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The Keeper Corner #169-150

This list covers the 2015 Fantasy Baseball MVP

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

This list is a review of my rankings I used going into the 2015 season.  This list is for a 6x6 league that adds OPS and K/BB.  So far the rankings that I produced have been pretty successful at picking who will be mediocre fantasy bench players, and waiver wire fodder.  Today we see a player that my projections greatly undervalued.  Let's continue with the next player on the list:

#169 John Lackey, SP, STL

$7.86, 148 K, 11W, 3.787 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 3.61 K/BB

Lackey was a member of the incredible St. Louis Cardinals pitching staff in 2015.  He posted his best season since back in his dominant days with the Angels.  Even though he is 37 years old, nothing about this appears fluky.  He improved his strikeouts, reduced his walks, increased his ground balls, and gave up fewer home runs.  With all of these incremental improvements, he really made himself worth your moneys worth by throwing 218 innings, the second most of his career.  This offseason be on the lookout as to where Lackey ends up, I expect him to look for a possible contender, and retain his value in 2016.

#168 A.J. Pollock, OF, ARI

$7.88, 78 R, 10 HR, 52 RBI, 21 SB, .274 AVG, .742 OPS

Pollock was the fantasy MVP in this league.  He posted career highs in all 6 stats, by a wide margin.  His 20 HR, 39 SB, 111 R, .315 AVG, and .865 OPS were all massive contributions to fantasy owners.  He did all of this over 157 games, and looks like he can be an awesome outfielder yet again next season.  My one big question about Pollock is related to his batted ball profile.  He didn't have a huge line drive rate or hard hit rate.  Players can accumulate big batting averages or 20+ HR without those two factors, as Dee Gordon has in BA, but its tough to envision him hitting 20 homers again with so many balls being put on the ground, and the limited percentage of balls he makes contact with, being hard hit.  With that said, he'll be a top 30 player in 2016 drafts, a massive leap compared to where he is on this list.

#167 Andrew Cashner, SP, SD

$7.90, 137 K, 11 W, 3.291 ERA, 1.189 WHIP, 3.044 K/BB

Cashner had a line that matched the performance of the Padres.  He only had 6 wins, but pitched a career high 184 innings, and had an 8 K/9.  He also had his worst walk rate, home run rate, and babip of his career.  San Diego changed the park dimensions and a more extreme power spike happened than originally expected.  Next season is his "contract year", whether that inspires him to improve next year is yet to be seen, but he did flash more fantasy ability last year, despite the poor results.

#166 Jake McGee, RP, TB

$8.00, 69 K, 3 W, 20 SV, 2.618 ERA, .945WHIP, 5.308 K/BB

McGee was hurt early in the year and lost his closer role.  Despite losing his prestigious role, he posted an excellent season, improving his strikeout and walk rates, and recording a strong 2.41 ERA, and .94 WHIP.  Since he is a lefty, and Joe Maddon is now gone, I can see the Rays sticking with more conventional roles, and moving McGee around for matchups as opposed to handing him the closer role.

#165 Josh Harrison, 3B/OF, PIT

$8.06, 74 R, 11 HR, 50 RBI, 17 SV, .281 AVG, .756 OPS

Harrison was a multi eligibility breakout in 2014, and coming into 2015, there were questions about his luck, and ability to repeat previous results.  While Harrison saw a downgrade in his babip and batting average, as expected, he was still a strong contact hitter.  The more alarming trend was the evaporation of his power.  His .103 ISO would have been the 20th worst in baseball if he qualified for the batting title.  Next year I'd guess another solid average, and better power.  His batted ball profile doesn't make sense as he wasn't driving the ball into the ground all season, and he has a hard hit rate that is better than the average 4 HR hitter.

