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Featured RotoBaller.com Articles

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>> Read even MORE of RotoBaller's original 2013 fantasy baseball articles and analysis 

RotoBaller.com Rankings & Sleepers

...FANTASY BASEBALL RANKINGS

Gregory Polanco Rankings Debate: Comparing RotoBaller's Rankers

It's the fantasy baseball draft season. To us baseball nerds, few things are more exciting than arguing about player rankings. Today, we'll discuss and compare Gregory Polanco RotoBaller staff rankings. He was ranked No. 54 by Bill Dubiel, and No. 112 by Harris Yudin. Throughout this series, we'll be using our February Staff Rankings to debate where to draft certain players. In cases where our writers had discrepancies, we've asked them to explain their rankings. These debates will provide us with some well-rounded analysis, and help identify undervalued/overvalued draft picks. Editor's note: Check out our previous rankings debates onJose RamirezTrea TurnerJ.D MartinezNelson Cruz, Jose AbreuBryce HarperCarlos Martinez, Kyle SchwarberJonathan VillarKenta Maeda and Andrew McCutchen .  

2017 Draft Rankings Debate: Gregory Polanco

Bill Dubiel's Rankings Analysis

His Overall Ranking: 54 Gregory Polanco has the highest ceiling of all the Pirates' talented outfielders in 2017, as I don't think we've even see the peak of his abilities. He's gotten better in each of his three major league seasons, posting a .258/.323/.463 slash line last year with 22 big flies and 17 steals. Polanco actually sacrificed a bit of speed last year (he had 27 steals in 2015) but more than doubled his home run total (nine in 2015). And I think in a full season, Polanco is a lock for a 20/20 season with the potential for much more.
The power from last year is sustainable, as Polanco's .205 ISO, while a career high, is actually not far off from his minor league numbers. In 2012, Polanco posted a .197 ISO across a full season of A-ball, and 2014 was the only year in which he hit fewer than 12 total homers (across all levels). If he makes a bit more solid contact, Polanco could approach 25 homers again in 2017.
There's even some evidence that Polanco was unlucky getting on base last year. He posted the highest K-rate of his career in 2016 (20.3%) and a relatively low BABIP (.291). Once again, with a little bit of increased contact, Polanco could bump up his batting average and OBP, allowing more opportunities for stolen bases. The speed has always been there (roughly 38 steals per 162 games for his professional career) so opportunity seems to be the only thing keeping Polanco's steal totals down.
 

Harris Yudin's Rankings Analysis

His Overall Ranking: 112

Last year’s weird, league-wide power surge appears to have spread to Polanco, who nearly tripled his home run total from 2015 despite seeing 65 fewer plate appearances. At 6-foot-4, it’s not unreasonable for Polanco to tap into some raw power, but the odds of the 25-year-old eclipsing 20 bombs again are low. He was never expected to have anything more than average power — the only time he posted an ISO above .175 was back in Single-A — and somewhere in the 15 range is more likely. His strikeout rate increased and his BABIP dipped back below .300, so there’s little reason to believe his average will make much of a jump after sitting in the .250s for each of the last two years.

Polanco is a legitimate low-end OF2, but outfield is such a deep position that I can’t imagine spending up for him in the fifth round when someone like Dexter Fowler (ADP of 188) can be had nine or 10 rounds later. To me, there is nothing that sets Polanco apart from Adam Eaton, Jackie Bradley Jr, David Dahl and Lorenzo Cain, all of whom should finish somewhere in the 15-15 range and all of whom are ranked outside the top 100 by most or all of the RotoBaller writers.

It is worth noting that, in my updated rankings, Polanco has jumped up to 87.

2017 Fantasy Baseball Tiered Points Leagues Rankings: Catchers

Welcome to this series of analyzing our site’s points league rankings, compiled by myself and Kyle Bishop. We’re good people, you should get to know us. Points leagues abide by different rules, with walks and strikeouts usually being of notable importance compared to typical 5x5 leagues. It’s not as simple as that of course, but we’ll go off of ESPN’s default model. For hitters, it's one point per Total Base, Run Scored, Stolen Base, Walk and RBI, with a point deducted per strikeout. First up, as usual, is catcher. Editor's note: Be sure to also check out our 2017 fantasy baseball rankings dashboard. It's already loaded up with tons of great rankings articles and draft analysis. Aside from our tiered staff rankings for every position, we also go deep on MLB prospect rankings, impact rookies for 2017, and dynasty/keeper rankings as well. Bookmark the page, and win your drafts.  

2017 Fantasy Baseball Points Rankings: Catchers

Ranking Tier Player Name Position Nick Kyle Composite Rank
61 1 Jonathan Lucroy C 66 55 60.5
62 1 Buster Posey C 65 60 62.5
66 1 Kyle Schwarber C/OF 90 49 69.5
73 1 Gary Sanchez C 84 69 76.5
133 2 Yasmani Grandal C 147 125 136
139 2 Willson Contreras C 148 131 139.5
167 2 Brian McCann C 177 154 165.5
168 2 Russell Martin C 166 169 167.5
169 2 J.T. Realmuto C 178 167 172.5
175 2 Salvador Perez C 184 171 177.5
192 2 Evan Gattis C 213 181 197
261 3 Cameron Rupp C 275 248 261.5
282 3 Tom Murphy C 267 306 286.5
286 3 Yadier Molina C 299 283 291
294 3 Welington Castillo C 308 287 297.5
298 3 Matt Wieters C 283 326 304.5
317 4 Stephen Vogt C 356 285 320.5
325 4 Austin Hedges C 294 363 328.5
354 4 Travis d'Arnaud C 352 358 355
359 4 Derek Norris C 342 382 362
366 4 Wilson Ramos C 393 341 367
369 4 Mike Zunino C 405 331 368
387 4 Francisco Cervelli C 400 378 389
400 5 Yan Gomes C 407 398 402.5
409 5 Devin Mesoraco C 418 405 411.5
410 5 Sandy Leon C 449 376 412.5
411 5 James McCann C 417 409 413
424 5 Blake Swihart C/OF 425 420 422.5
430 6 Tony Wolters C 435 435
446 6 Bruce Maxwell C 445 451 448
450 6 Chris Herrmann C 470 434 452
457 6 Jason Castro C 497 414 455.5
459 6 Tyler Flowers C 493 419 456
465 6 Andrew Susac C 475 450 462.5
468 6 Nick Hundley C 477 454 465.5
476 6 Austin Barnes C 479 461 470
498 6 Miguel Montero C 499 #N/A 499
499 6 Omar Narvaez C 500 #N/A 500
 

