Whoops, this is supposed to be the 2016 Dudes & Don'ts! Play it cool, Dokken. Just keep going and no one will notice...
If you're reading this, then it's already too late. Baseball season is upon us! Huzzah! The following is essentially a Sleepers/Busts blog, with a much cooler name (thanks Joe, I'll admit it's better than Bargains & Bedlam). A word to the wise first; don't just read the names and think I wouldn't draft any of the Don'ts, or am irrational on my Dudes. This is all about value, about where they're being drafted. I'll draft anyone at the right price. Now excuse me while I get my G.I. Joe collection appraised.
Catcher - Devin Mesoraco: (10th C, 179 Overall) It's appropriate and hopefully not a harbinger that as I wrote Devin's name here I first typed “Devil” by mistake. It's appropriate because he looks like a corpse that was risen from the dead by the Devil himself. It may also be how those who drafted Meso last year felt about him after he ended up playing only 23 games, and was completely useless. He was drafted early coming off a breakout 2014 that in 113 games saw him mash 25 taters with 80 RBI, and a .273/.359/.534 slash that will please you in any league. Coming into 2016 he (and his owners) will hope that he can put the hip injury of last year behind him and bring some pop into the arid home run environment that is the 2016 catcher position.
2016 Projection: 450 PA, 65 R, 26 HR, 75 RBI, .260BA
First Base - Mark Trumbo: (25th 1B, 182 Overall) In previous years, I may have proclaimed you to be a “Dumbo” if you drafted Mark Trumbo. I don't care if it's low hanging fruit, it's catchy! Now quit the back talk, you're only supposed to be reading. I still can't wholeheartedly recommend Trumbo in OBP leagues (career .300 OBP) or points leagues (career BB/K rate of 0.26). Heck, there's also a chance he hits under .240, which he's done twice in the last three years. But given where he's being drafted as a late Corner Infielder or Outfielder, depending on your team needs, he's go a shot to be a huge boon in HR and R/RBI categories. He's slated to bat cleanup in a nasty Baltimore lineup, and he's got plenty of friendly home run parks to hit in now in the AL East. The only way he doesn't turn a profit here is if his BA hits an all time low or if he gets injured.
2016 Projection: 575 PA, 80 R, 33 HR, 100 RBI, .250 BA
Second Base - Anthony Rendon: (9th 2B, 89 Overall) Perhaps I'm still stuck in 2014 (back when men were men, am I right fellas?!), as I've found another 2014 stud that really sucked on one in 2015 due to injury. Rendon fell victim to a knee injury last year, which tends to happen a lot with him. He may turn into a perennial tease, with 20/20 upside but downside of missing two-thirds of the season. When he's in there though, you know he's going to hit. He's got a very good career 36.1% hard contact rate (average is around 30%), which is one of the best ways to prop up a strong BABIP. He's got the contact skills to be a perennial .300 hitter, shown the ability to hit for 20+ homers (21 in '14) and has also shown strong SB skills (17 for 20 in '14, but only 1 for 3 in '15). I wouldn't count on the steals hitting double digits again, but that great stroke and the power potential is there. As a bonus, he will also qualify at third base, so he's got very nice position flexibility. With a seventh round price tag in standard leagues, the profit potential is immense.
2016 Projection: 650 PA, 80 R, 20 HR, 85 RBI, 7 SB, .300 BA
Third Base - Justin Turner: (19th 3B, 221 Overall) If there's one thing that I've learned over the course of my 15 years of playing fantasy baseball, it's that you can never have enough red beards on your team. Enter Justin Turner. He emerged from the muckity muck of nowhere to become a solid fantasy contributor in 2015. He smashed 16 home runs in 126 games while driving in 60 and slashing .294/.370/.491. Moving forward, Turner may struggle to hit another 16 home runs even in another 20 games played in 2016. His HR/FB was a career-high 13.9%, and ESPN's Home Run Tracker identifies 5 of Turner's 16 home runs as “Just Enough”. However, his average fly ball distance of 289.10 feet (83rd in MLB) supports teens-HR power, and his 7.7% increase in pull percentage both help legitimize his case to repeat the power. With 100 more PA's this year, I think he can hit 16 again. A 31.7% hard contact rate and 27.7% line drive rate help support his .321 BABIP, so a .290's batting average with mid-teens home runs isn't out of the question for 2016. Hitting in the heart of the Dodgers order, he's set to be a solid (and well groomed) corner infield option come draft day.
