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“Gehlbach On The Farm” – Shortstops of 2018 : Heartbreakers and Breadwinners

To start this fantasy season, let’s check out some of the previous seasons busts and league-winning late round picks. You know, because [Insert form of quote about those who don’t know their history repeating it… ah, never mind…].

Fantasy drafts across the land are just brimming with value. Finding that value is the difference between hanging a banner and tucking tail. We all go into our drafts with a few targets, thinking we have the guy: the one that’s going to be the difference maker; the late round pick who’s going to carry the team. We’re often dealt a crushing blow in the first month, realizing our passing of top-tier talent for a sleeper may not have been the best move.

Even more crushing is hanging your hat on an early round pick, drafting the backbone of your squad, and it turning into a death knell.

The Heartbreakers

Carlos Correa

Ah, the first round pick turned completely useless roster spot. Correa was doing us a favor that, at least when he was on the DL, we could plug-in the flavor of the week at SS. Correa had an average draft position of 13.7 in 2018. He ended up 31st on ESPN’s player rater (wait for it) among shortstops! Horrible. Terrible. Awful. What went wrong? 

Correa went down with a back injury in late June. The injury effectively ended his fantasy season, because even when he was back, he wasn’t back. This guy was, at one point, considered a generational talent at the plate. He can still be every bit of that. However, he’s had as many disappointing fantasy seasons as he’s had productive ones. You’re going to have to be a brave soul to take the 24-year-old shortstop before round 3 this season, but one may reap massive rewards with such a pick.

2017 or 2018: I’m buying Correa for his ADP this season. If I’m picking in the middle of the third and he’s there (as long as I haven’t already drafted a shortstop) I’m likely taking him. The lineup is too good and the upside is too high, and I really believe his 2018 was a result of a lingering back injury, not degradation of skills.

 

Elvis Andrus

Andrus looked like he may finally be realizing his potential during his age 28 season. Andrus went bonkers, putting up a 20/25 season with 100 runs and nearly 90 RBI. Absolutely incredible stat line. The ave/obp/slg were all strong as well. Owners had to be feeling good in the draft, walking away with so much potential after (on average) pick 64.

There were some red flags heading into last year’s draft. First, Andrus had never hit double-digit homers before his 20 HR outburst. Second, Andrus had been pretty ho-hum for years, after being a guy who could have a real promising career early on. If you drafted him thinking “Hey, if I get a .260 BA and 20 stolen bases, I’m fine with it,” then, well, actually you were still disappointed. If you drafted him in the 5th/6th round, that probably wasn’t your thinking. He was a high floor pick with a tantalizing ceiling (for where he was drafted). Like Correa, injuries derailed his season. Also, like Correa, he wasn’t really effective even when he was back. The good news, if any, is his 2019 ADP should be pushed down as drafts start rolling out. This could create a good buying opportunity for the less risk-averse.

More 2017 or 2018: I’m buying on Andrus’s 2017. A full healthy season should put him squarely back into good fantasy player territory, and he’s a guy I’ll own some shares of in 2019.

 

Marwin Gonzalez

How weird is it for the same team to have two busts at the same position? Really, SS was pretty solid last year outside of Andrus and Correa. No one was really majorly disappointing that you’d truly count on. However, some may have scooped up Swiss-G (thanks, Boras) assuming the at-bats would be there, and the positional eligibility (including SS) would be great for their squads. Most probably didn’t draft him as the primary SS outside of deeper leagues, and if you did, you better have loaded up elsewhere.

Look, it’s hard for me to hate on a guy who was a pretty late pick anyway. But hopes of a repeat were high for some, given his 23 HR, 90 RBI, and .303/.377/.530 outburst in ‘17. Even with more at-bats in 2018, Gonzalez didn’t come close to sniffing those total counting stats. Gonzalez has a spot on any team, especially in a head to head format with no games played limited. The versatility is golden. However, tread carefully if you draft a guy like this to primarily play one position.

More 2017 or 2018: 2018. I will not be owning Gonzalez this season, especially without being sure of what team he’ll be on. Going into a good offense with a lot of AB opportunity will help, but there will be guys in every league who value him higher than I do.

 

The Breadwinners

Trevor Story

What a yo-yo career this guy has had. A lot went wrong for Story in 2017, a dismay to those who drafted him with high hopes his sophomore season. What a treat that turned out to be, as he posted the best shortstop numbers in 2018. A .290 batting average, 37 homers, and 27 stolen bases? Yikes, man. The guy is a stud, through and through. Yeah, he’s going to K a lot (hey, they were down quite a bit in ‘18) and he won’t walk a ton. As the attached graph shows, Story really started doing some work inside the zone. Trevosaurus increased his swing % in the zone in 17, but really struggled with the offspeed stuff. Story again upped his swing % inside the zone in 18, but cut the K’s by a ton. He was smashing balls in the strike zone. The results were… well, the results (and they were phenomenal).

Story plays half his games in a pretty decent hitter’s park, I hear. I am a believer in what he did in ‘18. He’s learning to have a really good feel for the zone, and even if he’s not walking a lot, he is punishing hard pitches in the zone. Story is going at the end of the second in 12 team leagues (after Baez and Machado – both of whom I think he can top in 2019). There’s some risk here, but with his power/speed dual threat, there’s a high floor and an even higher ceiling.