Catcher Points Rankings Analysis: The Tiers

Tier One Tier One presents us with Jonathan Lucroy, Buster Posey, Kyle Schwarber* and Gary Sanchez. We’ll assume Schwarbs is catcher-eligible, but obviously just ignore if it doesn’t apply to you! The top four names really don’t require much scrutiny, but we’ll touch on their situations. Kyle has Lucroy ahead of Posey, while I have them flip-flopped. You’re really not losing with either of course, but I personally see Posey’s power regressing toward Lucroy while he maintains his superior plate discipline. Still, it’s hard to overlook Lucroy’s .208 ISO compared to Posey’s .147. Giants manager Bruce Bochy has also said he wants to give Posey some more rest days in 2017. Schwarber has totaled 236 plate appearances, while Sanchez has 229 PAs in the bigs. Both made huge splashes with their debut, showing off insane power for all to marvel at. Of course, Schwarber’s hit tool was more well-rounded in the Minors, as he regularly hit above .300 compared to Sanchez. But last season Sanchez hit .282 at Triple-A before delivering a .299 mark in the MLB. Both will frustrate some days with strikeout rates around 25-30 percent, but the excitement is warranted here with many of extra-base hits and counting stats to roll in. Tier Two Yasmani Grandal is somewhat like Gary Sanchez, in that he strikes out roughly a quarter of the time but brings some real pop to the party. Manager Dave Roberts said that Grandal won’t be platooned at all, which should give the 28-year-old a true shot at a 30-homer campaign. I’m not terribly high on Evan Gattis at his current ADP, but perhaps he and Brian McCann will push each other to be great in that potent Houston lineup. I fear more frustration rather than fantasy goodness debating between the two, but we’ll see. Gattis’ improved 19.7% strikeout rate from 2015 slid back to 25.5% in 2016 despite his actually improving on his swinging-strike rate (11.6% to 11.3%). SwStr% isn’t the whole story, but I’d bank on it being closer to 20% again given his promising O-Swing% trend alongside the reduction in misses (40.9% à 36.9% à 32.4%). Meanwhile, McCann has hit at least 20 homers or topped 90 RBIs in each of the last 11 seasons, but his swinging-strike rate did give back to 7.8% from his usual 6-6.5% mark from the prior three seasons. He should be okay, as it came with harder contact and an elevated walk rate, but it’s worth noting. Owners will just have to deal with his potentially giving some time to Gattis if Houston’s overall health holds—namely Carlos Beltran in the DH slot. Russell Martin’s ugly 27.7% strikeout rate likely hurt points league owners last season, but he still maintained a 12% walk rate and smacked 20 homers. His 29.6% K rate did calm down to 25.5% in the second half, but drafting him will open the door to a few negative days. Now things begin opening up a bit, and one can choose between the more consistent average of J.T. Realmuto or the increasing power of Salvador Perez. I appreciate the durability of Perez, but his worsening plate discipline rates do give me some pause in points formats. Meanwhile, I’m not expecting the same line out of Realmuto. Perhaps similar counting stats, but more of a .285-.290 average rather than the .303 mark from ’16. Tier Three Once you’re past those bigger names, then it just becomes a game of whose power you want to speculate on. Names like Cameron Rupp, Tom Murphy, Welington Castillo and Matt Wieters could all turn in roughly 20 homers. Now that Wieters has signed with Washington, we can say that all of those catchers play in power-friendly parks (rated above an even "1" on ESPN's Park Factors). Rupp is only 28 and just turned 419 PAs into 16 homers, and honestly, he has room for more growth in the average department compared to last season’s .252 mark. He hits the snot out of the ball, especially against southpaws, and now with no Carlos Ruiz in the picture, he simply needs to start well and fend off prospect Jorge Alfaro. You could take worse risks, for sure. Murphy has immense power upside, but those in points leagues will have to suffer through his Trevor Story-like counterweight of a strikeout rate that could sit in the 30s. But if given serious playing time, he could very well smash 30+ homers in the Mile High City. Don’t draft strictly for that upside, but that’s the flier you’re buying into. The Rest of the Field Deeper names will include betting on the resurgence of a Yan Gomes or Devin Mesoraco, with the former being a bit of a better buy than the oft-injured latter. Instead of going with their risk, I’d likely just as well take a flier on Tyler Flowers’ continuing to provide modest pop or Andrew Susac becoming a real asset in Milwaukee. Flowers should be the starting catcher for the Braves in 2017, with Kurt Suzuki spelling him now instead of A.J. Pierzynski. The 31-year-old showcased healthy power for Atlanta as a prospect back in 2006-08, but then floundered for years after being traded to the White Sox. However, he returned to the Bravos last season with a useful .270/.357/.420 slash line in 325 PAs. With Atlanta set to roll out their best all-around lineup in several seasons, Flowers’ piece of the pie could be sneakily useful. I should bump him up. Francisco Cervelli shouldn’t be cast aside either, as his disappointing average (.264) and one homer from last season was pretty darn un-Cervelli-like. His plate discipline remained as strong as ever (14.2% walk rate), with his reduced hard-hit rate at least somewhat attributable to dealing with a broken hamate bone in his left hand. He’s not a power hitter, but he should’ve had more than one homer to go with the 14 doubles (and one triple) considering his laughably low 1.6% HR/FB rate (7.3% in 2015). His bat plays up better in points formats, so don’t be afraid to nab him in the final rounds.

Andrew McCutchen Rankings Debate: Comparing RotoBaller's Rankers

It's the fantasy baseball draft season. To us baseball nerds, few things are more exciting than arguing about player rankings. Today, we'll discuss and compare Andrew McCutchen's RotoBaller staff rankings. He was ranked No. 50 overall by Harris Yudin, and No. 114 by Jeff Kahntroff. Throughout this series, we'll be using our February Staff Rankings to debate where to draft certain players. In cases where our writers had discrepancies, we've asked them to explain their rankings. These debates will provide us with some well-rounded analysis, and help identify undervalued/overvalued draft picks. Editor's note: Check out our previous rankings debates on Jose RamirezTrea TurnerJ.D MartinezNelson Cruz, Jose AbreuBryce HarperCarlos Martinez, Kyle SchwarberJonathan Villar, and Kenta Maeda.  

2017 Draft Rankings Debate: Andrew McCutchen

Harris Yudin's Rankings Analysis

His Overall Ranking: 50

McCutchen is only entering his age-30 season, and his durability has never been questioned— he has played at least 146 games in seven straight years. Especially moving to a less physically-demanding position in right field, that durability should continue to hold up going forward.

Cutch isn’t the 20-base stealer he once was, but he still managed six steals in 13 tries last year. That’s an unusually low success rate, and if he were to get on base more in 2017, those attempts should become more frequent. His K rate, ISO and OPS have been trending in the wrong direction over the last few years, but even with declining numbers, he still hit 23 homers with a .401 OBP in 2015. In fact, he has hit 20 or more homers in six consecutive seasons, and his OBP has sat north of .400 in four of his last five. That changed in ’16, but even though his peripherals don’t exactly tell the story of a guy whose season was a fluke, a return to form is not out of the question. I’m not usually one to defend a player because of his past, but this isn’t David Wright or Ryan Zimmerman we’re talking about— McCutchen is still young and has maintained impeccable health.

No one is expecting McCutchen to revert back to his numbers from 2013 — when he crushed 21 long balls and posted a .317/.404/.508 slash line en route to winning the NL MVP Award — but it’s far from unfathomable for a perennial MVP candidate who should still be in his prime to bounce back from a down season. Something in the 25-85-80-10-.280 range is a reasonable expectation— only Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Charlie Blackmon and Ian Kinsler hit all of those benchmarks last season. The only major difference between my projection and Jeff’s is the batting average— numbers back up the rest.

If I have to choose between a 30-year-old Andrew McCutchen bringing his average back up to his career mark or a 32-year-old Matt Kemp replicating his 35-HR display — which he hadn’t done since 2011 — I’m putting my money on McCutchen. Taking a chance on the five-time all-star and hoping that 2016 was an outlier, average-wise, could pay dividends.

