Fantasy Sports

5 guys to target to win your Fantasy Baseball league in 2017

5 guys to target to win your Fantasy Baseball league in 2017

Fantasy sports are all about trying to predict the future and while that can be impossible, there are usually bread crumbs to follow.

These five guys have shown flashes of greatness with the potential for more and you won't need to break the bank to draft them. 

It's not fair to call them breakout candidates as they've all broken out in some form or another. But their value is lower than it should be and it's entirely possible each player posts their best statistical season in 2017.

[RELATED — 5 guys to avoid in Fantasy Baseball in 2017]

Addison Russell, SS, Cubs

Russell's placement on this list shouldn't surprise Chicagoans, namely Cubs fans.

He enjoyed a breakout season in 2016 with 21 homers and 95 RBI from the shortstop position, but it's also easy to point to that and say things like, "Well, homers were up across the board in 2016," or "Even with those numbers, Russell still posted only a .238 AVG, .738 OPS and 97 OPS+."

Those are correct assessments, but the power is for real. Spring stats may not matter much, but Russell is tied for second in the league with five homers this spring. 

The spring performance could be a harbinger of more power in 2017, as MLB.com's Mike Petriello takes an in-depth look at how the 23-year-old Russell can take another step forward.

Let everybody else overpay for guys like Trevor Story and Jean Segura — who are currently going in the 4th-6th rounds — and nab Russell in the 10th or 11th and watch him easily finish as a Top 10 fantasy shortstop. In leagues where on-base and slugging percentage are weighted more than average, Russell should see even more of a boost compared to where he's being drafted.

Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins

This isn't a list trying to "call" breakout seasons for fantasy players. It's more of a list to pinpoint areas of value and moves/draft picks that will help you win it all.

Yelich is the latter. He enjoyed a breakout 2016 as he finally stayed healthy (155 games, 659 plate appearances), showed off the power he had always teased (38 doubles, 21 homers, 98 RBI), and boasted a stellar slash line (.298/.376/.483).

Now 25, Yelich's power should be here to stay and his batting eye and patience haven't gone anywhere, either. If only he can get back to the guy who stole 37 bases from 2014-15.

But even if Yelich doesn't top 20 steals in 2017, he can still be a gigantic fantasy asset as a guy who can hit over .300, provide a boost to OBP and SLG, drive in runs, score runs and hit for power without hurting you in any area.

His best seasons are ahead still and yet he's ranked as only the No. 13 outfielder and being drafted toward the end of the fourth round. Target him early and don't feel crazy if you select Yelich with your third pick.

[Complete CSN Fantasy Sports coverage]

Gregory Polanco, OF, Pirates

Polanco is in a different boat than Yelich in that we've seen flashes, but are still waiting on that big breakout.

Polanco looked well on his way to putting it all together when he posted a .287 AVG with an .862 OPS and 38 extra-base hits in 82 first-half games last year. But a shoulder injury and other maladies slowed him down and he hit just .220 the rest of the way with only a .682 OPS and 22 extra-base hits after the All-Star Game.

If you extrapolate his first-half stats throughout a whole season, you're looking at a guy who could score and drive in 100, approach 30 homers with 40 doubles and a near-.300 average while stealing 20-30 bases. Pretty incredible for a guy currently going in the fifth and sixth rounds, right?

That stat line probably represents Polanco's ceiling in his age 25 season, but it could just be the tip of the iceberg long-term for a guy who was ranked the No. 10 prospect in the game by Baseball America just three years ago.

The first-half performance also looks to be the real deal as even with the late-season issues, Polanco posted nearly indentical marks against righties (.786 OPS) and lefties (.781) after struggling against southpaws (.593 OPS) for his career prior to 2016.

Brandon Belt, 1B, Giants

First base isn't the power house it used to be in fantasy circles. Beyond the big dogs (Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rizzo) there are legit question marks starting to arise at the position whether because of age (Miguel Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion), lineup support (Joey Votto), declining trends (Jose Abreu) or lack of track record after 2016 breakouts (Freddie Freeman, Wil Myers).

