Fantasy Baseball

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Heat Check

In this heat check, we will identify and analyze some of the hottest players in baseball. This segment is intended to inform fantasy baseball owners about whether these players will continue at their torrid pace, or if it’s time to sell high.

The Houston Astros’ big three

Fantasy Baseball

Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer are propelling the Houston Astros into elite company. (Courtesy of Getty Images)

As many expected, the Houston Astros lineup has emerged into one the league’s most elite offenses. They are currently ranked third in runs scored per game with 5.45. Their three-headed monster of Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa are arguably the hottest hitters in the game. The trio is batting a combined .452 with eight home runs, 26 runs and 24 RBI in their last seven games.

Altuve is sporting a career high in both BABIP (.363) and ISO (.197), although to say regression is in store would be incorrect, as his career BABIP is a mere .28 points off of his current and his ISO nearly matches his 2016 mark of .194. Barring injury, you can pencil Altuve’s name into the MVP conversation for a fourth consecutive season.

Springer, even as their leadoff hitter, is leading the Astros in home runs, although his power surge may begin to slow down. His ISO is about .40 points higher than his career mark and his HR/FB rate is at an unsustainable 30 percent. Springer is a career .260 hitter with a current batting average of .272, although with a career BABIP of .318 and a current BABIP of .304, we can say that there is still room for progression. The only knock on Springer, who many considered to be a 30/30 candidate heading into the season, has yet to steal a base.

Former first-overall pick, Carlos Correa, had a bit of a sophomore slump in 2016. Many expected the 2015 Rookie of the Year to blossom into a top-10 MVP candidate, although he had less home runs and stolen bases in 153 games in 2016 then he did in 99 games the year before. So far in 2017, Correa is proving that he is a true MVP candidate, as he is batting a career high .310 while leading the Astros in RBIs and walks. The 22-year-old shortstop looks as though he will put together his first 30 home run campaign, which makes him an elite power threat at one of the shallower positions in fantasy baseball, as only three shortstop eligible players hit 30 or more home runs in 2016; Manny Machado (37), Jedd Gyorko (30) and Brad Miller (30).

The St. Louis Cardinals’ pitching staff

Fantasy Baseball

Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn along with the rest of the Cardinals rotation are keeping St. Louis afloat in the NL Central. (Courtesy of Getty Images)

The Cardinals always find a way compete. In 2016, their bats carried them, as they finished fourth in runs scored, although in 2017 it has been quite the opposite. Their pitching staff is now ranked fourth in ERA, whereas their offense ranks outside of the top 20 in runs scored. The Cardinals had many question marks heading into the season; including Michael Wacha’s place in the rotation and Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn’s health.

There was speculation that Wacha would begin the year in the bullpen after struggling in 2016. After the team lost Alex Reyes to season ending Tommy John surgery, Wacha’s opportunity to return to the rotation arose. Since then, he has proven himself by pitching six quality starts in his last nine appearances. His ERA sits a tad below four, although his xFIP and SIERA are both below the marks they were at in 2015, where he finished 17-7 with a 3.38 ERA. All signs point up for the 25-year-old.

Lynn missed the entire 2016 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, causing many to speculate if he could return to his All-Star form. So far in 2017, he has proven all doubters wrong, as he has a sub-three ERA to go along with a respectable 8.34 K/9 and 1.07 WHIP. Unfortunately for Lynn owners, he looks to be in line for serious regression as he has a BABIP of .204, xFIP of 4.33 and SIERA of 4.22. Now may be a prime sell high period for the 30-year-old.

One of the most underappreciated pitchers of the decade, Adam Wainwright, has a 140-79 record, winning at least 19 games in four different seasons. After rupturing his Achilles tendon in 2015, Wainwright returned for an abysmal 2016 campaign which resulted in a career worst 4.62 ERA. The questions continued to swirl heading into 2017, as many wondered if we had seen the last of the Cy Young candidate Wainwright.

He is no longer the ace caliber pitcher he once was, although he has returned to a serviceable form. He has a 3.79 ERA to go with his 6-3 record. Also, he is arguably the hottest pitcher in baseball over the last month, as he has a 0.47 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in his last four starts. His age is worrisome, although he has never experienced any serious upper body injuries and has less mileage on his arm than most 35-year-olds.

