I don't know about you, but I like to draft teams where I have as many solid everyday guys at as many positions as possible. Of course we all want starters and production up and down our squads but I tend to play in very deep leagues, and mostly auctions, so it is standard to need the services of Josh Phegley and Michael Tonkin.
In fact, at present six of my LABR guys and five on my Tout squad are indeed on the DL, so I am actively playing the FAAB game where the player pool is lean. Still, there are always those guys hanging out there who can help, so let's peek at a few.
It has taken Robbie Grossman a bit to get the hang in the Majors, but he managed a .379 OBP, 131 steals, and 519 runs over 763 minor league games. And, it has taken a few teams, but Grossman has settled in with the Twins and is among the Major League Leaders in OBP with a .460 supported by a .306-1-8, and is owned on just 6.8% of ESPN teams.
Oakland's Jaff Decker was drafted in the first round of the 2008 June fete by the Padres, and now on his fourth team, Decker might well have finally settled in to take advantage of those same skills that made him a top selection. With Rajai Davis hurting, and the Oakland outfield interesting, but spotty at best, Decker has stepped up, playing all three outfield slots while hitting .273-0-1 with a steal and a .407 OBP.
Across the bay, in San Francisco, Jarrett Parker is out for a chunk of time, and with Mac Williamson going to rehab, he becomes a good gamble to fill in while Parker rehabs his broken clavicle. Williamson hit .286-61-247 over 372 minor league games and did belt seven homers with the big club over limited playing time the last couple of years.
One more outfielder on the outskirts who could be of some help is the Reds' Scott Schebler. The former Dodger turned in solid bench totals last year, hitting .265-0-40 over 82 games, and has banged four big flies this year, playing yo-yo between the Reds and the Minors. Expect Schebler to stick with the Reds despite the early struggles and contribute accordingly, and that means value in a deeper league.
Chris Devenski has a win, a save, a 1.35 ERA, a 0.60 WHIP, and 25 whiffs over 13.3 innings. No matter what league or format you are in, this guy needs a look. If you doubt me, look at his 2016 numbers.
In Los Angeles, Cam Bedrosian is on the DL, while aging Huston Street is maybe coming off. Enter Blake Parker, who saved a game for the Yankees last year and has pitched well out of the pen this season, with 12 whiffs over 8.3 innings, a hold, a loss, a 3.24 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. He is worth a FAAB gamble.
With the demotion of Raul Mondesi, Jr., Whit Merrifield was brought back and has a solid chance to hang onto the starting second base gig for the rest of the season. Merrifield hit a solid .283-2-29 with eight swipes last year, and came back to hit .263-1-2 thus far over five games since his return. I like this guy, especially in AL-only formats.
Finally, last year the Jays' Darwin Barney played a solid fill-in role, and now with Toronto scrapping, and Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson out, Barney should get a nice run of playing time. Barney hit .269-4-19 last year with 35 runs, and played second, third, short, and the outfield, making him a versatile roster member, again likely in a deep league, but still of value.
Don't forget you can hit me up @lawrmichaels.
Though the standings and the stats are still on the volatile side, things are settling into a bit of a groove for the 2017 season, and for sure, the injuries and the ineffectiveness issues are still first and foremost in the eyes of the Roto Owner. So, after Easter Eggs, and likely an Easter ham to go with Sunday Night baseball, what is now on the horizon as we start to move into the groove of the baseball grind?
Well, a cluster of newbies appeared this week, including perhaps the first of the big name prospects of 2017 in the form of Jesse Winker. A 2012 Type-A Compensation selection of the Reds, Winker scored #71 on last year's Top 250 coming off a .282-13-55 season at Pensacola, and this year logged in at #147 following his .303-3-45 Triple-A 2016 campaign over 104 games. Winker has a career minor league OBP of .399 with 298 walks to 343 strikeouts coupled with 531 hits and is a guy you want to own in Ultra Leagues.
The Pinstripes fourth-round selection in 2014, Jordan Montgomery went a combined 14-5, 2.13 with 134 whiffs over 139.6 innings last year, good enough to score #121 on my prospect list. As a minor leaguer, Montgomery went 25-14, 2.57 over 297.6 innings with 293 whiffs, and his first Yankee Stadium start was good for 4.6 innings with seven strikeouts. He should be good for another start, meaning for now in an AL-only format, Montgomery is worth a shot.
The Twins have been a bit surprising to start the season, and shortstop Jorge Polanco is one of the pleasant parts of that surprise. Polanco actually grabbed the starting job last year, hitting .282-4-27 over 69 games, and has started 2017 strong, hitting .302-1-5 thus far. Polanco has some speed (60 swipes in the Minors) and decent on-base totals (.346) that have maintained with the promotion to the Show (.341). Finally, Polanco is playing every day, and at-bats are the name of the game.
Last year, I thought enough of the Rockies' Antonio Senzatela to rank him #31 on the 2016 Top 250 based upon his 9-9, 2.51 season with 143 strikeouts over 154 innings. 2016 included three trips to the DL but Senzatela still went 4-1, 1.82 over seven starts and 43.3 innings. Senzatela has made three Colorado starts thus far, going 2-0, 2.37 after besting the Giants on Sunday. With Jon Gray and Kyle Freeland, maybe this is a new day for Rockies pitchers?
Anyone been waiting for the now 28-year-old former first-rounder from Stanford, Jason Castro, to hit? Well, at Target, as a real vet, maybe the time has come with Castro hitting a modest .261, with a homer and seven RBI. That makes him worth a look in your AL-only format.
