Note: this article was written prior to Lucas Duda’s exit from Wednesday night’s game with what is being described as a hyperextended elbow. The severity of the injury, which we don’t yet know, obviously impacts his viability moving forward. But as this latest episode now represents the second time within about a year that this author has endorsed Lucas Duda shortly before an injury befell him, take any future endorsements from him with a giant block of Himalayan salt.
Has anyone noticed what Lucas Duda has been up to? Apparently not anyone who plays in Yahoo or ESPN formats where he’s still available in nearly 85% of leagues. This is despite his 4 homers, .393 wOBA, and perhaps most importantly, 49 plate appearances over which he’s paraded his newly healthy back. Duda has played in 12 of the Mets’ first 14 games, starting in 11 of them, and thus far sat only against lefties, Jaime Garcia, Wei-Yin Chen, and Adam Conley.
It’s far too early in the season to draw any conclusions about his batted balls or production so let’s just acknowledge that he’s stroking the ball well, pairing a ton of fly balls with convincing exit velocities. The takeaway shouldn’t be that Duda appears back and as good as ever but rather that three weeks into the season, Duda’s back appears as good as ever.
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Half a week in the books. How’s your team doing? I wanted to write a SELL, SELL, SELL!! piece but that seemed a tad premature. So instead, let’s check in on Dallas Keuchel, a divisive player entering 2016 and once again in 2017. With concerns swirling around the Houston lefty given last year’s undeniable decline in both performance and health, I was eager to see him pitch the Astros’ opener against Seattle.
Coming off his 2015 Cy Young campaign, Keuchel was a polarizing figure. A ground ball pitcher with impeccable command, detractors fretted about his lack of velocity. Well, if his cheddar was in short supply to begin with, the fromagerie was flat out barren in 2016. Keuchel lost a tick on the gun, averaging 88 mph on his fastball through his first 10 starts. But that wasn’t all. His pitches were down nearly across the board.
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It’s a little crazy how deep third base is this year. Perusing the NFBC average draft position list, there are nearly twenty players whom, in most years, I’d be happy to roll with in standard leagues. Most surprising though was seeing Nick Castellanos languishing all the way at 19th off the board in NFBC drafts (Note: I had originally considered anointing him just The Greek God of Contact but unfortunately that moniker implies a certain frequency of contact that the 25-year old simply cannot be bothered with). Castellanos won’t win any OBP-titles but in 2016 he did one thing well. And that’s hit a baseball really, really hard.
RotoGraph’s Bold Predictions pieces make for an undoubtedly fun series to be a part of. The challenge is finding that sweet spot between bold and insane which, to my understanding, results in about 3 correct predictions out of 10. Last year, my first, my boldness led me off the deep end as faith in such luminaries as Aaron Hicks, Chris Heston, and Chris Bassit went unrewarded. Hard to believe.
But given that our job at RotoGraphs is to give our readers advice as to how they should manage their fantasy teams, it’s only fair that I put my money where my mouth is and base my predictions, to the extent possible, on players I’ve recently endorsed. So, with that said, let’s get bold!
Over the last several weeks, we’ve taken a look at available deep league options at catcher, first base, and second base. In this latest edition of Deep League Draft Targets, we move onto shortstop. Previous installments can be found below:
Deep League Draft Targets – Catcher
Deep League Draft Targets – First Base
Deep League Draft Targets – Second Base
Welcome to this third installment of Deep League Draft Targets, an exploration of each position’s middle and late tier players. Where mediocrity abounds, value is found. Where one man’s trash is another man’s backup left-handed platoon option.
In previous editions, we covered first base, touching on Fangraphs-favorites, Tommy Joseph and Justin Bour. The week before, Tyler Flowers, Mike Zunino, and Andrew Susac, called for our attention behind the dish. Today, we move onto second base, a position that in past seasons drew the ire of many a fantasy owner but that the roto community has lately characterized as “groin-grabbingly deep.” But is it really?
In our last edition of Deep League Draft targets, we took a closer look at three catchers who, perhaps overlooked in standard leagues, represent attractive draft day targets in deeper ones. Today, we move onto first base.
In the run-up to last season, I started a position-by-position series aimed at deep league owners and who, outside of the top 15 or 18 players at each position, they should target in drafts. I don’t know if it was helpful and I’m sure if I looked back at my picks, I’d find some duds in there. As I quickly found out covering my Deep League beat last season, finding studs amongst the bottom rung of players can often feel like an exercise in futility. But don’t tell that to deep league managers for whom there’s value in mediocrity. So, with that compelling introduction, let’s look at some mediocre catchers, eh?
Entering 2016, Liam Hendriks was one of my favorite relief sleepers. In fact, I fantasized in my Bold Predictions piece that he’d enter 2017 as an elite closer. And while the results are laughable in hindsight, you can understand why I was bullish on him.
Coming off an outstanding 2015 in Toronto, Hendriks entered a remade Oakland bullpen headlined by a formerly dominant but unequivocally injury prone Sean Doolittle. His other competition included renowned ball four-enthusiast, John Axford, rookie Ryan Dull, and a resurgent but Medicare-eligible Ryan Madson. All possessed as many risks as virtues and it seemed, given the lingering questions surrounding them, that Liam Hendriks’ big fastball, elite command, and strong ground ball rate should have put him towards the top of the queue once the inevitable arm injury befell Doolittle. So what happened?
Projecting future closers is always difficult. We can use a number of different frameworks that factor in environment, talent, pitch quality, and arsenals, and still scratch our heads marveling at how relievers are used. It’s a tricky proposition given the number of variables involved. Add to that the changing nature of bullpen roles, it’s not inconceivable, as we saw with Andrew Miller’s usage, that a progressive manager might not use his best reliever in a way that’s conducive to racking up saves.
In fantasy, saves are expensive and the inherent volatility of bullpens can make chasing them on draft day a dubious endeavor. The Chacon Zone’s goal is to identify non-closing relief aces. Those pitchers whose contributions in strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP, despite low innings totals, are significant enough to offset the lack of saves that you’d receive by rostering a closer in his place. By banking on talent, rather than simply opportunity, we can identify cheap relievers not only possessing high floors but also high ceilings should they be thrust into a ninth inning role. Think Edwin Diaz from last year. Luckily for us, the new Splits Leaderboard, provides yet another tool by which we can (attempt to) identify these pitchers. By isolating performance in high leverage situations, we can not only identify talented relievers but those whose managers entrust them in the most pivotal moments.