Draft Prep: AL-Only Offseason Guide

Andy Patton takes a look at the off-season moves that make big impacts in AL-Only leagues.

For those of you who play in AL-Only leagues, this has been an eventful offseason. Plenty of high profile fantasy assets have entered and exited the American League, leaving the landscape looking much different than it did around draft time last year. With so many players still unsigned, there are even more changes on the horizon.

Here is a look at the five biggest additions and subtractions from the American League this season. Use this guide to determine where to take the new players, and also which players to target as replacements for those who moved over to the NL.

Additions

Giancarlo Stanton (5)

Unsurprisingly, when the league home run leader joins a strong lineup in one of the smallest parks in all of baseball, fantasy owners start drooling. Stanton playing half his games in the bandbox that is Yankee Stadium (along with plenty of games at Fenway Park and the Rogers Centre) will help him avoid a let down from his 59 home run output last season. Stanton joins a stacked batting lineup that includes sluggers Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, which should provide ample opportunities to score runs and drive runners in.

In AL-only leagues, Stanton instantly becomes a first round pick. I have him fifth behind Trout, Altuve, Correa and Betts. I think there’s an argument to have him ahead of Mookie, but health has been a concern for Stanton in the past which makes him slightly riskier.

Dee Gordon (19)

Despite having one of the greatest second basemen of all-time, the Mariners decided to flip a few prospects to Miami in exchange for Dee Gordon. Gordon will convert to center field in Seattle, replacing Jarrod Dyson as a top of the order speedster. Gordon swiped 60 bags, hit .308 and scored 114 runs last season. Hitting first in a lineup followed by Jean Segura, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager should help Gordon reach 100 runs yet again.

The runs and batting average are nice, but fantasy owners draft Gordon for one thing: steals. As long as Gordon stays healthy there is no reason he won’t approach at least 40 stolen bases in Seattle. That, plus a .300 batting average and over 100 runs scored, makes Gordon a late second-round pick in AL-only leagues next season.

Shohei Ohtani (29)

Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani has been the talk of the fantasy baseball town since he signed with the Angels earlier in the offseason. Ohtani will be used as both a starting pitcher and occasional designated hitter by manager Mike Scioscia. His value depends on how your league settings treat him. Some formats will have a hitter Ohtani and a pitcher Ohtani, whereas others will allow him to play in both spots.

Ohtani’s fantasy value is higher as a pitcher, where he is expected to lead the Angels six-man rotation. There have been enough Japanese pitchers who came over and found success immediately (Daisuke Matsuzaka, Yu Darvish, Masahiro Tanaka) that Ohtani looks like a safe bet to finish among the top 15 AL starting pitchers. Factor in his potential as a hitter and you have yourself a player who should go near the end of the third round in AL-only leagues.

Gerrit Cole (30)

Gerrit Cole jumps from being the man in Pittsburgh to a loaded rotation in Houston, where he will be joined by Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander, and Lance McCullers – not to mention an elite offense. However, Cole is a cautionary tale for this season. Pitchers tend to struggle transitioning from the National League to the American League, and Cole posted a 4.26 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP last year. If he cannot at least maintain those numbers, he won’t be the fantasy option that many expect him to be. The Houston offense should help him win 12-15 games, but unless he can cut back on the home runs (31 last year) he is a SP2 at best in AL-only formats.

If you’re willing to gamble on a rebound from Cole thanks to a change of scenery, he is a solid third round pick. But the 19-8, 2.60 ERA version of Cole from 2015 is no guarantee to come back, making Cole a high-risk option in 2018.

Zack Cozart (57)

Zack Cozart is coming off a career year in Cincinnati. The longtime shortstop signed with the Angels to make the move over to third base, where he will pair with Andrelton Simmons to make an elite defensive left side of the infield. Cozart was no slouch with the bat, hitting .297 with 24 home runs and 80 runs scored. The move to LA’s spacious ballpark will likely curb some of his power, but Cozart’s performance last year was backed up by solid contact metrics, including an increase in fly-balls, barreled baseballs and exit velocity.

Although Cozart will play third next year, he is SS eligible and comes in as the AL’s seventh-ranked SS. That makes him an appealing target around the sixth or seventh round in AL-only drafts. He may not repeat the 24 home runs from last year, but a stronger lineup should help him reach 90 runs scored and/or 90 RBI, depending on where he hits in the order.

Others

Stanton, Gordon, Ohtani, Cole and Cozart are without a doubt the five most impactful additions to the American League fantasy landscape. However, there are still a handful of other players who have come over to the American League who have the opportunity to make a difference in AL-only leagues.

The A’s acquired former Cardinals outfielder Stephen Piscotty this offseason. Piscotty will be the team’s primary left fielder, and should be targeted around round 13 for AL-only leagues.

A three-team trade landed the Yankees infielder Brandon Drury at the start of Spring Training. Drury looks likely to start at third base for the Bronx Bombers, making him an appealing target in rounds 13-15. His presence in New York’s lineup alone should allow him to post solid fantasy numbers.

Matt Moore was traded to the Rangers this season and will join their new-look six-man rotation. The left-hander posts solid strikeout numbers but struggles to limit his walks. The six-man rotation will limit his value, but he is still worth a look in the middle rounds.

The Toronto Blue Jays have added both Randall Grichuk and Curtis Granderson into their outfield picture. If either of them grab a full-time role, they are worth a look in rounds 15-17. Likewise, the Blue Jays have also added infielders Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz. With Devon Travis and Troy Tulowitzki being injury prone (to say the least) both Solarte and Diaz are worth a flyer in the 16-17 rounds.

