Welcome to my 2016 fantasy team previews. I will be breaking down 2016 prospects for the relevant fantasy players on all 30 teams, one team at a time. Check back throughout the offseason for new team previews. You can catch up on old ones in my archive (here) or in the section (here). Because there are 30 teams to cover in limited time, I have to get started now, even though there will certainly be some trades that move players around and open up larger roles for existing players. Also, free agents and guys that moved midseason will be analyzed with one of the teams they played for, even though they likely (or definitely) won't be on that team in 2016 so they don't get missed. Hopefully you can bear with me on those issues and remember that these were written before those trades occurred.
I am starting at the bottom of the standings and working my way up. In each team preview, I will attempt to follow the same layout. First, there will be two tables of stats for hitters (showing stats acquired while playing for this team; traded players will be missing some stats) followed by quick analysis of the most fantasy relevant of those hitters (relevance at my discretion). After that, two tables for the pitching stats and some pitcher analysis. I will then present one breakout player (aka sleeper) and one breakdown player (or bust, if you prefer) for the team. Got it? Ok, let's get started.
|Brandon Belt||1B, OF*||556||18||73||68||9||3||10.10%||26.40%||0.28||0.356||0.478|
|Kelby Tomlinson||2B, SS*||193||2||23||20||5||4||7.30%||20.70%||0.303||0.358||0.404|
|Casey McGehee||3B, 1B*||138||2||7||11||0||1||8.00%||20.30%||0.213||0.275||0.299|
|Matt Duffy||3B, 2B*||612||12||77||77||12||0||4.90%||15.70%||0.295||0.334||0.428|
|Buster Posey||C, 1B||623||19||74||95||2||0||9.00%||8.30%||0.318||0.379||0.47|
|Ehire Adrianza||SS, 2B*||134||0||11||11||3||2||11.20%||14.90%||0.186||0.303||0.265|
|Name||BABIP||LD%||GB%||FB%||HR/FB||SwStr%||Soft%||Med%||Hard%||ESPN Player Rater|
*Will lose this eligibility in 2016
**The ESPN player rater is based on a player's standard 5 x 5 category performance relative to average. A score of 0 is replacement level and negative values mean the player is actually hurting your team. Values in the 1-2 range generally are for your worst starting player, unless you are unlucky. There are no positional adjustments, though, so shortstops and catchers will often have very low scores relative to everyone else. It is normalized so that guys with little playing time can be compared to guys that played all year.
Brandon Belt has settled in as an above average first baseman, but not a star. He finished at #15 on ESPN's player rater for first basemen. That's roughly where he has been almost every fully healthy season. I just don't believe he has much upside beyond this. Throw in the fact that his 0.363 BABIP isn't going to happen again, which was driven by an insane 28% line drive rate. He has had high BABIP values in multiple seasons, but I would expect 0.330 or so, and not 0.360. He's pretty predictable and still young enough that there shouldn't be any decline. Expect more of the same in 2016, for the most part.
Joe Panik once again put up a great average with just a tiny bit of power and no speed. He gives you basically one category production (two if you throw in runs), but he chips in the other categories and that's enough from your second baseman. I don't see any warning signs of a big drop in average. He has the peripheral stats you would expect for a guy that gets lots of hits with low power. The slugging percentage was too high for his history and skill set, so I would expect that to drop to about 0.400. He finished 22nd among 2nd basemen on ESPN in a partial season and I expect something like a 15th finish in 2016.
Kelby Tomlinson surprised everyone with a fast start, but it was driven by a 0.382 BABIP. I think playing time issues and some serious regression make him useless in fantasy.
Matt Duffy did well to hit for a high average with OK power and good speed. He's kind of a fantasy Swiss Army knife, contributing in every category a little bit. Overall, it's a nice stable package, but boring. It looks like he could do it again in 2016. The power and speed are both at expected levels. The average might drop a little, but other than that, it should be smooth sailing for the 3B-eligible hitter. He could easily sneak into the ESPN 3B top 10 again next year, but toward the back end.
Some think Andrew Susac could be a very good catcher if he had the full time gig, but I'm not convinced. He hasn't shown that he can consistently hit major league pitching yet and Posey is still getting most of the catcher at bats.
Speaking of Mr. Posey, he put up another all-star season and was the #1 catcher on ESPN's player rater by a mile. Or maybe a country mile? Which is larger? How does a country mile compare to a nautical mile? Where was I? Oh yes, Posey doubled the second catcher's score (Gattis, with Russell Martin just behind). He is clearly still the best catcher-eligible player, yes, even better than Kyle Schwarber. He will be only 29 next season, so I don't expect any decline. Continue to value him as you have in the past.
It was a first for Hunter Pence this year. His first injury-plagued season. He had been rock solid in terms of playing every day and putting up the same stats every year until 2015. I expect a return to normalcy in 2016. His power was still there, even with his injuries. He had the second best hard hit % on the team, a 0.478 slugging, and nine homers in just 228 PAs (a full season pace of about 25 HR). His career-high ground ball rate and strikeout rate and near-career-high swinging strike rate don't paint a promising picture, however. On a more encouraging note, he has had high groundball rates throughout his career and his 2015 highs are not that much different from previous seasons. I think he is a lock for 650 PAs, 0.270/0.330/0.450 with 20 HR and 10 steals.
Gregor Blanco got a lot of playing time this season due to injuries in the outfield. He showed his great patience, a little speed, and below-average power. That's basically what he has always been. He's a great leadoff hitter and fourth outfielder (for an MLB team). In fantasy, he's only valuable if he has playing time and in OBP leagues. He contributes in three categories: OBP, steals, runs. He has sneaky value because this type of hitter is often overlooked, even in OBP leagues, but that's about as much as you can say about his value.