 

Jeff Kahntroff's Rankings Analysis

His Overall Ranking: 114

Last year, Andrew McCutchen put up a relatively ugly .256/24/81/79/6 line. His batting average and stolen bases have both declined each year since 2012. He has only hit more than 25 homers once (2012). He has never knocked in more than 100 runs and has only scored over 100 runs once (2012). At age 30, what exactly are we expecting to change? The team that knows him best spent the entire offseason exploring multiple trade scenarios for him, and he is rumored still to be on the block; if they believed in a rebound, would they not wait for him to up his value before trading him? Let’s take a quick look at his stats since 2012:

 

AVG

HR

R

RBI

SB

2012

.327

31

107

96

20

2013

.317

21

97

84

27

2014

.314

25

89

83

18

2015

.292

23

91

96

11

2016

.256

24

81

79

6

 

Just looking at the trends on this table, one would likely not expect better than a .260/24/85/80/5 year. I ranked him near Adam Jones (.265/29/86/83/2), Matt Kemp (.268/35/89/108/1) and Jackie Bradley Jr. (.267/26/94/87/9), players whose 2016 performance far exceeded that projected line. Harris has him ranked about fifty spots ahead of those players, and instead near players who either significantly outperformed him in 2016 at a younger age, or who matched his performance despite not playing full seasons: Carlos Gonzalez (.298/25/87/100/2), Justin Upton (.246/31/81/87/9), Christian Yelich (.298/21/78/98/9 at 24 years old), J.D. Martinez (.307/22/69/68/1 in 120 games), and Yoenis Cespedes (.280/31/72/86/3 in 132 games).

Unless there is a magical reason to expect McCutchen to bounce back in 2017, he is being rated too highly and should be drafted near the former players, rather than the latter ones. With the stolen bases no longer a part of his game, the lack of significant power, and the declining average, it is hard to envision a high upside to justify this ranking. Chase the expected performance, not the name, and select a player who may be less of a name brand but whose performance and trends are worthy of this draft slot.

2017 Keeper Values: Third Base Rankings - Tier One

What's up RotoBallers. Welcome back to my series on keeper leagues. Today I'll be taking a look at third basemen keeper values for fantasy baseball (tier one)  for those of you deciding what players to keep for your teams. Keeper Value Rankings are intended for Keeper Leagues in which a fantasy owner must forfeit a designated draft round in order to keep a player into the up-coming 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. For these specific rankings, 12 team, 5x5 scoring, 23 man roster, Rotisserie league settings were used. If you play in a custom league with non-standard configurations, are thinking of keeping a player not on this list, or want to compare players on your team, follow me on Twitter @RowdyRotoJB or contact me via the RotoBaller Chat Rooms. Editor's note: Be sure to also check out our 2017 fantasy baseball rankings dashboard. It's already loaded up with tons of great rankings articles and draft analysis. Aside from our tiered staff rankings for every position, we also go deep on MLB prospect rankings, impact rookies for 2017, and dynasty/keeper rankings as well. Bookmark the page, and win your drafts.  

How My Keeper Valuation Formula Works

The Keeper Values are derived from my 15 step Keeper Valuation Formula. The product is a quanitative depiction of a players ability to meet/exceed fantasy owners needs based on the cost they payed for the player in the previous season (2016 ADP). The higher the score, the higher the return the fantasy owner will receive from the player, keeping him at his 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.
TIER SCORE EXPLANATION
1 >75 Finders Keepers! These are the Elite Keeper Values. MUST BE KEPT.
2 50-75 Great Keeper values. Unless you have a full load of Tier 1 players, these guys need to be kept.
3 25-49 You are gaining value with these players, but not as much as your opponents are, potentially. Consider if your options are limited.
4 0-24 Break even point. Minimal value. Only consider if you have a large quantity of Keeper selections.
5 -99-0 Keeping these players will hurt your overall draft, as you are not adding any value. Dont waste a Keeper selection here.
6 <-100 The associated costs make it impossible to return any value, these players will ruin your draft. Stay far away.
   

2017 Top Third Basemen Keeper Values: #1-3

3. Jose Ramirez, CLE (23rd Round ADP) Keeper Valuation Formula Score: 77.14 What a breakout season it was for the super utility defenseman. We've seen Ramirez hit for decent average and flash plenty of speed throughout the minors, but never had he put together a season like 2016. It was his first MLB season with over 375 PA, and while he excelled nowhere, he was borderline very-good everywhere. He finished the year with 84 R, 11 HR, 76 RBI, 22 SB, and a sweet .312/.363/.462 slash. While he doesn't have the power to blow you away with HR, but he has what some call "gap power". His high line drive percentage and excellent speed makes Ramirez a double machine and will help sustain that BA. His 46 doubles last season ranked third best in the league.

Jose Ramirez wasn't just filling the fantasy stat sheets last year, he was putting on a clinic with his plate discipline as well. He owned the fifth best strikeout rate (10.0 percent), and was top 10 in both contact percentage (88.8 percent) and swinging strike percentage (4.9 percent). It is a perfect fit for a Terry Francona offense. Also a bonus for Francona is the switch hitting ability. Ramirez hits great from both sides of the plates, as he hit .311 with a .841 OPS versus left handed pitchers and .312 with a .818 OPS versus right handed pitchers in 2016. Which is why he owns such a beautiful spray chart: (FanGraphs.com)

Based on his skillset, Ramirez doesn't really have a lot of room to improve on what we got from him in 2016, but with that being said, he did continue to get better as the year went on. For the second half of the season, he hit .329 with seven HR and a .883 OPS. Plus he is still only 24 years old, and a very poised 24 year old at that. He was absolutely clutch last year, hitting .355 with RISP, and went 5-10 against the Redsox in the ALDS before going 9-29 with a double and a homer in the World Series. So it is easy to see why RotoBaller currently has him ranked as a top 100 player, and why he scores as a Tier One Keeper Value for 2017. Two of our experts here at RotoBaller actually recently took to a debate on ranking Jose Ramirez for the upcoming fantasy season. Who do you side with??   2. Alex Bregman, HOU (23rd Round ADP) Keeper Valuation Formula Score: 77.45 The fantasy baseball world finally got introduced to the second overall pick from the 2015 draft. Before receiving the call to the big leagues in late July, Alex Bregman was just having his way with minor league pitching. He had hit 20 HR with a BA over .300 when the Astros finally decided to give the poor pitchers a break. The touted call-up did not go as Bregman or the Astros had planned initially. Through his first six games, the rookie was 1-22. It looks as if he wasn't able to do anything with pitches on the outside of the plate, which is where the pitchers were focusing in on. Luckily, the 'Stros stayed with the youngster, and it paid off. For it didn't take long for Bregman to make the adjustments needed down and away.  Bregman finished the year by hitting .323 with 10 XBH and both his SB in the 15 games in September. For the season, in 217 PA, he hit .264/.313/.478 with eight HR. His batted ball statistics, specifically his 0.67 GB/FB ratio, 12.5 HR/FB%, and 28.2 LD%, indicates Bregman may be at least a 20 HR guy over a full season. Once he gets a tad bit more seasoning under his belt, and lowers that 24.0 K% which was much higher than he experienced throughout his short minor league career, this guy will be a stud. The best part of Alex Bregman is the situation in which he currently finds himself. Upon his call-up, he almost immediately called dibs on the two hole in the Astros lineup. He is projected to reside there again for the 2017 season, hitting behind George Springer and in front of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Carlos Beltran. RotoBaller currently has him ranked as a ninth round value for the upcoming fantasy season, which alone is a huge value based on where he was drafted, or not drafted for that matter, in 2016. You are going to want to keep this guy in your lineup for years to come. For what its worth, Scott White of CBSsports.com listed Bregman as one of his top breakout fantasy players for 2017. He just used far too many GIFs to explain himself, so obviously, for the rest of the article I will attempt to match his league-high GIF%....Here is Alex Bregman showing off his line drive power in the 2016 Futures Game.   1. Kris Bryant, CHC (Second Round ADP) Keeper Valuation Formula Score: 98.55 GIF time!     Wow, pretty scary how long you can stare into another man's eyes... When you first think of Keeper League, Kris Bryant is one of the first names to pop into your head. Another former second overall draft pick, few hitters in the history of the league have become as elite of a hitter so quickly as KB. Heres a list of the best age 24 seasons every in terms of WAR to prove it:      Notice anything special about this list? Its Hall of Fame studded as hell! Now 25 years old, Bryant has already earned Rookie of the Year, MVP, two All-Star appearances, a World Series Championship (in Chicago!), and has hit five postseason HR. The upside is mind boggling to try and project, as he is still improving his game at the plate. En route to the MVP Award, Bryant led the National League in runs scored (121), and hit 39 HR, 102 RBI with eight stolen bases. He put so many worries to bed as he cut down his strikeout rate by eight points, and increased his slash to .292/.385/.554 for the season. That's even with a 46 point drop in his BABIP from the previous year. My favorite adjustment Bryant made was cutting down his percentage of groundballs, and moving them all over to his line drive percentage, which he upped to 23.7 percent. He also was able to pull the ball more in 2016 (46.7 Pull%), which really helped his power numbers as he raised his Hard% up over the 40 percent plateau and his ISO to a sexy .262.     Kris Bryant is amazing, plain and simple. He was one of only four hitters to record at least 100 R, 30 HR, and 100 RBI in 2016. He'll hit second and third in arguably the best lineup in baseball, and if you are able to keep him at all (especially outside the first round), congratulations. On a side note, how fun was it to see this guy win the World Series? I mean, look at that joy.      Keeper Value Articles:  Catcher Rankings: Tier 1 Catcher Rankings: Tier 2 Catcher Rankings: Tier 3 First Base Rankings: Tier 1 First Base Rankings: Tier 2 First Base Rankings: Tiers 3-4 Second Base Rankings: Tier 1 Second Base Rankings: Tier 2 Second Base Rankings: Tier 3 Third Base Rankings: Tier 2 Third Base Rankings: Tier 3

