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March
13st
2017
Your Daily Fantasy Rx
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Rotohelp 2017 AL & NL Depth Charts

by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

2014 Major League Rule Five Draft Review

During our drafts, we typically divide responsibilities, with the goal of taking advantage of opportunities like when Vince Coleman went for $2 in the original Rotisserie League due to careful tracking and bidding. For auctions, Jess runs the roster lists for both MLB and the remaining budgets for the in-progress fantasy teams, while I run our dollar list and bids. In the quicker snake drafts, with teams often drafting players every several seconds, the MLB roster sheet generally falls to me, too. However, we never found an easy one-page reference, with most sites either adding way too much unnecessary white space on their pages or failing to include sufficient depth beyond the likely 25-man rosters, plus or minus maybe five borderline players.

So after years of searching for that simple one-page cross-off list of team-by-team depth charts and lineups, we started developing our own solution. We used a wide variety of sources to help compile this, including MLB.com's 40-man roster and NRI lists for every team, MLB.com's 2017 Spring Training Stats to see who might be leading competitions for particular jobs, Roster Resource's team pages for player option info, and ESPN's lineup pages for teams like the Cubs, to see the last week of batting orders for each team - refined based on our knowledge of how particular managers and front offices prefer to structure their lineups and bullpens.

We wanted a simple, compact reference, one page per league, where we could instantly see each team's depth chart and batting order, as well as basic info like 40-man status, Rookie and Rule 5 status, currently injured and/or cut players, and even suspended/restricted players. We designed these printable sheets to address these goals, as well as even adding a standard 22-man positional cross-off list (with five bench players) in the upper-right hand corner.

Frequently we just print out the sheets when it's quicker to cross off names manually, though when we draft online, I highlight our players in light blue and everyone else selected gets the darkest grey shading. That way, we still can read everyone's names but clearly differentiate between our players (light blue), demoted players (light gray), and players drafted on other teams (dark gray).

Yes, we used 10-point font, so maybe this won't work for everyone, but whether you want to print them out and cross them off physically, or you draft on a screen and prefer just to shade the appropriate cells of taken players, this spreadsheet should help your draft process. Of course, if you're using a large monitor when drafting, you can increase the zoom to compensate for the small text.

Since we also wanted to identify remaining breakout position players and high-skills pitchers at a glance, we bolded the names of all hitters with 2+ years of experience heading into their age-26 seasons, as well as pitchers who achieved LPR status for last season by posting a strikeout rate no less than 6.0 K/9, a walk rate no higher than 3.0 BB/9, a HR/9 of 1.0 or less, a H/9 or 9.0 or less, and a ground-fly rate of no lower than 1.00.

Also, as we obviously haven't posted in a while due to a wide range of other work and personal commitments, I'll go ahead and preview several players and pitchers who we highlighted on the roster list and I believe merit particular attention this spring.

While we could include guys like Nolan Arenado on here (and Kris Bryant and Mike Trout on the list of current 25-year-olds for 2018 breakouts below), I'm omitting any currently elite players in favor of focusing on guys I believe qualify as significantly undervalued in most formats.

Yasiel Puig, OF, LAD
Still a relative babe, Puig admittedly could find himself buried behind Pederson, Toles, Ethier, and maybe even Cody Bellinger. However, with an inexpensive contract and a broad base of skills, Puig merits one more extended look from the Dodgers, and I see no reason he can't take advantage of that opportunity. Add in his comparative youth, and I won't be surprised if he surges back to $30.

Billy Hamilton, OF CIN
Citing Hamilton here almost feels like cheating, but if he capitalizes on his September showing, he could emerge as the top fantasy asset this year. The Reds have no reason not to give him a full season of at-bats, giving Hamilton the platform to cruise to the NL lead in steals. You could go the extra buck here and then ignore steals from the rest of your roster.

Ender Inciarte, OF, ATL
If you miss on Hamilton, Inciarte seems a great fallback, with an everyday job and a team eager to see him emerge as a top-of-the-order weapon. Inciarte likely won't contribute much power, but his .809 second-half OPS and a few dozen SBs look like his floor if he stays healthy.

Kolten Wong, 2B, STL
If the Cardinals actually stick with him at 2B, these skills scream bargain. With a BA set to rise toward the level suggested by his plate skills, coupled with his power and speed upside, Wong could blow past $25 without costing you half that on draft day. We don't make these determinations until immediately prior to the season, but Wong likely will rank as our top breakout candidate for 2017.

Joe Panik, 2B, SF
For anyone burned too many times by Wong, Panik appears a safer, if lower-upside, investment. After a strong 2015 and then a 2016 season mostly marred by a concussion, Panik's in a perfect position to reemerge as one of the quietly excellent NL middle infielders, making him an obvious bargain anywhere below $15 in standard NL leagues.

Jake Lamb, 3B, ARI
His skills seem far closer to that .974 first-half OPS, rather than his .696 second-half disaster, and with more than two full years in the majors under his belt (and a cushy lineup slot between Goldschmidt and Tomas), 30/100 looks like his baseline. An Arenado-esque breakout wouldn't shock me here, making Lamb a potential $30+ player who won't cost even $20 in many leagues.

Matt Duffy, 3B/SS, TB
I needed to cover at least one AL player, but obvious breakout opportunities in the junior circuit seem few and far between. Health remains Duffy's primary obstacle. His continuing heel issues remain a concern, but that's all that stands between him and a return to the $20+ production of his rookie season.

