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


Is It Legit? Adalberto Mondesi's Breakout Season

Welcome to the first edition of our new weekly column "Is It Legit?" that will discuss breakout performers from the 2018 MLB season and how they should be valued heading into 2019. First up will be Royals shortstop Adalberto Mondesi, son of former Major League player Raul Mondesi. Mondesi Jr. burst onto the scene in 2018. After taking over as Kansas City's starting shortstop in mid-June, he went ahead and hit .276/.306/.498 with 14 home runs and 32 stolen bases. Averaged out over 162 games, Mondesi would have posted 30 home runs and 70 stolen bases. Let's get this out of the way right off the bat: Even the most optimistic 2019 projections don't have Mondesi posting the first 30/70 season in major league history. That would be absurd. However, 14 and 32 in 75 games will grab anyone's attention. Indeed, some very early 2019 preseason mock drafts have Mondesi as high as the second round. But does the 23-year-old infielder, who was a career .181 hitter in 72 games prior to 2018, really possess enough skill to be worth that kind of value next season?  

Speed Yes, Power Not So Much

Coming up through the minors, Mondesi was highly-touted as a speedy middle infielder with an excellent glove and the ability to steal upwards of 30 bases in the show. He posted 15+ stolen bases every season in the minor leagues, so that projection is legit. Is Mondesi a 70-steals kind of guy? Probably not. However, Kansas City has long shown a willingness to run and I wouldn't be surprised to see a healthy Mondesi challenge for 50 bags next season. That alone makes him extremely valuable, as steals have become more and more of a commodity worth chasing early in drafts - unless, of course, you plan to punt the category. Mondesi never hit more than 14 home runs in a full season on the farm, so seeing him hit 14 in just 75 big league games is worth a closer look. Mondesi's 36.6% hard-hit rate (according to Baseball Savant) was way, way higher than what he had posted in his first two partial seasons, where he topped out at 28.6%. That helped fuel his 19.7% HR/FB rate, a big jump from his previous two partial seasons. My biggest concern with Mondesi is his exit velocity. Mondesi posted an EV of 87.4 miles per hour. While that's a big step forward from his previous stints, it ranks just 201st in the league - behind guys like Mikie Mahtook, James McCann, Brock Holt, and Jordy Mercer. Not exactly big power threats there. He barreled the ball up very well, posting a similar rate to Francisco Lindor and Rhys Hoskins. Plus, his launch angle of 11.8 certainly helped him lift more balls in the air - which obviously leads to more home runs. Ultimately, a player with limited power in the minor leagues, a league-average exit velocity and launch angle, and playing in a big park like Kauffman stadium is probably not someone you want to gamble on reaching the 30, or even the 25, home run mark. I think Mondesi is more of a 15/30 guy - which is still an outstanding fantasy value in those two categories. The problem is that while 15/40 is great, it comes with a .270 average at best and virtually no walks. In OBP leagues, Mondesi's value is even lower thanks to his 3.8% walk rate. Mondesi will struggle to post an OBP over .320, and probably will be at or under .300. He hit .276 last season thanks to an elevated .335 BABIP. While his speed does mean his BABIP will probably be above the .300 league average, I suspect he's more of a .265 hitter, which means his OBP will be around .290 unless he learns to take more walks, a skill he has yet to show at any level. It's way too early to make concrete predictions, as Kansas City's lineup and other factors will determine how Mondesi performs. I think 12-15 home runs, 40-50 stolen bases and a .265/.290 BA/OBP seems about right - which gives Mondesi solid value in the 5-7 round area. [jiffyNews tags_include='20760' headline=’More 2018 MLB Year In Review Articles’]

Updated Catcher Rankings (May) - 2018 Fantasy Baseball

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

2018 Fantasy Baseball Tiered Rankings: Catcher (May)

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

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Outfield Prospect Rankings (June) - 2018 Impact Rookies

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

Top 10 Outfield Prospects for 2018 Fantasy Baseball (June)

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

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Updated Shortstop Rankings (May) - 2018 Fantasy Baseball

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

2018 Fantasy Baseball Tiered Rankings: Shortstop (May)

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

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Breakouts and Gems - 2018 MLB Waiver Wire Stars

Stars and Scrubs. Balanced approach. Regardless of the method chosen during drafts to fill your roster, your team likely needed more to get to the championship matchup or top of the standings. The skilled managers were ones who were able to discover players who would eventually break out. Every year there will be players that exceed expectation. Some will do it for part of the year, while others will carry the magic the entire season. The key is identifying them and taking a chance on them early to maximize the return on the risk, which in most cases was very little since these guys were drafted very late, if at all. Let's take a look at a few players who were the saviors for their teams in 2018 with a slight look towards expectations in 2019. If you have any thoughts on other waiver wire gems or any dynasty questions, reach out at Twitter to @EllisCan2.  

