With a full week of baseball now in the books it’s about time to start reading into trends… or is it? Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint, as the cliché goes. Those of us who play Fantasy Sports know that Fantasy Football may sometimes be a sprint because, more than any other sport, it is a “what have you done for me lately” type league. We’ll always jump on the hottest new trend/player who pops up on the waiver wire after a big injury or demotion, but in baseball that shouldn’t always be the case.
In shallower Fantasy Baseball league’s there will always be lots of players in the free agent pool who can make noise in your lineups, especially position players. Many of us play in H2H leagues in which picking up the hottest or best matchup-related two-start pitchers is always a weekly frenzy. But, should we be making pickups, wasting limited matchup transactions, and/or free agent auction dollars on potential breakout candidates after one week of the season? Well, that all depends on your leagues of course, but there’s absolutely no reason to drop 1B Miguel Cabrera after a cold start for 1B Mark Reynolds just because he’s scorching hot after one week… Do not do that.
In deeper leagues, it’s sometimes beneficial to scour the waiver wire for those potential 2017 breakouts, especially if your current starting player is someone who’s also of that speculative nature and hasn’t performed well at all to this point- i.e. OF Byron Buxton.
These columns attempt to help those in the toughest of dilemmas, usually for those in deeper mixed and AL/NL only leagues. We try to help you find those potential key pieces that you may not have time to discover for yourselves, so check out this week’s free agent sleepers, who many may not want to risk a pickup on, but could help a team in need right now and possibly down the line. These will all be position players; the pitching wire will be out soon.
Deciphering Between the Real and the Fake
It’s clear by now that SS/OF Chris Owings is the lead dog after a three-way position battle at shortstop during Spring Training. Owings, up until very recently, was roughly 10 percent owned in all ESPN leagues; now, that number is over 50 percent. Due to his great start and promising future potential (First round pick in the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft and a Top 100 prospect pre-2014), he may be a worthwhile pickup for those in need of his multi-position eligibility in points leagues or his stolen base potential in rotisserie formats; he’s stolen four bases in four attempts thus far.
Rookie outfielders Mitch Haniger and Manuel Margot have both gotten off to extremely good starts for their respective clubs. Both have eerily similar numbers, each with three HRs and a stolen base after nine games. Although Haniger has the better counting stats, Margot has the better batting average to this point. It is very early to start praising them too much and handing them each a Rookie of the Year Award in their respective leagues, but they do look very promising. Margot is a top prospect, so some may say this was to be expected, but I don’t think many expected the type of power being displayed by him thus far. Haniger, on the other hand, was not as highly touted but did have an outstanding 2016 season in the minors, posting a .321/.419/.581 triple-slash line… It’s time to start taking notice.
1B Ryan Zimmerman has worked on his hitting with teammate 2B Daniel Murphy this offseason. Supposedly, Murphy has been teaching him the same techniques he learned a year ago on adding good lift and exit velocity to his cuts. We all know how beautifully that turned out for Murphy, so far it seems like Zimmerman is getting it as well.
SS Aledmys Diaz sort of fell under the radar this year after a more than exceptional rookie campaign during which he put up a .300 BA, 17 HRs, 28 2Bs, and 41 BBs in just 460 plate appearances; he looks to be carrying all of it over to 2017.
Many have wondered how the move to Washington D.C. would affect C Matt Wieters’ Fantasy value, if it even does at all. Well, after catching all eight games for the Nats to start this season (a great sign) and hitting a cool .435 with a dinger to boot, it looks as though maybe this was the move Wieters needed, or maybe he’s growing and becoming a better player with age, or maybe this is just a fluke. Whatever it may be, considering he plays at an extremely unreliable position in Fantasy terms and looks like he’ll be starting in a lot of games for the Nats, he could be a very good resource at the catcher position for many Fantasy teams in need… Possibly even more than just a good resource.
I won’t be going into too much detail about players I don’t believe in, but I will list some very hot notables who will eventually end up back on the scrap heap.
1B Mark Reynolds– He’s a big waiver wire guy right now; but how long can this realistically last? Plus, 1B/OF Ian Desmond will be back at some point soon, so don’t invest too much into Reynolds unless you need a hot bat for the immediate future.
3B Yunel Escobar- He’s way too hot right now and guaranteed to cool down a bunch. Although he normally does hit for a good average, Escobar does little in the power and speed departments. He’s only useful if you need batting average help in rotisserie formats.
3B Chase Headley- Headley is off to an unexpectedly great start, but don’t invest. He will disappoint sooner or later and I’m banking on sooner.
1B/3B Travis Shaw- Shaw is another hot commodity right now across free agent markets, and I understand why, but I don’t recommend picking him up. He’s gotten off to quite a few great starts in the past and shown spurts of big time potential, but he always goes ice cold, usually in the latter part of the season. He’s still relatively young and that’s why many have taken an interest in him. However, he’s been a streaky hitter throughout his entire career and a short week and half glimmer of hope doesn’t do anything to prove otherwise.
The Deeper Sleepers
Let’s dig deeper now. This relates back to my last article on recent platoon situations and injury fallouts, as well as how you can cope with injuries and stagnant play on your own rosters.
3B Yangervis Solarte- Yes, Solarte plays for the lowly Padres, but he quietly put up a respectable .286 BA/15 HRs/26 2Bs last year in just 405 Abs. Mix in a solid start to the 2017 season, batting third in the everyday lineup, and the addition of some up-and-coming players surrounding him in that lineup, and there may be a consistently productive Fantasy player here for years to come.
1B Lucas Duda- Lucas Duda was once a reliable power source for the NY Mets. Fast-forward to 2017 and many of us forgot about him after back injuries plagued Duda for most of 2016. I’d venture to say he’s healthy again after his first six games, batting .333 with three HRs (two in one game). Perhaps we should all start remembering him as that reliable power threat once again.
OF Yasmany Tomas- Diamondbacks outfielder Yasmany Tomas is one of a few players I’ve already mentioned that I’m on the fence about, but I do think at some point down the line he could be a great Fantasy asset. He clearly has the pop of an elite player after crushing 31 HRs and 30 doubles last season, but it comes down to his plate discipline, which he currently doesn’t have much of. A select few over the years were/are able to perform at such a prominent level in other areas of their offensive game that it allowed Fantasy owners to overlook poor walk rates- i.e. Vlad Guerrero, Starling Marte, Adam Jones, etc. That’s the difference between those guys and Tomas; they either stole a ton of bags, hit for a very high average or blasted a ridiculous number of home runs (check OF Mark Trumbo)- Tomas will never steal enough bases and most likely will not hit for a high average, so relying solely on power is a dangerous thing unless you’re in a rotisserie league.
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