2015 Fantasy Baseball: It’s Never Too Early — Right Fielders

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Source: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America

 

We reach the end of the position player portion of the “it’s never too early” series. Right field is a little more stable than center field was, but we also have some instances where some players will be eligible at multiple outfield spots. We also have some infielders that we’ve mentioned before that are also eligible in the outfield. Check your league rules and check the overall rankings to see where you want to slot certain guys. I’ve tried to put guys where it makes the most sense positionally. Often times, fantasy rankings make more sense in other slots.

In terms of the rankings themselves, the methodologies often dictate where players will be slotted. If you take a three or five year average it will give you fairly stable numbers, but players that are on the rise or on the decline might be ranked inappropriately. The experts often go with where they think a guy is going in lieu of where he has been. A balanced approach is often best in general. [Read more…]

2015 Fantasy Baseball: Brian McCann’s Fantasy Outlook

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Source: Al Bello/Getty Images North America

Ask any of Brian McCann’s fantasy owners from the 2014 season what they thought of his performance, and the stank eye you’ll get is the only response you’ll need. He finished the season with 23 homers, which extended his streak of reaching or exceeding 20 homers in a season to seven, but that’s roughly where the positives end. Sure, his 75 RBIs were solid relative to his catching peers, but a .232 average was ghastly. His 14.3% strikeout rate last year was actually below his career mark of 14.5%, but he finished with a batting average a full 40 points below his career mark of .272. What gives? Never fleet of foot, McCann has long been a candidate to post a below league average BABIP, but his .231 mark in 2014 was much worse than his career mark of .283. But chalking his low average up to poor luck would be a mistake, and it seems fitting that I write this piece on a Sunday on which new commissioner Rob Manfred discussed a defensive-shift ban. [Read more…]

2015 Fantasy Baseball: It’s Never Too Early — Center Fielders

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Source: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images North America

As it turns out, there is no position as volatile as center field. A part of that volatility comes in the form of picking which outfield position in which to put some players. Nine times out of ten it’s easy. Most players play one position and stay there. However, that doesn’t happen all the time. Then sometimes a mea culpa is necessary. You will see Corey Dickerson’s name here amongst center fielders. He may still end up playing center if Charlie Blackmon is dealt, but he has played mostly in left field. A couple of readers called me on it and I’m glad they did. It keeps me on my toes.

In some leagues that doesn’t matter. Some leagues simply list all outfielders together, so you could pick three center fielders to represent your team if you really love center fielders. If you are in those leagues then simply take a look at the overall rankings and choose accordingly. Even without these positional clarifications, we have some really wild differences for some of these players. It will pay to pay attention to your ADP (average draft positions) as we get closer to draft season. [Read more…]

2015 Fantasy Baseball: Astros Return to Fantasy Relevance

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Jed Lowrie — Source: Bob Levey/Getty Images North America

 

For long suffering Astros fans like me, it has been a long time in the wilderness. Of course, getting Biblical is a bit much considering they were in the World Series less than 10 years ago. Philadelphia Phillies fans could ask their grandparents what it was like before the Whiz Kids in 1949. They averaged 100 losses a season over a 20 year period. Of course, the Pittsburgh Pirates just came out of the fog a few years ago after having more than 20 consecutive losing seasons.

I could wax poetic about how much we have suffered here in Houston. Sure, we haven’t suffered as long as those two fan bases, but the suffering has been acute in recent seasons. They’ve had one winning season since 2006 and have averaged 104 losses in the last four seasons. At first blush, such a retrospective may have little to do with fantasy coverage. Fantasy sports are an individual endeavor. Those that would say such things ignore the little things that come with team sports.

How many Astros have been prominent players in your league? Jose Altuve? Maybe Chris Carter in the second half last year? For most fantasy players, Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh were afterthoughts a year ago. A funny thing has happened this offseason. The Astros have graduated from being a vast river of sadness and have become a real team. Mind you, the playoffs may still be a year or two away, but with relevance in the standings comes relevance in fantasy terms. Instead of only three or four fantasy prospects, there may be as many as seven or eight when you consider the added relief pitching added in the offseason. However, let’s focus our attention on the everyday lineup and the changes. We will compare the 2014 results with the 2015 projections. I’ll also include Baseball Prospectus’ total average (from 2014) as a reference.

