Play Ball: Week One Preview

clayton-kershaw-no-hitter

Clayton Kershaw has the highest projected game score in Week 1

I’m doing something a little different this year in the weekly previews. I’m using pitcher game scores generated by CBS Sports to assess the starting pitchers and I’m looking at favorable individual hitter matchups for each team.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with pitcher game scores, they were developed by Bill James. A score of “50” is considered a quality start. Anything less than 50 is less than a quality start while a score of 65+ is considered a dominant start.

Here’s a look at this week’s tastiest fantasy matchups.

Marin Menehunes vs Warning Track Power

Pitching

Marin Menehunes: The Menehunes will have nine starts in Week 1 with five of those coming at home. Six of the nine are projected to be quality starts. The team’s ace, Max Scherzer, has the highest projected game score, a 68 at home against Miami. Mike Tomlin’s game at Arizona has the lowest projected game score at 48. Projected Game Scores: Max Scherzer (68 vs MIA) , Rick Porcello (56 vs PIT, 56 @DET), Jordan Zimmermann (48 @CWS), Ivan Nova (49 vs ATL), Trevor Bauer (51 @ARI), Mike Tomlin (48 @ARI), Junior Guerra (52 vs COL, 50 vs CHC).

Warning Track Power: Warning Track Power has eight starts scheduled to open the season but just two will come at home. All eight are projected to be quality starts but Wei-Yin Chen’s game at the Mets and Tyler Chatwood’s visit to Milwaukee could be nail-biters. Projected Game Scores: Chris Sale (61 vs PIT), Michael Fulmer (51 vs BOS), Julio Urias (NA), Marco Estrada (52 @BAL, 56 @TB), Tyler Chatwood (50 @MIL), Hisashi Iwakuma (52 @HOU, 51 @LAA), Wei-Yin Chen (50 @NYM).

Hitting

Marin Menehunes: Randal Grichuk is 4-for-12 with three extra base hits including a homer against Cubs ace Jake Arrieta. Grichuk has a career 1.071 OPS against his rival. Lorenzo Cain faces Hector Santiago Wednesday and history suggests Cain will have a big day. Cain is 6-for-18 with four extra base hits and five RBI against Santiago.

Warning Track Power: Catcher Welington Castillo has found success against Marco Estrada, a pitcher he’ll face Monday. Castillo is 7-for-23 with four homers, eight RBI, and a 1.159 OPS when facing the Toronto pitcher. Monday could be a big day for Warning Track Power as Josh Donaldson faces Kevin Gausman, a pitcher he’s owned during his career. Donaldson is 6-for-16 with a homer, four RBI, and a 1.046 OPS against the Baltimore ace.

Let’s Play 2 vs Las Estellas Rojas

Pitching

Let’s Play 2: Let’s Play 2 will have 11 starts this week including seven at home. This is a terrific schedule to open the season. All but one of the starts is projected to be quality. Shelby Miller’s game against the Giants is the lone exception. Staff ace Corey Kluber has the highest projected game score, a 60 against Arizona on the road. Projected Game Scores: Corey Kluber (59 @TEX, 60 @ARI), Jose Quintana (52 vs DET, 53 vs MIN), Kyle Hendricks (58 @MIL), Sean Manea (52 vs LAA, 51 @TEX), Jake Odorizzi (54 vs NYY, 54 vs TOR), Robbie Ray (52 vs SF), Shelby Miller (46 vs SF).

Las Estellas Rojas: Rojas has just five starts scheduled to open the season and three of those will be on the road. All five are projected to be quality but Dan Straily’s trip to Washington could be close. Staff ace Noah Syndergaard has two home games against weak-hitting teams and should post a pair of quality starts. Projected Game Scores: Noah Syndergaard (62 vs ATL, 65 vs MIA), Francisco Liriano (55 @TB), Matt Moore (52 @ARI), Eduardo Rodriguez (NS), Dan Straily (50 @WSH).

Hitting

Let’s Play 2: During his career, outfielder Jason Heyward has been solid against St. Louis ace Carlos Martinez. Heyward is 7-for-17 with two RBI and an .882 OPS. Victor Martinez faces Jose Quintana tomorrow and Martinez has raked the White Sox pitcher over his career. He’s 17-for-39 with a pair of extra base hits, three RBI, and a .923 OPS.

Las Estallas Rojas: Keep an eye on catcher Yadier Molina during tonight’s game. Molina has owned Cubs ace Jon Lester. Molina is 8-for-22 with three extra base hits, four RBI, and a .900 OPS against Lester. Miguel Cabrera has nice career numbers against White Sox ace Jose Quintana. Cabrera is 15-for-43 with a pair of extra base hits and three RBI with a robust .923 OPS.

Land Shark vs Stadium Mustard

Pitching

Land Shark: Land Shark’s staff will make nine starts to open the season with six of those coming on the road. The team is projected to have six quality starts but Tyler Anderson, Tyler Glasnow and Jeremy Hellickson all have games that are virtual coin flips. Garrett Richards’ start at Oakland has the highest projected game score at 54. Projected Game Scores: Felix Hernandez (53 @HOU, 52 @LAA), Steven Matz (NA), Garrett Richards (54 @OAK), Jerad Eickhoff (52 @CIN), Tyler Glasnow (49 vs ATL), Jeremy Hellickson (49 @CIN, 49 vs WSH), Tyler Anderson (53 @MIL, 50 vs LAD).