Scrounging for saves? So are the Rangers, who have to let go of Sam Dyson following his latest meltdown Sunday. Maybe the real answer is with Jose Leclerc, who bagged 23 saves in 34 tries in the Minors while placing a 21-22, 3.64 over 366.1 innings. Within those totals live 25 starts along with a fine 400 punchouts, and thus far Leclerc has a save in Arlington, something Dyson has not managed.
With Zach Britton hurt, and potentially down for awhile, look to longtime minor league closer Brad Brach to get the first shot at Baltimore saves. Over six minor league seasons, Brach went 21-16, 2.47, with 119 conversions within the system. Brach struck out 375 over 300.3 innings and allowed just 247 hits (17 homers) over that span. The kid was groomed for this gig, so he should do ok.
Some guys live a charmed life, and Reds hurler Michael Lorenzen certainly has had a charmed season thus far. To start, Lorenzen banged a game-winning pinch-hit homer on April 6. On April 10, Lorenzen copped a win, and on Saturday a save, though the question is what Lorenzen's role is with Raisel Iglesias owning the closing gig. But Lorenzen surely seems to have some good start karma this year, and that is nothing to dismiss. Just saying.
Infielder Miguel Rojas has been spelling the Miami hot corner with Martin Prado injured, and Rojas has done well, hitting .367-0-2 with an equally impressive five walks to six strikeouts so far. Rojas can play all over the infield, although his big league numbers are indeed better than those in the Minors (.244-20-221 over 790 games). Still, in a deep NL format, the everyday at-bats are the godsend. Exploit accordingly.
Find me @lawrmichaels.
Here we are a week into the new season, with a first full week of play and of course, a cluster of interesting player possiblities. So, let's hop straight to it and see what is out there.
Where would a better start place be looking at the player pool than with the obviously named Reds pitcher, Rookie Davis? The Yankees drafted Davis in the 14th round in 2011 and as largely a starter, he put together a 29-25, 3.87 mark over 450.6 frames with 376 whiffs and a 1.30 WHIP. So, not bad, but nothing to raise an eyebrow. However, the Reds thought enough of Davis to grab him as part of the Aroldis Chapman swap. Davis got knocked around pretty well by the Phillies his first start, so as tempting as his name might be, at this point leave the rookie alone.
As long as we are talking about the Phillies, I have always been a fan of Howie Kendrick, and as a utility player in Philadelphia, Kendrick is off to a killer start, hitting .444-0-4 thus far. Always underrated, Kendrick has a 162-game average of .290-11-72, with 36 doubles and 13 swipes, and he's still just 33, so he has some go left in his legs. The new Phil also qualifies in the outfield, first, third, and second last year, so he is likely to fill in all over this season. Chances are in your 12-team mixed league, Kendrick is sitting in the waiver pool waiting for the call.
Ariel Miranda is another Cuban import, though more of an under-the-radar guy than say Cespedes and Puig. Miranda went 22-25, 3.78 over 386 frames in his homeland with 274 whiffs. Miranda, 28, signed with the Orioles in 2015 and then was moved to the Mariners last year for Wade Miley. Miranda went 5-2, 3.88, mostly with the M's, over 58 solid innings that produced 44 strikeouts and a 1.121 WHIP. He makes for an interesting selection in AL-only formats and is even worth tracking in mixed leagues.
Pirates third sacker David Freese has certainly had some big moments, particularly with the Cardinals over the years, and though he is now 34, the idea that Freese is brittle is not really so. Freese has played in more than 120 games every year since 2011, and his .275-82-404 mark over that period is pretty good. Now ensconced at the Pittsburgh hot corner, Freese has started off well with a .363-1-1 mark, and as a left-handed hitter makes a nice platoon DFS pick depending upon the matchup. Freese could also be of value in a tight NL format, and is worth mixed tracking too.
Oakland is pretty much relying on young hurlers this season, and though we all know about Jharel Cotton, do we know about Andrew Triggs? Selected in the 19th round of the 2012 draft by the Royals, KC sold Triggs to the Orioles for cash in 2015, and the Orioles then released the right-hander when Billy Beane cleverly snatched him up. As a minor leaguer, Triggs pitched in 168 games (13-10, 2.09, with 52 saves), although the Athletics are pushing him to the rotation, with at least initial success. Triggs whiffed 254 over 253 minor league frames, and held hitters to a .219 average, and after his solid start last week, AL-only owners should indeed have him in their sights.
Second base has been a vortex for the White Sox, and one of the 2017 options worthy of following might be Tyler Saladino, who is hitting .308 with a steal over his first four games. Saladino has just a full season of big league totals under his belt, having appeared in 165 games, hitting .258-12-52 with 20 swipes, though his OBP is a questionable .300 in the bigs (it is .358 in the Minors). Again, in a deeper league, you have to at least consider the possibility of rostering Saladino if you are managing judiciously, so don't dismiss him too readily.
Could there actually be a golden age of Rockies starters in front of us? With Jon Gray, and now Kyle Freeland, could be. Following Antonio Senzatela's strong game (5.2 innings, no runs, six whiffs), Freeland, 23, dazzled with six solid frames that resulted in a win. A former first-rounder in 2014, Freeland went 17-12, 3.49 over 45 starts and 272.6 innings. The Southpaw is not dominant (169 whiffs) but is certainly worth a look to see how his next starts go. And were I to choose between the pair, I would likely pick Senzatela.
Finally, if you are looking for cheap catching help, Red Sox backstop Sandy Leon, who has been a journeyman for the past six years, had a nice 2016 and is establishing himself as the everyday guy in Beantown. Over 612 minor league games, Leon had a .238-24-228 line, while over 157 big league games, the line is .260-9-48, including a solid .310-7-35 last year over 78 games. Leon is hot out of the box this season, going .438-1-5 the first week, making him another desirable selection depending upon your league.
Don't forget you can follow me @lawrmichaels.
