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10 fantasy baseball players worth the gold price

If you ignore this list, not even Beric Dondarrion and his Lord of Light can stop your fantasy team’s Watch from ending.

HBO/Pete Rogers Illustrations

On the “gold price,” direct from the Game of Thrones wiki:

The iron price is a concept in the culture of the ironborn, and their local religion of the Drowned God. Paying the iron price means seizing something from those one has defeated rather than paying or treating for it. Thus, it is a primary aspect of the “Old Way,” the traditional lifestyle of the ironborn. The opposite of the iron price is “the gold price” - paying for possessions - which is considered shameful for a man to pay.

Let’s first acknowledge that the entire ironborn lot were a disappointment, and are therefore unqualified to tell me what to do with my money. Theon Greyjoy is one of the most spineless characters in literary history, and his father was disgusting—just like his uncle. Yes, Asha Greyjoy IS A BOSS, but one good egg isn’t enough to redeem the whole rotten bunch.

Still, the final season of Game of Thrones is upon us (April 14th!). Winter is coming. Heck, winter is here. That means fantasy Game of Thrones returns to Fake Teams dot com, too. Here is a link to the season finale scorecard from a year ago, to give you an idea of what you’ll be doing with your lineup. Editor Pete has pledged to make scoring less soft this year. We shall see.

All of this goodness calls for a celebration. In honor of these events, I will choose one player from each position, as well as a few more to get us up to 10. Each player is worth the “gold price,” meaning I believe you can confidently draft each one at ADP and still feel good about the production you receive. Sometimes it’s nice to you know you aren’t losing ground, right?

For easy reference, I am including NFBC (Draft Champions) and FantasyPros ADP data. Enjoy!

CATCHER: Welington Castillo, White Sox

NFBC ADP: 256, ECR: 226

“Beef” Castillo is a free square. Still only 31 years old, last year’s PED suspension cost him plenty of counting stats. Perhaps that is the culprit for his depressed ADP. Castillo offers power and batting average stability at an atrocious catcher position. An increase in line drive rate during the last three years is fueling above-average marks in BABIP (.337, .336, .322 since 2016). Castillo’s home digs at Guaranteed Rate Field plays just fine for power, too. This year’s White Sox offense gets a healthier Jose Abreu, added quality MLB regulars in Jon Jay and Yonder Alonso, has another year of experience on Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada, AND adds some dude named Eloy Jimenez after he perfects his defense for a couple of weeks. The outlook for Castillo is not grim.

FIRST BASE: Matt Olson, Athletics

NFBC ADP: 108, ECR: 107

Olson, like Castillo, represents the last of the top tier at his position. On average, he is being selected two picks ahead of batting average drain Joey Gallo (per NFBC). Olson is a bit of a batting average risk himself, but we are talking about a man whose line drive rate jumped up to tolerable 21.1% last year. That, and his 47.3% hard contact rate was the eighth-best mark in the MLB. On the low end of fortune, Olson might bat .245 or so. But on the high end he could be around .260. Either way, the sure thing is the power. He is a lock for 25+ homers and is a good bet to crest 30 if last year’s 16.1% HR/FB rate regresses positively. I dig that his chase rate improved from 28.3% to 25.1% last year, and that his contact rate also improved. He’s not just a swing-and-miss type. There’s some recognition happening at the plate for this bopper. His arrow is definitely trending upward.

SECOND BASE: Travis Shaw, Brewers

NFBC ADP: 102, ECR: 97

Shaw is a lock for me in 2019. All this chatter about moving Mike Moustakas to the keystone is good for Shaw. Shaw will get to stick in at third base while “Moose” may be lifted for a defensive replacement in later innings. Shaw has quietly posted back-to-back seasons of at least 30 homers (31 and 32) and also has 15 swipes over the last two years. Last year’s .241 batting average wasn’t stellar, but Shaw was on the poor side of Lady Luck with a .242 BABIP. Any sort of return near his career .286 BABIP means you’re looking at a guy who could pop 30 dingers and not mutilate your batting average—all while playing for a stellar Brewers offense. Shaw also beefed up his walk rate a year ago (13.3%) and trimmed his strikeout rate to 18.4%—both career-best marks. His fly ball rate increased by almost 7% and his pull rate jumped up 5% last year. His 28.8% chase rate was above-average and also the best mark of his career. His 8.2% swinging strike rate was also the best mark of his career. Starting to get the idea? Still only 28 years old, Shaw is an unheralded fantasy asset whose arrow is still trending upward.

