Here we are at the end of another season of fantasy and roto and simulated baseball games, and while last week I noted a few players that I think are worthy of shying away from, this week I want to discuss some guys I am already targeting going into 2016.
I have to say that in a way, it was as tough this week as last. While I was truly having trouble identifying players who made me nervous after their 2015 performance, there are so many players who debuted and established themselves this year that it is tough to isolate whether I really think Kris Bryant or Miguel Sano or Maikel Franco is the best future third base option.
I do think it is important to remember that baseball is a tough grind, and chances are half the prospects who delighted us this season will struggle and many will drop from sight a la Jeremy Hermida; however, that means half will give solid productive careers, and some will indeed emerge as stars.
So, this time, I will look at the guys I think might have either emerged with some staying power, as well as some vets who we tend to dismiss but put up great solid quiet numbers that make them potential cheap bargains next spring.
I am going to start with perhaps my favorite of this cluster with the Mets shortstop, Venezuelan Wilmer Flores, who is just completing his first season as a starter, posting a .264-16-59 line over 469 at-bats. Flores, who just turned 24 in early August, has no speed and his OBP (.298 this year) is low, but he makes contact, with just 61 strikeouts (19 walks) and did have a .334 minor league on-base total. Along with some of his young Mets mates, Flores looks good to me!
I guess I have to mention at least one Cubs hitter, and if I do, Kyle Schwarber is the man. I liked him from the moment I saw his first at-bat last spring (he hit a grand slam off the Giants), Theo Epstein's #1 choice in 2014 hit .344-18-53 over 72 minor league games last year, blasting through all the A-ball levels. 75 games this year split between Double-A and Triple-A resulted in a .323-16-49 line, meaning a .333-34-102 minor league total over 147 games. So he comes to Wrigley and hits .242-16-42 as a 22-year-old with an .872 OPS. In a lot of leagues, Schwarber goes into next year as a catcher, and if there was one hitter I would target to grab for next season, he would be the man.
I still kick myself that I did not pay more spring attention to the Giants' Matt Duffy. I clearly remember at least two games and at-bats where he looked good, but since the Giants had signed Casey McGehee (though I did wonder why they did that), I just figured Duffy was not worth putting on a "this year's watch list." Oops. Just an 18th round pick in 2012, he hit .304-13-135 over 248 minor league games, but after making the big team out of spring, he siezed the opportunity granted to him by a McGehee slump, posting a .301-10-71 line. Like Flores, Duffy does not walk a lot (just 28) but similarly he makes good contact (just 85 whiffs), sporting a .342 OBP and .772 slugging line. I like the guy. He is a gamer.
Wanna get how fast time flies, and how we get old really fast without realizing it? Well, do you realize this is Eric Hosmer's fifth season as the Royals' starting first sacker? Hosmer has pretty much duplicated his fine 2013 line this year, hitting .302-15-85 with a career high .365 OBP. Hosmer is still just 25, his team is not just great, but young and improving (like Hosmer himself) and going into his peak years, I suspect the first sacker will up his game to .290-25-90 or so next year. And, because we had high expectations, his price tag probably won't be that high.
Would you rather have Billy Burns and his .297-4-36 line with 36 steals and 66 runs over 114 games, or Billy Hamilton and his .228-4-26 line with 57 steals and 56 runs, also over 114 games this year? I know who I want, and I will also want him next year, and he lives on my side of the Continenal Divide.
I got Eduardo Escobar for a buck in Tout Wars and as a throw-in in my Strat-O-Matic league a couple of years back, and, well, if you play in a deep league, he is the perfect cheap guy. Over 111 games this year, Escobar has a .263-11-51 line, upping last year's .275-6-37 production, while qualifying at outfield, shortstop and even second and third in some leagues. Escobar will be 27 next Opening Day, and I am thinking at Tout 2016 I still won't have to spend more than a couple of bucks.
Nick Markakis is sort of a National League hybrid of what I wrote about for Escobar and also Hosmer. When Markakis came up ten years ago and posted a .300-23-112 line in 2007, the sky was the limit. Markakis was consistent since with the Orioles, but his power and luster wore off such that in 2015 the outfielder signed as a free agent with Atlanta following a .276-14-50 mark in 2014. Markakis is still looking for some power, but he likes hitting in Atlanta, going .298-2-49 with a .376 OBP and 67 runs scored. Markakis will be 32 going into next season, and while his power might not return, give me a team with half-a-dozen hitters like him for $6 or so, and I will use the rest of my money to kick anyone's butt in just about any league.
If you are wondering just what the Reds are doing, they will be really good in a year or so and that will be much like the Mets rise this year, with some killer starting pitching that will include newly acquired John Lamb and Brandon Finnegan and two kids I love, Anthony DeSclafani and in particular, Raisel Iglesias. The 25-year-old Cuban is just 3-7, 4.15 over the course of this season, but over the second half, he has acclimated well, going 2-5, 3.39 with 77 whiffs over 66.6 frames, posting a 0.988 WHIP. These guys will be good, and I am not even thinking about Michael Lorenzen or Tony Cingrani or Keyvius Sampson.
DFS Watch: OK, Mastersball is dedicated to covering the fun market of Daily Games. In fact, you know we play FantasyScore and participate in the FanDuel Tout Wars contest (you play against all the Touts every Tuesday at the Tout Wars Challenge), so let's add to our daily MastersDaily coverage and simply pick a couple of series/games/starts this week that look good.
Pitching to Watch: Anyone notice Tyler Duffey, the Twins' newest potentilly big time pitcher? Well, Duffey went 2-0 last week with a 0.67 ERA and an 0.988 WHIP along with 14 whiffs over 13.3 innings. He will likely get a start against the Tigers later this week and with the season winding down, he makes for a great cheap play.
Hitting to Watch: Billy Butler's 2015 with Oakland has been a disappointment (.252-13-62) but over the last month, "Country Breakfast" (as he is known in the bay area) has hit .338-4-14, pushing his numbers back up where we would expect. Again, a veteran hitter facing some young pitchers going into the last push makes me want to favor hitters like Butler.
Starting next week, Extra Points will be moved up to Mondays while the Hotpage goes on the winter schedule, which is the second Monday of each month until mid-February, when we go back to weekly.
Don't forget you can follow me @lawrmichaels.