Just a reminder, there is no offseason in baseball, especially Fantasy Baseball. Whether you are talking about free agent signings, trades, Arizona Fall League games, or even dynasty league decisions, Fantasy Baseball is a year round endeavor. On that note, it’s never too early to take a look at sleepers and busts for the 2016 Fantasy Baseball season.
One of SCFE’s fearless leaders, Doug “RotoDaddy” Anderson, has been coordinating positional rankings from a group of industry experts. This week, first base is on the docket. To compliment Doug’s work, I will be adding a column on sleepers and busts for each of the positions.
The term sleeper is often misused in the Fantasy world. To me, it is defined simply as a player that will outperform his consensus draft ranking. There could be a variety of reasons why a certain player is being mispriced by the consensus. It could be a vet that people think is washed up, it could be a post hype prospect that has yet to fulfill their potential, and it could even be a backup that is waiting in the wings and just needs an opportunity to prove their worth.
All sleepers are not created equal. For example, a player that is ranked outside the Top 300, that may produce as a Top 100 player should not be treated the same way as a player that is ranked in the third tier at a position and may produce as well as a player ranked in the second tier.
Busts follow basically the same structure as sleepers, except in the opposite direction, where a player will underperform his consensus draft ranking. Now, let’s dig into three sleepers and three busts among first basemen.
2016 First Base Preview: Sleepers and Busts
C.J. Cron, 1B/DH, Los Angeles Angels
When given the opportunity, Cron has shown the ability to hit for power coupled with a batting average that won’t hurt you. Over his brief MLB career spanning 657 PA, which works out to basically one full season, the 25-year old has posted 27 home runs and 88 RBIs along with a .260 batting average. That batting line would have put him right on the cusp of a Top 15 ranking at first base in 2015. Playing time has been the only thing holding Cron back, but heading into 2016 he looks to have an everyday job either at first base or DH and I expect him to take full advantage of the opportunity. I think you will be able to grab Cron late in drafts as he is unlikely to be ranked within the Top 30 first basemen on many draft boards.
Mark Trumbo, 1B/OF, Seattle Mariners
Mark Trumbo is only two years removed from a season where he hit 34 home runs and 100 RBIs. Since being dealt to the Diamondbacks in the winter of 2013, Trumbo’s career has hit a snag. Fantasy owners were salivating at the thought of Trumbo launching bombs in the hitter’s haven known as Chase Field; however, injuries and inconsistent playing time took its toll. Now with an everyday spot on the Mariners, likely at first base given the trade of Logan Morrison, Trumbo has a great chance to get his career back on track.
When you look at Trumbo’s peripherals for 2015, they look very similar to his career averages, except for his HR/FB ratio. The later you get into a draft, the more you should seek upside and few, if any, first baseman will provide 30 homer/100 RBI upside as late as Trumbo will. Based on SCFE’s rankings, if all goes well and he rekindles his past, I think Trumbo has a shot to outperform his positional ranking by roughly 10 spots.
Greg Bird, 1B, New York Yankees
Greg Bird impressed in his short stint with the Yankees last year, providing good power with a decent batting average. For what it is worth, if you apply Bird’s 2015 numbers over a full season it would work out to roughly 30 homers and nearly 100 RBIs. Over his minor league career, he has shown decent pop and a fairly strong strikeout to walk ratio. Heading into 2016, the biggest question mark is around playing time. With Mark Teixeira manning first base and Alex Rodriguez locking up DH, Bird appears to be without a home on Opening Day. It seems like a good bet that one or both of those guys will miss some time due to injuries next year, so I think Bird could still be Fantasy relevant. Bird will not be ranked very high and he is definitely worth a shot as a late round flier.
Albert Pujols, 1B, Los Angeles Angels
I think Albert Pujols will be drafted way too early by people relying on his past and more specifically his 2015 numbers. First, he just had foot surgery and is expected to be back to full baseball activities in four to five months, which takes him into the start of the season. It would be safe to assume a full season is not in the cards for Pujols and I would imagine there is a chance of a lingering issues, plus add in the fact that he will be 36 before the start of next season.
Second, his batted ball profile has been deteriorating recently and last year he posted his lowest Hard% since 2011, his highest Soft% since 2011, and his lowest LD% since 2009. Despite the weak under-the-hood numbers, Pujols recorded a HR/FB ratio of 17.8%, his best mark since he joined the Angels prior to the 2012 campaign. I think a sub 25 HR season in 2016 is much more likely than a repeat of the 40 bombs that he hit last year.
Pujols also faded down the stretch last year as all of his headline and underlying peripherals were much weaker in the second half. Things are not all bad for The Machine as he may see some regression from his .244 batting average last year, since his BABIP was an ungodly and likely unsustainable .217. Do not fall into the recency bias that will be in play with Pujols, avoid this bust.
Chris Colabello, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays
Colabello had a lucky season in 2015, there is no other way to put it. A .411 BABIP and 23.4% HR/FB ratio both seem extremely unlikely to be repeated. His 25.2% line drive rate supports a higher than league average BABIP, but maybe something closer to the .325/.350 range would be more reasonable, which will probably result in a batting average closer to .260. His counting stats should all take a hit corresponding to the regression of his luck. He seems headed for a platoon with Justin Smoak again in 2016, further depressing his value. To be honest, Colabello will not be going very early in drafts, but I still think his 2015 numbers will be deceiving.
Byung-Ho Park, 1B, Minnesota Twins
Fantasy owners love potential, nothing gets them excited more than an unproven newcomer who has yet to disappoint. There is no doubt that Park has put up tremendous power numbers in the KBO. There is doubt to how that will translate this side of the pond. Jung Ho Kang had a decent inaugural campaign with the Pirates, which provides a little bit of comfort when forecasting Park. Keep in mind Eric Thames, a player who struggled to keep a job in MLB, has hit 47 and 37 homers over the past two seasons in Korea. Park may have success with the Twins in 2016; however, with a Top 15 positional ranking already, I feel that all the profit has been taken away and disappointment seems likely at that price.
Remember, a player’s value can’t be defined without taking their cost into consideration. If a player is called a sleeper or a bust, it doesn’t mean that they will have a great or poor season, it just means that player may not perform according to their expectations. Be sure to check back next week when we will take a look at sleepers and busts at second base. Until then, hopefully football gets you through the week.
Data courtesy of www.fangraphs.com
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