AVG HR Runs RBI SB TAV
C Jason Castro .222 14 43 56 1 .245
1B Jonathan Singleton .168 13 42 44 2 .241
2B Jose Altuve .341 7 85 59 56 .302
3B Matt Dominguez .215 16 51 57 0 .212
SS Marwin Gonzalez .277 6 33 23 2 .261
LF Robbie Grossman .233 6 42 37 9 .258
CF Dexter Fowler .276 8 61 35 11 .292
RF George Springer .231 20 45 51 5 .304
DH Chris Carter .227 37 68 88 5 .293

To understand the bleakness of this lineup you must understand total average. According to Baseball Prospectus, a .260 total average would be considered average. Obviously, most regulars would comfortably be better than that, but when we look at last season’s results, we see three players significantly below average and two players that hovered around average. That doesn’t make for a good offensive team.

The transformation has been two-fold. First, the Astros have replaced some of the average and below average players with improved players. Secondly, they are hoping for progress from a couple of younger players. If they get both, their offense could be one of the most improved units in baseball history. Obviously, there were only three players worth owning  last season. That might very well double next season. Now, we look at the Steamer projections for next season.

AVG HR Runs RBI SB TAV
C Jason Castro .230 11 43 43 1 .245
1B Jonathan Singleton .213 13 42 44 2 .241
2B Jose Altuve .299 9 84 62 35 .302
3B Luis Valbuena .234 10 42 38 2 .294
SS Jed Lowrie .258 12 62 58 1 .257
LF Evan Gattis .243 28 41 52 0 .297
CF Colby Rasmus .232 22 62 65 4 .268
RF George Springer .234 28 77 77 15 .304
DH Chris Carter .223 32 76 84 4 .293

The Big Red Machine they ain’t, but this is a much improved offense over a year ago. If Jason Castro and Jonathan Singleton improve at all (and their total averages with it), then you are looking at a lineup where everyone is virtually average or better. It’s great news for Astros fans, but important news for all fantasy players. When you put more competent hitters in the lineup then you have more run scoring opportunities and more RBI opportunities.

Of course, that wasn’t the only place where the Astros saw significant improvement in the offseason. Over the last several years, no team has done more to disappoint their fans in the late innings than the Astros. We could focus on blown saves and other similar statistics, but let’s look at some more substantive data. Below are the Astros collective bullpen runs allowed per game, saves percentage, and bullpen WAR.

  • 2014: -3.0 WAR (26th), 55% SV PCT (29th), 4.46 RA/G (25th)
  • 2013: -5.1 WAR (29th), 52% SV PCT (30th), 5.23 RA/G (30th)
  • 2012: -2.4 WAR (22nd), 62% SV PCT (26th), 4.90 RA/G (26th)
  • 2011: -5.4 WAR (30th), 50% SV PCT (30th), 4.91 RA/G (28th)

Runs allowed per game is obviously similar to ERA, but obviously includes unearned runs. You get the collective essence of relief pitching here. The runs allowed per game and save percentages tend more towards traditional statistics while WAR includes an allowance for variances in team defense and park factors. Collectively, you cannot say anything other than the fact that the Astros bullpen has sucked during the time when they’ve averaged 104 losses a season. Go figure.

This offseason, the Astros added Luke Gregerson of the Athletics, Pat Neskek of the Cardinals, and Will Harris of the Diamondbacks. None of them are established closers, but it will add to the depth in the bullpen. They already had solid performances from Chad Qualls, Tony Sipp, and Josh Fields. Add those together and you get the makings of at least an average bullpen. Average may not be anything to write home about, but average might be enough to win an extra half dozen games. Add that to another half dozen games from the offense and you have the makings of a team that can dream about .500 again.

As you might suspect, predicting win-loss records is never as easy as adding wins here or there. You often lose some as you gain in other areas. Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh were revelations last season. They may very well take a step back next year. Still, especially when you look at the new lineup, you have to stand up and take notice of the new Houston Astros. You can’t ignore them anymore.

2015 Fantasy Baseball– It’s Never Too Early — Left Fielders

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Source: Mike McGinnis/Getty Images North America

 

At some point in the fantasy world we reach a fork in the road. As Yogi used to say, “when you reach a fork in the road, take it.” We have that road here as it pertains to fantasy outfielders. Different platforms treat outfielders differently. Some leagues treat them generically and others are position specific. I hate to add extra work to your preparations, but we will look at them in terms of positions. If you want to rank the outfielders generically, you can look at their overall ranks and plan accordingly.

