Another season of baseball is mere days away, and that means DFS (Daily Fantasy Sports) baseball needs to be discussed ASAP. I’ll be keeping tabs on the relative prices of players throughout the season, and we’ll have our resident DFS expert @jborelli27 giving his insights as well.
Let’s go around the horn and dish out 1 BREAK OUT candidate at each position (3 OF) so you can start your DFS season flying out the gate:
CATCHER — CAMERON RUPP
Cameron Rupp: It’s a good thing we don’t give a fuck about defense because Rupp’s is piss-poor to say the least. But offensively the 28 year old is primed for a BIG year. In his first full year in the majors last year he hit a respectable .252 with 16 HR as he gave way to veteran Carlos Ruiz for many starts. This year the job is all his, and that should add on another 30 games or so. The Phillies also have a young up-and-coming lineup that should be better this year, combining more opportunities in a hitter-friendly park should do wonders for Rupp. And then there’s this: He ranked 4th out of 19 qualified catchers last year in OPS, and 29th out of 246 MLB hitters in average exit velocity of 92.2 MPH (via Statcast). But when should you REALLY use him in your lineup? When he faces Lefties, the kid is a MASHER. His .955 OPS over the last 2 seasons ranks him 15th in all of baseball, sandwiched between MVP candidates Miguel Cabrera and Kris Bryant. His average exit velocity against Lefties was 94.4 MPH ranking 7th in the MLB. Currently coming in at #15 on ESPN’s fantasy rankings at catcher, a top 5 finish isn’t out of the question.
FIRST BASE — GREG BIRD
Greg Bird: People been sleeping on the kid. Since tearing his right shoulder labrum before the season last year, people have forgotten just how good Bird was in his short tenure with the Yankees. Now at only 24 years old, the Lefty slugger is poised to take advantage of Yankee Stadium’s legendary short RF porch.
In his first stint in New York in 2015, he hit 11 HR in only 46 games. Extrapolate out to a full year and that’s easily 35+ HR. The best news though is he has been absolutely crushing it in Spring Training making his shoulder injury a distant memory. Not only has Bird exhibited his power, it’s his level contact-inducing swing that has teammates and coaches raving. He’s hitting .421 with 4 HR in his first 38 AB in the Spring. Not bad. And at the projected #5 spot in the lineup, Bird will have his fair share of RBI opportunities. Currently ranked at #28 in the ESPN 1B rankings, a top 10 finish is highly probable with a top 5 finish very possible.
SECOND BASE — JAVIER BAEZ
Javier Baez: Young Javy is far and away my favorite player in the league. So if you think I’m being Baez-ed here that’s fine (see what I did there). He’s known for his flashy D and incredible tags. But after a breakout World Series run the kid is back and ready for more. He had a solid year in his first full season batting .273 with 14 HR. More telling though is the .311 vs R and .296 at Wrigley Field. Expect those numbers to become more of the norm this year as he adjusts to Righty pitchers and other parks. “The Wizard” Joe Maddon has constantly worked with him on his swing where it’s now a thing of pure beauty. At age 24 in his second full season Javy isn’t coming, he’s already HERE. Jump on the bandwagon before it’s too late.
SHORTSTOP — TROY TULOWITZKI
Troy Tulowitzki: As I discussed in my Toronto Blue Jays breakdown, I see Tulo being a key to the Jays getting back to the ALCS this season. Tulo has faced a lot of turmoil in his career from his injuries to the Toronto trade in 2015. He struggled mightily with the Jays in 2015 hitting a measly .239, and those struggles continued to start off last season with a .169 avg in April and .238 avg in May. The numbers steadily improved though, and at age 32 I believe he’s finally comfortable in his own skin in Toronto. He displayed his power with 24 HR last year, and after hitting .254 for the season with a sluggish start, .290 with 30 HR is certainly in reach. Currently ranked the #16 SS by ESPN fantasy, those numbers would shoot him up that list to a top-5 potential season. The lineup protection and hitter-friendly park remain, there’s no more excuses for the one-time #1 rated shortstop in baseball. It’s now or never.
THIRD BASE — MIGUEL SANO
Miguel Sano: The 23 year old Dominican Republic product has power for days. Standing at an imposing 6’4, 262 pounds it’s been his average, injuries, and work ethic that have been questioned for the youngster. Consider those concerns alleviated, Sano is on a mission this year and will hit for 40+ HR. As a young buck he hit a combined 43 HR in his first 2 seasons, but he missed a ton of time due to injury. Extrapolated over a 150 game season (giving 12 games off) his HR total comes to an average of 34 per season.
