Happy Spring. Today is the first day of Spring according to the calendar we use, but it has felt like Spring for a while now, and not just because MLB baseball is being played in Arizona and Florida, or because Easter is a week away. This is the time of year when every fan of every team sits over a beer and starts every baseball conversation with, “We could have a good chance this season if….”
I’m not at all shy about admitting that I am, and have always been, a Yankee fan, going back to the days when George Steinbrenner was just a successful ship builder in Cleveland. This season’s Yankees, while exciting on paper, has more “if’s” than any of those other 50 seasons I’ve watched. There is an “if” at every position this Spring. Why don’t you have a beer with me and I start the conversation with, well you know.
First some 2015 trivia with surprising answers below. If you’ve read my other articles you already know most of the answers: Who has led the Yanks in RBI the past two seasons? Who led the Yanks in hits in 2015? Who led the Yanks in HR in 2015? Who led the Yankees in Starts and Innings Pitched in 2015? Which 3 pitchers were the only relievers in the MLB to have over 100 K’s in 2015?
“We could have a great season if our starting pitching does what it is capable of”
Masahiro Tanaka: “IF that tendon tears.” It is time to stop wondering IF Tanaka will ever be the mythical pitcher he was for the first half of his first MLB season, or IF or when that elbow tendon will finally let go. No. Until it ever does tear, Tanaka is no different than any other pitcher who throws hard. Most of those other pitchers will have used and abused equipment in their throwing arms as well. He is the ace of the staff and one of the main keys to the season. In fantasy he is a top 25 SP with the ability to possibly move up to the top 10. I’ll be happy to have him as my 2nd SP while my league-mates sit around waiting for that right arm to fall off.
Michael Pineda: “If he ever gets his act together on the mound” Yes, Mr. Pineda, we understand all the things you’ve been through, but now it is time to step up and be an ace. Pineda could be the best starting pitcher on this staff. We’d settle for consistency at this point. But IF he learns to maintain velocity with command, keeps his pitches down, and continues the excellent control he exhibits, he’ll get there. He could be an absolute steal in a fantasy draft after all the name brand aces are gone.
Nathan Eovaldi: “If he could ever harness that fast ball” Eovaldi is one of the hardest throwers in the majors, close to 100mph, yet his K rate is only 6.5. He throws a lot of pitches and suffers from fatigue early in games. He is young still, but like Pineda, it is time to identify himself as a dominating mid rotation pitcher, or as a talent laden pitcher who never made it over the hump. I’d pick him late in drafts to round out a staff and hope for the K’s to come.
Luis Severino: “If he can dodge the sophomore jinx, we have another possible ace” He just turned 22. It has been a long time since the Yanks had a SP that young they were relying on to be part of the rotation. He pitched far better than the Yanks or anyone else expected in 2015, with an ERA of 2.89 in 11 starts, holding a good K/9 Rate over 8.1. He spiked in two categories compared to his minor league career. His walk rate went up about 1 walk per 9, and that is common for 1st year pitchers but his HR rate soared. In 11 starts he gave up 9 HR, while in 67 minor league starts total he surrendered 8. IF he can turn those two stats around, we’ll have another ace. I tend not to draft rookie starting pitchers. I might make an exception for Severino as a Yankee fan but I’m sure someone will draft him far sooner than I would.
CC Sabathia: “Is there any gas left in that tank for one more productive season?” Sometimes there is a fine line between optimism for ones favorite players and just accepting that it is over. IF I’m still on the optimism side of the fence am I going to be ok? I still think he has one more productive season left in the tank. After all, HE led the Yanks in Starts and Innings Pitched in 2015, and is “sober and in the best shape of his career,” according to Brian Cashman. Well, he is isn’t he?
Ivan Nova: “If only Nova could get his chance.” On the other hand, I think Nova is no more than insurance. They’ll miss Adam Warren this season, but Nova is not as versatile. There is no reason to draft him in fantasy.
“We could win a lot of games IF those starters get a lot of leads to this bunch”:
Aroldis Chapman: The only question here is when he’ll be game ready. We know he is suspended until early May and we know he will need to get in game shape. We also know he is going to be the closer when he does come back. IF he drops far enough in your draft, you may get him as cheaply as the Yankees did. I’d still take him as my 1st Closer off the board, since I doubt I’ll get Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen or Wade Davis.
Andrew Miller: Talk about versatility and a great attitude. Miller has only been the best reliever in baseball for about three years now, and only a closer for less than half of that. IF he complained about that he’d be justified, but he doesn’t. His numbers are gaudy with an ERA of 1.8 and K/9 ner 15 4 years running, and he is only 30. I would draft him over about half the closers in baseball, plus he’ll likely get most of the saves until Chapman is ready.