Waiver Wire Gems

Jed Lowrie (2B/3B, OAK) At 34 years old, Lowrie decided he would be the one to get your fantasy roster off to a blazing start in 2018, if you jumped on the waiver wire early enough. March and April was the start of a successful year that included alternating months of great performance with months of mediocre/below average performance. Lowrie’s first half ended with 16 HR, 62 RBI, and a .282 AVG. He also chipped in 25 doubles to go with a 9.9% walk rate and a 19.9% strikeout rate. Lowrie’s second half wasn’t as successful, partially stemming from a leg injury he endured in a collision with Stephen Piscotty. However, Lowrie still ended the season with 23 homers, 99 RBI, and a .267 batting average. Lowrie finished with a 4.8 WAR ranking him third at second base, behind only Javier Baez and Whit Merrifield. His finish this year helped reinforce his solid performance in 2017, in which his 3.6 WAR tied him for sixth. Lowrie has demonstrated that he can be a valuable contributor in a young Athletics lineup, even at the age of 35 in the 2019 season. His age will likely push him to the later rounds of the draft, a bargain for a player that can finish top 10 at the position. Max Muncy (1B/2B/3B/OF, LAD) Where in the world did Max Muncy come from? He’s just a 28-year-old guy that was cut from the Oakland Athletics before the start of the 2017 season. Muncy is a guy that had to wait for a high school baseball team to finish using the field before he was able to take batting practice to work on his hitting approach. The Dodgers gave him a chance; he played in Triple-A for the entire 2017 season. 2018 was a different outcome than what we saw from Muncy in the past. He seemed to be unstoppable in the first half, primarily June. At the All-Star break, he had 22 homers to go with a .271/.406/.609 slash line. He did compete in the home run derby and beat Javier Baez in the first round before being eliminated by Bryce Harper in the second round. The second portion of the season started with dismal results. In July he hit seven HR with a .242 batting average followed by six homers and a .259 average in August. Some will talk about the home run derby jinx. However, the simpler answer is that pitchers made adjustments to him and after the All-Star break, he had to figure out how to make follow-up adjustments of his own. Muncy finished the season with 35 homers, 79 RBI, and .263 AVG. Also impressive was that he had a 16% walk rate to go with a strikeout rate that was tolerable (27%). A lot of Muncy’s value moving forward will be dictated by the construct of the Dodgers infield going into 2019. Machado is a free agent who could take his services elsewhere, opening a spot. Of course, Magic Johnson and the rest of the Dodgers ownership are no strangers to spending money to retain quality players. Thus far, the postseason games have shown us that the team prefers Muncy at first base, albeit in a platoon for now. Something to remember is that his new approach at the plate is relatively new. With time, his first-half performance could become a more consistent representation of Muncy as a hitter. Jesus Aguilar (1B, MIL) Aguilar is another guy that gave your team an early competitive advantage in the first half. During that time, he hit for a .298 average with 24 homers and 70 RBI. It appeared almost unimaginable that he would come back down to earth, but as with most things that rocket past their expectations, there is the possibility of a crash on the other side. While it wasn’t a total failure in the second half, there was a drastic decline in Aguilar’s performance, which resulted in only 11 homers and a .245 batting average. He