Our fantasy team identifies bullpen arms who might be good value picks this season.
Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians
2016 was the fourth consecutive season that Allen threw at least 68 innings, a stretch during which he’s never struck out fewer than 11.3 batters per nine innings. On top of his regular season excellence, Allen threw 13.2 innings of scoreless ball in the playoffs, striking out 24 of the 55 batters he faced. Andrew Miller’s postseason grabbed most of the headlines because of the creativity with which he was used and the sheer volume of innings he racked up, but Allen’s performance matched the tall lefty’s on a per inning basis. Most importantly for our game, Allen notched six October saves to Miller’s zero, continuing the predominant usage pattern Terry Francona established after Miller’s arrival at the trade deadline. Allen saved 12 games to Miller’s three from August on. You have to take these things with a grain of salt, but Tito affirmatively declared Allen the primary closer recently. Will Miller poach a save here or there? Yeah, sure, but given what saw down the stretch last year, there’s little reason to believe a sea change is coming.
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Our fantasy team identifies hurlers who might make for fine investments in dynasty formats.
Tyler Skaggs, Los Angeles Angels
It’s been a long road for Skaggs, and I certainly was not a believer a few years back. Those with better skill for scouting player talent, though, have stayed in on him. After having not thrown a major league inning since 2014, Skaggs came back better than ever. After his average four-seam velocity never got above 90.30 mph in 2012 or 2013, he averaged 92.78 mph in 2014, and then 93.42 mph in 2016—the result of which was a stellar, 22% K% last season. And while it seems like Skaggs has been around forever, he debuted when he was 22 and is still only 25 (to be 26 in July). Sure, Skaggs’s forecasted projection has to build in above-average injury risk, but the upside for a once highly regarded lefty that now throws 93-94 with a good curveball is well worth the risk for me. —Jeff Quinton
Jameson Taillon, Pittsburgh Pirates
When you’re in a long-term league and you’re looking towards the future, it’s easy to be entranced by upside. Anytime a player is mentioned to have the potential of being an elite contributor, it’s only natural to become obsessed. I would never blame anyone for this, of course. However, the flip side to this line of thinking can be that solid, high-floor players can be overlooked. Enter: Jameson Taillon.
Our fantasy gang identifies value picks on the bump.
Rich Hill, Los Angeles Dodgers
With an early ADP of about 130, Rich Hill stands out to me as a guy that has a good shot to return value. Last year, Hill finished in the top 60 in Yahoo 5x5 scoring, the 16th most productive starting pitcher, in just 110 innings pitched. It’s a testament to how well he pitched in those innings. Hill had a 2.12 ERA and 2.39 FIP, with a strikeout rate just under 30%. He had the second best ERA among starting pitchers who threw at least 100 IP last year, with the fourth best FIP. Since making his return to the majors in late 2015, Hill has a 2.00 ERA, 2.37 FIP and 30.3% strikeout rate in 24 starts, spanning 550 batters faced.
I know the profile is weird, but I don’t think this was a fluke. Batters just can't seem to differentiate his pitches at all, and he’s great at playing his fastball and curveball off each other, hiding each one behind the other. Hill’s deception has helped him become elite at preventing batters from squaring him up. Via xStats.org, Hill’s Statcast derived exit velocity and batted-ball angle expected slugging last year was .307, the third lowest in baseball among pitchers with at least 100 IP. The only two ahead of him were Clayton Kershaw (.302) and Jose Fernandez (.303), and the MLB average is .417. Batters rarely make loud contact against Hill. Combining weak contact with his ability to miss bats at a high level is a huge recipe for success.
Identifying players at this position who could be fine investments in keeper and dynasty formats.
Michael Conforto, New York Mets
The 2016 season started about as good as a season could start for Conforto. Through the first month, he was hitting .365/.442/.676 with a .311 ISO. He was ready to take the crown as the next “guy” in New York. The 2016 season ended about as badly as a season could end for Conforto.
Some of you already had your eyes on Hamilton as a source of stolen bases this season. However, there are reasons to believe he could produce at a higher level in several categories in 2017. Hamilton’s end-of-season stats weren’t eye popping, but his monthly splits give a few reasons for optimism.
Our fantasy team points out some potential value plays at this position in drafts and auctions this spring.
Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers
He’s not the most exciting roto player. Elvis Andrus is reliable, though, and the things he does well are becoming more valuable thanks to the changing league context around him.
Our fantasy team identifies hot-corner players who could make for nice values in drafts and auctions this spring.
Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals
It’s strange to me how quickly Anthony Rendon has gone from the hot, young player at this position to just being seen as an average player in the middle of the pack. As of this writing, the Nationals third baseman was being selected at the bottom of the top 10 at his position, jockeying for position with Alex Bregman. This appears to be great value, as Rendon can contribute to your lineup in every area. If you’re looking for one loud tool, you can look elsewhere, but you will find the all-around talent here.
