2017 Rookie/Prospect Sleepers for Fantasy Baseball Re-Draft Leagues

These players might not be the hot shot names who everyone is reaching for in fantasy baseball drafts, but they are the guys you pick-up mid-season and hope they get hot for a month while your starter is out with a sprained something (ankle, wrist, elbow ligament, etc …). Here are the 2017 Rookie/Prospect Sleepers for Fantasy Baseball Re-Draft Leagues:

Hunter Dozier KC, CI/OF – There is a pretty decent chance that Dozier is already better than Jorge Soler. Dozier certainly outhit Soler in Spring Training, with a 1.300 OPS in 22 at-bats vs. Soler’s .540 OPS in 49 at-bats. But if you want to ignore Spring stats, which is probably smart, Soler also failed to win an everyday job with his first club in Chicago, and that was with Kyle Schwarber out for the year with a knee injury and Jason Heyward out for the year with Fuck You money. I’m saying this to highlight that even beyond the obvious path to playing time, like injuries (Lorenzo Cain is already out with a “tight side,” whatever that means) and trades (Cain, Eric Hosmer, and Moose are all on expiring contracts), there is path to playing time just on performance alone. And if Dozier does get that playing time, don’t be surprised if he goes on a Ryon Healy-like run, although you should expect solid power with an average that won’t kill you.

Jacob Faria TB, RHP – The poor man’s Jose De Leon, Faria might be leading the charge for underappreciated change-up masters. Traditional scouts seem to devalue the change-up while pumping up the curveball, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard about guys with nasty curveballs in the minors which suddenly disappear in the Majors (cough, Phil Hughes, cough). The sneaky pitchers who can change speeds and keep you guessing are always my favorites, and you don’t even have to compromise on size with Faria, as he stands a sturdy 6’4’’, 200 pounds. Strikeouts and homers will likely be his calling card early in his career, and that career could start after the first couple Rays starters go down.

Sam Travis BOS, 1B – Everybody is talking about the limited power upside with Travis, but he was already on his way to turning that around last season at Triple-A before tearing his ACL, hitting 6 homers in 47 games. This after hitting only 9 homers in 131 games in 2015. Along with the homer uptick, there was an uptick in strikeouts as well, so you can tell this was a conscious effort to hit the ball over the fence more, which he was relatively successful at in the early going. He has also maintained that power surge in Spring Training, jacking 3 homers in 44 at-bats. Travis is looking like that prototypical plus hit tool prospect who might be on the verge of taking off using an altered swing path and power hitting mentality. The only thing Red Sox fans need to worry about is that he boosts his value enough for Dombrowski to ship him off for a reliever rental.

Jesse Winker CIN, OF – Winker should be working on what Travis seems to be in the process of doing, which to be blunt, is hitting more homeruns. And Winker comes with an even more impressive plate approach and hit tool than Travis had. If any of Cincinnati’s shaky outfielders go down with an injury or fail to perform, Winker will be the next man up, and I expect for him to start hitting for more power in Cincinnati’s homer happy ballpark, and with MLB’s homer happy baseballs.

Tyler Jay MIN, Closer – I’m actually pumped about Jay’s permanent move to the bullpen for fantasy, because solid mid-rotation starters (which is what Jay’s upside was starting to look like) just don’t make much of an impact on winning fantasy leagues. But electric fastball/slider closer’s do. Have you seen what Minnesota’s so called back of the bullpen looks like? It looks exactly like Jay being the closer in T minus 3 months.

 Jesus Aguilar MIL, 1B – Milwaukee is not paying Eric Thames the type of money that says he can’t be benched. In fact, they are already trying him in the OF to increase his versatility. The last thing you want to hear about your fantasy player is that the team is trying to increase his versatility. They don’t bench guys anymore or demote guys to the minors, they “increase their versatility” now. Aguilar impressed the team enough that he made the opening day roster, and while he might not steal all of Thames at-bats right out of the gate, he is the leading candidate to be that waiver claim, Yangervis Solarte-like Spring Training breakout guy. Or maybe he gets cut by May. Either way, he will cost you nothing to acquire, while Thames is a favorite sleeper who many people are targeting.

