Fantasy baseball roundtable: Judge and jury

The 2017 baseball season is into its second month, still early enough that fantasy owners should remain vigilant on the waiver wire. The Yahoo fantasy baseball crew is here to help identify the players to go after:

Q: Which outfielder, owned in less than 40 percent of Yahoo leagues, are you most interested in adding to your fantasy team?

Brandon Funston: MANUEL MARGOT. San Diego’s top offensive prospect entering ’17 is on a pace for a 15/20 rookie campaign, and he’s hot at the moment (.343 BA in past nine games). 

Andy Behrens: There’s no way the Phillies can possibly remove AARON ALTHERR from the lineup, right? I realize that team threw suitcases full of money at sketchy vets, but Altherr clearly has to play. He’s been an all-category monster since entering the everyday lineup. I’m in. 

Scott Pianowski:  HERNAN PEREZ has shown up in this space before, but you guys have to push him over 40 percent. He’s a versatility ace, and getting a juicy spot in a deep Milwaukee lineup. I’ll also sign off on the Behrens call of Altherr — the Philly outfielder reached base 11 times in the Chicago series and shouldn’t have to sweat the Howie Kendrick return. 

Dalton Del Don: MANUEL MARGOT. Thanks to hitting leadoff, he’s scored 15 runs despite a poor OBP. Margot has added three homers and four steals (he’s already attempted eight stolen bases), so a run at 20/25 seems plausible. Thanks to strong defense (and a weak class so far), Margot is actually tied for the NL lead in WAR among rookies.

Predict the line: Considering that he went undrafted in many leagues, Yankees young slugger Aaron Judge has to be considered the fantasy MVP of the first month of the ’17 campaign. What fantasy recommendation (Buy/Sell/Hold) would you give him at this time, and please provide your prediction for his year-end five-category roto line?

Funston: HOLD. I would love to be selling on this as-good-as-it-gets streak by Judge, but I don’t see enough of an inflated market, frankly. There’s a Judge for Charlie Blackmon deal in that view of the Yahoo trade market, and that’s the kind of swap I’d be looking for if I was a Judge owner. But the reality is that owners aren’t quite buying all the way in on Judge’s historic first month, so the best play is to hold. I’ll predict that Judge averages five homers a month the rest of the way, while his average steadily declines along the way as pitchers figure out new ways to attack the Yankees’ young slugger. Final line: .265, 37 HR, 105 RBI, 90 R, 5 SB

Behrens: HOLD, tenderly. If I were to shop him — let’s say in the Friends & Family league, hypothetically, where I have many needs — I’d want a star, an early-round pick. Judge certainly isn’t a fluke. The kid hit 19 homers in just 93 games at Triple-A last season; he pretty clearly has another 20-plus homers in him. 

Pianowski: It’s one of those forced HOLDS, because a trade forces his owners to make a negative assumption and the other owner to make a positive one. The same rules apply to the Eric Thames owner.  Judge has 20-25 more homers in him, with an average around .260. 

Del Don: HOLD. He strikes out too often to bat much better than around .260ish moving forward, but the power is so obviously real. I wouldn’t necessarily be trying to sell high, as I assume most others realize Judge’s crazy hot start isn’t exactly fully sustainable. I’ll predict he finishes with a line of .285-100-40-115-5, helping his owners win a bunch of fantasy titles in the process. 

Q: Which infielder, owned in less than 40 percent of Yahoo leagues, are you most interested in adding to your fantasy team?

Funston: JOSE REYES. I liked Reyes as a nice late-round sleeper heading into the season and, after a very slow start, he’s finally starting to validate that opinion. In his past eight games, Reyes is hitting .391 with three home runs and two steals. With 3B and SS eligibility, he offers nice utility off the bench.

Behrens: Let’s go deep, people. If you have the old “NA” spot available to you for a minor league stash, please consider Phillies first base prospect RHYS HOSKINS. He’s crushing at Triple-A, following a 38-homer season at Double-A Reading. When he arrives in the bigs, you’ll want him. It’s not as if Tommy Joseph has done anything notable. 

Pianowski:  Are we having fun with MARWIN GONZALEZ yet? Maybe it’s not really a fluke. He’s hit .279 before. He’s hit 13 homers as a part-timer before. He’s stolen 12 bases before, not that he’s a high-percentage thief (call it the Springer Rule). Some mechanical adjustments at the dish are paying dividends. Playing every day goes a long way towards a player’s confidence. 

Del Don: ASDRUBAL CABRERA. He’s coming off a season in which he totaled 28 homers/steals and hit .280 in just 141 games. Cabrera is batting second in the Mets’ lineup and is on pace to score 108 runs. 

