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JB's Bullpen Method - Building Aces out of Relief Pitchers

If you read my Top 10 Draft Tips piece, you got a preview of the method I have been using for many years in fantasy baseball. It's really less of a method or strategy, and more a state of mind. The Bullpen Method is a lifestyle!

I always speak about the importance of balance on a fantasy team. For your pitching staff, I find this even more important. You need steady, solid, balance and, to be frank with you, that is not possible with a bunch of starting pitchers on your roster. Sure, you can attack Wins and Strikeouts, but your ERA and WHIP have no chance at survival. There are like 10 starting pitchers in all of baseball that I would trust with my team's ERA and WHIP, and you want to fill your roster with them?

When your draft day arrives before the start of the 2020 MLB season (hopefully soon), I encourage you to try my bullpen method for roster construction.

 

Breaking down JB's Bullpen Method

In a standard league, I will roster ~12 pitchers. Of the 12 pitchers, I will have five SP. That means the other seven are Relief Pitchers - and I don't care if they are closers right now or not. For years, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller were my anchors, then Josh Hader emerged, and every year a new crop of setup studs emerge like Giovanny Gallegos. This is the Bullpen mentality, realizing that Starting Pitchers are heavily overrated in fantasy and subsequently relief pitchers (especially setup men) are heavily underrated. Once you come to this epiphany, you can immediately take advantage of the common industry mistake and instantly witness improvement on your teams.

*Disclaimer - Please do not attempt this method in Points Leagues. Points leagues are made for heavy-volume starters and the elite closers. This method absolutely crushes Roto leagues, where balance is king - but also works in H2H leagues where you can easily beat your opponent in 3 of 5 pitching categories (5 of 5 if you are a talented SP streamer). 

 

2019 Examples

Let's first look at some 2019 examples, shall we? Example 1 is the RotoBaller Expert Roto League.

I finished the season with 13 pitchers on the roster. As always, five of those were starters: Homer Bailey, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Ryan Yarbrough, Tyler Glasnow, and Dylan Bundy. Typically in a vacuum with that rotation, I should have had no business being in even the top half of the league's standings, right? What if I told you I won the league with over 100 roto points? Bullpen Method to the rescue!

Since I told you just five of my 13 pitchers were starters, that means the other eight were obviously relievers. The eight RP on my roster were:

How hard do you think it was to draft this group of relievers last season? Extremely easy, and very cheap. All below 2.80 ERA and all below 1.09 WHIP. Sprinkle in all the saves you pick up along the way as they change roles in the bullpen and you've just won three of five pitching categories handily.

Let's look at another winning example from last year - this time in a H2H league. This time my five starters looked much better with Gerrit Cole, Clayton Kershaw, Charlie Morton, Robbie Ray, and Ryan Yarbrough. Again I went with 13 total pitchers, meaning once again I had eight relievers. Those eight relievers were:

  • Alex Colome (4 W, 30 SV, 55 K, 2.80 ERA, 1.07 WHIP)
  • Trevor May (5 W, 2 SV, 79 K, 2.94 ERA, 1.07 WHIP)
  • Drew Pomeranz (2nd half - 57 K, 1.96 ERA, 0.82 WHIP)
  • Chad Green (2nd Half - 55 K, 2.89 ERA, 0.96 WHIP)
  • Taylor Rogers (2 W, 30 SV, 90 K, 2.61 ERA, 1.00 WHIP)
  • Keone Kela (29.2 IP - 2 W, 1 SV, 33 K, 2.12 ERA, 1.01 WHIP)
  • Ross Stripling (4 W, 93 K, 3.47 ERA, 1.15 WHIP)
  • Julio Urias (4 W, 4 SV, 85 K, 2.49 ERA, 1.08 WHIP)

As you can see with the added boost I had at SP, and it being a H2H league, I cared even less about finding Saves and focused more on the extra K from my bullpen while still nailing down the ERA and WHIP categories on a weekly basis. This is why I said earlier that the Bullpen Method is more of a mentality than an actual black and white strategy - you can tweak it based on the league and your roster build. We will look at some of the different drafting techniques within the method a little later.

 

Building Franken-Aces with Relievers

The first question most people ask when they see my drafts is - "How can you win without drafting aces?" Well, there are two answers. First, draft the sleepers that become aces. Duh, right? Like the Roto league example above, I was able to get Ryu and Glasnow for very cheap and for chunks of the season they were bonafide aces. That certainly helps. But the second and most important answer is YOU BUILD THEM WITH RELIEVERS. Like Frankenstein, you can put together a stud ace with unwanted scraps you find on the waiver wire or late in the draft.

Let's do some building. Take Brandon Workman and Emilio Pagan from 2019. Both were for the most part undrafted in leagues, or at-best late stashes because Boston's bullpen situation was sketchy. So now we have our unwanted scrap parts. Now let's combine their end of season stats. We get 14 W, 200 K, 2.10 ERA, and 0.93 WHIP. Now let's compare. Clayton Kershaw finished 2019 with 16 W, 189 K, 3.03 ERA, and 1.04 WHIP. Our Franken-Ace easily has him beat.

But he was only SP11, so let's now look at the SP4, Zack Greinke. He finished 2019 with 18 W, 187 K, 2.93 ERA, and 0.98 WHIP. Franken-Ace still has the SP4 easily beat in three of the four "SP" categories. Oh, and don't forget Workman and Pagan combined for 36 Saves too. Franken-Ace is a five category monster that only took two relief pitchers to build, and I carry six of these relievers at a minimum meaning I can build at least three of these aces.

"But those are two breakout stud relievers that became closers. They are the exception." Fair enough. Let's try another Franken-Ace, this time without closers because closers are the best relievers right? Silly simpletons. Let's go with two setup men that I also owned multiple shares of last year: Seth Lugo and Giovanny Gallegos. So we have our new unwanted scrap parts. When we combine their end of season stats we get 10 W, 197 K, 2.51 ERA, and 0.86 WHIP. Now, let's look at Jack Flaherty who is being drafted in the second round of most drafts for 2020. He finished 2019 with 11 W, 231 K, 2.75 ERA, and 0.97 WHIP. This ace tied the Franken-Ace 2-2 in the four SP categories, but by only ONE win and 34 K, and again he loses in the Saves department to break the tie.

What the hell, let's do one more. This time let's do a second-half Franken-Ace because remember, the Bullpen Method is not solely a draft strategy. It is a mentality that is fluid and lasts the entire season. Relievers are like any other position in baseball, they have splits. They can start off cold and finish hot, and just as easily vice-versa. This is why I picked up Chad Green and Drew Pomeranz after rough starts to 2019. So we have our unwanted scraps. Let's say I put them together during the All-Star break to make a second-half Franken-Ace. Combine their second-half stats: 2 W, 112 K, 2.43 ERA, and 0.89 WHIP.

Next, let's look at one of the best 2019 second-half SP performers, Yu Darvish. Over the same timeframe, he earned 4 W, 118 K, 2.76 ERA, 0.81 WHIP. Bravo, Mr. Darvish, you defeated our second half Franken-Ace, but it was a very close fight and against two relievers that were way off standard league radars. The Green/Pomeranz combination was a lethal weapon down the fantasy playoff stretch last year and was a perfect mid-season pivot from first-half darlings such as John Gant. Fluidity. There is always a reliever on the waiver wire that has what you are looking for. Don't get wrapped up in names or roles, just current production.

Wasn't that fun? So we are not only making Franken-Aces out of late-round picks/ free agent pickups, but at the same time our offense is STACKED because while the rest of the league was wasting picks on their starting pitchers in the early rounds, we were grabbing the elite bats. That is the heart and soul of the Bullpen Method, and why it is so deadly. You are stacking your offensive categories and then winning/catching up on pitching categories on the back end without breaking a sweat.

 

JBullpen Method Drafting Strategies

As I have said numerous times already in this article, and will probably say a few more times - this is not a black and white strategy. You can't say "I drafted Blake Treinen and Edwin Diaz in 2019 because JB said relievers were better than starters and they both sucked so I lost." That's why it is more a state of mind, where names and roles don't matter. All you care about is numbers. If one guy isn't getting it done, move on, even if he is getting saves.

With that being said, I have noticed over the years that the drafting strategy, specifically how you handle starting pitchers and closers really doesn't matter with the Bullpen Method which is what makes it so cool. You can get five true aces as your starting pitchers, or you can get one ace and four mid-late round starters, or you can wait until round 10 to get your first starter. Names don't matter. Those five arms are there to get you IP, W, and K to keep you afloat in those categories while your bullpen does the rest.

I ran some mock drafts with the three main draft techniques to prove it and to also show you just how flexible you can be. Because the best drafting strategy is to always take what the league gives you. I broke down the drafts into three categories: Pitching Light, Pitching Heavy, and Don't Pay for Saves. Let's see how they looked.

I used FantasyPros for the mocks with 5x5 Roto categories, 28 roster spots, C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, CIF, MIF, OF x 5, UTIL x 2, P x 9, Bench x 5.

Pitching Light (1 x SP, 2 x RP in first 14 Rounds)

This draft technique is my favorite with the Bullpen Method. I get one true stud SP after a few elite bats, usually in the Mike Clevinger, Yu Darvish, Clayton Kershaw range of names. Then I grab some elite relievers that happen to fall into my lap for those elite ratios. But other than that, the first half of the draft is all about the bats. I can get basically whatever hitters I want and really blow the league away offensively. Then, hit the pitching fast and furious in the second half in usually an OCD-driven SP-RP-SP-RP pattern until I have filled my five-man rotation. Let's see how the projections look:

This is the prototypical league roto rankings layout for my teams. My offense is competing for the top spot in all categories because of the number of first-half picks on the stud hitters. Saves, ERA, and WHIP are locked in - despite only have three pitchers at round 14. That is the power of the Bullpen. Some successful SP-streaming throughout the season can vastly improve the W and K totals for some extra first-place padding, especially in daily-roster move leagues.

 

Pitching Heavy (5 x SP, 3 x RP in first 14 Rounds)

You will NEVER see me utilizing this strategy, and you will shortly see why. Going inverse from the last and most-preferred strategy of Pitching Light, we now go eight pitchers in the first half of the draft and attempt to build our offense with value bats in the second half while also sprinkling in our stud setup men.

***So obviously we expect the hitting categories to take a hit in this strategy where we focus on our pitchers early instead of loading up on bats. But the big shocker and the proof of Bullpen Method is the pitching categories. In this strategy, we drafted Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, and Charlie Morton along with some elite closers and the pitching projections look the exact same as our Pitching Light strategy where we only had ONE starting pitcher in the first 14 rounds.

 

Don't Pay for Saves (5 x SP, 1 x RP in first 14 rounds)

I may have been too harsh on the fantasy aces with that last drafting strategy. So in this one I try to balance it out between Pitching Light and Pitching Heavy by eliminating those early closer picks to allow a better offense while still having your "aces."

As you can see, yes the saves dropped (it's in the name of the strategy), but once again the ERA and WHIP remain studly and the offense is more balanced than it was in Pitching Heavy as shown below.

 

2020 RP Targets

This season, once I reach the second half of the draft and start filling my rotation and bullpen, these are some late-round relievers I'm targeting in my personal order of attack:

Seth Lugo, NYM - 256 ADP (2020 ATC Proj: 72 IP, 4 W, 3.14 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 83 K, 4 SV)
As a reliever, he now owns a 2.52 ERA and 10.04 K/9 over 178 career IP. Last season was the first in which he remained in the bullpen for the whole year, and it paid dividends for fantasy owners like me. 80 IP, 104 K, 2.70 ERA, and 0.90 WHIP which was good for RP12 in fantasy. Give me those high innings and K along with the elite ratios. 

Ryan Pressly, HOU - 292 ADP (61 IP, 3 W, 3.06 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 78 K, 6 SV)
Yes, he is amazing.

Diego Castillo, TB - 364 ADP (64 IP, 4 W, 3.31 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 76 K, 8 SV)
In 2019, Castillo seemed to take a small step backward from the promising rookie campaign as his ERA and WHIP rose to 3.41 and 1.24 respectively. But if you remove the 7.1 innings when he operated as an "opener", his ERA was actually just 3.08. With those opener innings erased, Castillo was the only reliever in baseball with at least a 50 GB% and double-digit K/9, with an ERA under 4.00 and HR/9 under 1.00. He also got even better as the year wore on. After the All-Star break, he posted a 2.88 ERA (2.89 FIP) with a massive 11.27 K/9, and best-of-all lowered his walk rate to just 7%. He checks all the boxes. He has the strikeout upside, he prevents line drives, he limits hard-hit fly balls, and he's still only 26 years old.

Drew Pomeranz, SD - 342 ADP (62 IP, 2 W, 3.50 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 76 K. 5 SV)
Finishing the season as a reliever, Pomeranz threw 28.2 IP with a 1.88 ERA, 15.70 K/9, and a 51.1 GB%. He held opposing hitters to a .165 BA and boasted a 1.67 xFIP. The K/9 was good for third-highest among RP with 20+ IP, and only Brandon Workman also had a top-30 K/9, GB% above 50%, and an ERA below 2.00. Yes, it is a small sample size, but Pomeranz would not be the first SP to flourish after a move to the pen. The upside is yyyyuuuuuggggeeee. 

Chad Green, NYY - 364 ADP (67 IP, 4 W, 3.62 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 90 K, 1 SV)
There are plenty of pleasantries to take away from Green's 2019 season. The first is the strikeouts remained constant. His 12.78 K/9 fell smack dab in the middle of his 2017 and 2018 totals. His O-Swing%, Contact%, and SwStr% were also all on par. The second positive is Green has remained healthy for three straight seasons and his velocity remains intact. The third positive was a very strong second half of the season which bodes well for his 2020 outlook. Green started the season just about as bad as one could, allowing 14 ER in his first 7.2 IP. But the Yankees got creative, even used him as an opener, and he responded in a great way. After the All-Star break, Green allowed just a 2.89 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, .176 BAA, 0.72 HR/9, and the BABIP dropped drastically. He is the Robin to my Seth Lugo Batman. 

Ross Stripling, LAD - 334 ADP (93 IP, 6 W, 3.75 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 93 K, 0 SV)
Last year it was Julio Urias as my main "Swingman" that could get me multi-inning relief outings with a surplus of strikeouts while still giving me great ratios. This year Stripling is my guy. I don't hate that he will sprinkle in some starts throughout the year either to help the team's W and K numbers.

Emilio Pagan, SD - 273 ADP (65 IP, 3 W, 3.31 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 82 K, 3 SV)
Much like Taylor Rogers, Emilio Pagan enjoyed a career-year in 2019 which resulted in earning the closer role. His 12.34 K/9 was a personal best, as was his GB%. Also in tune with Taylor Rogers, Pagan increased his slider usage which resulted in a 7% increase in O-Swing%, 5% decrease in Contact%, and raised his SwStr% to a very impressive 17.6%. His fastball was equally impressive as it gained a slight uptick in velo which led the way with a 42.1 K%. Obviously, for 2020 he is a cemented setup man after his trade to the Padres, but the skills will certainly still play. 

Aaron Bummer, CWS - 399 ADP (62 IP, 2 W, 3.20 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 60 K, 2 SV)
Huge ground-ball guy, which I love, and his 2019 ratios were just fantastic. If he can increase the strikeout rates back to even the 9.95 from 2018, Bummer will be a huge fantasy asset in 2020.

 

Weekly Leagues

It makes sense that the Bullpen Method is much easier to pull off in daily roster leagues, where you can change your lineup every day. This means you can maximize your SP starts and your reliever innings by swapping RP daily to avoid off-days. In weekly roster leagues, it certainly gets more challenging, but I also love the complexity it adds. Each week, you get to analyze and determine your "Ratio," a.k.a. how many SP and how many RP you will utilize in that week's starting lineup. My baseline is usually 4:5, especially if I have a two-start SP but it will fluctuate week-to-week based on pitchers' schedules and my place in the standings.

You aren't going to want to start a one-start SP on the road versus the Yankees so why not replace him with four clean innings from one of your stud relievers instead? That same week you could have an SP at Coors too, now you might be looking at a 3:6 ratio. Likewise, if you have five SP with either two-start weeks or great match-ups, go 5:4 and do some catch-up in W and K. Your fantasy-managerial skills will be tested, but your Sunday nights/Monday mornings will certainly be more exciting and/or filled with anxiety. Bottom line this method can work in any type of league, as long as you are being proactive.

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2020 Keeper Value Rankings - Top 150 Overall

In case you missed it, all preseason long I've been breaking down the top Keeper Values at each position. To get insight on any individual position, simply choose here: First BaseSecond Base, Third Base, Shortstop, Catcher, Outfield, Starting Pitcher, and Relief Pitchers. Now, for your convenience, here are the Top 150 Overall Keeper Values for 2020.

Keeper Value Rankings are intended for Keeper Leagues in which a fantasy owner must forfeit a designated draft pick in order to keep a player into the upcoming season. These rankings are based on Keeper "Values." In the marketing world, Value can be defined as the extent to which a good or service (player) is perceived by its customer (fantasy owner) to meet his/her needs or wants. The Keeper Values are derived from my Keeper Valuation Formula which accounts for age, player cost (ADP), remaining player pool, past performance, future projections, missed playing time, and even position scarcity.

The product is a quantitative depiction of a player's ability to meet/exceed fantasy owners' needs based on the cost they paid for the player in the previous season (2019 ADP) and will subsequently pay for in the current season's draft (2020). The higher the score, the higher the return the fantasy owner will receive from the player keeping him at their associated cost. Approaching Keeper selections with this "value" based attitude will greatly increase the effectiveness of a fantasy owner's draft in a Keeper League. Whereas the main purpose of the Keeper Value Formula is for customization based on specific leagues and keeper costs, I create these yearly rankings with standard 12 team league data, 2019 ADP, and 23rd Round cost for UDFA just as a baseline to help managers get an idea of their options. Let's see which relief pitchers are worth holding this year.

 

JB's Keeper Value System

TIER SCORE DESCRIPTION
1 >100 Finders Keepers! These are the Elite Keeper Values. MUST BE KEPT at all costs.
2 75-99 Great Keeper values. Unless you have a full load of Tier 1 players, these guys need to be kept.
3 50-74 You are gaining good value with these players. A majority of good keepers options tend to fall into this category.
4 25-49 Minimal value. The value exists, but not as much as your opponents are likely receiving with their selections. Consider if your options are limited.
5 0-24 Break-even point. Keeping these players will likely hurt your overall draft, as you are not adding enough value.
6 <0 The associated costs make it impossible to return any value, these players will ruin your draft. Stay far away.

Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @RowdyRotoJB to check out your specific league's values.

 

2020 Keeper Value Rankings - Top 150 Overall

RANK TIER PLAYER ADP (ROUND) SCORE
1 1 Cody Bellinger LAD 1B, OF 4 112.08
2 1 Pete Alonso NYM 1B 20 108.11
3 1 Yordan Alvarez HOU OF 23 106.44
4 1 Fernando Tatis Jr SDP SS 22 105.44
5 1 Ronald Acuna ATL OF 1 104.27
6 1 Rafael Devers BOS 3B 12 104.05
7 2 Shane Bieber CLE SP 13 98.95
8 2 Ketel Marte ARI 2B, SS, OF 21 96.92
9 2 Austin Meadows TBR OF 18 95.66
10 2 Gerrit Cole NYY SP 3 90.82
11 2 Keston Hiura MIL 2B 23 90.82
12 2 Lucas Giolito CWS SP 23 90.29
13 2 Chris Paddack SDP SP 20 86.52
14 2 Mike Trout LAA OF 1 83.94
15 2 Jorge Soler KCR OF 23 83.20
16 2 DJ LeMahieu NYY 1B, 2B, 3B 19 82.85
17 2 Christian Yelich MIL OF 1 82.25
18 2 Juan Soto WAS OF 3 81.81
19 2 Luis Castillo CIN SP 11 77.80
20 2 Josh Bell PIT 1B 21 77.32
21 2 Luis Robert CWS OF 23 76.90
22 2 Trey Mancini BAL 1B, OF 23 76.86
23 2 Jack Flaherty STL SP 5 75.83
24 3 Jeff McNeil NYM 2B, 3B, OF 23 72.64
25 3 Brandon Woodruff MIL SP 23 72.58
26 3 Mike Soroka ATL SP 23 72.53
27 3 Shohei Ohtani LAA SP/DH 15 70.86
28 3 Marcus Semien OAK SS 19 70.66
29 3 Ramon Laureano OAK OF 19 70.54
30 3 Trevor Story COL SS 2 70.13
31 3 Miguel Sano MIN 1B, 3B 23 70.05
32 3 Bo Bichette TOR SS 23 67.93
33 3 Tyler Glasnow TBR SP 14 66.89
34 3 Liam Hendricks OAK RP 23 66.82
35 3 Walker Buehler LAD SP 4 66.81
36 3 Anthony Rendon LAA 3B 4 65.96
37 3 Yoan Moncada CWS 2B, 3B 14 65.62
38 3 Danny Santana TEX 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, OF 23 65.58
39 3 Frankie Montas OAK SP 23 64.64
40 3 Lance Lynn TEX SP 23 64.19
41 3 Eloy Jimenez CWS OF 10 63.87
42 3 Josh Hader MIL RP 9 63.83
43 3 Jonathan Villar MIA 2B, SS 8 63.53
44 3 Alex Bregman HOU 3B, SS 2 63.15
45 3 Sonny Gray CIN SP 23 62.68
46 3 Matt Olson OAK 1B 12 62.22
47 3 Gleyber Torres NYY 2B, SS 6 61.76
48 3 Jesus Luzardo OAK SP 22 61.67
49 3 Yu Darvish CHC SP 12 60.95
50 3 Charlie Morton TBR SP 10 60.30
51 3 Max Kepler MIN OF 20 59.80
52 3 Dinelson Lamet SDP SP 23 59.77
53 3 Mookie Betts LAD OF 1 58.79
54 3 Taylor Rogers MIN RP 23 58.00
55 3 Stephen Strasburg WAS SP 5 57.88
56 3 Zac Gallen ARI SP 23 57.87
57 3 Julio Urias LAD SP 23 56.95
58 3 Franmil Reyes CLE OF 20 55.93
59 3 Cavan Biggio TOR 2B, OF 23 55.73
60 3 Max Fried ATL SP 23 54.56
61 3 Oscar Mercado CLE OF 23 54.22
62 3 Justin Verlander HOU SP 2 53.38
63 3 Freddie Freeman ATL 1B 2 53.05
64 3 Mitch Garver MIN C 23 51.08
65 3 Hector Neris PHI RP 23 50.38
66 3 Gavin Lux LAD 2B, SS 23 50.07
67 4 Ozzie Albies ATL 2B 5 49.61
68 4 Jo Adell LAA OF 23 48.93
69 4 Yuli Gurriel HOU 1B, 3B 16 46.88
70 4 Lourdes Gurriel Jr TOR 2B, SS, OF 21 46.74
71 4 Aristides Aquino CIN OF 23 46.63
72 4 Eduardo Escobar ARI 2B, 3B, SS 15 46.00
73 4 Hunter Dozier KCR 1B, 3B, OF 23 45.87
74 4 Jorge Polanco MIN SS 20 45.79
75 4 Joc Pederson LAD 1B, OF 23 44.78
76 4 Ryan McMahon COL 1B, 2B, 3B 23 44.76
77 4 Matthew Boyd DET SP 23 44.63
78 4 Nick Anderson TBR RP 23 43.65
79 4 Brandon Workman BOS RP 23 43.55
80 4 Bryan Reynolds PIT OF 23 42.80
81 4 Hyun-Jin Ryu TOR SP 15 42.38
82 4 George Springer HOU OF 4 42.34
83 4 Xander Bogaerts BOS SS 4 42.24
84 4 Carlos Santana CLE 1B 15 41.84
85 4 Francisco Lindor CLE SS 1 41.70
86 4 Mike Minor TEX SP 23 41.54
87 4 Hansel Robles LAA RP 23 41.09
88 4 Tim Anderson CWS SS 12 40.48
89 4 Kirby Yates SDP RP 9 40.39
90 4 Lance McCullers HOU SP 23 40.21
91 4 Will Smith LAD C 22 39.10
92 4 Tommy Edman STL 2B, 3B, SS, OF 23 38.26
93 4 Clayton Kershaw LAD SP 5 37.21
94 4 Luke Weaver ARI SP 23 36.73
95 4 Starling Marte ARI OF 4 36.32
96 4 Willie Calhoun TEX OF 23 36.11
97 4 Sean Manaea OAK SP 23 35.55
98 4 Christian Walker ARI 1B 23 34.96
99 4 Mike Moustakas CIN 2B, 3B 12 34.86
100 4 Joey Gallo TEX OF 8 34.64
101 4 Matt Chapman OAK 3B 9 33.11
102 4 Kyle Tucker HOU OF 23 33.11
103 4 Adalberto Mondesi KCR SS 4 33.01
104 4 Amed Rosario NYM SS 15 32.77
105 4 Keone Kela PIT RP 23 31.00
106 4 AJ Puk OAK SP 23 30.41
107 4 Eduardo Rodriguez BOS SP 13 29.59
108 4 Eddie Rosario MIN OF 7 29.20
109 4 JD Davis NYM 3B, OF 23 29.19
110 4 Scott Kingery PHI 2B, 3B, SS, OF 23 29.17
111 4 Marcus Stroman NYM SP 23 28.29
112 4 Jake Odorizzi MIN SP 23 27.48
113 4 Victor Robles WAS OF 10 26.97
114 4 Max Muncy LAD 1B, 2B, 3B 10 26.85
115 4 Giovanny Gallegos STL RP 23 26.00
116 5 Jacob deGrom NYM SP 1 24.45
117 5 Kevin Newman PIT 2B, SS 23 23.75
118 5 Caleb Smith MIA SP 23 23.25
119 5 Salvador Perez KCR C 23 23.14
120 5 Jose Abreu CHW 1B 6 23.08
121 5 Mark Canha OAK 1B, OF 23 23.01
122 5 Michael Brantley HOU OF 9 22.85
123 5 Ken Giles TOR RP 12 22.75
124 5 Josh Donaldson MIN 3B 8 22.28
125 5 Renato Nunez BAL 1B, 3B 23 22.19
126 5 Brandon Lowe TBR 1B, 2B 23 21.50
127 5 Nick Castellanos CIN OF 8 21.13
128 5 Joe Jimenez DET RP 23 20.98
129 5 Michael Conforto NYM OF 9 20.75
130 5 Ryan Yarbrough TBR SP, RP 23 20.39
131 5 Ian Kennedy KCR RP 23 19.35
132 5 Mike Clevinger CLE SP 5 19.16
133 5 Brendan McKay TBR SP 23 19.11
134 5 Will Smith ATL RP 23 18.91
135 5 Michael Chavis BOS 1B, 2B, 3B 23 18.25
136 5 Mitch Keller PIT SP 23 17.84
137 5 Kyle Schwarber CHC OF 15 17.35
138 5 Jose Urquidy HOU SP 23 16.48
139 5 Didi Gregorius PHI SS 23 15.60
140 5 Avisail Garcia MIL OF 23 14.88
141 5 Nolan Arenado COL 3B 1 14.39
142 5 Kenta Maeda MIN SP 15 14.07
143 5 Elvis Andrus TEX SS 14 13.71
144 5 Alex Colome CHW RP 17 13.61
145 5 Sandy Alcantara MIA SP 23 12.97
146 5 Patrick Corbin WAS SP 4 9.85
147 5 Yandy Diaz TBR 1B, 3B 23 9.13
148 5 Kolten Wong STL 2B 23 9.01
149 5 Yasmani Grandal CHW C, 1B 10 7.99
150 5 Carlos Martinez STL SP, RP 16 7.82

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2020 Keeper Value Rankings - Relief Pitchers

We now round up our 2020 Keeper Value Rankings with the most volatile position of all - relievers. If you haven't been following along, catch up here by reading up on the best keepers at First BaseSecond Base, Third Base, Shortstop, Catcher, Outfield, and Starting Pitcher.

Keeper Value Rankings are intended for Keeper Leagues in which a fantasy owner must forfeit a designated draft pick in order to keep a player into the upcoming season. These rankings are based on Keeper "Values." In the marketing world, Value can be defined as the extent to which a good or service (player) is perceived by its customer (fantasy owner) to meet his/her needs or wants. The Keeper Values are derived from my Keeper Valuation Formula which accounts for age, player cost (ADP), remaining player pool, past performance, future projections, missed playing time, and even position scarcity.

The product is a quantitative depiction of a player's ability to meet/exceed fantasy owners' needs based on the cost they paid for the player in the previous season (2019 ADP) and will subsequently pay for in the current season's draft (2020). The higher the score, the higher the return the fantasy owner will receive from the player keeping him at their associated cost. Approaching Keeper selections with this "value" based attitude will greatly increase the effectiveness of a fantasy owner's draft in a Keeper League. Whereas the main purpose of the Keeper Value Formula is for customization based on specific leagues and keeper costs, I create these yearly rankings with standard 12 team league data, 2019 ADP, and 23rd Round cost for UDFA just as a baseline to help managers get an idea of their options. Let's see which relief pitchers are worth holding this year.

 

JB's Keeper Value System

TIER SCORE DESCRIPTION
1 >100 Finders Keepers! These are the Elite Keeper Values. MUST BE KEPT at all costs.
2 75-99 Great Keeper values. Unless you have a full load of Tier 1 players, these guys need to be kept.
3 50-74 You are gaining good value with these players. A majority of good keepers options tend to fall into this category.
4 25-49 Minimal value. The value exists, but not as much as your opponents are likely receiving with their selections. Consider if your options are limited.
5 0-24 Break-even point. Keeping these players will likely hurt your overall draft, as you are not adding enough value.
6 <0 The associated costs make it impossible to return any value, these players will ruin your draft. Stay far away.

Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @RowdyRotoJB to check out your specific league's values.

 

2020 Keeper Value Rankings - Relief Pitchers

POS Rank Keeper Tier Player ADP (Round) Score
1 3 Liam Hendriks OAK 23 66.82
2 3 Josh Hader MIL 9 63.83
3 3 Taylor Rogers MIN 23 58.00
4 3 Hector Neris PHI 23 50.38
5 4 Nick Anderson TBR 23 43.65
6 4 Brandon Workman BOS 23 43.55
7 4 Hansel Robles LAA 23 41.09
8 4 Kirby Yates SDP 9 40.39
9 4 Keone Kela PIT 23 31.00
10 4 Giovanny Gallegos STL 23 26.00
11 5 Ken Giles TOR 12 22.75
12 5 Joe Jimenez DET 23 20.98
13 5 Ian Kennedy KCR 23 19.35
14 5 Will Smith ATL 23 18.91
15 5 Alex Colome CHW 17 13.61
16 5 Roberto Osuna HOU 7 5.21
17 5 Archie Bradley ARI 18 4.66
18 5 Mark Melancon ATL 23 4.57
19 5 Seth Lugo NYM 23 4.39
20 5 Aroldis Chapman NYY 6 3.61

 

Tier Three

Relief pitchers are by far the toughest players to gauge in keeper leagues. For every Blake Treinen kept in the early-mid rounds there is the possibility of an undrafted Liam Hendriks that comes out of nowhere and replaces him. Then there's Edwin Diaz, David Robertson, Jose Leclerc. Not paying for saves is usually a safe bet in the long haul, especially considering 13 of the 20 positive keeper scores among relievers were undrafted or drafted after the 23rd round. Due to the lack of stability of the ever-turning carousel, it is extremely rare to find a keeper score north of 75.0 at this position, but that doesn't mean there aren't good values out there.

Liam Hendriks has been hanging around the American League since being drafted by the Twins in 2007. A starter-turned-reliever, he had some success in the bullpen prior to 2019, such as his 2015 campaign in Toronto where he pitched to a 2.92 ERA across 64.2 IP. But in 2019 we saw a different beast. Enjoying a 1.5 MPH uptick in his fastball velocity, Hendriks rode the pitch hard, throwing the cheese at a 67.9% clip and essentially doing away with his sinker. It resulted in a career-high 37.4 K%.

Subsequently, as one would expect, the boost in fastball value also supported his secondary pitch. When throwing his slider Hendriks allowed a .108 BAA while boasting a 56.4 K%, 47.2 O-Swing%, 29.0 SwStr%, and a very much needed 51.6 GB%. The slider is key to sustaining elite fantasy value in 2020. There will without a doubt be more HR this year, there just has to be, but if he keeps throwing the slider to this level of effectiveness the strikeouts will remain and help overcome the ERA regression.

Taylor Rogers was a solid relief pitcher for three seasons in Minnesota heading into 2019, but was finally awarded the ninth-inning keys and responded with the best year of his career. Operating as the Twins Glen Perkins-esque southpaw closer, Rogers rewarded fantasy owners finishing as one of only four RP with 30 SV, 11+ K/9, and an ERA under 3.00. Fun fact, the other three were also LHP - Aroldis Chapman, Josh Hader, and Will Smith. Despite seeing regression in BABIP and HR/FB% from his "breakout" 2018 season, Rogers was still able to lower his ERA due to a career-best 32.4 K%. The secret appears to be a massive increase in his slider usage, 13% in 2018 to 31% in 2019. I see no reason to expect anything different from Rogers in 2020, sitting atop a strong bullpen featuring Trevor MayTyler DuffeySergio Romo, and Tyler Clippard.

 

Tier Four

It's hard to believe Brandon Workman has been with the Red Sox since 2011. He made his first big league appearance in 2013 but really got his feet wet in 2014 with 87 IP and a wild 1-10 record. He then saw 2015-2016 practically erased due to Tommy John surgery. Fast forward to 2019, and he completes a literal 180 flip by going 10-1 with a 13.06 K/9 and 1.88 ERA, while also taking over Boston ninth-inning duties and recording 16 saves. One main factor for his success was increasing the usage of his fantastic curveball, up to damn-near 50%, good for third-highest in baseball but still behind teammate Matt Barnes. Due to the increase in offspeed pitches, his FB value climbed and contributed to a career-low Contact% and career-high SwStr%. To top it all off, Workman's .123 BAA was the lowest in all of baseball.

Coming over from the New York Yankees in exchange for Luke Voit in 2018, Giovanny Gallegos saw his first full season in the bigs last year, and did not disappoint. Like Rogers and Pagan, Gallegos threw a career-high percentage of sliders en route to a 33.3 K% and 16.3 SwStr%. He also boasts impressive command as shown by his 27.6 K-BB%. The best thing Gallegos has going for him in 2020 is opportunity. With Jordan Hicks recovering from TJS and Carlos Martinez supposedly returning to the rotation, Gallegos should be the guy to see the first crack at the ninth-inning role. He is the most talented option in the pen in my opinion, and you never know how/when Jordan Hicks recovers so I am treating Gallegos like the Cardinals closer in my drafts.

 

Tier Five

There is nothing I love more than starters being converted to relievers, even if I stacked my DFS lineups against this starter for the past few seasons. Two seasons ago, Ian Kennedy was giving up two homers per nine innings and dragging around a 5.61 FIP. Fast forward to 2019 and pitching out of the bullpen, Kennedy boasts career-bests 10.37 K/9, 44.4 GB%, and 2.99 FIP. It's almost like even the worst starting pitchers can be great when only facing three batters at a time!

Seriously though, Kennedy was a very serviceable guy in fantasy. He recorded 30 saves for the Royals on his way to finishing as a top-150 player. The WHIP has been an eye-sore since 2012, but he did suffer from a career-worst .343 BABIP last season so I am interested to see if positive regression there can lower the ratios.

The only reliever that posted a positive keeper score without being projected to at least share closing duties for his team is my favorite ratio-RP target, Seth Lugo. If you recall my Top 10 Draft Tips article, in Roto and H2H leagues I operate off the JBullpen Method - meaning I don't put any emphasis on starting pitchers but instead load up on elite set-up men. From 2013-2017, you had Andrew Miller, and 2014-2018 there was Dellin Betances. Now it's Seth Lugo. As a starter, Lugo owns a 4.06 ERA and 7.38 K/9 over 168 IP. As a reliever, he owns a 2.52 ERA and 10.04 K/9 over 178 IP. Last season was the first in which he remained in the bullpen for the whole year, and it paid dividends for fantasy owners like me. 80 IP, 104 K, 2.70 ERA, and 0.90 WHIP which was good for RP12 in fantasy.

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2020 Keeper Value Rankings - Starting Pitchers

I've already revealed the 2020 Keeper Value Rankings for the hitters: First BaseSecond Base, Third Base, Shortstop, Catcher, and Outfield.  Now let's go to the rubber. Keeper Value Rankings are intended for Keeper Leagues in which a fantasy owner must forfeit a designated draft pick in order to keep a player into the upcoming season. These rankings are based on Keeper "Values." In the marketing world, Value can be defined as the extent to which a good or service (player) is perceived by its customer (fantasy owner) to meet his/her needs or wants. The Keeper Values are derived from my Keeper Valuation Formula which accounts for age, player cost (ADP), remaining player pool, past performance, future projections, missed playing time, and even position scarcity.

The product is a quantitative depiction of a player's ability to meet/exceed fantasy owners' needs based on the cost they paid for the player in the previous season (2019 ADP) and will subsequently pay for in the current season's draft (2020). The higher the score, the higher the return the fantasy owner will receive from the player keeping him at their associated cost. Approaching Keeper selections with this "value" based attitude will greatly increase the effectiveness of a fantasy owner's draft in a Keeper League.

Whereas the main purpose of the Keeper Value Formula is for customization based on specific leagues and keeper costs, I create these yearly rankings with standard 12 team league data, 2019 ADP, and 23rd Round cost for UDFA just as a baseline to help managers get an idea of their options. Let's see which backstops are worth holding this year.

 

JB's Keeper Value System

TIER SCORE DESCRIPTION
1 >100 Finders Keepers! These are the Elite Keeper Values. MUST BE KEPT at all costs.
2 75-99 Great Keeper values. Unless you have a full load of Tier 1 players, these guys need to be kept.
3 50-74 You are gaining good value with these players. A majority of good keepers options tend to fall into this category.
4 25-49 Minimal value. The value exists, but not as much as your opponents are likely receiving with their selections. Consider if your options are limited.
5 0-24 Break-even point. Keeping these players will likely hurt your overall draft, as you are not adding enough value.
6 <0 The associated costs make it impossible to return any value, these players will ruin your draft. Stay far away.

Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @RowdyRotoJB to check out your specific league's values.

 

2020 Keeper Value Rankings - Starting Pitchers

POS Rank Keeper Tier Player ADP (Round) Score
1 2 Shane Bieber CLE 13 98.95
2 2 Gerrit Cole NYY 3 90.82
3 2 Lucas Giolito CWS 23 90.29
4 2 Chris Paddack SDP 20 86.52
5 2 Luis Castillo CIN 11 77.80
6 2 Jack Flaherty STL 5 75.83
7 3 Brandon Woodruff MIL 23 72.58
8 3 Mike Soroka ATL 23 72.53
9 3 Shohei Ohtani LAA 15 70.86
10 3 Tyler Glasnow TBR 14 66.89
11 3 Walker Buehler LAD 4 66.81
12 3 Frankie Montas OAK 23 64.64
13 3 Lance Lynn TEX 23 64.19
14 3 Sonny Gray CIN 23 62.68
15 3 Jesus Luzardo OAK 22 61.67
16 3 Yu Darvish CHC 12 60.95
17 3 Charlie Morton TBR 10 60.30
18 3 Dinelson Lamet SDP 23 59.77
19 3 Stephen Strasburg WAS 5 57.88
20 3 Zac Gallen ARI 23 57.87
21 3 Julio Urias LAD 23 56.95
22 3 Max Fried ATL 23 54.56
23 3 Justin Verlander HOU 2 53.38
24 4 Matthew Boyd DET 23 44.63
25 4 Hyun-Jin Ryu TOR 15 42.38
26 4 Mike Minor TEX 23 41.54
27 4 Lance McCullers HOU 23 40.21
28 4 Clayton Kershaw LAD 5 37.21
29 4 Luke Weaver ARI 23 36.73
30 4 Sean Manaea OAK 23 35.55
31 4 AJ Puk OAK 23 30.41
32 4 Eduardo Rodriguez BOS 13 29.59
33 4 Marcus Stroman NYM 23 28.29
34 4 Jake Odorizzi MIN 23 27.48
35 5 Jacob deGrom NYM 1 24.45
36 5 Caleb Smith MIA 23 23.25
37 5 Ryan Yarbrough TBR 23 20.39
38 5 Mike Clevinger CLE 5 19.16
39 5 Brendan McKay TBR 23 19.11
40 5 Mitch Keller PIT 23 17.84
41 5 Jose Urquidy HOU 23 16.48
42 5 Kenta Maeda MIN 15 14.07
43 5 Sandy Alcantara MIA 23 12.97
44 5 Patrick Corbin WAS 4 9.85
45 5 Carlos Martinez STL 16 7.82
46 5 Aaron Civale CLE 23 7.42
47 5 Dustin May LAD 23 7.41
48 5 Andrew Heaney LAA 16 1.76

 

Tier Two

No starting pitchers made it across that triple-digit elite-keeper tier one threshold in 2020, but to be fair it is pretty uncommon at the position that houses nearly 40% of fantasy players. There is no such thing as position scarcity at starting pitcher, but six studs still put up impressive tier two scores and Shane Bieber was only two points shy of 100. Biebs only has a little over a year and a half of big-league experience under his belt but he already has that workhorse vibe to him. He threw 214.1 innings last season which only trailed Justin Verlander, and 194 between the minors and majors in 2018. He was one of only nine arms to throw for over 200 innings with a double-digit K/9, and his 259 strikeouts were third-best in baseball. The peripherals, especially the amount of hard contact surrendered doesn't exactly reflect a top-10 SP, but not a single projection system has him pegged for less than 196 IP or 213 K. In this day and age that floor is hard to come by and the formula recognizes the value.