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.
During a great first half of the week at the Grapefruit League with my XFL mates, the best part came when after 20 years of working together, I finally met our football guru, Marc Meltzer, who lives in Jupiter, in the flesh. Good times.
So, here are the bad boys for this year:
Sandy Leon (C, $3): I paid $2 more in LABR, so this works fine for me as part of a quasi-platoon of receivers.
Caleb Joseph (C, $1): Targeted for a buck on my wish list, I like Joseph like I like Leon like I like Josh Phegley. For a dollar, .255-5-35 is just fine. If we're into May and Joseph sucks, I can drop him without impugnity (of course that means he will get red-hot elsewhere, right?).
Carlos Santanta (1B, $26): I wanted him in LABR and here, and spent a few bucks more than the $24, but the money saved on Leon evened things out. If anyone can bang 30 homers on my team, this is the guy.
Devon Travis (2B, $15): I love this guy. I want him to stay healthy, of course, and even that is in question to start the season, but if Travis plays 145-plus games, he will put up a fine line. He cost $3 less than I figured.
Trevor Plouffe (3B, $10): It is not so much that I am sold on Plouffe, whom I own in LABR for the same amount, but he plays every day, and I do like him over Ryon Healy, despite popular convention. I had wanted Nick Castellanos, but I anticipated spending $18-19 on Castellanos, and when Plouffe was nominated, and the bidding slowed at $8, I jumped to $10 figuring this will fill the spot with a full- timer with double-digit homer power who averaged 83 RBI as a full-timer from 2014-15.
Alcides Escobar (SS, $11): Escobar played all 162 games last year and in 2014, with 148 in between. Over a 162-game average, the shortstop has hit .262-4-61 with 23 swipes. OBP is an issue, but I can deal.
Rob Refsnyder (CI, $2): Cost me a buck more than LABR, but with issues surrounding Didi Gregorius, he is primed to get extra opportunities. Some nice position flexibility potential as well.
Eduardo Escobar (MI, $1): Kind of like the other Escobar, though not a starter at this point, so much cheaper. Escobar is one season removed from a pair of solid ones, is enjoying a great spring, and he helps me lead the league in Escobars.
Khris Davis (OF, $23): Same price as LABR: project same output. .269-28-80 is fine.
Kevin Kiermaier (OF, $19): This spot would belong to Kole Calhoun, but I like Kiermaier as a 20/20 candidate and speed is something Kole cannot do.
Tyler Naquin (OF, $10): I was sitting on Eddie Rosario, but it was getting late in the draft and Naquin is another full-timer who could contribute across the board. Again, I had the bucks so I went for a little more power potential and more of a sure thing on a better team.
Max Kepler (OF, $17): So, Naquin/Kepler represents a shift from LABR, and I like the Twins flychaser, who has pop, an eye, and some speed. He just needs to settle his contact rate to be really good.
Yonder Alonso (SW, $4): He will start versus right-handers and is a good OBP guy on a team that values said skill. His glove guarantees playing time, but Alonso can indeed hit and get on base and is steady and cheap.
Brad Miller (UT, $19): Banking that Miller can keep the power up and drive in some runs. He does give me some position flexibility and with him I have eight players with 20-plus home run capability, and that spreads the risk and power around pretty well.
Chris Archer (SP, $24): I really wanted him in LABR, but a solid spring and fine WBC performance bumped the cost. I was prepared here to up the ante, pay $24 and give Archer the ace role. Now, if he can indeed step into it, we are set.
Ervin Santana (SP, $5): Steady Erv is just fine with me.
Aaron Sanchez (SP, $14): Building off a strong season, I am looking at Sanchez as my #2 guy who can maybe provide 200 whiffs.
Alex Cobb (SP, $7): Just stay heathy. Please.
Kendall Graveman (SP, $3): Oakland's Opening Day guy doesn't whiff a lot. But when he is on, he keeps the ball down and can work innings. Building off a strong second half, I am hoping Graveman steps it up.
Jordan Zimmermann (SP, $3): See Alex Cobb.
Robeto Osuna (RP, $19): A solid closer on a solid team at a reasonable price.
Andrew Miller (RP, $14): Along with Osuna, Miller and Betances as a relief corps will provide innings, and should be good for at least 50 saves, and maybe more, along with the potential for 10-15 cumulative wins.
Dellin Betances (RP, $13): If Betances and Miller can come close to repeating last season, it will make my starting pitching that much better and similarly bring all my pitching totals up as well. This was my pitching strategy this time through.
Don't forget you can tweet me @lawrmichaels.
I don't know about you, but this is a big week. As I write, I fly to the Grapefruit League, where I will attend a few games and hook with Todd, Ron Shandler, Brian Walton, Trace Wood, Jeff Winick and Brian Feldman to complete the XFL Roster Expansion Draft. The XFL allows for a 23-man auction in November at First Pitch Arizona, and then a 17-player expansion draft just prior to the start of the season.
Because of the size of the rosters, we can draft at any level, and freeze (up to 15) end of season, with prospects being key to long-term success, for if an owner should find a Yoenis Cespedes-type player, he gets activated his first year for a buck, and the salary increases just $3 a season as long as the player is not tossed back into the player pool. As in, I am now enjoying the Mets outfielder for a sixth season at the modest price of $16, and at $3 a season, the Mets outfielder might well spend a decade on my roster.
So, the XFL runs pretty deep, but so does my 24-team Scoresheet League which just concluded a 35-player draft, where again, prospects at the lowest levels can be mined and protected for a number of years even though we only allow eight freezes in that format.
As usual in each draft, I try to ensure I have innings and at-bats and even more important, bench strength to support the starters, but I similarly will invest five-to-seven roster spots when the opportunity arises just to see what the numbers shake out.
