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We are just under 30 days away from pitchers and catchers reporting! Just under 30 days from the smell of pine tar and freshly cut grass. Just under 30 days from the sounds of fastballs hitting catcher’s mitts and the crack of a wood bat. Just under 30 days until another summer full of memories. There was nothing better in the summer then spending a Sunday afternoon at the ballpark, whether it was in the stands or on the field. Baseball takes me back in time.

Every once in a while, I wish I could go back in time, just for one day. Sit in the stands at the ballgame with my Dad. Talking baseball, watching him mark every detail of the game in his scorecard while I'm trying to guess what pitch will be thrown next. To relive some of those memories from my childhood would be fun. The ballpark was the only place that made sense, all of the time. Just like my wish to go back in time, some of these players would love the ability to do the same. To kickoff the first fantasy baseball edition of #TrendingNow, I’ll be looking at some veterans who have reached the downfall of their value and others who still have more value to give.

If you have read one of my #TrendingNow articles for fantasy football, then it’s the same ol’ song and dance. If you are new to these articles, then welcome! In this series of articles, I will give you players who are #TrendingDown and #TrendingUp. These will be mostly dynasty focused, but you will be able to take something out of these for redraft as well. Let’s not waste any more time though, some of these guys don’t have much left...

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#TrendingUp for Dynasty

Joey Votto (1B, CIN)

Even entering his age-34 season, Joey Votto continues to be one of the most underrated fantasy players in baseball. The fourth overall first baseman and an ADP of 21 overall in drafts last year, Votto finished as the second-ranked first baseman and 17th overall. Votto just didn’t seem to get the hype before 2017, mainly due to his power numbers. He hadn’t hit 30 home runs since 2010 and also had 100 RBIs for the first time since 2011. The Reds should finally be compiling young talent around Votto after rebuilding, but are still missing a bat to protect him. Even because of his age, I am fine with taking Votto in dynasty startups because of his hitting approach. He doesn’t just swing for the fences. He has a great eye, can hit to all fields and has one of the most patient approaches in baseball. In his 11-year career, Votto has led the league in on-base percentage six times. If you somehow miss on the younger first basemen off the board, Votto will be a solid pick for a few more years.

Nelson Cruz (OF, SEA)

Nelson Cruz continues to rake even as he gets older. Not only does he continue to rake, but he seems to be getting better as well. When Cruz decided to sign with Seattle as a free agent before the 2015 season, I thought the switch from Camden Yards to Safeco Field would hurt his numbers. The switch only helped, however. From 2009 till 2014, Cruz averaged 29 home runs and 85 RBI a season to go with a .271 average. Nothing spectacular that fantasy owners would be jumping to have in a draft. He only averaged 131 games a season during that time as well. Each season was filled with injuries and promise. After a breakout season in Baltimore, Cruz moved onto Seattle and has finally tapped into his full potential. In his three seasons with Seattle, Cruz has averaged 42 home runs, 105 RBI and a .292 average. With the addition of Dee Gordon at the top of the lineup and the hope of a breakout season from Mike Zunino, this could be Seattle’s best lineup in years. You'll want to invest in their cleanup hitter for a couple more years at least.

Justin Verlander (SP, HOU)

As a Tigers fan, it hurt seeing Verlander leave. The September trade of Justin Verlander was the final straw in what was shaping up to become an ultimate tear down of the club. Verlander had been the face of the Tigers franchise for years. Seeing him in a Houston jersey was odd, but for Astros fans, they couldn’t have been happier. One of the reasons the Astros were able to bring home their first World Series title was due to Verlander’s performance in the postseason. Verlander had an up and down season for Detroit before the trade, but was lights out to end the season. After the trade, he went 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA with 43 Ks in 34 innings. Heading into his age 35 season, and coming off his first World Series win as well, he will be a part of one of the best rotations in baseball. Even better yet, Verlander will not need to be the ace of this staff and can just go out and pitch. Verlander still has the swing and miss stuff to go along with his fastball. He’s going to be in for another great season.

Ryan Zimmerman (1B, WSH)

Ryan Zimmerman was finally able to bounce back after consecutive disappointing seasons. His productivity at the plate this year can lead back to his first healthy season since 2013. Zimmerman set a career high in home runs in 2017 and had a batting average over .300 for only the second full season of his career. You are going to see some regression this year. Zimmerman had a batting average of balls in play 24 points higher than his career average. Add in his strikeout percentage was higher than his career average and his walk percentage was lower than is career average. With that being said, we know Zimmerman is a talented hitter and just needed to stay healthy. Finally being at first base full time will help with that. He hits in the middle of a very good lineup with a ton of RBI opportunities. Another healthy season would lead to another productive season.