#164 Brandon Belt, 1B, SF

$8.07, 65 R, 19 HR, 60 RBI, 7 SB, .265 AVG, .789 OPS

Belt has been a perplexing player to me.  It seems like he is good enough to make adjustments, but lacks the ability to add skills to current repertoire.  He makes adjustments in fly ball rate, pull rate, and line drive rate year to year, so he is difficult to project.  This season he had the best line drive rate in baseball, so his .363 was not a fluke.  He's experience a two-year trend of increased strikeouts.  Personally, I have given up on him reaching his fantasy potential while playing in San Francisco.  The park plays terribly for lefty power, and Belt would have to sell out to make himself worth it power wise, but I believe that would turn him into Chris Carter light.

#163 Garret Richards, SP, LAA

$8.09, 167 K, 14 W, 3.363 ERA, 1.209 WHIP, 2.651 K/BB

Richards had a solid 2015, but couldn't match the magic he had in 2014.  This season seems more repeatable, as a 3% HR/FB, will be tough to replicate.  His strikeout and walk rates both declined, which I can't find a good reason for.  Next year I'm hoping to see him back to pumping fastballs into the zone after he abandoned that strategy this season.  In 2015 he switched to throwing his slider more than any other pitch.  It was an unusual change, that I don't know the explanation for, but I'd love to know why.  He'll be good again next season in an Angels uniform.

#162 Eric Hosmer, 1B, KC

$8.41, 71 R, 13 HR, 67 RBI, 9 SB, .277 AVG, .742 OPS

Hosmer greatly improved his production, but still failed to move the needle when it comes to my fantasy interest.  A 1B who has a hard time hitting 20 HR, is difficult to invest in.  Next year the Royals should be a solid offensive squad, but his 90R/90 RBI is not likely to be repeated.  Only 11 other hitters accomplished that, 10 of those bats have significantly better power, and the other player is AJ Pollock.  Going forward I'll only be drafting Hosmer if I find him at a big discount, which is unlikely after this recent postseason.

#161 Howie Kendrick, 2B, LAD

$8.43 70 R, 11HR, 65 RBI, 11 SB, .283 OPS, .743 OPS

Kendrick moved across town, and continued to hit.  His .295 average was more of the same from Howard, and he did it with the typical high contact rate, line drive, and ground ball rate that has helped him keep his long career running.  His 9 homers, and 6 steals are suboptimal, and next year at 33, it's not likely that he'll be speeding up or hitting for more power, but he'll also be cheap, making him an interesting option next year.

#160 Mat Latos, SP, MIA

$8.48, 152 K, 12 W, 3.375 ERA, 1.205 WHIP, 2.923 K/BB

What has happened to Mat Latos?  His homers spiked last year, despite playing for 3 teams that were all in pitcher's parks, and he seemed to constantly be plagued with nagging injuries.  His strikeout rate of yore is gone, he's merely average in that now, and he hasn't had a healthy year since 2013.  The lone bright spot is more of a "its darkest before dawn" sort of thing.  His 63% strand rate would have been the worst in the MLB and won't be repeated, simply because he'll either improve or be out of a starting job.  But when look at his line, and also acknowledge that he now has a history of playing himself out of teams favor, it adds to my skepticism of him as a player, and the kind of team that will take him on next year.

#159 Billy Butler, DH, OAK

$8.54, 61 R, 14 HR, 76 RBI, 0 SB, .284 AVG, .757 OPS

Butler posted a career low line drive rate, a 50.8% ground ball rate, his worst infield fly rate since 2008, and his lowest hard hit rate since 2009.  He isn't having issues making contact, but he is not squaring the ball up like he used to.  A bad DH only player is someone who can be ignored until the last rounds of your draft in deep leagues.

#158 Tyson Ross, SP, SD

$8.60, 189 K, 12 W, 3.168 ERA, 1.219 WHIP, 2.625 K/BB

Tyson Ross stealthily put up a great fantasy season.  A 3.26 ERA with even better peripherals, a 9.73 K/9 over 196 innings is terrific which equals 212K which was good for 13th best in baseball.  Next year, I expect him to be at least as good as his babip jumped up last season.  His batted ball profile was improved last year as he traded in line drives for more grounders, but didn't experience any babip improvement.

