Each week, I have taken a look at ownership percentages to highlight players who should be considered for potential New Player Claims in Fantrax’s Bronze Points Salary Cap Challenge game. This week, I am also going to add total points into the mix. Please note that using total points rather than points per game will eliminate players like J.T. Realmuto and Yuri Gurriel from the equation. But I still prefer total points for now because points per game is still such a fluid metric at this juncture in the young season. On April 24 alone, Andrelton Simmons increased his points per game from 3.05 to 3.61. Gary Sanchez, Freddie Freeman, and Kyle Schwarber also hit two home runs that day and enjoyed similar boosts in points per game. I want to give a couple of more weeks before using that as my primary metric for assessing players.
Here are the most popular players at each position (at least 40 percent total ownership) along with their total points and positional rank. That will be followed by the players who have been most cost-effective players so far at each position. Numbers are through April 24.
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As has been the case in the early going, Sanchez and Contreras have remained the popular choices among catchers, and with good reason. Both are among the leaders at the position in points despite neither having hit their stride yet. These two studs will hardly ever see your bench, so just ride them until the wheels fall off.
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Molina and Grandal remain the best options for those who refuse to pay up for Sanchez, but I would much rather roll with Sanchez and Contreras. Their ceilings are sky high in comparison to Molina and Grandal. I’m fine with owning either over Evan Gattis (1530 salary, 23 percent owned, 47 total points) as your third catcher. I dropped Gattis myself this past weekend, though I opted to just go without a backup at the position for the time being. Kurt Suzuki and Francisco Cervelli round out the top-five in total points, but I can’t give either serious consideration. Suzuki has been good on a point per game basis since last season, but I would imagine he goes back to getting about 40 percent of the action behind the plate once Tyler Flowers returns, possibly this weekend. Cervelli has started hot but does not hit for enough power for my liking. And yes, I wrote this before his six-RBI game on Wednesday. I have a gift.
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Gallo will always be a solid option in Points leagues because of his prodigious power and his penchant for drawing walks. I don’t think he’ll ever hit .250, but he can average 4+ points per game despite the glaring holes in his offensive game. Freeman remains the cream of the crop so far among first basemen. Bellinger owners are in a tough spot if you ask me. He has picked up his production lately and will be fine going forward. However, there are a number of cheaper options who are outperforming him to date. Whether Bellinger outscores the Brandon Belts of the world going forward isn’t the question. The question is this – will Bellinger outscore those players by enough of a margin to warrant the premium salary?
FIRST BASE TARGETS
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Players like Hanley Ramirez and Jose Martinez should continue to be excellent values going forward for as long as they stay on the field. I’m less bullish on Belt, but he is on a tear as of late and had one of the best at-bats of all-time the other day, despite the result.
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Methinks we’re about to see some Jose Altuve owners running out of patience with the reigning American League Most Valuable Player. As is the case with Bellinger, it’s not necessarily about what Altuve isn’t doing. It’s about what a number of cheaper and lesser-owned options are doing. Altuve’s status is also likely tenuous among many owners because when compared to players at other positions in his price range, Altuve is currently falling short. Heading into Wednesday’s action, Altuve has scored nine fewer points than Giancarlo Stanton this season. Yes, the same Giancarlo Stanton who has been a punching bag for an entire month. The same Stanton who actually costs less than Altuve does. Altuve is a stud, but his price is becoming harder and harder to justify at this point.
SECOND BASE TARGETS
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Pick a card! Any card! As everyone predicted before the season, Javier Baez and Jed Lowrie are leading the ranks of second basemen in fantasy. Seriously, though, it’s pretty remarkable that the top six second basemen are all less than 2000 in salary. Owners who started with Altuve and/or Brian Dozier have to expect things to normalize soon, but these cheap options feel like top 10-12 players going forward, which make each of them worthy of rostering. Many owners lost patience with Moncada recently, and he has repaid them by going bananas over the last 10 days, ala Baez the week before. As long as you don’t watch their at-bats, you can live with their production. I still can’t fully endorse LeMahieu, although most of his damage has come on the road, which is a good sign. I’d still prefer to employ him as strictly a home play if I had him on my roster. Hernandez replaces another Phillies’ second baseman, mostly by virtue of the latter’s disastrous last couple of weeks. I’d probably still rather have Kingery than Hernandez going forward when factoring in price.
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We’re about a month into the season and the two emerging stars at third base haven’t exactly, well, emerged. I mean, they’ve been ok, but they haven’t exactly set the world on fire. In a perfect world, we’d all stand pat and this duo would maximize their potential, but I can understand the desire to change things up a bit. If forced to choose between the two, I’d be more apt to hold Devers due to the cap savings.
