Fantasy Baseball: Meet your 2018 Fantasy All-Star Team
Heading into the All-Star Break, Chris Towers singles out the players who have provided the most value in Fantasy relative to ADP so far this season.
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Blake Snell should be an All-Star. Unfortunately, until someone bows out of the game, he's on the outside looking in for the AL's roster. That is nothing short of a travesty.
Of course, Fantasy players know exactly how good Snell has been this season, especially for the price you paid to acquire him on Draft Day. He's been on the short list of best pitchers in baseball, but was often available in the middle rounds on Draft Day, making him one of the very best values in Fantasy.
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And a sure-fire Fantasy All Star. This isn't just a list of the best players at every position, of course, because value matters in Fantasy. Sure, it's great to have Jose Altuve on your roster as one of the best players in Fantasy, but you also needed to be picking in the top-three to have a chance at him. Everyone had a chance at every one of these players, and if you've got one, your team is probably doing pretty well.
For a while there, it looked like Gattis might just be an outright bust, even at the relatively light draft cost you needed to acquire him. After 30 games, Gattis was hitting just .187/.260/.275, with one home run and eight RBI, and seemed at risk of losing his job as the Astros' primary DH. The past 50 games have been quite a different story, as the veteran has crushed 17 homers and driven in 54 runs in that span, while sporting a .293 average. Hopefully, you didn't drop him in the deepest depths of his slump, but either way, he's been a tremendous value if he's on your team right now. And, given how often he bats in his role as a DH, he seems like a safe bet to finish as a top-three option at the position.
Heath Cummings nailed it in the preseason, calling Gattis a
Despite coming off a season that saw him sport an .837 OPS, nobody was really on Jesus Aguilar this offseason. The Brewers had plenty of popular breakouts, of course, and that was part of the problem. Aguilar was a part-time player last season, and he opened up 2018 in the same role. However, Ryan Braun struggled to stay in the lineup everyday, Eric Thames got hurt and Domingo Santana earned a demotion to the minors, and playing time suddenly wasn't much of a problem.
But Aguilar didn't get here by default. He's been one of the best hitters in the league in his own right, and he's proving he can handle right-handed pitching just fine, thank you, so he's not at risk of losing his job. There may be some regression coming, but if Aguilar is only a mid-800s OPS bat moving forward, he's a starting-caliber option. That's a nice floor for a waiver-wire add.
Last season, Scooter Gennett had an .874 OPS. This season, he has an .883 OPS. He's not hitting for quite as much power as he did a year ago, and his average is inflated by an unsustainable BABIP, but he's still held on to most of the gains he made a year ago. What happened in 2017 was, it's pretty clear, a legitimate breakout, and those of you who bought in at his cheap Draft Day price are reaping the rewards.
Scott White looks pretty smart for.
Turns out, Javier Baez didn't need to improve all that much to become a Fantasy stud. He still has terrible plate discipline, and one of the lowest contact rates in baseball, but he's improved just enough to take a big step forward. I'm not convinced he'll keep it up — Baez's inability to ever work a walk and his propensity to swing through every third pitch he takes a hack at seems destined to catch up to him sooner or later — but with eligibility at three infield positions and 30-homer, 30-steal potential, it's hard to quibble too much. If he's just the No. 8 SS moving forward, he's still a star.
Jose Ramirez was already being drafted as something pretty close to an elite player, but I'm not sure anyone saw him taking this kind of step forward. He's been the No. 6 player overall in Roto leagues, and that might understate his value thanks to his multi-eligibility. Ramirez has been one of the best run producers and power hitters in the game, and he's now just five homers and three steals short of a personal record. Is a 40-40 season reasonable to expect? Maybe not. Is it realistic? Definitely. There might not be another player in baseball you can say that about, and he does it while striking out in less than 12 percent of his plate appearances.
The question next season won't be whether Ramirez is a first-rounder; it's how high you'll have to pick to get him.
- J.D. Martinez certainly played like a first-rounder last year, but there were questions about his health. As with Giancarlo Stanton last year, you ended up getting a nice bargain if you took the chance on Martinez staying healthy in 2018. When he's on the field, there aren't more than a half-dozen better hitters than Martinez, a legitimate four-category stud who is hitting .319/.384/.691 with 58 homers, 146 RBI, and 113 runs scored in 151 games over his past 365 days.
- Andrew Benintendi was a popular breakout candidate, so it shouldn't be too surprising to see him here, but we should still acknowledge just how good the young outfielder has been. He has managed to increase his power output without sacrificing his terrific strikeout rate, leading to a more complete offensive profile. His 150-game pace comes out to 24 homers, 28 steals, 112 runs and 95 RBI with a .293 average, not far from what Jose Ramirez managed a year ago. Even with his relatively lofty preseason cost, Benintendi has been one of the best values in Fantasy.
- And now, a real value, one that truly came completely out of nowhere. Markakis has been one of the most remarkably unremarkable players in Fantasy for years, topping out at 15 homers, 89 runs and 89 RBI since 2009. Through 89 games, he's already hit 10 homers, and is on pace for 90-plus runs and RBI, with a .322 average to go with it. He's sporting his best Isolated Slugging percentage since 2008, and he's combined that with his best strikeout rate in a league that is striking out more than ever. Oh, and he's 34 years old. I don't quite understand how it happened, and I'm not sure he can keep it up, but this just goes to show that anything can happen in a half-season of baseball.
Another popular preseason breakout pick, Ozzie Albies hasn't quite been able to sustain his early-season hot streak — he has a .765 OPS in his past 44 games, after having an .898 mark in the first 44 — but he's still been a revelation. He's not running as much as you might have hoped, but that's probably because he has 50 extra-base hits already. You'll take that tradeoff every day, especially from a 20-year-old.
- Blake Snell's average draft position might have been 193rd overall, but I promise you he didn't make it that far in any league I played in. He might not have made the real All-Star roster, but he was an easy choice for the Fantasy one. This is exactly what we were hoping to see from a breakout season.
- We were skeptical that Charlie Morton's 2017 was for real, but he's put to bed any doubts. He's one of the best strikeout artists in baseball, and still racks up a ton of groundballs. There's certainly risk of injuries here — Morton hasn't thrown more than 160 innings in the majors since 2011 — but as long as he's healthy, he looks like a stud.
- The calendar turned to May, and Patrick Corbin abruptly lost 3 mph on his fastball, but that has only slightly slowed his breakout. In 12 starts since, he has a 3.50 ERA and 10.6 K/9, which would both still represent his best-ever league-adjusted numbers. OK, he's not the ace he looked like in April. He's still been a solid No. 2 starting pitcher for Fantasy, which is a lot more than anyone expected in draft season.
- I argued before the season that Jose Berrios and well … whoops! Berrios hasn't made any dramatic changes to his game like the rest of this list, he's just been a little bit better at everything. He's inducing swings and misses and infield flyballs at career-best rates, while cutting his already solid walk rate to elite levels. The 3.54 ERA isn't elite — not to mention the 3.93 FIP — and Berrios is still prone to inexplicable blowups, but he's also been a great value to date.
- We've been waiting so long for Trevor Bauer's breakout that it's hard to believe he's still just 27. It's all come together for him in 2018, as he has arguably been the best pitcher in baseball — he leads the majors with a 2.17 FIP. The addition of a slider, modeled after Corey Kluber's, has helped fuel his rise, giving him a fifth pitch to challenge hitters. It's hard to argue with the results so far.
- This was what we wanted to see from Diaz last season. He's absolutely unhittable at his best, and he's been at his best pretty much all season. Sure, the 35 saves before the All-Star break are more than a little fluky, but the 2.30 ERA and 14.9 K/9 sure aren't. Diaz did this in 2016 too, making last year look like the outlier.
- Will Treinen sustain a sub-1.00 ERA? Probably not. But we's been below 2.50 in three of his five major-league seasons now, and has a 1.42 mark since joining the Athletics last season. The As have insisted that Treinen won't be made available for trade, and if they stick with it, he'll remain a closer through the end of the season for a team with serious, if surprising, playoff aspirations.
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