More 2017 or 2018: 2018. Buy, buy, buy. A lot of owners will be thinking there’s too much risk here, but the upside is worth it. A 30/30 .290 guy is a first-round pick all day. Now, Story may not be that, but I think he’s a 35/20 .275 guy, minimum. 

Javier Baez

Baez was drafted 12th among SS’s last season. Interestingly enough, the difference between him and the guy drafted before him (Chris Taylor) was over 1 whole round, on average (15.2 spots). That was the biggest gap at SS in the draft. Most owners saw a clear tier change there. How wrong we were.

Baez was huge in ’18. Huge, I say! I think there’s a lot of volatility here, and he probably won’t end up on any of my rosters. I feel pretty good about Story, but I don’t feel as good about Baez. He did not end the year on a high note, hitting 5 HR, stealing no bases, and batting .269 in 29 games. The HR total was nice, the runs were there, but that was about it. A second-round pick on so much risk isn’t for me. All that said, we can’t deny how great he was, and even if it’s improbable that he repeats, it’s not impossible.

A big worry for me is his struggle to walk. He likes to swing, and swing hard. That translated into a lot of hard knocks in 2018, giving him 83 extra base hits (34 HR), 111 RBI, 101 R, and 21 stolen bases. He also backed it with a .290 batting average. The K and BB rates have gotten better since he entered the league, and he may continue to advance both those stats further in his favor. I expect the Cubs lineup as a whole to perform better and the trickle-down effect from that should help pad Baez in the R/RBI categories. 

More 2017 or 2018: I’m going to say I don’t think he repeats 2018, but I do think he’s a really good fantasy contributor. I’ll say a mix of the two – but trending closer to 2017. 

Adalberto Mondesi

You have to love a mid-season add turning into a league winner. This was a guy I was really watching in my categorically scored leagues. He put up some really strong numbers in 2017 in AAA (at 21 years of age), batting .305 with 13 HR and 21 SB in 85 games. There were some obvious concerns, but the cost vs potential for this guy made him an easy buy when he got a shot. When he got the shot, he did not disappoint.  

From July 1 through the end of the season, Mondesi slugged 13 homers and swiped 29 bags. He added 40 runs and 33 RBI’s to that, on top of a .288 batting average. All of this was in only 64 games, mind you. This guy had fantasy champion written all over him, should you make it to the playoffs. Expectations for 2019 should be tempered, however. I try to be leery of extrapolating small samples, especially early in a players career. His walk rate was barely non-zero, and his K-rate is a bit too high. A high BABIP can be expected with a guy who has so much speed. He can drive the ball out of the park, he can run, but he’s in a pretty bad lineup Mondesaraptor has some real profile concerns. There’s no way I’m drafting him above some of the guys he’s going above. Segura, Peraza, Andrus, and Corey Seager are all guys that will end up on my team before Adalberto. I need to see what he can do in a follow-up season, but I’m also concerned with how his low BB% and moderate K% translate into sustained production.

More 2017 or 2018: Ok, not really valid. I’m going to go with avoid drafting this guy at all costs (for his current ADP of top 60 overall). If he starts to slip a bit, I say jump on board. I believe he can be a stud, but I’m not willing to take a risk like this in the 5th. The range of reasonable outcomes is far too wide.

It’s interesting to see what the season brings. Optimism is soon replaced by overreaction. When you draft a guy with high expectations and he starts slowly, sometimes you just need to wait it out. Sometimes you need to cut bait as quickly as possible to some unsuspecting soul who believes in a turnaround. There’s always a right and a wrong call, but by the time it becomes clear what you should do, it’s too late. Never be afraid to hold onto a historically strong performer for a turnaround. At the same time, never be so cautious that you won’t throw a dart on a young kid who’s playing out of his league.


Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D RobertsEJ Garr, and Kyle Amore on Thursday February 7th, 2019 from 9pm – 10:45pm EST for the Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show. Call in number is 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This is our kick off show for the 2019 fantasy baseball season. For the next three weeks we will be breaking down the American League divisions. Our Sunday night show which runs from 8pm – 9:30pm EST will handle the National League starting Sunday February 10th. You can listen live on blogtalk, majorleaguefantasysports.com, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. Our topic for tonight will be the American League East.


Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday February 10th, 2019 from 8-9:45pm EST for episode #136 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. Join us for our first Sunday night show of 2019. We will be breaking down the National League divisions over the next 3 Sundays. You can listen live on blogtalk, majorleaguefantasysports.com, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. This week we will break down the N.L. East.

Our guest this week is Joe Iannone. Joe is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com and a frequent guest on our Sunday night shows.

Husband and father of three. Have a love of all things baseball. When not burying myself in baseball (especially fantasy) I enjoy fishing, farming, hydroponics, woodworking, and teaching the kids to tinker with microcontrollers and building robots.

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Major League Fantasy Baseball Show Episode #138, 2/17/2019 Host Brian Roach, Jr., Co-Host Cole Freel, TOPIC: N.L. Central

Major League Fantasy Baseball Show Episode #138, 2/17/2019 Host Brian Roach, Jr., Co-Host Cole Freel, TOPIC: N.L. Central

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