Fantasy baseball is changing – more and more leagues are adding or modifying categories . Pretty much standard is the 5 X 5 setup (pitching=W,Saves,WHIP,ERA,Ks & batting=HR,RBI,R,SB,AVG) Just be prepared for more “progress”. Current examples would be leagues ditching W for Quality Starts and ditching AVG for OBP. Other common examples include getting rid of SB or at least revising to SB-CS, and for pitching adding HOLDS (SV+Holds) to the mix.
As far as the my rankings, they are based on 5 X 5 but if you see in parenthesis a bold (+), bump that player up if your league has woken up to the OBP craze. My rankings are based on the following factors: age, statistical track record, health history, home ball park factor, projected playing time and, not be discounted, gut instinct from having played this addictive game since the days when a whippet-like Barry Bonds roamed CF for the Pirates. Sorry, there will be no complex sabermetric addendums or scattergrams.
The intention of CornerStones Part 1 is too introduce cheaper, but not necessarily lousy options at 1B. Directly below that you will find the 2nd flight, solid players that are best served at 1B/3B but with upwards potential.The overflow section are players that for the most part are quite mediocre, or unproven, and will populate rosters especially in bigger leagues or AL or NL only leagues
Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals – as unpredictable and injury prone as they come, but still worth a “project” selection. In a standard league a borderline starting 1B, but if you’re feeling lucky (and the medical menace is healthy) spring on this guy as your 1B/3B. If you try this gambit two things have got to happen: have another valid 1B and select a 1B/3B as a reserve just in case…
Jake Bauers, Cleveland Indians (+) – rookie season in Tampa Bay was not noteworthy ( 11-48-6-.201) but the starting gig on a new team fosters hope . A top prospect list guy for a few years this 23-year-old has a good chance to improve by leaps and bounds this year thanks to being swapped to the Indians. He won’t be a big bopper but if you can live with 18 homers and a dozen steals with a .250 average this is a great CHEAPO SPECIAL.
Jose Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals – with Goldie aboard, he will be moved to OF. Ability to hit for high average (over .300 last two years) is a given but needs to smash more homers for a guy 6’6″ and 220 lbs. Crossroads year for the 30-year-old late bloomer. Hard to validate a breakthrough due to suspect glove but easily a solid COR/Utility player with possible upside.
Yonder Alonso, Chicago White Sox – for all that thought the 2017 breakout a fluke- boo on you. By no means a top slugger, this guy is sneaky good and a lock for 20-80-.255. Excellent end game fodder especially in that hitters park.
Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants (+) – toils in obscurity to the majority, the Baby Giraffe is the epitome of class and he can hit! Not the prototypical slugger we want at 1B (career high is 18 homers) . If last year was any indication (14 homers in only 102 games) he has plenty of gas left in the tank. Will bat in the heart of the lineup and give dollar on the dime production for astute owners grabbing him as an afterthought.
C.J Cron, Minnesota Twins – finally got to the 500 at bat level and delivered with a career high 30 bombs. At 29 years old the Cronster is a good fallback option at 1B. He will bat in the middle of the order, even on the Twins, 25-85-.260 are reasonable expectations.
Yuli Gurriel, Houston Astros- a fiery player but far from special. Stats last year 13-85-.291 won’t impress anyone. Nonetheless, the Astros are still a force and he remains an option at COR/Utility especially if he regains his power stroke.
Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians (++) – back to the Jacobs Field, do not overlook this guy. Won’t have the power numbers of his predecessor, Edwin Encarnacion (Seattle), but will bash over 20 homers and drive in buckets of runs. Last year’s dive in batting average will scare many owners. Back in the AL he’ll be fine. In summation, a perfect player if you’re playing the lowball 1B game.
Joey Gallo,Texas Rangers (+)- I’m an old school fan that has real issues endorsing guys with this much swing and miss. But this is the state of the game: in 2018 for the first time in baseball history there were more strikeouts than hits in MLB. This sent me back to the record book for confirmation (mlb.com -click on STATS header). Last year, there were three players over 200 strikeouts and another 25 players over 150 strikeouts! Just ten years ago, in 2008, only three players exceeded 150. Out of curiosity, I scrolled back in my lifetime (another five decades) and saw the propensity to strikeout grow and grow and eventually explode starting in the late ’90’s.
