Those of you who have never purchased The Fantasy Baseball Guide Professional Edition, edited by Peter Kreutzer (aka Rotoman) probably don’t know about picks and pans. Let’s make a deal right now. I’ll tell you about picks and pans and you will promise to buy the magazine when it hits newsstands in January. OK? Done!
In Peter’s own words, “Picks and pans are short capsule statements about players you think are going to perform better than others expect (Picks) or worse than others expect (Pans).” These comments are included at the end of each player’s profile, and after submitting my picks and pans, it’s always fun to see if other industry gurus commented on the same player, and they might have even panned a player that I picked, or vice versa.
Anyway, I sent in my picks and pans for 2018 last week, but since we all want you to buy the magazine, I won’t be discussing this year’s selections. Instead, just out of curiosity, I decided to revisit my picks and pans from last season. How did I do? Here’s a sampling. Note that last year’s comments are in italics.
Jonathan Schoop (Pick): “25-home run, 80-plus RBI second basemen who can be had in the middle rounds are hard to find. Schoop will be more expensive than he was last year, but there’s still room for profit.”
Even the strongest of Schoop believers could not have expected 32 homers, 105 RBI and 92 runs scored to go along with a .293 batting average. Heading into 2017, Schoop doubters pointed to his poor plate discipline, but as one of his many accomplishments, the Orioles second baseman managed to post a career-high walk rate. The only negative aspect of Schoop’s 2017 campaign was his rough September (.239 AVG, 2 HR, 5 RBI), but I’m not too concerned. Still just 26, he could get even better.
Zack Greinke (Pick): “Maybe Greinke is no longer a fantasy ace, but he doesn’t need to be a fantasy ace to earn his expected draft day cost this year. Considering his track record, gambling on a rebound in 2017 could pay off in a big way.”
Well, Greinke was an ace, and like Schoop, he easily outperformed my own optimistic expectations. The former Cy Young award winner saw his ERA rise from 2.86 at the All-Star break to 3.20 by season’s end, but that’s nitpicking. Making his home starts at hitter-friendly Chase Field was not an issue, as his home ERA (2.87) was nearly a full run lower than his road mark (3.65). The veteran righty is firmly back in the top-10 class of fantasy starting pitchers.
Jonathan Villar (Pan): “In this era of stolen base scarcity, grabbing a dominant speedster in the early rounds is tempting. The problem with Villar is that his draft day cost will be so high that it will be nearly impossible for him to provide an equal return on investment. And that cost figures to be further inflated by last season’s 19 homers, a feat that is unlikely to be repeated. Throw in his thin track record as an elite fantasy force and I’ll be staying away.”
By far my wisest choice of all, Villar was arguably the biggest fantasy bust of 2017. The 23 steals were nice, but those swipes came at the cost of a .293 OBP, and the 26-year-old switch-hitter served as a part-time player for much of the second half. A consensus top-40 pick at this time last year, Villar’s 2018 role is unknown for now, so keep an eye on Milwaukee’s off-season moves before deciding whether or not he’s worth a late-round selection in mixed leagues.
Matt Kemp (Pick): “Kemp is fresh off an exceptional 2016 season that saw him post his highest home run and RBI totals since 2011. After missing significant time due to injury in 2012 and 2013, he’s played at least 150 games while recording no fewer than 23 homers and 89 RBI in each of the last three seasons. Expect the underappreciated veteran to again serve as a reliable power source in 2017.”
This actually wasn’t a terrible pick, as Kemp’s on-field production was solid. But multiple injuries limited him to just 115 games, so owners of the veteran outfielder did not get the counting stats they expected. As for 2018, I’d take a chance on Kemp as a third or fourth outfielder in mixed leagues and simply hope for better luck in the health department. At his current market price, he’s a low-risk/high-reward investment.
Hunter Pence (Pick): “A former iron man, Pence has been limited to just 158 combined games over the past two seasons, but we have yet to see a decline in his extremely consistent production level. The veteran outfielder has never been cheaper, so hope for an injury-free 2017 season and you could be rewarded with one of the biggest steals of the draft.”
As a frequent owner of Pence throughout his career, it really pains me to say this, but it’s over. Maybe the continually underrated slugger will regain mixed league relevance in 2018, but it won’t be as a member of any of my teams. Not only did Pence once again deal with health woes last season, but his performance declined significantly. There are plenty of other late-round gambles with a lot more upside.
Gary Sanchez (Pan): “Well, it sure was a tremendous two months, but two months was all it was. There’s certainly a lot to like about Sanchez, so it would be foolish to avoid him entirely on draft day. Just be careful not to overpay.”
How wrong was I about this one? Sanchez finished the 2017 campaign with 33 homers and 90 RBI despite missing nearly a month with a biceps injury. No, he didn’t rack up counting stats at the same rate as his rookie season, but that would have been nearly impossible. No more doubting this guy. Sanchez has supplanted Buster Posey as the most valuable fantasy backstop.
Does the 2018 version of The Fantasy Baseball Guide Professional Edition agree?
We’ll need to wait a little longer to find out.
Zach Steinhorn is the 2016 Mixed Auction Tout Wars champion. Follow him on Twitter @ZachMLB