Throughout the next three months, the FOX Sports fantasy department will publish its 2017 fantasy baseball draft guide strategy, rankings and advice features. In this series of galleries, we highlight American League players to watch or avoid come draft day.
As one of baseball’s top prospects, Swanson acquitted himself well (.803 OPS) after an August callup last season, and he might bat second for the rebuilding Braves in 2017. He’ll probably be a better real player than fantasy player, but double digits in both homers and steals are possible this season. As a polished, 23-year-old prospect, there’s little flop potential here. Swanson’s early ADP is in Round 16, and that sounds about right. He should be a solild MI on your 23-man mixed league roster.
Mike Foltynewicz – Braves – SP
A 4.31 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP would normally scare you away from a starting pitcher, as would a troubling history of home runs allowed (38 HR in 228 2/3 IP). However, Foltynewicz has always had talent, and only a handful of starters bested his 95.2 mph average fastball last season. Sure, he needs to miss more bats, as his K rate was exactly average in 2016. But he had more control than ever before – minors or majors – and started to induce more ground balls. There’s late-round sleeper potential here.
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Christian Yelich – Marlins – OF
Yelich’s price will be high this year, as he’s already coming off the board as a top-15 outfielder. The upside with him is in stolen bases, as he swiped just nine bags last year after combining for 37 in the previous two seasons. Yelich doesn’t have the huge power/speed skillset that many fantasy owners lust after, but that’s OK. His forte is batting average, where he’s at .293 after more than 2,100 career plate appearances. Only eight outfielders have been better in that department over the last three seasons. He’s solid across the board.
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David Phelps – SP/RP – Marlins
Phelps will probably stay in the bullpen for the Marlins, and that’s fine. He posted a 2.28 ERA last season while whiffing 114 batters, which was more than all but a few elite relievers. Rather than drafting a third crummy closer who might lose his job – Fernando Rodney, for instance – consider a dominant setup man like Phelps who will help you in three categories. FOXSports.com standard settings use two RP spots, and that makes Phelps more valuable. And with all that said … I’d really like to see him get another chance as a starter. He maintained his increased velocity during a handful of starts last season.
Michael Conforto – Mets – OF
OMG Mets will you just leave this guy alone and let him play? The team has been trying to trade Jay Bruce in an effort to clear space for Conforto, and that’s the right move. Conforto struggled mightily last May and June before getting sent to Triple A, and wasn’t all that great after he came back. But we’re not going to write off a talented hitter who posted a decent .725 OPS at age 23.
Conforto’s brief history suggests that a .280 BA with 20 home runs is possible if he gets regular playing time (and strikes out a lot less than he did in 2016). He was a popular fantasy breakout candidate last season, and is being forgotten right now. If Bruce gets shipped out, try to target Conforto as your mixed league OF5.
Matt Harvey – Mets – SP
Per the early ADP, Harvey is being drafted as SP31 after posting a 4.86 ERA in 17 starts, finishing his season on July 4 and undergoing surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (basic details can be found here). The Dark Knight is probably the biggest wildcard on the starting pitcher board, and you’ll be taking a significant leap of faith by making him the third man in your mixed-league rotation. Maybe he’ll be an ace again, and maybe he’s toast. Do you feel lucky?
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Tommy Joseph – Phillies – 1B
The 25-year-old Joseph has become a popular fantasy sleeper after slugging 21 homers in 315 at bats as a rookie. The former catching prospect looks like the Phillies’ regular first baseman, and his power should continue to play well in a home ballpark that is one of baseball’s friendliest for home-run hitters. Also, since Joseph isn't a big whiffer, his BA is unlikely to see the pitfalls of one-dimensional mashers like Chris Carter and Brandon Moss. Joseph’s Steamer projection at FanGraphs has him pegged for 27 homers with a .259 BA. You’ll take that at his current 18th-round pricetag, right?
Vince Velasquez – Phillies – SP
Velasquez threw a 16-strikeout, complete game shutout against the Padres last April 14, causing worldwide stampedes to fantasy free-agent transaction pages. He had some ups and downs after that, and seemed to run out of gas in August, when he had a three-start stretch in which he allowed 19 runs. At the end of the day, Velasquez had a 4.12 ERA with a 1.33 WHIP, 152 strikeouts and an unsightly 21 home runs in 131 innings. Not bad for a rookie, but there’s certainly room for improvement.
Velasquez has nasty stuff – only seven starters had a higher strikeout percentage than his 27.6 (>120 IP). He’s a very intriguing pick at his current SP49 ADP.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY SportsTommy Gilligan
Adam Eaton – Nationals – OF
Eaton has been a solid fantasy outfielder, averaging .286-14-58-16 with 94.5 runs over the last two seasons with the White Sox. Maybe he’ll score more runs leading off in a better Nats’ lineup, and maybe he’ll hit fewer home runs in his more neutral D.C. home park. All good, right?
Steals are Eaton’s X factor. The White Sox attempted 113 stolen bases last season, while Dusty Baker’s go-go Nats tried 160 thefts. Eaton stole 44 bases in the minors in 2012, and while that seems like a long time ago, look for an increase from where he’s been over the last few seasons. If he steals 20-25 with the other stats holding steady, he’ll be a strong No. 3 fantasy outfielder in mixed leagues.
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Stephen Strasburg – Nationals – SP
Isn’t Strasburg always interesting? He was a terrific Cy Young candidate last season before getting knocked around in August and shut down in early September due to a flexor mass strain in his elbow. Strasburg says he’ll throw his slider less this season to take strain off the elbow, and it’s difficult to predict how that will affect his performance. He’s started just 47 games over the last two seasons, giving him plenty of risk and reward in the fifth round of your mixed-league draft. The risk probably outweighs the reward for me.