By Michael Halpern (@MichaelCHalpern)
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

6 Random Thoughts as Opening Day Nears

Tip of the hat to Mike Axisa of RiverAveBlues.com who has been writing a Thoughts column for years. He is one of my favorite baseball writers and his Thoughts columns are always great. On that note, here are 6 random thoughts as Opening Day nears:

1) Don’t be afraid to jump on the players who get off to hot starts on the waiver wire. I find that every year the top breakouts are scooped within the first few weeks of the season. Don’t listen to all the experts mindlessly yelling at you to be patient with the guys you drafted. Be an animal early and often on the wire.

2) I know Joe Maddon and the Cubs are zany, but I just realized they might be taking their cues from George Costanza. After Jose Albertos utterly dominated in his first start of the season, wowing the scouts, Chicago quickly shut him down for the entire year. Sorry Theo, but Costanza already invented the “leaving on a high note” move. I’ve still been drafting him everywhere, because I love the upside, or maybe it’s just because I love Larry David style mind games.

3) Johnny Cueto and Evan Longoria are 31 … not 41. I find these guys being discounted in Dynasty as if they are Adrian Beltre, who incidentally, everyone has been trying to put a fork in for several years too. Owning young breakout candidates and prospects is a lot of fun, but you know what else is fun … winning now. And you can grab fun breakout guys later in the draft who are valued properly, not valued like they already broke out.

4) If you don’t have Netflix, it is worth buying this month just to see Dave Chappelle’s new stand-up special, The Age of Spin: Dave Chappelle Live at the Hollywood Palladium. There is nothing more I can possibly say that would do it any justice at all. Jim Norton and Mike Birbiglia also had hysterical recently released Netflix specials.

5) I’ve been ending up with either Greg Bird or Tommy Joseph in every draft, but never both. One always goes way too early, and the other goes way too late. In Ralph’s Friends & Family RCL League, I got Bird super late, while Joseph went in the middle rounds. In my hometown Dynasty, there was a bidding war over Bird which escalated to $22, while I was able to snag Joseph for $5.50. I should mention 80% of that league are Yankees fans.

6) I was probably far too excited to finally receive the spoils from my hard-fought hometown Dynasty League victory (pictured below). All of Saturday night, I wore the Championship Belt on my shoulder like a goddamn WWE Superstar out drinking with my league mates. At one point, this smoking hot bartender came up to me with the biggest smile on her face and asked me how I won the belt. I proudly told her, “I won my fantasy baseball league last year.” I’ve never seen a smile wipe off someone’s face faster as she said, “Oh, I thought you won a boxing tournament or something.” The male bartender was still super interested though. Fantasy Baseball: Repelling Women and Attracting Dudes for Over 30 Years.

By Michael Halpern (@MichaelCHalpern)
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

2017 Fantasy Baseball Minor League Prospect Rundown: Spring Training, Take Two

Spring Training stats should always be taken with a grain of salt, but if a player transformed his body, or improved his swing, or impressed coaches with a renewed mindset and work ethic, it could be a sign of legitimate improvement. Here is the 2017 Fantasy Baseball Minor League Prospect Rundown: Spring Training, Take Two:

Andrew Benintendi BOS, OF – If you are concerned about Benintendi’s .179 batting average and 36% K% in his 33 MLB at-bats against lefties, maybe this rocket shot he crushed last night that cleared the fence in .2 seconds will help ease those fears. This guy is going to absolutely wear out Pesky Pole. Actually, the Red Sox are already preparing for the assault, reinforcing Pesky Pole with 40 feet of new steel, among other repairs.

Steven Matz NYM, LHP – Well, that was quick. Shortly after listing Matz 1st on my Post-Tommy John Surgery Death Zone Watch List, he was scratched from his next scheduled start due to “irritation” in his left elbow. He won’t have an MRI, but don’t worry, the trusty Mets PR department and front office assures that there is nothing structurally wrong. “There is nothing structurally wrong” sounds like the new “dreaded vote of confidence” mangers get right before being fired.

