If you are as dedicated and ambitious to building a Championship Fantasy Baseball Team as our forefathers were to building the greatest nation on the planet, then it is your Manifest Destiny to head west!
Allow me to be your Lewis and Clark, taking you out west every Thursday, all season long, for the most superb fantasy coverage of the American League West. You will get stats, analysis, sleepers, busts, waiver wire targets, injury updates and much more to navigate you through the Fantasy Baseball Season. For East Coast folk who do not stay up for West Coast action, make sure to check in every Thursday on MajorLeagueFantasySports.com. You can also ask questions and make comments that I will feature weekly by contacting me via Twitter [twitter-follow screen_name=’theCiccone’ link_color=’00ccff’] or emailing at firstname.lastname@example.org
After frying your brain and pulling your hair out through the fantasy football season, and vegetating through the frigid winter months, I want to start the season by summoning sweet, sugary summer thoughts of baseball and matters that took place in the AL West last season and during the off-season.
The AL West featured two playoff teams last season with the Angels winning an MLB-best 98 games followed by the 88-win Athletics. The A’s would lose a one game playoff to the Kansas City Royals, and the Angels quickly followed suit getting swept 3-0 against the eventual AL World Series representative Royals. The Mariners finished one game behind the A’s with 87 wins. The Astros and Rangers won 70 and 67 games respectively. Or dis-respectively?
Saying Good Bye to Old Friends… Dexter Fowler and Jose Veras are the notable players who will be donning other uniforms this season. Veras was the Astros’ best reliever last season but struggled to stay healthy. Fowler was an on base machine but had his own struggles staying on the field. The departure of Fowler opens the door for Jake Marisnick to get a full-time job in left field. Just 24 years old, Marisnick hit .274 in limited time with the Astros last season and has had four seasons in the minor leagues with at least 23 stolen bases, including last season in only 89 AAA games. With a chance to hit in front of or behind Jose Altuve, Marisnick needs to be on your sleeper radar…And Hello to New Ones Jed Lowrie and Luis Valbuena have been brought in to man the left side of the infield. Lowrie could be a very nice late round SS hitting in Houston if you neglected the shortstop position early in the draft. Valbuena offers power and nothing more. Evan Gattis will be the new DH and moving from a pitcher’s park in Atlanta to a hitter’s haven in Houston will be a boon to his HR total. The penultimate factor in Gattis’ fantasy value in 2015 will be playing DH while maintaining catcher eligibility, making 30+ homers almost certain. You will just have to deal with the low BA and OBP. Luke Gregerson has been an underrated reliever for years and has been brought in to close games. He will be a good value closer in drafts.
Best Player – Jose Altuve, 2B – What a season Altuve had hitting .341 with 56 swipes. At just 25 years old with a career minor league BA of .327, Altuve should have zero problems staying over .300 and swiping over 50 bags again. In an improved lineup his other counting stats could increase this season. Altuve should sit on the top of your second base rankings.
Biggest Bust – Jonathan Villar, SS – After stealing 18 bases in 58 games as a rookie, Villar was widely considered to be a great option to carry a fantasy squad in steals. It didn’t work out as Villar stole 17 bases in 87 games with a disgusting .209 BA. He is now riding the pine behind Oakland import Jed Lowrie.
Breakout – George Springer, OF – After annihilating minor league pitching, the much hyped Springer got the call to the bigs and did not disappoint. King George gave 20 souvenirs to outfield bleacher fans in just 78 games as a rookie. The .231 BA was not attractive but Springer drew 39 walks, showing plate discipline and potential to improve. If he can bring the stolen base prowess he displayed in the minor leagues to MLB, he will be a monster fantasy contributor…BA or not.
Los Angeles Angels
Say Good Bye to Old Friends…Howie Kendrick and Kevin Jepson will be bringing their talents to other cities this summer. The opening left by Jepson will allow Joe Smith to “hold” down 8th inning duties all to himself this season. If you are in a league that counts holds, Smith could be the best. The hole at second base will be filled by Josh Rutledge. This is a guy that never capitalized on playing in Coors so I do not expect fantasy relevance in LA. He is off my radar totally and should be off yours…And Hello to New Ones The Halos have remained largely the same. They brought in the above mentioned Rutledge along with Matt Joyce. Joyce will get the first crack at DH but will split time with CJ Cron, sitting vs lefties. If you are in a league that allows a deep bench and have the patience, Joyce is an excellent play vs righties all season.
Best Player – Mike Trout, OF – Duh! The consensus number one fantasy AND real life baseball player had a “down” year last year, stealing only 16 bags. Trout has proclaimed he worked hard in the off-season and will be fishing for more steals this year. If he gets back to 30ish, there is no one even in his tier. As a matter of fact, they will need to create a tier between Trout and the second tier, and leave that new tier empty.
