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Hot Prospects – Week 2

We are excited to present our second Hot Prospect list for the 2018 season.  While we were tempted to put Shohei Ohtani (ok, we’ll forget about his start this week against the Red Sox), we kept to our roots and only put “true” prospects on the list.  Then again, at the time of publication, Tyler O’Neill has just gotten the call, but given his torrid start, we felt compelled to include him.

As we did last week, we included links to our partner Amazon.com to allow you to quickly explore additional information on each player.  Just click the baseball card to explore.

Tyler O’Neill (STL, OF) – I thought for sure that we would see Tyler O’Neill in major leagues last season but first the Mariners and then the Cardinals thought differently.  After a huge start to the season in Triple-A, he got the call on Wednesday but the game was rained out.  He’s got double-plus raw power but contact could be a problem.

Josh Naylor (SD, 1B) – I’ve never been the biggest fan of Josh Naylor, but to say he’s gotten off to a strong start in Double-AA this season is an understatement.  He’s up to six home runs while getting on base at nearly a 50% clip.  He’s a big boy but has never shown a lot of in-game power.  So far this year, that has changed.  Also, despite his size, he moves well on the basepaths so there could be a handful of stolen bases as well.  He’s totally blocked in San Diego at first, so the Padres have had him play left field to give him more opportunities to break into the big leagues.

Oscar Mercado (STL, OF) – Oscar Mercado is a player that continues to fly under the radar.  He has plus speed and can really hit.  He’s aggressive at the plate but his ability to make contact should help diffuse some of that aggressiveness.  He’s off to a very hot start to begin the 2018 season, hitting over .400 with five stolen bases.

Juan Soto (WAS, OF) – Juan Soto makes a return appearance to this list as he continues to rake.  While he’s only 19, the Nationals might want to consider a promotion to High-A sooner rather than later.  He’s up to four home runs with over a 50% OBP.

Corey Ray (MIL, OF) – I saw Corey Ray last fall in the Arizona Fall League and left less than impressed.  He was late on everything.  You could see the athleticism and why Milwaukee drafted him as the fifth overall pick in the 2016 draft.  After hitting .241 last year in High-A with a .685 OPS, he’s played much better in his promotion to Double-A.  He’s hitting over .350 for the season with five stolen bases.  The strikeouts though are still a problem.  If he learns to control the strike zone, he could be a star.  If he doesn’t, he’s likely a fourth outfielder.

Alex Verdugo (LAD, OF) – Alex Verdugo has shown flashes of an elite hit-tool but many were concerned if the power we had talked about would ever develop.  While it’s only been nine games, the three bombs he’s hit to-date along with a .622 SLG should give you a glimpse of what is possible.  I don’t believe he will develop into a true power hitter, but I still believe he has 20 home run potential.  The Dodgers are struggling and if Verdugo can help, I don’t think they will hesitate to promote him.

Yordan Alvarez (HOU, OF) – Sometimes players make this list for more subtle reasons.  While Yordan Alvarez is having a good start to the season, his .286 batting average in the early going is not eye-popping.  However, the Astros have moved him to the outfield and he’s also stealing bases while continuing to show a great approach at the plate.  He might be the best prospect that nobody is talking about.

Jesus Luzardo (OAK, LHP) – One of my favorite pitchers to break out this year was 20-year-old lefty Jesus Luzardo.  In the difficult California League, he has dominated in three starts. In 14.2 innings, he has struck out 25 while walking five.  It’s a combination of solid stuff and excellent control.  While he’s likely to have some bumps in the road once he pitches in the southern part of the Cali League, he should finish the second half in Double-A with a chance to see Oakland in 2019.

Luis Ortiz (MIL, RHP) – Drafted in the first round back in 2014 by the Texas Rangers, right-hander Luis Ortiz has put together a terrific start to the 2018 season.  With a fastball that touches the mid-90’s and a plus slider, he has the basis for a solid number three starter or as a high-leverage reliever in the big leagues.

Shane Bieber (CLE, RHP) – I’m not sure what is more impressive in Shane Bieber’s start to the 2018 season.  The fact that he has yet to give up an earned run in three starts or whether he has yet to walk anyone.  Given he’s only walked 12 batters in his 217.1 innings in the minor leagues – yes, that’s a 1 followed by a 2, let’s go with him not yet yielding a run as the most impressive.  He doesn’t have elite stuff, but I’m not sure we’ve seen this level of control in a long-time, so the package just might work.