Avisail Garcia, OF, CHW
Yes, there's limited skill growth here. Yes, he hits way too many groundballs, and he'll have little support from Chicago's lineup. However, if Garcia's ever going to break out, his age-26 season (and a potential fall non-tendering if he doesn't improve) makes now a great time to buy at rock bottom prices here. I won't be surprised if he only costs a couple of bucks in most leagues, and at minimum, I expect him to clear $10. He also could double that value given his previous performances.

Mike Zunino, C, SEA
In the increasingly barren wasteland at AL catcher, Zunino stands out as maybe the only truly undervalued asset. Without BA improvement, even a 25-HR season might not earn $10 of value. Yet if everything comes together (and he can benefit from Carlos Ruiz's disciplined example without losing playing time to the veteran), Zunino easily could rank among the top 5 most valuable AL catchers.

While these two guys fall on the 2018 breakout list, both Jorge Soler & Randal Grichuk appear positioned for power surges this year. At the very least, they qualify as solid growth stocks, as do longer-term plays like Domingo Santana, Maikel Franco, and Brandon Drury. (Yes, I'm aware that so much of the undervalued young talent appears in the NL right now, but the AL already has 24-and-unders like Bogaerts, Betts, Machado, Correa, Lindor, Odor, Sano, & Jose Ramirez, all of whom already rank as tremendous fantasy assets.)

Potential 2018 (or sooner) AL breakout hitters: Nick Castellanos, Eddie Rosario, Jon Schoop, Jorge Soler.

Potential 2018 (or sooner) NL breakout hitters: Wilmer Flores, Randal Grichuk, Enrique Hernandez, Odubel Herrera, Chris Owings, Joc Pederson, Gregory Polanco, Eugenio Suarez, Christian Yelich.


On the pitching side of things, most of the bolded names won't surprise anyone. While most of baseball's elite pitchers appear here, a few names merit additional attention. One also merits the opposite: despite his potential fantasy value, for his long list of personal failings and generally reprehensible behavior, Matt Bush will never appear on any of our rosters, as we'd rather lose a league than deploy someone like him.

Michael Lorenzen, P, CIN
If he and Raisel Iglesias both stay in the bullpen as multiple-inning assets, expect both to post 100+ Ks with strong ERA/WHIP numbers and perhaps a dozen saves each. With all the Reds' starting rotation problems (and an intriguing group of position players that could stoke plenty of middle-inning rallies), I also won't be surprised if both of them vulture at least a half-dozen wins (and possibly double that). Especially in standard NL leagues, gambles on both the Reds' primary late inning options could pay off substantially.

Nate Jones, RP, CHW
Speaking of underrated late-inning options, only a Will Smith-style trade, where he gets dealt in the middle of assuming the closer's role, can obstruct Jones' push toward $20. Chicago inevitably will trade David Robertson, and unless the Sox also send Jones to a contender for more young arms (or hopefully some outfielders), Jones will inherit an excellent chance to rack up a bunch of saves.

Pedro Strop, RP, CHC
He may be buried behind Wade Davis, Hector Rondon, and Koji Uehara, but Strop's as safe a bet as you'll find among NL middle relievers. He could close for a dozen teams in the league, and while Rondon's probably a better investment given that he's first in line behind Davis, consider Strop whenever you need a short-term roster patch with someone almost guaranteed not to hurt you.

Kenta Maeda, SP, LAD
With a ridiculously team-friendly contract and little national media attention despite spending 2016 as the only pitcher to remain in the Dodgers' rotation for the entire season, Maeda feels horribly undervalued. Now that he's pitched a full season in the States, he seems more likely to garner Cy Young votes than to remain in standard #2/#3 starter territory. I'm not sure if I see an NL pitcher more likely to reach 20 wins this year.

Andrew Triggs, SP, OAK
He impressed down the stretch, Oakland seems to love him, and Sonny Gray's injury basically guarantees Triggs a rotation spot. While a couple of bad starts could exile Triggs back to the minors, he owns a strong set of skills and could surge to double-digit value. We always like gambling on Oakland's #4/5 starters in the endgame, and Triggs' upside makes that strategy a particularly intriguing idea for 2017.

Lastly, when appropriate, grab the Dodgers' #5 SP. Brandon McCarthy, Alex Wood, and Ross Stripling all demonstrated strong skills when healthy (though I'm giving McCarthy a mild pass on his post-injury control issues). If the Dodgers' established LH SPs (Kershaw, Hill, Kazmir) combine to miss another 300 innings, expect guys like McCarthy, Wood, Stripling, and even Brock Stewart and Hyun-jin Ryu all to push double-digit value. The uncertainty regarding who actually gets the starts means most of those guys won't cost more than a buck or two, though it continues to amaze me that if given the opportunity, probably a half-dozen teams - including the Padres, Reds, Twins, and probably the Orioles, Marlins, and Brewers - would benefit from swapping their entire rotation with the Dodgers' backup quintet. Whenever you need a starter, check to see if the Dodgers plan to employ one of these guys for the upcoming week.

Tampa actually might have almost as many intriguing arms (if nowhere near as high-profile), but I expect a much more linear progression there: Alex Cobb and probably Jake Odorizzi should get traded during the season, and that will clear rotation slots for all three of Matt Andriese, Chase Whitley, and, of course, sleeper Rookie of the Year candidate Jose DeLeon.


Today's Fantasy Rx: Download a copy of our 2017 MLB Depth Charts and check them out! While we don't want to reduce the amount of information on the page, shrinking the lines won't get us enough room to warrant the smaller font, and there's a limit to the quality of the colors that will register on many screens (limiting our ability to add more color-coding), we're always open to suggestions.

Click here to read the previous article.

Please e-mail your comments to tim@rotohelp.com.
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