Biggest Bust – Josh Hamilton, OF – Most predicted a rebound for Hamilton last season. It didn’t happen. Hamilton played in just 89 games hitting .263 with 10 homers and 44 RBIs. Fine numbers over the course of a full season but, if you drafted him, thats not what you wanted. Especially in only 89 games.
Breakout – Garrett Richards, SP – In his age 26 season Richards put it all together. Posting a 13-4 record with a 2.61 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. Richards was firmly in the AL Cy Young discussion until a freakish knee injury ended his season in August. Take advantage of the injury, as it has led to low draft stock. Buy low!
Oakland Athletics (Billy Beane has been busy)
Say Good Bye to Old Friends…Derek, Norris, Jed Lowrie, Yoenis Cespedes, John Jaso, Brandon Moss, Luke Gregerson, John Lester, Jeff Samardzija and Josh Donaldson are all gone. The departures of Jaso and Norris leave the door open for Stephen Vogt to be the full-time catcher. Vogt has 20 HR potential at a cheap draft day price. The rest of the openings will be filled by new faces…And Hello to New Ones Ike Davis, Brett Lawrie, Ben Zobrist, Billy Butler, Marcus Semien, Tyler Clippard and Jesse Hahn are all on board now. These guys will mostly bring the same talents they displayed from previous addresses. I do want to mention Marcus Semien. Semien is your typical OBP Billy Beane guy. Semien is a career .374 OBP player in the minor leagues. Getting his first shot at a full-time gig atop the A’s lineup at 24 could give Semien sneaky late round value with SS and 2b eligibility.
Best Player – Sonny Gray, SP – Josh Donaldson was actually the player here but he will be drinking Molsen on the other side of the border this season. So…Sonny Gray. Gray was as solid and consistent as you could ask for as a SP last season. Gray was not spectacular but, he was good. All the time! Gray posted 14 wins, 3.08 ERA, 1.19 WHIP in 219 innings. Gray’s 26 quality starts ranked him 4th in MLB, tied with AL Cy Young winner Cory Kluber and ahead of some guy name Clayton. If he can improve on his walks, which the minor league track record suggests he will, he will be a fantasy stud.
Breakout – Sonny Gray, SP – Please refer to above or take a break to sip your cold frosty one that I know you have in hand right now.
Say Good Bye to Old Friends…The band is staying together. The Mariners did not lose any key pieces during the off-season…and Hello to New Ones Nelson Cruz and Rickie Weeks will bring lots of experience and talent to an 87 win team from a year ago. Cruz will give the Mariners that every day power bat they have been looking for. Cruz’s fantasy totals will suffer in Safeco but he will still be productive. Weeks is expected to platoon in left with Dustin Ackley but will provide value in daily leagues vs lefties.
Best Player – Felix Hernandez, SP – King Felix was the number one AL pitcher in fantasy baseball last year posting 27 quality starts with a 2.14 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 248 Ks in 236 innings. Hernandez does it every year. Expect him to be the best pitcher the AL once again.
Biggest Bust – Brad Miller, SS – Miller was considered a breakout candidate going into the 2014 season based his tremendous minor league track record. It didn’t work out as Miller slashed .221/.288/.365. On top of that, Miller might lose his job this year to Chris Taylor who slashed .287/.347/.346 in limited time last season and who has an equally impressive minor league resume.
Breakout – Fernando Rodney, RP – OK, so maybe Rodney was not a “breakout” but, he got “no respect” last off-season as he was projected to be one of the first closers to lose his job. All he did was save 48 games.
Say Good Bye to Old Friends…Alex Rios will be eating BBQ in KC this season. Rios is the only key contributor lost in the off-season…And Hello to New Faces Ummm…Nate Schierholtz anyone? Nasty Nate might be the final piece for the Rangers to capture a World Series Title but, he will not be for your fantasy team. The Rangers were so inactive as a 67 win team, I seriously question what is going on in that front office.
Best Player – Pudge Rodriguez, C – Nobody had a healthy productive season for the Rangers last season so I wanted to give a shout out to the best catcher of MY generation.
Biggest Bust – Prince Fielder, 1B – With so many choices, the Clown Prince of Texas gets the nod based on his 1st-2nd round ADP last season. Prince only played 42 games and hit .247. The biggest surprise is the three HRs. Prince is a great bounce back candidate given his track record, assuming the neck is healthy.
Breakout – Rougned Odor, 2B – Last season’s breakout, Jurickson Profar, got injured and never broke out leaving the door open for Odor. Odor is just 21 years old and hit nine homers in 114 games. Odor stole bases in the minors and could be a 15/25 guy this season at a shallow position as Profar is expected to miss the season again.
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Major League Fantasy Sports Radio: Join Ej Garr and Corey D. Roberts on Sunday March 8th from 7pm-8:30pm EST for this week’s episode of MajorLeague Fantasy Sports Radio sponsored by the Sports Palooza Radio Network. We will be taking live callers during the show at 646.915.8596. This week’s show we will be discussing the 3rd base and catcher positions for the fantasy baseball 2015 season.