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This article is part of a series we’re running that’s showcasing the best Fantasy Baseball articles submitted in each round of the 2017 Fantasy Baseball Writing Contest. This article comes from one of the four writers that made it past Round 1 of this three-round battle royal, with the overall winner getting a $200 cash prize!

One of my biggest pet peeves in preparing for Fantasy Baseball drafts is the way “sleepers” and “busts” are handled by bigger media outlets. Their “sleeper” is someone educating you on how Trea Turner could have a huge year if you extrapolate his stats over a full season.

Their “bust” is someone telling you that Adam Duvall may have been a fluke last year, plays on a bad team, and may not be able to replicate last year’s power. In other words, stuff you probably already knew or could have figured out yourself.

Here I will give you two outfielders who I think will “trade places” this year. One being drafted among the first 24 that will finish outside the Top 60, and another being drafted outside the Top 60 that will finish inside the Top 24.

Let’s get to it.

Trading Places

Death, taxes, and a fringe Fantasy outfielder that you have an on and off waiver wire relationship with making the leap into Fantasy stardom the year you finally move on. That didn’t exactly flow, I know, but those are the things you can count on. You know the outfielder I am talking about too. It was Michael Brantley in 2014, A.J. Pollock in 2015 and Jackie Bradley and Marcell Ozuna last year.

These were all outfielders that were for the most part Fantasy afterthoughts that propelled Fantasy teams to championships and sometimes even picked up MVP votes along the way. There seems to be an outfielder that fits this description every year, and it would be nice to find out this season’s guy before anyone else does. So, who will it be?

Josh Reddick, OF, Houston Astros

Reddick, the new Astro RF is currently being drafted around OF70 and that will turn out to be way too low. Here are the reasons why. Earlier in his career, Reddick was a guy that struck out a lot. He then made a conscious effort to cut down his K%, and he said as much after the 2014 season. He did just that, bringing his career 22% K rate down to just 12% last season. In doing so, he naturally sacrificed some power.

Maybe this season he can have the best of both worlds, as he heads from a bad team and a bad home ballpark to a good team and a much better park. Oakland’s Coliseum ranked 20th in baseball for hitters, per Bleacher Report, and Minute Maid Park ranks 12th.

Looking further into that, Rotogrinders stats show that Minute Maid is 20% better than the average MLB ballpark for left-handed power. Reddick could very well enjoy his home at-bats like he never has before, not to mention there should be plenty more chances to drive in teammates and be driven in himself, as Statcast has the Houston lineup projected for eight above-average hitters, the most in the Major Leagues.

Combine all of this with a player that is an above-average baserunner and fielder – which should buy him some patience in case he gets off to a slower start – and you would seem to have a recipe for success for Fantasy goodness. A better home park? Check. Better surrounding cast? Check. Possible injury discount? Check. Pick Reddick as your fifth outfielder and feel good about it, as he could return OF2 value when all is said and done.

Talking about a guy being a sleeper is fun. Now for the hard part, my 2017 bust.

 

Justin Upton, OF, Detroit Tigers

Justin Upton is entering his 11th MLB season, and will be 30 on Opening Day, but somehow, annually he is someone thought of as having “potential” and possibly “taking the next step.” Upton has, for the most part, been a solid multi-category Fantasy performer for a while now. Still, something has always felt a little off with J-Up.

You consistently feel like he isn’t living up to his talent, and you routinely must practice patience as a Fantasy owner by just closing your eyes and letting him get to his numbers in the end, somehow, someway. I think this will be the first year he fails to get there, and you don’t want this to be the year you finally invest.

The Detroit Tigers are caught in between. They are candidates to contend in a weaker AL Central this year, but they are also a candidate to sell and start a rebuild if things don’t pan out with their aging roster. In my experience of rostering Upton over the years, he usually finds a way to his end-numbers the same way nearly every year.

That usually includes a month of Upton playing out of his mind and catching the rare “white-hot” label at the plate, and many other months of Upton leaving a lot to be desired. It is not unrealistic to think Upton could get a little unlucky or find a little less success during his usual hot month, and the end numbers would look a lot worse than people are signing up for.

Upton’s batting average, homers, and RBIs typically have hovered around .250/30/90 the last few years. His strikeouts have climbed up to almost 180 during that same time. It is not unrealistic to think the always full of potential younger Upton could “pull a BJ” this season as he hits his age-30 season. No, “pulling a BJ” isn’t what you are thinking (what are you thinking?).

He isn’t going to change his name to Melvin. Maybe he will follow his brother’s lead and become a much worse Fantasy producer. I wouldn’t let Justin slide too far in my draft, but in a Fantasy world where power isn’t as hard as you think to find, I will be avoiding what I think is a ticking time bomb and a risk this season. Let someone else realize what a Justin Upton season looks like without the 15-homer month.

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