Posted by: Michael Zakhar
Hello my loyal readers. I am happy to present to you my 2016 Dream Team. Last year if you took a peek at my 2015 Dream Team, you were thrilled with Manny Machado, content with Ryan Braun, and upset with me for Danny Santana, Alex Wood, and *gulp* Ryan Zimmerman. See why I called you loyal? Hopefully this dream team won’t have as much of a nightmare element to it when all is said and done.
I’ve written before that Yasmani Grandal is a favorite of mine for 2015; his numbers before the shoulder injury were the equal of any catcher you’d care to name. Naysayers have pointed out that he has yet to crack 50 RBIs or runs, and I find that pathetic to read. He will be low in the order to begin the season, but he can move up just as he did last year and put those benchmarks in the rear-view. (If he puts whatever is wrong with his forearm in the rear-view). Or just take Matt Wieters instead. Oh, his elbow is barking? See, this is why we don’t spend big bucks on catchers.
With the rest of the lineup I’m recommending it seems unsporting to place top 15 option Wellington Castillo here, so let’s go deeper into the bargain bin. Robinson Chirinos is in a good lineup, a good home park, and has displayed extra base power for two seasons running. He won’t get you 600 at bats, but he will do enough over the course of the season to not kill you. What more do you want from the second catcher?
First-Third Base / Corner Infield
The closer we get to the start of the season, the more I think Miguel Cabrera is going to make his owners very happy. The days of 40 home runs are gone, but he is the defending batting champ in the middle of a great lineup, and he is just 33 years old. If you don’t have Miguel, you will want a top of the line 1B on your squad.
The scuttlebutt early in the season was that we wanted to grab one of the top 4 third basemen because the drop-off was so severe, but once I got into drafting mode I found that you can find a perfectly serviceable third baseman in the middle rounds: Kyle Seager, Maikel Franco, Adrian Beltre. I prefer combinations Like Cabrera/Seager or Rizzo/Beltre to Donaldson/Pujols or Bryant/Hosmer. I really like Franco and Beltre, but the dream team is going to go for value even a little further down the ranks with Evan Longoria. He is the last option that I feel ok about, and while he has let us down time and time again, the price might finally be right.
I don’t like to wait around too long before I fill the corner infield position. Brandon Belt is the 14th first baseman off the board and his primed to have a breakout season. After a brutal start last year, Belt was on his way to a breakout. A concussion brought an end to those hopes, and perhaps I should be more concerned that the effects will linger, but Belt is in an underrated lineup, stings the ball all over the field, and will bring you joy this year (hopefully).
Second Base / Shortstop / Middle Infield
Starlin Castro was dreadful for most of 2015, and it seemed like he would benefit from a change of scenery – what with the glut of offensive talent on the Cubs. He got one, and will now play second base for the Yankees. He will be batting low in the order to start, but that could change quickly when injuries strike (With Ellsbury, Gardner, Beltran, etc. I feel comfortable saying “when”). He seems revived this spring and has always had talent; if he taps into it he will be a bargain.
I hesitate recommending any player from Oakland because it seems like they have two solid backups at every position, but I like Marcus Semien a lot. His defense is concerning, however, he was focusing on getting better as the year went on; perhaps that impacted his inconsistent performance with the bat. Semien will be worth his draft day price if he simply repeats what he did last year, but I think there might be more here than we see at first glance.
Hey, we have to pinch pennies somewhere, and I choose to do it in the middle infield. There is no need to overpay for anyone at second base when productive players like Neil Walker and Brandon Phillips are there to be swooped up in the late teens. Yangervis Solarte is my choice from the dollar bin. Petco is no longer an offensive dead zone and Solarte will be in the middle of the lineup with plenty of opportunities to exceed his draft day cost.
It is debatable whether Mookie Betts is worthy of your first round pick this year, but there will be no such debate next season. He’s a top 10 or so right now, and will cement his status as a five-category stud in 2016.
Many of us have spoken about the need for speed this year. Rather than pay for Dee Gordon, Billy Hamilton, or even Billy Burns, I am grabbing Delino DeShields whenever I can. Last year he delivered 25 steals and 83 runs in only 121 games, and a look at his minor league track record shows even more impressive speed numbers. Plus he is not a total zero in power. He also has a good batting eye that can help him hold onto the leadoff spot for the Texas Rangers – not a bad place to be.