Left fielders are easily the weakest among the outfield positions. We’ve used rosterresource.com to determine which position to put them at. Most of the time it is natural fit, but some teams are shifting guys around, so we will put them where they will most likely be put. Obviously, if you are playing in a position specific league, it pays to have guys that are eligible at more than one outfield position.

ESPNp ESPNo ExpertP ExpertO DiffP DiffO
Michael Brantley 1 23 1 12 0 +11
Justin Upton 2 31 2 19 0 +12
Bryce Harper 3 39 3 30 0 +9
Starling Marte 4 53 5 71 -1 -18
Yoenis Cespedes 5 58 4 48 +1 +10
Christian Yelich 6 66 8 83 -2 -17
Kole Calhoun 7 68 6 73 +1 +5
Matt Holliday 8 69 7 74 +1 -5
Alex Gordon 9 75 10 98 -1 -23
Brett Gardner 10 110 9 95 +1 +15
Sin-Soo Choo 11 142 11 127 0 +15
Melky Cabrera 12 179 12 180 0 -1
Curtis Granderson 13 195 18 -5 -70
Dayan Viciedo 14 211 19 -5 -54
Carl Crawford 15 217 16 244 -1 -27
Rajai Davis 16 237 14 211 +2 +26
Yasmany Torres 17 239 13 187 +4 +52
Khris Davis 18 243 15 212 +3 +31
Dustin Ackley 19 17 264 +2 +1

Biggest Risers

Yasmany Tomas– Arizona Diamondbacks

Position Rise: +4

Overall Rise: +52

Jose Abreu certainly made anything possible for fantasy players. What’s interesting is that rosterresource.com has Tomas listed as a third baseman. However, he is listed as an outfielder here. Once he gets third base eligibility he will be a very interesting prospect. The experts are gambling that he will be closer to Abreu than say a Dayan Viciedo. As for me, I’m not making any predictions.

Khris Davis– Milwaukee Brewers

Position Rise: +3

Overall Rise: +31

The question is whether we will see 2013 or 2014 Davis. He produced more power last season, but it came at the expense of his batting average and on base percentage. His BABIP did go from .293 to .275, but that wouldn’t explain all of the drop off. If his BABIP returns to league norms he will be a decent reserve fantasy outfielder. Since it will be his second full season we can probably expect some progress as the experts have.

Rajai Davis– Detroit Tigers

Position Rise: +2

Overall Rise: +26

Officially, rosterresource.com has Davis listed as the fourth outfielder in Detroit. This has happened before. Anthony Gose doesn’t exactly look like a world beater in center field, so Davis could get his plate appearances in anyway. If that happens he will likely get his 30+ stolen bases as he has almost every other season. Depending on your league, he could actually serve as a regular fantasy outfielder. I don’t know if I’m comfortable taking a guy that won’t begin the season as a regular, but some people have more faith than me.

Biggest Sliders

Curtis Granderson– New York Mets

Position Slide: -5

Overall Slide: -70

This one is somewhat difficult to explain. Yes, Granderson hasn’t been a fantasy force for sometime, but things seemed to stabalize in the last month of the season. It also isn’t surprising to know that his numbers on the road were much better than the numbers at home. At least he was healthy last season, but he is now two years removed from the 40+ home run power he exerted across town. So, some slide makes sense, but at this rate he will go undrafted in most leagues.

Dayan Viciedo– Chicago White Sox

Position Slide: -5

Overall Slide: -54

Viciedo has lost his spot with the White Sox. Trade rumors have been swirling all around Viciedo all winter and if a trade occurs he may become relevant again. Viciedo is what we would call an accumulator in the business. Real baseball evaluations would question his viability, but he seems to produce home runs, runs, and RBI at a decent enough clip to be a fantasy factor. Depending on his situation, he might be worth a look late in the draft. As of right now, I would likely pass as the experts did.

Carl Crawford– Los Angeles Dodgers

Position Rise: -1

Overall Slide: -27

Remember 2010, it was a kinder, gentler time. It was also the last time that Carl Crawford performed like a fantasy regular. Following the season, he signed a huge contract with the Red Sox and the rest as they say is history. The numbers are similar on a percentage basis, but he just hasn’t been able to stay on the field. I don’t think another year is going to make him any healthier.