Stadium Mustard: The staff is going to make just six starts in Week 1 and five of those are coming on the road. It’s not going to be easy. James Paxton’s start at Houston has the highest projected game score at 55. Jaime Garcia’s start at the Mets is going to be interesting. Projected Game Scores: Julio Teheran (52 @NYM, 54 @PIT), James Paxton (55 @HOU), Matt Shoemaker (53 @OAK, 53 vs SEA), Alex Wood (NA), Jaime Garcia (50 @NYM).

Hitting

Land Shark: Madison Bumgarner is one of the most feared pitchers in the league. Unless you are Paul Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt is 13-for-46 with six extra base hits including a pair of homers and six RBI off the Giants ace. Nelson Cruz is 9-for-22 with four extra base hits and three RBI against Houston ace Dallas Keuchel. Cruz has a career 1.345 OPS against Keuchel.

Stadium Mustard: Yu Darvish is a tough opponent for any major league hitter but Edwin Encarnacion sees him well. Encarnacion is 5-for-16 with a pair of homers and four RBI in his career versus Darvish. Neil Walker has three hits in 10 career at-bats against Bartolo Colon but two of those have gone for extra bases, including a homer.

High Cheese vs JetSetters

Pitching

High Cheese: The staff will make eight starts in Week 1 with just two coming at home. Jon Lester has the two highest projected game scores when he pitches at St. Louis and Miami. Bartolo Colon’s return to New York to face the Mets has the lowest projected game score. Projected Game Scores: Jon Lester (60 @STL, 61 @MIA), Gerrit Cole (50 @BOS, 54 vs ATL), Aaron Sanchez (55 @TB), Marcus Stroman (56 @TB), Bartolo Colon (48 @NYM), Brandon Finnegan (54 vs PHI).

JetSetters: All 10 of the team’s starts are projected to be quality to open the season. Five of those will come on the road, so it won’t be easy. Robert Gsellman’s start at home against Miami has the highest projected game score at 57. Projected Game Scores: Danny Duffy (53 @MIN, 54 @HOU), Cole Hamels (54 vs CLE), Zack Greinke (53 vs SF, 52 vs CLE), Ian Kennedy (53 @MIN), Ervin Santana (52 vs KC, 51 @CWS), Steven Wright (51 @DET), Robert Gsellman (57 vs MIA).

Hitting

High Cheese: Evan Longoria faces Yankee pitcher CC Sabathia on Tuesday and he’s owned Sabathia over his career. Longoria is 29-for-72 with 16 extra base hits, seven homers, and 16 RBI. The veteran third baseman has posted a career 1.319 OPS against Sabathia. Longoria could actually be in for a big week for High Cheese. He faces Toronto pitcher Marcus Stroman on Thursday. He’s 8-for-22 with four extra base hits including a pair of homers against Stroman.

JetSetters: One of the best matchups of the week is Starlin Castro vs Chris Archer tonight. Castro is 4-for-12 with a pair of extra base hits and a home run with five RBI against the Tampa Bay ace. Castro owns a career 1.000 OPS against Archer. Jose Reyes hits Bartolo Colon hard. He’ll face Colon Wednesday. Reyes is 3-for-10 with a pair of extra base hits including a homer. Reyes has also struck out just once against Colon while posting a 1.000 OPS.

Hapamon vs The Bulls

Pitching

Hapamon: No pitcher has a higher projected game score in Week 1 than Clayton Kershaw’s 80 at home against San Diego. Hapamon has four different starts rated at 60+. The team will make nine starts and six of those will come at home. The team will keep its fingers crossed that Adam Wainwright and Mike Leake don’t blow up. Projected Game Scores: Clayton Kershaw (80 vs SD, 68 @COL), Yu Darvish (62 vs CLE, 64 vs OAK), Jameson Taillon (50 @BOS), Joe Ross (57 @PHI), Adam Wainwright (49 vs CHC), Anthony DeSclafani (Inj), Mike Leake (48 vs CIN), Matt Andriese (53 vs TOR).

The Bulls: The Bulls will make 10 starts to open the season and nine of them are expected to end in quality. Six of the 10 will be played at home. Ace Stephen Strasburg has the two highest projected game scores while Alex Cobb faces a huge test against the Yankees .Projected Game Scores: Stephen Strasburg (63 vs MIA, 65 @PHI), Kenta Maeda (62 vs SD, 53 @COL), Alex Cobb (47 vs NYY), Jon Gray (56 @MIL, 53 vs LAD), Gio Gonzalez (55 @PHI), Andrew Triggs (52 vs LAA), Chris Tillman (Inj), Jason Hammel (53 @MIN).

Hitting

Hapamon: Brad Miller loves him some Masahiro Tanaka. Miller is 5-for-24 with four extra base hits including three homers against the Yankee ace. Miller has a career .875 OPS against Tanaka. On Thursday, Charlie Blackmon faces Chase Anderson, a pitcher he’s simply abused. Blackmon is 7-for-27 with four extra base hits including a pair of homers. Blackmon has a career .889 OPS against Anderson.

