Greetings and welcome back to the Mike Maher Halfway House for Troubled Fantasy Baseball Owners. There will be cookies and White Russians, and they are mandatory. The season is but a few days away, and there is much to be done if you want to avoid embarrassment, at least in your fantasy leagues. I can’t help you with your daily embarrassments. Or maybe I can. Hit me up on Twitter, and I’ll give it a shot. What’s the worst that could happen?
Anyway, we’re going to talk about a few players and, as you might have guessed, their relative fantasy environments. What does/do fantasy environments mean, you ask? Great question. It means whatever you want it to mean.
Oh, more specifically? Well, it can mean a bunch of things. I went over them a few weeks ago after making a hilarious joke about how I envisioned it by putting my bitmoji-face in a picture with Kate Upton. :::pause here for laughter:::.
Now that you’re all good and warmed up, let’s get to some players…
When I take a chance on someone late in a deep league, I try to focus on someone who is going to definitely be given a chance to succeed. Sure, there is something to be said for taking the stud prospect who is an injury or trade away from getting a chance, but you can’t always wait for that to happen. April matters in fantasy baseball, too. I try to see those types of chances coming during the season and pounce on the waiver wire, rather than draft a guy in the middle of March and hope something happens.
What I mean by “definitely given a chance to succeed” is someone who either has a starting position locked up and it is his to lose or someone who has guaranteed playing time staring him in the face and daring him to mess it up. Pablo Sandoval is a beefy version of both of those things.
Wait, wait, wait, don’t walk away yet. Hear me out. Let’s take it slow and start with his price. His ADP right now is somewhere around 270 (which used to be just his weight and not his ADP), so it’s not like you are grabbing him early. He’s a late round flyer and nothing more, so relax. Grey grabbed him at 350 a few weeks ago. Read: in an auction, he’ll cost you a buck. Also read: I am not telling you to grab him as a starting 3B. He’s just a guy.
So, we got price out of the way. What else do I like? His competition. He has none. Blake Swihart could play third if they wanted him to, but the Red Sox are insistent on him catching and only catching in AAA. Brock Holt is a super-duper utility brah and already proved he shouldn’t have an everyday job. Josh Rutledge. Exclamation point. Travis Shaw is gone in exchange for Dave Dombrowski’s latest acquisition of an arm with, get this, arm trouble. So who is going to take the job from him? Likely no one, at least for a while. He will be given every opportunity to succeed. Will he? No bleeping idea. But I’m telling you there’s a chance.
The bad news is that there isn’t really any more good news. Sandoval hasn’t been good since 2014, and even then he was just OK. His ceiling is his 2011 season of 23 dongs and a .315 batting average, and I don’t think anyone here believes he is going to approach that. Grey has him projected for 61 / 15 / 69 / .254 / 3, and that seems right to me. In a perfect world, his average will creep back up into the .270 arena, but no promises there. And if you can add a guy like that and hope for some extra home runs due to playing games in AL East parks for most of the year, then that ain’t not bad for a guy you can get around the 300 slot in drafts.
Two last positives (end on a high note, Mike!) are 1. He seems to be healthy (shoulder no longer an issue) and thinner (he is less big than he was a year ago). And 2. He is smacking the ball around in Spring Training at a .351 clip, with four dongs. Man, that is a lot of characters spent on Pablo Sandoval. Sorry, everyone.
Stay in the AL East, you say? Sure, why not. Greg Bird is a guy too, although he is a guy with much more upside and much less of all of the other sides than Sandoval. His ADP is around the 120 mark right now, but depending on your league he could go anywhere from inside the top 100 to 150. Everyone has an opinion on him and different feelings on his question marks.
The main reason to be intrigued by Bird is he is a big left-handed bat who is going to be playing half of his games in Yankee Stadium this season. For those of you who are unaware, the right field wall in Yankee Stadium is pretty much right behind first base. Read: we’re talking 30 home run territory.
