The success of my 2018 fantasy baseball season weighs heavily on the production of these 14 players. I own each of these players in at least 40% of my leagues. Ten leagues with at least four shares of each. Each league I’m in is unique in its own settings, format, and circumstance. Half or more of my leagues are dynasty leagues with on-base percentage and saves plus holds. Based on this, a lot of my heavy investments are sliding toward those formats, and players like Joey Votto or even Trever Hildenberger become more valuable than in standard leagues. For convenience, I’ve broken up my top-owned players into three different groups. Top-100 studs that were a high priority, top-200 value players that can make a significant impact in 2018, and players outside of the top-250 with extremely high upside.
Top 100 – High Priority
Joey Votto (x5) – Votto is the best hitter in baseball. Mike Trout is still the best player, but when it comes to hitting and especially getting on base, Votto is the prince of patience. More than half of my leagues are OBP leagues, and this makes Votto a worthy cornerstone and pushes him just ahead of other stud first basemen like Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rizzo, and Freddie Freeman.
Jean Segura (x5) – Segura’s safe skillset — and the fact that he is at the end of a draft tier — made him an easy draft target for me for 2018. Among qualified shortstops since 2016, Segura ranks first in stolen bases, second in runs scored, and fifth in batting average.
Nelson Cruz (x4) – It’s easy to discount Cruz because of this age, but some hitters are almost ageless. We saw this with David Ortiz hitting at an elite level through his age-40 season (1.021 OPS). Cruz is entering his age-37 season and has averaged 42 home runs and 106 RBI in his last four campaigns (age 33-36).
James Paxton (x4) – Admittedly, my logic targeting Paxton had a lot to do with Giancarlo Stanton. I am a firm believer that both the health of a player or an injury are unpredictable. Even some of the most injury-plagued players like Stanton can stay healthy, and when they do, they have the potential to be an absolute steal. Paxton, like Stanton, has struggled to stay on the field but has posted incredible per-game statistics.
Chris Taylor (x4) – Taylor was one of the guys who surprised me when he showed up on four of my rosters this season. Not that I’m down on Taylor, obviously, but this may have more to do with my disdain for the second base position than my love for Chris Taylor. That being said, Taylor is hitting leadoff for one of baseball’s most lethal lineups and has always done a great job at getting on base. In 422 minor league games, Taylor had a career OBP north of .400.
Adrian Beltre (x5) – Beltre was an easy snag for me in most drafts this year. His draft stock dropped drastically this year after his injury-plagued 2017. Public perception is that Beltre has trouble staying healthy, but that’s just not true. In the five years before 2017, Beltre played in 153, 143, 148, 161, and 156 games, averaging 152 games per season during that stretch. Yes, Beltre is getting up there in age, but his bat hasn’t slowed down a bit. I’m banking on Betre doing what he has done each of the last few seasons when his bat is in the lineup: produce like a top-flight third baseman.
Charlie Morton (x5) – Morton making it on several of my teams this year was by no accident. He was a target in each of my drafts. Morton’s increased velocity has changed who he is on the mound. In his last 164 innings, he has a 3.68 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP. Prior to that, he had a career 4.54 ERA and 1.44 WHIP.
Lance McCullers (x4) – McCullers is an easy pitcher to dream on. His stuff is electric, and even with his minimalistic two-pitch arsenal, McCullers was able to strike out double-digit batters per nine innings in 2017. Imagine if he were able to develop a third pitch to keep hitters honest. Wow. McCullers’ upside is real, and his draft-day price was really reasonable (134th NFBC ADP).
Danny Salazar (x5) – Salazar really came into his own in the second half of last season, throwing 48 innings with a 3.00 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. His walks reduced, and his K/BB shot up from 2.75 in the first half, all the way up to 4.25 in the second half. Salazar being sidelined with a rotator cuff injury means he has plenty of risk, so he may not pay off for me this season. Only time will tell on this one.
Jed Lowrie (x5) – Lowrie seems like a perfect storm of production is brewing for him. His fly ball rate increased to 43%, up from 32% in 2016. His change in fly-ball tendency translated to doubles power, as Lowrie hit the second-most doubles in baseball last year with 49. His HR/FB rate of 7% seems pretty unlucky, being half the MLB average HR/FB rate of 14%. Chances are that plenty of those doubles will turn into home runs this year. Lowrie’s impressive 84% contact rate and his above-average 88.8 MPH average exit velocity from last year suggests he could be in for a great season. Lowrie should hit third for Oakland this year, which increases his opportunities for counting stats, as well. Lowrie was a steal in all leagues this year.
Trevor Hildenbeger (x5), Kyle Barraclough (x4), Dellin Betances (x4) – These three were all rostered with the idea of capitalizing on their high-strikeout potentials to offset the ever-decreasing inning totals we are seeing from starting pitchers. All three, I believe, could finish the season as their team’s respective closer, with top-10 closer upside.
Nick Senzel (x4) – As a member of the 2016 draft class, Senzel’s bat has been considered advanced for his age for some time. Senzel was a universal top-10 prospect entering into the 2018 season, and the Reds organization has made it a priority to move him around the diamond this spring, giving him reps at shortstop. At this point, the Reds are looking for an excuse to pencil Senzel into their everyday lineup. Senzel impressed last year with a .905 OPS between Single-A and Double-A. As part of the future Reds’ core with Jesse Winker, the future could be this year in Cincinnati.