The Bulls: It’s bonus time when your catcher produces on any given week and Nick Hundley is in line to rake against Zack Greinke. Hundley is 5-for-16 with a pair of extra base hits and an .859 OPS against Greinke, who has a history with the Bulls. Khris Davis is 3-for-11 with a homer and a .970 OPS against Texas pitcher Yu Darvish. Davis will face Darvish next Saturday.

Buster Hugs vs Midtown Marsupials

Pitching

Buster Hugs: Madison Bumgarner’s start at San Diego could be dominant. The game score of 68 is tied for the second highest in the league in Week 1. The team will make seven starts and five of those are coming on the road. Despite the difficult schedule, the only start that isn’t expected to end in quality is Michael Wacha’s home game against the Cubs. Projected Game Scores: Madison Bumgarner (61 @ARI, 68 @SD), Masahiro Tanaka (59 @TB, 54 @BAL), J.A. Happ (52 @BAL), Jharel Cotton (53 vs LAA), Michael Wacha (49 vs CHC)

Midtown Marsupials: The Marsupials will have seven starts to open the season and five of them will come at home. All seven are projected to be quality starts, though Jeff Samardzija’s start at Arizona could be dicey. Jacob deGrom’s home start against Atlanta has the team’s highest game score at 59. Projected Game Scores: Jacob deGrom (59 vs ATL), Carlos Martinez (54 vs CHC, 55 vs CIN), Matt Harvey (54 vs ATL), Vincent Velasquez (55 vs WSH), Jeff Samardzija (51 @ARI), Mike Foltynewicz (52 @PIT), Alex Reyes (Inj).

Hitting

Buster Hugs: Adam Duvall has faced Mike Leake 13 times, collecting five hits including a pair of homers. Duvall has eight RBI against Leake with a 1.313 OPS. Buster Posey is slated to face Jhouly Chacin next weekend. That’s never good news for Chacin. Posey is 9-for-19 against Chacin over his career with a 1.208 OPS.

Midtown Marsupials: Daniel Murphy has teed off against Edinson Volquez over his career, going 8-for-18 with a pair of extra base hits and three RBI. Murphy’s career OPS against Volquez stands at a cool 1.079. Brian Dozier faces Ian Kennedy on Wednesday and his eyes should be big. Dozier has hit two homers in 15 at-bats against Kennedy and has a 1.020 OPS.

Bacon at Mile 11 vs Home Run 101

Pitching

Bacon at Mile 11: Bacon’s staff will make eight starts to open the season. Six of those will come at home, including the highest projected game score, a 62 by Chris Archer at home against Toronto. Five of the eight starts are expected to end in quality but GM Eric Brown will be holding his breath when Zack Wheeler faces Miami and Taijuan Walker makes his starts against the Giants and Indians Projected Game Scores: Chris Archer (59 vs NYY, 62 vs TOR), Danny Salazar (56 @TEX), Aaron Nola (54 vs WSH), Michael Pineda (55 @TB), Zack Wheeler (48 vs MIA), Taijuan Walker (49 vs SF, 49 vs CLE).

Home Run 101: Johnny Cueto and Zach Davies will both make a pair of starts as Home Run 101 opens the season with seven starts. Rich Hill’s start at home against the Padres is most likely to end in quality while both of Davies’ starts will be dicey. Projected Game Scores: Johnny Cueto (54 @ARI, 60, @SD), Rich Hill (68 vs SD), Jon Lackey (56 @STL), Zach Davies (50 vs COL, 49 vs CHC), Tyler Skaggs (51 @OAK).

Hitting

Bacon at Mile 11: Anthony Rizzo has built a career hitting Carlos Martinez. The Chicago first baseman is 7-for-26 with three homers, seven RBI, and a 1.064 OPS against Martinez. Outfielder Denard Span has faced Arizona pitcher Patrick Corbin three times in his career but he’s collected three hits and a walk and one of those hits was for extra bases.

Home Run 101: Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury will take aim at Chris Archer, hoping to do some serious damage in their head-to-head matchup. Ellsbury has abused Archer in recent games, going 19-for-34 with two homers and a 1.370 OPS. First baseman Jose Abreau has 11 hits in 29 at-bats against Justin Verlander, including four homers. Abreau has a career 1.265 OPS against the Detroit ace.

Lower Haighters vs. A-Rod’s Mirrors

Pitching

Lower Haighters: The Lower Haighters will make seven starts in Week 1 and six are expected to end in quality. Joe Musgrove’s start against Seattle is going to be a struggle. Five of the team’s seven starts will come at home but Jake Arrieta’s road game at St. Louis is most likely to end in quality. Projected Game Scores: Kevin Gausman (54 vs TOR), Jake Arrieta (61 @STL), Lance McCullers (58 vs SEA; 59 vs KC), Drew Pomeranz (55 @DET) Blake Snell (54 vs TOR), Joe Musgrove (49 vs SEA).

A-Rod’s Mirrors: The Mirrors will make eight starts with an even split between home and road games. Justin Verlander’s start at the White Sox is the most likely to end in quality. GM Sean McKenna will be holding his breath when Edinson Volquez takes the mound at Washington and at the Mets. Projected Game Score: Justin Verlander (60 @CWS, 58 vs BOS), Carlos Carrasco (58 @TEX), Dallas Keuchel (56 vs SEA, 58 vs KC), Tanner Roark (53 vs MIA), Edinson Volquez (46 @WSH, 46 @NYM).

