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Let’s be honest. If you’re reading this column you’re probably not in the playoffs, and if you somehow are the best advice on what to do from here on out is probably ¯_(ツ)_/¯. That’s right, it’s September 2015 and we’re still shruggy-ing. Anyway, since you’re looking towards next year, we thought we might do the same by highlighting 10 players that you might want to target heading into the offseason. For the most part, these are well-known quantities who had down seasons, and could/should see a rebound. We attempted to vary the quality of player for the difference in league depth that our various readers encounter, but there aren’t any unknowns, to be certain. We covered position players in this iteration, and will be back at the end of the month with some pitching options.


Jonathan Lucroy, MIL: Catchers are inherently injury-prone, but it’s been an especially tough year for Lucroy, who finds himself out of action with a concussion after missing nearly six with a broken toe earlier in the season. Admittedly, Lucroy was garbage through June, hitting just .235/.287/.301 in 167 PA. He’s been more like himself since July, however, hitting .277/.346/.456 in 235 PA and going on an absolute tear over his last 12-or-so games. He’s struck out more than usual to be sure, but Lucroy is also still fairly patient, suffering a bit from a low BABIP and is hitting more balls on a line than at any point in his career. Lucroy is 29, still plays in a great park and clearly has the underlying skillset to produce a line similar to the one he posted in 2014, when he was the second-best fantasy backstop in the game per ESPN’s Player Rater. Now is a good time to try and trade for him if you lack a long-term solution behind the plate, though there’s a nonzero chance his injuries force him to first base sooner than we expected. —Ben Carlsey

Yan Gomes, CLE: If you’re a listener of TINO, I’m sorry. That said, you know how I feel about Gomes, who I was slow to warm to and will be slow to cool on. He’s likely to be bypassed in rankings by younger, more attractive options (Travis d’Arnaud, etc.) but Gomes isn’t a markedly different player than he was a year ago when he hit .278/.313/.472. By now we know that you can’t just say “BABIP” and call it analysis, but Gomes owns a career .308 BABIP, was at .326 in 2014, and sits at .267 at the time of this writing. One of these things is not like the other. Obviously the possibility remains that he’s earned this lowered BABIP, but he’s hitting fewer fly balls than last year, though a one percentage point tick up in infield-fly-ball percentage probably offsets any expected gains there. He’s also sporting a highly similar profile in terms of hard-hit distribution, if you’re inclined to trust those figures. While it’s boring to expect regression to a mean at this point, that’s basically the case with Gomes. Additional missed time (he missed games in 2014 (concussion) too) is a concern of course, but he’s likely to be a steady performer that will be discounted due to a mostly down 2015. Welington Castillo, my ass. —Craig Goldstein

Corner Infield

Matt Adams, STL: Adams missed nearly four months of the season with a torn quadriceps muscle, ruining what many projected to be a pretty good season for the left-hander. When he has been on the field, Adams has hit just .252/.288/.401, and while Brandon Moss has hardly solidified himself as a great option for the Redbirds, his presence is still likely to eat away at any playing time Adams would’ve received now that he’s re-joining the big league club. But while Adams lacks big time upside, you shouldn’t lose sight of him as a valuable fantasy contributor in dynasty formats. Adams just turned 27, hit .287/.327/.474 between 2012 and 2013 and has the potential to hit at least 20 homers if he gets 400+ PA. He’s better in leagues with daily lineups so you can avoid LHP and he’s unlikely to ever be a top-10 first baseman, but he can help again as soon as next season and given his age, he should for quite a while. —BC

Carlos Santana, CLE: In many ways this is a super similar season to 2014 for Santana, in the sense that “super similar” means “worse.” He doesn’t have an abominably slow start to blame for dragging down his season-long numbers, since he’s been pretty much the same guy outside of a stellar July. The big issue is the decline in power, as 15 home runs from a first baseman will hardly register as a CI in 16-team leagues, and a .381 slugging percentage isn’t going to get it done, even in the depressed (but improving!) offensive era we find ourselves. Still, in the terms that we’re discussing, Santana has been better in the second half, by 15 points of OPS. Much like Desmond above, Santana has seen both his ground ball rate and infield-fly-ball rate increase in 2015, but unlike Desmond, Santana hasn’t shown any sort of trend in those departments. In fact, Santana’s 20-percent IFFB rate would establish a new career high and seems unlikely to be a sustainable attribute of his batted-ball profile. It is unfortunate that Santana seems to be eschewing the fly ball in favor of worm-burners, but that seems like an approach issue that is fixable, and even if it isn’t fixed, a return to his career-average HR/FB rate would represent a marked improvement in his overall output. This isn’t necessarily someone you want to rely on as a starter heading into 2016—even at CI—but at the very least there is the potential for a return to his 2012 production. —CG

Middle Infield

Robinson Cano, SEA: Before the head-scratching begins, let me be clear that I’m not predicting a return to the Robinson Cano of old. The consistent .300-plus hitter, 25-plus-homer, 100-plus-run machine we knew and loved is gone forever. Yet Cano’s disappointing performance relative to his MLB contract obscures that he can still be a useful fantasy asset, and the second half of this season demonstrates that Cano still has the skills needed to serve as a starting fantasy second baseman. Cano is currently at. 280/.329/.431 thanks to a .327/.391/.531 line in the second half and his ISO, LD% and HR/FB are all better than they were a year ago. The decline in walk rate and jump in strikeout rate are a bit troubling from a real life POV, but if Cano’s BABIP evens out it should help to combat that. Dynasty league owners will likely be amenable to moving Cano right now, and what they probably fail to realize is that he’s still been a borderline top-10 second baseman even in this down year. Don’t pay for the name value, of course, but consider prying him away from owners worried about a rapid decline. He’s got a few more usable years left. —BC