So, this time, here are eight more names, but this time they are minor leaguers who might not be familiar in the Cody Bellinger/Eloy Jimemez sense, but they well could be by season's end (and some could indeed make it to the Show). Note some of these names have indeed come up during my Top 250 work, and if they made the list, their number is noted in parens. Also, alll these players were drafted during the Murphy Scoresheet League draft.
Jake Bauers (OF, Rays, #19): Drafted in the seventh round in 2013 by the Padres, Bauers caught enough Ray-eyes to be part of the Wil Myers swap of 2015. A full year at Montgomery last year resulted in a .274-14-78 line with 28 doubles and 73 walks to 88 whiffs, good for a .370 OBP. He is .444-4-11 this spring over 27 red-hot at-bats, so figure the outfielder could make his presence known at Tropicana before long.
Yohander Mendez (P, Rangers, #13): Hard to not like 6'5" hard throwers with control and Mendez posted a miniscule 1.02 WHIP at three levels, going 12-3, 2.19 over 111 innings with 113 strikeouts. Teams dig deep for arms during the season, and since Mendez had a sip last year at Arlington, expect the team to give him a look this year.
Ramon Laureano (OF, Astros, #67): The 22-year-old crushed it at High-A Lancaster, going .317-10-60 before a promotion to Corpus Christi where the outfielder hit .323-5-13, giving an aggregate season of .319-15-73 with 28 doubles, seven triples and 43 swipes. Laureano also walked 70 times to 111 strikeouts, good for a .428 OBP and a .955 OPS.
Bradley Zimmer (OF, Indians): At 24, Zimmer is a little older, but he was a first round pick of the Indians in 2014, and responded with a .268-37-157 with 94 steals over 369 games. Zimmer made a case for Major League consideration last year when he hit .250-15-62 with 38 steals over 130 games split between Double-A and Triple-A. Zimmer did strike out a bunch (171 times) but also nudged 77 walks, good for a .365 OBP. He has to be given a shot somewhere before too long.
Nick Senzel (3B, Reds, #113): First round pick of the Reds last summer, Senzel is nearly big league ready, having debuted hitting .305-7-40 over 68 games split between Rookie ball and the Midwest League. Senzel also grabbed 38 walks to 54 punchouts, good for a .398 OBP and .912 OPS. The hot corner guy is probably not even much of a secret at this point, but don't let him slip past your Ultra reserve list, and even in an NL-only throwback league for 2017, Senzel makes a good reserve pick gamble.
Victor Robles (OF, Nationals, #89): The 19-year-old, signed in 2014, blasted through two levels last year (ignore the five GCL games), hitting .280-9-42 with 37 steals over 105 games divided between Potomac and Harrisburg. Robles makes good contact, for though he only has 66 walks over 218 minor league games, so does he have only 136 strikeouts. With 17 triples and 83 swipes as a pro, Robles looks like a potential center field/leadoff hitter somewhere.
Ian Happ (2B, Cubs, #193): Does it ever get tiring these days, reading about the Cubs and their prospects with brilliant prospects? Happ, the #1 pick in 2015, is yet another kid who hit .279-15-73 with 30 doubles and 16 steals over 134 games last year, half at Myrtle Beach and half with the Tennessee Smokies. He has 108 walks to 198 strikeouts over 201 minor league games with a .368 OBP and .914 OPS. The question, of course, is where will he play? The answer is surely "somewhere."
Jacob Faria (P, Rays, #81): Lesser known, this tenth-round selection of the Rays in 2011 has a 35-31, 3.31 minor league line over 92 starts and 540.3 innings. The righty has 542 strikeouts over that span and just a 1.13 WHIP and 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Faria climbed as high as Triple-A last year, finishing the season at Durham going 4-4, 3.72 over 13 starts and 67.6 innings, striking out 64 with a 1.14 WHIP and a .190 allowed batting average.
Good luck with your drafts this week, and don't forget you can follow me @lawrmichaels. And, since this is Tout Wars week, there will be lots of articles, posts, and radio programming geared to and covering all four weekend drafts. Make sure you follow us for all the details.
The draft season is getting thicker and thicker, which is both fun and challenging. And, as I have been looking at depth charts and games and prospect lists and mocking and then actually drafting, I thought I could share a few more names who have crossed my radar, but maybe not yours.
Of course depending upon the depth of your league and the league's rules and rosters, these names will be of varying value to you, but any of these players who succeed in the 2017 season will surely be plucked in just about every league there is.
Don't forget next Saturday's "Bed Goes Up" will feature my annual Tout Wish List.
Cory Spangenberg (2B, Padres): Spangenberg was the Padres #1 pick in 2011, and he moved up the chain, hitting the show in 2014 with a nice .290-2-9 line over 20 games. Injuries ruined 2015, but Spangenberg bounced back, hitting .271-4-21 over 303 at-bats, but 2016 again went the way of the hurt body. Whatever else the Pads have going on, I don't think Ryan Schimpf is a short-term, or Yangervis Solarte a long-term answer at second, but if given a shot, Spangenberg could be a really good everyday keystone guy, befitting a first rounder with a .354 minor league OBP.
Daniel Mengden (SP, Athletics): I have discussed the Oakland starter before, and most folks will run screaming from Mengden's 2-9, 6.50 line of last year over 72 innings. But, the fourth-round pick out of Rice in 2014 tossed 240 minor league innings with a 20-6, 2.78 mark with 237 strikeouts and a 1.13 WHIP before joining the Majors, and even though Mengden got knocked around last year, he did whiff 71. Once he overcomes the minor command issues, Mengden is going to be good.
