Darius is a fantasy writer at Baseball Prospectus.
Darius Austin: Hey everyone, what could be more festive than a fantasy baseball chat? No terrible holiday-themed puns in the questions yet, but there's still time...
Brandon (San Fransisco): Pick two for last keeper spots: Nola, Hoskins, E. Suarez?
Darius Austin: Nola and Hoskins for me. I love the improvements Suarez has made, but there's no speed and I think there's still a little more to come from Hoskins.
Jim ((Dynasty League)): Need to cut one of the following: Sixto, Alcantara, Touki, Andres Gimenez or Dustin May. I'm leaning toward May because of the lack of ML proximity.
Darius Austin: I think May or Alcantara is the right call, and May would be the easiest to get back given that proximity issue.
AJG (fantasyland): Do you think fantasy leagues should be changing their innings and starts limits now that MLB teams are using openers and other non-traditional roles?
Darius Austin: I think it should definitely be under consideration, although we really need to see just how far the opener trend goes as at current levels I don't think it should really threaten the limits in most leagues. What you don't want is many owners being actively forced to start any available starter because the limits are set too stringently to allow reasonable roster management, a level which will vary consideraby from league to league.
NOT A GM (FRONT OFFICE): Strictly for long-term fantasy, would you rather have Bryce Harper or Manny Machado?
Darius Austin: It's super close. I'll still take Harper for his supreme on-base skills and the chance that he has a 50-plus homer year in him (which is definitely still possible, I think).
pete (lubbock): Are there any crazy draft strategies you think might work but you've been afraid to try? If winning the league was the only goal, and you didn't care about finishing last or being mocked, what is an approach you might take?
Darius Austin: I feel like it'd be fun these days to just take as many of the few bona-fide aces as I could through the first four or five rounds and then figure it out after that. The offense might never get there, but the pitching pool is changing in such a way that you might have enough of an edge there anyway.
ares1800jr (SanAnto): How many plate appearances does Austin Riley Get next year in the major?. Does he get the majority of those while playing in the outfield or 3rd base?
Darius Austin: 200 or so would be my guess. I think he has plenty to work on and the Braves will give him 3-4 months to do it. If Donaldson's healthy most of the year then it might be even less as I don't think they'll want him to sit on the bench, and he has no pro OF experience so if they're in the race that might not be a move they'll want to make either.
Exasperated (Austin): I have now won the regular season three years running and lost in semis or finals of our H2H playoffs four years in a row. Is this just bad luck, or do I need to make major changes in how I am running my team? Or do I need to seriously push for 2 week playoff matchups. Help.
Darius Austin: H2H can be pretty random on a one-week basis. If your team is that good and you're planning ahead, there's probably not a whole lot you can do, but a two-week matchup would certainly reduce the randomness. Perhaps identify if there is a common issue - are you relying on starters that keep getting skipped, for instance - or if it's just hot and cold streaks that sink you.
Juan (Chicago): Trade Turner and beligner 4 abreu, Blackmon, and serevino?
Keeper league. H2H. 10 team keeper. 12 team league.
Darius Austin: I think I probably do that. Turner's the best player in the deal but I think Blackmon and Severino alone puts you pretty close and Abreu's still a good hitter.
TC (Cincinnati): Hi Brandon. How do you envision Jeff McNeil's playing time being affected by the Robinson Cano trade? Before the trade, some projections had him getting 550 plate appearances. That has to take a hit, right? Is it a significant hit? Thanks for the insight.
Darius Austin: I don't think so - I believe the Mets will find him time one way or another, as long as his production last season doesn't turn out to be a total mirage. Maybe it won't get to 550, but I think he can play multiple spots and still find his way into 450-plus.
Lefty08 (My house): What kind of production do you see from Franmil Reyes this season?
Darius Austin: The Padres are super crowded in the outfield but I think he still gets plenty of time. The power is absolutely legit and I think the average goes backwards, so maybe .240, with 25 homers is reasonable with room for more.
Phillipe (Quebec): Do you still believe in Willie Calhoun?
Darius Austin: He still has a really big problem with not having a position, but I absolutely still believe in the bat. He didn't get much of a chance to play in 2018 and if he finds an open DH spot all year then the production should come.
Blackie (Boston): Thoughts on DeGrom vs Buehler in terms of dynasty value?
Darius Austin: It's still clearly DeGrom for me, and I would want him if I had plans to contend in the next couple of years, even though it obviously won't be a surprise if Buehler is a top-5 pitcher soon. The Dodgers won't let Buehler pitch close to as many innings in 2019 at least, and he still has to show that he can be an ace over 200-plus innings to get to DeGrom's level.
