Steven Wright Suspended 15 Games for Violation MLB Domestic Violence Policy

Boston Red Sox pitcher Steven Wright will reportedly be suspended 15 games for violating Major League Baseball's domestic violence policy. 

Per NBC Sports Boston's Evan Drellich, MLB will announce Wright's suspension on Friday, and he's not expected to appeal. 

         

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Steven Wright Suspended 15 Games for Violation MLB Domestic Violence Policy

Boston Red Sox pitcher Steven Wright will reportedly be suspended 15 games for violating Major League Baseball's domestic violence policy. 

Per NBC Sports Boston's Evan Drellich, MLB will announce Wright's suspension on Friday, and he's not expected to appeal. 

         

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Fantasy Baseball 2018 Sleepers: Top Pitchers and Sluggers to Target

Success in fantasy baseball is predicated on a number of factors, not the least of which is deep analysis of underrated players and a little bit of luck.

It takes almost no studying to determine what will happen in the first couple of rounds. Everyone knows Mike Trout, Jose Altuve and Bryce Harper are going to come off the board in the first five picks. 

The skill in fantasy baseball comes from hitting on your picks in the later rounds. Sleepers always come with a significant risk because, by definition, they aren't going to be on many players' radars. That can be due to injuries, age, a poor showing last season, etc.

Looking at possible sleeper candidates for the 2018 season, here are the names to keep in mind while filling out the roster that will lead you to a championship.

                   

Pitchers

Lance McCullers Jr., Houston Astros

The biggest issue standing in Lance McCullers Jr.'s way and fantasy stardom is health. The Houston Astros right-hander has the peripheral numbers to entice fans, including 10.15 strikeouts per nine innings and 3.60 ERA.

While those are strong numbers worth drafting in the early rounds of a fantasy draft, McCullers' career high in innings pitched is 125.2 when he was a rookie in 2015. The 24-year-old hasn't appeared in 25 regular-season games in his MLB career.

Fantasy owners are still fairly bullish on McCullers, possibly giving him a bump after his six-inning start against the New York Yankees in the ALCS. His average draft position of 97.2 places him near the end of the ninth round of a standard 10-team league.

That's still fairly high for someone with durability concerns as significant as McCullers', but the upside is so great it would be worth the gamble if he's able to hit 150 innings as a combined starter-reliever for the World Series champions.

                  

Tanner Roark, Washington Nationals

Pitching in the back of a loaded rotation can make it easy to get lost in the shuffle, but Tanner Roark has carved out a niche for the Washington Nationals.

The right-hander has made 63 starts over the past two seasons with 391.1 innings. He had a wild variance in ERA from 2016 (2.83) to 2017 (4.67), mostly due to a home run rate that spiked to 1.14 per nine innings.

Roark's strikeout rate of 8.24 per nine innings was the highest of his MLB career. He's had no problems bouncing from the starting rotation and bullpen, though his primary role has been as a starter with just three relief appearances over the past two seasons.

Even though Roark won't provide the kind of dominant numbers from a front-line starter—like McCullers is capable of—his durability makes him attractive as a late-round rotation option.

With an average draft position of 234.1, Roark is being drafted after John Lackey (233.5), who is still a free agent.

                

Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers

There is a limited upside for Josh Hader. Corey Knebel had a breakout 2017 season as the Milwaukee Brewers closer, with 126 strikeouts and 39 saves in 76 innings.

Hader has the misfortune of being a setup man, costing him the tremendous value of saves. It takes a special non-closer—think of Andrew Miller or Chad Greento warrant being drafted and not just a waiver addition.

The good news for Hader is how impressive he was last season. The 23-year-old allowed just 25 hits and had 68 strikeouts in 47.2 innings.

If Hader had enough reliever innings to qualify, his 12.84 strikeouts per nine innings was higher than the totals of star closers Aroldis Chapman (12.34) and Cody Allen (12.3).

Hader's average draft position is 222.4, so if your stable of relievers is light and you need a power arm who can rack up strikeouts, there's no reason to avoid him.

                

Hitters

Greg Bird, 1B, New York Yankees

It would be hard to think of many players whose postseason performances last year helped their stock more than Greg Bird.

