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

RotoBaller.com Rankings & Sleepers

...FANTASY BASEBALL RANKINGS

Kris Bryant: Fantasy Baseball Year-in-Review

After capturing National League MVP honors and helping the Cubs end their 108-year championship drought in 2016, there was really nowhere to go but down for Kris Bryant. Indeed, his 2017 performance fell a bit short of the lofty heights he'd reached the prior year as all of his counting stats decreased, but he remained one of baseball's best players. Fantasy owners were not deterred from investing heavily last spring, and Bryant was viewed as one of the handful of reliably elite bats available. Things didn't exactly play out as hoped. Bryant opened the season strongly enough with an OPS above .900 in each of the first two months despite only homering twice in April, but from there a nagging shoulder injury sapped his power and led to multiple stints on the disabled list. All told, Bryant managed to take the field for just 102 games, hitting .272/.374/.460 with 13 home runs, 59 runs scored, and 52 RBI. He was also successful on just two of his six stolen base attempts. It was the worst of his four major league seasons by any measure. To be fair, many players would love to be able to point to a 125 wRC+ season (injury-ravaged, no less) as their nadir. But for fantasy owners who paid a steep price to land a linchpin for their squads, Bryant's results were a tremendous disappointment. With at least a half-dozen alternatives at the hot corner who could conceivably be called studs, how should you value him in 2019 drafts?  

This Cub Will Roar in 2019

Shortly after their season ended, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said he did not believe that Bryant's injured shoulder would require offseason surgery. No further news has emerged on that front, which at this point would suggest that he'll avoid surgery and enter spring training fully healthy. There was, however, some other stuff written about Bryant earlier this month that could have a major impact on his future, as rumors have suggested that the Cubs would be "open" to trading him. To be blunt, it would come as a major surprise if that happened. While it's true that Chicago has been unable to come to terms on an extension with Bryant as he enters his arbitration years, he isn't a free agent until after 2021. The Cubs basically print money, they're two years removed from a title, and they were considered something of a disappointment even though they won 95 games last season. That doesn't sound like a team that trades their franchise player. Their contention window remains wide open for the next couple of years at least, so even if they're concerned about him leaving in free agency (and hmmm, I honestly can't imagine why he might want to!), it's hard to fathom them moving him this winter. The Cubs should, and almost certainly will, retain Bryant's services for 2019 and beyond. Fantasy owners should follow suit, as there are no red flags in his profile that suggest anything other than a season torpedoed by injury. His plate disciple metrics largely didn't budge, nor did his batted ball distribution. The only real problem last year was a decrease in authoritative contact, which can easily be laid at the feet of his shoulder issue. Keep an eye on his performance in spring training just to rule out any lingering problems, but assuming he's fully healthy, Bryant should resume being one of the best players in baseball. [jiffyNews tags_include='20760' headline='More 2018 MLB Year In Review Articles']

RotoBaller Early Mock Draft Analysis (Rounds 3-10)

A group of 10 RotoBaller fantasy baseball experts recently came together to conduct a slow mock draft for the 2019 season. Was it way too early? That all depends on who is asking. But with it complete, we can start to look at where players ended up on the board. This is the first staff mock draft but will not be the last prior to the start of the MLB season. I'll take a look at rounds 3-10 to analyze where the values were found and where some of the biggest reaches were made. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to Tweet me @RowdyRotoJB  

Early 2019 Mock Results

Click table to see enlarged view  

Overview

The third round started with Anthony Rizzo, followed by the gnarliest of SP runs you'll ever see. Carlos Correa and Kris Bryant joined Rizzo in the Ignored but Not Forgotten Club, followed by a Whit Merrifield sighting at #30 overall. Clayton Kershaw dropped all the way to #33 overall, and Juan Soto was taken by yours truly a full two rounds later than fellow NL ROY finalist (well, the winner) Ronald Acuna. The first RP was drafted in the 5th round, but at least it was the correct RP in Edwin Diaz, and the AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell lasts until pick #50. The Yankees kind-of-still shiny new toy James Paxton was drafted in the 6th round, two picks after Playoffs stud Walker Buehler, and Mitch Haniger went at #66 immediately following his teammate Nelson Cruz. The first Catcher, the Kraken, was taken in the 8th round, and the first non-closer RP Josh Hader was taken for ratio help at #85. The 9th round finished with 2nd half breakout-rookie Adalberto Mondesi, and we finish up with Brian Dozier as this article's Mr. Irrelevant at #100 overall.  

Favorite Picks

Blake Snell, TB - SP13 (#50 Overall) The guy is 25 years old, won the AL Cy Young award, and finished 2018 as the SP4 (12th overall) in 2018 fantasy leagues. All of this, and Troy was able to scoop him up at the end of the 5th round as the 13th SP off the board? What were the rest of us smoking? His xFIP was a run and a half higher than his ERA due to a .241 BABIP and 88.0 LOB%, but I don't think anyone doubts the legitimacy from this season. I think this will actually be a fairly common draft spot for Snell in 2019, just due to guys looking to grab just one ACE in the early rounds generally, and despite the breakout Cy Young campaign Snell just isn't instilled in peoples minds as a true fantasy ace yet. *Whispers, He is though. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., TOR - 3B14 (#87 Overall) Despite all of the hype, and seeing the fantasy impact Juan Soto and Ronald Acuna had immediately upon their big league arrivals, Little Guerrero dropped all the way down to Ellis in the ninth round. The kid mashed all the levels of Minor League this season, hitting 20 total HR in just 408 PA, and hitting .402 across 266 PA in AA and .336 through 128 PA in AAA. Steamer projects Guerrero with a 75/22/77/.306 line in 2019, which basically makes him Anthony Rendon on a bad team, drafted four rounds later with massive upside. Adalberto Mondesi, KC - 2B10 (#90 Overall) After massively disappointing in his two previous big league stints, the spawn of Raul Mondesi defined the word BREAKOUT this season. In just 291 PA, the 23-year-old amassed 14 HR, 32 SB, and a .276 BA. Simple math exaggeratedly shows us 28/64 potential from Mondesi over a full season. WHAT?! This absurd ceiling alone is enough to warrant a draft pick much earlier than where Troy got him in the 9th round. I've seen him go as early as the SECOND round in early mock drafts this offseason.  

Least Favorite Picks

Kenley Jansen, LAD - RP2 (#57 Overall) Who the hell took a closer that needs offseason heart surgery, allowed a 5.71 ERA in his last 17.1 IP, and blew back to back saves in the World Series? Oh...it was me. Looking back, I probably should have taken Zack Greinke, but I am a sucker for relief pitchers. I don't even pay attention to saves; I just want the ERA/WHIP dominance and the steady sprinkle of strikeouts. I usually can't pass up elite bullpen arms. But with the "down" season he had in 2018, the unknown of how the irregular heart-beat actually affects his game, or whether or not the surgery will actually fix it, I think you let Jansen drop to a decent value or let another manager take the risk where I took him. I'd much rather snag Blake Treinen two rounds later. Marcell Ozuna, STL - OF19 (#58 Overall) Ozuna reverted right back to his pre-2017 ways this season, almost repeating his 2016 numbers, and finished the year as the 77th ranked player in fantasy. As of now, I have to assume the 23.4 HR/FB% that led to 37 HR and .355 BABIP that produced a .312 BA in 2017 were career outliers and the 69/23/88/.280 line is more of what we can expect again in 2019. It's a safe pick with his '18 numbers being the floor for the past three seasons, but I would rather take every OF that went in the following round: Eddie Rosario, Tommy Pham, Nelson Cruz, Lorenzo Cain, Justin Upton, and Mitch Haniger.  

