Is Houston a runaway favorite?

houston_astros_logo
By Houston Astros (https://twitter.com/astros) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
As the New Year kicks off it is time to start looking forward to the 2017 baseball season. I decide the best way to start is to look at the teams that are front runners for their respective divisions.

Today we are focusing on the Houston Astros. After two surprisingly good seasons the Astros likely come in to 2017 as the favorite to win the AL West. On paper they have one of the stoutest lineups in all of baseball with huge power from start to finish. On paper however is not where games are played.

Houston’s pitching staff is full of young live arms, but at times in 2016 they were inconsistent at best. Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers and Collin McHugh will be mainstays of the rotation with Joe Musgrove likely next in line. After that however it is yet to be seen who will follow. In baseball youth is a virtue, but with youth comes a certain unpredictability. Youth isn’t just found in the Astro’s pitching staff either, as their lineup will be one of the youngest in baseball as it was the last two years.

With young studs all over the infield and extra talent brought in this offseason it remains to be seen how the Astros will get everyone on the field. Players like Evan Gattis, Marwin Gonzalez, A.J. Reed and Tyler White will likely see extended time on the bench or in the minors due to the log jam of talent. With another year of solid defense and outstanding power out of guys like George Springer, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman runs will come in bunches. Only downside to this offense is the amount of swing and miss that will be in the lineup.

Houston’s offensive prowess will carry them for this season and for the near term future, but will it be enough to overcome what was at times very shaky pitching is yet to be seen.

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Two Start Pitchers to Avoid

Michael Pineda delivers a pitch in the first inning.
By Arturo Pardavila III on Flickr [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Rather than try and predict which potential two-start pitchers you should try and use this week we thought we would simply tell you some of the fringe pitchers to avoid.

Robert Gsellman, SP Mets

Many will look at the match-ups Robert Gsellman has this week, Atlanta and Philadelphia, and think they should add him. That is a trap. Thought Gsellman does look like he has easy match-ups he has struggled against both those teams already this season. In his previous starts again the Braves and Phillies he went 11.0 innings and gave up 8 earned runs. Do not fall for the match-ups, avoid him this week.

Matt Boyd, SP Tigers

Matt Boyd was supposed to be a two-start pitcher last week and that didn’t happen, not a surprise for this time of year. Now Boyd is scheduled for two starts this week, facing the Twins and Royals. Because I am doubtful that he will actually make two starts I would advise you stay away. A one start Matt Boyd is not worth it if you have a better option available. Especially since Boyd faced Minnesota his last time out and lasted 3.7 innings and gave up 7 earned runs. Even if he had two starts this week he is likely in for rough outings as he hasn’t fared well against Kansas City either this season.

Other two-start pitchers you should avoid; Kevin Gausman, Michael Pineda, Joe Musgrove, Edison Volquez and Matt Garza.

Pitchers to Avoid in 2017

As we get ready to say goodbye to the 2016 fantasy baseball season, some already have, I begin to look at the 2017 season. With that I thought I would write a quick post on some starting pitchers that as of right now I will be avoiding in 2017. Below are my four pitchers to stay away from, unless they remedy their injury concerns during the offseason.

Danny Salazar, SP Indians

Danny Salazar once again is being shut down due to an arm injury. Based on my recollection he has been shut down this season for issues related to his shoulder, elbow and forearm in 2016. All areas that make me think of Tommy John since they all can be related to a serious elbow injury.

Gerrit Cole, SP Pirates

Another pitcher who has been shut down for the season is Gerrit Cole. Cole started the year off injured, was shut down not long ago because of an arm issue and that issue seems to have come back. Though his early season problems were not arm related I am steering clear of Cole next year unless something happens in the offseason to change my mind.

Lance McCullers, SP Astros

Like Cole, McCullers started the season hurt. He got off to a very late start in 2016 because of that injury and there were many who were scared his big jump in workload in 2015 would lead to issues in 2016. They may have been right as he has been on the DL twice this year and may or may not finish the regular season on the DL. His issues in 2016 have consisted of shoulder and elbow pains, not a good thing for a starting pitcher and a player that should be avoided in 2017.

Clayton Kershaw, SP Dodgers

This is probably the most controversial name on my list. There is no doubting that Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball, but to me he has a huge red flag. In 2014 Kershaw spent time on the DL because of a back issue, 2015 a hip issue sidelined him and this season the back is back. Yes, he is pitching again in 2016, but unless he does something to get his back issue taken care of in the offseason I won’t be drafting him. Now, that is not because I think he will for sure be hurt. It is because the price you will have to pay for him is too high based on the ongoing injury concern.

Players We Wish We Drafted

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By slgckgc on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Last week I wrote a post about three players that fantasy baseball analyst missed the mark on by over valuing them coming in to the 2016 season. Today we look at players that everyone wishes they would have seen coming this season because they way over performed their draft day value.

