That's like your opinion, (Breg)man
There's a lot to like with the `Stros young third baseman. Alex Bregman made his MLB debut in 2016 and was able to shake off a disastrous 1-for-32 start to his career, finishing the season with a .264 average and plenty of pop (.478 SLG). If we simply remove those first 32 at bats, Bregman slashed .308/.355/.562 in his final 41 games. He had eight home runs and 65 RuBIns (runs+RBI) over that quarter season, even tacking on two steals for good measure. Bregman heads into 2017 with a slash line of that quality a distinct possibility. Bregman ended 2016 with a 28.2 percent line drive rate, a 43.0 percent fly ball rate, a 38.0 percent pull rate and a 32.0 percent hard hit ball rate. That's an excellent batted ball profile, coming in above average everywhere except pull rate where he was just below average. The line drive rate was especially strong, and it suggests he may be able to post a much better batting average than where the projection systems currently have him. Bregman will be hitting in the number two slot in maybe the best lineup in the American League in 2017, right behind George Springer and right in front of Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa - it doesn't get better than that. There's a lot to love here.
Yes he McCann
Speaking of that vaunted Astros lineup, it's the lower-drafted catcher (Brian McCann) that I'll be targeting in 2017. My last Fantistics writeup included a piece talking owners out of drafting Evan Gattis due to the fact that he isn't even the projected starter. I'll warmed a bit to Gattis in the time since, but that doesn't make me any less bullish on McCann. McCann is still the guy who will be getting the lion's share of plate appearances behind the dish, and doing so in a stacked lineup. As noted in Gattis' write up, McCann has played at least 100 games each and every season and at least 120 in 10 of those 11 seasons. Add in that he's a near-mortal lock for 20 home runs in that stadium (one of the friendliest to left-handed hitters in baseball) and there's a lot to love for a player being drafted 11th at his position and 168th overall. He's even going as late as 227 ADP in ESPN. Jump all over that.
There are much flashier young players on the Twins, but Polanco is quietly a nice potential-laden youngster at a key fantasy position for Minnesota in 2017. Polanco has been given the keys to the short stop position for Minnesota this year, and he should be on your radar in AL-only leagues for sure, but he may even have some value in deeper mixed leagues. Polanco has flown under the Twins prospect radar, but he was a top-ten organizational talent from 2013-2015 and a top-100 overall prospect after the 2015 season. Last year Polanco split time almost down the middle between Triple-A and the big leagues and posted solid numbers in both locations. At the big-league level, he hit.282 with a .424 SLG. This came in 69 games, and he hit four home runs and stole four bases during that stretch. There may be even better stats ahead for Polanco, though. The 23-year-old posted a juicy 30.3% line drive rate, and combined that with a 40.7% pull rate. Both of those figures are well above average and portend possible increases in both BA and HR. That line drive rate was especially noticeable, as it was the highest among short stops with as many plate appearances, and by a decent margin. Jose Peraza was second at 27.5% and Greg Garcia was third at 25.5%. Now Polanco's hard hit ball rate (23.5%) could use some work, but it's not hard to imagine Polanco topping the nine HR and 10 SB that Steamer has him projected for. ZIPS seems a lot more likely, projecting Polanco for 11 HR, 63 R, 67 RBI, 11 SB, and a .269 BA - that's a solid season from a short stop. Give him a look in deeper leagues.
There's no doubt about it, Kintzler has his warts. He closes for a team that finished with the worst record in baseball last season. The Twins, as a team, had just 26 saves to dole out last year. Not surprisingly, that was the lowest total in baseball. Kintzler also struck out just 5.8 batters per nine innings last year, and that total wasn't far off his career rate (6.46 per nine).
Now the good news for Kintzler. First and foremost, he is cheap. Owners are looking basically anywhere else for saves, even taking lottery tickets like Carter Capps and Nate Jones before Kintzler in drafts despite the fact that Kintzler has the Twins gig on lock. And that might be the biggest plus for Kintzler. A) He already has the job, and B) there isn't much competition to take it from him. Glen Perkins is there more in name than in body, as he threw just 2.0 innings last year and is already injured to start 2017. The one name who could have made Kintzler sweat was Trevor May and he was lost for the season to Tommy John this spring.