 

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Week 4 Waiver Wire

It’s sometimes hard to know where to start when your fantasy team is besieged by injuries.  Do you make a move or try and hold on until your players are healthy.  It’s the age-old question that fantasy owners have been wrestling with for years.  In general, be aggressive, not stupid.  Yeah, I know, that’s a stupid statement.  But dropping Taijuan Walker, even though you fear the worse is not the right move until we know more.  Rostering Nick Senzel when there is an obvious spot for him in the big leagues, even though he might sit on your bench for a while, is aggressive, but very smart.

We have prepared 19 names for you this week.  They can be accessed here.

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Hot Prospects – Week 1

The first week, and then some, of the minor league season is in the books.  As with their major league counterparts, some players have gotten off to fast starts and others, like our pre-season number overall ranked player, Ronald Acuna is batting below the Mendoza line.

This weekly article, well hopefully weekly, will focus on 10 players who have performed well over the past week.  Since there will be likely dozens, if not more players to choose from every week, I’ll do my best to pick some of the famous prospects, as well as players that might be flying under the radar.

Also, please click on the image to further explore the player through Amazon.com.

Zac Lowther (BAL, LHP) – The Orioles drafted Zac Lowther last June in the supplemental second round and he’s been lights out since signing. In his first start of the season, he faced 19 guys without giving up a hit while striking out 13.  Lowther does have more of a reliever’s delivery as he comes from a low ¾ slot with a fastball that tops out in the low-90’s.  Before fantasy owners jump all over him, let’s see what happens once he’s promoted to a more age-appropriate level.

Danny Jansen (TOR, C) – Danny Jansen is starting to make a strong push for his call-up to the big leagues.  He’s off to a great start posting a 1.643 OPS through the first week of the season.  The problem is, 35-year-old Russell Martin is signed through next season and is still owed $40 million dollars.  Given the new math in baseball, Martin should count his lucky stars.

Seuly Matias (KC, OF) – After their World Series run, The Royals farm system is not what it use to be.  However, Seuly Matias is one of the exceptions.  At 6-foot-3 and athletic, he has the bat speed to hit for plus power.  The raw power was on display in the first week as he popped four bombs while posting a 1.357 OPS.  He also struck out nine times in 23 at-bats as he’s an aggressive hitter whose swing can get long.

Colton Welker (COL, 3B) – Before hitting the DL for most of the second half last season, Colton Welker posted a .901 OPS in the great hitters park in Asheville NC.  He moved to even a better hitter’s part to start the 2018 season and has continued to hit.  In his first week of action, he hit .522 with a 1.470 OPS.  He’s got great raw power but needs to learn to control the strike zone better.   Plus, before we get too excited, let’s wait until he’s promoted to Double-A where he’ll play in a more neutral ballpark.

Mitch Keller (PIT, RHP) – Mitch Keller is one of my favorite pitchers in the minor leagues.  He has two plus pitches in his fastball and curveball with his change-up showing great improvement.  He already has the ability to repeat his delivery showing promising command and control.  In most organizations, at 22-years-old, he’d be banging on the big league door.  But he plays in the Pirates organization and therefore, we will not see Pittsburgh until the second half of 2019.  Until then…we wait and watch his outstanding performances, like his first start of the year where he threw six innings, giving up two hits while striking out eight.

Nick Kingham (PIT, RHP) – Nick Kingham…remember him?  He was once a top prospect and was on the verge of a major league promotion when he blew out his elbow in 2015.  I thought for sure he would get some time in Pittsburgh last season but the Pirates thought differently.  Perhaps after shoving it for two starts to begin the 2018 season, somebody will finally remember the talent that he still has.  What did he do?  In 11 innings, he struck out out 16, walked three while posting a 2.45 ERA.

Juan Soto (WAS, OF) – While most prospect watchers know the name Victor Robles, fewer know the name, Juan Soto.  Despite an ankle injury that cost him two months last season, he took a major step forward last year and has gotten off to an equally hot start this season.  In his first week, he’s batting .400 with four home runs and more walks than strikeouts.  While it’s a very small sample size, Soto can really hit with a chance for plus power.