Zack Greinke (SP, ARI)

Zack Greinke had a very disappointing season in 2016. After winning the league ERA title and finishing second in Cy Young voting with the Dodgers in 2015, Greinke decided to sign a six-year, $206.5-million-dollar contract with inter-division rival Arizona. To be fair, the whole team unachieved that season. Greinke’s problem was extra base hits and walks. Greinke’s extra base hit percentage that season was 9.2%, second highest of his career and 4.6% higher than his final season as a Dodger. He turned it around last year, thanks to the second highest strikeout percentage of his career. Even at 33 years-old he still sports top-of-the-rotation stuff and will continue to be a solid investment moving forward.

 

#TrendingDown for Dynasty

Evan Longoria (3B, SF)

The pre-Christmas trade of Evan Longoria to the San Francisco Giants was a bit of a shock. The best player in Tampa Bay Rays history logged 261 home runs in 10 seasons, which also included three Gold Gloves. Just like the Rays organization, Longoria has been trending down for the past few seasons. Longoria just isn’t the player that we were expecting. He has been extremely reliable in terms of durability and numbers, but never evolved into the perennial MVP candidate we thought he would be. During his first four years in the league, Longoria averaged 143 hits and 100 RBIs a season along with a .274 average. Over the past six seasons, Longoria has only hit more than 30 home runs twice. His ballpark factor isn’t going to get better. Tropicana Field doesn’t bolster the best stats for hitters, but AT&T Park is even worse. Last year AT&T Park ranked 27th in runs per game and 30th in home runs per game. Longoria will be playing in a division with great pitching as well. Longoria will be smack dab in the middle of a lineup that needs to see everyone rebound from down 2017 campaigns besides Buster Posey. Speaking of which...

Buster Posey (C/1B, SF)

I promise I am not picking on the Giants, although it may seem that way. I am not high on where they finish in the division either. Posey is still the best hitting catcher in MLB. He is coming off a season in which he finished tied for third NL with a .320 average, but his power is a concern. Posey has seen a decline in his home runs for a third straight season going from 22 in 2014 down to 12 in 2017. The Giants have also made it clear they want Posey out from the plate as much as possible now. If the Giants decide they don’t have the team to win this year, they could decide to tear it down and trade Brandon Belt. Posey has a much bigger contract and would be more difficult to move than Belt’s. A move to first base for Posey would ruin his fantasy value. Even with his batting average last year, Posey would have only finished as the 17th overall first baseman. Don’t spend a high pick to take Posey when you could wait on other catchers.

Adam Wainwright (SP, STL)

Speaking of childhood memories, the year is 2006. After watching my Tigers have a losing season every year but twice since I was born, they have come out of nowhere to win the wildcard and tear through the playoffs on route to the World Series. I was in the stands for Game 4 of the 2006 ALCS when Magglio Ordonez hit his three-run walk-off homer. Even though that continues to be a great memory, it was almost washed out watching Adam Wainwright strike out Brandon Inge to give the Cardinals a World Series victory over the Tigers. Well, that was 11 years ago when Wainwright was a 24 year-old closer for the world champions. Between 2007 and 2015, Wainwright never posted an ERA over 3.94 in a season. He was as reliable a starter you could find during that time. Now he has posted a 5.35 ERA over the past two seasons. The 36-year-old Wainwright appears to have reached the end of the road. He averaged 5.3 innings pitched per start, the first time he has averaged under 6.0 innings in a season. His K-BB ratio was the lowest since 2007 and his line drive percentage has crept up to 30% the past two season. Wainwright simply is not missing as many bat as he used to. He will need to reinvent the way he pitches to find success again.

Adam Jones (OF, BAL)

Adam Jones has offered one of the most consistent bats in fantasy baseball for several years. You could plug him into your lineup and expect a .270 average or higher, 25 plus home runs and 80 plus RBIs. He was able to rebound last season after a down 2015 and 2016. He won’t offer double-digit steals anymore, but his bat will continue to be a mid-round investment that will offer great value. My concern with Jones heading forward is the fact that the entire Orioles roster is headed for a makeover. Starting next off-season, a majority of the roster will head towards free agency and more than likely, Jones will be one of them. This has been a slow year for free agents and it could be a slow market for Jones as well. He will be 33 when he hits the market but may be traded prior to that if the Orioles do not contend this season. One thing that worries me when buying dynasty players is uncertainty of where they may end up. In this case, he could be on three teams come opening day next year. If you own him now, I would recommend making a trade before opening day.

Jake Arrieta (SP, CHC)

You always have concerns when a player is a late bloomer. Just like Jose Bautista, who didn’t become an all-star until he was 29, Jake Arrieta didn’t reach that level until he was 28. Last season Arrieta’s strikeout total dropped and his home run rate went up. So what do we get moving forward? And where does he sign? Let’s say Arrieta signs with the Mariners. That would be a great ballpark to help his numbers. He would be in a tough division, but with half of his starts in Safeco Field, he would get a big boost from his ballpark. What if the Yankees miss out on their first options? Arrieta could make sense but would be in an awful ballpark. I’m not confident Arrieta is really the pitcher we saw from 2014-2016 and more like the pitcher we saw last year. Most owners will be taking Arrieta as a top-10 pitcher, don’t make the same mistake.

 

More 2018 Dynasty Baseball Strategy





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