3/13/18 – Breakouts and Setbacks: Ten players to keep an eye on for 2018
The 2018 baseball season is almost here and I dove into some players that I thought you should keep an eye out for this year. Some good, some bad. Of course, I will probably be wrong on a lot of these guys, because baseball is fickle like that. Hopefully this will give you some good advice for some season long drafts and also get in a good mindset for DFS.
On the surface, Lance Lynn is not a bad pitcher. He has historically been a workhorse, and has been more than serviceable during his time in the league. That being said, Lynn is essentially a one pitch pitcher who is coming off a season in where he had the ninth worst HR/9 in the National League. Busch Stadium is not known as a hitters park, but Target Field, where Lynn now calls home, is very home run friendly. Considering the fact that Lynn had a high walk rate, a low strikeout rate, an alarming home run rate, and a career high 4.82 FIP; I don’t see his one year stint in Minnesota going too smoothly. Lynn is at risk of becoming someone we will want to pick on in DFS this year. Both lefties and righties should feast off of him this year when he is pitching at home.
2017 was the tale of two halves for Corey Dickerson. In the first half he was a monster, slashing: .312/.355/.548 with a wRC+ of 139. The second half was not so kind. Dickerson slashed: .241/.282/.408 with a wRC+ of 80. Dickerson has always been someone who doesn’t like to take walks and strikes out a ton. The fact the Dickerson will now be playing his home games at PNC park also doesn’t give me a ton of confidence that he will turn things around after a terrible second half. Playing time should not be an issue, so he will have plenty of chances to prove me wrong, but I think the impatient Dickerson will disappoint a lot of fantasy owners this year.
After slugging 47 HR’s for the Orioles n 2016, Mark Trumbo built up a lot of hype around himself. Trumbo eventually re-signed with Baltimore in the 2017 offseason and was poised to put up another big year, but that did not happen. Not only was Trumbo bad, he was one of the worst players in all of baseball; posting a measly -1.2 fWAR and slugging only .399. When Trumbo came up for his first full season in 2011, it looked like he was going to be one of the game next big sluggers, and he has posted some very respectable seasons since then. That being said, I see nothing pointing towards a return to form for the DH. In season long, I would avoid him at all costs. He may be worth buying extremely low on and stashing on your bench, just in case he has a bit of a power revival, but that seems unlikely.
If Ozuna wasn’t on the same team as Giancarlo Stanton last year, we would be talking a lot more about the season he had. Ozuna put up monster numbers, slashing: .312/.376/.548 with 37 HR’s and 124 RBI. There is no doubting that Ozuna put up MVP type numbers last year, and had by far the best year of his career. That being said, Ozuna had a very inflated BABIP of .355. Does this necessarily mean that Ozuna will be a dud this year? Absolutely not, but he is somebody that we need to be cautious with in fantasy. If we saw Ozuna’s numbers normalize this year, I think we should expect to see a slash line along these lines: .270/.325/.480. I expect Ozuna to be going fairly high in season long drafts, so this is just my word of caution with him. I still think he is a good player and we should expect him to have a solid year, just don’t expect him to play out of his shoes like he did last year.
I am still confused as to why the Padres signed Hosmer this offseason. Their rationale is that they want him around the younger players and they like his “leadership”. Sure, Hosmer is a good leader and knows what it takes to win a World Series, but did you need to spend $140 million to find a player like that? The answer is no. Hosmer is not a bad player by any stretch, but he is definitely overrated. Until last season, Hosmer had only put up two seasons out of his six full seasons where he had an OPS over .800, and just three seasons with a fWAR above 0. In 2017, Hosmer broke out. He slashed: .318/.385/.498 and had a fWAR of 4.1. Hosmer, like Ozuna, had a very inflated BABIP of .351. This instance scares me more than it does with Ozuna, because of Hosmer’s alarming 56% ground-ball rate. When someone is hitting the ball on the ground as much as he is, it is hard to maintain such a high slugging percentage. I expect us to look back on the contract he just signed with San Diego and call it a major bust. Steer clear of Hosmer in season long, and draft someone like Logan Morrison or Carlos Santana instead.
