This Isn’t Real Life, This is Just Fantasy

As they get older, people tend to get more conservative, trading youthful vices for more mature pursuits. Like switching from heroin to methadone.

In my case, I don’t really masturbate anymore. But I do play fantasy baseball. I’ll leave it to you, dear reader, to judge which of those two activities is a shallower, more self-indulgent way to waste one’s time.

With that in mind, let’s take a Bohemian Rhapsody-inspired look at this year’s fantasy baseball season. Fellow fantasy baseballers, we’ll almost certainly never be Major League GMs, but at least we can get caught in the landslide that is 25 rounds of drafting followed by six months of navigating our teams to the Promised Land, aka bragging rights and a chunk of a piddling prize pool.

Look Up to the Skies and See
… A lot of home runs. Power is always at a premium in fantasy baseball, even when there are a handful of good power sources hiding in the later rounds of the draft. I’m not sure I see any of them this year, though. Maybe Lucas Duda? Stock up on power early.

Easy Come, Easy Go
Every fantasy preview article I’ve read has bemoaned the difficulty of collecting steals, as they have been in a precipitous decline around MLB in recent years. Therefore, it would make sense for owners to target guys like Dee Gordon and Charlie Blackmon early.

I disagree. You can usually find a surprise base burglar on the waiver wire at some point, and since other people will probably buy high on steals, it behooves you to short the market. If you are set on collecting some steals, go after players who offer a well-rounded game to go with them. Starling Marte, Christian Yelich and Kolten Wong come to mind.

Little High, Little Low
Traditionally, fantasy experts recommend you wait on pitchers, figuring they’re more likely than position players to suffer through big swings in performance from year to year. But I think this season might be an exception to that widely accepted maxim. 

Look at what happened in the real baseball offseason. Mediocre pitchers were becoming financial titans overnight (ahem, Jeff Samardzija and Mike Leake) while solid position players had difficulty finding halfway decent contracts, at least by today’s standards.

I would counsel fantasy players to take a similar, pitching-heavy approach. The top 20-25 pitchers seem to be head and shoulders above the rest, and the next 30-40 pitchers could easily go in any direction, performance-wise. Take two or three of those top arms early (look out for big seasons from Strasburg and Stroman).

But Now I’ve Gone and Thrown it All Away
The real key to having a good draft is deciding who to avoid. You can get away with your top picks only turning in decent seasons as long as your misses are few and far between.

Here are players I’ll be avoiding (relative to their average draft position – ADP – on ESPN):

Giancarlo Stanton – He has to prove he can stay healthy before I’d take him in the first round. We might be looking at a Troy Tulowitzki situation here.

David Ortiz and Prince Fielder – I like positional flexibility, so a DH has to be an absolute lock for me to look at them anywhere in the first 15 rounds. Both of these guys have low floors (injury, age, etc.) and ceilings that don’t get any higher than what they did last year.

Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez – Many expect these two to have bounce back years. Not me.

Sent Shivers Down My Spine
Let’s find some sleepers who might reward you with a tingly feeling:

Nolan Arenado – I have him ranked 6th on my board. A lock for 40 home runs and 100 RBI.

Eric Hosmer – A top-40 player in 2015 with an ADP of 76 for 2016. If you miss out on the top first-baggers, this is the guy to grab.

Francisco Lindor – According to ADP (i.e., crowdsourcing) he’s the fifth best shortstop on the board. To me, he’s second or third, after Correa and and, maybe, Bogaerts.

Anthony Rendon – A top-20 player in 2014, he has an ADP of 133 after a rough 2015. Definitely worth a gamble in the middle rounds.

Steven Souza – A real threat to go 20-20 if he stays healthy. Should be available late.

Matt Moore – He was a top-20 pitcher before he got hurt. This year you can get him at the end of the draft.

That’s it. Goodbye, everybody, I’ve got to go.


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