2016 Projection: 550 PA, 80 R, 16 HR, 80 RBI, 6 SB, .290 BA
Shortstop - Jonathan Villar: (41st SS, 426 Overall) When the Brewers traded for Villar this past winter, it immediately caught my attention. A rebuilding team with holes all over the field piqued my interest for playing time opportunities for Villar, and he was slated to enter Spring Training in a position battle for third base with Will Middlebrooks and Garin Cecchini. That all changed, however, when the Brewers unloaded SS Jean Segura a few months later, opening up full-time at-bats for Villar. I'm actually surprised with the lack of sleeper buzz around Villar given his stolen base upside. Still being drafted in no mans land, Villar appears set to be the leadoff man in Milwaukee to begin the season. He has an average at best on-base profile (career .300 OBP), but showed improvement last year, trimming 5% off his K%, boosting his BB% by 1.2% and upping his contact% by 7.6% to 77.6%. Haters will say the Brew Crew will simply promote Orlando Arcia midseason to kill Villar's value, and while Arcia does indeed lurk, I see no real incentive for the Brewers to start his arbitration clock in a year where they are clearly not competing. Even if Arcia is promoted midseason, Villar could still see time at Third or Second Base. You won't get a 5-category contributor with Villar, but you can't find a better option for cheap speed at Shortstop this year.
2016 Projection: 550 PA, 75 R, 5 HR, 60 RBI, 40 SB, .255 BA
Outfielder #1 - Justin Upton: (17th OF, 49 Overall) Another hitter with a new home, perhaps I am sensing an accidental theme here, which isn't necessarily a good thing considering many players struggle in their first year with a new team or league. Oh well, the grass has to be greener hitting next to Miguel Cabrera, right?! I've been an Upton detractor in the past due to his consistently high K%, but at this point most sluggers in the league strike out at a 25%+ rate, so who cares anymore! He's found himself a lineup upgrade in Detroit, and with a career double-digit walk rate, should find himself hitting second or fourth consistently. At 28 he's still in the prime of his career, but is coming at a discount now due to all the shiny new “sexy” picks available (Pollock, Springer, Marte, etc.). Justin “Upped” his flyball percentage (puns!) to 44.1% last year and paired that with a 1.9% increase in pull%, up to 39.4%. That combination tells me we could be looking at his first 30 homer season since 2011. Upton is notoriously streaky, but set it and forget it in roto leagues and you'll be plenty pleased at the end of the season.
2016 Projection: 650 PA, 100 R, 32 HR, 100 RBI, 15 SB, .275 BA
Outfielder #2 - Delino DeShields: (57th OF, 202 Overall) Franklin Delano's favorite player should have your attention. Much unlike the polio-stricken former President, Delino has metaphorical wheels rather than literal ones. He put those wheels to good use last year by swiping 25 bases in 33 attempts. He maintained the plus walk rate he showed throughout the minors, walking 10.8% of his plate appearances, leading to an OBP of .344. His .261 batting average was buoyed by a .334 BABIP, but with such elite speed, that will be no problem to replicate. As long as he can maintain an OBP higher than .320, he should remain the leadoff hitter for a good Rangers lineup, and has the potential for elite runs and steals. He will be even more valuable in OBP leagues. After all, like the great Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear...is spiders. Those little bastards have eight legs! Damn they creepy.”
2016 Projection: 650 PA, 100 R, 5 HR, 55 RBI, 45 SB, .255 BA
Outfielder #3 - Wil Myers: (65th OF, 244 Overall) After reeling in the 2013 AL Rookie of the Year Award, Myers is a forgotten man after missing 75 games in 2014 and 102 games last year. He's clearly a huge injury risk, but as the 65th Outfielder drafted, that risk is very much baked in. He showed 20-HR power last year, and he's got upside for more than that in his bat. He even showed a propensity to steal last year, starting the year 3 for 5 in 101 plate appearances in April. It's a trend that could reemerge, albeit to a lesser degree if he's not leading off when the season commences. The bottom line is, if you get even 150 games out of Myers, he'll be a fantastic return on your investment.
