1. Tyler Duffey is the Twins best starter
I was a bit late to the party on Duffey as I had not heard much about him until reading a Keith Law chat last year in which a Twins fan asked why he has improved so much in the minors. The details Keith gave caused me to look deeper into Duffey and I came away with confidence that he can perform in the upper levels and in the majors. Last year he was great in double-A, triple-A, and in the majors and has a quality most Twin starters lack – strikeout potential. To say I am bullish on Duffey would be an understatement.
2. Justin Upton leads the AL in runs
Batting second in front of guys like Miguel Cabrera and JD Martinez will give Upton every opportunity to have the type of fantasy season people have begged for since his 2011 season. The homers have consistently been in the 25-29 range the past three years and he has recorded more than 620 plate appearances each year since 2010. A model of health in his prime and on a new team with a great offense, I think Upton can reach 120 runs scored this season.
This one may sound bold in general but projection systems actually agree with me. Maeda came over as a control first pitcher in the make of Hisashi Iwakuma but I think the strikeout potential is there and pitching in the NL in a friendly ballpark than Yankee Stadium makes me a tad more confident in Maeda than Tanaka. Tanaka and Maeda both carry a bit of injury risk, as most pitchers do but theirs is a tad more worrisome, but with all things considered I bet Maeda outperforms Tanaka in 2016.
4. Nomar Mazara is the top fantasy outfielder for the Rangers
So he is not even starting the year in the majors (barring late spring injuries) and there are three talented outfielders from a fantasy perspective already manning spots in Texas. Even so, Mazara’s bat skills have me confident in him forcing his way into the lineup and producing from May on. He needs injuries or lack of performance to get a spot. He does not have much stolen base potential but he reminds me of a Carlos Gonzalez at the plate and while he is not in Colorado, Texas is quite friendly to the hitters as well.
5. Sean Doolittle is a top five closer
Doolittle returned last year after shoulder surgery, which is most certainly a concern. That gives you the opportunity to pick him up at a discount. His 2014 season was absurd from a strikeout-to-walk perspective and while the command did not come back in his 13.2 innings last season, with a full offseason and spring training to get back track he will get back to his 2014 form and dominate hitters by challenging them consistently.
6. Travis Shaw leads the Red Sox in Home Runs
Much like Mazara, Shaw does not even have a spot in the lineup entering the spring, but he is behind a very old David Ortiz, and two inconsistent and worrisome players in Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. Shaw is also getting work out in left field so if he continues to hit then he will get the opportunities to play. Shaw states he has performed much better in the majors due to video scouting which was not available to him in the minors. While his triple-A numbers scream regression, I see him belting out 25+ home runs and pacing the way in Boston.
7. Ketel Marte is a top 10 shortstop
He is young, he is fast, and he hit very well in his debut last season. Marte will not hit for much power, but much like Upton above, hitting second in front of Cano and Cruz will give him plently of run scoring opportunities. His stolen base percentage was not too impressive in his 57 games last year, but I suspect the Mariners do everything they can to scrounge across runs this season which will include giving Marte upwards of 30 stolen base attempts. Marte has also posted quality plate discipline numbers which along with his speed suggests he can sustain a relatively high BABIP. If the average stays in the .270-.280 range, he will be useful in all formats.
8. Trevor May leads the Twins in saves
This is especially bold because May is not even second in line for saves currently. He is behind both the incumbent Glen Perkins and Kevin Jepsen. Even so, May’s dominance in the pen last year combined with the 3.50ish ERA Perkins has recorded the past two years combined and Jepsen dropping a mile per hour on his fastball with fewer strikeouts, and you get a situation that may have May elevated to closer sooner than you would imagine. May was a starter by trade but posted a 2.87 ERA as a reliever last season backed by 37 strikeouts in 31.1 innings pitched. His velocity was up in the bullpen, as expected, and the production skyrocketed from middling starter to excellent relief option.
Bradley was bad in his much anticipated debut last year and then the Diamondbacks paid a ton to acquire Miller this offseason. Even so, I see an angle where Bradley gets back into the rotation and outperforms Miller. The strikeout rates are similar while Bradley should be able to induce more ground balls. Walks will be the differentiating factor here and while Bradley’s walk rates have been worrisome, he did show some improved command in triple-A last year. This may be my boldest prediction, but Bradley has the talent to be a post-hype sleeper and Miller has the potential to be a huge fantasy bust.
10. Travis d’Arnaud is a top-2 catcher
Injuries put a detour on d’Arnaud’s breakout campaign and have often been an issue, but I predict d’Arnaud is healthy this year and hits as well as he did last season over a full year. His .218 ISO last year was 60 points higher than Buster Posey’s and his wRC+ was only 7 points lower than Posey’s 138 mark. His on base skills have improved, the lineup is better around him now than going into last season, so watch out for d’Arnaud this year to be the top catcher in the non-Posey division.
Ben has been at RotoGraphs since 2012 and focuses most of his fantasy baseball attention toward dynasty and keeper leagues.