Some of that is because he's been unable to stay healthy during the regular season, not playing more than 100 games in a year since 2014, when he was in High-A and Double-A.

Bird was also terrible in 48 games during the regular season last year. He tied for 45th out of 53 first baseman with a minus-0.4 FanGraphs wins above replacement (min. 170 plate appearances) thanks to a .190/.288/.422 slash line.

By the time October rolled around, though, Bird showed some of the potential that makes him look like a key piece of the New York Yankees' future. The 25-year-old had a .250/.429/.563 slash line with three homers in 10 games.

Fantasy owners are selecting Bird (152.1) in the middle rounds, where his upside makes him significantly better value than Ian Desmond (151.1).

              

Kurt Suzuki, C, Atlanta Braves

It's no secret catcher is a soft position by depth, both in reality and fantasy. 

After Gary Sanchez, Buster Posey and Willson Contreras in the top 70, there isn't another fantasy catcher drafted until Salvador Perez at 124.

Kurt Suzuki is coming off one of the best seasons of his career despite appearing in just 81 games for the Atlanta Braves in 2017. He hit 19 homers in just 276 at-bats, a better rate than those of Sanchez (14.5) and Bryce Harper (14.6).

The problem for fantasy owners is Suzuki's defense behind the plate has made the Braves turn to Tyler Flowers as their primary catcher. Flowers also had a strong offensive season in 2017 with a career-high .823 OPS in 99 games.

Consistent playing time isn't going to be available for Suzuki, but if you can manage your bench to carry a part-time player, he's worth waiting on at a position without a lot of depth.

                  

Ozzie Albies, 2B, Atlanta Braves

As the Braves continue to upgrade their roster by bringing up prospects from their wildly talented farm system, it will be hard for players to slip in under the radar.

Ozzie Albies quietly had a tremendous 57-game debut in 2017, recording a .286/.354/.456 slash line and 20 extra-base hits in 217 at-bats.

Among second baseman, Albies is being drafted between Paul DeJong and Jonathan Villar. DeJong deserves his position after hitting 25 homers in his rookie season, but Villar had an OPS of .665 in 122 games in 2017.

Albies has produced with the bat throughout his professional career. He hit .304/.365/.424 in 390 minor league games before being called up last season.

If you want to bet on a young middle infielder to take a leap in 2018, Albies is the best bet heading into the season.

                    

Fantasy draft information via Yahoo Sports.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Bryce Harper an Option to Bat Leadoff, Nationals Manager Dave Martinez Says

Bryce Harper's keen eye and power make him a natural fit to bat in the heart of the Washington Nationals lineup, though manager Dave Martinez could use his superstar at the top of the order. 

Martinez said Thursday he will consider having Harper hit leadoff this season. 

"Maybe," he said, via ESPN.com's Eddie Matz. "We'll talk about it, play with it. Before I do it, I'll definitely have a conversation with him."

Per Joe Douglas of RotoGraphs, leadoff hitters averaged nearly 29 more plate appearances than No. 3 hitters during the 2016 season. 

Adam Eaton, who had a .393 on-base percentage in 23 games last year, is the most likely candidate to hit leadoff. 

The Nationals have used Harper as their leadoff hitter before, though his last appearance in that spot came on May 25, 2016. 

Harper's primarily been Washington's No. 3 hitter since 2015. The 25-year-old has led the team in on-base percentage twice in the last three years, including an MLB-high .460 mark during his MVP season in 2015. 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Fantasy Baseball 2018 Cheat Sheet: Pinpointing Top Sleepers and Busts

Fantasy baseball, like the real world, is all about hitting on your early picks to have success. Teams rarely win championships without superstars on the rosters.

Yet even with at least one superstar, every fantasy team needs to have depth. It's no secret the Major League Baseball season is a grind, testing even the most strong-willed athletes over the course of 162 games.

Building a fantasy roster is all about avoiding the lull MLB teams go through at some point in the season. Doing that requires identifying and hitting on your mid- and late-round draft picks to complement a first-round pick like Mike Trout of the Los Angeles or Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros.

As final preparations are made for your fantasy draft, here are the sleepers and busts worth keeping an eye on in the war room.

               

Position Player Sleeper: Mike Zunino, C, Seattle Mariners

There is a dearth of fantasy production from catchers. The best players at the position are excellent and should be drafted early.