Gerrit Cole is a unanimous first-round pick after back to back dominant seasons with the Astros and now he joins yet another team loaded with run support. Keeping him anywhere outside the first round is a no-brainer. Lucas Giolito and Chris Paddack are two extremely exciting names heading into 2020 as both broke out last season. Chris Paddack won the job out of spring training but was handled with care as it was his first season over 100 IP. He finished with a 3.33 ERA and 153 K, and despite the innings limit was still a top-25 SP thanks mostly in part to his sparkling 0.98 WHIP. With the gloves presumably off in 2020, the sky is really the limit for the Sheriff.

Giolito took a bit longer than Paddack to blossom but he finally cashed in on that 2012 first-round draft-pick promise. After a putrid season in 2018 in which he owned a 6.49 K/9 and the MLB-worst 6.13 ERA over 173.1 IP, the 25-year-old ditched the sinker and upped the usage on his fastball which paid huge dividends in 2019. Now on the heels of a 228 K season with a lethal south-side offense, Giolito joins Cole and Bieber for the only starters with a keeper score over 90.

The last two arms in the heralded second-tier are National League youngsters that everyone should be high on for 2020. After a very impressive rookie campaign in 2017, I was all-in on Luis Castillo for 2018, which proved to be one year too early. But the good news for keeper league owners this season is that somewhat disappointing 2018 should have deflated his keeper cost in most leagues. Last season saw Castillo take a giant step forward and he finished top-15 among qualified starters in wins (15), K/9 (10.96), and xFIP (3.48). He relied heavily on his devastating change-up which easily led the league with a 27.7 wCH (Pitch Info), boasted a 26.6 SwStr%, and held opposing hitters to a .129 BAA. RotoBaller rankers expect more of the same in 2020 as they have him pegged as a borderline top-10 SP at #43 overall.

If you look 19 spots higher on our rankings, you'll find Jack Flaherty, who joins Cole as the only SP with a tier two keeper score despite a single-digit ADP. It's pretty hard to argue considering over his last 99.1 IP of 2019 he allowed a microscopic 0.91 ERA, 11.23 K/9, and held hitters to just a .189 wOBA. He was arguably the best pitcher in baseball after the All-Star break and carries a ton of well-deserved hype into 2020 drafts.

 

Tier Three

Remember in the explanation table up top, I said the majority of good keepers fall into the third tier. That definitely holds true among pitchers for 2020 as 16 arms slide in between the 50-74 point range. Our first tier-tres pitcher has been getting a lot of buzz this draft season despite not topping 121 IP in the last three seasons. Before an oblique injury slammed the brakes, Brandon Woodruff was having a very solid season in the Milwaukee rotation. He increased his K/9 to 10.58 thanks to an increase in velocity and usage of his change-up, while still posting the exact 3.36 xFIP that he saw in 2018. Among pitchers with at least 100 IP he surrendered the 16th highest soft hit percentage, and among those top-16 he also owned the lowest pulled hit percentage, so obviously he's very difficult to square up. This ability combined with a double-digit K/9 creates a very intriguing floor and if Woodruff can finally reach a full season's workload we could be surprised by the ceiling as well. Something to watch for in 2020 is his adjustments after the first trip through the batting order. Last season he saw his ERA increase from 1.85 to 5.05 the second time through the lineup.

Another late-round keeper that was well on his way to a 2019 breakout was Frankie Montas, but unlike Woodruff, it was not injury that brought it to a halt. After posting a 9-2 record with a 2.63 ERA in 96 IP, Montas received an 80-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. It was truly heart-breaking for the lucky owners who either took a flyer on him late in their drafts or were the first ones to scoop him up off the waiver wire, because the breakout looked legit. He added a splitter to his arsenal that appeared to completely change his game, boasting a 21.3 SwStr% while holding opposing hitters to just a .160 BAA, and most importantly inducing a 62.6 GB%. I am very high on the Oakland Athletics as a team this year and I think Montas will be a large part of their success. While going light on SP in the early rounds per usual, Montas is always my target for SP1 or SP2. RotoBaller rankings have him at 116th overall, but if he can bounce right back to the level he was at prior to the suspension he would be a steal even at that price.

If I consider myself excited about Montas this season, I don't even know how to describe my feelings for Julio Urias as he is penciled in for a starting spot in the Dodgers rotation for the 2020 season. In 79.2 IP last year, Urias boasted a 2.49 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP with a 9.6 K/9, albeit primarily out of the pen as a reliever. I don't need to convince anyone on the stuff, because we've all known for years now that this guy is a stud but was blocked by a crowded and talented Dodgers rotation. My favorite thing about the stats though is the ability to avoid the long ball. He owns a 0.68 HR/9 across 184 big league innings, and just a 30.9 Hard%. Since 2016 among pitchers with at least 180 IP, his 22.1 Soft% ranks 15th best and is sandwiched between Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom. Obviously Urias won't reach 200 IP in 2020, but realistically I could see a similar workload to what Chris Paddack saw in 2019 when he pitched 140.2 innings.

 

Tier Four

The fourth tier still has some good names, but just remember your opponents may be stacking up their keeper selections with first and second-tier studs. So you don't want very many of these fourth-tier names unless your options are limited. The first guy on the docket is another of my favorite Zero-SP targets in the middle rounds. Usually, when you bypass the fantasy aces in the early rounds, strikeouts are the hardest stat to make up ground on. This is why Matthew Boyd is always a target of mine. He is currently drafted as the SP44, despite owning the sixth-highest K/9 among starters last season. Yes, there was the ugly 4.56 ERA, but he also boasted the 11th best SIERA. Boyd has looked fantastic this spring and even has been working on a filthy new curveball that should help lower that 1.89 HR/9 which paired with his heavy-strikeout profile could produce a massive breakout season for the left-hander.

If you missed out on Julio Urias and you want another per-IP stud that is being undervalued due to a likely innings cap, look no further than Lance McCullers. He is coming off a year-long recovery from TJS and has never pitched more than 130 IP in the majors, but we all know how filthy he is when healthy. Since 2015 among pitchers with at least 450 IP, LMC is one of only 10 to have a double-digit K/9 (10.10) and an xFIP under 3.40 (3.31). He's only thrown 4.2 innings this spring, but he's already whiffed six batters while only walking one. Again, he won't touch 200 IP but at his price, you can't beat the production.

In last year's bold predictions article, I predicted Eduardo Rodriguez would break out in 2019 and be a Top-15 SP. While he fell short of that threshold, he did have a great season and finished as the SP24. He put all the absurd injury-prone concerns to bed as he was one of 15 pitchers to reach 200 IP, and finished behind only Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole with 19 wins. It appears at this point, the walks will always be a bit of an issue with E-Rod which will likely be a WHIP liability for your fantasy team. Plan an extra RP ratio anchor into your plans and you'll be fine because E-Rod is once again primed for a step forward in 2020 after a torrid 2nd half last year. Across his last 100 IP in 2019 he owned a 2.95 ERA, .239 BAA, and a 25.4 K%. That fire has already spilled over into 2020 this spring, as he has struck out 20(!) batters in just 11 IP while only allowing two earned runs.

 

Tier Five

Now we've reached the point of really just not enough value gained to warrant a keeper selection based on production and where you can get the players in your draft after keeper selections. Unless you are just really high on a player, have an open keeper selection and don't want to risk losing him in the draft, you want to avoid this tier. But projections aren't always right and of course, there are still some potential values available on the list. Take Mike Clevinger for example. He ranked much higher on the list with his fifth-round cost prior to his meniscus injury. But now you look at the season being delayed due to the Coronavirus and now Clevinger being out until late May doesn't really seem that bad. You are talking about a second-round stud with first-round potential that may start at the same time as everyone else now. Obviously those are some "what-ifs" and its just one example, but it's just a way of illustrating that keeper values can increase/decrease very fluidly. Be smart, be creative, and whatever you do please don't just keep players based off of 2020 rankings!!!

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JB's Bold Predictions for 2020

I'm going to let you in on a little secret... JB stands for "JUST BOLDNESS".

Okay that's a lie... it's actually not a secret because I use that every year in my bold predictions intro. Nevertheless welcome to the latest rendition of RotoBaller's 2020 Bold Predictions. You have now come to the stop where you will be blindsided by more boldness, and yet more accuracy, than anywhere else in the entire industry.

I hope you enjoy my rowdy predictions for 2020. When you're done, please check out the rest of my colleagues' fresh takes for the upcoming season (links at bottom).

 

Rafael Devers wins AL MVP, finishes Top-10 in Fantasy (Again)

I get one Boston prediction per year as a Sox fan, and this year I am going straight to the best hitter on the team... sorry J.D. Martinez. I have long been awaiting the Rafael Devers breakout, and was slightly disappointed with what I saw from him in 2018. But then I watched this guy in the playoffs against the Yankees and Astros pitching staffs and I knew that he was still on the verge of something big. Then 2019 rolls around, and it happened. Raffy Big Scoops went ham and ended the season as the sixth-ranked player in fantasy. His 90 XBH led the league over the likes of Christian Yelich, Mike Trout, Ronald Acuna, and Pete Alonso.

Am I worried about a dip in power? Not even a little. His HR/FB% was right on par with his average, plus he hit 54 doubles. 23 years young and 237 lbs, an off-season in the weight room and cages could easily convert 10 of those doubles into full trips around the bases. I am sure many think Mookie Betts being traded will have a big impact on his run production, as if Andrew Benintendi/Alex Verdugo, Xander Bogaerts, and JDM isn't still an elite 1-4.

Devers will still reach 200 R+RBI, and still hit over .300 because frankly he's one of the best all-around hitters in the league right now - and he hasn't even reached his full potential yet. I understand saying a player being drafted at 21st overall is going to be really good isn't exactly bold, but I just want to stress how much of a gift that second-round ADP is going to turn out to be by season's end.

 

Justin Upton sets a career-high in RBI and finishes as a Top-25 OF

Justin Upton finished the 2018 season as the 20th ranked Outfielder in fantasy. He hit 30 HR while batting .257. It was his third consecutive season with at least 30 bombs. Then 2019 was derailed by knee and toe injuries and led to an abysmal offensive showing in 63 games. But reports are he had a rehab-free off-season and is fully ready for 2020. The former first overall pick is still just 32 years old, which is not young by any stretch but at the same time is the same age as David Peralta, J.D. Martinez, Michael Brantley, and even Rusney Castillo (sad face..). If indeed truly healthy, how am I not going to expect a full season of 2018 Justin Upton to resurface?

Despite the lack of production and poor statistics, 2019 actually showed me some things to get excited about, such as a 45.9 FB% that was Upton's highest since his 2008 rookie season. How about replicating his career-high 46.6 Pull% from 2018, or the still-impressive 41.1 Hard%? Upton is going to mash this season, and I haven't even gotten to the best part. I haven't even mentioned he will be hitting behind Mike Trout (.438 OBP), Anthony Rendon (.412 OBP), and some days Shohei Ohtani (.343 OBP), with the still-chugging Hall of Famer Albert Pujols in the on-deck circle behind him.

If he stays healthy, which I have no reason to doubt at this moment, Upton will cruise past his 109 RBI personal-best and finish as a top 25 OF in fantasy. He is currently being drafted as the 59th OF and RotoBaller rankings have him pegged at 46th. For a frame of reference, Michael Conforto was the 23rd ranked OF in 2019 after posting a 90/33/92/7/.257 line. As the kids say....BET.

 

Julio Urias breaks out and finishes as a Top-20 SP

I've waited four years for this. Since the highly-touted prospect debuted as a 19-year-old, I've been waiting for him to be an everyday starter in the Dodgers rotation. I have been patient, and even gladly utilized him as a reliever in years past, but the time has finally come. In 79.2 IP last season, Urias boasted a 2.49 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP with a 9.6 K/9, albeit primarily out of the pen as a reliever. I don't need to convince anyone on the stuff, because we've all known for years now that this guy is a stud but was blocked by a crowded and talented Dodgers rotation.

My favorite thing about the stats though is the ability to avoid the long ball. He owns a 0.68 HR/9 across 184 big league innings, and just a 30.9 Hard%. Since 2016 among pitchers with at least 180 IP, his 22.1 Soft% ranks 15th best and is sandwiched between Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom. The rest of the peripherals don't scream Top-20 SP I'll give you that, but the guy hasn't been able to get in a groove since 2016 when he made 15 starts, again, as a 19-year-old. He suffered a shoulder injury in 2017 and subsequent surgery, and then a domestic violence issue that led to a suspension last season. In that rookie season, he went 5-2 with 84 K in 77 IP along with a 3.39 ERA.

Obviously Urias won't reach 200 IP in 2020. But realistically I could see a similar workload to what Chris Paddack saw in 2019 when he pitched 140.2 innings. Paddack also possessed a similar K/9 as Urias has seen over his time in the majors. Despite the workload, Paddack finished as the 25th ranked SP in fantasy. Despite pitching for the Padres and only winning nine games, Paddack finished as the 25th ranked SP in fantasy. The Padres won 36 fewer games than the Dodgers, who just added Mookie Betts to the lineup. If you add five-six wins to Paddack's 2019 line, you have a top-20 SP.

 

Starlin Castro sets a career-high in HR and RBI, finishes as a Top-10 2B

So my colleagues colorfully let me know that everyone in the industry was in on this take already, but I don't care because he's still not being respected on draft day. I know he was a Marlin and all, but did you pay attention to Castro after the All-Star Break last year? At the ASB, he was hitting .245 with just six HR, so Castro decided to make a few adjustments at the plate. He then proceeded to hit .302 with 16 bombs in his last 300 PA. His strikeout and ground ball percentage decreased, and his pull and hard-hit percentages increased. I think the adjustments might just stick around.

Just as important as his new approach at the plate, Castro is also not in Miami anymore. He is now apart of the defending world champions, and should be their near-every day second baseman while also getting time at third. Dave Martinez has even discussed and tried out this spring the possibility of Castro hitting third to break up the LHB duo of Adam Eaton and Juan Soto. Can you imagine this new found power stroke with Juan Soto in the on-deck circle and Trea Turner and Adam Eaton getting on base ahead and causing chaos on the base paths?

What is with this ADP people? Castro is currently the 28th second baseman drafted in 2020. Zips projections have him at 22 HR and 90 RBI which is good for their #13 at the position. I see both of those stats as a little light, as he should push 25 and 100 and easily slide into the top 10.

 

Corey Knebel and Jeremy Jeffress return to fantasy relevance and each record over 10 Saves

Both Knebel and Jeffress had monster past seasons in the Milwaukee bullpen, and then both fell off the radars in 2019. Knebel, of course, was recovering from TJS whereas Jeffress had an awful year but himself was struggling with nagging injuries to his hip and shoulder. Now Jeffress is on the Cubs, and Knebel appears to be on track to rejoin the Brewers sometime in May. I have them both surging back onto fantasy rosters in 2020, but for two very different reasons. Knebel because Josh Hader is too good, and Jeffress because Craig Kimbrel is not good enough.

In 2017 when Corey Knebel was killing it and earned 39 saves, Josh Hader posted his lowest career ERA serving as a "set up man". Of course, he was a rookie with limited scouting reports, and only pitched 47.2 innings, but it just illustrates how that bullpen can look again in 2020 once Craig Counsell realizes that like Andrew Miller's usage back in his hay-day, you want to use your best pitcher at the most important part of the game - which is not always in the 9th inning. Once Knebel is back in his groove after missing all of 2019, maybe by the All-Star break, you are going to want to pick him up because I think we are going to see numerous save opportunities for him after Hader mows down the top of the opposing lineup in the 7th/8th innings.

On the back end of this prediction, let me just lead off by saying I watched almost every Craig Kimbrel appearance for the Red Sox in 2018. I can't really explain it, but after the All-Star break that season, something changed with the closer. Despite the results not necessarily tailing off quite yet, I no longer had the usual feeling of absolute certainty when he stepped onto the mound. Then the playoffs happened, and I had no idea who this man was anymore. He won himself a ring but posted a terrifying 6.58 xFIP along the way. Obviously, I wasn't the only one concerned considering no team was willing to sign him for his asking price until after the compensation period ended, and the Cubs took the plunge in June.

Remember that 6.58 xFIP from the playoffs? Over the 20.2 IP with the Cubs last season, Kimbrel owned a 6.53 ERA. He currently owns a cool 16.20 ERA in 1.2 IP this Spring Training, allowing two taters already. To be blunt, I don't see Craig Kimbrel closing for the Cubs come July, whether its a ghost injury after struggles or a straight out role-demotion. Who will David Ross turn to in the 9th, a youngster with two saves, 9.07 K/9, and a 4.38 xFIP across 33.1 MLB innings in Rowan Wick? Or the veteran with 400 IP and 44 career saves who earned a 1.7 WAR and 2.86 xFIP in 2018 when he was last fully healthy? My money is obviously on Jeffress.

 

Ramon Laureano finishes as a Top-12 OF, one spot behind Austin Meadows

Laureano was a 16th round pick in 2014 and is one year older than Austin Meadows. I understand the difference between the two in terms of hype and draft position. But just because it makes sense doesn't make it right. You see, Laureano had his own little breakout in 2019 with a 79/24/67/13/.288 roto line. This was in 110 less PA than Meadows. If you pro-rate the counting stats to 591 PA it would look something like 97 R, 29 HR, 82 RBI, and 15 SB. Don't twist this as any kind of hate towards Meadows, the dude is a stud and should absolutely be drafted before Laureano.... but a five-round difference? That's just silly.

I expect big things out of the Athletics this year on their journey to win the AL West. I think a 185 R+RBI campaign is nearly a lock for Laureano out of the two-hole, which is accompanied by a 30/20 ceiling and 20/15 floor. Unlike most projection systems this season, I don't see the BA dropping out in 2020. His .288 BA last year was the exact same he posted in 176 MLB plate appearances the previous season, despite a 40 point decrease in BABIP. He possesses a trio of batted ball abilities that I personally love; line drives, driving the ball up the middle, and hard contact.

In fact, only five hitters with at least 400 PA last year owned at least a 25.0 LD%, 35.0 Cent%, and 40.0 Hard%: Joey Votto, Justin Turner, Shohei Ohtani, Giovanny Urshela, and Ramon Laureano. That is certainly not a bad group to be in when it comes to batting average. Typically the projections I have for Laureano slot him more into the OF-15 territory, but that's before the early injuries to Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and possibly Trey Mancini. So despite being currently drafted as the 29th outfielder this draft season, Laureano will quietly continue his 2019 pace and blow the projections out of the water.

 

Jarrod Dyson finishes ranked higher than Mallex Smith in all formats

I am not sure if people realize it, but Jarrod Dyson signed a one-year contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates last month. He will be their everyday center fielder and has even hit lead-off in several spring training games already. So why exactly is his ADP currently at 445 while Mallex Smith's is at 166? I'm not even going to do any predicting of my own here on this one, I will simply let THE BAT do it for me. Smith is projected for 69 R, 5 HR, 34 RBI, and 36 SB over 503 AB. Dyson is projected for 46/4/23/24 over 323 PA. So let's prorate those numbers up to 503 AB and what do we get: 71 R, 6 HR, 35 RBI, and 37 SB - all of which are higher than Smith.

So even if the super-smart computer projection system is admitting Jarrod Dyson will be better on a by-PA basis, how do I expect Jarrod Dyson to reach 500 PA considering last year's 452 was a career high? Because the Pirates are a dumpster fire, that's why. Last season Dyson was a fourth OF in Arizona and got some extra run with David Peralta's injury. He started for the Mariners in 2017 but had Guillermo Heredia the lefty-smasher taking AB's away and also suffered a sports hernia that ended the season prematurely. If we want to go back even further, in his last season with the Royals in 2016 Paulo Orlando decided to have a career-year and hit .302 which kept Dyson as the fourth wheel (for a tricycle) once again.

But now, in 2020, he is the best the Pirates have to man center field. Pablo Reyes is suspended for 80 games, and JT Riddle and that pesky Guillermo Heredia (again) don't offer the defensive prowess or speed-upside as Dyson. If Dyson stays healthy, I don't care how big an if that is, he will easily set a career-high in PA this season. I am in no way, shape, or form advising anyone to draft Dyson in Mallex Smith territory. Its actually the exact opposite. Do not be the guy that drafts Mallex Smith in the 14th round and then watch an opponent draft the same dude (but better?) 10+ rounds later.

 

Drew Pomeranz finishes the season as a Top-15 RP

Finishing the season as a reliever, Pomeranz threw 28.2 IP with a 1.88 ERA, 15.70 K/9, and a 51.1 GB%. He held opposing hitters to a .165 BA and boasted a 1.67 xFIP. The K/9 was good for third-highest among RP with 20+ IP, and only Brandon Workman also had a top-30 K/9, GB% above 50%, and an ERA below 2.00. Yes, it is a small sample size, but Pomeranz would not be the first SP to flourish after a move to the pen. You may also be worried about the LOB% sitting above 90%, but I mean if you are striking guys out at Josh Hader levels, you are going to have Josh Hader level LOB ability (which was 93%). Speaking of Hader, he was the only RP to have a higher K/BB% than bullpen-Pomeranz.

Even if you are in the business of only using "closers" in fantasy, Pomeranz makes for a great late-round handcuff to Kirby Yates. But if you are of superior intellect and operate off the JB Bullpen Method (Draft Tip #10), you will join me in scooping up Drew Pomeranz in the late rounds and enjoy the ratio dominance across what should be at least 70 innings. Seth Lugo was a top-12 RP in 2019 and only recorded six saves. Giovanny Gallegos was a top-20 RP and only recorded ONE save. Don't ignore these stud relievers -- there are four roto-pitching categories other than saves that you can use to win your leagues.

 

Diego Castillo finishes the season as a Top-12 RP

I'm sorry I just really love relief pitchers. Being a holds-league aficionado, I've been intrigued by Diego Castillo for the past two years now. He dominated AAA, and then had a very successful rookie season in which he owned 3.18 ERA and 10.32 K/9 over 56.2 IP. I've always viewed him as the Rays next closer, which I thought would be 2019, but then Emilio Pagan busted out a filthy slider that became unhittable and ruined it.

In 2019, Castillo himself seemed to take a small step backwards from the promising rookie campaign as his ERA and WHIP rose to 3.41 and 1.24 respectively. But if you remove the 7.1 innings when he operated as an "opener", his ERA was actually just 3.08. With those opener innings erased, Castillo was the only reliever in baseball with at least a 50 GB% and double digit K/9, with an ERA under 4.00 and HR/9 under 1.00. He also got even better as the year wore on. After the All-Star break he posted a 2.88 ERA (2.89 FIP) with a massive 11.27 K/9, and best-of-all lowered his walk rate to just 7%. He checks all the boxes. He has the strikeout upside, he prevents line drives, he limits hard-hit fly balls, and he's still only 26 years old.

Despite what I said above about Drew Pomeranz, Castillo is going to need some saves sprinkled over his stat line in order to reach RP12 in 2020. Obviously that means I am not as high on Nick Anderson as the rest of the industry. I cannot deny how amazing he looked in his first big league season, I mean a 15.23 K/9 with a 2.44 xFIP is the stuff of my dreams. But is no one else worried about a 29.5 LD% mixed with a 41.0 Hard%? Who wants to walk that tight rope in the 9th inning for every save opportunity? There is also the lack of high-leverage experience that I think Kevin Cash will take into consideration when planning his bullpen usage. According to FanGraphs Anderson pitched 15 "high-leverage innings" in 2019. In those 15 IP, he surrendered 14 ER. He'll be fantastic as a 6th/7th inning guy bridging the gap to Diego in the ninth.

 

Danny Santana doubles down, reaches 20/20 again

There are two things I won't stand for this draft season: Jonathan Villar hate, and Danny Santana disrespect. I don't care what he did in previous seasons, we don't just disregard 20/20 campaigns especially in today's fantasy landscape where I am scooping up all the extra speed I can find. But also, there is literally nothing you can tell me that would make me believe 2019 was a fluke for Danny Santana.

First of all, not only did he hit 28 HR and steal 21 bases, he did it in 511 PA. He is the starting Center Fielder for the Rangers in 2020 and proved he can play literally any position but catcher and pitcher (that we know of). He is going to get a full season of PA. He stole 20 bases back in 2014 for the Twins in just 430 PA so we know the speed is no fluke. I can certainly understand the hesitation in the power breakout, but once again you can't convince me it won't happen again.

Zachary Hughes wrote a very detailed article on FanGraphs that looked at just how insane Danny Santana's breakout was last year, in fact it was unprecedented. I don't want to spoil the good work Zachary did in the article so please check it out, but I will share this graph that shows the out-of-this-world transformation.

Years EV LA wOBA xwOBA
2015-18 84.4 4.0 0.250 0.257
2019 91.4 13.5 0.352 0.338

As Zachary points out, we've never seen a damn-near seven MPH increase in EV since the stat first starting being tracked. We aren't talking about a situation where he maintained an EV and LA somewhere in that 84 MPH and 4-degree career average range - and somehow had a 50 HR/FB% and hit 28 HR. No, Santana was straight up reborn at the plate. His EV ranked in the 91st percentile in the league. The launch angle phenomenon is real, people can study their swing these days and make the adjustments needed to increase launch angle and improve exit velocity. Once that happens, how are you going to use seasons prior to the adjustment to judge future projections? It's practically moot data at that point.

Sure I expect some HR regression, but that's across the board if the juicy-juiced balls aren't coming back in 2020. But as long as a guy is hitting the ball this hard, no way in hell am I projecting less than 20 bombs. He is literally a gift at his ADP (13th round) this year, ESPECIALLY considering you can have a 20/20 guy slot in at first base.

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2020 Keeper Value Rankings - Outfield

Keeper Value Rankings are intended for Keeper Leagues in which a fantasy owner must forfeit a designated draft pick in order to keep a player into the upcoming season. These rankings are based on Keeper "Values." In the marketing world, Value can be defined as the extent to which a good or service (player) is perceived by its customer (fantasy owner) to meet his/her needs or wants. The Keeper Values are derived from my Keeper Valuation Formula which accounts for age, player cost (ADP), remaining player pool, past performance, future projections, missed playing time, and even position scarcity.

The product is a quantitative depiction of a player's ability to meet/exceed fantasy owners' needs based on the cost they paid for the player in the previous season (2019 ADP) and will subsequently pay for in the current season's draft (2020). The higher the score, the higher the return the fantasy owner will receive from the player keeping him at their associated cost. Approaching Keeper selections with this "value" based attitude will greatly increase the effectiveness of a fantasy owner's draft in a Keeper League.

Whereas the main purpose of the Keeper Value Formula is for customization based on specific leagues and keeper costs, I create these yearly rankings with standard 12 team league data, 2019 ADP, and 23rd Round cost for UDFA just as a baseline to help managers get an idea of their options. I've already unveiled my rankings for First Base, Second Base, Third BaseShortstop. and even behind the plate. But now we move to the spacious Outfield.

 

JB's Keeper Value System

TIER SCORE DESCRIPTION
1 >100 Finders Keepers! These are the Elite Keeper Values. MUST BE KEPT at all costs.
2 75-99 Great Keeper values. Unless you have a full load of Tier 1 players, these guys need to be kept.
3 50-74 You are gaining good value with these players. A majority of good keepers options tend to fall into this category.
4 25-49 Minimal value. The value exists, but not as much as your opponents are likely receiving with their selections. Consider if your options are limited.
5 0-24 Break-even point. Keeping these players could hurt your overall draft, as you are not adding much value. It is not recommended to use a Keeper selection here.
6 <0 The associated costs make it impossible to return any value, these players will ruin your draft. Stay far away.

Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @RowdyRotoJB to check out your specific league's values.

 

2020 Keeper Value Rankings - Outfield

POS Rank Keeper Tier Player ADP (Round) Score
1 1 Cody Bellinger LAD 4 109.69
2 1 Yordan Alvarez HOU 23 106.44
3 1 Ronald Acuna ATL 1 104.27
4 2 Ketel Marte ARI 21 96.92
5 2 Austin Meadows TBR 18 95.66
6 2 Mike Trout LAA 1 83.94
7 2 Jorge Soler KCR 23 83.20
8 2 Christian Yelich MIL 1 82.25
9 2 Juan Soto WAS 3 81.81
10 2 Luis Robert CWS 23 76.90
11 2 Trey Mancini BAL 23 76.86
12 3 Jeff McNeil NYM 23 72.61
13 3 Ramon Laureano OAK 19 70.54
14 3 Eloy Jimenez CWS 10 63.87
15 3 Max Kepler MIN 20 59.80
16 3 Mookie Betts LAD 1 58.79
17 3 Franmil Reyes CLE 20 55.93
18 3 Oscar Mercado CLE 23 54.22
19 4 Jo Adell LAA 23 48.93
20 4 Danny Santana TEX 23 48.33
21 4 Aristides Aquino CIN 23 46.63
22 4 Bryan Reynolds PIT 23 42.80
23 4 George Springer HOU 4 42.34
24 4 Joc Pederson LAD 23 41.91
25 4 Starling Marte ARI 4 36.32
26 4 Willie Calhoun TEX 23 36.11
27 4 Joey Gallo TEX 8 34.64
28 4 Kyle Tucker HOU 23 33.11
29 4 Hunter Dozier KCR 23 32.36
30 4 Lourdes Gurriel Jr TOR 20 32.01
31 4 Eddie Rosario MIN 7 29.20
32 4 Scott Kingery PHI 23 29.17
33 4 Victor Robles WAS 10 26.97
34 5 J.D. Davis NYM 23 23.24
35 5 Michael Brantley HOU 9 22.85
36 5 Nick Castellanos CIN 8 21.13
37 5 Tommy Edman STL 23 20.95
38 5 Michael Conforto NYM 9 20.75
39 5 Kyle Schwarber CHC 15 17.35
40 5 Avisail Garcia MIL 23 14.88
41 5 Brian Anderson MIA 23 7.78
42 5 Shin-Soo Choo TEX 22 4.17
43 5 Charlie Blackmon COL 3 2.76
44 5 Marcell Ozuna ATL 6 2.22

 

Tier One

Wow, what a group. I know, "How is Ronald Acuna not number one?" The formula has always valued first-round talents anywhere outside first-round costs, and it's hard to argue with Cody Bellinger. Belly put his sophomore "slump" season way back in the rear-view mirror in 2019 with career highs in all five Roto categories. He finished top-10 in HR, R, and RBI while adding 15 SB and a .305 BA to boot. There are really no red flags here as he also boasted top-10 LD%, Hard%, and K/BB%. Bellinger is a consensus top-five hitter in 2020 and getting to keep him anywhere outside the first round is a huge value.

First off, let's acknowledge the greatness of Acuna to score two points lower than Yordan Alvarez despite a 22-round difference in cost. At 22 years old with a great lineup and 40/40 talent, it certainly makes sense considering anything past the first pick overall is a steal on draft day. But Acuna is a no-brainer, of course, so let's talk about the other 22-year old, the one that hit 50 HR with 149 RBI between AAA and MLB in 2019.

We only saw Alvarez for half a season at the big leagues, but it proved to be an easy transition for him as he hit 27 of those 50 bombs and boasted a .313/.412/.655 slash. The bottom line is I have zero concerns about this kid's ability to continue absolutely mashing the ball. All his Exit Velo stats are top-notch, he has hit at every level, and he plays in a great lineup (with or without trash cans). The only downside with Yordan is the position eligibility. He only made nine starts in the OF in 2019, which is why many sites including NFBC only have him as UT/DH-eligible for 2020.

After reportedly playing through knee pain all last season, Alvarez claims the legs feel "fine" for 2020. However, he has already been scratched from a Grapefruit League game for knee soreness this year. Whether or not he makes enough appearances in the OF this year to gain/retain the OF eligibility certainly plays a large role in his future value. As the 25th-ranked player overall in RotoBaller's Rankings it's easy to understand the Tier One keeper value score for 2020.

 

Tier Two

I know tier one was an elite unit, but tier two may be the most fun keeper tier we've seen this year. Two of the top players in the sport mixed in with numerous up-and-coming youngsters already making their mark in fantasy. The first guy representing the loaded tier is Ketel Marte. Marte shocked the industry in 2019 with 32 HR, 10 SB, and a .329 BA as he finished top-20 overall in standard leagues. It was nothing short of amazing, especially considering he played 119 games with the Mariners in 2016 and hit ONE HR. Whether you believe in a repeat or not, RotoBaller has him ranked 40th overall, which, combined with his position-eligibility bonus, makes for a fantastic keeper choice in the late rounds.

The next chunk of tier two is the early-round elites. Mike Trout and Christian Yelich despite being first-round keepers both boast impressive scores which show that having those bats at literally any cost is a bargain in 2020. Acuna obviously bested the two by a fairly shocking margin, which I would attribute mostly to age and durability.

The third outfielder in the bunch to rep a tier-two score despite an early-round ADP is the beloved Juan Soto. Like Acuna, Soto flashed enough potential and skill in 2018 for fantasy owners to buy-in for the sophomore campaign, and he certainly did not disappoint. He finished the year with a 110/34/110/12/.282 line and a World Series ring. His underlying numbers are just as brilliant as they are on the surface. He almost replicated his fantastic BB/K numbers to a tee from his rookie season; his HR/FB% actually decreased two points, he increased his FB% by nine points, pulled the ball more, and increased his hard contact rate. There is nothing to dislike, and the kid is still only 21 years old.

The remainder tier two keeper scores belong to the late rounders. Austin Meadows, Luis Robert, Jorge Soler, and Trey Mancini all enjoyed massive break-outs in 2019 and present golden opportunities for those fortunate enough to lock them down in their keeper leagues. Meadows had every bit of a season as Soto had at the plate, going 33/12 with a .292 batting average for the Rays after being traded from the Pirates the previous year. The projections obviously aren't ready to buy-in to a repeat like they are with Soto but you can't deny the potential... I mean we've already seen it once.

Luis Robert is slated to not only get his first taste of the bigs this season but immediately slot into the starting lineup in Chicago on Opening Day. The question remains of how he will handle major league pitching, but there is no doubting the talent that led to 24 HR and 28 SB in LESS THAN 500 PAs in the minors last year.

 

Tier Three

While it doesn't contain two of the top-three players in baseball like the previous tier, tier three is almost just as interesting. Mookie Betts will be playing his first season away from Fenway Park but joining another very potent offense in LA. Eloy Jimenez didn't quite deliver on his 2019 preseason hype, but with the known talent and power in that exciting offense, a 10th-round cost is still enticing and a bargain compared to his sixth-round 2020 ADP. Then we have some familiar late-round options in Max Kepler and Franmil Reyes who both possess great power and run production, and if the BA can stay respectable, they are poised for massive campaigns.

Jeff McNeil just misses the second tier from his UDFA ADP. Like Ketel Marte, this isn't the first time you've seen McNeil's name this series as he qualifies for second, third, and outfield on many fantasy sites for 2020. In his first full season at the big league level, McNeil hit an impressive .318 with an equally impressive 13.2 K%. His 11.2 Soft% was good for fifth-lowest in baseball, and RotoBaller projects him as a top-100 fantasy player again in 2020. Again, the multi-position eligibility is a huge bonus.

The biggest name that jumps off the table in tier three for me is Ramon Laureano. I was on-board the hype train last season because who doesn't love late-round 20/20 threats? But unfortunately, the injury bug hit quickly, replacements were needed, and Laureano hit just .234 through April so he was the first one to go. Of course, he did finish with 24 HR, 13 SB, and a .288 BA in 481 PA. He missed time due to a stress "reaction" in his shin, but I mean if he sees 600 healthy PA we could be talking about a 30/20 season.

Not to be forgotten, Laureano is also a phenomenal fielder. He possesses a rare blend of power/speed that is usually reserved for the first three rounds of a draft and will be hitting near the top of a sneaky good lineup in 2020. Still just 25 years old, Laureano is one of my favorite OF targets in drafts this season and I would be thrilled to own him in a keeper league anywhere in the second half of the draft.

 

Tier Four

We've reached our first player that won't even be on an Opening Day roster. Despite not knowing when Jo Adell will join the Angels, he still just misses out on being a tier-three keeper score by two points. That is quite a testament to the production that is expected from the 20-year-old prospect. Across three levels of minor leagues in 2018, Adell hit 20 HR and stole 15 bases in barely over 400 PA. The strikeout rates will have to improve before the BA is truly helpful in fantasy, but he undoubtedly has 20/20 potential and at some point in 2020 will join Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, and Shohei Ohtani in a great Angels lineup.

Adell is not the only 20/20 threat in this tier. Danny Santana came out of nowhere last season and reached the milestone in just 511 PA. With Delino DeShields traded to Cleveland this offseason, the switch-hitter looks to be entrenched as the starting CF in Texas, making for a serious steal in keeper leagues. Starling Marte is an automatic combo-threat at this point and now gets to play half his games at Chase Field in the desert atop a much more dangerous lineup than he was accustomed to in Pittsburgh. We've seen him drafted as early as the late first round in fantasy leagues this year so obviously people are buying into the change of scenery.

Scott Kingery and Victor Robles both were fairly close to hitting 20/20 in 2019. Kingery looks to be the everyday second baseman for the Phillies, so as long as he can get on base at a reasonable rate he should have no problem getting there in 2020 and represents a nice value if you can keep him late after going undrafted in most 2019 leagues. Robles will steal 30 bases this season. With just a touch of good luck in the HR/FB department, he could very well hit 20 HR. He is still only 22 years old, and with the loss of Anthony Rendon this off-season, the Nats could slot him at the top of the lineup this season which would make Robles a monster draft pick/keeper selection.

 

Tier Five

We've reached the point where the value isn't great, but the players still can be. Nick Castellanos for instance, hopes to carry over a strong second half in Chicago to his new home at Great American Ball Park where he should see a handful of those would-be doubles clearing the fences.

Tommy Edman isn't on a new team, but he will see his first full season at the Major-League level after showing a very impressive pop/speed combo in 349 PA last year, finishing with 11 HR and 19 SB. He should be on the field nearly every day in a super-utility role, which will also add some great position-eligibility bonuses throughout the season. The value here could be much higher than the formula projects, pending on what projection system you are looking at. THE BAT projects 11 HR, 13 SB, with a .265 BA while ATC is much higher with 14/20/.275. With speed being at a premium these days, and position eligibility bumps, Edman is at the very worst a very intriguing keeper option in the late rounds.

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2020 Keeper Value Rankings - Catcher

I've already revealed the 2020 Keeper Value Rankings throughout the infield: First BaseSecond Base, Third Base and Shortstop. Now let's go behind the plate. Keeper Value Rankings are intended for Keeper Leagues in which a fantasy owner must forfeit a designated draft pick in order to keep a player into the upcoming season. These rankings are based on Keeper "Values." In the marketing world, Value can be defined as the extent to which a good or service (player) is perceived by its customer (fantasy owner) to meet his/her needs or wants. The Keeper Values are derived from my Keeper Valuation Formula which accounts for age, player cost (ADP), remaining player pool, past performance, future projections, missed playing time, and even position scarcity.