also saw his groundball rate increase from 30% to 41%. Aguilar, regardless of how he was performing throughout the season, always hit the ball hard, averaging 44% this year. He was a controlled hitter at the plate, only swinging at 33% of pitches outside the zone. Aguilar also had a 10% walk rate that helped owners as well. Aguilar’s future is mostly set in Milwaukee as he has stabilized the first base spot for the Brewers. With a solid cast around him, expect him to accrue more stats in 2019 if he can maintain some consistency throughout the season, particularly if he remains in the cleanup spot. Miles Mikolas (SP, STL) Coming back over from Japan, Mikolas was a largely unknown commodity. His last venture in MLB was not a reassuring one but he performed very well in the Nippon Professional Baseball giving fantasy managers an intriguing option, at a very discounted price on draft day. Mikolas rewarded the few fantasy owners who grabbed him and earned 18 wins with only four losses. This is tremendous value for a player that mostly went undrafted. It wasn’t everything the fantasy owner wanted from Mikolas but as long as owners understood his place on the pitching staff, then they could be overly content with his single unattractive category. Mikolas is not a strikeout artist, especially with a 6.5 K/9. He utilized his three-pitch mix to become a very good control pitcher. While he did not help your team in the strikeout category, Mikolas was an innings-eater and helped your ratios with an ERA below 3.00 (2.83) and a WHIP at 1.07. He was mostly successful by keeping the ball on the ground (49%) and limiting the longball (0.72 HR/9). With veteran game-caller Yadier Molina behind the plate for the next two years, it is distinctly possible that Mikolas could repeat this year’s effort in 2019. While he won’t fly up draft boards, he will not go undrafted now that managers know they can get a guy who can help their ratios and increase the chances of getting wins. Of course, do not get sucked into the hype if the ADP seems a bit high to begin 2019. It is tough to waste valuable innings on pitchers with such a low strikeout rate. Mike Foltynewicz (SP, ATL) Foltynewicz had a breakout season in 2018. In some basic sense, he flipped the script from a 10-13 record in 2017 to 13-10 in 2018 with a 2.85 ERA. He has a 9.93 K/9 resulting in 202 strikeouts in 183 innings pitched this year. Folty found success using primarily two pitches, his fastball (56%) and slider (27%). He used a curveball (10%) just used enough to qualify as a third pitch. Foltynewicz performed well regardless of which side of the plate the hitter was standing. He allowed only a .181 batting average against to left-handed hitters and a .207 against to right-handers. Another encouraging sign is that he did not trail off too much as the season went on. He had a 3.10 ERA in the second half, higher than his 2.66 ERA in the first half. Folty will only be 27 years old when the 2019 season begins. There are a couple of things to be cautious about; first, it would be that he tapered off as the individual game went along. Particularly, the third time through the batting order is where he started to falter with a 3.83 ERA compared to the first (2.65) and second time (2.31) through the lineup. Secondly, he had a 3.34 walk rate that will not do him any favors, especially when his .251 BABIP starts to normalize. Expect Folty's draft stock to rise tremendously in 2019. Do not get caught up in the bidding war or any draft hype. If you can get him at a reasonable price, do so; just do not overextend. [jiffyNews tags_include='20760' headline='More 2018 MLB Year In Review Articles']