Gary Sanchez of the New York Yankees, Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants and Willson Contreras of the Chicago Cubs are going to post big numbers. After that trio, though, there isn't a lot of offense to be found.

Per FanGraphs, only four catchers had enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title last season. From that group, Sanchez was the only one with more than 19 home runs.

Mike Zunino of the Seattle Mariners didn't make that list with 435 plate appearances, but he finished third in home runs (25) among all catchers. His .509 slugging percentage ranked second behind Sanchez (.531).

There are reasons to believe 2017 wasn't just a one year anomaly for Zunino. The 26-year-old hit 22 homers in 131 games during the 2014 season, though he only posted a .199/.254/.404 slash line. He had 12 homers in 2016.

Per Fantasy Pros, Zunino is the No. 10 catcher with an average draft position of 181.

Given the overall lack of depth at catcher, being able to nab Zunino at the end of the 20th round in a standard 10-team league would be incredible value for a player with his power potential.

                   

Position Player Bust: Shohei Ohtani, DH, Los Angeles Angels

Expectations for Shohei Ohtani are so high, both in reality and fantasy, that he could end up as a disappointment in 2018 even if he has a solid season.

From a fantasy perspective, Ohtani isn't being overdrafted. He's ranked as the No. 18 designated hitter, sandwiched between Cleveland Indians prospect Francisco Mejia, who is starting the season in Triple-A, and Pedro Alvarez of the Baltimore Orioles. 

It makes sense Ohtani's fantasy stock would be that low since the Los Angeles Angels could have their prized prospect start this season in the minors.

The scouting reports for Ohtani paint a better picture than that. MLB.com notes he has "top-of-the-scale raw power" with the potential to hit .270 with 30 homers.

That adds to the excitement around Ohtani, but Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia has already told the press the 23-year-old will primarily pitch.

Even though Ohtani will get a chance to hit, it's impossible to assess his immediate value with the bat until the Angels' plan is put into action. If you are in a dynasty league, he's absolutely worth an early-round choice.

But for owners in standard leagues this season, Ohtani's value as a hitter isn't worth reaching for to get him in your lineup.

               

Pitcher Sleeper: Tyler Chatwood, SP, Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs' three-year deal with Tyler Chatwood was a big surprise because he didn't have a particularly good 2017 season with the Colorado Rockies. 

In 33 appearances last season, Chatwood posted a 4.69 ERA and had the second-highest walk rate per nine innings (4.69) among pitchers with at least 140 innings.

So what did the Cubs see in Chatwood to guarantee him three years and give him a spot in their starting rotation?

Age didn't hurt, as he turned 28 in December. Getting him out of Colorado also figures to improve his numbers.

Chatwood's ERA was significantly better on the road (3.49) than at home (6.01) last season, and he only allowed 55 hits in 77.1 innings away from Coors Field. His average fastball velocity (94.7) was the best of his career, and he generated the second-best groundball rate of his career (58.1 percent).

There are still concerns that must be taken into account as Chatwood puts on a Cubs jersey. He did allow 10 homers on the road last year, the same as he did at Coors Field.

The Cubs are banking on their outstanding defense to turn those groundballs from Chatwood into outs. They have done a terrific job remaking forgotten starters like Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks into top-of-the-rotation stars.

Fantasy owners could end up finding Chatwood available on the waiver wire after the draft is done. Fantasy Pros ranks him as the 314th-best player overall. If your rotation is lacking in the later rounds, the right-hander is worth a flier because of his past success away from Colorado.

                   

Pitcher Bust: Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

This comes with the caveat that Clayton Kershaw is worth drafting in the early rounds, though maybe not as high as most fantasy players would have you believe.

The Los Angeles Dodgers ace has an average draft position of 9.8, making him the only surefire first-round fantasy pitcher. Max Scherzer, Chris Sale and Corey Kluber are all going in the second round.

Therein lies part of the problem with Kershaw. He's the best pitcher in the sport when he's on, but the gap between him and the aforementioned trio isn't significant enough to warrant making him a first-round pick.

Sale, Kluber and Scherzer all averaged more strikeouts per nine innings than Kershaw's 10.39 last season. Kluber and Sale had lower home run rates than Kershaw's 1.18 mark.