Sneakiest Values

Zack Wheeler, NYM - SP24 (#91 Overall) I love taking any chance I get to talk about Zack Wheeler, my fellow East Paulding High School alum. Zack took a massive step forward in 2018, setting a career-high in K% and a career-low in BB% while posting a 3.25 FIP over 182.1 IP. But what was most impressive was managing to cut his Hard% from 32.8 in 2017 down to 24.8 - second lowest in the league in 2018. Wheeler found success by increasing his fastball usage and doing away with the sinker. He threw the fastball 8% more this season and finished with a 22.7 wFA which was fifth-highest among starters. The cheese was devastating, and it got better as the season wore on. After posting a 4.44 ERA over the first half of the season, Wheeler was quite possibly the best pitcher in baseball after the All-Star break, posting a 1.68 ERA which was slightly better than even his Cy Young-winning teammate. There are big things coming in 2019 for the pride of Paulding County, GA. Corey Seager, LAD - SS10 (#67 Overall) After injuries ruined the end of his 2017 season, many of us expected Lil Seager to bounce back to his 2016 form where he finished as the 43rd ranked player in fantasy. Instead, the poor guy needed Tommy John surgery before the month of April was over. Steamer projects a repeat of his shortened 2017 campaign this upcoming season, which is fair considering the question of when exactly Seager will be back in the lineup every day. Even if that is the relative floor, then Ellis scooped him up at a fair value. But if he comes out of this recovery and regains that 2016 stuff, or even takes a step forward as most 24-year-olds tend to do, then what a steal for the MIF slot.  

Biggest Reaches

Whit Merrifield, KC - 2B5 (#30 Overall) Does Whit Merrifield warrant a draft pick in the top 30 after what he did this season? Absolutely. He finished 2018 as the 19th ranked player in fantasy. He led the league in SB (45) and had a higher BA (.304) than the next seven speedsters behind him - Mookie Betts was the eighth. But as he enters his age 30 season, you got to assume the legs start to slow down, and that BABIP that jumped 50 points after 2017 has to come back to the norm. Not to mention, the Royals will continue to be a hot mess in 2019, so the run scoring possibilities remain limited. So does he warrant the pick, yes. Should he be taken that early, no. Especially considering the two 2B behind him on the draft board are super-hyped rookie phenoms, I feel you can wait to pull the trigger on Merrifield. Ozzie Albies was taken 38th overall and Gleyber Torres was taken 59th. Matt Carpenter, STL - 1B4 (#35 Overall) Again, another example of a player being drafted where he technically should based on 2018, but leaves zero room for value in 2019. Also, I may be the worlds biggest non-Cardinal supporting Matt Carpenter fan. In fact, I predicted the massive season back in March (pay no attention to any of the other predictions). The dude just turned 33, but we want to draft him exactly where he finished the 2018 season ranked and ahead of young studs like Rhys Hoskins and Cody Bellinger? Jesus Aguilar is five years younger, and finished just two spots behind Carpenter in 2018. Try to find his name in the top 100 of our draft....I'll wait. In light of more context, Connelly looks to have drafted him as his second baseman (and he did draft Bellinger the next round) so it's better than I'm making it sound. But even then, as a second baseman we go right back to my point with Whit Merrifield. Reaching for the age before the young beauties even get picked is bold. Are these two picks bad? No, I love Carpenter and Merrifield. I would just rather let the field take the new shiny toys and scoop up my reliable studs later to maximize value.  

Best Team

Tie - Ellis/ Brendan I love both teams for separate reasons. Ellis executed my usual fantasy baseball draft strategy flawlessly. 1. Draft stud hitters early focusing on MIF and OF, which he did with Altuve, Judge, Benintendi, and Story covering all categories. 2. Make up for lack of pitching by getting a huge upside young SP with a couple of excellent RP to counter the ERA/WHIP baggage your late round SP fill-ins will carry: enter Buehler, Diaz, and Treinen. 3. Ignore CIF early, as they tend to be the deepest offensive positions. He grabbed Vladimir Guerrero Jr (as mentioned above) for 3B, and having a leg up at the Catcher position from Realmuto partly makes up for not having an "elite" first baseman. Brendan, on the other hand, played my alternate draft strategy perfectly, typically reserved for keeper leagues or leagues I know all the other managers and I know I won't get the guys I want based on their predicted reaches/biases. That strategy is to sit and enjoy the draft, and take what the field gives me. Almost every stud that dipped in value from a "down" season in 2018, Brendan gladly gobbled up. Paul Goldschmidt, Bryce Harper, Carlos Correa, Clayton Kershaw, Noah Syndergaard, Justin Turner, and A.J. Pollock all present fantastic return on investment potential from where he drafted them. For the record though, not a fan of Goldy over JD Martinez or Christian Yelich. [jiffyNews category_include='698' headline='More 2019 MLB Advice and Analysis']

RotoBaller Early Mock Draft Analysis (Rounds 1-2)

I know what you are probably thinking as you click this link, who is doing fantasy baseball drafts in October and November?! Well, the answer to that is 10 Rotoballer Fantasy Baseball enthusiasts who are already longing for the long hot days of summer and the return of everyday baseball. This is the first of many staff mock drafts that you will see appearing on the site over the coming months. Today I am going to be breaking down the first two rounds to look at early strategies and who might be surprise first rounders this season. I will also be looking at where feels like the right place to take the first pitcher and who it should be. If you have any questions, comments or just want to tell me how wrong I am, feel free to Tweet me @benrolfe15  

Early 2019 Mock Results

Click table to see enlarged view  

Round 1

1.01 Mookie Betts, OF, BOS

1.02 Mike Trout, OF, LAA

It was no surprise to see Mookie Betts and Mike Trout go off the board with the first two picks. I was hoping one of them would fall to three, but it was not to be. I could have easily made a case for either of these guys as the first overall pick. However, with Betts being in the slightly better offense and coming off a monster .346 batting average this is the way I would have gone with pick #1. If this was an OBP league, I would have leaned to Trout, because despite Betts superior average Trout had a higher OBP at .460 and has been over .400 each of the last three years. Even in a standard league, if you want a sure-fire cannot miss pick at #1, then Trout is probably your guy, but Betts might just offer that slightly higher ceiling in that standard format.

1.03 Jose Ramirez, 2B/3B, CLE

1.04 Francisco Lindor, SS, CLE

This was another either/or for me with the number three pick. I very very nearly leaned to Lindor for the shortstop eligibility and later in the draft I kind of wish I had. Ramirez had the advantage in steals last season and had a plus .300 batting average more recently, so he is perhaps the slightly safer pick. However, as much as improved as the shortstop position is I found myself scrambling later in the draft and for that reason, I wish I had gone Lindor at three. If Ramirez is eligible at second base in your league, then that might just swing the pendulum back his way but if not then I would now lean Lindor.

1.05 Nolan Arenado, 3B, COL

1.06 Manny Machado, 3B/SS, FA

It is always going to be hard to ignore Arenado while he plays baseball in Colorado. The boost that park gives takes him from being very good to being one of the absolute elite. He can help you in four categories, and he never seems to miss time recently. The lack of steals should not concern you because there are not many five categories studs outside the top four. Machado was a little bit of a reach in my opinion given the uncertainty of where he plays baseball next year. However, I have already discussed locking up shortstop early and the benefit that brings. There is a good chance picking in the six spot that none of Machado, Turner or Bregman are going to be available in round two. Therefore, I have no issue if you want to gamble on where Machado lands, lock up shortstop and get really solid four category production.

1.07 Jose Altuve, 2B, HOU

1.08 Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, ARI

There are two things that stand out about this pair of hitters. Firstly, their struggles at times in 2018 are great evidence for why the safety Trout brings should make him the number one overall pick. Both of these guys have been discussed in that #1 spot in recent years and have had struggles. Secondly, this is a story of lost stolen bases. Altuve's steals nearly halved from 2017 to 2018, and that is a major loss. Of all the declines he had last season that one concerns me the most. The numbers are there to suggest it was maybe injury and bad luck which brought down the home runs, runs and RBI. However, generally, players decide whether to steal or not and the fact those numbers are down worries me. Again injuries may play a part, but if it is a philosophy change from Altuve and the team, then he loses quite a lot of value. This pick sort of splits what he could be. If he gets everything clicking and steals his bases, then he is a top-five selection. If he does not, then he is closer to being a second-round selection. Goldschmidt also saw his steals drop off for a second year running and that is enough to drop him from top three contention to back end of the first round. He got there in a weird way, but the rest of the numbers are fairly similar, so it is just the difference between a five-category contributor and a four-category guy that means this is not the bargain you might have thought a year ago.

