Player Movement for 2018 Fantasy Baseball
There are so many moving parts every offseason. And this one started off with a bang, a boom, no, a fire sale.
The Marlins sold off nearly every usable part on their MLB roster, sending the Yankees the NL MVP, and the Mariners a second baseman/leadoff man who will play outfield for the first time in his career. In addition, two NL teams got new hitters in the meat of their lineups, all thanks to a new direction in Miami.
On top of that the Brewers signed a former farmhand, the Giants revamped with a couple of veterans, and a big bat returned to New York (after a short rental trip to Cleveland). Bullpen pieces moved around as well, some from pitcher-friendly ballparks to hitter’s havens, and the list goes on and on.
Here’s a rundown of players in new places and the positive or negative effect it will have on 2018 Fantasy Baseball.
Former Marlins On The Move
Let’s start from the top with Giancarlo Stanton. Coming off an MVP season in which he hit 59 home runs — the most in Major League Baseball since 2001 — the slugger was shipped to the Yankees for whom he’ll bat in the middle of arguably the best offense in one of the most homer-friendly stadiums in baseball.
That’s just what a player coming off a season in which he racked up 132 RBIs, 123 runs scored and a 1.007 OPS, to go along with the aforementioned 59 home runs, needs, right? Stanton goes from playing in a ballpark that was the seventh- toughest for right-handed hitters to homer in last season to the second-most-favorable park for right-handed hitters, according to Baseball Prospectus’ park factors.
Stanton can and will get jammed and still hit home runs at Yankee Stadium, meaning it’s not out of realm of possibilities that he will eclipse his NL MVP numbers this season. How does 65 homers and 140 RBIs sound? That’s a nice start to any Fantasy team, pegging Stanton as a late first-round pick this season.
Stanton’s former teammate, Dee Gordon, not only changed teams but also changed leagues AND positions this offseason.
Truth is though, the only real change in his Fantasy value is that the speedster will now have multiple position eligibility (2B/OF). Gordon will again steal around 60 bases, score around 100 runs, and bat close to .300. Batting leadoff in Seattle instead of Miami, Gordon will likely lead the AL instead of the NL in stolen bases, putting him squarely in the third round of 12-team leagues.
The next former Marlins player off the board should be Christian Yelich. I’ve seen him drafted as early as 38th in the RotoExperts Staff Mock and as late as the 70th pick. With an ADP of 65, I think he’s likely to pay dividends for owners, ending the season as a Top 50 player and Top 10 outfielder.
No-look pickoff? This is crazy! 😱 pic.twitter.com/8LCb1Mx0JM
— MLB (@MLB) March 14, 2018
Here’s why: After finishing 2017 as the 20th ranked outfielder with 18 home runs and 16 steals, Yelich moves from one of the worst parks for left-handed power hitters to the one of the best, in hitter-friendly Miller Park. He’s also hit 24 of his 39 home runs on the road over the past two seasons with an OPS nearly 150 points lower at home during that span. He’ll have a better supporting cast around him in Milwaukee, which should increase his runs and RBIs produced in 2018. And on top of that, the Brewers stole the second-most bases in the Majors last season.
Yelich’s floor is a 20-20 season with 180 combined runs and RBIs and a .280 average, but everything points to a true Fantasy breakout. Can you say career highs? I sure can. Yelich’s final stat line can and will read: 100-25-100-25-.290. Feel good taking the Brewers outfielder in the fourth round and look at him as a steal in the fifth and beyond.
One former Marlin that could be hurt by his new home ballpark is Marcel Ozuna. The Cardinals’ new outfielder is coming off a breakout season, in which he racked up 37 homers, 124 RBIs, 95 runs scored, and a .312 batting average — all career highs.
With the move to Busch Stadium, the most difficult park to homer in without barreling a ball or making solid contact, Ozuna’s power numbers could see sizeable regression. Ozuna exceeded the total home runs of his previous two seasons combined, set a new career high in RBIs, with an increase of 39 (from 85 to 124), and raised his average by close to 50 points (with a .355 BABIP). It’s very likely the outfielder will have to settle for 30 jacks, 100 RBIs and a .270 batting average.
That’s still a high-quality season, but Ozuna’s ADP of 45 is just too high for me when looking at his previous track record. I expect last season to be the outlier, meaning I’ll avoid Ozuna as a Top 50 pick in Fantasy drafts.
Giants Reload With Two Former All-Stars
Two former All-Stars and Fantasy first-rounders will be batting leadoff and third for their new team — the San Francisco Giants. Adding Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria this offseason should help a lineup that put up an MLB-worst 128 homers in 2017. But playing their home games at AT&T Park will likely cause a slight dip in the veterans’ power numbers and thus their Fantasy upside.
