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Roto Roundup: Bryce Harper, Freddie Freeman, Mark Appel and others

Some quick thoughts on some players in the news recently.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The fantasy football season is over for me.....I got trounced in my playoff match up last week. So, it's time to focus more of my time on the goings on in fantasy baseball. Here are my thoughts on a few players in the news over the last week or so.

Bryce Harper wants to run more in 2016

Last weekend, the Nationals had their annual Fan Fest, and one of the fantasy-related news items to come from that event was that their best player, National League MVP Bryce Harper indicated that he wants to run more in 2016. Looking at his player page over at FanGraphs, it is hard to believe he has been in the league for four seasons now. He stole 18 bases in his 2012 rookie season, stole 11 bases in 2013, and followed that up with just 2 stolen bases in an injury-shortened 2014 season. Last year, he stole 6 bases in 10 attempts. Over his career, he has stolen 37 bases in 53 attempts, good enough for a 70% success rate.

Last season, the Nationals attempted just 80 stolen bases, stealing 57 with 23 caught stealing attempts. Now the Nationals have a new manager in Dusty Baker, who isn't really known as a manager who gives the green light too much. But the Nationals also added first base coach Davey Lopes, so my initial thought is that the team WILL run more in 2016. And they have some players who will benefit from one of the best base stealers in baseball history as their first base coach.

I can see Harper reaching double digits in stolen bases in 2016.....could he steal 15 bases? It's certainly not out of the question. A few other players who will run more in 2016: outfielder Michael Taylor, outfielder Jayson Werth, shortstop Danny Espinosa and shortstop prospect Trea Turner. If he lands a starting gig, Turner should lead the team in stolen bases next season.

Back to Harper, could he put up a 35 home run, 15 stolen base season in 2016? Yep. I may consider moving him to my #1 overall pick as a result.

Mark Appel added to Ken Giles deal

Last week, the Astros and Phillies completed their deal that sent closer Ken Giles to the Astros in return for a few pitchers and outfielder Derek Fisher. Well, apparently Fisher failed a physical.....I think....not sure....but he was removed from the deal and pitching prospect Mark Appel was added.

I wrote about the fantasy impact of this trade after it happened, but that was before Appel was added to the deal. Here is what our prospect team said about him in their Astros Top 10 Fantasy Prospect for 2016:

#7 - Mark Appel (RHP)
Age on Opening Day: 24
ETA: 2016

It seems as though Appel has been around forever, due to both his decision to return to Stanford in lieu of signing with the Pirates in 2012, and hindsight bias surrounding the Astros selecting him over Kris Bryant in 2013. The fact that he has largely disappointed does not help matters, either, as the number one overall pick sports a 5.12 ERA and less than stellar peripherals in his professional career. That being said, the stuff has never really slipped (he has three pitches that project as above-average), and he still has the look of an ace. Consider this placement a show of faith in Appel rediscovering himself.

So, the Astros gave up our prospect teams' #7 fantasy prospect in their system instead of the #6 fantasy prospect (Fisher). Appel should start the 2016 season in AAA for the Phillies, with a chance to see some time at the big league level if he can add a little more deception in his delivery and work on his command. Here is Keith Law said about Appel in a recent chat over at his blog -

Nick: Can Mark Appel still be a #2 starter? Maybe even an ace if everything clicks?
Klaw: I think #2 is a lot more realistic, but he needs a few significant adjustments and, for all Houston has done right the last few years, they absolutely mishandled him in several ways.

Law also said that he feels that Appel is the better prospect over Fisher, and he has been down on Fisher for over a year now. He later said that the Astros did't allow Appel to throw his two seamer, relying on his four seamer, so we could seem some improvement from him right away in 2016.

Astros looking for another bat?

The Astros made the playoffs last season for the first time after several 100 loss seasons. Now that they have had their first taste of the playoffs in awhile, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow is looking to fill some holes in the Astros lineup.

In this Evan Drellich piece in the Houston Chronicle, Evan writes that Astros GM Jeff Luhnow is not finished with tinkering with his lineup this offseason:

"I think we're going to look at either bringing in another pitcher for the rotation or a bat of some sort," general manager Jeff Luhnow said Saturday. "We're going to be creative and think through different options and see where we end up but our work's not done."

The Astros have shown interest in Yovani Gallardo and Scott Kazmir, and could use position-player help at the corner-infield spots and catcher.

Creativity, as Luhnow put it, leaves the door wide open. Hypothetically, the Astros could trade from an area of strength, such as the outfield, to fill one of those areas of need — perhaps in the rotation — and then make an upgrade in the outfield through free agency.

Or, they could deal one of more of their prospects for Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman. If the Astros want to make a major statement this offseason, they deal A.J. Reed in a package for Freeman. Yes, I know Braves GM John Coppolella already stated a few times that he isn't trading Freeman, but if he can get a young power hitting first baseman like Reed, I think he would strongly consider it.

If the Astros were to deal for Freeman, here is what their lineup would project to be:

George Springer - RF

Jose Altuve - 2B

Carlos Correa - SS

Freddie Freeman - 1B

Carlos Gomez - CF

Colby Rasmus - LF

Luis Valbuena -3B

Jason Castro - C

That's a pretty impressive and deep lineup, much deeper than if Jon Singleton was their every day first baseman in 2016.

Who closes in Oakland?

In this Susan Slugger article in the San Francisco Chronicle, she discusses some of the new additions to the Athletics bullpen this offseason:

Axford and Madson will be set-up men in front of closer Sean Doolittle, general manager David Forst said.

"At this point, Sean is the closer. I don't think there's any confusion about that," Forst said. "But last year as we saw, there's a need for a Plan B and a Plan C."

Madson was the closer on an excellent Phillies team in 2011, and Axford was the closer for several seasons in Milwaukee and in Colorado last year, but moving to the seventh inning doesn't faze Axford a bit. That had been the plan in Colorado, until fate intervened.

Doolittle made just 12 appearances last season, saving 4 games and pitched just 13.1 innings as he spend three months on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. GM David Forst already named Doolittle his Opening Day closer, which is a bit premature, as spring training is still 3 months away. The additions of Madson and Axford indicate that Forst may not have much confidence in Doolittle's shoulder holding up all season. Time will tell. Madison pitched great in Kansas City last season, pitching to a 2.13 ERA over 63.1 innings, striking out eight batters and walking less than two batters per nine innings. I would not be surprised to see Madson end the season with more saves than Doolittle in 2016, and is a must grab in deeper mixed and AL-only leagues.