Each year, a number of us who write about the game are fortunate enough to be included in the best Fantasy Baseball pre-season magazine. It is called “The Fantasy Baseball Guide – Professional Edition” and is edited by that Superhero, Rotoman. For many of us, the contribution is a list of “Picks and Pans” where we try to predict which players the readers should target or avoid.
Before attempting to objectively assign a grade to my own 2017 predictions, a few disclaimers are in order…
1) While the publication itself hits the shelves in anticipation of Spring Training, our lists need to be submitted well before the December holidays. At that point, numerous free agents haven’t signed and many MLB roster roles haven’t been determined.
2) The Old Duck always attempts to focus on players that are more marginal than the obvious fantasy stars. You don’t need me to tell you that Mike Trout is a good player, you need me to find you a bargain or to steer you away from an over-rated player. Taking this approach is more fun but also more challenging.
3) One lesson to take away from this exercise is that being an “expert” has a price. Most of my opponents sitting around the Draft table in March/April have read the magazine and already know my thoughts about many players. Having your name in print is a reasonable excuse for sharing information, but for those of you in home leagues, make sure you keep your opinions to yourself in the company of your mortal enemies.
So, without pulling any punches, let’s see how the Quacker made out…first the prediction and then the post-season analysis.
> Jose Abreu, PICK – Everyone seemed to be down on him in 2016 but in three full seasons, he’s averaged .299 with 30 HR’s & 103 RBI’s. In Fantasy, there’s something to be said about boring consistency. – Got one correct right off the bat as he delivered .304 with 33 HR’s & 102 RBI’s…Grade “A”
> Cody Allen, PICK – Let Andrew Miller’s presence lower the price…in the last two seasons, he’s had 66 Saves with 186 K’s in 137 IP’s. – 30 Saves with solid peripherals and 92 K’s in 67+ innings…Grade “A”
> Javier Baez, PAN – Yes, he’s a great 2B but in parts of three seasons, he has 173 Hits and 227 K’s. Job security may hurt instead of help when it comes to plate discipline. – Got 469 AB’s and produced 23 HR’s with a .273 average…Grade “C”
> Kyle Barraclough, PICK – No role yet but in 97 MLB IP’s, he has 143 K’s…the stuff is there. – Didn’t get the chance to close but had 6 Wins, a 3.00 ERA and 10.4 K rate…Grade “B”
> Jose Bautista, PAN – Thinks he’s worth $20+ Million per year, but his BA & OPS have gone down for the last two seasons and he’ll be 36. – Stick a fork in him, as he hit .203 with a OPS under .700…Grade “A”
> Brandon Belt, PICK – Doesn’t have the gaudy numbers of some other 1B, but a .868 OPS playing in that ballpark tells you he’s a great second-tier fallback pick. – We’re just starting to understand how concussions impact athletes but he did hit 18 HR’s with a .823 OPS in 382 AB’s…Grade “C”
> Byron Buxton, PAN – Even though he was the #1 prospect in baseball, there’s something missing…427 MLB AB’s, 162 K’s, 29 BB and a .672 OPS. – Proved me wrong by finally living up to the hype with 16 HR’s & 29 SB’s but still struck out 150 times in 462 AB’s…Grade “D”
> Mauricio Cabrera, PICK – Jim Johnson has the Closer job but this is the guy down the road. – Started the season on the DL and didn’t pitch at the major league level…Grade “NA”
> Nick Castellanos, PICK – May fly slightly under the radar because he only played 2/3 of the season…an .827 OPS going into his age 25 campaign. – One of the few bright spots in Detroit, he contributed 26 HR’s, 101 RBI’s and a .811 OPS…Grade “A”
> Wilson Contreras, PICK – Even though he weighs 210, from a Fantasy perspective, he’ll be Buster Posey “Lite” in 2017. – How many Catchers would you rather have? Despite only 377 AB’s (due to injury), he had 21 HR’s, 74 RBI’s and a .855 OPS…Grade “B”
> Chris Davis, PAN – A highly paid slugger can’t have an OPS under .800…427 K’s the last two seasons. – Right on target as he hit 26 HR’s with 61 RBI’s and a .215 BA…Grade “A”
> Chris Devenski, PICK – His 1st big league season was impressive with 104 K’s in 108 IP and a 2.16 ERA…now let’s see how the Astros utilize him. – A big part of the team’s bullpen, he pitched 80+ innings with 8 Wins and 4 Saves…Grade “B”