The other good news with Kintzler is while he may not blow people away, his numbers don't show tons of regression ahead. Despite that incredibly poor strikeout rate, Kintzler had only a minor difference between his ERA (3.15) and xFIP (3.48) in 2016. The 32-year-old was able to achieve a solid xFIP despite striking batters out thanks to a 61.9% ground ball rate. Kintzler, like a very poor man's Zach Britton, relies heavily on a sinker (81.27% of the time, per Brooks Baseball) that opposing batters simply pound into the ground. Kintzler used the sinker more than ever before last season and given that it led to the highest amount of success in his career to date, one has to imagine he will be relying heavily on the pitch again in 2017. Hitters slugged just .387 off the pitch, so the more the merrier when it comes to Kintzler's sinker usage.
Kintzler shouldn't be jumping up too far in your rankings, this is a 32-year-old on a bad team with limited upside, but don't be afraid to pull the trigger on him over some of the lottery tickets that are being drafted despite not having the closing job right now.
See me, Healy
After slashing .305/.337/.524 in his 72-game debut in 2016, lots of fantasy players are hot for Ryon Healy this spring. The 25-year-old third baseman will be hitting in the middle of a power-laden A's lineup (no, really) and is on plenty of "sleeper" lists heading into 2017. Healy will certainly get tons of playing time and will certainly score some runs hitting in front of Khris Davis and Marcus Semien, but let's tamper expectations a bit.
First, and most obviously, Healy is due for some BABIP regression. Healy relied on a .352 BABIP to prop up his .305 BA last season, a figure that is bound to drop into the .320 range, bringing his average well below .300 in the process. The .270-.275 range is more where we should be thinking. His line drive rate (19.6%) and lack of speed (three steals in over 350 minor league games) suggest he could drop even lower.
There's also the matter of Healy's plate discipline. While some of it could be a rookie riding a hot streak and wanting to swing at everything because of it, Healy struck out 60 times to just 12 walks in 2016. His 21.2% strikeout rate wasn't too egregious, it's the 4.2% walk rate that is more worrisome. As noted earlier, Healy will be hitting in front of Davis and Semien, two big boppers who could substantially increase Healy's R total if he could show some patience at the plate and draw a few more walks. Outside of one 36-game sample at Double-A, Healy never really showed an ability to draw walks, so it's likely the "over-excited rookie" card doesn't play. Healy should have decent value in 2017 (his power is truly legitimate), but don't reach too early just for a fun, young player.
Jharel Cotton vs. Sean Manaea
Cotton and Manaea are two of the sexiest names on draft boards right now. Both pitchers have seen their stock slowly rise throughout the offseason, but the question is which one should you take? For starters, both are worth a roster spot. Both have incredibly high ceilings and, thanks to pitching in O.Co for half their games, relatively high floors. But for the purposes of this piece, let's do a little side-by-side comparison.
Just looking at the surface stats, neither Manaea nor Cotton jump off the page. Manaea struck out 7.71 batters per nine in 2016, while Cotton struck out 7.06 in his brief 2016 MLB debut. Just look a bit deeper and both show impressive signs for the future, though. Manaea posted a better than 10.0 K/9 at each level in the minor leagues, aside from a 3.2 IP stint in Single-A. In 18.0 Triple-A innings last season, he struck out 21 batters and walked just four. Even at the major-league level, he was a bit unlucky to tally such a low number of strikeouts. Manaea's 11.8% swinging strike rate in the majors was higher than names like Robbie Ray, Madison Bumgarner, and Chris Sale.
As for Cotton, he threw 97.1 IP at Triple-A and struck out 11.0 batters per nine. That's the most straight-forward sign that he should see a jump in his 2017 K rate. There's also the fact that he posted an even better swinging strike rate than Manaea (12.5%), granted in a smaller innings sample. Maybe the most interesting, however, is his actual stuff. Cotton has a 15-mph difference between his fastball and his changeup, one of the biggest gaps in all of baseball, and a mix that is bound to get whiffs.
