It’s show time in the high-stakes Fantasy baseball market in Las Vegas. After the first week drafts, I have the list of the big fallers based on ADP from previous results on March 9th. I’ll include my player profile written on ScoutFantasySports.com to help show how we felt about each player before spring training.
SP Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels
Pitching: Over five seasons in Japan. Ohtani went 42-15 with a 2.52 ERA and 624 Ks over 543 innings. His walk rate (3.3) still needs some improvement while offering a plus K rate (10.3). His best season came in 2015 (15-5 with a 2.24 ERA and 196 Ks over 160.2 innings). His 2017 season was cut short due to a right ankle injury and a left quad issue. Shohei has surgery on his ankle last October. After signing with LA, he suffered a UCL injury on his right elbow. Ohtani had a platelet plasma injection in November. He has an upper 90s fastball plus two swing and miss pitches – slider and split-finger. His pedigree is high, and most feel Shohei is an impact player. Torn here, I see the upside while understanding his injury risk heading into 2018. He’s never pitched over 165 innings in his career with short innings in 2017 (25.1). I’m sure he’ll be elite when he’s on the mound while failing to match the top aces in the game in innings. Sub 3.00 ERA with 200+ Ks if he can pitch 175 innings.
Hitting: Ohtani could be a dual threat in the majors, but his only playing time will at DH or pinch hitting. Over five seasons in Japan, he hit .286 with 48 HRs, 166 RBI, and 13 SBs over 1,035 at bats. His best season came in 2016 (.322 with 22 HRs, 67 RBI, and seven SBs in 323 at-bats). His walk rate (10.2) is very good, but he will strikeout (27.0 percent). His success in the majors will come via his right arm, but he will have some chance to swing the bat.
Draft Take: Ohtani went from Mr. Sexy in the early draft season to avoid for many Fantasy owners in the high-stakes market. After signing with the Angels, one giddy Fantasy owner drafted him 25th overall. After a sluggish spring training (eight runs, 12 baserunners, and three home runs over 2.2 innings) and reports of a trip of the minors, Shohei saw his ADP on March 9th (77) fall to 104 in the nine drafts in the NFBC main events in the opening weekend. I’ve seen Ohtani slide past pick 150 in multiple drafts the last week. Risk/reward type investment while becoming more draftable at his lower price point.
1B Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals
At the start of 2017, there was a lot of talk of Zimmerman working with Daniel Murphy to change his swing path to create more loft. Ryan had a great start over his first 29 games (.435 with 28 runs, 13 HRs, and 34 RBI over 108 at-bats), which supported his offseason work. When looking at his final ground ball rate (36.5) and fly ball rate (33.7), his swing had minimal change from 2016 (GB rate – 48.6 and FB rate – 34.7). His rise in power was due to a huge jump in his HR/FB rate (26.5 – 14.6 in his career). Zimmerman regressed in batting average with each month played (April – 420, May – .319, June – .283, July – .243, and August – . 233) before rebounding with a nice September (.325 with seven HRs and 20 RBI). His K rate (21.9) came in higher than his career average (18.3) for the third straight season. He took fewer walks (7.6 percent) than his career resume (8.8). Ryan finished with a huge CTBA (.399), which was much higher than his late five seasons. A veteran player who may hit in a favorable part of a high scoring lineup, but there are multiple signs of overachieving in 2017. Drive carefully as his batting average, home runs, and RBI will fall short of last season. Set his bar at .280 with 80 runs, 25 HRs, and 80 RBI and hope he repeats his thought process in 2018.
Draft Take: After a great 2018 season and a solid major league resume, Zimmerman appeared to be an attractive backend first baseman heading into the high-stakes draft season. I had several early drafts in January and February where I picked up Ryan inside of the first ten rounds in the 15-team leagues. He had an ADP of 122 on January 21st before sliding to 147 on March 9th. His lack of playing time this spring (two at-bats as of March 23rd) scared many Fantasy owners on the opening weekend of the high-stakes market leading to free fall in most drafts. His new ADP is 185 as many Fantasy owners are willing to pass on him to add strength and depth to their pitching staffs.