Hitting

Lower Haighters: Giancarlo Stanton can hit fastballs. He faces Stephen Strasburg Monday and over his career Stanton is 14-for-38 with 10 extra base hits, and three homers against Strasburg. Third baseman Jake Lamb has found success against Johnny Cueto, his opponent Tuesday. Lamb is 5-for-14 with three extra base hits and a 1.071 OPS against the Giants ace.

A-Rod’s Mirrors: Manny Machado has an excellent matchup with J.A. Happ on Wednesday. Machado is 6-for-21 with four extra base hits, including two homers, and has a career 1.089 OPS against Happ. Likewise, Bryce Harper owns Miami pitcher Tom Koehler, who he’ll face Thursday. Harper is 11-for-32 with six homers and a 1.385 OPS when facing Koehler.

Analyzing the 2017 SFRRC Fantasy Baseball Draft: Is the Sun Setting on the West?

wade-davis

Wade Davis anchors a strong Stadium Mustard bullpen.

Is the sun setting on the West Division in the SFRRC Fantasy Baseball League? Traditionally, this has been the strongest division in the league. Teams from the West Division have won the past two league championships and three of the first seven. The division has qualified three teams for the playoffs the last two seasons.

In the first seven seasons, no division in the league has been as strong as the West, but that may be changing.

According to the statistical projections by Ron Sandler at BaseballHQ, the only West Division team that will make the playoffs in 2017 is the Lower Haighters. Warning Track Power is projected to finish last in the standings while the Mirrors and Menehunes are expected to have the league’s lowest OPS and highest number of strikeouts.

The center of power in the league is projected to shift toward the East Division with Land Shark, Buster Hugs and Stadium Mustard all expected to play in the postseason.

Wade Davis, Andrew Miller, and Dellin Betances anchor a Stadium Mustard bullpen that is projected to lead the league in WHIP and K/9 while finishing second in ERA and third in Net Saves/Holds. It’s a major reason Stadium Mustard is the team to beat in 2017.

Land Shark finished third last year and will be led by sluggers Paul Goldschmidt, Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz, Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez. This team can hit. BaseballHQ expects Land Shark to lead the league in RBI and Runs while finishing fifth in OPS and Plate Appearances.

Kenley Jansen, A.J. Ramos and Tyler Clippard lead a strong group of relief pitchers that will need to meet expectations for Buster Hugs to reach the playoffs. The team has speed on the bases but could be challenged to score runs.

Let’s Play 2 could go from the Wooden Spoon last year to championship contender this year. Outfielder Mookie Betts is arguably the best player in baseball and is capable of carrying a team in the weekly head-to-head format. Veterans Victor Martinez, Ben Zobrist, Dexter Fowler and Brett Gardner surround young players like Betts, Corey Seager, and Kris Bryant to give Let’s Play 2 an offense that will be a league leader in Plate Appearances, Net Stolen Bases and Runs. The pitching is good, but not deep.

Hapamon General Manager Robert Kirkbride has a well-rounded team that should challenge for the North Division pennant. The starting rotation is led by Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish and Jameson Taillon while Charlie Blackmon, Christian Yelich and Dee Gordon provide the offense with both power and speed.

Home Run 101 and Las Estellas Rojas round out the projected playoff contenders. Both teams have above-average bullpens with offenses that don’t strikeout often and can generate extra base hits. Rojas is also good on the base paths and will be one of the league’s best at stealing bases thanks to outfielders Billy Hamilton and Gregory Polanco.

Bacon at Mile 11, a consistent championship contender, is projected to finish last in RBI and RBI, next to last in Plate Appearances, and in the bottom five in Runs and ERA. Mike Trout, Nolan Arenado and Anthony Rizzo will need some help from Jedd Gyorko, Nomar Mazara, and Max Kepler if the offense is going to produce. Chris Archer and Danny Salazar are the only starting pitchers on the staff ranked in the Top 200 overall.

Warning Track Power exited last night’s draft with a team profile that sends up warning flags. Mark Peterson’s team is projected to finish near the top of the league in Quality Starts and Innings Pitched. The team is also expected to finish near the bottom in ERA, WHIP, and K/9. That usually the team has drafted a bunch of soft-tossing starters. Ricky Nolasco, Tyler Chatwood, and Wei-Yin Chen will be asked to contribute, especially since young Julio Urias won’t start the season on the active roster. The questions surrounding the starting pitching is one reason this perennial contender is picked to finish last.

Last year’s champion, the Marin Menehunes, have the same pitching profile as Warning Track Power entering 2017. Elizabeth Gravely’s team is projected to win the Quality Start and Innings Pitched categories but finish last in K/9, last in Net Saves/Holds, and in the bottom five in ERA and WHIP. Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello can anchor the staff but Sonny Gray is hurt and is unlikely to join the staff until late April while Josh Tomlin, Trevor Bauer, and Ivan Nova have been inconsistent, at best, over the last two seasons.

The lack of quality pitching is a big reason two major West Division contenders, the Menehunes and Warning Track Power, have an uphill battle entering 2017. And it’s a big reason the division as a whole is expected to be weakened this season.

Prepping For Your Fantasy Baseball Draft? Playing Time Counts

Yoan Moncada

Yoan Moncada is one of baseball’s top prospect but may not see playing time in the majors in 2017

Innings pitched and plate appearances are two of the unsexiest stats in baseball. They are also the most important because they represent opportunity.

