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Friday 19th Jan 2018

It is Opening Day as I write, which is fun. I spent the early part of the day cleaning out my office in anticipation of the season, watching first the Rays and Yankees, then the Giants and D-backs, and now the Cubbies and Cardinals. So, it is fun to be back, tracking some stats, and looking at players who might be plucked from some form of obscurity and shoved into Fantasy relevance.

So, let's start the season with eight names--our regular Monday feature--and see where it takes us. Note we will have DFS coverage pretty much daily, covering baseball, and also soccer and golf, as well as Tout Wars FAAB moves and of course there is our Platinum Package that Todd drives which NFBC Champs swear by. 

So, let's get started.

Derek Norris (C, Rays): Norris, it seems, has become the ugly stepsister of catchers to fantasy owners, largely thanks to his .186-14-42 season last year that "featured" a .583 OPS. Norris is clearly better than those numbers suggest, as witnessed by his peak season of 2014 when he hit .270-10-55. Norris is still just 28, did swipe nine bags last year, and is the everyday guy in Tampa till Wilson Ramos returns, and in a deep league, the steal potential means a lot. As for the OBP, it was terrible in the NL (.305 in 2015, but .361 a year earlier). Chalk it up to the learning curve, to start, but don't be afraid to plug a backstop hole with Norris. He is exactly the kind of guy you can grab and dump without impugnity.

Joe Biagini (P, Jays): With Roberto Osuna down suffering from cervical spasms, the primary closing role in Toronto goes to Jason Grilli, but keep an eye on Biagini, a 26-year-old selected in the 26th round in 2011 out of UC Davis by the Giants. Drafted as a starter, Biagini did that over 448 innings and 86 starts in the Minors, but adjusted well to relief work last year, whiffing 62 over 67.3 innings, posting a 3-3, 3.03 line with a save. Cheap saves could be out there, especially if Grilli struggles and Osuna spasms.  And, well, I have a soft spot for UC Davis grads (half my family went there, it seems).

Tommy Joseph (1B, Phillies): Another Giants selection, this time from the second round in 2009, then moving to the Phils in 2009 as part of the Hunter Pence deal. Joseph has really solid power, and his 2016 line is actually a lot like that of C.J. Cron's with .251-21-47 totals over 347 at-bats. Joseph banged 69 homers in the Minors over 500 games, though he does fall victim to the whiff (116 walks to 407 strikeouts). However, Joseph had a killer .313-3-11 spring, and at 25, could indeed kick it up this year. In shallower leagues, Joseph might well be floating around in the free agent pool, so keep an eye on him. Like Cron, whom I think will find his stride this year, so might Joseph.

Taylor Motter (SS, Mariners): A 17th-round pick of the Rays in 2009, Motter had a strong minor league line of .272-56-263 with 127 swipes. Motter has been a patient minor leaguer, as witnessed by his 232 walks to 351 strikeouts, good for a solid .349 OBP. He was swapped by the Rays during the off-season and the Mariners thought enough of him to trade off Ketel Marte, whom I think still has a nice enough future ahead of him. Again, in shallow leagues, most guys probably don't even know who Motter is.

Jesus Aguilar (1B, Brewers): I know there are many who are big on the Eric Thames bandwagon, but I am not among them. Instead, I like the guy who led the spring hitters, slapping out a .452-7-14 line over 62 at-bats, and I think the big (6'3", 250) 26-year-old is going to be the go-to guy. Over nine minor league seasons, Aguilar hit .271-140-650 with a two-to-one 783 strikeouts to 394 walks with a .348 OBP. 

Aaron Hicks (OF, Yankees): I thought Hicks might make an impact last year, but he was basically shuffled to the back burner while the Yanks made a lot of swaps and such. But, to me, Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury are on a real downslide, and whatever else be said about Aaron Judge, he is a strikeout machine in the mode of Drew Henson, and I just don't see him as an everyday player. But Hicks is a quiet alternative who can do a little bit of everything, and in deference to struggles with any among Ellsbury, Gardner and Judge, Hicks will be the initial beneficiary.

Ricky Nolasco (P, Angels): OK, I cannot in good conscience recommend Nolasco, but the 34-year-old, who went 8-14, 4.42 with a 1.24 WHIP last year, is the Opening Day starter for the Halos. Nolasco really has no value in shallower leagues, and should be handled with kid gloves in deeper ones. But, like Ubaldo Jimenez, Nolasco is capable of reeling off a handful of solid starts, even earning whiffs. 

Ty Blach (P, Giants): Blach, a fifth-round selection of the Giants in 2012, lost the rotation numbers game to Matt Cain, who earned the fifth rotation spot. Blach has a solid 45-31, 3.53 mark over 98 starts and 499.3 innings. He's ok with the control, having struck out 414, with a 1.23 WHIP. Blach is the swingman for now, but I just cannot believe that Cain will be either durable or effective anymore. Which is a shame, but Blach will take over when the collapse occurs.

 Don't forget you can find me @lawrmichaels.

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