Carlo (San Juan): 10-team league where you can keep two in the round they were drafted (or the last round if they were picked up from waivers)
I just repeated as league champ by keeping Trout and J. Ramirez, but I can't keep them for a third consecutive year.
Which two would you keep this time around?
-Merrifield in the 7th round
-Bauer in the 11th round
-Suarez in the 22nd round
-M. Chapman/Haniger/Brantley/Taillon in the 24th/25th rounds
Darius Austin: I like Taillon in the 25th and Suarez in the 22nd here, although getting the ace in Bauer in the 11th is tempting too.
jmor1717 (Right near da beach): How should I evaluate Polanco for 2019? With the injury, I'm struggling to see him as a keeper, even at a decent salary for my league.
Darius Austin: It's not great news. I'd expect diminished power initially and would not be surprised if he starts slow, so I think expecting a half-season of production at best is realistic. He's still just 27 so I don't want to get too down but if it's a shallow keeper and the price is rising then I wouldn't lose sleep over not keeping him.
Jake (Celina, Oh): I have Freddie Freeman and Rhys Hoskins in a 12 team H2H points dynasty (50 player rosters including minors). Would you deal either of them for Vlad Jr straight up?
Darius Austin: I think you could probably get all but the top few hitters right now, so I'd be inclined to say yes. Definitely Hoskins if you can get it, Freeman's closer but based on where Vlad's value is at in dynasty, he's worth more than that too.
Juan (Chicago): 12 Team Keeper League. 10 Player Keeper. H2H. I trade Trea and Belinger for Blackmon, Serevino, and Abreu.
My keepers right now; 1st-Sano, 2nd-Albies, 3rd-Suarez, SS-Trea, OF-Mazara, OF-Belinger, OF-A.Hicks, UTL -G.Torres, UTL-Moncada. SP- Snell.
Darius Austin: Assume this is more context for the same question as earlier - still like the deal, especially if Snell is the only SP.
Gary Mack (in the back): How would you rank the following bats for 2019: Hicks, Pollock, Haniger, Polanco, Rosario, Dahl, Pham.
Darius Austin: Pham, Pollock, Haniger, Rosario, Dahl, Hicks, Polanco.
Gary Mack (behind the plate): What catchers are you targeting this season?
Darius Austin: I like Posey's price point where he has been going so far, although it's still early. Danny Jansen is exciting. I have a soft spot for Willians Astudillo, of course, so I hope the Twins let him play all year.
dtothew (Atlanta ): Dealt Albies for Mondesi in my long-term keeper. Thoughts?
Darius Austin: I don't love it, but there's every chance Mondesi will be the more valuable fantasy player because of the speed as long as he can get on base, even if Albies is the better player in real life.
Alex (Austin): Is Alex Wood a useable fantasy starting pitcher next season?
Darius Austin: When he starts, yes. The Dodgers will make it annoying, though, and if they end up dealing for Kluber that's one more piece to add to the headache. If you're prepared to deal with that, Wood will be productive whatever the role.
Cole Whittier (Pasadena, CA): After watching Ohtani swing the bat for a season, what grades would you give his hit & game power tools now?
Darius Austin: I think it's 60 game power, 50 hit. I'd like to see him get more time against lefties to truly figure out his level there as that might limit the hit tool.
The Kernel (LA): Juan Soto had one of the best seasons for a 19-year old. What do you see his peak seasons looking like?
Darius Austin: Throwing around Joey Votto comps is risky, but he has the kind of discipline combined with power that you could see his line not being too far off that. Peak Votto is a high bar for anyone, but his career slash - .311/.427/.530 - is not out of the question.
TC (Cincinnati): Hi Darius. Sorry for addressing you as Brandon earlier. I had a brain freeze. Anyway, how high should I be on Garrett Hampson in a 12-team, NL-only, auction, keeper league (12 players kept per team). I have him at $8. What's his $ value floor? $ value ceiling?
Darius Austin: No problem - I meant to joke about it and forgot! I think the speed gives him a pretty high floor - Amed Rosario was just a $20 player without stellar stats anywhere else. As long as the Rockies let him play (and I can't make any promises about the Rockies), I think the floor is the low teens and the ceiling is somewhere up around the mid-twenties.
justarobert (Santa Clara): Think I'll get two player-seasons of decent 1B/UT starts out of Peter Alonso, Tyler White, Greg Bird, Ryan O'Hearn, and Franmil Reyes? If so, from whom? (18-team points with no K penalty; hitting is somewhat close to linear weights value)
Darius Austin: I'm buying Alonso for now, with the obvious caveat that he's the only one we haven't seen anything of. I think Reyes can provide the other.
Dusty (Colorado): Thoughts on Wander Javier and his upside?
Darius Austin: There is no upside for the player with infinite talent.
Darius Austin: That'll do it, thanks for joining me!