Since 1988, the hobby of playing fantasy sports has grown exponentially. Take this: in 1988, there existed roughly 500,000 number of people playing fantasy sports. In only a span of 27 years, that number has grown to almost 57 million people. That’s incredible.
The accessibility of playing fantasy sports has played a large role in that boom. Many mainstream sites have seen how profitable the industry has become and have taken advantage. Websites run by huge companies like Yahoo! and ESPN allow users to play for free while “experts” from each company provide analysis to ensure the users succeed in their respective leagues. Countless number of mobile apps gives each user the ability to update their teams at any time and any place.
Baseball is the origin of this phenomenon with many roots from the 1960s and 1970s. The most well-known and popular version of fantasy baseball is Rotisserie League. In this league, a set even number of teams draft real baseball players to their fake teams. Relying on individual offensive and pitching categories (typically a 5x5 setup of Home Runs, Runs, Runs Batted In, Batting Average for Hitters and Strikeouts, Wins, Earned Run Average, Walks/Hits per Innings Pitched and Saves for Pitchers) each team utilizes their individual players to score the most points in each category throughout the season. It’s become so popular that even major league ballplayers have admitted to participating in fantasy. Perhaps that explains why certain players are good but better in the fantasy world of baseball? Let's start things off with a player that only fantasy players know, despite such a common name.
15 Joe Smith - Los Angeles Angels
14 Fernando Rodney - San Diego Padres
The 39-year old Journeyman Closer led the league in blown saves in 2015 with seven. He’s had a decent career shutting down a lot of close games for the Tigers, Angels, Rays, Mariners and now the Padres. On the other hand, he’s also lost his job on numerous occasions due to awful performances. Because he’s proven in the past that he’s closed games, stubborn managers keep giving him the job.
13 Ben Revere - Washington Nationals
Revere is an excellent defensive outfielder, but he appears to be an easily replaceable player. He’s already played on 4 teams since 2012, and his On-Base Percentage (OBP) could be better for a leadoff hitter.
12 Rick Porcello - Boston Red Sox
Perhaps he’s a late bloomer? Porcello signed a 4 year- contract in 2016 for 4 years and $82.5 Million, so the Red Sox saw something in him. It appears that he’s making the rare transition from better-in-reality player to one that is better in the fantasy baseball universe.
11 Cameron Maybin - Detroit Tigers
The former top ten draft pick never lived up to the hype, mostly due to injuries. When healthy, Maybin has the potential to be a five-tool player. Unfortunately, he’s only accrued three healthy seasons in his career spanning from 2007 to 2016. The former first-rounder is probably infamously best-known for being the prized piece (along with fellow top prospect Andrew Miller) of the Miguel Cabrera trade. Cabrera erupted into a Triple Crown Winner for the Tigers while Maybin has failed to meet the hype.
10 Santiago Casilla - San Francisco Giants
The Giants’ Closer has been effective in the past, but in the past couple of seasons he has shown signs of decline. He tied for second in 2015 in blown saves with 6, and in this short season so far, he has blown 3 additional saves already. All of this, despite saving 12 games (8th in league) for the Giants.
9 Evan Gattis - Houston Astros
One of the feel-good stories of Major League Baseball, Gattis debuted as 26-year old rookie in 2013. Gattis had a tough life, but he has put the past behind him and has hit 21,22,27 home runs in each of the last three years. In a league that’s becoming slowly power-deprived, Gattis proves to be very useful in fantasy leagues. What sets apart fantasy from reality is that he’s shown power at a notoriously awful offensive position, Catcher (especially in 2016).
8 Ken Giles - Houston Astros
7 Melvin Upton - San Diego Padres
The artist formerly known as B.J. was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays 2nd overall in the 2002 draft. He and his brother Justin have come into the league with great expectations and immense potential. Upton has been pretty much living off of his potential since he entered the league. It seems like he hasn’t hit that proverbial ceiling and teams are giving up on him and his exorbitant contract.
6 Miguel Sano - Minnesota Twins
The power prospect hit 18 home runs as a rookie in only 80 games in 2015. He may have hit close to 40 had he arrived earlier in the season. However, he did most of his damage as a Designated Hitter and is not replicating his success so far. Sano is batting .219 in 2016 on a putrid Twins team that is in the bottom-five in nearly every offensive category. The Minnesota Twin has had trouble replicating his rookie year success; he has an -0.3 WAR so far. As of this writing, he’s also tied for league lead in strikeouts.
5 Prince Fielder - Texas Rangers
What an awful contract. The 275 lb. First Basemen/Designated Hitter is signed through 2020 on a bloated 9 year deal worth $214 million. At this juncture of his career, Fielder is mostly restricted to DH; he has only played 2 games at first base thus far in 2016. He basically needs to hit his contract; otherwise, the Rangers have nowhere else to put him. Cecil’s son grounded into double plays 21 times in 2015. Not good.
4 Chris Archer - Tampa Bay Rays
The 2015 All Star finished 12-13 on a Rays Team that finished below .500 last season. Part of this has to do with the fact that he received poor support from his teammates. The offense only provided Archer 3.948 runs per 9 innings. He ended up breaking out in fantasy circles as he was 4th in the majors with 252 strikeouts in 212 innings pitched with 3.23 Earned Run Average (ERA) and 1.14 Walks/Hits per Innings Pitched (WHIP). Aside from wins, he dominated for his fantasy owners, finishing 46th overall on ESPN’s Fantasy Baseball Player Rater.
3 Matt Kemp - San Diego Padres
In 2012, the 2011 NL MVP Runner-up signed a bloated $160 Million Contract across 8 years. The annual value of the contract makes Kemp a difficult asset to trade in the major leagues.
2 Giancarlo Stanton - Miami Marlins
1 Billy Hamilton - Cincinnati Reds
The Centerfielder for the Reds is known in both fantasy and major league baseball circles for one thing, and one thing only: his ludicrous speed. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, you can’t steal first. He has an anemic career On-Base Percentage (OBP) of .286. In the fantasy baseball world, he is pretty valuable as he dominates one single category: 57 stolen bases in 2015 and 56 in 2014. In the major leagues, however, his value declines; he led the league in caught stealing in 2014 and only scored 56 runs last season. He has been playing at a replacement-level with only 1.0 Wins Against Replacement Player (WAR) in 2015. He’s not contributing much in 2016 either; he’s been injured and thus far is fourth-worst in MLB amongst CF in Fielding Percentage.
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