PICK ‘EM: Which struggling corner-eligible player would you be most interested in making a buy-low play on right now – Edwin Encarnacion, Kyle Seager, Chris Davis, Evan Longoria, Alex Bregman?

Funston: KYLE SEAGER. Slow starts have become the norm for Seager, who came into the season with a .216 BA in April over the past three seasons. But you know in the end you’ll get 155-plus games played, and something in the neighborhood of .270, 25 HR, 90 RBI – write it down in pen.

Behrens: Any? All? OK, maybe not Davis, because he’s actually doing his usual thing — leading the league in Ks and hitting .220-ish. And maybe not Longoria, because he’s ambiguously injured. But I’d make a play for anyone else on this list. 

Pianowski:  The proven guys get the nod, the Seager, Encarnacion, Longoria group. I’m more Davis believer than disbeliever, but we at least have to acknowledge the downside risk he carries. Bregman’s pedigree is pretty, but he’s just a .264/.329/.425 man in the majors. The preseason helium might have been premature. (I expected Behrens to write in “Schwarber” here, no matter the positions. Oh, wait, there’s a video.)

Del Don: ENCARNACION. I worry a bit about Bregman, especially given how aggressively he was drafted in many leagues, but I’d expect the rest of these veterans to all bounce back over the rest of the season. It’s a little odd Encarnacion has struck out so much in the early going given his career K rate, but Cleveland is a great hitter’s park, and I fully expect him to rebound moving forward. 

Q: Which pitcher, owned in less than 40 percent of Yahoo leagues, are you most interested in adding to your fantasy team?

Funston: ARCHIE BRADLEY (if looking for relief); JESSE HAHN (if in need of a starter). Bradley has been mostly untouchable (.167 BAA) in relief for Arizona, and he might be in play if/when Arizona has to demote Fernando Rodney from the closer role. Among starters, Hahn has delivered a quality start every time out this season. His fastball average (94 mph) ranks top 25 among starters, he’s limiting baserunners (1.03 WHIP), and his home is one of the most pitching-friendly environments in the league.

Behrens: For me, the answer to these pitching questions is usually going to be a non-closing reliever, someone you can use to control your pitching ratios and enhance your K-rate. This week, I’ll go CARL EDWARDS JR., who’s been near perfect for the Cubs. He’s striking out well over a batter per inning this season, just like last year. 

Pianowski:  The last thing I want to do is assume logic with St. Louis manager Mike Matheny, but TREVOR ROSENTHAL might be back in form. He’s struck out 17 batters in 8.1 innings — against just two walks — and has three rogue saves. Meanwhile, Seung-hwan Oh hasn’t looked sharp all year.

Del Don: PATRICK CORBIN. Over his last three starts, Corbin has a 1.86 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP with a 23:4 K:BB ratio over 19.1 innings. His 12.0 SwStr% ranks No. 17 among all starting pitchers this season. There’s a lot of strikeout potential here. 

PICK ‘EM: Which of these veteran closers – Jim Johnson, Francisco Rodriguez, Neftali Feliz (we’ll leave Fernando Rodney out of this because, well, that’s just too easy) – do you think is most likely to lose his job first and, in the event that happens, which set-up man would you expect to benefit from that demotion?

Funston: NEFTALI FELIZ. I’ll go with Feliz because the best closer-in-waiting behind any of these guys is Corey Knebel, who is off to a fantastic start (1.26 ERA, 11.9 K/9 rate). If Feliz continues to run into trouble, I’m guessing Milwaukee would promote Knebel without blinking.

Behrens: FELIZ, because he’s no better than the third or fourth best reliever on his own team. Jacob Barnes definitely has closing-quality stuff, but COREY KNEBEL has been absolutely lights-out. 

Pianowski:  I’m not sure how Jim Johnson landed on this list. He was rock-solid in Atlanta last year, and his current FIP is barely over one. You want to sell your Johnson shares, I’m your first call. I expect the Tigers to mistakenly give K-Rod an extensive leash, so by default let’s vulture FELIZ, with Corey Kneble the slight speculation preference. 

Del Don: FELIZ is definitely the most worrisome for me, as he’s already allowed four homers over 11.2 innings. All three are possible trade candidates, but Feliz’s stuff simply isn’t what it once was. Corey Knebel (and his 34.6 K%) would be the most likely option to take over closing duties should Feliz lose the job. 

Follow the Yahoo crew on Twitter: Andy Behrens, Dalton Del Don, Brad Evans, Brandon Funston, Liz Loza and Scott Pianowski