Is It Legit? Adalberto Mondesi's Breakout Season

Welcome to the first edition of our new weekly column "Is It Legit?" that will discuss breakout performers from the 2018 MLB season and how they should be valued heading into 2019. First up will be Royals shortstop Adalberto Mondesi, son of former Major League player Raul Mondesi. Mondesi Jr. burst onto the scene in 2018. After taking over as Kansas City's starting shortstop in mid-June, he went ahead and hit .276/.306/.498 with 14 home runs and 32 stolen bases. Averaged out over 162 games, Mondesi would have posted 30 home runs and 70 stolen bases. Let's get this out of the way right off the bat: Even the most optimistic 2019 projections don't have Mondesi posting the first 30/70 season in major league history. That would be absurd. However, 14 and 32 in 75 games will grab anyone's attention. Indeed, some very early 2019 preseason mock drafts have Mondesi as high as the second round. But does the 23-year-old infielder, who was a career .181 hitter in 72 games prior to 2018, really possess enough skill to be worth that kind of value next season?  

Speed Yes, Power Not So Much

Coming up through the minors, Mondesi was highly-touted as a speedy middle infielder with an excellent glove and the ability to steal upwards of 30 bases in the show. He posted 15+ stolen bases every season in the minor leagues, so that projection is legit. Is Mondesi a 70-steals kind of guy? Probably not. However, Kansas City has long shown a willingness to run and I wouldn't be surprised to see a healthy Mondesi challenge for 50 bags next season. That alone makes him extremely valuable, as steals have become more and more of a commodity worth chasing early in drafts - unless, of course, you plan to punt the category. Mondesi never hit more than 14 home runs in a full season on the farm, so seeing him hit 14 in just 75 big league games is worth a closer look. Mondesi's 36.6% hard-hit rate (according to Baseball Savant) was way, way higher than what he had posted in his first two partial seasons, where he topped out at 28.6%. That helped fuel his 19.7% HR/FB rate, a big jump from his previous two partial seasons. My biggest concern with Mondesi is his exit velocity. Mondesi posted an EV of 87.4 miles per hour. While that's a big step forward from his previous stints, it ranks just 201st in the league - behind guys like Mikie Mahtook, James McCann, Brock Holt, and Jordy Mercer. Not exactly big power threats there. He barreled the ball up very well, posting a similar rate to Francisco Lindor and Rhys Hoskins. Plus, his launch angle of 11.8 certainly helped him lift more balls in the air - which obviously leads to more home runs. Ultimately, a player with limited power in the minor leagues, a league-average exit velocity and launch angle, and playing in a big park like Kauffman stadium is probably not someone you want to gamble on reaching the 30, or even the 25, home run mark. I think Mondesi is more of a 15/30 guy - which is still an outstanding fantasy value in those two categories. The problem is that while 15/40 is great, it comes with a .270 average at best and virtually no walks. In OBP leagues, Mondesi's value is even lower thanks to his 3.8% walk rate. Mondesi will struggle to post an OBP over .320, and probably will be at or under .300. He hit .276 last season thanks to an elevated .335 BABIP. While his speed does mean his BABIP will probably be above the .300 league average, I suspect he's more of a .265 hitter, which means his OBP will be around .290 unless he learns to take more walks, a skill he has yet to show at any level. It's way too early to make concrete predictions, as Kansas City's lineup and other factors will determine how Mondesi performs. I think 12-15 home runs, 40-50 stolen bases and a .265/.290 BA/OBP seems about right - which gives Mondesi solid value in the 5-7 round area. [jiffyNews tags_include='20760' headline=’More 2018 MLB Year In Review Articles’]

Arizona Fall League Preview - Prospects to Watch

As October baseball begins, fantasy fanatics shift their attention to the next season, which means diving into prospects and performances. Luckily for fantasy players, the Arizona Fall League (AFL) offers the perfect chance to check-out top prospects, and how they look against other high profile players. While many of these names are a year or two away from re-draft leagues, for dynasty owners, these players are must watch for 2020 production. The AFL typically showcases two of the top prospects from each organization, and this year is no different. And yet, to be helpful for fantasy owners, this column will look past some of the top players. This means that Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette Jr., Peter Alonso, and others will not make the team. Players of this caliber will already be on fantasy radars, and instead, the focus is on players who might work their way into contention with a strong performance this fall.  For owners already itching for minor league baseball, the AFL is back to fill that void. Keep an eye on the following players, and get ready early for dynasty league baseball. A good AFL might mean that a prospect is that much closer to the Majors than expected, or might mean that he could be dealt in a trade this offseason. Whatever the case, any excuse to watch prospects seems to be a good idea.  