With McCutchen going in the Top 100 (ADP 81) and Longoria being drafted more than 100 picks later (ADP 199), the value play of these two is clearly Longoria. Expect 20-25 homers, 80-85 runs and RBIs, and a .285 batting average by season’s end for each of the two newest members of the Giants.
Brewers Bring In Former Farmhand
While AT&T Park is likely to have a negative effect on the Giants’ free-agent signings, Lorenzo Cain, similar to Yelich, should benefit from his new home park in Milwaukee.
Cain returns to the organization that drafted him in 2004 and with whom he made his MLB debut with in 2010. Moving to hitter-friendly Miller Park and a lineup that stole 128 bags (second-most in the Majors) last season, could mean a career year for Cain, who should set the table for the Brewers and have the green light on the basepaths.
Look for the Brewers’ new leadoff man to set new career highs in homers (16) and stolen bases (28), while again batting over .300, making him a steal, in his own right, with an ADP of 95.
Middle Round Find in Phillies Free Agent
Carlos Santana was amazingly consistent in his seven full seasons with the Indians, averaging 24 homers, 81 RBIs, and 79 runs scored.
The first baseman is now switching leagues and moving to the Phillies and Citizens Bank Park, a stadium that ranked first for right-handers and second for left-handers when it came to hitting homers last season. For a switch-hitter like Santana, that should pay dividends from both sides of the plate and swing his power numbers back toward what he did in 2016 — 34 homers, 87 RBIs, 89 runs scored, and a .259 average.
If he can repeat that while batting in the middle the Phillies’ lineup, in a very hitter-friendly park, then Santana’s current ADP of 160 makes him a bargain in the middle rounds of 12-team drafts.
A Couple of Vets Help Remake the Mets
The Mets traded away Jay Bruce at the 2017 trade deadline only to have him return to New York this offseason. While this isn’t a completely new place for a player, it does cement Bruce as a boring yet useful draft choice.
Between New York and Cleveland last year, the 30-year-old slugger batted .254 with 36 home runs, 101 RBIs, and 82 runs scored. That makes it seven seasons of 25 or more home runs, or every season of his career in which he’s had at least 500 at-bats, for the veteran.
This is what Bruce is. You can pencil in 30 home runs, 100 RBIs, and a .250 batting average, which remains a positive output for a player being drafted in the 12th round or later in 12-team leagues (ADP 147). Bank on Bruce for continued power production from the middle of the Mets’ lineup in 2018.
His new Mets teammate, Todd Frazier, is coming at an even deeper discount. Coming off a down year, in which he still hit 27 home runs, the third baseman is going in the 20th round of 12-team drafts at an ADP of 246. This is a player who is second in homers by third basemen since 2012 with 169 — only four behind consensus top 30 pick Josh Donaldson with 173.
That power production, plus the chance that he may bat leadoff, makes Frazier a quality corner-infield target in mixed leagues. His ADP is just oozing with value with the potential for another 30-home run season. Queue up Frazier as a late-round flier.
Cash in On Colorado’s New Closer
Wade Davis is an elite closer. Since moving to the bullpen in 2014, his worst statistical season came last year when he registered a 2.30 ERA and 1.14 WHIP while converting 32 of 33 saves for the Cubs.
Now, in Colorado, he’s somehow the 10th closer coming off the board, on average. And the one and only reason for that is that Davis now calls Coors Field his home. But the right-hander is so effective, striking out more than a batter an inning, that going to Colorado shouldn’t affect him. Just look at what his former Royals teammate Greg Holland did in the same role last season — 41 saves in 45 chances.
Expect similar, if not better results, from Davis this season. Let other Fantasy owners be scared off by Coors Field while you reap the benefits of drafting Davis at a discount in 2018.
Morrow Makes Sense as Cubs Closer
The man who is likely replacing Davis in the back end of the Cubs’ bullpen is Brandon Morrow. He’s always had electric stuff but has never gotten the opportunity to serve as a full-time closer. That all changed when he signed a two-year, $21-million contract with the Cubs this offseason.
As long as Morrow can stay healthy, and that’s a big if, he’s an absolute steal at an ADP of 186 for 2018 Fantasy Baseball. Coming off a season in which he struck out 50 batters in 43.2 innings with a 2.06 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP, he’s landed on a team expected to win 90 games. I’ll take my chances on Morrow outperforming his 15th round draft stock and look for him to rank as a Top 10 closer in 2018.
Jay Bruce Photo Credit: AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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