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


Updated Catcher Rankings (May) - 2018 Fantasy Baseball

We are a quarter of the way through the regular season for Major League Baseball, so our staff at RotoBaller has updated our rest-of-season fantasy baseball rankings. We are taking a look at catchers in this article. There is a clear divide at this position, which guys who can contribute a lot in the first couple of tiers, followed by players you must patch together the rest of the way. If you have been struggling to maximize your production from this position all year, it may be time to make a move. Our rest of season tiered rankings will give you an idea of who you should target. Don't forget to bookmark our famous Rankings Wizard where you can see all of our rankings for mixed leagues, points leagues, AL/NL only leagues, dynasty leagues, top 2018 prospects, dynasty prospects and more. You will also find our tiers, auction values, player news, stats, projections and more. You can easily download everything and it's all free!  

2018 Fantasy Baseball Tiered Rankings: Catcher (May)

Ranking Tier Player
1 1 Gary Sanchez
2 2 Willson Contreras
3 2 Buster Posey
4 2 Yasmani Grandal
5 2 Salvador Perez
6 3 J.T. Realmuto
7 3 Wilson Ramos
8 3 Mike Zunino
9 3 Evan Gattis
10 3 Yadier Molina
11 4 Welington Castillo
12 4 Chris Iannetta
13 4 Austin Hedges
14 4 Brian McCann
15 5 Robinson Chirinos
16 5 Matt Wieters
17 5 Jorge Alfaro
18 5 Francisco Cervelli
19 5 Yan Gomes
20 5 Kurt Suzuki
21 5 Jonathan Lucroy
22 6 Francisco Mejia
23 6 Austin Barnes
24 6 Tyler Flowers
25 6 Carson Kelly
26 6 James McCann
27 6 Alex Avila
28 6 Tom Murphy
29 7 Russell Martin
Tier 1 One man stands alone, and that’s Gary Sanchez. Even after a slow start to the season, Sanchez manages to find himself as the only player in the first tier. If you spent a very early pick on Sanchez, you have probably been mildly disappointed so far. Sanchez is dead last in batting average among qualifying catchers and fifth in strikeouts among all catchers. The good news is that his power is still there as Sanchez ranks first in home runs and RBIs among all catchers. The key for me is at-bats though. I will only spend a high pick on a catcher if I know he will be playing 5-6 times a week, especially in leagues that lock weekly lineups. Sanchez has the second most at-bats for catchers right now, behind only Willson Contreras. There was some worry that Sanchez may not get as many at-bats now that Giancarlo Stanton would be taking some at designated hitter. Last year Sanchez would spend off days as the DH. Even without those opportunities, Sanchez continues to be an essential cog. Tier 2 Before the season started, I wrote about a strategy that consisted of taking two catchers from the same team to offer the production of one elite catcher. While Austin Barnes hasn’t been as good this season as he was in 2018, Yasmani Grandal has been better than advertised. He is getting consistent at-bats right now with over 160 on the season. The strikeouts will always be there, but Grandal is currently posting his highest OBP and OPS since his rookie season. The Dodgers have been everything short of a mess this season, but Grandal has been a steady contributor. If he continues this throughout the season, he could finish top five at the position. Tier 3 One of my bounce back candidates for the 2018 season continues to stay healthy and play well. Wilson Ramos has been one of the bright spots for the surprising Rays. With several players performing much better than anticipated, including Ramos, the Rays find themselves flirting with the .500 mark. Ramos took some time last season to shake the rust off after recovering from an injury that cut his 2016 season short and ruined his free agency. I expect Ramos to be a prime trade candidate for the Rays come July. He has been playing very well and there are a few teams in the league that could use help at catcher. For fantasy owners, you don’t have many catchers hitting over .300 with the type of at-bats Ramos is getting. In fact, Ramos is the only qualifying catcher to be hitting over .300 right now. Tier 4 Austin Hedges sits in tier three right now, but for how much longer? A late round candidate that could provide some cheap home runs has been awful so far, this season. With only two home runs and a batting average that doesn’t even touch .200, he’s probably better suited for waivers right now. Keep an eye on him in case he heats up in the second half though. Chris Iannetta has been a popular waiver wire addition recently. In the last 14 days, he has hit .286 in 21 at-bats. He is appealing while playing in Colorado. If you play in a league that counts OBP, then Iannetta has some true value on the days he plays. If he had enough at-bats to qualify, he would be fifth in OBP. Tier 5 Francisco Cervelli has been one of my favorite surprises this season. A guy that was probably not drafted to start the season, he was an early season addition for those dealing with injuries. The hot start for Cervelli has lasted and he continues to reward fantasy owners with a .282 average, eight home runs and 43 RBIs. He doesn’t play as much as some of the top options in the game right now, but if you have a decent backup, he provides more than enough production. Kurt Suzuki is the same value as Cervelli. He’s not going to play as much as the top options at the position, but he’s offering some great value on the days he does play. If you play in a league that counts strikeouts, Suzuki will offer a little bit of punch with the bat without the negative side effects. His 14 strikeouts are the lowest for any catcher with more than 100 at bats this season. Suzuki is one of the least risky plays at the position this year. Tier 6 I have been waiting for Carson Kelly to get his shot, and he just hasn’t taken advantage of it. Yadier Molina has been out since the beginning of May and Kelly was unable to jump in at show the Cardinals why he is the catcher of the future. In limited at-bats this season, he is only hitting .083 and has struck out six times in 24 at-bats with no extra-base hits. Luckily, Molina continues to be an ageless wonder. Francisco Mejia has not gotten off to a good start at Triple A. Hitting under .200 has cut into any opportunity that he may have had in Cleveland soon. That is a shame though because the Indians have a huge hole at catcher and could use his bat. At this point, it will take an injury to force the Indians hand to bring him up and even then, he would need to get hot real soon. It is interesting to note that the Indians have started playing Mejia in the outfield more in hopes of accelerating his bat, but it would have been nice to see him grow behind the plate.  

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Outfield Prospect Rankings (June) - 2018 Impact Rookies

Welcome back, RotoBallers. I'll be breaking down impact prospects by position. Today I'm bringing you my updated top 10 outfielders - MLB prospect rankings for the 2018 fantasy baseball season. Outfield is typically one of the deepest list of impact prospects, but list of the top guys to own in redraft leagues took some hits to its depth with some pretty notable graduations. The top 10 at the beginning of the year consisted of players like Ronald Acuna, Shohei Ohtani, Dustin Fowler, Lewis Brinson, Austin Meadows, Jesse Winker, Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill, all of whom are currently up in the majors. Despite that, there are still several top guys to add. Prospects like Kyle Tucker, Willie Calhoun and Alex Verdugo all figure to have some value for the rest of this fantasy season and should have value. The depth starts to trail off after those guys, but there are still a couple players who could be useful to fantasy owners this season.  

Top 10 Outfield Prospects for 2018 Fantasy Baseball (June)

1. Kyle Tucker (HOU, AAA) Stats: 222 PA, .276/.355/.438, 5 HR, 6 SB, 11.3% BB%, 20.3% K% ETA: Mid-June The Houston Astros have few holes on their roster, but left field is currently one of them. With an injured Derek Fisher — who had been underperforming — a demoted Jake Marisnick, a disappointing Marwin Gonzalez and a serviceable Tony Kemp, the position lacks the star power of some of Houston’s other positions. However, Tucker has really hit well in his first taste of Triple-A and appears ready to start playing in the majors. His hit tool has improved with now a higher walk rate than he had at Double-A last year and a manageable strikeout rate. He is also hitting for some power with a little bit of speed. Tucker figures to be a Super Two deadline call up, at which point he will be worth owning in most redraft leagues. 2. Willie Calhoun (TEX, AAA) Stats: 211 PA, .270/.322/.393, 4 HR, 0 SB, 6.2% BB%, 13.3% K% ETA: Late June Calhoun was supposed to enter the season as the starter in left field for Texas, but the Rangers opted to keep him in the minors to add an extra year of control over him. Now, he’s being kept in the minors because he just hasn’t hit well. His slugging percentage is the lowest it has ever been in professional baseball and he’s not hitting for the same average he was hitting for last season. Calhoun is known for his bat and scouts are confident he’ll eventually snap out of this funk and start hitting again though, so fantasy owners should not yet be too concerned. He is still only 23 after all. If he can get it going and earn a promotion to the majors, he would be worth owning in most leagues for his promising middle-of-the-order bat. 3. Alex Verdugo (LAD, AAA) Stats: 114 PA, .308/.342/.458, 4 HR, 0 SB, 5.3% BB%, 15.8% K% ETA: Early July Verdugo has never been the most explosive player in the minors, but there is still plenty to like from a fantasy standpoint. He is a consistent hitter who makes plenty of contact and has a good understanding of the strike zone. Though he is not a slugger, he makes enough hard contact to possibly be able to receive a home run boost in the majors where it seems power is easier to find. He also is not a burner, but he could swipe a bag or two in the majors. Without Corey Seager, the Los Angeles Dodgers have moved Chris Taylor from center field to shortstop, leaving an opening in the outfield for Verdugo to claim. Right now, Los Angeles is using Cody Bellinger to fill in the gap, but Verdugo could eventually work his way back up and take the spot where spots believe he would be an adequate defender. His consistent bat would help make him a steady presence in 12-plus-team leagues. 4. Jake Bauers (TB, AAA) Stats: 196 PA, .293/.369/.454, 5 HR, 8 SB, 10.2% BB%, 21.4% K% ETA: Late June There is little left for Bauers to prove in the minors and there’s really no great reason why he’s not in the majors right now other than service time consideration. Bauers has been performing well above expectations in his second trip to Triple-A Durham, flashing both a plus hit tool with surprising speed and some power to go along with it all. The Tampa Bay Rays are a rebuilding club currently with a struggling Carlos Gomez in right field. It could be a Super Two thing for keeping Bauers down, so it will be interesting to see if he is called up around June 15 or if the Rays keep him down much longer. If he is able to reach the majors and see regular playing time, he would bring enough fantasy appeal to warrant ownership consideration in plenty of 12-plus-team leagues. 5. Christin Stewart (DET, AAA) Stats: 203 PA, .290/.374/.585, 13 HR, 0 SB, 11.3% BB%, 19.2% K% ETA: Late July Stewart has always had well above-average power, but just hasn’t made enough contact to be viewed as anything more than a future Quad-A player. Now he’s starting to put it all together at Triple-A, striking out less than he has since his 26-plate appearance sample size in Rookie League in 2015. He also is continuing to walk at a high rate and is hitting for his highest average since that 2015 sampling. Like with the Rays, the Detroit Tigers have little reason to keep Stewart in the minors, especially since he would be an improvement over JaCoby Jones who has cooled down after a hot start. It remains to be seen if Stewart can carry over his low strikeout rate and high batting average to the majors, but if he does get the promotion, he at least would represent a cheap source of power for owners in need of some home runs. 6. Austin Hays (BAL, AA) Stats: 185 PA, .224/.259/.374, 6 HR, 6 SB, 4.9% BB%, 23.2% K% ETA: Early August It has really been a season to forget for Hays after he had a season for the ages in 2017. Hays has not been able to string together any consistent production in his second trip to Double-A Bowie, and now has landed on the DL with an ankle injury. Scouts are not selling out on him just yet, though the concern with Hays has always been that he lacked patience and had to rely on a contact-heavy approach to succeed. Hays could easily take over in right field if he gets healthy and starts to produce, but those are pretty big ‘ifs’ right now. Keep him on your radar, but don’t go buying him in redraft leagues just yet. 7. Steven Duggar (SF, AAA) Stats: 212 PA, .255/.340/.356, 2 HR, 7 SB, 10.8% BB%, 29.7% K% ETA: Late June The San Francisco Giants need any outfielders who can hit anything. Hunter Pence and Austin Jackson have been abysmal for San Francisco, and Andrew McCutchen has not quite been himself this season either. Duggar is not exactly setting the world on fire at Triple-A, but at this point, the Giants would probably take anything. Duggar also would be a left-handed bat that could help what is a more right-handed heavy lineup. He is a reliable defender and has plenty of speed to also be able to help shore up their defense. His speed could translate into some stolen bases and scouts believe that eventually he will be able to hit for a solid batting average, but that last part sort of awaits to be seen. If nothing else, Duggar could be a solid piece in some deeper leagues if he is promoted. 8. Eloy Jimenez (CWS, AA) Stats: 165 PA, .333/.376/.613, 9 HR, 0 SB, 7.3% BB%, 17.0% K% ETA: September There’s no hitter on this list who really compares to Jimenez’s powerful bat. The right-handed slugger is viewed as one of the top prospects in the minors and he continues to prove he deserves to be treated as such. He has crushed Double-A pitching this season and could be in line for a midseason promotion to Triple-A. That still seems like somewhat of a long way off from the majors, but he if he continues to rake at Triple-A, he could earn a promotion to the majors for a cup of coffee in September so the White Sox can gauge if he’s ready for a bigger role in 2019. Even in a small sample size of at-bats, Jimenez would have the potential to impact fantasy playoff races in plenty of leagues for his power and overall hitting ability. It is very far from a certain thing that he will even receive that September promotion, but he is worth monitoring just in case. 9. Anthony Alford (TOR, AAA) Stats: 86 PA, .152/.221/.165, 0 HR, 3 SB, 7.0% BB%, 33.7% K% ETA: Early July A much less exciting prospect than Jimenez, Alford is someone with the tools to be a real solid fantasy contributor. Scouts have praised his hit tool in the past and his speed, while also adding that he at least might have 10-plus homer power. However, injuries have really hampered the toolsy outfielder and he now is sitting in the minors, trying to find a way to get his bat going again and earn a trip back to the big leagues. In theory, he would be an excellent platoon bat with Curtis Granderson and could even be a better option as the starter given the rebuilding direction the Blue Jays are headed in. But he needs to earn it. If everything clicks, he has the upside to be a real impact bat for the Jays and for fantasy owners. 10. Victor Robles (WAS, AAA) Stats: 15 PA, .385/.467/.385, 0 HR, 2 SB, 13.3% BB%, 6.7% K% ETA: September Robles has a very similar skillset to Alford with the only difference being that Robles has been able to put it together and sustain his success much better than Alford. He also had been able to stay healthier, at least until he injured his elbow earlier this season in Triple-A. Had he not, it is likely he would’ve been promoted to the big-league club and not fellow top prospect Juan Soto. Still, there’s a chance Robles is healthy again this season and could reach the majors. He might even be able to return before that September ETA. However, little is known about his status right now, so owners probably need to exercise caution before adding him in any redraft format.  

