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Spring continues to spring surprises on us. Last week, I lavished praise on Trea Turner, 2B/OF, WAS, who is entering his second season with huge hype. The hype will only get bigger now that he is probably going to play SS for the Nats.
That position eligibility won't be reflected on fantasy rosters until a week or two into the season, but the triple eligibility makes Turner that much more valuable as the No. 2 SS and arguably as high as No. 11 overall. Since the addition isn't yet official for fantasy, and I do things by the book, you might want to make a note of it. In other words, as you print out my rankings, as I'm sure you all do with religious devotion, slot in Turner as the No. 2 SS between Manny Machado and Corey Seager, and bump everyone else down a spot.
Now, where were we?
26) George Springer, OF, HOU; OF Rank: 9 - Power stats of 29 HRs, 89 RBIs last year were exact same as top 20 player Charlie Blackmon, but the latter's 17 SBs and .324 AVG to Springer's 9 SBs and .261 are the difference. Springer is the younger player with the higher ceiling, still working things out, but possibly a bargain if you get him late third round.
27) Robinson Cano, 2B, SEA; 2B Rank: 3 - Continues to put up gaudy stats and last year's 39 HRs (career high), 103 RBI (highest since 2013) and 107 runs (highest since 2012) scream top 20, but zero SBs, sub-75 extra-base hits subtract a bit from overall value, and he's 34.
28) A.J. Pollock, OF, ARI; OF Rank: 10 - People forget he was a top 10 candidate going into last season before being lost to injury. His 2015 stats, including 20 HRs, 39 SBs, 39 doubles and 192 hits are sticking with us even though he showed little in a late-season return last year.
29) Corey Kluber, SP, CLE; SP Rank: 6 - Typically not high on SPs for fantasy when they pitched deep into the previous postseason (see No. 35 and 36 below). Kluber did have 18 wins, 227 Ks in 215 IP, though his 18-win 2014 season was followed by a 9-win stinker in 2015, and Ks have dipped three straight years, but CLE will get him wins, and he's still a top 5-6 strikeout SP.
30) Freddie Freeman, 1B, ATL; 1B Rank: 6 - Hype train left town, so he responded with 34 HRs, 102 runs, 178 hits (all career-highs), 91 RBI, .302 AVG. Blistering Sept. saw .385 AVG, and 49 RBI came after Aug. 1. Nice pick here if you pass on top-tier 1Bs, but could also go five picks sooner.
31) Edwin Encarnacion, 1B, CLE; 1B Rank: 7 - He joins a CLE team that really could have used his slugging stats in the World Series. Career-high 127 RBIs and 99 runs boosted value last year, and 42 HRs tied career-high, but that's the extent of fantasy value for sub-.275 hitter with no speed.
32) Giancarlo Stanton, OF, MIA; OF Rank: 11 - Off-season photos of beast-mode training may get some even more excited about this exit velocity superstud, and 40 HR, 100 RBI threat is ever-present, but injury-plagued career continued last year as AVG slipped to .240. He also lacks SBs.
33) Brian Dozier, 2B, MIN; 2B Rank: 4 - Shocking rank for 42 HRs, 99 RBI, 104 runs, 18 SBs. Sadly, .268 AVG was career-high. Crazy streaky (23 HRs in Aug-Sept), and despite trade rumors remains with still lowly MIN. Will certainly go higher in many leagues, but hard to trust week to week.
34) Trevor Story, SS, COL; SS Rank: 6 (Assuming Turner gets his SS notch, Story is No. 7; promise this is the last time I'll mention it.) - Surprising start made him the top fantasy player no one drafted. 27 HRs, 72 RBI, .909 OPS, and 51 of 101 hits were for extra bases - all in just 97 games. Might have gone 40/100 if he hadn't lost the last two months to injury.
35) Jon Lester, SP, CUBS; SP Rank: 7 - The fact this guy had a huge 2016 and pitched into November makes me tremendously happy in reality, though very cautious as a fantasy drafter. It's not just potential fatigue, but likelihood Cubs will try a six-man rotation and rest top arms frequently. Last year's 19 wins, 197 Ks, .244 ERA, 1.02 WHIP probably the absolute ceiling for 2017.
36) Jake Arrieta, SP, CUBS, SP Rank: 8 - Erratic, but still top 10 fantasy production in 2016. Looming free agency could motivate. Like Lester, might be hard for him to get enough starts and IPs for 18 wins, but could surpass 200 Ks after 190 last year if he gets back his 2015 second-half mojo.