Finally to the point– the poster child for ALL OR NOTHING, Mr. Gallo. Career stats show him to have 220 hits and a staggering 479 strikeouts (43% K rate). The good news buried in that pile of crap is that he has smashed more homers (88) than singles (82). No way, no how, anyone in the history of the game has done the more homers than singles oddity. Batting average is always a concern for big whiffers and Gallo is no exception (.203). Walk rate though is above average and for that reason alone his OPS (OBP .317+ slugging .498= .815) is halfway decent. Overall, a very imperfect player who due to his age (only 25) , home park advantage , and aforementioned light tower power begs to be the ultimate niche player. Just make sure to fortify your team with a few .300+hitters if you want to compete in batting average.
Eric Hosmer, San Diego Padres- changing leagues can be tricky but a loss of 7 HRS, 25 RBI and 65 points of average– what a dumpster fire. Expect the respect level to have dipped and take advantage as he gets back to the 23-80-.275 Steady Eddie type of player he was in K.C.
Justin Smoak, Toronto Blue Jays – didn’t touch the 2017 breakout (35-90-.270) but still was solid. Missed time due to injuries but still managed 25 homers and a solid .350 OBP. The ball flies well in Toronto, if young Vladi is the real deal it will help him overall. Doesn’t get top-notch respect but could challenge 30 HRS and 80 RBI as the last starting 1B in a twelve team league. SNEAKY VALUE.
Matt Olson, Oakland A’s- classic case of why not to extrapolate stats. In and of itself, last year was a respectable season for the big fella but to some it was a flop. Let’s take homers first- he whacked 29 in one of the worst home ballparks in MLB. Pretty good right? Not really if you went by his 2017 numbers (24 HRS in 189 at bats). In theory, by the numbers, every eight at bats he should have smoked a homer and drove in runs by the bushels. The point being that last year many overvalued Olson figuring that he’d pickup where he left off- bad mistake. Poor hitters park- mediocre contact rate and limited sample size were the warning signs. Did he have a bad year at 29-84-.247? maybe yes, maybe no, depending where you grabbed him. As far as this year expect modest growth and price accordingly.
Max Muncy, L.A Dodgers (+)- Hallmark movies have nothing on this guy. How does a guy who in two extended cameos for the A’s (5 HR- 17 RBI) emerge as a 35-79- .391 OBP force? Right place at the right time, versatility, and a new batting stroke and approach all contributed .
Either way the last time Maxwell even sniffed 20 HRs in a season was in High A ball in 2013. This year he qualifies at 1B, 3B and also played 13 games at 2B. It will be interesting to see if people will “pay up” based on the breakout. I would proceed with caution though- playing in Chavez Ravine (and SF and SD) 120 games can be ordinarily tough on power numbers. Reasonable expectation would be for him to have more AB’s (over 500) but settle into the reality of 27-80-.250.
Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers – chasing the stats of a waning H.O.F player is ordinarily a fool’s game. The last two years have been lousy, actually terrible, for Miggy. Pick only if you believe in the remote chances that he stays healthy and regains some bat speed.
Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates – too young (26) to discount in spite of the dumpster fire of 2018 (12-62-.261). Trying to carry the anemic Buc’s offense especially after McCutcheon left didn’t help. Bounceback is in order- if 18-75-.270 is good enough, worth a look.
LAST YEAR #11. Josh Bell (PIT)- rookie year and minor league stats offered no foreshadowing. But in 2017, the 6’2″ /230 lbs Bell got busy. Impressive debut overall and he even set a record for most HRs (26) by a rookie switch hitter. Will either bat third or cleanup and should challenge 30 dingers with strong peripherals. Pardon the pun: a cornerstone dynasty player.
HOT PROSPECT ALERT!! Peter Alonso,N.Y Mets – possibly the best 1B prospect the Mets have had since John Olerud. Just turned 24 years old this ex-Florida Gator clobbered 36 homers and drove in 119 last year in the minors in 2018. The knocks on him- mediocre defense and slow runner apply to a lot of current starting MLB first sackers. The Mets made a lot of moves this off-season including adding three proven hitters, Cano, Lowrie and Ramos. With adequate playing time Alonso could be in the mix for Rookie of the Year. BUY but only after you already have a first baseman…just in case the Mets decide to play Todd Frazier at 1B to start the season.
