What business do I have posting fantasy baseball advice? Been playing fantasy baseball for over 30 years–yes, THIRTY YEARS. I also do a ton of research like listen to hours of podcasts and study dozens of “expert” lists. Now that I think about it, I also have six years of being a real-life baseball GM (although I’d be the first to admit I had everything to do with selling tickets and nothing to do with who was playing shortstop that day). My greatest fantasy baseball street cred? I spent $19 on a young outfielder before he ever took his first at bat. That outfielder was Ken Griffey, Jr.
So, to quote the cable guy from Big Lebowski, “I am expert.” Here are some lists to help you draft better. I did the homework so you don’t have to…thought I’d share it with more than just my boy and my cat.
FIVE PLAYERS TO NEVER DRAFT
Anybody on the Minnesota Twins Pitching Staff. “Wait”, you say, “…not even Berrios?” To be honest he seems like a Tommy John surgery candidate to me. The rest of that staff–starters or relievers–I wouldn’t take with the last pick in any draft. The experts are saying this will be a team playing over .500 baseball but I don’t see it. Jake Odorizzi. Michael Pineda. Kyle Gibson? NO THANKS. And that bullpen is a dumpster fire. AGAIN.
Dallas Keuchel. Currently a free agent is the former 2015 Cy Young Award Winner, Dallas Keuchel. I have him on my Dynasty League team…and was counting on him to be my 3rd or 4th starter this year. But LAST year on my dynasty team I had Alex Cobb and Greg Holland both being free agents this time of year–as Dallas Keuchel is now–and both had terrible seasons. If Keuchel got signed today I might look at him as my last starting pitcher, but missing Spring Training can’t help a guy who’s overall statistics have been declining over the last three years. I’d let someone else draft him.
Yusei Kikuchi. Yusei yes. I say NO. We all get super-excited when the next great pitcher comes to MLB from Korea, Taiwan, or Japan. Yu Darvish. Hideo Nomo. Chan Ho Park. The Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka–all staff aces in their prime. But Yusei Kikuchi is a #4 starter at best. He might have some early success until teams get some better scouting reports, but I would only take him late in any draft. The Mariners have already talked about limiting his innings this year as well. Avoid this 27 year old rookie. If you draft him, trade him in May.
Kenley Jansen. Great career. Plays on a great team that gets lots of save chances, but I think the injury risk is just too high to draft Kenley Jansen this year. I read that the heart issue is behind him, but he’s still a 31-year old, 275 pound closer…and I’m worried his shelf life might be up even with a great ticker. He’s currently being drafted as the third best closer after Diaz or Treinen, but I’d rather take someone in the later rounds with less milage.
Ozzie Albies. I know this is not a popular opinion, but I’m staying away from Atlanta second baseman Ozzie Albies. He’s currently being drafted in the 4th Round based on projections that make him into Jose Altuve. He’s only 22, had a nice rookie season, but last year he had 20 homers by the All Star Break and finished with 24. He also hardly ever walks, which makes me wonder how anyone can take him over, say, Matt Carpenter? He’s currently being drafted in the Fourth or Fifth Round. There are many great 2B options later in the draft.
TEN SECRET LATE ROUND PICKS TO GRAB
Staying away from the obvious, here are some well-researched, late-round picks for you. Five pitchers and five hitters for you to savor.
Five Pitchers to Grab
Corbin Burnes, Brewers. Burnes is currently listed on most lists of relievers, and–given the Brewers deep bullpen–his role as a reliever is limited. BUT…I was listening the other night to a podcast featuring the beat writer who covers the Brewers on a daily basis, and he thinks Burnes might be the best pitcher on the staff, and will end up being the best starter on the team. (And he should know?) Burnes is currently going undrafted in most leagues, and is well-worth a late-round flyer if you can wait until May to see what he can do. If your league has a reserve roster make Corbin Burnes a must-pick.