There were nearly no question marks heading into the season when it came to the Cardinals unquestioned ace, Carlos Martinez. The 2015 All-Star has a career ERA of 3.29 and K/9 of 8.7. He is currently sporting a 3.08 ERA and 9.86 K/9. His above average xFIP of 3.45 and SIERA of 3.63 suggest that his success is very sustainable.

The most interesting name on this staff is Mike Leake, who struggled severely in his inaugural season with the Cardinals. He currently has a 2.64 ERA, which is bound to regress due to his .234 BABIP and 83 percent LOB percentage, which are both unsustainable. His 2016 xFIP (3.76) and SIERA (3.92) are very similar to his current xFIP (3.62) and SIERA (3.81), suggesting that his struggles a year ago may have been a fluke. In my mind, now is the perfect time to sell high on the 29-year-old, although, even with regression, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him ranked inside the top-50 starting pitchers at years’ end.

The Miami Marlins’ power hitters

Fantasy Baseball

Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton continue to make the Miami Marlins relevant. (Courtesy of Getty Images)

The Marlins rank just inside the top-20 in runs scored and home runs, although three men specifically are to thank for keeping their offense relevant; Justin Bour, Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton.

Bour is arguably the hottest hitter in baseball. He has a .377 batting average and six home runs in his last 15 games. The 29-year-old is currently sporting a career high BABIP and ISO, so regression should be expected, although I would ride this hot streak out as long as possible, as first base is the deepest positon in fantasy baseball, in turn lowering Bour’s value tremendously.

Ozuna exploded onto the scene in 2016, batting .307 with 17 home runs in the first half of the season. After falling off of a cliff, not literally, his batting averaged regressed to .266 and he finished with only 23 bombs. In 2017, he is batting an astounding .322 with 14 home runs and 40 RBI. His BABIP of .361 and HR/FB rate of 28 percent suggest that regression is absolutely in his future. If you expect another fall from grace, like myself, then now would be the time move the Marlin slugger.

Stanton is having similar success to his two teammates, although his seems much more sustainable. He is batting a career high .291 with a BABIP of .326, which is very similar to his career mark of .323, suggesting that his batting average is sustainable. Also, his current HR/FB ratio of 26 percent is less than one percentage point off of his career rate, showing that his home run production is sustainable as well. Stanton seems like the one to own of the three, although because of his name, he will have the highest price.

Featured image by Laurie Robbins/Pintrest

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Must Add Players in Fantasy Baseball 2017

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Must Add Players

If you’ve ever played fantasy baseball, you know that your league championship isn’t won on draft day. One key to success is staying active on the waiver wire. As draft day has come and gone, the easiest way to acquire talent is by adding free agents. Below are five players that are under 25 percent owned on ESPN.com, but should be rostered in all formats.

 

Travis Shaw, First Base/Third Base, Milwaukee Brewers, (24 Percent)

Must Add Players in Fantasy Baseball 2017

Travis Shaw will be an everyday player for the first time in his career. (Courtesy of The Tribune)

My Predicted Stat Line: .275 BA/ 80 R/ 25 HR/ 90 RBI/ 5 SB

The newly acquired corner infielder has gotten off to a hot start in 2017. He has batted in the four and five spot in the four games the Brewers have played, tallying one home run and five RBIs while batting .357.

These stats obviously don’t hold much weight, but Shaw’s opportunity does. The 26-year-old will be an everyday player for the young Brewers and bat in the heart of lineup. It will give him plenty of chances to produce RBIs and runs.

The son of former MLB player, Jeff Shaw, has been a streaky hitter his entire career, batting .270 in the first half of 2016 and .194 in the second. However, I believe Shaw’s growing confidence will make him an everyday player. He also has a lack of pressure since he is out of Boston and is no longer on a contending team. He can join the ranks as a top fantasy producer in 2017.