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FANTASY BASEBALL SLEEPERS

Is Kendrys Morales This Year's Mark Trumbo?

Kendrys Morales signed a three year, $33 million pact with the Blue Jays early this offseason. Many criticized the signing then, and have criticized it even further after Encarnacion’s and the rest of the 1B/DH market did not develop as anticipated. Nonetheless, Morales is leaving for a better fantasy situation. Could he break out in the AL East like Mark Trumbo did last year? This piece will analyze data from three similar scenarios, and data from Baseball Savant, to answer that question. As Morales is not a stolen base threat, this article will solely focus on the other four categories.   Comparison 1: Trumbo in Anaheim (2011-2013) vs. Morales (2009-2012) in Anaheim 162 Game Averages Morales and Trumbo both played in Anaheim during similar timeframes. Morales’ time in Anaheim was marred by an infamous injury, but after becoming a full-time player, he played all of 2009, a portion of 2010, and most of 2012 at ages 25-29. Trumbo likewise had three seasons, ages 25-27, after becoming a full-time player. We will thus compare their stats from their time in Anaheim, which were fairly similar on 162 game averages, and use Trumbo’s AL East stats to project Morales’ potential AL East stats.

ANAHEIM
AVG HR RUNS RBIS
Mark Trumbo .251 35 78 101
Kendrys Morales .290 33 85 106
% Difference +15.5 -6.1 +9.0 +5.0
 
AL EAST
AVG HR RUNS RBIS
Mark Trumbo .256 48 96 110
Kendrys Morales .296 45 105 115
% Difference +15.5 -6.1 +9.0 +5.0
  Baltimore is +11% in homers for righties (according to baseballmonster.com, which is the source for all park factors used herein). Toronto is +11% for homers generally (as Morales is a switch-hitter). Thus, their home parks should be equal for homers.   Comparison 2: Josh Donaldson in Oakland (2013-2014) vs. Morales (2015-2016) in Kansas City 162 Game Averages Another comparison is Josh Donaldson’s two years prior to Toronto in a pitchers’ park (-6% for righty homers) versus Morales’ two years prior to Toronto in a pitchers’ park (-11% for homers). Toronto does give righties more of a boost (+13%) than hitters generally (+11%), but Morales still comes out slightly ahead when considering their prior parks. One meaningful difference is Donaldson’s last two years were at ages 29-30, whereas Morales’ will be 33-35, but it’s not clear the difference in drop-offs from 28-30 should be too much different than from 33-35 (see http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/component-changes-in-new-hitter-aging-curves/). Thus, we take their numbers in their two years prior to Toronto to project Morales’ Toronto stats.
TWO YEARS PRIOR TO TORONTO
AVG HR RUNS RBIS
Josh Donaldson .277 28 94 98
Kendrys Morales .277 27 76 104
% Difference -- -3.7 -23.7 +6.1
 
TORONTO
AVG HR RUNS RBIS
Josh Donaldson .291 41 127 115
Kendrys Morales .291 40 103 122
% Difference -- -3.7 -23.7 +6.1
  As you can see, their 162 game averages prior to Toronto were very similar. Moreover, so were their home/road homer splits. Morales hit 22 home and 30 away, whereas those numbers were 24 and 29 for Donaldson.   Comparison 3: Michael Saunders in Seattle (2012-2014) vs. Kendrys Morales in KC (2015-2016) Morales and Saunders both played in Seattle in 2013, but I am choosing to use Morales’ more recent numbers for comparison as he only played one season in Seattle, and it was four seasons ago. I will compare Saunders’ three seasons prior to joining Toronto (ages 25-27), since he only played 204 games in 2009-2011, to Morales’ two seasons in Kansas City. This comparison is a little trickier, because Seattle moved in the fences after 2012, and is now +6% for lefty homers. Nonetheless, I felt a third comparison necessary lest the projections get too lofty otherwise. Their pre-AL East 162 game averages are not as similar as the others.
PRIOR TO TORONTO
AVG HR RUNS RBIS
Michael Saunders .248 19 78 64
Kendrys Morales .277 27 76 104
% Difference +11.7 +42.1 -2.6 +62.5
 
TORONTO
AVG HR RUNS RBIS
Michael Saunders .250 27 76 66
Kendrys Morales .279 38 74 107
% Difference +11.7 +42.1 -2.6 +62.5 
  Combining the Projections Because multiple data points are better than one, the below table averages the three projections above, and then gives Morales a 10% discount for games played (as the numbers were based on 162 game averages).
AVG HR RUNS RBIS
Morales 1 .296 45 105 115
Morales 2 .291 40 103 122
Morales 3 .279 38 74 107
Morales Average .289 41 94 115
10% discount for games .289 37 85 104
  Baseball Savant’s Statcast Data Baseball Savant’s spray chart data and park maps indicate Morales likely would have hit 37 homers in 2016 had all his games been in the Rogers Centre. While Morales will only play half his games at home, and thus the park boost may not be as large, the other four parks in the AL East are an average of +4.25% for homers whereas the four road parks in the AL Central were +2.5%. Thus, the spray charts and park factors also predict a power jump.   Conclusion The projections above, based on three cherry-picked players who broke out, feel a bit lofty to me. Moreover, I did not factor age into the calculations, or the fact that Kansas City was better for batting average than Seattle or Oakland (upon which two comparisons were based). Loosely adjusting for these factors, I think a .270 average with 30+ homers, 100 RBIs and 80 runs is perfectly reasonable, and there is room for further upside. Thus, Morales is being rated far too low and could be this year’s Trumbo, who was one of my breakout candidates last year.