1.09 JD Martinez, OF, BOS

1.10 Christian Yelich, OF, MIL

I think this is a bargain for Martinez. He is essentially Arenado in terms of production, and he is arguably in a better offense. If he were DH-only, then I would see him going down here, but for me, he should have been the pick at six. I can see why scarcity of the middle infield was valued first, but he definitely should have been above Goldschmidt. If Yelich repeats 2018's numbers in 2019, then we will be talking about him with Trout and Betts next year. He had a monster year, and power was the big differentiation mark for him from the past. Now the question is whether that is a park effect or an aberration. If it was a park effect, then we could very easily be seeing this as a tremendous value by the end of 2019. I love this pick and Yelich is the reason why I want to pick in the back half of the first round in 2019.  

Round 2

The young infielders

I love pairing Alex Bregman with Yelich to give such an incredibly balanced start to a draft. It really allows you to go anywhere in the rest of the draft and means you are not chasing statistics in the next few rounds. The same goes for getting Trea Turner to pair with Martinez. You have the power, and now you have the steals without taking a zero in the power column. Towards the back end of the second round was Javier Baez. He has a lower floor than either Turner or Bregman, and we have only really seen him do it all once. However, locking up your middle infield with Lindor and Baez is a fantastic way to start your draft and means you will have a better middle infield than anyone else in the draft and follows the Major League model of building strong up the middle.

The outfield run

We had a run on outfielders in the middle of the second round. Hopefully, Harper continues his yo-yo effect of the last few years with his batting average so we can see him climb back over .300. If he does, then you are probably getting first-round numbers in the middle of the second round. If he doesn't, then at least you are unlikely to have a complete bust. Aaron Judge and Ronald Acuna have some similarities. Both have a lot of swing-and-miss in their game, but both have a ton of talent. Both can put up per game numbers equivalent to a first round pick, but as with any young player, there is a chance the bottom falls out somewhat. Combining Judge and Altuve could be a great pair if Altuve gives you the steals and Judge the power. Grabbing Acuna when you have Arenado is a great case of adding incredible ceiling to superb safety. We end with Charlie Blackmon who saw some decline last year. At 32 age is against him bouncing back but things were not wildly out of whack last season, so it is not beyond the realm of possibility that he bounces back. If he does, then you have a nice little five-category contributor in the middle of the second round.

The first pitcher!

I could not believe Max Scherzer fell to me at this spot! I was actually looking at the Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, Jacob deGrom group but happily gobbled him up when he got to me. Your strategy at pitcher should depend on the size of the league. In 10-team leagues, my strategy is to get a couple of really good ones early, grab some nice upside in the middle and then stream at the bottom end, because in shallow leagues there is a lot of pitching depth throughout the season. In the same vein, in 10-team leagues, you can often find contributing hitters on the waiver wire during the season. This draft played perfectly into my hands, but I am not sure I would be this lucky again. However, if this was Sale in this spot, I would still have taken a pitcher here. I would actually have taken Scherzer with pick 11 if I had been able to get Yelich at 10.

The elder statesmen

Both of these pics are absolutely fine ways to end the round. Stanton has the incredible upside but even what he did last year is more than enough on the swing. I am not sure I want to start my draft with two outfielders, but the ceiling of Stanton in New York means I understand why you would do it. Freeman is frankly a little boring but that is not a bad thing. You can feel fairly safe with what you are getting, but unfortunately, the power is now a little underwhelming. However, first base is really ugly once it gets a little deeper, so I understand wanting this safety to combine with the also safe option of Trout.  

The Final Word

I love some of the pairs in these two rounds. Yelich and Martinez could be the steals of the draft that late in the first round, as could Scherzer. Acuna and Judge perhaps have the biggest bust potential just simply because of their strikeout rate. However, their upside means they are worth the second-round gamble. The lesson for me here is that there is a lot of value in locking up shortstop at some point in these two rounds. I would not reach for any of them, but if you are between two players, then the positional element is a nice tiebreaker. [jiffyNews category_include='698' headline='More 2019 MLB Advice and Analysis']

Is it Legit? Jesus Aguilar's Breakout Season

We continue with our next edition of "Is It Legit?" to discuss another surprising breakout performer from the 2018 MLB season in order to assess his value heading into 2019. With so many players seemingly becoming fantasy baseball darlings overnight, it can be challenging to sift through the multiple hype trains and determine which players are actually expected to produce similar, or even better, numbers the following year. Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar was another first baseman who seemed to come out of nowhere to become fantasy relevant. Aguilar mashed 35 home runs, drove in 108, scored 80 runs and slashed a masterful .274/.352/.539 with a 134 wRC+ and a 3.1 fWAR. Can he be counted on for 30+ home runs for the Brew Crew again next season? Or will he, like Eric Thames and Chris Carter before him, become the next one-hit wonder at first base in Milwaukee.  

Can Aguilar Repeat in 2019?

Jesus Aguilar was an unheralded bit player with the Cleveland Indians from 2014-2016 before having a mini-breakout in 2017 with Milwaukee, blasting 16 home runs in 311 plate appearances, good for a .240 ISO. However, he truly broke through in 2018, making his first All-Star game and blasting 35 home runs with 108 RBI, 80 runs scored, a .264 ISO and a cool .274/.352/.539 slash line. Looking back at this breakout, it wasn't all that unpredictable. After all, an ISO jump from .240 to .264 isn't crazy, and hitting 16 home runs in 311 plate appearances does point to someone with 30+ home run power. However, some of Aguilar's most important improvements showed up in other ways, including a 2.8% increase in his walk rate (from 8.0 to 10.8) and a 4.9% drop in his strikeout rate, from an ugly 30.2% to a more palatable 25.3%. While his plate discipline improved, Aguilar's batted ball profile didn't change all that much. He posted a very nice 44.0% hard hit rate, which is actually down slightly from the 45.2% he posted in his half season of 2017. He did make improvements on his launch angle, increasing both his line drive rate (from 21.3% to 23.7%) and his fly ball rate (37.8% to 40.9%) while drastically lowering the number of ground balls hit. For a player with limited speed and big-time raw power, the more balls he can lift in the air the better. So while some of Aguilar's profile looks similar - what we have here is a player who struck out less, drew more walks, hit more fly balls and line drives, and maintained elite exit velocity rates. That, to me, is a legitimate change that points to more success next season. I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that Aguilar's numbers did drop off in the second half, with a .995 OPS first half and just 760 OPS in the second half. He particularly struggled in September/October, when his ISO dropped to .181, and his walk rate dropped to 6.7%. Aguilar started seeing more breaking balls in the second half (55.3% fastballs through the All-Star break, just 52.4% after that) which shows pitchers adjusting to his fastball-heavy approach at the plate. While it didn't lead to more strikeouts, it did lead to more ground balls - which is a slight concern. Still, I see a big slugger who has learned how to draw a walk and can absolutely punish pitches into the air. Playing time is likely no longer a concern after the season he had last year, although the team still has Eric Thames, Domingo Santana, Ryan Braun and Travis Shaw who will need to get plenty of at-bats. Assuming Aguilar goes into the season as Milwaukee's first baseman and middle of the order bopper, I'm comfortable targeting him as high as the eighth round, with a draft spot between rounds 9-10 feeling about right for Milwaukee's newest slugger. [jiffyNews tags_include='20760' headline='More 2018 MLB Year In Review Articles']

