Short Hops: The Dividing Line

Short Hops: The Dividing Line

The subjective nature of player evaluation is one of the most enjoyable aspects of competing in a fantasy baseball league. Months, and sometimes years, of arguments are settled on the field, and the standings at the end of the season typically score the debates.

Over the course of more than 100 episodes of our weekly Short Hops Podcast, other differences have surfaced beyond player evaluation (don't get us started on who makes the best pizza in Chicago). Even with very unique backgrounds in our approach to player analysis, Bernie and I tend to agree on a significant portion of the player pool. The outliers are often the pivot points in the leagues we play in together, however, as they can become sources of significant profit.

It is important to keep one thing in mind – everything in the universe of player values is relative. Here are the players we disagree about most heading into the 2016 season.

Charlie Blackmon, OF

DVR: In 2015, Blackmon finished third in MLB behind Dee Gordon and Billy Hamilton in stolen bases (43), while proving that the 15-plus home-run power that he displayed in 2014 wasn't a fluke. Thanks to the team's decision to trade Corey Dickerson this winter, Blackmon will continue to reap the benefits of Coors Field (career .887 OPS), giving him an opportunity to finish among the league's top-20 hitters while setting the table in a lineup that continues to rank among the league's highest-scoring teams.

BERNIE: Blackmon has put together back-to-back fantasy-friendly seasons. I am not sure he can replicate those numbers as he turns 30 during the 2016 season. While I like him, I will find it hard to pay a premium price (top-20-25 overall pick) for 17 homers and 58 RBI. He's a good player, but not a great one.

Jose Abreu, 1B

DVR: Abreu owners were disappointed in 2015 because the draft-day price was a first-round pick. The encore to his 2014 arrival featured a slight dip in home runs (from 36 to 30) and batting average (.317 to .290), but Abreu still managed to drive in 101 runs and cross the plate 88 times last season. One of four players in the big leagues last season to hit .290 or better with 30 or more homers and 100 or more RBI (Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes, and Paul Goldschmidt were the others), Abreu should return top-30 overall value this season.

BERNIE: Abreu declined in home runs and RBI in Year 2 on the south side of Chicago. I see a stable 2016 season coming, but without another major bat in the lineup to help him produce runs, he will be under even more pressure to put up big numbers. Even though he plays in a hitter-friendly park for half of his games, pitchers may give him fewer quality pitches to hit.

Carlos Gomez, OF

DVR: A hamstring injury suffered in the final week of spring training re-surfaced soon after Opening Day and pushed Gomez to the 15-day DL in April. He returned in early May only to battle hip pain, which may have hampered him throughout the season as he missed time again in June with the ailment. In July, Gomez was hit in the wrist by a pitch (he missed more time) and was then shipped to Houston in a trade deadline deal. Knee soreness cost him time in August, and an intercostal strain plagued him in September and October. With health, Gomez should be capable of returning to his 20-homer, 30-steal levels of 2013 and 2014 in his first full season with the Astros.

BERNIE: Gomez played only 115 games combined for the Brewers and the Astros. He has gone from hitter-friendly park to hitter-friendly park and has a fine lineup around him. Can he stay healthy? Can he reduce his 101 strikeouts in 435 plate appearances? He'll play at the age of 30 in 2016. I see him being expensive with other more dependable studs available.

Dallas Keuchel, SP

BERNIE: Some look at Keuchel and see a Corey Kluber-type correction or regression on the horizon. I don't think so. In fact, I see more of the same with the continually great groundball rate, along with another 216 strikeouts. Keuchel works with terrific command and control. Moreover, left-handed hitters have little chance against him, and righties hit only slightly better.

