Happy Opening Day!
In honor of this special day, I'm treating everyone to a different format for the normal American League player notes. Don't fret, you'll still have your written updates, but to honor Opening Day, I'll be throwing in a few bold predictions for the season and an expanded DFS cheatsheet for the DraftKings Opening Day slate.
Michael Waldo's Bold Pre-Season Predictions:
Every year I like to publish my overall thoughts on the spring draft season on the day before Opening Day. Below are a series of tweets I posted yesterday regarding my overall observations of draft season and my "bold" predictions for the upcoming year in fantasy baseball. I'll also hit on the key AL player news that happened yesterday, but given that we're still in the pre-season until first pitch today, I wanted to defend one pitcher and one hitter from each of my bust and surprise lists below.
My busts for pitching (i.e. underperform ADP by >30%) ADP since 3/1 listed:-- Michael Waldo (@MichaelWaldo) March 28, 2018
SP-Carlos Carrasco (35)
SP-Alex Wood (115)
SP-Gio Gonzalez (158)
SP-Mike Clevinger (187)
SP-Rich Hill (130)
RP-Craig Kimbrel 45)
RP-Corey Knebel (69)
RP-Roberto Osuna (76)
RP-Arodys Vizcaino (149)
Craig Kimbrel (BOS) - If you read the player notes in the software, you may already know why I'm concerned about Craig Kimbrel this season. Kimbrel went from the worst walk rate in his career in 2016 to the best in his career in 2017. He attributed the success to changing the sequencing of his pitches to keep the hitters off-balance. That change worked wonders in the first half of 2017, but as hitters started to figure out Kimbrel's new pattern, they started to walk more (7.5% walk rate in 2H vs 3.7% in 1H) and hit him harder on a more consistent basis (47% hard hit rate in 2H vs 32% in 1H). Given the volatility in performances from Kimbrel that we've seen over the last several seasons, it's quite possible he has another trick up his sleeve this year, but banking on him as the second overall closer seems risky.
My busts for offense (i.e. underperform March ADP by >30%):-- Michael Waldo (@MichaelWaldo) March 28, 2018
C-Mike Zunino (156)
1B-Cody Bellinger (27)
2B-Chris Taylor (96)
3B-Joey Gallo (100)
SS-Corey Seager (45)
OF-Billy Hamilton (74)
OF-Andrew Benintendi (41)
OF-Ian Desmond (119)
OF-Eddie Rosario (126)
OF-Aaron Hicks (223)
Joey Gallo (TEX) - Joey Gallo has really gaudy statcast data, particularly his 47% hard hit rate, 422 avg distance on home runs and 107.6 MPH batted ball speed on those homeruns, but the problem with Joey Gallo isn't what happens when he makes contact. The problem is actually making contact. His 37% strikeout rate is ugly, even in a baseball reality that moving more towards the three true outcomes (walks, strikeouts and home runs), and from a real baseball perspective, it's difficult to put a hitter in a key run producing lineup position when he strikes out nearly 4 out of 10 at-bats. In a time where power is plentiful, Gallo is largely a single category contributor (home runs). What makes him so much more valuable than a speed-only guy (i.e. Leonys Martin, Dustin Fowler, Jarrod Dyson), especially when the speed-only players are contributing in a scarce category?
My surprises for pitching (i.e. outperform ADP by >20%) ADP since 3/1 listed:-- Michael Waldo (@MichaelWaldo) March 28, 2018
SP-Marco Gonzales (444)
SP-Matt Boyd (469)
SP-Jameson Taillon (176)
SP-Blake Snell (191)
SP-Lucas Giolito (225)
RP-AJ Minter (351)
RP-Drew Steckenrider (359)
RP-Mychal Givens (377)
RP-Josh Hader (302)
Lucas Giolito (CWS) - Post-hype sleeper alert! Two years ago, Lucas Giolito was the bee's knees. Add in struggles at Triple-A, as well as a trade to the White Sox, and his stock was far lower heading into last season. The inconsistency continued in 2017, but thanks to a mechanical adjustment changing his arm slot, Lucas Giolito was the White Sox best pitcher this spring posting a 2.04 ERA with a 17:4 striekout-to-walk rate. Giolito is no longer a blue chip prospect, but he absolutely still has the same level of upside.
My surprises for offense (i.e. outperform March '18 ADP by >20%):-- Michael Waldo (@MichaelWaldo) March 28, 2018
C-Wilson Ramos (158)
1B-Jose Martinez (247)
2B-Brandon Drury (336)
3B-Nick Castellanos (93)
OF-Kyle Schwarber (159)
OF-Franchy Cordero (488)
OF-Dustin Fowler (355)
OF-Kyle Tucker (498)
OF-Gregory Polanco (141)
Brandon Drury (NYY) - Brandon Drury was going so late in most of the deep industry drafts that it's likely that he went undrafted in many standard 12 team mixed leagues. Suddenly tasked with an everyday role for the Yankees, Drury has never seen everyday at-bats and is in a position to put together a solid fantasy season while carrying both second base and third base eligibility. Drury doesn't do anything great, but he's does carry a bit of pop (14% HR/FB rate) and even splits against both right-handers and left-handers. He won't win you a league, but he'll help a lot of people not lose one.