The other significant issue with Kershaw is health. He's made fewer than 30 starts in three of the past four seasons because of back problems. The three-time NL Cy Young winner turned 30 on Monday, so his back isn't likely to be more flexible after a decade in Major League Baseball.

Kershaw will still end up being one of the 10 most valuable pitchers in fantasy if he can throw 160-175 innings. Expecting him to hit the 200-inning barrier for the first time since 2015 requires a lot more hope and optimism than you need for a first-round pick.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Fantasy Baseball 2018 Cheat Sheet: Pinpointing Top Sleepers and Busts

Fantasy baseball, like the real world, is all about hitting on your early picks to have success. Teams rarely win championships without superstars on the rosters.

Yet even with at least one superstar, every fantasy team needs to have depth. It's no secret the Major League Baseball season is a grind, testing even the most strong-willed athletes over the course of 162 games.

Building a fantasy roster is all about avoiding the lull MLB teams go through at some point in the season. Doing that requires identifying and hitting on your mid- and late-round draft picks to complement a first-round pick like Mike Trout of the Los Angeles or Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros.

As final preparations are made for your fantasy draft, here are the sleepers and busts worth keeping an eye on in the war room.

               

Position Player Sleeper: Mike Zunino, C, Seattle Mariners

There is a dearth of fantasy production from catchers. The best players at the position are excellent and should be drafted early.

Gary Sanchez of the New York Yankees, Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants and Willson Contreras of the Chicago Cubs are going to post big numbers. After that trio, though, there isn't a lot of offense to be found.

Per FanGraphs, only four catchers had enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title last season. From that group, Sanchez was the only one with more than 19 home runs.

Mike Zunino of the Seattle Mariners didn't make that list with 435 plate appearances, but he finished third in home runs (25) among all catchers. His .509 slugging percentage ranked second behind Sanchez (.531).

There are reasons to believe 2017 wasn't just a one year anomaly for Zunino. The 26-year-old hit 22 homers in 131 games during the 2014 season, though he only posted a .199/.254/.404 slash line. He had 12 homers in 2016.

Per Fantasy Pros, Zunino is the No. 10 catcher with an average draft position of 181.

Given the overall lack of depth at catcher, being able to nab Zunino at the end of the 20th round in a standard 10-team league would be incredible value for a player with his power potential.

                   

Position Player Bust: Shohei Ohtani, DH, Los Angeles Angels

Expectations for Shohei Ohtani are so high, both in reality and fantasy, that he could end up as a disappointment in 2018 even if he has a solid season.

From a fantasy perspective, Ohtani isn't being overdrafted. He's ranked as the No. 18 designated hitter, sandwiched between Cleveland Indians prospect Francisco Mejia, who is starting the season in Triple-A, and Pedro Alvarez of the Baltimore Orioles. 

It makes sense Ohtani's fantasy stock would be that low since the Los Angeles Angels could have their prized prospect start this season in the minors.

The scouting reports for Ohtani paint a better picture than that. MLB.com notes he has "top-of-the-scale raw power" with the potential to hit .270 with 30 homers.

That adds to the excitement around Ohtani, but Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia has already told the press the 23-year-old will primarily pitch.

Even though Ohtani will get a chance to hit, it's impossible to assess his immediate value with the bat until the Angels' plan is put into action. If you are in a dynasty league, he's absolutely worth an early-round choice.

But for owners in standard leagues this season, Ohtani's value as a hitter isn't worth reaching for to get him in your lineup.

               

Pitcher Sleeper: Tyler Chatwood, SP, Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs' three-year deal with Tyler Chatwood was a big surprise because he didn't have a particularly good 2017 season with the Colorado Rockies. 

In 33 appearances last season, Chatwood posted a 4.69 ERA and had the second-highest walk rate per nine innings (4.69) among pitchers with at least 140 innings.

So what did the Cubs see in Chatwood to guarantee him three years and give him a spot in their starting rotation?

Age didn't hurt, as he turned 28 in December. Getting him out of Colorado also figures to improve his numbers.

Chatwood's ERA was significantly better on the road (3.49) than at home (6.01) last season, and he only allowed 55 hits in 77.1 innings away from Coors Field. His average fastball velocity (94.7) was the best of his career, and he generated the second-best groundball rate of his career (58.1 percent).