The Rays dumped the majority of their outfield this offseason, leaving room for recently acquired veteran Denard Span to nab a starting spot. He’s posted back-to-back double-digit home runs and stolen bases, making Span a nice late-round flyer in the 20th round or so.

It’s not clear where the Rays are going to play newly acquired Ryan Schimpf, but he’s hit 34 home runs in 142 career big league games so at the very least he is worth grabbing in the last few rounds, with the hopes that he can continue to hit home runs in Tampa.

Both Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed will compete for the closer’s role in Minnesota. Whichever one wins the job will be a low-end closing option at best, but in AL-only leagues every closer needs to be rostered. Don’t hesitate to grab either of these veterans at the end of your draft, with the hope that they will win the job out of camp.

Lastly, Tim Lincecum is back in the AL, signing a one year deal with the Texas Rangers. Big Time Timmy Jim is, shockingly, considered one of the favorites to win the closer’s role out of camp. With Keone Kela and Alex Claudio still in the fold, it is anyone’s guess who will actually earn saves in Texas. Feel free to take a very, very late round flyer on Lincecum if you must, but unless someone locks down that role there is little to get excited about, even in AL-only formats.

Losses

Eric Hosmer

Hosmer’s 8-year, $114 million dollar deal represents the biggest free agent deal in Padres history. It also removes one of the AL’s strongest fantasy first baseman, weakening a traditionally strong position. The first base job in Kansas City will go to Lucas Duda, whom the Royals inked to a one-year, $3.5 million dollar contract. Duda will likely sit frequently against left-handers, but is still worth a look in the middle rounds of AL-only drafts. The slugger hit 30 home runs last year and suffered from an ugly .238 BABIP last year. Expect him to produce decent power numbers but little else from a fantasy perspective.

Lorenzo Cain

The Royals are leading the American League in fantasy talent lost, a category they will extend their lead in if Mike Moustakas signs with an NL team. Lorenzo Cain has gone packing for Milwaukee, leaving an open CF job in KC. Paulo Orlando is the front-runner for the role now that the Royals have DFA’d Billy Burns. Orlando is an uninspiring fantasy option to put it lightly. He does have plenty of speed however, so if he is the clear-cut starter for the Royals than he could be worth a roster spot in standard 10-team AL-only formats.

Steven Souza and Corey Dickerson

The Rays shocked the world by moving on from Steven Souza, sending him to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a three-team deal that netted them Anthony Banda and Nick Solak. Shortly thereafter, the Rays dumped Corey Dickerson to the Pirates in exchange for Daniel Hudson. This leaves two big holes in the TBR outfield. Carlos Gomez and Denard Span are both going to see an uptick in playing time in Tampa. Both represent lower-tier fantasy options. Gomez is worth a look as a bounce-back candidate, while Span is a late-round flyer who could post a 10-10 season. The biggest beneficiary is Mallex Smith, who could steal 25 bases if he is given consistent playing time. Grab him in the later rounds if he is available.

Evan Longoria

Souza’s departure was not the biggest news of the Rays offseason, as they chose to trade franchise icon Evan Longoria to the Giants in exchange for prospect Christian Arroyo and veteran Denard Span. Longoria is one of a handful of third basemen who left the American League, making the position more scarce than ever before. Matt Duffy, if he’s healthy, is expected to start at third base for the Rays. He is worth a pick in the mid-to-late rounds. If he isn’t healthy, take a gamble on Ryan Schimpf toward the end of your draft. He has shown plenty of power and should produce HR/RBI if he gets playing time. Lastly, keep an eye on Arroyo. If he gets called up he is worth an immediate add in AL-only formats.

Carlos Santana

Santana has always carried more value in OBP leagues, but his consistent power will be missed now that he has signed with the Phillies. Edwin Encarnacion will remain the DH for the Indians, and recently signed Yonder Alonso will man first base. Encarnacion is worth a look around rounds 6-7, and Alonso is a good 1B option for those who miss out on the big bats. Take a look at him in rounds 12-14.

Others

The Yankees saw three infielders (Chase Headley, Todd Frazier and Starlin Castro) depart to the NL this offseason. Brandon Drury (mentioned above) will take one spot while promising rookies Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres will battle for the other. If either of them nabs a starting role out of camp, they should be owned in AL-only formats.

Speedy outfielders Jarrod Dyson and Cameron Maybin signed with NL teams this offseason. Justin Upton replaced Mayin in LAA, and Dyson lost his starting job to newly acquired Dee Gordon in Seattle. Fantasy owners looking for speed should instead focus on Mallex Smith of the Rays, or potentially Leonys Martin of the Tigers if they are desperate.

Evan Gattis should see an uptick in playing time now that Carlos Beltran retired. Target him between rounds 11-13 for his prodigious power and catcher eligibility.

A pair of starting pitchers in Joe Musgrove and Jason Vargas have moved over to the NL. Jake Junis should win a rotation spot in KC replacing Vargas, and he is worth a look in around the 20th round. Houston’s rotation is stacked, and Musgrove was unlikely to win a spot anyway.

Bud Norris signed a one-year deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, likely leaving Cam Bedrosian to be the closer in LAA. However, Mike Scioscia can never be trusted, making him a risky pick. Target him and/or Blake Parker in the middle rounds, but don’t be surprised to see a committee approach by Scioscia and the Halos.

Andy Patton

Andy is the Dynasty Manager here at PitcherList. He manages all of the prospect content on the site, while also contributing a weekly article on Deep League Adds and dynasty deep sleepers. Beat writer for the Seattle Seahawks (SeahawksWire) as well as the host of the Score Zags Score Podcast.

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