There is nothing more difficult than parsing the difference between past performance and future projections. This is particularly true with younger players. Sometimes players take a step back after they initially break through. Sometimes players take a huge step forward out of nowhere. Growth is rarely ever linear. So, in these rankings we are siding with past performance and recognizing that it might not be appropriate in every case.
So, what we are doing is taking three seasons worth of numbers and projecting them out over 400, 500, or 600 plate appearances based on health history and current roster construction. We are then ranking them based on six basic fantasy categories with walks as the sixth category. We can adjust accordingly down the line with new situations and actual industry projections.
Jose Altuve—Houston Astros
Six Category Projection: .332/19 HR/92 Runs/72 RBI/19 SB/52 BB
Up until 2018, Altuve was getting better with each passing season. He might have hit his peak in terms of home runs, but he should grow in every other category with good health. The scary thought for opponents is that both Altuve and the rest of the Astros offense wasn’t quite their best last season.
Brian Dozier—Free Agent
Six Category Projection: .253/29 HR/86 Runs/78 RBI/14 SB/62 BB
I hate uncertainty. It’s hard to say where he winds up on the musical chairs game that is second base this offseason. Put him somewhere like Milwaukee and he could be a fantasy stud. Put him somewhere like Baltimore and he becomes lost. Stay tuned.
Gleyber Torres—New York Yankees
Six Category Projection: .271/30 HR/67 Runs/95 RBI/7 SB/52 BB
This is a really risky play. He could become the next superstar or he could take a significant step backwards. The numbers above look like star projection, but those are his actual numbers projected over 600 plate appearances. I feel pretty safe saying he won’t do that, but over or under is hard to call at this point.
Scooter Gennett—Cincinnati Reds
Six Category Projection: .290/23 HR/80 Runs/88 RBI/5 SB/39 BB
To make things more complicated, there have been reports that the Reds are shopping Gennett at the Winter Meetings. Where does he land? Does he become a corner outfielder? Does he remain as productive or does he turn into the player he was in Milwaukee?
Robinson Cano—New York Mets
Six Category Projection: .292/25 HR/81 Runs/88 RBI/0 SB/45 BB
Fangraphs did a study of players that were busted for PEDs and found that most were at least played more often following their suspension. Who knows what the future holds for Cano, but late last year he looked like the same guy. The Mets are strong on paper, but Custard probably liked his chances at Little Big Horn too.
D.J. LeMahieu—Free Agent
Six Category Projection: .312/11 HR/91 Runs/61 RBI/7 SB/51 BB
As they say in real estate, location, location, location. I wouldn’t pick LeMahieu here unless he wound up back in Colorado. He might not even be a fantasy regular otherwise. The sad thing is that he is good enough defensively to be worth signing, but your league doesn’t count defensive runs saved.
Ozzie Albies—Atlanta Braves
Six Category Projection: .268/19 HR/90 Runs/65 RBI/14 SB/37 BB
Here we reach exhibit two of the young player problem. A lack of patience may cause issues for Albies moving forward. Then again, he may grow in that department. I’m not betting on the power moving forward but we may see better speed numbers. All in all he should leapfrog at least LeMahieu if not more.
Whit Merrifield—Kansas City Royals
Six Category Projection: .293/12 HR/76 Runs/60 RBI/3 SB/39 BB
Maybe we should start a GoFundMe for Merrifield to move out of Kansas City. I’d make him a top five guy if that happened. As it stands I’m not exactly sure who is going to drive him or who he can drive in himself. Billy Hamilton doesn’t exactly blow my skirt up.
Daniel Murphy—Free Agent
Six Category Projection: .326/20 HR/73 Runs/78 RBI/3 SB/35 BB
Murphy isn’t they healthiest specimen out there, but if he signs with an AL club he could be a DH and occasional fielder. Bump him up to 600 plate appearances and he could be a top five second baseman. The musical chairs game makes this a dicey proposition, so a second round of rankings this spring may be necessary.
Rougned Odor—Texas Rangers
Six Category Projection: .242/27 HR/81 Runs/75 RBI/14 SB/31 BB
Playing fantasy baseball sometimes means turning your brain off. Odor is not a good baseball player. Simply put, he doesn’t steal first base often enough. In five category leagues that doesn’t matter. In six category ones it matters a little but you can still look past it. In real baseball it is a horrible proposition.
Cesar Hernandez—Philadelphia Phillies
Six Category Projection: .279/9 HR/76 Runs/42 RBI/16 SB/70 BB
Then there are players like Hernandez. He is a lot better than these numbers show, but you have to go by these numbers. You might be able to wait and pick him up as a bench guy. I would given that he gets on base and the Phillies have added a ton of offense.
Jason Kipnis—Cleveland Indians
Six Category Projection: .249/19 HR/72 Runs/69 RBI/10 SB/53 BB
Kipnis is also eligible in the outfield. That makes him a marginal starter. I might bet the under given the Indians recent paring of their roster. Plus, he has seen his production dip in the past couple of seasons.
Joey Wendle—Tampa Bay Rays
Six Category Projection: .294/8 HR/69 Runs/70 RBI/16 SB/40 BB
How dialed in is your league? If they pay attention then they may nab Wendle earlier than the fantasy universe on average. If you can wait he is well worth a bench spot. Otherwise you might just have to let someone else bet on him.
Ian Happ—Chicago Cubs
Six Category Projection: .242/22 HR/67 Runs/64 RBI/9 SB/62 BB
The Cubs need the DH in the worst way. They have too many good offensive players to simply have eight spots. It’s hard to say what the Cubs are doing with Happ moving forward. He has outfield eligibility, so he is well worth a selection late. If you bump him up to 600 plate appearances he becomes a fantasy starter.
Yoan Moncada—Chicago White Sox
Six Category Projection: .234/17 HR/71 Runs/56 RBI/10 SB/65 BB
Moncada led the world in strikeouts last season. If that happens he might be out of the league before he gets a chance to establish himself. If he improves then he could become a legitimate fantasy star. I imagine he will be one of the more volatile fantasy commodities in the 2019 draft season.
Dee Gordon—Seattle Mariners
Six Category Projection: .285/3 HR/82 Runs/31 RBI/44 SB/19 BB
I prefer total points because of players like Gordon. Some will pick him as a starter because of those steals even though he is a marginal player overall. Sure, he hits for decent average and scores runs as well, but nobody would give him a second fault if he stole 20 bases a season.
Starlin Castro—Miami Marlins
Six Category Projection: .281/17 HR/71 Runs/65 RBI/4 SB/33 BB
All numbers have a context and we saw that with the Harold Baines article. When Castro retires he will likely have 2000+ hits and the counting numbers that correspond with that. There is a guy on Facebook that seems to chart Hall of Fame fitness with hits. Castro better hope he’s on the Veteran’s Committee someday.
Ben Zobrist—Chicago Cubs
Six Category Projection: .270/12 HR/67 Runs/56 RBI/3 SB/62 BB
I’ve made no bones about the fact that Zobrist is one of my favorite players. He plays multiple positions well and consistently produces more value than his numbers would indicate. He is an invaluable bench piece on any fantasy roster because he is eligible at four or five positions depending on the platform.