Fantasy Baseball Preview Part 3

Sep 22, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Steve Cishek (28) celebrates with catcher Tony Cruz (48) after defeating the Cincinnati Reds 3-1 at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 22, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Steve Cishek (28) celebrates with catcher Tony Cruz (48) after defeating the Cincinnati Reds 3-1 at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

I’m rounding out my Fantasy Baseball Preview with a look at Catchers, Outfielders, and Relief Pitchers. I organize the players into tiers and offer my thoughts on how you can win your fantasy baseball league.

In the third and final part of my fantasy baseball preview series, I’ll go through the best catchers, outfielders, and relief pitchers and organize them into tiers to help you with your fantasy baseball draft. Tiers for starting pitchers and first basemen can be found here. Second basemen, third basemen, and shortstops here. Again, these tiers aren’t meant as rankings, merely ways to organize your thoughts about different players at different positions. All of my rankings and analysis is based on Yahoo!’s head-to-head leagues.

Let’s get catchers out of the way before we dive into a sea of outfielders and relief pitchers.


Tier 1- Buster Posey

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Catcher is a thin position this year, and there’s really only one top option. Posey is a good hitter who will deliver a good average, decent power, and even first base eligibility. He’ll cost you, though. He’s going early in the third round where many other power hitters are still available. Just be cautious when paying a premium for a big fish in a small pond.

Tier 2- Kyle Schwarber

Schwarber comes into 2016 with a ton of potential, and some risks. He played in only 69 games last year, and after a fast start, he struggled at the end of the season. I’d guess he won’t hit much above .250, but he has shown some patience at the plate, walking 36 times in 2015 in 273 plate appearances and sporting a .355 on-base percentage. He appears to have the tools to be a masher for years to come, but if he slumps in 2016, he could lose at-bats and playing time. Schwarber is going in the middle of the fifth round in Yahoo! fantasy baseball drafts. I wouldn’t reach for him until the middle of the sixth at the earliest. Then again, he could be just as good as Posey for a much lower price.

Tier 3- Jonathan Lucroy, Salvador Perez, Russell Martin

Lucroy suffered through an injury-marred 2015 after blasting 53 doubles and 13 home runs in 2014 along with a torrid .301/.373/.465 slash. He has the potential to provide some serious value at a good price, but I’m not convinced he can return to his 2014 levels. Catcher is a difficult position to play, folks. Perez is a decent, if boring option at catcher. He hit 21 home runs last year, but his OPS hovered around .700. He’ll be up and down all season, but if you can live with that, he’s a good value option in the 12th round. Martin predictably didn’t repeat his excellent 2014 in 2015, but he still produced an OPS near .800 and has plenty of lineup protection in a loaded Toronto lineup. He’s a sleeper at catcher this year for me in the 12th round.

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Brian McCann has been a consistent power bat at catcher in recent years. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports /

Tier 4-Brian McCann, Travis d’Arnaud

McCann has eight straight seasons with 20 home runs or more. From the power department, it doesn’t get as consistent as McCann at catcher. He has also hit exactly .232 over the past two seasons, so don’t expect him to boost your average or contribute a ton of hits. Just know that at least 20 of those hits are likely leaving the yard, especially with that short porch in Yankee Stadium’s left field. D’Arnaud only played in 67 games last season, but he hit 12 home runs and slashed .288/.361/.517 after the All-Star Break. He could be a good value at catcher in the 19th round.

Tier 5-Stephen Vogt, Matt Wieters, Yan Gomes, Devin Mesoraco

Vogt hit 18 home runs last year for Oakland. 14 of them came before the All-Star Break. He’ll be a decent contributor if you can get him out of the lineup for his slumps. He could have some upside in the 19th round. I’d stay away from Wieters unless you already have a good option at catcher. I just don’t know what to expect from him in 2016.

Sleeper alert:

Yasmani Grandal– left for dead after a terrible second half and end to his season in 2015, I expect him to outperform his 25th round draft position.

J.T. Realmuto– In limited action last year, Realmuto hit ten home runs and stole eight bases. He’s worth a flier in the 25th round.


Tier 1-Mike Trout, Bryce Harper

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Bryce Harper is a monster. He’s a first or second overall pick for me. Plus, he has great hair. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports /

For me, these two are in competition for the first-overall pick (even though I almost never get to pick first). Both are among the top hitters in the game, both will give you plenty of power and contribute to your weekly scores consistently. Harper’s OPS was a ridiculous 1.109 in 2015. Trout is more of a threat to steal bases and could easily out-hit Harper in 2016. If you have the first pick… I dunno, flip a coin?

Tier 2-Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton, Kris Bryant

I’m including Bryant in this group to remind you that he’s OF eligible in the Yahoo! game and he could be in for a monster year for the Cubs. Cutch only stole 11 bases last year…but pay no attention to slumping speed numbers. He’s going to hit just below or above .300 and over 20 home runs. He had an “off-year” in 2015, and still managed a .889 OPS. People have been knocking Stanton as a risk because of his injury history, but I’m not convinced he’s at much of a risk of breaking his leg or getting his face destroyed by a fastball again in 2016. He’s a legit threat to hit 50 home runs this year if nothing weird happens to him. He could also start slow because of the leg, which I consider a way for other owners to devalue him, leading to big profits for you. Don’t let his injuries scare you off.

Tier 3-Jose Bautista, A.J. Pollock, Mookie Betts

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You know what you’re getting at least with Bautista. If you can stomach the likely .250 average he’ll produce from his mid-second round price tag, grab him for his 40-50 HR ability. Pollock was a multi-stat stud last year, when he was still cheap, but finding slam-dunk 20/20 guys like this is difficult. He could be on 30/30 levels this year. Speaking of 20/20 guys, watch out for Betts to star with Boston this year. It just feels like he’s going to be better than his 92-run scored, 18-home run, 21 steal performance last year in 2016.

Tier 4-Charlie Blackmon, Starling Marte, Chris Davis, George Springer, J.D. Martinez, Nelson Cruz, Yoenis Cespedes

I can stand behind all of these players in terms of value, even in the middle of the fourth round where most of them are going. Blackmon and Marte are going to run wild and sport at least decent power numbers to go with their good averages and their 30+ steal ability. Marte’s .781 OPS betrays a potentially empty average, however, so don’t reach for him. Blackmon is always a risk to be traded from the ultra-hitters-friendly Coors Field by midseason.

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J.D Martinez has real power. Can he match his home run totals from last year? Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

Martinez found his power stroke in a big way last season and he’s still only 28. As a rule, however, I’m slightly wary of players who set career highs the previous season. Martinez’s 38 home runs were by far the most in a season in his career. Springer could break out big for the Astros in 2016. His 16 home runs and 16 steals are no joke. He even hit a very acceptable .276. I’m a believer in both Chris Davis and the Boomstick this year. Davis will give you 35 home runs even if strikes out a million times, while Cruz should give you some good all-around production. Cespedes was awesome for the Mets last year and if you can get around his ups and downs, he’ll be a good producer in 2016.

Tier 5-Justin Upton, Ryan Braun, Carlos Gonzalez, Adam Jones, Lorenzo Cain, Kyle Schwarber, Carlos Gomez

I doubt you’ll be starting Schwarber in the outfield if you draft him, but he’s eligible there, too. Of the five remaining players excluding Schwarber, four carry serious risk for me. Gonzalez is a great outfielder and a fun player, but he’s at risk not only of injury this year—as is traditional—but also of getting traded from Coors Field. Still, 40 home runs last year ain’t bad. I’m close to putting Upton on my do not draft list. I consider him a huge risk coming over to Detroit this year. Yes, he was nearly a 20/20 man in 2015, but I find it hard to see him stealing that many bags in 2016, seeing as how 14 of those steals came in only two months. That leaves a .250 hitter who may or may not hit 25 or 30 home runs. No, thanks. There are safer options to spend a fifth round pick on. I almost never draft Jones because I see him as a one-dimensional player. He’ll blast 30 home runs a season, but his hack-at-everything approach will catch up to him sooner or later. I’d rather not be the guy holding onto him when that happens.

I have Cain and Gomez at similar value heading into 2016. Cain broke out in 2015 with a .307 average, 16 home runs, and 28 stolen bases. He’ll match those steals in 2016, but I have a hard time believing he’ll hit over 16 home runs in 2016. (His previous career high was seven). I’m treating him as a speed guy and probably won’t be interested in drafting him in the sixth round. Gomez is a former value pick who flopped last season. You may remember his well-publicized terribleness for the Astros last year after getting traded, but he only slashed .262/.328/.438 with seven steals for Milwaukie. He’s risky.

Braun could be the most overlooked 25/25 threat in the draft this year. I’d happily pick him up in the middle of the fifth round if I can get over my aversion to juicers.

Tier 6-Matt Kemp, Jason Heyward, Jacoby Ellsbury, Yasiel Puig, Hunter Pence, Gregory Polanco, Michael Brantley

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Mar 27, 2016; Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward (22) singles during the fourth inning against the Seattle Mariners at Sloan Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

I know you hate Matt Kemp, but if you can get past the mediocre batting average and OPS, he still hit 23 home runs, drove in 100 RBIs, and even swiped 12 bags. Heyward had a useful year with the Cardinals in 2015. He might never approach his 27 home runs he hit in 2012 again, but if there’s ever a year in which he can rediscover his power stroke, it’s 2016 in that loaded Cubs lineup. He’s a solid contributor with upside this year. I’m not risking a pick above the tenth round on Puig. I could be biased because I spent a third rounder on him last year, but I’m sticking to my commitment. I don’t get the appeal of Ellsbury. If you want a .250 hitter and 20 steals with injury risk, there are plenty of options about a hundred picks later.

Pence was hurt last year, too, but I expect him to bounce back, making him a value pick in the ninth round. I have the same caveats about Polanco as I do about Ellsbury, although I like Polanco’s upside better. Brantley could be a sleeper. If he can add to his 15/15 totals from last year and still hit above .300, he’ll be a steal.


Christian Yelich. Useful player last year for my team. He stole 16 bases while battling injuries at times. He’s a bargain in the 14th round.

Joc Pederson. This list reads like the sleeper picks from a year ago, but it doesn’t make it any less true. Pederson fell off a cliff in the second half last year. A more even year in 2016 and he might hit 40 home runs. Not bad for a 15th rounder.

Randal Grichuk. Look for Grichuk to earn more playing time with the Cards this season after appearing in only 103 games last year and belting 17 home runs.

Relief Pitchers

Predicting this position is always a crapshoot. I’ll list the few closers who at least should keep their jobs throughout the year in order of fantasy baseball usefulness. Here goes:

  1. Craig Kimbrel. Y! ADP: 62.5
  2. Wade Davis. Y! ADP: 65
  3. Kenley Jansen. Y! ADP: 71.6
  4. Jeurys Familia. Y! ADP: 85.8
  5. Mark Melancon. Y! ADP: 82
  6. David Robertson. Y! ADP: 95
  7. Trevor Rosenthal. Y! ADP: 91.5
  8. Aroldis Chapman. Y! ADP: 83.7
  9. Ken Giles. Y! ADP: 106.1
  10. Cody Allen. Y! ADP: 109.8
  11. Zach Britton. Y! ADP: 103.5
  12. Hector Rondon. Y! ADP: 125.2

Jonathan Papelbon, Huston Street, A.J. Ramos, Francisco Rodriguez, Glen Perkins, and Shawn Tolleson are all the presumptive closers for their respective teams and could be useful…or they could get replaced for no reason. Most of the players in my list above are considered locks to close for their teams, but even locks get replaced. Chapman could be a huge value in the ninth round, or he could find himself pitching in the eighth inning while Dellin Betances or Andrew Miller close out games when he returns from his suspension. Allen struggled at times last season and could be replaced at some point this year. I like Giles—he throws gas and was brought into Houston to be their closer. He’ll have a long leash if he struggles (I think).

Every year I avoid paying a premium for closers and every year I play roulette. If you’re sick of reading reports of managers maybe-maybe not replacing their ninth-inning guys, I would chance a pick on maybe Chapman or Giles just to get a solid closer somewhere on your roster. Chapman will begin the season on a suspension, but if you’re comfortable with selecting him, he could still end up saving 40 games. I also warn against punting this position, because if your leagues are anything like mine, you’ll get killed every week in saves if you don’t try to gather at least a few closers on your roster.

Next: Player Profile: Nori Aoki

That’s all the fantasy baseball previewing I have. Thanks for reading and good luck with your fantasy baseball draft.