I’m ready for baseball.
I’m ready for real baseball. For games that count. For stats that matter.
I’m ready for more fake baseball (no, not extra spring training games).
I’m ready to root on the Rangers while answering tweets from random baseball fans who are checking on the possibility of minor league players getting the call up to the bigs.
I’m ready for my life to be engulfed by numbers: 162 games, 40 man rosters, 108 stitches, 90 feet at a time.
Let’s do this thing.
As we enter into the last week of spring training and the last week for you to get your 2016 fantasy squad together, let’s take a look at the fantasy value of Rangers’ players and potential projections for this season’s production.
As usual, the Ranger carrying to most fantasy value is our future Hall of Famer and clubhouse leader in head touching phobia, Adrian Beltre. Every year, someone projects that he will have a big drop off. Every year, he continues to put up big numbers, even while fighting through injuries and surpassing third basemen that everyone assumed would outlast his value, such as David Wright and Evan Longoria. Expect another well balanced season from Beltre, hitting .300 with 20 HR, 80 RBI, and 70 R from a thin position. His ADP is 62.8, so don’t be scared to grab him a round early to make up for position scarcity.
Prince Fielder has been the second Ranger off the board in most leagues, with an ADP just three spots behind Beltre. His weak power numbers and cold streak following the All Star break make Fielder a big question mark for someone who did not play enough games at 1B to qualify for that position in standard ESPN leagues. I’m wary to grab Fielder any earlier than where he is going, with that thought process being much more closely tied to his second half performance rather than any fear of injury.
I am finding that I like Rougned Odor as much in fantasy baseball as I do in actual baseball. If you eliminate the first month of the season, Odor’s numbers match up with just about anyone in the upper tier of second basemen. Odor had 12 homers and an .833 OPS in the second half of the season. Realistically, Roogie is looking at a potential 20 HR, 20 SB season with a BA around .270, with 65 runs and 70 RBI; yet his average draft position is 25 spots behind the man he replaced, Ian Kinsler, who hit 11 HR and stole 10 bases in all of 2015.
Elvis Andrus is the guy you wait for if the top tier shortstops are not available. Will he win your league for you? Nope. But he probably won’t lose it for you either. While providing no power, Elvis will hold his own in batting average thanks to a low K rate, and if he regains patience at the plate and continues to increase his OBP, Andrus will provide nearly 30 SB this season.
Similar to Andrus, Ian Desmond receives a spike in value due to the position scarcity at SS. But isn’t he just out outfielder this season? Correct, but thanks to last year, ESPN has him listed as a shortstop, and after the first ten games, he will be eligible for SS or OF. If I had to choose between the two Rangers options for your SS opening, I would go with Desmond, because even though he has a lower floor, he also has a much higher fantasy ceiling than Andrus, and I expect a solid bounce back season in a free agency year.
Shin-Soo Choo is free falling in drafts thanks to disappointment he provided fantasy owners during most of his previous two seasons in Texas. However, this Choo seems much closer to the old version, sporting a 1.016 OPS (yes, that’s the real number) in the second half of the 2015 season. Currently going 129th overall, Choo is worth a shot earlier than the 13th round of your draft.
Delino DeShields marks the end of the Rangers offensive regulars who should be rostered in all leagues. While Delino won’t provide power numbers, his potential for 35+ steals over the course of a full season, with the addition of 90 runs out of the lead off position. However, temper your expectations for a higher batting average until he can find a way to lower his K rate, striking out in nearly ⅕ of his plate appearances in the second half of 2015.
While the AAA three headed monster may have some value in deep keeper leagues or in leagues with a MiLB portion of their draft, I would not expect anything from Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, or Lewis Brinson this season. If I had to pick one of them, I would say that Mazara has the most MLB ready bat, but I still wouldn’t bother. Gallo is currently owned in 33% of all ESPN leagues, which is higher than Mitch Moreland (28%). We all know the holes in Gallo’s game, and I hope to see him have an opportunity to continue improvement. Jurickson Profar provides questions that I just can’t answer, and I have no idea when to realistically expect to see him in the big leagues again.
If you are considering drafting Josh Hamilton as a late round sleeper; stop it. No.
In a rare situation, the Rangers also offer a fair amount of value to fantasy pitching staffs this season as well.
The man who will get the ball on opening day ranks the highest in Rangers fantasy pitching value, with Cole Hamels, who is currently being drafted 111th overall. Hamels is a workhorse who will benefit greatly from the quality bullpen behind him. Standard expectations for Hamels would be a 3.50 ERA with 200K, sporting a K/9 of somewhere very close to 9.0.
Yu Darvish is falling all the way to the 192nd pick and with good reason, due to his return from Tommy John surgery. However, if you can afford a roster spot to to stash him, or if your league provides a DL spot, grab him and keep him there until he finds his way back to the mound in late June. Darvish is good enough at his job that he can make a difference in limited time, showing this ability in striking out 182 batters while only making 22 starts in 2014.
The closer’s job belongs to Shawn Tolleson, who was outstanding in 2015 until some strange usage in the last few weeks of the season and postseason threw Rangers fans for a loop. If he can mentally recover from that, while maintaining a lower HR rate, expect a 35-40 save season from Tolleson. If not, be prepared to grab Keona Kela in a heartbeat (who you should already consider owning in leagues that value holds).
Both Derek Holland and Martin Perez will provide added value to teams who stream pitchers throughout the season, but neither of them should be considered for ownership in all formats until they can prove that they can both remain healthy and keep the ball in the park.