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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 AL East.

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Myth 1: The Yankees OF only centers around Stanton and Judge

Brett Gardner (OF, NYY) and Aaron Hicks (OF, NYY)

With the trade for Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees outfield has become more powerful and crowded. As to be expected, the third outfielder for the Yankees loses some of the spotlight. However, Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks offer value to the Yankees and fantasy lineups.

Within the last two weeks of NFBC drafts, Brett Gardner's power and speed combination (21 HR/23 SB in 2017) is leaving draft boards at #174. Leading off for New York's third-best MLB offense (.785 OPS) in 2017 should lead to a number of runs scored, as Gardner scored 270 runs from 2015-2017. While Steamer projects Gardner to give back a few homers with fewer projected at-bats (497) and coming off a career-high 13.5% HR/FB (8.1% career HR/FB) in 2017, he still has enough power for home run totals in the teens. In 2017, his 33.2% fly-ball rate returned closer to career average, and he increased his hard contact to 28.8%. Even with his age, Gardner has the speed for another 15-20 stolen bases. Demonstrating consistent success, 80% success rate on his stolen base attempts for four-consecutive years, should lead to a number of chances. In the middle of drafts, don't forget about his power and speed.

Aaron Hicks can also add some power and speed (ADP: 224) to fantasy teams, as Steamer projects another 15 HR/10 SB in 466 at-bats in 2018. Although he hits more balls on the ground (44.1 GB%), he can make hard contact on line drives and fly balls (93 MPH on LD/FB). His patience (14.1 BB%) at the plate can help in OBP and points leagues, as he posted a .372 OBP in 2017. Hicks illustrated that his .484 OPS versus LHP in 2016 was a fluke (.176 BABIP), and he returned with a .903 OPS versus LHP in 2017. On the down side, missing time with an oblique injury cut into his 2017 at-bats, and he will need to improve his stolen base success rate (10 SB in 15 attempts) to receive consistent SB opportunities.

When the Yankee power hitters are long gone in drafts, fantasy owners can turn to Gardner and Hicks to contribute to counting stats with some power and speed.


Myth 2: Avoid Baltimore pitchers

Kevin Gausman (SP, BAL) 

The Orioles pitching staff posted the fourth-worst ERA (4.97) in the majors in 2017. Even though Camden Yards is a hitters' park, Kevin Gausman has the skills to contribute to the back end of fantasy rotations.

Kevin Gausman backed a strong second half 3.41 ERA with increased strikeouts (26.2 K% and 9.6 K/9) and fewer walks (7.7 BB% and 2.8 BB/9), which contributed to a 1.20 WHIP. His splitter continued to create plenty of swings and misses (21.9 SwStr%) that had hitters chasing pitches (44.2 O-Swing%) out of the zone.

Although he can miss bats (13.3 SwStr%) with his slider, opposing hitters squared up his slider (.377 wOBA and .895 OPS) and four-seam fastball (.371 wOBA and .865 OPS) well. Allowing too many home runs (15% HR/FB) on all three pitches hurts his cause. If teams roster Gausman, owners should monitor some of his first-half starts, as his career 4.94 first-half ERA and career 1.47 first-half WHIP have damaged ratios. Fortunately, his career second-half lines, 3.58 ERA and 1.24 WHIP, have provided ratio help. While his inconsistent starts and home runs allowed will more than likely keep him from the top of fantasy rotations, he can offer value (ADP: 196) if he can put together two halves.


Myth 3: Xander Bogaerts will hit 20 HR again

After being hit on the wrist with a pitch in July, Xander Bogaerts continued to play. While he stayed patient (10.9 BB%) in the second-half, his .347 slugging percentage and .112 ISO dipped. Some experts are calling for a power bounce back in 2018, but don't count on it.

In 2016, Bogaerts used 719 plate appearances and an 11% HR/FB to cross the 20-home run plateau. His rising ground ball rate (career 46.7 GB% and 49% in 2017) and falling fly ball rate (30.9 FB% in 2017) limits his power production. His above-average batting average might not last, as the shortstop has a .240 xBA and a .299 xwOBA over the last two seasons. When budgeting for power, don't pay for more than Steamer's projection of 15 home runs.

All is not lost, as Bogaerts can use his legs for value. His acumen on the base paths is growing, and the shortstop was successful on 15 of his 16 SB attempts in 2017. With his success, he could see a few more stolen base chances from his new manager and surpass his 10 SB projection by a handful.


Myth 4: Stay away from Rays bats

Kevin Kiermaier (OF, TB) and Wilson Ramos (C, TB)

While the Rays have traded away Evan Longoria and Steven Souza in the offseason, we shouldn't forget about looking for fantasy value in Tampa Bay.

Kevin Kiermaier (NFBC ADP: 157) can offer some speed and power in the middle of drafts. The outfielder posted 15 HR and 16 SB in 380 at-bats, and he averaged 91.5 MPH exit velocity on FB/LD in 2017. He should produce home run totals in the teens, as his hard contact remained steady (31.8 hard%), but his 16.7% HR/FB from 2017 should move closer to his 11.9% career-HR/FB. Posting his lowest stolen base success rate (70%) cut into his chances of reaching 20 SB in 2017, but he was successful on 21 of 24 (88%) attempts in 2016. With health, he has a good chance of returning to 20 SB in 2018.

While he provides power and speed, his batting average could slide in 2018. Kiermaier will have a hard time (.390 BABIP) repeating his .816 OPS versus LHP in the second half, and with some regression (.337 BABIP), his batting average should move closer to his .262 career BA.

In two-catcher leagues, Wilson Ramos' power is worth targeting (ADP: 154) as a first catcher. A knee injury limited Ramos to 208 at-bats, and he hit 11 home runs when he returned in June. Even though a ground-ball tilt (54.1 GB%) cuts into his potential for more home runs, he can hit the ball with authority (94 MPH on FB/LD) when he gets the ball off the ground. With a HR/FB rate over 20% in three of his last four years, he can provide power at the catcher position with a decent batting average. Ramos' .268 career batting average vouches for the capability to match his .260 projection from Depth Charts.


Myth 5: Roberto Osuna's skills are fading

The 2017 season was unkind to Roberto Osuna (RP, TOR), as he led the majors with ten blown saves. Should we be worried about his skills?

Osuna's skills are solid. An elevated 59.5 LOB% played a role in his 3.38 ERA. The closer increased his strikeouts to 11.7 K/9 in 2017 and lowered his walks to 1.3 BB/9 (3.6 BB%), which supported his 1.74 FIP and 2.57 xFIP. While his 3.38 ERA deserved better, Osuna lowered his hard-contact allowed from 37% in 2016 to 28% in 2017. Inducing more ground balls (48.0 GB%) with his cutter (50.0 GB%) bodes well for 2018, and missing more bats with his slider (32.5 SwStr%) and cutter (17.4 SwStr%) support his ability to hold his K/9 growth.

If other fantasy owners are looking for reasons not to invest in Roberto Osuna, drafting his growing skills at his current cost (ADP: 76) will provide strikeouts, help ratios, and add to saves totals. Osuna is capable of meeting Steamer's projection of 32 saves, and he has the skills to be a top-ten closer in 2018.


More Myths to Debunk...

While these are just a few examples of AL East myths, there are others that we can investigate on our own. For example, we could look at Justin Smoak's chances of carrying over his power surge from 2017 or the odds of Sonny Gray keeping his 2017 swinging-strike rate gains.

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


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