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AL West fantasy division preview

We’re spinning around every division in baseball for their biggest fantasy baseball stories and players.

Arrivals

SS Jean Segura, Mariners: A brighter on- and off-field year helped him sizzle for Arizona. Seattle’s park will hinder his power, but he’ll must double-digit homers, and a 25-steal, .270-average season is in the cards again. This top-10 fantasy shortstop will come at a bigger discount than the wave of early-round blue-chippers.

OF Carlos Beltran and Josh Reddick, Astros: Beltran keeps his label as a quality middle-rounds run producer, though the impending 40-year-old could burn aggressive buyers banking on another 2016. Reddick might lose platoon work but can get by as a fifth fantasy fly-catcher.

C Brian McCann, Astros: Houston’s pitchers land another good pitch framer, and McCann joins a better lineup than the Yankees. He’s a low-end fantasy starter.

SP Drew Smyly and Yovani Gallardo, Mariners: Smyly is several skills away (limiting homers, staying healthy, pitching on the road) from joining the ranks of aces. He moves to another helpful park, though. Gallardo needs more help to return to fantasy utility, but there are worse bottom-barrel dice rolls. Maybe.

OF Jarrod Dyson, Mariners: He’ll surrender work against many lefties, but he could swipe 40 bags in 400 or so at-bats.

OF Ben Revere and Cameron Maybin, Angels: This speed-centric pair looks like a platoon, but Maybin performs better against righties. The cloudy outlook limits both to late-round grabs for bench steals.

3B/OF Trevor Plouffe, Athletics: This move is so A’s. But Plouffe has now has a clear path to let his power help fantasy owners in deep games.

SP Tyson Ross, Rangers: Texas gave him a dice-roll contract. Deep-league fantasy players should do the same for the hurler with a 22.4 percent strikeout rate in his career.

SP Charlie Morton, Astros: Don’t overlook his two-seamer’s jump in velocity during his brief 2016. Houston could mold his skill set to push him back into fantasy-relevant territory, if his rehab from that torn hamstring doesn’t give him issues.

2B Danny Espinosa, Angels: Defense will keep him in the lineup, but deep-league owners will struggle to stomach his hacker ways.

X-factors

SP Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker, Angels: Richards’ elbow issues will force Anaheim to treat him carefully, though Shoemaker’s scary head injury likely won’t limit his progress toward opening day. Both have the skills to deliver in fantasy, but Shoemaker may wind up the better value.

1B/3B Yulieski Gurriel, Astros: Though stable all around, his bat may not stand out in a particular category, save for a surprise age-33 power explosion. Gurriel will rely heavily on playing time.

Breakouts

3B Alex Bregman, Astros: Strikeout woes marred an otherwise promising rookie year. The eight home runs in 217 plate appearances say he’ll drop more bombs in a full season. Expect a better line (approaching 30 homers?) as he takes a big step forward at age 23.

SP James Paxton, Mariners: He was close to brilliant in 2016 as a new arm slot jolted his velocity. That 3.79 ERA hid his 8.70 K/9, 1.79 BB/9, 11.7 swinging-strike rate, 62.4 first-pitch-strike rate, 2.80 FIP and 3.35 xFIP. Buy.

1B/3B Ryon Healy, Athletics: The fast riser clubbed eight of his 13 big flies at his spacious home park. The potential 25-homer, .280-or-better bat will shine as one of the bright spots in an otherwise dark situation.

SP Sean Manaea, Athletics: Manaea will, too. His 2.67 second-half ERA was highlighted by a sparkling 8.00 K/9, 1.97 BB/9, 4.06 K/BB and 17.2 K-BB%. The 25-year-old gets ahead 0-1 and induces swinging strikes at an above-average, if not elite, pace. “Baby Giraffe” fans may be forced to stick out their necks to land him in the middle rounds.

SP Tyler Skaggs, Angels: Reining in his walks could be the final step for the former top prospect to complete his recovery from Tommy John surgery and step into the fantasy spotlight. The 4.17 ERA in his return stint last year hid a shiny strikeout rate, too.

1B C.J. Cron, Angels: He’s improved his strikeout rate each of last two years, and he still boasts 20-homer pop in a full year.

Sleepers

OF Mitch Haniger, Mariners: Potential 20-homer, 20-steal bats are always worth fantasy attention. That Triple-A line last year … mercy.