Delin Betances: IF he was on any other team he’d be the closer by now. It is a testament to his patience and the example set by Derek Jeter to not air your issues in public. But
he can flat out pitch. He was the highest ranking RP in all of Fantrax when using balanced scoring. IF you are still wondering, he was one of only 3 RP’s in MLB to fan 100 batters in 2015 along with teammates Miller and Chapman.
“This offense will be great if the old guys can stay on the field for a whole season.”
Catcher: How can you complain about Brian McCann? He’s been the most consistent catcher in all of baseball for nearly 10 years. He’s not Buster Posey, but also doesn’t get to play 40 games at 1B or DH. He’d likely put up better numbers IF he could play elsewhere, but both spots are clogged with players making over $20 million per year. He’s led the Yanks in RBI two years running and should be the 2nd catcher off the board, probably around the 8th round or so. Austin Romine, a good defense no hit catcher, should back him up unless Gary Sanchez (see Below) makes the team ahead of him.
First Base: IF Mark Teixiera could play 150 games, he’d hit 40 HR and compete for MVP. Laugh if you must, but he actually was on pace to do both things in 2015. He tried to stay on the field; he even yelled at umps to call out plays where he was nearly taken out by an opposing player. Sadly, he is running out of time. He’ll be 36 in April, and in the last year of his mega contract signed eight years ago. But we don’t have to worry about that yet. He’ll continue to be the Yanks’ infield leader and makes a great CI pick late in your drafts as he will fall far. For now, Dustin Ackley is listed as his back up, but IF Tex got hurt and missed significant time, they’d have to find someone. Ackley should not be drafted, but is worth watching, as he is also eligible at 2b and OF.
Middle Infield: This is where the Yanks have done a great job getting younger. Last season Didi Gregorious(26) replaced Icon Derek Jeter at SS and after a slow start, his 2nd half showed he has some pop in his bat after all. He is borderline rosterable in fantasy, as he bats 9th and has little power or speed. He could develop more of both. IF the Yanks get the Starlin Castro, also 26, (who had over 200 hits in a season and has flashed power with 14 HR twice and four seaons over 60 RBI, one at 78) he will greatly bolster the line up at 2b. He’s also stolen 20 plus and batted over .300 twice each. They’ll miss Adam Warren, but this could be one of Brian Cashman’s best trades. I hope he gets to bat 2nd, but he probably will end up in the bottom half of the lineup. I’ll certainly look for him after the big MI guns have been drafted. He still has SS eligibility and I think he is due for a big hitting season. He needed a change of scenery. Dustin Ackley & Rob Refsnyder provide backup, but are not fantasy worthy unless an injury or trade gives them playing time.
Third Base: The much maligned Chase Headley did have a rough season in 2015. No, he is not a fantasy stud, only having one fantasy worthy season in San Diego in 2012 when he hit 31 HR and drove in 113. He hit nearly exactly his lifetime averages in every single batting category, and actually led the Yanks in hits in 2015. For some reason, though, his defense, the main reason the Yanks got him, suffered. IF his defense turns around, he’ll play, but I doubt he needs to be rostered in fantasy. Rob Refsnyder, the good hit, poor defense complement, may be Headley’s back up if he makes the team. He can hit, though, maintaining an OPS over .800 his last three seasons in the minors. The stat that impresses me the most is the 101 doubles he’s hit over the past 3 seasons. IF he ever gets playing time….
Outfield: Brett Gardner(31), Jacoby Ellsbury(31) & Carlos Beltran(38) have got to be the oldest outfield in baseball. IF they can stay on the field for 150 games, they’d also be one of the most productive with a great combination of speed, average, power and defense. The last two seasons there seems to always be at least one of them out nursing a serious injury. The Yanks need Gardner and Ellsbury to get on base and set the table for the old sluggers to drive in, and Beltran needs to be one of those four sluggers to keep the lineup long. At various points in 2015, including the last week of the season, none of those things were happening. I own Ells and Beltran in keeper leagues, so I’m rooting for them, but Ells has to be drafted a few rounds later, like closer to 6 or 7 than he was in the past. Beltran is a late power pick up in the last rounds, and Gardner is hard to own in fantasy. He has long productive stretches but also has periods where he kills your batting average. His final numbers are always about league average at best, especially now that he no longer steals 40 bases. He is all grit in the real game, though, and far more valuable to the Yanks than given credit for. I thought the Yanks made a great trade with Minnesota in getting Aaron Hicks for a catcher they no longer really needed. Like the Castro trade, he made the Yanks a lot younger by replacing Chris Young (32, and could only hit lefties), with a younger (26), more versatile, switch hitter with a good power/speed combination in Hicks. I can’t wait to see what he can do IF and when a Yank outfielder goes down for a while.