Players to Watch

C - Jake Rogers (C, DET) The former third-round pick who was dealt to Detroit in the Justin Verlander deal, Rogers has an excellent case to make as the top prospect in the Tiger’s farm system. What might limit his fantasy upside is the bat. So far in his career, Rogers has been named as one of the best defensive catchers in baseball, but the offensive side of his game still has questions. That is why he makes this list. If he can show some pop with the bat versus top competition, then he will shoot up fantasy boards, but if not, might fall into that backup fantasy role that limits his playing time and ultimate fantasy worth. Case in point, in 2017, at High-A, Rogers slashed .265/.357/.457, but in 2018, at Double-A, that line dropped to .219/.305/.412. He did add to the homer numbers with 17 in 2018, after only 12 in 2017, so there is power upside in the bat. If Rogers can hit he will be a catcher with a high floor for playing time, but if not, could be the next coming of Roberto Perez. 1B - Brent Rooker (1B, MIN) Could Rooker be the heir to Joe Mauer at first for the Twins? While he might not have that ceiling, the production is there to be a solid player at the spot. In all fairness, he is more likely the next Logan Morrison as opposed to a Hall of Famer, but still a fantasy option to watch. In 130 games at Double-A this year he slashed .254/.333/.465 with 22 homers and 79 RBI. Both are elite numbers for the level and bodes well due to a spike in power from 2017 numbers. The key to watch is the K rate, as in 2018 he posted a 26.4 K%, which limits that contact upside even at first. While the short sample at the AFL might be misleading, this will offer a good window into his approach versus top talent. If he can keep the batting line near .250, drop the rest of the limiting factors, and keep the power, this is a sneaky fantasy pick with a good park context to add value to the bat. 2B - Keston Huira (2B, MIL) Perhaps the highest ranked of the prospects on this list, Huira is a top player who might be owned in most leagues already. Playing at second keeps his value high, as there is no one pushing him for the spot, and most others second basemen will be moving from short. This is not a negative but instead means that Huira will be a year ahead in the development pipeline and owners can cash in earlier. This year, Huira started at High-A but ended at Double-A where he posted a slash of .272/.339/.416 with six homers and 11 steals. While most sites only give him a 55 FV, the overall production makes him one of the top fantasy options up the middle, and perhaps, even on prospect lists. The ceiling is there for a .280 hitter with 15 homers and 25 steals, at least early in his career. This would give owners Dustin Pedroia with more speed, and that might be a top-five player at the position when all is said and done. The AFL is vital to see if he is ready for the Brewers where there area few bodies in the way. A strong fall performance and he might push Jonathan Schoop off the team, but if he is a bit underwhelming, then stash for another year and wait for the Rookie of the Year in 2020. 3B - Michael Chavis (3B, BOS) The 2018 AFL will be a redemption tour for Chavis, who is back from his suspension that kept him out for the most of the year. After entering the 2018 season as one of the top prospects in the Boston organization, Chavis should still have a good outlook, and the next few months will determine just how excited owners should be. The good news is that in his 41 games after suspension, Chavis looked to be back on pace, with eight homers and 24 RBI over those games. The batting line across two levels was .282 which also bodes well. The AFL is designed for players like Chavis, or players that miss time and need to get their reps in to stay on the right developmental track. Case in point, his K rate was close to eight points higher in his return, and a spell in the AFL might help see if this will be the new norm going forward. While not one to insinuate anything, Chavis has questions to answer about the raw skills post suspension, and the AFL will make him one of the keys to watch. If he does perform, his stock is low and offers decent value for owners looking to add prospects.   SS - Nico Hoerner (SS, CHC) A 2018 first round pick, Hoerner is the quickest player to move from draft to the AFL and shows how close he might be to competing with the Cubs. The issue is that he is blocked at the position, as there is no reason to move Javier Baez to accommodate the youngster, so this is more of a scouting option for a potential trade chip. Hoerner perhaps needs to move to be a fantasy option, but also could force his way into a Joe Maddon-style fantasy spot. Regarding the performance so far, Hoerner has only played in 14 games, even as he has played at three different levels. In that time he is hitting above .300 with two homers and six steals, so there is production even in a limited time. His best asset looks to be speed, as Fangraphs lists his FV with this tool at 70, but also seems to have an above average hit tool. Hoerner has the most to gain this fall and could be a key piece in a deal this offseason. Owners should take notice and grab this potential young stud in case he stays or goes. OF - Luis Robert (OF, CWS) While Robert does not look to the next Mike Trout, as some had projected, he has looked like a competent ballplayer so far in his career. The AFL is another crucial step for the player who has been driven by hype more than performance, but still, even with some struggles is firmly in the top 20 on most prospect lists. This year Robert played at both Single-A and High-A with a declining season overall, dropping his batting average from .289 to .244 over those stops. And yet, this is not a prospect who needs to hit .300 to be a top player, and instead, owners should look to his power and speed for a better idea of what he will offer. In 45 games he did not hit a homer this year, which