Strong bannermen are essential to strengthening and defending a noble house. House Lannister has the Cleganes and the Swyfts, House Baratheon has the Seaworths and the Swanns, House Stark has the Karstarks and the Boltons- wait, sorry. I’ve been on a binge-watching kick of HBO’s Game of Thrones the past few days, so most of my analogies lately have been about hoppin’ on a dragon and burnin’ folks, and stuff like that. For example, when accused of drinking my roommate’s beer, I requested a “trial by combat” as a means of attaining justice. Perhaps a more befitting analogy for what I’m about to discuss would be about what the guys over at ESPN do for their favorite players. Cockroft has his “Tristan’s Twenty”, Karabell has his “Plant My Flag” players, Fangraphs’ Mike Podhorzer has his “Pod’s Picks”, you get the idea.
The following players are whom I have dubbed my “bannermen” for 2015. These are the men that have sworn their allegiance to me; the ones that will charge the battlefield to defend my honor and my name with their lives. Except, this is, like, pretend. I obviously don’t know these people, but, I’m finding that they are showing up on most of my fantasy teams, so I feel like I know them. We have a thing. It’s complicated. You wouldn’t understand.
Fantasy Baseball Bannermen for 2015
Anyway, whether it is because I am willing to reach a few rounds because I think they’ll break out, because they fall far enough to where they become a value pick, or because I’ve somehow ended up with the third overall pick in three different drafts and managed to get Andrew McCutchen, these are the guys that I am putting a lot of stock in this year. They are the ones charging into battle for me, whether they are aware of it or not. I won’t talk about Cutch because you already know why he’s a top 3 pick, but here are House Shroyer’s 2015 Fantasy Baseball Bannermen, and why I like them so much. Just in time for you last-minute drafters.
First Base: Mike Napoli, Boston Red Sox
Current ADP (All ADPs according to FantasyPros.com): 256 (#35 1B)
Napoli has been a consistent source of power over his career, but has dealt with dings and dents and nagging injuries over the past few seasons. This past offseason, he underwent surgery to clear up chronic sleep apnea. You might underestimate what a good night’s sleep can do for a man, but I’m betting on a bounce back to 20+ homers and 70+ RBI for Napoli. I’m loving how late I can get him to fill my corner infield slot.
Second Base: Rougned Odor, Texas Rangers
Current ADP: 249 (#20 2B)
Rougned Odor was not supposed to play for the Rangers in 2014, but when all-world prospect Jurickson Profar went down with an injury, Texas was forced to bring up the 20-year-old from AA. All things considered, Odor held his own pretty well for someone who was barely out of their teens that had never played any baseball above AA. He even got better as the year went on. Now that Profar is injured yet again, the job is Odor’s to lose. I think his upside for this year is 15/15 HRs and SBs (with room to grow in the next few years) and I’ll take that all day erryday for my middle infield slot at #249 overall.
Third Base: Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies
Current ADP: 53 (#6 3B)
Arenado might be my favorite player this year. He just continues to tweak and fine tune the holes in his game to become a more complete player, and I love that about him. As a prospect, scouts said he couldn’t stick at third base because he wasn’t a good enough defender. I’m sure Mr. Arenado would like those scouts to meet his new buddy, Mr. Gold Glove 2014 Trophy.
He underwhelmed at the plate as a rookie in 2013, but in 2014 he improved in virtually every offensive stat, sub-stat, stat split, metric, sabermetric– you name it- from his rookie year. He finished among the top 12 third basemen in just about every fantasy format, despite only playing in 111 games due to pneumonia in September, and a DL stint caused by a broken finger from late May-early July. A few weeks away from his 24th birthday, there is still plenty of room for growth.
Yeah, I know his numbers take a hit outside of Coors Field, but I don’t care (by the way, he improved his road numbers in 2014 too). Like so many Rockies players in the past, his home numbers will be just bonkers enough to give you great overall production. My prediction: Nolan Arenado finishes 2015 as the second-best fantasy 3B behind Josh Donaldson (providing Miguel Cabrera is no longer 3B-eligible in your league).
Shortstop: Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians
Current ADP: 368 (#30 SS)
From what I’ve seen, Jose Ramirez’s more highly-touted Cleveland cohort, Francisco Lindor, has been drafted more often than him. FantasyPros has Ramriez’s ADP about 70 spots higher than Lindor, but Lindor being drafted higher than Ramirez has been my personal experience. People love taking a prospect in those last few rounds.
I can’t quite figure out the hype though. Lindor’s strength, according to his overall profile and scouting reports, is not in his bat, but in his elite glove. Compared to other shortstops, he is projected to hit well, but he isn’t going to be the next Tulo or even someone like Alexei Ramirez. Jose Ramirez, on the other hand, also has an excellent glove, but has an offensive ceiling that is projected to only be slightly below, if not on-par with Lindor’s.
That being said, why is everyone so quick to assume Lindor will simply usurp Ramirez? Ramirez, after all, has at least shown us something in the majors (albeit in a small sample size). After being called up post-All Star break in 2014, Ramirez slashed .283/.325/.371 and was 10/11 in SB attempts in 241 PAs. I’m not one for extrapolations, but give him 600 PAs and he could steal 30 bags easily. Truth be told, I’m only drafting him in my deeper leagues, but I have also already picked him up off the wire in some of my shallower leagues. He’s worth it for the late round flier/waiver pick up price.