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FANTASY BASEBALL SLEEPERS

Carlos Santana and Edwin Encarnacion Swapped - Fantasy Impact

For Cleveland fans, last year was an odd viewing experience, as for the first time in eight years Carlos Santana was not suiting up for the team. Well, those days are over, as Santana is returning to the corner of Carnegie and Ontario as part of a three-team deal. At the time of writing, Carlos Santana was moving to Cleveland with Edwin Encarnacion heading to Seattle. As part of the agreement, Yandy Diaz and a PTBNL are moving to Tampa Bay, with Jake Bauers heading back to Cleveland in the swap. Perhaps a draft pick is also heading to Seattle, but that is still unconfirmed with the initial report. Regarding the baseball side of this deal, before moving onto fantasy implications, the deal makes sense for all three teams except Tampa Bay. Cleveland adds a switch-hitting bat with some positional flexibility and adds the OBP baseline that was lacking last year. Also, a player with time in Cleveland, who did not want to leave, is an easy sell to the clubhouse. Encarnacion was a big bat for the team last year, and Seattle’s motivations are all payroll. According to the reports, Santana is owed $35 million over the next two years, while Edwin is owed $20 million this year, and then $5 million buy-out that should be activated next year.  The move will then save Seattle millions in the short term, and perhaps offer similar production in return. With the swap of Diaz and Bauers, Cleveland moves a contact bat for the power bat, and that should also create some opportunity to support more moves for both clubs. As to Tampa Bay, the questions will arise, and the PTBNL will be a massive piece of the puzzle to evaluate for the real world baseball implications. Rumors that Tampa is trying to acquire Encarnacion after all further complicates things. For now, let's see how this move affects fantasy drafts this spring.  

Stock Watch

Yandy Diaz (3B/OF, TB) - Stock Up Diaz has always been a definite favorite of the Cleveland front office but seemed to be perpetually blocked from a clear chance at playing time. The limiting factor for Diaz has been his lack of launch angle, and if there is a team that might be able to unlock this, Tampa Bay seems to be the best fit. He does hit the ball hard, and by all accounts might be one of the strongest players in professional baseball, but that has not carried over yet. In 39 games for Cleveland last year, he has a hard contact rate of 44.4%, but also, only had a flyball rate of 23.3%. This led to 34 hits, but only one homer in his limited time. In fact, 26 of his 34 hits were singles, and this limits any real production that he might offer for fantasy owners in points leagues. For roto leagues, there is value with the batting average, as he did hit .312 in his time with Cleveland, and posted similar numbers in the minors as well. Even if he is only an empty contact bat, the fact that he moves to a team with an opening at third gives his stock a real boost. If he stayed in Cleveland, he was a bench bat for sure, but now, has a real shot to start the year in the lineup. Carlos Santana (1B/3B/DH, CLE) - Stock Neutral Staying in Philadelphia might have been the best bet for Santana regarding fantasy value, but even there the questions emerged about where he would play. Seattle was apparently a starting spot for him, but the park was not a fit. The most significant boost for Santana is that he returns to a team where he had posted his best years and a system that knows how to use him. Besides, fantasy owners would prefer a lineup with Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, and spare parts to Ryon Healy, Mitch Haniger, and a slumping Kyle Seager. The downside to the move is that there might be minimal gain since Santana was going to play either in Seattle if he stayed, or wherever he was traded to either way. Santana is still a top-half of the table pick in OBP leagues and offers enough pop to justify a roster spot in a CI position at the very least. No harm was done here, but also no real gain to celebrate either. If anything, owners might like the better park, team, and other factors, but we can only expect so much improvement on a disappointing 2018 campaign. Jake Bauers (1B/OF, CLE) - Too Early to Tell Bauers is an exciting player for fantasy owners this year, as he started off his career hot and then cooled off with more exposure. The real question here will be where will he play, and how much? If Cleveland hangs onto Yonder Alonso, then the natural fit at first is gone. While he can play the outfield, he might not be the best fielder there. The offensive profile is there, albeit with a less than stellar 2018 campaign, but playing time might be the issue. In 96 games last year, Bauers slashed .201/.316/.384 with 11 homers. The batting average should jump a bit, as he was a .270 hitter in the minors, but owners should not expect a batting title with this profile. The power is the calling card, as evidenced by the production last year, but also in the minors, where he looked to be a real threat on the basepaths. In 2017, he stole 20 bases and was on that pace last year before the call-up. With Tampa Bay, he stole six bags, and Cleveland runs more than any other team in the AL, so this could be a 15/15 threat with playing time. Like Santana, the move does not give Bauers a unique boost to his worth, but it is not a step down either. If Bauers moves into a starting role, then this is a slight stock up move for owners due to the better lineup, and the park factors. Edwin Encarnacion (1B/DH, SEA) - Stock Down Encarnacion is still one of the better right-handed power hitters in the game, but a move to Seattle seems to lower that power ceiling just a bit. According to ESPN, in 2018 Progressive Field in Cleveland had a home run factor of 1.019, while Safeco, one spot behind, came in at 0.984. Not a huge drop, but a gap of any kind is not good for the player. The real fantasy killer comes with overall run production, as Progressive Field had a factor of 1.128, and Safeco 0.846. This means that taken with a worse lineup on a “rebuilding” Mariners team, Encarnacion should be expected to regress. Even more, with age and other factors also starting to limit the player, 2019 should not be a target year for Encarnacion in mixed leagues. The other factor to consider is that playing in the AL West, Encarnacion will be facing Houston more often, and this is a harder division top to bottom versus the AL Central. In 2018 the slugger posted a career-high K mark at 22.8%, and the lowest walk rate at 10.9%. Facing Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander more is worth the stock drop on its own. Owners should have been out on Encarnacion as a top 1B pick anyway this year, but this should reinforce those concerns. [jiffyNews category_include='698' headline='More Fantasy Baseball Analysis']

Ivan Nova to the White Sox - Fantasy Impact

The buzz all off-season surrounding the White Sox has been whether they will break out the checkbook and land superstars Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. Well, it took only three days into the Winter Meetings for the White Sox to... trade for Ivan Nova. While this may not have been the big move White Sox fans have been waiting for, the addition of Nova will be a boost for their rotation in 2019. After a 2017 season that saw no pitcher surpass 140 innings pitched, the White Sox had James Shields, Reynaldo Lopez, and Lucas Giolito each finish with more than 160 innings in 2018. Comparing Nova's 2018 line to the rest of the Chicago staff, he would've arguably been the second-best starter on the team behind Lopez. Although he could be one of the top pitchers in Chicago this season, that doesn't mean much for fantasy owners looking at his 4.16 ERA and 6.6 K/9 over the last three seasons. Nova's addition will likely be a better move for real-world baseball than fantasy baseball, but owners should still be able to find some value in his arm in 2019.  

Nova-dy Knows the Trouble I've Seen...

Looking at Nova's stats from the three full seasons since his 2014 Tommy John surgery, while they haven't been great numbers overall they have been consistent.
Year IP ERA K/9 WHIP
2016 162 4.17 7.1 1.253
2017 187 4.14 6.3 1.278
2018 161 4.19 6.4 1.280
The biggest killer for Nova throughout his career has been his terrible home run rate. Over nine seasons in the majors, Nova has had only two seasons where he has posted a HR/9 rate below 1.0 while throwing more than 100 innings. On top of that, since returning to the mound in 2015, Nova has never posted a HR/FB rate below 13.4 percent. Alright, now that we've taken a look at the problems with Nova, is there any hope he can provide fantasy value in 2019? Well, there are a few things that point to a potential rebound for Nova with Chicago. First off, he could potentially see a slight tick down in his home run rate playing at Guaranteed Rate Field. With field dimensions of 330 feet down the left field line and 335 to right, Guaranteed Rate will be the largest home ballpark down the lines that he has thrown in. Another factor in Nova's favor will be the relatively weak power hitting in the AL Central, with the Twins, Royals, and Tigers all finishing in the bottom-10 in MLB for team home runs last season. Beyond the home runs, Nova's stats were slightly better down the stretch — which could be an indicator of better numbers in 2019. After his worst start of the season on July 3 in which he allowed seven earned runs and five home runs over five innings against the Dodgers, Nova posted a 3.80 ERA, 1.18 HR/9 and 12.5 percent HR/FB rate over his final 13 starts — all three numbers which if extrapolated over a full season would have been his best marks since 2013. In fact, if we were to give Nova a mulligan on his July 3 start and take those numbers out of his season totals, he would have finished with a 3.92 ERA, 1.21 HR/9 and 1.250 WHIP which would have all been his best numbers since 2013. All that being said, it is extremely unlikely to see a repeat of his 2013 numbers in 2019. Fantasy owners should expect his numbers to be better next season with the potential for Nova to put up a sub-4.00 ERA a very real possibility. He should be an interesting late-round flier in AL-only leagues, and a potential streaming option in mixed leagues, but that will be very heavily dependent on the match-ups. A good comparison for owners is Marlins starter Jose Urena — a guy who can provide some solid value throughout the season, just not consistently. And now a quick look at the prospect heading to Pittsburgh in this trade. Yordi Rosario is a 19-year-old right-hander who rose up to the Arizona League this year after spending two-and-a-half years in the Dominican Summer League. After posting a 7.20 ERA with a 2.057 WHIP and 6.7 K/9 in his first year of pro ball, Rosario has improved his numbers in each of the two following seasons and in 2018 recorded a 2.57 ERA with a 1.125 WHIP and 11.3 K/9 over 56 innings between the DSL and AZL White Sox. It's still a long ways away before any accurate projections can be made for Rosario, but owners in dynasty leagues should keep an eye on him this season, as he will likely pitch for the Gulf Coast League Pirates or the Advanced-Rookie level Bristol Pirates. [jiffyNews category_include='698' headline='More 2019 MLB Advice and Analysis’]