Lance Lynn, Starting Pitcher, St. Louis Cardinals, (22 percent)

My Predicted Stat Line: 15 W/ 170 K/ 3.4 ERA/ 1.3 WHIP

Lynn has officially re-entered the St. Louis Cardinals rotation after missing the entire 2016 season due to Tommy John surgery. He fits in behind Carlos Martinez and Adam Wainwright as their third starter.

The 29-year-old has been a great fantasy pitcher in the past. His 162-game career average of 15 wins, a 3.37 ERA and 8.71 K/9. If he can return anywhere close to this, he will have great fantasy value. He is currently owned in 22 percent of ESPN leagues, which is a travesty for someone who has won 15 games or more three times since 2012.

The Cardinals, who finished fourth in runs scored in 2016, have added lead off specialist Dexter Fowler to improve their already elite offensive. This increases Lynn’s value, who is off to a great spring. He’s pitched a total of 15 innings to result in a 1.20 ERA and a .93 WHIP.

Lynn’s first outing of the year went well. He pitched 5.1 innings with four K’s and two earned runs. The Cardinals missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 2010. If they want to make it back in 2017, Lynn will have to be a major factor.

Corey Dickerson, Left Field/Designated Hitter, Tampa Bay Rays, (22 percent)

Must Add Players in Fantasy Baseball 2017

Corey Dickerson sheds 25 pounds in the offseason, signs of good things to come? (Courtesy of Wikipedia.com)

My Predicted Stat Line: .285 BA/ 90 R/ 25 HR/ 75 RBI/ 5 SB

Dickerson had a rough transition from Colorado to Tampa Bay in 2016, as he batted a mere .245 after batting .304 and .312 in the two previous seasons. He still managed to hit 24 home runs to go along with 70 RBIs, which was productive enough to warrant him top 80 outfielder status.

The 27-year-old dropped 25 pounds this offseason, which will make him more athletic than ever before. Dickerson will be an everyday player for the Rays in 2017, batting primarily lead off. He has begun the year batting .300 through the first four games, hitting his first home run at the Trop this Wednesday.

The career .279 hitter is a lock to improve his batting average from last season, which along with his power potential and opportunity as an everyday player, warrant him a spot on your roster.

Kendall Graveman, Starting Pitcher, Oakland Athletics, (17 percent)

My Predicted Stat Line: 11 W/ 140 K/ 3.6 ERA/ 1.3 WHIP

Graveman was the Athletics opening day starter this year and started off hot. He pitched six innings with seven strikeouts while only surrendering two runs. The elite ground ball pitcher has a career groundball rate of 51.5 percent and a fly ball rate of 27.6 percent. That shows he can keep the ball on the ground opposed to in the stands.

Unfortunately, the Athletics have the worst fielding percentage in the MLB, which may hold the groundball pitcher back. A positive is his increased confidence in his fastball. He has increased his use of the pitch consistently every season and increased its velocity from 93 to 95. That may help increase his strikeout rate.

Overall, Graveman will be the most consistent pitcher and a silver lining for the underdog Athletics this season.

Mitch Haniger, Right Field, Seattle Mariners, (17 percent)

Must Add Players in Fantasy Baseball 2017

Mitch Haniger may be sleeper of the year. (Courtesy of Minor League Ball)

My Projected Stat Line: .270 BA/ 95 R/ 20 HR/ 80 RBI/ 15 SB

Haniger was sent to Seattle along with Jean Segura in exchange for Taijuan Walker in the offseason. After slashing .406/.472/.719 in 32 at bats this spring, he has earned the everyday right fielder position against American League foes. He also will be the starting left fielder during interleague play, which will give him dual eligibility in leagues with individual outfield positions.

The 26-year-old will bat second behind Segura and ahead of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager, which makes him a likely candidate to score 100 runs. His combination of power and speed makes him a threat to be a serious producer atop one of the most talented lineups in the league, as the Mariners finished sixth in runs scored in 2016.

The rookie is currently owned in only 17 percent of leagues, which is sure to jump as he begins to produce.

 

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10 Bold Predictions for the 2017 MLB Season

Ten Bold Predictions for the 2017 MLB Season

Ten Bold Predictions for the 2017 MLB Season

Predictions in sports are commonly highly discussed topics, as they can make people look incredible smart or incredible stupid. With that said, here are 10 bold predictions for the 2017 MLB season. Although some of these predictions may be outlandish, all are real possibilities.

