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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Good Value, Bad Value: Sleepers and Busts

By David Brandt

Sometimes sleepers are unheard of and busts are all of the big names... sometimes we're just talking about good value and bad value.  Check out this list to find some sleeper gems and some reasons to avoid a few other guys:



Ben Zobrist - I will start off with an oldie but a goody.  Zobrist has always had appeal in fantasy leagues due to his position versatility.  His ability to play nearly every position assured him a spot nearly every day in Joe Maddon's lineup while in Tampa.  He averaged 153 games and 562 AB/season from 2009, when he burst on the scene, through 2014, his final season with the Rays.  Zobrist is now reunited with Joe Maddon and is expected to bat near the top of a powerhouse Cubs Lineup. Bottom line: Zobrist is an on-base machine projecting to bat in the top third of one of the most prolific lineups in baseball.  He also plays half his games in a hitters park.  He should exceed projected totals of R, HR, RBI, and even SB.  Draft confidently as your starting 2B.

Brandon Belt - Brandon Belt is coming off probably his most productive season in his career.  Limited to 137 games because of various injuries, Belt was still able to put a 73/18/68 slash while batting .280.  Belt is slated to bat 6th in a loaded giants lineup, so there should be no shortage of RBI opportunities.  Pair that with the fact that he is 28 years old and should be in his prime years-there is a very high ceiling here.  There is no reason he cannot produce similar numbers to Freddie Freeman or Prince Fielder, but he can be had nearly 50 picks later. The Giants missed the playoffs last year, and they spent a ton to make sure that didn't happen again.  Expect Belt to be a catalyst in this explosive offense.  No need to invest in aging first basemen who are potentially on the downturn of their careers, go for the upside!

Denard Span - Speaking of the Giants spending spree, Denard Span is an addition to this powerful lineup that is clearly flying under the radar.  I mentioned how powerful this offense can be, and of course it all starts at the top.  Span gets on base consistently (he has a career OBP of .352) and if his career stats hold true, it should turn into a beautifully productive season.  Span is just a season removed from 30 steals, so the man has some serious wheels.  He can put up more productive fantasy seasons than Ben Revere and Billy Hamilton and he can be yours 80 picks later.

Andrew Heaney - Heaney is a former top 10 pick who was the key piece of the trade that brought Dee Gordon to Miami.  He was then traded to the other side of town where he will try to make a name for himself.  Heaney finished the season very strong, allowing 2 ER or fewer in 9 of his last 10 starts.  This offseason, the Halos added Andrelton Simmons, which should only help Heaney improve on last year's impressive 3.49 ERA and 1.20 WHIP.  Heaney is going largely undrafted in leagues, so invest a late round pick in this pitcher who has the potential to provide a great ROI.  

Luke Gregerson - When you make your last couple of picks, you are usually trying to find diamonds in the rough.  These are guys that may not have an immediate role or may not have the clearest path to stardom, but if the stars align, big things can happen.  Gregerson is a great example of this.  He was a top 100 overall player last year with 31 saves as the Astros stopper.  Yes, the Astros traded for Ken Giles from Philly, but he's no sure thing to be their closer.  Giles has pitched terrible this Spring, which doesn't always hold much weight, but you would like to at least see some production outings out of him. He was closing for a team in the NL in weakest division in baseball.  He was a dominant setup man and may be best served in that role to help solidify the backend for a championship contending team.  I guess this could be as much a Gregerson sleeper pick as it is a Giles bust pick, but I will certainly be grabbing Gregerson as a late flier.



Giancarlo Stanton - Giancarlo Stanton is a sexy name that is coveted early in drafts.  His tremendous power potential makes owners salivate.  To me, Stanton is merely a three category player with a history of injury problems.  In fact, he has averaged only 122 games per season since 2011.  I am not saying Stanton is bad by any means, but I would rather draft Machado, Rizzo, Correa, Bryant, or Altuve all day.  I can then scoop up Chris Davis a round or two later and get very similar numbers.  Stanton is a major injury risk for a team that doesn't expect to compete.  It is very likely he won't be around while you chase down a championship.  

Jose Fernandez - Not to pile on Miami or anything, but Jose Fernandez is in a very similar situation.  There is already speculation that he is going to be on an innings limit, and rightfully so.  This kid is a stud, undeniably.  The problem with Fernandez is that you are drafting him as one of the first pitchers off the board, but it is extremely likely that he won't be around for you during the fantasy playoffs.  Maybe he can pitch you into first place in the regular season, and that usually brings home a few shekels, but if you want to win a championship, you may want to look elsewhere.  There are plenty of stud arms in a similar tier to Fernandez that are far more likely to be around come playoff time.  

Jacob deGrom - Speaking of other arms in a similar tier, something about deGrom is rubbing me the wrong way. He just pitched 191 innings in the regular season with the playoffs on top of that, up from just 140 the year before.  Add to that the fact that he has "had trouble" finding his velocity this Spring.  I take minimal note of Spring Training statistics, but when someone comes off such a substantial workload and can't find that velocity that helped him dominate, it sends up a red flag.  Maybe deGrom is fine and he will pitch another dominating campaign this season.  That is not a risk I am willing to take on a guy I could be potentially drafting to be my ace.  Just like Fernandez, there are plenty of other good arms in that tier that don't carry cloudiness like deGrom.

Ryan Braun - Listing Braun as a bust has nothing to do with his off-field lifestyle choices.  This is a man on the wrong side of 30 who had off-season back surgery, and is already sitting out with back soreness.  This reminds me a little of a Derrick Rose-like situation.  It is a smart move to sit out as a precaution in the spring, when games don't count.  When you are coming off surgery and you are feeling sore with the season right around the corner, it tell me you may not be completely ready to come back.  If Braun tries to prove the naysayers wrong by coming back prematurely, he puts himself at a high risk of re-injuring his bad back which has caused him to miss significant time throughout the last two seasons.  Very much like D-Rose.  Couple that with the fact that his team looks awful and it has the potential to be a situation in which Braun misses more time this year.  His price tag is too high for someone battling a back injury.  For me, I'll pass.

Jordan Zimmerman - Zimmerman took a major step back in his last season for the Nats.  His ERA jumped an entire run and his WHIP was also up to a pedestrian 1.20.  He has never really been a strikeout guy, moreso a guy relying on his command, which was clearly off last year.   The Nats were a bit of a mess last year, and Zimmermann is now pitching for a team with a dominant lineup.  Unfortunately, he is pitching in arguably the most competitive division in baseball.  Plus, pitchers rarely transition well from the NL to the AL.  Unless Zimmerman regains that control, he really doesn't bring much to the table.  He will have a mediocre WHIP and ERA, without enough Ks to make an impact.  He is just a name from a couple years ago, and I feel his best years are behind him.  Let some other amateur in your league take the familiar name while you capitalize on some of the young, high upside guys in his tier like Matz, Odorizzi, Smyly, Rodon, and Corbin.

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