SP Joe Musgrove, Astros: Homer issues masked otherwise intriguing command (7.98 K/9, 2.32 BB/9. May not win rotation spot if everyone’s healthy, but he’ll post valuable innings sometime this year.

SP Jharel Cotton and Andrew Triggs, Athletics: Smart owners won’t buy a 2.15 or even 3.15 ERA from his five-start stint, but the control-fueled Cotton will help deep-league clubs. His diverse arsenal gives him K upside, as well. Triggs (back) should be ready for spring training and could be a stab at the end of deep drafts for strikeouts.

INF Jurickson Profar and Joey Gallo, Rangers: Texas may acquire a bat that would limit their reps, though these potentially explosive post-hypers are worth stashing for that hope.

SP Martin Perez, Rangers: Perez’s velocity is creeping back after TJS. He still pitches to contact – not great for his home park – but if he shows more giddy-up in spring training, time to start paying attention.

Undervalued

SS Marcus Semien, Athletics: Those who can take the hit in batting average can land 30 to 40 combined homers and steals late.

Overvalued

OF Nomar Mazara, Rangers: Homer-thirsty owners can buy him late in drafts, but no more categories make Nomar safe. Though a fine hold in keeper leagues, he’ll regress in Year 2.

On the rebound

SP Felix Hernandez, Mariners: The bad calf was a likely cause of velocity and performance drop. But the backlash and fear for continued breakdown will make him ludicrously cheap. At some point, he’s worth the risks.

SP Dallas Keuchel, Astros: Shoulder injuries are worth watching, but it looks like he’ll be ready for camp. Houston’s acquisition of McCann, another great pitch framer, should help Keuchel work the corners when he’s active. Another potentially huge bargain.

OF Carlos Gomez, Rangers: His price sits at its lowest since his big breakout 2012. Power and speed stand tall in fantasy, regardless of batting average risk. A full season with Texas should help him cash in.

SP Sonny Gray, Athletics: He was walking a fine line, and he fell off it in 2016. Because he doesn’t strikeout many hitters, he must refine his control and homer suppression. He won’t just fade away after three seasons of a 3.08 ERA or lower, though.

Position battle to watch

Angels closer: The rehabbing Huston Street (knee) and Cam Bedrosian (arm) will lead the expected spring competition that may also feature Andrew Bailey, Deolis Guerra and Michael Morin.

Prospects for 2017

1B Dan Vogelbach, Mariners: He’s set to platoon with Danny Valencia, but his power could play even in expansive stadiums like Safeco Field.

SS Franklin Barreto, Athletics: Seems like a matter of time until he joins the majors as one of the most coveted minor league fantasy adds.

OF Derek Fisher, Astros: Another Josh Reddick or Carlos Beltran injury could open a spot for Fisher, who has four-category upside.

SP Francis Martes, Astros: Starter or high-leverage reliever? Strikeouts could play either way if a spot opens.

OF Tyler O’Neill, Mariners: A long shot, but he has the across-the-board talent to force the issue.

SP Yohander Mendez, Rangers: Probably on an innings limit, but if the Texas rotation continues to flounder, will they care?

Closer chronicles

Joining the Halos in the danger zone are Oakland and Texas. Ryan Madson will have to be near perfect to hold off immediate A’s threats Sean Doolittle and Santiago Casilla, plus John Axford and Liam Hendriks. Don’t count on it.

Sam Dyson rode his grounder-heavy approach to a breakthrough year, but Texas’ stacked bullpen, notably with Jeremy Jeffress and Matt Bush, gives him a low margin for error.

Ken Giles sits atop Houston’s depth chart, but Will Harris or Luke Gregerson again will pressure him. Giles’ late-season gains improve his outlook, though.

The electric Edwin Diaz rules Seattle but may battle control issues. Luckily for him, the picture behind him is ugly, and he won’t cost as much as other elite names.

Injury watch

Ready for spring training/start of season

1B Albert Pujols, Angels (foot)

SP Dallas Keuchel, Astros (shoulder)

SP Lance McCullers, Astros (shoulder, elbow)

SS Elvis Andrus, Rangers (sports hernia)

OF Kole Calhoun, Angels (abdomen)

1B C.J. Cron, Angels (thumb)

RP Huston Street, Angels (knee)

RP Cam Bedrosian, Angels (arm)

3B Joey Gallo, Rangers (hamstring)

AL Central fantasy division preview

We’re spinning around every division in baseball for their biggest fantasy baseball stories and players.