 

10 Bold Predictions for the 2017 MLB Season

Jarrett Parker will begin 2017 in a platoon role. (Courtesy of SFGate.com)

  • Jarrett Parker becomes the everyday left fielder for the San Francisco Giants, and finishes the year as a top 50 outfielder.

 

Jarrett Parker will begin the season in a platoon role batting against righties, with Mac Williamson hitting against lefties. Parker, who recorded 23 home runs and 20 steals at the AAA level in 2015, has a career slash line of .267/.371/494 through six seasons of professional ball. The former second-round pick in 2010 has shown an innate ability to walk, as he has a career walk rate of 11.7%, which is well above league average of 8%. Also, the 28-year-old has posted a career ISO of .227, which is once again well above the league average of .140.

Parker will have an immediate opportunity to earn the full time left fielder job, as platoon mate Williamson is currently “battling an injured quad and is likely to miss at least two weeks”, according to Baseball-Reference.com. If Parker does not earn the full-time job within this two-week period, he is sure to outplay his counter-part Williamson, who batted .136 at AT&T Park last season. Parker in an everyday role is more than capable of being a 20/20 player, as he has shown pop at all levels, and will be batting at the bottom half of a Giants lineup that that finished 13th in steal attempts out of all 30 MLB teams in 2016.

 

  • Lance Lynn will win 16 games and finish the season as a top 50 starting pitcher.

 

Lynn missed the entire 2016 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He spent over 12 months rehabbing, and has officially re-earned his spot in the St. Louis Cardinals rotation, slotting in behind Carlos Martinez and Adam Wainwright as their third starter. The 29-year-old has a career 3.37 ERA and 8.71 K/9, giving him a great ceiling. If he can return anywhere close to this, he will have great fantasy value.

The Cardinal’s, who finished fourth in runs scored in 2016, have added lead off specialist Dexter Fowler, improving their already elite offensive. This increases Lynn’s value, who himself is off to a great spring, pitching a total of 15 innings, resulting in a 1.20 ERA and a .93 WHIP. The Cardinals missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010, and if they want to make it back in 2017, Lynn will have to be a major factor.

10 Bold Predictions for the 2017 MLB Season

Mitch Haniger may be sleeper of the year. (Courtesy of Minor League Ball)

  • Newly acquired Seattle Mariner, Mitch Haniger, will finish the year as a top 25 outfielder.

 

Former Arizona Diamondback, Mitch Haniger, was sent to Seattle, along with teammate Jean Segura, in a trade for Taijuan Walker in 2016. Haniger had an electric spring training, slashing .406/.472/.719 in 32 at bats. This has earned him the everyday right fielder position against American League foes, as well as the starting left field position during interleague play.

The 26-year-old’s combination of power and speed makes him a threat to be a serious producer atop one of the most talented lineups in the league, as the Mariners finished as the sixth best scoring offense in 2016. Mariner’s Manager Scott Servais has stated that Haniger “has the green light” on the base paths, giving him the opportunity to steal plenty of bases in 2017. Haniger will begin the year batting second for the Mariners, giving him a great chance to score over 100 runs. Becoming a top 25 outfielder is easily within reach for Haniger.

 

  • Kendall Graveman will become the unquestioned ace of the Oakland Athletics staff, after finishing the season with a sub-4 ERA and over 140 strikeouts.

 

Kendall Graveman will be the Oakland Athletics opening day starter in 2017. He is an elite ground ball pitcher, as he has a career groundball rate of 51.5%, (league average is 44%), along with a fly ball rate of 27.6%, (the league average is 35%), showing that Gravemen can be a very effective pitcher at the major-league level.

Unfortunately, the Athletics have the worst fielding percentage in the MLB, although it should not hold Graveman back from emerging as the work horse of this Athletics rotation, as he is the only healthy pitcher on the roster that has logged over 180 innings in a season.