A.J. Reed HOU, 1B – The work Reed put in this off-season on conditioning and bat speed has clearly paid off, as not only has he raked in Spring, but Houston coaches have been raving about him. This is how you like to see young players respond to adversity, because it won’t be the last time they have to overcome obstacles, whether it be due to injury or the constant game of adjustments that is MLB hitting.

Kyle Lewis SEA, OF – I’m no doctor, but this video certainly looks like an encouraging sign that Lewis’ knee rehab is going well. Feel free to draft him with increasing confidence in prospect and Dynasty drafts.

Corey Ray MIL, OF – Ray also returned to game action this week after tearing his meniscus in October. While we are on the topic of injured 2016 college bats …

Nick Senzel CIN, 3B – Doubled in his first game back after taking a pitch to his wrist in live batting practice a couple weeks ago. There is nothing worse than a wrist injury for a hitter, so hopefully this will be the last we hear of it.

Jesus Aguilar MIL, 1B – Spring Training stats don’t matter, unless you are a 26-year-old bad bodied first baseman who basically has to hit like Babe Ruth in order for somebody to give you a shot. And that is exactly what Aguilar is doing this Spring, hitting .462 with 5 homers in 52 at-bats. He has been completely outplaying the Korean sensation, Eric Thames, and is making Milwaukee rethink their opening day roster. If you are looking for an Adam Duvall like breakout in the next couple years, keep your eye on Aguilar.

Jose Berrios MIN, RHP – Minnesota claims Berrios won’t make the MLB team because the WBC prevented him from being properly stretched out, but I have a sneaking suspicion it might also have something to do with his 8.02 ERA in 14 starts last year. I’ve jumped so far off the Berrios bandwagon that I actually had a Coors pitcher (Gray) and an AL East pitcher (Bundy) ranked ahead of him when I Re-Ranked the Graduates from My 2016 Top 100 Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings back in early January (I would probably put Turner #1 now).

Raul Mondesi Jr. KC, SS/2B – It’s odd that people seem to completely ignore the obvious step forward Mondesi took last year in the upper levels of the minors, OPS’ing .779 at Double-A and .863 at Triple-A in 172 combined at-bats, while they overly focus on the inevitable struggles he had in the Majors. He hit well in Winter Ball, has been raking in Spring, and even if he doesn’t break camp with the team, I wouldn’t expect him to be held down for long. This is a potential elite speed/power combo who is not being valued like that in Dynasty drafts.

Franklin Barreto OAK, SS/2B – Billy Beane can’t wait until he can finally show something from that awful Josh Donaldson trade, and with Jed Lowrie and Chad Pinder the only thing in the way of that, you can bet Barreto will be called up sooner rather than later.

Cody Reed CIN, LHP/Amir Garrett CIN, LHP – I think I could have made a run at a rotation spot in Cincinnati’s dumpster fire of a starting rotation. Their ballpark is a launching pad and while I think both of these guys can be solid mid-rotation starters long term, they look like nothing but landmines for this season.

Alen Hanson PIT, UTIL – MLB’s cockamamie team control rules will finally help the player and not the team, as Hanson is out of options, and if he doesn’t make the big league club, there would be no shortage of teams who would jump at the chance to claim him. Plus, the United States doesn’t look all too keen about letting Jung-ho Kang back into the country, so there could be more playing time available than originally thought.

Jose Quintana HOU, LHP – Seriously Houston, just pull the trigger already. You have a million talented outfielders who deserve a shot and a highly volatile starting rotation.

Derek Fisher HOU, OF – Speaking of Houston outfielders, Fisher hit well this Spring, but has really impressed on the base paths, jacking 10 bases in 34 at-bats. It can be hard to know how much to trust minor league steal numbers, but it sure does seem like this man loves to run.

Austin Meadows PIT, OF – Meadows crushed a ball out of the ballpark against a lefty on Saturday, which continued his torrid Spring. I don’t care that he doesn’t have a spot yet (Polanco did just get scratched with shoulder soreness), I would be going out of my way to grab him in any Dynasty drafts where he is still available.