The product is a quantitative depiction of a player's ability to meet/exceed fantasy owners' needs based on the cost they paid for the player in the previous season (2019 ADP) and will subsequently pay for in the current season's draft (2020). The higher the score, the higher the return the fantasy owner will receive from the player keeping him at their associated cost. Approaching Keeper selections with this "value" based attitude will greatly increase the effectiveness of a fantasy owner's draft in a Keeper League.

Whereas the main purpose of the Keeper Value Formula is for customization based on specific leagues and keeper costs, I create these yearly rankings with standard 12 team league data, 2019 ADP, and 23rd Round cost for UDFA just as a baseline to help managers get an idea of their options. Let's see which backstops are worth holding this year.

 

JB's Keeper Value System

TIER SCORE DESCRIPTION
1 >100 Finders Keepers! These are the Elite Keeper Values. MUST BE KEPT at all costs.
2 75-99 Great Keeper values. Unless you have a full load of Tier 1 players, these guys need to be kept.
3 50-74 You are gaining good value with these players. A majority of good keepers options tend to fall into this category.
4 25-49 Minimal value. The value exists, but not as much as your opponents are likely receiving with their selections. Consider if your options are limited.
5 0-24 Break-even point. Keeping these players will likely hurt your overall draft, as you are not adding enough value. Don't waste a Keeper selection here.
6 <0 The associated costs make it impossible to return any value, these players will ruin your draft. Stay far away.

Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @RowdyRotoJB to check out your specific league's values.

 

2020 Keeper Value Rankings - Catchers

POS RANK KEEPER TIER PLAYER/TEAM ADP (ROUND) SCORE
1 3 Mitch Garver MIN 23 51.08
2 4 Will Smith LAD 22 39.10
3 5 Salvador Perez KCR 23 23.14
4 5 Yasmani Grandal CHW 10 7.99
5 5 Christian Vazquez BOS 23 7.75

 

Now I know what you're thinking, "there's only five catchers listed, wheres JT Realmuto and Gary Sanchez, are you telling me to draft Christian Vazquez over Realmuto?" Allow me to nip the questions in the bud. Any catcher not listed on the table above posted a negative score in the Keeper Value Formula. Five, and only five catchers scored positive versus their 2019 ADP. This number is fairly common at the fantasy wasteland position year-to-year, but also proves the five scores above to be even more impressive considering. Now that those are out of the way, allow us to jump into the lucky five contestants.

 

Tier Three

Hopefully I have not started us out on too somber of a note for Catcher Keeper Values, because there are still some good scores at the position for 2020. Our first one is Mitch Garver.

Garver's breakout was one of the most impressive in all of baseball last year, as he hit 31 HR in only 93 games.  His 11.58 PA/HR was by far the lowest among all hitters with at least 300 PA. His .357 ISO led the league, and his .630 SLG ranked fifth best. It really was absurd when you consider he saw just 20 fewer PA in 2018 and hit all of seven HR. In fact, it was the third most impressive breakout since 2010 according to this great piece by Mike Petriello for MLB.com.

Not a single 2020 projection system expects Garver to come anywhere close to replicating his 2019 performance. In fact, ATC is the highest on him and projects 21 HR with a .255 BA in 422 PA. While that is far from the historic run we saw last year, it is still good for fifth-best among catchers. Regardless of what your personal expectations are for regression, the formula recognizes that the value of getting Garver in the late rounds is unmatched at the position for 2020.

 

Tier Four

The 24-year-old former first-round pick William Smith finally got a taste of the big leagues in 2019. Like Garver, he showed great power potential at the plate hitting 15 HR in just 53 games, and 35 total combined with AAA. The BA has really never been there, but the power will certainly play at the weakest fantasy position. Slated to be the everyday catcher for the Dodgers alone is valuable, but the projected 24+ HR and the slew of run production easily slides the youngster in as the only tier four keeper at the position.

 

Tier Five

Ah, the injury keeper-loophole. Salvador Perez missed the entire 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery in March, so of course, he wasn't being drafted. But the two years prior to the surgery Perez hit exactly 27 HR with 80 RBI (with 1 SB in both seasons, too). The BA dropped out in 2018, but so did the BABIP despite a career-high Hard%. He is currently being drafted at #170 overall on Yahoo and ESPN (primarily one Catcher leagues), and #159 in NFBC contests which has a higher percentage of two-catcher leagues. Whether you play in a one or two catcher league, Perez makes a great case as a keeper from the late rounds coming off the missed season. THE BAT projects him for 28 HR, 82 RBI, and a .258 BA which actually ranks him as that systems second catcher even over Gary Sanchez. He misses joining Will Smith in the fourth tier by less than two points in the formula and is well ahead of the next two in the fifth tier.

Only one catcher posted a positive keeper score for 2020 from an ADP inside round 20, and that man is Yasmani Grandal. In his first and only year as a Brewer, Grandal set career highs in HR, R, RBI, SB, and my favorite, BB%. His 0.78 BB/K ratio was the highest among all Catchers, and more than double that of J.T. Realmuto. This year, Grandal is on his third team in three seasons, as he signed with the White Sox this off-season. He is slated to hit in the heart of an extremely exciting lineup that could absolutely explode this year. Based on his keeper value score, keeping Grandal in the 10th is providing positive yet minimal value for 2020. But if you are in a two-catcher league or OBP league and have a keeper selection to spare, it would sure be nice to nail down a stud in a lineup full of studs at the weakest fantasy position.

As a Red Sox fan, I loved watching Christian Vazquez finally break out in 2019. He shattered all the power projections with 23 long balls and sported an impressive .276 BA, all of which led to him being the fourth-ranked catcher in fantasy. But even as a big personal-fan, I recognize 2019 is the ceiling and likely not repeated in 2020. Only four players hit over 20 HR with a Hard% under 35.0, Vazquez being one of course. So the power I certainly expect to see regress.

The other hit to his value was the signing of Jonathan Lucroy this off-season. Obviously, it was a Minor League deal, and at best Lucroy serves as backup over Kevin Plawecki in 2020 but current projections have him from anywhere between 50 PA and 340 PA for the Red Sox. He won't touch 340 without a Vazquez injury, but I certainly see it plausible Lucroy takes more PA away than Sandy Leon did last year. So expect slightly fewer PA, a dip in power, and a decrease in run-scoring with Mookie Betts gone from the top of the order. Thankfully I don't expect the BA or the RBI to deviate drastically and realistically see a 2020 finish in the territory of Wilson Ramos - which is pretty consistent across the projection systems as well. He saves you some draft capital being kept in the late rounds compared to his 17th-round ADP, but the formula shows the value is still minimal overall.

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2020 Fantasy Baseball Advice 2020 Fantasy Baseball Keepers & Dynasty Ranks Editor Note Featured Baseball MLB Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

2020 Keeper Value Rankings - Shortstop

If you're keeping up with the Keeper Value Rankings, you know we've already covered First BaseSecond Base, and Third Base. Today, we will address Shortstop. These rankings are intended for Keeper Leagues in which a fantasy owner must forfeit a designated draft pick in order to keep a player into the upcoming season. These rankings are based on Keeper "Values". In the marketing world, Value can be defined as the extent to which a good or service (player) is perceived by its customer (fantasy owner) to meet his/her needs or wants. The Keeper Values are derived from my Keeper Valuation Formula which accounts for age, player cost (ADP), remaining player pool, past performance, future projections, missed playing time, and even position scarcity.

The product is a quantitative depiction of a player's ability to meet/exceed fantasy owners' needs based on the cost they paid for the player in the previous season (2019 ADP) and will subsequently pay for in the current season's draft (2020). The higher the score, the higher the return the fantasy owner will receive from the player keeping him at their associated cost. Approaching Keeper selections with this "value" based attitude will greatly increase the effectiveness of a fantasy owner's draft in a Keeper League.

Whereas the main purpose of the Keeper Value Formula is for customization based on specific leagues and keeper costs, I create these yearly rankings with standard 12-team league data, 2019 ADP, and 23rd Round cost for UDFA just as a baseline to help managers get an idea of their options. Now, let's jump into the rankings.

 

JB's Keeper Value System

TIER SCORE DESCRIPTION
1 >100 Finders Keepers! These are the Elite Keeper Values. MUST BE KEPT at all costs.
2 75-99 Great Keeper values. Unless you have a full load of Tier 1 players, these guys need to be kept.
3 50-74 You are gaining good value with these players. A majority of good keepers options tend to fall into this category.
4 25-49 Minimal value. The value exists, but not as much as your opponents are likely receiving with their selections. Consider if your options are limited.
5 0-24 Break-even point. Keeping these players will likely hurt your overall draft, as you are not adding enough value. Don't waste a Keeper selection here.
6 <0 The associated costs make it impossible to return any value, these players will ruin your draft. Stay far away.

Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @RowdyRotoJB to check out your specific league's values.

 

2020 Keeper Value Rankings - Shortstop

POS RANK KEEPER TIER PLAYER/TEAM ADP (ROUND) SCORE
1 1 Fernando Tatis Jr. SDP 22 105.44
2 2 Ketel Marte ARI 21 90.93
3 3 Marcus Semien OAK 19 70.66
4 3 Trevor Story COL 2 70.13
5 3 Bo Bichette TOR 23 67.93
6 3 Alex Bregman HOU 2 62.31
7 3 Jonathan Villar MIA 8 58.50
8 3 Danny Santana TEX 23 57.47
9 3 Gleyber Torres NYY 6 56.73
10 4 Gavin Lux LAD 23 45.86
11 4 Jorge Polanco MIN 20 45.79
12 4 Xander Bogaerts BOS 4 42.24
13 4 Francisco Lindor CLE 1 41.70
14 4 Tim Anderson CWS 12 40.48
15 4 Adalberto Mondesi KCR 4 33.01
16 4 Amed Rosario NYM 15 32.77
17 5 Kevin Newman PIT 23 18.73
18 5 Didi Gregorius PHI 23 15.60
19 5 Scott Kingery PHI 23 14.37
20 5 Elvis Andrus TEX 14 13.71
21 5 Dansby Swanson ATL 23 2.30
22 5 Trea Turner WAS 1 0.38

 

Tier One

Just 21 years old and 22 HR/16 SB in nearly half a season. 2019 previewed some tantalizing stuff for Fernando Tatis Jr. Sure, the 30% strikeout rate and the .410 BABIP should make you a little uneasy, but one does not simply stumble their way to a 22/16 stat line in half a season. The HR pace will certainly not be sustained, as his 31.9 HR/FB% was practically double his rate in the minors, but the kid can certainly smash. He owned a 41.9 Hard% and an identical 41.9 Pull%, how fun is that? Those are not quite Pete Alonso levels, but they are close and certainly impressive for a 21-year-old shortstop.

Even with the expected regression, we are still talking about a realistic 30/25 ceiling as soon as this season. If you were savvy enough to draft Tatis or stash him last year after he was shut down, now is the time to reap those benefits as you have a first-round talent under cheap control for years to come.

 

Tier Two

In 2016, Ketel Marte played 119 games for the Mariners. Along with that came just 466 plate appearances for the switch hitter that season and only one HR. Uno. Fast forward to 2019 and he smacks 32 long balls and hits .329. It absolutely came out of nowhere, hence his 21st round ADP, and of course it appears to be one big outlier fluke. But like Tatis, Ketel crushed the ball all year - and absolutely murdered southpaws. A career-high FB%, Pull%, and Hard% is going to result in a massive spike in HR, it HAS to.

Obviously, something changed for Marte and his approach, so who's to say that in a couple of years, 2016-2018 won't be considered the outliers? His HR/FB% was only 19%. Sure, it was a nine-point increase from the previous season, but 19%? That's Tommy Pham and DJ LeMahieu territory. 19% is completely reasonable for a switch hitter playing at Chase Field with a Pull% and Hard% both over 42%. Obviously I believe in Ketel Marte's 2019 performance and it appears the formula does too, spitting out Tier Two scores at both Shortstop and Second Base.

 

Tier Three

We've reached the meat and potatoes of the shortstop position now. Seven studs, all of whom I would love to roster in 2020. The power, speed, and batting average finally all came together in the same season for Marcus Semien last year, and it was beautiful. It does my heart good to see a career-high Contact% coupled with a career-low O-Swing% and SwStr%. I will believe in literally any stats from a season if they are coupled with those plate discipline improvements.

There's not much left to say about Trevor Story. I was drafting him as a first-rounder last year and will continue to do so this year. If you were lucky enough to get him in the second round or later last year, or still have control over him in your keeper league, enjoy the .290/35/25 fireworks on the cheap.

Now let's talked possibly the most hyped shortstop in the fantasy industry for 2020. Fernando Tatis is not the only prodigal son here. Bo Bichette had a much smaller taste of the big leagues last year, but he showed some of that same intoxicating power/speed ability. Between the MLB and AAA in 2019, Bichette hit 19 HR with 19 SB in barely over 100 games. The projection systems are suggesting a 20/20 follow-up campaign in 2020, but the ceiling on the stolen bases is really much higher. Bichette is slated to lead off for the uber-talented youth movement in Toronto and will be a fantasy juggernaut at the shortstop position for years to come.

 

Tier Four

The first two names that jump off the page to me in the fourth tier are the pair of fourth-round ADP fantasy stars. Xander Bogaerts is just easy money in fantasy. He has become an anchor of production in the Red Sox lineup, one who will be leaned on even more in 2020 with the departure of Mookie Betts. Only five hitters in 2019 hit at least 30 HR with 100 R, 100 RBI, and a .300 BA. The Red Sox had two, and, of course, X-Man was one. I would bank on another 100 R + 100 RBI season hitting between Rafael Devers and J.D. Martinez, which was only elsewhere found with Alex Bregman among shortstops. I don't really doubt the power increase we saw either, as his HR/FB% was just one point higher than in 2018. The secret was a career-high Hard% and a four percent increase in fly-balls.

The other fourth-round keeper who catches my eye in tier four is Adalberto Mondesi. Bottom line: 40+ SB potential is so valuable. He hit that mark in just 102 games in 2019, so technically we should be talking 50+ as a ceiling. I am a little worried about what the off-season shoulder surgery does to his power numbers, especially early in the year but again, the SB boost gives you so much flexibility in the draft as cheap power is easy to find.

Gavin Lux and Jorge Polanco as keepers in the late rounds are no-brainers, and Francisco Lindor literally anywhere is a good decision. But let's talk about the 2019 MLB Batting Champion.

Initially, you would think a 12th-round keeper cost for the defending batting champ would be a much higher keeper score, but that does not appear to be the case here with Tim Anderson. Let's look at his numbers for the past three seasons: Home runs-17, 20, 18, Stolen Bases-15, 26, 17. It seems like that's a pretty good grouping to forecast 2020 numbers. Now for the batting averages: .257, .240, .335. Yahtzee! Yes, he slightly increased his Line Drive percentages, and he set new career highs in center and opposite field percentages. Those are certainly ways to increase your BA. But then you look at his plate discipline, and HE HAD THE HIGHEST O-SWING% IN THE LEAGUE. He ranked 124th in Hard%, 77th in Contact%, and is swinging at pitches outside the zone at nearly a 50% clip. That does not translate to a .399 BABIP but once in a century. Bottom line, I don't see him coming anywhere close to replicating that stellar BA in 2020. The good news, however, is 20/20 is a lock and the White Sox lineup is looking very promising for higher-than-average run production.

 

Tier Five

Is it just me or is Kevin Newman grossly underrated? In his first full season in the MLB, the former first-round pick hit 12 HR, stole 16 bases, and hit .308. ATC projections forecast some regression in the power but the .280/9/16 will still certainly play.

ATC projects Jean Segura for .288/13/13 and Segura's ADP is 192, while Newman's ADP is 218. I understand Segura plays for the Phillies and Newman plays for Pittsburgh, but there is no way I am taking Segura before Newman.

The first reason is Newman's SB projections are too light. He will steal more than 20 bases in 2020. He stole 28 in the minors in 2018 and manager Derek Shelton has stated this off-season that the Pirates will be "an aggressive team on the basepaths" this season. The second reason is position eligibility. Give me that 2B/SS flexibility all day. The third and final reason is batting order, even on the Pirates. Jean Segura has no shot at hitting near the top of the Phillies lineup. Newman, on the other hand, realistically could be the Opening Day lead-off hitter for the Pirates if Shelton decides to move Reynolds down in front of Josh Bell. I don't care about the rest of the team, if Newman ends up hitting in front of Bryan Reynolds and Josh Bell and is stealing 20+ bases, I will gladly take a chance on that well before his 218 ADP.

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2020 Fantasy Baseball Advice 2020 Fantasy Baseball Keepers & Dynasty Ranks 2020 Fantasy Baseball Projections & ADP Analysis Editor Note Featured Baseball MLB Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

2020 Keeper Value Rankings - Third Base

Keeper Value Rankings are intended for Keeper Leagues in which a fantasy owner must forfeit a designated draft pick in order to keep a player into the upcoming season. These rankings are based on Keeper "Values". In the marketing world, Value can be defined as the extent to which a good or service (player) is perceived by its customer (fantasy owner) to meet his/her needs or wants. The Keeper Values are derived from my Keeper Valuation Formula which accounts for age, player cost (ADP), remaining player pool, past performance, future projections, missed playing time, and even position scarcity.

The product is a quantitative depiction of a player's ability to meet/exceed fantasy owners' needs based on the cost they paid for the player in the previous season (2019 ADP) and will subsequently pay for in the current season's draft (2020). The higher the score, the higher the return the fantasy owner will receive from the player keeping him at their associated cost. Approaching Keeper selections with this "value" based attitude will greatly increase the effectiveness of a fantasy owner's draft in a Keeper League.

Whereas the main purpose of the Keeper Value Formula is for customization based on specific leagues and keeper costs, I create these yearly rankings with standard 12 team league data, 2019 ADP, and 23rd Round cost for UDFA just as a baseline to help managers get an idea of their options. I've already unveiled my rankings for First Base and Second Base. Now, let's get to the hot corner.

 

JB's Keeper Value System

TIER SCORE DESCRIPTION
1 >100 Finders Keepers! These are the Elite Keeper Values. MUST BE KEPT at all costs.
2 75-99 Great Keeper values. Unless you have a full load of Tier 1 players, these guys need to be kept.
3 50-74 You are gaining good value with these players. A majority of good keepers options tend to fall into this category.
4 25-49 Minimal value. The value exists, but not as much as your opponents are likely receiving with their selections. Consider if your options are limited.
5 0-24 Break-even point. Keeping these players will likely hurt your overall draft, as you are not adding enough value. Don't waste a Keeper selection here.
6 <0 The associated costs make it impossible to return any value, these players will ruin your draft. Stay far away.

Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @RowdyRotoJB to check out your specific league's values.

 

2020 Keeper Value Rankings - Third Base

POS RANK KEEPER
TIER
PLAYER/TEAM ADP (ROUND) SCORE
1 1 Rafael Devers BOS 12 104.04
2 2 DJ LeMahieu NYY 19 75.57
3 3 Jeff McNeil NYM 23 68.44
4 3 Anthony Rendon LAA 4 65.96
5 3 Yoan Moncada CWS 14 65.62
6 3 Miguel Sano MIN 23 64.05
7 3 Alex Bregman HOU 2 63.14
8 3 Danny Santana TEX 23 58.30
9 4 Eduardo Escobar ARI 15 41.81
10 4 Ryan McMahon COL 23 37.06
11 4 Yuli Gurriel HOU 16 35.13
12 4 Tommy Edman STL 23 34.97
13 4 Hunter Dozier KCR 23 34.01
14 4 Matt Chapman OAK 9 33.11
15 4 Mike Moustakas CIN 12 30.66
16 4 J.D. Davis NYM 23 29.18
17 5 Josh Donaldson MIN 8 22.28
18 5 Max Muncy LAD 10 21.25
19 5 Renato Nunez BAL 23 15.33
20 5 Scott Kingery PHI 23 15.18
21 5 Nolan Arenado COL 1 14.39
22 5 Yandy Diaz TBR 23 2.39
23 5 Giovanny Urshela NYY 23 2.035

 

Tier One

Alone at the top, sits my beloved Rafael Devers. I have loved Raffy Big Scoops for some time now as a Sox fan and had been eagerly awaiting his breakout. We all knew it would happen eventually and after what I saw from him in the 2018 playoffs and World Series, I knew it was coming very soon. That led to me trading my 13th-round Jose Ramirez for a 17th round Rafael Devers and catching all sorts of hell from my league for it. But then, 2019 Devers emerged. The breakout season ended with a sixth overall fantasy ranking; he was one of only five hitters to hit 30 HR, score 100+ R, score 100+ RBI, and hit over .300. The hype was short-lived for Devers compared to other prospects, so the post-hype discount came rather quickly, and now we get to reap the rewards in keeper leagues.

 

Tier Two

We just cannot get away from this LeMahieu guy. First base, second base, third base - there he is, sitting in the second keeper value tier. Interestingly enough, he did score highest when ranked against first basemen and lowest here as a third baseman if that tells you anything about position scarcity for 2020. *Whispers, "First Base is not as deep as we are accustomed to".

I already admitted how wrong I was about LeMahieu for 2019 in the first base article of this series, but I am not too proud to do it again. Despite leaving Coors Field, it turns out that short right field in New York is made for his opposite-field approach. Half of his 26 HR went oppo-taco in 2019, and 19 were hit at Yankee Stadium. Even if the balls lose some juice this season, LeMahieu is still going to rake at home as if he never left Coors. ATC projects him to hit 19 HR with a .295 BA in 2020 which despite feeling a tad bearish would still play significantly as a late-round keeper while hitting in that monster of a lineup in the Bronx.

 

Tier Three

Now that Devers and LeMahieu are out of the way we start reaching the main body. The first three of the third tier really stick out to me. Anthony Rendon had a very similar season to Rafael Devers, but he's been raking for three years now. He led the league in RBI (127), won a World Series, and now gets to hit behind possibly the greatest baseball player of all time after signing with the Angels this off-season.

Yoan Moncada is always a very intriguing name in keeper leagues. We have awaited his break out for some time now, and I think it's safe to say it happened in 2019. He hit 25 HR, stole 10 bases, and boasted a clean .315 BA. I also think it's safe to say a .406 BABIP is unsustainable. Regardless, the White Sox have a new-look offense surrounding Moncada and he has the tools to turn in another top-75 fantasy season in 2020.

Miguel Sano and Danny Santana were both discussed in the first base rankings as two different examples of late-round ADP. A quick recap: Sano got hurt before the season last year, which created an ADP loophole, while Santana wasn't hurt, he was just never any good until he burst onto the scene off the waiver wires. Either way, you probably have both of them for cheap in your keeper leagues.

Alex Bregman is one score I'd probably argue against the computer. I personally need to see what kind of effects this scandal has on all the Astros hitters this year before I can invest in them again. I play things like this overly safe - always have. Of course, there are many variables that would still make a second-round Bregman valuable, such as where are you drafting in the second round and how many keepers are being removed from the player pool. In all likelihood, Bregman is a first-round pick in keeper drafts, and why his score is still so high at a second-round cost for 2020. I would still feel a little uneasy doing it though.

 

Tier Four

The value is shrinking as we head into the fourth tier. However, I am confidently keeping Eduardo Escobar around the 15th round this season. You don't have to believe in the power outburst, because hitting behind the Marte Partay will assuredly produce 100+ RBI again this season. He scores five points higher among second basemen, so that's obviously where you'd prefer to roster him in 2020, but I'd still be pleased with him at the hot corner.

Yuli Gurriel, Ryan McMahon, and Tommy Edman are repeat appearances from either first base or second base, so let's jump to the more intriguing trio of Matt Chapman, Mike Moustakas, and JD Davis.

Chapman had a great year, hitting over 30 HR and scoring over 100 R, but the BA still leaves much to be desired and the speed is non-existent. The power is much more believable than Escobar, but other than that you are looking at similar production at almost twice the cost.

Moustakas is interesting for 2020 as he moves to GABP. Unfortunately, he's coming from Milwaukee so it's not like he was being suppressed in the slightest. Since 2014 GABP ranks 4th highest for LHB HR, with Miller Park directly behind at 5th. He is currently being drafted in the 10th round on NFBC and RotoBaller ranks him just inside the top 100 overall.

Davis is getting plenty of hype as a sleeper for 2020 in fantasy, after hitting 22 HR with a cool .307 BA in just 453 PA last year. His .355 BABIP from 2019 likely won't be replicated, so you are looking for more of a .275 BA which will still play in the late rounds. The main issue bringing down his keeper score and my general interest is the lack of full-time PA. Yoenis Cespedes looks yoked and possibly healthy, Dominic Smith has to play, Jake Marisnick is chillin' and Jed Lowrie has no physical restrictions for 2020.

 

Tier Five

Just because it's a great player, doesn't mean its a great keeper value. We see some great examples of that in the fifth tier. Let's start with Nolan Arenado. Sure, he's hit at least 37 HR with 97 R and 110 RBI for FOUR straight seasons, but unless you went full win-now mode last year and don't have a plethora of higher-tier keeper options, you don't need to keep him in the first round. There is also this weird rift between him and the GM and trade rumors which could lead to us seeing what Arenado would look like outside of Coors full-time.

Next, you have the Bringer of Rain, Josh Donaldson in his first season with the power-hitting Twins. I absolutely love JD and will probably end up with many redraft shares in 2020, but 34 years young is not a great point to be keeping guys and expecting a full healthy season. Use your keeper selection elsewhere and scoop him up in the draft.

Max Muncy fits right in with Josh Donaldson, whereas the name is fantastic, but the price has to be right in order to merit a keeper selection. According to the Keeper Value Formula, the 10th round ain't exactly it, chief. Two straight seasons of 35 bombs and hitting in a loaded lineup, he is plenty useful in fantasy, but keep searching for better values if you have them.

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2020 Fantasy Baseball Advice 2020 Fantasy Baseball Keepers & Dynasty Ranks 2020 Fantasy Baseball Projections & ADP Analysis Editor Note Featured Baseball MLB Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

2020 Keeper Value Rankings - Second Base

Keeper Value Rankings are intended for Keeper Leagues in which a fantasy owner must forfeit a designated draft pick in order to keep a player into the upcoming season. These rankings are based on Keeper "Values". In the marketing world, Value can be defined as "the extent to which a good or service (player) is perceived by its customer (fantasy owner) to meet his/her needs or wants." The Keeper Values are derived from my Keeper Valuation Formula which accounts for age, player cost (ADP), remaining player pool, past performance, future projections, missed playing time, and even positional scarcity.

The final product is a quantitative depiction of a player's ability to meet/exceed fantasy owners' needs based on the cost they paid for the player in the previous season (2019 ADP) and will subsequently pay for in the current season's draft (2020). The higher the score, the higher the return the fantasy owner will receive from the player keeping him at their associated cost. Approaching Keeper selections with this value-based attitude will greatly increase the effectiveness of a fantasy owner's draft in a keeper league.

Whereas the main purpose of the Keeper Value Formula is for customization based on specific leagues and keeper costs, I create these yearly rankings with standard 12 team league data, 2019 ADP, and 23rd Round cost for UDFA just as a baseline to help managers get an idea of their options. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @RowdyRotoJB to check out your specific league's values.

 

JB's Keeper Value System

TIER SCORE DESCRIPTION
1 >100 Finders Keepers! These are the Elite Keeper Values. MUST BE KEPT at all costs.
2 75-99 Great Keeper values. Unless you have a full load of Tier 1 players, these guys need to be kept.
3 50-74 You are gaining good value with these players. A majority of good keepers options tend to fall into this category.
4 25-49 Minimal value. The value exists, but not as much as your opponents are likely receiving with their selections. Consider if your options are limited.
5 0-24 Break-even point. Keeping these players will likely hurt your overall draft, as you are not adding enough value. Don't waste a Keeper selection here.
6 <0 The associated costs make it impossible to return any value, these players will ruin your draft. Stay far away.

 

2020 Keeper Value Rankings - Second Base

POS RANK KEEPER
TIER
PLAYER/TEAM ADP (ROUND) SCORE
1 2 Ketel Marte ARI 21 95.95
2 2 Keston Hiura MIL 23 90.82
3 2 DJ LeMahieu NYY 18 78.17
4 3 Jeff McNeil NYM 23 72.64
5 3 Jonathan Villar MIA 8 63.53
6 3 Danny Santana TEX 23 62.50
7 3 Gleyber Torres NYY 6 61.76
8 3 Cavan Biggio TOR 23 55.73
9 3 Gavin Lux LAD 23 50.07
10 4 Ozzie Albies ATL 5 49.61
11 4 Lourdes Gurriel Jr TOR 21 46.74
12 4 Eduardo Escobar ARI 15 46.00
13 4 Ryan McMahon COL 23 41.26
14 4 Tommy Edman STL 23 38.26
15 4 Mike Moustakas CIN 12 34.86
16 4 Max Muncy LAD 10 25.45
17 5 Kevin Newman PIT 23 23.75
18 5 Brandon Lowe TBR 23 21.50
19 5 Kolten Wong STL 23 9.01
20 5 Michael Chavis BOS 23 3.43
21 5 Jon Berti MIA 23 2.09

 

Tier Two

As you can see right off the bat, nobody at the keystone position reaches Keeper Tier One in 2020. However, our first two studs sure came close. The formula goes with the more-proven hitter Ketel Marte slightly ahead of the touted prospect Keston Hiura for the top spot at the position. Marte shocked the industry in 2019 with 32 HR, 10 SB, and a .329 BA as he finished top-20 overall in standard leagues. It was nothing short of amazing, especially considering he played 119 games with the Mariners in 2016 and hit ONE HR. Whether you believe in a repeat or not, RotoBaller has him ranked right at the 50 overall line, which combined with his position eligibility bonus makes for a fantastic keeper choice in the late rounds.

Hiura is a no-brainer keeper option after he made his MLB debut in 2019 and did not disappoint with 19 HR, 9 SB, and .303 BA in just 84 games. The 30.7 K% and .402 BABIP are a little uneasy on the stomach but there's no doubt that Hiura is a staple at the position for years to come in fantasy.

 

Tier Three

There are two surprise scores sitting atop Tier Three, as Jeff McNeil just misses the second tier from his UDFA ADP. Like DJ LeMahieu and Ketel Marte, this certainly won't be the last positional list you see McNeil on in this series, as he qualifies for second, third, and outfield on many fantasy sites for 2020. In his first full season at the big league level, McNeil hit an impressive .318 with an equally impressive 13.2 K%. His 11.2 Soft% was good for fifth-lowest in baseball, and RotoBaller projects him as a top-100 fantasy player again in 2020. Again, the multi-position eligibility is a huge bonus.

Jonathan Villar is the second surprise of the tier, and probably my biggest one from the formula at the position. The poor guy balls out and finishes as a top 20 fantasy player in 2019 while playing for the Baltimore Orioles, and is rewarded by a trade sending him to Miami this offseason. Despite the universe being against him, Villar still represents a huge value from his eighth-round ADP from 2019. He was the only hitter to reach 20/40 last season and was still able to rack up 111 R in the last place offense. He projects as the Marlins leadoff hitter for 2020 and appears to be on track for a super-utility Marwin Gonzalez-esque season where he could potentially add OF and 3B eligibility to his carried-over 2B and SS.

We finish out the third tier with a splash of youth with Gleyber Torres, Gavin Lux, and Cavan Biggio. Lux and Biggio will both be experiencing their first full seasons in the bigs and both present enticing power/speed combos. Torres is coming off an anticipated monster season where he nearly missed out on a 40/100/100 line in that terrifying Yankee lineup. I personally wouldn't be near as excited over a 6th round Gleyber as I would be with a 23rd round Biggio or Lux, but the formula says we can actually expect similar values respectively for 2020.

 

Tier Four

The value is getting tighter in the fourth tier. As stated in the scoring explanation up top, this tier is still valid keeper options - but you probably are getting bested by your opponents and their selections. But if the options are limited, Ozzie Albies in the fifth round still returns value despite him being ranked as a fifth-round player this season also. This is similar to Freddie Freeman in the first base rankings. There is no way a 23-year-old 20/20 second baseman hitting between Ronald Acuna and Freddie Freeman makes it to you in the fifth round of your keeper draft, and that's why Albies walks out of the formula with a respectable 49.61.

I like the three mid-round veterans chilling in this tier, with Max Muncy, Eduardo Escobar, and Mike Moustakas showing that keeper selections are not just the elite studs and late-round prospects. Eduardo Escobar gets watered down slightly thanks to projections not believing in the 2019 power outburst, which could be warranted pending on the level of juiciness in the balls this year. But for what it's worth, Escobar has increased his Hard% for three straight seasons, and really appears to enjoy hitting out in the desert. We may not see 35 bombs ever again but I don't think 30 is out of the question and the RBI potential behind Starling Marte and Ketel Marte is just rowdy for a mid-round CIF/MIF-eligible bat.

Tommy Edman and Ryan McMahon are two names I keep finding myself scooping up later in drafts as I am filling bench slots or frantically trying to find a CIF/MIF. McMahon probably doesn't even get drafted in fantasy if he was on a different team, as he hit 18 HR and .270 at home in 2019, compared to just 6 HR and .226 on the road. But the reality is he does get to play half his games in Coors Field and is still just 24 years old. There is room for massive improvement in the power department if he can join the rest of the league in the launch angle era. Despite an impressive 44.1 Hard%, he really struggled to keep the ball off the ground, sporting a measly 27.9 FB%. Tommy Edman is also a fairly ground-ball heavy 24-year-old, but a top 10 Speed rating makes it a much more welcomed sight. In just 349 PA, Edman stole 15 bases while hitting 11 HR and a .304 BA. Like Villar, Edman should see an almost every day role with the Cardinals in a super-utility role this season, which along with the big speed potential can give fantasy owners a lot of draft-day flexibility if used as a keeper selection.

 

Tier Five

The fifth tier is nothing but last round flyers. Keeping these players doesn't appear to gain much value in 2020 mostly due to the fact that you can still draft them late in your drafts. Michael Chavis has serious power upside, but the plate discipline is still a ways off and has Jose Peraza and Mitch Moreland (and a pending Bobby Dalbec call-up) blocking his path to full-time AB in 2020. Brandon Lowe had a much more successful stint in the majors last year and should see the majority of 2B starts for the Rays, but is essentially just as blocked from full-time AB as his AL East counterpart. Jon Berti is 30 years old with just 77 MLB games under his belt, but as we saw in 2019 has some serious wheels. If Miami finds a way to find him 500+ PA, we could very easily see 30 SB, albeit without beneficial accompanying fantasy stats.

If I were to have beef with the formula anywhere at the second base position, it would probably be Kevin Newman's score. He is just so undervalued right now. He is essentially a younger Jean Segura on an ugly offense. In 531 PA last year, he hit 12 HR with 16 SB and a .308 BA. ATC projects him for 9 HR with 16 SB and a .283 BA in 2020. Jean Segura in 2019 hit 12 HR with 10 SB and a .280 BA. Segura is ranked 70 spots higher in RotoBallers 2020 rankings. Of course, Newman missed a tier four score by less than two points, but I still sense some unwarranted disrespect.

 

Other Keeper Value Rankings

 

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2020 Keeper Value Rankings - First Base

Many years ago, I noticed the managers in my long-time keeper league were consistently making terrible keeper decisions year after year. I thought I would help them out instead of taking their money every year and find a good set of Keeper League Rankings to share with them. What I found was quite disturbing.

There are currently two types of Keeper Rankings available in the industry: Type A is just the site's normal rankings with younger players boosted. These types of rankings only benefit leagues where all Keepers carry the same cost or no cost, such as Rounds 1-4. I also found a Type B that I have no explanation on how any human could ever perceive to be useful in any type of fantasy format. So instead of pulling a rankings list for them, I sat down on Excel for a good month and the Keeper Value Formula was born.

Keeper Value Rankings are intended for Keeper Leagues in which a fantasy owner must forfeit a designated draft pick in order to keep a player into the upcoming season. These rankings are based on Keeper "Values". In the marketing world, Value can be defined as "the extent to which a good or service (player) is perceived by its customer (fantasy owner) to meet his/her needs or wants." The Keeper Values are derived from my Keeper Valuation Formula which accounts for age, player cost (ADP), remaining player pool, past performance, future projections, missed playing time, and even positional scarcity.

 

JB's Keeper Value System

The final product is a quantitative depiction of a player's ability to meet/exceed fantasy owners' needs based on the cost they paid for the player in the previous season (2019 ADP) and will subsequently pay for in the current season's draft (2020). The higher the score, the higher the return the fantasy owner will receive from the player keeping him at their associated cost. Approaching Keeper selections with this value-based attitude will greatly increase the effectiveness of a fantasy owner's draft in a keeper league.

Whereas the main purpose of the Keeper Value Formula is for customization based on specific leagues and keeper costs, I create these yearly rankings with standard 12 team league data, 2019 ADP, and 23rd Round cost for UDFA just as a baseline to help managers get an idea of their options. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @RowdyRotoJB to check out your specific league's values.

 TIER   SCORE   DESCRIPTION
1 >100 Finders Keepers! These are the Elite Keeper Values. MUST BE KEPT at all costs.
2 75-99 Great Keeper values. Unless you have a full load of Tier 1 players, these guys need to be kept.
3 50-74 You are gaining good value with these players. The majority of good keepers options tend to fall into this category.
4 25-49 Minimal value. The value exists, but not as much as your opponents are likely receiving with their selections. Consider if your options are limited.
5 0-24 Break-even point. Keeping these players will likely hurt your overall draft, as you are not adding enough value. Don't waste a Keeper selection here.
6 <0 The associated costs make it impossible to return any value, these players will ruin your draft. Stay far away.

 

2020 First Base Keeper Value Rankings

POS RANK KEEPER TIER PLAYER ADP (ROUND) SCORE
1 1 Cody Bellinger LAD 4 112.08
2 1 Peter Alonso NYM 20 108.11
3 2 DJ LeMahieu NYY 19 82.85
4 2 Josh Bell PIT 21 77.32
5 2 Trey Mancini BAL 23 76.64
6 3 Miguel Sano MIN 23 70.05
7 3 Danny Santana TEX 23 65.58
8 3 Matt Olson OAK 12 62.22
9 3 Freddie Freeman ATL 2 53.05
10 4 Yuli Gurriel HOU 16 46.88
11 4 Hunter Dozier KCR 23 45.87
12 4 Joc Pederson LAD 23 44.78
13 4 Ryan McMahon COL 23 44.76
14 4 Carlos Santana CLE 15 41.84
15 4 Christian Walker ARI 23 34.96
16 4 Max Muncy LAD 10 26.85
17 5 Jose Abreu CHW 6 23.08
18 5 Mark Canha OAK 23 23.01
19 5 Renato Nunez BAL 23 22.19
20 5 Michael Chavis BOS 23 18.25
21 5 Yandy Diaz TBR 23 9.13
22 5 Luke Voit NYY 15 0.83

 

Tier One

I found it surprising that Pete Alonso in the late rounds was not number one in the rankings, but the formula has always valued first-round talents anywhere outside first-round costs, and it's hard to argue with Cody Bellinger. Belly put his sophomore "slump" season way back in the rear-view mirror in 2019 with career highs in all five Roto categories. He finished top-10 in HR, R, and RBI while adding 15 SB and a .305 BA to boot. There are really no red flags here as he also boasted top-10 LD%, Hard%, and K/BB%. Bellinger is a consensus top-five pick in 2020 and getting to keep him anywhere outside the first round is a huge value. Alonso is an easy choice considering how late we were able to snag him in most drafts in 2019 and all he did was lead the entire league in HR as a rookie.

 

Tier Two

The late-round value studs, Tier Two features three bats that really broke out beyond expectations in 2019. Many people, including myself, thought leaving Coors Field and moving to a possible utility-role would leave DJ LeMahieu on the waiver wire in most leagues. Nick Mariano and Bill Dubiel got the best of me there though, as their Yankee slugged a career-high 26 HR, hit triple digits in R and RBI, and finished with the fourth-highest BA in the league. RotoBaller rankings have him sitting at #70 overall for 2020 hitting atop the Yankees lethal lineup.

Trey Mancini and Josh Bell were both guys that were all but given up on and frankly, I thought we knew exactly what they were. Combine that with the fact that both play on bottom-tier offenses and the late ADP makes perfect sense. Both set career highs in HR, R, and RBI. Despite Josh Bell's drop-off in the second half, both are in the top 105 in our rankings for this season.