Eloy Jimenez (OF, Cubs): As if the Cubs needed more and better prospects, this 6'5" outfielder beat the crap out of the Midwest League to the tune of .329-14-81 with 40 doubles over 112 games with a .901 OPS. Now 20, Jimenez should move to Double-A, but the bigs are not that far off, whether Theo Epstein makes room for him, or another team trades for the privilege of his skills. Keep this kid on your reserve list sights.
Kevin Pillar (OF, Jays): A draft darling last year after his .271-12-56 2015, we all seemed to think Pillar was going to take a Michael Brantley leap forward last year. But, regression was the name of the game and Pillar has pretty much fallen to Mixed League reserve fodder at best. I think he is better than that, good for potential double-digits in steals and dingers.
Aaron Altherr (OF, Phillies): Another kid who was hot speculative stuff going into 2016 following his .241-5-22 line with six swipes over 39 games. In fact, in my Strat-O-Matic league--where defense counts--Altherr was one hot commodity come draft time. The Phillies outfielder was hurt virtually all last year, so again, most have simply forgotten or dismissed another flychaser with double-digit potential all around.
Robbie Grossman (OF, Twins): In an outfield full of youth, Grossman, who has speed and on-base skills, becomes kind of fun. In case you didn't notice, in 332 at-bats last year, he hit .280-11-37 with a solid .386 OBP. Grossman did swipe 131 bags in the Minors, suggesting he has the skills to nab a few bases for your team.
Michael Tonkin (RP, Twins): If your league is deep, and you need to cover a pitching slot, say because you drafted Sonny Gray for $9 and you need to put Gray on the DL, Tonkin could well be a great $1 FAAB selection. He did give up 80 hits over 71.3 innings last year, with 14 of them being homers. But Tonkin also struck out 80 and I am guessing he settles into a solid bullpen role while providing a few wins and some whiffs in AL-only leagues.
Alex Wood (Dodgers, NL)/Alex Cobb (Rays, AL): If they could simply stay healthy, these guys might be good. Cobb (36-24, 3.44) and Wood (27-30, 3.35) are both old enough and experienced enough to deliver. And, if there was a season to be healthy, this contract year for each makes a big year of 180-plus innings a big deal.
Find me @lawrmichaels.
This past weekend saw the annual LABR AL and NL auctions, and as usual I participated in the American League setup, coordinated by our good friend Steve Gardner and hosted by USA Today.
It was a tough draft as usual, as drafting against solid players can be, so this year was no exception. I did, however, try to modify my strategy a little, for I usually like to build with a strong starting pitcher--like Chris Sale or David Price when there are no questions about his health--and then get hitters who in theory will give me numbers that will compete, but without dumping too much on any given player.
That is, I try to get good everyday players, something I did try to do this year, but without the benefit of a so-called ace, but also without spending more than $30 on a player so I would have largely $8-$15 everyday players everywhere. To augment this, I did try to make sure I had two closers and at least enough speed to put me in the middle of the pack.
And, the results are that I like my team, but as usual, ask me in October about "just how much?"
The highest-priced player was Jose Altuve, who went to Clay Link for $45, three more than Mike Trout fetched. See the full draft results here.
What does my roster look like, and what are my expectations?
C: Sandy Leon ($5): I did not want to dedicate much money for my catchers, so I am hoping Leon can simply hit .250-6-40. Of course, if he can do more, fine, but set the bar low.
C: Josh Phegley ($2): Everything I said about Leon applies here, but Phegley does crush lefties, and if he can hit that .250-6-40 line for $2, he might even turn a profit for me.
1B: C.J. Cron ($12): Cheap homers and as a full-timer all year, perhaps Cron can even get close to 30 big flies to go with the supporting stats.
2B: Dustin Pedroia ($18): In retrospect, I wanted Devon Travis or Jason Kipnis, but both went for more than I anticipated, so I held out for Pedroia and pretty much paid what I might have for Travis. Not a big loss, though, as "Laser" can still rake, even if he doesn't swipe much anymore.
3B Trevor Plouffe ($14): Saved my money for the end game and did get an everyday third sacker. I did want Nick Castellanos, but again, too rich for my blood.
MI: Eduardo Escobar ($2): Steady, flexible, and probably good for 350 important at-bats in the middle slot.
CI: Rob Refsnyder ($1): Corner infield crapshoot on a player I like and one who would have gone in the reserve draft for sure. Another flexible position possibility here, and player with pretty solid minor league totals on his side.
OF: George Springer ($27): My big gun, I had figured I would get Carlos Santana as my most expensive purchase at the $27 tag, so when Springer's bidding slowed around $24, I jumped in and changed paths.
OF: Khris Davis ($23): I don't think he will hit 40, but I do think he can hit at least 30, and check out his second half K/BB and on-base numbers last year. He's legit.
OF: Kole Calhoun ($17): No one really thought anyone else would get him, right?
OF: Steven Souza ($11): Some power and some speed possibilities here.
OF: Cameron Maybin ($9): Another good speed option.
UTIL: Colby Rasmus ($6): Some pop as a utility guy at a cheap price.
SP: Aaron Sanchez ($17): Since I tried to eschew the expensive pitchers, I hoped to build around Chris Archer and Danny Duffy, but they went for $25 and $17 respectively, and I had them pegged for $17 and $14. So, I targeted Sanchez, who is solid and should improve and is on a good team. I do think the gamble is a few bucks more than I might have imagined the hurler's value, but surely he can turn a profit. I needed someone as a sort of anchor, and within that context he was nominated.
SP: Michael Pineda ($11): Cheap price for whiffs and related wildness, but Pineda has the stuff, is now a veteran, and is in a contract year. I am hoping for a harmonic convergence of the three.
