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Saturday 17th Feb 2018

When the clock strikes 7:05 PM ET on Monday, my Tout Wars lineup for the final scoring period in the Mixed Auction league will be locked. I’ll have nothing else to do but sit back and hope that my team can at least hold onto its current third place standing. Barring something crazy happening, either Derek Van Riper or Fred Zinkie will come out on top, and although it would have been nice to have a real shot at first place heading into the final week, a finish in the “money” would suit me just fine. I’m proud of my guys, as the vast majority of them either matched or exceeded my expectations.

Every October, I try to take an extended break from fantasy to enjoy watching the postseason from a regular fan perspective. Most of the time, this doesn’t work out too well, as I usually participate in at least one slow mock draft, which forces me to think about rankings and draft strategy for the following year. With the Yankees all but eliminated from playoff contention, I’ll have zero rooting interest this postseason, so I might as well get an early start on thinking about 2015.

One of the first things I do each off-season is look at the pre-season rankings from the previous year in an attempt to spot players who failed to give their owners an equal return on their investment, whether due to injury, poor performance or a combination of both. Eventually, taking into consideration any off-season developments along with where they are being drafted in industry mocks, I’ll decide which of these players I’d like to target at their deflated prices. Here’s an early look at a team of hitters who fit this mold. I’ll cover pitchers next time.

C Wilson Ramos – Injuries continue to plague the Nationals backstop but the power is legit. Better luck in the health department could easily result in a 20-plus HR campaign. Although he won’t be forgotten on draft day, Ramos could slip past the top-12 at the position, at which point he will be a steal.

1B Mark Trumbo – Another victim of the injury bug, a foot injury sidelined Trumbo for almost three months. He was a popular target in drafts last spring, and rightfully so. The low AVG hurts, but a 40-HR season isn’t out of the question now that he’s playing half of his games in homer-happy Chase Field. I’ll be paying close attention to his mock draft ADP. There’s definitely profit to be had here.

2B Jason Kipnis – A consensus top-25 player at this time last year, some owners even chose to use their first round pick on the promising second sacker. Not only has Kipnis missed time this year but the production, outside of the SB category, just hasn’t been there. Still, few players, let alone middle infielders, can match his across the board upside. Chances are he won’t fall too far in drafts, but 2015 could be the last time you can get him at a discount.

SS Jean Segura – Yeah, I did think that Segura was a bit overvalued heading into drafts this year, as he faded badly in the second half of 2013. But did I expect a .238 batting average and only 18 stolen bases through 138 games? Not quite. So, who’s the real Jean Segura? Probably something in between the 2013 and 2014 versions, though I’m starting to think that 2013 will prove to be the outlier. Still, he’s someone who I’d seriously consider scooping up if the price turns out to be as low as I think it will be.

3B Manny Machado – Another 2014 injury casualty, don’t forget that Machado delivered a .283-14-71 line with 88 runs scored and 51 doubles last season. This year, as expected, some of those doubles turned into home runs, as he launched 12 longballs in 82 games. And the best part? He’s only 22 years of age. Draft him outside of the top-10 third basemen and reap the rewards.

OF Bryce Harper – Remember when Harper was placed in the same class as Mike Trout? That seems like a long time ago, but it really wasn’t. To be fair to Bryce though, health woes have played a major role in his inability to come close to meeting the lofty expectations. The good news is that there’s still plenty of time for the 21-year-old to take his game to the next level, and while the name value alone likely ensures that you’ll need to pay a fair price for him on draft day, one of these years, Harper’s fair price will end up being a bargain price.

OF Wil Myers – Thankfully for Myers and his frustrated fantasy owners, the 2014 season is almost over. The reigning AL Rookie of the Year got off to a rough start before fracturing his wrist in late-May, and he has yet to find his stroke since returning to action last month. I’m not concerned. This is a player who has produced at every level. While he might have been a little overrated heading into this season, the situation is the exact opposite right now. Keep an eye on where he’s being drafted as the mock draft season progresses to get a better idea as to the extent of the discount.

OF Shin-Soo Choo – Talk all you want about how Choo was overpaid by the Rangers. In terms of auction dollars, Choo came at a steep cost ($32 in Mixed Auction Tout, which is an OBP league), so there was certainly optimism that he could duplicate, if not improve upon, his stellar 2013 stat line. To put it simply, there’s nothing positive to say about his first year in Texas, as Choo struggled mightily at the plate before elbow surgery put a premature end to his season. Right now, I’m having a hard time valuing Choo for 2015. On the positive end, he’s proven to be a reliable multi-category contributor. But aside from OBP, he doesn’t excel in any one category, and he’s always had trouble versus left-handed pitching, even in his better years.

Tough decision. At least I have all winter to make up my mind.

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