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The Fantasy Lookout: A Look Towards 2018; Sleeper And Bust Edition

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Photo Credit: Phillip Hendon

As many Fantasy owners are fighting through the playoffs in hopes of a league title, some are on the sidelines looking towards 2018. In this week’s Fantasy Lookout, we will help those non-playoff bound owners with a sneak peek at next year’s sleepers and busts.

We will define a sleeper as a player who should outperform their ADP. On the other hand, a bust will be defined as a player who will underperform their ADP. Since there is no 2018 ADP data yet, we will use ESPN ownership percentages as a proxy and find a sleeper that is currently owned in less than 50-percent of leagues. For the busts, we will identify players that are currently basically universally owned. We will go around the diamond and uncover a sleeper and bust at each position.

The Fantasy Lookout: 2018 Sleeper and Bust Edition

Catcher

Sleeper: Tyler Flowers, Atlanta Braves

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Tyler Flowers has an ownership mark of 10.1-percent, so it is safe to safe he is an afterthought at catcher. Despite sharing time with Kurt Suzuki in Atlanta, Flowers ranks 20th in home runs, 12th in runs, 15th in RBIs, and sixth in batting average amongst catchers. He has also drastically improved his strikeout rate to a career best 21.7-percent (career mark is 30.5-percent) and he has posted a career high line drive rate of nearly 25-percent. Flowers currently ranks ninth on the ESPN Player rater at catcher, so do not forget about Flowers later on in drafts next year. He should be startable in 12-team leagues and come at a very cheap price.

Bust: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants

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With a Top 50 ADP this year, Buster Posey was clearly a Fantasy darling heading into the 2017 campaign. However, with the progress of hitting at the catcher position, especially at the top, Posey’s reign on position scarcity is over. While he does rank first in terms of batting average amongst catchers, he also ranks 12th in home runs, sixth in RBIs, fourth in runs, and fourth in stolen bases. Those are solid numbers; however, your Fantasy team will be much better off taking a Fantasy stud at another position early, and then targeting another catcher later on.

First Base

Sleeper: Justin Bour, Miami Marlins

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Despite two different stints on the disabled list, Justin Bour has put together a solid 2017 campaign. He ranks 22nd in home runs and RBIs, 15th in batting average, and 34th in runs amongst first basemen. His ownership is a paltry 29.7-percent, so he sets up to be a draft day bargain next year. Since Bour has posted new career highs in both line drive rate and hard hit rate, he has a great chance to breakout in 2018. Given he has hit .287 along with 21 long balls and 64 RBIs this year, if he can stay healthy, don’t be shocked if he has a 30 home run, 100 RBI, and .300 average season next year.

Bust: Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals

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Ryan Zimmerman has had an impressive 2017 season, arguably his best ever; however, a repeat next year seems extremely unlikely. Zimmerman has faded a bit after his scorching April when he hit .420 along with 11 home runs and 29 RBIs. His 2017 batted ball profile looks eerily similar to his career line, yet he has posted a .330 BABIP and 25.4-percent HR/FB rate this year. I would expect regression in both of those marks and therefore a direct hit to his batting average and counting stats in 2018. Health is also a concern for Zimmerman, as 2017 will be the first time since 2013 that he has exceeded 115 games played. Do not get caught up in the recency bias, fade Ryan Zimmerman.

 

Second Base

Sleeper: Cesar Hernandez, Philadelphia Phillies

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In the midst of his second consecutive Fantasy relevant season, Cesar Hernandez has an outside shot at setting career highs in the five major roto categories. Among second basemen, he ranks within the Top 13 in runs, batting average, and stolen bases. He is also a non-zero in terms of power, chipping in with eight long balls so far. If you can withstand the lack of RBI production, Hernandez will make a great, cheap option at the keystone in 2018. With a current ownership of 29.1-percent, it looks like you will have very little competition for his services come draft day next year.

