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Spring brings with it many joys in the sports world. I know this is a Fantasy baseball column, but how can you not enjoy the One Shining Moment montage, the office pools and the scrappy play of guys like Grayson Allen? Side Note: How Duke is Grayson Allen? His name even sounds like someone who would play basketball there.
Of course, in addition to March Madness we also have the start of the baseball season.
With the dawn of a new season comes a new beginning, for MLB players and Fantasy players alike. It is also the opportunity for Fantasy sports writers to have a fresh start. I enjoy all segments of Fantasy baseball; from redraft leagues to daily, but keeper and dynasty formats have always been first on the list. In baseball especially, the idea of tracking the development of minor league players and managing your roster year to year is as close as you can get to running an organization (outside of a video game). However, with every long-term league being unique, it is a challenge to give the granular analysis necessary. That is where the concept for The Five Spot was birthed this offseason. This will be a weekly column in which I discuss the top (or bottom) five of a different Fantasy baseball category each week. Topics will range from Fantasy MVP candidates to potential call-ups and everything in between. Something for everyone. Or at least that is the idea.
Even if you are feeling good after a draft or auction, there are always a couple of players that you missed out on by a couple picks or a couple of bucks. When that player has a strong season and you missed out, it is like rubbing salt in the wound. Here are the Top 5 players you wish you had drafted or went the extra dollar on at auction:
- Things have not been the same for Matt Kemp since 2011. He had career numbers almost across the board, earning an eight-year, $160 million contract from the Dodgers. Unfortunately, various injuries have prevented Kemp from playing a full season in 2012 and 2013, leading to disappointing Fantasy owners everywhere. After a slow start last season, Kemp was just about back to his old studly self. He hit .309 with 17 HRs and 54 RBIs after the All-Star Break. The only thing missing from the bounce back was the stolen bases. In fact, Kemp has not stolen double-digit bases in any of the past three seasons. Now in San Diego, many looked past the 30-year-old outfielder in the early rounds. The Petco Park effect certainly could limit his power a bit, but he has a great chance at 25 HRs this season regardless. Plus, the lineup around him will provide plenty of opportunities for runs and RBIs. All he needs to do is swipe 10-plus bags. His average draft position according to FantasyPros.com was 51.0, meaning the middle of the fourth round of a 12-team league. By the end of the season, that is going to look like a steal as long as he can stay on the field. If you are reading this, it is probably too late. You can still attempt to make an early-season trade for him, but chances are the price is already higher than what it was a few weeks ago. Who knows, maybe he’ll get back together with Rihanna…
- There are plenty of pitchers with the potential to breakthrough with seasons that significantly outperform their draft position, just like Corey Kluber, Sonny Gray and Julio Teheran did last year. It was a small sample size, but Carlos Carrasco had a 1.30 ERA with 78 Ks in 69 IP (10 starts) over the last two months of the 2014 season. Carrasco has been on the Fantasy radar before, making his debut as a top prospect in 2009 at age 22. He has never truly broken through as expected, bouncing between Triple-A and the majors for the better part of the last five seasons. He also underwent Tommy John surgery at the end of 2011, knocking him out of 2012 altogether. FantasyPros.com had him as the 27th starting pitcher off the board on average. While he is already 28 years old, a major breakout is very possible here. If he picks up where he left off at the end of 2014, he has borderline ace potential.
- With a full season debut that included 12 HRs, 10 Triples, 44 SBs and a .294 average, it is no wonder expectations were high for Jean Segura heading into 2014. His numbers were down across the board, leading to his current status as a sleeper for 2015. Part of the struggles last year certainly could be blamed on the tragic loss of his infant son in July. Still just 25 years old, Segura still has all of the talent that made him a breakout Fantasy star in 2013. While he may not top those numbers this season, I cannot see a repeat of the declining stats of last season. Something like 8-10 HRs and 30 SBs with a .270 average are all well within reach. He is currently batting in the bottom part of the order, but a strong start could lead to a promotion and with it, increased upside. At a mediocre position, Segura has the upside to return huge value for his draft position.
- The trade to Texas last offseason put Prince Fielder squarely in the preseason MVP discussion. Instead, he had to undergo neck surgery and missed a majority of the season. That was after struggling out of the gate to the tune of just three HRs and 16 RBIs in his first 42 games. Apparently it was out of sight, out of mind for many Fantasy owners because he fell too far in drafts. According to FantasyPros.com, he had an ADP of 60.7 and was the 13th 1B off the board. The lineup around him is not what it once was, but Fielder is good enough to carry an offense on his shoulders. A virtual lock for 100 RBIs when healthy, the slugger could also see a return to his 30-plus HR days as well. With power at a premium, Fielder could easily put up Top 25 overall statistics this season. His talent is well worth the health risk.
- Did you realize that Manny Machado is only 22 years old? Had he not ended each of the past two seasons with a serious injury, I think he’d have been drafted much higher this season based on his ceiling alone. In addition to untapped power potential, Machado should hit for a solid average, score runs in bunches and chip in a handful of steals as well. While Machado has never hit more than 14 HRs in a year, he had 12 in half of a season because a knee injury cut the campaign short. The reality of the situation is upside does not win Fantasy championships, but gambling on it in the later rounds can definitely help. Many owners make the mistake of loading their roster with too many question marks and when only a few of them come through as expected, it leads to a disappointing season. I prefer to take risks on elite talent that has not fully shown through yet. Getting that talent at a discount because of a previous season’s injury is just icing on the cake. Machado may not enjoy a superstar breakout this season, but he should take a big step towards it. If he gets off to a slow start, there could be an opportunity to acquire him in May. Keep a close eye on his production early on.