There are still concerns that must be taken into account as Chatwood puts on a Cubs jersey. He did allow 10 homers on the road last year, the same as he did at Coors Field.

The Cubs are banking on their outstanding defense to turn those groundballs from Chatwood into outs. They have done a terrific job remaking forgotten starters like Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks into top-of-the-rotation stars.

Fantasy owners could end up finding Chatwood available on the waiver wire after the draft is done. Fantasy Pros ranks him as the 314th-best player overall. If your rotation is lacking in the later rounds, the right-hander is worth a flier because of his past success away from Colorado.

                   

Pitcher Bust: Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

This comes with the caveat that Clayton Kershaw is worth drafting in the early rounds, though maybe not as high as most fantasy players would have you believe.

The Los Angeles Dodgers ace has an average draft position of 9.8, making him the only surefire first-round fantasy pitcher. Max Scherzer, Chris Sale and Corey Kluber are all going in the second round.

Therein lies part of the problem with Kershaw. He's the best pitcher in the sport when he's on, but the gap between him and the aforementioned trio isn't significant enough to warrant making him a first-round pick.

Sale, Kluber and Scherzer all averaged more strikeouts per nine innings than Kershaw's 10.39 last season. Kluber and Sale had lower home run rates than Kershaw's 1.18 mark.

The other significant issue with Kershaw is health. He's made fewer than 30 starts in three of the past four seasons because of back problems. The three-time NL Cy Young winner turned 30 on Monday, so his back isn't likely to be more flexible after a decade in Major League Baseball.

Kershaw will still end up being one of the 10 most valuable pitchers in fantasy if he can throw 160-175 innings. Expecting him to hit the 200-inning barrier for the first time since 2015 requires a lot more hope and optimism than you need for a first-round pick.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Explaining the MLB Pace-of-Play Rule Changes for 2018 Season

As Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred continues exploring ways to make games move quicker, the 2018 season will feature some rule changes in an attempt to speed things up. 

The length of an average game last season was a record three hours, eight minutes. It's the sixth straight year in which the average game has taken three hours to be played. 

On Feb. 19, Manfred announced four new rules changes including limiting the number of mound visits in a game to six per team, shorter commercial breaks between innings and during pitching changes, and direct access to slow-motion angles in all 30 stadium replay review rooms. 

Before the 2018 season gets underway, here is a look at what the new rules will mean for the pace of play. 

         

Maximum Six Mound Visits 

Teams will have a maximum of six mound visits per game, though there is additional leeway built in if games are tied after nine innings. 

The official definition from MLB of a mound visit is "a manager or coach trip to the mound to meet with the pitcher shall constitute a visit. A player leaving his position to confer with the pitcher, including a pitcher leaving the mound to confer with another player, shall also constitute a mound visit, regardless of where the visit occurs or the length of the visit..."

Teams will get one additional mound visit, in addition to pitching changes, per inning if a game goes to extra innings. 

Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras has said he would be willing to accept a fine to break the rule if it's in his pitcher's best interest. 

"I’ve been reading a lot about this ruling," he told reporters. "I don’t really even care. If (I) have to go again and pay the price, I will."

MLB hasn't said what the penalty for players and/or teams that surpass the number of mound visits will consist of. 

         

Reduced Commercial Breaks

MLB has changed the way commercial breaks between innings and during pitching changes will be handled. 

Stadiums will still feature the countdown clock that runs down from 2:05 during locally televised games and 2:25 during nationally televised games, but there will be a new approach to ensure the first pitch is thrown as the clock hits zero:

"The difference now is that at the 25-second mark, the umpire will signal for the final warmup pitch and the pitcher must throw it before the clock hits 20. The batter will be announced at the 20-second mark and the pitcher must begin his windup to throw the first pitch of the inning within the five seconds before the clock hits zero. Another important change is that a pitcher is no longer guaranteed eight warmup pitches between innings. However, he can take as many as he wants within the countdown parameters noted above."

In the past, pitchers have been guaranteed eight warm-up pitches between innings. They are no longer ensured that privilege but are able to take as many as they want within the parameters listed below. 

