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This series will attempt to help fantasy baseball owners make informed opinions on players whose ADP may not be in line with their value for the 2018 season.

As fantasy owners, we can fall into a "group think" mentality and start to overlook certain teams and players. If we aren't careful, those ideas can turn into blind spots in our search for value during our auctions and drafts.

To examine some possible scenarios that could differentiate from our pre-season viewpoints, we will debunk possible myths from teams and players in the NL Central.

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Myth 1: The Reds offer stable speed sources

Jose Peraza - SS, CIN, Billy Hamilton - OF, CIN

When looking for speed sources in drafts, fantasy owners have turned to Billy Hamilton and Jose Peraza in Cincinnati. However, they may not provide the same stolen base totals in 2018.

Billy Hamilton's low .299 on-base percentage in 2017 adds risk to his ability to hold the leadoff spot for the 2018 season. In December 2017, manager Bryan Price said that Hamilton "needs to show signs of improving his on-base percentage." If he doesn't improve, Price noted that he could move to ninth in the order, which would decrease his stolen base opportunities. If Hamilton continues to struggle to get on base, Price could turn to Jesse Winker, who posted a .375 OBP in 2017. Even though Hamilton has been successful in over 80% of his stolen base attempts from 2015-2017, posting below a .300 OBP in four out of the last five seasons does not provide confidence that he can suddenly "improve" his OBP in 2018. Without the leadoff spot, fewer SB attempts would disappoint fantasy owners (NFBC ADP: 50) at his current fourth-round price in a 15-team league.

Although Zach Cozart signed with the Angels, there is pressure on Jose Peraza to keep the shortstop job in 2018. According to Baseball America, Nick Senzel will see time at SS and 3B during spring training. If Peraza struggles to start the season, the Reds could call up Senzel to play SS. With a 70-grade hit tool from Baseball America, Senzel could add some value (ADP: 359) with his batting average and 15-HR pop.

Like Hamilton, Peraza struggled to reach base (.297 OBP). When he batted seventh for 58 games, he only stole four bases, and he was caught six times in ten attempts. While he had more stolen base success (10/11 SB%) when he batted second, his low-walk rate (3.9%) puts pressure on those ground balls (47 GB%) to find holes. After he was instructed to be more patient at the plate, Peraza improved his walk-rate to 8.2% in the second half. He will need to carry over a more patient approach to protect his starting spot and his stolen bases. When Peraza played part-time in the second half, he was successful on eight out of 11 attempts, but posting 16-19 SB in 2018 would disappoint fantasy owners. Losing playing time could hurt his value (ADP: 206) and stolen base totals.


Myth 2: Brandon Morrow will stay healthy and hold the closer job all year.

Brandon Morrow - RP, CHC

On February 14, Theo Epstein named Brandon Morrow as the Cubs closer for 2018.

During the 2017 season, Brandon Morrow gained velocity on his fastball, as he improved from 94.9 MPH in 2016 to 97.6 MPH in 2017. Morrow also improved his swinging-strike rate on his fastball from 9.2 SwStr% in 2016 to 12.1 SwStr%. Getting hitters to chase out of the zone on his cutter (45.2 O-Swing%) and his slider (41.2 O-Swing%) boosted his swinging-strike rate on both pitches (cutter-20.3 SwStr%; slider, 21.1 SwStr%). When his pitches weren't missing bats, carrying over his 45% ground ball rate aided his 2.06 ERA and 2.94 xFIP. The right-hander also showed strong command of the zone, which led to a 5.3 BB% and 1.85 BB/9.

When he's healthy, his stuff is closer-worthy. Even though Steamer projections have him saving 36 games, they expect him to give back some strikeouts (9.4 K/9) with more walks (2.9 BB/9), a few home runs (1.04 HR/9), and a higher ERA (3.57) in 2018.

Unfortunately, Morrow has had a track record of injuries throughout his career. A torn tendon, forearm strain, and a shoulder injury caused him to miss over 100 days in each season from 2013-2015. Missing more time would open the door for saves from a few sources.

Carl Edwards Jr., Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek - RPs, CHC

Carl Edwards Jr. offers strikeouts (12.75 K/9), ground balls (44.0 GB%), and more walks (5.2 BB/9). Even though he throws his fastball twice as much as his curveball, he has a harder time controlling (20.0 BB%) his four-seamer. His curveball induces more ground balls (54.0 GB%) and swings and misses (19.0 SwStr%). Improving his command may lead to a few saves.

Pedro Strop continues to create swings and misses (27.9 SwStr%) with his slider, and inciting hitters to chase his slider (50.0 O-Swing%) and cutter (41.0 O-Swing%) supported his 26% K% in 2017. As with Edwards, Strop can issue some free passes (3.88 BB/9), but his ability to miss bats and induce a healthy number of ground balls (59.0 GB%) contributes to his success.