SP Marco Estrada ($10): Not much question anywhere how much I like Marco. Kind of like my affection for Calhoun, so his presence on my squad is hardly a surprise.
SP: Blake Snell ($9): A lot of strikeouts (98 over 89 innings) and a lot of walks (51) and not that many homers (5). Clearly, command is the issue, but the lefty gets the season to get the hang, and well, potential dominance is there.
SP: Jordan Zimmermann ($5): Remember last year when he was brilliant, then lousy, then hurt? Well, I am not sure he is brilliant, but if he isn't hurt, he surely is not lousy, and on a big hitting team. With his resume, Zimmermann makes for a nice bounceback investment.
RP: Roberto Osuna ($17): I like having two closers, and I like to try and get them for less than $45, so anything under $22 gives me some flexibility elsewhere, like even with a second closer.
RP: Cody Allen ($14): Closer II and again at a good price.
RP: Ryan Madson ($5): It never occured to me that I would have a third potential stopper. In fact, I thought maybe Ryan Dull would fill this slot for $3 or so. But when the bidding stalled at $4 on Madson, I figured very little was hurt by bidding one more on the likely Oakland closer to start the season. If Madson earns eight saves through the year, that is great coupled with Allen and Osuna's projected production. But, if the Oaklander really is the closer all season, that could give me some fabulous trade flexibility.
RES: Brock Holt: Valuable multi-position player who has some pop and speed. The big trick is making sure Holt is active when he is hot.
RES: Mikie Mahtook: Hot first start followed by a stall last year, I think Mahtook is lurking waiting for another chance, and ideally he has learned from the struggles.
RES: Peter O'Brien: Potential power source who could get his chance this year.
RES: Michael Bourn: He has a busted finger, but he also has some wheels and should get a chance to contribute some steals here and there.
RES: David Paulino: I really hoped Brent Honeywell would be available earlier, but Paulino is a pretty good prospect as well.
RES: Raul Alcantara: I like having a couple of hurlers on my reserve list, and this time I went with young guys, though Alcantara should have a chance at the rotation this season. Note that I had targeted Daniel Mengden for this last slot, thinking with his 6.50 ERA no one would touch him. But, Mengden did whiff 71 batters over the 72 innings he pitched in the bigs, and his minor league numbers were all great, all across the board. But, he was sniped. However, in your dynasty league, if you have a pitching slot you can gamble with, Mengden is a great gambit.
Hit me up @lawrmichaels.
Last Saturday, the Bay Area Rotisserie Fantasy League (BARF) held our second annual experts draft, hosted by Tod Alsam (@RbarTod), the venerable brains behind The Wreck Room (@theWreckRoomSF) in San Francisco. Along with Howard Bender, Ray Flowers, Justin Mason, and other Bay Area industry mates, we again went into a 12-team throwback draft where we selected 28 players.
In the league, we can make daily roster changes, and we count OBP and Quality Starts, making for some fun variables, Last year, I hoped to dominate pitching, selecting Clayton Kershaw with my first pick, and Chris Sale as my third selection, sandwiched around A.J. Pollock. My team did pull as high as third for a week or so at the end of May, but I never really recovered from the loss of Pollock, and Kershaw's injury helped seal the fate of my squad.
So, this year I determined I would not be caught short on hitting, and that I would try to hold off until at least the fifth round, if not the sixth, to select a hurler, hoping that I could grab Chris Archer at that point. The plan almost worked but Sammy Reid beat me to the punch, grabbing Archer with his sixth-round selection, although Ray Flowers told me that the Rays hurler would not have slipped by him either.
So, I postponed taking a pitcher just then, and actually held out till the eighth round before drafting Danny Duffy, as a #1 starter, augmenting with Kevin Gausman, Sean Manaea, Jerad Eickhoff, Robbie Ray, Ervin Santana, Brandon Finnegan and Mike Foltynewicz as starters, while going Adam Ottavino, Dellin Betances, Brandon Maurer and Ryan Dull as bullpen help.
Speed might prove to be an issue, but for once I should not find myself shy of homers and knocks, and ideally should have some power to swap come mid-season.
As I noted, going more hitting heavy is a bit different for me, for usually I build my squads out of strong pitching, assuming I can never have enough, and that should I have that coveted surplus, as with extra hitting, I can swap.
But, I also spent more time truly trying to draft the best available player, not so much the best available player who could fit into the overall squad I am trying to create.
Here are the selections with brief comments (I drafted in the #4 slot).
1) Nolan Arenado (3B): Best hitter in the NL.
2) Freddie Freeman (1B): Coming into his own as the best first baseman in the NL.
3) Yoenis Cespedes (OF): Underrated, and a player who does still have a 45-homer season in him. I think this is the year as he is a vet presence on a good young team.
4) Kyle Seager (CI): A bit of a reach, but nails the corners, and ideally this can be an area of hitting excess I can indeed exploit later on.
5) Khris Davis (OF): If he hits 30, hooray. If he hits more, again, a possible barter point.
6) Odubel Herrera (OF): Again, perhaps early, but decent power and a shot at some speed for a good young player who logged a .361 OBP last season.
7) Jason Kipnis (2B): Some power, some speed, 20/20 potential, and pretty steady.
8) Danny Duffy (SP): Had to start somewhere with starting pitching, and I think Duffy will build on his solid 2016 and become the ace of the Royals.
9) Kevin Gausman (SP): Another guy with some upside, and like Duffy, as third-year full-timers, I expect those 30-plus starts and ideally a lot of quality ones.
10) Evan Gattis (C): Part of my insatiable quest for homers, it is nice to stash him behind the dish. And, Houston my have a lot of hitters, but if Evan hits like he has the past few years, he will get his swings.
11) Brad Miller (SS): I think Miller can repeat the 30-homer totals of last year, and such production from shortstop is fine. And, we may get some position flexibility come the season.