A pitcher's control may not always be on the forefront of fantasy players' minds, but it is quite important. Walks affect WHIP, and having a pitcher who is constantly putting men on base can obviously kill your ERA as well. Both pitchers flashed excellent control in their 2016 debuts, as Cotton walked a miniscule 1.23 batters per nine, while Manaea walked 2.30. This is where small sample size plays a role. Looking over the bigger minor league samples, and looking at the projected stats for 2017 gives Manaea a noticeable edge. All three of the non-Fans projections at FanGraphs have Cotton over 3.0 walks per nine, while Manaea only tops 3.0 in the Steamer projections. This is due in part to the impressive second half that Manaea posted, where he walked just 1.97 batters, and had a K:BB ratio over 4.0.
Manaea was just better than league average in 2016 when it comes to run prevention. His ERA (3.86) was just a hair better than his FIP (3.96), both of which were just below the league-wide totals for those two stats (4.19). Cotton, thanks to his much smaller sample size, was a bit all over the map. His ERA (2.15) was elite, while his xFIP (4.32) was just above average. Naturally, his FIP (3.76) was right in between. When it comes to projecting 2017, that middle number seems just about right. Cotton will have a few outings where his youth shows and he blows up, but having his home games in O.Co and some nasty swing-and-miss stuff to get him out of jams will make him still above average when it comes to run prevention in 2017.
Of course, Manaea was already above average, and should only improve in 2016. There shouldn't be a massive gap between these two, but Manaea definitely has the edge.
ADP: Manaea (179) vs. Cotton (251.3)
Manaea is currently being draft about 70 picks before Cotton, and that makes sense. Manaea has thrown over 100 more innings than Cotton in his career (144.2 to 29.1) which is a big deal with pitchers as young as these two. We know Manaea can get through a full season more than we know that of Cotton. That being said, we're looking for value here and given how close these two are, if I can get Cotton a full seven rounds (or five and a half in 12-team leagues) later than Manaea, that gives Cotton the edge for me in this breakdown of young A's pitchers.
Thompson was optioned to Triple-A on Thursday, ending any real chance of fantasy value, at least to start the 2017 season. The 26-year-old showed flashes during the 2016 season, hitting 13 home runs in just 262 plate appearances. Thompson also walked at a near-ten percent clip (9.9%) and had an ISO of .212. On the flip side of that, Thompson hit just .225 and struck out more than a quarter of the time. He also was facing stiff competition in a crowded Dodger outfield. Now that Dodger outfield has been known to not stay healthy, so Thompson may well get a look in 2017, but he's not worth stashing except in the deepest of leagues with an N/A. If he is called back up, he's worth a speculative NL-only add thanks to his power and the lineup he'd be joining, but nothing mixed league.
Ramos will be placed on the 60-day DL to start the season, meaning he will not be able to return to the field until June 1, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. This is a tough setback for Ramos (knee), who was hoping to be back after five weeks of the regular season. It's not too surprising, however, given that the club just signed Derek Norris, they clearly were aware of Ramos' timeline. If you drafted Ramos, he's worth hanging on to, as long as you have a DL spot. He's a top ten catcher when healthy, and he is coming off his best season as a hitter. He hit 22 home runs with a .307 batting average in 2016, his first season after getting LASIK eye surgery. If you only have one DL spot and it's going to be filled by someone like David Dahl, Ramos probably isn't quite good enough to keep injured on your bench, but keep tallies on him and look to add him back in late May if he's rearing to go.
Nolasco was names the Opening Day starter for the Angels, giving him the title of ace, if at least for a day. Nolasco will certainly not be drafted like an ace in 2017, and with good reason. That being said, Nolasco has rather quietly been begging for some positive regression for the entirety of his career. He's basically been a reverse-Chris Young/Marco Estrada, as his career ERA (4.52) and FIP (3.85) show. That gap between his ERA and FIP is the highest in baseball history for pitchers with at least 1,500 innings pitched. At some point a fluke is bound to actually be a trend in wolf's clothing, but if you're looking for a long shot in a deeper league, betting on ERA-FIP is never a bad idea.
Rendon is dealing with a leg injury that may keep him out for Opening Day. On the surface, this isn't that troubling. The baseball season is a long one, and almost every player is bound to miss a game or two along the way. The troubling part is that injuries were the main contributor to Rendon's disappointing 2015 season. Rendon went from 153 games played in 2014 to just 80 in 2015 before bouncing back to 156 in 2016. This 2017 season will do a lot to determine whether 2015 was a blip in the radar, or if Rendon is going to be one of those "healthy one year, hurt the next" type players. We know what he's capable of when healthy (20 HR, 15 SB), now it's a question of whether he'll maintain the health to do so.
