Honing Down On The Home Stretch

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening – whichever is applicable to you. For those of us with those pesky adult responsibilities, fantasy draft prep can be somewhat capped. While the time may vary from owner to owner, we can all agree there’s never enough time to cover it all. Knowing that the prep time is limited, one must choose to focus on areas they find most important.

I’m willing to make an ass out of both of us, and assume most work on personal rankings. These owners really dive into the upper-echelon of the talent pool and attempt to differentiate between the Adrian Gonzalez’s of the world and the Freddie Freeman’s. They rank, re-rank, move up and drop down after each and every buzz word coming out of camp. When draft day arrives they are well-versed in the Top 250 players and likely prepared for the draft at hand.
I choose to utilize my time beyond the crowd sourced rankings in hopes of finding players who could emerge onto people’s radars.

My reasoning for this is two-fold.

  • First and foremost: while others are drafting players who’s value is based more on playing time than talent, I’ll be focused on players whose talent or skill set suggest they have been incorrectly valued.
  • Secondly: this approach gets me prepared for the inevitable task of finding roster replacements/upgrades on the Waiver Wire. Knowing what type of talent available hitters/pitchers posses helps me quickly make the decision as to the legitimacy of a recent five game stretch as a hitter, or a nice 2 game run on the bump.

With that being said, here are 5 Starting Pitchers and 5 Hitters with an NFBC ADP outside of the Top 300 who I will likely have my eyes on come draft day.

PITCHERS

Jesse Hahn (341): You can’t hide from the potential injury risk associated with Hahn; it’s likely the main culprit behind his lackluster ADP. With that being said, this is the type of price you’re willing to take a chance on. Before being shut down in July, Hahn posted a 3.35 ERA and 1.17 WHIP over 16 starts with a 52.6 GB% and showed improved control with an improved 2.33 BB/9. The biggest knock on Hahn (aside from injury of course) would be his limited K numbers; 5.96 K/9 isn’t exactly desirable when league average is over 7. However, if you look at his minor league track record it’s not a stretch to suggest Hahn could develop into an above league average Pitcher in terms of K/9. Should he manage to stay healthy and achieve the K gains you could be looking at a Top 50 SP.

Matt Shoemaker (424): Shoemaker was a very popular late round selection in drafts last season. After a stellar 2014 Shoemaker took a step back in 2015 ultimately resulting in an August demotion. Unlike Hahn, Shoemaker doesn’t have a clear rotation path at this point, but considering Jered Weaver and Hector Santiago are currently in the way, I’m rather confident Shoemaker will find a home at some point. Shoemaker posted a 4.46 ERA with a 1.26 WHIP over 24 starts for the Halo’s last season. While his control was less efficient in 2015 it was still a respectable 2.33 BB/9. Shoemaker also saw a decline in his K/9, but much like the walk rate it was still a respectable outcome at 7.71 . The problem areas for Shoemaker last season were a slight decrease in LOB% combined with an uptick in HR/9. Despite this I see no reason why Shoemaker couldn’t post an ERA in the 3’s in addition to providing plus K totals.

John Lamb (477): Lamb’s 2015 stats aren’t visibly appealing. A 5.80 ERA paired with a 1.55 WHIP isn’t the best sales pitch for potential ownership. Instead I’ll highlight the 10.51 K/9,.376 BABIP against and 69.3 strand rate as reasons to want some helpings of Lamb on your plate. The 10.51 K/9 may be unrealistic; his minor league track record suggest a K per inning is reasonable if not underselling him a little. Lamb is more of a fly ball pitcher so he will be susceptible for the long ball. His success or failure will hinge on the WHIP. If he can sustain a WHIP in the low 1.3 range your looking at a sub 4 ERA with plus K potential. If he can’t you could be looking at an arm that will transition to the bullpen at some point. Given the Reds current road map, Lamb will get every chance at proving his worth as a starter. As a fantasy owner I’d rather roll the dice late on Lamb than select a run of the mill, 4th starter from a respectable team.

Nick Tropeano (545): Tropeano and Shoemaker are essentially shuffling for the primary rotation fallback option. Shoemaker is the safer option of the two while Tropeano, without a doubt, has the most upside. Over his brief MLB career Tropeano has posted a 4.10 ERA with a 1.31 WHIP in 11 starts over two seasons. His minor league track record suggests you’re looking at a K per inning arm with respectable control. His minor league track record has been rather clean regarding HR/9 despite the fact he does tend to lean on his 91 MPH fastball. If his stellar K-BB% shown in the minors translates to the Majors, you’re looking at a solid fantasy 3 or 4. While that type of rating is projecting skill, I feel confident your still looking at a plus back-end guy worth stashing.

Colin Rea (607): Rea has no rotation spot locked up at this point. He’s just one of what seem like 10 Padres pitchers vying for the 4th and 5th spots in the rotation. While the dialogue has died over the last couple of seasons, at one point any Padres SP was fantasy relevant due to the ballpark. While Petco has been more hitter friendly of late, to suggest it’s a favorable pitcher park is still accurate. In 6 starts last season Rea posted a 4.26 ERA to go with a 1.26 WHIP. In addition, Rea posted a 7.39 K/9 to go with a 3.13 BB/9 over that span. When you factor in his minor league track record these numbers seem to jive with what should reasonably be expected. If Rea could manage to just marginally improve both you’d be looking at a league average starting pitching in a plus pitchers park. Among the pitchers mentioned Rea has the least upside, however if you are looking for arms in a deep league I certainly feel Rea could easily be better than replacement level.

HITTERS

Leonys Martin (324): My name is Josh Coleman and I have a fixation on prior season fantasy disappointments. Martin posted a .219/.264/.313 slash line over 310 PA. Combine the disappointing season with a move to perhaps the worst hitter’s park in baseball and it’s not too hard to see why he has fallen so far from an ADP standpoint. Martin’s plate discipline was about the same with a slight upward movement in K% combined with a decrease in BB%, but in itself no red flags. His .270 BABIP was 40 points below his career mark; while an increased FB% likely caused some of this, it’s reasonable to expect a slight improvement moving forward. Generally speaking I typically don’t worry about offensive decline as long as the plate discipline or Contact rates haven’t cratered. Martin’s skill set shouldn’t be affected with the move to Safeco. In fact the big gaps could improve his AVG to a degree. Given the shortage of SB in the game anyone who offers 30 SB potential has value. If you take the speed potential combined with lineup placement you could easily be looking at a top 50 outfielder.

Jonathan Villar (350): Villar has never really been given an extended opportunity to run with a job, but Milwaukee’s rebuilding stage should give him several months of majority playing time. Prior to last season Villar had always been a batting average risk, but improved Contact% last season (78% – career 71.8%) and an inflated BABIP (.360) helped him get to a.284 mark. While that average with plus steals would be a draft day-dream, the reality is you’re hoping for .250 with a good number of steals. These numbers may not excite you, in deep formats that skill set will play for a cheap SS or MI option.

Desmond Jennings (362): It seems like forever since Jennings has been fantasy relevant; he did manage a 14HR/20SB season in 2013. While 2014 was a disappointment, 2015 was essentially the year he was left to die, or at least that’s what his 2016 ADP would lead you to believe. Unlike Martin and Villar, Jennings has his work cut out just to find an everyday gig. At this point it would seem he and Steven Souza will be fighting it out for playing time as Kiermaier and Dickerson should find themselves in the lineup more often than not. Even if Jennings can earn the bulk of the playing time he still has to produce to stay there. Will that speed which created his value still be there? My expectations are tempered, but the price tag makes the decision for me. While Jennings doesn’t have the Top 50 OF upside of Martin, he does have the skill set to be a Top 75 OF.

Austin Jackson (367): Jackson has a very similar skill set to Jennings, but for me he carries less risk. Jackson is a better source for AVG, and over his career has shown better plate discipline. During his heyday with the Tigers, Jackson posted a BB% greater than 8% in each season. While not elite by any means it’s a far cry from the 5.5% of last season. On the flip side, Jackson had 17 stolen bases last season which was nearly his total from 2012 and 2013 combined (20) in Detroit. My point is I feel there’s a chance Jackson was playing to what was needed from him given his surrounding roster. In Detroit, with Miggy, Vmart and company, Jackson was the table setter in charge of getting on base and scoring runs, which he did a fine job of. In Seattle he was viewed upon as a big offensive upgrade upon his arrival — a far cry from the 5th best bat in those Tiger lineups. I look for Jackson to feel at ease with the White Sox. While the surrounding lineup isn’t the quality of those Tiger teams, it’s still a solid upgrade over his days in Seattle. I feel Jackson could easily return to double-digit pop, carry over the stolen base potential from the last two seasons, and put him near the top of the lineup.  You could be looking at another Top 50-75 OF.

Chris Owings (375): Owings wasn’t on every Top 10 list, and there wasn’t a breaking news update during his first AB, but he was a guy who possessed legit double-digit HR and SB potential in a middle infield spot — both interesting when it comes to fantasy. The poor plate discipline that dogged him in the minors hasn’t improved, he doesn’t walk enough (4.7% in 2016), and he K’s too much (26.1% in 2016) likely capping his AVG potential in the .250 range. While not a plus by any standard, if Owings can manage to pull the double-digit power and speed you’re looking at a viable MI option that in reality could end up a Top 12 player at perhaps both 2B and SS. His FB % has improved the last two seasons, and his SB success rates is 82.7 % over that span. The groundwork has been laid for 2016 to be Owings fulfillment of promise.

*****

Like every other fantasy owner I value the elite players. I just don’t see the value in analyzing that Freddie Freeman will rank 65th overall this season compared to Adrian Gonzalez’s 59th. That difference is negligible and is very unlikely to be the difference between 1st and 2nd place. Should Jesse Hahn or John Lamb produce Top 30 or even Top 40 seasons as 28th rounder’s the duo could jump you 3 spots in the standings.

As owners we put such a premium on draft day. While I’d agree it’s the best day on the fantasy calendar, the reality is leagues are won and lost in season. Injuries, waiver wire pickups, trades, and lineup management ultimately determine who will hoist the trophy on day 163. Knowledge of the entire player pool should be top priority when taking advantage of that limited amount of time life gives you.

 

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Josh Coleman
Father of four SP1 children. Replacement level husband to a top tier wife. I love my family, value my friendships, and spend as much time as possible (too much according to the aforementioned Mrs. Coleman) dedicated to the pursuit, of another Fantasy Championship. I'm the oddball at the bar who prefers Fantasy Baseball to Fantasy Football.