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Potential Keeper League targets for 2018

The 2017 season is coming to a close. My season has been a bit of a disappointment as it’s looking like this will be the first one in a long time where I will not be bringing home any hardware. Even so, I fielded playoff and/or highly competitive teams in eight of the nine leagues; hopefully my advice has helped you to do the same and maybe even win a league or two.

Since the season is just about over I’ll shift my focus to keeper and dynasty league talk, as will most of my collegues here at Fantasy Assembly. Today I’ll look at some trade targets you may want to consider this winter – one potentially undervalued stud, a breakout pitcher not may may believe in, and two name brand players with disappointing seasons that fantasy owners may have soured on.

Anthony Rizzo – Cubs

I feel like this guy is the safest player in fantasy baseball. In the words of the immortal Rodney Dangerfield, this guy gets no respect. Maybe that’s not true. He does get some respect, but maybe not enough. All the guy does is guarantee a crazy high floor with legitimate upside to be the best hitter in fantasy. He may have some extra sizzle in leagues that allow him to retain 2b eligibility.

With a rise and influx of new talent at first basemen this year, I’ve seen Rizzo get overlooked a bit. Even in expert mock drafts for 2018, Rizzo has been going late in the 2nd or even early in the 3rd round. Goldy, Votto, and sometimes Freddie Freeman get drafted in front of him. When we do rankings in January, Rizzo will remain my #1 first baseman in both dynasty and redraft based on his age, team, floor, and upside.

I would definitely see if you can steal Rizzo from an owner that has either waivered some, or maybe from an owner that lucked into getting Bellinger, Hoskins, Smoak, Alonso or Shaw off waivers this year. He still has name value so he won’t come cheap, but it is worth inquiring about.

Trevor Bauer – Indians

I recommended Trevor Bauer a few weeks ago as a potential waiver add, and think the former first round pick may have legitimately broken out this year. He has the pedigree, electric stuff, and there is a narrative that I believe. Most of what I said then still applies, and all of it suggests that all his gains are for real.

Bauer started throwing his breaking pitches more. The results were startlingly positive, and a similar change is what turned Kluber into super Kluber. This may have turned Bauer from a streaming option into a top 25-30 type pitcher. Since he has teased us before there will be some skepticism presenting a buy-low opportunity, or you might be able to get him as a second player in a larger trade.

To give you an idea of how high I am on him; I am considering keeping Bauer over names like Porcello, Lynn, Fulmer (injured, but still), Quintana, and Bundy. Most of those names are safe top 30-40 types, yet I would take the chance that Bauer has arrived and will outperform all of them.

Gerrit Cole – Pirates

Gerrit Cole screwed me in multiple points leagues over the past few weeks. I targeted him as a bounce-back this year and was mostly right. He didn’t return to top-10 form, but minus a few hiccups he was generally a must start kind of pitcher all year. Cole finished up as a top 25-ish type in almost all scoring types.

Cole is finally striking people out. Even when he was getting shelled, he was at least not giving you negative point starts thanks to an 8.61 K/9 – a full point higher than last season. Over the last 30 days Cole has struck out the 7th most batters of any pitcher. The narrative coming out of Pittsburgh is that the coaching staff told him to stop throwing his changeup. Since he did that a little over a month ago, the strikeouts have rained down.

Cole has a tremendous pedigree and even delivered one top 10 season a few years back. He’s still young and can dial it up to near triple digits on the radar gun. His walk rate remains solid, and the soft contact rate inched up for the third straight season – third behind Corey Kluber and Clayton Kershaw.

Despite the somewhat solid season, Cole was frustrating to own at times and even more frustrating to watch. I am willing to bet that some of his owners are fed up with him making this a classic buy-low. If he can maintain the gain in strikeouts, and I believe he can, combined with solid control and high soft contact in a pitchers park with a solid defense behind him – we could see a borderline top-10 pitcher once again in the future. Everyone loves an ace, but the ones you can get for pennies on the dollar are that much sweeter.

Kyle Seager – Mariners

Kyle Seager had the reputation of Mr. Consistency coming into this year. Two things happened. First of all, he disappointed with long stretches where his production was barely replacement level. Second is third base has become an insanely deep position. That depth left very little margin for error, and any drop in production – like this season – would cause his value to plummet. Even when Seager has been good he has a tendency to feel like the most boring own in fantasy and it doesn’t feel like there’s much upside.

If you look at Seager’s underlying numbers and batted ball profile, he is basically the same guy he’s always been. His BABIP dropped about 20 points, which probably hurt his average a bit. His K rate stayed at around 16%. And while his walk rate dropped a little, it was still near 9%. He hit the ball about as hard as he did last year too (35.7%), and hit the ball in the air a bit more, which generally spikes a guy’s power. We’ve seen this kind of adjustment (the increase in fly balls) change the career paths of guys like Justin Turner and Daniel Murphy.

Seager recovered some in the second half and managed to hit 25 bombs with 84 RBI. If he recovers some of the batting average, as some of the underlying metrics suggest he could, a return to .280 with 30 home runs and 80 plus runs and RBIs is his upside. That’s close to what he did in the three seasons prior to 2017. Some may see his floor as boring, but that consistency is what got him ranked as one of the top third basemen to target once the big four were off the board.

I know third base is deep, but I really like the idea of trying to buy cheap on “Corey’s big brother.” I think he’ll return to form next year.He may be boring to some, and few may value owning what could be the 7th best third baseman in the league, but the upside puts him higher than guy you hope may repeat like Travis Shaw or Mike Moustakas. His season numbers left a bad taste in the mouth of a lot of owners, and the available talent on waivers this year may have made him expendable. Take advantage of that and reap the rewards.

*****

Best of luck to all of our readers. I hope you all bring home the trophies that I missed out on this year. Can’t wait for the 2018 draft season – just six short months away!

 

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Mike Sheehan
Comedian, Powerlifter, and most importantly a Cum Laude graduate of the fantasy baseball school of hard knocks. Double major in points and categories with a minor in roto. Happy to be doing my Postgraduate work here at the Fantasy Assembly.
Mike Sheehan

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