2015 Fantasy Baseball: It’s Never Too Early — Shortstops

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Source: Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America

 

Depth is a huge issue at some positions and shortstop might be chief among those. Injuries have greatly zapped the value of guys on the top of the board as all of them have missed significant time in the last two seasons for one ailment or another. Finding a quality backup is paramount at positions like shortstop. Unfortunately, quality backups are not necessarily easy to find.

As always, make sure you check the rules of your league as it pertains to position eligibility. We have plenty of multi-position players here. You have to have played at least 20 games at the position to be eligible under ESPN rules. As you might imagine, Yahoo and other platforms have different rules for eligibility. Since shortstop is so thin, almost everyone that is eligible at short will be considered as a shortstop. There are some exceptions (Ben Zobrist and Asdrubal Cabrera are listed as second basemen) but I would definitely think long and hard about where I would put them in my lineup on opening day. [Read more…]

2015 Fantasy Baseball: Yovani Gallardo to the Rangers

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Source: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images North America

Yovani Gallardo will be leaving the only organization he’s ever played for, the Brewers, and changing leagues as a result of Monday’s trade to the Rangers. The Brewers received middle infielder Luis Sardinas, relief pitcher Corey Knebel, and 18-year old pitching prospect Marcos Diplan in return for Gallardo’s last year of team control. Knebel, assuming his damaged UCL that required him to be shutdown last year holds up, is the most likely of the trio to have fantasy value this year. He’s a flame thrower who could conceivably be in the mix to fill the closing void created by Francisco Rodriguez hitting the market as a free agent. That said, Gallardo is the focus of this piece.

His move from the Senior Circuit to the Junior Circuit is less than ideal. According to the data at Baseball-Reference, the National League league average for OPS+ was 94 each of the past two years, and the strikeout and walk rates last year were 20.92% strikeout and 7.55% walk, and in 2013 the rates were 19.95% strikeout and 7.72% walk. Comparatively, in the American League, the OPS+, strikeout rate and walk rate were 99, 19.78%, and 7.69% respectively last year, and 100, 19.76% and 8.12% in 2013. That’s what happens when one league deploys a designated hitter and the other allows pitchers to flail the bat. [Read more…]

2015 Fantasy Baseball: Josh Harrison is the New J-Hay

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Source: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images North America

I don’t think I’m going way out on a limb here by stating that Josh Harrison’s 2014 campaign was one which few people saw coming. The Pittsburgh Pirates super-utility player not only made the All-Star team last season but was a fantasy all-star for any owner that plucked him off of waivers early in the season. There was so much to like about Harrison’s performance last season, but as we move into forecasting and projecting the player pool for 2015, what can we expect from him moving forward?

[Read more…]

2015 Fantasy Baseball: It’s Never Too Early — Third Basemen

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Source: Joe Robbins/Getty Images North America

We get to the hot corner in our series of “it’s never too early.” Unfortunately, the hot corner hasn’t been too hot lately as it seems to be going through a period of transition. The established stars are getting a little long in the tooth. As we saw with the second basemen, some players are eligible at other positions. Often times, we find people using players eligible at third at other positions because third base has been easy to fill. That might not be the case from here on out.

Since it has been a few days since the last edition, we’ll allow the rest of you to catch up with our methods. We are looking at the pre-season rankings according to ESPN.com and comparing them to an early bird experts draft. We will track the biggest risers and sliders and determine if they are trends we need to keep an eye on. [Read more…]

2015 Fantasy Baseball Breakout Candidate: Kyle Gibson

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Kyle Gibson
Source: Leon Halip/Getty Images North America

Breakout is an ambiguous word, so with that in mind, I’ll start by clarifying that I’m not expecting Kyle Gibson to be a fantasy ace. I do, however, believe he makes for an interesting late round flyer in large mixed leagues and deeper formats after digging into his 2014 performance.

The first number that stands out in Gibson’s statistical profile on his FanGraphs page is his gaudy 54.4% groundball rate. That rate was the seventh highest among qualified starting pitchers in 2014. Taking a look at his Brooks Baseball PITCHf/x player card reveals that four of his pitches resulted in a groundball rate north of 47% on balls in play, and two were north of 61%. When Gibson wants to coax a groundball, he’s got the goods to do so. [Read more…]