Fantasy Baseball 2017: World Baseball Classic All-Star Team

Mar 22, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; United States infielder Eric Hosmer (35) celebrates with teammate United States infielder Nolan Arenado (12) after scoring on Brandon Crawford's single in the seventh inning against Puerto Rico during the 2017 World Baseball Classic at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 22, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; United States infielder Eric Hosmer (35) celebrates with teammate United States infielder Nolan Arenado (12) after scoring on Brandon Crawford's single in the seventh inning against Puerto Rico during the 2017 World Baseball Classic at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports /

Some of the best players in the game were on display in the World Baseball Classic but which stars will also be elite contributors in fantasy baseball this season?

We have picked an All-Star Team featuring players who not only excelled in the World Baseball Classic over the last few weeks but will also help many fantasy teams to league-winning seasons.

Wladimir Balentien of the Netherlands crushed four home runs, but he is signed to the Yakult Swallows of Japan, and is of no interest to fantasy owners.

Israel had ten stellar, scoreless innings from pitcher Josh Zeid but despite striking out ten and recording two saves, Zeid is very unlikely to make it back into the majors this season.

The impact of the World Baseball Classic is always a controversial subject. Perhaps Eric Hosmer, Ian Kinsler and the rest of the USA team will start the season with renewed vigor following their emphatic victory. It is also possible that Yadier Molina and his Puerto Rican teammates will struggle to deal with the loss, dragging their frustrations into April.

For the Indians’ Francisco Lindor, this was the second major disappointment he has suffered since the end of the regular season. It is unlikely to wipe the smile from his face when he takes to the field in the Indians’ Opening Day game.

Carlos Correa at the World Baseball Classic
Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports /

Catcher: Yadier Molina (Puerto Rico)
The 34-year-old was the dynamic driving force behind Puerto Rico’s World Baseball Classic quest. Any concerns as to whether age was catching up with Molina after 12 years in the majors, were answered last season after he appeared in a career-high 147 games. He offers little fantasy value in the counting stats of runs, home runs, RBI or stolen bases, but Molina has always been a good source of batting average.

He has averaged .301 over the last six years, which covers more than 800 games. Mid-to-late round catchers have the potential to cause significant damage to your batting average. Last season, Molina hit more than 75 points higher than the Dodgers’ Yasmani Grandal or Blue Jays’ Russell Martin. Only Buster Posey is projected for a higher batting average this year, so consider drafting Molina if you need help in the AVG category.

First base: Eric Hosmer (USA)
The Royals’ first baseman sold out last season to post career highs with 25 home runs and 104 RBI, but he dropped from a 122 to 101 OPS+ player. An average player scores 100 OPS+. He is a consistent accumulator of stats but does not offer the elite numbers available from other first basemen.

Hosmer enters the 2017 season with the potential of free agency looming. In this modern era of statistically-based analysis, he would be better trying to emulate the all round production of Anthony Rizzo rather than selling out for the headline-grabbing home runs from Mark Trumbo. Either way, Hosmer looks like a high-floor, low-ceiling corner infielder that you can grab with about pick 100.

Second base: Javier Baez (Puerto Rico)
The charismatic utility player enters the 2017 season without a starting job. The Cubs will want to get his bat, and more importantly his glove, into the lineup as often as possible. He offers game-changing power and led the World Baseball Classic in stolen bases. He could easily be a 20 home run, 20 stolen base player this season, even with less than full-time at-bats.

Baez has made considerable improvements to his plate discipline. He struck out at a horrendous 41.5% in his first stint in the majors in 2014, but that improved to 24% last year. It is not great, but at least it is trending in the right direction. Baez could be a useful multi-eligible player in all formats this season and is available with an ADP of 151.

Third base: Carlos Correa (Puerto Rico)
The former first overall pick will not have third base eligibility in fantasy, but he was sensational for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, scoring ten runs with three home runs and two stolen bases.

