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

RotoBaller.com Rankings & Sleepers

...FANTASY BASEBALL RANKINGS

ADP Cost Analysis - Luke Voit vs Ryan Zimmerman

In a heavyweight matchup of back-end first basemen, it's young versus old in this clash of right-handed bats. Although they are closer in age than you might initially suspect, 28-year old Luke Voit is the early favorite on the books over the veteran 34-year old Ryan Zimmerman. Chosen at an ADP of 329, Zimmerman is the clear-cut underdog with Voit’s ADP weighing in at 188. As they stand toe-to-toe, it's an exhaustive debate on who to choose between these two combatants. With more Major League experience, Zimmerman is discredited as a boring option to fill out your first base or corner infield position. Voit, on the other hand, is the new hot-ticket attraction who has just a two-month sample size of dominance to his name. With a full 12-round bout ahead of them in 2019, this main event is sure to go the distance, so let’s break this tilt down and see how close it is on paper.  

Cool Hand Luke

After a trade deadline deal in July, Voit packed his bags and left St. Louis for the hitter’s haven of Yankee Stadium. In his 39 games in New York, he punched out 14 home runs with 28 R, 33 RBI, and a .333 AVG. Our first inclination is to extrapolate these numbers over a full season automatically, but a 50-HR pace is extremely tough to maintain, and we must temper our expectations. Voit did show a strong ability to crush the baseball while sparring in the minor leagues. Clobbering 19 bombs in Double-A in 2016, he followed that up with 13 in 75 Triple-A games in 2017 before knocking out four in 124 plate appearances in his first taste of the majors with the Cardinals. The heavy hitter began his 2018 in Triple-A and hit another nine dingers there before the midseason trade to the Yankees. As he was shown the ropes in the minor leagues, we expected the power, but his average was a bonus to the slugger’s game. An even better .314 AVG in Triple-A followed a career .297 AVG in Double-A--very commendable numbers. With these superb attributes, it’s no wonder the Yankees targeted Voit at the deadline, but there are some glaring holes in his swing. His 68.9% Contact% is a disturbing number considering it would have put him in the league’s bottom-seven in this category. His 15.2% SwStr% was equally as concerning as it also would have finished as a bottom of the league number and even below perennial strikeout king Chris Davis’ 14.2% mark. Big league pitchers had Voit on the ropes when it came to breaking and off-speed pitches. He only took one breaking ball yard while whiffing on these pitches 40.0% of the time. He made even worse contact on off-speed deliveries missing over half the time to a 51.4% Whiff%. Players with these kinds of swing-and-miss jabs are faced with an uphill climb if they want to keep their batting average in the .300 range. When he made contact with the baseball, it was as hard as anyone in the game. His 54.0% Hard Hit% was third among players with 100 batted ball events, and he tied for 10th with a 93.0 MPH Exit Velocity. Despite all this, he swatted seven home runs measured as “Just Enough,” meaning it cleared the wall by less than 10 feet. An unsustainable 40.5% HR/FB is guaranteed to regress as well even with the small confines in the Bronx. It seemed like it was home run or bust with Voit in his two-month sample size, and over a full big league season, it could prove disastrous for him in the batting average category if he doesn't adjust.  

The Zimm Reaper

The biggest battle for Zimmerman has been his struggle to stay on the field. Playing in over 115 games only once in his last five years, he’s proven to be a force when he doesn’t throw in the towel. Batting .303 in 144 games in 2017, he smacked 36 HR with 90 R and 108 RBI. Fighting an oblique strain throughout the 2018 season, he played in only 85 games hitting .264 with 13 HR, 33 R, and 51 RBI. Undoubtedly an underwhelming line after such a previously productive year, what does the former first-round pick offer to us going into his 14th big league season? Zimmerman has consistently shown an above average strength in plate discipline numbers. A career 8.8% BB% and 18.3% K% are both satisfying numbers, especially the K%. Although he’s seen a small duck in Contact% over the last few seasons, his 80.1% career rate is meriting. He’s never routinely strayed too far from his .279 career batting average with his steady approach, so he’s a near lock to repeat at least in the .260 neighborhood. An underrated aspect to Zimmerman’s game has been his persistence to top the Statcast leaderboards. Finishing in the top 2% in both EV and Hard Hit% in 2017, he’s finished in the top 8% in both of these metrics every year since 2015. Last season, he put up his best numbers to date with a 92.6 MPH EV and 52.8% Hard Hit%. Among batters with 150 BBE, it ranked him 12th and second in these respective categories. These figures were just below Voit’s, who had over 130 fewer batted balls than Zimmerman. There’s no reason we shouldn’t expect anything else from the orthodox bat going into 2019 as he's proven to be dependable at hitting the ball right on the kisser. Undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with when he’s not down for the count, it will forever be a coin flip to determine if Zimmerman can remain on the diamond. His 162 game career pace, however, is 26 HR and 98 RBI, a top-tier measure given his 13 season longevity. With the return of Matt Adams to the Nationals, Zimmerman figures to see some routine off-days to keep him fresh and hopefully off of the disabled list. This mentality will provide a better outcome for Zimmerman over the long haul of the season.  

The Decision

Both of these contenders project to hit anywhere between the 4-6 spot in their lineups. In all likelihood, they’ll spend the majority of their at-bats in the sixth spot with both of their clubs having deep offenses. As mentioned, Zimmerman is sure to get some off days, but Voit is no lock to remain in the order either. With a surplus of infielders, Miguel Andujar could see some time at first base, and Greg Bird is still in town to platoon from the left side of the dish. Remember, Voit only has 285 career plate appearances in the majors, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he receives a low-blow demotion if he struggles early in the year. With imminent playing time concerns for each hitter, taking Zimmerman at his 329 ADP is far less risky than jumping on Voit at pick 188. Pound-for-pound, these hitters stack up evenly with The Yankees' new toy having the higher home run upside on that Yankee Stadium canvas. In spite of this, the liability on Voit is much higher with the league set to exploit the holes in his swing now that the book is out on him. You shouldn’t rely on either of these players as your starting first baseman, but Zimmerman wins the split decision given the return on value and consistency to produce when on the field. [jiffyNews tags_include='20378' headline='More Fantasy Baseball ADP Analysis']

ADP Debate - Mallex Smith vs. Victor Robles

When given the choice between a mostly-unproven talent who could contribute something in five categories on one hand, and a newly-successful player likely to be limited in HR and RBI, who would you pick? This is essentially the choice presented by Mallex Smith and Victor Robles this draft season. Both are being drafted within the same round of each other, based on preseason ADP. That doesn't mean they will necessarily provide the same return on investment, however. Today, we'll break down the key differences between these outfielders to determine which player should be selected first on draft day. When you're done, take a look at some other ADP Debates for outfielders, such as Adam Eaton vs Kyle Schwarber or Andrew Benintendi vs Marcell Ozuna.  

Mallex Smith - Natural Born Thief

(ADP: 99)

Mallex Smith has always been a base-stealer. He nabbed 32 bags on 45 tries in his first 153 games with the 2016 Braves and 2017 Rays. However, that came with just a .256/.323/.360 slash line, limiting his playing time and hence his fantasy production. In 2018, however, Smith produced a jump in his play that rivaled his jumps off of pitchers: he gave the Rays a .296/.367/.406 line in 141 games. All that time on base paid off with a career-high 40 steals on 52 attempts. Only Whit Merrifield and Trea Turner had more SB, and now Smith is a borderline top-100 asset entering his 2019 debut campaign for the Mariners. Projection systems aren't usually convinced by a single season, however, it's too early to assume Smith's true talent matches the 117 wRC+ he put up in 2018. Steamer, for example, foresees only a .263 average as part of a 98 wRC+ in 2019. That is even lower than his .270 average in 2017, however. That said, the speed is real, and another 40 steals are a real possibility. Smith draws enough walks, an 8.6% career clip, that he can still be a viable leadoff hitter even with a .270 average, and last year probably did earn him the ability to work through at least one slump without hitting the bench too hard. However, despite the projections, Smith could prove himself to be an above-average hitter now, similar to what Eddie Rosario and Aaron Hicks did for themselves last year, and there is no doubt that Smith can justify his 99 ADP this year. But is he a better choice than Victor Robles?  

Victor Robles - New Sheriff in Town

(ADP: 102)

Victor Robles' elbow injury last April not only denied him the opportunity that Juan Soto so thoroughly exploited, but it also denied us analysts of some of our beloved sample size. Robles only got 291 plate appearances last year across all levels. Despite that, the 66 of those that came at the highest level went quite well: .288/.348/.525 with three HR, three SB (on five tries), and 10 RBI. Don't go prorating that over a full season or you'll start to get 30-30 vision, and that won't happen. Robles' 2019 upside is closer to 20-20, although that would still represent a surprising amount of power. Steamer likes 12 home runs and 27 steals with a 102 wRC+. There's a reason scouts love Victor Robles, and this is his third preseason as a top-10 prospect at MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus. MLB.com states that Robles "has the makings of plus hitter from the right side of the plate, with a compact but explosive swing and a present feel for using the whole field. His power played consistently in 2017 thanks to a more leveraged swing and better pitch selection." Given a 60 hit tool, 55 power tool, and 75 run tool by MLB.com, Robles has backed up the scouts with a career .300/.392/.457 minor league line. Unfortunately, with just 93 total plate appearances for Washington over two years, Robles is still ultimately an unknown at the Major League level. However, given his prospect pedigree and success in the minors, he is very likely to be competent. Can you absolutely rely on him for more than competence? No. But does he have a chance to give you more? Absolutely.  

