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Fantasy Baseball: Dodgers’ Yasmani Grandal headed for career year

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Fantasy Baseball: Dodgers’ Yasmani Grandal headed for career year

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It’s upon us. Baseball games that matter are back, and with them come a joy that is unparalleled for me as a Fantasy sports player. To me, there isn’t a sport out there that actually tests your ability to draft a roster, work a waiver wire and trade to bring home a championship like baseball. You can battle through injuries and stream pitchers with good matchups. You can punt a category and still win. No strategy is wrong if you execute it properly, and there is a beauty in that that makes this so enjoyable.

As things get started there is one thing that needs to be stressed, as it is forgotten every season. That is patience. Fantasy Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. A bad month from a few of your star players can put you in a hole but won’t sink you. Be especially patient with veteran players that have extensive bodies of work. These guys will turn it around. Younger players typically hold value longer, so if you have a kid without a proven track record but plenty of interest, that is the player you move. Unless you are in a keeper league, that is.

Observation

Rockies manager Bud Black didn’t announce his closer heading into the season, but all the smart money was on Greg Holland. He was brought in on a deal that pays him $7 million this year with a mutual option for another $10 million next year. His main competition, Adam Ottavino, happens to be left-handed. Most managers prefer their closers to be righties. In the team’s Opening Day victory, Holland got the call and retired the side after issuing a leadoff walk to Jonathan Villar. Reports had his velocity up in the mid-90s for the outing, which is definitely a good sign. The only real question here is going to be his ability to pitch regularly in back-to-back games. You can expect him to have a pretty long leash to start the season.

Fantasy Baseball: Dodgers’ Yasmani Grandal headed for career year
Speculation

While on the topic of closers, I would be remiss if I did not bring up the man who is the worst closer in the league, Jeanmar Gomez. He hung on for the save against the Reds, but not until he gave up two runs on two hits in the Phillies’ 4-3 victory. Last season, he saved 37 games despite posting a 4.85 ERA, 1.46 WHIP and a 6.16 K/9. The only thing he does effectively is keep the ball down in the zone. However, when he does not, man, he can get lit up, as he only possesses a low-90s fastball and doesn’t own a plus secondary offering. If given a choice about which full-time closer loses his job first this season, it is going to be Gomez. The man who you should view as next in line would be Joaquin Benoit. He is in on a one-year, $7.5 million dollar deal. Allowing young and more talented arms like Hector Neris and Edubray Ramos rack up saves just drives up their arbitration value. With the Phillies not looking to contend, it’s easy to see them keeping the future price tag down on their more talented young options.

Revelation

Yasmani Grandal hit 27 homers in 457 plate appearances last year. Evan Gattis was the only player with catcher eligibility to hit more than Grandal did last season. The big issue was his batting average, as he hit just .228 and is a .238 hitter for his career. The part that always leaves me promise is this guy has walked in 14.2 percent of his career 1,660 plate appearances. Hitters with an understanding of the strike zone are always a threat to improve. There is no doubt Grandal has power; his two homers on Opening Day are plenty of evidence of that. What I think we see this year is a spike in his batting average into a respectable .250 range. His batted ball profile shows a hitter that consistently makes hard contact while his career BABIP stands at just .275. A little food for thought. The difference between a .250 hitter and a .230 hitter over 400 at-bats is just eight hits. If Grandal stays healthy he is going to set career best numbers in every major offensive category.

Observation

Xander Bogaerts stole two bases against Pittsburgh. Last season he stole 13 in 157 games and has just stolen 26 in 475 career games with the Red Sox. The obvious question here is what we make of this. Your answer lies in a quick history lesson. Last season Pittsburgh as a team caught only 22-percent of opposing base stealers. They were one of six teams that gave up over 100 stolen bases last year. To take things one step further, Francisco Cervelli, who was behind the dish Monday, threw out just 18 percent of runners last year. This was a perfect example of a player/team knowing their competition and taking advantage of it. For DFS purposes store this one away, as it looks like this will continue to be a matchup to exploit. As for Bogaerts, if he manages to swipe a few more bases during this series he may be able to flirt with 20 this season. Expecting anything more than that would be foolish.

Fantasy Baseball: Dodgers’ Yasmani Grandal headed for career year
Speculation

Alex Bregman swiped a bag as well on Opening day. This, on the other hand, caught my attention. Bregman stole only two bags in his 49 games with the Astros last year, but he did manage to steal 20 in 146 career minor-league games and 66 in 196 college games at LSU. We have a precedent of being able to run here, and batting out of the two-hole leaves open the possibility that he’ll get the opportunity to run more than what we were expecting. As a team, Houston was one of only nine teams that stole over 100 bases last year. Steamer projections have him for just eight steals this year. After digging up his past numbers and combining that with the fact that Houston runs more than most teams, it is not out of the realm of possibility we see 15-plus here. That means a drastic value increase. If you, by chance, have not drafted yet, be sure to consider this.

Revelation

For three straight seasons we have seen Rougned Odor improve as a ballplayer. Last season he fully broke out, posting a .271-89-33-88-14 line over 632 plate appearances. It is hard to look at those numbers and expect more, but it is time to open your eyes to that possibility. Odor hit two homers off Corey Kluber in his first two at-bats of the season. This after signing a six-year, $49.5M contract extension with a $13.5M club option for 2023. This kid is still hungry, and I love it. Looking at the Rangers lineup, it’s feasible they move him to the cleanup spot ahead of Mike Napoli. The faster this happens the better, as he is already clearly the superior player. With the Rangers sporting one of the best offenses in baseball, Odor sure looks fully capable of hitting 30 homers again while threatening to score 100 runs and likely surpassing 100 RBIs. When this season is in the books, he will be a Top-15 offensive player and a staple at the top of Fantasy drafts for years to come.

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