It is about that time for us fantasy baseball losers to draft our teams for the 2018 season. As the fantasy world is being revolutionized by daily betting websites and services, the die hard fantasy players come out of winter hibernation to play the six month long baseball season together. Fantasy Baseball is unique in the fantasy sports world as the draft is extremely important and daily updates to your roster actually make a difference in the standings or with prize payouts. I'm not the most dedicated fantasy baseballer out there, as I often tend to forget about my team as I go about my summer endeavors, usually picking it back up just in time to make a playoff run. I do enjoy following the lives and happenings of individual players throughout the season however, and this website needs content, so here are my 2018 previews for buzzworthy individual players.
Mike Trout: He is without a doubt the best player in baseball right now, and without a doubt the most unrecognizable future hall of famer in the game. I mean, have you heard of him? The 6-time All Star, 5-time Silver Slugger, 2-time MVP, Rookie of the Year, and Overall Defensive Player of the Year is still generally unknown to the public, but another monster season or solid production during a long playoff run will change that. He will continue to be a 40 home run/40 stolen bases threat, with a consistently high batting average and many RBI's, and could even put up record numbers if Shohei Otani proves to be a legitimate threat at the plate this season. The Angels are now poised to make a run at the playoffs, with guys like Ian Kinsler, Albert Pujols, Martin Maldonado, and Justin Upton regularly in the lineup, and Trout will surely benefit from this added offensive production. He is strongly advised to be your top pick in this year's fantasy draft.
Nolan Arenado: This guy has been a real fantasy beast for a few years now, and his consistency at the plate as well as his ability to stay healthy make him one of the most valuable picks out there. A 3-time All Star, 3-time Silver Slugger, and a starting 3rd baseman for the Colorado Rockies, a team that's known for its offensive production for obvious reasons, will continue his dominance and career achievements this year and should be taken as soon as possible in all drafts. We can count on Nolan racking up 40-home runs, 140 RBI's, and a consistent .300 batting average this season.
Manny Machado: He is in his contract year, is currently switching from playing third base to shortstop (giving him both 3B & SS eligibility in fantasy) and will likely land a large contract from a big market team next offseason. Which means he will likely be traded in the middle of the season, which would actually add to his fantasy value if surrounded by other productive hitters. I am personally a big believer in increased fantasy production from contract year players, and Manny could be in a unique place to add immense value to his upcoming offseason contract negotiations by staying healthy, productive, and mentally stable in Baltimore or whatever other clubhouse he ends up in. If Machado is still available in the first round, do not hesitate to snatch him up.
Giancarlo Stanton: This is an obvious choice. The guy who seemingly had all the homeruns and RBI's last year has been immesurably upgraded this year to being a Yankee and batting next to the other best power hitter in baseball. I have a gut feeling this whole Stanton in NYC thing won't work out for some reason, but until that pseudo feeling of mine pans out, expect Stanton and Judge to put up insane power numbers next to each other in the lineup when healthy, and expect "Big-Dick-Stanton" to continue his fantasy dominance this season. But beware his usually low batting average and potential to disrupt the clubhouse. Regardless, draft him immediately in all of your drafts for high power numbers.
Clayton Kershaw: Whatever reputation he's accumulated during previous playoff appearances should never trump his consistent regular season dominance. Kershaw has been the most dominate fantasy pitcher over the last five seasons and has barely entered the prime of his career.. Which is truly a scary thought. I personally wait quite a few rounds to draft pitchers, as I find them to be injured or unavailable to play often, and generally expendable around playoff time. However, if you do want to land an Ace in the early rounds to dominate for you week in and week out, Kershaw is clearly the answer. The man should be unquestionably the first pitcher taken by every fantasy player this season, but Dodgers fans really should start worrying about his continued poor performances in the playoffs and possible remedies to whatever the problem he has in such important outings is.