Koda Glover WASH, RHP – Dusty Baker knows who the closer is, but nanny nanny poo poo, he’s not telling.

By Michael Halpern (@MichaelCHalpern)
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

Razzball Prospect Podcast: Top Dynasty Targets for 2017 Fantasy Baseball

On some nights, the command is a little off and the breaking pitches aren’t breaking quite right, but like a true ace, you persevere on pure grit and put your team in position to win. That’s kinda like how this week’s podcast went down. Ralph Lifshitz and I start by bemoaning the Vogelbach demotion, then move onto our favorite MLB targets in Dynasty Leagues, before doing what we do best, and talking our favorite prospect targets.

Click here for the Razzball Prospect Podcast: Top Dynasty Targets for 2017 Fantasy Baseball

By Michael Halpern (@MichaelCHalpern)
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

High Risk Starting Pitchers in the Post-Tommy John Surgery Death Zone

Injury prediction and prevention is most likely the next “Moneyball”/“The Extra 2%”/“That 1 Weird Trick to Help Boost Your Testosterone” (hint, it’s HGH) that you don’t really hear teams talk about very much. In fact, there is not a single thing that teams obstruct, mislead, and straight up lie about more than injuries (A.J. Preller says hi). One thing has trickled out, though, and that is conventional wisdom around the league holds that Tommy John surgery has a shelf life of about 7-8 years. This is by no means a fact, and every case is obviously different, but if a pitcher who falls in that range has also been having arm trouble recently, it seems to my civilian mind that is a recipe for disaster. Here are the pitchers who are at high risk for a 2nd Tommy John surgery and/or performance decline:

Steven Matz NYM, TJS date: May 2010 – I drafted Matz as my 4th starter in my latest 12 team redraft league. I say this to highlight the fact I don’t hate these pitchers and I’m not completely avoiding them, especially in redrafts. The risk becomes greater in dynasty and keeper formats for obvious reasons. Matz has long been labeled injury prone, and the concerns have only heightened since reaching the Majors. He underwent arthroscopic surgery this off-season to remove a large bone spur from his pitching elbow, which hopefully helps with the shoulder impingement that was bothering him all year and required a platelet plasma injection of its own. This May will be the 7-year anniversary of his first Tommy John surgery. Draft at your own risk.

Stephen Strasburg WASH, August 2010 – Strasburg was basically shut down in mid-August with a small tear in the pronator tendon, which caused his forearm to tighten every time he threw his slider. In an effort to remain healthy this year he will try to limit his slider usage, and if Spring Training is any indication, it looks like he might pitch exclusively from the stretch. I appreciate the willingness to try new things and recognize the elbow tendon grim reaper is looming, but even if the adjustments minimize the risk of injury, it increases the risk of performance decline. Strasburg’s performance wasn’t the problem when he was on the mound. There are more unknowns here than I am comfortable with when drafting an ace.

Danny Salazar CLE, August 2010 – Salazar’s elbow started bothering him around last year’s all-star break, eventually sidelining him in August after saying, “there’s something in my elbow and I don’t know what it is.” He was later diagnosed with the catchall “elbow inflammation.” His strikeout upside is worth hoping his elbow tendon can continue hanging on by what I’m sure is a thread, and he’s looked great so far this Spring, but don’t tell me you weren’t warned.

Jacob deGrom NYM, October 2010 – deGrom had season ending surgery in late September to repair ulnar nerve damage in his right arm. He had been experiencing forearm soreness for about a month before the surgery and his velocity was down all season from where he sat in 2015. It seems the surgery has worked so far, as he has dominated in Spring, so while he could be worth the risk in redrafts, I would be highly skeptical of him in Dynasty leagues.

Carlos Carrasco CLE, September 2011 – The problems have already started for Carrasco this season, as he experienced swelling in his elbow after his March 13th start. The MRI came back clean and he should return to action later this week, but considering the problems the first 4 guys on this list experienced in their 6th post-TJS year, it isn’t a great sign.