OF Willie Calhoun, Texas Rangers
Calhoun has the approach to have success in his rookie season in the majors. His walk rate (8.6) is above the league average (8.3) with a low K rate (11.6). Over three seasons in the minors, Willie hit .286 with 69 HRs, 229 RBI, and six SBs in 1,274 at-bats. His average hit rate (1.904) improved in each year in the minors while his swing for the fences style did hurt his CTBA (.292) in 2016 at AA. His biggest weakness continues to be his glove. A switch to left field will do him well plus Calhoun could see some time at DH to keep him in the starting lineup. His swing path looks balance with a chance to produce a high volume of fly balls based on his minor league season at AAA (over 45 percent). Willie has one HR/FB rate of 15.0 or higher in each of the last two years in the minors. 30+ HR swing with a low K rate should give him an opportunity to win starting at-bats in 2018.
Draft Take: It appeared that Calhoun had a clear path to a starting job in Texas, but the Rangers decided to send him down in the second half of March. With questions about his opportunity in the majors, his ADP fall from 264 on March 9th to 303 in the first weekend of the high-stakes market. Talented player with a more favorable price point, which points to a buying opportunity.
SP Danny Salazar, Cleveland Indians
Danny pitched his way out of the starting rotation after ten starts when he posted a 5.50 ERA, 1.586 WHIP, and 11 HRs over 52.1 innings. After two relief outings in June, Salazar landed on the DL for six weeks with right shoulder injury. His stuff looked electric over five starts (1.39 ERA over 32.1 innings with 46 Ks) when he returned to the starting rotation in late July. A disaster outing on August 20th (six runs and 13 baserunners over 4.2 innings) led to a second trip on the DL with a right elbow issue. Danny had a 4.09 ERA with 17 Ks over his last 11 innings of the year. HIs K rate (12.7) was a career high, but he struggled with walks (3.8 per nine innings) for the second straight season. Righties hit .230 vs. Salazar with some struggles against LH batters (.257 BAA). His AFB (95.6) was in line with his last four years. Batters drilled his sinker (.431 BAA and .778 SLG) while his changeup (.161 BAA) and slider (.130 BAA) remained elite. Danny threw a few more changeup in 2017 at the expense of his fastball. In the end, health was the reason for his failure. Salazar has plenty of K ability with more upside if he throws more strikes. A shoulder injury paired with an elbow issue is a bad combination when deciding on his value on draft day. Upside: CY Young winner with an elite ERA and 200+ Ks. Downside: TJ surgery.
Draft Take: The health of Salazar led to a steady fade in his draft value over the last couple of months. Danny will start the year on the DL while expecting to miss a minimum of a month on the DL. Salazar had an ADP of 166 on March 9th. He’s slid about 58 spots in drafts over the last two weeks. His current ADP is 224 with a high of 158 and a low of 287. I’m avoiding at any price while understanding his upside if/when he’s healthy.
SP Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays
Stroman had the best season of his career in 2017, but he still failed to deliver enough upside in Ks while underachieving in WHIP (1.308). His K rate (7.3) remains below expected value while his walk rate (2.8) has regressed in each season in the majors. He’s pitched over 200 innings in back to back seasons. Last year he allowed two runs or fewer in 23 of 33 starts with four disaster outings (23 runs and 38 baserunners over 17 innings). Marcus needs to improve against righties (.275 with 17 HRs allowed over 415 at-bats). His AFB (94.1) was higher than 2016 (93.7). Batters teed off on his sinker (.300 with 11 HRs over 444 at-bats) while his secondary stuff continues to grade well (slider – .188 BAA, changeup – .167 BAA, and curveball – .115 BAA). Stroman has a huge groundball rate (62.1), but he does make too many mistakes with the long ball (17.8 HR/FB rate) when considering his low FB rate (19.7). Last year he relied less on his cutter, curveball, and changeup putting more volume into his slider and sinker. Real close to being an impact arm. Marcus needs to find a better balance between his hard stuff and his upside off-speed pitches. When it comes together, his K rate should jump while being tougher to hit. Ace talent even with an undersized frame (5’8″ and 180 lbs.). Ideally, I’d like to steal him as an SP3 in 15 team leagues, but the wise guys will be on him. I can’t trust a huge win total without better run support. Possible sub 3.00 ERA with 200+ Ks and growth in his WHIP.
Draft Take: Stroman is the type of pitcher that has breakout ability, but questions about his health led to fading value in drafts due to a sore right shoulder. The Blue Jays projected him to be ready for the start of the season. In his first appearance on March 21st, Marcus allowed one run and five hits over 2.2 innings with one strikeout. He had an ADP of 120 in late January, which fell to 129 on March 9th. Stroman slipped to 167 in the first weekend of the high-stakes baseball market last weekend. More of a coin flip me.
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