Bust: Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox

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Dustin Pedroia’s days as a Fantasy stud look to be a thing of the past. Sure, you can pencil him in for a .300 batting average, but the counting stats seem to be drying up. He has dealt with injuries this year, again, and that very well could continue in the future given he just recently turned 34 years old. This will be the fourth consecutive season that he has not exceeded seven stolen bases in a year. He has also averaged just over 10 home runs per year over the same four campaigns. It looks like 2017 will be the third time in the past four years that Pedroia fails to reach the 60 RBI plateau and also the third time in the last four that he didn’t even get to 75 runs. Save the early round pick and let Pedroia be someone else’s problem.

 

Third Base

Sleeper: Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers

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Nick Castellanos is quietly having a career year, and his future looks extremely bright. New career highs in home runs, RBIs, runs, and even stolen bases have not come by fluke. Castellanos has been squaring up the ball with regularity evidenced by his 25.1-percent line drive rate and 43.9-percent hard hit rate, both good for third among all third basemen. He has managed all of this in conjuction with lowering his strikeout rate to a new career low. Despite his breakout campaign, Castellanos is still only owned in 44.7-percent of leagues. With one of the best batted ball profiles in all of baseball, Nick Castellanos will be a steal come draft day next year.

Bust: Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals

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Mike Moustakas has been near the top of the home run leaderboard for most of the season; however, what he has accomplished does not look to be repeatable. His 2017 batted ball profile has been essentially in line with his career marks, except for his HR/FB rate which comes in near 18-percent, nearly double his 10.6-percent career figure. His strikeout rate is also the highest it has been since 2013, back in the days when his batting average sat in the .230s. Since the Moose’s power spike has not been met with a material increase in hard hit rate, pull rate, or fly ball rate, we should not expect it to occur again in 2018. I think Moustakas is much more likely to hit closer to his career average of .252 along with 20 home runs than he is to repeat his 2017 season. Make sure you fade Mike Moustakas and pay for a realistic expectation at the draft table rather than the 2017 smoke and mirrors.

 

Shortstop

Sleeper: Orlando Arcia, Milwaukee Brewers

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Orlando Arcia’s first full campaign has gone extremely well. He ranks within the Top 23 shortstops in all five of the major roto categories. Arcia has obviously been an impressive power-speed threat, as he is one of only four shortstops to have at least 13 home runs and stolen bases. For some reason, Fantasy owners are waiting for more of Arcia, as his ownership is only 17-percent. It is time to hop on the Arcia Express and there is no better time than at the draft table next year.

Bust: Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox

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Xander Boagerts may have teased us with his incredible 2016 season, and his Top 30 ADP fully reflected that. However, he has been a major disappointment this year to say the least. This year, Bogaerts has posted the 26th most home runs, 16th most RBIs, fourth most runs, seventh most stolen bases, and the 22nd best batting average among shortstops. These are not numbers you would expect from a third round pick. Since his 2017 batted ball profile mirrors his career marks, I would assume his 2018 numbers will look like his career averages. Expect a batting line with a .280 batting average along with 12 home runs, 80 runs, 65 RBIs, and 10 stolen bases. Do not overpay for Boagerts, he will very likely be extremely overvalued in next year’s drafts.

 

Outfield

Sleeper: Odubel Herrera, Philadelphia Phillies

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Over his brief major league career, Odubel Herrera has shown a legit power-speed skillset, but he has been slowed by a hamstring injury in the second half this year. Since the All-Star Break, Herrera has only attempted two stolen bases. Assuming he is up to full health next year, Herrera has a decent shot at a 20/20 season coupled with a .300 batting average. Last year, Herrera hit 15 long balls with a 10.6-percent HR/FB rate, but this year he has hit 12 home runs (in 160 fewer plate appearances) coupled with a 10.5-percent HR/FB rate despite an increased hard hit rate, pull rate, and fly ball rate. Since Herrera had a preseason ADP of 114, it is surprising to see his ownership rate at a mere 31.5-percent. Shrewd owners should take advantage of this opportunity to snag Herrera on the cheap at the 2018 draft table.