Rich Hill LAD, June 2011 – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a potential ace’s draft stock discounted more due to injury risk than with Hill this year. I’ve been ending up with him everywhere, but am preparing for under 150 IP.

Adam Wainwright STL, March 2011 – The torn ACL that kept him on the shelf for 5 months in 2015 might actually help preserve Wainwright’s elbow longer than expected. The bigger question is how effective he will be, as he took a major step back in 2016, and almost surely looks to be in the back nine of his career. I’m expecting an ERA under 4 this year, but a return to ace status would be a surprise.

Jordan Zimmermann DET, August 2009 – If I had been doing this list for the last two years, Zimmerman would have made the list both times, and both times you would have been keen to stay away from him. His velocity has now dropped two years in a row, and he pitched in only 105.1 innings last season due to injuries, although unrelated to his arm. He’s been getting pounded this Spring too, and even if you don’t buy into the extra injury risk, the performance decline looks to be in full swing.

John Lackey CHC, November 2011 – Lackey’s 2011 Tommy John surgery seemed to give him a late career jolt, as he just finished up his 4th excellent and healthy post-surgery year at the ripe old age of 38. He did hit the 15-day DL in August with shoulder tightness last year, but I’m not sure there is any increased injury/performance risk here that any other 38-year-old pitcher doesn’t already inherently have.

Francisco Liriano TOR, November 2006 – Liriano’s been a high injury/performance risk since going under the knife over a decade ago, and that has never been more true than it is for this season. Considering the very low draft price, though, it might be a risk worth taking.

Wei-Yin Chen MIA, 2006 – Chen’s velocity was down last year and he pitched only 123.1 innings due to a left elbow sprain that held him out for two months. He has already surpassed the 7-8 year timeline, but there are signs his luck is about to run out, if it hasn’t already.

Edinson Volquez MIA, August 2009/Jaime Garcia ATL, February 2008 – The list of starting pitchers who underwent Tommy John surgery before Volquez and Garcia and are still pitching effectively (without needing a 2nd TJS) is very short. Other than Liriano and Chen, the entire list literally consists of Anibal Sanchez and Scott Feldman. And I’m using the word “effectively” very loosely here. Both Volquez and Garcia would have made last year’s imaginary list, and while both stayed healthy, their numbers fell off a cliff.

Dice-K June 2011 – The clock might finally be ready to hit midnight on Dice-K’s long run of stateside dominance 😉

By Michael Halpern (@MichaelCHalpern)
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

Razzball Prospect Podcast: Top Rookies/Prospects to Make an Impact in 2017

My old computer came back to life as mysteriously as it died, so everything is back to normal. Except my bank account is $120 lighter because apparently, you can’t return Microsoft Office. Thanks Geek Squad for telling me my computer was toast and that I needed a new one. Just goes to show you can never trust the “experts.” Hopefully Ralph and Halp sharing our thoughts on the possible 2017 impact rookies will help you form your own decisions on when to pounce.

Click here for the Razzball Prospect Podcast: Top Rookies/Prospects to Make an Impact in 2017

By Michael Halpern (@MichaelCHalpern)
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

Battle of The Dynasty Gurus’ Top 500 Dynasty Baseball Rankings

A few weeks ago, The Dynasty Guru did a quick write-up of my Top 50 First-Year Player Draft Rankings, and now I will return the favor for their two separate Top 500 Dynasty Lists. Let’s get right to the tale of the tape:

The Reigning Champ: Bret Sayre (Click here for Sayre’s Top 500)

The OG Dynasty Guru and founder of TheDynastyGuru.com, Sayre plies his trade in the high-ceilinged, marbled hallways of the prestigious Baseball Prospectus organization. With his experience and insider access, he takes a steady hand approach, and will rarely leave himself exposed to the knockout punch. Think Floyd Mayweather.

The Challenger: Tom Trudeau (Click here for Trudeau’s Top 500)

Trudeau makes his bones on the business side of baseball, currently developing all kinds of great business ideas for MLB.com’s business development department. He is a longtime Dynasty player in expert leagues of all shapes and sizes, and is known for his tenacious and unconventional style. He is not afraid to wind up for the knockout blow, and has a puncher’s chance to take home the belt. Think Vince McMahon.