is worrying, but the 12 steals do add incredible value for what looks to be a power hitter long term. The other thing to keep in mind is that catchers in the minors are still learning the craft as well, so steal numbers are typically inflated by those match-ups. The other good news this season was 21 runs and 11 RBI which show the overall approach works in the team context. For owners who own Robert, use the AFL to gauge if this is a sell-high or a stash long-term. The hype will always be there, and without some power, this might be the last chance to move on from the player with a top return. OF - Buddy Reed (OF, SD) The former 2016 second round pick started off the 2018 season as one of the top breakout players but then struggled following a promotion to Double-A. After hitting .324 at High-A over 79 games, he only managed to hit .179 in 43 games at Double-A. The good news is that the speed was still there, with 18 steals over those 42 games. Compare this to the 33 steals a level below, and clearly, Reed is one of the next fantasy speed options to watch. What made him unique was 12 homers at High-A, meaning that unlike Billy Hamilton, this looked to be a speed option that did not mean owners were selling out for speed alone. After his promotion, the power dropped to only one homer, and the K line added close to nine points as well. Reed needs to have a good AFL to stay on fantasy lists, as the skills are there, and with an increase in competition, it will be interesting to see if he can make those adjustments. OF - Cristian Pache (OF, ATL) Long known as one of the top defensive prospects in the minors, Pache has begun to hit a bit more keeping him firmly on fantasy watch lists. Like Reed, he struggled after a move to Double-A, but the drop-off was not as concerning. In 93 games at High-A he hit .285 with eight homers and seven steals, and then after the move up the ladder, hit .260 with one homer and no steals in 27 games. The concerning piece was adding close to eight points onto the K rate, but also this is not unusual for a prospect getting the promotion. He did walk a bit more at Double-A, but even this was only a point jump. Overall, Pache is showing that he can offer something with the bat to keep him in the relevant conversations, and at worst, his glove will keep him on the field. This is another player that might be on his way out of town, as while this is only speculation, if a top starter enters the market, perhaps Madison Bumgarner, this could be a key piece in a package. Ender Inciarte also blocks him, so there will need to be some movement for him to gain a starting role. The key here is can he hit at the AFL, and if so, no matter where he plays, this is a prospect that owners want. P - Jesus Castillo (P, LAA) After starting his career with the Diamondbacks and Cubs, Castillo looks to be firmly set in the future plans with the Angels. For a team in desperate need of pitching, this is a high-upside prospect with a lot on the line this fall. At Double-A this year, Castillo showed some good signs, but also that he has much to work on to make this all come together. The good news is that he looks like a future starter with 20 of his 21 appearances coming in the starter role. And yet, he only struck out 5.49 per nine, while walking 2.84 per nine. The control seemed to be there after improvements from close to four walks per nine back in 2014, but the stuff is not enough to carry him alone. The ERA is also a bit worrying with a 4.94 line so far, but the FIP sits a 4.17, so there is some potential there as well. Castillo is on this list due to the proximity to the majors, and a team that needs starters. If he can push those K numbers up a bit, he has SP4 upside, but if not, this could be a good option out the pen. A strong AFL might make Castillo a last-round dart throw and, if not, offers an interesting mix of skills and situation. P - Grant Holmes (SP, OAK) After suffering a rotator cuff injury in March, making the roster in the AFL is a good sign for Holmes concerning the return from that time away. Not only will there be an incentive to push him to make up for lost innings, but this will also be a pivotal time to see what long terms effects there might be from that time away. When healthy, Holmes has the upside to be a big piece for the Athletics, and a good AFL will keep that in the minds of owners. In 2017 for example, Holmes made a total of 24 starts and posted a record of 11 and 12. The downside was the 4.49 ERA and 3.70 BB/9. The good news was a jump in the strikeout rate to 9.10 K/9 from 2016’s 7.53 K/9. The walks stayed much the same at 3.7 BB/9, which again is not great but also within the outcomes for a starter in the minors. Holmes has a lot to prove, and if he can keep the ball in the yard, which was another positive in 2017, then he should be back on prospect lists. Oakland can always use the pitching, and if he is healthy from the surgery, could be in line for an appearance as early as next year in Oakland. P - Luis Patino (SP/RP, SD) Perhaps the highest upside of any of the pitchers on this list, Patino was not expected to be with the Padres until 2022, but this roster spot might say otherwise. To date, Patino has flashed the stuff with 10.58 K/9 in 2018 and has dropped the walks to 2.59 per nine. Add to that a 0.11 HR/9 rate, and this is a pitcher with the performances to back up the skills so far. In 17 starts he was able to post a record of six and three and kept the ERA intact with a 2.16 line. What is unusual in the line was a middling 43.5 GB%, but again, he does not give up homers. This means that Petco Park will be the ideal landing spot, and if he can keep the length up, should be an SP2/3 when he makes it. If there is one player to keep an eye on for dynasty owners, it is Patino, as he is perhaps the most available due to the age, but could be an impact player sooner rather than later. [jiffyNews category_include='5923' headline='More 2019 MLB Prospects Analysis']

