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This article is part of a series we’re running that’s showcasing the best Fantasy Baseball articles submitted in each round of the 2017 Fantasy Baseball Writing Contest. This article comes from one of the four writers that made it past Round 1 of this three-round battle royal, with the overall winner getting a $200 cash prize!

For many fans, spring training begins when players report for their first workouts. Now that spring training has begun, the FIRST thing that comes to mind is to get ready for my Fantasy Baseball leagues.

It is a never ending quest to find the next Mookie Betts or Michael Fulmer to draft and to showcase your Fantasy skills to your fellow league members. Now is the time to start analyzing and researching players, teams, projections, rankings, and completing mock drafts to gain insight to trends.

Preparation is the key to success. To assist you in your preparation for this upcoming season, I highlight one sleeper that I love this season and one player that I do not like that will be a bust this season.  

 2017 Sleeper & Bust 

 

SLEEPER

Greg Bird, 1B, New York Yankees

 

Case

Yankees first baseman/designated hitter Greg Bird had a promising start to his major league career in 2015 but missed the entire 2016 season because of a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Bird gave Yankee fans a glimpse of what he brings to the table after hitting .261 with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs in 46 games in 2015. He was not a prolific power hitter in the minors, but one with clear potential and good patience at the plate.

He may have competition with Tyler Austin for the first base job, but he has 25 HR upside and looked very promising in his 2015 stint. He could be a key member of the New York youth movement if he is healthy.

With Mark Teixeira now retired, Bird is in great position to open up the season as the everyday first baseman. The lefty’s power will be a natural fit with the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium, but he will need to find a way to cut down on his strikeouts to really take the next step forward (29.8 percent strikeout rate in 2015).

Yes, that strikeout rate is a little scary, but his minor league K% in 2015 were well under 20% and his 11.1% whiff rate is more typical of a guy with an average strikeout rate or just above.

He is a career .282 hitter in the minors, and has shown to have patience at the plate. He even has a minor league season with 107 walks under his belt. During his first stint in the majors, he posted a 53:19 K:BB ratio, which teeters right on the verge of becoming a red flag.

Verdict

My projection for Greg Bird’s 2017 season is .262/.335/.450, 28 HRs, 65 Rs, and 84 RBIs. That would rank him in the 12-15 range among first basemen. I think he will be undervalued due to fears of his shoulder injury, so you should be able to get him late in drafts.

Fantasy owners should not forget about the excitement that surrounded Bird before his injury. He has a clearer path to playing time, will be a part of a solid lineup, and has shown owners what he can do. Look for Greg Bird to establish himself as one of the best young players in MLB next season.

Bird is not within the top flight of first basemen just yet, but he has the potential to flirt with that status. Yankee Stadium should become a haven for Bird as well, making him a clear 20-plus HR and 80 RBI threat in 2017 and someone you should target in the late rounds in your draft.

 

Bust 

Jean Segura, 2B/SS, Seattle Mariners 

Case

Jean Segura was traded from Arizona to Seattle during this past offseason as the Mariners were looking for an upgrade at SS with Robinson Cano playing his current position (2B). Segura put together easily his best season in 2016, leading the AL in hits (203) and managing a .319/.368/.499 slash line with 20 homers and 33 steals.

He was aided by a career-high .355 BABIP (he was under .300 the previous two seasons), so some regression to his .319 batting average is inevitable. There is no way to expect a repeat of his 2016 performance. He will be in a tougher park and he will have to deal with a league switch. He could also struggle to reach the 30-steal mark with a Seattle club that attempted exactly half as many swipes as the D-Backs last season.

Entering the 2017, Segura will retain shortstop eligibility as he played in the required 20 games in ESPN leagues, but he will be drafted as a second basemen. He should be ranked outside the Top 10 second basemen.

Here are my 2017 projections:

G R H HR RBI AVG. OPS SB
2017 (PROJ) 150 79 168 11 46 275 10 27
2016 153 102 203 20 64 0.318 0.368 33
3 YR AVG. 147 73 158 10 48 0.277 0.316 26

 

Verdict

Segura is a concern and his abysmal 2014 and 2015 seasons loom huge in projecting this season. The drop-off will be there and the uncertainty surrounding Segura has him being drafted anywhere between Round 4 – 6. Fantasy Pros consensus ranks have him being drafted in the late sixth-round in standard leagues, bunched in with a number of intriguing players:  Dee Gordon, Alex Bregman, Matt Carpenter, and Jason Kipnis.

I would rather have each of those players before Segura, as Dee Gordon is a steal machine and will provide hits and hitting average; Alex Bregman is a upcoming star who was just named a starter after moving Carlos Correa to third base; Matt Carpenter is a power upside player in a position scarce of power; Jason Kipnis is a .275/20/80 hitter who will seem to benefit with Edwin Encarnacion in the Tribe lineup.

I see the 2016 season as a flash in the pan and with the Safeco effect, I find it hard to rank him in the Top 10 and therefore wouldn’t draft him until round 8-10.

 

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