Shane Bieber (CLE, RHP) – Last season, Shane Bieber pitched 173.1 innings and walked 10 batters.   So far this season in 13 innings in Double-A, he hasn’t walked a single batter and oh yeah, has struck out 17.  It’s more command and control over stuff but every once in a while, double-plus control pitchers can be effective, at least in short burst in the big leagues.

Bryson Brigman (SEA, 2B) – After slugging only .290 in two professional seasons, it is indeed encouraging to see Bryson Brigman slugging a ridiculous .824 after six games in High-A.  Granted, four of those games were played in the ridiculous hitting environment of Lancaster CA, if he can at least Slug .350, his on-base skills could give him a ceiling of a major league regular.  In the end, he’s likely a utility performer but he’s a name to watch.

Luis Urias (SD, SS) – The Padres are loaded in their minor league’s system and one of their better pure prospects is Luis Urias.  He really impressed in Spring Training with some media members speculating he could break camp with the team.  He can hit, pick it and has enough bat speed to suggest that future power will develop.  If his .536 SLG in the first week of games in Triple-A is any indication, that might be starting.

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Week 3 Waiver Wire

The baseball season is in full swing and injuries and cold starts are once again in full bloom.  The Great Tim McLeod gives you a list of 20 names that can help your team.  Two of our particular favorites are Tyler Mahle, ranked number 94 on our pre-season Top 100 prospect list and Colin Moran who was ranked 96.  While Mahle got hit hard on Sunday, he has sneaky good stuff.  One name Tim omitted but who just got the call after the article was submitted was Franklin Barreto of the Oakland A’s.   We’ve always been a big fan.
You can see our Week 3 list here.

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P361 Waiver Wire – Week 2

The season is underway and our waiver wire is filled.  Pitchers to catchers to closers.  Some of these guys could make a difference for you for the year.  The list can be found here.

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P361 Waiver Wire – Week 1

It’s never too early to pick up guys.  Perhaps you drafted Luke Gregerson or MadBum.  What to do?  Look no further than our first waiver wire of the season.   The list can be accessed here.

Here’s to good fortune for a great 2018 baseball season.

 

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NL Impact Rookies

The recent tanking of a number of National League teams to build their farm system has been an exercise in patience for their fans.  The result is a glut of near MLB-ready players who should finally get their chance this year.  Not everyone will work out and handicapping the success is a dicey exercise, but it’s what I’ve chosen to do.  Yeah, apparently meteorology school was filled.

Enjoy the list as there are some fantastic names that should provide impact to your fantasy teams.

Ronald Acuna (ATL, OF) – Our number one prospect continues to rise on draft boards.  It will now cost you a seventh-round pick in a 15-team league.  Is it worth it?  We will clearly know the answer to that in September, but the risk associated with such a high pick for a kid who will likely start the year in the minors is indeed high.  What I am becoming convinced, is once he’s promoted, he could be scary good.   But when???  I’m going to guess, by May 1st

Projected Line: 475 AB, 12 HR, 22 SB, .280 BA

Ryan McMahon (COL, 1B) – When asked back in November who this year’s Cody Bellinger would be, I suggested Ryan McMahon.   He’s ready and has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues.  If Acuna stumbles at all, McMahon has an excellent chance to be the NL Rookie of the Year.  Of course, the signing of Cargo could be a fly in my plan.  If he’s demoted to start the season, it will indeed be maddening.

Projected Line: 550 AB, 30 HR, 2 SB, .265 BA

Lewis Brinson (MIA, OF) – Sometimes you question players that get traded three times before the age of 25, but I’ve been all-in on Lewis Brinson since his professional debut with the Rangers in 2012.  He’s tooled up for sure, but also expands the strike zone.  But, if he can post a high-BABIP, he could hit .260 and that might be all it takes for him to get over the hump.

Projected Line: 550 AB, 22 HR, 18 SB, .245 BA

Colin Moran (PIT, 3B) – While the return of Gerrit Cole was widely panned, I actually liked it.  I’m a big Joe Musgrove fan and once Colin Moran added leverage to his swing, he made my Top 100 list.  He can hit and with his new found power, has a chance to be an impact performer.  He’s my sleeper for ROY.