Power Risers/Fallers for Week 26: Buy or Sell?

Welcome to Week 26 of the 2018 MLB season and a new week of our investigation into the steepest power trenders in baseball, whether those trends are positive or negative. It has blown by insanely fast, but believe it or not, the final week of the 2018 MLB regular season has officially arrived. Most fantasy baseball leagues have already had their trade deadlines come and go, and the only decisions left for managers to make in terms of personnel are whether players are worth the AB they are receiving and whether a player is worth adding for a postseason push. Getting the jump on identifying the catalytic variables and telling trends in these player's recent offensive performances could be the key factor in the management of your roster in the season's final months. To do this, we'll be taking a look at the batting metrics that influence a hitter's power (Fly-Ball%, Pull%, Hard-Hit%, Exit Velocity) and determining whether you should buy or sell respectively on these surgers and strugglers. Since it's always best to wait and trudge through with the power play from players like Bryce Harper, Charlie Blackmon, Joey Votto, and Mookie Betts, we are going to be focusing on players who have seen a change in their power profile due to a change in batting metrics and has either warranted greater attention for waiver wire pickups or for a potential trade to cash in on what's left before it's too late.  

Power Risers

Yasiel Puig - (OF, LAD) Gut-wrenching home burglaries aside, Yasiel Puig is having himself a great month of September. With seven HR and a 1.199 OPS in 48 AB to this point, his strong finish is a big reason that the Dodgers are currently atop the NL West and at the very least are in a strong position to see October. A look at Puig's offensive metrics makes it clear to how he has accomplished his best month at the plate in an already successful 2018 campaign. His plate discipline has been fantastic with a season-best strikeout rate of 14.8% and an 11.1% walk rate which has allowed him plenty of opportunities to make contact and reach base to grab stolen bases. In terms of quality of contact on batted-balls, Puig has particularly exploded this month. Though he has only hit fly balls at a 35% frequency so far in September he has been cranking balls yard with a 52.5% pull rate, just 12.5% soft contact, and a significant hard contact rate of 50%, ultimately culminating in an ISO of .458. With impressive displays of strength like an 89.6 mph exit velocity and a 414-foot average HR-distance (not to mention outfield assists that defy the laws of physics), it is no secret that he is an extremely dangerous and talented hitter, so now that the pieces have all come together in September, the devastation he has dealt to opposing pitchers should come as no surprise. It may come as a shock but Yasiel Puig is 27-years old now, and the strong finish to his strong season establishes him once again as dangerous power/speed combo outfielder for 2019. Now flip a bat to that. Ketel Marte - (SS/2B, ARI) Few players have had power-hitting performances as surprising throughout the year as Ketel Marte. The first note of surprise comes in the middle-infielder's above-average exit velocity of 88.8 mph and fantastic average HR-distance of 406-feet (assisted by such behemoths as a 465-foot dinger). This month has been another solid showing from Marte: with an .869 OPS, three homers, and an ISO of .268 in 56 AB, this month has gone a long way in proving to all watching that his work at the plate in 2018 has been no joke. There have been some drawbacks to his offensive results thus far into September. His strikeout rate of 18.8% is his highest of the year for an individual month, his fly ball rate of 33.3% leaves a little to be desired for hitting deep, and he has produced a less-than-ideal soft contact rate of 19.6%. Despite these apparent cons, it's all a part of the process. His hard contact rate of 37% is solid, his pull rate of 52.2% is his highest of the year for a month by a margin of 12.2%, and his GB/FB ratio has actually reached a season-low 1.13 despite his low frequency of flyers due to a very high rate of line drives (28.9%). This influx of extra-base hitting has wreaked a little havoc on Marte's stolen-base figures (though he has still stolen six bases in seven attempts), but this high-quality batted ball contact mixed with his speed and line drive tendencies has led to a great well-rounded year at the plate and very well may culminate in him being MLB's 2018 triples champion. Still being just 24-years old, the skill set that Ketel Marte has demonstrated throughout the entirety of this season bodes well for his continued play and progression in coming years. Joc Pederson - (OF, LAD) Speaking of the young Dodgers propelling the squad to the postseason, Joc Pederson has so far slugged his way to five HR and a .953 OPS in 57 September AB. It has definitely been an up and down year for him, he is even striking out at an astounding rate of 32.3% during this, his excellent month to close out the regular season. However, despite a strikeout rate that is even higher than his already-high season average and his soft contact rate reaching 18.9% this month (his highest since May) everything else about Pederson's work at the plate during September aligns extraordinarily with successful power-hitting. He possesses natural power, but it more translates into homers of the "laser" variety than the "bomb" variety, as evidenced by his below-average HR-distance of 393-feet and his well-above-average exit velocity of 91.6 mph. His GB/FB ratio this month has hit the abyss at 0.61 off of 48.6% fly balls and just 29.7% grounders, and while his pull rate has dropped it still remains at a trustworthy 43.2%. In conjunction with the tremendous hard contact he has managed this month of 51.4%, Pederson has produced an ISO of .333 which is his highest since his ten-homer month of June. He should probably stop trying to steal bases (he has successfully nabbed just one base in six attempts this year), but at 26-years old he has set the tone for himself as a yearly albeit streaky candidate for 25+ dingers.