Now at 23 with some experience under his belt, a career year is in order. He’s moved from the disaster trial in Right field last season to his more natural position of 3B; now he can exclusively focus on his hitting. All off-season he’s tirelessly worked with his new hitting coach James Rowson who raves about the young hitter and his work ethic thus far. The primary focus for Rowson’s uber-talented pupil has been on better contact to improve on his .236 average of last year. Considering in 2015 he was up to .269 with a .385 OBP, bumping his average and OBP back to those levels if not higher is more than feasible. Currently ranked the #17 3B by ESPN fantasy, a top-5 finish is in the young giant’s immediate future.
OUTFIELD — YASMANY TOMAS
Yasmany Tomas: I’ll just come right out and say it, I love Yasmany Tomas. In his first full season (140 games), he blasted 31 HR in hitter-friendly Chase Field in Arizona while maintaining a respectable .272 average. With A.J. Pollock back from injury this season the lineup should also get a nice boost, even with the loss of Jean Segura to the Mariners. At the 5th spot in the lineup, Yasmany should have a plethora of opportunities to knock in runs with OBP studs Pollack and Paul Goldschmidt ahead of him as well as very solid hitters David Peralta and Jake Lamb.
Tomas has immense talent and power, which is why the D’Backs signed him to a 6 year, $68 million deal when he was 24. At 26 now, one of the most unknown power sluggers in the game is about to make the Arizona front office look extremely smart as they cash in on their investment. Post all-star break last season he upped his average from .253 to .294 and crushed 18 HR compared to 13 HR (pre all-star break) in 40 less AB. Against Lefty pitchers, he’s a premier MASHER hitting .364, .423 OBP with 1 HR per 11.2 AB. Considering 1 HR per 17 AB is really good, you can guess where Tomas’ numbers lie on the chart. Most promising though may be that he hit the same number of HR both away and home. Considering Arizona is the ultimate hitter’s park after Coors Field, you can expect those power numbers to jump even higher. Currently sitting at the #44 OF spot on ESPN fantasy is an outrage, the young Cuban may just lead the entire NL in HR.
OUTFIELD — HERNAN PEREZ
Hernan Perez: Perez came on strong last year in yet another lost season for the Brewers as he flashed his all-around talent. He received playing time extremely sparingly over the previous few years, so when he got his shot last year he made the most of it solidifying the clean-up spot by year’s end. While the Venezuelan provides solid average and power, it’s his speed and knack for stolen bases that give him some extra upside. In less than half a season post all-star break he swiped 24 bags. That gives him 20 HR, 50 SB potential and a ton of value at the #87 OF spot ESPN fantasy has him at.
OUTFIELD — JOSH REDDICK
Josh Reddick: The 2 times Josh Reddick played anything close to a full season he hit 20 HR and 32 HR. Both of those seasons occurred when he was in Oakland, where long fly balls go to die…a pitcher’s paradise. The lineup around him was also nothing special during his Oakland tenure; all of that’s about to change for the newly acquired Houston Astro. At age 30, Reddick is primed to have a career year as he gets a major park upgrade and a major lineup upgrade to boot. The Astros have one of the most devastating lineups in the majors and he’ll get plenty of opportunities to drive those runs in. Also as a Lefty, Reddick had fantastic splits vs Righty pitchers last year hitting .322 with a .386 OBP and all 10 of his HR and 17 of his doubles. STAY AWAY when he faces Lefties, but against the majority of pitchers Reddick will be able to tee off this year. At the #80 OF spot at ESPN fantasy, he’s a prime candidate to plug in your lineup early in the year.
PITCHER — LANCE MCCULLERS
Lance McCullers: The kid is 23 years old, has electric stuff, plays on a team with a great offense, and has a career ERA of 3.22. When it comes to pitchers in DFS, wins and strikeouts are the name of the game and McCullers should provide PLENTY in both categories. Last year he had 11.77 strikeouts per 9 innings which would put him at 2nd in all of baseball. He was also injured for a lot of last year and was nowhere near his best, yet he still posted those incredible K numbers and just a 3.22 ERA. Most importantly for Lance is that he’s recovered from his injuries of last season, which he proved in his recent simulated game where he looked sharp. His curveball is one of the most devastating pitches in baseball, and with the Astros loaded lineup this year he should get plenty of W’s. The #85 spot in ESPN fantasy for starting pitchers is a joke, this kid has Cy Young potential.