Josh Bell, 1B, Pirates
Bell got off to a slow start in 2017, however, his offense steadily improved and by seasons end, he set the MLB record for most home runs by a switch-hitting rookie (26). Bell adjusted his approach at the plate mid-season. He became more aggressive and focused on attacking fastballs instead of chasing off-speed pitches. Although his overall 18.9 percent strikeout rate was his highest since 2012, Bell’s 10.6 percent walk rate made him valuable in OBP leagues. His mid-season batting strategy change helped him post a .274 second-half batting average, 35 points higher than his first-half average. Bell should continue to hit for power. His Barrels Per Plate Appearance (Brls/PA) increased from 3.9 to 4.7 in 2017 and his .211 Isolated Power (ISO) was the highest of his professional career. His career low .278 BABIP should increase this season, and that should help boost his overall batting average.
Trey Mancini, First Base/OF, Orioles
In a professional baseball career that dates back to 2013, Mancini has never posted a batting average below. 282. His historical consistency at the plate, and the above average power he’s demonstrated throughout his career make him a player who should continue to be highly productive in Fantasy in 2018. Mancini, who finished third in AL Rookie of the Year Award voting, will likely be eligible at both first base and outfield, and that should add to his Fantasy value this season. His 2017 .293 batting average may level off a bit, as last season’s .352 BABIP reverts closer to MLB’s .300 average, and his high strikeout rate may catch up to him. However, Mancini’s career-long consistency at the plate and above average power, make him a player who could add value to your Fantasy team.
Marwin Gonzalez, 1B/2B/SS/OF, Astros
I love a multi-position eligible player, and not only is Gonzalez eligible at six spots in your Fantasy Baseball lineup (don’t forget CI and MI), with the improvements he made to his offensive game last season, he’s poised to pick up right where he left off. Gonzalez’s 2017 average exit velocity increased by 1.2 MPH compared to 2016, and he set career highs in batting average, OBP, SLG, OPS, doubles, HRs, RBIs…you get the picture? Just as important as those advances to his offensive game, is the fact that he posted a three year low 19.2 percent strikeout rate, and more than doubled his walk rate (9.5 percent) from 2016 (4.2 percent). Based on Gonzalez’s .268 lifetime batting average, I do expect some offensive regression from him in 2018. However, if he demonstrates the same type of plate discipline as last season, Gonzalez should still be a viable Fantasy option whose positional versatility can help you win a Fantasy Baseball championship.
Scooter Gennett, 2B/3B/OF, Reds
Before his monster four HR game on June 6, 2017, many Fantasy owners didn’t know who Scooter Gennett was. However, that game was just the beginning of a breakout season. From that point on, Gennett posted a .293/.344/.516 triple slash. Gennett has always hit for average (he batted .298 during his minor league career), and although he had some pop in his bat, he was never considered a slugger. However, an adjustment to his swing point helped him drive the ball more often. His 37.6 percent fly ball rate was the highest of his big league career. Gennett has always loved hitting in Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark. He has 21 home runs in 96 career games and a .297/.334/.551 triple slash in that venue. Expecting him to match his 2017 statistics may be a bit ambitious, however, his potential multi-positional eligibility will help his Fantasy value.
Paul DeJong, SS/2B, Cardinals
DeJong played in just 108 games last season but still managed to slug 25 home runs. His .285 batting average was right in line with his .283 career minor league average. DeJong is another player who adds Fantasy value due to his multi-position eligibility. He was equally effective against right and left-handed pitching, however, he was a much better hitter at home (.358 batting average) compared to when he played on the road (.231 batting average on the road). Although I expect him to be Fantasy viable this season as he continues to hit for power and average, I’d like to see him walk more and reduce his 28 percent strikeout rate.
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