Conclusion

Context always matters, so if you've entirely ignored steals or already drafted some riskier assets, you might want Smith over Robles. However, Robles has a ceiling that many drafters are finding irresistible near pick 100, and it's a ceiling that just isn't there for Smith due to his power shortcomings. Importantly, however, even if each player only hits to their projections, Robles can still give you 10 points of BA and 10 extra HR in exchange for 15 fewer SB. Depending on lineup positioning, you could very well do better in R+RBI with Robles also, especially if he lives up to that .392 minor league OBP. There seems to be a consensus that Robles is one of the safer prospects in some time and his upside on top of that is worth a shot over Smith in most draft situations (barring an unanticipated return of Bryce Harper returning to Washington without a corresponding trade of Adam Eaton). Things can always change but for now, unless you are solely searching for speed, Robles seems to be the one to target when approaching the triple-digit selection mark of your draft. [jiffyNews tags_include='20378' headline='More Fantasy Baseball ADP Analysis']

ADP Cost Analysis - Sean Newcomb vs. Freddy Peralta

Two pitchers that have the ability to either strike out five batters in a row or walk five batters in a row, this ADP showdown will pit Sean Newcomb and Freddy Peralta. Newcomb was a first-round pick by the Angels in 2014 and Peralta was nothing more than a sleeper leading into 2018, but each will be players to watch in 2019. Newcomb is considerably higher in NFBC leagues at around pick 199, while Peralta is going at pick 325. Is it worth waiting more than 100 picks for Peralta or is Newcomb too good to pass up earlier in the draft? RotoBaller is going to break down all the pressing ADP questions you need to know before draft day.  

Sean Newcomb – Georgia Peach

(ADP 199 Overall) Sean Newcomb was the key player in the Andrelton Simmons deal for the Braves and, after a few solid seasons in the minors, made it up to the big leagues in 2017. While his 4-9 record, 1.57 WHIP, and 4.32 ERA in 100 innings for Atlanta were not great, his 108 strikeouts were solid. With a 4.19 FIP, there was some room for improvement in 2019. A 12-9 season in 2018 was an improvement for Newcomb, as was his 3.90 ERA, 7.5 hits per nine allowed, and a drop in walk rate from 12.5% to 11.6%. The biggest sign that Newcomb was making strides to becoming a frontline start was his performance in May/June; over 11 starts (65 1/3 innings), Newcomb was 7-1 with a 2.07 ERA and just 43 hits allowed. The issue, though, was that he posted back-to-back months with a 5.00+ ERA after these strong performances, posting a 3-5 record and 5.88 ERA in July/August. His strikeouts dipped a bit in 2018, to 160 in 164 innings pitched, but his performance in the mid-season shows his potential. While Newcomb had a strong season on paper, there were some issues when looking at his batted-ball profile. The first issue was with his 34.8% hard hit ball rate and it continued with a 43.4% GB rate and 36% FB rate. When a pitcher has issues with control and is allowing too many hard hit balls as well as fly balls, that usually ends up with trouble; a 11.1% HR/FB rate in his career shows that. As strikeouts are a big part of Newcomb's game, the fact that his swinging strike rate dropped from 11.1% to 10% is not a good sign, nor is his O-Swing% dropping from 30.6% to 26%. The final issue is a rise in contact rate from 75.9% to 77.5%. Newcomb has promise, but he appears to be far from a finished product.  

Freddy Peralta – Wild Thing

(ADP 325 Overall) Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Freddy Peralta only had a 6-4 record and 4.25 ERA after being called up from the minor leagues in 2018. In his 14 starts, he allowed at least three earned runs in seven of them and walked multiple batters in 11 starts. All of that being said, Peralta is lauded as one of the top starting pitcher sleepers coming into 2019. So why is Peralta so valuable? The first place to start is the fact that, in 78 1/3 MLB innings, he allowed just 49 hits and struck out 96 batters. In fact, through the majors and minors in 2018, Peralta struck out 188 batters in just 141 1/3 innings, allowing 99 hits. The walk issues show that Peralta is not a finished product (he has walked at least four batters per nine in each of the last three seasons), but his ability to miss bats cannot be understated. If there is a better way for a player to start their career than Peralta, you will be hard pressed to find it; Peralta allowed one hit in 5 2/3 shutout innings against the Reds on May 13, striking out 13 batters. He then followed that up by allowing no more than three hits in any of his next three starts, pitching throwing six shutout innings against the Pirates and seven against the Royals. The issue with Peralta this season is the poor start in that four-game spell: he allowed six walks in just four innings against the Royals. In fact, after walking two or fewer batters in three of his first four starts, he walked three batters or more in all five of his July starts. It is quite clear that there is a give and take with Peralta, as he will limit hits and strike out batters, but also will walk far too many batters. Considering that fact, we need to look both at his ability to miss bats and also to induce softer contact. Two key statistics to look at when evaluating Peralta's ability to miss bats are his swinging strike rate and his percentage of pitches swung at outside the zone. At a 28% swinging rate and 10.8% swinging strike rate, Peralta shows that he is able to confuse batters and stifle them with his fastball. He has one of the top fastballs in the league, a good thing considering that his curveball is slightly above average and his changeup (which he only threw 2.8% of the time) is neutral. As for batted-ball data, Peralta's 30.5% ground ball rate and 41.4% hard-hit ball rate stick out like a sore thumb. Furthermore, with a 52% flyball rate and his inflated hard-hit ball rate, many could say that his 8.7% HR/FB rate was quite lucky as well. His 17.5% line drive rate is the lowest of his career, but hard hit balls in the air should lead to more home runs then they did for Peralta in 2018. As bad as his batted-ball stats look, though, he had a 75.9% contact rate that was top-50 among SP with at least 70 innings pitched.  

Conclusion

There is not a simple answer to which player to draft. Peralta has less of a track record, is less of pedigreed player, and, honestly, could end up in the minors at times this season. That being said, both have walk issues and Peralta appears to be just as good of (if not better) a strikeout pitcher. There is a good chance that Peralta will continue to have those issues and will need to limit his hard contact, an issue for him in 2018, and keep on striking out batters to get out of jams. Peralta's value comes in the fact that he is basically unowned in mixed leagues with an ADP at 325. Simply put, Fernando Tatis Jr. has yet to make his MLB debut and, will likely spend a majority of the season in the minors, and his ADP is 304. Newcomb is not a bad player (especially considering his performance in the middle of the season), but there is just too much value in drafting Peralta at the end of the draft. [jiffyNews tags_include='20378' headline='More Fantasy Baseball ADP Analysis']

ADP Debate - Rick Porcello vs Shane Bieber

While participating in a fantasy baseball draft, you’ll undoubtedly face numerous hair-pulling decisions that could either make or break your season. Here at RotoBaller, we care about your luscious locks, so we divulge into these anxious situations before they happen to make it easier for you on draft day. Speaking of lack of hair, Rick Porcello and Shane Bieber both don’t put much hair on their fastballs. Averaging 91.3 MPH and 93.0 MPH respectively on their four-seamers, these two pitchers are excellent at getting outs without having the intimidating heat in their back pocket. Being selected as back-to-back pitchers so far in drafts, determining who will provide the better year in 2019 is a messy decision. Grab a chair, and we’ll comb over this hairy situation. Check out our other ADP Debates when you're done here, including one on highly-ranked pitchers Madison Bumgarner and Jose Berrios.  