Ian Desmond, WAS: It’s tempting to count this season as some sort of vindication after my years of doubting Desmond made me look the fool. Still, it’s hard to view 84 bad games (the first half) and say that this is a different player than the one we saw the last four seasons. It is reasonable to say he’s unlikely to the the .280-.295 hitter he was the past two seasons, but even with the hole he dug for himself over the first half of the season, he’s got a chance at a 20/15 season. In the second half, he’s been a .275/.341/.475 hitter, including 10 of his 17 homers and seven of his 12 stolen bases. A word of caution though, to those who are wary. There has been a bit of a worrisome trend in Desmond’s batted-ball profile, in that he’s seen both his ground ball percentage rise (which could explain the previously creeping average) as well as his infield fly ball percentage. Those two aren’t a logical pairing, and yet 2015 represents the third straight year each has seen an increase. I wouldn’t anticipate it occurring yet again, but it is a reason to consider when considering Ian Desmond. —CG

Outfield (2)

Carlos Gomez, HOU: Okay, this one might be a little obvious, but jumping off the Gomez bandwagon in dynasty leagues is a bad idea. Yes, Gomez is only at .253/.313/.408 this season and yes, he’s just 14-for-23 in stolen base attempts, but the 29-year-old has battled lingering injuries all season. There are some troubling signs here: more balls on the ground, fewer on a line, the aforementioned SB issues, etc. That being said, Gomez’s strikeout and walk rates are quite similar to last season, his BABIP is 12 points lower than his career average and he’ll find himself as a 30-year-old in a great ballpark next season. Do I think the days of 30-plus steals are behind Gomez? Quite possibly. Do I think he’s still capable of serving as a five-category, top-20 fantasy OF? Absolutely; even amidst his down year, he’s still been a top-50 option per ESPN. Between the injuries, the relatively poor performance and the uncertainty surrounding his contextual factors beyond 2016, you may be able to talk the Gomez owner in your league into dealing him. That would be wise. —BC

Yasiel Puig, LAD: A charitable writer might call Puig’s 2015 season “star-crossed,” though it’s unlikely he gets the benefit of that doubt outside of our small corner of the internet. Still, with a .287 TAv during a down season (which, admittedly, might say more about baseball’s current offensive environment than Puig’s talent) this isn’t exactly a bad season, but it’s definitely less than what you drafted or acquired him for in the offseason, especially when you add in all that missed time. Puig’s basic peripherals (walk/strikeout rate) are extremely similar to his debut in 2013, but he’s missing about 85 points of his BABIP from that season. Still, it’s a half-step backwards in both walk and strikeout rate compared to last season, but that’s not really enough to explain the overall drop in production. Unfortunately, Puig might be earning at least some of that large drop in BABIP, as he’s hitting fewer balls on the ground and more balls in the air – which might hurt him more than your average player since he’s made a habit of generating hits out of his dynamic speed. That said, the drop in infield-hit rate from 2014 to 2015 is less than a full percentage point. It’s likely that Puig’s various maladies have prevented him from being what his healthy self is capable of being. If that is the case, Puig represents an opportunity entering the 2015-16 offseason, as his accumulation of injuries, both serious and nagging, and his reputation are likely to cause owners to perceive him as overrated. If he can put together a healthy season and you can get him for later-than-first-round value, you might have a steal on your hands. —CG

Hanley Ramirez, BOS: Hanley Ramirez is so bad in the outfield that just listing him here feels like a mistake, but thanks to the rules of the game we play, he’ll get at least one more season (and only one more, if there is a god) of OF eligibility. After starting out on fire in April, Ramirez struggled badly for the rest of the season, battling injuries and posting his worst offensive season since 2011. Ramirez’s line sits at .249/.291/.426 and while he does have 19 homers, 10 of them came in April. The good news is Ramirez will only be 32 next season, and there was little before this year to suggest his bat would fall off a cliff. While an offseason trade isn’t out of the question, odds are he spends time as Boston’s first baseman next year, meaning he should still have a good home park and supporting cast. Ramirez is a risky play for sure, but if you’re looking to score a potential OF2/3 on the cheap, he’s not a bad bet. His value can’t get a lot lower than it is right now. —BC

Matt Joyce, LAA: Welcome to the portion of tonight’s programming where we just completely forget that 2015 happened. It didn’t happen. [waves hand] This is not the year you’re looking for.

But seriously, from 2008-2014, Joyce had posted TAvs ranging from .276 to .300, and while he had notable flaws (an utter inability to hit left-handed pitching), Joyce had his benefits too (strong-side of the platoon, strong OBP, etc.). Honestly, there’s no case to be made from Joyce’s current season – I even dropped him in a league as deep as TDGX. That said, he is a reasonable end-game target in 18- and 20-team leagues next year (especially if he lands in a solid hitter’s park) on the strength of his historical production alone. At 32 years old, he’s unlikely to match his prime numbers, but there’s a decent chance he goes undrafted in most (deep) leagues, and that probably shouldn’t happen given his likelihood of being a moderate-average, moderate-power potential. Plus, if he starts off poorly again, he’s easy to get rid of. —CG

Thank you for reading

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I'm reading this column from third place in my 15 team! It's never too early to think about next year.

Robinson Cano has extenuating circumstances that put his poor first half in context -
your shruggy face is missing part of his arm. I hope he didn't suffer an unfortunate accident on the 4th of July with a Uhaul full of fireworks.
You can just call him JPP
Sweet Moses..... Thank goodness, thought it was another TJS victim.