Fantasy Baseball Draft Sleepers & Draft Values (List Updated Daily)

Back by popular demand in 2017... RotoBaller has brought back for the MLB season our Ultimate 2017 Fantasy Baseball Draft Sleepers & Waiver Wire Pickups List.  Our team of MLB enthusiasts and fantasy baseball analysts follow baseball all day, during the offseason and especially during the season. We recommend players for you to consider as 2017 draft sleepers, ADP values, or hot pickups off the waiver wire - every single day of the fantasy baseball preseason and season. If you like draft values and sleepers, also check out the 2017 fantasy baseball rankings hub. Our new Rankings Assistant Tool combines all our ranks in one place - tiers, points leagues, top prospects, dynasty ranks, and more. Now let's win some leagues!

iPhone Fantasy Baseball App - Waiver Wire PickupsAndroid Fantasy Baseball App - Waiver Wire PickupsPrefer using your phone? Download our famous Sleepers & Waiver Wire app. It's free, and available in the Apple & Android Stores.
   

2017 Fantasy Baseball Draft Sleepers by MLB Position

ALL - C - 1B - 2B - SS - 3B - OF - SP - RP

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Champ or Chump: Jonathan Villar & Billy Hamilton

Fantasy baseball has always assigned more importance to the running game than its real life counterpart. Rotisserie leagues set steals as equally valuable to home runs, despite the fact that the latter are a guaranteed run on the board. As homers go up and steals decline, some are arguing that steals should be more of a priority on Draft Day than power. If you plan to spend on speed, two names immediately come to mind: Jonathan Villar and Billy Hamilton. Villar stole 62 bags to go with a triple slash line of .285/.369/.457 and 19 homers in a breakout 2016. Hamilton finally started looking like a hitter, posting a .260/.321/.343 line with his 58 swipes. Both are leaving draft boards early on, but are they a good use of that selection? Let's investigate! Editor's note: Be sure to also check out our 2017 fantasy baseball rankings dashboard. It's already loaded up with tons of great rankings articles and draft analysis. Aside from our tiered staff rankings for every position, we also go deep on MLB prospect rankings, impact rookies for 2017, and dynasty/keeper rankings as well. Bookmark the page, and win your drafts.  

The Fantasy Jury is Out

Jonathan Villar (MIL SS/3B) ADP: 30.3 Fantasy owners always knew Villar was a SB candidate, but last year went well beyond his assumed ceiling. His .285 average and 19 homers would play from a middle infielder even without the 62 swipes. His 18 CS last year gave him a strong success rate of roughly 78 percent, so steals seem like a given this year. With his current ADP however, something else will have to come with it to justify the cost. Villar's solid batting average was the result of a .373 BABIP, a number that seems inflated even if we ignore his .268 career BABIP on ground balls in favor of last year's .313 rate. The prior year's .300 BABIP seems like a fair projection moving forward given his speed. His performance on line drives is almost certain to drop (.728 BABIP last year vs. .694 career), and his 24.1 percent FB rate was actually slightly higher than 2015's 23 percent rate. Villar has the skills to support his .347 career BABIP, but that could take his average too low to be a huge fantasy asset. Optimists may point to his .165 BABIP on fly balls in 2016 (career .195) as a source of positive regression to offset some of the negative regression forecasted above. They're probably right, but it will hurt Villar's value. His 19 big flies were the result of a HR/FB surge to 19.6 percent, nearly double the previous year's rate of 10 percent. This removed all of Villar's well struck flies from his BABIP, a problem that will be rectified when they start staying in the yard. He did not pull any more flies than he used to (16.5 percent vs. 17.7 percent career), so the HR/FB figures to head south.  There is just no way Villar is a 20 HR bat with a 24.1 percent FB percent. There is hope for improvement in Villar's 25.6 percent K rate, as his eye is plus (24.1 percent O-Swing%) while his SwStr% (10.6 percent) is only slightly higher than average. His 42 games at 3B give him eligibility there in all formats, and he figures to add second base early in the season if his nine games there are not enough to qualify in your format. Still, he is very expensive and only steals seem like a given. I can't endorse him at this price. Verdict: Chump   Billy Hamilton (OF, CIN) ADP: 66.3 Unlike many speedsters, Hamilton actually gains value if your league uses Net Steals. He was only caught eight times last year with 58 successes, giving him more Net Steals (50) than most players' raw SB totals. Sadly, he may not have so many opportunities in 2017. Sure he's fast, but no one can sustain a .368 BABIP on ground balls. His career .302 BABIP on grounders seems like a much more reasonable projection, sending Hamilton's .260 average back to painful levels in fantasy. Hamilton also posted a career worst 20.2 percent K rate. Advanced metrics did not support it, as his eye improved slightly (27.6 percent O-Swing% in 2015 to 25.3 percent last year) while his SwStr% increase (7.2 percent to 7.8 percent) was mostly the result of a career low 67.1 O-Contact%. Contact on pitches outside of the strike zone is usually weak anyway, so a swinging strike may be a better outcome. Hamilton's biggest problem may be his teammate Jose Peraza. Brandon Phillips has finally been moved, giving Peraza a place to play. Peraza is nearly as fast as Hamilton and has shown signs of being a competent singles hitter at the MLB level, making him a more attractive leadoff option than Hamilton's pure speed profile.  Hamilton's rosiest projections always include a boatload of runs scored from hitting at the top of the lineup, but the Reds now have a better option for the role. Hamilton's 3.6 percent HR/FB despite calling The Great American Bandbox home is the punchline of a joke, so he can really only help in steals, average, and runs. Peraza might take the runs, dooming Hamilton to the bottom of the lineup. His average will be bad if he doesn't hit .360+ on ground balls. That makes him a pure speed play who goes 100+ picks before comparable players like Jarrod Dyson and Travis Jankowski. Seems like a poor use of resources to me. Verdict: Chump

Scene Change: Four Hitters on New Teams

No team stays the same from one season to the next. Injuries and retirements, trades and free agency, promotions and demotions. Whatever the reason, scores of players' situations have changed from when we last saw them. Today, we'll take a look at four hitters who will be donning new uniforms this season - and what that means for their outlook for the 2017 fantasy baseball season. Editor's note: Be sure to also check out our 2017 fantasy baseball rankings dashboard. It's already loaded up with tons of great rankings articles and draft analysis. Aside from our tiered staff rankings for every position, we also go deep on MLB prospect rankings, impact rookies for 2017, and dynasty/keeper rankings as well. Bookmark the page, and win your drafts.  

New Year, New Squad, New Men?