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Updated Shortstop Rankings (May) - 2018 Fantasy Baseball

We are a quarter of the way through the regular season for Major League Baseball, so our crack staff at RotoBaller has updated our rest-of-season fantasy baseball rankings. We round things out with a look at where MLB's shortstops fall. A position that was once a fantasy wasteland now boasts some of the game's brightest stars, and owning a premier shortstop (or adding the right waiver wire guy) can make a huge difference over the course of the season. Don't forget to bookmark our famous Rankings Wizard where you can see all of our rankings for mixed leagues, points leagues, AL/NL only leagues, dynasty leagues, top 2018 prospects, dynasty prospects and more. You will also find our tiers, auction values, player news, stats, projections and more. You can easily download everything and it's all free!  

2018 Fantasy Baseball Tiered Rankings: Shortstop (May)

Rank Overall Rank Tier Player
1 8 1 Manny Machado
2 9 1 Carlos Correa
3 13 1 Trea Turner
4 16 1 Francisco Lindor
5 54 2 Xander Bogaerts
6 57 2 Alex Bregman
7 58 2 Jean Segura
8 66 2 Javier Baez
9 71 2 Didi Gregorius
10 90 2 Trevor Story
11 135 2 Tim Anderson
12 156 2 Chris Taylor
13 173 2 Asdrubal Cabrera
14 162 2 Andrelton Simmons
15 165 3 Elvis Andrus
16 168 3 Marcus Semien
17 197 3 Gleyber Torres
18 212 3 Yangervis Solarte
19 238 3 Jose Peraza
20 214 3 Zack Cozart
21 224 3 Addison Russell
22 227 3 Dansby Swanson
23 251 4 Paul DeJong
24 266 4 Eduardo Escobar
25 272 4 Orlando Arcia
26 320 4 Marwin Gonzalez
27 337 4 Tim Beckham
28 342 4 Amed Rosario
29 345 4 Daniel Robertson
30 364 4 Aledmys Diaz
31 398 4 Chad Pinder
32 372 4 Brandon Crawford
33 384 4 Freddy Galvis
34 403 4 Chris Owings
35 417 5 Eduardo Nunez
36 408 5 Jorge Polanco
37 418 5 Ketel Marte
38 426 5 Dixon Machado
39 431 5 Jose Iglesias
40 434 5 Nick Ahmed
41 436 6 Willy Adames
42 437 6 Alcides Escobar
43 443 6 Brendan Rodgers
44 478 6 J.P. Crawford
Tier 1 Still the usual suspects up to the usual tricks. Manny Machado is going to duke it out all season with Mookie Betts and Mike Trout for AL MVP honors, and we are all better for it as baseball fans. If anything, Trea Turner might be slightly disappointing fantasy owners with a .267 batting average and "only" six homers and 22 RBI, but he's still on pace for 30-40 steals. I fully admit I didn't buy into Frankie Lindor's power surge last year, but here we are on June 1st and the dude's got 12 jacks. He's a legit five-tool player and I am sorry for having ever doubted his greatness in any way. Carlos Correa hasn't even really heated up yet, and I fear for the rest of the American League when that does happen. With the warmer months upon us, I'm willing to bet we see him round into All-World form any day now. Tier 2 There are a ton of pleasant surprises in this tier, and I admit some are downright shocking to me. For example, if I told you in March that Asdrubal Cabrera would have the fourth-most total bases of any shortstop on June 1st, how quickly would they have stripped me of my logins? Or if I claimed it would not be Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo or Kyle Schwarber leading the Cubs in RBI, but Javier Baez? Baez has shaved 6.3% of his strikeout percentage, and is now whiffing at just a 22% clip, while somehow also cutting his walk rate in half (2.9% vs. 2017's 5.9%). This ultra-aggressive approach is yielding very positive results, particularly his career-high .291 ISO and the aforementioned RBI totals. Perhaps the most criminally underrated player in all of fantasy baseball (yeah, yeah, light up the comments with who I'm forgetting) though is Andrelton Simmons. The former defensive specialist has quietly--nay, SILENTLY--evolved into one of the best contact hitters at the position, if not the entire league. Simmons had a career year in 2017, posting a rock-solid .291 batting average while also setting career highs in RBI (69), runs (77) and stolen bases (19). In 2018 he's hitting an absurd .333 with a surprising .873 OPS, and he may very well match those aforementioned career highs in counting stats. I am here to let my Andrelton freak flag fly. Tier 3 This is probably too low for Gleyber Torres. Sure he's only been up for a month or so, but he's the GOAT AND I WILL FIGHT ANYBODY WHO SAYS OTHERWISE. For real though, Torres has been outstanding since being called up and would likely be fighting for AL ROTY if Shohei Ohtani wasn't excelling both at the plate and on the mound. Not to be the "tape guy", but watching Torres' at-bats you can see what made him such a highly sought-after prospect, and why he's legitimately MLB-ready right now. I imagine it's only a matter of time before we find him in the second tier of shortstops (let's say middle infielders, we know he plays second base). Yangervis Solarte came over to Toronto to be a utility player, but injuries (*cough*TULO*cough*) have allowed him regular playing time, and he has thrived in the friendly north. Solarte has displayed impressive power in 2018, and whether you want to blame it on the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre is irrelevant--he's got 11 homers already, and at the SS position that's hard to come by. His .257 batting average likely has some positive regression coming as well--his BABIP is an unsightly (and likely unsustainable) .255. Tier 4 and Beyond Brandon Crawford is known for his glove, sports fans, but usually not for his bat. The 31-year-old veteran has quietly surprised this season, hitting .307 with six homers and a handful of runs and RBI. There is almost definitely some regression coming (see: BABIP of .371) in the batting average, but Crawford is proving that you don't need to have one of the top guys to get an edge at the shortstop position. He's one of those value adds that can be great for a team dealing with an injury or an underperforming star, and should not be overlooked. He should be in the middle of Tier 3 IMO, ahead of guys like Addison Russell and Dansby Swanson. Eduardo Escobar deserves more love than he gets. He's just inside Tier 4, but like Crawford he should at least be in Tier 3, considered ahead of guys who are more name than production. Another seven-year veteran, Escobar enjoyed a career year in 2017, slugging 21 homers and setting career highs in RBI (73) and runs (62). While he may not reach those marks in 2018, he's pacing pretty darn close. He's another one of those guys you can stick in a lineup and get some middling production from while you wait for a guy like Paul DeJong to heal--or if you're still dealing with the heartbreak of losing Corey Seager.  

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Updated Outfielder Rankings (May) - 2018 Fantasy Baseball

We have made it to the end of May in fantasy baseball. Now is the time everyone starts to take a hard look at their roster to make improvements and changes. At Rotoballer we are going to help you out by reshuffling the deck and updating the outfield rankings as a tool in reshaping your squad. There have been several standouts in the early going who have made a steep climb up the rankings, as well as those who have had a similar fall. Rookies, injuries, and bounce backs have changed the preseason rankings in many ways. I am here to show you who the risers and fallers are, and why. These rankings were made before recent rookies (such as Austin Meadows and Juan Soto) were called up to the majors, so please keep that in mind as you peruse the article. Notes about injuries and missing prospects can be found in the player notes. You can find player analysis for each tier following the rankings chart, That being said, read on! * Rankings/Tiers made by Pierre Camus while Player Analysis was written by Matt Williams. Don't forget to bookmark our famous Rankings Wizard where you can see all of our rankings for mixed leagues, points leagues, AL/NL only leagues, dynasty leagues, top 2018 prospects, dynasty prospects and more. You will also find our tiers, auction values, player news, stats, projections and more. You can easily download everything - oh, and in case you’re curious, it's all free!  