At the start of last season, Correa was more overrated than any other player in recent history with suggestions of a 40 home run and 40 stolen base season, despite having less than 100 Major League games behind him. It was almost impossible for the 22-year-old to live up to the hype.

He hit 20 home runs with 13 stolen bases in an injury-affected season but improved his walk rate and on-base percentage. With lessened expectations, Correa should be able to once again look like a fantasy stud from the shortstop position. He is going midway through the second round.

Shortstop: Francisco Lindor (Puerto Rico)
The Indians’ shortstop does it all, and he does it all with a swagger and a smile. He hasn’t had 1,000 at-bats in the majors yet, but the 23-year-old has scored 149 runs, including 27 home runs, 129 RBI, 31 stolen bases, with a .306 AVG.

Whether you believe Lindor is the best shortstop in real life or a top-3 shortstop in fantasy, there is no denying that the former first-round pick has become one of the most important players in the game, and is likely to get better. He will utilize his career .356 OBP at the top of the Indians’ lineup and enjoy the power of Michael Brantley, Carlos Santana and Edwin Encarnacion driving him in.

Nelson Cruz at the World Baseball Classic
Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports /

Outfield: Gregory Polanco (Dominican Republic)
Injuries seriously impacted Gregory Polanco’s 2016 season. The 25-year-old is growing into his power, with an uptick in his hard-hit rate which resulted in a significant increase in his slugging from .381 to .463 SLG. This translated to a jump in home runs from nine in 2015 to 22 last season.

He averaged over 35 stolen bases across all levels in the four years prior to 2016, but continual knee and hamstring issues slowed him down to just 17 last season. Polanco should be fully fit and ready to go on Opening Day, having hit two doubles, a home run and the second best batting average of .579 in the World Baseball Classic (min 10 AB).

A healthy Polanco should be a 20 home run, 20 stolen base threat with the benefits of hitting behind Josh Bell, Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte.

Outfield: Christian Yelich (USA)
In his first three years in the majors, Yelich could not get the ball off the ground. At 61.9%, he had the highest ground ball rate of qualified hitters, slightly ahead of the light-hitting trio of Nori Aoki, Ben Revere and Dee Gordon. Last season it clicked, and he hit a career-high in fly balls.

There was also a massive jump in Yelich’s home run to fly ball rate, up from 12.5% to 23.6%, which has stat-heads screaming regression. Yelich is only 25-years-old, so 2016 could be the new norm for the left-hander.

Whether he has permanently sold out for power instead of speed is unclear. Yelich had nabbed 37 bases over the previous two seasons but failed to reach double-digits last year. What hasn’t changed is his impeccable batting average, in the region of .300 AVG.

Outfield: Nelson Cruz (Dominican Republic)
At some point, age catches up and every player stops hitting unless your name is David Ortiz. Veteran slugger Nelson Cruz continues to crush the ball. He has hit 40, 44 and 43 home runs over the last three seasons with .283/.354/.549 slash line and an average of over 100 RBI.

Nothing in his game makes you think he will slow down anytime soon, except the number 36 next to his age. There is a suggestion that he will be lucky to reach 40 home runs for the fourth straight year, given that his two seasons in Seattle have coincided with his two highest HR/FB years.

He will hit cleanup, behind Robinson Cano and ahead of Kyle Seager. Like many players in the third round, there is risk attached to drafting Cruz, but unless his production completely falls off a cliff, he will still offer value. Interestingly, Cruz is being taken one spot ahead of Giancarlo Stanton, an undisputed power hitter almost ten years his junior, but one who has never hit 40 home runs in a season.

Designated hitter: Carlos Beltran (Puerto Rico)
After a couple of down years, it seemed as if age was finally catching up to Carlos Beltran, then he hit 29 home runs in 2016 with .295 AVG. Although he will play a handful of games in the outfield, the 39-year-old will be the Astros’ everyday DH, hitting cleanup behind George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. The Astros’ lineup is stacked with athletically-challenged sluggers, so expect Beltran to get the occasional day off with Yuli Gurriel, A.J. Reed and Evan Gattis all vying for playing time.