Rendon has never had a BABIP below .300 nor has he had a strikeout rate above 20 percent. All of this leads to consistently strong batting averages. You can expect him to finish right around the .275 mark on a yearly basis. You can also get home runs, too. I’m generally being cautious with home run totals from 2016, but Rendon’s 20 homers was right on pace with his 2014 season, his only other full season. The 26-year-old also stole 12 bases, marking the second time he’s reached the double-digit mark in as many full seasons. After that, you get to the fact that he’ll be hitting in a lineup that features Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, Adam Eaton, and Daniel Murphy. He’s among a foursome of himself, Adrian Beltre, Bregman, and José Ramirez all being taken within 15 picks, and he’s the easy choice to me. In fact, he’s easily preferable to Todd Frazier, who’s being taken 20 picks earlier. —Matt Collins
Our staff identifies some potential fantasy value plays at the keystone.
Jonathan Schoop, Baltimore Orioles
Sure, Jonathan Schoop isn’t the complete package for roto owners. He only has five career steals in 390 career games and he barely walks, somewhat limiting his ability to score runs and actively hurting his value in OBP leagues. He also hit a woeful .209 as recently as 2014, something which tends to stick in the minds of fantasy players, especially ones who owned him that year. I think that in a lot of leagues, that abysmal batting average from 2014 is still baked into his price despite the fact that he hit .279 in 2015 and .267 in 2016.
The staff identifies possible value plays at this position for the coming season.
Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
Maybe all those years of the Cincinnati front office and local media riding him for walking too much has seeped into the general fantasy-playing population at large after all, because Votto continues to be an underrated mixed-league target at the top of his position. In 2015, granted at 31 and coming off an injury season, he was taken 71st overall on average – around 12th among first basemen depending on who you count out of the position-eligible pool. He produced $30 in standard mixed-league value, good for the second-best return at the position. Last year he went off the board seventh among first basemen, 36th overall on average; he earned $29 mixed-league dollars, again the second-most of any first baseman. We’ve got him ranked second at the position this season in acknowledgement of recent evidence, and yet… he’s currently going off the board sixth among first basemen, around the 28th overall pick. Huh?
At 33 there are certainly age-related concerns to be peddled, particularly given the history with his legs. But he was thoroughly destructive in the second half last season, the ballpark remains a perfect fit for his batted ball distribution, and he managed a tick under 200 R+RBI last year in spite of a bottom-third supporting cast. And while his value increases exponentially in OBP leagues, he’s a career .313 hitter (.320 over the last two seasons). A whopping six first basemen managed to crack .290 last year, so the advantage of a locked-in asset in AVG shouldn’t be understated, either. At 28 overall, Votto has the look of an absolutely lethal snake-draft target for the turn in 14- to 16-team redrafts, or a lethal second pick for anyone stuck navigating the late first-round muddle in a straight draft. —Wilson Karaman
Our writers think these backstops could be excellent value picks in drafts and auctions this spring.
Yasmani Grandal, Los Angeles Dodgers
In the last three seasons, the only full time catchers with more home runs than Yasmani Grandal are Brian McCann (69) and Salvador Perez (60). Grandal has 58. His batting average, runs, and RBI have drained some of his fantasy value over those seasons, but I think there’s some untapped potential with Grandal going forward that might be a little under the radar.
Our staff believes these bullpen arms could provide nice value on draft or auction day.
Given the risk with relief pitchers, you don’t want to draft a closer who will combust this year. Additionally, there are some nice sleepers out there who could emerge and grab the closer job at some point in 2016. Here are some relief targets for you to consider.
Cody Allen, Indians
There isn’t much disagreement about the top tier of relievers entering 2016. With Aroldis Chapman faded because of the 30-game suspension, Wade Davis, Craig Kimbrel, and Kenley Jansen are the consensus top three. It gets pretty murky from there, with another seven closers being selected between the 88th and 104th picks, according to NFBC ADP data. On the one hand, it’s not terribly instructive to quibble with ordering when the second tier is so tightly clustered; on the other, it’s difficult to understand why Cody Allen is the last name inside the top 10.
The staff picks a handful of hurlers who might be worth highlighting on your draft sheets this spring.
One of the keys to the kingdom in fantasy baseball is grabbing some bargains on the mound in your fantasy league. Below, are five staff selections for pitchers who could be bargains in your leagues come draft day.
Andrew Cashner, Padres
If I would have told you entering the 2015 season that Cashner would increase his strikeout rate and pitch 184-plus innings, how many of you might have made him a top-20 pick? The excellent velocity and movement on his pitches were still there in 2015, but sadly for Andrew, the results were not.