Fantasy Baseball Sleepers
The Red Sox pinned a lot of expectations onto 22-year-old Mookie Betts coming into this season. So far he has shown definite signs of being able to live up to those expectations and his MLB fantasy value is on the rise.
In eight games, Betts has collected nine hits and two of those have left the park. He's also driven in eight runs and swiped three bags, sending his MLB fantasy stock into uncharted territory. He'll need to reach base at higher clip going forward - he sports a .273 OBP so far - but we're still in the very early stages of the 2015 season.
Fantasy owners wishing to evaluate a larger sample size should take a look at Betts' numbers from 52 games last year. In 213 plate appearances, he hit .291 with a .368 OBP. He's already flexing his power and run production muscles at greater rates in 2015 (he had totals of 5 HR and 18 RBI during his time last year), so if his BA and OBP climb back up towards 2014's levels he will be a far more complete fantasy player.
If Mookie has both OF and 2B positional eligibility in your league, that of course only enhances his appeal. It's hard not to feel good about his prospects batting atop a Boston lineup stacked with names like David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. If all goes according to plan, he should end up scoring plenty of runs and be able to show off his speed and athleticism on the base paths often. All considered, Betts should end the season as a top 75 player.
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Fantasy Baseball Sleepers
Tis the season for overreactions, and here is quite possibly yet another. Adam Lind’s first four games with the Brewers are telling of a bigger, looming successful season with true MLB fantasy value.
So far this season, Lind is 8-13 with a HR and four walks. I’m not great at math, but I think that works out to a .615 batting average. You say ridiculously small sample size? I say he’s setting a precedent of being a MLB fantasy difference maker.
Now the question becomes whether or not he can hit 54 home runs register 162 walks with a .600 average over an entire season. The answer of course is no, but that doesn’t eliminate him from having a workman like season worthy of a roster spot on your fantasy team.
In seasons where Lind has played in more than 100 games, he has consistently hit more than 20 home runs, topping out at 35 in 2009. His 2014 campaign was shortened to 96 games, but in 2013 (playing in 143 games) Lind hit 23 home runs and batted .288.
Lind also had a 2.3 WAR in 2013. In 2009 Lind actually received MVP votes and a Silver Slugger award. You say dated, dusty awards on a mantle over his millionaire fireplace, but this guy deserves a chance.
He’s traditionally had problems dealing with left-handed pitching, but it looks like he may have turned the corner on these issues coming into 2015. If your league is a standard 5x5 league he’s a strong addition, depending on the rest of your roster. When picking up Lind, understand that you aren’t signing up for a MVP season, but you can expect a solid bat at first.
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Fantasy Baseball Sleepers
Lance Lynn showed off his MLB fantasy value on Wednesday against the Cubs even though he couldn't squeeze out the win. In six-plus innings of work, the Cards right-hander allowed one earned run on two hits, walking one and striking out nine. He provided MLB fantasy owners with virtually everything they could have asked for except a win, which the St. Louis offense did little to capture against a very effective Jake Arrieta.
The 27-year-old has been no stranger to wins during his four seasons in the majors. In 2012, he netted 18 of them on the way to All-Star honors, and the two following seasons saw him earn 15 apiece. His offensive support should typically be much better than it was in this first start, and if he stays healthy Lynn will get his fair share of victories. He has been a dependable fixture of the Cardinals rotation, throwing over 200 innings in each of the last two seasons. If he continues to do so, MLB fantasy owners will have many reasons to smile.
Lynn posted the lowest ERA of his career last season (2.74) and though a repeat performance might be ambitious (see 3.35 FIP), a sub-3.50 mark is a good bet. Other pitchers may help you more in terms of WHIP (1.26 last year), but Lynn should offer plenty of strikeouts. He has maintained at least an 8.0 K/9 rate every season of his career, and he appears quite ready to keep that streak alive if the nine batters he fanned on Wednesday are any indication.
If your league counts quality starts, Lynn's value only grows. Last year he enjoyed a quality outing in 73% of his starts and put up a career-high of 24. Over the last three seasons he has averaged 20. It's a decent consolation on days like this when weak run support squanders win opportunities.
MLB Fantasy owners can take away many positive observations from Lynn's first outing against an improved division rival. Look for him to be a top-30 starting pitcher in 2015.
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Fantasy Baseball Sleepers
Michael Brantley is a fantasy owner’s dream player with unlimited MLB fantasy value. His well-rounded skill set fits perfectly into the fantasy scoring system, especially if your league follows the standard 5x5 format.
Last season Brantley hit 20 home runs, a number that becomes even more impressive when thinking about the speed and average he maintains. Brantley finished 2014 with a .327 batting average to go along with 23 steals.
Brantley is the real deal finishing last season just shy of 100 RBI, tallying 97 total. With an improving Indians lineup, Brantley could finally break the century mark. His 94 runs scored last season ranked him tenth in the league – a number that could also rise by the end of the season.
During 2014, he finished third in MVP voting. He had the sixth best season based off of WAR, putting up a 7-win season. Brantley turns 28 next month, which should translate into some of the best numbers of his career.
The Indians are legitimate playoff contenders and Brantley is the biggest reason why. While most others in your league likely will underestimate the centerfielder, make sure you properly evaluate and respect his numbers.
With the lack of attention Brantley attracts, you may even be able to consider him a steal for his average draft place or dollar number during an auction. Brantley is a piece to build your team around. Don’t be afraid to go all in on Brantley or the Indians.
