As the weather gets warmer and spring training baseball begins to get underway, we all know that people will start playing fantasy baseball again. With players, suspensions, injuries, trades and several other factors to keep in mind as the draft approaches, it might not hurt to get a little advice.
Before we delve into players, here are a few general tips to help you throughout the upcoming season:
— Consider trying to corner the market in a particular stat. You will almost always win that category and will have great trade value later in the year. The easy categories to do this is for Strikeouts and Stolen Bases.
— Elite relievers, such as Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, can be more valuable than an average or below average closer. Think of K’s, ERA and WHIP over simply just collecting saves.
— Draft hitters that hit in the top half of the lineup. This will help increase At Bats’ (AB), Runs and RBI.
— Always check your league for position eligibility. For example, Yahoo lists Manny Machado as 3B/SS while ESPN only lists him under 3B. He is significantly more valuable as a SS.
— Don’t be afraid to look for pitchers that benefit from big ballparks like the Giants’ AT&T Park as you get deeper in the draft. Pitcher-friendly parks have a tendency to keep home runs on the low side.
My fantasy baseball insiders and I have decided to point out some of our favorite and least favorite players for you. We broke players into a few different categories. These are: players to target, players we think could break out, players that we believe are underrated and players that we are going to avoid this year.
NOTE: All decisions were made based on standard fantasy baseball scoring and league procedure.
Target Players (We believe they will out perform expectations):
Carlos Correa – SS – Houston Astros – The young phenom for the Houston Astros is a stud. There isn’t much else to be said about this kid. Even though he only had about 2/3 of the at-bats of the average full time shortstop due to his June 8 call-up to the majors, Correa was the only shortstop to hit more than 20 HR’s and steal more than 10 bases. He’s going to be a star for many years to come. If you don’t get one of the big 4 (Trout, Harper, Goldschmidt and Kershaw) take Correa in round one.
Miguel Cabrera – 1B – Detroit Tigers – They say nothing is certain except death and taxes. Well, whoever they are forgot to include Miguel Cabrera hitting over .300. Miggy has hit over .300 for the past seven consecutive years and above .290 for the past 12. Not to mention he is always a threat to compete for the Triple Crown (Lead the league in HR’s, RBI, and Batting Average).
Aroldis Chapman – RP – New York Yankees – If he isn’t suspended for any time this year due to investigation into past domestic violence issues, please find a way to get Chapman on your team. The new Yankees fireballer averages a 100+ MPH fastball and struck out 116 batters in only 66 innings. Good for 1.76 strikeouts per inning. At 100 MPH a batter has only .412 seconds to see the pitch, decide whether or not to swing and then actually hit the ball. I guess it’s true, you can’t hit what you can’t see.
Miguel Sano – 3B/DH – Minnesota Twins – This young Dominican slugger is well on his way to following in the steps of his famous countryman David Ortiz. He’s a true 80 power player. (Baseball players are graded from 20-80 in different tools such as hitting, power, running, fielding, and throwing). When measuring Exit Velocity for hitters in 2015 only two batters had a faster average, Giancarlo Stanton and Paul Goldschmidt.
George Springer – OF – Houston Astros – Everyone thought Springer would break out last year, including myself. He was hampered by a fractured wrist for two months last year and I’m doubling down on all the potential this player has. Springer could hit 25 HR’s and swipe 15 bags easily this year while challenging for a .300 average.
Dallas Keuchel – SP – Houston Astros – This seems obvious to me but it blows my mind how many people are forgetting about the reigning 2015 AL Cy Young winner. I may be bullish on the Astros this year but all of those draft picks from a few years ago are starting to pay off. Expect Keuchel to be a top-10 pitcher this year and really burst on to the scene.
Addision Russell – SS – Chicago Cubs – Young, inconsistent and incredibly talented. These are all ways you could describe Addison Russell. He might be a year or two away from super stardom but he can certainly play. If he plays to his potential, he’s a top-10 shortstop. Joe Maddon trusts him enough to play shortstop for the best team on paper this year. You should trust him on your team too.
Francisco Cervelli – C – Pittsburgh Pirates – Look at the helmet this guy wears while at bat. He looks like the Great Gazoo from the Jetsons back in the day! Don’t laugh too hard though, he actually did get that nickname in the Yankees farm system when he started wearing an extra-protective concussion helmet. Cervelli was ranked as the sixth best catcher for fantasy last year by ESPN. I’d bet most of you reading this haven’t even heard of him unless you’re a Pirates fan. If you can’t get a catcher early, feel completely safe waiting on Cervelli.
Yu Darvish – SP – Texas Rangers – Look, I know… he missed all of 2015 due after having Tommy John surgery and that he likely won’t play until June. Draft Darvish in later rounds and hold on to him. Talent wise he’s a top-25 pitcher and if you can get that kind of production for a late round draft pick, you’re doing something right.
Joey Votto – 1B – Cincinnati Reds – One of my fantasy insiders can’t stop talking about Joey Votto, and for good reason. He may not be the hot trendy name, but his numbers are excellent. If you play in a league where OBP (On-Base Percentage) is a category you need to get Votto. You’re only worry with him is his health. Otherwise he had a .459 OBP, good for second in the league behind Bryce Harper, and was one of only three players to have an OPS (On-Base Plus Slugging) at or over 1.000. The other two players were Harper and Goldschmidt. Votto has crazy value.
JD Martinez – OF – Detroit Tigers – Martinez is like the Rodney Dangerfield of baseball, he just doesn’t get any respect. He was released just two short years ago by the Houston Astros and boy are they kicking themselves. In the past two years with Detroit, he’s hit about .300 with 61 home runs. There aren’t too many players that will give you that production outside the top three rounds of a fantasy draft.
Jason Heyward – OF – Chicago Cubs – It’s hard to be underrated when you just signed an eight year 184 million dollar contract this offseason but I think it’s the case with Heyward. He is just another example of somebody with all of the tools to do great things finally putting it all together. Many questioned the contract given to Heyward by the Cubs and GM Theo Epstein, but Theo seems to be one of if not the best GM’s in the league. Don’t be afraid to pull the trigger on Heyward.
Players to Avoid (Won’t reach expectations):
Ryan Howard – 1B – Philadelphia Phillies – “…and Howard swings over that curveball for strike three.” Stop me if you’ve heard that one before. The beloved slugger of 2008 around this area is gone for good. Don’t even consider drafting him. He can’t hit off speed pitches at this level and his .230 average is atrocious.
Chris Davis – 1B – Baltimore Orioles – Davis is the ultimate boom or bust player in baseball today. He hit a league leading 47 home runs last year but struck out a league leading 208 times also. Couple that odd production with a big and long, 22 years actually, contract and I see Davis hitting fewer homers and striking out more unless he shortens up his swing.
Billy Hamilton – OF – Cincinnati Reds – Hamilton is probably the fastest guy in baseball, maybe the fastest to play baseball period. He will steal a ton of bases, in fact he stole 155 bags in the minors in 2012 and that’s unheard of. Hamilton has 113 in the past two years in the majors too. However, in order to steal bases you first have to get on base and that is Hamilton’s problem. His OBP was an anemic .274 last year with an average of .226. Cincinnati needs to let this young man swing the bat and see what happens.
So here’s to the upcoming 2016 season and I wish you all the best in your leagues come opening day. Let yourself be overcome by the fresh smell of grass and the thrill of the promising talent ready for their chance at the spotlight. Grab your sunflower seeds and get ready, we’ll be playing ball before you know it!