Let somebody else deal with those questions and instead target a first baseman in the middle rounds with guys like Carlos Santana and Belt.

When we look back at the 2017 fantasy baseball drafts, Belt may very well be one of the guys we see pop up most on championship teams. Currently going in the 12th round or later, Belt is as good or better than Santana in every area but home runs and potential lineup boost. Santana appears headed for the leadoff role in a surprisingly-adept Indians lineup while Belt hits all over the place on a Giants squad that finished 28th in MLB in homers last season.

But Belt has added a Santana-esque patience to his game (104 walks last season) plus a higher batting average. In leagues where extra-base hits of any variety are valued, Belt would have no problem rising to Santana's level of value and is being drafted 5-6 rounds later.

Regardless of league format, Belt represents one of the best deals at a surprisingly-shallow position and waiting to draft him late will help you shore up on other positions of need early in the draft (think second or third base).

[Buy White Sox tickets]

Jake Odorizzi, SP, Rays

Odorizzi is exactly the kind of guy you find on championship fantasy teams. 

For starters, he doesn't cost much, currently coming in as the 40th pitcher off the boards in ESPN drafts, around 159th overall. That makes him almost a 16th round pick in 10-team leagues and an early 13th-rounder in 12-team leagues.

That's a steal for a guy who has been remarkably consistent the last few seasons. From 2014-16, Odorizzi has tallied a 3.72 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 8.4 K/9 while making at least 28 starts every season. 

He's not a stud, but in fantasy, you need guys you can count on to take the ball every fifth day and put up consistently solid numbers and he is that guy.

In 2016, Odorizzi actually ranked higher on ESPN's Player Rater than Chris Archer and Jacob deGrom — two guys that will be off the board by the end of the fifth round in all league formats.

Fantasy Football Fix Podcast: What the $&?* is wrong with Amari Cooper and analyzing Duke Johnson’s value

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USA TODAY

Fantasy Football Fix Podcast: What the $&?* is wrong with Amari Cooper and analyzing Duke Johnson’s value

Rotoworld and NBC Sports fantasy analyst Josh Norris joins the Fantasy Football Fix Podcast to discuss who you should target to replace the injured Odell Beckham Jr. and much more.

Plus, the CSN Fantasy crew evaluates Amari Cooper’s pedestrian numbers and analyzes Duke Johnson’s value.

Listen to the full Fantasy Sports Podcast right here:

Fantasy Football: 10 waiver wire targets for Week 6 and beyond

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AP

Fantasy Football: 10 waiver wire targets for Week 6 and beyond

Another week. Another rash of injuries in the NFL.

Odell Beckham Jr. was one of three New York Giants wide receivers to go down with season-ending injuries. Bilal Powell, DeVante Parker and Travis Kelce all exited their team's victories after getting struck by the injury bug. 

While the majority of these injury cases won't really do much in terms of elevating another player from obscurity to fantasy relevance, we've done our best to gather a list of reinforcements who could be worth a roster spot on a thin waiver wire week.

Here's a list of 10 players who should provide some help in Week 6 and beyond. 

1. Adrian Peterson, RB, ARI

Just when you thought you could forget about the artist formerly known as AP, the Arizona Cardinals go out and make him fantasy relevant once again. The Cardinals pulled off a rare in season trade by dealing a 2018 conditional draft selection to the New Orleans Saints for Peterson on Tuesday morning. While Peterson looked pedestrian at best (81 yards on 27 carries) during his four games with the Saints in 2017, the trade gives him an opportunity to join a backfield in which he'll likely be in line for early-down work and an offense which better suits his running style. In a week where there aren't many upgrades on the waiver wire, Peterson has the chance to provide flex value in Arizona. 

2. Jerick McKinnon, RB, MIN

If you watched Monday's Bears-Vikings game, you'd know that McKinnon is hands down the best running back on the Vkings roster. Murray plodded his way to a meager 31 yards on 12 carries while McKinnon took control of the backfield with 16 carries for 95 yards and a touchdown, while also adding six receptions for 51 yards. McKinnon has teased us before, flashing high upside and off the charts athleticism early on in Minnesota, so it's easy to be pessimistic, but he's currently the only quality back in Minnesota and he'll certainly get the touches moving forward.