Slick Rick the Ruler

After a full season removed from his 2016 Cy Young campaign, Porcello contributed sufficiently to his roto categories in 2018. Going 17-7 with a 1.18 WHIP, he established a career-high 8.94 K/9 with his 190 strikeouts in 191.1 innings pitched. Although he trimmed his 2017 ERA down from a 4.65 ERA to a 4.28 ERA last season, it wasn’t enough to satisfy fantasy owners. The 30-year-old battled home run problems once again, which has become a tendency since joining Boston in 2015. Serving up a 1.27 HR/9 last year, it was clear he let Fenway Park get the better of him as his home HR/9 was an ugly 1.73 at home. Porcello clipped off a bit of his Barrel% from his previous season, but his 7.0% mark was a mirror image of his career average, so much of the same should be anticipated in 2019. What was most attractive from the 6’5” right-hander last year was his newly acquired knack for the strikeout. He kept batters knotted up with his curveball/fastball combination as he set new bests in Whiff% on both of these deliveries (29.8%/26.4%). It's not surprising to see an increase in swing-and-miss on a breaking pitch, but with Porcello shaving MPH off his fastball velocity annually, it certainly makes you scratch your head as to how it could elevate over 4.5% from the previous season. Despite a four-year low in Chase% on his fastball, his whiffs on chased balls out of the zone skyrocketed over 15% from 2017 to a 41.3% clip in 2018. A towering climb, for the sake of comparison, his former teammates Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander had the two best fastballs in 2018 according to pitch values. Neither of these aces has ever seen a Chase-Miss% that high on their heaters in any season in either of their illustrious careers. Last season was likely the peak for Porcello’s strikeout rate, and a curl back to his previous 2015-17 pace with the Red Sox of 7.81 K/9 would be more realistic. With his K numbers sprouting beautifully last season, Porcello has always been razor-sharp at limiting the free pass. His career 2.07 BB/9 is an exceptional mark, especially after 10 big league seasons. He did see a little growth on this number last year as he finished his season with a 2.26 BB/9, a rate we haven’t seen that low since 2011. Still, if a top-20 number is the floor we'll see with Porcello, it bodes well for his WHIP in 2019.  

The Good Bieber

In his first taste of big league action last season, Bieber was solid in his debut year for the Cleveland Indians. The 23-year-old went 11-5 with a 4.55 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, and 118 K in 114.2 IP. While these numbers may not blow you away, there's a lot to admire in the youngster’s skill set. Starting with his minor league history, he was a cut above the rest of his pitching counterparts in regards to control. Over his 277 career minor league innings, he allowed a measly 19 walks. That's a 0.62 BB/9, an extraordinary number for anyone and especially for a hurler this young. He paired that elite command with a polished 8.45 K/9 in the farm system with a 2.24 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. It’s clear Bieber was ready for the bigs with those stellar minor league roots settled, so what went wrong with his first brush with Major League batters? It wasn't his ineptitude to get hitters out via strikeout as his 9.26 K/9 in the majors improved on his minor league K/9. Thanks to a little shampoo on his slider generating a 43.0% Whiff%, he achieved a 26.2% Whiff% as a whole, which was over 2% higher than the major league average. Bieber did allow a few more walks than he was accustomed to at a 1.81 BB/9. Nothing to wig out about though, as that number still would have been a top-six mark among league qualifiers. It pained the right-hander that many of those baserunners came around to score, however. An ugly 69.4% LOB% was an outlier to his consistent marks in the high 70s and low 80s in the minors. The most significant effect on this strand-rate was his inability to keep the ball in the yard. After allowing only 12 homers throughout his entire minor league career, he served up 13 dingers at the big league level. His 1.02 HR/9 was still well under the league average (1.16 HR/9), and his 7.0% Barrel% was identical to Porcello's career mark. It’s not a shocker that the stronger, more conditioned major league hitters took Bieber deep more often. Its almost encouraging that this was his only considerable flaw in his first taste of big league action. All the Sabermetrics were on his side as well. His SIERA (3.45), FIP (3.23) and xFIP (3.30) were all over a full run lower than his actual ERA and his .285 batting average against should have been buzzed down closer to his .256 xBA. With these supportive stats, his ERA will likely recede in 2019 with some positive regression in these categories.  

Who Makes The Cut?

Both of these pitchers have similar styles of throwing, terrific walk rates mixed in with a bright ability to get the strikeout when needed. Also, they are efficient at generating the ground ball, but when the ball gets airborne it tends finds a home in souvenir city. With Porcello’s balding velocity, Bieber will prove to be the better strikeout arm with his slider being braided finely with his controllable four-seamer. WHIP and ERA also favor the Indians chucker with his edge in walks and slightly better ability to reduce the longball. Both on prominent teams, win totals should come relatively easy, although Bieber may not get the run support that Porcello will get with Boston. On the pitching side of things, the more hitter-neutral Progressive Field in Cleveland will help balance this out as he won’t likely need as many runs to rely on for the victory. With Bieber getting chosen at an ADP of 157 and Porcello going as the next SP off the board at 160, it’s more sensible to be a Belieber. Porcello is more groomed at the Major League level, but Bieber has more upside. He’s proven to be a workhorse already at his young age throwing 173.1 IP in 2017 and 193 IP in 2018. The Tribe will let their hair down with Bieber in 2019 as there should be no reason to snip his innings as you would typically see other teams do with their young pitchers. If you take a shot on the young Indians pitcher, you just might be hoisting that championship trophy with your healthiest head of hair yet. [jiffyNews tags_include='20378' headline='More Fantasy Baseball ADP Analysis']

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FANTASY BASEBALL SLEEPERS

Three Up, Three Down for Prospects - Outfielder

The outfield is one of the deepest spots right now in fantasy baseball with names like Ronald Acuna Jr., Victor Robles, and Juan Soto dominating early draft boards for 2019. The minors remain stocked with exciting players, and new talent is still on its way to the Major Leagues, just in time for dynasty and deep-league owners to start tracking and drafting these talents. And yet, it is never too early to pivot to 2020 and beyond with stashes and minor league targets. What makes this list unique from others so far would be the ages of the players, with most of the Rising Stock players just leaving Rookie ball. The three featured on this list are all players that have jumped up prospect ranks, so while they are a bit of a wait, the payoff will be there for owners. Even if owners are not drafting young players yet, these are names that everyone should want to know and stash for future years in fantasy baseball. As with all of the RotoBaller dynasty articles, keep reading to find out who the next fantasy stars will be, and who to avoid in upcoming drafts. For owners who need to start shopping players to make room on a roster, take advantage of the early warning on these players and jump ship to grab the next batch of stars.  

Stock Rising - Kristian Robinson (OF, ARI)

After entering 2018 as Baseball America’s number 11 prospect in the Diamondbacks system, there are few doubts currently that Robinson might be the top prospect in that system to start 2019. A J2 signing out of the Bahamas, Robinson is an elite athlete with speed to stay in center, and the bat skills to play at any of the corner spots. During his time at Rookie ball, Robinson splashed the hit tool with a .286/.376/.442 slash line complimented by seven homers and 12 steals in 57 games. Add this to 48 runs, and Robinson showed the ability to impact all five categories, making him a prime roto league prospect. Owners looking at the minor league numbers should not be scared away by the swing and miss, as the walk rate is above his fellow players, and shows that this is a better than average plate approach. While there are still aspects of the profile to work on, the aggressive swing is what generates his power and high batting average. According to scouts, there is still some projectability here, and while he is only 18 to start the 2019 campaign, the raw skills that led Arizona to drop $2.5 million to sign him are still there. All signs point to a good investment by the Arizona front office, and fantasy owners should follow along.  

Stock Rising - Austin Beck (OF, OAK)

The power/speed combo will get any fantasy owner excited, and Beck has shown that so far. After struggling to a .211 batting average at rookie ball in his 41 professional games, Beck rebounded to a .296 batting line at A-Ball. The homers stayed the same at two, but the overall batting profile took the tick up that the team expected when they drafted him sixth overall in 2017. Some concerns remain to see if the speed can translate to the basepaths, as Beck only posted eight steals in 14 total attempts in 2018. He needs to tap into the 25-plus steal upside to turn into an elite outfielder, but a strong rebound year with the bat should keep owners interested, or at least, get them back on the train after a slow start to pro ball. Even without the steals, the speed profiles him as a plus defender, so the playing time will not be a question mark once he makes the long journey to the Athletics. While Beck is a long-term prospect, do not be surprised if he starts to move a bit faster due to the raw skills.  

Stock Rising - Jhon Torres (OF, STL)

Torres was one of the break-out players of 2018, with a .397/.493/.683 slash in 17 games after a mid-season trade from Cleveland. The extra piece in a trade that sent Oscar Mercado to Cleveland, Torres was the rawest of the players in the deal and still is, but the upside is there for all to see. Due to his age, only 18, he did not appear on prospect lists in 2018 and was not on the fantasy community’s radar until the second half of the campaign. The current plan seems to be for him to start 2019 at A-Ball meaning that like Beck, this is a long-term stash, but the payoff should be worth it for all formats. There are a few red flags so far though, as he has always been a heavy pull hitter with a 60.5% mark with Cleveland and a 46% mark after the trade. The tools are the selling point with this profile and some trust that the Cardinals can finesse the swing and plate approach to unlock the upside, by keeping the pop but encouraging an all-fields approach. In fact, the power was the most significant asset with eight homers in 47 games last year. Torres should start entering the back-end of top 100s this season, and owners in dynasty leagues with minor leagues slots, who are willing to wait five years, should begin clearing out a spot for this high-upside outfielder.  