In the SFRRC Fantasy Baseball League, innings pitched and plate appearances are just two of the 12 stats that measure a player’s success but if a player isn’t on the field, he can’t contribute to any of the other stats.

As you begin building your draft list, playing time is a crucial factor for a player’s success. Depth charts are important as spring training ends. If you are looking at a variety of projection systems, the first stat to look at is playing time.

The Steamer600 projection system standardizes playing time. Starting pitcher statistical projections are based on 200 innings pitched while reliever stats are projected on 65 innings pitched. Hitter projections are based on 600 plate appearances. This is a great way to compare expected statistical output by players for the upcoming season but the lens is narrow and can’t be viewed on its own. Not every player will get 600 plate appearances or pitch 200 innings. Again, depth charts are your friend.

Taking a risk on a superstar prospect with an undefined role for the upcoming season isn’t a bad strategy with your late-round draft picks but it’s a terrible idea midway through the draft when you need productive players on your roster. Several years ago, we added three “NA” roster spots. These are ideal for stashing prospects on the cusp of being added to major league rosters. There is a risk these prospects will never see a big league at-bat in 2017 but the reward can be tremendous if they find regular playing time.

Over the next 24 hours, you should be combing over the injury reports and looking at the depth charts to solidify your draft plans. Or, you can simply rely on the auto-draft to do that for you. But where’s the fun in that?

Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Digging Deeper

Alex Bregman

Alex Bregman

Here is the second installment in our fantasy baseball draft prep series focused on Average Draft Position (ADP). The excellent fantasy sports website, FantasyPros, provides a list of average ADP’s from CBS, Yahoo, ESPN, and the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) fantasy baseball drafts. This can help you evaluate how other fantasy baseball general managers assess the value of certain players.

It’s important to know that the average ADP listed in parentheses next to each player’s name fluctuates daily, so it may not match exactly what you see on the FantasyPros website. They have a team of writers capable of constant updates. I have a pair of terriers begging me to take them for a walk.

3B – Alex Bregman, Houston (86.5) – JetSetters General Manager David Kahn acquired Bregman as a free agent on July 24 last year and the 22-year-old third baseman made his Major League debut on July 25. He played in 49 games, hitting eight homers, driving in 34 runs and finishing with a .791 OPS. Bregman ended the season ranked 847th in the final player rankings due to his lack of playing time.

SP – Zack Greinke, Arizona (89.3) – The veteran pitcher was protected by The Bulls General Manager Carolyn Greene prior to the 2016 draft but he failed to live up to the investment. He suffered an oblique injury in late June and missed most of July. Greinke made just 26 starts and finished with a bloated 4.37 ERA and 1.273 WHIP. His final player ranking was 613.

OF – Jose Bautista, Toronto (90.0) – The power-hitting outfielder was protected in the 2016 draft by former Eephus Monkeys GM Jordan Mazur. He made two trips to the disabled list for knee and toe injuries and played in just 116 games, his fewest since 2012. That ended his run of six consecutive All-Star appearances. Bautista’s .817 OPS was his lowest since 2009 and he had a 103 strikeouts in 513 plate appearances. He ended the season ranked 217th.

OF – Adam Jones, Baltimore (91.3) – Jones was protected by High Cheese entering last year’s draft but he never was himself. His struggles weren’t due to injury, as he played in 152 games. Jones posted a .265 batting average, his lowest since 2007, and his .746 OPS was the lowest 2008. While he finished 217th in last year’s player rankings, Jones is just 31-years-old and is capable of a bounce-back season.

2B – Jason Kipnis, Cleveland (91.3) – Warning Track Power General Manager Mark Peterson protected Kipnis prior to the 2016 draft and the veteran second baseman rewarded him by finishing 61st in the final player rankings. Kipnis had a career-high 688 plate appearances, hitting 23 homers and driving in 82 RBI. He did lost command of the strike zone, whiffing a career-high 146 times, but who are we to quibble with his production?

OF – Matt Kemp, Atlanta (91.8) – A-Rod’s Mirrors General Manager Sean McKenna got exactly what he paid for when he drafted veteran outfielder Matt Kemp with the 97th pick last season. Kemp hit 35 homers, drove in 108 runs, and finished the season ranked 94th in the player rankings.

SP – Rick Porcello, Boston (92.5) – Veteran starting pitcher Rick Porcello was a bargain basement steal for Menehunes General Manager Elizabeth Gravely in 2016 and a big reason she won the championship. Drafted in the 19th round with the 303rd pick, Porcello was brilliant, pitching a career-high 223 innings with a career-low 3.15 ERA. He started 33 games and finished with 26 quality starts, also a career high. Porcello ended 2016 ranked 54th in the final player rankings and gave Gravely keeper value from a late-round pick.

RP – Roberto Osuna, Toronto (92.5) – Osuna is another casebook example of the value relief pitchers can add in the late rounds. High Cheese drafted the second-year reliever with the 248th pick and he finished the season ranked 49th. Osuna saved 36 of his 42 chances in 2016 while striking out 82 batters over 74 innings. His 2.68 ERA and 0.932 WHIP were slightly higher than his rookie season numbers in 2015, but they remain outstanding for Toronto’s 22-year-old closer.