DVR: Keuchel v. David Price for the 2015 AL Cy Young was a legitimate toss-up for me, mostly because of the unforeseen (to me at least) spike in Keuchel's strikeout rate. It appears as though 2016 will be a year in which many owners have a unique set of rankings for the top 15-20 pitchers; that is, there won't be a clear consensus order-wise within the top tiers. Even if he sustains his skills from last season, Keuchel's 2.91 FIP is right in line with the expected half-run increase in his ERA. There shouldn't be much of a regression here, but the dozen or so starters ranked ahead of him have either done it longer, or they offer an even higher strikeout ceiling.

D.J. LeMahieu, 2B

BERNIE: Last season, LeMahieu was a steal at second base, often added on the waiver wire in the early weeks of the season after going undrafted. Of course, he gets the Coors Field park boost as a hitter, but he also continues to improve at the plate. The stolen bases are the key to his value in 2016, but he's still under the radar. LeMahieu should also increase his home-run total as he's now in his prime (he turns 28 in July). Additionally, LeMahieu often hits with men on base, and he's proven to be durable during his time in the big leagues despite being a max-effort player. Put simply, great swing mechanics mean success.

DVR: LeMahieu is an excellent asset for the Rockies thanks to his Gold Glove defense at the keystone. If he can sustain the improved walk rate (8.1% last season was a career-high), the steals may repeat, but LeMahieu hit .278/.317/.366 over his first three seasons in Colorado prior to his 2015 surge and very little changed in his batted ball profile a year ago. With 85 runs scored and 61 RBI, LeMahieu took advantage of a higher placement in the Rockies' batting order to pile up very good counting stats, but that may be more difficult to attain in 2016 depending on the status of Jose Reyes as the season progresses.

Justin Bour, 1B

BERNIE: Bour is a two-trick pony. He will deliver even more home runs and RBI in his second year with Miami, and there should not be a sophomore slump from this big, strong first baseman. If he gets 600 at-bats (and he may not due to platoon) he could hit 30 home runs with ease. One concern I have is that he has to watch his weight, but Bour's raw power plays.

DVR: A minor league Rule 5 pick in 2013, Bour is a great story after he secured the starting job at first base in Miami last season and proceeded to swat 23 homers. While a healthy Giancarlo Stanton in front of him for a full season would boost his RBI chances, Bour will be strictly platooned due to his inability to handle left-handed pitching (.221/.293/.279 in 2015). The raw power is legitimate, but his walk rate fell and and his strikeout rate ticked up in the second half as the league had more looks at him. It would hardly be surprising to see him fall back into a reserve role over the course of the 2016 campaign.

Zack Godley, SP

BERNIE: Godley made a tremendous impression in his nine-game debut with the D-backs in 2015. He has five very effective pitches including a 93 mph four-seam fastball, a very effective two-seamer, a changeup, a cutter, and a curveball. To make things more difficult for opposing hitters, everything moves, and it's particularly difficult to square up his sinking pitches. Godley has command, control, and good mound presence. He also has the ability to succeed in hitter-friendly Chase Field. All he needs now is the opportunity (and some patience) from the front office, and he can be a successful starter in the difficult NL West.

DVR: Long term, the D-backs may have an underrated arm on their hands with Godley, but his walk rate (above 10% at Double-A and in the big leagues last season) is a major concern for me. Thanks to the addition of Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller during the offseason, along with the presence of a healthy Patrick Corbin, opportunity may be very difficult for Godley to come by, as Rubby De La Rosa and Robby Ray are ahead of him in the pecking order for a rotation spot to begin the season, while Archie Bradley and Braden Shipley could be in the mix if one of the original five starters falters.

Check out the latest episode of the Short Hops Podcast -- new episodes are posted every week on Thursdays.

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Bernie Pleskoff
Bernie Pleskoff is a former professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.
Derek VanRiper
Derek was a frequent writer and media host. During his tenure, he'd been a two-time finalist for the FSWA's Baseball Writer of the Year award, and winner of the Best Football Article on the Web (2009) and Best Baseball Article on the Web (2010) awards. Derek also had hosted RotoWire's shows on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (XM 87, Sirius 210).
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