Stock Falling - Austin Hays (OF, BAL)

At one point the future of the Baltimore outfield and the foundation of their rebuild, Hays is now on the outside looking in for playing time. Hays entered 2018 as the top prospect in the Orioles system, but after some struggles with Baltimore in 2017, 2018 was a full regression leading to more questions than answers. During his brief time with the Orioles in 2017, Hays slashed .217/.238/.317 with one homer in 20 games. The promotion was too early for the toolsy outfielder, and the 2018 line shows that. Demoted down to Double-A, he dropped the batting line to .242/.271/.432 with 12 homers and six steals in 66 games. In a vacuum the overall production was decent, but Hays is now a bit old for the level and will turn 24 this season. There is plenty of time for Hays to return to the heralded prospect that had many excited, but the pull-heavy approach is starting to show some holes. The K rate has jumped with every move up the ladder, and the 20.5% mark was the highest of his career in 2018. Add that to a declining walk rate, all the way down to 4.2%, and this is a free-swinger without the carrying hit tool to set the floor. Owners should be looking to move on while there is still some name value here.  

Stock Falling - Blake Rutherford (OF, CWS)

Rutherford is not by any stretch a lost cause, but the upside is waning as the power seems to have left his bat. The former 18th-overall pick in the 2016 draft by the Yankees, Rutherford moved to Chicago in a deadline move in 2017 for Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson, and Todd Frazier. At the time he was the star of the return and was expected to compliment Eloy Jimenez and the young pitching corp on the South Side. The main concern so far has been the trend towards groundballs, with a 54.4% mark last season. Coupled with a 7.8 HR/FB%, this will limit the power upside as demonstrated by the single-digit homer totals to date. The other concern is that the glove puts him in a corner-spot making the lack of game power harder to handle. And yet, the production still looks appealing, as in 2018 Rutherford slashed .293/.345/.436 with seven homers and 15 steals in 115 games. He might hit his way into covering the power, but with sub .300 batting averages in the minors, the hit tool is not going to carry the profile to his ceiling. Like Hayes, do not abandon Rutherford, but also do not view him as a top-50 outfielder in fantasy leagues moving forward.  

Stock Falling - Leody Taveras (OF, TEX)

Entering the 2018 campaign as Baseball America’s number two prospect in the Rangers system, Taveras had a season to forget. Over 132 games at High-A, the slugger slashed .246/.312/.332 with five homers and 19 steals. These numbers demonstrated little to no improvement from A-Ball and even a decline in the power output. When the speed was one of the carrying tools, and he was only successful in 19 out of 30 chances, there are real concerns about his instincts on the basepaths to add to the declining offensive numbers. The batted-ball profile is also telling, with a slight increase in his LD%, from 18.3% to 21.7%, but a corresponding decline in his Fly Ball rate, down to 31.4% from 32.8% the year before. These numbers make Taveras look more like a hit-over-power prospect, and without the steal numbers to carry him, this will be a hard fit in the corner. Taveras is still young for his level with time to recover, but questions are yet to be answered regarding the hit tool and the long-term ability to produce enough to remain an everyday player. [jiffyNews category_include='10212' headline='More Fantasy Baseball Prospects & Dynasty']

Fantasy Baseball Draft Sleepers and Targets

Back by popular demand in 2019... RotoBaller has brought back for the MLB draft season and regular season our Fantasy Baseball Draft Sleepers and Waiver Wire Pickups List.  Be sure to also use our other lineup tools shown in the icons below.

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2019 Fantasy Baseball Draft Sleepers by MLB Position

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

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Top 10 Catcher Prospects - 2019 Fantasy Baseball Redraft Rankings

Catching as a position has gotten the brunt of fantasy angst over the past few seasons, with wRC+ rates well below league average. And yet, this is precisely the reason that owners should be looking to add the young talent that will be taking these spots in the Majors sooner rather than later. Owning talent at the spot will save owners from being forced to reach in drafts for catchers, or, on the other hand, stop them from having to scan the waiver wire to get anything out of the position. There are two schools of thought when it comes to catching prospects in the fantasy world. The first is to ignore, or at least target other spots first. The main piece here is that catching prospects take a while to get to the Show, are more likely to move off the spot if they have a bat, and even with a bat, might not show the glove to stay in a starting role. The second option is to push these to the top of lists and own risky prospects with upside for the long haul. This writer tends to opt for the latter, with the observation that there are no “safe” prospects, meaning that value should be the primary target. Owners can make their own decisions, but the Rotoballer team will offer the best chance to know who is out there before other owners can snipe them. This article identifies the top ten prospects ready to make an impact in 2019 at the position, and with a bit of research in league rules, there is someone on this list to fit every team’s need.  

Top Catcher Prospects for 2019

This list below is geared towards 2019 redraft leagues, and looks at the top MLB prospects and rookies who have the best chance to rise to the major leagues at some point in 2019 and provide fantasy baseball value this season. To be clear, this is not our list of the top overall prospects in baseball. You can find those longer-term rankings in our dynasty prospects rankings and articles section, which take a look at the top prospects at each position regardless of their age or expected ETA in the majors.  

1. Andrew Knizner (C, STL)

ETA: Mid-season 2019 It seems like this writer is the highest on Knizner at Rotoballer, and perhaps, at other fantasy sights as well. There is so much to love about the hit tool, and with the improving defense, little to no risk that he moves out from behind the plate. That alone makes him a plus when looking at the other offensive options on the list. Knizner has the highest floor on the list, but also might not have much helium above that with what seems to be a solid, but not elite hit tool. And yet, he has never hit below .300 in the minors, with a sub-14% K rate as well. The power is the other question, but when it seems that most prospects add a few when they get the call, the bat looks to have 12-plus in there over a full season. This sounds a lot like what Jansen’s projections, and issues, look like in the write-up below, but just looking to the hit tool, take Knizner’s all day. A solid landing spot for a catcher, with time to adjust behind a team legend for at least two seasons, and if owners limit their expectations at first, Knizner will be the safe catching option in a few seasons. Even with all that, Knizner will end the year as the top fantasy catcher debuting this year, even with bigger names behind him on the list.  

2. Francisco Mejia (C, SD)

ETA: Already Debuted As mentioned in our rising catching piece, Mejia has seen his stock drop more than others on this list, and part of this is due to others passing him as opposed to a decline in the skills. Still rated by most as one of the top offensive catching prospects, the defense is the red flag, and this keeps him from the top of the list even if the batting tool meets the projected grades. While a small sample, in his 32 games in the Majors, with both the Padres and Indians, Mejia has managed only a .168 batting average and struck out 26% of the time. Even with better batting lines in the minors, he does not walk, with an 8.5% walk rate being his career high, and that was at A-Ball. This is one of those times when the 60 hit grade does not seem to correlate with his approach at the plate, and the aggressive swing plan will need to adjust for an extended run at the Majors. If so, does the batting approach that has helped him in the minors disappear. Mejia might prove me wrong, but right now, that is a risk that fantasy owners should be willing to take.  

3. Keibert Ruiz (C, LAD)

ETA: Late 2019 If this was a dynasty or non-2019 list, Ruiz would be at the top of this list by a country mile due to his age and overall skill profile. At 19, he is still very young for a catching prospect, and the fact that he might be wearing Dodger blue sometime in 2019 demonstrates how advanced he is. With a 60 FV grade on the glove from Fangraphs, the defensive profile is top of the line as well, meaning that when he is ready, Ruiz should be the starting backstop on one of the best teams in the league. On his own, the production still puts him at the top of the list, with a .268/.368/.401 slash in 101 games at Double-A with 12 homers and 44 runs. Again, when he is doing this at 19, the stats are even more impressive. There are some concerns about the power projection, but when he cut his K rate in half and doubled the power output, this writer is willing to get on all of that coming around — no reason, at this point, to look anywhere else to top the list. One final note, even though Ruiz is a longshot to make an extended run with the Dodgers this year, if he does get the call, there is no catcher on this list who can match his impact potential.  

4. Danny Jansen (C, TOR)

ETA: Opening Day In all fairness, Jansen has been lower on all my lists than most others in the industry. The main reason for this is that even at his ceiling, Jansen is a batting average plus at the catching position, but does not offer all that much in terms of power. While he did hit 12 in 88 games last year at Triple-A, this is by far and away the outlier when looking to his offensive production in the minors. If Jansen cannot produce for power in the Majors, then it is hard to see him as a top fantasy asset, even with the starting gig. And yet, the batting line is close to .300 for his career in the minors, and even the .247 in 33 games with Toronto last year is not bad for a first look. The other reason he is a bit lower here has been the batting profile with an above 50% pull mark over his professional career to date. Still, the batting approach looks like it will play, and he offers good value in OBP leagues with an above-nine-percent walk rate for his career. Jansen is a solid option, but the power is needed to make him an impact fantasy option.  

