Part of success in Fantasy Baseball is determining a player direction for the upcoming season. This brings me to the regression/bounce back candidates. Fantasy owners tend to write off players who played poorly while overpaying for a hot season even with a short resume. Here are a few players I like and a few players I think will underperform considering their draft position.
Bounce Back Candidates
SP David Price, Boston Red Sox
Before arriving in Boston, David Price when 94-49 over six seasons with a 2.97 ERA and 1,258 Ks over 1299.1 innings. He won plenty of games in 2016 (17) while showing upside in Ks (228). His failure in ERA (3.99) that year and an injury-plagued 2017 season pushed his ADP this year well below his previous level. Price wants to get out of Boston, and he has an opt-out after this season even $127 million in salary owed to him from 2019 to 2022. When David was on the mound last year, he did deliver productive innings (3.38 ERA and 76 Ks over 74.2 innings). His injury risk is a concern, but Price should bounce back in a big way in 2018. Excellent value ace while pitching for a team that will score a ton of runs.
1B Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
On April 18th, Mr. Cabrera will turn 35. He’s been a stud in 12 of his last 14 seasons with each of his best years resulting in 25 or more HRs and 100 or more RBI. Before last year, Miguel hit over .310 in eight straight years (.330 over this span). In 2017, Cabrera wasn’t healthy leading to the worst season of his career (.249 with 16 HRs and 60 RBI). He needs 364 hits to reach 3,000 for his career and 38 HRs to reach 500 in his career. I don’t love the supporting cast around him, but I do believe a hot start could lead to a trade out of town if the Tigers are willing to eat some of his salary. A great player with a great resume…just remember, finding a high average bat later in the draft can be Fantasy gold. I’m buying, and you should be believing.
C Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
I just get the feeling Posey is going to be a great player in 2018. In my mind, he’s underachieved his draft value in each of the last five seasons despite offering an edge in batting average. Fantasy owners will still buy his inside of the top 75 picks in most drafts, but that’s 30 picks lower than his previous ADP. When looking at his 62 runs, 14 HRs, and 67 RBI from 2017, it is extremely difficult to hit the submit button in the draft room with so many other players coming off high powered season. The Giants lineup will be improved around him, and Buster may very well have the best overall season of his career. At the very least, his batting average edge will help cover some low average power later in the draft.
3B Todd Frazier, New York Mets
From 2014 to 2016, Frazier hit .251 with 259 runs, 104 HRs, 267 RBI, and 48 SBs or 86 runs, 35 HRs, 89 RBI, and 16 SBs per season. Those stats are impressive except for his batting average. Over the last three years, Todd made a conscious effort to hit home runs leading to a huge fly ball rate (47.7, 48.7, and 47.5). The downside of this is easier outs caught by outfielders and fade in batting average. Todd only .220 over his last 1,064 at-bats while coming off a down season (74/27/76/4). His ADP is 260 in the Scout Fantasy Sports drafts, which sure looks like a value to me. His approach was improved last year. This Frazier will hit in a favorable part of the batting order. I expect some rebound in his batting average with a better thought process at the plate. If you want to cheat third base, Todd is going to be a value if you have the right team structure in batting average.
2B Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals
I feel like a broken record here with Merrifield. He had a great season in 2017 (.288 with 80 runs, 19 HRs, 78 RBI, and 34 SBs) at age 28. My question is: where have you been? Whit showed speed in the minors (143 SBs over 2,796 at-bats). I expect him to run, but not at the same pace as year. The Royals’ lineup won’t have the same firepower, and his minor league resume in power (46 HRs) doesn’t support his success last year. Only a 10/30 player at best, which is something saved for a player drafted well after the 10th round. Suckers are built on these types of draft picks.
OF Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
I wish I had the time to research to see how many players in major league history delivered 125+ runs, 50+ HRs, and 110+ RBI in a season. The number can’t be high putting Judge in an elite category. He even led the league in walks (127). His huge K rate (30.7) does invite huge batting average risk. Last year Aaron hit .461 when he made contact, which is an extraordinary number. Just for comparison, Judge had a contact batting average of .390 over 1,297 at-bats in the minors. With a regression to that number and the same K rate, Aaron should only hit .240 in 2018. With more Ks comes fewer walks, less confidence, and fewer home runs. I expect him to be drafted 60 or more picks lower in 2019.
2B Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians
Last year Ramirez was a tough buy for me due to his draft value, and his expected playing position (3B). Jose has always been tough to strikeout, so his success in batting average isn’t a fluke. Even with 17 SBs, he did fall short of expectation. The big change in his game in 2017 was the jump in HRs (29 over 585 at-bats) while also delivering 56 doubles (46 in 2016 with Cleveland). Over his first 1,383 at-bats in the minors, Ramirez only had 72 doubles and 13 home runs. I am in intrigued by his 91 extra base hits last year, but I can’t get a handle on the jump in his average hit rate (1.83 – 1.49 in 2016). Of the options listed here, Jose has the best pedigree plus he’ll hit in a favorable spot in the Indians’ lineup. His huge jump in value is what makes me believe Ramirez will be less productive in 2018. I’ll like him much better as a third or fourth piece to a Fantasy team.
OF Tommy Pham, St. Louis Cardinals
In a similar theme as Whit Merrifield, Tommy Pham falls into my regression category. There is no doubt Pham was one of the better free agent pickups in 2017. Tommy will start the year at age 30 while never having over 450 at-bats in 12 seasons in the minors. Early in his career, Pham battled strikeouts while showing an intriguing combination of power and speed at three levels of A ball. 2017 was the healthiest season of his career leading to a career high in at-bats (536) between AAA (92) and the majors (444). At this point in his major career, he’s performed better in St. Louis in batting average (.281) than in the minors (.258). Maybe the light bulb clicked on last year, but my gut tells me an injury or a weaker approach will lead to drop back in production while failing to live up to his ADP.