How many times a week do you think, "If I could just hit the rewind button and do it again."? Dozens?
Fantasy baseball players LIVE the "If I Coulda' Game." It could be a misstep that you made on a draft day. It could have been a waiver wire bid that you failed to make. Or, it could have been a trade that you didn't pull the trigger on. At the end of the season, the amount of missed opportunities literally numbers in the low-three digits.
Think back to 365 days ago. Was anyone discussing the bonafides of Charlie Blackmon? How many had Jake Arrieta penciled in for a breakout season? Were the names Anthony Rendon, Todd Frazier, and Michael Brantley considered to be anything more than mid-to-late round, low-end starters? It sounds silly now, but none of those players - and, many others - were getting much consideration as guys who could punch your ticket to the top.
In my walk of life (SiriusXM Radio), I'm discussing fantasy baseball for three hours every night. I'm taking a dozen calls each evening from folks looking for sleepers, draft strategies, and 'the next Corey Kluber' (Newsflash: There isn't a Corey Kluber this year). Over the course of three months, you might think that each and every player worth a sac bunt would be mentioned ... but, you'd be dead wrong. Instead, it's a loop discussion of the same 40-60 players. That leaves us with a good 340-360 that are begging to be noticed.
Today, the plan is to notice a few of them. Some had a 2014 that only a few have picked up on. Others are due new role that could lead to much-wanted upticks in production. And, still more are just perennially overlooked and undiscussed because they're not exciting enough. Understand, that I'm not claiming that these players will be bust-loose, superstars. But, they all deserve more eyeballs than they're currently getting.
Let's present the case for a few of these guys.
Wily Peralta, SP, Milwaukee
Care to take a guess at how many MLB hurlers had more victories than Peralta last season? The number is seven. And, of those seven, only Madison Bumgarner is younger than Peralta. His 17 wins for the Brew Crew last season have garnered ZERO attention entering this year. Wins, of course, are a cagey animal to lasso, but Peralta has other items going for him beyond the fleeting W's. His K-rate headed north (from 6.3 in '13 to 7.0 in '14) while his walk-rate went south (from 3.6 in '13 to 2.8 in '14). His ground ball percentage was nearly 54%. He has two strong pitches (fastball, slider) and could get all of his numbers aligned if he developed a third (change-up). More than 17 wins? No. A better ERA, WHIP, K/9? Yes. He costs nothing, right now, and could give you SP3 marks.
Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Cleveland
July 19, 2014, seems so long ago, doesn't it? Chisenhall was going bonkers at that point ... .336/.404/.519 with over 40 RBIs and over 40 runs over the course of his first 270 ABs. But, then came the call of the 2nd half and Chisenhall stubbed his toe ... .210/.261/.310 with fewer than 20 RBIs and just 21 runs over the course of his final 210 ABs (Geez, I type those numbers and I realize that the finish was more than a 'stubbed toe.' I think he lost his whole foot!). That slumber to end his campaign has crushed Chisenhall's reputation entering the upcoming year. He's a forgotten piece who has stable slugging numbers that could push .450 in '15. If he keeps connecting against LHPs (.294 against them in '15 after hitting under-.200 vs. them in very limited chances before the year), Chisenhall can man your CI slot for next six months.
Kennys Vargas, DH, Minnesota
Just think of the Twin as, well, "Chris Carter's Twin." Vargas has legitimate power and with full playing time in his hands, popping 25 HRs in 2015 is absolutely doable. Just like Carter, Vargas struggles to make contact, as his near-27% K-rate attests. But, when he puts bat to ball, man, does it go far. His ISO over the past two full minor league seasons was right around 20%. His lack of lineup maneuverability is a speed bump to full value (although with 13 games at 1B last year, he should eventually earn eligibility by June), but if you can stomach a weak batting average, Vargas can score you some cheap power late on draft day.
C.J. Cron, DH/1B, LA Angels
Although it's not to the level of Vargas, Cron can punish a baseball, too. The injury/eventual suspension to Josh Hamilton has opened the door to more playing time for Cron. He had his moments a season ago (owning a .550 SLG% with a .290 average, at the end of June), but then crumbled like feta down the stretch while chasing pitches in the dirt. Plate management was considered a net-positive for him coming up through the minors, so an improvement is expected in his full go-around against major league pitching. If you're in a deep league, Cron is excellent bench material for the beginning of the season. Something like .250/20/70 is attainable.
Mark Reynolds, 1B, St. Louis
This acts as just a simple reminder that Matt Adams does not have a grip-lock on the first base job. Reynolds was brought in for three things ... 1. To hit 20 homeruns and become the 2nd or 3rd best power threat in the entire St. Louis lineup 2. To start at first base against LHPs 3. To provide the team with an option in case Adams goes backwards in his development. Just like the two previous entries here, Reynolds is an all-or-nothing affair at the dish (7 consecutive years of pounding at least 21 HRs alongside a SO% of at least 28%). He's a late-game power grab that offers dual-eligibility at the corners.
Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pittsburgh
Notice a trend here?! Alvarez is the best of this power-heavy crew even after his power went sour in 2014. The Pirates have moved him across the diamond (dual-eligibility alert) and he should be able to post a HR total near 25. First on the agenda for any rebound would be to ignore the critics of his K-heavy approach. Alvarez listened last year, cutting down on his swing and his aggressiveness at the plate. That led to a career-best BB/K rate (0.40), but it also stifled the number of pitches he pulled to left-field. After hammering 32 of his 36 HRs to LF in '13, Alvarez only took 11 of his 18 that way in '14. Alvarez should be back over 500 PAs this year and, with that, he'll be back to becoming a top 12 3B this year.
Alexi Amarista, INF/OF San Diego
The 5'6", sub-160 pounder drew a number of at-bats in the absence of Evereth Cabrera last year. Cabrera has moved on to Baltimore and Amarista is in-line to handle the SS gig for San Diego. Although he's slotted for a vast majority of his work at that position, Amarista comes into the fantasy year with 3B, 2B, and even OF, tagged onto his overall value. He's a speed-first guy who could steal 25+ bases with 130 starts. He won't hit above-.250, but for deep leaguers, he's a useful Swiss Army knife that you can plug in at numerous spots, in case of injury.
Jose Ramirez, SS, Cleveland
All of the attention in camp is on the guy behind Ramirez, youngster Francisco Lindor. But, the bet here is that Lindor is a September call-up who settles in as a defense-first option for the Tribe. Until then, Ramirez has a chance to solidify his role with the team, while allowing Lindor to develop in the bush leagues. Ramirez was a solid fantasy asset over the final two months of last season, hitting .298 with 9 SBs over the final 43 games. His real value is relative ... the rest of the SS position has so many underwhelming options. Admittedly, he's not a fantasy starter in a typical 12-team mix, but he starts to gain attention if you're in a 15-team set-up.
Marlon Byrd, OF, Cincinnati
Byrd's late-career resurgence has an excellent chance to continue in Cincinnati. He's embraced his 'Old Man Skills' and become a grip-it-and-rip-it threat at the dish. In his 12th and 13th seasons at the big league level, Byrd has pushed out 49 of his 131 career round-trippers. At the same time, his SO% has leaped to over 27% after standing at 17% in first 11 MLB seasons. But, hey, it's worked! After all, Byrd just got $8 million dollars from the Reds as a free agent. Expect his late-turn trends to continue. He should perform as an OF5 with 20+ HRs and an average over-.260.
Kevin Gausman, SP, Baltimore
It's surprising to see Gausman's name forgotten when it comes to a discussion of young slingers who can become semi-reliable options for fantasy players this summer. He didn't get the opportunity to truly become a part of the Oriole rotation until mid-June and, even after that point, the O's shielded his innings count. Still, he fashioned a 3.30 ERA over his final 12 starts and then dominated in 8 innings of bullpen work in the postseason (4 hits allowed in 8 total innings, leading to an ERA of 1.13). He probably needs to pull-back on his 4-pitch usage and focus on his top two offerings (an upper-90s fastball and slider). As he piles up additional experience, Gausman has a shot at touching 8.0 K/9, with double-digit wins, and a 3.20-3.30 ERA this season. Consider this year to be a 'bridge year' to big numbers in 2016.
Jason Motte, RP, Chicago Cubs
This is purely a play on the odds of current Cub closer, Hector Rondon, struggling. Motte was actually a 'target' of the Cubbie front office this offseason. He has something that so many other closers don't have ... a year where he was a dominant 9th inning option for a near-World Series team ('12 - an NL-best 42 saves with nearly 11 K's/9 and a sub-1.00 WHIP for St. Louis). Tommy John surgery froze his career and he showed plenty of rustiness last season (serving up 7 homers in just 25 innings!), but, as so many will remind you, pay attention to a guy in his 2nd year removed from TJS. That's where Motte is, right now. Every season we have an 'outta nowhere' saves guy ... Motte is a fine, super-low-cost option on that front.
T.J. House, SP, Cleveland
As of this writing, the Gavin Floyd experiment in the rotation seems to be nearly over (a fractured elbow that will likely end his season). That opens up a door for House to move through. He was a revelation down the stretch in 2014, with 9 starts leading to 4 wins, a 2.25 ERA, and 48 punch-outs in 52 innings. His pitching motion is a lot more art than science (something to be viewed, not mirrored) and he's got the one wipeout pitch (slider) that you need for success. He doesn't give up free passes (just 8 walks allowed in those final 52 innings), either. He profiles as an excellent 6th or 7th SP in a 12-team league.
Will Ferrell, Super Utility, Multiple Teams
After Thursday's '5 games and 10 uniforms in 10 hours' performance, how can you not put him on this list?? He's a little shy at the dish (3 pitches seen, 3 strikes, and back to the dugout), but his ability to handle all positions should get him on somebody's team. Hell, Daniel Descalso, still has a job!
You can hear Kyle each weeknight on 'The SiriusXM Fantasy Drive' from 7-10 ET, Sirius 210, XM 87.
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