2018 Fantasy Baseball Tiered Rankings: Outfield (May)

Staff rankings/tiers by Bill Dubiel, Nick Mariano, Pierre Camus while player analysis was written by Matt Williams
Ranking Tier Player Position
1 1 Mike Trout OF
2 1 Mookie Betts OF
3 1 Bryce Harper OF
4 1 Charlie Blackmon OF
5 1 Aaron Judge OF
6 1 J.D. Martinez OF
7 2 Kris Bryant 3B/OF
8 2 Giancarlo Stanton OF
9 2 Starling Marte OF
10 2 George Springer OF
11 3 Cody Bellinger 1B/OF
12 3 Dee Gordon 2B/OF
13 3 Justin Upton OF
14 3 Tommy Pham OF
15 3 Rhys Hoskins 1B/OF
16 3 Khris Davis OF
17 3 Nelson Cruz OF
18 3 Christian Yelich OF
19 3 Lorenzo Cain OF
20 4 Andrew Benintendi OF
21 4 Marcell Ozuna OF
22 4 Yoenis Cespedes OF
23 4 Ronald Acuna OF
24 4 Mitch Haniger OF
25 4 Ender Inciarte OF
26 4 Nick Castellanos 3B/OF
27 4 Andrew McCutchen OF
28 4 Shohei Ohtani SP/OF
29 5 Ryan Braun OF
30 5 Michael Brantley OF
31 5 Whit Merrifield 2B/OF
32 5 Eddie Rosario OF
33 5 A.J. Pollock OF
34 5 Joey Gallo 3B/1B/OF
35 6 Nomar Mazara OF
36 6 Nick Markakis OF
37 6 Adam Jones OF
38 6 Gregory Polanco OF
39 6 Matt Olson OF/1B
40 6 Corey Dickerson OF
41 6 Jose Martinez OF/1B
42 6 Odubel Herrera OF
43 6 Michael Conforto OF
44 6 Yasiel Puig OF
45 6 Byron Buxton OF
46 6 Brett Gardner OF
47 6 Billy Hamilton OF
48 6 David Peralta OF
49 6 Delino DeShields OF
50 6 Chris Taylor 2B/SS/OF
51 6 Kyle Schwarber OF
52 7 Jay Bruce OF/1B
53 7 Brandon Belt 1B/OF
54 7 Trey Mancini 1B/OF
55 7 Shin-Soo Choo OF
56 7 Adam Duvall OF
57 7 Matt Kemp OF
58 7 Domingo Santana OF
59 8 Scooter Gennett 2B/3B/OF
60 8 Jorge Soler OF
61 8 Kevin Pillar OF
62 8 Stephen Piscotty OF
63 8 Max Kepler OF
64 8 Adam Eaton OF
65 8 Steven Souza OF
66 8 Mallex Smith OF
67 9 Ian Happ 2B/OF
68 9 Teoscar Hernandez OF
69 9 David Dahl OF
70 9 Dexter Fowler OF
71 9 Avisail Garcia OF
72 9 Franchy Cordero OF
73 9 Josh Reddick OF
74 9 Manuel Margot OF
75 9 Eric Thames 1B/OF
76 9 Ian Desmond OF/1B
77 10 Aaron Hicks OF
78 10 Michael Taylor OF
79 10 Leonys Martin OF
80 10 Carlos Gonzalez OF
81 10 Bradley Zimmer OF
82 10 Travis Jankowski OF
83 10 Jason Kipnis 2B/OF
84 10 Scott Schebler OF
85 10 Lewis Brinson OF
86 10 Dustin Fowler OF
87 10 Aaron Altherr OF
88 11 Brandon Drury 3B/OF
89 11 Randal Grichuk OF
90 11 Jose Pirela OF/2B
91 11 Mark Trumbo OF
92 11 Marwin Gonzalez 1B/2B/3B/SS/OF
93 11 Denard Span OF
94 11 Jackie Bradley OF
95 11 Mac Williamson OF
96 11 Jesse Winker OF
97 11 Howie Kendrick 2B/OF
98 11 Carlos Gomez OF
99 11 Ben Zobrist 2B/OF
100 11 Kevin Kiermaier OF
101 12 Derek Fisher OF
102 12 Chad Pinder SS/2B/OF
103 12 Chris Owings 2B/SS/OF
104 12 Curtis Granderson OF
105 12 Eduardo Nunez SS/3B/2B/OF
106 12 Jose Bautista OF
107 12 Kole Calhoun OF
108 12 Joc Pederson OF
109 12 Kyle Tucker OF
110 12 Alex Gordon OF
111 12 Nick Williams OF
112 12 Cameron Maybin OF
113 12 Hunter Pence OF
114 12 Hunter Renfroe OF
115 12 Harrison Bader OF
116 12 Jarrod Dyson OF
117 12 Gerardo Parra OF
118 13 Clint Frazier OF
119 13 Raimel Tapia OF
120 13 Jason Heyward OF
121 13 Mikie Mahtook OF
122 13 Albert Almora OF
123 13 Austin Hays OF
124 13 Brandon Nimmo OF
125 13 Andrew Toles OF
126 13 Preston Tucker OF
127 13 Ben Gamel OF
128 13 Alex Verdugo OF
129 13 Brian Goodwin OF
130 13 Jon Jay OF
131 13 Steve Pearce 1B/2B/OF
132 13 Lonnie Chisenhall OF
133 13 Jorge Bonifacio OF
134 13 Eloy Jimenez OF
135 13 Tyler Naquin OF
136 13 Enrique Hernandez OF
137 13 Austin Jackson OF
138 13 Nicky Delmonico OF
139 13 Matt Joyce OF
140 13 Melky Cabrera OF
  Tier 1 Mike Trout and Mookie Betts are technically in Tier 1-A, as they are in a class by themselves. Trout is up to his usual tricks in 2018, batting .303/.448/.672 with 18 home runs and 12 stolen bases. The Angels superstar currently has a career high 20.2% BB rate, while maintaining a ridiculous .462 wOBA. The man is amazing and will occupy the top spot in all of fantasy baseball for the foreseeable future. Mookie Betts owners may have something to say about that though. The Red Sox' center fielder is having a breakout after a breakout in 2018, doing his best Mike Trout impersonation. Betts is carrying his own impressive slash line of .359/.437.750 with 17 home runs and 13 stolen bases this season and has been the fantasy MVP so far. Still, it was not enough to dethrone Trout for the top spot in the outfield. That will take a bit more of a track record by Betts, and also a bit of a decline from Trout himself. The rest of tier is rounded out by mainstays Charlie Blackmon and soon to be free agent Bryce Harper. Nothing special to report here, they are both great players and are locked into Tier 1-B. Tier 2 The second the tier is filled with all of the slugging outfielders that can't quite produce enough in all five categories to move into the top tier. Players like Aaron Judge, Kris Bryant, J.D. Martinez, and Giancarlo Stanton settle in to this "next best thing" tier. They are all performing the way we expected, to a degree, and should remain locked in this tier for the season. The surprise of the tier is our first big "climber" so far in the rankings, Starling Marte. The five-tool stud from the Pirates has been working his reputation back from the stigma of a PED suspension last year, and Marte has not disappointed. The Pittsburgh outfielder is hitting .309/.361/.514 with seven home runs and 10 stolen bases. Marte. like Trout, is earning the highest walk rate of his career and is shaping up to be one of the best early round value of fantasy drafts. Tier 3 Tier three is a group filled with a power hitter, a speed threat, and a power/speed hybrid. Headlining the group is Astros' star George Springer, followed by Cody Bellinger and Dee Gordon. The Houston outfielder may be the last true "five-category player" with the talent to hit into the top-10 in fantasy drafts. Springer is just not stealing enough anymore to make that a reality. He has still collected three stolen bases to go with 11 home runs and .284 batting average so far. If Springer can bring his walk rate back to his career norm he should be able to climb back up into tier two. Cody Bellinger has been a bit of a disappointment in 2018. The reigning NL Rookie of the Year is batting just .235/.307/.431 with eight home runs and a 102 wRC+. Fantasy owners are worried about the slugging first baseman, and with his below waiver wire performance it's easy to see why. While he is carrying a career low .278 BABIP, it is hardly enough reason to suspect it will impact a turnaround of noticeable measure. Bellinger's hard contact rate in down 6%, while his ground ball rate is up 7% so far this season. Gains in his chase rate and erased by a small spike in his swinging strike rate. The kid has all of the talent in the world to turn it around this year, which is why he remains so high in the rankings. However, if Bellinger does not find a way to reverse his current approach he will continue to slide down the tiers all year. Dee Gordon is Dee Gordon. He is going to bat .300, steal 60 bases, and score between 90-100 runs. Tier 4 Rhys Hoskins was out on the disabled list with a broken jaw after these rankings were finished and he should be dropped. The Phillies first baseman is not going to require surgery, but he should still be out for a while. No official timetable has been announced. Injuries are never a good thing, but it's possible that the young slugger could use some time off to clear his head. Hoskins was coming off an amazing rookie campaign that saw him put up 18 home runs in just 170 at-bats last year. 2018 has been a horse of a different color with the Hoskins hitting just .233 with a spike in his swinging strike rate and significant dip in hard contact. He did manage to hold onto a modest .182 ISO and decent .340 wOBA during his struggles, so maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel. Fantasy owners can hope that this time off gives Hoskins a chance to adjust and come back fresh and motivated. Tommy Pham was a but of a polarizing player in the offseason when it came to projections and predictions. Could the out of nowhere Cardinal repeat his 2017 season? Or was it just a metric mirage? So far, so good for Pham who is putting up a .271/.372/.476 slah line with nine home runs and eight stolen bases. The St.Louis outfielder is holding a strong .367 wOBA and 134 wRC+ that helps solidify the legitimacy of the effort as well. The main issue for Pham this season has been injuries. He has missed games with a groin injury and almost cut his head open because his helmet was too tight. If he can avoid these types of mishaps he should be in for a strong season. You can't go wrong with Khris Davis, he is about as consistent as they come. What you see is what you get, and what you get is 40 home runs. On the other hand. Justin Upton is a grab bag. Will he be good Justin or bad Justin? In roto leagues you don't have to worry as much through his streaky nature because at the end of the year he is going to put up his typical .260 25-20 home runs 85-95 RBI. In head-to- leagues is where Mr.Upton can cause some headaches. The veteran outfielder can either win you the week or be flat out useless. Still, the Angels power hitter is enough of  a dynamic threat to remain entrenched near the top of the rankings. Tier 5 Marcell Ozuna fell in the rankings after coming out with a disappointing start after his breakout 2017 campaign. Acquired from the Marlins in the off season, Ozuna was poised to pick up where he left off playing for the Cardinals. Instead he stumbled hard out of the gate and never really recovered, batting a disappointing .260/.305/.337 with a .284 wOBA and 78 wRC+. Ozuna's troubles have been compiled by off the field issues that have led to the outfielder being benched on more than on occasion for being late. All is not lost for the St. Louis slugger though, as he holds a solid 44.5% hard contact rate while also improving up his strikeout rate, chase rate, and swinging strike rate this season. Andrew Benintendi joins Ozuna of those who fell down to this tier. However after a disappointing start, the Red Sox outfielder has caught fire and is looking like the guy everyone thought they drafted. Benintendi is batting .340 with six home runs and three stolen bases over the last 30 days, bringing his season slash line to .294/.376/.517 with a .378 wOBA. He is a stud dynasty plaer who should finish the season higher in the rankings as we go further into the summer. Tier 6 Ronald Acuna was just as advertised before going down with an ACL sprain. The 20-year-old rookie was hitting .265/.326/.453 with seven doubles, five homers, 13 RBI, 19 runs and two steals in 29 games this season. The good news is that Acuna will likely be out only weeks instead on the months many feared. If you saw the play he was injured on, you would understand. These rankings were done prior to the DL stint, so downgrade him accordingly. Mitch Haniger and Ender Inciarte are two of the highest climbers in the updated outfield rankings. Haniger should not have been a big surprise to those who followed him last season. The Seattle outfielder proved that he belonged in the major leagues in 2017 hitting .282/.352/.491 with 16 home runs. Haniger also proved to have solid  plate discipline, carrying a 27.9% O-swing% (% of balls chased outside the zone). In 2018 he seems to have gotten even better, slashing .276/.361/.520 with a .373 wOBA, 11 home runs and three stolen bases.  A well earned bump in the rankings. Inciarte is an interesting player. He is consistent, yet always undervalued. Well we see you Ender, and we appreciate your efforts. The Braves' leadoff hitter has stolen 18 bases to lead the majors, hitting on top the one of the better hitting lineups in the National League. He is striking out a bit more than we would like, but he has proven to provide tremendous value in the speed department. Tier 7 In case you did not get the memo, Shohei Ohtani is pretty good. We are just going to zero in on the imports hitting ability for the purposes of this article though. The Angels "rookie" is batting an a solid .291/.376/.533 with a .394 wOBA and six home runs through 103 at-bats. He loses a bit of value due to the fact that he doesn't play everyday, but what he lacks in quantity he makes up for n quality. Ohtani hits the ball hard almost every time, holding a 42.5% hard contact rate to just a 9.5% soft contact rate. The kid is legit, but you know that by now. Michael Brantley has seen a resurrection of sorts in 2018. Everyday is the day we expect him to get injured, but here he stands. Brantley may not be the player he used to be, especially in the speed department, but he has contributed amazing value for an end of draft or possibly waiver wire add for fantasy owners. The Indians outfielder is hitting a fantastic .343/.383/.569 with nine home runs, a .405 wOBA and 156 wRC+. Honestly, he would be a lot higher in these rankings if he were anyone else. The injury bug follows Brantley around like a hungry puppy and it seems like just a matter of time. *This would be the tier Juan Soto would likely fit in today, maybe even tier six. Tier 8 A.J. Pollock fell pretty far in the rankings following a tremendous start due to an unfortunate thumb fracture that sent him to the disabled list. Pollock was one of the hottest hitters in baseball going down, but just like Michael Branltey, he is snake bit when it comes to injuries and setbacks and it's tough to see from such a talented player. He is currently due back from mid-to-late June. Nomar Mazara is a hitting machine and one of the more underrated players in baseball. After a year in which Mazara hit 100 RBI, he came into the 2018 season as an afterthought in fantasy drafts. Even now, hitting .272/.343/.500 with a .360 wOBA and 12 home runs, Mazara remains an underappreciated fantasy asset. The Texas outfielder is just 23 years-old and should continue to hone is craft. Don't sleep on Nomar Mazara, he is a star, you just don't know it yet. Tier 9 Nick Markakis is having a bit of a resurgence this season, batting .332 with seven home runs for the Braves. The veteran is getting all sorts of help in the BABIP department (.344), but is nonetheless worthy of this huge bump in the rankings, Markakis has always been a professional hitter and has cut way down on his strikeout rate in 2018. Corey Dickerson was cut by the Tampa Bay Rays this offseason. Corey Dickerson is batting ..308/.344/.492 with five home runs and three stolen bases for the Pirates. I repeat, Corey Dickerson was CUT by the Tampa Bay Rays this offseason. (insert rolling eyes .gif) Tier 10 plus Byron Buxton. We have seen this movie before. He is awful. We cut him. He comes back, We pick him up. He is awful. We cut him, He gets injured, Someone else picks him up. They cut him. Then he has a monster end to the season. It's just hard to see that happening again considering how lost he looks at the plate. That being said, he would be a good player to target once July rolls around. Until then, he will remain buried in the rankings. Billy Hamilton may finally be on his last life. The speedy outfielder has been permanently planted in the nine hole in the Reds lineup. It looks like only a matter of time before he is seeing the bench or maybe the minor leagues. Jay Bruce singed with the Mets this offseason with both of them knowing he had plantar fasciitis. This has bothered him all season long so far. Could we see a bounce back from Bruce and witness a wild hot streak? Sure. But this foot injury is not going anywhere and makes him a worrisome addition on a fantasy roster in 2018. Matt Kemp was supposed to be released wasn't he? He sure didn't think so. The former MVP is back and looking great in the Dodgers outfield, batting .345/.372/.554 with a .393 wOBA and seven home runs. If he continues this trend going into June we may have to consider giving him a much larger jump in the rankings than we already have. Domingo Santana was playing with fire in 2017, carrying a 30.9% HR/FB ratio. That is roughly double the league average. This season he has that rate down to a more sustainable 10.3%, which should go up actually. The Brewers outfielder has been picking it up lately but aside from his struggles at the plate, the additions of Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich in Milwaukee have put a playing time strain on Santana. He will need something to change to recapture his preseason hype. Adam Eaton was the best hitter is baseball when he went down with an ankle injury in April. The Nationals center fielder was slashing ..343/.424/.655 with a .456 wOBA and 192 wRC+ to start the year. Unfortunately, injuries and Adam Eaton go together like peanut butter and jelly. Jelly being what his bones are made of. I kid,I kid. For what it's worth, Eaton is nearing his return and should be back in action sometime in early June. He could be an amazing asset if healthy and leading off for the Nationals, but how many at-bats will fantasy owners get out of him? We will have to see.  

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Power Risers/Fallers for Week 20: Buy or Sell?

