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It's a quiet time for baseball right now, but it will pick up quickly with Spring Training around the corner. Now is the time to begin preparing for your drafts. There are still some free agents out there with significant fantasy value searching for teams. Some free agents are being signed, and contract extensions are being handed out. I'll examine a couple and what they mean for fantasy.
Royals sign Danny Duffy to contract extension
The Royals signed Danny Duffy to a five-year, $65 million contract extension instead of choosing free agency next year. The left-hander has been inconsistent in his career but is coming off a great season. Duffy began last year in the bullpen before moving into the starting rotation.
Many people will doubt Duffy since he's had one good season and doesn't have a track record. He also did not pitch well in September, and he most likely was wearing down after not being accustomed to that workload.
Still, there's a lot to like with Duffy. One of the biggest changes for Duffy was the decrease in walks. He threw first-pitch strikes 62 percent of the time, and that helped lower his BB/9 to 2.1 after it was 3.5 in 2015. Duffy just turned 28 and is entering his prime.
Duffy appeared in 42 games, including 26 starts last season going 12-3 with a 3.51 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. As a starter, he pitched 161.2 innings with 3.56 ERA, 9.3 K/9, 2.06 BB/9, and 1.13 WHIP. The biggest issue for him was a 1.45 HR/9. Nine of the 27 home runs he allowed came in the final month.
Overall, Duffy had a 9.42 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a 42.8 percent fly ball rate. Duffy averaged almost 95 miles per hour with his fastball to go with a good slider and changeup. Duffy had a 12.9 percent swinging strike rate, backing up the jump in strikeouts. Duffy's dominance was on display against the Rays on August 1. Duffy pitched eight innings and allowed one hit, no runs, one walk and struck out 16.
Duffy makes a solid SP3 for fantasy teams, and he has the upside to be even better. He is a post-hype player that finally delivered last season.
Phillies sign Michael Saunders
After earning his first All-Star appearance for the Blue Jays last season, Michael Saunders couldn't keep it going in the second half. The Blue Jays decided not to bring him back, and the Phillies signed the outfielder to a one-year, $9 million contract with an $11 million club option for 2018.
Saunders has struggled to stay healthy and the 140 games he played last season was a career best. Saunders hit .253/.338/.478 with a career-high 24 home runs, 70 runs, and 57 RBIs. Saunders had a .551 slugging percentage with 16 home runs in the first half before batting .178 with a .357 slugging percentage in the second half. There's a good shot Saunders hits in the middle of the lineup, and that will help his fantasy value.
Still, with health issues always a concern, a career 26.1 percent strikeout rate and an increase in power across baseball last season, a 20-homer outfielder with a .250 average and no steals isn't as appealing. Saunders is best used as an NL-only play and very deep mixed leagues. I recently took him in Round 24 of a 15-team league where there are no add or drops for the season, and that puts him on the bench.