#157 Alexei Ramirez, SS, CWS

$8.62, 75 R, 12 HR, 64 RBI, 24 SB, .275 AVG, .698 OPS

His steals declined and batting average declined for the third straight year.  Essentially everything else in his game declined, and he posted an extremely poor .249/.285/.357 line, resulting in a 72 wRC+.  At age 34, I cannot recommend him to any owner except those in the deepest of leagues.

#156 Scooter Gennett, 2B, MIL

$8.62, 74 R, 12 HR, 57 RBI, 12 SB, .284 AVG, .740 OPS

Gennett's problem is plate discipline, as he actually makes more contact that the average hitter, and has a good batted ball profile.  Unfortunately, chasing a lot of balls, and making contact is not a great way to get on base for Braun.  To put his approach into perspective, if Gennett qualified for the batting title, Gennett would have the third worst walk rate in baseball.  Next year, I'd be careful about investing in him, because when someone like this slumps, they literally provide 0 value to your team.

#155 Hector Rondon, RP, CHC

$8.87, 68 K, 3 W, 40 SV, 2.959 ERA, 1.178 WHIP, 3.238 K/BB

So Hector Rondon is really good at closing out baseball games.  After his second season with an ERA below 2.5, and a K/BB over 4.  He's an easy top 10 closer going into 2016 drafts.

#154 Brett Gardner, OF, NYY

$9.04, 85 R, 13 HR, 53 RBI, 22 SB, .263 AVG, .750 OPS

Gardner produced about what was projected of him.  He exchanged a few points in batting average and OPS for a few extra runs.  Next year, he'll be more of the same.  It's strange he isn't running like he used to, as he still possesses exceptional speed.

#153 Joe Mauer, 1B, MIN

$9.04, 73 R, 8 HR, 61 RBI, 3 SB, .291 AVG, .781 OPS

I'm not a Mauer fan, and now that he's only a 1B, I'd have a hard time putting him on any fantasy rosters.  Now that the Twins have Sano, Plouffe, Kennys Vargas, Byung-Ho Park, and Mauer.  To me this means if anyone has any sort of issue, they sit.  Any first baseman who is a low power guy should be avoided unless they are a super late round pick and you have a UTIL spot open for them, and its some sort of extreme value to cover up batting average problems.  That scenario I just made up is something I've never ran into, so I'm assuming its more of an excuse than a real plan.

#152 Michael Wacha, SP, STL

$9.12, 148 K, 11W, 3.333 ERA, 1.179 WHIP, 3.217 K/BB

I think Wacha is a budding star pitcher.  He's presently building innings, but next season I expect him to raise his K rate and really jump up rankings.  He's throwing harder than ever, and the Cardinals find ways of maxing their pitcher's ability.  I'm very confident in Wacha going forward, and think he is a great keeper asset.

#151 Doug Fister, SP, WSH

$9.37, 131 K, 12 W, 3.462 ERA, 1.200 WHIP, 3.447 K/BB

Doug Fister was hurt and during the 103 innings he pitched last season, he saw his walks go up, his home runs allowed go up, his babip go up, his strand rate get worse, and his ground ball rate became worse.  He has reached free agency this offseason, and it is looking like the Nationals won't be asking him to return after they demoted him to the bullpen last season.  A move away from the Nationals is a negative move for me, and that's for a guy I already view as a low value player in fantasy.

#150 Michael Cuddyer, OF, NYM

$9.39, 66R, 19 HR, 67 RBI, 8 SB, .265 AVG, .776 OPS

Fantasy pundits expected Cuddyer to get worse after leaving Colorado for Queens, but last season was a disaster.  He missed time with injuries, and once he was back, he was relegated to the bench.  Next year, the Mets do not plan on keeping him as a starter, and are looking for a new outfielder to replace the vacant space left by Cespedes.  Next year he will be a 37-year-old bench bat.  Do not draft him.

Tomorrow we'll reach players who were projected to have $10 value for this league.