OF – Khris Davis, Oakland (92.8) – Land Shark GM Meredith James landed one of the league’s biggest sluggers with the 181st pick last year. Davis broke out big time in 2016. He set career-highs in plate appearances, hits, home runs, RBI, and strikeouts. There were questions about how his power would play in the Oakland Coliseum. Davis answered with 42 homers and 102 RBI. He finished the season ranked 138th due to a prodigious number of strikeouts. He’ll be 29-years-old this season and entering his prime.

3B – Evan Longoria, Tampa (93.0) – Remember those questions about Longoria’s ability to stay healthy? In each of the past four seasons, the veteran third baseman has played in 160+ games. Los Coches Bomba drafted Longoria with last year’s 147th pick, despite past injury woes. He finished 2016 with a career-high 173 hits and 36 home runs. Longoria’s .840 OPS was his best since 2013 and he nearly cracked the Top 100, ranking 107th at season’s end.

RP – Edwin Diaz, Seattle (94.5) – The 22-year-old rookie emerged out of Seattle’s bullpen last season to claim the closer role. In 34 save situations, Diaz had a combined 31 saves/holds. He struck out 40.6 percent of the batters he faced and finished 2016 with a 2.79 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 51.2 innings pitched.

SP – Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh (99.0) – Gerrit Cole was expected to hit his prime last year, leading Bacon at Mile 11 to protect him prior to the 2016 draft. After emerging as an All-Star in 2015, not much went right for Cole last year. He made just 21 starts with a career-low 116 innings pitched due to triceps and elbow injuries. Those can be ominous signs for pitchers. When he was on the mound, Cole posted a career-high 3.88 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. Just 52 percent of his starts were quality. Cole finished the season a disappointing 681st in the player rankings.

1B – Eric Hosmer, Kansas City (100.3) – Hosmer played in 158 games last year, collecting 161 hits. He had career-highs in homers (25) and RBI (104), and finished with a .761 OPS. The Lower Haighters drafted Hosmer with the 94th pick hoping for a Top 100 finish. He was close enough, finishing 131st, though he didn’t quite return his value.

3B – Anthony Rendon, Washington (100.3) – Mirrors GM Sean McKenna found a value pick with Rendon. After an injury-plagued 2015 season, Rendon bounced back to play in a career-high 156 games in 2016. He was very productive, collecting a career-high 85 RBI and 20 home runs. Rendon’s .797 OPS was second only to his 2014 campaign. He ended the season ranked 91st, giving McKenna an additional two rounds of value.

SP – Aaron Sanchez, Toronto (110.5) – If Rendon was a value pick for McKenna, Sanchez was like finding a new Armani suit at the thrift store for five bucks. In his third major league season, Sanchez tossed a career-high 192 innings and blossomed into a frontline starter. He had 23 quality starts in 30 attempts while posting a 3.00 ERA and 1.167 WHIP. His 7.5 K/9 rate isn’t elite but he certainly has the look of a No. 2 starter, if not an ace. McKenna’s investment of a 353rd pick in Sanchez blossomed into a finish of 119th in the player rankings.

RP – Ken Giles, Houston (111.0) – Coming off a terrific 2015 season, Home Run 101 General Manager Bailey Penzotti protected Giles in the 2016 draft. The 25-year-old’s ERA ballooned to 4.11 as opponents belted a career-worst eight homers off the right-handed reliever. He did convert 33 of 38 save opportunities (15 saves, 18 holds) but had a penchant for giving up the long ball in his 31 low-leverage situations. Focus, Ken, focus. Those homers and runs saw Giles tumble to 143rd in the rankings by season’s end.

 

Elite Players Remain After SFRRC GMs Protect Their Players for 2017

Daniel Murphy

Daniel Murphy

Below is a list of the 16 players with the highest average draft position (ADP) in CBS, Yahoo, ESPN, and the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) that went unprotected in our league.

It’s important to understand that the ADP’s listed below (in parentheses) were compiled from thousands of fantasy baseball drafts on the major providers. They are not specifically tied to our league settings. They are essentially crowdsourced rankings. They illustrated the value placed on them by fantasy league GMs across the country.

Most of the GMs who are drafting right now to build their teams, feel the players below will reach keeper status in their leagues. Only time will tell if they reach elite status in ours.

1B/2B – Daniel Murphy, Washington (32.3) – In 2016, Murphy was protected by Marin Menehunes General Manager Elizabeth Gravely. Murphy was extremely valuable because of his eligibility at 1B/2B/3B. While he loses eligibility at 3B this year, he’s coming of a season where he scored 91 runs, knocked in 110, and finished with a .982 OPS. He ended 2016 as the league’s 17th-ranked player.

SP – Yu Darvish, Texas (40.8) – Darvish was sensational in 2013, finishing fourth overall in the final player rankings. He tossed 209.2 innings with 21 quality starts, 2.83 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. In 2014, he was shutdown early with an elbow injury that required surgery. He missed all of 2015 and didn’t pitch again until late May of 2016. He ended last season ranked 130th, throwing 105.1 innings with a 3.67 ERA and 1.11 WHIP.

OF – Yoenis Cespedes, NY Mets (50.3) – Gravely chose Cespedes with her first pick in last year’s draft (82nd overall) and he finished the season ranked 114th. Cespedes scored 72 runs with 86 RBI, and a .884 OPS. He had just 547 plate appearances because of a trip to the disabled list with an injured quad.