Dexter Fowler, St. Louis Cardinals Fresh off helping the Cubs win a title, Fowler signed with the division rival Cardinals. While he is moving to a more pitcher-friendly park as a result, Fowler actually hit significantly better away from the friendly confines of Wrigley Field last year, posting a .915 OPS on the road. All caveats about the usefulness of home/road splits aside, it’s hard to look at that and consider Fowler to be a product of his environment. He remains a solid bet for 10 – 15 homers, to go along with 15 – 20 stolen bases. The Cardinals’ lineup is likely to be less productive as a whole than the Cubs’, but Fowler’s on-base skills (and Matt Carpenter hitting behind him) should help him score plenty of runs from the leadoff spot anyway. His excellent plate discipline makes him more attractive in OBP leagues, but even in standard formats, the .268 career hitter won’t kill you in batting average.   Edwin Encarnacion, Cleveland Indians Encarnacion was a beast as usual last season, tying his career high with 42 home runs, scoring 99 runs and driving in 127. Given their respective reputations, we might expect E5 moving from Rogers Centre to Progressive Field would be a concern. However, Progressive has actually played friendlier overall than the Blue Jays’ home field the last couple of years, and for right-handed power in particular. How about team context? The Indians also scored more runs than the Jays did last season, without Encarnacion. No worries there, either. What is a potential red flag, though, is batted ball data. Encarnacion maintained his usual elite exit velocity, but the launch angle on his fly balls increased substantially. This could indicate a loss of bat speed, and given that he just turned 34, that wouldn’t be a shock. Nitpicky? Perhaps, but launch angles tend to remain static year to year, so a change like this is notable. Encarnacion did also run the worst strikeout rate of his career and his pitch values declined on every offspeed pitch. That said, we are talking about a guy who’s averaged .272-90-39-100-5 over the last five seasons. Even some age-related regression isn’t likely to keep him from being one of the best first base options in fantasy baseball again.   Kendrys Morales, Toronto Blue Jays Morales will replace Encarnacion in the middle of the Jays’ lineup. The veteran rebounded from a terrible 2014 to turn in a couple of useful seasons with the Royals, averaging a .277-73-26-100-0 line. While his production didn’t seem to suffer from it, Kauffamn Stadium has been one of the worst parks for home runs in the last several seasons. Morales could certainly benefit from Rogers Centre. He also ranked among the league leaders in exit velocity in 2016, suggesting that his surge back to 30 HR territory wasn’t necessarily fluky. The Jays were a significantly better offensive team than the Royals a year ago, and figure to remain so, particularly if Jose Bautista rebounds. Morales only qualifies at first base in Yahoo leagues currently, but has reportedly worked on his defense in preparation for a possible platoon at the cold corner. He’s an afterthought in drafts (174 ADP), but perhaps he shouldn’t be.   Logan Forsythe, Los Angeles Dodgers When the Twins refused to accept Jose De Leon as the sole piece in the return on a Brian Dozier, the Dodgers sent DeLeon to Tampa Bay instead. Minnesota’s loss is Forsythe’s (and his fantasy owners’) gain. While he obviously hasn’t posted the raw numbers that Dozier has, they’re quite similar in many ways. Now, Forsythe will get the chance to show what he can do in a much better lineup. And even though Dodger Stadium isn’t a hitter haven, it’ll probably seem like it to Forsythe after plying his trade in Petco Park and Tropicana Field. Forsythe also made some encouraging adjustments last season that didn’t immediately translate to his surface stats. Formerly a dead pull hitter, Forsythe hit balls to the opposite field both better and more often. He also hit more home runs than in 2015, despite fewer plate appearances. A 25/10 season with plenty of runs and a passable average seems doable. That’s not Dozier level, but Forsythe is available 200 (!) picks later on average. Take a page from the Dodgers’ playbook and get the discount version.

>> Read even MORE of RotoBaller's 2013 fantasy baseball rankings and fantasy baseball sleepers

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Predicting the Top 10 Finishers in Steals

While the juiced ball has raised home run totals across the board, stolen bases are becoming an increasingly rare commodity. In 2016, there were 14 players who finished with 30 or more steals, while 28 players robbed at least 20 bases. By contrast, 10 years ago there were 19 players who stole 30+ bases and 42 with 20+ steals. Back then, nabbing a player like Jose Reyes or Jacoby Ellsbury (seriously!) could get you as many as 70 steals in a season. The value of the top base-stealers will vary wildly, depending on what else they bring to the table, but for our purposes we will look solely at who should dominate this elusive category in 2017. Editor's note: for even more draft prep, visit our awesome 2017 fantasy baseball rankings dashboard. It has lots of in-depth staff rankings and draft strategy columns. You will find tiered rankings for every position, 2017 impact rookie rankings, AL/NL only league ranks and lots more. Bookmark the page, and win your drafts.  

2017 Predictions: Top 10 Base Stealers

10.  Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels - Last season, Trout experienced a bit of a flashback to 2013 when he finished with very similar numbers across the board. He sacrificed speed for power the next two years, but came back to his base-stealing ways in 2016 with 30 thefts. The Angels will have a tough time competing in the AL West and may need to generate offense however they can. This could mean Trout will have the green light more often. Are you going to be the one to doubt him? 9.  Jose Altuve, Houston Astros - The way Altuve has started to hit the ball, he may be too busy trotting around the bases to think about stealing. Altuve's power has started to surge, while his steal totals waned last year. Since leading the AL with 56 steals in 2014, that total dropped to 38 in 2015 and 30 last year. This should temper your expectations for another 50-steal season, but keep in mind Altuve is just 26 years old and has never finished under 30 steals in a full season. He is a safe bet for another 30-35 SB. 8.  Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates - Now the center fielder in Pittsburgh, Marte is officially the resident speed demon. After back-to-back 30 steal seasons, Marte jumped up to 47 SB in 2016. He never flashed that much thievery in the minors, posting a high of 26 in the lower levels, so it's hard to imagine him topping that number. Nonetheless, he is a top-15 outfield target because you won't sacrifice average or run production by drafting him. 7.  Rajai Davis, Oakland Athletics - If it seems that Davis pops up on the SB leaderboard with a different team each year, it's mostly true. Last season, he finished fourth with 43 steals as a member of the Tribe en route to swatting an unexpected, memorable post-season home run. He also finished sixth in stolen bases with Detroit in 2014, third in 2013, second in 2012 and 13th in 2011 while with Toronto, and was third in 2010 and 13th in 2009 in his first run with the A's. He returns to Oakland as the regular center fielder and a safe bet for 40 steals. Oakland doesn't run quite as much as other teams, which is the only reason Davis drops to number seven on this list, but they didn't bring him in for his power... 6.  Keon Broxton, Milwaukee Brewers - If the Oakland Raiders' motto is "Just Win Baby," then the Brewers should adopt "Just Run Baby" as their's. Milwaukee led the league in stolen base attempts and it wasn't even close (you could say it was a runaway...) Broxton accounted for 27 of the team's 237 attempts and was successful on 23. This came in less than half a season's work, as he saw just 207 AB. If Broxton can hit close to the way he did in the second half (.294/.399/.538), he could even battle Villar for the top spot on his team. 5.  Trea Turner, Washington Nationals - He may not finish with the highest SB total of the players on this list, but definitely wins the contest for highest overall ceiling. Turner is being taken as high as the first round in some fantasy drafts due to his tremendous skill set which includes 33 steals over half a season as a rookie. He may not be asked to steal as much as some of the players on lesser teams because of the run-producers behind him in the lineup, which somewhat limits his potential in this category. That just means he may "only" steal 45 bases, as opposed to 60. 4.  Jose Peraza, Cincinnati Reds - Hearing that Brandon Phillips was being dealt to Atlanta was all I needed to propel Peraza into this list. In limited time as a rookie, Peraza swiped 21 bags over 256 plate appearances. Truth be told, it should have been more had he not been caught 10 times. As the everyday second baseman, Peraza could easily reach 50 steals or more. He reached the 60-steal mark twice in the minors while hitting .299. Don't fool yourself into thinking his hot streak late last year was a fluke. 3.  Jonathan Villar, Milwaukee Brewers - We'll have to take a small step back from Villar, even though he has a good shot to replicate last year's numbers. Many are calling for a regression from his .373 BABIP, but that figure isn't much higher than two of his previous seasons as a utility man in Houston. In his first year as a full-time starter, Villar struck out way too much to be at the top of the order (174 K), but he also increased his walk rate (11.6 percent) and posted a .369 OBP. On a different team, this might be a different story, but it shouldn't surprise anyone if Villar swipes 50 or more again. 2.  Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds - If there's one thing the man can do, it's steal bases. Hamilton has gone over 50 SB in each of his three full Major League seasons. He cut down greatly on his caught-stealing percentage since his rookie year and has posted an 88 percent SB success rate each of the last two seasons. One can only imagine how many steals Hamilton could get if he hit over .260. While he is a great bet to lead the league in steals, you can throw every other counting stat out the window by putting him in your outfield, so draft accordingly. 1.  Dee Gordon, Miami Marlins - Those expecting a stolen base crown by picking Gordon early last year were treated to a half-season of bitter disappointment when his 80-game suspension was announced. He somewhat acquitted himself with 24 steals in the second half, but many are still wondering if he can be the same player who led the league in both steals and batting average in 2015. That seems like a stretch, but even as a .270 hitter at the top of Miami's lineup, he will have ample opportunity to log 650+ plate appearances and run at will. His playing time and productivity is far more secure than Hamilton, so he gets the nod as the top projected base stealer in 2017.   Honorable Mention: Travis Jankowski, San Diego Padres - If Jankowski were assured of being the everyday starter as he was in the second half of 2016, he would surely make the cut. Jankowski swiped 30 bags across 383 PA last season, but will be competing with Alex Dickerson and top prospects Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe for playing time. If one of those three struggles or gets injured, Jankowski could again make for a nice waiver wire add for those desperate for steals.