Daniel Murphy, 2B Nationals

During the offseason the Washington Nationals shopped the market and added what at the time didn’t seem like a big piece to their team in Daniel Murphy. Murphy was coming off a hot stretch in the playoffs for the Mets where he found his power stroke to the tune of seven home runs in 14 games and hitting .328. As a whole, however, 2015 wasn’t all that different from any other year for Murphy finishing with 14 home runs, 2 stolen bases and a .322/.449/.770 triple slash line. Who would have thought that at 31 in 2016 he would have the break out season he has had? He came in to 2016 as the consensus 181st ranked player, but is currently ranked 5th. His power outburst that started in the playoffs has been followed up this season with 25 home runs and a career high .594 slugging. By the end of the year he should also set career highs in doubles, runs, RBIs, home runs and walks. Question will be for 2017 can he replicate this year’s performance.

Jonathan Villar, SS Brewers

Talent runs rampant in the Houston Astros system and because of that they had no place to play Jonathan Villar. That was good for the Milwaukee Brewers who traded for Villar in November. Coming in to 2016 he was ranked as the 414th player, more than likely not drafted in all but NL only leagues. Especially because he was seen as merely a place holder for the Brewer’s shortstop of the future Orlando Arcia. As the 6th ranked player so far in 2016 Villar has done nothing but impress with a full time role. He has played so well the Brewers delayed bringing up Arcia until much later in the year then we all expected. He is second in the majors, to Billy Hamilton, in stolen bases with 52 which has driven much of his value, but has also hit 13 home runs and is getting on-base in 38% of his plate appearances. Even with the promotion of Arcia, Villar is still seeing regular playing time at third base and is a staple at the top of Milwaukee’s order.

Jean Segura, SS Diamondbacks

In 2013 Jean Segura appeared to be on his way to a great career with a breakout season. He hit .294 with 44 stolen bases that year and fantasy owners thought they had their new great steals source. Then came 2014 and 2015 where his batting average dropped by 40 points and his stolen base numbers were cut in half. Those same fantasy owners were surely thinking what could have been. Coming in to 2016 Segura was fighting to make the opening day roster of his new club the Arizona Diamondbacks and on draft day no one was giving him much of a chance to do anything special as he was ranked 224th in preseason rankings. After an April where he hit .333 with four stolen bases and 4 home runs many owners began to take a second look at him on their waiver wire, but could he be trusted? The answer so far has been yes. He is hitting .317 on the season with 12 home runs, 30 stolen bases and 83 runs batting at the top of Arizona’s lineup. He is in the top 15 on the player rater for the season and looks to be the Segura of 2013. Many lucky fantasy owners who took a chance on this waiver wire pickup are jumping for joy with what he has done for their team.

2016 MLB OBP Leader Surprise

In this day and age many baseball fans pay very close attention to on-base percentage as a measure of how good a batter may or may not be. I don’t know that we can say exactly why we follow it so much more now, but I blame it on the movie Money Ball. Great movie by the way, you must see it if your a baseball fan.

What is on-base percentage, or OBP? It is pretty simple, a measure of how often a player gets on base. To calculate the actual percentage you would use the following formula OBP = (Hits + Walks + Hit by Pitch) / (At Bats + Walks + Hit by Pitch + Sacrifice Flies). Ok, so why is this important in baseball. That is somewhat obvious, the more a player is able to get on base the more often he has a chance to score.

Looking around my favorite baseball sites today and deciding what I wanted to post about I looked up OBP leaders for 2016 and the top five included names I expect; Mike Trout, Joey Votto, Jose Altuve and Paul Goldschmidt. There was however one name that surprised me. Not sure why I didn’t realize this player was such an OBP machine, but he seems to be. Number four on the list of on-base percentage leaders is, can you guess, DJ LeMahieu. Surprised? Like I said, I sure was.

On-Base% 
1. Trout (LAA) .436
2. Votto (CIN) .431
3. Goldschmidt (ARI) .418
4. LeMahieu (COL) .417
5. Altuve (HOU) .412

DJ LeMahieu
By Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as “DJ LeMahieu”) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
LeMahieu currently has an OBP of .417 to go along with a batting average of .344 and slugging percentage of .499. He is quietly putting together a very decent season and is on pace for a career high in hits, average, on-base, and slugging. Already this season he has set his career high in runs, walks and home runs. He is the #4 ranked second baseman in fantasy baseball according to FantasyPros player rater ahead of Brian Dozier, Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler. Yet most analyst rarely talk about him.

Why is he such an under the radar player? There are a few reasons. First, he plays on a team with Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gonzalez and Nolan Arenado. Second, he lacks that sexy stat line that includes huge power numbers or stolen bases. Likely next year he won’t be drafted as the #4 second baseman because of these reasons. At least partially because of that as I would anticipate before the season is over some regression in his average and OBP since he currently has a .384 BAbip, roughly .084 points higher than league average. Which is actually good news if everyone else sleeps on him since that allows you to pick him up later in a draft and return really good value next year. One other thing you may want to consider, in 2015 he finished 3rd in roto rankings for second baseman.