Arrivals

1B Edwin Encarnacion, Indians: He walks the parrot to, surprisingly, a better hitting park and — at this stage in the offseason — lineup than Rogers Centre. Even at age 34, he’s a logical pick for power in the second or third round.

2B Yoan Moncada, White Sox: Moncada may not start year in majors, but he should have a clear path to usurp uninspiring alternatives. He’s a fine middle- or late-rounds mixed target.

OF Jorge Soler, Royals: Holes still plague his swing and approach, but the slugger likely will play close to every day, and Kauffman Stadium isn’t as pitcher-friendly as commonly believed. Mark him as a fifth mixed outfielder with upside on draft day.

SP Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, White Sox: These unpolished but alluring prospects may not make their biggest impact until 2018, but Chicago might start the auditions early. For another Pale Hose youngster, check the Prospects section below.

SP Nathan Karns, Royals: The intriguing strikeout arm has a decent shot at a rotation gig, but just about everything else in his profile needs work.

C Jason Castro, Twins: He has enough power to garner occasional use in two-catcher mixed leagues. His biggest impact, however, will be helping Minnesota pitchers work the corners.

X-factor

OF Michael Brantley, Indians: Spring work will determine whether the former MVP candidate can be a fantasy starter or a mere stash after August right biceps surgery and continued rehab on his right shoulder.

Breakouts

SP Danny Duffy, Royals: He’s already going to be highly coveted after 2016, with that K increase during his stay in the rotation. Expect to pay SP2 or SP3 prices.

SP Carlos Rodon, White Sox: Love that control improvement (4.59 BB/9 in 2015 debut, to 2.95 in 2016). Strong strikeout build has him on track for big step forward if he can learn to work better around the plate.

SS Tim Anderson, White Sox: Not enough people are talking about this power-speed threat. He doesn’t walk much and may need to learn a bit on the job, but he put the ball in play to successful degrees on the farm (BABIPs of .369 or higher at every level) and could rattle off 30-plus homers plus steals.

3B Nick Castellanos, Tigers: Improved his slugging percentage and ISO for the second straight year and was on pace to challenge for 30 home runs before he suffered a broken left hand. Better to aim for 20 in 2017, but tools are there for more.

OF Max Kepler and Byron Buxton, Twins: Kepler is already the more polished and safer player – the better masher with enough plate discipline to help his line. Buxton’s speed is worth chasing late in mixed drafts, and more seasoning may allow his power to blossom.

SP Daniel Norris, Tigers: His ERA will balloon a bit, especially if issues with the long ball continue. But as with Rodon, Norris’ strikeout potential leaves room for speculation.

Deep sleepers

OF Charlie Tilson, White Sox: The wide-open South Side outfield carves a path for Tilson, who lost his chance to do so last year thanks to a strained hamstring. The 24-year-old could steal 20-plus bags in a full season, even if it’s platoon-defined.

2B Raul Mondesi, Royals: Potential clearance-rack buy for stolen bases, but if he can’t claw his way to double-digit home runs, his value elsewhere will wind up quite empty.

DH Kennys Vargas, Twins: The 10 home runs in just 47 games hints at the potential for an out-of-nowhere power breakthrough. He whiffs a lot but also walks a bunch, so OBP leaguers should certainly take note.

SP Matthew Strahm, Royals: A Todd Zola favorite, the lefty boasts skills that could play either as a starting pitcher or a high-leverage reliever. Drafting talent without a role often pays off.

SP Jose Berrios, Twins: Control is almost non-existent, but his velocity and arsenal can eventually make him a useful fantasy option. The 22-year-old could succeed ahead of schedule if he’s paired with Castro and the framing expert bolsters his work around the corners.

Values

SP Carlos Carrasco, Indians: Many will fear Carrasco’s history of injuries, but the recent ones are mostly freak instances. He has some of the best skills of any fantasy pitcher.

3B/OF Miguel Sano, Twins: Luckily for profit seekers, he’s not a top-50 pick anymore in mixed leagues. Pounce on his elite power.

3B/OF Jose Ramirez, Indians: Don’t rely on more growth, but his floor at various positions, which may also include second base and shortstop, will be overlooked.

Overvalued

SP Michael Fulmer, Tigers: The 24-year-old’s long-term upside is certainly palpable, but the AL Rookie of the Year will take a step back, especially with ERA and left-on-base percentage. Of course, his 10.4 swinging-strike percentage and 61.1 first-strike rate say his strikeout count should improve.