Welcome to Week 20 of the 2018 MLB season and a new week of our investigation into the steepest power trenders in baseball, whether those trends are positive or negative. As the season has blown by into August and the MLB trade deadline has passed, the window of opportunity to snag a surging slugger or to rid yourself of a down-and-out disappointment grows shorter with every plate appearance. Most Fantasy Baseball Leagues have already had their trade deadlines come and go, and the only decisions left for Managers to make in terms of personnel are whether players are worth the AB they are receiving and whether a player is worth adding for a postseason push. Getting the jump on identifying the catalytic variables and telling trends in these player's recent offensive performances could be the key factor in the management of your roster in the season's final months. To do this, we'll be taking a look at the batting metrics that influence a hitter's power (Fly-Ball%, Pull%, Hard-Hit%, Exit Velocity) and determining whether you should buy or sell respectively on these surgers and strugglers. Since it's always best to wait and trudge through with the power play from players like Bryce Harper, Charlie Blackmon, Joey Votto, and Mookie Betts, we are going to be focusing on players who have seen a change in their power profile due to a change in batting metrics and has either warranted greater attention for waiver wire pickups or for a potential trade to cash in on what's left before it's too late.  

Power Risers

Ronald Acuna Jr. - (OF, ATL) The heat levels go: mild, hot, blazing, ghost pepper, and then somewhere a little further down the line is where Ronald Acuna sits with his recent offensive performances. Within a span of just the last seven games he has clobbered seven HR with an amazing slash line of .483/.531/1.276 to give him 19 HR and a .992 OPS in 264 total AB this season. Though he strikes out a lot at 28%, that is about all that there is to complain about. He has powered his way to a .288 ISO this year off of 44.6% hard contact and just 12.5% soft contact on batted balls, and gave himself further opportunity to send pitches yard by hitting 40.8% fly balls with a pull rate of 45.1%. Overall, with a 90.8 mph average exit velocity and average HR distance of 413, Acuna's HR/FB ratio is an impressive 25.3%. Ronald Acuna is just 20 years old and was baseball's top prospect as recently as pre-2018. With his August hard contact rate of 54.8% translating to an ISO of .518, he jumped into the history books this week when he became one of two players in the modern era to hit three straight lead-off homers. Whether it has been the minors, majors, or professional baseball in Australia, there has yet to be a place where Acuna has failed to demolish opposing pitchers. He is going to make the race with Juan Soto for National League Rookie of the Year a photo finish, and while there still may be a few questions lingering with some of his young Atlanta teammates, consistent offensive dominance like this is starting to make Ronald Acuna look like a perennial freight train for a contending club. Freddy Galvis - (SS, SD) At 28 years old, Freddy Galvis has never even had a season with an OPS north of .690. Most of this season has been well in line with that standard, with monthly OPS between .611 and .664 from April through July. This, however, hasn't stopped him from going on a tear in August. In 46 AB this month Galvis has a .261/.320/.630 slash line and five HR, including a torrid stretch of three straight games with a dinger from August 12th through August 14th. Is this recent stretch an indicator that he could be a sleepy option for Fantasy Baseball Managers down the home stretch who need power at shortstop? Galvis sports a few underwhelming peripherals. His ISO of .129 is far from intimidating while his strikeout rate of 22.5% is higher than ideal. Also, his GB/FB ratio leaves a little to be desired at 1.24, and his average exit velocity (88.4 mph) and HR distance (390) sit below the league norm and aren't giving him that much-needed assist in pitcher-friendly Petco Park. He, however, counters with several equally positive signs. His walk rate of 7.4% is the highest of his career, and though his pull rate is 38.9%, he has strung together two consecutively better months in that department with July and August rates of 40% and 47.1%. His worst two months in terms of GB/FB tendencies came in the first two months of the season, and since then he has mightily improved and is even hitting fly balls at a 42.4% clip this month. He has produced solid cumulative hard and soft contact rates on batted balls this season of 38.9% and 13.9% though, confusingly, he has produced his lowest hard contact rate of the year (32.4%) in this, his breakout month of August in which he produced his highest ISO of the year (.370) by a substantial margin of .226. Part of this mystery can likely be explained by the fact that Galvis has improved his pull rate so substantially and the fact that he has been able to produce most of his hard and medium contact on batted balls that turned into line drives and fly balls. The Padres have put Freddy Galvis on the field for every single game of the year so far, so it's fair to say that he'll receive ample opportunity moving forward. Though his home field and career history leave some lingering doubts, he could be a Marcus Semien type fill-in shortstop for Fantasy Baseball Managers willing to sacrifice well-roundness and consistency for a sneaky power/speed combo. Marwin Gonzalez - (SS/1B/2B/OF, HOU) With the exception of a good sum of work in June, Marwin Gonzalez has been a far cry from the 23 HR, .907 OPS utility man that was the x-factor on a World Series squad and finished 19th in MVP voting. However, things have been looking up in a big way for Gonzalez since the beginning of August, and he has hit four dingers with a slash line of .349/.417/.674 in 46 AB during that stretch. Some of his peripherals have remained rather consistent all season. His plate discipline figures and pull rate have all remained in the same neighborhood from month to month, and his cumulative walk rate, strikeout rate, and pull rate sit at 10%, 23.9%, and 43.6% respectively. Other figures have fluctuated a little more than one likes to see. His GB/FB ratio bounced around from 0.93 to all the way up to 1.87 between April through July before reaching his best mark of 0.83 so far in August off of a combined 67.7% fly balls and line drives. His batted ball contact has also been up and down. Between April through June he had produced hard contact rates between 23.5% and 45.6% as well as soft contact from 14.5% to 21.6%. This is consistent with his simultaneously fluctuating ISO that ranged between .063 and .211 in that time span. Since the start of August, he has been producing a season-best hard contact rate of 50% on batted balls, which has subsequently given him his best monthly ISO of 2018 at .326, even though his soft contact rate for the month is currently still high at 18.8%. Even with some figures that sit below league average like average exit velocity (88.3 mph) and HR distance (390 feet) Marwin Gonzalez, when at his best, is a well-rounded player capable of a 20+ seasonal HR pace from month to month. Though consistency hasn't been his staple this season, that blow is cushioned a bit by the quadruple-position eligibility and the fact that he goes to work for one of baseball's most offensively devastating batting orders. Even with the regression from his 2017 season this year, his total hard contact rate for 2018 of 35.9% is a 3.2% improvement from last year while his soft contact rate of 18.3% is also a slight improvement by 0.3%, so maybe the greater aversion to grounders since the start of August will turn out to be the big difference maker. Tim Beckham - (SS/3B, BAL) Former highly touted prospect Tim Beckham, like Marwin Gonzalez, is experiencing a hangover from a breakout 2017 campaign that saw him hit 22 bombs with a .782 OPS. He played only five games in July for the bottom-dwelling Orioles, but his months of April and July were ugly. In 84 April AB he managed just one HR and a meager .509 OPS, and in 100 July AB he struck three long balls and sauntered to a .699 OPS. Though these figures are unimpressive, they show one optimistic trait: they demonstrated improvement from month to month, a theme which Beckham continued into August. This month he has already hit four homers with an OPS of .828 and an ISO of .280 off of 34.3% hard contact, all being season-bests. The numbers still support airing heavy on the side of caution when it comes to trusting Tim Beckham. This month he has also produced his highest soft contact rate of the month at a discouraging clip of 28.6%, while his cumulative soft contact on the year of 23.6% isn't a whole lot better. His walk rate (7.2%) and pull rate (43.4%) are good, and his GB/FB ratio has seen some steady improvement, but his strikeout rate is still very high at 26.6% and even with the improvement his GB/FB ratio for August has only descended as low as 1.25. Even with such a low exit velocity of 86.9 mph, he clearly possesses some raw power as evidenced by his average dinger distance of 404 feet. He does not, however, apply consistent enough high-quality contact to batted balls or present enough of a well-rounded game to Fantasy Baseball Managers as can be seen from his low BA/OBP and lack of stolen base attempts after at least grabbing six swipes last season. Infield offense can be found elsewhere at this point in the year without having to make such a roll of the proverbial dice.

Power Fallers

A.J. Pollock- (OF, ARI) Though A.J. Pollock to this point is turning in one of his best offensive campaigns yet (maybe even his best), close examination of a few of his posted figures could cause a little anxiety. Namely, several key figures have been on a steady downward trend since the start of the year. His OPS went from 1.021 in April, to .857 in a May cut short by injury, to .836 in July after missing the entirety of June. Now in August, he has struggled to a .243/.300/.270 slash and zero HR after hitting 15 homers in the previous 134 AB. This caliber of performance at the plate has carried with it the baggage of a steadily decreasing HR/FB ratio as well as ISO. Thankfully, a vast portion of his recent ugly stretch can be explained by just a couple of factors. For one, he has started off August striking out at a stratospheric 35%, which although rather concerning of a figure, it is a stark outlier in terms of Pollock's career tendencies. Also, after keeping his GB/FB ratio under control for most of the season leading up to August, this month his ratio has ballooned all the way up to 3.50 off of 60.9% grounders and just 17.4% taking flight. These figures of stark contrast to Pollock's career norm in what has otherwise been a very successful yet injury-shaken year seem to indicate that he could bounce out of this rut in the blink of an eye. His cumulative pull rate of 49.8% is fantastic, while he has produced hard contact rates between 42.3% and 52.8% every month and solid figures between 8.7% and 15.3% each month in terms of soft contact. His 20-15 power/speed potential may be hampered a bit by the fact that he has taken just one bag of his ten on the season since the start of July, but his exit velocity (90.2 mph) and average HR distance (407 feet) in hitter-friendly Chase Field bode well moving forward. If A.J. Pollock can once again limit his strikeout and ground ball frequency, he could be a lit fuse for Fantasy Baseball Managers needing a spark in the little time of regular season action remaining. Gorkys Hernandez - (OF, SF) With a .738 OPS and 13 HR in 315 AB for San Francisco, Gorkys Hernandez is certainly having the best season of his career from many perspectives at the age of 30. Excluding 2016 in which he only took 54 AB, his 2018 ISO (.171), hard contact rate (40.5%), and GB/FB ratio (1.37) are all career bests and in fact drastic improvements from past performances. Besides that, his pull rate (35.3%), strikeout rate (25.5%), and soft contact rate (19%) remain inadequately high for the hitting conditions presented by AT&T Park. Just in this season, several things have plagued Hernandez in recent months. First, his monthly soft contact has increased every month from 14.3% in April to 28.6% so far in August. His GB/FB tendencies have been erratic, including three particularly dirty months with ratios of 1.72, 2.60, and 3.00 so far in August off of 71.4% grounders. That seems to be what is mostly responsible for his current unsightly August slash of .172/.226/.207, a stretch for which he is homerless. Otherwise, Hernandez has been applying sturdy contact to batted balls. After the slow start he got off to in April, he has ranged from 36.8% to 45.3% in terms of hard contact, with a confusingly high rate of 57.1% for his struggling start to August. In addition, his heavily improved exit velocity of 88.5 mph is finally on pace with the rest of the league, while his 406-foot average distance on dingers indicate he possesses power worth of consideration. He has stepped up his power game this season in addition to grabbing five steals and has demonstrated an ability in the past to steal bases at a significantly greater frequency. Though his August soft contact rate and ground ball percentage have to decrease, and soon, for him to warrant taking a chance on. Those are two figures when combined together at high rates, do not project well for hitting balls into the stands. Odubel Herrera - (OF, PHI) Odubel Herrera has been one Philly not off to the races in the month of August. With a goose egg in the HR department and a slash of .176/.200/.235 over 34 AB, August is the lowest link in the chain of monthly OPS that have been steadily decreasing since he produced a figure of .905 in April. Several present peripherals make you want to walk on eggshells around Herrera. He has been striking out at a clip of 20.3% and seems to struggle with lowering his strikeout percentage in a month without also lowering his walk rate. This year, though his month by month figures have varied little; he sports stagnant batted ball contact figures of 24.9% hard contact, 28.6% soft contact, on 44.4% grounders. Though his pull rate (39.9%) and HR distance (398 feet) sit at league average, his exit velocity of 86.7 mph suggests that he just doesn't hit the ball very hard. Yet, through all of this Odubel Herrera has clubbed a career-high 19 HR already with a .179 ISO which is also the best of his four-year tenure. The fact is, Odubel Herrera has always hit for low hard contact and high soft contact, and despite this managed to continue to improve his HR hitting capabilities. Has hard contact rate sits extremely low at 20.7% for August. To return to hitting HR on a five to seven per month pace, that will have to come up by around 8%. Though the figures are very low when compared to other prominent players, he has demonstrated an ability to hit HR at a nice pace on hard contact rates in the high 20% range. The former All-Star doesn't steal 15+ bases anymore, so he'll have to start doing this in addition to bringing back his usual well-rounded offensive play if he isn't going to cause damage to Fantasy Baseball Managers who choose to deploy him. This might have to be a group effort to get out of a slump on offense: the Phillies have scored the second-least runs in baseball since August began. Kyle Schwarber - (OF, CHC) Kyle Schwarber is another player who has been a regressing component on a regressing unit, as the Cubs have been the seventh-worst run-scoring offense in baseball since August started, and Schwarber owns a .219/.301/.329 slash and just two HR over the last 22 games. We discussed Kyle Schwarber all the way back in Week 7, so let's see what has changed for him since then. The only month in which he has had such offensive issues has been August where he currently holds his lowest ISO figure of the season at .107, but despite this, he has been producing 40.7% hard contact and 14.8% soft contact for the month on a GB ratio of 0.45. He still strikes out a lot (though not as often as 32.1% from July) and his usually high walk rate has dropped by more than 10% over the last two months. The two more telling factors may be his diminished pull rate of 33.3% and IFFB frequency of 27.3% that has led to his lowest HR/FB rate of the year of 9.1%. If you ever need a reminder of Kyle Schwarbers Herculean strength, consult his Home Run Derby showing or feats like 470-foot bombs. Schwarber's current capabilities and limitations seem to be apparent, and with some erratic peripherals that directly impact HR hitting, some down times can be reasonably expected. Though these down times should remain infrequent. His proclivity for moon shots, the hitter-friendly confines of Wrigley Field, and his average exit velocity of 90.6 mph should be enough to power himself and partially the Cubs out of this slump soon. When the club as a whole recovers, streakiness aside, Schwarber's bat will be all the more valuable.