Designated Hitter: Yes, the final trivia answer is Alex Rodriguez, who led the 2015 Yanks in HR with 33 and added 86 RBI while only batting .250. IF he does it again, we’ll all be shocked, but we’ll all want him on our fantasy roster, as not many hitters reach 30 HR the past few seasons. He tired down the stretch, but it was just amazing to even see him on the field for reasons we don’t need to talk about anymore.
“This team will be so much better and younger once we get these guys onto the team.”
Gary Sanchez, C: Coming in at #59 on the latest MLB top 100 Prospects List, Sanchez has always been said to have a lot of raw power, and that really showed in 2015. He started the year in Double-A where he hit 12 home runs before being promoted to Scranton for the first time. Unlike Judge, Sanchez had no trouble adjusting and slashed .295/.349/.500 in 146 plate appearances. Sanchez also played in the Arizona Fall League where he was absolutely dominant, hitting 7 home runs and slugging .625 through 22 games. The catcher still has some work to do on his blocking and receiving, but he’s said to have shown improvement in those areas in 2015. Now that the Yankees have traded away John Ryan Murphy, Sanchez is the top catcher in the minors, and he is competing with Austin Romine for the backup catcher role during spring training. He may have to start at AAA to have regular playing time. Even if Sanchez doesn’t start the season in the majors, the Yankees will certainly call him up at some point during the year.
Greg Bird, 1B: Bird was a torn labrum from a spot on the 25 man roster heading north and will now miss the season. He filled in well when Teixiera missed the last fourth of the season, teasing Yankees fans with 11 HR in 178 AB’s. Fans were calling into radio stations wanting the Yanks to trade Tex to make room for the kid. Hold on man. First it would be a miracle if someone was willing to take Tex when he is owed about $24M in 2016, 2nd, Tex is still better. Bird also struck out 53 times in those 178 AB’s and had a similar track record in the minors. Yankee fans have seen this before. Both Shane Spencer and Kevin Maas came up and whacked double digit HR in the last 2 months of a season. If you have never heard of them it proves my point. He’ll be a good MLB player, but not this season.
Jorge Mateo, SS: Mateo us ranked as the #30 prospect on the latest Top 100 Prospects by MLB.com. He is known primarily for speed, having stole a crazy 82 bases in 117 games last season while hitting .278 with a .345 OBP. He has shown power skills but it has not translated into home runs yet. His arm has become a plus tool as he matured as well, but he is still a couple years away from the Bigs as he has not played above A ball. He is only 20 years old so Didi does not have to worry just yet.
Aaron Judge, OF: Judge was right after Mateo at #31 on the MLB Top 100. He split the season between Double A and Triple A, slashing .284/.350/.516 with 12 HR in AA, but did not fare as well in AAA, striking out nearly 30% of the time, though he also raised his walk rate. He is the prototypical power right fielder at 6’7″ and 275 pounds. We’ll see him at some point in 2016, and Beltran might not be as tough as Tex to unseat, though Belran is under contract through 2017.
“We could have a good chance this season IF all those if’s happen.”
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Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly: Join Lou Landers and Kyle Amore live on Thursday March 17th, 2016 from 8-10pm EST for episode #4 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly. We will discuss player positions and help prepare you for the coming draft season. This will run every Thursday as a live broadcast that will take live callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will discuss everything fantasy and MLB related in the N.L. East.
Come join a lively debate!
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Major League Fantasy Baseball Show: Join Corey D Roberts on Sunday March 20th, 2016 from 7-9pm EST for this week’s episode of the Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show. We are a live call in radio show so we encourage callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will break down everything fantasy and MLB relevant for the N.L. Central division.
Our guests this week are Andy Macuga and Phil Weiss. Andy is the head baseball coach at Borrego Springs H.S. in Southern California, and a veteran owner in MLFS leagues. Phil Weiss’s resume includes working as a CPA with a large public accounting firm as well as private industry (Fortune 500), specializing in international corporate tax planning. Also earned the Chartered Financial Analyst designation. Chief Financial Analyst for Independent RIA, responsible for individual securities held in client accounts.
Frequent guest on CNBC and Bloomberg television. Multiple appearances on Bloomberg radio, local and national radio.
Regularly quoted in Wall Street Journal, Reuters, New York Times, AP, thestreet.com, local news, Financial Times
Fantasy Baseball Experience:
Seasoned fantasy player since college and also a Major League Fantasy Baseball team owner for 3 years.