Martinez was officially placed on the DL Friday and the further this thing goes along without any good news, the more worrisome it gets. Lisfranc injuries can linger and linger and linger, and it's not as if Martinez has been a bastion of health during his career. He's only played one season in his entire career in which he played more than 123 games, and 2017 is starting to look like another season in which he won't reach that plateau. Martinez is one of the best power hitters in the game when he's healthy, but it's no surprise that this spring's injury has his ADP plummeting. There's definitely something to worry about here.
Anderson was named the Cubs fourth starter to start 2017, a move that was expected but certainly nice to hear for folks that have Anderson on their squad. Anderson has topped 100 innings exactly once in the past six years, but he has always been effective when healthy. When we last saw Anderson actually healthy, he posted a 3.69 ERA in 180.1 innings for the Dodgers in 2015. That ERA was backed by an even better FIP (3.51) and although his strikeout rate (6.65 K/9 career) leaves a lot to be desired, his ground ball rate (58.2%) is excellent, and pitching in front of that excellent Cubs infield only makes that ground ball rate even sexier. A decent number of wins should also be in the cards for Anderson, as the Cubs are a pretty decent team in case you haven't heard. Anderson is a great streaming option and even a viable roster candidate in 12-team mixed leagues despite his miniscule ownership rates as of now.
The flip side of this news is that Mike Montgomery will start the season in the bullpen. Montgomery was creating a little buzz with his run for a rotation spot this spring, but ultimately the club decided he was too valuable in his versatile bullpen role to send to the rotation. Montgomery has plenty of real life value in this role but not a lot of fantasy value. That being said, we just told you about the historical health, or lack thereof, of Anderson, so keep your eye on Montgomery and maybe even keep him stashed in NL-only leagues.
There was rough news for Smyly and his owners on Friday, as he will be out 6-8 weeks with a flexor strain in his left arm. The Mariners are still using just the 10-day DL for Smyly, so at least there's some optimism that it might be closer to six than eight weeks. Smyly was a trendy pick coming into 2017 who I never totally understood the buzz on. While he certainly showed flashes in 2015, last year looked like a step back across the board, as he ERA jumped 1.77 points, he strikeout rate dropped almost two whole batters per nine and he gave up more fly balls than his already high total. Even before the injury I was out on Smyly and that is only solidified with this news.
Conley was named fifth starter for the Marlins on Friday and is a guy to keep an eye on in any and all leagues. Conley has been one of the better streaming options for a couple seasons now, never pitching well enough to deserve lone-term roster status outside of NL-only, but also never really blowing up in his spot starts to scare off potential streamers. In 200.1 career innings, Conley is 12-7 with a 3.82 ERA. The big issue, in that there has been one, is his control, which saw his BB/9 jump to 4.19 in 2016. That being said, Conley walked just three batters in 11.2 innings this spring, and while that is both a tiny sample and a spring training sample, it's better than hearing he was walking a batter every other inning. With the spacious home park and a solid spot in the rotation, Conley is worth an NL-only roster spot, and streaming status in mixed leagues.
Chavez will officially get a chance in the Angels rotation to start the 2017 season, a return from his 2016 spent entirely in the bullpen. When Chavez was last a regular starter, it was with the A's from 2014-2015, when he posted a 3.83 ERA and 3.87 FIP. In his career as a whole, Chavez owns a 4.14 ERA as a starter, lower than his 4.89 ERA as a reliever, a relative rarity in the world of pitching. Whether this is due to Chavez being more comfortable as a starter, it simply being too small a sample, or his prime coming more when he was a starter, 2017 should give us more of a feel. If Chavez settles back into that ~4.00 ERA type pitcher he'll have some value in AL-only leagues, and may even be worth some spot starts. If his age (33) starts to catch up with him, and he's left looking like a shell of his forming SP self, we'll being to understand the reason he's owned in 1.7 percent of ESPN leagues.
Because Accuracy Matters on Draft day: