March 8, 2021

Fantasy Baseball: Sleepers and busts to fix your draft

Welcome back to Fantasy Baseball coverage for 2013 at District Sports Page. I apologize for not being around to help with your drafts, but giving away some of my draft ideas and plans did not help me in my local drafts last season. So, I’m back now after all the drafts have been completed to help you with this introductory column and weekly waiver wire columns. So, you’ve drafted your team and you aren’t happy. I’m here to help.

Hopefully, you took to heart the advice I gave last year with regard to draft strategy here and here. Did I change anything from last year to this year? Yes, and here is what I changed:

Two buck chuck

In my budget in past years, I usually made sure to have two or more $1 players in my auction leagues. I found this would leave me hamstrung as the endgame came around. So, this year, I budgeted $2 for a few positions (more than I usually budgeted at $1) hoping that I could better control the late round picks.

Did it work? I believe so (but of course time will tell). By budgeting a bit more for the end game, I was (in my 11 team NL-only league) I was able to snag Evan Gattis as my second catcher for $4 and Trevor Rosenthal for $3 (to back up my $4 Mitchell Boggs). I still ended up with some $1 players (Chris Heisey, Scott Hairston, Nick Hundley, Arodys Vizcaino and Jimmy Henderson), but I was able to grab two players who have a tremendous upside for this year and beyond.

Injuries

If you have DL spots in your league, make sure they are full all the time. You have the spots, you should use them. You’ve paid for them, put players in there.  You can use the MLB site to track injuries (though it does not allow for sorting) to identify specific targets. CBS Sports also has a listing and their commissioner tool offers a way to sort through the position, status and type.

There are obvious names on there that will be able to help you later in the season (with a couple of notes):

Chase Headley
Curtis Granderson
Hanley Ramirez
Derek Jeter
David Ortiz
Jason Motte – I have suspicion we won’t see much of Mr. Motte this year. When I first heard the news, I immediately thought of two words – Tommy John. I’d pay extra for Mitchell Boggs and Trevor Rosenthal. Also, if you want to bet with me, I’ll take the under on one inning pitched this season for Motte.
Mark Teixeira – though, I wouldn’t touch him with your ten foot pole. I put the over under on plate appearances for him this year at 150 and I’ll take the under.
Corey Hart – Notoriously undervalued. Does nothing extraordinarily well, but provides value in all categories.
Matt Garza
Brandon Beachy
Adam Eaton

Beyond the obvious names, who can contribute to your team later in the season, but might be flying under the radar?

Danny Duffy – He is due back around mid-season and should be able to slot into the Royals rotation for the stretch run.

Avisail Garcia – Garcia made the major league roster Sort of. He was placed on the 15 day DL and as a result could be stashed on your roster. Garcia is an insurance policy for a Tigers outfield with an unproven starter (Andy Dirks) and an aging center fielder (Torii Hunter). Garcia is a sneaky stash on a great offense.

Cory Luebke – I’d monitor Luebke before adding as he was shut down from his throwing program for a while. Make sure that he is progressing before adding him. He could have some value especially pitching in San Diego.

Hiroyuki Nakajima – Pass. He’s not made for major leagues and won’t have a career at all. No need to roster him unless you are in a league made up only of Oakland A’s players.

Martin Perez – Perez’s luck ran out in spring training after breaking his arm on a come backer. I think he gets the chance at the fifth starter role for the Rangers as soon as he’s healthy. They currently have Nick Tepesch in that spot and I don’t hold any hope that he can keep it for any length of time. Oh, he’s only 22 years old.

Arodys Vizcaino – He should return sometime in August and he could be the closer for the Cubs by that point (having dealt or release Carlos Marmol and traded Kyuji Fujikawa after building up value in him as a closer). Vizcaino is still only 22 years old.

Penny stocks

As I did last season, I will leave you with a list of players who have a modicum of an iota of a chance to provide some value this year and no one is drafting these players. I’ve tried to focus on players who will make the final 25-man roster, but there are certainly a couple of players on here who will start in the minors. Last year, I identified Todd Frazier, Jordan Pacheco and Robbie Ross. Each provided more than an iota of support to many a winning fantasy franchise. They weren’t the best player by any stretch, but certainly provided solid statistics.

Even though your draft is most likely done, these guys are probably hanging around somewhere for you pick them up. We will use Fantasy Pros’ consolidated ADP rankings.

Catcher: Catcher is a deep position this year. In fact, in the NL, there are so many catchers that should return positive value; you can find guys all over the waiver wire. I’ll go beyond the top 32 catchers drafted and pull out Nick Hundley in San Diego. He has the starting job by default with Yasmani Grandal’s suspension for 50 games. In 2011, he slashed to a 288/347/477/824 line over 307 PAs. Then, 2012 happened and injuries crushed his value. Now healthy, Hundley scorched Spring Training to the tune of 1.064 OPS over 53 ABs. He did strike out 14 times, so he’s not a great choice in head to head points’ league, but he’s going to have 50 games to establish himself as the starting catcher in San Diego.

If Evan Gattis is eligible at catcher in your league, grab him. He may not be able to field well, but he sure can hit. He’s going to be given a chance early to establish himself as a backup catcher. If he can fill that role well enough, he could stick even when Brian McCann returns.

First baseman: Old guys get no love in fantasy baseball and this year is no exception. Lance Berkman moves to Texas on a one-year deal and is just one year removed from a 31 HR 94 RBI season with a .959 OPS. Sure, he’s old and could get hurt, but where are you going to get this kind of upside from this late in a draft? If he’s available in any league (even the shallowest of leagues) he should be on a roster today. He was a H2H points league stud for many years. He’s even more valuable in those leagues.

Digging deeper I like a little know power hitter named Nate Freiman. He’s a Rule 5 draft pick out of the Padres organization this season. He was drafted by the Houston Astros and then waived and claimed by the Oakland Athletics. The A’s have shown they will platoon late into the night as four of the nine positions are currently noted as platoons at MLB Depth Charts (now on Baseball Prospectus). He’s shown above average power in the minors and great on base skills, but he’s been a bit old for each level along the way. This may be his one and only chance to prove his worth. He’s worth a $1 bid in the deepest of leagues.

Sitting at AAA is Cuban import Leslie Anderson (probably also an outfielder in your league) of the Tampa Bay Rays. Joe Maddon remarked early in camp that Anderson was a different player. He’s 30 years old and will sit at AAA until the Mad Tinkerer needs another bat for the bench.

Second baseman: Stop me if you’ve heard this before, Brian Roberts is healthy. Well, if you’ve only been playing fantasy baseball for the last three seasons then you haven’t heard it. He looks healthy and says he’s healthy. He made it through spring training with nary a scratch. He was a stud second baseman for many years as he regularly hit 40+ doubles, stole 30+ bases and hit .280+. The Orioles are going to ease him back into the lineup as they have him slated to hit ninth. He’s worth the gamble this late.

Third baseman: I see a little of Edwin Encarnacion in the Atlanta Braves Juan Francisco. Both are free-swinging Dominican third basemen who spent a few years in the minors for the Reds. For some reason, his platoon-mate Chris Johnson (who is on the short side of the platoon) is being drafted ahead of him. Will Francisco be EE? No. Do I have an unexplainable affinity for EE and anyone who reminds me of him? Yes. That said, he’s got the job and he’s got an opportunity. He’s got a huge contact problem, but the power upside is there.

Shortstop: Jean Segura didn’t light the world on fire last year as he slashed 264/321/331 last year in 163 PAs for the Brewers. However, he does have the prospect pedigree in the recent past to assume there is likely more to come from Segura. Not every rookie will arrive on the scene like Bryce Harper or Mike Trout. Segura holds a career .367 OBP in the minor leagues and offers 25+ SB skill for deeper leagues.

Outfield: Beyond the top 100 outfielders sits a 25 year old first baseman playing right field for the Minnesota Twins. He’s had some strikeout issues in the minors, but a full year’s worth of plate appearances could lead to a 20 HR season out of someone that nobody is drafting. Chris Parmelee is worth in look in deeper leagues. His fellow Twins’ outfielder Darin Mastroianni is also worth a gamble based on his ability to steal bases. He’s a hedge on Aaron Hicks developing at the major league level after skipping AAA when Hicks development has been relatively slow.

Most people see the Houston Astros as a fantasy wasteland. I see them as an opportunity. Justin Maxwell squeaks in at #101 on the Fantasy Pros average and he’s that perfect blend of power and speed (think Michael Saunders of 2012) to hit enough to keep him in the lineup so that he can flash his plus-plus defense in center field

Deeper in the Astros outfield we find Brandon Barnes and Rick Ankiel in another platoon*. Ankiel is all power and nothing else (unless he finds his fastball again). Barnes is a sneaky play (on the weaker side of the platoon). They are both in the lineup because Fernando Martinez is hurt. Fernando Martinez will always be hurt. He has a degenerative condition in his knees that’s not going away. Barnes has shown good on base skills in the minors and could contribute a bit in the SB department as he had 22 over three levels last year.

* I assume that the move Platoon will be remade as a baseball moving starring Brad Pitt in the lead role as either Billy Beane again or Jeffrey Luhnow. Both the Astros and A’s are probably going to attempt to platoon everyone they can..maybe they will go with home and road managers…why not?

Will Jayson Werth stay healthy? Will Adam LaRoche? Neither are bastions of health and the potential beneficiary is Tyler Moore. Moore had 10 HRs in 171 PAs in the majors in 2012. He had back to back 30+ HR seasons in 2010 and 2011. He strikes out a ton so he’s a batting average risk, but regular playing time could allow him to run into 20+ HRs for a team that has World Series aspirations.

Khristopher Davis spells his first name incorrectly, but I won’t hold that against him. The Brewers can use some power on their bench and Davis will likely provide that.

Chris Heisey can play CF. Shin Soo Choo will play CF, but it’s unclear if he can. Ryan Ludwick is old. Heisey has skills, but he’s hidden on the bench. Grab him and see what comes of the Reds outfield. They have a ton of offensive weapons and a friendly ballpark so take the risk.

Starting pitchers: Jake Arrieta’s ERA underperformed his FIP by over two runs last season. He certainly seemed to be just a wee bit unlucky. Arrieta is no longer young, but perhaps he’s matured a bit. He was effective in 17 1/3 innings in Spring Training though he did walk eight in those innings. He’s got a chance against a weakened AL East to provide league average production.

Arrieta’s rotation-mate Chris Tillman ended his season on a high note. Many of have said that it’s a fluke. However, the improvement was driven by an increase in velocity and refined slider control. He’s nicely covered by Chris Cwik at Fangraphs here. I’d pay the extra buck for him.

Can John Lackey still pitch? If he can still pitch can he stay healthy? I’m not sure he has a chance of doing either well. The sixth starter for the Red Sox is Allen Webster (and not the electric-armed Rubby de la Rosa) in my opinion. Webster showed this Spring Training that the Red Sox may have gotten a viable piece to the major league puzzle all while dumping tons of salary on the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Red Sox moved his position on the mound and it looks like he can now attack hitters in myriad ways that he couldn’t before. He’s got the upside of a #2 starter at the major league level. Monitor him at AAA.

Vance Worley was great last year. Until he wasn’t. And he wasn’t because of an injury. He attempted to pitch through elbow problems and couldn’t do it. He had surgery and looks to be 100% healthy. He won’t win a lot of games for the Minnesota Twins, but should offer support in ERA and WHIP as he pitches in a friendly home ballpark.

Joe Blanton isn’t attractive…as a fantasy pitcher. Until you dig a little deeper. He moves from an unfriendly ballpark in Philadelphia to a much friendlier one in Anaheim which should help with Blanton’s biggest flaw – the long ball. The Angels should be a good, not great team this season and he should pick up 13 to 15 wins and be just a bit better than league average in ERA and WHIP. There’s value there that no one else can see.

Relief pitchers: Sergio Romo’s arm will fall off this season. No, I’m not a doctor, but Romo throws sliders more often than an Applebee’s waitress. Those sliders wreak havoc on a young man’s elbow. And Romo isn’t a young man. So, I’d target Santiago Casilla (no, let’s not speak about Brian Wilson) as one of the most likely late inning relievers to pick up saves. He’s likely floating around your waiver wire somewhere.

Going back to the Houston Astros’ well one more time, Rule 5 pickup Josh Fields could see some save opportunities. There isn’t a reason that the Astros would keep Jose Veras in the closer’s role all season (or that he has the skills to keep it). Fields has closer worthy skills and may have an opportunity in the second half of the season to showcase them after Veras is dealt or loses the job.

I love Junichi Tazawa. I touted him all the way back in Week 2 of last season. I think he’s the best pitcher in the Boston Red Sox bullpen. Joel Hanrahan ended last season swerving all over the place and looks to have continued that into spring training. Andrew Bailey is a china doll. Daniel Bard is in AA. Koji Uehara seems to prefer being the setup man to the main man, but he certainly has the skills to step into the role. Tazawa will hold value now and it would just increase if he moves to the closer’s role.

Finally, Kyuji Fujikawaa of the Chicago Cubs is a better pitcher now than Carlos Marmol can ever hope to be. Pay more for Fujikawa than Marmol.

Chris Garosi is a contributor for District Sports Page. One of his favorite sports memories is witnessing Wilson Alvarez’s no-hitter at Memorial Stadium in 1991. Chris has played fantasy sports since the pre-Internet days and participates in any league for any sport to which he’s invited. You can follow him on Twitter at @chrisgarosi.

About Chris Garosi

Chris Garosi is a Contributor to District Sports Page. He has played fantasy sports since paper, pencil and fax machines were key components in every league. He’s written about fantasy sports since 2012 for District Sports Page, TheFantasyFix.com, Scout Fantasy and RotoCurve. He’s even available to you via DraftValet. He has his MBA from The Smith School at the University of Maryland. One of his favorite sports memories is witnessing Wilson Alvarez’s no-hitter at Memorial Stadium in 1991. You can follow him on Twitter at @chrisgarosi

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