Beltran had become progressively worse against left-handed pitching until last season when he posted .970 OPS, which was his best vs. southpaws since 2010. He will need to maintain this resurgence to avoid being platooned. Beltran is currently the 51st outfielder off the board, 186th overall, which is some 50 spots ahead of similar veteran sluggers Matt Holliday and Curtis Granderson.

Marcus Stroman at the World Baseball Classic
Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports /

Starting pitcher: Marcus Stroman (USA)
A trait of fantasy baseball managers is the expectation of pitchers to come back from injury too quickly. The Blue Jays’ ace missed most of 2015 with an ACL tear before enduring a difficult start to last season. From July onwards, he posted a 3.42 ERA and significantly reduced his walk rate. By the end of the season, he was the only Blue Jays’ starter to reach 200 innings, and he led the team with 32 starts.

Stroman is a ground ball pitcher. There is no other starting pitcher in the game who induces ground balls at the same rate. Ground balls cannot go for home runs, so any damage is limited. A ground ball rate of 45 GB% is excellent; it gets you into the top-30. Stroman had an incredible 60.1 GB% last season. The 25-year-old uses a six-pitch mix, with the slider and curve getting 15% swinging strikes. Whiffs and ground balls are two elements you want in your ace.

Starting pitcher: Danny Duffy (USA)
In leagues where starting pitchers with RP-eligibility have extra value, Danny Duffy is the top option. He entered last season in the bullpen but finished as a top-40 starting pitcher. The Royals’ ace threw 179 ⅔ innings with more than a strikeout per inning and 3.51 ERA. He struck out 16 Rays’ batters in one game and could easily take the next step to become a top-20 starter this season.

He has a four-pitch mix, including 95 mph fastball which seems faster from a left-hander. His changeup and slider generate lots of swings and misses.

Duffy has an ADP of 98, making him the 24th starter off the board. It is possible that he will suffer from the defensive downgrade with Jorge Soler now handling right field.

Relief pitcher: Edwin Diaz (Puerto Rico)
Cast your mind back to Spring Training 2016. It was only one year ago. All we knew about Edwin Diaz was that he was a highly-rated prospect who had made 20 starts in Double-A in 2015 with a 5-10 win-loss record.

Even the most positive prospect scouts saw Diaz as a mid-rotation starter.

"Edwin Diaz, RHP, Grade B: Age 21, posted 4.57 ERA with 103/37 K/BB in 104 innings in Double-A; ERA was deceptive, FIP was much better at 3.22; fastball at 93-97 with peaks at 98, slider and change-up have steadily improved, both solid-average at least and slider may be plus; control good, potential mid-rotation starter. Do not underestimate him."

He joined the Mariners’ bullpen in June and struck out 49 batters in 25 innings before taking over as the closer at the start of August. He converted 18 of 21 save opportunities and finished the season with 15.33 SO/9 and 2.79 ERA (2.04 FIP).

This fastball/slider combination is devastating, but before he his anointed as the next great closer, it should be noted that he was tagged with a loss and blew two saves in his final five appearances, with a 6.75 ERA.

Marcus Stroman at the World Baseball Classic
Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

The World Baseball Classic has been a welcome distraction from the sometimes mundane routine of Cactus and Grapefruit League action. There are few positives that can be drawn from the World Baseball Classic, that we would not have gleaned if they had happened in Spring Training.

The injury to Didi Gregorius could have happened anywhere. Read our take on the fantasy impact of it.

Just like Spring Training, don’t read too much into what happened at the World Baseball Classic. Nolan Arenado will not strike out as frequently in the regular season, Luke Gregerson will not convert more save opportunities than Mark Melancon, and it is very unlikely that Jurickson Profar will hit over .400.

Next: Spring Training Fantasy Takeaways