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Second-Half Successes - Hot Performances to Buy

As we enter the final seven weeks of the season, we will look at our rosters to see which players are performing at their best. With a look at the data since the All-Star break, there are several names to target. We will look to roster the players that best fit our plans and categorical needs down the stretch. Since the break, Matt Carpenter, Rougned Odor, Christian Yelich, and Ronald Acuna are in the top ten in offensive WAR. Here are some other names to consider to help our fantasy teams move up categories in our fantasy baseball leagues.  

Hot Performances to Buy

Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics As part of a top-five offense since the All-Stark break, Matt Chapman (3B, OAK) joins Khris Davis in the top ten in offensive WAR. Since the break, Chapman is hitting .361 with 6 HR, 12 RBI, and 20 R. Chapman's 95.9 MPH on FB/LD ranks 31st in MLB, and increasing his hard-contact rate from 36% in 2017 to 45% in 2018 is a positive sign. While he carried a 40.0 GB%  in the first half, he has a 52.0 FB% in 37 at-bats in August with a 48% hard-contact rate. With his hard contact and exit velocity, he has the power to match Steamer's projection of seven home runs over the last seven weeks. Against southpaws, he's hitting more ground balls (43%) while taking fewer balls to the opposite field (19%). Chapman has four home runs and a .841 OPS vs. LHP in 114 at-bats. He has hit the ball in the air more often (41.0 FB%) against RHP with fewer infield fly balls, and he uses more of the field (27.8 Oppo%). He has a .870 OPS with 12 home runs versus RHP. Even though he has a .332 BABIP, his 22.3 LD% helps his cause. His 10.1 BB% has remained steady, and reducing his K% from 28.2 in 2017 to 23.1 in 2018. He has fewer swings and misses against sliders (10.5 SwStr%) in 2018, and he can finish with a batting average that won't damage a fantasy roster. Chapman has the power for a home run per week to finish the season, and he could finish with even more if he can improve his 39.4 FB%. If our teams need some home runs and counting stats, Chapman can provide both.   Mallex Smith, Tampa Bay Rays Don't look now, but Mallex Smith (OF, TAM) has improved his plate discipline in the second half. His 14.5 BB% and 14.5 K% have contributed to a .451 OBP since the All-Star break. Getting on base more often can give him more chances to steal bases. As the season winds down, fantasy owners are targeting categories to gain ground in the standings. Mallex Smith has the speed to make up some ground in the stolen base category. In the second half, Smith has stolen nine bases with 15 R and 7 RBI while hitting .343. Not only has his plate discipline boosted his OBP, Smith has stolen seven bases in seven attempts in August. While it's a small 33 at-bat sample, the outfielder has a 22.7 BB% and 11.4 K% in August. His owns a .512 OBP for the month, and his .974 OPS in the second half is worth a look. With Tommy Pham's injury, Mallex Smith should continue to receive consistent playing time. Hitting more line drives 35% of the time has contributed to his 37% hard-contact rate and .343 batting average in the second half. Smith's 29.6 ft/sec is the twelfth-fastest in baseball, and his speed is worth targeting for making up ground in SB.   Nick Markakis, Atlanta Braves After making his first All-Star Game, Nick Markakis (OF, ATL) hasn't slowed down in the second half. While some owners may have looked to move him during July, Markakis' across-the-board production places in the top-20 of offensive WAR since the break. Hitting .342 with 4 HR, 15 RBI, and 13 R has provided good fantasy value. In CBS NL-Only leagues, the outfielder is the 18th ranked player in 2018 and the 16th ranked player over the last 21 days. He has backed his 14 HR with a 90.8 MPH exit velocity, 10.5° launch angle, and 41% hard-contact rate. He's using all fields with a 38.6 Cent% and a 28.9 Oppo%, and his 27.4 LD% is the ninth-best in the majors. Continue to monitor his power in August, as he has a 43.6 Hard%, 43.6 FB%, and two HR in 42 at-bats. With a few more fly balls, the outfielder could surpass Steamer's projection of four home runs in his remaining games. Although his .343 BABIP is higher than his .318 career-BABIP, his career-high hard-contact rate supports a batting average near .300 over the final seven weeks. Markakis has remained improved his plate discipline, as he has lowered his K% from 16.4% in 2017 to 10.8% in 2018. While he won't provide a big push in any specific category, Markakis has the profile to surpass Steamer's .279 batting average projection for the rest of the season. With a spot in the middle of an above-average offense, Markakis can provide all-around production by adding some HR, a .300 batting average, 20+ RBI, and 20+ R the rest of the 2018 season.   [jiffyNews category_include='698' headline='More 2018 MLB Advice and Analysis']

Contact Rate Risers and Fallers for Week 20: Buy or Sell?

Welcome to Contact Rate Risers and Fallers! Our premium tools allow us to get out ahead of trends in player performance, including contact rate. Every Wednesday, we'll be looking at some players that have seen an increase in contact rate and some that have seen it decline. Contact rate can foretell a player's batting average and general hitting statistics, and any drastic change could signal a shift in performance. Contact rate shifts often act as a precursor to hot streaks and slumps. Here is a breakdown of some of the biggest fantasy relevant risers and fallers in contact rate over the last seven days.

Contact Rate Risers and Fallers - Premium Tool

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Contact Rate Risers

Franmil Reyes (OF, SD): 86% contact rate last seven days (+22%) Franmil Reyes returned to the majors on August 5 and has clubbed three home runs since. Over the past seven days, he hit .280 with a .908 OPS and four strikeouts in 26 PA. He did all of his damage in a series at Miller Park, where he went 7-for-13 with two home runs and two doubles. He has been 0-for-13 with three strikeouts since then. Reyes’ calling card as a prospect has been power, and he followed up on a 2017 breakout with 16 home runs and a .290 ISO in 250 PA at Triple-A. He’s had a few stints in the majors this season, which have been up-and-down. The power has been there for Reyes. He has nine home runs and a .242 ISO in 140 PA, but also has a 33.6% strikeout rate and 70% contact rate. Strikeouts weren’t this big of a problem for Reyes in the minors, but major league pitching tends to be tougher to hit than minor league pitching. Reyes is selling out for power and he won’t have a high batting average with this approach. He has a .242 BA and .232 xBA, so we know what to expect from him. The Padres are going to play Wil Myers at third base in order to keep Reyes in the lineup, and he should be a fine source of power even playing in San Diego. However, he will most likely struggle to his .250. Odubel Herrera (OF, PHI): 95% contact rate last seven days (+17%) Herrera may have had a good contact rate, but it didn’t help his production. Over the last seven days, he went 3-for-21 with a .381 OPS and one strikeout. He didn’t hit the ball very hard with a 25% hard contact rate and didn’t hit it well either with a 15.8% line drive rate. The type of contact Herrera made last week was not conducive to base hits. Herrera is having his worst BA season at .269 but his best power season with a .180 ISO. He has a .306 BABIP, which is above average in most circumstances, but Herrera has a career .348 BABIP. Speedy players like Herrera often subvert norms in terms of expected batting average production. For instance, Herrera has a .237 xBA this season, which would make us think he is due for a regression from his .269 BA. However, he has a career .245 xBA and career .284 BA. Players like this can routinely outperform expected results because of their speed. Herrera makes weak contact and doesn’t hit many line drives, but he should be able to hit around .270-.280 consistently. That’s the type of player Herrera is, boring and low-ceiling, but consistently productive. Joey Wendle (2B/3B/OF, TB): 94% contact rate last seven days (+17%) Wendle has been on a tear since the beginning of July, hitting .368 with a 1.009 OPS and .208 ISO since July 1. This past week was a relative down week compared to that production, but Wendle still hit .333 with a .794 OPS and one strikeout in 20 PA. Wendle is making better contact in the second half with a 26% line drive rate and 38% hard contact rate since the All-Star break. He is riding a .357 BABIP in the second half and .355 BABIP overall this season to maintain his .294 BA. He does make contact at an 80% clip, however, his batting average is still inflated by his BABIP. Wendle has a .264 xBA, and while he probably won’t regress all the way to that, his final BA might meet in the middle around .280. He has moderate power and speed, but Wendle’s best skill will be average, and he should be a fine source for the remainder of the season. He's only 12% owned in Yahoo leagues as of writing this, so he's worth an add if you need batting average help.

Contact Rate Fallers

Teoscar Hernandez (OF, TOR): 48% contact rate last seven days (-26%) Hernandez had a rough week last week, hitting .211 with 11 strikeouts in 21 PA. Now, he also hit two homers and had a .883 OPS, but he struggled to hit the ball. Hernandez already doesn’t make a lot of contact. His 65.4% contact rate is the second lowest among qualified hitters, ahead of only Joey Gallo. He also strikes out 29.6% of the time, which is sixth highest among qualified hitters. When Hernandez does make contact he pulverizes the ball. He has a 92 MPH average exit velocity and 48.4% hard contact rate. Statcast loves Hernandez, and he has wide gaps between his actual stats and expected stats. His .564 xSLG and .367 xwOBA, in particular, suggest even more power could be coming from Hernandez. He may not be able to realize this potential while making contact so infrequently, but Hernandez is a good source of power as it stands and could be even better. As long as he strikes out this much he will struggle to improve upon his .243 BA. Manny Machado (SS/3B, LAD): 61% contact rate last seven days (-22%) Last week Machado hit just .192 with a .530 OPS and nine strikeouts in 27 PA. He’s struggled since coming to the Dodgers, hitting .255 with two home runs and a .733 OPS since the trade. His cold stretch has come with an uncharacteristic 27.4% strikeout rate, which is really eating into his batting average. He has a .349 BABIP in the second half along with a 24.6% line drive rate, but those strikeouts have been murdering his production. Whether it’s the new team, new park, new league, or just a cold streak is impossible to say, however, there isn’t much Machado owners should do about this. Just keep starting him and trust that an MVP-caliber bat will turn things around. Adam Eaton (OF, WSH): 60% contact rate last seven days (-21%) Eaton had another bad week last week, hitting just .167 with a .375 OPS and nine strikeouts. Eaton has put up a good batting average (.289) and on-base percentage (.372) when healthy, but an utter lack of power and steals has made him nigh useless in traditional 5x5 leagues. He has suffered multiple serious leg injuries over the past two seasons and his sprint speed has dropped by 1.4 Ft/s from its peak. We may never see fifteen or more steal production from Eaton again. His power has also evaporated this season and he has a .086 ISO, the lowest of his career. Eaton was never a big power hitter, but just three home runs in 225 PA is pitifully bad. His contact rate is still above average at 81.8% and his .287 xBA aligns with his .289 BA, but that looks like all you’re going to get from Eaton. Empty batting average has its place in 5x5 leagues, but these players are usually best in deeper leagues. [jiffyNews category_include='698' headline='More 2018 MLB Advice and Analysis']

2018 Prospects: Top 30 Impact Rookies for Fantasy Leagues (Week 20)

Hello everyone, and welcome to my weekly Top-30 Fantasy Rankings for Impact Rookies! In this series, I will be going over the top prospects in baseball and discussing which ones figure to have an impact for the rest of this fantasy baseball season. Ronald Acuna cannot be stopped when leading off a ball game. He has been on a tear lately, seemingly launching home runs with ease every other game. Though he missed some time earlier this year, the former No. 1 prospect in the game has excelled in the time he’s been healthy and is making a strong case for NL Rookie of the Year despite Juan Soto’s breakout campaign. There aren’t many other prospects likely to come up with the ability to impact the game like those two, though there are a pair of prospects who if called up could be close. It’s tough to say at this point if one or both of Eloy Jimenez and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. are promoted, but if there were assurances, both would be one and two on this list with the latter likely taking the cake. There are plenty of other prospects plenty valuable though who could really help rosters and whose names will be worth following during the stretch playoff run.  