SHORTSTOP: Jean Segura, Phillies

NFBC ADP: 65, ECR: 63

Jean Segura is hitting in one of the top two spots in this offense. Don’t give me this Cesar Hernandez nonsense. I think Roster Resource has this right, with Hernandez batting ninth. Segura’s only blemish is a below-average walk rate. He’s at 4.8% for his career. However, he makes up for it with at low strikeout rate—he set a career-best mark of 10.9% last season. Segura is a consistent threat to bat .300, and has been at or above that mark in three straight seasons. His home run totals of 11 and 10 in the last two years in Seattle are a floor projection for a guy who now gets to call Citizens Bank Park his home. I think 15 is more likely, especially given that Segura was top-10 in batted ball events a year ago, checking in at seventh overall. As our own Joe Gentile has noted repeatedly here on the site, these guys who aren’t as powerful can still sneak up on you with homers since they put the ball in play so much. I LOVE Segura’s situation in 2019 and if I land him just after the early rounds I am feeling just fine. Anywhere after pick 50 is fine by me. I think he’s worth it.

THIRD BASE: Justin Turner, Dodgers

NFBC ADP: 112, ECR: 95

Turner’s luscious, Tormund-worthy beard is reason enough to include him on any list associated with Game of Thrones. You get a bit of a discount on Justin Giantsbane this year, likely due to last year’s recovery from a wrist fracture during the first half of 2018. Turner slashed a mortal .258/.354/.393 with a .135 ISO in that first half, but in the second half he went all “Savage Seven” on opposing pitchers with a .356/.447/.619 with a .262 ISO. He’s 34 years old, but he’s currently healthy. Join me in playing for right now.

OUTFIELD: Andrew McCutchen, Phillies

NFBC ADP 144, ECR 129

McCutchen is one of my favorite values in 2019, and I snagged him at pick 118 in the Champions League of TGFBI. A little early perhaps, but to that point I only had one outfielder and I wanted Cutch’s mix of floor and upside. Aside from his brief stint with the Yankees last year, Citizens Bank Park represents the best power environs that Cutch has ever called home. Last year’s 20-homer, 14-steal season was a miracle given the cavernous confines of Oracle Park. Oracle ranked 29th in homers in the MLB a year ago, while Cutch’s new digs in Philly checked in at fourth overall. I don’t think 30 home runs is out of the question, and Cutch should chip in 10+ steals as well. He should hit in one of the top three spots in a stacked lineup, one that includes the aforementioned Segura and the newly acquired Bryce Harper. Rhys Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto round out a formidable top five.

And before you think the 32-year-old is washed, know that last year’s shiny 43.4% hard contact rate and stupid-low 19.4% chase rate were both career-best marks. For reference, only Joey Votto chased less than McCutchen in 2018, and the 43.4% hard contact rate ranked 24th in the MLB, ahead of Nolan Arenado, Giancarlo Stanton, and Bryce Harper (to name a few). What’s not to love?

STARTING PITCHER: Nathan Eovaldi, Red Sox

NFBC ADP: 174, ECR: 163

Eovaldi has been a repeated topic of discussion here at Fake Teams. Resident sleeper-maven Joe Gentile has touted Eovaldi’s upside for months now. It’s happened for so long, in fact, it surprises me that Eovaldi’s ownership percentage on Yahoo is only 72%. That’s 28% too low, people. Eovaldi had 101 strikeouts against only 20 walks last season, no doubt aided by a newfound four-pitch arsenal (he added a cutter and a split-fingered fastball). If you deal in percentages, Eovaldi had a career-high 22.2% K-rate and career-best 4.4% walk rate. He also managed career bests in swinging strike rate (10.7%) and chase rate (33.9%). The downside is he only pitched 111 innings last year, but with a little luck he could approach 150 this year. He’d need a few more starts than last year’s 22 in order to do so, but 28ish starts could get him to a really useful mark. At his ADP, I’m down with it.

