Much like the stock market, the way to win in fantasy baseball is not to just get the best players or the most intimidating team on paper, but rather to target players due to increase in value. Much unlike the stock market, you don’t have to be an expert to notice trends and make smart moves. This being my first Buy/Sell of the season (Much more Buy than Sell), there’s a ton of names I like that I’ve been intrigued by all off-season that I wanted to put here. As the season goes on, we’ll look more at this year’s stats to find sleepers so help us stay ahead of the fantasy curve.
Jean Segura (SS, Mariners) – If you’re looking for Jose Altuve-like production at generic price, look no further. Of course, there’s some risk in that after his monster first half in his rookie year, he had a poor 2014 and 2015. However, before baking those poor seasons too heavily into his 2017 projections, consider that: A. He made swing changes last year with Luis Mercedes, who has worked magic for Robinson Cano and Edwin Encarnacion, and B. You robots should consider that his infant son frickin’ dying in 2014 might have had an impact on his production since he is a human with emotions. While thought of as a slap-hitter due to his small frame, consider that his exit velocity also improved with his flyball rate in 2016, so for this year, even in a less hitter-friendly ballpark, 15 homers with excellent average and speed should be attainable and atop an excellent heart of the lineup. Segura is Spanish for “safe” and you should feel safe with Jean.
Jake Lamb (3B, Diamondbacks) – I think Lamb is going to be a lion this year, one that will tear to shreds all the people who predict him regressing. The falling off in the second half may have just been due to the common fatigue that sets in a hitter’s first full major league season, and this year he should be better equipped to handle that. I mean, the dude had excellent exit velocity on flyballs/liners, and if he can increase his FB rate again it should be easy. Also, his .260 ISO from last year is pretty nuts, and hints at the ability to take his game another level. Jake won’t flake, he’ll rake.
Nick Castellanos (3B, Tigers) – Dr. Nick does as much damage to baseballs as the Simpson’s character does to his patient’s bodies. Last year he had tons of hard contact and a studly Barrels/PA ratio, and his Spring showed he clearly has no ill effects from last season’s injury. But now I’m even more in on him after seeing him batting second in the Tigers lineup (responded with a homer). I know that will change when JD Martinez returns, but that may be longer than you think, as Lisfranc injuries are no joke. If he can maintain his power from last year, stay healthy, and maybe improve his contact rate a smidge, I think he can outproduce Evan Longoria.
Miguel Sano (3B, Twins) – The heat is Sano! Sano launched a Space-X reuseable rocket for his first homer or 2017, going 113.8 mph and 425 feet. That’s a spicy meatball! Sano’s 2016 was a disappointment for some, but many are taking for granted that this is his age 23 season and are not projecting growth. The strikeout rate is scary, of course, but most players his age haven’t even reached the majors yet, and all he needs to do is bring that rate to under 30% to be a fantasy monster. If he makes the needed adjustments, a 40-homer season is certainly within reach.
Mark Trumbo (OF, Orioles) – While he may not have been deemed super valuable by MLB teams this offseason, since he really is a one-tool power guy, it’s a VERY LOUD tool and that matters in fantasy. He’s in the 2nd best possible hitter situation (best would be Coors, of course) and at his ADP people are discounting the ease with which he can provide another 40-dinger season. Sure, he may not qualify at OF next year and he really shouldn’t have been there to begin with, but enjoy his eligibility this year since big power isn’t easy to come by there nowadays. Also, don’t forget that the Trumbo plays a vital role in making the Plumbus. Wait, sorry, that’s a Grumbo…close enough.
Avisail Garcia (OF, White Sox) – It’s already a given that when it comes to expectations of being Miguel Cabrera 2.0, the AviShip has AviSailed. But that comparison really only came about because he was a talented Venezuelan player with chubby cheeks and their gameplay was always far apart. Anyway, part of what has made him such a disappointment was his poor conditioning, so the fact he lost 20 pounds this offseason while hitting the gym hard is a good sign that maybe he’s finally maturing. He had the talent to be an almost passable ballplayer at 270 pounds, so that would seem to imply he might be more than possible with a body that was less Pablo Sandoval-like. With such a hopeless White Sox team, the 25-year-old will be given plenty of rope to show if he’s for real.
Tyler Flowers (C, Braves) – When it comes to fantasy baseball predictions, if I’m going to pick a hill to die on, it may as well be one with Flowers. He had a lousy spring which kept down the hype (which may only exist in my mind) but he seems healthy and has the position locked up for the time being. It’s hard to find any value at catcher and the fact that nobody cares about his excellent Statcast batted ball data makes him an obvious buy in two-catcher or deeper leagues even if you’re unsure if his stats are legit, or if I’m just a room full of rabid monkeys who just happened to type this paragraph.