On the rebound

OF J.D. Martinez, Tigers: JDM didn’t launch as many fly balls last season, which was interrupted by a fractured elbow. However, his consistent hard contact will allow him to return to the 30-homer plateau, if not easily eclipse it like he almost did in 2015.

SP Danny Salazar, Indians: Control woes resurfaced in an up-and-down season, but his K/9 is still worth chasing.

Position battles to watch

White Sox 2B/DH: Can Moncada force his way onto the big club immediately?

Indians OF: Potential openings in two or all three outfield spots, thanks to Brantley’s recovery and Tyler Naquin’s flaws. Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer and Abraham Almonte – along with prospects Greg Allen and Bradley Zimmer – may fight to take the lead.

Royals No. 4 and 5 SP: Karns, Strahm, Jason Vargas, Mike Minor (shoulder) and Kyle Zimmer (shoulder) are options.

Prospects for 2017

OF Greg Allen and Bradley Zimmer, Indians: Allen has jaw-dropping speed, while Zimmer could wind up a traditional hacker with pop.

C Francisco Mejia, Indians: Roberto Perez and Yan Gomes don’t inspire much confidence, and the owner of a 50-game minor league hit streak could enter the fantasy landscape in the second half.

SP Michael Kopech, White Sox: The radar-gun-busting righty probably needs more seasoning than fellow new arrivals Giolito and Lopez, but he’s worth stashing in deep leagues for the off-chance it clicks earlier than expected.

Closer chronicles

Will the White Sox trade David Robertson to open things up for Nate Jones?

Cleveland’s Cody Allen sits on a perpetual hot seat with Andrew Miller behind him.

Francisco Rodriguez re-signed with Detroit, but don’t lose track of the resurgent Bruce Rondon.

Kelvin Herrera takes over after the Royals traded Wade Davis. He’ll be elite in his own right.

Groundballer Brandon Kintzler saved the Twins last year after Glen Perkins (shoulder) was shut down, though his grip on the job may loosen if his performance slips and numerous options like Trevor May get healthy.

Injury watch

Ready for spring training/start of season

1B Eric Hosmer, Royals (wrist)

OF Lorenzo Cain, Royals (wrist)

3B Mike Moustakas, Royals (knee)

RP David Robertson, White Sox (knee)

SP Jordan Zimmermann, Tigers (neck)

Watch

OF Michael Brantley, Indians (shoulder)

Stabbing At The Truth

WARNING: This post may only of interest to folks who are into media criticism (which should be everybody, if you ask me, since we now live in the era of “fake news”) or the Marlins’ farm system, but as I’m dead center on that particular Venn diagram, I’m going to write it anyway.

AL East fantasy division preview

We’re spinning around every division in baseball for their biggest fantasy baseball stories and players.

Arrivals

SP Chris Sale, Red Sox: Luckily, the fantasy ace already has experience pitching in hitter-friendly environments. More of a top-10 fantasy pitcher, not a top-5.

CL Aroldis Chapman, Yankees: Déjà vu all over again – re-signs with Bombers and remains one of the sport’s best stoppers.

OF Matt Holliday, Yankees: Great park, DH role in the middle of the order should prolong his fantasy career. He may wind up a draft-day deal in deep leagues.

UPDATE – OF Colby Rasmus, Rays: He’ll play against righties in the outfield or at DH, competing with near doppelganger Corey Dickerson.

1B Mitch Moreland, Red Sox: Expect similar production from his Rangers days — often useful in mixed leagues but a safer deep piece.

OF Seth Smith, Orioles: From Safeco Field to Camden Yards — talk about an upgrade. Still one of baseball’s best top-side platoon plays.

X-factor

C Gary Sanchez, Yankees: Will command the price of a top-three catcher, if not the No. 1, after historic debut. His pace will slow, but he has the profile to live up to that billing.

Breakouts

SP Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy, Orioles: Gausman’s second half (3.10 ERA) locks him in. Bundy may need another year before making the most of a promising 2016, though the risk dwindles late in mixed drafts.

SP Blake Snell, Rays: Taming walks would allow alluring total package to take a big step forward.

Value

DH Kendrys Morales, Blue Jays: Many drafters hate DH-only players. Big 2016 lands him in better locale for power.