5. Sean Murphy (C, OAK)

ETA: Mid-season 2019 Appearing near the bottom of the list, Murphy offers the type of catcher that organizations like, but that might not excite fantasy owners. After struggling to a .208 batting average at Double-A in 2017, Murphy repeated the stop last year and improved to a .288/.358/.498 slash with eight homers in 68 games. Set to start the year at Triple-A, it will be intriguing to see what type of offensive profile he can bring to the table. The glove grades out as average at best, with a cannon that pushes Siegler’s for the top on this short list. Murphy seems to have the floor as a back-up, and with some offense, could find his way into the Athletics as a solid catcher one. If he can hit for power, he has a fantasy impact, if not then this a bench option for most teams. The other piece limiting the projections on Murphy to date has been the injuries. He has missed time due to surgery, so while there is less wear and tear on the body, there is also less development time than expected for his age — an exciting prospect, but a lower fantasy ceiling that others ranked above.  

6. Willians Astudillo (C/UT, MIN)

ETA: Opening Day, or Mid-season 2019 Question marks abound with Astudillo, and his 278 ADP will either be a massive reach, or extreme value in fantasy drafts this year. Not expected to play all that much with the Twins’ current catching options, there is a chance that he makes the team in a utility role, playing everywhere from third to center field. And yet, if he does get a run of games, this is the option on the list with legitimate breakout potential. In his 30-game debut with the Twins last year, Astudillo slashed .355/.371/.516 with three homers, which is aiding the hype this offseason. The exciting piece of the stat line was the low walk and K rates, with both being under five, and this is consistent with his minor league numbers as well. With a 56.2% swing rate, Astudillo will need to keep the 91.7% contact rate intact to produce what he did last year. Even more, Astudillo made contact on 85.7% of his swings outside the zone, again boosting the elite batting line he produced. A boom or bust prospect, Astudillo could win leagues if he is real, but if not, he might still be worth the draft slot with a comfortable cut if needed.  

7. Austin Wynns (C, BAL)

Debut: Opening Day By all accounts, Wynns enters Spring Training with a legitimate shot to start the year as Baltimore’s primary backstop. A solid, but not spectacular prospect during his time in the minors, the carrying skill was his batting average. Most seasons he ranged between .250 and .300, meaning that if he can hit a bit, Wynns should offer a productive bat in batting average leagues. Even more, he appears to have excellent plate skills with consistent double-digit walk rates, and 0.6 BB:K rate on average. Wynns’ best year for power was in 2017 at Double-A when he hit 10 home runs in 104 games. Camden will help with this aspect, meaning that there might be a floor for eight or more bombs if he gets a starting or semi-regular role with the club. Wynns is a great target in two-catcher leagues as a player who will not hurt a team’s overall line and might walk into a productive role based on the park and match-ups.  

8. Eric Haase (C, CLE)

ETA: July 2019 Before the addition of Kevin Plewecki, Haase looked to be the favorite to secure a reserve role to Roberto Perez in Cleveland to start 2019. Now it seems that he will begin the year at Triple-A Columbus, repeating that stop for the third time. The carrying tool is the raw power, with a 70 grade from Fangraphs, and backed up by 20 homers in 120 games last year in the minors. The 30% K rate and .236 batting average show the other side of the profile as well, but, with a good team context, and some chance for game time, Haase will score runs, even with the plate approach. Double-digit walk rates and a 34.3% ground ball rate add even more context to the batting profile and supporting the thesis that he can hit for power when he hits. If he can keep the ball off the ground, he offers more power upside than any other option on this list. A target for a bench spot, and when Perez collapses at the plate eventually, be ready to balance the batting line to get full value from the C2 spot.  

9. Grayson Greiner (C, DET)

ETA: Opening Day Greiner is slated to start the year behind the dish for Detroit, with only John Hicks to push him for playing time. Greiner did appear in 30 games for the Tigers last year and produced a .219/.328/.281 slash line, chipping in 9 runs and 12 RBI. Before the call, at Triple-A, he looked much better with a .266 batting average and four homers in 46 games. The Detroit offense will not be a top-15 squad, but with games versus the Royals and White Sox, they might be an average team when all is said and done, giving Greiner some context to support his skills. He did flash some power at Double-A with 14 homers in 98 games, so the small sample from last year might be hiding some of that upside as well. Greiner is in the same camp as Wynns, with a C2 appeal, but also looks to be an excellent late-round dart for a reserve in draft-and-hold formats. Not sexy, but neither is the position as a whole.  

10. Zack Collins (C, CWS)

ETA: late 2019 Blocked right now with the White Sox, Collins is known as one the better catching prospects in a shallow system and has the glove to play right now. Fifteen homers in 122 games last year at Double-A underscore the potential source of value that he offers, but a 30% K rate diminishes the ability to translate to the Bigs right now. Five steals last year seems like an illusion, with a 20-speed grade, but this does not mean that picking spots is not also a skill that Collins offers with good baseball IQ grades from scouts. He does walk at a 20% clip, showing some supportive skills at the plate, but at the end of the day, this looks like a solid backup when he gets a real chance with the club. Still, for fantasy purposes, there are worse options, and Collins should at least be a backup when he gets the call. If he can chip in the homers, there is value to be had here. [jiffyNews category_include='5923' headline='More Fantasy Baseball Prospects Analysis']

Late-Round Offensive Category Targets - NFBC Draft and Hold Strategy

With the growing interest in draft-and-hold formats, new draft strategy prep is critical for full season runs at the title. For those who are new to the format, typically teams draft 27 starters in a live draft, with 27 players joining the team in a reserve section through a slow draft. With top prospects also being eligible to be drafted, often solid fantasy players will fall through the cracks, making it paramount to identify what stats are needed early on.  The downside to the large rosters is that there are no trades, and teams need to stock up for the whole season from the start. This means no trading from surplus to add to shore up lacking categories. The key is to add players who can fill in those gaps means targeting unique player profiles, and looking for players who can offer short bursts in the counting stats. For those new to the format, read along to find players that are going outside the top-350 who can still be valuable in roto leagues. Reach for these players where teams are lacking, and it will pay off at the end of the season.  

Batting Average Targets

Colin Moran (3B, PIT) The projected starting third baseman for the Pirates to start the year, Moran, admittingly, does not offer much fantasy value, but he does have a batting floor worth a stash in deep leagues. Last year, for example, in his first full season in the Majors, Moran slashed .277/.340/.407. The plate skills are excellent for this spot in the draft with a 39:82 BB:K line and a career K rate under 20%, taking the minors into account. The other plus at the 436 ADP is that Moran will also chip in 12-plus homers, adding additional category scoring and support. Owners can bank on some break-out here as well, making a player with a starting gig an excellent target for the bench. Lonnie Chisenhall (OF, PIT) Another Pirate at the spot, Chisenhall’s only issues thus far has been staying on the field. At his current ADP of 510, Chisenhall is going around players like Chris Davis and Rowdy Tellez, both players with limited playing time upside. In 29 games last year, Chisenhall slashed .321/.394/.452, chipping in 11 runs as well. While a small sample, the batting average has been productive with a .286 line in 2016, and .288 in 2017. Slated to start the year as the primary right fielding option, if Chisenhall can stay healthy, and produce as he has, this could emerge as a long-term option for the Pirates.  

Run-Scoring Targets

Chad Pinder (2B/OF, OAK) A favorite on these lists for the positional flexibility, Pinder offers sneaky value on his own, and in a productive offense that adds additional value. In 2018, Pinder scored 43 runs in 333 PAs, providing a full season value of close to 80 runs. While he may not get to that level due to the playing time limits, Pinder will be a prime matchup option in weeks where owners can swap out players mid-week. He is slated to be on the long side of the platoon with a cast of characters in Oakland to start the season, which should provide a sneaky value stash at the current ADP of 461. Pinder is also a player that has a fantasy ceiling much higher than his projections and might be worth drafting in the first 27 rounds as well.  Jon Jay (OF, CWS) Signed to hold down a spot in the outfield for the White Sox, Jay was good value last year with both the Royals and the Diamondbacks. In 143 games, he scored 73 runs off the back of a .268/.330/.347 slash. While the move to Chicago might not be great due to team context, his 2018 teams were not driving in a ton of runs either, so the dropoff should not be that great. Expect the batting average to tick up a bit, with 2018 being the low year out of the past few. The added benefit of hitting at the top of the lineup will also help the bottom line in the category. Available late in drafts, at an ADP of 622, Jay is worth the gamble as well as a spot on the bench for future playing time.  

Home Run Targets

Mark Trumbo (1B, BAL) Coming off an injury and surgery this offseason, Trumbo has seen his fantasy stock drop even lower, making him a prime cheap add in deep leagues. Slated to start the year at DH, and perhaps, to hit clean-up on a lousy team, Trumbo can still mash with the best of them. Add in a hitter’s park, with a 1.21 HR factor, and the scene looks primed for a bounce-back year. Last year, in 90 games he hit 17 bombs, so a full season should lead to a 20-homer floor. The other good sign with the profile is that Trumbo will not tank your batting line, with a career average near .260. Owners can deal with the 25% K rate, and take the 407 ADP, as long as the power still plays on a bad team. Kevin Cron (1B, ARI) The brother of the Twins slugger, Cron offers a great value at an ADP of 672 if he can make it to the Bigs for an extended look. 2018 was a breakout year for him with a .309/.368/.554 slash, with 22 homers and 97 RBI added on. All of this came at Triple-A, and with the current direction of the team, he should be in a spot to push for a role this spring. The 15.7 HR/FB% should be sustainable with his batting approach, and with a good mixture of hitting to all fields, this is a profile to take a flier on. Cron has a .360-plus OBP for his career; therefore, he should provide plenty of runs if he can get adequate playing time and the team improves their production. This could lead to the type of flier that can solidify a team late in the year.  

RBI Targets

Justin Bour (1B, LAA) A move to Los Angeles means that Bour should have the inside track to a starting gig to start the season. Last year was a downgrade from a 2017 season where he drove in 83 RBI, but the 59 he posted in a part-time role show the floor for runs is there. Bour is projected to hit clean-up and should have plenty of RBI opportunities with Mike Trout and Justin Upton in front of him. One cause for the drop in production last year was a drop in the Hr/FB% from 26% to 18.3%. With a park built for the left-handed power swing, Bour is primed to take full advantage in his new environment. Tyler Naquin (OF, CLE) A few things are playing out in Naquin’s favor to start the year. First, he seems to have every chance to start the year with the right field gig, as Cleveland look to be done adding offensive pieces this winter. Second, while he has been a disappointment since a strong start to his career with Cleveland in 2016, injuries have been the main culprit keeping him from more playing time. When healthy, Naquin has an average, to above average, hit tool with prospect fatigue driving him down the draft board. Last year, he did chip in 23 RBI in a part-time role, and when hitting behind great OBP players in Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Carlos Santana, there will be ducks on the pond to drive in. With an ADP of 631, there is no downside to taking him in a late round and watching the situation unfold to start the season.  

Steals Targets

Delino DeShields (OF, TEX) In an underwhelming 2018 campaign marred by injury, Deshields still stole 20 based in 106 games. Even with a .216 batting average, Deshields posted a .310 OBP, showing the skills to get on base for steals opportunities. His best season was the 2017 campaign when he stole 29 bases in 37 total chances. Projected as the starting center fielder for the Rangers this year, Deshields will be a good bet to steal 25 bags if he stays healthy. The ADP of 381 bakes in the steals upside, but owners can still get him on the cheap, with some expectation of a batting line improvement. Bradley Zimmer (OF, CLE) Another injury risk, not slated to return til mid-season, Zimmer still brings elite speed to the table for fantasy teams. Also, Cleveland runs more than most other teams in the league and offers steals upside even with limited time on the field. In 2017, Zimmer stole 18 bases in 19 chances, showing elite decision making on the bases as well. While the batting average is underwhelming, Zimmer does have a serviceable OBP line, with a .307 mark in 101 games during the 2017 campaign. With a 483 ADP baking in the injury risk, Zimmer is a prime option in draft-and-hold leagues. [jiffyNews category_include='698' headline='More 2019 Fantasy Baseball Advice']

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ADP Cost Analysis - Luke Voit vs Ryan Zimmerman

In a heavyweight matchup of back-end first basemen, it's young versus old in this clash of right-handed bats. Although they are closer in age than you might initially suspect, 28-year old Luke Voit is the early favorite on the books over the veteran 34-year old Ryan Zimmerman. Chosen at an ADP of 329, Zimmerman is the clear-cut underdog with Voit’s ADP weighing in at 188. As they stand toe-to-toe, it's an exhaustive debate on who to choose between these two combatants. With more Major League experience, Zimmerman is discredited as a boring option to fill out your first base or corner infield position. Voit, on the other hand, is the new hot-ticket attraction who has just a two-month sample size of dominance to his name. With a full 12-round bout ahead of them in 2019, this main event is sure to go the distance, so let’s break this tilt down and see how close it is on paper.  

Cool Hand Luke

After a trade deadline deal in July, Voit packed his bags and left St. Louis for the hitter’s haven of Yankee Stadium. In his 39 games in New York, he punched out 14 home runs with 28 R, 33 RBI, and a .333 AVG. Our first inclination is to extrapolate these numbers over a full season automatically, but a 50-HR pace is extremely tough to maintain, and we must temper our expectations. Voit did show a strong ability to crush the baseball while sparring in the minor leagues. Clobbering 19 bombs in Double-A in 2016, he followed that up with 13 in 75 Triple-A games in 2017 before knocking out four in 124 plate appearances in his first taste of the majors with the Cardinals. The heavy hitter began his 2018 in Triple-A and hit another nine dingers there before the midseason trade to the Yankees. As he was shown the ropes in the minor leagues, we expected the power, but his average was a bonus to the slugger’s game. An even better .314 AVG in Triple-A followed a career .297 AVG in Double-A--very commendable numbers. With these superb attributes, it’s no wonder the Yankees targeted Voit at the deadline, but there are some glaring holes in his swing. His 68.9% Contact% is a disturbing number considering it would have put him in the league’s bottom-seven in this category. His 15.2% SwStr% was equally as concerning as it also would have finished as a bottom of the league number and even below perennial strikeout king Chris Davis’ 14.2% mark. Big league pitchers had Voit on the ropes when it came to breaking and off-speed pitches. He only took one breaking ball yard while whiffing on these pitches 40.0% of the time. He made even worse contact on off-speed deliveries missing over half the time to a 51.4% Whiff%. Players with these kinds of swing-and-miss jabs are faced with an uphill climb if they want to keep their batting average in the .300 range. When he made contact with the baseball, it was as hard as anyone in the game. His 54.0% Hard Hit% was third among players with 100 batted ball events, and he tied for 10th with a 93.0 MPH Exit Velocity. Despite all this, he swatted seven home runs measured as “Just Enough,” meaning it cleared the wall by less than 10 feet. An unsustainable 40.5% HR/FB is guaranteed to regress as well even with the small confines in the Bronx. It seemed like it was home run or bust with Voit in his two-month sample size, and over a full big league season, it could prove disastrous for him in the batting average category if he doesn't adjust.  

The Zimm Reaper

The biggest battle for Zimmerman has been his struggle to stay on the field. Playing in over 115 games only once in his last five years, he’s proven to be a force when he doesn’t throw in the towel. Batting .303 in 144 games in 2017, he smacked 36 HR with 90 R and 108 RBI. Fighting an oblique strain throughout the 2018 season, he played in only 85 games hitting .264 with 13 HR, 33 R, and 51 RBI. Undoubtedly an underwhelming line after such a previously productive year, what does the former first-round pick offer to us going into his 14th big league season? Zimmerman has consistently shown an above average strength in plate discipline numbers. A career 8.8% BB% and 18.3% K% are both satisfying numbers, especially the K%. Although he’s seen a small duck in Contact% over the last few seasons, his 80.1% career rate is meriting. He’s never routinely strayed too far from his .279 career batting average with his steady approach, so he’s a near lock to repeat at least in the .260 neighborhood. An underrated aspect to Zimmerman’s game has been his persistence to top the Statcast leaderboards. Finishing in the top 2% in both EV and Hard Hit% in 2017, he’s finished in the top 8% in both of these metrics every year since 2015. Last season, he put up his best numbers to date with a 92.6 MPH EV and 52.8% Hard Hit%. Among batters with 150 BBE, it ranked him 12th and second in these respective categories. These figures were just below Voit’s, who had over 130 fewer batted balls than Zimmerman. There’s no reason we shouldn’t expect anything else from the orthodox bat going into 2019 as he's proven to be dependable at hitting the ball right on the kisser. Undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with when he’s not down for the count, it will forever be a coin flip to determine if Zimmerman can remain on the diamond. His 162 game career pace, however, is 26 HR and 98 RBI, a top-tier measure given his 13 season longevity. With the return of Matt Adams to the Nationals, Zimmerman figures to see some routine off-days to keep him fresh and hopefully off of the disabled list. This mentality will provide a better outcome for Zimmerman over the long haul of the season.  

The Decision

Both of these contenders project to hit anywhere between the 4-6 spot in their lineups. In all likelihood, they’ll spend the majority of their at-bats in the sixth spot with both of their clubs having deep offenses. As mentioned, Zimmerman is sure to get some off days, but Voit is no lock to remain in the order either. With a surplus of infielders, Miguel Andujar could see some time at first base, and Greg Bird is still in town to platoon from the left side of the dish. Remember, Voit only has 285 career plate appearances in the majors, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he receives a low-blow demotion if he struggles early in the year. With imminent playing time concerns for each hitter, taking Zimmerman at his 329 ADP is far less risky than jumping on Voit at pick 188. Pound-for-pound, these hitters stack up evenly with The Yankees' new toy having the higher home run upside on that Yankee Stadium canvas. In spite of this, the liability on Voit is much higher with the league set to exploit the holes in his swing now that the book is out on him. You shouldn’t rely on either of these players as your starting first baseman, but Zimmerman wins the split decision given the return on value and consistency to produce when on the field. [jiffyNews tags_include='20378' headline='More Fantasy Baseball ADP Analysis']

ADP Debate - Mallex Smith vs. Victor Robles

When given the choice between a mostly-unproven talent who could contribute something in five categories on one hand, and a newly-successful player likely to be limited in HR and RBI, who would you pick? This is essentially the choice presented by Mallex Smith and Victor Robles this draft season. Both are being drafted within the same round of each other, based on preseason ADP. That doesn't mean they will necessarily provide the same return on investment, however. Today, we'll break down the key differences between these outfielders to determine which player should be selected first on draft day. When you're done, take a look at some other ADP Debates for outfielders, such as Adam Eaton vs Kyle Schwarber or Andrew Benintendi vs Marcell Ozuna.  