10 Bold Predictions for the 2017 MLB Season

David Phelps will assume “an Andrew Miller-like role” according to manager Don Mattingley. (Courtesy of MLB.com)

  • David Phelps will finish as a top 20 reliever in standard formats, and a top 10 in formats that include holds.

 

Phelps is one of many starters turned relievers whom find themselves in prime position to pick up holds. The 30-year-old pitched 86.2 innings in 2016, finishing the year with a 2.28 ERA, 25 holds, and 114 strikeouts. Miami Marlins manager, Don Mattingley, stated that he believes “Phelps can serve in an Andrew Miller-like role”, which suggests that he will be pitching in the seventh, eighth, and occasionally ninth innings, giving him the chance to improve upon his career high holds total.

The Marlins bullpen appears to be stable, with A.J. Ramos manning the ninth, and Kyle Barraclough and Phelps serving as his bridge. If the Marlins can find success in 2017, Phelps is sure to be a beneficiary in the holds and saves categories on top of his respectable career 8.28 K/9.

 

  • Yangervis Solarte hits 20 home runs for the first time in his professional career, and finishes as a top 100 hitter.  

 

Yangervis Solarte has been creeping up fantasy draft boards all spring, but has remained my sleeper of the year. The 29-year-old is primed for a breakout season as he will have an everyday role for the first time in his career. He totaled 15 home runs and 71 RBIs in just 109 games last season, which would have put him on pace for 22 home runs and 105 RBIs over a 162-game span. The everyday third basemen will bat at the top half of the San Diego Padres order ahead of Wil Myers and company, which will positively impact Solarte’s run production.

10 Bold Predictions for the 2017 MLB Season

Gerrit Cole will return to Cy Young form in 2017. (Courtesy of warningtrackpower.com)

  • Gerrit Cole will be a top 5 cy young candidate behind a sub-three ERA and 200 strike outs.

 

Gerrit Cole finished as a top five Cy Young finisher and top twenty MVP candidate in 2015. He endured a tough 2016 campaign, where he only managed to start twenty-one games, resulting in a career worst ERA, WHIP, and K/9 due to a lingering rib injury.

Cole is only one year removed from having 19 wins and a 2.60 ERA, and with his injury officially gone by the way side, the twenty-six-year-old a great chance to return to form in 2017. I fully believe he will rejoin the Cy Young conversation once again.

 

  • Christian Yelich will put together a 25/25 campaign for the first time in his career.

 

Yelich had his first breakout year in 2016, reaching career highs of 21 home runs and 98 RBIs. The 25-year-old has a career .293 batting average and is averaging 19 steals per 162 games. He is a perennial 20 home run and 20 steal-candidate, as he has stolen over 20 bases three times in his professional career. The Miami Marlins three-hitter will be a candidate to win MVP as well as the batting title in 2017.

10 Bold Predictions for the 2017 MLB Season

Clayton Kershaw looks to return to Cy Young form in 2017 (Credit: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images).

  • Clayton Kershaw has the best year of his career, winning the NL Cy Young and MVP behind a sub-2 ERA and 300 plus strike outs.

 

Clayton Kershaw remains the golden standard of major league pitching. He has eight consecutive seasons with an ERA in the twos and a career K/9 of 9.8. If the 28-year-old retired today, he would be a first ballot Hall of Famer.

Kershaw has endured some adversity over the last year as he has dealt with a serious back injury as well as a tough playoff loss in the NLCS. This extra motivation will keep Kershaw above all other pitchers in 2017.

 

  • Andrew Benintendi will not only win the Rookie of the Year, but will also be a top 25 finalist in the MVP race.

 

Andrew Benintendi, has an uncertain potential. His MLB sample size is a mere 118 plate appearances. The former Golden Spikes award winner is a five-tool player who has batted .313, .312, and .295 in three seasons at five different levels, including the MLB.

The 22-year-old will begin the year batting second, although may slide back to third if manager John Farrell feels like he needs to shake things up. Batting ahead of Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Hanley Ramirez will allow him to become an extremely productive player. Benintendi has also put on 25 pounds of muscle this offseason, giving him some boosted power for the upcoming year. A .300 batting average, 25 home runs, 100 runs, and 20 steals isn’t out of the question for the rookie.

 

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