Using Sabermetrics for Fantasy Baseball Part 2: HR/FB%

Using BABIP to predict a player's batting average is great. Average is a category in many league formats, and every hit is an opportunity to steal a base or score a run. But most owners find the long ball sexier. Every HR comes with a guaranteed run scored and at least one RBI. Many owners build their teams around power for this reason. Yet fluky HR campaigns can happen just as easily as fluky batting average ones. How do we tell the difference between a legitimate breakout and a fluke? Editor's note: Be sure to also check out our 2017 fantasy baseball rankings dashboard. It's already loaded up with tons of great rankings articles and draft analysis. Aside from our tiered staff rankings for every position, we also go deep on MLB prospect rankings, impact rookies for 2017, and dynasty/keeper rankings as well. Bookmark the page, and win your drafts.  

How to Interpret HR/FB%

HR/FB% measures the percentage of fly balls that leave the park. Like BABIP, the typical league baseline is easy to remember at around 10%. Also like BABIP, an experienced player's personal benchmark in the stat is a better indicator of his future performance than the league average. For example, Giancarlo Stanton is generally regarded as one of the top sluggers in the game today. His HR/FB% was 22.7% in 2016, nearly double the league average rate. If this number regressed to the league average, Stanton wouldn't be very good. However, he has a career rate of 25.4%. Clearly, above average power is something Stanton just does. Last year was actually a down year for him. Large spikes or dropoffs in HR/FB% are generally temporary, meaning that the stat is usually not predictive of a power breakout. Fantasy owners want to know the next power breakout, so this may be somewhat disappointing. Future power production may be predicted, however, by an increase in fly ball rate, or the percentage of a batter's flies as opposed to liners or grounders. Elite sluggers generally post a fly ball percentage of 40% or higher. Subjected to this test, Stanton had a 43.3% rate in 2016 and a career mark of 40.6%. These rate stats, combined with a consistently above average HR/FB%, make Stanton the player he is. Stanton doesn't really illustrate the distinction between HR/FB% and FB% because he excels at both. For a predictive illustration, consider Minnesota's Joe Mauer. His HR/FB% last season was a solid 12.8%, suggesting that he should have hit a few bombs for fantasy owners. Yet he managed only 11 big flies in 576 PAs last season. The reason is a tiny 21.3% fly ball rate, a rate too low to do anything with even Stanton's power. No one thinks Mauer is going to hit for power in 2017, but plenty of people fell for it back in 2010. The year prior, Mauer went bonkers with a .365/.444/.587 line and 28 bombs. His HR/FB% spiked to 20.4% in 2009, but nothing in his history indicated he could maintain a level that high as his previous career best was 10.8% in 2006. Meanwhile, his 29.5 FB% was far too low to expect any real power production moving forward. He received first round attention from fantasy owners, and the Twins gave him an extension they could not really afford.  Mauer morphed back into the singles hitter we know today, ruining many 2010 fantasy seasons and saddling the Twins with one of the worst contracts in MLB. If you're looking for the 2017 version of 2010 Mauer, Christian Yelich (23.6% HR/FB%, 20 FB%), Eric Hosmer (21.4% HR/FB%, 24.7 FB%), and Ryan Braun (28.8 HR/FB%, 25.1 FB%) all seem like strong candidates for power regression. It is also worth noting that the league as a whole managed a 12.8 HR/FB% last season, an elevated figure that could mean significantly fewer dingers in the 2017 season if it regresses to normal.  

Conclusion

HR/FB% is considered the BABIP of power because it can be used to evaluate whether a given player is outperforming his true talent level. The league average usually hovers around 10%, and a given player's past performance is a better indicator of future performance than the generic league baseline. A player with a large spike or drop off in HR/FB should be expected to return to his established baseline moving forward. Ballpark factors or a major change in offensive approach may permanently alter HR/FB%, but in general raw fly ball percentage is a better tool to identify potential power breakouts. This may seem to indicate that batters want to hit nothing but flies, but that is not always the case. We'll look at why in Part 3 of this series, batted ball distribution.

Fantasy Baseball Points League Primer: Five Rules to Remember

The majority of fantasy baseball advice and analysis is tailored to standard head-to-head and rotisserie leagues. The rationale for this is twofold. First, those scoring formats are significantly more popular than points leagues, and writers naturally want to capture the broadest possible audience. To wit: I make a point of familiarizing myself with ADP data each year even though all of my leagues are auction drafts. Secondly, while H2H and roto can have plenty of variance in terms of scoring settings, points league by nature have significantly more permutations. If you’ve never played in a points league before, the adjustment can be a difficult one. Here are a few simple rules to help you navigate the waters. Editor's note: For even more draft prep, visit our awesome 2017 fantasy baseball rankings dashboard. It has lots of in-depth staff rankings and draft strategy columns. You will find tiered rankings for every position, 2017 impact rookie rankings, AL/NL only league ranks and lots more. Bookmark the page, and win your drafts  

Starting Pitching is More Valuable…

The vast majority of the time in H2H or roto, it makes sense to spend more on bats than on arms. Pitchers are an inherently more volatile asset. They’re more susceptible to bad circumstances or misfortune that impacts performance, and they break more often than hitters. In points leagues, however, they are also worth substantially more. In 2015, Bryce Harper’s transcendent MVP season scored his owners an impressive 554 points. However, seven starting pitchers tallied more points than Harper. Points leagues are the only format in which you’re not automatically drafting Mike Trout with the first pick.  

…But You Need to Select the Right Guys

Head-to-head owners can stream or roster pitchers whose value is much more limited in rotisserie or points leagues. If the pitcher in question can get you a well-timed win or help shore up your ratios, you can overlook the fact that he doesn’t whiff many batters, or that he allows too many walks. Roto penalizes for low strikeout totals in standard leagues, but walks still don’t matter if they aren’t wrecking ratios. In points leagues, however, pitchers are often directly penalized for walks. Unless they’re posting gaudy strikeout totals, you’ll have a tough time deploying guys with high walk rates. As a general rule of thumb, try to avoid relying on pitchers with a K/BB below 3.00.  

