A way to find success in Fantasy Baseball is determining a player’s direction for the upcoming season. This brings me to the regression/bounce back candidates. Fantasy owners tend to write off players that played poorly while overpaying for a hot season even with a short resume. Here are a few players I like and a few players I think will underperform their draft position:
OF Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
Andrew has been drafted in the top rounds of drafts over the last four seasons. This year he has an ADP of 69, which points to a buying opportunity. Andrew has 20 or more HRs over his last six seasons with 79 RBI or more in each year, but his batting average has faded in each of his last four seasons with speed becoming a non-factor in 2016. McCutchen will hit in a favorable part of the batting order. He played well over the last two months of the season (.284 with nine HRs, 36 RBI, and three SBs over 208 at bats). Andrew needs a rebound in his CTBA (.336 in 2016 - .381 in 2015) while reinventing his value in speed. Solid third hitting options with the right team structure.
OF Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
Injuries held Bautista back in 2016 leading to him signing only a one-year deal with the Blue Jays. Fantasy owners have discounted him severely in the early draft season (ADP of 116). A sharp Fantasy owner in the high-stakes market will identify him as an impact power bat. Jose takes a ton of walks (16.8 percent) with a league average K rate (19.9). His power will be there if he’s healthy with his only risk being his batting average. His approach is strong enough to be at least average in BA, but he needs to improve his CTBA (.309 in 2016 and .311 in 2015). With a 550 at bats, Bautista will have a floor of 30 home runs.
OF Carlos Gomez, Texas Rangers
The latest reports suggest Gomez will bat leadoff for the Rangers. He doesn’t have a great walk rate (7.5 in 2016) with plenty of risk in Ks (30.0 percent last year). Carlos has underplayed his draft value in each of the last two seasons. He did play his best ball in September (.319 with six HRs, 16 RBI, and four SBs over 91 at bats). Gomez has an ADP of 153 in 15 team leagues. Carlos needs to regain his approach while offering 20+ HRs and 30+ SBs. A fresh start should do him good. Pretty much A.J. Pollock with more batting average risk.
OF Jacoby Ellsbury, New York Yankees
The Fantasy world has written off most Yankees batters in 2017. Jacoby has two straight down seasons with a huge drop off in his draft value this year (ADP of 249). His K rate (13.4) and walk rate (8.6) remain in a favorable area, so his lack of success falls on his confidence and thought process. Even in a bad season in 2016, Ellsbury was just about a 10/20 player with 550 at bats. With a slight uptick, Jacoby could push his way to a 15/25 player. Remember, he plays in a left-hand hitting ballpark, and he should hit near the top of the batting order.
2B/SS Jonathan Villar, Milwaukee Brewers
I get the excitement with Villar after hitting 19 home runs with 62 SBs in 2016. Most Fantasy owners will have a tough time getting away from his speed. In a way, this reminds me of Bill Hall in 2006 who also played from the Brewers. That season Hall hit 35 home runs. He never hit over 18 HRs in any other season in the majors while failing to win an everyday job in most seasons. Villar won’t lose his speed without an injury, so his failure will come in weaker contact leading to a drop in power. If he has a 50 percent drop in both HRs and SBs, Jon will still have a 12/40 skill set with below par batting average. I view him as B.J. Upton of 2009 and 2010. If Villar didn’t qualify at short, he would be drafted lower. Remember striking out is the quickest way to the bench in the majors, which is something Jonathan did 25.6 percent of the time in 2016 and 25.3 percent in the minors.
2B Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers
Early in his career, Kinsler appeared to have injury risk. He’s now stayed relatively healthy in five of his last six seasons while coming off his best power season (28 HRs) since 2011. Ian averaged 15 HRs over his four previous seasons before 2016 with some fade in his steals. His swing path will deliver a ton of fly balls will many of his failed homerun swings turning into early outs. Kinsler is a professional hitter who will score runs with some value in speed. I just view him as a 15/10 type player rather than a 25/15, which he will he will be drafted as in 2017.
1B/2B Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals
Murphy was in a zone last year. He had a huge jump in his CTBA (.388 – under .340 in each of his previous four seasons) resulting in a massive increase in his batting average (.347). Daniel had a career-high HR/FB rate (12.4 – 7.4 in his career). His swing path changed, which led to career high fly ball rate (41.9) and career low ground ball rate (36.3). Even with a career high in HRs, Daniel doesn’t have a great home run swing while being tough to strikeout (7.1 K rate in 2016). He has an ADP of 39, so he’ll need to hit .300 with 80+ runs, 25+ HRs, and 90 RBI to deliver on his draft value. On the positive side, Murphy could always regain some of his speed.