Outside of the BP staff league here, I pretty much only play in dynasty formats. Some of those leagues are shallower types – a 12-teamer with 7-man minor league rosters, a 14-teamer with 5 apiece – and others with no player universe restrictions and not-infrequent trades involving 15-year-old Dominicans and college freshmen who won’t be MLB Draft-eligible for two more seasons. Those of you knuckleheads who play in leagues more akin to the latter will have our Ocean’s Floor series to look forward to as usual this winter. For the rest of y’all normals, though, this column is designed more for your speed.
Every year around this time I like to take stock of the lower minors and pin down my helium guys to target before the balloons inflate too full. So without further ado, here are eight of my favorite A-ball targets for this winter in shallower and medium-depth dynasty leagues.
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Like Rhys Hoskins, Oakland's Matt Olson has surprised with his huge, huge power.
In both fantasy circles and real-life baseball circles, there is one rookie who is taking the league by storm. He has always been a decently regarded prospect, and the fact that he could hit for power has never really been a secret among those who followed minor-league baseball. On the other hand, he was never quite an elite prospect and absolutely nobody expected him to be a superstar, particularly not from Day 1. That’s what he’s doing, though, and he’s hitting home runs at a startling rate. It deserves your attention. No, I’m not talking about Rhys Hoskins. I’m talking about Matt Olson.
Try sneaking one of these guys onto your roster heading into the offseason.
In keeper leagues, you try to balance your needs in the current season with your needs for upcoming seasons. That means that when you’re scanning the free agent pool, you’re not just looking for players who can help you this year. Of course, a lot depends on the specifics of your league: how deep it is, how much a player will cost as a keeper and how long you can keep him. Here are three guys to think about for next season.
The quality of your fantasy league is only as good as its set of rules—and the character of its players.
The League of Alternative Baseball Reality, more commonly known as LABR, came into being in 1994. It is universally considered the first “expert” league (some bristle at the idea of “expert” leagues, so I’ll use the term “analyst” going forward). Other analyst leagues have been created since that time, most notably Tout Wars, but also include CBS and Yahoo’s Friends & Family.
“Home” leagues predate expert leagues by at least 14 years, with the founding of the original Rotisserie Baseball League in 1980. I am in one of these home leagues that predates LABR. The Billy Almon Brown Graduate league was founded in 1987 by a group of Brown University students who named the league after Bill Almon because he is the only player from Brown since 1941 to play in the majors. If WAR had existed in 1987, it might be the Bump Hadley Brown Graduate or Fred Tenney Brown Graduate league instead, which both sound cooler.
Baseball is such a different beast than the other major sports, and as an extension fantasy baseball takes on different challenges. With pretty much every player playing pretty much every day, it’s so easy for trends and entire seasons to fly under the radar. Because of that, there are underrated stars in just about every season, and some can even manage to get less than their due for stretches of multiple years. I’ve spent much of this season highlighting some of these players, with perhaps the best being Anthony Rendon. It’s just an unavoidable side effect of baseball that players are going to fly under the radar, and one of the keys to being a good fantasy player is recognizing these kind of trends before everyone else in your league.
Scooter reviews the chances that his contending club in a 12-team, AL-only league has to win. It would be his first championship in 16 seasons. The keys include Corey Kluber, Byron Buxton and, probably, Kevin Kiermaier.
I have a shot at winning my deep AL-only league this year, something I haven’t managed to do in 15 previous seasons. I’m currently tied for second place, 8 ½ points behind the first-place team. I’m going to take a look at what needs to happen for me to win.
It’s an auction-style keeper league, $260 budget at auction which increases to $350 once the season starts, 12 teams, 24-player active roster (2 C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, CI, MI, 5 OF, 10 P), minimum of 1,100 innings pitched, old-school 4x4 roto scoring (HR, RBI, SB, AVG, W, SV, ERA, WHIP).
Let us appreciate what Cain gives: Consistent support in every category.
It should go without saying that every professional baseball player is remarkable to watch, to listen to and to read about. One simply doesn’t get to this level of the craft without being exceptional at what they do. Of course, when they constantly are compared to their peers, some major leaguers fade into the background. That especially is true from a fantasy perspective. Oftentimes, the most under-appreciated players aren’t the ones who are left on the waiver wire while performing well, but those left in the starting lineup. The most under-appreciated can be those that we just keep in our lineup without giving much thought to the production these players give to our teams throughout the season. Many fit this bill, but one that I’ve noticed is on a couple of my teams is Lorenzo Cain.
How has the big spike in home runs—which has been trending for more than 20 years—affects player values.
Earlier this year, I talked about how to adjust to starting pitchers not throwing nearly as many innings as they used to do. Today, I am going to look at the other change that has altered the fantasy landscape: the big spike in home runs.
All 2017 statistics in this article are for games played through Wednesday.
When our colleague Mike Gianellaupdated the starting pitcher tiers in early June, Danny Salazar barely clung to the bottom in the three-star tier. At the time of the ranking, it’s quite possible it was even a couple spots too high. The flame-throwing righty was striking everyone out, sure, but he also was giving up almost two homers and five walks per nine innings and had a 5.40 ERA. Not great. Salazar was coming off the first of two bullpen appearances, a measure the Indians hoped would help him get things straightened out. After his second outing from the pen, he made another move, this time to the DL. The 27-year-old came off the DL on July 22 and has been HOT FLAME EMOJIS ever since. In 20 innings, Salazar has fanned 28 batters, walked only five, and has surrendered only eight hits en route to a 1.35 ERA. As Paul Hollywood might say while standing over a perfectly baked Genoese sponge cake with raspberry jam, “I like that.”
How about David Hernandez on Chicago's South Side, and Greg Holland with the North Siders?
We’ve flipped the calendar over to August, which means the MLB trade deadline has passed and player are, more or less, where they will be for the rest of the season. It also means that our fantasy trade deadlines are quickly approaching. This is obviously a busy time of year, particularly for those of us in longer-term leagues. If you’re the owner of a team that is not in contention this year, it’s time to start thinking of next year. With that in mind, I thought today I would attempt to predict the closer landscape for next year. Obviously, there are going to be events that I cannot predict, but it’s useful to know who could get saves in the following season and try now to get them on the cheap. So, with that in mind, here is a link to who I see closing for each team at the start of next season. Below is an explanation for teams that are seeing a change from who is closing right now.
Masahiro Tanaka, Jon Lester, Nelson Cruz, Mark Melancon and Dinelson Lamet are profiled.
Buoyed by the long, winding collective stroll through the charred aftermath of the fantasy landscape one day after the trade deadline, I figure I’ll use the pretense to talk about some of the players I acquired and fired in my own home league, in hopes that those of you playing in leagues with slightly later deadlines will be able to benefit from some insights on a few difficult-to-evaluate players. Let’s take a look at five on the move from one of my rosters.
Masahiro Tanaka (SP)—NYY: Tanaka is having one of the stranger seasons around, with all kinds of strange splits and, underlying everything, an insane home-run rate. His whiff and walk numbers are delicious, and he gets grounders at a good clip to boot. But, much like his fallen comrade Michael Pineda, the contact he does yield is hard contact. And that is, of course, particularly true in the air this year, where his average exit velocity rests around the 20th percentile and is home-run rate has pretty much single-handedly driven his avert-your-eyes ERA.