THE NatsGM Show #95 – Special Guest Mike Gianella

Rebounding like Charles Oakley, THE NatsGM Show has returned for Episode #95 and we are proud to welcome back Baseball Prospectus Author and fantasy baseball guru Mike Gianella!

On this episode Mike gives us a full fantasy baseball education, beginning with topics such as Daily Fantasy Sports, Auctions verses Snake drafts and Head-2-Head verses Roto leagues.  Next he tells us his thoughts on Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, Bryce Harper and several youngsters like Dansby Swanson & Alex Bregman.  Finally Mike tells us the players he is avoiding in drafts, players he particularly likes and a couple deep “sleepers”.

Thank you to Mike for coming back on the Podcast!  Please consider Rating, Reviewing and Subscribing to the show on iTunes and thank you for listening.

Poll – Who Deserves To Go 1st Overall in Fantasy Baseball Drafts?

IMG_3198

2016 Fantasy Baseball Preview – THE Sleepers

IMG_1839

Jonathan Schoop

The previous three days here at NatsGM.com have been spent identifying hitters and pitchers that should be targeted during fantasy drafts to insure victory. Today we shift our attention to players being selected later in drafts, commonly known in fantasy jargon as Sleepers.

The term Sleeper is perhaps the least concrete term in sports, as it has different meanings to each person. In general most consider a Sleeper a late round pick whose unexpected performance leads a team to championship victory. For the purposes of this article, to be considered a Sleeper the player must currently fall outside the top-200 in Average Draft Position on ESPN.com. (Thanks ESPN!)

Last year in this column I correctly predicted breakout seasons for Danny Salazar and Brandon Belt, while whiffing on my Jennry Mejia and Wily Peralta predictions. This year, I promise these six sleepers ALL will provide excellent value and help you capture 1st place at the end of the season.

J.J. Hoover RHP Cincinnati Reds

A long-time favorite since I watched him pitch on Cape Cod, Hoover has quietly been an effective reliever for the Reds the past several years. He is a bit homer-prone which will keep his ERA elevated, but the 28-year-old has a career 3.34 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and a 9.05 K/9 ratio. Hoover projects as the closer for the Reds after the Aroldis Chapman trade and does not have much competition for the role. Draft Hoover as your #2/#3 closer and watch him give you 27+ saves this season without hurting you in the other categories.

Marcell Ozuna OF Miami Marlins

After slugging 23 home runs and driving in 85 runs in 2014, Ozuna was a popular “sleeper” pick prior to drafts last year. Unfortunately much like the Marlins, most things went wrong for Ozuna in 2015, as he hit .259 with 10 home runs. Still only 25-years-old, Ozuna has now become the forgotten man in the Marlins outfield with Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton. Miami moved their fences in this offseason in order to bolster offense and the Marlins have a chance to have a potent offense in 2016, especially if Ozuna rebounds to his previous form. There is plenty of boom-or-bust in his profile, but Ozuna has far too much talent to let escape outside the top-200 picks.

Jake Odorizzi RHP Tampa Bay Rays

Odorizzi limped to the finish of last season, as he was outstanding in the first half becoming succumbing to injury midway through the year – when he returned his numbers were subpar in the second half (4.34 ERA, 1.287 WHIP), leading to a mediocre 9-9 record with a 3.35 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 150 strikeouts for the year. About to turn 26-years-old, Odorizzi has already spent parts of four seasons in the major leagues and now projects to serve as the #2 starter on a potentially strong Tampa Bay team. Let others ignore that he only pitched 170 innings last season which hampered his statistics and steal this potential breakout player late in your draft.

Carlos Rodon LHP Chicago White Sox

Rodon

I love strikeouts, both in real life and in fantasy baseball, as they are typically consistent year-to-year and are a reasonably indicator to the true talent of a pitcher. Rodon posted 139 strikeouts last season in 139.1 innings pitched, with a 3.75 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP. His WHIP is below-average because of his elevated walk rate, something I am gambling will decline this season in his second full year in professional baseball. Only 23-years-old, Rodon is one of the most gifted young arms in the major leagues and it is only a matter of time (and health) before he is one of the top pitchers in the game. Take Rodon late in your drafts with the hope that 2016 is the year is immense talent emerges in Chicago.

Jonathan Schoop 2B Baltimore Orioles

This is my #1 sleeper for 2016 and I cannot believe the degree to which people are overlooking this extraordinarily talented middle infielder. Only 24, Schoop already has 774 major league at-bats and has produced 32 home runs and 35 doubles in these opportunities. Schoop dealt with injuries last season which limited him to 86 games, yet he did hit .279/.306/.482 with 15 home runs. Now fully healthy, Schoop finds himself a part of a potentially potent Baltimore offense and could find himself hitting #2 if his emergence last season was legitimate. I am predicting a .270 average with 20+ home runs and 75+ runs batted in, with upside for more, making him a legitimate steal in drafts.

James Shields RHP San Diego Padres

Probably the least sexy name on this list, Shields falls into one of my favorite categories of “sleeper” – a proven veteran coming off an inexplicable subpar season. In 2015, Shields signed a free agent contract with San Diego and failed to live up to the hype of his deal, providing the Padres with a 13-7 record and a 3.91 ERA plus 216 strikeouts. His ERA ballooned in large part because he allowed 33 home runs last season, a surprise considering his spacious home park. I am confidently gambling a few of those taters find outfielder gloves’ in 2016, allowing Shields to post an ERA closer to 3.65 with 190+ strikeouts.

