Today we take our first look at the upcoming fantasy baseball season, as we start our team previews going in the only logical order: alphabetically. The Arizona Diamondbacks are up first, with part one outlining everything you need to know about the Desert Snakes’ hitters to prepare for your fantasy baseball draft. [Jeff]
Catcher – Jeff Mathis/Chris Herrmann
After the D’backs moved on from Welington Castillo, Herrmann and Mathis became the only game in town. Herrmann was a D’Back last year, and he had an .845 OPS with 6 HR, 21 R, 28 RBIs and 4 SB in 56 games last year. His 166 plate appearances were roughly a quarter a season, but don’t expect that to continue: his hard hit rate was 11 points higher than his career average, his BABIP was way too high and his strikeout rate was nearly 25%. And he’s splitting time with Mathis. Look elsewhere. There’s nothing to be had here in fantasy baseball.
First Base – Paul Goldschmidt
The face of the Arizona Diamondbacks, he slashed .297/.411/.489, and is slated to be the first 1B off the board in drafts this year after he went for 24 bombs and 32 stolen bases. The stolen bases have to come down, as they are more than any two consecutive seasons combined in Goldschmidt’s career. In an OBP league, he isn’t that far off from Joey Votto (.434 last year versus .411). With A.J. Pollock back in the fold, Goldy is a good bet to go 20/20/100/100/.300, which will help your team in every statistical category. One note: he hit 24 dingers with the worst ISO of his career—which means he should get more next year. He’s a solid early first round fantasy baseball pick.
Second Base – Brandon Drury
Drury is currently listed as the starting 2B on both Rotoworld and Roster Resource, but GM Mike Hazen said he will likely play more of a super utility role. He had sixteen homers in 461 at bats last season, and his .786 with multi-position eligibility will give him some deep-league value. He’s especially valuable in NL-only fantasy baseball leagues, as he will get you some pop without hurting your batting average. The only thing to beware is his .330 BABIP last season.
Third Base – Jake Lamb
Lamb built on his 2015 promise after his prior season was cut short with various injuries. He jacked 29 homers, but his .249 average dragged him down. Like Goldschmidt, he will benefit from the return of A.J. Pollock for his runs and RBI numbers. His average should see an uptick as he will beat off his below-career-average BABIP. He’ll be at least a high-end CI fantasy baseball option, with backend starting 3B upside. He’s a value pick at the position if you miss out elsewhere. He struggled down the stretch last season as his BABIP dipped down around .225, which is making him fly under radars. He’s a good depth target.
Shortstop – Chris Owings/Nick Ahmed/Ketel Marte
After trading Dansby Swanson and Jean Segura, this is all that is left for the Diamondbacks at shortstop, at least for this year. Owings has no fantasy value, Ahmed is a low-power moderately speedy slap hitter (read: useless), and Marte is probably the most fantasy relevant. He has to get his OBP up to respectable levels to get up to the top of the D’Backs lineup. If he doesn’t, he’s useless. Of note: three of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ top five hitting prospects are 2B/SS eligible, but none will make a fantasy impact in 2017. Dawel Lugo and Domingo Leyba have a projected ETA of 2018, and Jack Reinheimer managed just two home runs in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League in 2016 with a paltry .737 OPS.
Outfielders – Yasmany Tomas, A.J. Pollock, David Peralta, Gregor Blanco, Socrates Brito, Oswaldo Arcia
Pollock is obviously the centerpiece of this triumvirate, with his breakout 20 HR, 39 SB season in 2015. He was injured for the vast majority of last year, but managed to keep a very similar pace, getting two dingers and swiping four bags in 12 games. His ADP in a ten-team league is the mid-third, which means he may be a steal for you.
Tomas slammed 31 home runs last year in his first “full” campaign, but the Diamondbacks seem intent on moving him due to his bad defense. The D’Backs are dying to trade him, but he is owed $45 million and is destined to merely DH, so they may just eat his bad defense and platoon him or turn him into a bench bat. His power will play, but his plate discipline is questionable. His discipline and questionable role make him a bad season-long option.
Peralta’s 2016 campaign was cut short with a myriad of injuries, and the only good things about him before he went down were his ISO and his stolen bases. It took a .312 BABIP (above average) to get him to a .251 average last year (below average). Still, he was banged up all season so it’s easy to tell a story where injuries led to his disappointing 2016 after a much better 2015 campaign. He turns 30 in August, so there isn’t much room for improvement left, but keep an eye on him.
Blanco is an NFC West defector from San Francisco who signed a minor league deal. He is the ideal fourth outfielder in that he doesn’t do a lot that will hurt your team, but he isn’t all that exciting. Even if he gets an everyday role in Arizona, his career .258/.344/.350 slash line with limited speed tells you all you need to know about his fantasy baseball prospects.
Brito is currently in AAA but is the top hitting prospect left in AAA for Arizona, so if he gets a mid-season call-up you should try to make room for him if he rakes his way to the majors. He struggled last season and is recovering from a hamate bone removal in November, so it’s unlikely he breaks camp with the club (and given hamates sap power, it is unlikely he is raking yet).
Arcia is an interesting prospect, as he showed some pop in his first two seasons in the majors but bounced around to four different clubs last year because his contact cratered. If he puts forth a different approach at the plate he could be fantasy relevant, but that’s unlikely.
Overall, the Arizona Diamondbacks offense doesn’t offer a ton of fantasy-relevant talent. The hierarchy is Goldschmidt, Pollock, a bit of a drop-off, Lamb, a big ole drop-off, Drury, and Tomas, then everyone else.