Bust: Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates

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The Fantasy community was all in on Marte heading into this year, evidenced by his preseason ADP of 23. Man, did everyone get burned his suspension. However, there have also been a few concerning signs when he has been on the field in 2017. A career low line drive rate has seen Marte produce a BABIP 60 points less than his career mark. A career low hard hit rate and pull rate does not bode well for his limited power prospects going forward either. Yes, his full season pace would still place him in the 30-steal neighbourhood, but all things considered, if Marte does not hit for a high average, his price tag will be way too high come draft time.

 

Starting Pitcher

Sleeper: Dinelson Lamet, San Diego Padres

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Dinelson Lamet has burst onto scene so far in 2017. He has posted the 19th best K-BB% in all of baseball among starters with at least 90 innings pitched. There is no question that walks have been an issue, but he also holds the 23rd best swinging strike rate and ninth best strikeout rate. With an ownership rate of just 37.4-percent, the majority of Fantasy owners clearly think that Lamet will not improve his control. Do not be a sheep, go the other way and draft Lamet and enjoy all of the profits.

Bust: Ervin Santana, Minnesota Twins

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Ervin Santana has been a Fantasy stud this year, he owns the 16th best ERA at 3.45 and ninth best WHIP with a mark of 1.15 among all qualified starters. The majority of Santana’s surprising 2017 campaign is thanks to his tremendous April and May when he posted a 1.75 ERA and 0.84 WHIP. Since then, Santana has posted a 4.64 ERA and 1.36 WHIP as his batted ball profile came more in line with his career norms. For the season as a whole, Santana barely ranks within the Top 40 with respect to the very important K-BB%. Santana has also been aided by a career high left on base rate with a mark of 78.4-percent, good for the seventh highest mark in baseball. Fantasy owners should expect a 2018 ERA north of 4.00 and a WHIP closer to 1.30, so do not make the mistake of drafting Ervin Santana based on his 2017 numbers.

 

Relief Pitcher

Sleeper: Arodys Vizcaino, Atlanta Braves

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Arodys Vizcaino has been the Atlanta closer ever since Jim Johnson was relieved of his duties in late July. Vizcaino has gone eight for eight in save opportunities since taking over while posting a 2.30 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and 17.5-percent K-BB%. Any closer is worth rostering in most leagues, so Vizcaino’s ownership rate of 39.1-percent is surprising. For the year as a whole, Vizcaino has done a great job cutting his walk rate by nearly 50-percent, while still being able to post the 21st best swinging strike rate at 14.8-percent. For those that like to wait on closers, Vizcaino makes a great late round option.

Bust: Greg Holland, Colorado Rockies

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Greg Holland, somewhat surprisingly, won the Colorado closer job out of Spring Training and he currently leads the National League in saves with 40. Overall, his numbers have been pretty good, but his start has been much better than his finish. Over the first half, Holland posted a 1.62 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and 20.9-percent K-BB%. In the second half, those numbers have ballooned to a 7.08 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, and 11.1-percent K-BB%. Out of all closers with at least 25 saves, Holland owns the third highest ERA, fourth highest WHIP, third highest hard hit rate allowed, and the sixth lowest K-BB%. Holland’s gaudy save total is masking plenty of issues under the hood. Do not draft Holland among the elite closers, as his draft day price will likely be much too high.

 

You need to remember that sleepers and busts refer to their value relative to their draft day price, it is not an absolute comment. I do not necessarily think the sleepers will outperform the busts, I just think that given their costs the sleepers will create positive value while the busts will create negative value. This will be the final Fantasy Lookout of the year. I hope that you found it useful and best of luck to those in the Fantasy playoffs.

2017 Fantasy Baseball
Rankings | Waiver Wire | Daily Fantasy Baseball | Bullpen Briefs | Rookie Report | Injury Report | Pitching Planner | Hitting Planner | Player Analysis

Data courtesy of www.fangraphs.com

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Fabian Taylor
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Fabian Taylor

Fabian Taylor lives in Vancouver, BC. In his previous life, he traded natural gas for a couple firms in Calgary. He now trades stocks, bonds, and commodities out of a float home office. Family, finance and Fantasy Sports -- Is there anything else?
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