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Fantasy Baseball News
Drawing conclusions from one game out of 162 is a misguided exercise at best, but MLB fantasy owners can't help but speculate on a player's MLB Fantasy Value. Opening Day 2015 certainly gave nervous fantasy owners several things to chew on as the new season kicks into gear.
Tanaka Struggles: After an impressive first two innings, it appeared that Masahiro Tanaka was going to coast to the kind of effortless outing he enjoyed many times in 2014. Things fell apart in the third, however, when he surrendered five runs, four of them earned. Tanaka made little use of his fastball, instead relying on off-speed pitches to mixed results. Like last year, he was most effective working the edges of the strike zone with his slider or getting hitters to chase the ball down, evidenced by the six strikeouts he accumulated over his four innings. When he left his fastball elevated, he got hit hard: see Edwin Encarnación's two-run blast. Tanaka owners can take heart in the fact that he made it through the game by all accounts pain-free, a concern that will persist in light of last season's elbow injury. If he can refine his control going forward, his slider showed enough of its signature bite to keep missing plenty of bats this season.
New-Look Cubs Shut Out: The Cubs didn't fare much better on Opening Night than fans searching for a bathroom amid the renovations-in-progress at Wrigley Field. Cardinals pitching, led by Adam Wainwright through six shutout innings, held them to five hits and no runs in a rather uneventful commencement to the 2015 MLB season. Jason Heyward owners hoping a move to St. Louis would see the young outfielder really start to deliver on his potential were likely encouraged by his performance on Sunday night. He went 3-for-5 with two doubles, stole a base, and scored a run in the victory. Batting second in the Cards lineup should give Heyward ample opportunity to have more days like this where he can showcase his multi-faceted talent.
Colon Shines: Just like everyone predicted, Bartolo Colon outdueled Max Scherzer at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The 41-year-old Mets starter gave up three hits and one run in six innings, fanning eight and walking one against a capable Washington lineup. As usual, Colon kept things simple, working fast and throwing his fastball for over 80% of his pitches. While you shouldn't expect this kind of performance to be the norm, pitching-needy MLB fantasy owners might consider picking up Colon as a one of their fantasy baseball sleepers to see if he can go on a little run to start the season. Though he pitched to a 4.09 ERA last year, his FIP was about a half-run lower at 3.57.
Royals Hammer ChiSox: The reigning AL Champs got off on the right foot, routing the White Sox 10-1. Chicago's big offseason pitching acquisition had a debut to forget, as Jeff Samardzija gave up five earned runs in six innings, walking three to just one strikeout. Mike Moustakas (2-for-3, solo home run) and Alex Rios (3-for-4, 3-run home run) led the way in the Royals' offensive outburst. Moustakas has largely underwhelmed at the big league level but this type of game might persuade MLB fantasy owners that the 26-year-old third basemen is poised for a turnaround batting out of the second spot in the Royals lineup. Also worth noting: Moose's homer was the first opposite-field shot of his career.
Fantasy Baseball Sleepers –
Shortly after the Dodgers struck a 6-year, $62.5 million deal with 30-year-old Cuban superstar Hector Olivera, it was revealed that he has a slight tear in his UCL.
Olivera should be able to play through the injury as the Dodgers opened up the checkbook and beat out all the other potential suitors. Ideally Olivera would make an immediate impact at third base, although the Dodgers already have the reliable Juan Uribe in place for this season at third as well.
Many will criticize the Dodgers for overpaying an undeserving and inexperienced player, but that logic seems unfair. They have the resources and the backup plan. For a lesser organization this may break the bank, but for the Dodgers, it’s low risk high reward.
Olivera has serious potential to be a force in the already forceful Los Angeles lineup. His power must be respected and he should be able to transfer it to the big leagues. Olivera has 96 home runs in 2,800 at bats since 2003 with an OPS of .912 during that time span.
MLB fantasy owners should consider themselves in a similar position as the Dodgers when contemplating Olivera. He’ll likely be a free agent pick up for most teams, and at the very worst eats up a spot on your bench.
You shouldn’t pick him up right away, but monitor him closely to see how he progresses within the organization. But don’t wait too long, moves like these are what win MLB fantasy championships.
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Fantasy Baseball News
Coming off a year-long suspension for steroid use, Alex Rodriguez reported to Yankees camp and even decided to show up a few days early. The controversial player took batting practice and although many believe he will now be a full time DH, he fielded some ground balls from the left side of the infield.
Despite the never-ending questions that surround Rodriguez, the biggest may be what value does he have for your MLB fantasy squad? Not so surprisingly, the answer is NONE. At this point, there's no reason for anyone to believe that his on-filed production will be anything more than a shadow of what he was capable of in the past.
During 44 games in 2013, A-Rod put up his lowest OPS (.771) since he was 20-years-old. Now he’s 39, hasn’t played in more than a year and the Yankees are stuck with him.
Unless a rash of injuries devastate the Yankees lineup, playing chances for Rodriguez at the DH position will likely be few and far between. New York manager Joe Girardi often uses the DH spot to give players a rest from playing their every day positions.
Catcher Brian McCann and outfielder Carlos Beltran will likely see a good amount of at-bats at the DH spot. So will Garrett Jones who the Yanks signed during the offseason. This crowded cast at DH will further diminish A-Rod’s possible role.
The ambiguities surrounding A-Rod’s role with the team are reason enough to avoid him. If he goes undrafted in your league, feel free to leave him on the wire. The Yankees seemingly wish that they didn’t have A-Rod on their team and you certainly shouldn’t be chomping at the bit to get him on your MLB fantasy squad either.
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