Hello there fantasy baseball fans! We are at the height of drafting season, so I hope this article is timely. We read a whole lot about fantasy baseball sleepers during our draft prep, but once you get to March those sleepers have been exposed to the hoi palloi and are now the players you have to reach for. Luis Castillo, I’m looking your way. I love you, but I can’t take you ahead of Jose Quintana.
However, as some sleepers rise, the popularity of other players wanes, and this gives you savvy fantasy baseball players the opportunity to make value picks. The names you are about to read about are not hot properties at this time, but I see a chance for profit. Read on to find out why…
It is important to put recency bias aside when making decisions, and we talk a big game about it in fantasy baseball. But it is clearly hanging over some of our heads when we are clicking draft. For instance, we all know Yu Darvish went in the tank in the playoffs and this is part of the reason why he is being ranked as a SP2 and drafted behind Carlo Carrasco and Zack Greinke.
Those guys are fine pitchers and worthy back-end aces, but Darvish’s upside is greater and I don’t see his floor being any lower – his last two starts be damned. (Plus, it appears he was tipping his pitches, which makes those starts a little more dismissable.) He gets a full year in the National League in front of the Cubs defense. If he had just stayed in Texas and missed the playoffs he’d be quite the hot property. As it is he is primed to put up his best season and no one even knows it.
- A few others like this: Alex Wood, Greg Holland, Justin Smoak.
On the Flip Side
We are forgetting about the injury risk and heavily managed workload of Lance McCullers because of his breakout performance in the playoffs. Similarly, I love Masahiro Tanaka, but he was up and down and unownable for stretches. I was hoping for a discount. Speaking of not getting a discount – those who are buying the big September clearly haven’t jumped on the Byron Buxton bandwagon before. I think you are in for a rude awakening.
He’s no longer a first round talent, but even when he was Adam Jones never got the respect he deserved. The big reason was his approach. He is a free swinger and was never eager to take a walk. But it is the approach that works for him. He is sliding down draft boards now that he is in his thirties. He doesn’t run and he is a good bet for a DL stint. While his upside isn’t what it once was, he’s as good a bet for 25 home runs (7 years in a row) and 85 RBI as anyone. And in spite of his low OBP, his batting average has never fallen below .265.
- More low OBP values: Adam Duvall, Roughed Odor, Trea Turner. OK not Trea Turner, he is not getting penalized for anything and he is the cat’s pajamas.
On the Other Hand
Matt Carpenter has a power surge a few years back, but it is a mistake to chase after it now. He has health issues and his fantasy floor is overstated in spite of his high walk total.
A few years ago Ryan Braun got caught cheating and played the victim. No one wanted the guy, but he returned to second round status in short order and stayed there for some time. He is still relevant as an OF3. We wanted to write off A-Rod well before we finally could. These are just two players who won’t win Mr. Personality, but did help people win fantasy leagues. Who is this year’s bad guy buying opportunity?
I’m holding my nose looking at Miguel Sano. Sano is currently under investigation for assaulting a female photographer, which is terrible. He may be missing some time this season as a result. He was also out of shape when he arrived at camp. I know we are supposed to dismiss these spring training physical fitness reports, but they do influence some drafters’ thought processes. When Sano is falling, you will want to seize the opportunity to land a Khris Davis clone at third base. There’s a lot of baggage but a lot of talent too.
- Some other disreputable characters who may present buying opportunities: Yasiel Puig, Aroldis Chapman, Eric Hosmer, Daniel Murphy.
On the Flip Side
If you are a “good Twitter follow” like Charlie Blackmon, Justin Verlander, or Brandon McCarthy, I feel like you get a boost in the rankings from stat guys and hardened journalists alike. At least Verlander made MLB wear it with the juiced balls; the media fascination with guys like Todd Frazier astounds me. Beware of leadership types like Frazier who don’t get penalized enough for their inconsistent ways. Oh, and any Caucasian Cardinal is fantasy snake oil.
ONE SUBPAR YEAR
Kyle Seager is as reliable as they come and was regularly recognized for his power and consistency. And actually he had a typical Kyle Seager year in 2017 power-wise. The problem is that power exploded throughout the league while Seager stayed the same. Meanwhile his average declined to .249. As a result, Seager is sinking into the middle rounds, where he is a solid choice. He’s hit 25 home runs for 4 years in a row. While he feels like he’s been around a while, he is only 30, so I think five straight is likely. His average was a career low, so I expect a 15 to 25 point rebound. He’s proven to be durable and is a staple in a pretty solid lineup. If you miss out on the first tier of 3B, Seager is a fine fallback option.
- More bouncebacks include: Jon Lester, Johnny Cueto, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez.
On the Other Hand
Elvis Andrus has been stable for several seasons, but last year he made power gains that he is unlikely to retain. As with any other season, we find him to be a useful player, but not someone to target.
Young players are fulfilling their promise sooner than ever, so I am not saying that you want to ignore youth entirely. But plenty of players are fighting off the effects of father time. Nelson Cruz and Edwin Encarnacion have the numbers of second rounders. In 2018 they are 40 home run threats at a fourth round price. On the pitching side. Rich Hill reinvented himself a couple of years ago, and while he is never a safe bet for 200 innings, he is expected to pitch well when he is out there. Starters in general are not throwing as many innings so Hill’s occasional absences aren’t going to hurt you much.
- Other Oldies but Goodies include Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler, Robinson Cano, CC Sabathia.
On the Other Hand
Rhys Hoskins impressed immediately when he was called up last year, but he had a rough September. It’s hard to say what this year holds, but I have seen him going ahead of Jose Abreu, who is an established fantasy stud. Hoskins may have marginally more upside than Abreu, but he presents a whole lot more risk. I’m also apprehensive about the half-season pitching wonders like Luke Weaver and Luis Castillo going at SP2 prices.
These are just a few of the ways you can find value. Some others are…
- I don’t worry so much about injury risks, especially in shallow leagues. The age of the workhorse is over so a guy like James Paxton can be an ace for much of the year and he won’t be as many innings behind as guys like him used to be.
- Sometimes injuries during the previous year can hide a breakout or improvement. This is the case with Freddie Freeman who was taking advantage of his new home park. If he gets the plate appearance this year he will be a consensus first rounder next March.
- I like good hitters on bad teams. Take a look at Nick Castellanos’s second half numbers last season. The Tigers had shipped off J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton and he still was filling up the box scores. You can also check out the Padres, the Rays, and anyone besides Byron Buxton in the sneaky good Twins lineup.
Maybe you guys have your own ideas about where to find you value picks. I’m always happy to hear from you. Whether you agree or disagree, I hope your plans work out and I wish you the best of luck in 2018.
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