2016 Projection: 550 PA, 75 R, 22 HR, 85 RBI, 8 SB, .260 BA
Starting Pitcher #1 - Carlos Martinez: (27th SP, 98 Overall) It wasn't until I was doing my Dynasty Starting Pitcher rankings that I really started to dig into C-Mart, and the more I looked into him, the more I liked him. Now here he is, earning the most prestigious honor of his life by finding his name in my 2016 Dudes blog. Pretty sweet for him. Last year in his age 23 season, he showed flashes of brilliance, pitching like an ace in the first half (107.1 IP, 113 K, 2.52 ERA). His one big problem is control, as his 8.3% BB% over the course of the season led to an unsightly 1.29 WHIP. That's a problem with a lot of young starters though, and his 63.1% first pitch strike rate portends better results. It is also very encouraging that as a shorter starter (six feet tall) he's managed to get a lot of ground balls throughout his brief career. In fact, he was one of only six starters last year to average a strikeout per inning and also have a 50% or higher ground ball rate. Who were the others? Some shmoes named Kershaw, Carrasco, Liriano, Tyson Ross, and Jake Arrieta. Not bad company to keep. If he can keep the shoulder healthy, he could easily finish as a top 15 starter.
2016 Projection: 14 W, 185 IP, 195 K, 3.15 ERA, 1.21 WHIP
Starting Pitcher #2 - Carlos Rodon: (48th SP, 162 Overall) Not at the table, Carlos! For my second Carlos in a row, I offer you even more excitement! Even more exclamation points! Even more dirty mustaches!!! Yes, Rodon is a big love for me this year, and I'll tell you why (I assumed you were curious). His combination of mid-90's fastball from the left side and double-plus slider alone is enough to keep him around a strikeout per inning. The downside is his control left a lot to be desired in his rookie season, as he finished with an atrocious 11.7% walk rate, which led to an intolerable 1.44 WHIP. On the bright side, he did improve as the season wore on; his walk rate dipped from 13.9% in the first half of 2015 to 9.7% in the second half, while his strikeout rate remained steady. His second issue is a lack of third pitch. In his sophomore season, he will look to incorporate an improved changeup to combat righties, whom he struggled against in his rookie season, to the tune of a .350 wOBA. If he can utilize his changeup effectively to neutralize righties and maintain the improvements he demonstrated with his control over the second half of his rookie season, he can return a tremendous profit this year for your fantasy squad.
2016 Projection: 13 W, 185 IP, 200 K, 3.33 ERA, 1.25 WHIP
Starting Pitcher #3 - Anthony DeSclafani: (77th SP, 276 Overall) DeSclafani can help you in multiple ways; primarily, when you find yourself in the inevitable rap battle and are looking for something to rhyme with “Gwen Stephani”, he'll bail you out. Secondarily, he could earn you a profit on draft day. Looking at his full season stats don't necessarily grab you by the pants (a middling 12.2% K-BB rate). Digging into his monthly splits, however, unearths a young starter who is finding his identity on the mound. He switched his pitch mix in the second half, and the results were stark: a 7.6% K-BB% in the first half (101 innings), and a rockin' 18% K-BB% in the second half (83.2 innings). The second half results were camouflaged by a 4.52ERA, but a 3.46 FIP assures us to trust the skills, and know the results will follow. Pluck DeSclafani from your draft board this spring, and dance an Italian dance (however they dance) as he returns you a tasty marinara-flavored profit this season.
2016 Projection: 12 W, 195 IP, 185 K, 3.40 ERA, 1.20 WHIP
Catcher - Jonathan Lucroy: (3rd C, 94th Overall) Lucroy enjoyed two superb offensive seasons back in 2013 and '14. Unfortunately, 2015 saw his production drop off steeply as injuries limited him to 103 games after appearing in 147 and 153 in his respective 2013 and '14 campaigns. When he did play, his numbers took a universal dip. His ISO dropped to .127, his lowest mark since 2011. His near 1:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio from 2014 evaporated, as his walk rate dipped from 10.1% to 8.7%, while his 10.8% K rate spiked to 15.4%. His 18 home runs from 2013 are looking increasingly like his career anomaly, and low teens home runs are a more reasonable expectation. To make matters worse, his fly ball percentage dropped 6.3% to 29.4%, limiting his home run upside even more. His value really comes from volume, as he plays first base on his off catching days, providing him with additional plate appearances for R/RBI opportunities. That advantage is mitigated, however, with such a wretched lineup in Milwaukee. It's quite likely the Brewers humor him in his request to be traded to a contender at some point this year, but until then his upside is capped, and almost any new destination will be a downgrade from Miller Park. Particularly in roto leagues, don't overpay for his services on draft day.