Justin Bour, Anaheim Angels- luckily for him he was part of the Marlins purge . Not so good was the season itself (20-59-.227). Angels are a bit of a mess but slated to bat fourth behind Mike Trout there is a solid chance for this moose (6’5″ 265 lbs) to at least get to the 25-80-.260 level.
Ryon Healy, Seattle Mariners- the good news is that he’s got the starting gig and young still (27) but there are too many flaws. Last year’s stats 24-73- .235 were similar to the year before when he was on Oakland. But it’s the same old, same old, poor contact rate/ bad eye that makes this hulk valid only in AL only formats as bench support.
Ryan O’Hearn, Kansas City Royals- not a hot prospect but impressed the K.C brass with last year’s audition. Garbage time production (September baseball) can lead to a lot of hype, and often, letdown the following season. Nonetheless, the good beginning (12 dingers in only 149 ABs) gives the 25-year-old lefty an excellent chance to start. Based on the minor league resume a mediocre talent who is at the right place at the right time. Best expectation is 20-70-.240- not good enough for steady play but an adequate reserve especially in deeper setups.
Troy Mancini, Baltimore Orioles- Wretched season by the O’s didn’t help matters but a poor encore after a solid rookie season. He managed to smash 24 homers but had only 58 RBI (down 20) and batted .242 (down 51 points). The only fact keeping him on today’s radar is that he’s only 27 years old and plays in a great hitters park. Latter round project only.
NO LONGER QUALIFIED (less than 20 games) BUT GOOD UTILITY OPTIONS
Wil Myers, San Diego Padres- after two quality seasons went back to being the medical wreck we came to hate. Numbers weren’t terrible for 312 at bats (11-39-13 SB) but OBP levels continue to be crappy. Still, at 28 years old, Myers is on the short list of players that can achieve 20-20. Buy if the price is right.
Travis Shaw, Milwaukee Brewers- hard to fathom, but besides playing a majority of games at 3B, posted 39 games at 2B as well as 17 at 1B. Did manage to crush 32 homers but average sunk ironically, 32 points. At fault especially were a lousy BABIP .242 which was down from .302 as well as a putrid two homers and .209 average in 115 at bats against lefties. The good news is that he’s only 28 and there’s no Moustakas on the roster. $15 pick (10th round in a snake) based on versatility and a great nickname (see picture).
NO WAY JOSE SECTION
Albert Pujols, Anaheim Angels- probably a 1st ballot H.O.F player that is now toast. The numbers last year -19-64-.245- weren’t pitiful but the demise is plain to see. Two years in a row an OBP below .300 and physically banged up. He will still get picked based on name recognition- don’t be that mope.
Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles- flat out stinks. Last year’s numbers, .168 and .296 slugging are almost too bad to believe. And the worst team in many, many seasons paid him $23 million. Even on a 40 man roster keep this clown off your team.
Luke Voit, N.Y Yankees- there is no denying that Cardinals cast-off he had a helluva 143 at bat run (15-36-.322). But let’s chill a second and make note that last year in over 300 at bats in the minors the power was modest (9 homers). In six years in the minors, he’s 28 now, he was a good hitter (.288 average and .370 OBP) but not a slugger (.459 slugging percentage). Last years success in the Bronx was a nice story but the confidence level of continued dominance isn’t likely for several reasons. First, the Yankees still like Greg Bird who is a left handed hitter for a team overloaded with righty bats. Secondly, big splash/small sample players get a serious dose of scouting reality after a long off-season. Stay away.
SO LONG FOR NOW
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore on Thursday February 14th, 2019 from 8pm – 9:45pm EST for the Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show. Call in number is 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. 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 A.L. Central.
Be sure to check out our Sunday night show February 17th from 8pm to 9:30pm EST. They will cover the N.L. Central.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday February 17th, 2019 from 8-9:45pm EST for episode #138 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. 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. Central.