Is it Legit? Jose Peraza's 2018 Breakout

We continue with our next edition of "Is It Legit?" to discuss another surprising breakout performer from the 2018 MLB season in order to assess his value heading into 2019. With so many players seemingly becoming fantasy baseball darlings overnight, it can be challenging to sift through the multiple hype trains and determine which players are actually expected to produce similar, or even better, numbers the following year. Cincinnati Reds shortstop Jose Peraza is our next breakout candidate after he posted 14 home runs, 23 stolen bases and a tidy .288/.326/.416 slash line in his second full season. Always known for his speed, the big question for Peraza is if the power is legit, and if it is enough to make him a top-100, or even top-50, fantasy draft pick next year.  

Can Peraza Repeat in 2019?

For those of you who closely follow baseball, particularly prospects, it may seem crazy that Red shortstop Jose Peraza is only 24 years old. It feels like the speedy infielder has been around forever after he made his first professional appearance way back in 2011 with the Atlanta Braves rookie affiliate. A brief cameo with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015 led to an offseason trade where he landed in Cincinnati - where he has been for the last three years. Peraza faltered in his first two years with the Reds, posting very solid stolen base numbers but little else, making him an unappealing draft target heading into 2018. However, his power showed up in a big way last season, vaulting him into top-50 territory and helping him finish eighth among shortstops on ESPN's player rater. So is the power legit? After all, Peraza only hit eight home runs in his first three (partial) seasons combined, so hitting 14 certainly seems flukey. Peraza did make a very noticeable change in his swing path last season, however - which helped lead to the change. His launch angle was just 9.9 degrees in 2017, below the league average. That jumped to 13.4 degrees last season, helping him hit 6.7% more fly balls on the year. Combine that with an 8.1% jump in his hard-hit rate, and suddenly his power surge makes more sense. It's worth pointing out that while his increase in Hard-hit rate was substantial, it jumped from 21.4% to 29.5% - which is still not very hard. In fact, xStats actually only pegged Peraza for 7.4 home runs last season, primarily because Peraza' s average fly ball distance of 292 feet last year was the lowest among all 65 hitters who hit 100 or more fly balls. What does that mean? Well, his home run total may be a tad flukey after all. The improvements Peraza made are real, but 14 home runs are probably on the high end of what can be expected for the speedster going forward. Still, that's nothing to cry about. Perhaps the best thing about Peraza's profile is that an increase in fly balls and power did not also come with an increase in strikeouts, which is often the case. Peraza only struck out 11.0% of the time last year, a slight decrease from 2017. His O-swing rate stayed nearly identical, and his contact rate actually improved - something you don't see very often for a player who improves their power output. Obviously, an uptick in home runs is huge for a player who already possesses the kind of stolen base prowess that can win leagues. It helps Peraza rack up more runs and RBI, and of course, helps in the batting average department. Something along the lines of .290|80|15|65|25 is not out of the question for Peraza, depending on where Cincinnati hits him in the lineup. Those in OBP leagues should still be wary, however, as the walk-averse Peraza only posted a 4.2% walk rate, which helped drag his OBP down to .326. In standard roto leagues, Peraza is worth a look somewhere between 50-100 overall, as the young shortstop can be a solid five-category contributor at a key position in 2019. [jiffyNews tags_include='20760' headline='More 2018 MLB Year In Review Articles']

Dynasty Baseball Top 10 Outfield Prospects

Outfield prospects are fascinating right now, as with the graduation of Ronald Acuna and Juan Soto, there are new names near the top of the rankings. Also, the current crop of players is easy to dream on for fantasy owners. The tools are there, but still, some questions remain about how those play out. There has been a run on prep bats recently high in the amateur draft, which means that the names appearing below fit into that profile. Tools are not roto points, but it's fun to think about what these might turn into. Comparing this list to the other two I have written, on catchers and starting pitchers, this is the deepest list. While owners need to shoot for the top in other places, with this group, adding the number nine player still has a high enough ceiling to offer real value. Also, four of the names below are international signings, showing the strength of that market. These players bring more question marks, but again, with the depth of the position, those are risks that owners can take. With that, start taking notes, and look to add these prospects in dynasty drafts to boost your squad in 2019 and beyond.  