I didn’t think I was high on Jay Bruce, but it appears other people are really down on him. The shine as a potential outfield anchor is clearly gone, but he is a lock for 20+ home runs. He’ll never help your average, but that is built into the price tag. He has earned your hatred, but he is worth a buy.
We all know the Cardinals get all the breaks and everything goes right for them. So explain to me why Stephen Piscotty is going outside of the top 50 outfielders? Piscotty showed few holes in his game last year and is certainly worth that price. If he gets hurt for some reason, just pick up likely replacement Tommy Pham, who will probably join Betts in the 20-20 club just because he is a Redbird.
Aaron Hicks will not play every day to start the season, but as I noted when discussing Castro, injuries will create an opportunity for him to show what he can do. Last year he made great strides with the bat, and he has always flashed speed. Yankee Stadium will allow him to put up better power numbers than he has in the past.
Last year I was torn between Shane Victorino and ARod for this spot — I did not choose wisely. But like ARod, I believe in second chances! It is great to have the opportunity to rebuild my reputation and make good to everyone in this space. So what the hell: ARod, you are on the dream team! He fizzled down the stretch last season, but he still has the park, the lineup, and the power to do the job. ARod is just one of a few DH only players who are primed to give you plus production for a song.
You may have read earlier this year that I recommended drafting two aces, but that doesn’t mean I’m not cheap. Noah Syndergaard hasn’t pitched a full season yet, but I believe in his abilities and he will be an ace in 2016. Luckily for us, he is going at SP2 prices. His velocity is off the charts and he has shown the ability to overpower major league hitters and has the moxie to keep doing it.
Speaking of cheap aces: I get the injury concerns, but 150 innings of Masahiro Tanaka makes him worth whatever he costs. The fact that the Yankees are extra careful with him is to the benefit of his fantasy owners. And let’s face it, every pitcher is an injury risk, so let’s lean toward ones with elite stuff.
Sometimes it takes a little while for young pitchers to put things together, but they’ve been putting it together more and more quickly. There aren’t many young pitchers more promising than Taijuan Walker, who delivered stellar numbers in the second half and is my breakout starter this year.
Speaking of starters who put up stellar numbers in the second half, Justin Verlander came back in a big way last season. Some of this can be attributed to being fully recovered from his injury, that along with his willingness to rely on his high fastball. Put it all together and we don’t have the first-rounder of old, but a really solid contributor to any competitive staff.
You could probably guess from last week’s article that I kind of like Yordano Ventura as a value pick. He ticked off fantasy owners and some opposing players, but he was lights out down the stretch. I’ll place my bet on a guy with Ventura’s stuff and Kansas City’s elite defense behind him.
Staying in Kansas City, Ian Kennedy can be had for peanuts. As I mentioned, San Diego was not the pitcher’s paradise it was in the past and Kennedy kept giving up homers. However, he continued to rack up K’s and will be supported by a much better defense this year.
Zach Britton’s grounder-getting ways were firmly established when he added strikeouts last year. Sometimes we fantasy players have long memories and can expect him to revert to who he was when he was a starter, but those days are long gone. Looks like a top-5 closer to me at a top-10 price.
There are injury concerns, he is in Colorado, and he does not have “proven closer cache” really, but when Jake McGee pitches, he dominates. The Rockies gave up a very good player to get him, and I expect him to take the ninth inning and run. He is no less safe than Brad Zeigler and Santiago Cassilla types, but can deliver loads more.
Now that Brad Boxberger has gone down, Shawn Tolleson is the incumbent closer I expect to lose his job first, if he even has it to begin with. Drafters are forgetting that Tolleson did not have the job at the conclusion of last season. He has battled injuries all spring which cannot have helped matters. Keone Kela is the sexy pick, but Sam Dyson picked up the last save for the Rangers, and I expect him to pick up a bunch more in 2016. He throws hard, gets grounders, and has no platoon splits. A great last round flyer.
What do you think of this squad? I wish I had a few more top-end players, but I’m trying to be realistic about cost. I know, what’s the fun in that. Who is on your 2016 Dream Team? You can’t have more Yankees on your team than I do! I’m looking forward to reading about who you like in the comments.
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