Wil Myers: With the signing of Eric Hosmer this offseason, the San Diego Padres will be moving Wil to the outfield. A position he is comfortable with but one that still requires quite a bit of adjustment. The one time catcher, one time first baseman, now outfielder for the Padres is poised to have a breakout season in 2018, showing strong signs of being a regular All-Star last season despite multiple minor injuries. Posting 30 home runs and stealing 20 bases despite missing games shows signs of being a valuable asset to fantasy teams going forward. Whether he hits in front of or behind Hosmer in the lineup, he should see added production with the increased lineup protection. I suggest overreaching in your draft to land Myers, who will have flexibility in your lineup (being eligible to play 1B & multiple OF positions) and who will hit for power while also stealing bases for the young and quickly improving Padres.
Noah Syndergaard: Despite the disappointing last few seasons, a healthy Thor should bounce back to be one of the more dominate fantasy starters in 2018. He is the inspiration for my fantasy team name (The Royal Syndergaard) so I tend to draft him higher than one should, especially with his continued injuries and missed starts. If truly healthy this year, as he and the Mets claim, his tall frame and rocket arm should be entering the prime of his career for a team with an outside chance at a playoff run. That combination could make for a deadly ace on your team, I strongly consider drafting Noah in the early rounds of your fantasy draft.
Stephen Piscotty: One of the more interesting transactions this offseason was the trading of Piscotty to the Oakland Athletics by the St. Louis Cardinals. A deal made to relocate Stephen closer to his home and his mother, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2017. As a Cubs fan and lifelong hater of the Cardinals, I can't help but shout praises from the rooftops for their organization after this move. This showed true signs of compassion and empathy for the needs of an individual player and their family over the typical business decisions made by managers and owners. I expect Piscotty to play often in Oakland this year, while likely benefitting from the support of his family, friends, and hometown. Expect a breakout season by Piscotty, but hold off on drafting him until the later rounds of the draft as his production is not yet near the more valuable and consistently playing outfielders.
Shohei Otani: He will likely be the most intiguing player to watch this season, but should not be taken high in any fantasy draft. Following an offseason packed full of immense hype for the 'Japanese Babe Ruth' the results of his first season may likely prove lackluster. He should be a true threat both at the plate and on the mound in the future. In the meantime, he will have to adjust to the power and speed of the Major Leagues, as well as a heavier baseball, while generally adjusting to the lifestyle and expectations of Los Angeles/Orange County. The Angels are starting to load up on talent, improving both their lineup and pitching staff with the extroadinarily cheap signing of Shohei, but his true potential won't be actualized for a few more seasons. Expect big things from Otani in a few years and mediocrity in 2018.
Eric Hosmer: The signing of Hosmer is huge for the Padres, and even larger for the city of San Diego. This signing will generate many millions in ticket and jersey sales, and could spark real interest in the city's remaining professional franchise. This season however won't be very magical for Eric, who will need time to adjust to life in America's Finest City and mesh into a lineup that is very young and inexperienced. Hosmer is a crucial piece of the Padres' future, but this season he should be avoided until the later rounds of your draft. He isn't very powerful, he doesn't steal bases, but he will be a leader in the clubhouse for an organization that currently has one of the best farm systems in all of baseball. Expect impressive fantasy seasons from Hosmer in the future, but avoid investing in him for 2018.
Jake Arrieta: As I type this 'The Snake' still has not signed with a major league ballclub for the 2018 season, which is truly a shame. He has been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the last four seasons and also one of the best hitting pitchers as well. He helped lead the Cubs to their first World Series crown in 108 years, won a Cy Young award in 2015, and has truly dominated National League hitters for years now, all while being massively underpaid. It saddens me personally that the Cubs are not just throwing money at him as a 'thank you' gesture for his valuable services to our club over the years, but baseball is a business and his contract demands are too pricey for the team that loves to overpay for position players. I am hoping Arrieta lands on a team and earns a sizeable paycheck, but even if that does happen I suggest not drafting him until later rounds. He will be adjusting to a new environment this year, which includes a new pitching coach and teammates that might not be so accepting of his willingness to publicly express conservative opinions.