Top MLB Prospects - Fantasy Baseball Power Rankings

To be clear, this list is not the top 30 prospects in baseball. This is a list of the top 30 prospects who are likely going to rise to the major leagues and provide fantasy baseball value this season. The qualifications are simple: a player must not be on an active roster, they must have a clear path to the majors, and while they may have played in seasons prior to 2018, they must still have rookie eligibility. If a player is moved to the active roster of their team, they will be removed from this power rankings list and replaced.   1. Eloy Jimenez (OF, CWS, AAA) Stats: 373 PA, .330/.378/.602, 21 HR, 0 SB, 7.0% BB%, 15.3% K% ETA: September The Chicago White Sox player development director told The Chicago Tribune that Jimenez is nearing a promotion to the majors. It’s not hard to see why. Jimenez has slashed .351/.393/.672 with a ridiculously low 12.4 percent strikeout rate so far through 35 games at Triple-A. He also already has 11 home runs, one more than the 10 he hit in 53 games at Double-A earlier this year. Jimenez is one of the most talented prospects in the game and is someone who could have a massive impact on the fantasy playoff race if he is promoted in September. 2. Austin Meadows (OF, TB, AAA) Stats: 222 PA, .289/.329/.456, 5 HR, 11 SB, 5.4% BB%, 13.1% K% ETA: September The trade to Tampa Bay did Meadows’ short- and long-term fantasy value a lot of good. He appears probable to receive a lot of playing time in September and will probably begin the 2019 season as one of Tampa Bay’s starting outfielders. He has been mighty impressive since joining his new organization, already having bashed three home runs in just 11 games at Durham with a .333/.372/.718 slash line to boot. He has the power and speed to be exciting and the hit tool to offer a high floor, making him one of the more attractive fantasy prospects in the game right now. 3. Austin Riley (3B, ATL, AAA) Stats: 370 PA, .299/.370/.506, 12 HR, 1 SB, 9.2% BB%, 28.1% K% ETA: September Riley has been a bit inconsistent this August, but over the weekend, he found a hot bat. He owns a .500/.529/.813 slash line over his past four games and could be getting hot just at the right time. The Atlanta Braves could use a powerful bat at third base, and Riley has seemed the most likely candidate to fill that void for a long time now. If he can work his way to the big leagues, his power would make him worth owning in plenty of leagues even if the batting average might lag behind a bit early on. 4. Peter Alonso (1B, NYM, AAA) Stats: 490 PA, .287/.404/.567, 29 HR, 0 SB, 13.9% BB%, 22.7% K% ETA: September Alonso got off to a slow start at Triple-A, but it has not taken him too long to find his stroke. Over his past 22 games, he is slashing .356/.436/.747 with eight home runs. Though it is important to bear in mind Las Vegas is one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in the minors, Alonso has the track record now to back up the numbers. He has raked pretty much everywhere he has played this season, and those excellent numbers should be enough to carry him to the majors in September. If that happens, he should start semi-regularly and would be a must-own in all 12-plus-team leagues. 5. Christin Stewart (OF, DET, AAA) Stats: 452 PA, .246/.341/.462, 21 HR, 0 SB, 11.9% BB%, 20.8% K% ETA: September Everything seemed to be looking up for Stewart, but a cold August has him heading down in the rankings. He has just one home run and has slashed a mere .190/.370/.286 since August 1. Stewart has not been aided by a .250 BABIP, but the power has disappeared for him in the final month before rosters expand. He should still see the majors in September, but he will need to turn his numbers around to prove he’s worthy of starting for Detroit. If he can do that, he offers fantasy owners enough power to be worth taking a look at down the stretch. 6. Luis Urias (2B/SS, SD, AAA) Stats: 479 PA, .270/.376/.406, 8 HR, 2 SB, 12.9% BB%, 21.5% K% ETA: September There aren’t many prospects with a better hit tool than Urias, and it’s that tool that will likely carry him to a September promotion. According to The Athletic’s Dennis Lin, Urias is expected to join the next prospect on this list in San Diego before the year is over. If that is true, Urias has the chance to give fantasy owners a major boost given his bat and the potential for more power to come. 7. Francisco Mejia (C/3B, SD, AAA) Stats: 400 PA, .282/.333/.428, 9 HR, 0 SB, 5.8% BB%, 17.0% K% ETA: September The move to San Diego immensely helped Mejia’s fantasy value, given that he had no clear path to playing time at catcher in Cleveland. Now with the Padres, he should be given a longer leash with his defense since his bat is clearly the best in the system at the catching position. In September, it’s possible the Padres opt to split time between him and Austin Hedges, a defensive first catcher, to see who’s more ready to take over the starting role in 2019. Even if he’s splitting time 50/50, Mejia has a potent enough bat that he would be worth owning in all two-catcher leagues and plenty other redraft leagues. 8. Michael Kopech (SP, CWS, AAA) Stats: 120.1 IP, 3.81 ERA, 3.42 FIP, 31.0% K%, 11.6% BB%, 8.2% HR/FB ETA: September This dominant stretch from Kopech continues. In his past six starts, he has walked just four batters to accompany 50 strikeouts in 38 innings of work, all while maintaining a stellar 1.89 ERA. This has been his best stretch of baseball in his professional career and could be what buoys him to a September promotion and a few starts. He likely would have been up in the majors already had he not struggled mightily in June and early July. There are few pitchers in baseball who can match his tantalizing upside and if he gets his chance to make a couple starts in the majors, he would be an absolute must-own in plenty of redraft leagues. 9. Justus Sheffield (SP, NYY, AAA) Stats: 107.0 IP, 2.19 ERA, 2.85 FIP, 26.3% K%, 10.4% BB%, 3.3% HR/FB ETA: September Outside of Luis Severino and C.C. Sabathia, the New York Yankees have not received the quality starting pitching they likely thought they would receive this season. Sonny Gray has been bad, Masahiro Tanaka has been inconsistent and several others have not been able to adequately fill in. Sheffield, the team’s top pitching prospect, has been dominant at both Double- and Triple-A and could be in line for a September promotion. He has plenty of strikeout upside and has done a better job of late keeping the walks done. Sheffield has front-of-the-rotation upside and could provide some stability to both the Yankees’ rotation and to any fantasy owners looking for some solid pitching for the postseason. 10. Alex Verdugo (OF, LAD, AAA) Stats: 329 PA, .343/.392/.495, 9 HR, 6 SB, 7.6% BB%, 12.5% K% ETA: September Had Verdugo been traded at the deadline, he would probably the top name on this list if he was not already in the majors. He is as major-league ready as nearly anyone on this list and should probably be starting for some team right now. Alas, he plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers and their outfield depth has kept Verdugo at bay. He has the chance to steal some playing time in September and could provide value to fantasy owners even if he is not a full-time regular, but there are few players who took as big of a hit by not being traded in July as Verdugo. 11. Enyel De Los Santos (SP, PHI, AAA) Stats: 110.0 IP, 2.62 ERA, 4.10 FIP, 22.2% K%, 8.2% BB%, 10.1% HR/FB ETA: September De Los Santos was briefly called back up to the majors, made a scoreless relief appearance and then was sent back down to the minors. He has not found much success in the majors this season, though admittedly that comes in a very small sample size. He has been dominant at Triple-A, however, where he has missed plenty of bats and maintained a low ERA despite allowing probably more home runs than would be best for him. He should see a handful of starts in the majors before the year is over and with his strikeout potential, he could be worth owning in some redraft leagues as pitching depth. 12. Ryan Mountcastle (3B/OF, BAL, AAA) Stats: 338 PA, .297/.349/.484, 12 HR, 1 SB, 7.1% BB%, 17.5% K% ETA: September Mountcastle has turned in arguably his most impressive season to date. He is walking more than he ever has (7.1 percent) and has turned in a low 17.5 percent strikeout rate. Mountcastle has done all this while continuing to hit for plenty of power (.186 ISO and 12 homers). With the Baltimore Orioles looking toward the future, it could be worthwhile for them to give arguably their top prospect a look in the majors before turning him loose next season at the big-league level. His defensive home is still somewhat in question, but given the lack of depth now at third base and shortstop for Baltimore, it could remain a possibility that he starts there until the Orioles find a better long-term solution. 13. Victor Robles (OF, WAS, AAA) Stats: 137 PA, .241/.368/.295, 1 HR, 15 SB, 14.6% BB%, 13.9% K% ETA: September It’s weird to see a player like Robles receive little batted-ball luck, but that has been the case so far at Triple-A for him. He has a low .231 batting average, largely due to his .262 BABIP. He has not hit the ball with as much authority and it’s possible the elbow injury is taking its toll on him so far. Robles would probably be the one in the majors right now instead of Juan Soto had he not gotten injured earlier this season, but Robles could still see the field before the end of the campaign. If he’s able to return to even close to full form when playing, he has the power and speed combination to be a huge boost to fantasy owners. 14. Luiz Gohara (SP, ATL, AAA) Stats: 48.2 IP, 5.36 ERA, 4.81 FIP, 23.9% K%, 7.5% BB%, 16.1% HR/FB ETA: September Gohara is currently missing some time with a sore shoulder. Though it should not keep him out the rest of the season, it does not come at the best time for him since he really needed to start to show he could turn his fortunes around this season. He has been susceptible to the long ball despite missing plenty of bats. Gohara has plenty of upside given his elite swing-and-miss stuff, but he still needs to show he can harness it and miss bats in the zone. If he gets a chance to show that again in the majors, he could be at least worth taking a chance on for some teams needing strikeouts. 15. Franklin Barreto (2B/SS, OAK, AAA) Stats: 265 PA, .245/.358/.495, 13 HR, 5 SB, 13.2% BB%, 31.7% K% ETA: September Barreto had been a solid utility player for the Oakland Athletics with Chad Pinder on the disabled list, but now that Pinder is healthy, Barreto will have to wait until September (or another injury) to return to the majors. Barreto’s numbers in the majors highlighted what he can offer, but also what he still needs to improve in. Though he slugged four home runs, he struck out 39.7 percent of the time and only walked 1.6 percent of the time. He has walked more and stolen more bases in the minors and still has the appeal of a future plus power, plus speed middle-infielder, but he needs to improve his plate discipline before he’s ready to be a regular in the big leagues. If he’s able to play even semi-regularly in the majors in September though, his upside is worth taking a flier on in some leagues. 16. Nick Kingham (SP, PIT, AAA) Stats: 59.1 IP, 2.73 ERA, 3.02 FIP, 23.9% K%, 6.7% BB%, 4.8% HR/FB ETA: September Kingham has been sent back and forth between the minors and majors several times this season, but the acquisition of Chris Archer essentially sealed his fate to the minors until September. Though Kingham has looked reliable at times, he has looked shaky at others. He can miss bats, but often misses too much in the zone and can get burnt by the long ball. He should pick up a few starts in September as he looks to make an early case for the 2019 rotation though, and with his strikeout upside, he could be worth a flier in some leagues. 17. Matt Thaiss (1B, LAA, AAA) Stats: 492 PA, .281/.333/.478, 15 HR, 8 SB, 7.1% BB%, 18.7% K% ETA: September The Los Angeles Angels decided to promote Taylor Ward, who has made an absolute mockery of pitching at all levels this season. Though this does not directly affect Thaiss’ chances of a promotion, it certainly does not help. The extra competition in the majors will not make things easier on the first baseman/designated hitter. With Shohei Ohtani and Albert Pujols still eating the majority of the playing time at Thaiss’ two positions, it’s tough to see where he might play if promoted in September. Though his bat could force the issue, owners are encouraged to wait and see just how much the Angels decide to use the slugging first base prospect. 18. Kevin Newman (SS, PIT, AAA) Stats: 469 PA, .306/.352/.413, 4 HR, 28 SB, 6.2% BB%, 10.4% K% ETA: September Newman’s numbers have been very solid this season. They don’t jump off the page, but the Pittsburgh Pirates have to be satisfied with the way one of their top prospects has developed. Though Jordy Mercer remains on the team, the Pirates could opt to give the younger Newman a look at shortstop seeing as how he might be the frontrunner to start in 2019 given Mercer’s pending free agency. Should Newman see the field in September, he offers a promising hit tool and some speed to fantasy owners and could provide some middle-infield depth to teams in need of it. 19. Jesus Luzardo (SP, OAK, AAA) Stats: 101.2 IP, 2.30 ERA, 2.78 FIP, 30.3% K%, 6.2% BB%, 6.8% HR/FB ETA: September Luzardo should have no business being on this list. He began the year at Advanced Class-A after all, and probably should have ended it in Double-A. But he has dominated each level to the point where he is now at Triple-A and looks nearly MLB ready. The 20-year-old southpaw could give the Athletics a boost in their hunt for a playoff spot and could be a huge boost to fantasy owners in all leagues. The uncertainty of whether the Athletics would promote him is the reason he remains lower on this list, but if he is called up, he would immediately be one of the hottest waiver wire commodities to own. 20. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3B/OF, TOR, AAA) Stats: 327 PA, .400/.454/.681, 18 HR, 3 SB, 9.2% BB%, 9.8% K% ETA: September The numbers Guerrero has posted so far in Triple-A boggle the mind. A .395/.489/.763 slash line with four home runs, a 17 percent walk rate and 8.5 percent strikeout rate. It doesn’t get much better than that. Still, from a franchise perspective, it probably makes the most sense to keep him in Triple-A until mid-April and then gain that extra year of control over him. But Guerrero is really forcing the issue and could push for playing time in September if he continues to light up Triple-A pitching the way he has so far. 21. Forrest Whitley (SP, HOU, AAA) Stats: 21.0 IP, 4.29 ERA, 3.21 FIP, 34.1% K%, 9.1% BB%, 10.0% HR/FB ETA: September 22. Griffin Canning (SP, LAA, AA) Stats: 93.2 IP, 3.56 ERA, 3.73 FIP, 25.8% K%, 10.2% BB%, 7.6% HR/FB ETA: September 23. Drew Dosch (3B, BAL, AAA) Stats: 325 PA, .273/.335/.416, 6 HR, 1 SB, 8.0% BB%, 27.7% K% ETA: September 24. Carson Kelly (C, STL, AAA) Stats: 291 PA, .287/.378/.434, 7 HR, 0 SB, 12.4% BB%, 12.7% K% ETA: September 25. Sean Murphy (C, OAK, AA) Stats: 277 PA, .291/.359/.506, 8 HR, 3 SB, 7.6% BB%, 16.2% K% ETA: September 26. Justin Dunn (SP, NYM, AA) Stats: 114.0 IP, 2.92 ERA, 3.05 FIP, 26.8% K%, 8.2% BB%, 5.9% HR/FB ETA: September 27. Myles Straw (OF, HOU, AAA) Stats: 519 PA, .293/.381/.353, 1 HR, 58 SB, 11.8% BB%, 17.1% K% ETA: September 28. Spencer Adams (SP, CWS, AAA) Stats: 133.0 IP, 3.99 ERA, 5.09 FIP, 14.4% K%, 9.0% BB%, 10.8% HR/FB ETA: September 29. Jake Robson (OF, DET, AAA) Stats: 480 PA, .298/.387/.454, 10 HR, 15 SB, 12.3% BB%, 24.6% K% ETA: September 30. Brendan Rodgers (2B/SS, COL, AAA) Stats: 433 PA, .271/.333/.477, 17 HR, 12 SB, 6.9% BB%, 19.4% K% ETA: September  