Outfield Prospects to Watch

Eloy Jimenez (OF, CWS) ETA: 2019 Jimenez is the natural player to top this list, and perhaps, might be a better fantasy prospect than real life prospect. This is not to downgrade this skills but to notice that the risk of batting average might hurt him with the Sox, but the rest of the profile plays in fantasy scoring. Jimenez has raked since moving to the South side from the Cubs and has also added double-digit power numbers as he has moved up the ladder. In 55 games at Triple-A to end the year. Jimenez slashed .355/.399/.597 with 12 homers and 28 runs. He has not shown much speed on the bases since eight steals in 2016, but this is not key to the overall profile. Look for this to be an average hit tool, with above average power, and a good enough glove to keep him in the field. Jimenez should be an All-Star for years to come if it all comes together. Victor Robles (OF, WAS) ETA: already debuted Robles could be the top prospect on this list but also would need to breakout like Soto did last year to jump Jimenez. The good news for owners is that Robles should make the team out of Spring Training, especially if Bryce Harper leaves Washington. Robles also debuted last year, and over 21 games he slashed .288/.348/.525 with three homers and three steals. Long-term expect Robles to hit well, steal a ton of bases, and add below-average power to round out the profile. The K rate is a bit high for a contact hitter, but also could be something that grows once he is in the Majors to stay. Robles has a great floor, and while he might not ever be the top player at the position, offers a nice mix in roto leagues that give him a ton of value for fantasy owners. Kyle Tucker (OF, HOU) ETA: already debuted Tucker is in an interesting spot with the Astros, as he might be their best trade chip if they want to add a pitcher this winter. Also, it looks like Tucker will not be the starting left fielder from day one based on how he was used down the stretch last year. And yet, the talent is there, and he is still one of the top young outfielders in the game. While struggling in 28 games with Houston last year, in which he slashed .141/.236/.203, the track record is still there from the minors. For example, in 2018 at Triple-A, he slashed .332/.400/.590 with 24 homers and 20 steals. Tucker has a good eye, as seen by the walk rates, and shows enough power to make up for the strikeouts. Tucker looks to be a five-tool player who does not show plus-plus at any point but will do everything well. The highest floor on the list, the risk is there, but mostly due to the risk of a deal than the skills. Alex Kirilloff (OF, MIN) ETA: late 2019/2020 After being drafted in the first round in 2016, Kirilloff was a name to know from the start, but also seems to have seen his stock jump more than any other player on this list. Even after missing 2017 due to injury, a strong showing in 2018 at A-ball, and High-A placed him right back in the hunt. The hit tool is there with .330 batting averages the norm so far in his career, even if those will come down a bit with better pitching. Besides, a few homers and steals complete the profile for a well-rounded player. Kiriloff is a step down from Robles but might post a bit more power to make up for the clear downgrade on the basepaths. The other good news for fantasy owners is that his timetable seems to be on pace with the Twins, so two years from competition with Cleveland, but also, if the type of player that would slot in on a good team. Kirilloff is also not an elite fielder, but good enough that he will stick there as opposed to moving to first with the power profile. If owners miss on the top bunch, this is a smart next move. Jesus Sanchez (OF, TB) ETA: 2020 For fantasy players who are not glued to the minors and prospect rankings, this might be the surprise name on the list. Sanchez has been a slow mover, as he is only expected to open the year at Double-A in 2019, after starting professional ball in 2015. The good news is that he is still only 21, and has produced so far in his career. For example, at High-A last year, in 90 games, he slashed .301/.331/.462 with 10 homers and six steals. The unusual piece of the profile so far has been the great OBP numbers but a low walk rate. This means that Sanchez might regress a bit, but there are enough other pieces to make this a good fantasy player. Sanchez will hit for an average batting line, but make up for it with run production and power. Sanchez does not have much of a chance to jump higher on the list, and in fact, this might be his peak in terms of rankings. He is a good player, but also has the most risk of this bunch. Christian Pache (OF, ATL) ETA: 2021 Perhaps the best defender on this list, Pache is the best bet to stay in center long-term and will earn playing time even if he doesn't hit. The good news is that the bat is starting to come around, and a good Arizona Fall League performance only helps solidify the long-term options. Ending the year at Double-A, Pache looks to be a fast mover even though he will start the year at 20 years old. Pache grades out as a top speed option, but the steals dropped as he moved up the minor league ladder. For Pache to be a top fantasy option, he will need to steal 30 or more bases a year. Power should be there to add 12 or more homers a year, but this is a profile that relies most on consistent playing time. Pache will be a player to watch and worth the investment, even if it doesn't pay off for a few years. Victor Mesa (OF, MIA) ETA: ?? The biggest question mark on the list, but Mesa also offers upside that none of these other prospects can currently match. Since he just signed with the Marlins after leaving Cuba, Mesa has no track record in American ball, and therefore a lack of stats to go off. The good news is that what owners can count on with Mesa is a great defensive profile with plus speed. Add this to a projected plus bat, and the profile should play on most teams. The other thing is that at 22, he should be close to the majors with some time to develop and show his skills. He could shoot up the list, or drop after some time in pro ball, but the high reward is there for the risk. Again, this is pure speculation, but the reward could be worth the risk, and therefore, he is ranked high on this list. Owners could also be cursing this piece in a year if nothing goes well. Taylor Trammell (OF, CIN) ETA: 2020 Trammell splits opinions in the fantasy industry, with some ranking him as the top option for outfielders, but others view him as slowing his development with the progression up the minors. The batting average has dropped with every promotion, and the K rate has also increased. So there is a bit of risk in the profile, but the power and speed seem worth the risk. In 2018, Trammell hit eight homers and stole 25 bases in 110 games at High-A. The other piece in the profile to watch is the walk rate, as he has been above ten percent so far in his career, and this has helped to push the OBP line up as well. The other question will be the glove, as it seems that he will need to play a corner outfield spot, but might not have the bat to stay there is the current trends keep up. If owners have Trammell, this might be a chance to sell-high, but if he is free in leagues, also seems to be too appealing an option to ignore. Luis Robert (OF, CWS) ETA: 2021 Robert is the other Cuban defector to make the list, and like Mesa has some questions. What makes him different is the track record from already playing with the White Sox for the past few seasons. When he signed with Chicago the ceiling was sky high, and the expectation that the bat might make him one of the better hitting options to come over from Cuba. So far in the minors, the production has been mixed. The batting average is there, but he has shown little to no power. In fact, since Rookie ball in 2017, he has hit no homers. Robert will need to show the pop to have a long-term chance to play with a big league club, but the raw skills cannot be ignored. He does grade as above average regarding speed and has shown the ability to steal based in his time so far. If the power does not come around, the best owners can hope for is a Michael Brantley comp with a high average and some speed early in his career. If the skills translate, this could still be an MVP candidate at some point in the next decade. Trevor Larnach (OF, MIN)  ETA: 2020 The 20th overall pick in the 2018 amateur draft, Larnach still has much to prove, but the skills are advanced enough to force him onto this list. Being a college bat, expect him to show up with the Twins sooner than later. Only playing 42 games in his first year in professional ball, Larnach still hit five homers, stole three bases, and scored 27 runs. Also, he posted a 0.78 BB/K-line showing the patience at the plate, and this might even increase as he makes the steps in the development ladder with the Twins. Larnach is at best an average to above average outfielder in the long term and lacks the skills to be a true star, but with the advanced approach, and production so far, there is no reason for owners to avoid this prospect. Larnach would also be a great piece to pair with one of the Cuban players on this list, to get a floor to balance out the risk.   [jiffyNews category_include='5923' headline='More MLB Prospects Analysis']

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RotoBaller Early Mock Draft Analysis (Rounds 3-10)

A group of 10 RotoBaller fantasy baseball experts recently came together to conduct a slow mock draft for the 2019 season. Was it way too early? That all depends on who is asking. But with it complete, we can start to look at where players ended up on the board. This is the first staff mock draft but will not be the last prior to the start of the MLB season. I'll take a look at rounds 3-10 to analyze where the values were found and where some of the biggest reaches were made. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to Tweet me @RowdyRotoJB  

Early 2019 Mock Results

Click table to see enlarged view  

Overview

The third round started with Anthony Rizzo, followed by the gnarliest of SP runs you'll ever see. Carlos Correa and Kris Bryant joined Rizzo in the Ignored but Not Forgotten Club, followed by a Whit Merrifield sighting at #30 overall. Clayton Kershaw dropped all the way to #33 overall, and Juan Soto was taken by yours truly a full two rounds later than fellow NL ROY finalist (well, the winner) Ronald Acuna. The first RP was drafted in the 5th round, but at least it was the correct RP in Edwin Diaz, and the AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell lasts until pick #50. The Yankees kind-of-still shiny new toy James Paxton was drafted in the 6th round, two picks after Playoffs stud Walker Buehler, and Mitch Haniger went at #66 immediately following his teammate Nelson Cruz. The first Catcher, the Kraken, was taken in the 8th round, and the first non-closer RP Josh Hader was taken for ratio help at #85. The 9th round finished with 2nd half breakout-rookie Adalberto Mondesi, and we finish up with Brian Dozier as this article's Mr. Irrelevant at #100 overall.  

Favorite Picks

Blake Snell, TB - SP13 (#50 Overall) The guy is 25 years old, won the AL Cy Young award, and finished 2018 as the SP4 (12th overall) in 2018 fantasy leagues. All of this, and Troy was able to scoop him up at the end of the 5th round as the 13th SP off the board? What were the rest of us smoking? His xFIP was a run and a half higher than his ERA due to a .241 BABIP and 88.0 LOB%, but I don't think anyone doubts the legitimacy from this season. I think this will actually be a fairly common draft spot for Snell in 2019, just due to guys looking to grab just one ACE in the early rounds generally, and despite the breakout Cy Young campaign Snell just isn't instilled in peoples minds as a true fantasy ace yet. *Whispers, He is though. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., TOR - 3B14 (#87 Overall) Despite all of the hype, and seeing the fantasy impact Juan Soto and Ronald Acuna had immediately upon their big league arrivals, Little Guerrero dropped all the way down to Ellis in the ninth round. The kid mashed all the levels of Minor League this season, hitting 20 total HR in just 408 PA, and hitting .402 across 266 PA in AA and .336 through 128 PA in AAA. Steamer projects Guerrero with a 75/22/77/.306 line in 2019, which basically makes him Anthony Rendon on a bad team, drafted four rounds later with massive upside. Adalberto Mondesi, KC - 2B10 (#90 Overall) After massively disappointing in his two previous big league stints, the spawn of Raul Mondesi defined the word BREAKOUT this season. In just 291 PA, the 23-year-old amassed 14 HR, 32 SB, and a .276 BA. Simple math exaggeratedly shows us 28/64 potential from Mondesi over a full season. WHAT?! This absurd ceiling alone is enough to warrant a draft pick much earlier than where Troy got him in the 9th round. I've seen him go as early as the SECOND round in early mock drafts this offseason.  