The same rules also apply to pitching changes during innings. 

         

Instant Replay

As MLB continues to fine-tune its replay system, a key change in 2018 will feature every team's video review room receiving instant access to slow-motion camera angles. 

This will allow the replay coordinators and umpires to quickly examine bang-bang plays, determine the correct call and make an official ruling on the field. 

Last year, MLB changed the rule to give managers 30 seconds to decide whether or not they wanted to challenge a play and instituted a maximum two-minute time limit for replays.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Report: Shohei Ohtani Will Be on Angels’ Opening Day Roster Despite Shaky Spring

Despite a rough spring, Shohei Ohtani will reportedly be on the Los Angeles Angels' 25-man roster when they open the regular season on March 29. 

Two high-ranking Angels executives told USA Today's Bob Nightengale that Ohtani is currently scheduled to be the team's designated hitter in the season opener against the Oakland Athletics and that he will take the mound for his first start in the third game of the season. 

   

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

Get the best sports content from the web and social in the new B/R app. Get the app and get the game.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Report: Shohei Ohtani Will Be on Angels’ Opening Day Roster Despite Shaky Spring

Despite a rough spring, Shohei Ohtani will reportedly be on the Los Angeles Angels' 25-man roster when they open the regular season on March 29. 

Two high-ranking Angels executives told USA Today's Bob Nightengale that Ohtani is currently scheduled to be the team's designated hitter in the season opener against the Oakland Athletics and that he will take the mound for his first start in the third game of the season. 

   

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

Get the best sports content from the web and social in the new B/R app. Get the app and get the game.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Fantasy Baseball 2018 Rankings for Each Position and Latest Mock Draft

It takes a special skill to build a fantasy baseball roster with a unique blend of talents that will fill out every key stat to keep you in contention for a championship. 

The best fantasy players can often do everything and will come off the board in the first three rounds.

Position players who can hit .300 with 30-plus home runs, drive in 100 runs, score 100 runs and steal 20 bases don't really exist, outside of Mike Trout, but there are a handful of stars who can do at least four of those five things. 

Starting pitchers who strike out at least one hitter per inning with an ERA in the 2.50 range and a WHIP under 1.00 and throw at least 225 innings are out there. 

Looking at the depth across fantasy baseball, it's not impossible to complete a roster with players who fill out all of the major categories, but it will take some keen drafting to make it a reality. 

         

10-Team First-Round Fantasy Mock Draft

1. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels

2. Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros

3. Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals

4. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies

5. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros

6. Charlie Blackmon, OF, Colorado Rockies

7. Mookie Betts, OF, Boston Red Sox

8. Trea Turner, SS, Washington Nationals

9. Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs

10. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks

        

First Baseman Rankings

1. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks

2. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

3. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs

4. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves

5. Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox

7. Edwin Encarnacion, Cleveland Indians

8. Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals

9. Wil Myers, San Diego Padres

10. Carlos Santana, Philadelphia Phillies

          

The only first baseman in the top 10 with any potential concern for 2018 is Edwin Encarnacion. He's 35 years old, and age has started to catch up to him. The Cleveland Indians star has seen his strikeout rate increase in each of the past four seasons from 15.1 percent in 2014 to 19.9 percent last season. 

As Encarnacion's strikeout rates have gone up, his slugging percentage has gone from .557 in 2015 to .504 last season. He still hit 38 homers, drove in 107 runs and scored 96 runs in 2017, so it doesn't appear a full collapse is imminent. 

The rest of the first-base stable in fantasy baseball is solid for this season. One potential bounce-back candidate is Detroit Tigers star Miguel Cabrera, who appeared to be in great physical condition at the start of spring training:

Cabrera is only year removed from hitting 38 homers and driving in 108. He's not going to be the hitter he was when he won back-to-back AL MVP awards in 2012-13 because it's virtually impossible to do that at 34 years old, but 25 homers and 90 RBI seem well within reach.

          

Second Baseman Rankings

1. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

2. Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians

3. Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins

4. Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals

5. Jonathan Schoop, Baltimore Orioles

6. Dee Gordon, Seattle Mariners

7. Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners

8. DJ LeMahieu, Colorado Rockies

9. Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs

10. Ozzie Albies, Atlanta Braves

          

Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy remains high in the rankings among fantasy second baseman, though owners should tread carefully.