SP – Carlos Carrasco, Cleveland (58.8) – Warning Track GM Mark Peterson drafted Carrasco with the 92nd overall selection in last year’s draft. Carrasco fractured a hand in September and finished with just 146.1 innings pitched with 14 quality starts, a 3.32 ERA and 1.13 WHIP.

OF – Ian Desmond, Colorado (61.3) – Desmond was a bargain for High Cheese GM Matt Patchell last year. He had position eligibility at both shortstop and outfield and scored 107 runs, knocked in 88, and finished with a .775 OPS on 691 plate appearances.  Desmond ended the season ranked 64th overall.

OF – Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh (62.0) – Bacon at Mile 11 General Manager Eric Brown drafted Polanco with the 98th selection in last year’s draft and he finished the season ranked 103rd overall. Brown essentially got his money’s worth when Polanco scored 79 runs, drove in 86, and had a .785 OPS on 587 plate appearances.

OF – Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati (67.5) – The Eephus Monkeys (now the Midtown Marsupials) drafted Hamilton with the 154th pick in last year’s draft and the speedy outfielder finished the season ranked 120th. Hamilton is essentially a one-trick pony, and that pony can steal bases. He ended last season with 50 net stolen bases. In 2015 he had 51. He doesn’t score enough runs and his OPS is pathetic so tread carefully.

2B – Ian Kinsler, Detroit (68.3) – Kinlser was a bargain for last year’s champions. He was drafted 111th and finished 2016 ranked 38th. He scored 117 runs for the Menehunes and had a .831 OPS. In five of the last six seasons, Kinsler has 675+ plate appearances. He’s not a big base stealer at this point in his career but he’s a good source of runs and RBIs for a middle infielder.

1B – Hanley Ramirez, Boston (76.0) – Ramirez was a bargain for Los Coches Bomba in 2016. The Boston first baseman was drafted in the ninth round with the 142nd pick. He went on to score 81 runs, drive in 113, and post a .861 OPS in 632 plate appearances. Ramirez ended 2016 ranked 58th in the final player rankings.

1B – Chris Davis, Baltimore (76.3) – Few players represent baseball’s three true outcomes in today’s game like Davis. For the uninitiated, the three outcomes when a batter comes to the plate are a walk, a strikeout, or a home run. Davis led the league in strikeouts last year with 219 but he also belted 38 homers and walked 88 times. High Cheese protected Davis last year but he finished the season ranked 239th after failing to repeat 2015’s 47 homers and 117 RBI.

OF – Mark Trumbo, Baltimore (76.3) – A-Rod’s Mirrors General Manager Sean McKenna found one of the league’s best bargains in last year’s draft with Trumbo. He selected Baltimore’s big first baseman in the 16th round with the 256th overall pick. Trumbo hit a career-high, and league-high, 47 homers. He also had a career-high 108 RBI and ended the season ranked 71st in the player rankings.

RP – Mark Melancon, San Francisco (79.8) – If you want a good argument, buy a group of SFRRC Fantasy Baseball League general managers beers and then begin debating the pros and cons of keeping relief pitchers. Last season, The Bulls General Manager Carolyn Greene gambled and won. She kept Melancon and he finished the season with 47 net saves/holds and ranked 43rd in the final player rankings. Let the arguments begin!

SP – Masahiro Tanaka, NY Yankees (81.8) – Tanaka set a career high with 19 quality starts last year and but his percentage of starts that ended in quality was a career low 61 percent. Compare that to 2014 when he started 20 games and posted quality starts 16 times. The Lower Haighters chose Tanaka in the eighth round last year with the 126th pick and he finished the season ranked 105th. Tanaka was valuable, but he wasn’t a keeper.

RP – Seung-hwan Oh, St. Louis (82.8) – The first big free-agent acquisition of 2016 was made by Land Shark General Manager Meredith James. On April 14, just two weeks into the season, she dropped Chris Colabello to add Oh. He collected 14 holds and 19 saves while posting a 1.92 ERA and 0.916 WHIP. That was good enough to propel Oh to a 40th place finish in the final player rankings and strengthen the argument that good relievers can be found for a song.

SP – Cole Hamels, Texas (83.3) – High Cheese drafted veteran hurler Hamels in the seventh round last season with the 105th overall pick. He started 32 games and pitched 200.2 innings while posting 22 quality starts. Hamels struck out 200 batters but he struggled with his command. He walked a career-high 77 batters and posted a career-high 1.306 WHIP. Hamels ended 2016 ranked 223rd in the final player rankings.

2B – D.J. LeMahieu, Colorado (86.3) – JetSetters General Manager David Kahn discovered a bargain in LeMahieu during last year’s draft. He took the Colorado shortstop in the 12th round with the 189th pick overall. LeMahieu was fantastic. He finished with a career-high .348 batting average and .911 OPS. He scored 104 runs and knocked in 66 and finished 15th in National League MVP voting. More importantly, LeMahieu ended the season ranked 42nd in the final player rankings.

 

Measuring the 2017 Keepers: Pitchers

clayton-kershaw-no-hitter

Clayton Kershaw is the top-rated player in fantasy baseball.

Warning Track Power and the Midtown Marsupials zigged when others zagged when it came to protecting players from their 2016 roster.