Power Fallers

Eugenio Suarez - (3B, CIN) There is no doubt about it that 2018 has been Eugenio Suarez's big arrival, complete with 32 homers, 101 RBI, and his first selection to the All-Star game. However, he has so far limped through this month of September to the tune of just two dingers and a mediocre .621 OPS in 75 AB. The issue is that, as far as how these results came to be, it is hard to nitpick with Suarez. His walk rate has been great all season but his strikeout rate this month has ballooned to 29.1%, while his respective rates for grounders and fly balls of 44% and 32% have netted a season-high GB/FB ratio of 1.38. His pull rate still sits well above the league norm at 46%, and although his September hard contact rate is his worst of the season and his soft contact rate hasn't been as high as it is now since May, both figures still stand as highly competent at 38% and 10% respectively. His hard contact contains plenty of pop too as evidenced by his 399-foot average HR-distance and 91 mph exit velocity. As there have been few problems with his quality of contact on batted-balls or plate discipline as a whole on the year, the driving force behind Suarez's September slump is likely the increase in strikeouts and a higher rate of batted-balls hitting dirt, because if he had hit them for line drives or fly balls, we would likely be discussing his triumphant end to an emergent campaign. Don't feel trepidation in trusting 27-year-old Eugenio Suarez in future seasons, this 32-HR season could be the tip of the iceberg. Max Muncy - (3B/1B/2B, LAD) Hold up, there is indeed one young Dodger putting the breaks on a bit as the regular season dwindles down, and it's Max Muncy. Fortunately, though he has slowed down, it hasn't been in his overall game but just in the power department as he has hit just three HR but has still managed an impressive .892 OPS in 51 AB. His plate discipline has been extremely polar this month with a still-concerning strikeout rate of 29.4% yet a stratospheric walk rate of 23.5%. It is also encouraging to assess that very few components are out of place for Muncy at the moment. His GB/FB ratio remains at a homer-friendly 0.62 off of 41.9% fly balls and just 25.8% grounders, his pull rate provides a moderate assist at 45.2%, and his hard contact rate is still high-quality at 41.9% (though this is incredibly his lowest figure since April!). Though, one peripheral that seems to be leaking through the month has been his soft contact rate which sits at 19.4%, his highest of the season by a 3.8% margin. Overall though, a slight slow-down, when combined with what is still a very successful well-rounded month at the plate, shouldn't inspire any concern. The 28-year-old's breakout campaign of 2018 has been stacked with month after month of hard contact being applied to a high-volume of fly balls, resulting in 33 balls-gone-yard for Los Angeles. His plate discipline may waver on occasion, but he possesses enough raw power (90.4 mph exit velocity and 401-foot average HR-distance) to accrue an ISO of .196 even in his worst offensive month since the start of the regular season. Breakout seasons from emergent Dodgers have been a staple of the last few years, and while they come and go, Max Muncy's demonstrated consistency in producing elite power peripherals projects favorably for the last week until the postseason and 2019. Anthony Rizzo - (1B, CHC) Despite an .840 OPS, 24 homers and 96 RBI this season for the NL Central-leading Cubs, 2018 has quite easily been Anthony Rizzo's worst offensive season since 2013. In 75 AB so far in September, he has smacked just two homers with an unusually pedestrian .786 OPS, and like his counterparts being discussed today, the issue he is having in going deep this month appears relatively easy to diagnose. His strikeout rate of 13.6% and walk rate of 11.4% are both superb, his pull rate of 46% lends a considerable helping hand within hitter-friendly Wrigley Field, and his power metrics remain above-average and active with a 90 mph exit velocity and 403-foot average HR-distance (not to mention that his bat comes in one of baseball's most dangerous run-scoring orders). In contrast, he has been hitting a lot of grounders (41.3%) as compared to his 33.3% fly ball rate which has translated into a 1.24 GB/FB ratio. Most concerning, his batted-ball contact has regressed significantly this month with a hard contact rate of just 28.6% and a high soft contact rate of 19.1% that are both highly uncharacteristic of the seasoned slugger. This explains his September ISO of .120, while his superior plate discipline combined with his high frequency of line drives and medium contact explain how his BA and OBP have yet to suffer. Anthony Rizzo has been good for so long that it is hard to believe that has yet to turn 30, and while his September power outage is a bit concerning, he will have a chance to work that out in the postseason for the Cubbies so that the issues need not resurface come April of 2019. [jiffyNews tags_include='20164' headline='More Risers and Fallers']

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Two-Start Pitchers: What Are They Really Worth?

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

What to Make of Two-Start Pitchers

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

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Using Sabermetrics For Fantasy Baseball Part 15 - Minor League Stats

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

How to Interpret Minor League Stats

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


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

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Approaching Rookies and Prospects in Redraft Leagues for Success

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

Approaching Prospects in Redraft

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

Handling Rookies

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

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Dollar Day Auction Targets for Fantasy Baseball Drafts

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

I'll Buy That For a Dollar!

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

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