Projected Line: 550 AB, 22 HR, 80 RBI, .290 BA

Brian Anderson (MIA, 3B) –  There will be a ton of opportunity in South Florida this year and Brian Anderson should be able to take advantage.  He has plus power and should control the strike zone well enough to post a nice stat line for owners.  I’d be taking a flyer on him late in my drafts.

Projected Line: 550 AB, 26 HR, 85 RBI, .250 BA

Tyler Mahle (CIN, RHP) – Tyler Mahle doesn’t have top of the rotation stuff but instead sits 92-94 MPH with excellent control.  More importantly, he knows how to pitch and that combined with 25 plus starts, gives him a chance to post a nice stat line for his owners.

Projected Line:  160 IP,  140 K’s, 11 wins, 3.90 ERA

Walker Buehler (LAD, RHP) – As we stand today, Walker Buehler starts the year in the minors.  But, Dodgers starters never stay healthy and assuming Buehler does, he should get 20 to 25 starts in the big leagues.  He’s got big-time stuff with good mechanics and should be able to provide better than league-average stats for the year.

Projected Line:  130 IP, 130 K’s, 10 wins, 3.75 ERA

Brandon Woodruff (MIL, RHP) – With the injury to Jimmy Nelson, the Brewers will be looking for arms and Brandon Woodruff should be able to help.  He’s a big kid with good stuff and the ability to throw strikes.  He’s not Jimmy Nelson but should be able to win some games with league average ratios.

Projected Line:  140 IP, 120 K’s, 9 wins, 4.10 ERA

Luiz Gohara (ATL, LHP) – Luiz Gohara’s sprained ankle is a great excuse for the Braves to keep him in the minors in order to save service time.  The stuff is electric and the Braves need innings.  The combination should work out well for owners.

Projected Line:  110 IP, 100 K’s, 8 wins, 3.80 ERA

Jorge Alfaro (PHI, C) – Jorge Alfaro should finally get his chance.  He’s got double-plus raw power and a hose for an arm.  It’s a shame he swings at everything, but I guess you can’t have it all.

Projected Line: 400 AB, 17 HR, 50 RBI, .250 BA

Nick Senzel (CIN, 3B) – Nick Senzel doesn’t have the flashy tools of Acuna or Brinson, but is the better pure hitter with pretty good tools himself.  I’m guessing the Reds keep him in the minors until mid-June, but I think he hits as soon as he arrives.

Projected Line: 350 AB, 12 HR, 6 SB, .290 BA

Alex Reyes (STL, RHP) – The Cardinals have a history of taking young pitchers and starting them off in the bullpen.  They did it with Adam Wainwright back in the day and also Trevor Rosenthal, who then stuck in the pen.  I think Reyes starts the year in the bullpen and gets some saves in the process.  Long-term, I think he starts, but if he dominates in the pen…

Projected Line:  40 IP, 55 K’s, 11 saves, 3.50 ERA

Max Fried (ATL, LHP) – While the luster might be off his prospect star, Max Fried can still pitch and as a lefty should have a long major league career.  He could break camp with the team, but the Braves will likely hold him back until at least May before promoting him.

Projected Line:  110 IP, 90 K’s, 7 wins, 3.60 ERA

Players who need a break

Scott Kingery (PHI, 2B) – Scott Kingery broke out last year and should get the call sometime in the second half.  He’s got power and speed and makes enough contact to let both those tools play.

J.P. Crawford (PHI, SS) – I’m guessing Crawford and Kingery get the call around the same time.  Crawford is the better hitter but Kingery has the better fantasy tools.

Austin Meadows (PIT, OF) – I thought Austin Meadows would see time in Pittsburgh this year, but the acquisition of Corey Dickerson likely put an end to that until at least August.  There’s still a lot to like with Meadows and at this point, he might just need a chance to show what he can do.

Alex Verdugo (LAD, OF) – With the emergence of Matt Kemp (did I really just say that), Alex Verdugo’s path just got more difficult.  I love the hit tool and still think there is 20 home run power in the bat.   He just turns 22 in May, so there is no reason the Dodgers need to rush him.

Luis Urias (SD, SS) – Luis Urias is having a great spring and is impressing the Padres brass.  He can really hit but has only average power and speed.  He’s a nice complementary fantasy player in the mold of Dansby Swanson, or who I thought Swanson would be.