German Marquez, Rockies. The best thing about a blog instead of a podcast? I don’t have to pronounce his name right. German Marquez might be the best starting pitcher you’ve never heard of. He started 33 games last year, won 14 of them and struck out over 200 batters–all of the things we love about starting pitchers. His starting rotation spot is a lock this year, and–if you can get over the fact he has to pitch half his games in Colorado–he’s got the potential to be a Top-15 starting pitcher in mixed leagues. Marquez is currently being drafted in 7th round.
Collin McHugh, Astros. Collin McHugh is a decent starting pitcher, but on last year’s Houston Astros team he got caught up in a numbers game and ended up spending the entire season in the bullpen. He was lights-out as a reliever, and this year will be back in the rotation after Houston lost Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel. McHugh has 15-win potential and is currently being drafted very late in most leagues.
Jake Arrieta, Phillies. Here’s another guy who missed most of Spring Training last year–Jake Arrieta of the Phillies. I don’t expect he’ll get back to his prime days with the Cubs, but he’s going to be a top starter on a top team with plenty of offense this year. Last year’s 2018 season could have been a total loss after he missed Spring Training and then pitched the second half with a torn meniscus, but Arrieta still managed 10 wins and decent ERA and WHIP numbers. However, his strikeouts were WAY down. Arrieta is currently being drafted in about the 15th round, and I’d feel safe with him as my 3rd Starter in deeper leagues.
David Robertson, Phillies. Seems like almost every major league baseball team now treats their closers like the New England Patriots do their running backs–good luck guessing who’s getting the ball when it matters most. The Phillies manager, Gabe Kapler, is the same way. David Robertson should be the man getting saves there, but he’ll be sharing at least some of the time. His ERA and RATIO the past two years coupled with GREAT strikeout numbers would make him the obvious choice to close almost everywhere. His current ADP is 165, making him a 13th-rounder in most leagues that could easily save 35 games for what looks to be a 90-win team.
And Five Hitters…
Mallex Smith, OF Mariners. He doesn’t kill you with a bad batting average or on base percentage. He’s going to play every day for an underrated offense–the Mariners. He’s a much-better stolen base option than the Billy Hamilton types–and that’s coming from a huge Billy Hamilton fan. Maillex Smith is currently the #31 ranked outfielder, and should be available in the 8th or 9th round.
Franmil Reyes, OF Padres. He’s only 23 and doesn’t have a lock on a starting spot, but if he does, watch out. He came up to the Padres twice last year…the first time was forgettable with lots of strikeouts. It’s the second time that made me take notice…Over the last two months of the season he hit .318 and hit 10 home runs in just 50 games. That’s 30-plus home run power with a decent batting average…of course that’s all only going to happen if he starts in right field, because he’s not good overall defensively. Take Franmil Reyes in the last round and hope he starts.
Travis Shaw, 2B/3B Brewers. Not much of a sleeper here, but Travis Shaw will be drafted early–BY ME–in both of my fantasy drafts. He quietly hit 32 homers last year and many of the podcasts I’ve listened to think that he can do even better this season. AND the best part is he qualifies at both 2B and 3B in most leagues. Look for Travis Shaw in the 8th-9th round and you’ll get a guy who could put up numbers even better than Anthony Rendon, who often goes in the second or third round.
Omar Narvaez, C Mariners. It’s the year we all hate catchers. If you’re in a league that makes you take TWO catchers? That’s as bad as having to roster two kickers in fantasy football. Hopefully you only need one…and the one to take this year is Omar Narvaez of the Seattle Mariners. First, he’s got the job all to himself. Second, he can actually hit. Last year he hit .315 over the last four months of the season, and I’ve got him down for 12-16 homers and a .280 batting average in 2019…numbers I think will be at least as good–if not better–than Buster Posey. He is currently going undrafted or in the last round of many leagues.
Willy Adames, SS D’Rays. He’s currently the 30th-ranked SS, so he’s not even being drafted…but Willy Adames of the D’Rays is a young combination of speed and power. He’s another guy that had two call ups last year–and, like Franmil Reyes, he also got it right the second time. He’s going to start at SS nearly every day this year and has 20/20 home run/stolen base potential. Willy Adames.
Well, there you have it. If you’re playing against me in a league this year? I’ll expect you to send me YOUR lists. Good luck, everyone.