In 2014, the Cincinnati Reds signed Homer Bailey to a six-year, $105 million contract. Doh! He only pitched 145.2 innings that season due to arm fatigue. The following season was cut short due to Tommy John surgery. 2016 consisted of only 23 innings and in 2017, Bailey had elbow surgery to remove bone spurs and finished with 91 innings pitched. 2018 brought DL stints due to knee inflammation and a subsequent benching after posting a 1-14 record with an ERA of 6.09. Doh! But then last season showed a flicker of hope, as he made improvements after being traded to the Oakland Athletics. Now that he is in Minnesota, and being drafted as the 396th overall player in NFBC drafts, is there profit to be mined here? Or is it just more Doh! from Homer?

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In these dystopian times, my mind can only wonder if Mad Max could ambush and/or eradicate COVID-19. Probably not since the Rona is invisible, but Max Rockatansky could do unimaginable things when mad, so I’m not completely dismissing the possibility. There is another Max, though, who may ease the pain that COVID-19 has brought into our fantasy baseball universe, and that’s Max Kepler of the Minnesota Twins (Max Scherzer is too old and happy from winning the World Series). And this Max is mad as well because he’s being drafted as the 136th overall player in NFBC drafts from 2/1 – 3/23. Is it warranted for this Max to be mad, and can he bring a ray of sunshine into these gloomy days?

Kepler was signed at the age of 16 back in 2009 for the largest signing bonus ($800k) ever given to a European-born player. He then spent three years in rookie ball, where he hit for a high average, showed good plate discipline, had a high BABIP, and produced 10 home runs and 7 stolen bases in 269 plate appearances during the 2012 season. As he moved up the ranks, the walk rate continued to improve (from 10% to 13%), while the strikeout rate remained very low (13% to 15% range). The BABIP also remained above .300 while Kepler continued to hit for a good average. When he finally received consistent playing time with the big club in 2016, the batting average and BABIP both plummeted, while the walk rate went down to 9% and strikeout rate went to 20%. Not uncommon when making the leap to the majors. He was a 18 home run and 6 stolen base player the first two seasons in the majors. Then in 2018, things started to improve. The walk rate went back to above 11% while the strikeout rate cratered to 15.7%. The batting average and BABIP continued to trend lower, though. He ended the season with 20 home runs and 4 stolen bases. Last season, Kepler broke out with 36 home runs but only stole 1 base. The walk and strikeout rates were similar to 2018, but the ISO spiked while the batting average increased to .252 with a BABIP of .244.

Kepler ended last season as the 107th offensive player for fantasy, so the NFBC ADP seems fair. Is there room for improvement?

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Billy Bob was gracefully galloping across the Texas plains, chasing that magnificent butterfly he had seen five minutes earlier. The sun was blazing, the wind was lazy, and the CV-19 was raging, but all Billy Bob could think of was calibrating his senses so that when he swung his net in the air, the butterfly would be his. But then…………..aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. He was oblivious to the human-sized sinkhole and fell feet first for what seemed like hours, but in reality was just a few seconds. After gravity was defeated by the floor, Billy Bob ended up in a cavern about 10 x 10 x 10. In the middle stood a stand with a book placed on top of it. Billy Bob got up, shook the dirt off his clothes, and proceeded to inspect: The Book of Isiah. Intrigued, Billy Bob turned the page. Isiah Kiner-Falefa, 24 years old, 5′ 10″ and 176 pounds. Meh. .238/.299/.322 slash with 1 home run and 3 stolen bases in 222 plate appearances last season. MEH. About to shake his fists and curse the gods, Billy Bob then turned one more page: .378/.410/.757 slash with 4 home runs in 39 plate appearances during Spring Training. Maybe Kiner-Falefa was a caterpiller and is now ready to transform. Did Billy Bob find his buttefly after all?

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Yusei Kikuchi experienced the full gamut of emotions last year. He followed in the footsteps of Prince Akeem and came to America, where he had to learn a new language, culture, and game. His father passed away from cancer, while becoming a father for the first time himself. On the mound, he experienced glory by pitching a complete-game, two-hit shutout with eight strikeouts against the Toronto Blue Jays and struck out 10 Indians in seven innings back in May. On the flip side, he allowed 5 earned runs in a game three times, 6 earned runs four times, and 7 earned runs once. He did start 32 games, so there’s that, but the final line was 161.2 innings pitched, 5.46 ERA, 16.1% strikeout rate, and 6.9% walk rate. On average, he’s being drafted as the 434th overall player and 178th pitcher being selected in NFBC drafts from 2/1 to 3/11. Am I writing up Kikuchi as a peace offering to Donkey Teeth (noted Kikuchi lover) after hating on his other love, Luis Robert? Kind of, but for full disclosure, I’ve drafted Kikuchi everywhere. Here’s why:

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Reynaldo Lopez allowed the fifth-most home runs last season and had game logs that would have made NBA players jealous. There were four games allowing three homers in a game and one game serving up four. There were 14 games in which he allowed at least five earned runs, with six of those games giving up six earned runs and two games with eight! Reynald-NOOOOOOOOOO. But I’m intrigued for some weird reason. Is it the 296 ADP in NFBC drafts from 2/1 to 3/9? Could be. Maybe it’s the fact that he throws mid-to-upper 90s. I’m always a sucker for speed. I blame Maverick and Goose. Or could it be the six-inning, 14-strikeout performance in April of last season? How about the complete game, one-hit, 11-strikeout game against the Cleveland Indians in early September? Let’s dig in and see if we can say Lope-YESSSSSS.

