Each week, Yahoo fantasy experts Brandon Funston, Andy Behrens, Scott Pianowski, Dalton Del Don and Brad Evans forecast the future of some of the most interesting fantasy story lines across the majors.
Brandon – VOTTO. I think he's the safest bet. Look at his monthly splits for his career. A bad month for Votto is a very rare thing - as in, he's had just one bad month in the past five years. He's pretty much slump proof.
Andy – I don't think you'll be disappointed by any, but gimme PUJOLS here. I'm horrified that I don't own him anywhere. This is an all-time hitter, quite obviously healthy again.
Scott – I still like FIELDER the most, for the lineup and the park. But my advice to anyone holding Pujols shares is an emphatic "hold and enjoy."
Michael Brantley, looking like a strong candidate to sail past previous career benchmarks in several categories, rest of season homers/steals 32.5
Andy – UNDER. And I might have taken the under on 22.5. I don't view Brantley as a mixed league difference-maker. If you can find a trade partner who thinks 32.5 is the right number, strike a deal. Now.
Scott – OVER. He's a wallet guy and while improvement isn't always linear with developing players, it has been in Brantley's case.
Brad – OVER. History offers little support for my viewpoint, but no underlying proof may be needed. Many scouts predicted he would eventually develop into a 20-20 bat. With a .200-plus ISO through 22 games, that day may have arrived.
Aaron Harang, painting corners and attracting umpire yells often in the early going, final 2013 ERA with the Braves 3.59
Scott – OVER. He's still doing the junkball thing, and eventually it's going to crash hard. That said, the NL East is the easiest place to do your business. But I'm not holding the bag here.
Dalton – OVER. I have no idea what to make of his start, and the 33 strikeouts over 31.2 innings suggest it hasn't been total luck. Still, Harang has never finished a season with an ERA better than 3.59, and he's about to turn 36 years old.
Brandon – OVER. He's currently riding the high that most players experience the season after leaving Seattle, but reality will eventually bite Harang again. I think there's a good chance he settles into the 3.60-3.99 ERA range when all is said and done, but I'm not going to predict that in his 14th season in MLB that he's going to post a career-best ERA (he's never been under this O/U mark in his career).
Charlie Blackmon, who is smacking hits left and right as the Rockies primary leadoff man, rest of season runs 69.5
Dalton – OVER. While saying his .410 BA is going to regress is obvious, Blackmon has more walks than strikeouts this year and bats leadoff while playing half his games in Coors Field. He should easily surpass this number if he stays healthy.
Brandon – OVER. He'd finish with at least 89 runs for the year if he goes over this mark. That's not an unreasonable number for a guy that has hit over .300 in 161 career games and who is leading off for a team that plays home games in the most offensive-friendly park in the league.
Andy – OVER. Only an injury can prevent this. The platoon-thing is annoying, because Blackmon has hit lefties well. But this guy is completely legit.
Second base showdown. Pick one rest of season: Anthony Rendon, Jedd Gyroko, Neil Walker or Brian Dozier.
Brandon – WALKER. He seems like the boring pick, but he's the only one that you can feel real confident about what you are going to get from this group. And Walker's past 156 games (since the start of '13 season) has produced a pretty solid fantasy line for a 2B - .253, 22 HR, 65 RBI, 75 R, 2 SB.
Andy – I'll go RENDON, though I'm stubbornly not yet willing to bail on Gyorko. (If you've cut him loose, I get it. I won't fight you.) Rendon is an excellent hitter, a former blue-chip prospect now performing well at the highest level. We'll continue to fret about injuries here, and there's no speed component to his game. But, again, this is a solid player in an excellent situation.
Scott – DOZIER is one of my favorite players. Category juice, a discerning eye. Ignore the batting average, he does everything else. And he's marked his territory in the leadoff spot.
Brad – KUNG FU PANDA. Santana has struggled with contact issues in the past, Sandoval has rarely. The Giant is dwarfed in the home run department, but he's the better overall hitter.
Andy – Both will be OK. It's April. I have no serious worries about either player. PABLO has a shorter route to .200 as of this writing, so I'll say him.
Scott – I'd buy on either right now, but lean PANDA. Sometimes I wonder if Santana's batting eye works against him, taking too many crushable strikes early in the count.
Eric Young, blazing the base paths with 10 steals thus far, rest of season swipes 39.5
Andy – OVER. EY Jr. is just obscenely fast, and I trust the playing time will be there.
Scott – OVER. The Mets need him to play, and they'll let him run whenever he wants.
Dalton – OVER. He had 46 steals last year and continues to run like crazy this season despite a .224 BA.
Newly anointed Mets closer Kyle Farnsworth rest of season saves 13.5
Scott – UNDER, because of his age and physical concerns. The velocity also stinks, and Terry Collins has little patience.
Dalton – UNDER. Crazier things have happened, but Farnsworth's average fastball velocity has dropped five straight seasons. Odds are no pitcher in the Mets pen finishes with 15+ saves.
Brandon – UNDER. Other than a stars-aligning season in '11 when he saved 25 games, he hasn't topped this mark in a career that started before the turn of the century. At his age and his situation with the Mets, I'm not going to bank on 14-plus saves from here on out. No way.
Danny Salazar, who has really struggled out of the gate, rest of season ERA 3.99
Dalton – UNDER. I admittedly was high on Salazar entering the year, and while his decreased velocity is a concern (as is his ugly 7.85 ERA), he has 23 strikeouts over 18.1 innings. He seems like a clear buy-low candidate.
Brandon – UNDER. God, I hope I'm right. My Salazar investments are wreaking havoc with my fantasy squads. His velocity is down by a couple miles per hour, which is concerning, as is his nearly 5 BB/9 rate. But his K rate is actually better than last year, and his xFIP is 4.13, so I'm choosing to clings to those positives as opposed to the negatives. C'mon, Danny boy.
Andy – UNDER. Maybe I'm just being stubborn, but when Salazar is good, he's scary-good.
Brandon – LIRIANO. K rate is the king here, as Liriano is getting nearly four more whiffs per nine innings than Volquez, thus far. And the discrepancy in ERA at the moment has a lot to do with luck as Liriano's xFIP is actually better than Volquez's despite the fact that Volquez's ERA is two runs better than Liriano's.
Andy – LIRIANO. We're very early in the Volquez story; I'd still like to see where it goes. I didn't jump on Liriano last season (to my detriment), and I'm not leaping on the Edinson wagon, either.
Scott – Has to be LIRIANO, who's already built up credibility in Pittsburgh. Volquez is still a new story, and I'd like to see the strikeouts return before I really buy in. That said, I'd follow pitching coach Ray Searage into a burning building right now.