THIRD BASE TARGETS
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I still prefer Shaw and Moustakas of this group, though Chapman has certainly proven himself thus far. I feel for owners who claimed Villanueva prior to this week’s Coors series only to see him miss time with a hamstring injury, but he should be back soon. It is hard to go wrong with his price tag in Points leagues.
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I’m starting to wonder if Trea Turner is droppable as well, as crazy as that sounds. He is not matching the production of Carlos Correa, is currently being trounced by both Didi Gregorius, and ranks below Trevor Story and Marcus Semien among others. Turner is basically in the Bellinger/Altuve/Bregman/Benintendi group of “hasn’t been good but hasn’t been terrible, either” group of underachievers. I find those players the toughest of all to evaluate. I already have Correa, Gregorius, and Semien and am seriously considering dropping Turner at this point, although he has bounced back nicely this week. By the way, I also wrote this before Wednesday’s five-hit potential breakout performance.
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I finally bit on Gregorius this week. It’s been a good time so far. I can’t even complain about watching Trea Turner go off from the comfort of my bench. Gregorius will obviously not contend for the Triple Crown, but he will remain productive as long as he is employed properly. (Read: home weeks.) The funny thing about it is that prior to this season, he hadn’t had much of a home split. It’s actually one of the reasons I liked him heading into the year. Story’s impressive combination of power and speed has been on full display in the early going. He is very much in play as Colorado’s schedule is set to become a bit more fantasy-friendly. Semien has quietly put up huge numbers at a major discount. He is another player who I expect to be an excellent value even as the inevitable slump takes effect. Simmons and DeJong are off to nice starts, but I certainly would not choose either over Gregorius or Story.
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Mike Trout has regained his rightful place at the top of the fantasy kingdom, currently leading all hitters in total fantasy points. I mentioned Stanton earlier, but if he can average 3.73 points per game while being terrible, I will likely hold him and look forward to enjoying the inevitable breakout. I suppose the same argument could be made for Andrew Benintendi, but he is beginning to make me nervous. He’s slugging .373. That’s … not good. He’s on the short list of outfielders I am looking to potentially replace. Notably absent from the list are Byron Buxton and Ian Happ. Their ownership percent has fallen below 40 percent for the first time this season, and rightfully so.
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The Mitch Haniger bandwagon is becoming a bit more crowded. I jumped on this week as well, letting go of Happ in the process. Tommy Pham and Kyle Schwarber have started out hot as well and remain solid options. Ronald Acuna (1200, 38 percent owned overall) has finally been called up by the Atlanta Braves, and owners are salivating at his all-around upside. For owners who have not stashed him, the next few days will give a chance to evaluate him heading into the weekend. For an up close and personal scouting report, check out this piece by Eric Cross from this past weekend.
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Starting pitcher is probably the one stat where points per game is probably a better barometer at this point in time due to the fact that not all pitchers have started the same amount of games. Still, we can pretty safely say that Noah Syndergaard and Luis Severino are studs and Aaron Nola and Luke Weaver have been a touch underwhelming. However, they are much less disappointing than Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw have been. Obviously, both will be fine, but their early struggles highlight the potential pitfalls in starting with high-salaried pitchers in weekly Points games.
STARTING PITCHER TARGETS
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As regular readers of this column will note, I prefer to use a majority of my New Player Claims on starting pitchers who are making two starts in the upcoming week. I find it the best way to maximize points. With that in mind, I am looking at a couple of Houston Astros this week – Justin Verlander and Charlie Morton. This is interesting because last week I picked up Gerrit Cole and have my eye on Lance McCullers in the near future. I also like both Cleveland pitchers (Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger) who are in line for two starts this week, but I do give a slight nod to the Astros’ duo. Perhaps we should have all just started with some combination of Houston, Cleveland, and Arizona starting pitchers. Go figure. Verlander is not cheap, but he as safe a bet as any for a high total of innings and strikeouts in any given start. His win probability is also elite given his arsenal and the team behind him. Morton struggled in his last start, but I see that as more of a blip than a sign for concern going forward.
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Doolittle and Vazquez have been just fine. Unfortunately, saves seem to come in bunches, so owners will likely just have to remain patient. Doolittle has also seen Ryan Madsen vulture a couple of saves as well. Both should soon find themselves back among the upper echelon closers in short order.
RELIEF PITCHER TARGETS
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Jeurys Familia leads all players in fantasy points through Tuesday’s action, but I would still rather own Diaz if given a choice. His dominance has been second to none. It is hard to expect either to keep up their pace of saves, but Diaz’s peripheral numbers are more sustainable over the course of the season,