Lopez signed with the Washington Nationals back in 2012 as an international free agent from the Domincan Republic. He pitched in Single-A until 2016, when he logged 76 innings in Double-A, 33 innings in Triple-A, and 44 innings with the big club. With the major league team, Lopez finished with a 4.91 ERA, 8.59 K/9, and 4.50 BB/9. The following year, he was traded to the White Sox. He suffered a rib injury in 2017, which kept him at 47.2 innings pitched that season. In 2018, Lopez pitched 188.2 innings, had a 3.91 ERA, 7.2 K/9, and 3.58 BB/9. Last season, he pitched 184 innings, had a 5.38 ERA, 8.27 K/9, and 3.18 BB/9.

I know, I know. Yuckaldo Nopez, right?

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Who doesn’t like the home run? Chicks dig it. Players do PEDs for it. Rawlings loves it. Hmmm, let’s see. Pitchers despise it. Curmudgeons are opposed to it because some players flip the bat as a result. Maybe they think it’s flipping the bird? Fantasy nerds are infatuated with it, as they both celebrate and despise it. Whatever the case may be, the home run is freaking cool for real-life baseball and instrumental for the fantasy game, as one home run instantaneously affects four categories. So, for today’s piece, I thought I’d give the tale of the tape to two players who are both projected to be in the top 10 for home runs and are both being drafted outside of the first four rounds. Without further ado, do your thing Michael Buffer. Yes, we have a deep coffer here at Razzball to bring on talent when we need it.

In the red corner, standing a gargantuan six feet and five inches while weighing a hefty 235 pounds, we have sweet as Halo Halo Joey Gaaaaaaaaaaaaallllllllllloooooooooooooooooooo. USA! USA!! USA!!!

And in the blue corner, we have the 39-year-old, ageless wonder from the Dominican Republic, standing a respectable six feet and two inches and weighing in at 230 pounds, the man who always hits the ball on the screws, Nelson Cruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuz.

Are you ready? Are you ready? Let’s get ready to ruuuuuuuuuuuuuuummmbbllllleeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!

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I fulfilled my quota for young, exciting players when I wrote about Keston Hiura last week. Now back to our regularly scheduled program of boring, undervalued players. I liken it to walking into a Baskin Robbins. Ooooohh, 31 flavors. There’s mint chocolate chip, rainbow sherbert, jamoca almond fudge, and cotton candy with their fancy names, colorful skin, and sweet taste. The scooper behind the counter has to dig his/her arm way down into the bucket to mine the deliciousness due to their popularity. But, but, but…..let’s not forget about the vanilla, very berry strawberry, and old fashioned butter pecan. They are boring compared to their more high-profiled brethren, but they get the job done. Which brings me to Jonathan Schoop of the Detroit Tigers. He doesn’t steal a lot of bases or hit for a high average, but he could club 25-30 home runs and is being drafted as the 321st player on average in NFBC drafts from February 1, 2020 to March 2nd, 2020. Scoop Schoop?

 

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I didn’t want to write up Luis Robert of the Chicago White Sox because I’m a scared little boy named Marcus (real name is Son) who didn’t want to be stranded on an island by himself. I kid. I don’t know how I feel about him to be honest. My gut is yelling that he’s overpriced, but so many of my Razzball brethren are super high on him (Grey and Rudy recently drafted him in the 60s and Donkey Teeth set the minimum pick on him I believe in TGFBI). Let’s dig in and see if I should take out my gut with a baseball bat.

Robert is 22 years old, 6′ 3″, 205 pounds, and bats from the right side of the plate. He was the consensus #1 international prospect in 2016. In 2017, the White Sox signed him for just over $26 million. He’s a five-tool player who’s been compared to Vladimir Guerrero. The athleticism is off the charts, the bat speed is quick, and the power is prodigious. Oh, I forgot about the speed. He posted a sub-6.3 second 60-yard dash. For perspective, 6.7-6.9 is average. Billy Hamilton ran it in 6.2 seconds.

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It’s been well documented all draft prep season that the shortstop position is deeeeeeeeeep. So deep that Ron Jeremy has signed up for a Razzball Commenter League for the challenge. So deep that the CEO of CVS has taken offense. So deep that Rodin’s Thinker has asked to be moved into solitary. The top 10 shortstops are all being drafted in the top 45 overall. There are 14 being drafted in the top 100. There are still viable options within the top 200! With a plethora of options, there are so many viable ways to attack drafts and this position in particular. Would double tapping the shortstop and middle infield slots after making William Wallace proud be the way to go? In this scenario, I’m thinking about Paul DeJong and Jean Segura, who are both being selected with the 196th overall pick in NFBC drafts from the start of February. It must be your lucky day, as you get double the content for the price of…..free. Uhh, Grey. I think we need to alter the business model a tad.

 

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If I wrote up another old and boring player, Grey was going to make me pass out Razzball lollipops to all the senior citizens in Los Angeles. Young and exciting. Got it. Young and exciting. Scrolling through the NFBC ADP from January 1st to February 19th and……Got it. Keston Hiura of the Milwaukee Brewers. He’s 23 years old. Check. But is he exciting? Well, he only hit 19 home runs and stole 9 bases in 348 plate appearances last season. And he’s being drafted as the 43rd overall player right now. The peoples are definitely excited. He’s Asian, so you know I’m excited, but will drafting him this season bring oohs and aahhs, or will it end up being a tragic flaw?

The first thing that jumped out to me when looking at Hiura was the 30.7% strikeout rate. I hate high strikeout players, but I’ve been coming around to them more recently because of the high upside many of them exhibit. That’s evident with Hiura, as the ISO was .268, and he straight mashed the ball. According to the Statcast data from last season, Hiura had an exit velocity of 91.4 mph and a hard hit rate of 50%! The exit velocity was good for 25th in all of baseball, while the hard hit rate was 7th! No wonder peoples are going goo goo gaga, not for Coco Puffs, but for Keston Hiura.

As I dug deeper, though, I began to get concerned.

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