Mookie Betts had a monster season in 2016, where he posted a 7.9 fWAR. He took a tiny step back in 2017 posting a 5.3 fWAR and slugging well below .500. Although he didn’t post huge numbers last season, Betts had some encouraging signs of growth at the plate that should lead to success this season. Last year, Betts raised his walk rate from 2016 by more than 4%, had the highest hard contact rate of his career, and had a very low BABIP of .268. What these numbers correlate to is that Betts was simply unlucky at the dish last year. He hit lots of hard balls that just happened to be right at defenders. We were already shown in 2016 that Betts can be a MVP caliber player, and I expect him to have a huge 2018 season. Don’t be surprised if he hits 30 HR’s, steals 30 bases, and continues to raise his walk rate. I want him in all of my fantasy leagues and will be rostering him plenty in DFS this season.
Albies is my favorite player heading into the season, and he is probably one of the most overlooked players in fantasy. Overshadowed by stellar rookie performances across the board in the National League last year, and being on a losing Atlanta club; Albies gained almost no national praise. The switch-hitting second basemen slashed: .284/.354/.456 in 244 plate appearances. The 21 year old will only continue getting stronger, and with a already high hard contact rate and a willingness to be disciplined at the plate, we should expect to see a breakout year. Albies has good speed, lots of pop, and very slick defense. There is nothing not to like about this kid. Playing in the bandbox that is SunTrust Park, Albies has a legit shot to mash 15-20 HR’s while swiping 20-25 bags. It is time to buy into this guy while his stock is still low.
Gary Sanchez is a beast. Plain and simple. While people are racing to draft Judge and Stanton, he will most likely be able to fall right into your lap when you’re doing your season long drafts. In just 756 PA’s, Sanchez already has 53 HR’s and a .567 Slugging %. There are no signs whatsoever that Sanchez will be slowing this torrid pace anytime soon. Yes, he has struck out almost 24% of the time in his career, but he hits the ball hard and far- not to mention he possesses one of the quickest bats I have seen in a long time. Gary Sanchez is my pick for 2018 AL MVP. I just love the way he profiles in the middle of that Yankees lineup. Buy lots of Sanchez and thank me later.
I would put money down that Matt Olson and Khris Davis will hit more combined HR’s than Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton this year. In just 216 plate appearances, Olson slugged 24 HR’s last season. Granted, he hit just two doubles, so to expect this sort of power surge to continue for a full season would be a bit naive. Olson profiles as a pure power hitter who is going to strike out a bunch, but also walk a bunch. I think a good comp for him would be, Joey Gallo. Expect Olson to slash somewhere around: .230/.320/.550 with 35-40 HR’s. It would not surprise me in anyway if by the end of the season Olson led the league in HR’s, with more than 50. He is definitely someone to keep a close eye on going into this season. Pure power like he possesses is hard to find.
Randal Grichuk has been a mess these past two seasons, but it’s not all of his fault. The Cardinals’ handling of Grichuk has been puzzling to say the least. Instead of focusing on his strength of being a power hitter, they tried to force him to become something he’s not. The Cardinals wanted Grichuk to be a patient hitter who didn’t strike out, but these are just unreasonable expectations for someone with his skill set. Grichuk is going to strike out, he’s not going to walk a lot, but he is going to hit for a lot of power. A change of scenery should be good for the athletic outfielder, and hopefully the security of having regular playing time will be a big confidence boost. On more than one occasion, Grichuk mentioned that he played in fear, knowing that if he had a bad game, Mike Matheny would bench him the next day. The reason I like Grichuk so much this year is because of his 40% career hard contact rate. With regular at-bats, he has a legit shot to hit 30-35 HR’s. He won’t be bringing any MVP or Silver Slugger awards home, but he can be very valuable in fantasy this season. Grichuk is a lot like Bitcoin. He will have a week stretch where he will be white hot, and then he will have a ten day stretch where he just tanks. He is volatile, but worth the risk. Buy low and buy early with this guy and don’t be quick to drop him off of your roster if he doesn’t have a hot start.