as it stands at just .270 for his career.  Combined with an OF 1 fantasy baseball price tag, Springer seemed to be a bit overpriced for our liking.  That being said, Springer's power uptick the last few years and stabilization in batting average has us rethinking that stance and at 31 he remains flush in his prime.  The steals are never going to be more than a single-digit contribution but that is par for the course with the guy.  Now serving in a major power ballpark in Toronto, Springer should easily clear 30 homers with 90-plus RBI and runs and maybe make a run at 40.  Also, with his average having come around of late, Springer is still worthy of OF 1 consideration this season.  

So when you put it all together, Springer works nicely as your outfield anchor for 2021 as four categories should end up being above average, with some steals added as a nice bonus.  

2021 PROJECTION:  .284 38 HR 95 RBI 105 R 5 SB  


Tuesday, January 19, 2021

2021 FANTASY BASEBALL CLOSING TIME: KIRBY YATES HEADING TO TORONTO

 The slow pace of this MLB Hot Stove winter has finally picked up in the last few days and now the Toronto Blue Jays look like they convinced someone to take their money as widespread reports indicate they will sign free agent closer Kirby Yates for the 2021 season.  Flush with cash all winter, Toronto struggled to get much attention from free agents over the last few months but Yates is a very good get to fill a closer position on their team that has been a problem for awhile.  While we all know by now how much of a late bloomer Yates became, he truly is a top five fantasy baseball closer in ever sense of the word after posting a 2.18 ERA in 2018 and following that up with a Cy Young-worthy 1.19 mark in 2019 while amassing a total of 53 saves. Obviously we throw out the 4.1 inning disaster that was 2020 due to Yates suffering through bone chips in his elbow that necessitated surgery.  With that now in the rearview mirror, Yates is expected to dominate once again as all his indicators continue to glow.  

For one thing, Yates has become completely impossible at times to get a hit off of and that is mainly due to insane swing-and-miss stuff that have resulted in K/9 rates over 12.50 each of the last four seasons.  Add in terrific control for a power arm and the ability to keep the ball in the park and Yates is someone no hitter wants to see.  Yes he will be moving into a much tougher ballpark and division in the AL East but this is not as much of a concern for a closer as it would be for a starter who has to see the lineup 2-3 times in an outing.  So while we again suggest avoiding drafting closers early, Yates is one of the top options if you choose to buck the advice.  

Monday, January 18, 2021

2021 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: WHIT MERRIFIELD 2B/3B Kansas City ROYALS

By this time next week, Kansas City Royals All-Star second baseman Whit Merrifield will turn 32 years of age and given that he has been a long time favorite of this space, we tend to worry about about the guy's profile since so much of it is built on speed.  Yes in an era in fantasy baseball where stolen bases are becoming incredibly scarce, Merrifield served as the oasis in the desert as he stole 34 bags in 2017 and followed that up with 45 in 2018.  Alas, Merrifield dipped sharply in that number in 2019 to just 20 and since he was now into his 30's, there was concern he was following traditional athletic profiles with regards to speed falling by the wayside once that age is reached.  

Now in terms of the shortened 2020 campaign, Merrifield's 12 steals were somewhat encouraging as he was on pace for near 30 if the season had been its typical length.  Yes Merrifield is going to be 32 this season but don't automatically discount that he won't be able to swipe another 20 bags.  Yes 40 and even 30 are likely out of the statistical equation now but Merrifield is in great shape and still capable of helping in that category.  

In addition to the steals, Merrifield remains a very good hitter whose .282 average last season was actually his lowest mark in that category since breaking in as a rookie.  His insanely low strikeout rates keep Merrifled a batting average asset and that absolutely will play again in 2021.  Add in about 90 runs batting near the top of the lineup with about 65 RBI and Merrifield still has a lot to offer his owners this season.  

Finally, Merrifield did hit 9 home runs last season and would have been in the high teens if the whole season played out.  While he has never hit more than 16 homers, a 15/20 campaign in homers/steals is very attainable.  So while you ideally would like to avoid speed-oriented players moving into their 30's, Merrifield should still have another season or two left in the tank to supply high-end numbers and so he remains a smart early-round investment this spring.  

2021 PROJECTION:  .295 15 HR 67 RBI 88 R 19 SB



2021 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: DOES COREY KLUBER HAVE ANYTHING LEFT IN THE TANK?

 In desperate need of starting pitching help to shore up a rotation that stood as just Gerrit Cole and four questions marks behind him, the New York Yankees took a one-year gamble worth $11 million on two-time Cy Young-winning pitcher Corey Kluber this past weekend. Having hit between 89-91 on his 30 throws in front of up to 20 teams late last week, Kluber apparently did enough to convince the Yankees that the well is not dry from his arm despite throwing just one single inning in 2020 and enduring another injury-marred 2019 campaign.  

Before delving further, let's just state the obvious right off the bat and that is the fact Kluber is no longer the 220-K fantasy baseball ace he was from 2014-18 with the Cleveland Indians.  That pitcher is a thing of the past and one only has to look at how he threw at least 203 innings in all five of those campaigns to know that the arm can only take so much abuse.  Add in additional playoff frames that Kluber threw for those Indian teams and they fall-off is easy to understand.  Now those are long time readers of ours would know that we sounded the alarm on Kluber starting in 2018 as his average fastball velocity had been on a consistent decline and the hard hit rate was also increasing.  Add in doubt that he would be able to sustain all those innings and here we are with Kluber having thrown just 36.2 innings total the last two seasons.  

So what happens from here?  Can Kluber be an SP 2?  Can help again in fantasy baseball?  Well for one thing you don't like to see a pitcher try to salvage his career while operating in the always brutal NL East.  For another, Kluber coming back from a teres major strain is a huge injury for a pitcher and the fact he is only throwing 89-91 shows how much of an effect it likely will have on his stuff.  With Kluber's past fastball average sitting in the 96-plus range, you have to think there will be some rough outings along the way as he not only finds his MLB footing again but tries to figure out how to throw with less potent stuff in a tough division.  Add in trying to ramp things up after so few frames the last few seasons and Kluber is another injury waiting to happen.  

So in terms of 2021 fantasy baseball, feel free to bring Kluber aboard as an SP 5 with upside to see if he still has anything left.  Even trying him out as an SP 4 may be worth it in deeper league but anything more would be a waste of draft capital.  


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