Mallex Smith - Natural Born Thief

(ADP: 99)

Mallex Smith has always been a base-stealer. He nabbed 32 bags on 45 tries in his first 153 games with the 2016 Braves and 2017 Rays. However, that came with just a .256/.323/.360 slash line, limiting his playing time and hence his fantasy production. In 2018, however, Smith produced a jump in his play that rivaled his jumps off of pitchers: he gave the Rays a .296/.367/.406 line in 141 games. All that time on base paid off with a career-high 40 steals on 52 attempts. Only Whit Merrifield and Trea Turner had more SB, and now Smith is a borderline top-100 asset entering his 2019 debut campaign for the Mariners. Projection systems aren't usually convinced by a single season, however, it's too early to assume Smith's true talent matches the 117 wRC+ he put up in 2018. Steamer, for example, foresees only a .263 average as part of a 98 wRC+ in 2019. That is even lower than his .270 average in 2017, however. That said, the speed is real, and another 40 steals are a real possibility. Smith draws enough walks, an 8.6% career clip, that he can still be a viable leadoff hitter even with a .270 average, and last year probably did earn him the ability to work through at least one slump without hitting the bench too hard. However, despite the projections, Smith could prove himself to be an above-average hitter now, similar to what Eddie Rosario and Aaron Hicks did for themselves last year, and there is no doubt that Smith can justify his 99 ADP this year. But is he a better choice than Victor Robles?  

Victor Robles - New Sheriff in Town

(ADP: 102)

Victor Robles' elbow injury last April not only denied him the opportunity that Juan Soto so thoroughly exploited, but it also denied us analysts of some of our beloved sample size. Robles only got 291 plate appearances last year across all levels. Despite that, the 66 of those that came at the highest level went quite well: .288/.348/.525 with three HR, three SB (on five tries), and 10 RBI. Don't go prorating that over a full season or you'll start to get 30-30 vision, and that won't happen. Robles' 2019 upside is closer to 20-20, although that would still represent a surprising amount of power. Steamer likes 12 home runs and 27 steals with a 102 wRC+. There's a reason scouts love Victor Robles, and this is his third preseason as a top-10 prospect at MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus. MLB.com states that Robles "has the makings of plus hitter from the right side of the plate, with a compact but explosive swing and a present feel for using the whole field. His power played consistently in 2017 thanks to a more leveraged swing and better pitch selection." Given a 60 hit tool, 55 power tool, and 75 run tool by MLB.com, Robles has backed up the scouts with a career .300/.392/.457 minor league line. Unfortunately, with just 93 total plate appearances for Washington over two years, Robles is still ultimately an unknown at the Major League level. However, given his prospect pedigree and success in the minors, he is very likely to be competent. Can you absolutely rely on him for more than competence? No. But does he have a chance to give you more? Absolutely.  

Conclusion

Context always matters, so if you've entirely ignored steals or already drafted some riskier assets, you might want Smith over Robles. However, Robles has a ceiling that many drafters are finding irresistible near pick 100, and it's a ceiling that just isn't there for Smith due to his power shortcomings. Importantly, however, even if each player only hits to their projections, Robles can still give you 10 points of BA and 10 extra HR in exchange for 15 fewer SB. Depending on lineup positioning, you could very well do better in R+RBI with Robles also, especially if he lives up to that .392 minor league OBP. There seems to be a consensus that Robles is one of the safer prospects in some time and his upside on top of that is worth a shot over Smith in most draft situations (barring an unanticipated return of Bryce Harper returning to Washington without a corresponding trade of Adam Eaton). Things can always change but for now, unless you are solely searching for speed, Robles seems to be the one to target when approaching the triple-digit selection mark of your draft. [jiffyNews tags_include='20378' headline='More Fantasy Baseball ADP Analysis']

ADP Debate - Rick Porcello vs Shane Bieber

While participating in a fantasy baseball draft, you’ll undoubtedly face numerous hair-pulling decisions that could either make or break your season. Here at RotoBaller, we care about your luscious locks, so we divulge into these anxious situations before they happen to make it easier for you on draft day. Speaking of lack of hair, Rick Porcello and Shane Bieber both don’t put much hair on their fastballs. Averaging 91.3 MPH and 93.0 MPH respectively on their four-seamers, these two pitchers are excellent at getting outs without having the intimidating heat in their back pocket. Being selected as back-to-back pitchers so far in drafts, determining who will provide the better year in 2019 is a messy decision. Grab a chair, and we’ll comb over this hairy situation. Check out our other ADP Debates when you're done here, including one on highly-ranked pitchers Madison Bumgarner and Jose Berrios.  

Slick Rick the Ruler

After a full season removed from his 2016 Cy Young campaign, Porcello contributed sufficiently to his roto categories in 2018. Going 17-7 with a 1.18 WHIP, he established a career-high 8.94 K/9 with his 190 strikeouts in 191.1 innings pitched. Although he trimmed his 2017 ERA down from a 4.65 ERA to a 4.28 ERA last season, it wasn’t enough to satisfy fantasy owners. The 30-year-old battled home run problems once again, which has become a tendency since joining Boston in 2015. Serving up a 1.27 HR/9 last year, it was clear he let Fenway Park get the better of him as his home HR/9 was an ugly 1.73 at home. Porcello clipped off a bit of his Barrel% from his previous season, but his 7.0% mark was a mirror image of his career average, so much of the same should be anticipated in 2019. What was most attractive from the 6’5” right-hander last year was his newly acquired knack for the strikeout. He kept batters knotted up with his curveball/fastball combination as he set new bests in Whiff% on both of these deliveries (29.8%/26.4%). It's not surprising to see an increase in swing-and-miss on a breaking pitch, but with Porcello shaving MPH off his fastball velocity annually, it certainly makes you scratch your head as to how it could elevate over 4.5% from the previous season. Despite a four-year low in Chase% on his fastball, his whiffs on chased balls out of the zone skyrocketed over 15% from 2017 to a 41.3% clip in 2018. A towering climb, for the sake of comparison, his former teammates Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander had the two best fastballs in 2018 according to pitch values. Neither of these aces has ever seen a Chase-Miss% that high on their heaters in any season in either of their illustrious careers. Last season was likely the peak for Porcello’s strikeout rate, and a curl back to his previous 2015-17 pace with the Red Sox of 7.81 K/9 would be more realistic. With his K numbers sprouting beautifully last season, Porcello has always been razor-sharp at limiting the free pass. His career 2.07 BB/9 is an exceptional mark, especially after 10 big league seasons. He did see a little growth on this number last year as he finished his season with a 2.26 BB/9, a rate we haven’t seen that low since 2011. Still, if a top-20 number is the floor we'll see with Porcello, it bodes well for his WHIP in 2019.  

The Good Bieber

In his first taste of big league action last season, Bieber was solid in his debut year for the Cleveland Indians. The 23-year-old went 11-5 with a 4.55 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, and 118 K in 114.2 IP. While these numbers may not blow you away, there's a lot to admire in the youngster’s skill set. Starting with his minor league history, he was a cut above the rest of his pitching counterparts in regards to control. Over his 277 career minor league innings, he allowed a measly 19 walks. That's a 0.62 BB/9, an extraordinary number for anyone and especially for a hurler this young. He paired that elite command with a polished 8.45 K/9 in the farm system with a 2.24 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. It’s clear Bieber was ready for the bigs with those stellar minor league roots settled, so what went wrong with his first brush with Major League batters? It wasn't his ineptitude to get hitters out via strikeout as his 9.26 K/9 in the majors improved on his minor league K/9. Thanks to a little shampoo on his slider generating a 43.0% Whiff%, he achieved a 26.2% Whiff% as a whole, which was over 2% higher than the major league average. Bieber did allow a few more walks than he was accustomed to at a 1.81 BB/9. Nothing to wig out about though, as that number still would have been a top-six mark among league qualifiers. It pained the right-hander that many of those baserunners came around to score, however. An ugly 69.4% LOB% was an outlier to his consistent marks in the high 70s and low 80s in the minors. The most significant effect on this strand-rate was his inability to keep the ball in the yard. After allowing only 12 homers throughout his entire minor league career, he served up 13 dingers at the big league level. His 1.02 HR/9 was still well under the league average (1.16 HR/9), and his 7.0% Barrel% was identical to Porcello's career mark. It’s not a shocker that the stronger, more conditioned major league hitters took Bieber deep more often. Its almost encouraging that this was his only considerable flaw in his first taste of big league action. All the Sabermetrics were on his side as well. His SIERA (3.45), FIP (3.23) and xFIP (3.30) were all over a full run lower than his actual ERA and his .285 batting average against should have been buzzed down closer to his .256 xBA. With these supportive stats, his ERA will likely recede in 2019 with some positive regression in these categories.  