Steve Cishek, who was acquired during the offseason, brings a ground ball profile (56.1 GB%) and decent command (2.8 BB/9) to the Cubs bullpen. His success as a closer in Miami (88 saves from 2012-2014) and Seattle (25 saves in 2016) brings ninth-inning experience to the Cubs bullpen. Although he doesn't offer as many strikeouts (8.3 K/9 in 2017) as the other two options, Cishek's experience could register a few saves when Morrow needs a day off.


Myth 3: Christian Yelich will provide the same amount of HR and SB in Milwaukee

Many projection systems are expecting the same production out of Christian Yelich after his trade to Milwaukee. While Steamer projects Yelich to hit a few more HR (23) with the Brewers, the system projects his stolen base total to fall to 11.

As a hitter away from Marlins Park, Yelich has posted a career .839 OPS and .163 ISO on the road compared to a career .759 OPS and .118 ISO at Marlins Park. Throughout his career, Yelich has posted a 20.5% HR/FB in away games compared to a 10.9% HR/FB at Marlins Park. Building on his road success throughout the 2018 season would help his power numbers. Yes, he does hit too many ground balls (59 GB%-career), but he has slowly improved his fly-ball percentage from 15% in 2015 to 25% in 2017.

Yelich can square up balls, as his 94.8 MPH exit velocity on FB/LD was 57th best in MLB in 2017. Moving from Marlins Park, which depresses left-handed power (82 LHB HR index-Bill James), to Miller Park (109 LHB HR index) should help a few more fly balls find the seats with his exit velocity. His new environment will allow him to hit more than the 18 home runs he slugged in 2017.

Playing for Craig Counsell should also increase his stolen bases. Counsell gives his players the green light, as the Brewers led the majors in stolen base attempts in 2016 (237 attempts) and 2017 (169 attempts). Successfully stealing 89% of his 2017 attempts and batting leadoff or second for Milwaukee will provide more green lights for Yelich. His plate discipline (11.5 BB%) and on-base percentage (career .369 OBP) will continue to give him chances at the top of the Brewers lineup. With more chances, Yelich (NFBC ADP: 66) will surpass Steamer's projected 11 SB, and he has the speed to reach 20-25 SB in 2018.


Myth 4: Pittsburgh's team context will lower Felipe Rivero's save opportunities

In 2017, the Pirates had the third-worst OPS (.704)  and scored the third-fewest runs (668) in the majors. However, Felipe Rivero saved 21 games in 23 attempts. Even if the Pirates have a worse team record in 2018, Eno Sarris found that winning percentage only "explained 8.6% of the variance in save opportunities."

Rivero has the skills to be a a top-five closer. All four of his pitches have a SwStr% over 11%, and his change-up (29 SwStr%) misses bats consistently. He increased his fastball velocity (98.3 MPH), and hitters chased it (30.4 O-Swing%) more in 2017. Inducing more ground balls (53%) and reducing hard-hit balls (from 33% to 27%) helped his cause and 2.47 FIP. Even when some of his .234 BABIP regresses, he has the strikeout ability (10.5 K/9) and command (2.4 BB/9) for continued success in the ninth inning. Once the elite closers are off the board, target Felipe Rivero (ADP: 84) for 30+ saves, strikeouts, and ratio support.


Myth 5: Matt Carpenter will carry over last year's struggles

After dealing with shoulder inflammation and other injuries in 2017, Matt Carpenter's stock has fallen over 100 picks (ADP: 184) in 2018. While giving back batting average points hurt his fantasy value, Carpenter became more patient (17.5 BB%), hit the ball with authority (42.2 Hard%), and hit 23 home runs.

With health, Carpenter can provide the same output or better in 2018. An extreme fly ball percentage (51%) capped his potential BABIP, as he hit fewer line drives (22%) in 2017. Returning to his career 25.4 LD% could move his .274 BABIP in 2017 closer to his career .321 BABIP, which would provide a higher batting average in 2018. Even though it appeared that he struggled versus southpaws in the first half, a .180 BABIP versus LHP depressed his batting average. Luckily, Carpenter owns a career .310 BABIP versus LHP. With some improvements, Steamer projects a .262 batting average with 18 home runs. Posting consecutive-seasons of 40%+ hard contact with a fly ball profile bodes well for his home run total to surpass Steamer's projection, and he could see more RBI chances in 2018, as Mike Matheny said that he expects Carpenter to bat third in the lineup.


More Myths to Debunk...

While these are just a few examples of NL Central myths, there are others that we can investigate on our own. For example, we could examine Tommy Pham's breakout season and his ability to post another 20-20 season in 2018.

As we continue to search for value in our drafts and auctions, we will look at myths and possible blind spots in the NL West in the next article.


More 2018 MLB Advice and Analysis

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