12) Sean Manaea (SP): Another young arm, but a good one, with a hurler in a pitcher's park. Whiffs are part of the profile, too.
13) Kevin Kiermaier (OF): If he can stay healthy, the Rays outfielder could also be a 20/20 guy. If.
14) Jerad Eickhoff (SP): Solid season last year with almost 200 innings and a 1.16 WHIP.
15) Robbie Ray (SP): Perhaps another premature grab, but a lot of strikeouts and will probably do 200 innings.
16) Kole Calhoun (OF): Surprised Kole was still out there, and happy to have him on my roster, as always.
17) Brandon Crawford (MI): More pop up the middle, and good to remember Crawford has knocked in 84 each of the past two seasons. And with Miller and some position flexibility, Crawford can slide into the shortstop slot.
18) Dellin Betances (RP): Since this is a 12-teamer, I waited for relievers, but with daily trannies, Betances was too good to pass up at this point.
19) Adam Ottavino (RP): Likely the Rockies closer, and a guy who will get whiffs.
20) Brandon Finnegan (SP): Another guy I have been a fan of since Day 1, Finnegan will step it up a level this year a la Gausman.
21) Brandon Maurer (RP): More whiffs and maybe more saves with good peripherals.
22) Ervin Santana (SP): Remarkably consistent, and another good guy to stream.
23) Leonys Martin (OF): Crappy on-base totals, but power and needed speed. And, I think he can improve upon that OBP.
24) Kevin Pillar (OF): A favorite last year, dismissed this year, but I think there is still some good stuff in there, at least in terms of steals.
25) Robert Gsellman (SP): Crapshoot starter, but a good one at this point of the draft.
26) Mike Foltynewicz (SP): I like the former first-rounder of the Braves, who showed he is learning what it takes to be a big league pitcher. On an improving team, he goes with the flow.
27) Derek Norris (C): Gotta have two catchers, and Norris has been a decent on-base guy, and is not nearly as bad as last year suggests. And, well, if he is bad, not much invested here.
28) Ryan Dull (RP): I have four good relievers I can stream, and in theory, all four could wind up closing. For sure, all will get strikeouts.
Here are the final results of the BARF Draft, 2017.
Drafts are, in the Dickensian sense, "the best of times and the worst of times." Even mock drafts trigger the best and worst within us to a degree. Early this season during an online mock, someone commented that his queue was having technical problems and asked if anyone else was experiencing anything. I replied, "I am having major queue issues: every time I drop a player into mine, he gets taken."
In the coming week, I have three more mocks coming up, peppered in with that are an MLB.com 12-team slow mock draft, my Strat-O-Matic MW League rookie and supplemental drafts, and the Baseball Prospectus Rookie Draft, the latter of which are handled online, two of them via e-mail.
Mind you, I am not one to knock drafting, and whereas I do try to keep the actual number of leagues in which I play down to a reasonable number (I think it is six), I will mock all over, all of the time.
Where things get dicey is in remembering which draft is where and what might have a clock and where the wish list for Strat--which features players who had never appeared in a Major League game and where i coveted Chris Devenski--is different than MLB.com (where I picked first, took Mike Trout, and then waited for three days before I made my next pick), to the Rookie League where I did pick at the wheel, and was happy to grab Josh Hader and Gleyber Torres with my first picks Friday afternoon. Sometime tomorrow, I might be able to make my next Rookie picks, and maybe the day after will be Strat and MLB time.
In the meantime, there will be a mock tomorrow night, and well, I have a couple of rounds of golf scheduled during the week, and my band has a gig at The Bistro in Hayward Friday, so that means extra practice.
And, though the drafts are slowish--which is fine with me--there are indeed always those guys who get antsy if a pick is slow, but equally difficult is both waiting out the other selections as you hope no one notices that despite Daniel Mengden's surface numbers (2-9, 6.50), he is just shy of 24, did strike out 71 over 72 big league innings during his first exposure to the Show, and really had excellent minor league totals. So, in Strat-land, that is a guy who will eat some innings this year, and could be really good in a year or two.
So, between my #116 selection and my next pick at #132, I regularly checked my e-mail and pushes to make sure the Athletics hurler fell, and I did draft Mengden, but this strikes me as an almost obsessive amount of attention for such a presently insignificant player. But, hey, Daniel could be really good in a year or two.
In fact, in the Strat draft, I had swapped my first-round pick, so I didn't even get a selection until player #51, and as fate would have it, that pick came up right in the middle of the FSTA Mixed Draft in which Todd and I participated. Complicating matters, Todd is also in the league, so as long as I am picking ahead of him--or vice versa--we can discuss projected picks. But, carefully.
Well, I had my eyes on Jett Bandy, whom i knew would turn out to be a good defensive player in Strat, at that point since all the players I dreamed might fall, like Tyler Naquin and Devenski, were long gone. And, depending upon team need, no one is safe.
Bandy did in fact come to me right around the time Z and I picked Yoenis Cespedes in the FSTA.
A couple of days later, as we left Nashville and the FSTA festivities, I discovered I had the first pick in the MLB draft on my way to the airport, as I sweated out the potential Strat selection of Brian Flynn, and knew that five Rookie picks had been made.
The issue was I was getting on a plane, and I don't really like to pay for WiFi on a plane, so I hoped picks, slow or not, would not fall to me at some inopportune time.
I was able to grab Trout in the airport, but when the plane touched down as part of our layover in San Diego, it was my pick but my laptop was out of juice and I couldn't remember how to get into my Strat league on my iPhone. So, I sent an e-mail to the league saying if permitted, my pick was Flynn, and that I was at the whim of a dead computer and obscure password.