Who Makes The Cut?

Both of these pitchers have similar styles of throwing, terrific walk rates mixed in with a bright ability to get the strikeout when needed. Also, they are efficient at generating the ground ball, but when the ball gets airborne it tends finds a home in souvenir city. With Porcello’s balding velocity, Bieber will prove to be the better strikeout arm with his slider being braided finely with his controllable four-seamer. WHIP and ERA also favor the Indians chucker with his edge in walks and slightly better ability to reduce the longball. Both on prominent teams, win totals should come relatively easy, although Bieber may not get the run support that Porcello will get with Boston. On the pitching side of things, the more hitter-neutral Progressive Field in Cleveland will help balance this out as he won’t likely need as many runs to rely on for the victory. With Bieber getting chosen at an ADP of 157 and Porcello going as the next SP off the board at 160, it’s more sensible to be a Belieber. Porcello is more groomed at the Major League level, but Bieber has more upside. He’s proven to be a workhorse already at his young age throwing 173.1 IP in 2017 and 193 IP in 2018. The Tribe will let their hair down with Bieber in 2019 as there should be no reason to snip his innings as you would typically see other teams do with their young pitchers. If you take a shot on the young Indians pitcher, you just might be hoisting that championship trophy with your healthiest head of hair yet. [jiffyNews tags_include='20378' headline='More Fantasy Baseball ADP Analysis']

Late-Round Offensive Category Targets - NFBC Draft and Hold Strategy

With the growing interest in draft-and-hold formats, new draft strategy prep is critical for full season runs at the title. For those who are new to the format, typically teams draft 27 starters in a live draft, with 27 players joining the team in a reserve section through a slow draft. With top prospects also being eligible to be drafted, often solid fantasy players will fall through the cracks, making it paramount to identify what stats are needed early on.  The downside to the large rosters is that there are no trades, and teams need to stock up for the whole season from the start. This means no trading from surplus to add to shore up lacking categories. The key is to add players who can fill in those gaps means targeting unique player profiles, and looking for players who can offer short bursts in the counting stats. For those new to the format, read along to find players that are going outside the top-350 who can still be valuable in roto leagues. Reach for these players where teams are lacking, and it will pay off at the end of the season.  

Batting Average Targets

Colin Moran (3B, PIT) The projected starting third baseman for the Pirates to start the year, Moran, admittingly, does not offer much fantasy value, but he does have a batting floor worth a stash in deep leagues. Last year, for example, in his first full season in the Majors, Moran slashed .277/.340/.407. The plate skills are excellent for this spot in the draft with a 39:82 BB:K line and a career K rate under 20%, taking the minors into account. The other plus at the 436 ADP is that Moran will also chip in 12-plus homers, adding additional category scoring and support. Owners can bank on some break-out here as well, making a player with a starting gig an excellent target for the bench. Lonnie Chisenhall (OF, PIT) Another Pirate at the spot, Chisenhall’s only issues thus far has been staying on the field. At his current ADP of 510, Chisenhall is going around players like Chris Davis and Rowdy Tellez, both players with limited playing time upside. In 29 games last year, Chisenhall slashed .321/.394/.452, chipping in 11 runs as well. While a small sample, the batting average has been productive with a .286 line in 2016, and .288 in 2017. Slated to start the year as the primary right fielding option, if Chisenhall can stay healthy, and produce as he has, this could emerge as a long-term option for the Pirates.  

Run-Scoring Targets

Chad Pinder (2B/OF, OAK) A favorite on these lists for the positional flexibility, Pinder offers sneaky value on his own, and in a productive offense that adds additional value. In 2018, Pinder scored 43 runs in 333 PAs, providing a full season value of close to 80 runs. While he may not get to that level due to the playing time limits, Pinder will be a prime matchup option in weeks where owners can swap out players mid-week. He is slated to be on the long side of the platoon with a cast of characters in Oakland to start the season, which should provide a sneaky value stash at the current ADP of 461. Pinder is also a player that has a fantasy ceiling much higher than his projections and might be worth drafting in the first 27 rounds as well.  Jon Jay (OF, CWS) Signed to hold down a spot in the outfield for the White Sox, Jay was good value last year with both the Royals and the Diamondbacks. In 143 games, he scored 73 runs off the back of a .268/.330/.347 slash. While the move to Chicago might not be great due to team context, his 2018 teams were not driving in a ton of runs either, so the dropoff should not be that great. Expect the batting average to tick up a bit, with 2018 being the low year out of the past few. The added benefit of hitting at the top of the lineup will also help the bottom line in the category. Available late in drafts, at an ADP of 622, Jay is worth the gamble as well as a spot on the bench for future playing time.  

Home Run Targets

Mark Trumbo (1B, BAL) Coming off an injury and surgery this offseason, Trumbo has seen his fantasy stock drop even lower, making him a prime cheap add in deep leagues. Slated to start the year at DH, and perhaps, to hit clean-up on a lousy team, Trumbo can still mash with the best of them. Add in a hitter’s park, with a 1.21 HR factor, and the scene looks primed for a bounce-back year. Last year, in 90 games he hit 17 bombs, so a full season should lead to a 20-homer floor. The other good sign with the profile is that Trumbo will not tank your batting line, with a career average near .260. Owners can deal with the 25% K rate, and take the 407 ADP, as long as the power still plays on a bad team. Kevin Cron (1B, ARI) The brother of the Twins slugger, Cron offers a great value at an ADP of 672 if he can make it to the Bigs for an extended look. 2018 was a breakout year for him with a .309/.368/.554 slash, with 22 homers and 97 RBI added on. All of this came at Triple-A, and with the current direction of the team, he should be in a spot to push for a role this spring. The 15.7 HR/FB% should be sustainable with his batting approach, and with a good mixture of hitting to all fields, this is a profile to take a flier on. Cron has a .360-plus OBP for his career; therefore, he should provide plenty of runs if he can get adequate playing time and the team improves their production. This could lead to the type of flier that can solidify a team late in the year.  

RBI Targets

Justin Bour (1B, LAA) A move to Los Angeles means that Bour should have the inside track to a starting gig to start the season. Last year was a downgrade from a 2017 season where he drove in 83 RBI, but the 59 he posted in a part-time role show the floor for runs is there. Bour is projected to hit clean-up and should have plenty of RBI opportunities with Mike Trout and Justin Upton in front of him. One cause for the drop in production last year was a drop in the Hr/FB% from 26% to 18.3%. With a park built for the left-handed power swing, Bour is primed to take full advantage in his new environment. Tyler Naquin (OF, CLE) A few things are playing out in Naquin’s favor to start the year. First, he seems to have every chance to start the year with the right field gig, as Cleveland look to be done adding offensive pieces this winter. Second, while he has been a disappointment since a strong start to his career with Cleveland in 2016, injuries have been the main culprit keeping him from more playing time. When healthy, Naquin has an average, to above average, hit tool with prospect fatigue driving him down the draft board. Last year, he did chip in 23 RBI in a part-time role, and when hitting behind great OBP players in Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Carlos Santana, there will be ducks on the pond to drive in. With an ADP of 631, there is no downside to taking him in a late round and watching the situation unfold to start the season.  

Steals Targets

Delino DeShields (OF, TEX) In an underwhelming 2018 campaign marred by injury, Deshields still stole 20 based in 106 games. Even with a .216 batting average, Deshields posted a .310 OBP, showing the skills to get on base for steals opportunities. His best season was the 2017 campaign when he stole 29 bases in 37 total chances. Projected as the starting center fielder for the Rangers this year, Deshields will be a good bet to steal 25 bags if he stays healthy. The ADP of 381 bakes in the steals upside, but owners can still get him on the cheap, with some expectation of a batting line improvement. Bradley Zimmer (OF, CLE) Another injury risk, not slated to return til mid-season, Zimmer still brings elite speed to the table for fantasy teams. Also, Cleveland runs more than most other teams in the league and offers steals upside even with limited time on the field. In 2017, Zimmer stole 18 bases in 19 chances, showing elite decision making on the bases as well. While the batting average is underwhelming, Zimmer does have a serviceable OBP line, with a .307 mark in 101 games during the 2017 campaign. With a 483 ADP baking in the injury risk, Zimmer is a prime option in draft-and-hold leagues. [jiffyNews category_include='698' headline='More 2019 Fantasy Baseball Advice']

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