MLB Rookie Rankings

1. Ronald Acuna (OF, ATL) 2. Juan Soto (OF, WAS) 3. Gleyber Torres (2B/SS/3B, NYY) 4. Shohei Ohtani (DH, LAA) 5. Harrison Bader (OF, STL) 6. Miguel Andujar (3B, NYY) 7. Jack Flaherty (SP, STL) 8. Walker Buehler (SP, LAD) 9. Lourdes Gurriel (SS, TOR) 10. Shane Bieber (SP, CLE) 11. Dereck Rodriguez (SP, SF) 12. Josh Hader (RP, MIL) 13. Seranthony Dominguez (RP, PHI) 14. Colin Moran (1B/3B, PIT) 15. Joey Lucchesi (SP, SD) 16. Brian Anderson (3B/OF, MIA) 17. Willie Calhoun (OF, TEX) 18. Willy Adames (SS, TB) 19. Danny Jansen (C, TOR) 20. Cedric Mullins (OF, BAL)    

More 2018 MLB Prospects Analysis

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Two-Start Pitchers: What Are They Really Worth?

The idea of the “two-start pitcher” makes an appearance on most fantasy baseball podcasts, articles, sites, and newsletters as players are ranked and recommended to owners and teams.  Selecting pitchers based on match-ups, park factors, and opponents over the scoring week is a regular debate as owners plan their rosters. At the same time, other than knowing that these pitchers offer an additional start each week, often owners do not understand what these pitchers do to their line.  How do they add to subtract from ratios and counting stats? What does a bad start do to the overall line? That is where this article takes up the conversation: what exactly does a two-start pitcher do to a fantasy team?  Specifically, this piece highlights three findings that can be taken from the two weeks of data studied. While this data is only generalizable to the sample size, as pitchers change week to week, it still offers some insight into the process of selecting a starting pitching strategy.   One word before walking into this piece, no matter what lessons owners can learn, all lessons should be taken within the league context of each team. While the article will try to offer some advice to both roto and points leagues, owners are the best guides to their team and strategy. With that, onto the data.    

What to Make of Two-Start Pitchers

Before diving into the findings in this article, it is worth taking a step back to put the generic two-start pitcher in some context.  Over the course of fantasy baseball’s 10th and 11th week of games, a total of 80 pitchers were expected to make two-start pitching appearances.  These numbers slanted a bit to the previous week when 49 were on the docket, but overall, the numbers fluctuate based on plenty of variables and events.  For example, with the new allotment of off-days this season due to the CBA, some teams play only five games in a week, whereas others, already affected by weather, might play all seven days.   Of those planned two-starts, a total of 81% ended up happening as planned.  The change in schedules means that one out of every five pitchers will not make that second start.  The variance will also change week to week, but in general, all two starts will not happen for the factors listed before.  That being said, for the sake of argument, there are a total of 150 starters in the majors at any one point, each week approximately 27% will be scheduled to make two starts. The other piece to add to the data and context is that not all two-start weeks are created equal, as some weeks the starting pitcher is Corey Kluber, and some weeks they are Homer Bailey.  The variation means that even when comparing week to week, the fluctuations are apparent based on the match-ups. For the sake of the data used in this article, two full weeks of data offer a broad enough sample size to make general findings that should support the underlying baseline findings.  At the same time, not every team has a Corey Kluber in their rotation, so knowing what the average two-starter does is, in some ways, more valuable to the fantasy owner trying to figure out who to start.   Finding #1: Two-starts are at best equal to league average one-start pitchers Over the course of all 65 of the two-start weeks that occurred in weeks 10 and 11, the average pitcher worked for 11.21 innings, producing an ERA of 3.76, a WHIP of 1.24, and striking out 10.26 batters. At the same time, each pitcher only averaged 0.77 wins, meaning that the starter just won two out of every five starts over the sample size.   To factor in the variance in pitching quality, a second survey was run on the data during which the aces, or consensus top 20 starters, were removed from the data sample.   Under this sample, the following averages appeared over the same sample timeline: 11.07 innings, an ERA of 4.19, a WHIP of 1.24, and 9.59 strikeouts. Without the top pitchers, two-start weeks average close to the same number of innings but add close to a half earned run over that week.  What does stand out from the comparison is that the WHIP stays the same, but these non-aces lost close to a K a week for their owners. When the Major League average for ERA sits at 4.06 so far this season, the average two-start starter is 3.2% worse than a league average starter.  League average WHIP this season sits at 1.30 meaning that the ace-less two-starters are a bit better than that mark with their rate of 1.24. Strikeouts appear to be a bit higher, or right around average when comparing the data set to season norms. In this way, the average two-start pitcher is worse than league average regarding runs but better or average with WHIP and K numbers. Why might this be the case?  When pitching twice over the course of the week, it makes sense that one good start and one average start ould result in closer to the average mark, whereas one bad start and one good start would equalize out to at best average and at worst, a worse average over the week.  It is not uncommon for even the best starters to have a bad outing which is magnified during one week of data. An excellent example from the data was Tyler Skaggs, who against Detriot gave up five earned runs in five innings, but rebounded again the Rangers to throw six scoreless innings.  Owners would love the last start but perhaps winced when seeing the first performance. At the same time, Michael Fulmer gave up five earned in 3.1 innings, and four in six versus the Angels and Blue Jays.  These results, even if not a two-start week, would not have been excellent for most teams. What this means is that in roto leagues the two starts matter much less than in points leagues, as that one bad Kluber start equals out over the 30+ starts that he will make in a season.  In a points league or any weekly scoring league, the bad start is magnified. At the same time, if that Kluber start happens without a second start, then it hurts the overall line more than the averaging out or weakening of the gains from a two-start week.  Owners should already be looking to both match-ups when setting line-ups, but also recognize that there is no unique benefit from having two starts in a week unless innings count in match-up specific scoring. BALLER MOVE: Prioritize good one-start weeks over average two-start weeks in non-innings leagues   Finding #2: Road Pitchers are Better than Home Pitchers Perhaps the most exciting piece of insight that comes from this sample of two-start pitchers was the variance in performance if the starter in question made both of their starts at home or on the road.  In a vacuum, it would seem that the average pitcher at home would perform better than on the road, but that turns out not to be the case. Over the course of the two weeks of data collected, 14 pitchers made both of their starts at home and 19 pitchers who made both of their starts on the road. For the pitchers making both of their starts at home, the gross average pitching line for both of their starts was: 10.95 innings, 4.64 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, and 9.07 Ks over that time.  These numbers are much worse than league average by 0.6 earned runs and 0.5 Ks over both of those starts. Also, two-starts at home only posted 0.36 wins which is much lower than the expected total. For pitchers making both of their starts on the road, the gross numbers were: 11.54 innings, 3.57 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 10.95 Ks.  At the same time, the average road-only pitcher earned 0.84 wins over their two starts. Road only pitchers were more than an earned run better than the home-only set and lowed their WHIP by 0.3.    Why might this be the case?  Looking to the pitchers and the match-ups there is no skew concerning top pitchers in either grouping, and the parks seem to be much the same.  The road slate did feature Chris Archer and Jake Arrieta, but those two on their own, should not have affected the large sample enough. Arrieta also pitched a dud in San Francisco for his second start, hurting his case over that scoring period either way.  Even if taking these pitchers out of the equation, the road starters still were a bit better than the home-group, which is still unusual based on standard fantasy ideas of park factors. The road starts also had more starts at Coors which should affect the overall line, but not in the way that was expected   BALLER MOVE: Prioritize road-only pitchers making multiple starts in a week   Finding #3: Two-start pitchers struck out more in their second start than their first start on average   Of all the factors listed, this might be the most context-dependent observation, and something that this study will return to at a later date, but also shows a clear trend over two weeks of data. For context, in both weeks there were top starters and fill-ins, and the data trends still existed with that context.  The other reason this trend stands out is that it appears in both weeks with a noticeable gap, so not unique to one slate of starters. For week 10 starters, in their first game pitchers averaged 4.48 Ks, and in the second, 5.56 Ks.  For week 11 starters, in their first game, pitchers averaged 4.41 Ks, and in the second, 6.07 Ks. The numbers are even starker when removing the aces from the data with a week 10 jump from 4.15 to 5.24, and in week 11 the increase went from 3.96 to 5.82. Why might these numbers be the case?  Typically a second start in the week occurs on a weekend date which might account for some of the increase in Ks, as some pitchers are better during afternoon games on Sundays, or even better in Saturday night games. At the same time, with days off, there is a higher chance that two-start pitchers are on their regular schedule, and are not getting an extra day of rest in between starts which might also account for the change in numbers.    Weekend games are also more likely to see reserve hitters due to wear and tear, but should not seem to account for all the difference. The best “proof” here would be starting catchers getting a day off after a night game, and the backup catcher on most teams is mostly glove and no bat.  Attendance factors could mean there are more aggressive hitters at play, which would support more strikeouts across the board. While still a mystery this is one of the most actionable findings and should influence owners moving forward. BALLER MOVE: When in doubt, two-start pitchers are most valued for high strikeout match-ups in their second game; prioritize these match-ups. Also, one clear value to two-start performances is the gross number of Ks that they can provide for teams and owners.   Next Steps While stated in the introduction, this data should only be used to understand what happened during the 10th and 11th fantasy weeks, but this does offer a step to begin to add more context to two-starters moving forward.  The plans will be to release two additional articles to support this process. The first will dig into the pitchers highlighted here, and identify who stood out and who surprised based on match-ups. Second, the plan is to check in at least once, if not twice, over the season to see if the trends form these weeks appear to continue. While frustrating, this article leaves owners with more questions than firm answers, but if the trends in this article are accurate across multiple data sets, this could change the strategy of approaching starting pitchers based on more than just match-ups.      What can be said is that two-start pitchers might not be as valuable as they appear on the surface, and when in doubt owners should rely less on the multiple starts as opposed to the pitching pedigree itself.  This means do not shoehorn a pitcher into the line-up due to two starts as the results are not much better than an average one start, but the risk is much higher.  

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Using Sabermetrics For Fantasy Baseball Part 15 - Minor League Stats

Once you've grown accustomed to having advanced tools to help make fantasy decisions, it can feel disorientating to be without them. Prospects are increasingly becoming a focal point in both real and fantasy baseball, but the minors simply do not have all of the data available for MLB players. For example, advanced plate discipline stats, Pitch Info, and anything Statcast-related are all currently unavailable for minor league campaigns. Does this mean we go back to looking at ERA and batting average as the only indicators of future performance? Of course not! Instead, we do our best to work with what we have. The process begins by looking at the environment. Higher levels of competition result in more accurate data, so you should start by excluding anything lower than Double-A if a player's track record allows it. Here's how to effectively use this data to give you an edge in your fantasy baseball league throughout the season.  