High-Strikeout Hitters Hurt

It’s not just pitcher skill sets that need to be evaluated a bit differently in points leagues. Many will dock you points for whiffs from your hitters. In the infancy of analytics, debate raged as to whether strikeouts were worse than other, more “productive” outs. This old argument does hold water in points league, however. While a hitter can still be good despite high strikeout totals – and many of the best sluggers in the game fit that bill – this format takes a bigger chunk out of their value than H2H and roto leagues typically do. Think of it like this: If you draft Chris Davis in a head-to-head or rotisserie league, you can grab a high-average hitter or two to mitigate the damage he’d do to your team’s batting average. In a points league, though, Davis is creating negative value for your team in nearly a third of his plate appearances! Conversely, guys like Mookie Betts, Nolan Arenado, and Jose Altuve are tremendously valuable in any format, but their combination of power and contact ability makes them that much more enticing in points leagues.  

Rate Stats Matter More

Fantasy owners who have cut their teeth in standard H2H or roto leagues have been conditioned to think of power in terms of home run totals. But points leagues often reward hitters for doubles and triples as well. Points leagues also give credit for walks, which standard leagues in the other formats do not. What this means is that you should be paying more attention to rate stats. On-base percentage, slugging percentage, and isolated power can all tell you a lot about how productive a hitter will be in points leagues.  

Specialized Stats Matter Less

In a head-to-head or roto league, your best strategy for success is to build a team that is competitive in all facets of the game. Punting categories can work, but it’s difficult to pull off and should never be plan A – particularly in roto. If you’re playing in a points league, however, that goes out the window. It doesn’t matter where your points are coming from, as long as you’re accumulating them. Accordingly, specialized stats like stolen bases and saves are less important. A guy like Billy Hamilton’s usefulness is severely capped, because he only does one thing well. Ditto for the handful of closers each year who compile saves despite lackluster strikeout rates and pedestrian ratios (looking your way, Jeanmar Gomez). This also allows owners to be more creative in their approach to building a winning roster. Freed from the necessary evil of striving for balance, a points league owner might elect to load up on a specific type of player, or use trades to add to a strength rather than address a weakness.

Expert Mock Draft: Mariano in the Middle

I was fortunate enough to be invited to mock with some of the industry’s brightest on Thursday night, where I was able to test out how picking No. 6 in a 12-team roto league would go. Organized by fightingchancefantasy.com, I locked horns with folks such as Steve Gardner, Tim Heaney, John Halpin and Joel Henard as I repped RotoBaller. We used standard 5x5 scoring categories, with one catcher, a CI, MI, four outfielders, a UTIL, nine pitchers (five SP, two RP, two P) and two bench slots. All-in-all, I walked away happy—and FantasyPros said I “won” the mock with a 96 grade (click here for that analysis). So, booyah.  

My Picks From the Six

 

Early-Round Picks - Two Aces And Underrated Power Assets

My first surprise was getting Kris Bryant No. 6 overall, as I’m used to only choosing from Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt (who went fourth and fifth, respectively) from that slot. Six is definitely “the line” for me, as I’m happy with any of those top-six bats over Clayton Kershaw, and I really don’t want to ever select Kersh. Pairing Bryant with my next pick, Joey Votto, meant that I had roughly 220 runs, 70 homers, 200 RBIs and a .305 average in tow. I will always prioritize power over speed, but I’ll seek out batting average over speed early as well. The third round brought the first “audible”, as Chris Sale was still sitting there at No. 30 despite him being a top-25 talent. I know Fenway Park isn’t a premier pitching spot, but neither was US Cellular Field. The talent around him is greatly improved, and he’ll surely vie for the AL Cy Young again in ’17 with roughly 250 Ks. Then I timed out and picked Yu Darvish, though I had queued up Nelson Cruz (the connection cut before the queue took, obviously). However, we are not making excuses. Darvish could also strike out 250 guys if health holds, and I’m ending up with lots of shares this season. However, two pitchers in the first four rounds is uncanny, so I knew I’d need to buckle down on hitters. That lasted a few rounds. Gregory Polanco and Hanley Ramirez were my next two picks, both of whom I’m very excited to own this season. Polanco had a torrid first three months, slashing .299/.377/.515 with 10 homers and nine steals before injuries mounted up and zapped his momentum (.216/.261/.409 the rest of the way). I’m buying hard into healthy Polanco for both power and speed, and Ramirez also finally looked like himself again as 2016 wore on (22 second-half homers). I won’t expect a 40-homer season, but another 30-homer, 100-RBI campaign is doable in the middle of that potent Boston order. After selecting Zach Britton in Round 7 (Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen had gone a full round earlier), I got perhaps my biggest steal in Justin Upton at 91st overall. Upton is still only 29 years old, and despite his awful start to ’16, he still tied his career-high marks with 31 homers and chipped in nine steals. Even if we’re stomaching some bad stretches, this is roto and not head-to-head so I’m happy to do it. At this point, I just wanted to fill out my outfield because I saw a deep middle-infield pool that was building up. This ended up yielding Adam Jones, who still delivered a solid stat line despite being hampered by a rib injury early in 2016, and the broken-out Jose Ramirez. I firmly believe in Ramirez’s bat and wheels to sustain a .333 BABIP and deliver a line-drive rate close to 2016’s 22.8% again. There’s room for a bit more power as well.  

Mid-Round Picks - AL East Bats and Aaron Nola

Feeling satiated with hitting, I decided to roll my dice on the health of Rich Hill. If he can fend off blisters and the like, he’ll be a strong SP2 in the SP3 slot. Even if he can’t, the composite of Hill + waiver-wire arm will still be worth an 11th rounder. Next came three AL East boppers, with Kendrys Morales, Dustin Pedroia and Troy Tulowitzki. This is why I felt I could wait on the middle infield. Pedroia at No. 150 is criminal, as he’s another average-anchor who will contribute in all five categories with a strong chance at 100 runs. We needed another big bopper though, so I grabbed my favorite mid-round slugger, Kendrys Morales. He’s had a clean bill of health and just bashed 30 homers with Kauffman Stadium as his home, and now gets to slug at Rogers Centre. So does Tulo, though I likely could’ve waited longer on SS. Still, I'll take a fresh Tulo to start the season. Come what may. With most of my starting lineup filled, I went back to grab a second closer before getting another great value pick on Aaron Nola. Feliz and his velocity are officially back in the mid-to-upper nineties with no competition in Milwaukee’s ‘pen for the ninth, so I’m all aboard. As for Nola, his elbow is all good as he looks to build on a sabermetrically-gorgeous 2016. His 4.78 ERA stood tall over his 3.08 FIP, 3.08 xFIP and 3.29 SIERA, with a strong 23.2% soft-contact rate and 55.2% groundball rate showing promising signs. With a .334 BABIP and meager 60.6% strand rate unlikely to be so horrid again, Nola is a healthy pick for the middle of one’s rotation thanks to his SP3 upside.  

The Late Rounds - Young Arms Galore

I filled out my rotation with Joe Ross, Tyler Anderson and Zach Davies. All of these young arms rely on command of the zone, with Ross’ upside being scary good in the NL East if he truly can unfurl an effective changeup in the spring. Anderson will need to show he can continue to navigate Coors Field, with Davies trying to hone his own command with Milwaukee’s subpar defense behind him. In conclusion, picking from the No. 6 slot left me with a lot of time to gauge the temperature of the room in between picks. Even though I was limited to my phone, I felt most confident in building my hitters up in the middle rounds before grabbing several pitchers in the late rounds. While I don’t have much in the way of speed, guys like Rajai Davis went undrafted. I’ll be quite alright, but locking up power and average comes first for that reason. While employing Darvish and Hill as my SP2/3 is risky, I believe my hitting and the format make the juice worth the squeeze.

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