2016 Projection: 575 PA, 60 R, 10 HR, 65 RBI, .275 BA
First Base - Victor Martinez: (30th 1B, 224 Overall) Really went out on a limb on this one, didn't I? Coming off the board at the 224th pick, you shouldn't have to try too hard to avoid V-Mart. This one is more about the fact that I don't really hate any particular First Basemen value where they're going. For Martinez, it's all about injury and age. His anomalous 2014 in which he hit 32 bombs and drove in 103 is very much in the rearview, and those who expected a repeat last year were sorely disappointed. Already in Spring Training he's been battling a hamstring issue, and at the ripe old age of 37 those things don't tend to heal as quickly as they once did. Steer clear of V-Mart this year, my dear. Have a beer and jeer at whomever decides Victor is a wise investment.
2016 Projection: 475 PA, 40 R, 9 HR, 60 RBI, .275 BA
Second Base - Kolten Wong: (10th 2B, 125 Overall) It's tough to say at this point whether or not Wong is getting bailed out by Jhonny Peralta's injury. On the one hand, the Cards will likely have to shift Gyorko to Shortstop, eliminating the platoon that would cap Wong's upside, and leaving him all the PA's he can handle. On the other hand, Wong was awful against left handed pitching last year, hitting only .229/.275/.277 against them with 6 walks and 35 strikeouts in 178 plate appearances. Either way it's not going to be pretty, and he's slated to hit at the bottom of the lineup to boot. There are plenty of guys that will hit double-digit HR and SB for you at second base, so even if it looks tempting...don't touch the Wong.
2016 Projection: 550 PA, 50 R, 8 HR, 60 RBI, 15 SB, .270 BA
Third Base - Matt Duffy: (13th 3B, 151 Overall) Just to be sure, this is the Giants Matt Duffy, not the Astros Matt Duffy. Now, I'm inclined to like a guy I can call “The Duff Man”. However, I'm also a man who likes his baseball stats ripe and juicy...for the latter, The Duff Man does not apply. He came out of nowhere last year to turn a nice profit for those who added him, going 12/12/.295 with 77 R and 77 RBI (hello, bizarre symmetry). The one area he may actually have room to grow in is the steals; he was a perfect 12 for 12 last year. He'll hit up in the order, but do you really want your Third Baseman to hit you borderline double-digit home runs?
2016 Projection: 635 PA, 75 R, 8 HR, 75 RBI, 15 SB, .275 BA
Shortstop - Elvis Andrus: (10th SS, 147 Overall) This is more of a strategy Don't for me than a player Don't, although it is a little of both. Andrus no longer gives you elite steals (27 and 25 the last two seasons). He no longer hits atop the Rangers lineup to give you elite runs scored (72 and 69 R the last two seasons). He's not going to hit 10 home runs (27 in 4,635 PA's). He walks at a league average clip and his BA is more of the same. Why draft him? If it's the steals you want, there's plenty of cheap speed to be had much later at the position.
2016 Projection: 650 PA, 60 R, 5 HR, 65 RBI, 25 SB, .265 BA
Outfielder #1 - Adam Eaton: (31st OF, 108 Overall) I've actually liked Eaton for years. So why now that he's actually being respected have I forsaken him? Well, he performed a bit over his head last year in the power category. He had a 10.9% HR/FB, which while not outrageous in general is very high for him. His average flyball distance was 274.62 feet, landing him only 193rd in baseball. He did increase his flyball percentage from 20.2 % to 27.3%, but even at that rate it's hard to see double-digit homers again. His speed is why I've always liked him, but he still hasn't become the elite base stealer I was hoping for following his 38 SB season in AAA in 2012. He did attempt more than ever last year (18 for 26) but his 69% efficiency rate has him on the borderline of getting the red light. His injury history is also extensive at this point, so there's always a strong chance he spends a couple of weeks on the DL.