Outfielders: Hunter Pence, San Francisco Giants
Current ADP: 101 (#28 OF)
He’s falling in drafts because of the broken arm, which means you can get him as your 2nd or even 4th outfielder. I’m willing to stash my 4th outfielder on the DL for a few weeks if it means he’ll come back and put up Hunter Pence numbers. I am confident that someone as consistent and tough as Pence will bounce back from a freak injury like that and be just fine.
Adam Eaton, Chicago White Sox
Current ADP: 220 (#60 OF, including multi-eligibles)
He was hampered by injuries last year, but give him a full, healthy year batting leadoff in front of Melky Cabrera, Jose Abreu, Adam LaRoche, and Avisail Garcia and you might be looking at 30 SBs and 90 runs scored, not to mention an average in the ballpark of .300. Those are pretty awesome numbers from an OF going #60 at his position.
Rajai Davis, Detroit Tigers
Current ADP: 262 (#69 OF, including multi-eligibles)
Cheap steals, cheap steals, cheap steals. You know he’s going to swipe 30-40 bags. He does it every year, even if he doesn’t have a starting job locked down. Yet it seems like no one ever wants to draft him. I happily take him as my 5th OF, UTIL player, or first bench guy.
Starting Pitchers: Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies
Current ADP: 50 (#14 SP)
The reason I have Hamels on so many teams this year is because I believe that he is at or near the bottom of the elite tier of starting pitchers, and, much like with the catcher position, I’m willing to wait on my pitchers. There have been trade rumors around him all winter, but even if he does end up on another team before the end of the year, I’m not concerned (unless he ends up at Coors Field or Miller Park). He’s been an ace for years while playing his home games at Citizen’s Bank Park, which is considered a “hitter friendly” park, so he should be fine if he were to end up in, say, Fenway Park. According to FantasyPros, he’s currently going behind Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, Jordan Zimmerman, and Adam Wainwright. I like Hamels better than all of them.
Drew Hutchison, Toronto Blue Jays
Current ADP: 234 (#68 SP)
Drew Hutchison is one of my AL SP breakout candidates for 2015. He’s got the good velocity, a rapidly improving slider, and the improved team around him– he just needs to stop giving up so many home runs to lefties. If he can improve in that area and continue to build on the success of his second half of 2014, he could be the Blue Jays’ best pitcher this year, even with the stud rookies.
Relief Pitchers: Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins
Current ADP: 143 (#19 RP)
Cue Rodney Dangerfield. Glen Perkins gets no respect. He’s proven he can be a quality closer in the big leagues by accumulating 70 saves and 143 strikeouts in 124.1 innings for some bad Minnesota Twins teams over the past two seasons. This year, the Twins are better than most people think, so I think he could add another 5 or so to his 2013 career-high of 36 saves. He’s as solid of a #2 RP option you can find in fantasy, but he’s not “sexy”, so he doesn’t cost much.
Adam Ottavino, Colorado Rockies
Current ADP: 451 (#72 RP)
I had to throw him in here even though I only have him in my deepest leagues. Basically, he’s a better version of Rex Brothers, in that he could take LaTroy Hawkins’ job at any point in 2015, but is much more polished at this point in his career. He has a wide arsenal of pitches for a reliever, can get both righties and lefties out, has good command, and is not 123 years old, like LaTroy Hawkins. He’s my sleeper pick for 30 saves.
Catcher: Travis d’Arnaud, New York Mets
Current ADP: 204 (13th among catchers)
I am all-in on the d’Arnaud bandwagon. A once highly touted prospect, injuries and trades have stunted the growth of the young backstop, but when he’s been healthy, he’s produced at the plate. He struggled at the beginning of his rookie season of 2014, both with ineffectiveness and yet another injury, but once he got healthy, he just plain raked (relative to catchers, at least). He finished with 19 home runs between AAA and the majors.
Like I said, the big knock on him is injury risk, but tell me, what catcher doesn’t come with an injury risk? For me, every fantasy catcher after Buster Posey is pretty much the same. Even though the four or 5 immediately after Posey have more power upside than the rest, I am still always willing to wait on the position. For example, Sal Perez is currently going at #111, on average. Yasmani Grandal is at #239. Are you telling me that, other than about 20-25 points in batting average, they’re really that different in terms of fantasy stats? Go ahead, check, I’ll wait.
This year, waiting on a catcher is exactly what I’m doing, and more times than not, I’m the last guy in my league to draft one. By that time, in a standard 12-team league, d’Arnaud is the best option available. At that price, even if I know there’s a possibility of implosion, I’ll still take d’Arnaud’s upside of .265 and 20 homers over Wilin Rosario’s questionable playing time, Wilson Ramos’ injury history (it’s really bad, even for a catcher), or Miguel Montero’s blah-ness any day of the week. Heck, I’d take Grandal over them too.
For those of you who made it this far, thanks for reading. Check out more articles like this along with a whole heap o’ player profiles in our 2015 Fantasy Baseball Guide.