Bird missed 2016 with a right shoulder injury, which is scary when you are talking about a left-handed power hitter, but in 2015 he hit 11 home runs in just 178 at bats. Let’s project that out to, oh, I don’t know, 500 at-bats. Hey, what do you know, that comes out to 30 home runs.
The shoulder scared me a little bit, and the Yankees bringing in Chris Carter scared me even more. But Bird is hitting over .400 with seven home runs this Spring, and Carter is hitting, well, not much of anything. As long as Carter sticks around, I do worry a little bit about him taking some starts and at bats from Bird against lefthanders or if Bird starts to slump. Other than that, though, everything is coming up Milhouse for Greg Bird and his fantasy owners. You had me at “left-handed power in Yankee Stadium.”
Speaking of at-bats, that is the main worry with Evan Gattis this season. Wow, Mike, what a segue! And you know how to spell segue! I know, I know. Gattis went from depth/bench bat to fantasy starter once he regained catcher eligibility, and now owners are hoping to get some of that sweet, sweet 30-home run power again in 2017.
One problem: the Houston Astros had to go out and get Brian McCann. Everybody panic. The main question for Gattis heading into this season, obviously, is how many at-bats is he going to get? The Astros now have McCann at catcher, Nori Aoki in left field, and added Carlos Beltran to DH. At first glance, Gattis appears to be the odd man out in this, shall we say, environment (smile and slowly look around the room).
Fear not, my faithful Razzballers. Your dude is going to get his at-bats. Last season, Gattis hit 32 dongs in 447 at bats. I’m telling you right now, before God and Jesus and your mom reading this over your shoulder (tell her that “dongs” means home runs) that Gattis is going to get at least 400 at-bats this season, and most likely more. You can relax.
For starters, you can already pencil him in for starts against left-handers. Either Aoki or McCann is likely going to get a day off here. You can probably toss Josh Reddick into this equation, as well. Gattis is also going to be McCann’s primary backup, so sprinkle in a few more starts. Beltran is going to be the primary DH but is going to play some outfield, and Gattis will DH when he does. When Beltran gets a day off, boom, you get more Gattis. And let’s not sit here and pretend that, even though he is penciled in as the starting left fielder that Aoki is going to be stealing too many at bats from Beltran or Gattis.
Gattis may not have an obvious home in the Astros lineup every day, but he’ll be there. Whether or not he produces in those at bats is another question (his Spring Training numbers are BAD, and there are some rumblings about that sore shoulder), but he’ll be fine. I think?
I was going to write a piece on Joey Votto, too, but this thing is already 1,500 characters long. So, I’ll just leave you with this quick blurb and a promise to discuss Votto again in the future. I took some flak in the LOEG (recap here) for keeping Daniel Murphy over Joey Votto as one of my four keepers. That could turn out to be a big mistake (my other three keepers are Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Corey Seager, so maybe I was just feeling confident), but I’ll tell you why I did it.
Votto is a golden god of OPS, and I love him. It hurt to give him up in LOEG because I had him for a few years and thought we might never part. But the Reds are bad and are getting worse. That lineup is going to be hot garbage. Votto’s only protection behind him in the lineup is going to be Adam Duvall, who has big boy power but isn’t going to be winning any batting titles. Given the choice in a tight spot, no one is going to pick pitching to Votto over Duvall. And after Duvall, the next four spots in that lineup are :::shudders::: Scott Schebler, Zack Cozart, Eugenio Suarez, and Tucker Barnhart.
What am I getting at here, in what was supposed to be a quick blurb? This: at what point do pitchers just simply stop pitching to Joey Votto? Call me crazy, but I think Votto’s walks are going to go up and his HR and RBI are going to drop this season. If you’re in an OPS league, then you don’t have much to worry about. But if you need HR and RBI from Votto, you might. It is a little late in March to be talking about ADP and drafts now, but I can tell you this: no way am I touching Votto near his current ADP of 20. Read: bad environment.
If you want to talk fantasy baseball or football or have players you want Mike to feature, hit him up on Twitter at @mikeMaher or post a comment below!