Robbie Grossman (OF, Twins) – Wait so a team starved for power demoted not one, but two potentially great power hitters and made their DH a 4th-outfielder-type? Gross, man. While far from sexy, and perhaps unfairly given the job, Robbie’s now basically uncontested for the DH spot in Minnesota, and especially in deeper OBP leagues, his adequate power and good on-base skills make him a good option for a run producer likely to be available on the waiver wire. Don’t expect him to help you in stolen bases (he’s had a lousy career success rate in the majors), but you can make an argument that he’s better than a healthy Lonnie Chisenhall for OBP leagues. That’s hardly a ringing endorsement, I know, but AL-only rosters could do worse.
Jose Iglesias (SS, Tigers) – After such a lost season, you may be surprised to learn that Iglesias lead the majors in 2016 by a healthy margin in Contact rate and in Z-Contact with 96.9%. In other words, this guy is REALLY good at making contact. As long as he can avoid any more season-ending injuries, his defense will keep him in the lineup but he is a batting average sleeper since he can easily slap a .300 average with a couple homers and 5-10 stolen bases to boot. At a time when power is available on the cheap, guys like Iglesias get a boost since it is easier to supplement his near-total lack of pop.
Carlos Gomez (OF, Rangers) – Carlos Gomez has been a player that over the past few years has left people wondering if he’s finally healthy. Generally speaking, hurt players don’t hit 460-foot home runs, and Gomez just did that. In Texas, Gomez is a candidate for the major rebound he hinted at last year, and can hit 20-25 home runs as part of a great lineup. That being said, the days of 30+ Stolen bases are behind him, and if he can get even 20 without injuring himself, bless your lucky stars.
Michael Brantley (OF, Indians) – Speaking of injuries, Michael Brantley substantially increased his value just by showing up on a baseball field and not leaving on a stretcher. He has been touch and go for over a year, and there certainly is still concern that these shoulder and back problems will continue to flare up and bring a disappointing end to a bright career. But for right now, he’s fine enough to play, and if that continues, he could hit .290+ with 10-12 home runs and 10-12 steals. I think that given the injury risk, it’s folly to expect more than that, especially since he’ll be given rest days throughout the season. But given his deflated price, that’s certainly worth buying.
Yonder Alonso (1B , Athletics) – If you’re looking for a deep AL-only 1st baseman who may have unrealized potential, look over Yonder. It’s worth noting that Alonso always had power potential that just never seemed to get tapped into at the major league level. So, it’s encouraging that Alonso. has overhauled his swing in the offseason and changed the positioning of his hands, and was tearing the cover off the ball in Spring Training with several home runs. The A’s seem committed to trotting him out there after a dismal 2016, so perhaps this is why they traded for him all along. While he’s no longer close to a prospect at 30, it wouldn’t be the first time a swing overhaul created a late bloomer, and I’m monitoring him for the upside to hit .270 with at least 15-20 homers, and perhaps even more. So if you thought his career was dead, I wouldn’t yet be Alonso mourning. Okay, that one was pretty bad.
Jurickson Profar (OF, 1B, 2B, 3B, Rangers) – Profar certainly intrigues with his name, as it once graced the coveted #1 spot on the Baseball America Top Prospect List, and he is only 23. However, the effects of over a full season of shoulder injury was made apparent with his lackluster return, as he sported weak batted ball authority and lacked the expected excellent plate discipline. Now with DeShields pushing him out of playing time in left field and Gallo making the OD roster with Beltre down, he’s once again without a home, and will likely struggle to provide any fantasy value as a super-sub despite his nifty position multi-eligibility. It may take a trade or more injuries to give him a real chance to prove himself.
Jett Bandy (C, Brewers) – Admittedly, if you were speculating on Bandy, you were probably already in a very deep league or a two-catcher league. But I have to take aim early at one of my bold predictions and acknowledge that he seems to be in a catcher platoon with the offensively inferior Manny Pina, which at least hurts his odds of providing much value in the early going. Things will only get hairier when Susac returns, so I won’t Bandy on about him any longer.
Jedd Gyorko (2B, Cardinals) – Gyorko may have made himself look like a real Gyork when he complained to his team about being platooned. Wong is hurt less by this as hes’ on the strong time, but Gyorko has to fight to steal playing time at 3B from Peralta to amass any value. Though honestly, with their playing time so up in the air, I don’t want anything to do with Gyorko or Wong right now until full-time duty is guaranteed.