A couple of hours later, Diane and I were home and I logged in to see that the league gave me Flynn, and it was my turn to go in the Rookie league, and I got my guys.
So, in the end, things worked out well, despite all the clock watching and sweating. And, I don't think of these neuroses as odd, just "focused." However, it does make me wonder what I might accomplish if I really "focused" on something important?
Hit me up @lawrmichaels.
Welcome back to all of us from the Hotpage, as we go into our 21st year of covering baseball with a fantasy bend.
And, to kick off the New Year and our first Hotpage of this cycle, we are indeed releasing the Top 250 Prospects for this year, a list I have indeed been producing for almost as long as we have been posting the Hotpage.
In the past, the Top 250 went deep into prospect-land, looking at level of success relative to age, relative to power skills, relative to strike zone judgement, and came up with players who were usually a few years away, perfect for your Ultra or Dynasty format. Well, I have not changed the format at all, but over the years, the number of prospects coming up, getting a chance, and even making an impact has increased dramatically such that the number of rookies generally debuting these days is nearly double the number who were brought up when I first started playing Fantasy Ball in 1989.
If you tuned into Bed Goes Up a few weeks ago, you will have seen my sneak preview in which I tossed a few names to whet your appetites, but also noted the likes of Trevor Story (#241) and Willson Contreras (#112) might have been far off big league and fantasy rosters 20 years ago, but both players ranked at the number shown last year, and each had my special sleeper highlight.
And, like last year, I give the players, their organization, the player's rating, a brief comment on the player, and again I highlighted players who I think are either a little under the radar, or poised for some instant karma.
In addition to level of play, and age, players are ranked on strikeout-to-walks and also innings pitched, on-base and OPS skill, extra-base hits to hits ranking only play at Low-A and above when the pitcher has hurled 70 innings, or the hitter has batted 200 times over the course of the season.
Of course since age is a significant factor in determining potential success, clearly the better a player is, at a higher level, at a younger age, the better. And, this year, the top handful of picks are indeed youngsters, likely not on a lot of radar units. But, that is the way it goes, for in the past names like Jurickson Profar and Carlos Zambrano have topped the list on the good side, while Cody Buckel was a top banana without "appeal."
One final thought: The list looks at 3000 players, largely between the ages of 20-25, so the difference between the number 15 slot on the list and the number 150 slot is just 1.6, as in #15 (Logan Allen) scored 24.40 points while #150 (Corey Zangari) logged in at 26, meaning there were 135 players mashed in between those two totals. So, if you wonder why Dansby Swanson rated so low (215), "low" is contextual. One final note: all ages are factored upon what the player's age will be on Opening Day.
The Top 250 is indeed free when you subscribe to our Platinum Package, driven by the one and only Lord Zola, and the final list should be up and downloadable in the next 48 hours.
So, here is this year's Top 10.
1) Roniel Raudes (P, Boston, 19): Raudes, who will turn 19 this week, finished a full year in the Sally League last year going 11-6 with a 3.64 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP, with 104 whiffs across 113.3 frames. The lanky (6'1, 160) Nicaraguan was signed as a 16-year-old.
2) Ozzie Albies (2B, Atlanta, 20): Hit .321-4-33 at Mississippi before advancing to Gwinnett where there was a little struggle (.248-2-20 over 56 games), but Albies did just turn 20 last week, meaning he was just out of 18's-ville when 2016 began. When you add it up, Albies played 138 games, going .298-6-53 with 33 doubles and 30 steals, showing great zone judgement with 52 walks to 96 strikeouts.
3) Franklin Perez (P, Houston, 19): Perez played a full season at the Midwest League as an 18-year-old, striking out 75 over 66.6 innings, allowing just one homer, going 3-3, 2.84, starting ten games, and earning a save over one of five relief appearances.
4) Kolby Allard (P, Atlanta, 20): Allard began the year in the Appalachian League, then advanced to the Sally League and did 60.3 innings, going 5-3, 3.73 with 62 strikeouts, posting a 1.23 WHIP.
5) Mike Soroka (P, Atlanta, 20): The tall (6'4") Canadian played in Rome with Allard (I suspect we better watch out for the Braves in the future, no?) and went 9-9, 3.02 with 125 whiffs over 143 innings with just three dingers allowed.
6) Anderson Espinoza (P, San Diego, 19): Espinoza, who doesn't turn 19 until March, split his season between Greenville (5-8, 4.38) and Ft. Wayne (1-3, 4.73), whiffing 100 over 108.3 total innings last year. He is a little raw (1.38 WHIP) but San Diego thought enough of him to swap Drew Pomeranz in exchange.
7) Spencer Adams (P, White Sox, 21): Moved up to Double-A after 107.6 innings in the California League, going a cumulative 10-12, 3.98 over 163 innings with 100 total strikeouts and a 1.29 WHIP with just four homers allowed. Not overpowering, but excellent control and is probably Comiskey bound sometime this year.
8) Imani Abdullah (P, Los Angeles, 20): In his first full season, Abdullah went 4-4, 3.61 over 72.6 innings with 59 strikeouts, but just 12 walks, good for a 1.19 WHIP at the Midwest League. He did allow ten dingers, but otherwise pretty stellar numbers for the kid.
9) Ariel Jurado (P, Texas, 21): Went 1-4, 3.30 in the Texas League after going 7-2, 3.86 at High Desert resulting in an 8-6, 3.66 mark over 123 innings with 106 whiffs.
10) Nick Neidert (P, Seattle, 20): Second round pick in 2015, Neidert went 7-3, 2.57 over 91 innings at Clinton with 69 strikeouts to just 13 walks (0.970 WHIP), with just 75 hits allowed.
You can follow me @lawrmichaels.