Comments/Fantasy predictions: Stephen Strasburg finishes with more fantasy value than Max Scherzer, while Ryan Zimmerman reverts to his injury-riddled ways. Gio Gonzalez isn’t a top-50 fantasy starter, and Michael Taylor goes 20/20…Aaron Nola is a top-10 fantasy SP, while Rhys Hoskins emphatically proves last year was no fluke, as he leads the National League in homers. Scott Kingery, Aaron Altherr, Jorge Alfaro and J.P. Crawford are other young, intriguing talents possibly ready to make big leaps. Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez both have upside. The Phillies also have a fascinating new manager and an underrated bullpen, so with the second NL Wild Card seemingly up for grabs, and baseball being such a crapshoot once the postseason starts, the Phillies are my favorite long shot bet of the season.
I worry about Michael Conforto’s ability to return from that injury, but THE BAT projects 30 homers over just 480 at bats and an .884 OPS that would rank top-20 in MLB, so he very well could prove to be a major difference maker in fantasy leagues given his modest ADP…Steven Matz and Matt Harvey both fail to bounce back, but Noah Syndergaard is a universal first round fantasy pick in 2019, a year in which we can only hope the term “helium” is used slightly less frequently.
Freddie Freeman easily finishes with more fantasy value than Paul Goldschmidt, while A.J. Minter is drafted as a top-five closer in 2019. Ronald Acuna wins NL Rookie of the Year in a unanimous vote and is a top-20 fantasy outfielder despite starting the year in the minors…Lewis Brinson struggles to hit .240, while Cameron Maybin records 40+ steals, and Kyle Barraclough notches 30+ saves.
National League Central
1. Chicago Cubs
2. St. Louis Cardinals (Wild Card)
3. Pittsburgh Pirates
4. Milwaukee Brewers
5. Cincinnati Reds
Comments/Fantasy predictions: Jose Quintana finishes with the most fantasy value on Chicago’s staff, while Brandon Morrow is a top-10 closer. Jon Lester goes down as a bust, but Addison Russell busts out at age 24, as he and teammates Javier Baez and Ian Happ all finish with more fantasy value than Elvis Andrus…Dominic Leone is the Cardinals RP to own, while Jose Martinez goes down as one of the biggest draft day steals of 2018 and Jack Flaherty as one of the best last round picks. Go here for my more detailed Cardinals team preview.
Jameson Taillon finally lives up to the hype, but it’s Joe Musgrove who’s ultimately the most profitable Pirates player. Start cheap base stealers in DFS when facing the Tyler Glasnow/Francisco Cervelli battery… Jonathan Villar is the biggest boom-or-bust pick in fantasy drafts, and I own very few shares. There will be one FAAB period this year in which Josh Hader is the clear top prize. Orlando Arcia is one of my favorite sleepers, while Christian Yelich, who goes from a home park that greatly suppresses lefty power to arguably the second-most favorable in MLB (behind only Yankee Stadium), returns borderline first round value.
Scott Schebler batted .198/.298/.387 at home last year in a terrific hitter’s park, especially for lefties. It probably means nothing, but he’s awfully cheap in drafts for someone who just hit 17 homers with an .885 OPS over 251 at bats on the road. I love the idea of Jose Peraza, but I’m afraid he simply can’t hit (he’s also 0-for-3 on SB attempts this spring, for what it’s worth). Billy Hamilton leads MLB in steals, while Luis Castillo is a top-15 fantasy SP, with only a lack of wins and innings preventing him from being higher. The Giants traded away Castillo for Casey McGehee, who produced a .213/.275/.299 line for them over 127 at bats.
National League West
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Arizona Diamondbacks
3. Colorado Rockies
4. San Francisco Giants
5. San Diego Padres
Comments/Fantasy predictions: Cody Bellinger joins Mike Trout and Bryce Harper as the only players to hit 35+ homers with 10+ steals, while Yasiel Puig finishes as a top-20 outfielder. On a team absolutely loaded with talent, L.A. also has some real interesting sleepers in Austin Barnes, Walker Buehler, Logan Forsythe, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Joc Pederson. Clayton Kershaw puts his back issues behind him and wins the Cy Young and the MVP. He’s the No. 2 overall player on my board.
Zack Greinke has velocity question marks; the Diamondbacks have yet to officially name a closer (Archie Bradley hasn’t been used in save situations in spring, for what it’s worth); and pretty much all Arizona hitters have plenty of reason to be faded with the team’s introduction of a humidor, so this isn’t the greatest situation for fantasy owners. Arguably the biggest fantasy story entering 2018 is how Chase Field will now play. Here’s my longer Diamondbacks team preview.
Jonathan Gray would be at the top of my breakout list if he didn’t call Coors Field home, but at least he’ll have strong bullpen and run support. Chris Iannetta hits more homers than Buster Posey, while DJ LeMahieu wins the NL batting title. Carlos Gonzalez is undervalued at draft tables, and Trevor Story paces all shortstops with 35 homers, as few players outperform their ADP more in 2018.
Perhaps no one is hurt more by his home park than Brandon Belt (15.2 HR/FB% career on the road versus 8.2% at home), and an already thin San Francisco team took major hits with injuries to Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija. It could be another long year in the Bay Area…Dinelson Lamet’s injury is a buzzkill, while Manuel Margot finishes with more fantasy value than Wil Myers. Tyson Ross is a candidate for comeback player of the year and a deep sleeper currently owned in just two percent of Yahoo leagues.
Be sure to check out my American League preview coming soon.