The 32-year-old Murphy had knee surgery last October and didn't commit to being ready for opening day early in spring training, via ESPN's Eddie Matz

"You see these guys bouncing around and playing, you want to participate and be playing with your teammates. But I think it's the understanding of when they loose me, when the training staff lets me go and it's time to play, you only want to come off the DL once. I don't want to start playing games and then have to stop. So that's kind of the mindset we're taking right now."

With a two year track record in Washington hitting .334/.387/.569 with 146 extra-base hits in 286 games, Murphy has earned trust in fantasy owners that he will produce whenever his body is ready to go full bore. 

Ozzie Albies gets an optimistic bump after an excellent .286/.354/.456 slash line and 20 extra-base hits in 57 games with the Atlanta Braves. The 21-year-old has done nothing but hit throughout his professional career, with a .304 average in the minors, and his power is starting to come along after hitting just 16 homers in 390 games before getting called up.

       

Shortstop Rankings

1. Trea Turner, Washington Nationals

2. Carlos Correa, Houston Astros

3. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

4. Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians

5. Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Jean Segura, Seattle Mariners

7. Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers

8. Didi Gregorius, New York Yankees

9. Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox

10. Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies

      

In a loaded shortstop field, Nationals star Trea Turner has the potential to be one of the most valuable fantasy assets in 2018. He hit .284 with 11 homers, 75 runs and 46 stolen bases in just 98 games last season. 

A broken right wrist suffered in a June 29 game against the Chicago Cubs cost Turner two months, robbing him of the full-scale breakout he was on pace for prior to getting hurt. 

Xander Bogaerts could end up putting himself among the top five shortstops by midseason. The 2016 All-Star hit a respectable .273 with 62 RBI and 94 runs scored last season, but his power (10 homers) was likely impacted by a hand injury he suffered after being hit by a pitch in July.  

For perspective, Bogaerts was hitting .308/.363/.455 with 30 extra-base hits in 80 games from Apr. 3 through July 6. He hit .232/.321/.340 with 18 extra-base hits in 68 games after being hit in the hand. 

      

Third Baseman Rankings

1. Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies

2. Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs

3. Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians

4. Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays

5. Alex Bregman, Houston Astros

6. Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals

7. Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox

8. Travis Shaw, Milwaukee Brewers

9. Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers

10. Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners

         

Not that the Houston Astros are lacking for young impact hitters, but Alex Bregman could take another step forward after a solid .827 OPS and 63 extra-base hits in 155 games last season. 

Turning 24 on March 30, Bregman looked much more comfortable at the plate after the All-Star break. His OPS was nearly 150 points higher in the second half (.903) compared to the first half (.757). Houston's middle of the order with Bregman, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa is going to post huge fantasy numbers. 

If you're looking for power in the later rounds, Oakland Athletics slugger Matt Chapman is a hitter to keep an eye on. He hit 14 homers in 84 games last season, despite playing most of his games in the cavernous Oakland Alameda Coliseum. 

Per Yahoo Sports, Chapman has an average draft position of 256.6 and is only owned in 23.7 percent of leagues. It won't be hard to add him if you want a slugger on your bench. 

Depth at third base took a hit Monday when Los Angeles Dodgers star Justin Turner suffered a fractured left wrist after being hit by a pitch against the Oakland Athletics. He would have ranked No. 7 at the hot corner if healthy, but being out indefinitely drops him just outside the top 10. 

Kyle Seager of the Seattle Mariners gets bumped into the top 10 with Turner out. He's been steady since 2012 with at least 20 homers in each of the past six seasons and has had at least 86 RBI four times during that span. 

         

Catcher Rankings

1. Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees

2. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants

3. Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs

4. Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals

5. J.T. Realmuto, Miami Marlins

6. Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals

7. Mike Zunino, Seattle Mariners

8. Evan Gattis, Houston Astros

9. Wilson Ramos, Tampa Bay Rays

10. Welington Castillo, Chicago White Sox

        

After the top three catchers, there's a jumble of options who each have a case to be made for the No. 4 spot.

Wilson Ramos of the Tampa Bay Rays is the player most likely to emerge from that scrum as the best option if you miss out on Gary Sanchez, Buster Posey or Willson Contreras. After returning from a torn ACL last June, he looked mostly comfortable with a .260 average and 11 homers in 64 games. 

While Ramos is unlikely to get back to the .307/.354/.496 slash line he had for the Nationals in 2016, he's hit at least 11 homers in six of the past seven seasons. The power is going to carry him a long way on your fantasy team. 

         

Outfielder Rankings

1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

2. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

3. Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies

4. Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox

5. Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees

6. Aaron Judge, New York Yankees

7. J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox

8. George Springer, Houston Astros

9. Marcell Ozuna, St. Louis Cardinals

10. Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers

         

Rubbing salt in the gaping wounds of Miami Marlins' fans, the team's entire 2017 outfield is among the top 10 fantasy outfielders this season for different teams. 

After winning NL MVP last season, Giancarlo Stanton's expectations are sky high in 2018 as a member of the New York Yankees.  He hit a career-high 59 homers last season, with some projections expecting similar things as he moves to a smaller ball park. 

Per FanGraphs Depth Chart, Stanton projects to hit .280/.373/.656 with 58 homers and 140 RBI in 150 games. If he stays healthy, that doesn't seem like an unrealistic expectation. Keep in mind, though, that last year was the first time he reached the 150-game barrier since 2011. 

Going off the board for value, Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton could become Mike Trout lite in 2018. The former No. 1 overall pick shook off a slow start last season and hit .300/.347/.546 with 11 of his 16 homers in 57 games after the All-Star break. He also had 29 stolen bases and was only caught once all season. 

        

Starting Pitcher Rankings

1. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox

3. Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians

4. Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals

5. Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants

6. Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks

7. Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals

8. Carlos Carrasco, Cleveland Indians

9. Jacob deGrom, New York Mets

10. Justin Verlander, Houston Astros

       

Clayton Kershaw's dominance throughout his 10-year MLB career has earned him enough trust to be the top-ranked starting pitcher, though don't feel compelled to reach for the Los Angeles Dodgers' southpaw. 

For starters, Kershaw has had ongoing back problems that have landed him on the disabled list in three of the past four seasons. He's been limited to 48 starts over the past two seasons. The three-time NL Cy Young winner has made those appearances count with 30 wins, a 2.03 ERA and 374 strikeouts in 324 innings. 

But does that really make him substantially better than Chris Sale? The Red Sox ace has made at least 31 starts in each of the past three seasons and led the AL in strikeouts two of the past three seasons, including 308 in 2017. 

Corey Kluber, who had his own back problem in 2017 that caused him to miss one month, has averaged at least 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings over the four seasons. Max Scherzer has struck out at least 240 hitters in each of the past five seasons and had a career-low 2.51 ERA last season. 

There are no shortage of top-tier starters available in fantasy baseball right now that there is no pressure to reach for Kershaw like there might have been two years ago. 

          

Relief Pitcher Rankings

1. Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Felipe Rivero, Pittsburgh Pirates

3. Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox

4. Corey Knebel, Milwaukee Brewers

5. Brad Hand, San Diego Padres

6. Roberto Osuna, Toronto Blue Jays

7. Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees

8. Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds

9. Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians

10. Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals

          

As the Pittsburgh Pirates prepare for another rebuild, closer Felipe Rivero is their most valuable fantasy asset in 2018. The left-hander made a successful transition from dominant setup man to lights-out closer last season with a 1.67 ERA, 21 saves and 88 strikeouts in 75.1 innings. 

Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel has a longer track record of success in the ninth inning than Rivero and might deserve to be the No. 2 fantasy closer behind Kenley Jansen, and there really is no strong argument against it. 

Rivero's edge is due mainly to being three years younger than Kimbrel, leaving him with a little more upside to reach after a breakout 2017. 

One high-profile closer to avoid is Wade Davis, who signed a three-year deal with the Rockies. He had a career-high 4.30 walk rate per nine innings with the Chicago Cubs in 2017, and his groundball rate went from 48.6 percent two years ago to 40.5 percent. 

Putting more runners on base and giving up more fly balls is a bad combination for any pitcher, but especially for Davis as he starts playing his home games at Coors Field.

         

Stats via Baseball-Reference.com.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com