Least Favorite Picks

Kenley Jansen, LAD - RP2 (#57 Overall) Who the hell took a closer that needs offseason heart surgery, allowed a 5.71 ERA in his last 17.1 IP, and blew back to back saves in the World Series? Oh...it was me. Looking back, I probably should have taken Zack Greinke, but I am a sucker for relief pitchers. I don't even pay attention to saves; I just want the ERA/WHIP dominance and the steady sprinkle of strikeouts. I usually can't pass up elite bullpen arms. But with the "down" season he had in 2018, the unknown of how the irregular heart-beat actually affects his game, or whether or not the surgery will actually fix it, I think you let Jansen drop to a decent value or let another manager take the risk where I took him. I'd much rather snag Blake Treinen two rounds later. Marcell Ozuna, STL - OF19 (#58 Overall) Ozuna reverted right back to his pre-2017 ways this season, almost repeating his 2016 numbers, and finished the year as the 77th ranked player in fantasy. As of now, I have to assume the 23.4 HR/FB% that led to 37 HR and .355 BABIP that produced a .312 BA in 2017 were career outliers and the 69/23/88/.280 line is more of what we can expect again in 2019. It's a safe pick with his '18 numbers being the floor for the past three seasons, but I would rather take every OF that went in the following round: Eddie Rosario, Tommy Pham, Nelson Cruz, Lorenzo Cain, Justin Upton, and Mitch Haniger.  

Sneakiest Values

Zack Wheeler, NYM - SP24 (#91 Overall) I love taking any chance I get to talk about Zack Wheeler, my fellow East Paulding High School alum. Zack took a massive step forward in 2018, setting a career-high in K% and a career-low in BB% while posting a 3.25 FIP over 182.1 IP. But what was most impressive was managing to cut his Hard% from 32.8 in 2017 down to 24.8 - second lowest in the league in 2018. Wheeler found success by increasing his fastball usage and doing away with the sinker. He threw the fastball 8% more this season and finished with a 22.7 wFA which was fifth-highest among starters. The cheese was devastating, and it got better as the season wore on. After posting a 4.44 ERA over the first half of the season, Wheeler was quite possibly the best pitcher in baseball after the All-Star break, posting a 1.68 ERA which was slightly better than even his Cy Young-winning teammate. There are big things coming in 2019 for the pride of Paulding County, GA. Corey Seager, LAD - SS10 (#67 Overall) After injuries ruined the end of his 2017 season, many of us expected Lil Seager to bounce back to his 2016 form where he finished as the 43rd ranked player in fantasy. Instead, the poor guy needed Tommy John surgery before the month of April was over. Steamer projects a repeat of his shortened 2017 campaign this upcoming season, which is fair considering the question of when exactly Seager will be back in the lineup every day. Even if that is the relative floor, then Ellis scooped him up at a fair value. But if he comes out of this recovery and regains that 2016 stuff, or even takes a step forward as most 24-year-olds tend to do, then what a steal for the MIF slot.  

Biggest Reaches

Whit Merrifield, KC - 2B5 (#30 Overall) Does Whit Merrifield warrant a draft pick in the top 30 after what he did this season? Absolutely. He finished 2018 as the 19th ranked player in fantasy. He led the league in SB (45) and had a higher BA (.304) than the next seven speedsters behind him - Mookie Betts was the eighth. But as he enters his age 30 season, you got to assume the legs start to slow down, and that BABIP that jumped 50 points after 2017 has to come back to the norm. Not to mention, the Royals will continue to be a hot mess in 2019, so the run scoring possibilities remain limited. So does he warrant the pick, yes. Should he be taken that early, no. Especially considering the two 2B behind him on the draft board are super-hyped rookie phenoms, I feel you can wait to pull the trigger on Merrifield. Ozzie Albies was taken 38th overall and Gleyber Torres was taken 59th. Matt Carpenter, STL - 1B4 (#35 Overall) Again, another example of a player being drafted where he technically should based on 2018, but leaves zero room for value in 2019. Also, I may be the worlds biggest non-Cardinal supporting Matt Carpenter fan. In fact, I predicted the massive season back in March (pay no attention to any of the other predictions). The dude just turned 33, but we want to draft him exactly where he finished the 2018 season ranked and ahead of young studs like Rhys Hoskins and Cody Bellinger? Jesus Aguilar is five years younger, and finished just two spots behind Carpenter in 2018. Try to find his name in the top 100 of our draft....I'll wait. In light of more context, Connelly looks to have drafted him as his second baseman (and he did draft Bellinger the next round) so it's better than I'm making it sound. But even then, as a second baseman we go right back to my point with Whit Merrifield. Reaching for the age before the young beauties even get picked is bold. Are these two picks bad? No, I love Carpenter and Merrifield. I would just rather let the field take the new shiny toys and scoop up my reliable studs later to maximize value.  

Best Team

Tie - Ellis/ Brendan I love both teams for separate reasons. Ellis executed my usual fantasy baseball draft strategy flawlessly. 1. Draft stud hitters early focusing on MIF and OF, which he did with Altuve, Judge, Benintendi, and Story covering all categories. 2. Make up for lack of pitching by getting a huge upside young SP with a couple of excellent RP to counter the ERA/WHIP baggage your late round SP fill-ins will carry: enter Buehler, Diaz, and Treinen. 3. Ignore CIF early, as they tend to be the deepest offensive positions. He grabbed Vladimir Guerrero Jr (as mentioned above) for 3B, and having a leg up at the Catcher position from Realmuto partly makes up for not having an "elite" first baseman. Brendan, on the other hand, played my alternate draft strategy perfectly, typically reserved for keeper leagues or leagues I know all the other managers and I know I won't get the guys I want based on their predicted reaches/biases. That strategy is to sit and enjoy the draft, and take what the field gives me. Almost every stud that dipped in value from a "down" season in 2018, Brendan gladly gobbled up. Paul Goldschmidt, Bryce Harper, Carlos Correa, Clayton Kershaw, Noah Syndergaard, Justin Turner, and A.J. Pollock all present fantastic return on investment potential from where he drafted them. For the record though, not a fan of Goldy over JD Martinez or Christian Yelich. [jiffyNews category_include='698' headline='More 2019 MLB Advice and Analysis']

RotoBaller Early Mock Draft Analysis (Rounds 1-2)

I know what you are probably thinking as you click this link, who is doing fantasy baseball drafts in October and November?! Well, the answer to that is 10 Rotoballer Fantasy Baseball enthusiasts who are already longing for the long hot days of summer and the return of everyday baseball. This is the first of many staff mock drafts that you will see appearing on the site over the coming months. Today I am going to be breaking down the first two rounds to look at early strategies and who might be surprise first rounders this season. I will also be looking at where feels like the right place to take the first pitcher and who it should be. If you have any questions, comments or just want to tell me how wrong I am, feel free to Tweet me @benrolfe15  

Early 2019 Mock Results

Click table to see enlarged view  

Round 1

1.01 Mookie Betts, OF, BOS

1.02 Mike Trout, OF, LAA

It was no surprise to see Mookie Betts and Mike Trout go off the board with the first two picks. I was hoping one of them would fall to three, but it was not to be. I could have easily made a case for either of these guys as the first overall pick. However, with Betts being in the slightly better offense and coming off a monster .346 batting average this is the way I would have gone with pick #1. If this was an OBP league, I would have leaned to Trout, because despite Betts superior average Trout had a higher OBP at .460 and has been over .400 each of the last three years. Even in a standard league, if you want a sure-fire cannot miss pick at #1, then Trout is probably your guy, but Betts might just offer that slightly higher ceiling in that standard format.