Overall Preseason Observations:
(1/3) Things I think people over-reacted to this spring:-- Michael Waldo (@MichaelWaldo) March 27, 2018
1) Humidor 2) Speed 3) Aaron Judge Regression 4) Shohei Ohtani struggles 5) Minor spring injuries (Gurriel, Samardzija)
(2/3) Things I think people under-rated this spring: 1) Elite closers 2) Elite catchers 3) Bryce Harper in a CONTRACT YEAR-- Michael Waldo (@MichaelWaldo) March 27, 2018
(3/3) Things I think people valued just about right: 1) Elite starting pitching 2) This year's youth 3) Elite middle relievers / rising elite handcuffs-- Michael Waldo (@MichaelWaldo) March 27, 2018
Around the League:
Dustin Fowler (OAK) - The Athletics officially named Boog Powell the team's starting centerfielder on Wednesday, sending the speedy Dustin Fowler to Triple-A. While this move certainly takes into account the spring struggles (until recently) of Dustin Fowler, more than likely, it also has a little something to do with delaying Fowler's service time clock long enough to avoid "Super-2" status, which would require the outfielder to be arbitration eligible one year early and thus cause the A's to lose an additional year of control. Fowler was a late round target of many players seeking speed in drafts this spring, so in his absence, we look towards Leonys Martin or Braxton Lee as potential replacements, each of whom made their respective teams and each seem to be in favorable positions to contribute on the base paths.
Byron Buxton (MIN) - According to Twins beat reporter, Rhett Bollinger, Byron Buxton will draw the 8th spot in the batting order on opening day. Based on research done over at FanGraphs, the 8th position in a batting order usually sees about 97 fewer plate appearances per year than the 1st position. That's a significant drag on his value if he stays in that lineup spot for an extended period of time. It's just one game and it's not time to overreact, but it's certainly an unfortunate development for owners who drafted Buxton early in drafts this spring.
Salvador Perez (KC) - Salvador Perez tore the MCL in his knee on Wednesday while carrying his luggage and will miss 4-6 weeks. Ouch. Fantasy owners who reached for Perez in their drafts will now need to scramble for a replacement. Drew Butera will take over the primary catching duties in Perez's absence, but taking a flier on a backup catcher like Devin Mesoraco may be an alternative, as well. For what it's worth, initial reports suggest Perez will not require surgery to repair the ligament.
Aaron Hicks (NY) - Aaron Hicks is expected to hit 5th for the Yankees on opening day according to Bryan Hoch, a Yankees beat writer for MLB.com. Hicks is a very strong value option on DraftKings at just $3,500. Facing a left-hander in JA Happ, Hicks has the split advantage after posting a healthy .383 wOBA against southpaws a season ago. Hicks is slated to be the team's everyday centerfielder, but he's going to have plenty of competition in the form of Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury, so a prolonged slump could see him lose playing time against righties.
Nathan Eovaldi (TB) - Tampa Bay's right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will undergo surgery to remove loose bodies from his pitching elbow. Eovaldi was a sleeper this spring after twirling an impressive 3.24 ERA with a sparkling 14:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 16 2/3 innings. The surgery will likely put him on the DL through at least the all-star break and the ripple effects don't bode well for the rest of the Rays rotation. Added burden will be placed on Chris Archer, Jake Faria and Blake Snell as the team continues to try a four-man rotation to begin the season. Now short-handed, the bullpen will likely be asked to the even more innings, meaning they will likely be tired and less able to protect the leads of the real fantasy assets. Bad news all around for fantasy owners.
Keone Kela (TEX) - The Dallas Morning News is speculating that Keone Kela will eventually emerge as the Rangers' primary close despite manager Brian Banister's repeated refusals to name a player for the position. Kela has the best skillset of anyone currently healthy and in the bullpen. Once Tim Lincecum gets healthy, he could eventually have a role in the late innings, but it will likely require a Kela meltdown before any type of change occurs.
AJ Puk (OAK) - Tagged as one of the most likely prospect pitching contributors in 2018, AJ Puk will undergo Tommy John Surgery and is expected to miss all of 2018 and likely part of the 2019 season. It's a huge blow for Oakland and of course, the young pitcher. He can be safely dropped in most leagues, including dynasty, since this surgery typically requires at least 18 months of recovery time. He'll be nearly 24 before he pitches again.
Francisco Liriano (DET) - Francisco Liriano earned a rotation spot with the Tigers with an excellent spring, posting a 2.25 ERA and 17 strikeouts over 16 innings. Liriano's age old issues reared their ugly head, however, with 11 walks in 16 innings pitched. Liriano is a matchup-based streamer for the upcoming year, but he certainly offers an upside with his strikeout rate and favorable home ball park. Look to pick his starts against teams that struggle against left-handed batters.
DFS Quick Picks For Opening Day:
Top AL Catcher - Gary Sanchez $4,700 vs JA Happ
Value AL Catcher - Evan Gattis $3,300 vs Cole Hamels
Top AL 1B - Jose Abreu $4,600 vs Danny Duffy
Value AL 1B - Lucas Duda $3,800 vs James Shields
Top AL 2B - Jose Altuve $5,200 vs Cole Hamels
Value AL 2B - Neil Walker $3,000 vs JA Happ
Top AL 3B -Manny Machado $4,800 vs Jake Odorizzi
Value AL 3B - Mike Moustakas $3,800 vs James Shields
Top AL SS - Carlos Correa $4,900 vs Cole Hamels
Value AL SS - Tim Beckham $3,800 vs Jake Odorizzi
Top AL OF - Giancarlo Stanton $5,300 vs JA Happ
Value AL OF - Eddie Rosario $3,500 vs Dylan Bundy
Top AL SP - Chris Sale $12,200 @ TB
Value AL SP - Garrett Richards $6,800 @ OAK