 

Tier Three

We have our first loophole ranking. Miguel Sano missed all of Spring Training last year due to a lacerated Achilles, which then led to a surgery that ultimately nailed down his ADP. Danny Santana, on the other hand, took the more common route of just flying under the entire industry's radar and then came out of nowhere and played out of his mind for the Rangers in 2019. Santana was one of only nine hitters to reach the 20/20 milestone and he did it in 511 PA. With Delino DeShields traded to Cleveland this offseason, the switch-hitting Santana looks to be entrenched as the starting CF in Texas. We have him ranked as #124 overall as those types of speed numbers are tough to come by these days, especially among first base-eligible hitters. Tier Three is finished out with two big names, as there is no surprise Matt Olson and his power is a value circa 12th-round ADP.

Freddie Freeman, however, scoring above 50 out of the second round was probably the biggest surprise for me at the position. This particular situation would probably need to be handled on a case-by-case basis. Freeman is currently being drafted in the second round of 2020 fantasy drafts (16th Overall), so there appears to be no value gained on the surface. But you will also have to take into account the player pool and available talent remaining for the early draft rounds after the keeper selections are removed which will vary on the league size and number of allowed keepers. Most likely, Freddie Freeman will not be available in the second round of keeper league drafts. One other aspect to consider which the formula cannot calculate with the standard data is where exactly your team will be drafting within that round. Nevertheless, the formula has spoken. Freddie Freeman is still a positive value being kept in the second round.

 

Tier Four

Now we reach the territory of: you don't want to keep, but if you have to it won't hurt. The tier is split into two interesting groups with the mid-round vets and the late-round new faces. The vets are led by Yuli Gurriel, Carlos Santana, and Max Muncy in rounds 16, 15, and 10 respectively. Gurriel and Santana enjoyed career seasons despite both being well north of 30 years young in 2019. I'm not going to say that Gurriel's power breakout was only due to a juiced ball and banging on trashcans, but I will certainly say I trust a repeat from Santana much more as he has been doing similar things for a while. The Hard% was at a career-high and the .293 BABIP isn't high enough to make me think the .281 BA was a complete fluke.

In our recent Staff Mock Draft, I landed Carlos Santana in the 11th round and I feel like that is even a great value for this season. The late-round new faces of Tier Four are represented by Christian Walker, Hunter Dozier, and Ryan McMahon. All with ADP outside the 23rd round in 2019, the potential alone (and maybe some Coors magic) makes for three decent keeper options here. All three fall inside the top 200 of RotoBaller's 2020 rankings, with Hunter Dozier leading the way at 164 overall.

 

Tier Five

If you've reached this point in the rankings you either went into full Win-Now mode last season or you just made some oopsies in your keeper management. Regardless of the reason, while you don't want to rely on Tier Five keeper selections, there is still technically value to be had here - hence the positive scores. Jose Abreu represents a perfect depiction of this tier year after year, as he always seems to be slightly undervalued in drafts despite six straight seasons of wRC+ ranging from 115 to 167, four of which saw at least 30 dongs. Then we head into some popular late-round targets for this season: Mark Canha, Michael Chavis, Yandy Diaz, and Renato Nunez. RotoBaller has all four hitters ranked in the 18-19 round range, so depending on how your league handles keeping UDFA, there is potential for some value with decent upside.

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Biggest Risers and Fallers of 2019 - Relief Pitchers

Welcome back, RotoBallers. I have to admit, I just wrote 3000 words on relief pitchers so forgive me if I get a little brief with the intro and just allow you to jump into the meat.

In this article, I look at 10 relievers whose value skyrocketed or plummeted in the 2019 fantasy season, spend some time trying to dig around to find out why it happened, and then discuss what we can expect from them in 2020.

For a look at starting pitchers who were risers last season in terms of K-rate, click here.

 

Relief Pitcher Risers

Liam Hendriks, OAK ⇑ 

2019: 4 W, 25 SV, 124 K, 1.80 ERA, 0.96 WHIP

Okay, I did not see this one coming. Liam Hendriks has been hanging around the American League since being drafted by the Twins in 2007. Another starter-turned-reliever, he has had some success in the bullpen prior to 2019, such as his 2015 campaign in Toronto where he pitched to a 2.92 ERA across 64.2 IP. But in 2019 we saw a different beast. Enjoying a 1.5 MPH uptick in his fastball velocity, Hendriks rode the pitch hard, throwing the cheese at a 67.9% clip and essentially doing away with his sinker. It resulted in a career-high 37.4 K%, but also a career-high 49.5 FB%. This is where my main concerns start to surface. A 30-year-old pitcher who threw his most innings since 2014, is now throwing 70% cheese and giving up 50% flyballs, yet only surrendered a 5.6 HR/FB% (vs 10.4% career average) last season. The law of averages already started to creep into effect during the second half of last season when he allowed four long-balls and a 2.70 ERA after just one across the first half.

Despite how it may look, Hendrik's stuff actually supported the absurd low HR numbers to an extent. First off, he allowed the seventh-lowest Pull% in baseball. He was especially hard to pull for RHB, where he allowed just a 2.2 HR/FB% despite a 54.1 FB%. Of course, the uptick in velocity contributed greatly, but it was also the near picture-perfect location of his pitches that was the real key. An upper-90s fastball up and away consistently is tough to time-up as a hitter.

Then once he has you sitting on the up and away fastball and you think you're going to jump it, he hits you with a slider that starts at the same height but drops completely out of the strike zone.

That is just unfair. This slider absolutely mowed down batters last season. When throwing his slider Hendriks allowed a .108 BAA while boasting a 56.4 K%, 47.2 O-Swing%, 29.0 SwStr%, and a very much needed 51.6 GB%. The slider is key to sustaining elite fantasy value in 2020. There will without a doubt be more HR this year, there just has to be, but if he keeps throwing the slider to this level of effectiveness the strikeouts will remain and help overcome the ERA regression.

Hendriks is currently being drafted as the RP5 just, outside the top 100. While I don't expect him to end the season in the top five, he absolutely belongs in the top 10 and I won't argue too hard with anyone drafting him after Josh Hader, Kirby Yates and Aroldis Chapman have left the board. For what it's worth, Steamer projects Hendriks with a 3.16 ERA in 2020, which is in the neighborhood of his 3.21 xFIP from this past season, while rocking a 11.82 K/9 which is practically the median between his career average and 2019's 13.13 mark.

 

Taylor Rogers, MIN ⇑

2019: 2 W, 30 SV, 90 K, 2.61 ERA, 1.00 WHIP

Taylor Rogers was a solid relief pitcher for three seasons in Minnesota heading into 2019, but was finally awarded the ninth-inning keys and responded with the best year of his career. Operating as the Twins Glen Perkins-esque southpaw closer, Rogers rewarded fantasy owners finishing as one of only four RP with 30 SV, 11+ K/9, and an ERA under 3.00. Fun fact, the other three were also LHP - Aroldis Chapman, Josh Hader, and Will Smith.

Despite seeing regression in BABIP and HR/FB% from his "breakout" 2018 season, Rogers was still able to lower his ERA due to a career-best 32.4 K%. The secret appears to be a massive increase in his slider usage, 13% in 2018 to 31% in 2019. I see no reason to expect anything different from Rogers in 2020, sitting atop a strong bullpen featuring Trevor May, Tyler Duffey, Sergio Romo, and Tyler Clippard. Rogers is currently being drafted as the RP8 at 126 overall. He represents a safer option than fellow closer Liam Hendricks, who is being drafted a full round earlier. In fact, I predict Taylor Rogers finishes the 2020 season ranked higher than Liam Hendriks.

 

Drew Pomeranz, SD ⇑ 

2019: 2 W, 2 SV, 137 K, 4.85 ERA, 1.43 WHIP

Okay, this may seem a bit odd considering the overall stats look hideous and this guy has Kirby Yates ahead of him on the depth chart, but bear with me because I am excited about this one. Did you even realize Drew Pomeranz was moved to the bullpen last year? Finishing the season as a reliever, Pomeranz threw 28.2 IP with a 1.88 ERA, 15.70 K/9, and a 51.1 GB%. The guy became a southpaw Kirby Yates. He held opposing hitters to a .165 BA and boasted a 1.67 xFIP. The K/9 was good for third-highest among RP with 20+ IP, and only Brandon Workman also had a top-30 K/9, GB% above 50%, and an ERA below 2.00.

Yes, it is a small sample size, but Pomeranz would not be the first SP to flourish after a move to the pen. You may also be worried about the LOB% sitting above 90%, but I mean if you are striking guys out at Josh Hader levels, you are going to have Josh Hader level LOB ability (which was 93%). Speaking of Hader, he was the only RP to have a higher K/BB% than Pomeranz as a reliever.

Even if you are in the business of only using closers in fantasy, Pomeranz makes for a great late-round handcuff to Kirby Yates. But if you are of superior intellect and operate off the JB Bullpen Method (Draft Tip #10), you will join me in scooping up Drew Pomeranz in the late rounds and enjoy the ratio dominance. I haven't even started my 10 Bold Predictions for 2020 yet, but I assure you Pomeranz makes the list.

 

Emilio Pagan, TB ⇑ 

2019: 4 W, 20 SV, 96 K, 2.31 ERA, 0.83 WHIP

Much like Taylor Rogers, Emilio Pagan enjoyed a career-year in 2019 which resulted in earning the closer role. His 12.34 K/9 was a personal best, as was his GB%. Also in tune with Taylor Rogers, Pagan increased his slider usage which resulted in a 7% increase in O-Swing%, 5% decrease in Contact%, and raised his SwStr% to a very impressive 17.6%. His fastball was equally impressive as it gained a slight uptick in velo which led the way with a 42.1 K%.

The bad news for Pagan is some incoming regression after he benefited from a .228 BABIP and monstrous 94.8 LOB%, which widened the gap between his ERA and 3.30 FIP. But even despite some regression in the ERA and WHIP, I expect Pagan to be a more-than-serviceable RP in 2020, especially backed by a top 10 K-BB%.

The real issue I have with drafting him at his current RP16 (168 Overall) range is the massive group of talent nipping at his heels on the depth chart. Diego Castillo was always viewed as the closer of the future in Tampa, but then they go and acquire strikeout machine Nick Anderson too? Not to mention a healthy Jose Alverado and frisbee-slider-slinging Chaz Roe. Even Colin Poche is another under 30 years old with double-digit K/9. I expect Emilio Pagan to lead the Rays in saves, but I will predict he will not reach 20 again in 2020 which makes him a less appealing pick to me than say Jose Leclerc or Hansel Robles who are being drafted a round later.

 

Brandon Workman, BOS ⇑ 

2019: 10 W, 16 SV, 104 K, 1.88 ERA, 1.03 WHIP

It's hard to believe Brandon Workman has been with the Red Sox since 2011. He made his first big league appearance in 2013 but really got his feet wet in 2014 with 87 IP and a wild 1-10 record. He then saw 2015-2016 practically erased due to Tommy John surgery. Fast forward to 2019, and he completes a literal 180 flip by going 10-1 with a 13.06 K/9 and 1.88 ERA, while also taking over Boston ninth-inning duties and recording 16 saves.

One main factor for his success was increasing the usage of his fantastic curveball, up to damn-near 50%, good for third-highest in baseball but still behind teammate Matt Barnes. Due to the increase in offspeed pitches, his FB value climbed and contributed to a career-low Contact% and career-high SwStr%. To top it all off, Workman's .123 BAA was the lowest in all of baseball.

Of course, we are talking about my Red Sox bullpen, so there has to be a downside. The glaring issue is the free passes. Operating with a 15.7 BB% is risky business, but it also comes with the territory when throwing a curveball half the time (unless you are Rich Hill or Tyler Duffey apparently). Workman's career BB% is 10.5%, so I expect the 15.7 to dip a bit towards the mean. The second issue is the minuscule .209 BABIP and 2.6 HR/FB%. Obviously this combo screams regression. But combined with a low LOB% and high GB tendencies, I don't really disagree with his 3.33 xFIP from 2019 as a 2020 ERA estimator. You can certainly do a lot worse than a high strikeout closer in Boston with a 3.33 ERA. Workman is currently being drafted right after Emilio Pagan, which I think is fair as I trust Pagan's peripherals a bit more, but I certainly expect Workman to be in line for more saves in 2020 - if that's your thing.

 

Giovanny Gallegos, STL ⇑ 

2019: 3 W, 1 SV, 93 K, 2.31 ERA, 0.81 WHIP

Coming over from the New York Yankees in exchange for Luke Voit in 2018, Giovanny Gallegos saw his first full season in the bigs last year, and did not disappoint. Like Rogers and Pagan, Gallegos threw a career-high percentage of sliders en route to a 33.3 K% and 16.3 SwStr%. He also boasts impressive command as shown by his 27.6 K-BB%. In order for him to sustain this level of success, I believe a third pitch will need to be added to the mix, as he only threw eight pitches (change-up) last year that were not a fastball or slider. Until that happens, I expect the BABIP and LOB% to regress and for the ERA and WHIP to creep up in 2020.

The best thing Gallegos has going for him to start 2020 is opportunity. With Jordan Hicks recovering from TJS and Carlos Martinez supposedly returning to the rotation, Gallegos should be the guy to see the first crack at the ninth-inning role. He is the most talented option in the pen in my opinion, and you never know how/when Jordan Hicks recovers so I am treating Gallegos like the Cardinals closer in my drafts. He is currently being drafted as the RP26 (244 Overall). I value him higher and would easily draft him ahead of Mark Melancon, Joe Jimenez, and Ian Kennedy based on his floor, and also over Sean Doolittle and Archie Bradley based on his potential.

 

Relief Pitcher Fallers

Chad Green, NYY ⇓

2019: 4 W, 2 SV, 98 K, 4.17 ERA, 1.23 WHIP

The numbers might not look too bad, but after dominating performances in 2017 and 2018, this past season was a big disappointment for Chad Green ratio-hopefuls such as myself.  The law of averages spares no man. There are plenty of pleasantries to take away from 2019 however. The first is the strikeouts remained constant. His 12.78 K/9 fell smack dab in the middle of his 2017 and 2018 totals. His O-Swing%, Contact%, and SwStr% were also all on par. The second positive is Green has remained healthy for three straight seasons and his velocity remains intact. The third positive was a very strong second half of the season which bodes well for his 2020 outlook. Green started the season just about as bad as one could, allowing 14 ER in his first 7.2 IP. But the Yankees got creative, even used him as an opener, and he responded in a great way. After the All-Star break, Green allowed just a 2.89 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, .176 BAA, 0.72 HR/9, and the BABIP dropped drastically.

Despite the rough start and bad luck in 2019, I will be going right back to drafting Chad Green late in my 2020 fantasy drafts to bolster my pitching stats, while enjoying an even greater discount than usual.

 

Edwin Diaz, NYM ⇓ 

2019: 2 W, 26 SV, 99 K, 5.59 ERA, 1.38 WHIP

Talk about a painful draft-day investment, Edwin Diaz was destroyed by the Law of Averages monster in his first year in New York. Despite a career-high in K/9, fantasy owners watched in horror as his HR/9 rose from 0.61 to 2.33, and his  BABIP climb from .281 to .377. He used the same pitch mix with the same velo, but obviously experienced much different results from his first three seasons. We can't blame it all on bad luck though, even though his 3.07 xFIP suggests there was plenty of it, because a 48.8 Hard% is not something you just fall into by accident.

Diaz was pummeled by RHB in 2019. In 33 IP, he surrendered 10 HR and a .299/.358/.569 slash. Again, that's not all bad luck. The below heat maps show us his pitch locations against RHB first in 2018, followed by 2019. Which one would be easier for you to hit? 

The difference between the two may seem minor, but when you are simultaneously being hammered by the HR/FB and BABIP gods, keeping the ball out of the middle of the plate as much as possible is probably the best approach.

The greatest benefit for fantasy owners in 2020 from the Diaz fallout in 2019 is the draft day discount. Despite almost a guaranteed 15+ K/9, the closer role, and incoming positive regression (great article by fellow-Rotoballer Eric), Diaz is being drafted as the RP9 at 130 overall. If the ERA and WHIP are able to dip back down anywhere near the ranges from the previous three seasons, you are getting a sweet deal.

 

Blake Treinen, LAD ⇓ 

2019: 6 W, 16 SV, 59 K, 4.91 ERA, 1.62 WHIP

As if the Edwin Diaz drop-off wasn't painful enough, Blake Treinen was the nail in the coffin. After being converted to a full-time reliever by the Nationals in 2015, Treinen skated through three straight seasons of 3.31-3.57 xFIP and 8 K/9. Then out of nowhere, just like the A's current closer, Treinen busts out of his mold and becomes a freakin wizard on the mound ending 2018 with a 0.78 ERA and 11.20 K/9. The pending regression heading into 2019 was so obvious coming off career anomalies in BABIP, HR/9, and LOB% but I, like so many others, was baited in based solely on how filthy he stuff looked. Of course, you know the rest of the story; the Law of Averages hit, and it hit hard. Treinen's K/9 dropped down to 9.05, his BABIP shot up 86 points, LOB% dropped 10 points, and his HR/FB% quadrupled. Also like his former teammate Hendriks, Treinen's GB/FB ratio was cut in half. For someone that relies on a "once" filthy sinker, that stat definitely sticks out. So obviously I want to dig into the sinker.

In 2019, Treinen's sinker induced 10% less ground balls than 2018, with a 77 point BABIP increase and tripled in HR/FB%. According to his pitch location heat maps, there is a noticeable difference in his sinker locations from 2018 (top), but it actually looks like it was better placed in 2019 (bottom).

If the location is not the issue, it has to be the delivery, right? Well, it just so happens his sinker lost 1.3 MPH in velocity from 2018. There we go. It also just so happens Treinen battled shoulder and back injuries last year, which could certainly help explain the loss in velo. The injuries could possibly also explain why he threw his slider (career 50.3 GB%) 10% less than in 2018.

So I am fairly confident injuries played a large role in Treinen's awful 2019 season, fueled by a rapid increase in fly balls. If fully healthy in Los Angeles this season, I expect the GB% to increase in conjunction with the return of his sinker and slider. The main problem here is I think a return to 2018 is out of the question, there is just nothing to support that statistical output. The HR/FB from 2019 actually lines up with his three-year average prior to the 2018 breakout, so I can't expect a drop in that department, but rather just a drop in the total number of fly balls which will drive the HR/9 down again and help bring his ERA and WHIP down to respectable levels. The days of fantasy relevance are probably over for Treinen, but the Dodgers will still get serviceable innings from their new reliever in 2020.

If you didn't notice, I left the increase in walks out of this blurb. That is because this article by Connor Kurcon on sixmanrotation.com covers it beautifully as does a study on how pitchers who suffer a spike in walk rates in their career respond the following season(s) historically. 

 

Jose Leclerc, TEX ⇓ 

2019: 2 W, 14 SV, 100 K, 4.33 ERA, 1.33 WHIP

Just like the previously mentioned Blake Treinen, Jose Leclerc enjoyed a massive breakout in 2018 with a 1.56 ERA and 13.27 K/9. But as you know, thanks to that big downward-facing arrow next to his name and the fact you probably had him on a fantasy team last season, Leclerc was unable to carry that success over to 2019.

Let's start with the good news. First, the strikeouts remained over a 13 K/9 rate, and his Contact% stayed steady. Second, his velocity increased from 2018. Third, he was still very tough to hit as he allowed just a .205 BAA. Lastly, the batted-ball profile remained relatively the same, but the GB% actually increased. So far so good. So what went wrong? Well, those ridiculously low HR numbers from 2018 regressed towards the mean as expected, but that was mostly thanks to a near-ten point decrease in Soft% and subsequent increase in Hard%. Left-handed batters, in particular, posed a problem for Leclerc and they slugged .483 in 2019 vs just .221 in 2018. The best way to explain his struggles with hard contact to lefties is by looking at his go-to pitch, the splitter.

In 2018, Leclerc's splitter boasted a 58.9 K%, .011 ISO, 37 FB%, 61.5 ZCont%, and a 23.8 SwStr%. In 2019, the same pitch carried a 45.9 K%, .168 ISO, 47 FB%, 83.7 ZCont%, and 16.4 SwStr%. That is quite a considerable drop in effectiveness. Back to the heat maps! First look at 2018 splitter location vs LHB, down in the zone, ain't no way to put that over the fence. Then look below it for 2019 splitter location vs LHB. That's living dangerously.

The relievers with the best splitters in baseball right now are Kirby Yates and Hector Neris. Yates strikes out LHB at a 15.19 K/9 rate, and Neris allows just a .167 to LHB. Obviously righting the ship with his splitter will be a major key to Leclerc returning to his dominant 2018 form. Walks will continue to be an issue (5.63 BB/9 Career), so he will never be a true ratio darling in fantasy. But the Ks are fantastic and we can expect the ERA to slide down towards his 3.59 FIP, and potentially even further if the splitter effectiveness improves. I can't see anyone else from the shoddy Rangers bullpen taking over as the teams closer barring a historic meltdown, so consider Leclerc a high strikeout closer that won't hurt your teams ERA. As I stated previously, I would be comfortable gambling on a bounce-back campaign and taking Leclerc over Emilio Pagan and Brandon Workman in 2020 fantasy drafts.

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How To Win Your Fantasy Baseball Leagues on Draft Day

I hate intros. Nobody takes the time to read these things. I could say whatever I wanted and it would literally pass zero sets of eyes. Watch.... I have hemorrhoids! See? No one. But in the rare occasion that one of you sad saps does in fact read this paragraph before jumping to the meat and potatoes, allow me to admit that I am no one special. I have never enjoyed the financial freedom to enter high stakes fantasy leagues. You won't find my name on any NFBC leader boards this year. When I finally close the laptop for good down the road, I will not receive any votes to the Fantasy Baseball Hall of Fame.

But what I have is almost 20 years of fantasy draft experience, keen observation skills, and the ability to run the table in the RotoBaller Experts staff league the past two seasons. Do I win my leagues by scouring the waiver wire and fleecing the other managers in trades? Not even close. I have been on Active Duty for the past seven years and am a father of two, so I have very little time for in-season management aside from the 10 minutes I set aside in the morning to set my lineups (enter the new obsession of my life, Best Ball drafts). I have found 90% of my success in fantasy baseball comes from D-Day, or as it is more commonly known, Draft Day.

For the first time ever, I sat down and thought about how I handle fantasy drafts. I broke down all that information into my Top 10 Draft Tips. I hope you are mentally prepared on how you plan to spend all those winnings this year.

 

Top 10 Fantasy Baseball Draft Tips

1. Become an expert on your league's settings

I see it EVERY year. The draft room is filling up, the countdown reaches 10 minutes, and someone in the chat asks a question about the League scoring or categories. Welp, that's one less guy you have to worry about this season. If you can't recite the league's settings as if you were the commissioner, you aren't ready to draft. This is why you see so many commissioners win leagues in less-competitive leagues. They created the league's settings, the other guys learn it as they go.

Let me try a real-life metaphor. I play softball and flag football year-round. There is one quick way to tell if a player is good/experienced when you ask them if they want to play on your team. Player A says, "Sure I'd love to play, I played ball in high school." Then in the first game, they get six consecutive penalties for flag guarding, illegal contact, and not fastening their flags on correctly. Player B, on the other hand, replies to your question with five other questions, "Is it 7-on-7 or 8-on-8? Is it contact blocking or screening? USFTL rules?" You see the difference?

Serious fantasy players know that an entire draft strategy revolves around the league settings. Points leagues, H2H, Roto, they all should make you draft differently. Even breaking that down further, what point value does the league award each statistic? Plug those numbers into Mike Trout and Max Scherzer's projections real quick. Does the league favor hitting or pitching? Is it an H2H Categories overall record or One-Win league? Will you need to win as many categories as possible or can you stack up on 60% of the categories to ensure the W each week? Does the league have a weekly transaction limit that will prevent you from streaming SP every day? STUDY YOUR LEAGUE'S SETTINGS BEFORE DRAFT DAY!

2. Know your opponents

Rarely in this day and age does your average fantasy baseball manager join a random draft filled with completely random people. The league is either filled with your friends, or you are invited by a friend to join a league that is filled with his/her friends. This can and should be used to your advantage. If this is your league of friends, you probably already have all the data you need; who values RP higher than any other human on the planet, who tries to draft a full squad from their favorite team, who ends up letting the timer run out to auto-draft every other pick because they are too cheap to upgrade their internet package. If this is a league you were invited to, make sure you ask your mutual connection for a manager rundown.

All of this seemingly useless data, if in the right hands, can be used and analyzed to form a draft strategy. I understand this tip will not be applicable in every league. If you join a DC on NFBC, chances are you won't know anyone you are drafting with. But even if that is the case, do some investigative research on the manager names and Twitter handles. You might be surprised how much you will learn. Hell, you might even find that manager's public rankings available. Now you know your late-round sleeper target won't make it past Team 4 in the 6th round. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER.

3. Have a hand-picked rankings list

This is a fairly obvious tip. But it is probably my most OCD-driven task for my draft set up. First, building off Tip #1, make sure the rankings you choose/build are specific to the league type. Standard rankings won't be of much use in a Points League draft. For the majority of managers who do not have time to make their own rankings, find a set of public expert rankings that match your thoughts the closest. THESE RANKINGS WILL PREVENT REGRETFUL PANIC PICKS with the clock winding down, so while searching through sites to find a set that resembles how you would want to draft, make sure you filter by position to ensure they won't cause you to take any guys you don't like over some guys you are high on for the season.

During my drafts, I use split-screen with half my screen showing the draft board and half showing my exported rankings on an excel spreadsheet. Having a printout to follow along is just as good as long as you are able to keep your friends at your draft party from seeing who you have circled and teed up as your next target.

4. Stay focused....and sober?

I know this may hurt some feelings, because alcohol and fantasy drafts seemingly go so well together, especially if you have an active trash-talking league. But if you have money on the line, why would you be willing to throw that away for a few drinks that can be reserved for celebrating immediately following a great draft? Thoughts on adult beverage use aside, remaining focused throughout the entire draft is a necessity.

DO NOT WAIT UNTIL YOU ARE ON THE CLOCK TO DETERMINE WHO YOU ARE DRAFTING.

The second I have made my pick, I instantly move on to my next set of targets. I am looking at my roster to determine positional leagues, I am looking at my projections to determine statistical needs, I am looking at each manager that stands in the way of my next pick and analyzing what they need and who they may take away from my queue. Continuously updating your rankings list by removing drafted players is a great forcing-function to stay focused and up to the second during your draft. I simply delete the players from my excel spreadsheet. You could also cross them off your printed out list.

In order to execute this tip flawlessly, you also need to have some emergency scenario prep-time before the draft starts. Have snacks and drinks readily accessible. Have your phone ready with the draft app pulled up, just in case you lose wifi with your laptop or in case you need to go mobile and make a run to the bathroom. Make sure your significant other is fully aware that you are unavailable for the next X hours so you are not called away to let the dog out or put the kids to bed. Every second counts.

5. Don't let site ADP and rankings control you, let them pace you

If you follow Tip #3, you are already ahead of the curve on not drafting based off the draft board rankings provided by the site. But what is important to realize here is that I am not telling you to ignore the site's list, because it is very easy to use it to your advantage. Rarely in life do you get to see what your opponents see. In a fantasy draft, you are all looking at the same board, you know who is at the top and what players someone would have to scroll four times to even find. So instead of using the draft board to decide who to choose, use it to decide when to choose your guys. I knew I was drafting Chris Paddack in every draft last season, but I never went into a draft with a specific round I would target him. Instead, I analyzed the league and draft board to determine when to draft him while maximizing the value.

This is when Tip #2 really comes into play as well. NFL teams do this all the time during the draft. They may have a "projected third-round player" rated much higher than other teams and have them as the best available player when they are picking late in the first round. But for the most part, even though I know there are some terrible GMs in NFL, you don't see them making the reach. Because they know he will still be available at their next pick based on, I don't know, Mel Kiper's board, and knowing the other teams in between their next pick don't need a player at that position or didn't even bring in that player for a workout. DON'T REACH UNTIL YOU KNOW YOU NEED TO.

I always use the term, take what the league gives you. This is exactly what I mean by that. Go in with a strategy, and use your opponent's tendencies and the draft board to fine-tune it as you go. Lastly, don't forget reverse psychology. That chat function in drafts can be a gnarly tool for PSYOPS. You don't want to let a player you label as a huge bust drop far enough for an opponent to actually still get value out of him. So once that player is near the top of the board, maybe drop a little "I can't believe player X is still available". Poof! The player is drafted within the next three picks.

6. Understand team needs vs. best player available

This is a hard one to force during a draft, and is probably pretty unpopular. But I will say this, fantasy leagues are not won by the best players, they are won by the best team. Do not be the team that has a stud on the bench every week because you decided to draft three first basemen because they were the best players available. But also don't be the team that passes on a great bench bat to draft a catcher that is going to ultimately hurt your overall stat lines because you don't have one yet. It has to be a perfect balance (foreshadowing Tip #7!) that unfortunately can only come with experience. In order to gain/refresh that experience for each season, MOCK DRAFT YOUR BUTT OFF. But even if you have zero available time to mock, at least go into the draft cognizant of this understanding.

7. Balance, balance, balance

This is my bread and butter right here and it really shows in Roto leagues where, obviously, balance across all statistics is crucial for those points in the standings. If a player does not benefit my team in over 50% of the hitting/pitching categories, I don't want them. Punting categories, even in a H2H cats league is a dangerous and high-risk operation. When you willingly accept a weakness on your team, you are guaranteeing an L in a certain category, while subsequently needing everything to go right over a full season to overcome the guaranteed weakness.

As we all know, nothing in fantasy ever goes right over a full season. So you punt steals as a team, and then Joey Gallo gets hurt for a month. Now your team is mediocre on power and still has nothing for speed. Let's say that team is in a H2H cats league and avoids injury somehow, but there are still the ebbs and flows that go with the law of averages. So your team will go on a power cold-streak at some point, and they aren't stealing bases still, so you lose four match-ups in a row and miss the playoffs by one win. So statistical balance not only benefits Roto leagues, it acts as a safety net that will keep you from plummeting in any league. Let's take a look at hitters I drafted in one of my winning Roto Leagues last year; RotoBaller Experts League - Standard Roto Auction:

Starling Marte (23 HR/25 SB), Xander Bogaerts (great in 4 of 5 cats), Tim Anderson (18/17), JT Realmuto (25/9 at my Catcher position), Yasiel Puig (24/19). Cody Bellinger (47/15), Marcell Ozuna (29/12), Ryan Braun (22/11), Austin Meadows (33/12), Fernando Tatis (22/16)... sure I probably wouldn't have been able to pull that off in a snake draft, but you get the point of the skill balance I target. Even when it gets late in drafts when these kinds of players no longer exist, you can still keep the balance with off-setting one-dimensional hitters. After I drafted the above hitters, I then grabbed Franmil Reyes (37 HR) and Jose Peraza (23 SB....in 2018).

Since my pillars (players) are all spread out and balanced throughout my building (team), when Starling Marte goes down or gets cold, the building still stands. When Fernando Tatis Jr. goes down, the building still stands. Even when Cody freakin' Bellinger goes down, the building still stands. When you build a team solely on skillset and punt others, and one of your pillars goes down, the building starts to sway because all the pillars are on one side of the building. If two pillars go down at the same time, it's probably going to collapse. This tip obviously does not just apply to hitting categories, but I will save my spiel on pitchers for Tip #10.

8. Start the trends, don't join them

"If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?" Well, then why are you drafting a lower-tiered closer in the eighth round just because everyone else is? Joining a run can destroy any chance at a player returning value, it throws you off your strategy, and frankly just makes you look silly. Back to the TAKE WHAT THE LEAGUE GIVES YOU, bob when the others weave. Everyone is frantically trying to get a closer? That opens up an opportunity to snag your SP3. You're in a points league and the top-five picks are SP because the league favors pitching? SP6 or Ronald Acuna.....thanks for the money folks.

9. Use the queue for "off the page" players

My draft queue is always loaded with my late-round flyers/sleepers/targets. I don't want to forget them. Even if I am following along with my rankings, sometimes stuff happens. Also if I were to lose connection exactly as my pick came up, at least I would know that the impending auto-pick would be one of MY guys. Using the queue in conjunction with the site rankings board is also a fun strategy I like to utilize it to time my picks. Once one of my guys I have "starred" rolls up into visibility on the draft board, I know everyone in the league was just reminded of their existence. I try to keep them "off the page", aka snag them just before that moment.

10. *JB's Special Advice* 

For the most part, these last nine draft tips were fairly general, not even geared specifically to baseball. But Draft Tip #10 is a strategy I use in baseball every single year and kills Roto/H2H Category leagues. I call it JB's Bullpen method.

Back in Tip #7, I spoke about the importance of balance on a team. For your pitching staff, I find this even more important. You need steady, solid, balance and to be frank with you, that is not possible with a bunch of SP on your roster. Yeah, you can attack W and K, but your ERA and WHIP have no chance. There are like 10 SP in all of baseball I would trust with my team's ERA and WHIP all season and you want to fill your roster with them? In a standard league, I will roster ~13 pitchers. Of the 13 pitchers, I will NOT have more than five SP. That means the other eight are RP - and I don't care if they are closers right now or not. For years, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller were my anchors, then Josh Hader emerged, and every year a new crop of setup studs emerge like Giovany Gallegos.

Let's look at some examples, shall we? The eight RP I ended the season with in that Roto league I mentioned previously were:

Take Brandon Workman and Emilio Pagan. Both were for the most part undrafted in leagues, or late stashes because Boston's bullpen situation was sketchy. Combine their end of season stats and you have 14 W, 36 SV, 200 K, 2.10 ERA, 0.93 WHIP. I just created a bonafide ace that also acts as his team's closer - created from two under-the-radar RP - and I can do this three more times with my other guys!

How hard do you think it was to draft this group of relievers last season? Extremely easy, and very cheap. All below 2.80 ERA and all below 1.09 WHIP. Sprinkle in all the saves you pick up along the way as they change roles in the bullpen and you've just won three of five pitching categories. Now you just grab some SP to get over IP Minimums and get mid-range points in W and K. They don't even have to be studs, because like I said your ERA and WHIP are nailed to the top of the standings already. Take some chances on some young flyers. Enjoy the flexibility and the relief from the stress of seeing your starters get blown up all week. Go ahead, make that call to the bullpen.

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JB's 10 Bold Predictions for 2019

It is such an honor to have been selected to hit lead-off for the 2019 RotoBaller staff Bold Predictions. Sure, I asked for it due to time constraints but that's not how I will tell my story to the grand-kids. Bold predictions are everyone's favorite articles. They are fun, not always entirely plausible, while still possibly providing fantastic, league-winning advice.

The majority of these predictions hinge on some serious injury risk, but no one ever remembers the guy who finished in second place. Don't miss out on studs while trying to play doctor, unless of course you actually went to medical school.

We have a great lineup for you this year in our Bold Predictions series. Make sure you check in every morning to catch the latest edition! But today is my day, so let's get rowdy.

 

Trevor Bauer wins the American League Cy Young Award and is the third-ranked SP in Fantasy

I'll start off with probably the least "bold" prediction, because everyone loves this savage. Bauer is an expert at his craft and works his butt off to improve himself. He has continuously changed his approach and last year it finally paid off. In 175.1 IP, Bauer went 12-6 with a 2.21 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 221 strikeouts. If not for a stress fracture in his leg down the stretch, he would have given Blake Snell a serious run for last year's award.

He now possesses an arsenal of five lethal pitches that fooled batters to the tune of a 13.3 SwStr% and a lowly 70.4 Contact%. Due to pitch diversity, he can keep hitters at bay from both sides of the plate (.256 wOBA v RHB, .264 wOBA v LHB) and is able to maintain a sub-3.00 ERA and a 30+ K% his first, second, and third times through the order. Bauer has it all figured out, and all the tools are there.

The only thing preventing a Cy Young Award in 2019 is, of course, the possible residual effects from the stress fracture. But based on his first spring training appearance, in which he cruised through three innings with only 18 pitches, those worries are in the past. There are five AL pitchers currently being drafted before Bauer according to NFBC ADP. Bauer will finish ahead of all of them. Obviously, Chris Sale is the better pitcher inning for inning, but Bauer enters the free agent market after this season, and is less likely to be preserved or protected down the stretch like Alex Cora may want to do with Sale.

 

Zack Wheeler finishes as a top-10 SP

The pride of East Paulding High School, second to only me of course. After three seasons riddled with injuries and surgery, Wheeler pitched his first full season since 2014 last year. Over 182.1 innings, he boasted a 3.25 FIP and a career-best 16.7 K-BB%. The thing that gets me most excited about Wheels for 2019, besides last years second half which I will get to shortly, is the ability to avoid hard contact. He cut his Hard% from 32.8 in 2017 down to 24.8 - second-lowest in the league in 2018.

Wheeler found success by increasing his fastball usage. He threw the fastball 8% more this season and finished with a 22.7 wFA which was fifth highest among starters. The cheese was devastating, and it got better as the season wore on. Now, about those second half splits.

After posting a 4.44 ERA over the first half of the season, Wheeler was quite possibly the best pitcher in baseball after the All-Star break, posting a 1.68 ERA which was slightly better than even his Cy Young-winning teammate Jacob deGrom. His 21.1 Hard% in the second half was only bested by the god of thunder. 2019 is the year it all comes together for Wheeler. He is healthy, he is hungry, and I expect to see more of that 2018 second half over the full season. Wheeler is currently the 27th SP off the board in drafts this year.

 

Josh Donaldson finishes inside the top 30 overall

The Bringer of Rain is just two seasons removed from back to back 700 PA campaigns with 157 and 154 wRC+, respectively. The injuries started in 2017 however, but he still managed a 151 wRC+ in 113 games that year. Luckily for fantasy managers in 2019 drafts, the most recent season was just flat-out ugly and is fresh on everyone's minds. The shoulder and calf injuries limited him to just 52 games last year. Don't even pay attention to his stats from last year though, they are completely moot.

It's all about opportunity in fantasy, and this offseason Donaldson landed in one of the best possible situations in Hotlanta. Depending on how Snitker manages the lineup day to day, Donaldson will either be hitting behind Ender Inciarte and in front of Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna, or sandwiched in between Acuna and Freeman.

The run production will be near-best in the game. Assuming good health, which I always do until news proves otherwise, I see Donaldson destroying all the prediction models with mid-30s HR and a BA hovering around his career .275 mark. Pair that with a serious threat at triple-digit runs and RBI and you got one of the best draft-day steals of 2019.

 

Aaron Hicks is a Top-10 OF in OBP Leagues

Like Donaldson, this prediction hangs on by a thread due to "injury risk." But once again, I'd rather be burned by an injury than miss out on a fantasy All-Star because I was trying to be a fortune-telling doctor. Unlike Donaldson however, Hicks has never enjoyed a full healthy season in the bigs, but he did set a career-high with 581 PA last season in the Bronx.

He hit 27 HR, stole 11 bases, and scored 90 runs. But what is most impressive about Hicks to me is his plate discipline. His 15.5 BB% was fifth-highest in the league, behind the likes of Bryce Harper, Joey Votto, and Carlos Santana. Out of the top 30 players in OBP last season, 17 were outfielders. Out of those 17, only Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Christian Yelich, JD Martinez, and Harper hit more homers than Hicks.

The whipped cream on that sundae is the 11 SB, and his 7.0 BsR (seventh-highest in the league) suggests that we can reasonably expect 15+ SB over a full season. The cherry on top is the fact that he is currently slated to hit leadoff for one of the most powerful lineups in recent history. Of course, the guy is already sitting out spring training games due to a stiff back, but I won't fret over a 29-year-old taking it easy before the season starts. If the stars align and Hicks plays the whole season, I'm predicting 30 HR, 15 SB, top-five run totals, and one of the best OBPs in the league.

 

Eduardo Rodriguez breaks out, finishes as a Top-15 SP

ERod is a popular breakout candidate this year, and for good reason. In 2018 the southpaw went 13-5 in 129.2 innings, with a 10.13 K/9 and a 3.65 FIP. Honestly, he should have already enjoyed a "breakout" but a thrash of injuries has held him back. He had a bum knee last spring training which delayed his season debut a couple of weeks, and then in July hurt his ankle covering first base.

The good news is neither were arm injuries, and neither are still lingering in 2019. He has been working with Chris Sale and Pedro Martinez this offseason, and by the looks of his slider so far this spring, whatever they are teaching him is working.

Unless you are predicting someone runs over his ankle on first base again this season, any projection under 150 IP is silly. I see him hitting the 180 mark, which translates to at least 15 wins, with a serious shot at 20 on the Red Sox. His 10.13 K/9 from 2018 should easily carry over, especially considering his offseason work on his slider - which would translate to 202 K. If you are looking for the potential 2019 Blake Snell or Patrick Corbin, this is the guy. ERod is currently being selected as the 39th SP this year.

 

Eric Hosmer continues his odd-year voodoo, is a Top-50 player

Eric Hosmer wRC+ in 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018: 80, 98, 102, 95

Eric Hosmer wRC+ in 2013, 2015, 2017: 120, 124, 135

I'm not superstitious, but I'm a little stitious. I mean, elementary pattern analysis tells me 2019's wRC+ has to be over 135 right? But in all seriousness, I am willing to discard 2018 from my mind for Hosmer. It was the first year of a massive contract on a horrible team. Who actually thought that was going to go well?

His 21 K% was nearly five points higher than his career average. He enjoyed his highest Hard% since 2013, but hit a career-low fly ball percentage. Hopefully, the new-contract pressure is gone, and Hosmer can enjoy what will be a sneakily awesome lineup in San Diego. I know he won a World Series in KC, but I don't think he was ever in a better run-scoring situation than being surrounded by Manny Machado, Wil Myers, Franmil Reyes, and eventually Fernando Tatis Jr.

There's no way in hell with baseball's obsession with launch angle that Hosmer continues this sub-20 FB% madness as his FB% should bounce back to up around his 25.7 FB%, which means the HR will climb back up into the mid-20s. The last odd-year campaign finished in a 98/25/94/7/.318 for Hosmer, and was good for #25 overall in fantasy leagues. I think those numbers are easily in reach for 2019, save the BA. But even with a more realistic BA, a top-50 finish is inbound. Hosmer is being drafted outside the top 150 in drafts this year.

 

Ryan Braun figures out launch angle, finishes inside the Top 75

Similar to Hosmer, Braun had a dip in flyballs from his career average last year, but is also far too talented to let it drag down his value. Even though his 28.4 FB% wasn't the lowest season total of his career, it was still six points lower than his career average and it seems he has had enough of it. He has worked with a private trainer this offseason in order to increase his launch angle and I am here for it, especially considering he boasted an absurd 43.0 Hard% last year.

2016 was the last season Braun had over 500 PA (565), and he finished with 30 HR despite his career-low 25.1 FB% and a 34.4 Hard%. Just imagine the HR possibilities in 2019 when he brings up the fly ball numbers and carries over his monster hard hit rates. As for the speed, despite being 35 and oft-injured, he stole 23 bases in 872 combined PA the past two seasons. So I think he has 12-15 SB left in the tank for 2019.

THE BAT is the most favorable projection system on Braun this year, and it has him hitting 23 bombs with 14 SB and a .271 BA. With my lofty HR expectations from him, we'll say 30/14 and .275 hitting in the middle of a stacked Brew Crew lineup. Sign me up. For reference, Cody Bellinger went 25/14 with a .260 BA last year and finished as the 68th-ranked player in fantasy. Braun is currently being drafted outside the top 175.

 

Domingo Santana bounces back to 2017 form, hits 30 HR 

The second Santana was dealt to the Mariners this off-season, I boarded the hype train. He wasn't going to get the necessary amount of PA in Milwaukee's crowded outfield and is too talented to be sitting on the pine as a reserve. Last season he only received half a season's worth of big league at-bats, and could never get in a groove to reinforce an incredible 2017 season. That season, his first full MLB campaign, saw Domingo hit 30 HR and a .278 BA with 15 SB. Mike Trout and Paul Goldschmidt were the only other players to go 30/15 with a BA above .275. A year and a half later, fantasy owners are letting one playing-time-induced poor season determine 2017 as a fluke?

His NFBC ADP is currently at 253, so maybe that isn't entirely true but compared to his 45th overall ranking in 2017 it's still a great potential value. I am locking in 30 HR over his first full season with the Mariners despite him hitting just 13 combined dongs between AAA and the bigs last year. First off, he's done it before. Secondly, he increased his Hard% for the third straight season last year to an impressive 40.1%.

The real question for me with Domingo is the BA. Should a repeat of the .278 BA be possible with a K% over 30%? No. But it oddly seems like Santana is able to defy all BABIP odds, after posting a .359, .368, and .386 BABIP in his last three MLB seasons, respectively. He even boasted a .425 BABIP through 55 AAA games last year. Strong line drive numbers and an almost Joey Votto-esque career IFFB% (2.9%) shows that even if the BA does fail to replicate his 2017 breakout, it shouldn't fall too far. FWIW, Domingo is hitting .455 with four HR in just 22 AB so far this spring. He's feelin' it, and I'm feelin' it.

 

Trevor May is a Top-10 RP

After a one-inning clunker in July, Trevor May went on to pitch 24.1 innings out of the bullpen for the Twins last year. Over those last 24.1 IP he boasted a 1.85 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, and a 13.32 K/9. The 32.6 K-BB% is just stuff of dreams. It's a very small sample size but I am the biggest sucker for starter-converted relievers, especially when they are the lead candidate to be the teams closer. He missed all of 2017 due to Tommy John surgery, but across 42.2 IP in 2016, he flashed a 12.66 K/9 and a 3.47 xFIP.

He's still "only" 29, even though it seems like he's been a Twins prospect for forever, and his velo looked great last year coming off TJS. His FB/CH/CB trio are pretty gnarly - and each separated by eight mph. May should easily win the closer job this spring over Blake Parker, and we will continue to see his new harnessed powers coming out of the pen. A year removed from surgery, there should be no holding him back and we could even see some two-inning saves to give the peasant career-relievers like Parker and Taylor Rogers a rest. I'm predicting 70 IP, 100 K, 30 SV, and an ERA in the low 3.00's - which is essentially a slightly more HR-prone version of Brad Hand.

 

Ryan Brasier closes for the Red Sox all season, racks up over 30 Saves

Like I was gonna write a bold predictions piece with only ONE Red Sox player....

Since the beginning of the off-season, I have been aboard the "Please Don't Pay Kimbrel" train. I won't get into all the reasons for this, but Ryan Brasier and Matt Barnes are two of those reasons. Anyone that watched the epic postseason run of the Sox last year knows that these two studs plus Joe Kelly were so much more valuable, and all showed abilities to succeed in the highest of leverage situations. I am certainly not worried about the eighth-ninth innings for 2019.

The reason why I see Brasier getting the job and keeping it is that Alex Cora is too smart to use Matt Barnes as a traditional ninth inning-no matter-who-is-due-up kind of guy. If there was a Red Sox pitcher to call upon with the bases loaded and only one out, its 100% Matt Barnes. His curveball is just filthy and his 14.01 K/9 is exactly what you want in a critical do-or-die at-bat late in the game. Despite his filth, however, I have never once felt comfortable having him start off an inning with a Boston lead. His 4.52 BB/9 makes it one hell of a tight-rope feel every time. This is where Brasier gets the nod. His control is far superior and he has that cocky ninth inning attitude down pat already. Poor Gary Sanchez wasn't ready...

Bottom line, I am fully aware Matt Barnes is the better pitcher. But I also believe that Alex Cora is too smart to tie his best reliever down to one inning. I believe they give the first crack to Brasier, and he never does poorly enough to lose it. 30 saves is a lock.

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Andrew Heaney (SP, LAA) - Fantasy Baseball Draft Values

BALLER MOVE: Draft target ~pick 150

CURRENT ADP: ~165 overall

ANALYSIS: The Angels have two promising southpaws in their rotation, but Heaney, in particular, is generating a lot of buzz for the 2019 fantasy baseball season. Andrew Heaney pitched 180 IP last season, posting a 4.15 ERA and 1.20 WHIP with 180 SO. The numbers don't look overly sexy on the surface, but there is plenty to be excited about when you dig a little deeper. First off, pitching 180 innings is a great sign after missing almost all of 2016 and 2017 with shoulder and elbow injuries. Heaney averaged six innings per start in 2018, and even had a complete game shutout, so the injuries look to be safely behind him.

The first thing you notice when looking at Heaney's statistics is that the man deserved better than the stats he received last season. In 2015, his last healthy season, he allowed 0.77 HR/9. In 2018 he allowed 1.35, which is a contributing factor to his 3.68 xFIP being much lower than his ERA. That xFIP actually ranked 20th among qualified starters. But the bad luck wasn't just in HR rates, because of those 20 top starters in xFIP, Heaney's 71.4 LOB% was the second lowest. The lefty also suffered from some awful Home/Away splits. On the road his ERA was 5.02, compared to 3.22 at home. There's no reason to expect that to continue in 2019, and just with these three stats alone, one can reasonably expect positive regression this season.

The main thing holding back Heaney from truly becoming a star in 2019 is his ability to get through a lineup multiple times. I believe it stems from the lower velocity on his fastball/sinker, which allows hitters to sit back on the off-speed pitches after seeing him the first time. The first time through the order, Heaney was phenomenal, boasting a 11.38 K/9 and a 3.10 xFIP. For reference, German Marquez owned a 10.59 K/9 and a 3.06 xFIP the first time through a lineup. But Marquez got better as he progressed through a game, whereas as Heaney suffered a drastic drop-off. His K/9 dropped down to 8.24 the second time through and 7.26 the third time through, while his xFIP increased to 3.68 and 4.46 respectively. If he can continue to tack a little speed onto his fastball, there's no doubt he takes a step forward this year with top-40 fantasy SP potential.


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Willians Astudillo (C, MIN) - Fantasy Baseball Draft Sleepers

BALLER MOVE: Draft target ~pick 315

CURRENT ADP: ~340 overall

ANALYSISWillians Astudillo just might be my favorite player in baseball. It's almost impossible to look at him, and his stats, and not immediately become a fan. First off, he's just 5'9" yet weighs 225 lbs, so seeing him field and run the bases is fun for the whole family. Secondly, the guy is almost incapable of striking out - or drawing a walk, which means you get to see him run the bases almost every time he steps up to the plate. Astudillo has been in the Minor Leagues since he was 18 in 2009, and got his first taste of the bigs last year with the Twins. Through 30 games, the physical anomaly hit an absurd .355. He struck out three times. THREE TIMES. His 3.1 K% would have cut the MLB leader Andrelton Simmons' 7.3% in half. He boasted a 91.2 Contact% and 96.2 Z-Contact%. It's like the guy gets to use a bloated whiffle ball bat that covers half the strike zone. He even stole seven bases!

Astudillo could prove to be an extremely beneficial fantasy player this season. The path to playing time is extremely crowded in Minnesota after the acquisitions of Jonathan Schoop, Nelson Cruz, and C.J. Cron, with the expected "improvement" of Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. He should split time behind the plate with Jason Castro and Mitch Garver, and can provide rest days for basically anyone else in the lineup. Also, expecting Buxton and Sano to remain healthy and/or remain in the bigs all season is an ill-advised bet at this point in their careers.  Outside of the top-seven fantasy catchers, you start hurting your team BA and getting zeroes from the position for a third of the games.

The baller move would be to wait out the top-two tiers of catchers, and then let the young-flair names like Francisco Mejia, Danny Jansen, and Jorge Alfaro (he still counts, right?) get scooped up before grabbing your starting catcher - Willians Astudillo.


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Shortstop - Early Points League Rankings and Tiers

It’s never too early to start looking toward the fantasy baseball season, so I’m here to carry on RotoBaller’s position-by-position rankings analysis series for points league and head-to-head (H2H) formats with the stars of the infield, the shortstops. The position is star-studded, and in roto leagues, I think I'd be comfortable with any of the top-20 names on this list. Unfortunately, the position gets pretty scarce in points leagues due to the majority's lack of power and walks. In points leagues, I want my starting shortstop selected in the first three tiers (yes, even Andrelton Simmons who is always undervalued in points leagues). 

Our mixed-league points staff rankings come straight from the minds of Nick Mariano, myself and Bill Dubiel (a.k.a. the fourth-most accurate MLB expert for 2017 on FantasyPros), and we’ve got them broken down into tiers, as it should be. For this format, hitters get a bump for total bases, walks and take a hit for strikeouts.

In case you missed it, check out our analysis on catcherfirst basesecond base, third base, and outfield. You can also see all of our preliminary 2019 fantasy baseball rankings for mixed leagues here. Bookmark that page and come back for updates throughout the coming months as you prepare to dominate on draft day. Without any more delay, let's take a look at the 2019 shortstop points league rankings for January.

 

2019 Fantasy Baseball Points League Rankings: Shortstop

Rank Tier Player Name Position Nick JB Bill
1 1 Francisco Lindor SS 7 8 6
2 1 Alex Bregman 3B/SS 10 12 10
3 1 Manny Machado 3B/SS 14 17 17
4 2 Trevor Story SS 22 27 30
5 2 Trea Turner SS 27 29 28
6 2 Xander Bogaerts SS 49 47 49
7 2 Javier Baez 2B/SS/3B 50 49 50
8 2 Carlos Correa SS 57 55 56
9 3 Corey Seager SS 73 68 74
10 3 Jean Segura SS 72 70 73
11 3 Jose Peraza 2B/SS 90 96 93
12 3 Gleyber Torres 2B/SS 112 111 102
13 3 Andrelton Simmons SS 120 113 122
14 4 Jurickson Profar SS/3B/1B/2B 141 118 126
15 4 Elvis Andrus SS 132 128 135
16 4 Adalberto Mondesi 2B/SS 86 129 194
17 4 Jonathan Villar 2B/SS 147 147 160
18 4 Marcus Semien SS 171 169 173
19 4 Tim Anderson SS 174 173 175
20 4 Amed Rosario SS 190 182 189
21 5 Eduardo Escobar SS/3B 200 191 199
22 5 Chris Taylor 2B/SS/OF 199 187 208
23 5 Paul DeJong SS 215 199 212
24 5 Joey Wendle 2B/3B/SS/OF 214 212 201
25 5 Lourdes Gurriel 2B/SS 202 231 #N/A
26 5 Ketel Marte SS 225 214 222
27 5 Jorge Polanco SS 256 251 268
28 6 Johan Camargo 2B/3B/SS 359 281 258
29 6 Nick Ahmed SS 304 303 303
30 6 Didi Gregorius SS 316 308 313
31 6 Marwin Gonzalez 1B/2B/SS/OF 320 306 316
32 6 Willy Adames SS 336 330 332
33 6 Scott Kingery SS/3B/OF 356 343 359
34 7 Dansby Swanson SS 365 351 362
35 7 Niko Goodrum 1B/2B/3B/SS/OF 381 365 346
36 7 Troy Tulowitzki SS 384 #N/A 347
37 7 Franklin Barreto SS 367 380 363
38 7 Ehire Adrianza SS/1B/3B 406 372 342
39 7 Brandon Crawford SS 357 406 364
40 7 Orlando Arcia SS 413 377 #N/A
41 7 Brendan Rodgers SS 434 375 395
42 7 Fernando Tatis Jr. SS 414 424 #N/A
43 7 Tim Beckham SS/3B 445 441 #N/A
44 7 Addison Russell SS 461 443 #N/A
45 7 Zack Cozart SS/2B/3B 463 447 #N/A
46 7 Kike Hernandez 2B/SS/OF 459 451 #N/A
47 7 J.P. Crawford SS 468 459 #N/A
48 7 Matt Duffy SS/3B 476 458 #N/A
49 7 Asdrubal Cabrera SS/2B/3B 483 460 #N/A

 

Shortstop Points League Rankings: Top Tiers

Only one player in all of baseball reached 700 PA in both 2017 and 2018, and that player was Francisco Lindor. He exceeded our fantasy expectations for the fourth straight season, setting career-highs in Runs (129), HR (38), RBI (95), and SB (25). His lofty run total tied AL MVP Mookie Betts for the league lead, and his 38 bombs were good for the sixth-most. The power outburst is certainly intriguing from the 25-year-old, as he increased his total in the HR category for the third straight year. Lindor’s HR/FB ratio only jumped three points from 2017, while his hard-hit rate jumped even further up over 41% which shows that he’s not stumbling his way into these numbers. Outside of Mookie Betts and Mike Trout, no hitter comes with a fantasy floor as high as Lindor, which is a great comfort to have with your first-round draft pick. The kid is so consistent, he’s registered the same 0.65 BB/K ratio for three straight years! It’s not Khris Davis batting average-consistent yet, but rather impressive nonetheless.

That next stud is Alex Bregman. Fantasy aside, this kid is a phenomenal hitter. His 1.13 BB/K ratio was the third-best in all of baseball and his 157 wRC+ beat out Arenado and Machado. He's slated to hit in the two-hole behind George Springer and in front of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Michael Brantley. If the elite plate discipline continues, then Bregman is a serious threat for reaching triple-digit runs and RBI again in 2019 along with 25+ HR and 10+ SB with a BA hovering around .290. If you can snag him after the first turn in the second round, the LSU product will easily return value this season. People often forget this guy is still just 24 years old.

Where is Manny Machado going to sign? I don't have the answer, but honestly, does it matter? If he can be fantasy relevant with the Orioles, he can play anywhere and we'll still like him as a top-20 guy in points leagues. If he ends up in PHI or NYY I would bump him up a few spots overall, maybe even sneaking into the first round, but I like the current spot if he winds up with CHW or SD. He has hit at least 30 HR in four straight seasons, three of those going for more than 35, and reached double-digit steals in two of those. The BB/K ratio isn't anywhere near that of Bregman but the 26-year-old has never struck out more than 120 times.

Tier Two

The only guy who loves Trevor Story more than me is my colleague, Nick Mariano. We both ranked him in the top-10 in our mixed league rankings, but still acknowledge the small dip in value for points leagues. Story contributed across all five roto categories in his breakout season, hitting 37 HR and 108 RBI with 27 SB. The whiffs did improve by nine points from 2017, but are still occurring over a quarter of his ABs which is his only limiting factor. Regardless the Rockies shortstop is still a solidified top-30 player thanks to his massive amount of XBH, sexy hard-hit pulled-flyball profile, and playing half his games at Coors Field.

I am truthfully not a huge Trea Turner fan outside of roto, as I see him as an over-hyped Whit Merrifield, but the 15/40 floor at the top of the Nationals lineup is hard to deny. He hit 19 bombs while scoring 103 R and swiping 43 bases last season, while increasing his BB% by three points. Turner is a ground-ball hitter with a mediocre hard-hit rate, which caps the potential for repeating or building on the 19 HR, but he is a safe source of points thanks to the elite speed and a lock for another triple-digit run total.

Xander Bogaerts is easily the least sexy name in this tier, but it's hard to find a much safer option at the position. The world champ provides modest numbers all around, and should be hitting cleanup for the the Sox in 2019. He set a career-high with 23 HR and 103 RBI last year on his way to a personal-best 133 wRC+ last season, and his 0.54 BB/K is the highest of the tier. You'll never feel super excited about drafting the X-Man, but you will certainly never regret it either.

 

Shortstop Points League Rankings: Middle Tiers

Tier Three

After injuries ruined the end of his 2017 season, many of us expected Corey Seager to bounce back to his 2016 form where he finished as the 43rd-ranked player in fantasy. Instead, the poor guy needed Tommy John surgery before the month of April was over. The recovery looks to be going well, and Seager himself is even optimistic that he will be ready by the season opener. I value a healthy Seager the same I do Bogaerts. The only reason I rank them 19 spots apart is the question mark of how long or successful the recovery truly is.

Anyone else exited to watch this Phillies offense? Whether they land Bryce Harper or not, this will be a vastly improved team with the acquisitions of Andrew McCutchen and our SS#10 Jean Segura. The 28-year-old has hit over .300 in three straight seasons, each with double-digit HR and at least 20 SB. He cut his K% by four points and is a threat for 200 hits over a full season. If he can get himself into the top third of that lineup, much easier sans-Harper, he will be a great value at his current ADP.

A Reddit reader brought up the question of why we were so low on Gleyber Torres in our points league rankings. Allow me to explain. First, his 25.2 K% is worrisome, and in the same territory of Javier Baez and Trevor Story. That is admittedly some good company, but Torres isn't hitting .290 with 30+ HR and 20+ SB to offset the whiffs like the other two. Secondly, he is most likely going to hit in the bottom half, maybe the bottom third of the lineup which should "cap" his run scoring production. Third, the 17.9 HR/FB% isn't sustainable based on his minor league track record which means even with a full season of PA I don't see the HR total from 2018 increasing by more than a few. Lastly, in points leagues that reward total bases, its worth noting that Torres only hit 17 XBH outside of those 24 HR. The most optimistic projection system (THE BAT) for Torres projects him and Brian Dozier very similarly, who we have ranked back-to-back in the second base rankings. Wrong position for this article, but still helps deliver the point. I honestly think its a very generous rankings for a guy that looks eerily similar to a guy two tiers down.

Tier Four

This is when the points league formats starts really sapping shortstops of their value. The question marks and strikeouts are growing rapidly, while the on-base ability is shrinking. Adalberto Mondesi and Jonathan Villar are prime examples. The fourth tier is a solid point to fill your MIF slots if your league uses them.

Regarded as a top prospect not too long ago, Jurickson Profar finally stayed in the bigs for a full season in 2018 and he did not disappoint. The 25-year-old hit 20 HR and stole 10 bases and showed off some impressive versatility. He made at least 10 appearances at every infield position (besides catcher), and joins an underrated Oakland Athletics squad loaded with offensive potential. Profar should be manning the keystone position for the A's every day in 2019, and his numbers don't show any strong reasons to believe you can't expect another 20/10 campaign with a healthy BB/K ratio that you can stick almost anywhere in your lineup.

Like Torres, Tim Anderson suffers in points leagues that penalize for strikeouts. His 0.20 BB/K ratio was fifth lowest in all of baseball last year, despite enjoying his first 20/20 season. The discipline is slowing improving as hes cut his whiffs in each of the last three seasons, and he double his BB% to a still unimpressive 5.0%, but he still has a ways to go to climb the points league rankings. I expect another 20/20 campaign in 2019 thanks to his steady increase of flyballs and sustained HR/FB%, but outside of that there isn't a lot to love here especially with his bottom-third spot in the lineup against RHP.

For my thoughts on Amed Rosario, see the above paragraph. His plate discipline is just slightly better than Andersons, but has about half the pop. I am excited about the Mets offense this year with the acquisitions of Robinson Cano and Jed Lowrie with prospects Peter Alonso and Jeff McNeil in the background, but Rosario's spot at the bottom of the order against RHP will limit the benefits he sees from his new teammates.

Tier Five

By now, hopefully you are just looking for depth, as the fifth tier is perfect for injury/off day replacements. Remember when I said Gleyber compared to a guy two tiers down? Say hello to Eduardo Escobar. After reaching over 500 PA for the first time in his career, the 30 year old hit 23 HR and 84 RBI with a .272 BA with the Twins and Diamondbacks. His 20.0 K% is a tad unsightly, but he also boasted the highest BB% of his career. The biggest aid to his value in points leagues are the XBH. His impressive 48 doubles was second in all of baseball. He fell off after his trade to the desert, but you can't hit poorly at Chase Field for long. With Paul Goldschmidt gone, Escobar is concreted in the top third of the lineup and in addition to his 3B position eligibility he makes for a great value pick this year.

I think just about everyone in this industry saw regression heading Paul DeJong's way after an impressive rookie 2017 season. We were certainly right. Injury prevented a full sophomore season, but the BABIP plummeted 60 points and his HR/FB% came back down to earth. Despite the ugly .241 BA, the youngster still finished with 19 HR, 68 R, 68 RBI and managed to decrease his K% and increase his BB%. I believe Harrison Bader should get more looks in the two hole, meaning DeJong could see the majority of his AB down at sixth or seventh in the lineup, but high-20s power with a healthy amount of RBI will make DeJong a useful bench bat in 2019.

Here's two guys that don't really excel in any one category, but their modest all-around production plus great situations in 2019 make for easy bench picks. Ketel Marte is a 10/10 guy with a mediocre BA but hit a shocking 12 triples last year and boasted a 0.68 BB/K ratio. He ended the year strong, hitting .296 with a 126 wRC+ after the All-Star break and should be leading off for the D-backs while manning CF in 2019. If you play in daily roster move leagues, it's worth noting that you'll want this guy in your lineup against LHP. He hit .321 with a 157 wRC+ against southpaws in 2018. The next fantastically average player is Jorge Polanco. He missed the season thanks to a PED suspension, but came back with his usual 15/15-pace stuff and hit a .288 BA. Like Marte, Polanco should be hitting at the top of the lineup for the Twins this season, and will score more than enough runs to warrant a spot on your bench.

 

Shortstop Points League Rankings: Lower Tiers

Tier Six

I was high on Johan Camargo at the beginning of the off-season as a sneaky value pick, but the resigning of Nick Markakis makes him much less appealing. The signing occurred after these rankings were submitted, and honestly, he can probably safely be dropped down to tier seven. His best path to playing time aside from an injury to Josh Donaldson, not that big of a stretch, is through the continued struggles of Dansby Swanson. He's best left on the waiver wire at the beginning of the season.

Willy Adames showed flashes of promise in his first half season of MLB play last year, hitting 10 HR with a .278 BA while swiping six bases. He's always possessed a healthy BB% through the minors, and it carried over to his short MLB stint, but the strikeouts more than negated it. The 29.4 K% was just painful, and the minor XBH return (only seven doubles) won't make it worth rostering Adames in 2019.

Hot damn, what an ugly rookie season it was for Scott Kingery. He was given every possible chance with the big league level, but just wasn't able to figure it out. One year after lighting up the minor leagues with 26 HR and 39 SB, Kingery hit just .226 in 147 games, with eight bombs and 10 SB. The strikeouts weren't quite Willy Adames level, but the 0.19 BB/K ratio leaves a ton of room for improvement. Unfortunately for him, the window of opportunity has now closed in 2019 with the acquisition of Jean Segura and Andrew McCutchen and the emergence of Cesar Hernandez. The slight ray of hope for Kingery is the fact that he hit "better" against RHP (63 wRC+ vs 57 against LHP), and has the ability to play the corner outfield positions. That could open up some platoon possibilities with Nick Williams, but the most likely scenario is Kingery remains as a super-utility type in 2019.

Tier Seven

I'll be up front, we may be too low on Orlando Arcia, I mean at least the guy has a starting role. That's more than we can say for the previous three guys. He is just one year removed from a 15 HR, 14 SB, .277 BA campaign. He took a huge step back in 2018 however, hitting just three HR in 366 PA, seeing his BB/K ratio drop from 0.36 to 0.17, and having his BA bottom out. The silver lining was his second half turn-around. After the All-Star break, Arcia hit .290, giving fantasy owners some hope that a return close to 2017 is within the realm of possibility this year. It's not likely, but I'm saying there's a chance, which at this point in your drafts, it's worth it. 

The rest of this tier contains low upside bench-fillers like Brandon Crawford, Niko Goodrum, and Troy Tulowitzki (for half a season), and then high-upside stashes like Brendan Rodgers and Fernando Tatis Jr. I don't see Rodgers being relevant for 2019 redrafts with Garrett Hampson and Ryan McMahon helping bridge the infield gap for his eventual shot. But I'll gladly take a flier on Tatis Jr in the late rounds of drafts this year. Whether the Padres wait for two weeks or after June to call him up, I want a piece of that 30/30 potential once he arrives.

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Second Base - Early Points League Rankings and Tiers

It’s never too early to start looking toward the fantasy baseball season, so I’m here to carry on RotoBaller’s position-by-position rankings analysis series for points league and head-to-head (H2H) formats with the keystone position. Traditionally a scarce position in fantasy, second base has truly risen over the past few years, and truthfully I'd be happy with grabbing anyone in the first four tiers (top 17) to start on my points teams. The main issue is that 12 of those top 17 are multi-position eligible, meaning you can't feel safe waiting on a second baseman this year. 

Our mixed-league points staff rankings come straight from the minds of Nick Mariano, myself and Bill Dubiel (a.k.a. the fourth-most accurate MLB expert for 2017 on FantasyPros), and we’ve got them broken down into tiers, as it should be. For this format, hitters get a bump for total bases, walks and take a hit for strikeouts.

Keep an eye out for all other positions to follow! In the meantime, you can also see all of our preliminary 2019 fantasy baseball rankings for mixed leagues here. Bookmark that page and come back for updates throughout the coming months as you prepare to dominate on draft day. Without any more delay, let's take a look at the 2019 second base points league rankings for January.

 

2019 Fantasy Baseball Points Rankings: Second Base

Rank Tier Player Name Position Nick JB Bill
1 1 Jose Ramirez 2B/3B 2 3 3
2 1 Jose Altuve 2B 18 20 12
3 2 Matt Carpenter 1B/2B/3B 41 39 39
4 2 Javier Baez 2B/SS/3B 50 49 50
5 2 Whit Merrifield 2B/OF 54 50 53
6 3 Scooter Gennett 2B 80 72 63
7 3 Daniel Murphy 1B/2B 71 78 72
8 3 Ozzie Albies 2B 77 74 81
9 3 Robinson Cano 1B/2B 79 77 82
10 3 Jose Peraza 2B/SS 90 96 93
11 3 Travis Shaw 1B/2B/3B 96 94 97
12 4 Brian Dozier 2B 109 104 110
13 4 Gleyber Torres 2B/SS 112 111 102
14 4 Max Muncy 1B/2B/3B 102 102 151
15 4 Jurickson Profar SS/3B/1B/2B 141 118 126
16 4 Adalberto Mondesi 2B/SS 86 129 194
17 4 Cesar Hernandez 2B 136 134 142
18 5 Dee Gordon 2B/OF 144 137 154
19 5 DJ LeMahieu 2B 172 144 133
20 5 Jonathan Villar 2B/SS 147 147 160
21 5 Rougned Odor 2B 180 174 159
22 5 Yulieski Gurriel 1B/2B/3B 184 166 172
23 6 Jonathan Schoop 2B 193 181 171
24 6 Garrett Hampson 2B 192 167 192
25 6 Jed Lowrie 2B 206 178 205
26 6 Chris Taylor 2B/SS/OF 199 187 208
27 6 Yoan Moncada 2B 207 196 206
28 6 Joey Wendle 2B/3B/SS/OF 214 212 201
29 6 Lourdes Gurriel 2B/SS 202 231 #N/A
30 6 Luis Urias 2B 252 238 235
31 7 Jeff McNeil 2B 339 249 214
32 7 Starlin Castro 2B 293 259 287
33 7 Jason Kipnis 2B/OF 286 277 286
34 7 Ian Kinsler 2B 299 291 299
35 7 Johan Camargo 2B/3B/SS 359 281 258
36 7 Marwin Gonzalez 1B/2B/SS/OF 320 306 316
37 7 Isiah Kiner-Falefa C/2B/3B 327 326 323
38 7 Yolmer Sanchez 2B/3B 395 325 300
39 7 Steve Pearce 1B/2B/OF 370 359 350
40 7 Niko Goodrum 1B/2B/3B/SS/OF 381 365 346
41 7 Josh Harrison 2B 379 396 344
42 7 Ryan McMahon 1B/3B/2B 375 373 #N/A
43 7 Eduardo Nunez 2B/3B 394 370 368
44 7 Keston Hiura 2B 450 421 400
45 7 Brock Holt 2B/3B/OF 443 435 399
46 7 Ben Zobrist 2B/OF 467 416 #N/A
47 7 Adam Frazier 2B 449 446 #N/A
48 7 Derek Dietrich 2B #N/A 453 #N/A
49 7 Zack Cozart SS/2B/3B 463 447 #N/A
50 7 Kike Hernandez 2B/SS/OF 459 451 #N/A
51 7 Dustin Pedroia 2B 472 448 #N/A
52 7 Chris Owings 2B/3B/OF 478 455 #N/A
53 7 Asdrubal Cabrera SS/2B/3B 483 460 #N/A
54 7 Kolten Wong 2B 480 467 #N/A
55 7 Logan Forsythe 2B/3B 481 468 #N/A
56 7 Devon Travis 2B 488 462 #N/A
57 7 Joe Panik 2B 479 473 #N/A


Second Base Points League Rankings: Top Tiers

Tier One

After a surprise breakout campaign in 2017, very few, if any fantasy players were expecting Jose Ramirez to take it to an even higher level in 2018. The 26-year-old’s encore performance consisted of career-highs in Runs (110), HR (39), RBI (105), and SB (34) en route to a top-five fantasy ranking. This newfound power came at the expense of his BA, however, as he set his sights on the bleachers. He became a top-ten fly-ball hitter with the second-highest pull-rate in the majors, and it dragged JRam’s BABIP down over 60 points from 2017. This guy gets an additional boost in points leagues, as his 1.33 BB/K ratio led the majors last year, and even makes a case for the top pick against Mike Trout and Max Scherzer.

It was a disappointing 2018 for fantasy owners who took Jose Altuve in the first round, but the floor is just so solid you can never go wrong taking this Stro. We all knew the 20+ HR seasons weren't going to last forever, but the steep loss of SB is what really hurt Altuve's value. His 17 SB was the lowest output since his 57 game rookie season in 2011. Regardless of whether either category rebounds to 2016-2017 form, you have a 15-15 guy in the middle of one of the best lineups in baseball that will end a full season with over 200 hits. That more than qualifies for a second round pick, but with the depth of talent at the keystone position, you should focus on getting an ace or heavier hitter at this point in your drafts for points leagues.

Tier Two

Matt Carpenter enjoyed a career year in 2018, going yard 36 times and scoring 111 runs. Carp has always been one to tear the cover off the ball, but he has taken it to new heights after leading the entire league with an absurd 49.0 Hard%. We'd love to say we expect HR regression in 2019, but when someone is doing that to the baseball where do you expect it to go other than the stands?! His 19.1 HR/FB% was actually the lowest among hitters in the top-five Hard%. The Cardinals lineup should produce plenty of runs this year, and their powerful leadoff hitter will thrive again. I've always been a Carpenter fanboy thanks to the hard-hit rates and OBP, but the multi-position eligibility really boosts his value for me - hence the top 40 ranking. He finished 2018 as the 35th ranked player in fantasy and has the top first basemen in baseball hitting behind him this year. The fact that his 15.1 BB% ranked top 10 in the league and directly behind Jose Ramirez only makes him an even safer pick in points leagues.

Javier Baez went from a 98 wRC+ in 2017 to N.L. MVP runner up one season later. He was one of just seven players to hit 30 HR with 20 SB, and put up triple digits in both run scoring categories. All of this goodness while still striking out in a quarter of his bats for the third straight year. Can he keep up this level of production with such poor plate discipline? First off, the BA is not sustainable. His 25.9 K% ranked 14th highest in the league. Among those 14 batters, Baez had by far the highest BA, with the next closest (Giancarlo Stanton) being a whole 27 points lower. We expect the BA to drop down closer to the .273 he posted in back-to-back seasons in 2016-2017. Also, the power is bound to regress. Baez only hit a 32.3 flyball rate, with a 1.41 GB/FB ratio. Those certainly aren't prototypical power hitting profiles. On top of that, his 24.3 HR/FB% just simply isn't repeatable with his 35.8 Hard%. Bottom line, yes we expect some regression from Baez in 2019. But the bottom-bottom line is that he hits cleanup for the Chicago Cubs and has legit speed that should produce 19-21 SB again. The talent and situation should still outweigh the regression, but the terrible plate discipline drags down his value in points leagues, which is why he's ranked as an early 5th round pick by all three rankers. He won't likely reach that point in drafts, so let someone else deal with all those Ks.

Sure it took a while for Whit Merrifield to make his presence known at the big league level, but for the 2017 performance doubters, that's two consecutive fantastic seasons in a row now. In case you were not aware, it was not Trea Turner or Billy Hamilton who led the MLB in SB last season. So let's play a quick blind player comparison. Player A in 2018: 103 R, 19 HR, 43 SB, 27 doubles, .271 BA. Player B in 2018: 88 R, 12 HR, 45 SB, 43 doubles, .304 BA. You are going to take Player B, right?Player A is Trea Turner, who is being taken tenth overall on NFBC. That means Player B is our boy Merrifield, currently being drafted in the third round. Thanks to the run support in KC is ranked even lower in our points rankings. It's time to stop the madness and appreciate what the 30-year-old is doing. He doubled his BB%, increased his LD% by eight points, and increased his Hard% by six points last season. The production is here to stay, at least for a few more years until the juice in those legs runs dry.

 

Second Base Points League Rankings: Middle Tiers

Tier Three

Daniel Murphy is generating a lot of buzz right now, as most players do when they join the Rockies. Injuries derailed his 2018 season, but he is just one year removed from back-to-back campaigns with at least 23 HR and a .322 BA. He is projected to hit behind Charlie Blackmon and in front of Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story. Talk about a fantasy boost. Through 120 career PA at Coors Field, he has hit 15 XBH but with a monstrous .330/.358/.536 line. If DJ LeMahieu can hit .348 at Coors, one can only imagine what kind of campaign even an aged Murph can put together. A low career K% mixed with being in the heart of a stout lineup in Coors presents a high floor, especially if the 2016-2017 mid 20s HR power returns this year.

Ozzie Albies and Jose Peraza are two youngsters that had great seasons in 2018, but take a bit of a hit in points leagues. Albies is coming off a 24/14 campaign while scoring 105 R at the top of the Braves lineup with Ronald Acuna and Freddie Freeman. But a 5.3 BB% and early projected lineups showing Snitker having Albies hit sixth in the order don't line up for a fantastic 2019 in points leagues. Peraza shocked many with a 14/23 season last year but likewise has a minute BB% and should also be hitting in the bottom third of the lineup with the acquisition of Yasiel Puig and the emergence of Jesse Winker's insane on-base abilities.

Robinson Cano is back in New York, this time sans-pinstripes. Cano missed half the 2018 season due to a PED suspension but looked completely rust-free upon his return. His half-season translates to a 20 HR, 88 R, 100 RBI campaign with a BA hovering around the .300 mark. In his 14 career games at Citi Field, Cano hit nine XBH with a .298/.344/.561 slash. If the 36-year-old's body can hold up all year, you're looking at a slightly poor man's Freddie Freeman fantasy season that you can grab outside the top-100 right now.

Tier Four

There is a new second baseman in DC, but Brian Dozier is coming off his worst offensive season since a rookie in 2012. His 21 HR were just half his 2016 output, and his 12 SB were his lowest since 2015. At 31 years old, I don't see the SB getting back over 15, but the power has to rebound and the RBI potential is limitless hitting behind Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, and Juan Soto. If you waited out the keystone position up to this point, grabbing Dozier in the ninth round is a great reward for the patience.

Adalberto Mondesi might be the most polarizing hitter for 2019 drafts. You either are all-in on his insane 2018 numbers, 14 HR and 32 SB in 75 games, or all you can see is that 26.5 K% and 3.8 BB%. First off, these are points league rankings, so that 0.14 BB/K ratio surely matters. This is why none of our rankers have him near the top 50 NFBC ADP, but as you can see even between us three there is massive variance. The bottom line is if you are using RotoBaller rankings, Mondesi is going to be scooped up well before even our earliest expert ranking, Nick at 86 overall. In that case, let someone else take the risk.

The last second baseman that I feel comfortable having as a starter in my points league lineups is Cesar Hernandez, and I've already pulled the trigger on him in several leagues this off-season. This Phillies lineup is going to be pretty lethal in 2019, and Cesar is going to be at the top of it behind Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen, and Rhys Hoskins. He scored 91 R last year and hit 15 HR while stealing 19 bases. He also set a career-high walk-rate. The switch hitter is trending up, the Phillies are trending up, and expecting anything less than 100 R this year would be ill-advised.

Tier Five

We've reached the point of concern at the position, but this tier has some big-name guys that will be plenty useful as MIF or depth in points leagues. The first duo is Dee Gordon and Rougned Odor. It doesn't take a rocket surgeon (or brain scientist) to understand why Dee Gordon's value takes such a hit in points leagues, as his 1.5 BB% was the lowest in all of baseball. Even if he doubled that, it would still be the lowest. Pair that with his SB total being cut in half from 2017 and there's not much to like for 2019 outside of roto leagues. But he did play a large portion of last year injured, so expect the SB numbers to jump back up near the half-century mark. Odor actually took a huge step forward with his plate discipline last year, doubling his BB% from 2017, and adding 50 points to his BA. The strikeouts are still an issue and will cap his upside, but playing a full season in the two or three hole with 30/15 potential makes him a very intriguing MIF choice in 2019.

The bad news for DJ LeMahieu is he is no longer playing in Coors Field. The good news is he is now playing at Yankee Stadium in one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball. He hit a career-high 15 HR last year and has struck out less than 100 times in three straight seasons. If he can revert back to his pre-2018 heavy-oppo line drive profile, that short RF porch would ensure the power stays in the double digits. The main concern here is the unknown playing time and spot in the lineup. Steamer projects LeMahieu at 455 AB (I'll take the over), and I would assume the majority of those come from the bottom third of the lineup. He makes for a good bench bat and when, not if, Troy Tulowitzki gets hurt you can put him in your lineup until Didi Gregorius is back.

If Jonathan Villar was the starting second baseman for the Brewers, this would be a much different blurb. But alas, the Brew Crew messed that up and we're looking at one of the few fantasy-relevant players on the Orioles for 2019. 15/30 talent and shortstop eligibility makes him a useful bench bat to cover injuries and off-days, but 150+ Ks and a minimally productive offense banishes Villar from starting lineups in points leagues.

 

Second Base Points League Rankings: Lower Tiers

Tier Six

The next super-utility, useful bench-fantasy hitter is a personal favorite, Joey Wendle. Wendle enjoyed his first full season in the MLB, hitting .300 with 16 SB, while qualifying at 2B, 3B, SS, and OF. The BA won't carry over, as his .353 BABIP is certainly headed for regression. But the Rays have made some upgrades to their lineup and in 2019 Wendle could very well be hitting out of the three hole behind Tommy Pham, and in front of Austin Meadows. It's a sneaky good situation for a sneaky good fantasy hitter. The mid-teen SB is almost a guarantee as he has stolen at least 10 every season since 2013, and that speed mixed with his ultra position-eligibility makes him a great value pick in the later rounds.

The two biggest names in the sixth tier are easily Jonathan Schoop and Yoan Moncada. Schoop is just one year removed from hitting 32 bombs and 105 RBI with the Orioles and joined a revamped Twins team this off-season. But coming off a season where his already putrid 0.25 BB/K ratio dropped to 0.17 and saw his HR total dip down to the low 20's, you might want to take a wait-and-see approach with him this year to see if 2017 was an outlier or if 2018 was just an unlucky season. Moncada has all the potential in the world and finally played a full season with the White Sox last year. The end result was 17 HR and 12 SB, with a .235 BA. Unfortunately, the plate discipline is still awful, as his 33.4 K% was only beat by Chris Davis and Joey Gallo. He is destined for 200+ K again and will take much more development until he can be trusted in points leagues.

Disclaimer, I am a Garrett Hampson truther for 2019, and you can tell by my ranking compared to Nick and Bill. Sure the Daniel Murphy signing and looming presence of Brendan Rodgers makes Hampson's outlook much murkier. But as of now, he should be the starting second baseman for the Rox, and as long as that remains a fact, I am on board. First off, the guy can fly. He stole 51 bases in A+ ball in 2017 and combined for 38 SB across two minor league levels and a short MLB stint last year. Secondly, he is an on-base machine. Hampson owned an OBP higher than .377 at all three stops last year, including boasting a 14.6 BB% across 24 games with the big league team. I have him as my MIF in a few leagues already this off-season, and I don't expect that trend to change anytime soon, even in points leagues.

I was not happy when the Mets signed Jed Lowrie, as it essentially blocked Jeff McNeil and Peter Alonso from a shot at serious playing time in 2019. But it bodes well for Lowrie, who is coming off his best season after setting career-highs with 23 HR and 99 RBI. There is nothing exciting about him, but hitting in the top half of the lineup with Brandon Nimmo, Robinson Cano, and Michael Conforto with above-average on-base skills makes Lowrie a sneaky value pick for your MIF slot. Like Hampson, I am higher on Lowrie than my colleagues, but I am willing to plant my flag on both of these hills.

Luis Urias is a guy I have been scooping up in the late rounds solely because of intrigue. The ceiling isn't anything crazy, but he should get a crack at hitting near the top of the lineup and posted the exact same .296 BA and .398 OBP at AA and AAA last season. Maybe we get lucky and the power develops out of nowhere, he is still just 21 years old. There's really no risk to snag him for your bench late in the draft.

Tier Seven

Naw, I'm good.

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Andrew Heaney - 2019 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper

While we not all define the term exactly the same, we're always searching for the coveted "sleeper." These are the players flying under the radar, presenting an opportunity for you to swoop in on draft day and pluck them from the player pool abyss, making you look like a genius at the end of the season when you post your Championship-winning roster picture on Twitter. Nothing grabs attention in the fantasy world like a good sleeper.

Here at RotoBaller, we love sleepers more than anyone else in the industry. If you don't believe me, just scroll on down to the bottom of this page and take a look for yourself.

Our focus today is on Los Angeles Angels' starting pitcher Andrew Heaney. Can he cash in on some intriguing peripherals and help your fantasy team in 2019?

 

Is there reason to be high on Heaney?

The Angels have two promising southpaws in their rotation, but this one in particular is generating a lot of buzz for the 2019 fantasy baseball season. Andrew Heaney pitched 180 IP last season, posting a 4.15 ERA and 1.20 WHIP with 180 SO. The numbers don't look overly sexy on the surface, but there is plenty to be excited about when you dig a little deeper.  First off, pitching 180 innings is a great sign after missing almost all of 2016 and 2017 with shoulder and elbow injuries. Heaney averaged six innings per start in 2018, and even had a complete game shutout, so the injuries look to be safely behind him.

The first thing you notice when looking at Heaney's statistics is that the man deserved better than the stats he received last season. In 2015, his last healthy season, he allowed 0.77 HR/9. In 2018 he allowed 1.35, which is a contributing factor to his 3.68 xFIP being much lower than his ERA. That xFIP actually ranked 20th best among qualified starters. But the bad luck wasn't just in HR rates, because of those 20 top starters in xFIP, Heaney's 71.4 LOB% was the second lowest. The lefty also suffered from some awful Home/Away splits. On the road his ERA was 5.02, compared to 3.22 at home. There's no reason to expect that to continue in 2019, and just with these three stats alone one can reasonably expect positive regression this season.

 

A healthy mix of pitches

Aside from good health and incoming karma, Heaney also has an intriguing arsenal of pitches on his side. Pitch Info on Fangraphs characterizes his fastball as a Sinker, and he throws it more than any other starter in the league. The 92 mph velocity leaves much to be desired, but his money is made with his off-speed stuff anyways. His change-up boasted the sixth highest value among starters, and his 25.2% curveball rate was sixth highest in the league. The curve was devastating, generating a 19.9 SwStr% and a lowly .187 BAA. The trio of pitch types kept hitters off balance all season, and generated the seventh highest soft hit rate among starters.

Even though he threw the change-up at only a 16% rate, it was by far his make-or-break pitch. We can see this by looking at his best month (2.88 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in July), and his worst month (5.55 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in August). The heat maps for his Sinker and Curve ball look almost identical. But there were noticeable changes in the location of the change-up (top two images), which resulted in a drastic spike in his ISO/P (bottom two images).

The main thing holding back Heaney from truly becoming a star in 2019 is his ability to get through a lineup multiple times. I believe it stems from the lower velocity on his fastball/sinker, which allows hitters to sit back on the off-speed pitches after seeing him the first time. The first time through the order, Heaney was phenomenal, boasting a 11.38 K/9 and a 3.10 xFIP. For reference, German Marquez owned a 10.59 K/9 and a 3.06 xFIP the first time through a lineup. But Marquez got better as he progressed through a game, whereas as Heaney suffered a drastic drop-off. His K/9 dropped down to 8.24 the second time through and 7.26 the third time through, while his xFIP increased to 3.68 and 4.46 respectively. The first difference between the two that I notice, besides handiness, is about 3-4 mph on the fastball. The good news is the 2018 velo was the highest of Heaney's career. If he can continue to tack a few tenths onto his mph then there's no doubt he takes a step forward this year with top 40 fantasy SP potential.

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2019 Third Basemen - Early Fantasy Baseball Tiered Rankings

We continue our fantasy baseball tiered rankings analysis with the third base position. Even though it is only January, RotoBaller writers Nick Mariano, Pierre Camus, Chris Zolli, and I have come up with our initial pre-draft rankings to give you a sense of player values as early as possible. As the offseason progresses, these rankings are sure to change quite a bit over the coming months. We'll be updating our rankings on a regular basis, so be sure to keep checking in on our fantasy baseball rankings dashboard for the most updated lists.

The hot corner is possibly the hottest it has been for years, I mean four third basemen ranked as first-round values!? Truthfully though, five of the first six third basemen on our list won't actually be drafted to fill the third base slot in fantasy lineups due to multi-position eligibility. That means you need to pay more attention to the third and fourth tiers, which is when you really need to fill the 3B void. If you wait until after the fourth tier, you will regret it. Take heed!

In case you missed it, you can read about the first base position here. Without any more delay, let's take a look at the 2019 third base rankings for January.

 

2019 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Third Base (January)

Ranking Tier Player Position Nick Pierre JB Chris
1 1 Jose Ramirez 2B/3B 3 4 3 3
2 1 Nolan Arenado 3B 7 3 7 5
3 1 Manny Machado 3B/SS 8 9 9 6
4 1 Alex Bregman 3B/SS 10 20 10 9
5 2 Javier Baez 2B/SS/3B 24 26 20 25
6 2 Kris Bryant 3B/OF 31 29 35 26
7 2 Matt Carpenter 1B/2B/3B 43 42 39 44
8 2 Eugenio Suarez 3B 42 43 41 55
9 2 Anthony Rendon 3B 37 69 40 36
10 3 Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 3B 68 75 66 65
11 3 Wil Myers 3B/OF 72 55 92 76
12 3 Josh Donaldson 3B 86 78 79 85
13 3 Miguel Andujar 3B 99 93 88 99
14 4 Matt Chapman 3B 85 107 113 88
15 4 Justin Turner 3B 81 129 100 86
16 4 Joey Gallo 3B/1B/OF 101 108 118 84
17 4 Max Muncy 1B/2B/3B 123 98 109 113
18 4 Travis Shaw 1B/2B/3B 102 156 119 115
19 4 Rafael Devers 3B 150 140 152 145
20 5 Mike Moustakas 3B 155 162 151 133
21 5 Jurickson Profar SS/3B/1B/2B 140 230 155 125
22 5 Miguel Sano 1B/3B 156 186 147 206
23 5 Carlos Santana 1B/3B 167 206 160 258
24 6 Yulieski Gurriel 1B/2B/3B 234 205 214 182
25 6 Kyle Seager 3B 224 203 212 247
26 6 Joey Wendle 2B/3B/SS/OF 176 339 185 202
27 6 Eduardo Escobar SS/3B 196 358 198 165
28 6 Ian Happ 3B/OF 220 295 230 232
29 7 Maikel Franco 3B 258 245 218 266
30 7 Nick Senzel 3B 267 228 309 223
31 7 Jake Lamb 3B 295 176 279 282
32 7 Evan Longoria 3B 260 255 270 341
33 7 Brian Anderson 3B/OF 324 251 276 370
34 7 Jeimer Candelario 3B 328 259 350 311
35 7 Scott Kingery SS/3B/OF 319 360 301 283
36 7 Isiah Kiner-Falefa C/2B/3B 339 436 322 255
37 7 Ryan McMahon 1B/3B/2B 356 316 393 314
38 7 Johan Camargo 2B/3B/SS 357 407 268 360
39 7 Todd Frazier 3B 262 298 400 433
40 7 Eduardo Nunez 2B/3B 374 355 380 313
41 7 Tim Beckham SS/3B 391 361 398 362
42 8 Zack Cozart SS/2B/3B 389 371 376 381
43 8 Niko Goodrum 1B/2B/3B/SS/OF 392 461 473 277
44 8 Asdrubal Cabrera SS/2B/3B 457 457 341 354
45 8 Matt Duffy SS/3B 486 505 369 382
46 8 Matt Davidson 3B 478 483 443 368
47 8 Jedd Gyorko 1B/3B 419 409 455 522
48 8 Colin Moran 3B/1B 468 472 467 405
49 8 Yandy Diaz 3B 393 446 474 504
50 8 Logan Forsythe 2B/3B 438 403 483 506
60 8 Hernan Perez 2B/3B/OF/SS 568 399 487 379
61 8 Wilmer Flores 1B/3B/2B 507 425 481 508
62 8 Yangervis Solarte 2B/3B/SS 541 531 472 422
63 8 Chris Owings 2B/3B/OF 433 553 510 511
64 8 David Fletcher 3B 502 #N/A #N/A #N/A
65 8 Kaleb Cowart 3B 504 #N/A #N/A #N/A
66 8 Brandon Drury 3B/OF 494 540 518 479
67 8 Yolmer Sanchez 2B/3B 479 510 504 544
68 8 Ehire Adrianza SS/1B/3B 513 513 477 546
69 8 Brock Holt 2B/3B/OF 499 #N/A 508 542
70 8 Jung Ho Kang 3B 569 494 #N/A #N/A
71 8 Martin Prado 3B 537 529 #N/A #N/A
72 8 David Freese 1B/3B 540 530 #N/A #N/A
73 8 JaCoby Jones 3B #N/A 592 #N/A #N/A
74 8 Pat Valaika 3B 616 578 #N/A #N/A
75 8 Jose Reyes 2B/SS/3B #N/A 600 #N/A #N/A

 

Rankings Analysis - Top Tiers

Tier 1

After a surprise breakout campaign in 2017, very few, if any fantasy players were expecting Jose Ramirez to take it to an even higher level in 2018. The 26-year-old’s encore performance consisted of career-highs in Runs (110), HR (39), RBI (105), and SB (34) en route to a top-five fantasy ranking. This newfound power came at the expense of his BA, however, as he set his sights on the bleachers. He became a top-ten fly-ball hitter with the second-highest pull-rate in the majors, and it dragged JRam’s BABIP down over 60 points from 2017. The only thing that Ramirez has going against him in 2019 is the departures of Edwin Encarnacion, Yonder Alonso, and Michael Brantley this offseason. The lineup currently slated behind him looks rather bleak, and the possible effect on the Run scoring opportunities widens the gap between JRam and the Betts-Trout duo at the top of fantasy boards.

Nolan Arenado, our 3B2, is the only sole-third base guy in the top tier. But he makes up for it by playing in Coors and quite possibly being the most consistent fantasy performer over the past four years with at least 37 bombs, 97 R, 110 RBI, and a .287 BA every year since 2015.

Where is Manny Machado going to sign? I don't have the answer, but honestly, does it matter? If he can be fantasy relevant with the Orioles, he can play anywhere and we'll still like him as a first rounder. Both Philly and the Bronx are great hitters parks and both lineups have plenty of firepower for run-scoring opportunities. The 26-year-old is coming off his best offensive season, where he matched his career high in HR and set new marks for RBI and BA. If he ends up in NYY or PHI, he's easily the 3B3 for 2019, but if he surprises everyone and ends up in the Southside of Chicago then he probably gets bumped down to 3B4 in favor for the next stud.

That next stud is Alex Bregman. Fantasy aside, this kid is a phenomenal hitter. His 1.13 BB/K ratio was the third-best in all of baseball and his 157 wRC+ beat out Arenado and Machado. He's slated to hit in the two-hole behind George Springer and in front of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Michael Brantley. If the elite plate discipline continues, then Bregman is a serious threat for reaching triple-digit runs and RBIs again in 2019 along with 25+ HR and 10+ SB with a BA hovering around .290. If you can snag him after the first turn in the second round, the LSU product will easily return value this season. People often forget this guy is still just 24 years old.

Tier 2

One tier with two Cubbies, both carrying a significant amount of risk for different reasons. Javier Baez went from a 98 wRC+ in 2017 to N.L. MVP runner up one season later. He was one of just seven players to hit 30 HR with 20 SB, and put up triple digits in both run scoring categories. All of this goodness while still striking out in a quarter of his bats for the third straight year. Can he keep up this level of production with such poor plate discipline? First off, the BA is not sustainable. His 25.9 K% ranked 14th highest in the league. Among those 14 batters, Baez had by far the highest BA, with the next closest (Giancarlo Stanton) being a whole 27 points lower. We expect the BA to drop down closer to the .273 he posted in back-to-back seasons in 2016-2017. Also, the power is bound to regress. Baez only hit a 32.3 flyball rate, with a 1.41 GB/FB ratio. Those certainly aren't prototypical power hitting profiles. On top of that, his 24.3 HR/FB% just simply isn't repeatable with his 35.8 Hard%. Bottom line, yes we expect some regression from Baez in 2019. But the bottom-bottom line is that he hits cleanup for the Chicago Cubs and has legit speed that should produce 19-21 SB again. The talent and situation should still outweigh the regression, which is why we have Baez as our 3B5 and ranked as a late-second/early-third round talent for 2019.

Baez's teammate, Kris Bryant, went the opposite direction in 2018, after being drafted as a first/second-round fantasy player. He started the season as advertised, hitting .291/.441/.506 in April and .282/.368/.536 in May with 156 and 140 wRC+, respectively. That's the good news for 2019 fantasy owners. But then the bad luck struck. He was first hit in the head with a pitch, then missed an entire month with a shoulder injury. Upon returning from the shoulder injury, he was struck on the hand with a pitch. That kind of physical abuse can understandingly mess with a hitters psych, and his rest of season numbers proved as much. In his last 32 games, he hit a lousy .749 OPS and .150 ISO, with a 105 wRC+. With a full off-season to recover and reflect, there's little reason to worry about KB. The three previous seasons saw a floor of 26 HR, 87 R, 73 RBI, 7 SB, and a .275 BA, with a ceiling of 39 HR, 121 R, 102 RBI, 13 SB, and a .295 BA. Which end of the spectrum you believe he bounces back to this year will dictate where you are willing to draft the 27-year-old. Our ranking of #6 3B and 29 overall shows that we believe he will end 2019 near the center of the two stat-lines.

Matt Carpenter enjoyed a career year in 2018, going yard 36 times and scoring 111 runs. Carp has always been one to tear the cover off the ball, but he has taken it to new heights after leading the entire league with an absurd 49.0 Hard%. We'd love to say we expect HR regression in 2019, but when someone is doing that to the baseball where do you expect it to go other than the stands?! His 19.1 HR/FB% was actually the lowest among hitters in the top-five Hard%. The Cardinals lineup should produce plenty of runs this year, and their powerful leadoff hitter will thrive again. I've always been a Carpenter fanboy thanks to the hard-hit rates and OBP, but the multi-position eligibility really boosts his value for me - hence the fourth-round ranking. He finished 2018 as the 35th ranked player in fantasy and has the top first basemen in baseball hitting behind him this year. We have Carp ranked 30 spots ahead of his current NFBC ADP of 73.00, but will gladly take the value opportunity.

Eugenio Suarez and Anthony Rendon are ranked back-to-back in our rankings, as they are in mine as well. I perceive both players similar in overall value for 2019. Suarez is the more excitable upside pick, after busting out 34 bombs and 104 RBI with a .283 BA last season. He saw a five-point spike in HR/FB%, but an absurd 15-point spike in Hard-hit rate up to 48.6% which was tied for second-highest in baseball. His 8.4 Soft% was the lowest in the league, just in front of his teammate Joey Votto. Rendon represents a safer floor and draft pick at the projected fourth-round ADP. You know what you are going to get from him, as he's given fantasy owners the same level of production for three straight seasons. The downside is the lack of prototypical 3B power, but the upside is a BA over .300. Which guy you take really depends on the setup of your lineup. If you played it safe and avoided power at the top of your draft with say a Trea Turner/ Jose Altuve combo, then you will want the HR-upside of Suarez. Whereas if you have ample power with little BA coverage with Giancarlo Stanton/ Khris Davis, then Rendon is your guy.

Tier 3

There is nothing safe about this tier, but it is dripping with upside. The perfect example is the 2019 hype-leader Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The guy has never played at the MLB level, yet Steamer projects him to hit 22 HR with a .306 BA this season. The crazy part is it's not even a little bit far-fetched. The NINETEEN-year-old hit 20 combined HR between AA and AAA last season, along with a .402 and .336 BA respectively. Over his 30 games at AAA, he boasted a 1.50 BB/K ratio. He looks like the most polished prospect I have seen in a long time, and should be up with the big league club for good after the service time date passes. I value Vlad Jr as Anthony Rendon-type talent for 2019 but in a worse lineup, and have him ranked as such. After being burned by getting zero shares of Ronald Acuna last season, I will be sure to get a least a little exposure of this year's top prospect if he's still available in the sixth round. His current NFBC ADP of 38.56 is an easy pass for me this season.

Miguel Andujar is another youngster at the position but now has a full successful season under his belt. He was beat out by the freak of nature Shohei Ohtani for AL Rookie of the Year after hitting 27 HR with a very respectable .297 BA. The problem with Andujar is 2018 may be the ceiling for fantasy production. The fly ball and hard hit rates don't support big power numbers, and I expect some regression on his .316 BABIP. While I see little-Guerrero as a Rendon in a worse situation comp, I see Miguel Andujar as a poor man's Rendon in a good situation. He will play every day in a monstrous lineup, hitting in a little league sized ballpark. Even with a slight step backward in the HR and BA departments, the run-scoring potential makes Andujar worth a starting 3B slot in your lineup if you've held out on the position thus far. We have Andujar ranked 27 spots lower than his 65.21 NFBC ADP.

The last two in tier three carry significant health risk but are also huge upside picks. Josh Donaldson is 33 years old now and hasn't played a full season since 2016. But he is also just one year removed from hitting 33 HR with a .270 BA. He joins a young Atlanta Braves team and could be hitting clean up behind Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies, and Freddie Freeman. His counterpart, Wil Myers is also full of talent that also hinges on his ability to stay healthy. Like Donaldson, Myers is just one year removed from a successful season in which he pulled off a rare 30/20 campaign that you won't find outside of Jose Ramirez and Javier Baez at the hot corner. If either one can shake off the 2018 injuries and stay in the lineup this year, both will be absolute steals at their current ADP. RotoBaller rankings have both hitters ranked at least 20 spots ahead of their NFBC ADP.

 

Rankings Analysis - Middle Tiers

Tier 4

This is your last shot for securing a solid starting third baseman for your fantasy lineups, but there are some good options still available. The first is Matt Chapman, the 25-year-old that enjoyed a very productive first full season in the bigs last year. He hit 24 HR and scored 100 R, while hitting .278. It was a big step forward from his rookie season, as he cut his K% by five points which helped raise his BA over 40 points. Despite "only" 24 bombs, he was 12th in baseball in doubles and boasted a 43.2 Hard%. You could say he possesses "gap power". But if he continues to improve at the plate and build on his impressive 24.5 O-Swing% and 8.8 SwStr%, those doubles will start landing over the fence at a higher rate. I expect a 2017 JRam-type power increase this season from Chapman, and would gladly take him as my starting third baseman in the 7th or 8th round.

Justin Turner probably belongs in the same blurb as Josh Donaldson and Wil Myers. His 2018 season similarly was a letdown to fantasy owners thanks to injuries, and his 2019 ADP has taken a hit because of it. Since the Dodgers acquired him from the Mets in 2014, he has reached 600 PA just once and reached 500 PA twice. Regardless of the injury history, when Turner is on the field there is no doubt he is a fantastic hitter. His BB/K ratios the past two seasons are 0.87 and 1.05, with .312 and .322 BA respectively. Assuming a full season, you can expect low-20's HR, respectable run-scoring production, and a .300 BA. Unfortunately, at the age of 34, that is far from a safe assumption.

Undoubtedly the biggest surprise of the 2018 season, Max Muncy exploded for 35 bombs in under 500 PA for the Dodgers after not hitting more than 25 in any of his six seasons in the minor leagues. There is no way he duplicates the 29.4 HR/FB% over a full season, but you can't discredit a guy that owned a 47.4% hard-hit rate hitting in a potent lineup. It's fitting that Muncy and Travis Shaw are right next to each other in our rankings because I view them as having very similar 2019 seasons. Both are CI and MI eligible (depending on your league), which will be a great value boost once the injury bugs start biting your lineups, and both carry big power upside. I don't trust either as my starting first baseman, which is why you want to fill that slot prior to reaching this tier.

Tier 5

I was personally burned by Sano in multiple places last season as I predicted him to rebound from his knee surgery and hit a massive amount of HR in 2018. Instead, he had the worst season of his career, and failed to stay up with the big league club or hit above the Mendoza line. His 38.5 K% was the worst in the bigs among hitters with at least 250 PA, EVEN Chris Davis. He is greatly aided by the recent signing of Nelson Cruz, who now can serve not only as a hitting mentor (hopefully) but also lineup protection as Sano works on his approach at the plate. The talent and untapped power are still there, and he's never owned a Hard% under 40%. Still just 25 years old, Sano could prove to be a HR sleeper if you are looking light in the category in the middle of your fantasy drafts. The dual-position eligibility doesn't hurt either.

Carlos Santana returns back to Cleveland where HR are handed out to LHB (or switch hitters facing RHP, you get the point) and where he will bat behind two top-five fantasy MVPs. The modest power and RBI potential will prove beneficial at the CI slot or backup 1B in standard leagues, even with the atrocious BA. But if you are in a league of advanced gentlemen and play with OBP instead of BA, bump this dude up two tiers!

Regarded as a top prospect not too long ago, Jurickson Profar finally stayed in the bigs for a full season in 2018 and he did not disappoint. The 25-year-old hit 20 HR and stole 10 bases, and starts a nice little run of versatile guys that are great options for those CI/MIF slots in 2019. He made at least 10 appearances at every infield position (besides catcher), and joins an underrated Oakland Athletics squad loaded with offensive potential. He should be manning the keystone position for the A's every day in 2019, and his numbers don't show any strong reasons to believe you can't expect another 20/10 campaign from a guy that you can stick almost anywhere in your fantasy lineup. Profar is the new-shiny version of Marwin Gonzalez.

Tier 6

The next super-utility fantasy hitter is a personal favorite, Joey Wendle. Wendle also enjoyed his first full season in the MLB, hitting .300 with 16 SB, while qualifying at 2B, 3B, SS, and OF. The BA won't carry over, as his .353 BABIP is certainly headed for regression. But the Rays have made some upgrades to their lineup and in 2019 Wendle could very well be hitting out of the three hole behind Tommy Pham, and in front of Austin Meadows. It's a sneaky good situation for a sneaky good fantasy hitter. The mid-teen SB is almost a guarantee as he has stolen at least 10 every season since 2013, and that speed mixed with his ultra position-eligibility makes him a great value pick in the later rounds.

Eduardo Escobar followed up his solid 2017 campaign with an even better 2018, hitting a career-high 23 HR with a .272 BA. Best of all he was traded to the Diamondbacks, which means he gets to enjoy Chase Field for half his games, with a dabble of Coors in there over the season. His short stint with the new team didn't go very well the first time around, but the modest power will certainly play over a full dose of the desert air. The loss of Paul Goldschmidt hurts every ARI hitter, but regardless the run-scoring opportunities surrounded by David Peralta, Steven Souza, and Jake Lamb plus CI/MI eligibility make Escobar worthwhile at around the 15th round.

 

Rankings Analysis - Lower Tiers

Tier 7

I love the seventh tier - nothing but upside dart throws here for your bench, but its where the gap between studs and casual fantasy players reaches its maximum distance. The perfect example of an upside dart throw is top prospect Nick Senzel. He's never played an inning at the big league level, but has nothing left to prove down at AAA, where he hit .310 last season. The kids got 20/20 potential with a great BA to boot. The problem is the Cincinnati Reds oddly have nowhere for him to play. Jose Peraza and Scooter Gennett have the MIF locked down, and Eugenio Suarez and Joey Votto aren't moving from their spots on the corners. Rumors were swirling about Senzel seeing time in OF this year to fill the void left by Billy Hamilton, and then the Reds traded for Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig. Then there's the fact that he is recovering from minor elbow surgery and has vertigo issues. The cons are currently too heavy for me to hitch my wagon to him for 2019, but if he falls in your drafts the skill-set and vast potential is worth a late-round flier.

Jeimer Candelario is another intriguing name to stash on your bench. The ex-Cubs prospect played his first full MLB season last year and hit 19 HR while scoring 78 R. There's not a ton to love here, but he is a switch hitter who will play everyday and hit in the top third of the Tigers lineup. He will be a good source of Runs, and is a much better value in daily-roster leagues where you can take advantage of his sexual splits against LHP. (.291 BA, 131 wRC+ in 2018). Don't leave him in there too long though because he will tank your team's BA - which is why I am lower on the 25-year-old than my colleagues.

Sneaky sleeper alert! Johan Camargo may seem like a lost cause now that Josh Donaldson is in Hotlanta, but there is still a Nick Markakis-shaped hole in the Bravo's outfield. It just so happens I think Camargo can fill that void. He hits righties and lefties, at home and on the road, and he ended the season with one hell of a second half. After the All-Star break, Camargo hit .295 with 10 HR. Until A.J. Pollock signs a contract with the Braves, I will happily take Camargo 100 spots ahead of Nick, Pierre, and Chris. Even if they do sign a stud OF, Camargo is still going to get 500 PA backing up Josh Donaldson and Dansby Swanson. He's the perfect guy to have on your bench in fantasy.

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Willians Astudillo - 2019 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper

Sleepers. The most coveted search term during any sport's fantasy draft prep season. Which players are flying under the radar, presenting an opportunity for you to swoop in on draft day and pluck them from the player pool abyss, making you look like a genius at the end of the season when you post your Championship-winning roster picture on Twitter? Nothing grabs attention in the fantasy world like a good sleeper.

Here at RotoBaller, we love sleepers more than anyone else in the industry. If you don't believe me, just scroll on down to the bottom of this page and take a look for yourself.

Our focus today is on Minnesota Twins' super-utility man/Catcher Willians Astudillo, the man generating all the buzz on social media. Can he help your fantasy team in his first full MLB season?

 

What's the Dealio with Astudillo?

Willians Astudillo just might be my favorite player in baseball. It's almost impossible to look at him, and his stats, and not immediately become a fan. First off, he's just 5'9" yet weighs 225 lbs. So seeing him field and run the bases is fun for the whole family. Secondly, the guy is almost incapable of striking out - or drawing a walk, which means you get to see him run the bases almost every time he steps up to the plate.

Astudillo has been in the Minor Leagues since he was 18 in 2009, and got his first taste of the bigs last year with the Twins. Through 30 games, the physical anomaly hit an absurd .355. He struck out three times. THREE TIMES. His 3.1 K% would have cut the MLB leader Andrelton Simmon's 7.3% in half. He boasted a 91.2 Contact% and 96.2 Z-Contact%. It's like the guy gets to use a bloated whiffle ball bat that covers half the strike zone. He even stole seven bases!

It's not like these impressive stats came out of nowhere though. Astudillo has hit the ball everywhere he's played. He hit .342 across 128 PA in AAA in 2017, .333 in 465 PA in 2014, and .361 in 220 PA in 2011. His 41.7% Cent% (hits up the center of the field) would have been best in baseball over a full season. The guy just knows how to work the BABIP. He's never owned a K% over 4.6, and even stole 11 bases back in 2011. In the Venezuelan Winter League this off-season, he struck out just twice in 261 PA.

Up to this point, I am sure you've noticed the lack of me mentioning the HR category. That's the one downside to this shoo-in Hall of Famer (in my mind). Astudillo has never hit more than four HR in a season in the minors, until 2018, and that's where the excitement begins. With the three bombs he smacked in his short MLB stint, he hit 15 combined HR in 2018 across 400 PA. Could the 27-year-old finally figure something out at the plate? Well, if you are a complete doubter, he continued 2018 by hitting 10 more HR in the Venezuelan Winter League. Can you imagine the fantasy fun we will have with Astudillo if he can hit double-digit dongs, never strike out, hit over .300, and play multiple positions in the field? Oh yeah, I guess I forgot to mention that part.

In just 30 games at the major league level last year, Astudillo made 14 starts at Catcher, five starts at 3B, one start at 2B, made two appearances in the OF, AND pitched one whole inning. I'm drooling on my keyboard. By the end of the 2019 season, we could be looking at a four-position eligible fantasy player.

All joking aside, Willians Astudillo could prove to be an extremely beneficial fantasy player this season. The path to playing time is extremely crowded in Minnesota after the acquisitions of Jonathan Schoop, Nelson Cruz, and C.J. Cron, with the expected "improvement" of Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. But I believe the short stint in 2018 was a tryout, and a successful one at that. The Twins want Astudillo to get at-bats, and they are willing to stick the guy anywhere in the field to make it happen. He should split time behind the plate with Jason Castro and Mitch Garver, and can provide rest days for basically anyone else in the lineup. Also, expecting Buxton and Sano to remain healthy and/or remain in the bigs all season is an ill-advised bet at this point in their careers. Regardless of how it plays out, I expect Astudillo to get his fair share of PA this season. In fact, thanks to his versatility, I see him being top-10 in PA among all catchers. Outside of the top-seven fantasy catchers, you start hurting your team BA and getting zeroes from the position for a third of the games. So you can either take a guy whose team would rather rest him every third day than have in their lineup every day or the guy whose team is willing to put him anywhere in the field to see plate appearances.

Current NFBC ADP suggests that Astudillo isn't much of a sleeper at all. He is currently the #10 catcher off the board at 238.26 overall. But with the number of skilled players who use NFBC, plus the amount of two-catcher leagues on that site, I feel that ADP is severely skewed from what you will actually see in your home leagues. Our RotoBaller rankings have Astudillo ranked as the #17 catcher and 339 overall. This feels a lot more realistic to what you will see in draft rooms this season, and he represents a huge potential value. The baller move would be to wait out the top-two tiers of catchers, and then let the young-flair names like Francisco Mejia, Danny Jansen, and Jorge Alfaro (he still counts, right?) get scooped up before grabbing your starting catcher - Willians Astudillo.

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2019 First Basemen - Early Fantasy Baseball Tiered Rankings

We continue our fantasy baseball tiered rankings analysis with the first base position. Even though it is only January, RotoBaller writers Nick Mariano, Pierre Camus, Chris Zolli, and I have come up with our initial pre-draft rankings to give you a sense of player values as early as possible. As the offseason progresses, these rankings are sure to change quite a bit over the coming months. We'll be updating our rankings on a regular basis, so be sure to keep checking in on our fantasy baseball rankings dashboard for the most updated lists.

The first base position has been a fantasy staple for years. But for the first time in a while, you will see first rounds come and go in your 2019 drafts with no first basemen taken. The emergence of five-category middle infielders and outfielders have elbowed their way past Paul Goldschmidt and Freddie Freeman, and Father Time has taken his toll on the future Hall of Famers like Joey Votto and Miguel Cabrera. The first base dominoes start falling in the second round and will have some serious momentum until the end of the fourth round. If you want to have a leg up on your league at this position, make sure you grab your starting 1B in this range with a Tier 1-3 guy.

In case you missed it, you can read about the shortstop position here. Without any more delay, let's take a look at the 2019 first base rankings for January.

 

2019 Fantasy Baseball Tiered Rankings: First Base (January)

Rank Tier Player Position Nick Pierre JB Chris
1 1 Paul Goldschmidt 1B 19 26 17 17
2 1 Freddie Freeman 1B 23 13 24 20
3 2 Anthony Rizzo 1B 33 38 30 41
4 2 Rhys Hoskins 1B/OF 50 23 46 31
5 2 Matt Carpenter 1B/2B/3B 43 43 39 44
6 2 Cody Bellinger 1B/OF 46 45 32 51
7 3 Joey Votto 1B 57 50 56 49
8 3 Jose Abreu 1B 69 44 67 53
9 4 Edwin Encarnacion 1B 82 94 80 73
10 4 J.T. Realmuto C/1B 92 91 75 93
11 4 Jesus Aguilar 1B 90 81 89 104
12 4 Daniel Murphy 1B/2B 84 110 83 117
13 4 Matt Olson OF/1B 113 92 110 92
14 4 Joey Gallo 3B/1B/OF 101 109 118 84
15 4 Robinson Cano 1B/2B 103 126 99 91
16 4 Max Muncy 1B/2B/3B 123 96 109 113
17 4 Travis Shaw 1B/2B/3B 102 158 119 115
18 5 Ian Desmond OF/1B 135 175 108 142
19 5 Miguel Cabrera 1B 133 176 140 157
20 5 Jurickson Profar SS/3B/1B/2B 140 254 155 125
20 5 Miguel Sano 1B/3B 156 184 147 206
21 5 Eric Hosmer 1B 152 174 137 241
22 5 Buster Posey C/1B 194 179 188 153
23 5 Luke Voit 1B 122 188 221 184
24 6 Jose Martinez OF/1B 147 309 143 166
25 6 Justin Smoak 1B 192 182 173 222
26 6 Carlos Santana 1B/3B 166 207 160 258
27 6 Ryan Braun 1B/OF 144 324 138 213
28 6 Yulieski Gurriel 1B/2B/3B 234 206 214 182
29 7 Trey Mancini 1B/OF 213 279 217 205
31 7 Josh Bell 1B 198 284 240 225
32 7 Tyler White 1B 190 282 213 280
33 7 Jake Bauers 1B/OF 230 314 251 240
34 7 Ryan Zimmerman 1B 219 262 238 340
35 7 Peter Alonso 1B 273 315 237 242
36 7 C.J. Cron 1B 246 310 228 284
37 7 Yonder Alonso 1B 244 328 249 270
38 7 Brandon Belt 1B/OF 286 335 235 308
39 7 Marwin Gonzalez 1B/2B/SS/OF 364 348 303 215
40 7 Jay Bruce OF/1B 264 326 334 329
41 7 Justin Bour 1B 272 342 323 324
42 7 Adam Duvall 1B/OF 254 346 319 345
43 8 Ryan McMahon 1B/3B/2B 356 311 393 315
44 8 Kendrys Morales 1B 285 337 331 433
45 8 Mitch Moreland 1B 303 386 377 322
46 8 Eric Thames 1B/OF 376 352 339 336
47 8 Greg Bird 1B 354 359 379 338
48 8 Tucker Barnhart C/1B 426 452 351 260
49 8 Steve Pearce 1B/2B/OF 353 443 385 319
50 8 Tyler Austin 1B 347 439 344 393
51 8 Ryan O'Hearn 1B 302 405 346 496
52 8 Ryon Healy 1B 417 332 345 504
53 8 Niko Goodrum 1B/2B/3B/SS/OF 391 460 473 277
54 8 Chris Davis 1B 333 366 430 500
55 8 Albert Pujols 1B 405 397 362 534
56 8 John Hicks C/1B 499 511 371 321
57 8 Ronald Guzman 1B 438 365 406 538
58 8 Dan Vogelbach 1B 473 474 #N/A 394
59 8 Jedd Gyorko 1B/3B 418 409 455 529
60 8 Colin Moran 3B/1B 467 471 467 409
61 8 Rowdy Tellez 1B 445 396 469 520
62 8 Jose Osuna 1B/OF 469 472 #N/A 448
63 8 Wilmer Flores 1B/3B/2B 504 425 481 513
64 8 Logan Morrison 1B #N/A 459 456 545
65 8 Ehire Adrianza SS/1B/3B 507 512 477 #N/A
66 8 A.J. Reed 1B 492 553 #N/A #N/A
67 8 David Freese 1B/3B 538 528 #N/A #N/A

 

Rankings Analysis - Top Tiers

Tier 1

After being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals, Paul Goldschmidt beats out Freddie Freeman by two spots as the top dog among first basemen this season. He has hit at least 33 HR with a .290 BA in three of the last four years, and his run-scoring numbers should look much more like 2017s in the Cardinals lineup. The only thing keeping Goldy outside the first round is the lack of SB that used to propel him to the fantasy elite. He attempted a career-low 11 SB last season and joins a team that attempted just 95 in 2018. Expect strong numbers in four roto categories from Goldy in 2019, as all four experts rank him as a second-round value. 

There are plenty of reasons to be excited about the Atlanta Braves in 2019, as the team boasts an explosive offense filled with young firepower plus the addition of "The Bringer of Rain" Josh Donaldson. Freeman will be at the heart of it all, hitting over .300 for the fourth straight season while being a serious threat for triple-digit Runs and RBI. The main factor that drops Freeman below Goldy in 2019 is the regression of power. He hit just 23 bombs last season, as his ISO and HR/FB rate reverted back to their 2015 counterparts. The elite consistency in the BA and run scoring, plus the modest dabble of SB keeps Freeman as a safe top-25 pick. He should leave the draft boards shortly after Goldschmidt is taken.

Tier 2

Anthony Rizzo joined his best bud, Kris Bryant, in having a down year last season, but averaged 32 HR and a .282 BA from 2014-2017 and is still 29 years old. Just a slight uptick in his HR/FB ratio towards his career average, plus another off-season of improving for KB, Javier Baez, Willson Contreras, and Kyle Schwarber will have Rizzo right back among the top-three fantasy first basemen.

Rhys Hoskins smashed 34 dongs in his first full MLB season and will be greatly aided by batting behind the Phillies two newest additions, Jean Segura and Andrew McCutchen. The raw power mixed with extreme pulled fly-ball tendencies suggest there is plenty of room for improvement on the 16.0 HR/FB% we saw from Hoskins last season. Pierre's ranking shows the second-round ceiling, while Nick's fifth-round ranking represents the floor thanks to a lackluster BA.

Matt Carpenter enjoyed a career-year in 2018, going yard 36 times and scoring 111 runs. Carp has always been one to tear the cover off the ball, but he has taken it to new heights after leading the entire league with an absurd 49.0 Hard%. We'd love to say we expect HR regression in 2019, but when someone is doing that to the baseball where do you expect it to go other than the stands?! His 19.1 HR/FB% was actually the lowest among hitters in the top-five Hard%. Like we mentioned previously, the Cardinals lineup should produce plenty of runs this year, and their powerful leadoff hitter will thrive again. I've always been a Carpenter fanboy thanks to the hard-hit rates and OBP, but the multi-position eligibility really boosts his value for me - hence the fourth-round ranking. He finished 2018 as the 35th ranked player in fantasy and has the top first basemen in baseball hitting behind him this year.

Tier 3

Cody Bellinger was unable to live up to his lofty second-round fantasy expectations last season after hitting 39 HR in 132 games as a rookie in 2017.  Some would call it a classic “Sophomore Slump”, but the power certainly regressed for the 23-year-old. He hit just 25 taters in 2018, as his HR/FB ratio dropped 10 points from the rookie campaign. But despite the HR totals, Bellinger still showed plenty to be excited about for 2019. He swiped 14 bags and was only caught once all year, lowered his strikeout rate by 3% while raising his contact rates, and maintained a hard hit rate over 40%. Expect positive regression in his ugly LHP and Home splits in 2019, leading to a spike in HR and a big bounce-back for the Dodgers stud. I seem to be the biggest believer in Bellinger this year and would gladly take him at the end of the third round.

Joey Votto shocked the fantasy world last season with a career-low 12 HR and "just" a .284 BA after hitting 36 and .320 the year before. Do not be fooled though, because the 9.5 HR/FB% was also a career-low while his 41.0 Hard% was a personal best. The power will rebound and his supporting cast looks much better for 2019 after the acquisitions of Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp. As the seventh-ranked 1B, the BA and run production alone will be worth the risk.

On the surface, it appears Jose Abreu took a big step back in 2018, setting career lows with a .265 BA, 22 HR, and a 114 wRC+. But when you peel back a layer, you realize his peripherals look fairly identical to his previous four consistently productive seasons. The main difference was missing 30 games due to a terrible-luck injury that will make any male wince. Go look up the diagnosis if you don't remember, and then you will understand the man having a bit of a "down" season. With the batted ball statistics all in line with his career averages, there's no reason to expect anything in 2019 other than what Abreu gave fantasy owners since joining the MLB. He is still a top-10 fantasy first baseman, and represents some value at his current ADP, especially when Manny Machado joins his lineup...

 

Rankings Analysis - Middle Tiers

Tier 4

Edwin Encarnacion was part of Cleveland's money-saving operation this off-season, and will now be playing home games at Safeco in 2019. Despite 2018 feeling like a down year for the veteran, it was the SEVENTH straight season EE hit at least 32 HR and fourth straight with 100+ RBI. The BA has slowly decreased each year as his K% steadily increases and the speed evaporates, but there is a lot to be said about the power consistency. View him as the Nelson Cruz of first basemen. Through 27 career games at Safeco, Encarnacion has hit 13 XBH with a .966 OPS, and he lands just out of the top-75 in our rankings.

Robinson Cano is back in New York sans-pinstripes and Daniel Murphy gets to see his ball play in the thin air of Coors Field. Cano missed half the 2018 season due to a PED suspension but looked completely rust-free upon his return. His half-season translates to a 20 HR, 88 R, 100 RBI campaign with a BA hovering around the .300 mark. In his 14 career games at Citi Field, Cano hit nine XBH with a .298/.344/.561 slash. If the 36-year-old's body can hold up all year, you're looking at a slightly poor man's Freddie Freeman fantasy season that you can possibly grab outside the top-100 right now.

Daniel Murphy is generating a lot of buzz right now, as most players do when they join the Rockies. Injuries derailed his 2018 season, but he is just one year removed from back-to-back campaigns with at least 23 HR and a .322 BA. He is projected to hit behind Charlie Blackmon and in front of Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story. Talk about a fantasy boost. Through 120 career PA at Coors Field, he has hit 15 XBH but with a monstrous .330/.358/.536 line. If DJ LeMahieu can hit .348 at Coors, one can only imagine what kind of boost Murphy will provide your fantasy team's BA in 2019. It looks like the Coors move got me more excited than the other experts, so hope your league is like my colleagues and lets you scoop Murph up past the eighth round, where he will be a steal.

Matt Olson had a very similar year as Cody Bellinger in 2018. Coming off a heroic 2017 rookie performance with 24 bombs in just 59 games, he was a major fantasy buzz-kill when he only hit five more over an entire season. But also like Bellinger, Olson decreased the strikeouts and raised his Hard% a whole seven points to a sexy 47.3%. If this LHB played in Yankee Stadium he could be putting up Joey Gallo HR totals. But unfortunately, he plays in Oakland where he hit just .227 in 2018 and pairing with Bellinger yet again, struggled taking southpaws deep. The Athletics have a sneaky-good top two-thirds of a lineup for 2019 and we expect the powerful hard-hit rates of Olson to translate to a higher HR/FB% with a large sum of RBI in his second full season. If you are looking for sheer upside at this point in the draft, you can wait out Cano and Murphy and ride the 24-year-old.

Tier 5

Well at this point you've waited too long to grab a first baseman, and now comes the punishment. The fifth tier is loaded with disappointment. Eric Hosmer landed a huge eight-year contract last offseason and returned the favor with a 95 wRC+. Buster Posey can no longer be trusted as a fantasy first baseman, and then there's Miggy. Miguel Cabrera was looked at as the top bounce-back fantasy player of 2018 after hitting a career-low .249 with just 16 HR the year before. But instead, injuries kept him off the field for all but 38 games. Now 36 years young in April with a less-than-appealing lineup around him, Miggy can't be trusted with more than a CI slot to help you in the BA department. Getting a no-doubt future HOF in the 12th round isn't ever a terrible idea.

Speaking of disappointment, I was personally burned by Sano in multiple places last season as I predicted him to rebound from his knee surgery and hit a massive amount of HR in 2018. Instead, he had the worst season of his career, and failed to stay up with the big league club or hit above the Mendoza line. His 38.5 K% was the worst in the bigs among hitters with at least 250 PA, EVEN CHRIS DAVIS. He is greatly aided by the recent signing of Nelson Cruz, who now can serve not only as a hitting mentor (hopefully) but also lineup protection as Sano works on his approach at the plate. The talent and untapped power are still there, and he's never owned a Hard% under 40%. Still just 25 years old, Sano could prove to be a HR sleeper if you are looking light in the category in the middle of your fantasy drafts. The dual-position eligibility doesn't hurt either.

The fifth tier is not all bleak and dreary, however. Undoubtedly the biggest surprise of the 2018 season, Max Muncy exploded for 35 bombs in under 500 PA for the Dodgers after not hitting more than 25 in any of his six seasons in the minor leagues. There is no way he duplicates the 29.4 HR/FB% over a full season, but you can't discredit a guy that owned a 47.4% hard-hit rate hitting in a potent lineup. It's fitting that Muncy and Travis Shaw are right next to each other in our rankings because I view them as having very similar 2019 seasons. Both are CI and MI eligible (depending on your league), which will be a great value boost once the injury bugs start biting your lineups, and both carry big power upside. I don't trust either as my starting first baseman, which is why you want to fill that slot prior to reaching this tier.

Tier 6

Luke Voit is quite the polarizing figure and yet another monstrous human-being in pinstripes. After joining the Yankees, he smacked 14 HR in just 39 games while boasting a .333 BA and 1.095 OPS. In 62 big league games with the Cardinals in 2017, he hit just four dingers with a .246 BA. His .350 ISO from last year is absolutely unsustainable, as is his laughable 40.5 HR/FB%, even in that little league stadium. He's not a big fly-ball hitter, but his 28.0% line-drive rate and 47.0% hard-hit rate prove this dude is no bum. Plus, he should be hitting fifth or sixth for the Yankees. The SwStr% is comparable to Khris Davis and Giancarlo Stanton, but the ox still showed good discipline with an O-Swing% that would have ranked Top-50 in the league over a full season. If you truly believe 2018 was a glimpse into the future, like our expert Nick, you pull the trigger in the ninth round and save all your league's snide chat comments to shove in their face at the end of the season. But if you are like the rest of us, let him slide at least five more rounds to give yourself a good value opportunity.

Carlos Santana returns back to Cleveland where HR are handed out to LHB (or switch hitters facing RHP, you get the point) and where he will bat behind two top-five fantasy MVPs. The modest power and RBI potential will prove beneficial at the CI slot or backup 1B in standard leagues, even with the atrocious BA. But if you are in a league of advanced gentlemen and play with OBP instead of BA, bump this dude up two tiers!

With Goldy moving into town, Jose Martinez won't be seeing much time at first base this year, but that doesn't mean we won't be using him there in fantasy. Heading into 2018, Martinez was a vastly popular sleeper pick in the fantasy community, and he didn't disappoint out the gate. He smashed 13 HR in the first half, and it appeared that a late-blooming star had been born. Unfortunately, the power quickly faded after the All-Star break, and he ended with just 17 bombs. The good news is the stellar 2017 BA accompanied by an absurd .350 BABIP appears to be legit, as his encore performance last year ended with a .351 BABIP and .305 BA. Martinez hits a high number of hard-hit line drives, which will continue to reward fantasy owners with a shiny average. Pierre has concerns about playing time, but despite the modest level of power, the run production and BA is a great value to fantasy lineups at this point in drafts.

 

Rankings Analysis - Lower Tiers

Tier 7

The seventh tier is a fun one and will be a popular place for grabbing low risk/ high reward flyers at the end of fantasy drafts this season. Five of the names are on new teams. Jay Bruce joins a new-look Mariners offense and looks to stay healthy and get back to his 2016-2017 ways where hit smacked 33 and 36 bombs, respectively. Jake Bauers joins Carlos Santana in Cleveland (remember, lefties mash in CLE), as Yonder Alonso leaves the tribe for the south side of Chicago. C.J. Cron becomes the everyday first baseman for the revamped Twins offense fresh off a breakout campaign in which he hit 30 HR, and Justin Bour looks to finally capitalize on the power potential in LA with Mike Trout.

Tyler White looks to take over DH duties for the Astros this season, after hitting .276 with 12 HR in just 237 PA in 2018. He won't blow you away in any category, but hitting anywhere in that lineup can produce runs. In leagues with daily roster moves, you can take full advantage of White's prowess against LHP, where he boasted a 176 wRC+ and 1.010 OPS last year.

Trey Mancini is going to hit you 23-25 HR and should be the everyday lead-off hitter, albeit for the worst team in baseball. His BABIP took a huge dip from 2017, which resulted in a rather ugly .242 BA. He doesn't hit the ball hard enough, and he is nowhere near fast enough to turn a 54.6 ground-ball rate into a decent BA. But like I said, he's a lead-off hitter who also carries OF eligibility. We can find a use for that.

Despite all the exciting names in exciting new places in this group, it's all really just a distraction. Tier seven is the Peter Alonso show, and by the time March comes around, he could be a top-150 draft pick in fantasy. The highly-touted prospect hit 36 HR with 118 RBI across two levels of the minors last year, after hitting 18 HR in less than 400 PA the previous season. Many would look at the short success Jeff McNeil had last season, plus the addition of Robinson Cano and say that there is currently no opening for Alonso. But Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen has repeatedly given Alonso high praise and stated he is giving the 24-year-old every chance to win the starting first base job this spring. We all know the Mets will most likely make the business decision of waiting 12 days into the season to save valuable service time - but it's hard to imagine Alonso not being in the Mets starting lineup once that day passes.

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RotoBaller Early Mock Draft Analysis (Rounds 3-10)

A group of 10 RotoBaller fantasy baseball experts recently came together to conduct a slow mock draft for the 2019 season. Was it way too early? That all depends on who is asking. But with it complete, we can start to look at where players ended up on the board.

This is the first staff mock draft but will not be the last prior to the start of the MLB season. I'll take a look at rounds 3-10 to analyze where the values were found and where some of the biggest reaches were made.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to Tweet me @RowdyRotoJB

 

Early 2019 Mock Results


Click table to see enlarged view

 

Overview

The third round started with Anthony Rizzo, followed by the gnarliest of SP runs you'll ever see. Carlos Correa and Kris Bryant joined Rizzo in the Ignored but Not Forgotten Club, followed by a Whit Merrifield sighting at #30 overall. Clayton Kershaw dropped all the way to #33 overall, and Juan Soto was taken by yours truly a full two rounds later than fellow NL ROY finalist (well, the winner) Ronald Acuna. The first RP was drafted in the 5th round, but at least it was the correct RP in Edwin Diaz, and the AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell lasts until pick #50. The Yankees kind-of-still shiny new toy James Paxton was drafted in the 6th round, two picks after Playoffs stud Walker Buehler, and Mitch Haniger went at #66 immediately following his teammate Nelson Cruz. The first Catcher, the Kraken, was taken in the 8th round, and the first non-closer RP Josh Hader was taken for ratio help at #85. The 9th round finished with 2nd half breakout-rookie Adalberto Mondesi, and we finish up with Brian Dozier as this article's Mr. Irrelevant at #100 overall.

 

Favorite Picks

Blake Snell, TB - SP13 (#50 Overall)

The guy is 25 years old, won the AL Cy Young award, and finished 2018 as the SP4 (12th overall) in 2018 fantasy leagues. All of this, and Troy was able to scoop him up at the end of the 5th round as the 13th SP off the board? What were the rest of us smoking? His xFIP was a run and a half higher than his ERA due to a .241 BABIP and 88.0 LOB%, but I don't think anyone doubts the legitimacy from this season. I think this will actually be a fairly common draft spot for Snell in 2019, just due to guys looking to grab just one ACE in the early rounds generally, and despite the breakout Cy Young campaign Snell just isn't instilled in peoples minds as a true fantasy ace yet. *Whispers, He is though.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., TOR - 3B14 (#87 Overall)

Despite all of the hype, and seeing the fantasy impact Juan Soto and Ronald Acuna had immediately upon their big league arrivals, Little Guerrero dropped all the way down to Ellis in the ninth round. The kid mashed all the levels of Minor League this season, hitting 20 total HR in just 408 PA, and hitting .402 across 266 PA in AA and .336 through 128 PA in AAA. Steamer projects Guerrero with a 75/22/77/.306 line in 2019, which basically makes him Anthony Rendon on a bad team, drafted four rounds later with massive upside.

Adalberto Mondesi, KC - 2B10 (#90 Overall)

After massively disappointing in his two previous big league stints, the spawn of Raul Mondesi defined the word BREAKOUT this season. In just 291 PA, the 23-year-old amassed 14 HR, 32 SB, and a .276 BA. Simple math exaggeratedly shows us 28/64 potential from Mondesi over a full season. WHAT?! This absurd ceiling alone is enough to warrant a draft pick much earlier than where Troy got him in the 9th round. I've seen him go as early as the SECOND round in early mock drafts this offseason.

 

Least Favorite Picks

Kenley Jansen, LAD - RP2 (#57 Overall)

Who the hell took a closer that needs offseason heart surgery, allowed a 5.71 ERA in his last 17.1 IP, and blew back to back saves in the World Series? Oh...it was me. Looking back, I probably should have taken Zack Greinke, but I am a sucker for relief pitchers. I don't even pay attention to saves; I just want the ERA/WHIP dominance and the steady sprinkle of strikeouts. I usually can't pass up elite bullpen arms. But with the "down" season he had in 2018, the unknown of how the irregular heart-beat actually affects his game, or whether or not the surgery will actually fix it, I think you let Jansen drop to a decent value or let another manager take the risk where I took him. I'd much rather snag Blake Treinen two rounds later.

Marcell Ozuna, STL - OF19 (#58 Overall)

Ozuna reverted right back to his pre-2017 ways this season, almost repeating his 2016 numbers, and finished the year as the 77th ranked player in fantasy. As of now, I have to assume the 23.4 HR/FB% that led to 37 HR and .355 BABIP that produced a .312 BA in 2017 were career outliers and the 69/23/88/.280 line is more of what we can expect again in 2019. It's a safe pick with his '18 numbers being the floor for the past three seasons, but I would rather take every OF that went in the following round: Eddie Rosario, Tommy Pham, Nelson Cruz, Lorenzo Cain, Justin Upton, and Mitch Haniger.

 

Sneakiest Values

Zack Wheeler, NYM - SP24 (#91 Overall)

I love taking any chance I get to talk about Zack Wheeler, my fellow East Paulding High School alum. Zack took a massive step forward in 2018, setting a career-high in K% and a career-low in BB% while posting a 3.25 FIP over 182.1 IP. But what was most impressive was managing to cut his Hard% from 32.8 in 2017 down to 24.8 - second lowest in the league in 2018. Wheeler found success by increasing his fastball usage and doing away with the sinker. He threw the fastball 8% more this season and finished with a 22.7 wFA which was fifth-highest among starters. The cheese was devastating, and it got better as the season wore on. After posting a 4.44 ERA over the first half of the season, Wheeler was quite possibly the best pitcher in baseball after the All-Star break, posting a 1.68 ERA which was slightly better than even his Cy Young-winning teammate. There are big things coming in 2019 for the pride of Paulding County, GA.

Corey Seager, LAD - SS10 (#67 Overall)

After injuries ruined the end of his 2017 season, many of us expected Lil Seager to bounce back to his 2016 form where he finished as the 43rd ranked player in fantasy. Instead, the poor guy needed Tommy John surgery before the month of April was over. Steamer projects a repeat of his shortened 2017 campaign this upcoming season, which is fair considering the question of when exactly Seager will be back in the lineup every day. Even if that is the relative floor, then Ellis scooped him up at a fair value. But if he comes out of this recovery and regains that 2016 stuff, or even takes a step forward as most 24-year-olds tend to do, then what a steal for the MIF slot.

 

Biggest Reaches

Whit Merrifield, KC - 2B5 (#30 Overall)

Does Whit Merrifield warrant a draft pick in the top 30 after what he did this season? Absolutely. He finished 2018 as the 19th ranked player in fantasy. He led the league in SB (45) and had a higher BA (.304) than the next seven speedsters behind him - Mookie Betts was the eighth. But as he enters his age 30 season, you got to assume the legs start to slow down, and that BABIP that jumped 50 points after 2017 has to come back to the norm. Not to mention, the Royals will continue to be a hot mess in 2019, so the run scoring possibilities remain limited. So does he warrant the pick, yes. Should he be taken that early, no. Especially considering the two 2B behind him on the draft board are super-hyped rookie phenoms, I feel you can wait to pull the trigger on Merrifield. Ozzie Albies was taken 38th overall and Gleyber Torres was taken 59th.

Matt Carpenter, STL - 1B4 (#35 Overall)

Again, another example of a player being drafted where he technically should based on 2018, but leaves zero room for value in 2019. Also, I may be the worlds biggest non-Cardinal supporting Matt Carpenter fan. In fact, I predicted the massive season back in March (pay no attention to any of the other predictions). The dude just turned 33, but we want to draft him exactly where he finished the 2018 season ranked and ahead of young studs like Rhys Hoskins and Cody Bellinger? Jesus Aguilar is five years younger, and finished just two spots behind Carpenter in 2018. Try to find his name in the top 100 of our draft....I'll wait. In light of more context, Connelly looks to have drafted him as his second baseman (and he did draft Bellinger the next round) so it's better than I'm making it sound. But even then, as a second baseman we go right back to my point with Whit Merrifield. Reaching for the age before the young beauties even get picked is bold. Are these two picks bad? No, I love Carpenter and Merrifield. I would just rather let the field take the new shiny toys and scoop up my reliable studs later to maximize value.

 

Best Team

Tie - Ellis/ Brendan

I love both teams for separate reasons. Ellis executed my usual fantasy baseball draft strategy flawlessly. 1. Draft stud hitters early focusing on MIF and OF, which he did with Altuve, Judge, Benintendi, and Story covering all categories. 2. Make up for lack of pitching by getting a huge upside young SP with a couple of excellent RP to counter the ERA/WHIP baggage your late round SP fill-ins will carry: enter Buehler, Diaz, and Treinen. 3. Ignore CIF early, as they tend to be the deepest offensive positions. He grabbed Vladimir Guerrero Jr (as mentioned above) for 3B, and having a leg up at the Catcher position from Realmuto partly makes up for not having an "elite" first baseman.

Brendan, on the other hand, played my alternate draft strategy perfectly, typically reserved for keeper leagues or leagues I know all the other managers and I know I won't get the guys I want based on their predicted reaches/biases. That strategy is to sit and enjoy the draft, and take what the field gives me. Almost every stud that dipped in value from a "down" season in 2018, Brendan gladly gobbled up. Paul Goldschmidt, Bryce Harper, Carlos Correa, Clayton Kershaw, Noah Syndergaard, Justin Turner, and A.J. Pollock all present fantastic return on investment potential from where he drafted them. For the record though, not a fan of Goldy over JD Martinez or Christian Yelich.

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2018 Pitching Leaders: Hard Hit Rate

What's up all you fellow sad Fantasy Baseball fans? Now that the 2018 MLB season is behind us, and we were blessed to witness the greatest baseball team to ever play on a diamond (yes I am a Sox, fight me), we are left to reflect on an incredible season with some incredible players.

For this piece, I look at the league leaders in Lowest Hard Hit Rate allowed among pitchers. I break down three Starters whose '18 Hard% warrants a discussion, and of course three Relievers too since I am the world's biggest bullpen fan.

Let's start breaking things down.

In case you were curious, here is the 2018 Leaderboard for the lowest Hard Hit rate allowed among Starting Pitchers with at least 100 IP - courtesy of FanGraphs.

Obviously, we see some no-brainers on the list; Aaron Nola, Chris Sale, Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. No need to break Cy Young finalists down. We also see the usual soft contact-inducing guys: Dallas Keuchel, Tanner Roark, Trevor Williams, Charlie Morton, and Kyle Hendricks. Then there are the decrepit Anibal Sanchez and CC Sabathia. The leftover names are the ones I was interested in diving into their peripherals and advanced statistics. The three SP I chose - Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, and Zach Eflin all three not only made strides in the Hard Hit department this season, but also simultaneously maintained a Soft Hit Rate of over 20%.

2018 Pitching Leaders: Hard Hit Rate

Noah Syndergaard, NYM - 21.9 Hard%

I predicted Thor to come back from the injury that kept him out of nearly the entire 2017 season in a huge way, a Cy Young award to be exact. He wasn't quite that dominant but did manage a 13-4 campaign with a 2.80 FIP. Coming back from the torn lat muscle, his strikeout rate dropped 5% from 2016, but still managed over a K per inning over 154.1 IP. Despite not missing as many bats as some of the prominent aces in the league, Thor produced the lowest Hard% and highest Soft% of his career. These batted ball results may lie in his pitch selection, as he is throwing the fastball less, and the sinker and off-speed stuff more. This is a smart approach, as his fastball is quickly losing effectiveness and was slightly above league-average in 2018.  The velocity is of no concern as he still leads all starters in average velo on fastballs, sinkers, and sliders - but as you can see in the 2016 BA/P graph on his fastball vs the same stat in 2018, the league isn't intimidated anymore.

Still only 26 years old, Thor is primed for a big 2019 season. With 2017 well behind him, look for his 13.6 SwStr% to result in a much higher K/9 and that .320 BABIP to drop to match the absurdly low Hard hit rates. He was taken at #48 overall in the recent Too Early RotoBaller Mock Draft as the SP12.

 

Zack Wheeler, NYM - 24.8 Hard%

I love taking any chance I get to talk about Zack Wheeler, my fellow East Paulding High School alum. Zack took a massive step forward in 2018, setting a career high in K% and a career low in BB% while posting a 3.25 FIP over 182.1 IP. But what most impressive, and most important in this particular article, was managing to cut his Hard% from 32.8 in 2017 down to 24.8 - second lowest in the league in 2018. Almost completely contrary to his teammate Syndergaard, Wheeler found success by increasing his fastball usage and doing away with the sinker. He threw the fastball 8% more this season and finished with a 22.7 wFA which was fifth highest among starters. The cheese was devastating, and it got better as the season wore on. Check out his 1st half SLG/P graph on fastballs vs the same in the 2nd half.

After posting a 4.44 ERA over the first half of the season, Wheeler was quite possibly the best pitcher in baseball after the All-Star break, posting a 1.68 ERA which was slightly better than even his Cy Young-winning teammate Jacob deGrom. His 21.1 Hard% in the second half was only bested by the god of thunder. The 28-year-old Paulding County, GA product should be a target in all your 2019 drafts. He was taken at #91 overall in the Too Early RotoBaller Mock Draft, as the SP24.

 

Zach Eflin, PHI - 29.1 Hard%

At one point or another in your 2018 fantasy leagues, Eflin was a popular waiver target, and rightfully so if it was during the first half. Since we did an opposites thing with Thor and Wheeler, here's another one. As good as Wheeler was in the 2nd half, Eflin was equally as bad. After posting an impressive 3.15 ERA with a 26.0 Hard% to start the year, Eflin finished with a gruesome 5.76 ERA and 32.3 Hard% after the All-Star break. Regardless, he threw 128.0 IP and posted a career-high 8.65 K/9 with a 3.80 FIP. He found his early success and low Hard% by the way of his off-speed pitches. He used his changeup more than ever and threw a slider that boasted a 6.2 wSL value. All-in-all, he generated swing and misses at a 10.3% rate. Aiding in the success of the off-speed stuff was his career high velocity on his fastballs. So what happened to Eflin down the stretch? He had control issues, as his BB/9 rose from 1.83 to 3.49. But he also lost command of his best pitch, the slider. See how beautiful his pitch location graph is for the slider in the first half? You can almost just picture it dropping away from right-handed batters as the hitter is lunging with a half-hearted swing. Now, look at the next graph as it becomes less grouped, more sporadic, and higher in the zone.

Despite the second half struggles, Eflin showed plenty of improvement and potential in 2018. Expect the command to stick around longer this year to keep the Hard% down and those ugly away splits to even out. Eflin went undrafted in our Too Early RotoBaller Mock Draft, consisting of 260 players drafted. He definitely deserves consideration as a late round flyer for the back of your rotation/bench, or at the very least needs to start the season on your watch list.

 

Relief Pitcher Mentions

Seranthony Dominguez. PHI - 22.9 Hard%

The pitching in the NL East is loaded. Another pleasant surprise from the Phillies this season was SIRAnthony Dominguez. He hurled 58.0 IP out of the bullpen, flexing an impressive 11.48 K/9 and a 2.85 FIP. His 32.0 K% was second to only Jace Fry among all rookie pitchers. Dominguez generated a 15.6 SwStr% thanks to a 98 mph fastball and a ferocious slider that earned a 7.2 wSL value. Like his teammate Eflin, Dominguez wore down after the All-Star break, posting a 4.81 ERA following a sexy 1.60 ERA over the first half. Also, like Eflin, the cause was almost solely control, made evident by his gross 5.92 BB/9 down the stretch. But despite issuing all those free passes, the rookie maintained a low Hard% all season. In fact, if that list up top included relief pitchers, Dominguez would be sitting at third-lowest Hard% in all of baseball. I have no doubt that as his experience increases and the walks decrease, Dominguez will be a stud out of the Phillies bullpen in 2019. Sir-Anthony was drafted by yours truly at #194 overall in the Too Early RotoBaller Mock Draft as the RP23.

Adam Ottavino, FA - 25.3 Hard%

I love Craig Kimbrel and Andrew Miller, but Adam Ottavino is the RP I am most interested in this offseason. Ottavino boasted a 2.43 ERA over 77.2 IP in 2018 with the Rockies. Not many pitchers can thrive in Coors Field, but when you're only giving up a 25.3 Hard%, a career low 68.1 Contact%, and striking out 12.98 batters per 9, I guess it's fairly easy. After giving up a 36.5 Hard% in 2017, Ottavino shifted to a heavy dose of the sinker over the fastball (38.5%), and still possesses an absolutely GNARLY slider which gets thrown at a 46% rate and is 12 mph slower than the cheese. The elite combo of his Sinker (9.3 wSI) and Slider (10.6 wSL) mowed down batters this year, and even if they were lucky enough to make contact, it was mostly weak sauce. Ottavino was drafted #227 overall in the Too Early RotoBaller Mock Draft, but could shoot up draft boards by March if he signs with a team needing a closer.

Jordan Hicks, STL - 28.2 Hard%

A lot of hype around this guy, and rightfully so. He could have the Cardinals closer gig in 2019 after never playing above High-A ball in the minors. He threw 77.2 IP in his rookie season, finishing with a 3.59 ERA and an 8.11 K/9. Hicks is an extreme ground ball pitcher, throwing his blistering 101 mph Sinker 72% of the time, and following it up with an 86 mph Slider. This combo generated a 3.25 GB/FB along with the 28.2 Hard%. His overall numbers were slightly skewed thanks to an abysmal ending to the season, in which he held a 6.97 ERA over his last 10 IP. A great sign from Hicks was his Hard% dropping as the season went on. For a rookie throwing 77+ IP, that is very promising. Another youngster with control issues, I expect the 5.21 BB/9 to drop in 2019 and Hicks to be a great source of saves if the Cards decide to hold out on signing a closer this offseason. Hicks was drafted at #210 overall in the Too Early RotoBaller Mock Draft, obviously a potential STEAL, but like Ottavino his value could be affected greatly by the offseason.

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How To Use The DFS Lineup Optimizer - Featured Tool Overview

Daily Fantasy Sports is becoming more and more competitive every day with the big sharks heavily diluting the pools and elbowing out the casual players with thousands and thousands of entries featuring the same algorithm, computer-generated lineups. You may be a pen and paper kind of lineup generator like myself - but how many days of the week do we actually have time for that kind of knuckle dragging?

Bottom line - if you want to succeed in the DFS world, you need a fast process for data gathering and presentation. Enter the RotoBaller DFS Lineup OptimizerThis is much more than you're typical Lineup Generator - this is a one stop shop for research - where even the old school guys like myself can process weather data, advanced statistics, vegas odds, and trends in less time than it takes to find your notepad and pencil. You tell the optimizer exactly what you are looking for in your lineup that day - and it will spit up to 150 (yes, 150) different variations of Optimized lineups based on your parameters and salary.

If you aren't using our Optimizer - plain and simple you are missing out on money. So I am going to walk you through all of its glory so you gain a better appreciation and understanding of this fantastic tool.

 

RotoBaller DFS Lineup Optimizer

The first step is the easiest. Pick what site you are using - FanDuel, DraftKings, or even Yahoo!. Then select the slate and contest type. Here you can select cash, GPP, or if you want to build your lineup based on trends you can even go with Last 30 or Last 60 for the hottest players.

 

Advanced Options

To the right of the contest type you will see a button for "Advanced Options". It may seem insignificant, but this is a portal to seem Statistical awesomeness. Here you can choose to filter your research to only show options that meet specific criteria that you deem necessary to bring down a tournament. These filters include Run Total - choosing guys on teams projected to score a lot of runs always helps, Salary, Point Projection - don't need to waste computer screen space or memory on guys who aren't going to score, Pts/$1K - if you only want guys returning value, Floor/Ceiling/Consistency Rating - trends for the last 30 days: guys who never scored below a certain point threshold or are the most consistent. You can even choose to only show guys playing at Home, or hitting in the heart of their respective teams Batting Order. It even gives you the option to exclude players whose game has above a specified percentage or rain that day! You can make save some serious time by setting these filters before you start the research process.

After you set your filters you now have the option to set a custom Lineup Budget and the max number of players you want to allow from the same team. You can even choose to input Batter vs Pitcher (BvP) influence into the optimizing process - which is always my favorite final-decision maker when it comes down to choosing between two players.

The last golden nugget you will find in the Advanced Options is some truly awesome and easy filters for the players. For pitchers you can choose to display only Strikeout Kings - or pitchers projected for a higher K/9 ratio, SP Favorites, or those pitching in Pitcher Parks that day. For hitters you can choose to display only Boom or Bust players - perfect for those GPP lines, All Around players - perfect for those cash lines, players in Hitter Parks that day, or even Lineup Values based on where the hitter is slated in the batting order.

Don't forget to save your custom settings to your Profile for quick access for the next day!

Projections

After you save the settings to your profile, next you are back at the main screen. Underneath the top row you see a row of buttons in blue, starting with Projections. This portion is the heart of the optimizer, and is pretty self explanatory. Based on your parameters and criteria these are the projected FP per player. You can sort to see the highest projected guys that you may want to Lock into your lineups - and likewise the lowest projected guys to Exclude from your lines.

 

Games

The next button you see going west to east is Games. This is your new One-stop-shop for all game information you need for DFS. It has weather - wind direction/speed, temperature, and precipitation percentage. It has starting lineups. It projected run totals - to help decide which SP to use for the easy W or which offense to stack, and even Vegas odds. Notice on this screen you can lock-in or exclude entire teams from your lineups. This is my favorite starting place when I start my daily research.

Players

The next button to the right is the lifeblood of the Lineup Optimizer: Players. This tab is a mixture of Projections and Games - and literally has ALL the necessary info but listed by Player. You can sort by Salary if you are looking for the perfect player to match your remaining monies. It has projected FP and CV - which is the players Value rating based on the FP and Salary. Next is my favorite part - the advanced statistics that would take you hours and hours to compile yourself. For pitchers it includes the opposing offenses wOBA vs same-handed pitching, ISO, and K%. For pitching it shows the opposing pitchers wOBA vs same-handed hitters, ISO, HR/9, and K%. Lastly if you continue scrolling to the right you will see Performance numbers. It has the players floor over the last 60 days - for cash games, the ceiling - for GPP, and his consistency rating to determine the players chance at returning value. I can sit on this page for 15 minutes and gather all the data I need to choose which players I want to target - something that could take me two hours on a statistics site.

 

Injuries

I absolutely hate the last 30 minutes before a slate starts - frantically looking for injury updates on players I have in my lineups, google searching like a fool. But no longer. The Injuries tab has literally all the injury updates and statuses you'll ever need. It gives you the ability to exclude all players on the DL, listed as OUT, or even players questionable for that day.

Stacks

The last few features I'd like to point out on the MLB DFS Lineup Optimizer are the row of goodies underneath the main tabs at the top of the screen. It starts with Stacks. If you ever look at the top of the leaderboard for your DFS contest, you will more than likely see the winner used a stack of some sort. Here you can choose for the optimizer to create a stack for you. Your first option is to create a Team Stack. You choose the number of different teams you want to create lineup stacks for. Next choose the team(s). Now how many players do you want from said teams? Lastly, it even lets you choose the batting order spots you want to target. The next stack option is Player Stacks. This is a team stack and player locks taken to the next level. You have your heart set on very specific hitters that you have to get in your line that day? Go ahead and choose up to four players and boom - they will be in all your optimized lineups.

 

Projection Models

After the Stack features, you come to my favorite feature on the Optimizer - the Projection Models. These are fast-easy ways to filter your results to exactly what you are looking for. From the players tab, you can watch the projected points change based on these "Bonus" stats being added into the formula. For pitchers you can select Park Factors, Opp Run Total, Moneyline, Opp wOBA, Opp ISO, and Opp K%. For hitters you can select Park Factors, Run Total, wOBA, ISO, and wRC+. Like I said previously, its basically you telling the formula to add additional weight to the things you care about more. Choose one, two, or all of them. There is not a more customer-customized Optimizer in the industry.

La Fin

After you have set your Advanced Options (and saved them to your profile), check the Game information, check the injury updates, excluded all your duds and locked in your studs, decided on a stack, and hand picked your specific Projection Models - now it is time to see the beauty unfold. Hit the red button. The Optimizer now takes into effect all your settings, categories, filters, models, exclusions, locks, and stacks and creates up to 150 DIFFERENT lineups for you. ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY!

This is hands down my favorite tool on the internet - not only for DFS, but for Fantasy Sports in general. I use this thing to make season-long league lineup decisions almost every day. I use it for injury and weather updates.

If you aren't using it you are losing IT - your DFS bankroll, that is. If you aren't sold yet, that's fine. Try it for one week, ON US, with a Free One Week Trial. But if you have come to visualize the sheer awesomeness of this tool - and you have realized the vital necessity to have it in your life... sign up for a PREMIUM ROTOBALLER MEMBERSHIP TODAY!

 

 

 




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FanDuel MLB DFS Lineup Picks (4/1/18): Daily Fantasy Baseball Advice

Happy Easter, RotoBallers and welcome to the first Sunday DFS slate of 2018. I am JB, and I will be your guide today. If you look out your window you will see a 12 game day, broken up on FanDuel into a Main (seven games) and an All Day slate. We are lacking a bonafide ace on the mound today, and the top pitching price is just $8,800 - which means the runs will be pouring in. I like to focus my picks on lower-priced hitters, so you can fit your favorite star in your lineup with ease. Plus it's just more fun for me that way.

The only weather concern for today's slate is out in Kansas City where there is over a 50% chance of rain......and snow. Not that you were planning on using Reynaldo Lopez or Jason Hammel anyways, but who knows how that will unfold.

In this article, I will be providing you with my daily fantasy baseball lineup picks for FanDuel on 4/1/18. The lineup picks will range from some of the elite players to mid-priced options and most of all - value plays. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me up on Twitter @RowdyRotoJB.

 

FanDuel DFS Pitchers

Jose Quintana - P, CHC @ MIA (FD - $8,800)

Quintana is the highest priced pitcher on the cheap slate today, and for good reason. First off, the Cubbies are the largest favorites on the day (-210). Second, and most importantly, these offenses have to be dead tired. The two squads went through a 17 inning marathon on Friday, and as I am currently typing this on Saturday night - they are squared off in extra innings yet again. Quintana will take advantage, not only facing sleep-deprived hitters, but doing so in spacious Marlins Park. Quintana pitched much better on the road in 2017 - rockin' a .275 wOBA, 2.73 FIP, and 9.8 K/9 in 16 Away starts.

Gio Gonzalez - P, WAS @ CIN (FD - $8,300)

After seeing Yu Darvish 93% owned last night, I am assuming the crowds will yet again be picking on the Marlins today. So if you are looking to differentiate - or save $500, I am going with Gio today. The Nationals have breezed to a 2-0 lead in this series, and today - bless their hearts, the Reds send Sal Romano to the mound. I am looking for Gio to come out of the gate like he did in 2017, when he went 3-0 with a 1.62 ERA across five April starts. He only faced Cincinnati once, but fired 8.1 shut out innings. Gio has the highest floor on today's slate, making him a great cash option. Did I mention he was 4-1 with a 2.73 ERA in his nine Day Game starts last year?

Rich Hill - P, LAD v SFG (FD - $8,600)

My favorite pitcher today unfortunately plays in the primetime Sunday Night Baseball matchup - meaning you'll have to brave the All Day slate to roster him. The Giants offense has scored just two runs against the Dodgers this series (Currently 5-0 Dodgers Bottom of the 6th) and Rich Hill is a monster at Dodger Stadium. In 2017 he posted a 2.77 ERA, .177 BAA, and 10.7 K/9 in 14 starts at Home. He also thoroughly enjoyed facing this offense last season. In his three starts against the Giants he was 2-0 with a 1.62 ERA, and struck out 18 in 16.2 IP. Last but not least, he boasted a 2.87 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and a sexy 11.4 K/9 in 16 Night Game starts.

 

FanDuel DFS Infielders

Jose Martinez - 1B, STL @ NYM (FD - $2,700)

I have a formula I use to choose the best hitter values on each slate, and it LOVES Martinez today. It wasn't a huge sample size, but this man crushed southpaws last season. Against LHP on the road, he owned a .421 ISO, .586 wOBA, and a 271 wRC+. Mix the small sample of greatness on the road for Martinez with the horrendous, hideous, frightful sample of home starts for Matz and its fairly simple to understand why I have to get Martinez in my C/1B slot today. At Home against RHB last year, Matz allowed a .642 SLG and .429 wOBA. Sure he has looked much better this Spring and 2017 could be an anomaly in his career, but he has to prove it first.

Also Consider: Logan Morrison - 1B, MIN @ BAL (FD - $2,400)

Rougned Odor - 2B, TEX vs HOU (FD - $2,600)

I'll admit I absolutely hate seeing him hit in the 8 hole this year, but I like Odor as a GPP option at the keystone position today. On the road against LHB last year, Gerrit Cole allowed a .533 SLG and .364 wOBA. At home against RHP Odor hit a .267 ISO, .351 wOBA, and a 114 wRC+. The floor is always ugly, but the ceiling could win you some dough in a tourney. Its hard to find a 30/15 hitter for $2,600 - yet here we are.

Jose Ramirez - 3B, CLE @ SEA (FD - $4,000)

I have saved you a bunch of dough up to this point, so let's splurge a little at the hot corner shall we? If you also own JRam in fantasy, you felt the frustration yesterday when old man Ichiro robbed us of a dong. Well he won't be able to reach this one today! Whenever the Tribe are on a road trip, JRam is instantly in my thoughts when considering hitters. Against RHP on the road last year, he owned a .300 ISO, .397 wOBA, and a 148 wRC+. He already has one bomb against Mike Leake in just four career AB, and I'm expecting that number to increase today.

Also Consider: Anthony Rendon, 3B, WAS @ CIN (FD - $3,400)

Paul DeJong - SS, STL @ NYM (FD - $2,700)

Yes, I really like the Cards right handed hitters today. If Matz shows up looking even half as bad as he was last season - I want some shares of the opposing offense. These prices make it hard it say no! Like his teammates Martinez and another to be named later, DeJong crushed LHP last year. Against southpaws on the road he hit a .381 ISO, .424 wOBA, and a 165 wRC+. As I already mentioned before Steven Matz was very bad at Home, and was very bad against RHB.

 

FanDuel DFS Outfielders

Tommy Pham - OF, STL @ NYM (FD - $2,800)

Okay, this is the last Cardinal in this article. But if we're talking about southpaw mashers, you can't leave Pham out. For some reason this guy loves to hit away from Busch Stadium too. Against LHP on the road last year he owned a .229 ISO, .396 wOBA, and a 146 wRC+. In his four games at Citi Field he hit two HR, a double, and a blistering .412/.474/.824. Matz better have his A++ stuff tomorrow, because these birds will be hackin'.

Nomar Mazara - OF, TEX vs HOU (FD - $2,600)

We talked about Gerrit Coles liberalism to LHB earlier, and like his teammate Odor, Mazara loves facing righties at Home. Last season he owned a .214 ISO, .382 wOBA, and 136 wRC+ against RHP in Arlington. He's got three hits with a dong over the last two days.

Mike Trout - OF, LAA @ OAK (FD - $4,900)

You never need a reason to use Mike Trout, but today you should be able to afford him and he's going to hit at least two bombs. Daniel Gossett was awful last year, and allowed a .650 SLG and .404 wOBA to RHB at Home. If you didn't know, Trout is the GOAT and owns a .310/.409/.578 career line against right handed pitching and a .522 SLG (14 HR) across 57 starts at the Coliseum.

Also Consider: Lonnie Chisenhall - OF, CLE @ SEA (FD - $2,300)

 

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JB's 10 Bold Predictions for 2018

Opening Day is rapidly approaching and our experienced writers will be offering their most daring predictions for the 2018 fantasy baseball season. Nick Mariano, Rick Lucks, Pierre Camus, and Kyle Bishop all have given it their best shot at being bold so far. But it's all been child's play up to this point.

Many people don't know this, but Bold is actually what the "B" in my name stands for. I live for the bold!

Lets get rowdy, shall we?

 

JB's 10 Rowdy Predictions for 2018

1. Evan Gattis finishes the season as the #1 Catcher in fantasy

Starting things off ROWDY as can be. A crowded lineup and two DL stints kept Evan Gattis from joining in on the 2017 HR craze. But let's not forget that he is just one year removed from hitting 32 HR in just 499 PA. This year he is slotted for starting DH duties with the retirement of Carlos Beltran, and FanGraphs projects him at 580 PA. I see this as very feasible with less time behind the plate - meaning less probability to spend time on the DL again. But why do I see El Oso Blanco as the top backstop in Fantasy? Well let's compare him to the current unanimous #1 ranked Catcher Gary Sanchez. Last year Sanchez hit scored 79 R, hits 33 bombs and drove in 90 RBI. This year he is similarly projected to go 72/31/90. Gattis is projected to score 71 R, hit 30 HR, and 93 RBI in that stacked Houston lineup. Current ADP consensus has Sanchez drafted 24th overall, with Gattis going off the board at 148th. What are we doing here??

I see the BA difference between the two catchers as the main argument (aside from the false injury risk). For the BA gawk, I point to the drastic drop in K% last year for Gattis - from 25.5% in 2016 to 15.4% in 2017. If this improved plate discipline and career-high contact mixed with a career-high LD% continues in 2018, the BA has the potential to continue rising up into the high .260's - which is also where I see Gary Sanchez finishing. El Oso Blanco is going to end up being one of the best values of the entire season.

 

2. Justin Bour hits 38 HR and is a Top 10 First Baseman

I made Bold predictions last year involving two Marlins that did not pan out. So obviously I have to double down this year on those same two players, starting with Justin Bour.

Despite missing the month of August with an oblique strain, Bour finished 2017 with 25 HR, 83 RBI, and a sexy .289 BA in 109 games. It was a pleasant surprise to see the youngster take a step forward against southpaws, hitting a respectable .253 compared to just .233 in 2016. He has also decreased his GB% and increased his LD% for the second year in a row. Even though injuries have prevented us from seeing the whole picture, the power is legit. Bour hit a HR every 17.16 PA. Edwin Encarnacion hit one every 17.61 PA - and hit 38 HR over a full season. Bour's .247 ISO ranked right in between Encarnacion and Jose Abreu. His 23% line drive percentage was the same as Joey Votto and is why his BA has and will continue to be beneficial. His monstrous 38.8 Hard% ranked right in between Mike Trout and Giancarlo Stanton. The kid can mash.

2018 Justin Bour is 2017 Justin Smoak - who just so happened to also hit 38 HR AND finish the season as the 10th ranked first baseman in fantasy. Sure the Marlins lineup is a shell of itself after losing Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Dee Gordon, and Marcell Ozuna, but did you watch the Blue Jays last year? While it is far from optimal, hitting clean up around veterans such as Starlin Castro, JT Realmuto, Martin Prado, and Cameron Maybin and the youngsters Lewis Brinson and Brian Anderson will be enough for Bour to put up useful run scoring numbers to go along with the impressive power and BA. It's happening this season!

 

3. Kyle Barraclough is the Marlins Closer by June, and is a Top 10 RP the rest of the season

Okay, now we get to Marlins Redemption Part II.  The closer situation in Miami is about predictable as they come. The 38 year old sinkerballer who battled back injuries all last season has the job to open Spring Training. The 27 year old fireballer who owns a 12.09 K/9 across 2 and a half Major League seasons is left to sit and wait. Brad Ziegler's velocity was at an all-time low last season, and it definitely affected the effectiveness of his offspeed pitches - which both saw negative weighted values for the first time in his career. He had a great April, then a flat-out awful May and June. Then had a great August, followed by an awful September. At the age of 38 and an ailing back, its obvious Ziegler can no longer be affective over a full season (or ever half a season), which is why the closer carousel will be spinning in Miami before the first three months are over.

Kyle "Bearclaw" Barraclough is by no stretch of the imagination a "safe" option in real life, but the fantasy upside is mesmorizing. Across 72.2 IP in 2016, he boasted a 14.00 K/9 and 2.85 ERA. His 5.45 BB/9 ratio however, showed that there was plenty of polishing left to do. Last season the strikeouts dropped drastically to a 10.36 K/9 while both his LD% and FB% increased. The good news from 2017 was a much better performance over the second half of the season for Bearclaw (2.13 ERA). Really it came down to two polarizing months: May and August. Across 10.2 IP in May, Barraclough owned a 5.91 ERA, 2.16 WHIP, and a 9.3 K/9. Over 9 IP in August, he owned a 1.00 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, and a 14.0 K/9. The main difference between those two months is ironic for a pitcher with command issues, because in May his pitches were all up in that strike zone. Here are the heat maps for his Fastball and Slider pitch location in May (Top Row) and then August (Bottom Row).

It sure looks like a guy who has a history of poor command who just issued seven walks in the month of April, trying to over-correct by pounding the heart of the strikezone. But in August he went back to the more YOLO style of pitch location, and the results were fantastic. Keep the fastball up, keep the slider down, sprinkle in the saves and you got a Top 10 RP.

 

4. Matt Carpenter returns to 2015 form, reaches 100 R and 100 RBI

Matt Carpenter is my kind of baseball player. Him and Freddie Freeman have been my favorite statistics guys for a few years -the on-base ability, the line drives, and especially the hard contact. Of course Freeman has blossomed into an absolute monster, where Carpenter has bounced back and forth and flirted with the fantasy star line on a few occasions. In 2015 Carpenter scored 101 R, smacked 28 HR, and plated 84 RBI. Since that outburst he has hit too many FB - most likely in attempt to avoid the shifts that have terrorized his BABIP. He was shifted to the top of the Cards lineup due to the fourt highest BB% in baseball (17.5%). So even in a down season the man's on base ability produced 91 R. This year Mike Matheny stated Carp will likely hit 3rd in the lineup - behind Dexter Fowler and Tommy Pham, and in front of Marcell Ozuna, Yadier Molina, and Paul DeJong. You can't ask for a much better situation for a guy that gets on base at a .384 clip. Can you imagine Joey Votto in that situation??

While the previously awesome line drive numbers are sadly diminishing and rising into flyballs, Carpenter still set a career high with a 42.2 Hard% in 2017, good for 8th best in the league. That kind of pop mixed with his elite plate discipline.. from the three hole in that offense - I can't imagine a world where Matt Carpenter doesn't end up with 100 RBI (would be a career first) and 100 R this year. Currently, FanGraphs (Depth Charts) projects for just five players to reach 100 R and 100 RBI in 2018. I'm predicting Carpenter makes it six - and you can draft him in the 12th round.

 

5. Miguel Sano hits over 40 HR, leads all Infielders

Now that the wait is over, and we know Sano will not be suspended by the league for a pending sexual assault case from 2015, I feel much better with this prediction. We have yet to see the full beast released from Sano over an entire season, even though we all know he has seemingly unlimited power potential. But I believe that 2018 is the year that we see the explosion. As you read in the previous bold prediction, I am a sucker for the hard contact and believe eventually it always leads to fantasy gold - except for Brandon Belt, I'm done waiting for that to come around. Sano had the fourth highest Hard% in baseball last year at 44.8%. He was practicaly leading the MLB in almost every Exit Velocity stat through the first two months of the season. At the All-Star break he had 21 HR, .538 SLG, and a .262 ISO. Then August came, and the poor guy was plunked on the same hand twice. I ain't making excuses for the guy, but that would sure affect my at bats for a hot minute. Nevertheless he hit only seven more dongs over the second half, and lost roughly six weeks to a nagging leg injury that was stated as a "stress reaction". It turned out to be a little bit more serious than that, and the youngster now has a titanium rod in his lower left leg.

Fast forward to this spring, and Sano has already returned to action. Sure he showed up to camp heavy, but it is kind of hard to do adequate cardio when recovering from metal being implanted into your leg. Plus, I'm not one to complain about a power hitter putting on a few pounds. He looks completely fine, Paul Molitor is pleased, and he has hit three bombs and four doubles in just 33 PA this spring. Try to remember the kid is 24 years old. The best is surely yet to come, and a whole lot of it is coming this season. He hits over 40 HR, and beats Joey Gallo for the just-now made up Infield HR Leader crown.

 

6. Joey Votto finishes as a Top 3 ranked hitter in fantasy and wins NL MVP

Just when you think Joey Vottomatic couldn't get any better, he goes and pulls a 2017. The king of plate discipline set a career high contact percentage, and a career low 5.7 SwStr%. I love this guy! But what really gets me excited about this year is the steps he took in the power department, much like the rest of the league. He enjoyed his highest FB% since 2009, his highest Pull% since 2008, and his highest ISO since 2010. All of this while seeing a drop in his HR/FB% from the two previous years and yet he still smacked 36 bombs. I mean, if that HR/FB% spikes to at least the 22% from 2016, and this less strikeouts/more flyballs trend continues for the legend... I can't even imagine what the possibilities are. But I will gladly throw out my rowdy attempt: 110/40/110/.320, oh and don't forget the seven SB. Only two players in the league reached the 100/40/100 threshold last season, sadly both are in pinstripes now, but neither of them peaked .300.

I understand the Reds offense leaves much to be desired, but like Justin Bour, there is plenty enough around Votto (more a compliment to him than the teammates) to reach my lofty expectations. Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett are coming off great seasons, Jesse Winker/Jose Peraza/ Nick Senzel could ignite a spark, and between Adam Duvall and Scott Schebler combined you have a useful hitter. Billy Hamilton is um, well, very fast at least. It's not ever a bold statement to say Joey Votto is going to be fantastic, but based on his second round ADP I don't think people are grasping how fantastic he is going to be. They obviously will once he wins the MVP award and finishes ranked ahead of all hitters not named Mike Trout or Jose Altuve.

 

7. Noah Syndergaard is the #1 ranked pitcher and wins the NL Cy Young

Here is another "bold" prediction that really isn't that bold based on the name, but yet Thor, the freaking god of Thunder, is being drafted in the third round. What are you people doing? 2017 was in fact a disaster, and probably has left a horrible taste in fantasy owners mouths after a torn lat muscle led to Syndergaard throwing just 30.1 IP. But did you see the numbers in those 30.1 innings? He boasted a 1.31 FIP, and in his four healthy full outings struck out 30 batters without issuing a single walk. Go back one year before that and he struck out 218 in 183.2 IP. The man is elite. His FB velocity was up for the third straight year, averaging 99.6 MPH, the highest of any pitcher not named Aroldis Chapman. His sinker is the fastest in the league (98.1 MPH). His slider is - well would you look at that - also the fastest in the league (93.2 MPH) and also has the 15th most vertical movement. I have to stop for a moment. I'm getting too excited.

Through 20 IP this spring, Thor owns a 1.35 ERA and a 10.35 K/9. It's not the perfection we've seen from Clayton Kershaw, but for a guy who barely pitched last season it's exactly what you want to see. After blaming his excessive bulking for the lat muscle injury last year, this off-season Syndergaard has worked on being more flexible, which hopefully I believe will lead to his first 200 IP season. What also has me amped up this season is the new Mets manager, Mickey Callaway. If you didn't know, he was previously the Cleveland Indians pitching coach, whose rotation has been pretty good since he took over in 2013. Also worth noting, Corey Kluber won the Cy Young in 2014. Now its Thor's turn.

 

8. Luis Castillo finishes the season as a Top 10 SP

By the way, this is not in reference to the minor leaguer in Philly, made that mistake on FanGraphs twice now. Castillo has been an extremely trendy player this off-season, both in sleeper AND busts columns. But I don't think anyone is as high on the kid as me. My infactuation started when I watched him pitch an eight inning gem against the Marlins last July. You can't fully grasp the potential of Castillo until you watch him pitch. Electric is more than an understatement, it's almost an insult. He instantly reminded me of my second all-time favorite baseball player - the late, great Jose Fernandez. The sizzling fastball, the fantastic changeup, and the unfair slider - I was in love.

I am sure everyone has done their own research on Castillo this draft season. You know he boasted a 27% strikeout rate, held opponents to a .198 BAA, AND produced a 59% groundball rate. Did you know only Carlos Martinez and Luis Severino owned a GB% over 50 and a K/9 over 9 in 2017? It is a rare ability. The liberalism on the long ball looks a bit concerning on the surface, I will admit. But his 17.2 HR/FB% was triple what it was in the minors. He also only allowed a 29% flyball rate with a Hard% less than 30, so obviously I expect positive regression in the HR/FB department. But if you look even deeper, he already fixed the issue over the second half of last season. He allowed a 1.96 HR/9 in his four starts prior to the All-Star break, and a 0.81 HR/9 the rest of the way. You can see a more visual representation below, in his ISO/P heat maps from June/July compared to August/September.

The stuff is already there. Now in 2018 he has a chance to flaunt it over a full season, and it is going to be beautiful.

 

9. A.J. Minter is the Braves Closer by August, and is a Top 10 RP in 2019 ADP

Arodys Vizcaino has a firm hold on the closer role to begin the season. He posted a great stat line in 2017, nailing down 14 Saves with a 2.83 ERA in 57.1 IP. He has always been known for having great stuff, and the 10.05 K/9 from 2017 shouldn't be a surprise from anyone. But there are two reasons why I think by August Vizcaino will not be the man for the Bravos: Regression and A.J. Minter.

Vizcaino's batted ball profile changed drastically last season when he went from a 1.81 GB/FB ratio in 2016 all the way down to a 0.85 in '17. He was very fortunate to own such a high FB% (45.3) and Hard% and walk away with just a 10.4% HR/FB. Speaking of being fortunate, his BABIP and LOB% went from .333 and 65.2% in 2016 to .248 and 83.3% in 2017. Same pitch usage, same pitch velocity, same contact rates - but as you can see...much different results. His xFIP last season, 4.21, was pretty much right on par with his 4.42 ERA from 2016 and I think more accurately depicts Vizcaino than last years 2.83 ERA does.

Now we all know the Braves have remodeled recently, and are not expecting to be vying for the top spot in the NL East this year. This is why I think at the trade deadline a desparate playoff-fringe team will look at Vizcaino's 2017 numbers and be willing to ship a low-end prospect or two to the Braves. Why would the Braves be so willing to move their 27 year old closer, aside from the expected regression mentioned above? The answer is A.J. Minter. Minter made appearances at every level of the Braves organization last season, culminating in 15 IP in the Majors. In those 15 innings, the southpaw struck out 26. Yes, 26. That equates to a 15.60 K/9. The 24 year old is equipped with a 96 mph fastball and a wipeout slider that he threw 49% of the time - which combined for an 18.2 SwStr% in his big league time. The kid is filthy.

 

10. Carlos Gonzalez bounces back and finishes as a Top 30 OF

Kyle Schwarber, Julio Teheran, Jon Lester. David Price. Johnny Cueto. Chris Davis. Gregory Polanco. Mark freaking Trumbo. What do all these players have in common? They all had poor seasons in 2017, and yet are all forgiven and being drafted before Carlos Gonzalez. The man has one bad season and he completely falls off the radars. Three seasons ago the man hit 40 HR. Two years ago he drove in 100 RBI and hit .298. He is still "only" 32 and plays half his games in Coors Field. Why are we so quick to write him off as being finished?

CarGo reportedly stated poor sleep and not eating breakfast were benefactors to the piss-poor effort we saw most of 2017. I'll admit that seems extremely odd, but I ain't going to judge - especially since when he realized and confronted the problem he proceeded to smack eight dongs and hit over .320 for the last two months of the season. Six of the eight HR came in the final month, and were accompanied with a .390 ISO. .390! I mean how in the hell did that happen if his remaining talent level was equivalent to a 21st round draft pick, which is where he is being drafted in 2018. CarGo easily wins Comeback Player of the Year, and also easily finishes inside the top 30 OF in fantasy.

 

More RotoBaller Predictions




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2017 Breakouts Due for Regression - Relief Pitchers

2017 was a great season for those who follow the "Don't Pay for Saves" strategy. Actually, it's more than a strategy, it's a lifestyle. Corey Knebel blossomed into an elite closer, Fernando Rodney almost matched his age in saves, Brandon Kintzler/Sean Doolittle/Brandon Maurer/Felipe Rivero/Brad Hand all had over 20 saves, and even Bud Norris was relevant. It was a wild year for relievers and the closer carousel was spinning!

As we head into the fantasy baseball draft season of 2018, it's important to know which of the guys that stood up and took control of their respective bullpens (and desperate fantasy owners' hearts) should not be trusted to bring us the joy of an encore performance.

Fortunately for everyone, there really aren't that many phonies to worry about. But for you Non-payers for saves, as you get near the time to finally start filling out your RP spots late in the draft - beware of these three names that may look very enticing based on their 2017 stat lines.

 

Last Season's Breakout Relievers Due for Regression in 2018

Arodys Vizcaino, Atlanta Braves

2017: 57.1 IP, 14 SV, 2.83 ERA, 1.10 WHIP

After struggling with command issues that led to a 6.05 BB/9 in 2016, Vizcaino finally looked like he was able to harness his overpowering "stuff" in 2017. He began the year as the setup man to Jim Johnson, but by season's end was the closer for the Bravos and without a doubt many playoff fantasy baseball squads. Not only did Vizcaino boast a double digit K/9 for the second straight year (10.05 in 2017) and a shiny 2.83 ERA, he also sliced his horrendous BB/9 almost in half - down to 3.30. So what's the man doing in this regression article?

The main concern I have with Vizcaino's outlook lies in his Batted Ball profile. He went from a 1.81 GB/FB ratio in 2016 all the way down to 0.85 in 2017. Among all relievers in baseball, his 45.3 FB% ranked 22nd highest. Sure that doesn't seem awful, but of the 21 RP that were ahead of him, only eight allowed a lower HR/FB%. Of those eight, only two allowed a higher Hard%. So bottom line up front (BLUF in the Army)... he was very fortunate to own such a high FB% and Hard% and walk away with just a 10.4% HR/FB.

Speaking of being fortunate, his BABIP and LOB% went from .333 and 65.2% in 2016, to .248 and 83.3% in 2017. Same pitch usage, same pitch velocity, same Contact rates - much different results. To further illustrate my skepticism,  his 2017 xFIP (4.21) was pretty much right on par with his 4.42 ERA from 2016.

Consensus ADP has Vizcaino being drafted 153 overall, and as low as 143 (RTSports). Let someone else pull that trigger on draft day.

 

Alex Claudio, Texas Rangers

2017: 82.2 IP, 11 SV, 2.50 ERA, 1.04 WHIP

No. I am not doing this again. A Texas Ranger closer seemingly coming out of nowhere that pitches to contact? Is he related to Sam Dyson? Claudio played the role of fantasy FAAB hero after Matt Bush lost the closer role, earning a team-high 11 saves down the stretch. He was even voted Texas Ranger Pitcher of the Year by the Fort Worth chapter of BBWAA. He is a true ground ball pitcher (66.7 GB%), and as you see pitched extremely well when the Rangers needed it most.

There isn't much in his underlying statistics that would scare anyone away, besides the 10th-lowest K/9 of all relievers in baseball. But Claudio has been able to create enough soft contact that he even benefited from an increase in Contact% last year. It seems too good to be true, and I just can't leave my closer's fate entirely up to BABIP, especially as we enter further into the launch angle research era. The main regression I see here is in fantasy relevance. I don't see a ground ball RP who pitched 82 innings holding off Jake Diekman and Keone Kela who combined for only half of that massive workload - and both own a career K/9 over 11.0.

 

Shane Greene, Detroit Tigers

2017: 67.2 IP, 9 SV, 2.66 ERA, 1.24 WHIP

This is the easiest one of the bunch for me. SP-Converted-RPs (or do I have that backwards?) seem to be trending in baseball currently with Wade Davis, Archie Bradley, Brandon Morrow, Alex Colome, Raisel Iglesias, and Brad Hand all making it look like the cool thing to do. But unfortunately, I think Ron Gardenhire and fantasy owners are in for a rude awakening with Shane Greene this season.

Like most other former starters, Greene benefited from an uptick in velocity which led to an increased K/9 (9.71), which ultimately led to a 2.66 ERA and nine saves as he finished 2017 as the Tigers closer. But obviously, since he is on this list, the velocity and strikeouts weren't the only thing that increased. His BB/9 rose up to an uneasy-feeling-in-the-stomach 4.52. Why didn't those extra base runners results in more runs you ask? That could be because his LOB% sky rocketed from 58.6% in '15 and 56.4% in '16 up to 84.2%, while his BABIP dropped from .325 in '15 and .327 in '16 down to .265. That doesn't sound sustainable to me. What else could go wrong? Well how about the fact that his HR/FB rate doubled? Not enough? His Hard% jumped to a terrifying 41.3% (12.3% drop in Soft% too) which ranked second highest in all of baseball. What do you think Luke Skywalker?

 

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Reviewing JB's 2017 Bold Predictions

What’s even more fun than making bold predictions? Looking back at the end of the season to see how good (or so, so hilariously bad) they were.

As Michael Scott once said, "It takes a big man to admit his mistakes, and I am that big man."

 

 JB's Rowdy (Bold) Predictions for 2017

1. Buster Posey has his best fantasy season since winning MVP in 2012, and hits 25 HR for first time in his career 

"In 2012, Buster Posey won the MVP award after hitting 24 HR and 103 RBI with a .336 BA. In 2016, he hit 14 HR and 80 RBI with a .288 BA. What was the difference? Not that much actually. He's still got the same great plate discipline, similar batted ball statistics, and now is even hitting the ball harder than ever. The one difference you can see is the percentage of his fly balls landing over the fence."

Well, Posey wasn't a bust this season, but this prediction was way off. His wRC+ and WAR increased from 2016 but they were minuscule and the Giants offense as a whole was a major disappointment which dropped his R and RBI totals. As for the HR.... he failed to reach half of 25. He belted a weak 12 dongs despite increasing his FB% and still maintaining a decent 32.7 Hard%. His .141 ISO is his lowest full season total of his career. It looks like the power is legitimately gone at this point in his impressive career. He did swipe six bases for the second year in a row though.

 

2. Justin Bour hits over 30 HR 

"His 21.4 PA/HR ratio was right up there with Anthony Rizzo, who hit 32 bombs in 2016. Based on his .258 first half ISO, there is no reason Bour can not belt 30 bombs in a full healthy season."

So close, but injury once again kept Bour from eclipsing the 30 HR mark. An oblique injury marred his second half of 2017 much like the ankle injury did in 2016. But he was well on his way to 30 bombs, hitting 25 in 420 AB, and managed an impressive .251 ISO and 82 RBI. He will once again be a great sleeper pick in 2018 fantasy drafts if he manages to slide under the radar. He will remain healthy for a full season eventually...

 

3. Jose Ramirez finishes the season as a top-seven fantasy Third Baseman 

"That pop mixed with his good speed makes him a double machine and will ensure the BA stays north of .300. He owned the fifth best strikeout rate and was top ten in contact percentage. He doesn't experience bad matchups, thanks to his ability to mash from both sides of the plate (.841 OPS vs LHP, .818 OPS vs RHP)."

I was JRam's biggest fan this off-season, and was thrilled to see the success from 2016 continue this year. His power exploded, more than doubling his 11 HR mark from last season, swatting 29 dongs. He scored 107 R, stole 17 bases, and hit .318. My prediction was selling the man short, as he finished the season as the 13th overall player in fantasy and the SECOND third baseman, trailing only Nolan Arenado. He was also third in WAR and second in wRC+ at the hot corner.

 

4. Trevor Story hits more HR than any other player not named Chris Davis 

"In 415 PA he smacked 27 HR, owning the second highest ISO and third highest SLG among all players with at least 400 PA. He hits a ton of fly balls, as evident by the third lowest GB/FB ratio in the league, and he hits them very, very hard. His 44.9 hard hit percentage also ranked second among hitters with 400 PA." 

I will now don the Cone of Shame. Both parts of this prediction....just putrid. In a season with more HR than any other in the history of the sport, players everywhere were setting personal bests in the HR category. But not these two! In 145 games Story hit fewer HR than he did in 97 as a rookie last year. I grossly underestimated the effects of his poor plate discipline, and his K% got even worse, rising to 34% in 2017. Only two other hitters had higher K% than Story, and Crush Davis was one of them. Let's move on PLEASE.

 

5. Andrew Benintendi wins A.L. ROY in a landslide, and finishes top 75 in fantasy

"We are looking at 15/15 potential, with an average that will play in any fantasy lineup......Aaron Judge or the plethora of options on the White Sox won't even come close in ROY voting, and Benintendi will see enough PA against southpaws to eclipse 100 R and 75 RBI in that high octane Beantown offense."

Benintendi is still my favorite player in baseball, and he had a spectacular season, but I have to apologize to Aaron Judge first off. In a normal season Benny Biceps probably would have won the AL ROY. He was the first rookie since Mike Trout in 2012 to have a 20/20 season, scored 84 R and knocked in 90 RBI. And for what it's worth, he finished the season as the 53rd ranked player in fantasy. So I got half of this right. But what Aaron Judge did is truly remarkable, and not only will he win ROY easily, he is also a serious threat to win the AL MVP award.

 

6. Stephen Strasburg doesn't go on the Disabled List..... and finishes the season as the second ranked starting pitcher

"In the past two years we have seen two halves of fully healthy Strasburg. For the second half of 2015, he earned a 1.90 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, and a 12.48 K/9. For the first half of 2016, he earned a 2.62 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and a 11.14 K/9. As you can see, when he is firing on all cylinders, Stras is one of the best in the game." 

Damn it Stras, so close! Of course right as I think the injury bug has finally alluded Strasburg, he scared the hell out of all of us after being placed on the DL twice with discomfort and tightness in his elbow. Thankfully it was just a nerve impingement and he was able to come back and finish exactly as I thought he would. In his last 10 starts, he went 6-1 with a 0.86 ERA. Strasburg finished 2017 with 15 wins, 2.52 ERA, and 204 K in just 175 IP. He finishes as the #5 SP in fantasy.

 

7. Jose Bautista is a Top 10 Outfielder and wins Comeback Player of the Year 

"He is 36 years old and struggled with two injuries last season, one to his toe and the other to his knee, leading to only 22 HR. But this is a guy that is one year removed from a 108-40-114 campaign, and he looks like he's in the best shape of his life." 

I am not even going to dignify this prediction with an excuse or reason. He hit .203 with 23 HR. He posted career low values against fastballs and sliders, as father time caught up to his bat-speed and eyes at the plate, and pitchers exploited it. Hell of a career Joey Bats, it has been a pleasure.

 

8. Marcus Stroman finally breaks out, finishes the season with the lowest ERA among American League Starting Pitchers 

"In 2016 Stroman suffered some awful luck. He pitched the 11th most innings in baseball, and out of the top 16 in IP only David Price had a higher BABIP. Out of the top 20, Stroman owned the lowest left on base percentage. Those both hurt, but they were actually right on par with his 2014 season. But out of the top 30, Stroman also owned the highest HR/FB%. This is the major blip on my radar. His 16.5 HR/FB% was ten points higher than in 2014. But even though he gave up far more long balls, he managed to increase his O-Swing% and SwStr%, while lowering his Cont% from the previous two years."

Out of the bad luck stats, only his LOB% improved this year, and his ERA went from 4.37 in 2016 all the way down to 3.09 in 2017. He obviously did not beat out Corey Kluber and Chris Sale for the lowest ERA in the AL. But Stro did finish fourth behind the two aces and Luis Severino. So this is somewhat of a moral victory for me, and I believe Stroman takes even one more big step forward in the future.

 

9. Sam Travis plays a large role for the Red Sox down the stretch, and hits over .300 

"Last year it was Andrew Benintendi who I made the bold prediction about, saying he would be in the starting lineup for the Red Sox in the playoffs. Nailed it. This year it will be Sam Travis." 

Yeah, my love for Travis blinded me. He's a good player, and I still think will be a great all-around hitter down the road. But it was Devers who stole the show this year, and I didn't see that happening until 2018. For what it's worth, I'll go ahead and say next year there will be the same prediction in my list for the third year in a row, but this time involving Michael Chavis. Get ready!

 

10. Kyle Barraclough, Nate Jones, Carter Capps, Matt Bush, and Cam Bedrosian all finish with more saves than the teams' current "Closers" 

I've had a flawless track record with predicting bullpen madness, until this year. Bear Claw had multiple chances to take over the reigns, but has less control than a fat kid in a free candy store. Nate Jones only pitched 11 innings due to injury. Matt Bush pitched great all season, then took over the closer role for Sam Dyson and imploded. Carter Capps' recovery took much longer than I anticipated and he was limited to only 12 innings, and is now undergoing yet another surgery. Cam Bedrock was cruising early, then went on the DL and allowed old man Bud Norris to take the job.

It's pretty rare to make five bold predictions inside one bold prediction and fail miserably on all five. But I'm a pretty rare dude.

 

More 2017 RotoBaller Predictions




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Daily Fantasy Baseball Lineup Picks (10/1/17): MLB DFS Advice for FanDuel and DraftKings

I'm not crying, you're crying! Welcome to the last day of the 2017 MLB regular season. I have thoroughly enjoyed giving you sub-par DFS advice all season, and want more than anyone for you to hit the big money today in the season's finale. Today will be one of the strangest days of the entire year thanks to every spot in the playoffs being clinched already and players all over the country will be either resting for their playoff series or getting a head start of their off season to allow younger guys to gain some experience. So please make sure to be heavily checking lineups all the way up until the slate kicks off. Speaking of the slate, we have a Sunday blessing in the form of a full 15 game slate, with every single game starting between 3:05 and 3:20 PM EST. That means we can watch the early football games, then all the baseball games, and then finish it up with some Sunday night football. Now that's how you do Sunday.

Some quick Starting Pitcher notes to be aware of for today: 

Robbie Ray will be very limited in his start today before the teams Wild Card game versus the Rockies Tuesday.

Noah Syndergaard will only pitch ONE inning today. One inning, don't be tricked by his low prices.

Zach Davies is not starting for Milwaukee, rookie RHP Aaron Wilkerson takes his place today.

There is some uncertainty surrounding Cole Hamels. Even if he does start, don't expect it to be a long outing.

 

In this article, I will be providing you with my daily fantasy baseball lineup picks for DraftKings and FanDuel on 10/1/17. The lineup picks will range from some of the elite players to mid-priced options and value plays.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to hit me up on Twitter @RowdyRotoJB.

 

DFS Starting Pitchers to Consider

Johnny Cueto - vs SDP (DK - $9,300, FD - $8,400)

Today is a good day to not worry about finding value in your pitching choices, as once lineups are posted, you should see plenty of cheap names in favorable lineup spots with stars potentially resting for the playoffs or getting a head start on the off-season. With that being said, pay up for Johnny Cueto! In Cueto's last four starts he owns a 3.80 ERA, but is boasting a 12.2 K/9 and has only surrendered one long ball (21.1 IP). His last start was an eight strikeout QS against a playoff team in a hitters park in Arizona. Today he faces the Padres who are tied for the fewest runs and second lowest OPS over the last week. You can imagine at this point the Padres are just looking forward to their vacations. The current San Diego hitters own a .184/.262/.276 line against Cueto for their careers, with only one HR in 84 PA.

 

Daniel Mengden - at TEX (DK - $8,500, FD - $7,400)

We're playing it safe and going with easy match-ups today, and the Texas Rangers have been even worse than the Padres to finish the season. Over the last week they are also tied with the fewest runs scored, but are also wayyyy last in OPS (.565). Mengden's overall numbers may look a little bland at first glance, but that is due to two FUGLY starts prior to the All-Star break. Through four starts in September however, he owns a 1.93 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP across 28 innings. He has been fantastic on the road and more than likely will be opposing a combination of Rangers bullpen arms today as it is believed Hamels may not return to the mound for the finale. If this is the case, it not only bodes well for potential run support, but also means Bruce Maxwell should be given the start behind the dish (sits against LHP). With Maxwell catching this season, Mengden boasts a 0.82 ERA and a .182 BAA through 22 IP.

DFS Infielders to Consider

Stephen Vogt - C, at STL (DK - $3,200, FD - $2,400)

In his last five games, Vogt is rockin' a 1.053 OPS with four XBH. Today will be the man's 10th straight start behind the dish thanks to Manny Pina's injured thumb, but he is rewarded today with a juicy match-up against rookie Jack Flaherty. The young right-hander owns a 6.06 ERA through 16.1 IP this season, and has struggled against LHB.

 

Tyler Austin - 1B, vs TOR (DK - $3,300, FD - $2,000)

Perfect example of the value hitters I was mentioning before. In a seemingly meaningless game after clinching one of the A.L. Wildcard spots, and facing an awful LHP in Brett Anderson, it's almost a guarantee that Austin is manning first base for the Bronx Bombers today. Anderson has been surprisingly decent on the road this season but regardless he has allowed 11 ER in 6.1 IP in his last two starts and is dealing with a blister on his throwing hand. He has only surrendered five HR this season, but all have been to RHB. Tyler Austin on the other hand is 5-12 with two dongs against southpaws in his short 2017 MLB stints.

 

Robinson Cano- 2B, at LAA (DK - $4,800, FD - $3,400)

Cano is a man on fire, and is finishing the 2017 in style. In September he hit .320/.375/.485 with four HR. He squares off with Parker Bridwell in the finale, who has not been great this month nor has he been good at home this season. Cano is 4-9 with a double and a dong against Bridwell and has destroyed the ball at Angel Stadium in 2017. In seven games he hit four HR and a double along with a .300/.323/.733 line.

 

Miguel Sano - 3B, vs DET (DK - $4,500, FD - $3,400)

Whenever I use Cano in DFS I have to use Sano too, because I am easily amused and like seeing their names next to each other. But I digress, Sano is a great choice today as he faces Anibal Sanchez at home. Sanchez is on a hot streak, but he is still Anibal Sanchez, who was destroyed by RHB this season to the tune of .340/.382/.605 and owns a 7.43 ERA on the road. You might think Sano would be resting today before Tuesday's Wildcard game but since he is just two games off a DL stint, I think Paul Molitor gives him one more game to knock any remaining rust off. Sano is 5-16 with a double and a dong against Sanchez for his career.

 

Wilmer Difo - SS, vs PIT (DK - $3,400, FD - $2,300)

Assuming that both Daniel Murphy and Trea Turner get a rest tomorrow, Washington's MIF should be manned by Stephen Drew and Wilmer Difo. Difo makes for a great play facing Steven Brault at home. Against LHP this season, Difo is hitting .317/.356/.512. At home this season, Difo is hitting .328/.369/.437.

Cano, Sano, and Difo. Come on, that's funny.

 

DFS Outfielders to Consider

Giancarlo Stanton - OF, vs ATL (DK - $5,700, FD - $4,500)

If you don't play Stanton today, you are either a Braves fan or you enjoy throwing away money. He enters the last game of the regular season with 59 HR, just one shy of Babe Ruth's record, and two shy of the coveted Roger Maris 61 mark. He is playing in front of his home crowd, with his father most likely sitting right behind the plate, and he is facing a young left handed pitcher who he has already taken deep once in just two PA. Buckle up folks, with every playoff position already clinched, this is the top story to follow today.

 

Ian Happ - OF, vs CIN (DK - $4,600, FD - $3,600)

The Cubs are certainly resting players today, but Happ has yet to sit this weekend, which leads me to believe he gets the nod once again today. He is in the midst of a hot streak, hitting a triple and two HR in his last four games. 15 of his 24 dongs this season have come at Wrigley Field, and 11 of those 15 were off a RHP. Cincy is rolling out rookie RHP Deck McGuire which obviously means Happ is hitting one to upper DECK in center field today. Okay I'm done with jokes, I promise. If Happ does sit however, then there is no way that compadre Kyle Schwarber sits as well. So feel free to pivot to Schwarbs if need be.

If playing on DraftKings, I would rather use Khris Davis - OF, at TEX (DK - $4,600) who will most likely get to feast on Rangers bullpen all game. 

 

Dexter Fowler - OF, vs MIL (DK - $4,300, FD - $3,700)

Fowler is the least likely candidate in this article to play today, considering he has sit the past two contests in favor of younger Cards. But if for some reason Matheny wants to let him play ball today, you got to get him in your lineup. For as much as I have played teammate Tommy Pham on the road this season, I have played Fowler at Busch Stadium versus RHP just as much. At home versus righties this season, Fowler has a .311 ISO and a 143 wRC+. Zach Davies was supposed to draw the start but it looks like youngster Aaron Wilkerson will take the mound for the Brew Crew. It's all the same for Fowler.

Also Consider: Brett Phillips - OF, at STL (DK - $2,600, FD - $2,900)

 

Sample Lineups

*$200 of wiggle room, can pivot to Fowler or Blackmon if for some reason either of them are playing today

 

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