Round 1: Kris Bryant vs. Carlos Correa

Trudeau throws his first haymaker four seconds into the fight, ranking Correa #4 overall and ahead of Kris Bryant who he has at #5. Sayre easily side steps the punch, though, keeping the already proven MVP-level talent of Bryant at #4.

Boxing-style scorecard for Round 1: 10-9 Sayre

Round 2: Gary Sanchez

Conventional wisdom says to be cautious with young catchers in fantasy baseball due to how much they have to focus on defense and the general wear and tear of the position, but it didn’t stop Trudeau from placing Sanchez 28th on his list. The catcher position wasn’t always this weak offensively and it sure seems to be due to have a shortstop-like revival in the coming years. Landing a truly elite hitting catcher can be a difference maker. Sayre has Sanchez at #57, which is a fair ranking, but sometimes you gotta be bold to beat savvy competition. Trudeau lands his first punch.

10-9 Trudeau

Round 3: Trevor Story

Anyone who has read/listened to me for any length of time knows I love me some Trevor Story, so Round 3 easily goes to Trudeau for ranking Story #43, while Sayre has him down at #75. Gotta respect Coors.

10-9 Trudeau

Round 8-ish: Justin Turner vs. Edwin Diaz

I’m noticing established vets get under drafted in re-draft leagues, so you can imagine the discount you can get them at in Dynasty leagues. The experienced Sayre knows not to undervalue very good win now production, ranking Turner 96th, while Trudeau leaves himself exposed by taking a high upside closer like Edwin Diaz at #94, dropping Turner to #156 overall. It’s much easier to figure out saves on the waiver wire and in trades than it is to find all-star level production at 3B.

10-9 Sayre

Round 12

Trudeau maintains his aggressive strategy throughout the list, ranking youngsters like Ozzie Albies and Jharrel Cotton very high, while Sayre sticks with his safe, disciplined approach. None of Trudeau’s homerun punches knock Sayre out in the short term, although they could take a toll on him years down the line in the form of an aging roster and CTE. Remember kids, always choose baseball over boxing, football, MMA, etc …

Final Decision:

I’ll let you decide, this shit’s only for fun. Both lists are excellent and valuable resources for the Dynasty Baseball community.

By Michael Halpern (@MichaelCHalpern)
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

Razzball Prospect Podcast: Underrated/Sleeper Fantasy Baseball Prospects

Things are never easy. My computer broke this week and the mic on my new computer sounds like I’m recording from inside the Midtown Tunnel. I apologize in advance for the subpar sound quality. An official podcasting mic is in the mail, so hopefully the sound will never be better starting next week. Fortunately, the sound was still good enough for me to pat myself on the back for all the great sleepers I hit on last year, while we also bullshit about our favorite guys for this year.

Click here for the Razzball Prospect Podcast: Underrated/Sleeper Prospects

By Michael Halpern (@MichaelCHalpern)
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

I Hate Technology

Without modern technology, my “website” would be me handing out pamphlets on the streets of Manhattan and my “podcast” would be me yelling about it into a megaphone. And instead of an “Imaginary Brick Wall,” I would likely be standing in front of a very real brick wall. But when my computer breaks, I want to smash it on the ground and yearn for a time when ground rule doubles were counted as home runs. If you haven’t figured it out yet, my computer won’t start, and if I don’t buy a new one it might take a few days to get this one fixed. There is a chance I won’t have a new post up until next week.

-Michael Halpern

Razzball Prospect Podcast: Toronto Blue Jays and Washington Nationals Prospects

Halph finishes what we/he/it starts. Today is the conclusion of the team farm system previews as Ralph Lifshitz and I talk Toronto Blue Jays and Washington Nationals prospects. We also get Ralph’s blissful reaction in real time to the news David Price will not need surgery.

Click here for the Razzball Prospect Podcast: Toronto Blue Jays and Washington Nationals Prospects

By Michael Halpern (@MichaelCHalpern)
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)