> Brandon Finnegan, PAN – Not his fault, but a young SP in that ballpark is going to have trouble…he was lucky to have an ERA under 4.00. – Injuries limited him to only 14 IP…Grade “NA”
> Ken Giles, PICK – Early season hiccups are behind him…102 K’s in 66 IP says he’s a Closer. – The Astros Closer all season, he added 34 Saves to the cause…Grade “A”
> Carlos Gomez, PAN – Hits .210 in 295 AB’s in Houston, then .284 in 116 AB’s in Arlington. The result? His agent thinks he’s a candidate for a five-year deal. Don’t even give him a one-year deal. – The second half of ’16 was a fluke as he battled injuries and only hit .255…Grade “B”
> Matt Harvey, PAN – Anyone with the word “syndrome” on his medical chart isn’t on my draft chart. – Sorry to say the prediction was right. 5 Wins and a 6.70 ERA makes him a non-tender candidate in ’18…Grade “A”
> Ryon Healy, PICK – A possible late-bloomer….861 OPS in 269 AB’s. – 25 HR’s & 78 RBI’s as a full-time player…Grade “B”
> Cesar Hernandez, PICK – Sneaky improvement with a .371 OBP…speed component is there, as he led the NL in Triples. – Started slow and then had a DL stint, but his final numbers might surprise you….373 OBP, 85 Runs and 15 SB’s….Grade “B”
> Adam Jones, PAN – His HR totals always make him over-priced as a Fantasy player…OPS under .800 the last three seasons. – Spot on, as he had 26 HR’s and a .787 OPS…Grade “B”
> Tommy Joseph, PICK – Out from behind the plate and Ryan Howard is gone…hit 21 HR’s in 315 AB’s. – Not sure how he’ll be impacted by the arrival of Rhys Hoskins, but he delivered with 22 HR’s in 495 AB’s…Grade “B”
> Starling Marte, PAN – Great Fantasy player but when a speed guy misses the last month of the season with a bad back, you better hedge your bet. – Honestly, I didn’t know about the PED issue but he blew up countless Fantasy rosters…Grade “A”
> Leonys Martin, PICK – If you can absorb the BA/OBP, he gives you 12-15 HR’s and 20+ SB’s. – WTF! Started slow, lost his job, spent the season in the Minors…Grade “F”
> Jose Peraza, PICK – The Reds will find AB’s for him this time around…speed is scarce and he swiped 21 bases in 241 AB’s. – Not a great season with a .259 BA but did have 23 SB’s…Grade “C”
> Jose Quintana, PICK – Four consecutive seasons of 200 IP and good ERA have only produced 40 Wins…doesn’t his luck have to change? – Found himself in the post-season after a trade to the Cubs, he was 11-11 to make his lifetime record 57-57. Guess he’s just a .500 Pitcher…Grade “C”
> Robbie Ray, PAN – A fantasy darling due to the strikeout rate, he still had a 4.90 ERA and pitches in a launching pad. – A force in the D’Backs resurgence, the 2.89 ERA was a vast improvement…Grade “D”
> A.J. Reed, PICK – After tearing up the minor leagues, hit .164 in 122 MLB AB’s. There is such a thing as a post-hype sleeper…in 2011, Anthony Rizzo hit .141 in 128 MLB AB’s. – Spent the year in the Minors…Grade “NA”
> Ryan Schimpf, PAN – None of the plotlines fit…a 28 year-old lifetime minor leaguer hits 20 HR’s in 276 AB’s and strikes out 105 times while hitting .217. – Hit .158 before being sent down…Grade “A”
> Jonathan Schoop, PICK – Played all 162 games at 2B with 25 HR’s & 82 RBI’s…just turned 25, so plate discipline improvement could take him to the next level. – Now All-Star caliber with 32 HR’s, 105 RBI’s and a .841 OPS…Grade “A”
> Tyler Thornburg, PICK – The Brewers are re-building and won’t spend money on a Closer…90 K’s in 67 IP with a 2.15 ERA tells you he gets first shot. – Lost the Closer opportunity due to a trade and then missed the season with injuries…Grade “NA”
> Troy Tulowitzki, PAN – Will be overpriced in every league…even in a great hitting environment, his OPS was under .800 and at age 32, he’ll only be less durable. – 241 AB’s and a .249 BA shouldn’t have come as a surprise…Grade “A”
> Justin Upton, PAN – The late-season surge doesn’t sway me…with a big contract and no plate discipline (179 K’s), improvement isn’t likely. – Arguably, his best season with a .901 OPS but he’ll probably screw it up by leaving Anaheim…Grade “D”
Statistics can be manipulated to reach a number of different conclusions, but the Quacker did manage “A” or “B” ratings on 70% of the players. The overall GPA was about 2.93, which matches my blood alcohol level in college. The good news is that Schoop, Hernandez, Giles, Devenski, Contreras, Barraclough & Abreu were helpful members on my fantasy squads…hope they helped you too.