Speaking of guys with limited power that only contribute in three categories, let's talk Nori Aoki. When he was healthy, the 33-year-old put on his usual show: a 0.285-ish average, no power, 15-20 steals, and some runs. He's now in Seattle, where he might get lots of playing time. Looking at his career, he has always put up an average near 0.285 and 14-30 steals. With full playing time, 20 steals is realistic and the average shows no signs of dropping yet.
Marlon Byrd spent some time with Los Gigantes this year. He did his usual above-average power, no plate discipline routine. He continues to have good power but I'm staying away. His BABIP was very high with San Francisco for an extreme pull hitter, he hit too many grounders, and his plate discipline seems to be getting worse (career high swinging strike rate over the full year). If you want the 23-25 HR he hits every year and can stomach a 0.230 average, bad OBP, and slumps, then he's your guy. Otherwise, you can steer clear. He's currently a free agent as well.
Angel Pagan doesn't have enough value to be useful in most leagues. Justin Maxwell looked good early in the season, but cooled off. He's still young and has some room to grow, but I will need to see some serious improvement in his plate discipline and power before taking a chance on him.
Brandon Crawford was incredible and had a real breakout season. Owners who drafted him cheap should feel very lucky. I'm going to put some cold water on the 2016 hype, however. You should always be leery of a guy that doubles his previous career high in homers, suddenly adds 0.073 to his slugging percentage, while also carrying a 47% ground ball rate. Look, it wasn't all fake, he did hit the ball harder (hard hit %) and pulled the ball a ton. The plate discipline is on a three year decline and the power jump was just so sudden for a 28-year-old. I'm bumping him down to 0.250/0.310/0.390 with 12 HR and 5 steals. Don't pay for his 2015 season in drafts.
|Tim Lincecum||RP, SP||76.1||4.13||4.29||4.64||1.48||0.3||73.90%||44.30%||10.70%|
|Yusmeiro Petit||RP, SP*||76||3.67||4.09||4.35||1.18||0.278||78.00%||32.60%||9.80%|
|Ryan Vogelsong||SP, RP||135||4.67||4.53||4.55||1.47||0.299||70.50%||44.70%||6.30%|
|Chris Heston||SP, RP*||177.2||3.95||4.02||3.98||1.31||0.299||73.40%||53.00%||8.90%|
|Name||SV||HLD||K%||BB%||Soft%||Med%||Hard%||ESPN Player Rater|
*If they were outside the top 550 pitchers on the player rater, they will show up as #N/A
Madison Bumgarner continues to be a top-10 starting pitcher and shows no signs of changing that. Off the top of my head, I would have Kershaw, Scherzer, Sale, Arrieta, Carrasco, then Bumgarner/deGrom/Keuchel in some order.
If Mike Leake can't do well in the friendly atmosphere of AT&T Park in San Fran, then I don't want him anywhere else. Matt Cain struggled mightily after returning from surgery and looks broken. Chris Heston was clearly the second best starter on this roster. At least he has some hope. He has a very good ground ball rate and an xFIP below 4. He needs to reduce his walks and his WHIP, but if he can do that, he will make a very good streamer at home and maybe even ownable in deeper leagues. He is officially listed as the 6th starter, so he might not get many starts, we'll see.
I talked about Jeff Samardzija with the White Sox preview, but I'll just say I need to see improvement before I trust him again. He looked so lost and was in a sharp decline last season, so there's a long way to go to get back to usefulness in fantasy. The ballpark will help him substantially, but I'm still very skeptical.
Johnny Cueto was covered in detail in my Reds preview. I said in there, "unless he ends up in a really bad hitter's park, I'm still confident in his skills." Well, he's in the best pitcher's park in baseball, so buy low on this ace!
Down in the 'pen you have Santiago Casilla making it look hard. He has just enough skill left to keep his closer's job, but he never feels safe. He's a risky bet, even with closers always being a risky draft pick. Adding to the risk is the fact that Sergio Romo was clearly the better pitcher last season and is lurking in the 8th inning. Romo could easily take the job back. If he were the closer, this would be a littler safer bet because he has the dominant slider and swinging strike rate. Hunter Strickland may actually be better than both of them and is much younger. He's a decent bet for the future closer and a good deep holds-league buy.
Tyler Beede is San Francisco's top pitching prospect and could make his debut in 2016. He's got a great fastball and some average secondary stuff (the changeup is slightly above average). If he improves his command he could be a #3/4 starter. That's not exciting for fantasy, though and he might not even make it to the show in 2016. Kyle Crick is worth mentioning, I guess, because he could certainly debut and possesses an even better fastball than Beede. However, he has even more command and control issues and profiles as a reliever. If he could somehow start, he could be a late bloomer that surprises everyone by figuring out his delivery issues, but there's no reason to stash him or anything.
I usually like to pick a hitter or starting pitcher here, but there just isn't anyone on this roster that I would call a breakout. Hunter Pence should have a "rebound" season, but that's not really a breakout. I'm going to the bullpen and declaring Strickland a breakout player because I'm going to say he ends up the closer by the end of the season. I think a guy in the 7th inning becoming a solid closer for a very good team would be considered a fantasy breakout.
He has regression written all over him. I'm not trusting the sudden power surge and I see a big drop off and disappointment for owners expecting another 20 HR season and drafting him in the fourth round.
Check back soon for the next team preview as we keep moving up the standings. Tschus!