1.03 Jose Ramirez, 2B/3B, CLE

1.04 Francisco Lindor, SS, CLE

This was another either/or for me with the number three pick. I very very nearly leaned to Lindor for the shortstop eligibility and later in the draft I kind of wish I had. Ramirez had the advantage in steals last season and had a plus .300 batting average more recently, so he is perhaps the slightly safer pick. However, as much as improved as the shortstop position is I found myself scrambling later in the draft and for that reason, I wish I had gone Lindor at three. If Ramirez is eligible at second base in your league, then that might just swing the pendulum back his way but if not then I would now lean Lindor.

1.05 Nolan Arenado, 3B, COL

1.06 Manny Machado, 3B/SS, FA

It is always going to be hard to ignore Arenado while he plays baseball in Colorado. The boost that park gives takes him from being very good to being one of the absolute elite. He can help you in four categories, and he never seems to miss time recently. The lack of steals should not concern you because there are not many five categories studs outside the top four. Machado was a little bit of a reach in my opinion given the uncertainty of where he plays baseball next year. However, I have already discussed locking up shortstop early and the benefit that brings. There is a good chance picking in the six spot that none of Machado, Turner or Bregman are going to be available in round two. Therefore, I have no issue if you want to gamble on where Machado lands, lock up shortstop and get really solid four category production.

1.07 Jose Altuve, 2B, HOU

1.08 Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, ARI

There are two things that stand out about this pair of hitters. Firstly, their struggles at times in 2018 are great evidence for why the safety Trout brings should make him the number one overall pick. Both of these guys have been discussed in that #1 spot in recent years and have had struggles. Secondly, this is a story of lost stolen bases. Altuve's steals nearly halved from 2017 to 2018, and that is a major loss. Of all the declines he had last season that one concerns me the most. The numbers are there to suggest it was maybe injury and bad luck which brought down the home runs, runs and RBI. However, generally, players decide whether to steal or not and the fact those numbers are down worries me. Again injuries may play a part, but if it is a philosophy change from Altuve and the team, then he loses quite a lot of value. This pick sort of splits what he could be. If he gets everything clicking and steals his bases, then he is a top-five selection. If he does not, then he is closer to being a second-round selection. Goldschmidt also saw his steals drop off for a second year running and that is enough to drop him from top three contention to back end of the first round. He got there in a weird way, but the rest of the numbers are fairly similar, so it is just the difference between a five-category contributor and a four-category guy that means this is not the bargain you might have thought a year ago.

1.09 JD Martinez, OF, BOS

1.10 Christian Yelich, OF, MIL

I think this is a bargain for Martinez. He is essentially Arenado in terms of production, and he is arguably in a better offense. If he were DH-only, then I would see him going down here, but for me, he should have been the pick at six. I can see why scarcity of the middle infield was valued first, but he definitely should have been above Goldschmidt. If Yelich repeats 2018's numbers in 2019, then we will be talking about him with Trout and Betts next year. He had a monster year, and power was the big differentiation mark for him from the past. Now the question is whether that is a park effect or an aberration. If it was a park effect, then we could very easily be seeing this as a tremendous value by the end of 2019. I love this pick and Yelich is the reason why I want to pick in the back half of the first round in 2019.  

Round 2

The young infielders

I love pairing Alex Bregman with Yelich to give such an incredibly balanced start to a draft. It really allows you to go anywhere in the rest of the draft and means you are not chasing statistics in the next few rounds. The same goes for getting Trea Turner to pair with Martinez. You have the power, and now you have the steals without taking a zero in the power column. Towards the back end of the second round was Javier Baez. He has a lower floor than either Turner or Bregman, and we have only really seen him do it all once. However, locking up your middle infield with Lindor and Baez is a fantastic way to start your draft and means you will have a better middle infield than anyone else in the draft and follows the Major League model of building strong up the middle.

The outfield run

We had a run on outfielders in the middle of the second round. Hopefully, Harper continues his yo-yo effect of the last few years with his batting average so we can see him climb back over .300. If he does, then you are probably getting first-round numbers in the middle of the second round. If he doesn't, then at least you are unlikely to have a complete bust. Aaron Judge and Ronald Acuna have some similarities. Both have a lot of swing-and-miss in their game, but both have a ton of talent. Both can put up per game numbers equivalent to a first round pick, but as with any young player, there is a chance the bottom falls out somewhat. Combining Judge and Altuve could be a great pair if Altuve gives you the steals and Judge the power. Grabbing Acuna when you have Arenado is a great case of adding incredible ceiling to superb safety. We end with Charlie Blackmon who saw some decline last year. At 32 age is against him bouncing back but things were not wildly out of whack last season, so it is not beyond the realm of possibility that he bounces back. If he does, then you have a nice little five-category contributor in the middle of the second round.

The first pitcher!

I could not believe Max Scherzer fell to me at this spot! I was actually looking at the Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, Jacob deGrom group but happily gobbled him up when he got to me. Your strategy at pitcher should depend on the size of the league. In 10-team leagues, my strategy is to get a couple of really good ones early, grab some nice upside in the middle and then stream at the bottom end, because in shallow leagues there is a lot of pitching depth throughout the season. In the same vein, in 10-team leagues, you can often find contributing hitters on the waiver wire during the season. This draft played perfectly into my hands, but I am not sure I would be this lucky again. However, if this was Sale in this spot, I would still have taken a pitcher here. I would actually have taken Scherzer with pick 11 if I had been able to get Yelich at 10.

The elder statesmen

Both of these pics are absolutely fine ways to end the round. Stanton has the incredible upside but even what he did last year is more than enough on the swing. I am not sure I want to start my draft with two outfielders, but the ceiling of Stanton in New York means I understand why you would do it. Freeman is frankly a little boring but that is not a bad thing. You can feel fairly safe with what you are getting, but unfortunately, the power is now a little underwhelming. However, first base is really ugly once it gets a little deeper, so I understand wanting this safety to combine with the also safe option of Trout.  

The Final Word

I love some of the pairs in these two rounds. Yelich and Martinez could be the steals of the draft that late in the first round, as could Scherzer. Acuna and Judge perhaps have the biggest bust potential just simply because of their strikeout rate. However, their upside means they are worth the second-round gamble. The lesson for me here is that there is a lot of value in locking up shortstop at some point in these two rounds. I would not reach for any of them, but if you are between two players, then the positional element is a nice tiebreaker. [jiffyNews category_include='698' headline='More 2019 MLB Advice and Analysis']

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 FanGraphs.com 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.  

Conclusion

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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>> Read even MORE of RotoBaller's 2013 fantasy baseball closers and fantasy baseball strategy


Fantasy Baseball Advice

Tough decision to make? Not sure if you should make that tempting trade? Wanna win your league? Looking for some advice? If you have a fantasy baseball question that needs expert analysis and an expert opinion, then ask us! RotoBaller provides in-depth fantasy baseball research, analysis and advice - customized and tailored specifically for your fantasy baseball questions.


(Previous questions from users and RotoBaller staff answers can be found below)

RotoBaller Q&A

Here are links to some recent questions submitted to RotoBaller (and their answers of course). Enjoy!

 

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ROTOBALLER CUSTOM FANTASY ADVICE

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RotoBaller's Fantasy Baseball Analysis & Advice

Our goal at RotoBaller is to help you win your fantasy baseball leagues! Read our staff's original fantasy baseball articles and expert analysis, or ask us for some personalized fantasy baseball advice. Below you can read through RotoBaller's very own fantasy baseball rankings, player profiles & advice columns. RotoBaller also brings together the biggest and best collection of baseball news and fantasy baseball articles, hand-picked from all of the best sites. On the right you can search the archives, or follow our 24x7 fantasy baseball news feed for the latest headlines and articles. Let's win some leagues!
 
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