FIRST BASE: Jose Abreu, White Sox

NFBC ADP: 86, ECR: 70

If you wanted to spend a little more than Olson requires you to (or have Olson as your CI bat), Abreu is the guy to hold down your proverbial first base fort. As holding down proverbial forts goes, he’s far better choice than Theon Greyjoy or Ramsay Bolton. Abreu’s counting stats were depressed due to missing about three weeks or so with injuries last year. But he enters 2019 healthy and the White Sox lineup is due for much improvement. A return to a .290 average and 25+ home runs is a floor projection, and Abreu has the chance to contribute positively in runs and RBIs due to his home park and improving lineup. As stated earlier, Jon Jay, Yonder Alonso, and Eloy Jimenez are quality additions, while Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada are another year wiser. I love Abreu in the middle rounds this year, and I snagged him at pick 63 of TGFBI. First base gets thin in a hurry. Give me all this floor and upside.

STARTING PITCHER: Joe Musgrove, Pirates

NFBC ADP: 220, ECR: 317

With the premium price being paid for starters this year, you’re going to have to dig deep to round out your fake rotations. So I figured I’d offer up another starter. Musgrove is another guy with a low innings count from a year ago, at 115 13. He had a 4.06 ERA, which isn’t stellar. But he did show growth in his chase rate, which beefed up to 35.9%—well above the 30.9% MLB average. And for the second straight year, Musgrove’s swinging strike rate was over 11%, which is a tick above the 10.7% MLB average. Musgrove pounds the strike zone, with a 68.3% zone rate that would have ranked fifth in the MLB a year ago had he qualified. Miles Mikolas, Aaron Nola, Luis Severino, and Justin Verlander were the only hurlers who lived in the zone more. With Musgrove’s stuff, I could easily see the strikeout rate increasing, perhaps to around 24% or so. At his bargain bin price, there isn’t much risk associated, especially with the skills we’ve seen and with that friendly home park.


NFBC ADP: 314, ECR: 292

Kike played everywhere but catcher last season. And I don’t mean he just played “outfield.” No, he played in every single defensive spot on the diamond, except for catcher (so all three outfield spots). He is the valuable piece that moves all over the diamond, and he should see plenty of time at the middle infield spots and in the outfield again in 2019. Last season he crushed it, slashing .256/.336/.470 with 21 dingers in only 462 plate appearances (402 AB). He trimmed his strikeout rate from 23.4% (2017) to 16.9% last year. His contact rate crept up to 79.8%, the first time he’s been above the MLB average since his very short stint of games in 2014. Same deal on his swinging strike rate, as his 8.6% mark was above-average and the best it has been since that 42-game sample in 2014. Another area of improvement was O-Swing%, as last year marked the fourth year in a row that Kike has chased less—culminating in a stellar 24.8% chase rate last year. For reference, that mark would have ranked 23rd-best in the MLB with enough at-bats to qualify.

Perhaps the most encouraging fact was the 2018 performance against right-handed pitching, though. Long considered a strict platoon bat, Hernandez slashed .252/.338/.495 against right-handers in 2018. Against righties, he walked more, had a higher OBP, higher SLG, higher ISO, higher wOBA, and higher wRC+. In short, defensive versatility and quality at-bats against either handedness of pitcher means I am rounding out all of my rosters with this 25+ homer potential. Kike is a free square in 2019.

It occurs to me that I didn’t list a relief pitcher, but that’s okay. Due to the rise of the super bullpen, saves are a scarce commodity and the price on most closers has risen too high for my liking. If I had picked one, though, it would have been Jose Alvarado. His high heat seems destined for the later innings, though I’m sure the Rays will play some musical chairs. Still, I’ll take the ratios, the plus ground ball rate (55% last year), and the nuts strikeout rate (30.4%). Small sample, sure. But Alvarado delivered in 2018. I’ll bite.

There, you got your relief pitcher, and an extra man to consider. What say you, free folk? Who will you be paying the shameful top dollar for in 2019?