2016 Projection: 575 PA, 85 R, 7 HR, 60 RBI, 16 SB, .285 BA
Outfielder #2 - Corey Dickerson: (34th OF, 116 Overall) Dickerson's move away from the BABIP haven that is Coors Field has been well documented, so I shan't belabor that point, though I am on board with it having an effect on his stats. He's also moving to one of the platooniest teams in all of he land in Tampa, and his career .246/.299/.377 line against lefties isn't encouraging for his playing time. Throw in a pesky case of plantar fasciitis, a career 6.8% BB%, and a career .347 BABIP, and you'll get an exuberant pass from me.
2016 Projection: 475 PA, 55 R, 20 HR, 65 RBI, .260 BA
Outfielder #3 - Nelson Cruz: (14th OF, 39 Overall) What ho, a repeat visitor to the Negative Nate Report? Yes indeed I did have Cruz in my (now obviously renamed) 2015 Bargains & Bedlam as a Bedlam. I proclaimed him to be injury prone and that his power would drop with the move to Safeco, and I was sorely mistaken. Nevertheless, I shan't relent in my anti-Cruz campaign! Hear ye hear ye, this will be the year that Cruz tanks! Well, “tank” is strong, but at this ADP I think you can do better. He is quite old, after all (he'll turn 36 this season). I expect the homers to decline, as his astronomical 30.3% HR/FB will fall dramatically. The batting average has to drop too; he somehow managed a .350 BABIP last year which fueled his .302 BA that I'm pretty sure happened just to make me look bad. The M's plan to manage him more closely this year, giving him more rest days and DH games as well. There's nothing but downside from last year.
Projection: 600 PA, 75 R, 25 HR, 85 RBI, .250 BA
Starting Pitcher #1 - Zack Greinke: (7th SP, 30 Overall) “Never pay for a career year.” That's my motto. That, and “Everybody Wang Chung tonight.” It's hard to argue that the 1.66 ERA Greinke posted in 2015 won't go down as his best. An insanely low .229 BABIP and 86.5% strand rate are marks that are incredible considering they held up over 212 innings, but I can't imagine they'll be duplicated. A move to hitter-friendly Chase Field doesn't help his case either, though I'm not overly concerned about the park. I don't think Greinke will be a bad pitcher by any means, but there are other aces with much more strikeout upside going behind Greinke that I would prefer.
2016 Projection: 210 IP, 15 W, 185 K, 3.25 ERA, 1.05 WHIP
Starting Pitcher #2 - Sonny Gray: (19th SP, 62 Overall) Gray was very fortunate last year. He's always been a pitcher that has managed to maintain an above average BABIP (meaning low). However, 2015 was even low for his standards, as he enjoyed a .255 BABIP, impressive even when compared to his career rate of .268. That, combined with an above-average 76.8% strand rate led to an ERA of 2.73, far better than his FIP (3.45) and xFIP (3.69) would suggest. He also hasn't displayed elite skills, posting a mediocre 13.2% K-BB rate. That number puts him at only the 40th best qualified starter in baseball in that category last year, keeping company with starters like Trevor Bauer and CC Sabathia. The A's aren't projected to be a very successful team either, so meeting or eclipsing his career high of 14 Wins is difficult to imagine. He's being drafted as a number one starter, but with skills more indicative of a number two or three. He's a guy to ignore on draft day there, Sonny.
2016 Projection: 205 IP, 13 W, 165 K, 3.35 ERA, 1.10 WHIP
Starting Pitcher #3 - Steven Matz: (34th SP, 126 Overall) You know what I hate more than floor mats, place mats or yoga mats? Steven Matz! Ok, so clearly I don't HATE him (I'm sure he's a nice fellow) but I can't say I much care for his value in drafts this year. I get the upside; a young lefty with above-average control, great velocity and K per inning potential. But if I'm going to draft him, I need to see it first. The biggest risk with Matz is health; he's thrown about 140 innings each of the past two years while dealing with a bunch of injuries. The best predictor of injury is previous injury, so that combined with a lack of track record has me doing the downward facing dog on the draft day price of Steven “Yoga” Matz.
2016 Projection: 155 IP, 8 W, 3.60 ERA, 145 K, 1.20 WHIP