Carson Kelly (STL, C) – He’s stuck behind Yadier Molina, but Kelly can play.  The question is will he be given the chance?

Brett Phillips (MIL, OF) – Brett Phillips is blocked with a loaded outfield in Milwaukee, but an injury could give him a shot.  He also might be trade bait for a deal at the deadline.

Sleepers

Kolby Allard (ATL, LHP) – With 27 Double-A starts under his belt, Allard could see Atlanta in the second half.  While Gohara has the better stuff, Allard can really pitch and might have even better success, at least for this year.

Dillon Peters (MIA, LHP) – After posting a career minor league ERA of 2.40, Dillon Peters major league 5.17 ERA in six starts was a disappointment.  But, the Marlins need innings and while Peters doesn’t have high-end velocity, he has plus control and can really pitch.

Joey Lucchesi (SD, LHP) – In our write-up of Joey Lucchesi last June, we highlighted him as a player to watch and that, “you wouldn’t be settling if you missed out on drafting Gore, Quantrill, et.al.”  He can pitch with great control and enough velocity to be successful in the major leagues.

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2018 Rankings of Fantasy Relief Pitchers

Every season, fantasy owners chase saves.  It’s both the maddening part of fantasy baseball as well as the thrilling part, or at least some people tell me.  We have ranked each closer for the 2018 season as well as their backup and in many cases, the backup the backup.  The line this year as to closers with secure roles lands either at 20 or 21, depending on whether you believe Mark Melancon is fully recovered from his injuries woes of last year.

You can find the list here.

 

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AL Impact Rookies

Opening Day is only a few weeks away and fantasy drafts are upon us.  Everyone is looking for the next Mike Trout or Trea Turner that can bring them a championship.

While the American League rookie crop is not quite as strong as that of the National League, there are still a number of players that should be able to help you win your fantasy league.

Players that should get significant playing time

Shohei Ohtani (LAA, RHP) – Ohtani enters the season as the favorite to win the AL Rookie of the Year.  And why not.  With an off-season feeding frenzy that had every team bidding on the services of the former NPB standout, the stars seem to be aligning.  But before we hand over the hardware in March, there are concerns.  First is a tear in his elbow ligament that was found as part of his medical evaluation.  Second, is the six-man rotation that the Angels will use.  How many innings will Ohtani pitch?  It’s a concern.  Also, will he get enough at-bats to make him much more than a replacement offensive player?  Can he hit?  Lots of questions with I’m afraid, few answers at this point.  One thing is for sure though – he’s going to be fun to own, for the fascination alone.

Projected Line: 150 IP, 160 K’s, 13 wins, 3.55 ERA

Willie Calhoun (TEX, OF) – It might not be pretty in the outfield, but it won’t matter as Willie Calhoun can really hit.  While there’s a chance he breaks camp, the odds are he stays down on the farm to give the Rangers seven years of team control.  Remember, he has to make up time from his September call-up last year.  Therefore, I’m thinking mid-May.

Playing Time: 425 AB, 20 HR, 5 SB, .280 BA

Gleybar Torres (NYY, 2B) – While Torres is a natural shortstop, he will likely be the Yankees full-time second baseman by mid-May.  It’s all lined up for him and the only thing holding him back is some rust from not playing in the second half last year and possibly a service time play.  Yes, even the Yankees will play the seven-year vs. six-year game with Torres.

Projected Line: 450 AB, 14 HR, 16 SB, .265 BA

Dustin Fowler (OAK, OF) – DON’T forget about Dustin Fowler.  After a gruesome injury last season, assuming he’s healthy, he’ll get the bulk of the playing time in centerfield for the A’s.    With a little speed and a little pop, he’s my sleeper for AL Rookie of the year.

Projected Line:  500 AB, 10 HRs, 23 SB, .260 BA

Austin Hays (BAL, OF) – The Orioles generally don’t play the service time game, so I think Hays breaks camp in late March.  He could struggle early, but if the Orioles stay with him, a big if, I think he has a very nice season.

Projected Line: 450 AB, 19 HR, 3 SB, .265 BA

Francisco Mejia (CLE, C) – Mejia has the ceiling of a Top five catcher in fantasy baseball, perhaps even more.  But, with zero time above Double-A and an Indians history of managing minor leaguers service time (Lindor played two months in the minors in 2015, and Zimmer six weeks last year), I think a late-May call-up will be as early as we see him.  The good news…I think he’ll hit right out of the gate.