37) Daniel Murphy, 1B/2B, WAS; 1B Rank: 8, 2B Rank: 5 - Extended 2015 postseason sizzle, amassing .347 AVG, .985 OPS, 25 HRs, 104 RBI, 47 doubles (all career highs), and made a great case for MVP. SB threat that once gave him extra value has faded, but who cares?
38) J.D. Martinez, OF, DET; OF Rank: 12 - Injury-shortened season kept him from repeating his 38 HR, 102 RBI 2015 season, though he somehow managed a career-high 35 doubles in 120 games, along with 22 HRs, 68 RBI, .307 AVG and .908 OPS. Binge hitter who will win weeks on his own.
39) Nelson Cruz, OF, SEA; OF Rank: 13 - Who has more HRs than any other player the last two seasons? With 87, Cruz tops a bunch of names higher on this list, but lacks SBs. Good threat for 100 RBI and 100 runs, too. Maybe a bargain here behind Stanton and Martinez.
40) Carlos Gonzalez, OF, COL; OF Rank: 14 - HR production fell to 25 after surprising 40 in 2015, but 42 doubles last year were a career-high. Once a 30 HR/30 SB threat, he no longer steals, but still has great potential to be a 30 HR, 100 RBI guy with a .280s AVG.
41) Roughned Odor, 2B, TEX; 2B Rank: 6 - Big breakout in 2016, with 33 HRs, 88 RBI, 14 SBs, 89 runs, suggesting a higher ranking, though .271 AVG and sub.800 OPS leave me wanting more. If he has more HRs and SBs to give, he could very well work his way into the top 25.
42) Yu Darvish, SP, TEX; SP Rank: 9 - Could easily leading MLB in Ks, and may touch 20 wins with a solid club behind him, but has not had more than 144 IP since 2013. No. 50 below would offer similar stats with likely less injury risk, but Darvish's ADP says someone will take him here.
43) Ian Desmond, OF, COL; OF Rank: 15 - Four-time 20 HR/20 SB achiever after 22 HRs, 86 RBI, 21 SBs, 107 runs last year. Theoretically, COL is a great landing place for his power, though loss of SS eligibility and sub-.800 OPS force him outside the top 40.
44) Jose Abreu, 1B, WHITE SOX; 1B Rank: 8 - He's slid fast from being fantasy top 10 material, but 25 HRs, 100 RBI still put him on short list of players achieving at least that in each of their first three seasons. Career-high 183 hits, too. If young Sox surprise, he could rise along with them.
45) Kyle Schwarber, C/OF, CUBS; C Rank: 1, OF Rank: 16 - I've not seen him ranked the No. 1 catcher elsewhere, and his main body of work last year was his impressive, but small sample in the World Series. Hitting leadoff won't help RBI, but will give him more at-bats than many catchers. He could leverage that to lead catchers in HRs, OPS and runs scored. Yes, I'm serious.
46) Johnny Cueto, SP, SF; SP Rank: 10 - Still waiting for the Game 5 NLDS start at Wrigley, His 18 wins, 198 Ks last year fell short of his 2014 career bests, but would surprise no one if he reels of 20 wins and 200+ Ks. That would be a pretty nice bargain toward the end of Round 5.
47) Jonathan Villar, SS, MIL; SS Rank: 7 - Huge year from a past fantasy hype machine that pretty much everyone had written off as a bust. The wow number was an MLB-leading 62 SBs, as speed became MIL's trademark. He also had 19 HRs, 63 RBI, 92 runs and lot of other career-highs, though also whiffed 174 times and our trust in another 60 SB campaign is a little shaky.
48) Gregory Polanco, OF, PIT; OF Rank: 17 - Would have netted 20 HR/20 SB season, possibly 30/30, if not for injury. 22 HRs, 86 RBI, 17 SBs still were good, though sub-.800 OPS could use work.
49) Kyle Seager, 3B, SEA; 3B Rank: 5 - Career highs of 30 HRs, 99 RBI, 89 runs, .278 AVG and .859 OPS last year, the latter two being pretty unimpressive for career highs. Interesting split: Against lefties, .227 AVG/.728 OPS; vs righties, .307/.932. So, value swings sharply day to day. Lack of SBs, too, but nice power stats if you don't take one of the four 3Bs likely to go in the first round.
50) Justin Verlander, SP, DET; SP Rank: 11 - Led AL with 254 Ks, his most since 2009. 1.00 WHIP was lowest since 2011, 16 wins most since 2012, so why is he sitting outside the top 10 SPs? Not trusting he'll repeat those numbers at 34, though a nice 200+ K source if you don't have one.
* The 2017 Fantasy Fix Draft Guide, Pt. 1: Bryzzo!
Dan O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.
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Posted on Feb 20, 2018