Bust

SP Aaron Sanchez, Blue Jays: Skills didn’t support sparkling ERA. Expect a drop-off. Still a useful mixed depth arm, though.

SP Chris Tillman, Orioles: Don’t let that win total cloud his otherwise risky profile.

Overvalued

SS Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox: Power increase was too drastic and won’t last at that level. Must keep climbing in stolen bases to ward off big value drop, but it’s not a safe bet.

SP Rick Porcello, Red Sox: Cy Young winners often get a fake boost the next fantasy season. He’s not a 3.15 ERA guy, but he’s a top-30 fantasy starter who probably has peaked.

On the rebound

SP David Price, Red Sox: Velocity and location must rebound, but there’s plenty of profit potential for the longtime ace if a draft room underrates him.

SP Chris Archer and Drew Smyly, Rays: Archer’s location issues led to a spike in homers allowed. Nearly every other peripheral remained the same (note 3.41 xFIP, too). Still owns a top-20 SP baseline. Meanwhile, Smyly still has home run issues, but absurdly low LOB% last year hid other brilliant skills, mainly command. Strikeouts should return, too, in what could wind up a violently positive

SP Marcus Stroman, Blue Jays: Second-half increase in strikeout rate hints at upside there. Still just 25 years old. Bargain alert….

SP Michael Pineda, Yankees: Led the AL with a 14.1 swinging-strike rate. ERA and homer issues continued to mask elite peripherals. Take the chance if he’s cheap. Luis Severino, too.

3B Pablo Sandoval, Red Sox: Another year, another possible weight loss. Offseason speak aside, skilled hitter looks attractive for fantasy players filling a bench spot.

Position battles to watch

Yankees 1B: Greg Bird would’ve been a Breakout if Tyler Austin weren’t around. The Yankees are calling this a competition, but it may become a platoon unless, perhaps, Austin outplays Aaron Judge for right field.

Prospects for 2017

OF Andrew Benintendi, Red Sox: His drool-inducing hit tool will cost a pretty penny.

OF Clint Frazier, Yankees: Could play his way into an outfield spot with a Jacoby Ellsbury/Brett Gardner injury or prolonged Aaron Judge slump. Gleyber Torres could enter the picture at shortstop, as well, but it probably will take an injury to Didi Gregorius.

SP Brent Honeywell and SS Willy Adames, Rays: Might force the club’s hand sometime this summer, though Rays often stall promotions.

1B Trey Mancini, Orioles: Without another significant roster move, Baltimore may hand him DH spot.

C Chance Sisco, Orioles: May upend Welington Castillo later in 2017 and become a target in two-catcher fantasy leagues.

Closer chronicles

No controversies. Still, expect the Rays’ Alex Colome to endure a mild dip in production, though he’s mostly for real. Boston has a clear understudy for Craig Kimbrel with newcomer Tyler Thornburg. Dellin Betances remains worth owning even as New York’s setup man.

Injury watch

Ready for spring training/start of season

OF Mookie Betts, Red Sox (knee)

2B Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox (knee)

3B/SS Matt Duffy, Rays (heel)

2B Devon Travis, Blue Jays (knee)

Return during season

C Wilson Ramos, Rays (knee)

Watch

SP Eduardo Rodriguez, Red Sox (knee)

Impact Prospects for 2017

Everyone loves prospects.

 

While expectations are set unrealistically high in some cases, top prospects can make huge splashes upon arrival to the big leagues and turn the tide for fantasy owners. Here are the top prospects that I think have the best chance at making sizeable fantasy contributions once they arrive in the majors in 2017.

MLB Winter Meeting Stock Update

It’s mid-December, which means we’re roughly two months out from pitchers and catchers reporting.

 

But the dust from the Winter Meetings is just beginning to settle. We saw the Red Sox go all in to land Chris Sale, the Rockies surprise many by signing Ian Desmond (and likely forcing him into another position change), and the White Sox revamp their farm system while seemingly punting the 2017 campaign. As one would imagine, a change of scenery can impact a player’s performance, both positively and negatively. With that in mind, here is a listing of how some players were affected by the transactions during the Winter Meetings.

MLB Position Eligibility Changes

One of the most interesting database projects that comes up each fall is sweeping for players whose position eligibility has changed. In many instances, players become eligible at more valuable positions for the upcoming year, and in others, players lose eligibility at a more valuable position. Some very low-end players with fewer than 20 games played at any position are omitted from the list, even though their default position on the site has been updated.