Projected Line:  300 AB, 13 HR, 5 SB, .290 BA

A.J. Puk (OAK, LHP) – If A.J. Puk were to break camp with the A’s, he might be their opening day starter.  However, there’s almost no chance of that with the easy money on a mid-June call-up.  The control is still not great, but the stuff misses bats.

Projected Line: 90 IP, 110 K’s, 5 wins, 4.05 ERA

Michael Kopech (CHW, RHP) – The success of Michael Kopech will be directly tied to his ability to throw strikes.  If he does, he’ll be an impact performer from the time he is promoted, if not, he could easily have an up-and-down year with a 4.50 plus ERA.  Long-term, the upside is a number one.

Projected Line: 100 IP, 115 K’s, 6 wins, 4.20 ERA

Willy Adames (TB, 2B) – Willy Adames is likely ready for the show, but unless he signs a team-friendly contract, he won’t see Tampa until mid-June.  However, he can hit with some speed and pop, so once he’s promoted, he should help your fantasy team, and the best part, it will likely be at second.

Projected Line:  325 AB, 10 HR, 8 SB, .270 BA

Jake Bauers (TB, OF) – There are a lot of needs in Tampa and as soon as Jake Bauers has served his time in the minor leagues, he should be up.  He has a plus hit-tool and some power.  I’m not sure where the stolen bases came from last year, but the overall package should help fantasy owners.

Project Line: 325 AB, 10 HR, 5 SB, .275 BA

Franklin Barreto (OAK, SS) – While Barreto is currently blocked, I don’t think that last the entire season.  Once he’s up, he has very friendly-fantasy tools

Projected Line:  350 AB, 7 HR, 16 SB, .270 BA

Jorge Mateo (OAK, OF) – Mateo will bring speed to the fantasy equation and should be up just when fantasy owners need a boost.  As everyone else is drafting the more famous names, take a late round flyer on Mateo and thank me later.

Projected Line:  350 AB, 4 HR, 20 SB, .260 BA

Anthony Alford (TOR, OF) – Alford has always been a favorite of mine as the tools are extremely fantasy-friendly.  However, he has a total 71 games above A-Ball, so the odds are very good he starts the year in the minors.  Plus, the Blue Jays brought in Granderson and Gricuck as placeholders until Alford, Bichette, and oh yeah, some kid named Vlad Jr. are ready.

Projected Line:  300 AB, 6 HR, 18 SB, .250 BA

Players who might not yet be ready for one reason or another

Kyle Tucker (HOU, OF) – While I’m concerned about Kyle Tucker’s hitch in his swing, I’m more worried about his playing time in 2018.  If Derek Fisher catches fire, I doubt we see much of him until 2019.  If he doesn’t, he’ll be promoted in June.  However, at this point, I’m going to say he’s a non-factor in 2018.

Eloy Jimenez (CHW, OF) – The White Sox are still a year away and with only 18 games above A-Ball, I don’t see Eloy Jimenez having an impact in 2018.  I do believe the math changes in 2019.

Miguel Andujar (NYY, 3B) – With the signing of Brandon Drury, Miguel Andujar is now blocked.  But, the skills are there and all he needs is a trade.  I think that happens in the second half.

Sleepers

Hunter Dozier (KC, 1B/3B) – Somebody has got to play in Kansas City and while Hunter Dozier’s shine has taken a hit, he still has a little pop in the bat.

Ryan O’Hearn (KC, 1B) – See Hunter Dozier.  Not as good of a player as Dozier but the rationale is the same.  Unfortunately, Dozier might get moved to first blocking O’Hearn.

Hunter Harvey (BAL, RHP) – It might be in relief, but if Harvey is healthy, he will get an opportunity to pitch.  For Dynasty League owners, use Dylan Bundy as your guide.  Remember, he was pretty good last year, particularly closing out the season.

 

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2018 Fantasy Starting Pitchers

P361 list our Fantasy Starting Pitchers here.  While our Top 15 might agree with the typical ADP, we quickly differ so that you can find value in all formats of your fantasy drafts.