How to Interpret Minor League Stats

The first point to remember is that the baseline for certain predictive metrics is different on the farm. Mike Podhorzer of has an excellent article detailing the specifics. For example, Double-A hitters collectively posted a .306 BABIP last year, while their Triple-A counterparts managed a .317 figure. Both marks are significantly higher than MLB's .300 BABIP, making a performance that looks fluky actually league-average. Another common sticking point is IFFB%. Double-A batters posted a ludicrous 21.6% IFFB% on their fly balls last year, while their Triple-A counterparts were only slightly better (20.8%). This leads many fantasy owners to conclude that EVERY minor league prospect has a massive pop-up problem, but this is not the case. The stat is calculated differently on the farm, and you need to halve it to get something approaching an MLB projection. Like MLB, each minor league and ballpark also has its own unique quirks and tendencies. For example, the Pacific Coast League is a Triple-A league notorious for inflating offensive statistics. Imagine if an entire league played in Coors Field every game. That's basically the PCL. For PCL players, a batting line may look good at first glance, but really represent only an average performance. Likewise, pitchers may put up dreadful numbers even after they are ready for the Show. For instance, a certain PCL pitcher put up a 9-7 record with a 4.60 ERA in 133 IP in 2014. His K% was a robust 24.9%, but none of his other stats screamed MLB ready. However, some fantasy owners noticed that his BABIP against was a ludicrous .378, a number that would almost certainly regress in a different environment. The pitcher never ran a BABIP that high in any other minor league stop. His LOB% of 67.2% would likely climb as the BABIP dropped. We have FIP for minor leaguers, and this pitcher's was 3.70--still not great, but much better than his ERA. Despite ugly Triple-A results in 2014, this pitcher pitched in the majors for 150 innings in 2015. His 9-7 record repeated itself, but his ERA fell to 3.24, right in line with a FIP of 3.25. The K% he flashed in the PCL translated to the majors, where he posted a strong 27.5% rate. His name is Noah Syndergaard, and he definitely had owners kicking themselves by the end of 2015 for trusting minor league surface stats. Nothing changed in 2016, as Syndergaard went 14-9 with a 2.60 ERA and 29.3% K%. Injuries limited him last year, but he was still elite in his 30 1/3 IP (2.97 ERA, 1.31 FIP, 27.4% K%). If memorizing each league's tendencies is too overwhelming for you, you can look at Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) as a shortcut. This metric sets 100 as the league's average offensive output, with each number higher or lower representing a one percent difference in either direction. This means that a wRC+ of 95 is five percent worse than league average, while a mark of 110 is 10 percent better. While the formula does not directly translate to fantasy value, park and league adjustments are already included in the calculation. Another common problem with minor league statistics is sample size. It is easier to run an unsustainable BABIP or HR/FB in a small sample than a larger one. The minor leagues compound this problem by allowing a healthy player to be called up or demoted multiple times in one season, leaving us with two or more partial season samples instead of one full season of statistics. Astros shortstop Carlos Correa illustrates this, as he had a grant total of 246 PAs at Double-A and Triple-A combined before his MLB call up in 2015. Due to the small sample, Correa's BABIP was unreliable. In this situation, I like to examine the player's plate discipline numbers because they stabilize (or become predictive) more quickly. At Double-A, Correa had an 11.3% BB% against an 18.8% K%, indicating a strong knowledge of the zone. Triple-A saw his BB% drop slightly to 10.6%, but a drop in K% to 12.4% made his overall plate discipline profile stronger. Correa posted a 9.3% BB% and 18.1% K% en route to his Rookie of the Year award in 2015. Correa was even more willing to walk in 2016 (11.4% BB%), but struck out a little more often as the league adjusted to him (21.1% K%). These trends held steady last season, as Correa posted a 11% BB% and 19.1% K%. Plate discipline is harder in the majors than the minors, and we don't have the additional information provided by metrics such as O-Swing%. Still, Correa seemed to possess strong discipline in the minors and managed to take it with him as soon as he was called up to the bigs. In general, a player won't be completely overmatched in the majors if he had strong plate discipline numbers in the minors. The examples above were chosen because they now have more than one season of MLB data confirming their minor league trends, but this methodology could have helped you in 2017. For example, Rhys Hoskins combined stellar BB% marks (13.5% at Triple-A last year, 12.1% at Double-A in 2016) with sky high FB% (48.6%, 51.6%) and HR/FB (18.2%, 19.9%) rates to profile as an impact power bat with enough plate discipline to avoid hurting your batting average. Owners who took a chance on him got a .259/.396/.618 line with 18 HR in 212 PAs. By contrast, blindly believing minor league surface stats could have pointed you in Dominic Smith's direction. He slashed .330/.386/.519 with 16 HR at Triple-A Las Vegas before his MLB debut. However, Las Vegas is the Coors Field of the PCL, helping him compile a 28.3% LD% and .380 BABIP nobody could sustain in New York. He was also allergic to fly balls (26.2% FB%), making power difficult to project. He ended up slashing .198/.262/.395 with nine dingers, burning owners who counted on him for the stretch. Stealing bases is easier in the minors, but elite success rates are still something to look for when projecting fast players. Age is also a factor for minor leaguers, as a 28-year-old dominating a bunch of teenagers at Rookie ball isn't really that impressive.  


To conclude, the fact that we do not know a minor leaguer's average airborne exit velocity or BABIP on ground balls does not prevent us from analyzing minor league players for fantasy purposes. We have tools such as BABIP and BB% for hitters and FIP and LOB% for pitchers. We can still place these numbers into context by examining any given league's tendencies. Finding rookie breakouts before they happen is still challenging, but that's what makes it a worthy endeavor.  

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Approaching Rookies and Prospects in Redraft Leagues for Success

Everyone wants to be the guy to say they hopped on the bandwagon of the next up-and-comer before he comes up and breaks out. This often causes younger players to be overvalued, particularly in single-season leagues where some youngsters may not even see meaningful playing time. Identifying the rookies that will actually get playing time, though they may not have as much potential as guys in the lower minors, is a necessary skill for managers in redraft leagues. The first thing you have to do is forget that any player below Double-A exists. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Brendan Rodgers are all very interesting prospects with high upside but you’re better off letting a foolish league mate stash them until they inevitably realize that none of those guys are going to be making an impact in the majors in 2018.  

Approaching Prospects in Redraft

Players in the high minors are another story. Any blue-chip prospects in Triple-A can be stashed, but they might not make an impact in the majors right away. Whether you should be targeting these players late in the draft, scooping them up via free agency, or not touching them at all depends on whether you are playing in a H2H or Rotisserie league. In H2H leagues, the goal should not necessarily be to dominate the regular season, but to make the postseason with the best roster of any postseason team. If this means getting in as the last playoff team, so be it. In H2H leagues with a playoff at the end of the year, teams generally have a lot more leeway to stash prospects so long as their team is on track to make the playoffs. The fortunate part about playing in H2H leagues is that teams can draft guys like Nick Senzel, who probably will not begin the year in the major leagues and stash him. If your team is succeeding without Senzel in the big leagues then there is no reason to not hold him, but if your team is struggling and he’s close to being promoted, attempting to deal him to a team near the top of the standings who can afford to harbor a prospect in return for an asset that would be of more immediate help is a wise strategy. Down the stretch, stashing prospects becomes more imperative in leagues that have playoffs. Blue-chip prospects that are in Triple-A often make their debuts in the middle of the summer and these are guys that you do not want to miss out on. Stashing them a few weeks prior to their eventual call up will bolster your team down the stretch for playoff runs for a relatively cheap price. In Rotisserie leagues, stashing prospects is an entirely different ballgame. Since there is no playoffs, prospects that do not get called up until mid-August have relatively minimal impact and can be ignored for the most part; if you can afford to stash a prospect until he comes up in the last two months of the season, you probably do not need the help. On the other hand, if you scoop one of the prospects hoping to hit a home run in mid-to-late August and rocket up the standings, chances are that it’s going to be too little too late. In H2H leagues, stashing prospects is a far easier and safer game than in Roto.  

Handling Rookies

Rookies and prospects aren’t that different; the fundamental distinction between the two is that prospects are not yet in the majors and rookies are more guys who are being drafted and will be starting the season in the bigs. For example, Austin Hays is being drafted as a rookie whereas a guy like Kyle Tucker is being drafted as a prospect. Tucker has an outside shot at making an impact this season and Hays is guaranteed some playing time due to starting the year in the majors. This brings me to my next point: sometimes, opportunity is more valuable than skill. There are very few people that will tell you that Hays is a better ballplayer than Tucker, but that does not necessarily mean you should be scooping up Tucker in your redraft leagues. Guys who are guaranteed to start the year in the majors and get decent playing time like Hays, Lewis Brinson, Ronald Acuna, and Willie Calhoun, to name a few, are far better draft targets than the Vlads and Eloys of the world. So what about pitchers? In general, I like to invest in rookie pitchers that are pitching well and try to flip them near the deadline for guys who will pitch down the stretch. Yes, you might have to take a discount for them, but in H2H leagues compiling the best roster for the playoffs is your end goal. Guys like Jake Faria and Luis Castillo were far less impactful in last season’s playoffs than pitchers like Trevor Bauer, Mike Leake, and CC Sabathia. The latter names are not pretty, but pretty doesn’t win you fantasy championships (which, by the way, doesn’t stop me from drafting Kris Bryant and Kevin Kiermaier in every league of mine. If I got points for best eyes I’d have every league locked up). In Rotisserie leagues, rookie pitchers are more valuable because you can start them while they are pitching and dispose of them once the innings limit passes in favor of a wire arm. H2H leagues do not afford you this luxury, so be sure to know your league settings heading into the year so you can best strategize how to approach rookies and prospects. Being active on the waiver wire is a crucial aspect of winning a fantasy championship, and understanding how to manage rookies and prospects goes hand-in-hand with that, so stay vigilant for youngsters who can help your team throughout the season.  

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Dollar Day Auction Targets for Fantasy Baseball Drafts

The latter part of an auction draft is arguably the most fun part. All of the obvious players to own are long gone, and now owners must go searching through the coal to find the one diamond that will make the difference for their team. Owners were patting themselves on the back after finding $1 steals like Eric Thames, Yuli Gurriel, Domingo Santana and Drew Pomeranz last season, and now it's time to search for the next batch of draft day steals. None of these players should go for more than a dollar or two in auction drafts. If someone is bidding them up, it's best to let them go and look for value elsewhere. But if you can get any of them for a dollar, they should become solid contributors to a championship fantasy team.  

I'll Buy That For a Dollar!

Scott Schebler (OF, CIN) — $1 Taking over as a full time starter in 2017, Schebler had a breakout year with 30 home runs — third-most for Cincinnati — and a .791 on-base plus slugging percentage — fourth-highest on the team. His batted ball tendencies show that he was hitting more fly balls and fewer ground balls, while also hitting the ball harder than he ever had in his career. The two biggest concerns for Schebler right now are his low batting average and his lack of a consistent track record. After hitting .265 in 2016, Schebler's average dropped to .233 last season — the lowest of his professional career — although his .248 BABIP does suggest his average will trend upwards this year. At this point there is no guarantee that he will repeat his breakout performance in 2018. But if Schebler can put up similar numbers he could end up being a solid contributor at $1. German Marquez (SP, COL) — $1 Coors Field and pitchers — two things that to most fantasy owners do not mix. However, Rockies starter German Marquez is worth taking a look at late in auction drafts after he finished fifth in the NL Rookie of the Year race in 2017. Bringing with him a career 7.9 K/9 in the minors, Marquez went 11-7 last year, with a 4.39 ERA and 8.2 K/9 over 162 innings pitched. With a 21 percent strikeout rate and 14 percent strikeout to walk rate, Marquez was ranked among the top 40 qualifying starting pitchers in 2017. Obviously his 4.39 ERA as well as pitching half the time at Coors Field drops Marquez's value quite a bit. Looking at his 4.40 FIP and 4.18 xFIP doesn't provide much comfort to fantasy owners either. But for those who are looking for strikeout upside and are willing to take a hit on their ERA, Marquez will be a perfect fit for any team at a dollar. Yonder Alonso (1B, CLE) — $1 Alonso will be a perfect fit at a corner infield spot or as a first baseman for owners who want to wait to draft one. Alonso finished 2017 setting career-highs in several categories with 28 HR, 67 RBI and 72 runs scored to go along with a .266 average and an .866 OPS. While he did post a career-high 22.6 percent strikeout rate, he also posted a career-high 13.1 percent walk rate — his second time in the past three seasons with at least a 10 percent walk rate. Alonso will prove himself to be most valuable in OBP leagues, as he is a lock for at least a .300 OBP — hitting that mark in six of the past seven years. The big question will be if he can repeat the power display that he showed in 2017. His 28 HR last year matched his home run total from the previous four and a half seasons, and his 19.4 percent HR/FB rate is more than double his career rate of 9.2 percent. But while he will likely see a regression in his home run output, joining the potent Indians lineup that averaged 5.05 runs per game last year — sixth most in MLB — will likely see his runs scored and RBI totals hit career-highs in 2018.  Of the first basemen ranked around Alonso, he probably has the best chance at giving owners the most bang for their buck (maybe two). Mike Clevinger (SP/RP, CLE) — $3 Yes, he's not technically a "dollar" player, but he's close enough and he has a shot at providing a lot of value to fantasy owners this year. First things first: Indians manager Terry Francona has said that Clevinger will start the season in the rotation. So now that Clevinger has a lock on playing time at least for the start of the season, what does he bring to the table? Last season over 27 appearances and 21 starts for Cleveland, Clevinger compiled a 12-6 record with a 3.11 ERA and 10.1 K/9. Those numbers closely resemble his career line in the minors, where he has a 3.35 ERA and 8.8 K/9 over seven seasons. All those numbers look good on paper, so what's the catch? Walks. Over 17 games in 2016, Clevinger averaged 4.9 BB/9 and he followed that up by averaging 4.4 BB/9 in 2017. Among pitchers with at least 120 innings pitched last season, Clevinger's walks per nine innings rate was fifth-worst while his 12 percent walk rate was tied for third-worst. At this point though Clevinger has had less than 200 major league innings under his belt. It's not hard to believe that with a full season in Cleveland, Clevinger could improve his command, cut down on the walks and become an absolute steal in auction drafts. These are just four of the many bargain players out there in auction drafts that can benefit any team. Most dollar players will likely not contribute anything worthwhile in 2018, but those that do can end up being crucial to a team taking home a league championship, and these four guys have a good shot at being those kind of players.  

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