3. Aaron Jones, RB, GB

If you missed out on Jones last week, shame on you. He's currently owned in 66 percent of leagues, meaning there's still a chance he could be available for you. If so, he should be your No. 1 priority. Jones looked explosive in his first career start against the Cowboys, rushing for 125 yards and a touchdown with an eye-popping 6.6 yards per carry. Even if starting running back Ty Montgomery returns this week, there's a good chance the Packers ride the hot hand until Montgomery is 100 percent. 

4. Elijah McGuire, RB, NYJ

As the first-place Jets (try saying that with a straight face) get set for a showdown with the New England Patriots, they'll likely be without Bilal Powell (calf) and Matt Forte (knee), meaning the rookie McGuire will be in line for a heavy workload against a Patriots defense that's allowing the second-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. McGuire doesn't possess the highest ROS upside, and he'll likely be relegated to third-string duties once the Jets are fully healthy at running back, but he's a player that should be targeted for the FLEX position in a juicy Week 6 matchup. 

5. Marlon Mack, RB, IND

The rookie out of South Florida had the best game of his young NFL career on Sunday, rushing for 91 yards on nine carries and flashed his explosiveness with a 35-yard touchdown run. Mack won't be stealing Frank Gore's starting job anytime soon, but his big-play ability and change-of-pace style could force the hand of head coach Chuck Pagano. As of now, Mack is stash and watch candidate who could provide major value later in the season.

6. Matt Breida, RB, SF

Following the 49ers loss to the Colts, head coach Kyle Shanahan uttered the words no fantasy owner likes to hear, "the team will use a hot hand approach" at running back. This news, coupled with Carlos Hyde's lingering hip injury, means Breida needs to be scooped up in all formats. Breida has seen an uptick in touches in every game this season, and had a career-high 10 carries for 49 yards in Week 5. Look to see those touches continue to climb moving forward. 

7. Ricardo Louis, WR, CLE

The wide receiver position has been like a game of musical chairs for the Browns this season. One week it was Corey Coleman, then it was Rashard Higgins, after that it was Kenny Britt, and as of late it's been Louis. A fourth-round draft choice in 2016, Louis has shown promise in Year 2 as he's seen 17 targets the last two weeks and hauled in 10 receptions for 135 yards. For a team that's going to be playing from behind in a majority of games this season, Louis is a must-add as the current de facto No. 1 in Cleveland.

8. Juju Smith-Schuster, WR, PIT

The Steelers have been searching for a viable No. 2 option in the passing game behind All Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown, and while we all thought this would be the year that Martavis Bryant breaks out, his struggles have forced the Steelers to get Smith-Schuster more involved in the offense. The rookie wideout has seen more snaps than Bryant over the last three games and has seven receptions on targets for 105 yards and a touchdown in his last two contests. Smith-Schuster may not be a WR2/FLEX option just yet, but he's worth stashing.

9. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, NYJ

We've been waiting for ASJ to become fantasy relevant for years now, and it appears his time has finally come. Seferian-Jenkins caught his first touchdown in a Jets uniform in Sunday's victory over the Browns. Since returning from suspension, he's hauled in 15 receptions for 106 yards and a score. On a team that's thin at weapons in the passing game, ASJ is a must-own in all league formats.

10. Jacoby Brissett, QB, IND

With injuries piling up (Marcus Mariota and Derek Carr) and players on bye weeks (Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson and Tyrod Taylor), now may be the time you need to hit the wire in search for a streaming option at the quarterback position. Despite not throwing a touchdown pass, Brissett had his best day as a passer, tossing for 314 yards in a win over the 49ers. Brissett's steady play should continue against one of the league's most charitable defenses (TEN) for opposing signal callers. If you're looking for a one week option, Brissett should be your guy.