World Series Champion - Boston Red Sox
Can He Repeat?
Can Mookie Betts repeat last year's MVP season? We think he can certainly come close. He turns 26 and is one of only a few players capable of going 30/30. If we see some regression, it will likely be to his batting average, as his .368 BABIP last year is difficult to sustain for many players. But it's not out of the realm of possibility that Betts continues to get even better as a player, so we're very bullish.
Solid 86% contact rate with superior contact rates last season 45%. This helps mitigate his heavy .75:1.00 GB/FB rate, keeping his average is a favorable territory. That said his .346 BA from a season ag ois going to be difficult to replicate, as his .368 BABIP is not sustainable, despite the superior batted ball speed. His 16% HR/FB rate is a bit elevated, but the 29% ISO is extremely encouraging for a player turning 26 this season. Batting leadoff costs him about 30-35 RBI, but adds 20-25 to his RS category. With his 30 for 36 swipes last season to go along with his 129RS/32HR/80RBI/.346 BA, he was clearly the best fantasy baseball player in 2018.
Will the 2018 Postseason Hero be the 2019 Fantasy Baseball Hero?
Following a completely dominant post season, Nathan Eovaldi re-signed with the Red Sox on a 4-year $67.5MM contract. I'm always hesitant to buy into a guy that had a great season because it's a great example of a recency bias. From a projections standpoint, I think it makes sense to assume Eovaldi will come close to replicating last years numbers, though with a few more innings. I think he has a little more upside than most guys that will be drafted around him. Player Projection Notes: Still throwing as hard as he ever has (97.2 MPH), but doesn't have a changeup....which makes his pitches detectable to the hitter. Hence the norm SwStr rates (10.7) and contact rates (80). As such he relies on balls hit into play more often that a fireballer would. Last season his 287 BABIP was on the fortuitous end, so we will likely see some regression in his overall numbers...unless he comes up with an effective changeup...which would entirely change his MO.
Speaking on monster post-seasons, David Price ended this season with 11 incredible starts and a stellar playoffs. Is he a top 10 pitcher again? Not quite; he's been inconsistent for a while now and is now 33, so it will be natural to see even some skill deterioration. He'll be a serviceable arm for sure, but his likely will carry more name value than he's worth in most leagues. Player Projections Notes: Posted a monster final 11 starts with a .97 WHIP/2.25 ERA, but there are some warning signs. His fastball is off by 1.5 MPH (92.7), but the drop hasn't translated in a reduction of his changeup speed. His SwStr% has dropped from 11.7 to only 9.6% last season...this despite maintaining a solid 9.1 K/9 rate. Lives on the outside verses RHH, and if he can maintain that, he'll continue to force weaker than typical contact (32% hard hit rate - 274 BABIP). I'm personally not willing to pay for the risk.
JD Martinez ended up as one of the top hitters in all of baseball last year, and that's right where we see him in 2019. In the middle of one of baseball best offenses, he should be guaranteed for over 100 RBI (health pending). Player Projections Notes: Martinez was a beast the entire 2018 campaign. His 45% Hard hit rate remains elite, but he figured out that he didn't have to swing as hard at home to hit HRs. His Distance on HRs fell last year from 414 to 396 as did his BBS of 105.5 to 102.6. Playing in a stacked lineup led to a massive surge in RBIs. Looking forward, his 330 BA is likely not sustainable based on his 375 BABIP (yes the elevated Hard hit rate mitigates some of this), and his 30% HR/FB rate is also something that's very difficult to replicate. Other than that, he's going to continue to register a ton of RBIs and Runs in 2019, if he can stay healthy.
Xander Bogaerts took a leap forward in 2018 and it wouldn't be shocking to see him do it again in 2019. He battled injuries last year (only 513 AB), yet still posted 103 RBI. He's unlikely to replicate that, but should put up 20+ HR and 90 Runs with a solid average. He has upside beyond that given his age (26) and ballpark. Player Projections Notes: As we projected last season, Bogaerts not only bounced back to his previous production, he exceeded in almost all categories, despite missing significant time due to injury... Xander looked confident at the plate all season as evidenced by his career high 38% Hard hit rate and 406 average distance on his HRs. Not only did his contact rate stay at 80%, he also increased his BB% to 9.5%. That said don't expect the same RBI rate as last season, but do expect an uptick in the runs scored department.
Steve Pearce found a great home in Boston last year when he was dealt there. He's unlikely to garner much fantasy attention as he'll be platooning, but I love using guys like him in Roto leagues because of his great splits. Last year, he batted .304 with a 158 wRC+ against lefties. Those are MVP type numbers, but you'll get them at the expense of an extra roster spot for daily leagues where you can play the matchups.
The $400MM Dollar Question
You'll likely see many Bryce Harper updates from us. The latest isn't great for fantasy, as he met with the San Francisco Giants where that was allegedly "mutual" interest. A move to SF would have a large negative impact on Harper's power numbers, especially if you compare him playing in a Yankee Stadium. Where he ends up can have a meaningful difference on where he gets drafted, so keep a close watch.
Francisco Lindor recently strained his calf in preparation for Spring Training, which will sideline him for 7 to 9 weeks. Not great news for Cleveland. It's too early to tell, but this puts in doubt if he'll be ready for Opening Day. Adjust your rankings accordingly. Hopefully the Indians are overly cautious so Lindor can start the MLB marathon at 100% health.
Mike Moustakas remains unsigned, but rumors are that he may return to the Brew Crew. This would be a big arrow up for Moustakas given the ballpark. He's a top power hitting option at 3B, as only Nolan Arenado, Manny Machado, and Jose Ramirez have more HR (as 3B) the last two seasons combined. We project Moustakas for 34 HRs, perhaps more in Milwaukee full time. Player Projection Notes: Mike's HR totals were a little muted last season, as his 18% HR/FB rate dropped down to a middle of the road 13%. Which is very much likely to pop up back to a 16-17% in 2019. We can base this on a superior 104.8 BBS and 41% hard hit rate. Look for a pop in his RS as well, as that was less than it should have been last season. His BA of only 251 was based on an unlucky .259 BABIP. A BA between 260-270 seems more likely based on his solid 80% contact rate.
Buster Posey is reportedly on track to be in the starting lineup for opening day. Posey is on my short list for most disappointing seasons in 2018. His 5 HR last year were embarrassing, and it was his fifth season of power decline. The goods news is that he can likely only improve from here, but he shouldn't be drafted as an elite catching option anymore.
The injury to Francisco Lindor may open the door further for a Marwin Gonzalez signing in Cleveland. The utility player moves all over the field and could be a competent SS if Lindor isn't ready for the start of the season, and even help to ease his burden back to full time play. Marwin put up a dud season following his stellar 2017, but he was a bit unfortunate last year and we think he'll improve upon those numbers. 20 HR isn't out to the realm of possibility
Hunter Pence signed a minor league deal with the Rangers on Thursday. It will be his first time outside of San Francisco in 5 years. At 35, Pence likely doesn't have much to contribute, but he could bounce back to a league average player in the right system. Either way, he's not hanging up his cleats just yet.
Some good news -- Danny Farquhar signed a minor league deal with the Yankees yesterday. You may remember that the 31-year-old missed most of last year with a collapsed aneuryism. Scary stuff, but it's great to see him cleared to play.
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