They were the league’s only two teams to keep three pitchers. Warning Track Power General Manger Mark Peterson kept starters Chris Sale and David Price and reliever Zach Britton. The Bush family kept starters Jacob deGrom and Carlos Martinez as well as reliever Kelvin Herrera.

A total of 20 starting pitchers were protected by teams while seven relievers were kept.

Eight of the 10 starters who are projected by Steamer to pitch 200+ innings were protected by league general managers. Rick Porcello and Dallas Keuchel were allowed to fall back into next week’s league draft by their respective owners. Every starter that is projected to earn 20+ quality starts was protected.

General managers will have several elite closers to choose from in the league draft as Seung Hwan Oh, Mark Melancon, and Jeurys Familia went unprotected. Given the annual volatility in the relief pitching market, you can’t blame general managers for not investing valuable high draft choices in the position. Still, nothing protects the pitching ratio categories better than an elite closer.

Below are the totals for each team’s protected pitchers based on this year’s Steamer projections. They can help you determine which categories to focus on during next Monday’s player draft.

Steamer Projections for Pitchers | Keepers 2017
Team Innings ERA WHIP K/9 QS NSV/H
The Bulls 323.0 3.49 1.165 9.470 29.7 0
Home Run 101 212.5 3.28 1.180 7.960 21.3 0
Bacon at Mile 11 178.1 3.38 1.190 9.560 17.9 0
Hapamon 207.3 2.36 0.970 10.810 22.8 0
Las Estellas Rojas 178.1 3.10 1.100 10.600 18.5 0
Let’s Play 2 406.6 3.62 1.200 8.685 39.3 0
JetSetters 191.0 3.80 1.240 8.540 18.1 0
High Cheese 258.8 2.87 1.095 11.680 19.3 35
Land Shark 187.9 3.91 1.320 7.550 17.5 0
Stadium Mustard 248.8 3.46 1.195 9.585 16.7 35
Buster Hugs 271.2 2.89 1.035 11.040 20.9 35
Midtown Marsupials 439.8 3.44 1.226 9.046 36.6 30
Warning Track Power 455.1 3.17 1.146 9.433 38.0 35
A-Rod’s Mirrors 264.7 3.35 1.175 10.650 19.8 36
Lower Haighters 197.1 3.39 1.220 8.880 19.6 0
Marin Menehunes 271.2 3.62 1.190 9.485 21.0 30

Measuring the 2017 Keepers: Hitters

Mike Trout

Mike Trout leads a strong group of hitters protected by Eric Brown and Bacon.

Bacon at Mile 11 General Manager Eric Brown has built the foundation for the league’s top offense with the players he protected from last year’s roster. At least, that’s how it looks based on the 2017 Steamer player projections.

Brown invested heavily in hitters, keeping outfielder Mike Trout, third baseman Nolan Arenado, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and young second baseman Trea Turner. Trout is projected to lead the league in both OPS and runs scored and finish second in RBI. The Steamer projections have Arenado leading the league in RBI while Turner is projected to finish fourth in stolen bases.

If you are to believe the Steamer projections, and the system is annually one of the most accurate in fantasy baseball, Bacon at Mile 11 has accumulated more runs, RBI, plate appearances, net stolen bases and will have a higher OPS than any team in the league.

League general managers elected to protect their valuable hitters during the keeper draft. The Lower Haighters, Las Estella Rojas (formerly Los Coches Bomba), Land Shark, JetSetters, Home Run 101, Hapamon, and Bacon all protected four hitters. The Mirrors, Busters Hugs, High Cheese, Let’s Play 2, the Bulls and Stadium Mustard protected three hitters.

Warning Track Power and the Midtown Marsupials built around pitching, protecting just two batters each.

A total of six shortstops, 18 outfielders, a pair of C/OF’s, three catchers, five third basemen, five utility players (multiple position eligibility), and eight first basemen were protected by the league’s general managers.

Below are the totals for each team’s protected hitters based on this year’s Steamer projections. They can help you determine which categories to focus on during next Monday’s player draft.

Steamer Projections for Hitters | Keepers 2017
Team Runs RBI K’s OPS N/SB PA
The Bulls 247.0 243.2 412.7 0.791 37.5 1,896
Home Run 101 311.8 293.6 361.4 0.803 33.7 2,413
Bacon at Mile 11 379 377.3 466.4 0.892 40.2 2,602
Hapamon 334.7 252.1 464.2 0.779 49.5 2,572
Las Estellas Rojas 336.5 356.7 501.7 0.847 10.4 2,540
Let’s Play 2 285.2 274.6 351.7 0.816 18.3 1,996
JetSetters 299.8 278.2 481.1 0.815 31.0 2,306
High Cheese 237.7 244.1 432.9 0.843 11.5 1,778
Land Shark 325.8 345.6 454.6 0.832 18.3 2,499
Stadium Mustard 229.2 223.3 291.5 0.782 12.8 1,839
Buster Hugs 201.6 202.5 246.0 0.785 18.3 1,643
Midtown Marsupials 170.3 162.0 234.8 0.788 10.7 1,306
Warning Track Power 172.8 177.4 276.9 0.849 3.5 1,234
A-Rod’s Mirrors 262.0 269.9 358.8 0.863 12.8 1,889
Lower Haighters 349.6 359.6 526.2 0.851 18.6 2,546
Marin Menehunes 223.5 220.2 420.4 0.754 23.9 1,900