Honorable Mention: Kevin Gausman RHP Baltimore Orioles, Jeremy Jeffress RHP Milwaukee Brewers, Wil Myers 1B/OF San Diego Padres, Stephen Piscotty 1B/OF St. Louis Cardinals, Taijuan Walker RHP Seattle Mariners

NatsGM Fantasy Preview – Hitters

photo 1(5)

Draft hitting early and often” has long been a mantra in fantasy baseball and there is wisdom in this strategy, as elite batters contribute in all categories and are generally less risky than their pitching counterparts. In fact, in many drafts this year, only one pitcher (Clayton Kershaw) is selected on average inside the top-20 picks. As hitting has continued a steady decline in the past decade, the best hitters are coveted in leagues like bread and toilet paper ahead of a snowstorm. So it is vitally important to draft the “right” hitters early and find some value performers with your later selections if you hope to win your league.

Yesterday in Part-1 I highlighted several pitchers I think will outplay their draft position, along with a few names I will be avoiding in my drafts. Today I pinpoint several hitters I believe are being undervalued plus a few that are overrated by the fantasy community.

Hitters I Like

Freddie Freeman 1B Atlanta Braves (7th-8th Round)

Freeman struggled much like the rest of the Braves in 2015, playing in only 118 games and hitting .276 and 18 home runs. This, along with the expectation that Atlanta could be abysmal in 2016, has the consistently solid Freeman being selected in the 7th round. He may not hit for the power one expects from a first baseman, but the Braves lineup should be better than expectations with Freeman, Inciarte and Aybar atop their lineup. Now that Freeman is healthy, he should return to his usual .290 batting average, with 20+ home runs and 85+ runs batted in, making him an undervalued asset and excellent gamble in drafts.

Adam Jones OF Baltimore Orioles (5th-6th Round)

Jones struggled through a myriad of minor injuries last season to post another solid season in Baltimore, batting .269 with 27 home runs, 82 runs batted in and 3 stolen bases in 137 games. Missing 25 games throughout the year kept his numbers somewhat underwhelming, causing him to slide into the 5th or 6th round in drafts this season. Do not let these minor ailments allow you to pass on this 30-year-old, who should hit #3 in a powerful Baltimore lineup this season. With an offseason to recover, I expect Jones to produce closer to 30 home runs and 90 runs batted in, along with 7-10 steals, making him a 2nd-3rd round value this season.

Evan Longoria 3B Tampa Bay Rays (10th+ Round)

Third base is rather thin and top-heavy this season, with five players going inside the top-25 but only eight players selected inside the top-100. If you miss out on a third baseman early, Longoria will provide excellent value with the chance for some statistical upside if Tampa’s offense can improve in 2016. Longoria has stayed healthy the past several seasons and has consistently provided a .275/20/80 line with a handful of stolen bases – these numbers will not win your league, but should help anchor your infield in 2016.

Anthony Rendon 3B/2B Washington Nationals (12th-14th Round)

Call me a “fan boy” but I am stunned that someone with Rendon’s talents at the plate is being drafted on average outside the top-125 picks, especially considering the positional scarcity at second base and the hot corner. Certainly there is plenty of health risk involved with him, but there are few players who can return as much value after Round 10 as Rendon. Assuming he stays reasonably health, I project a .285 batting average with 15+ home run and 12+ steals, with upside for more. Draft Rendon confidently and watch him outplay his draft position.

Honorable Mention: Billy Hamilton OF Cincinnati Reds, Mark Trumbo OF Baltimore Orioles, Mark Teixeira 1B New York Yankees, Christian Yelich OF Miami Marlins and Ben Zobrist 2B/OF Chicago Cubs

Hitters To Avoid

Michael Brantley OF Cleveland Indians (7th-9th Round)

Brantley is easily one the best players in the American League, but he falls into the category of better “real life” player than in fantasy. Brantley is an asset in batting average and stolen bases, but his other numbers are just average compared to fellow outfielders. Add in an offseason shoulder surgery and one should question how much he will produce in the 1st half of the season. This risk, along with a lack of upside this season, makes him a poor value inside the top-100 picks.

Miguel Sano DH/OF Minnesota Twins (4th Round)

Sano is an immense talent and should develop into one of the elite sluggers in baseball, but the hype has reached epic levels with this 22-year-old. While he hit 18 home runs last season in 80 games, he also struck out 119 times in 279 at-bats, clearly an unsustainable rate. These whiffs should drag down his batting average and he is not a big threat on the bases, making him a three category player at best. Considering his age and contact rates, let some else select Sano in Round 4 and select a safer player such as Yoenis Cespedes, George Springer or Lorenzo Cain.

(Dis)Honorable Mention: Nelson Cruz OF Seattle Mariners, Dee Gordon 2B Miami Marlins, Jason Heyward OF Chicago Cubs, Jonathan Lucroy Catcher Milwaukee Brewers, Ben Revere OF Washington Nationals