AL flag is up for grabs

Pitchers, catchers and fantasy gods like Mike Trout and Josh Donaldson are in their respective camps. It is never too early to ask who will win the 2016 pennant. After crunching the numbers, the Fantasy Baseball Algorithm (FBA) foresees Houston in the World Series come October.

Six Astros are listed in MLB.com’s  top 100 fantasy projection. Five are in the American League’s top 25 players. Cleveland also has a half dozen Indians in the top 100, but four are pitchers, including a closer.

The FAB has the Red Sox, which feature some speed this year, winning a tight race in the East, the Indians in the Central and Astros in the West. The wild card races are not nearly as easy to pick. FAB has the Chisox and Blue Jays continuing their seasons.

The bookies www.oddsshark.com/mlb/mlb-odds-world-series-futures see things differently. They have Toronto repeating in the East, Kansas City on top in the Central and Houston claiming the West. Bettors foresee Boston in the playoff with the Yankees, with the Indians, Tiger and Yankees slugging it out for the final spot.

Sonny Gray

The FBA works with fantasy projections similar to bacon and eggs. If you plug in the projection name with the corresponding number below, then you should find which team is the likely pennant winner, barring injuries or Ian Desmond-like 2015 seasons. For example, Oakland starter Sonny Gray is projected to have a great season. Some see him winning 15 games on a bad team. He will do this by allowing only one base runner per inning, which in turn should lead to an ERA of less than 3. Gray is also capable of striking out 200 batters. Gray is a fantasy owners dream.

Players rated 1-17 are superstars; they bring fantasy owners at least four contributions of five categories. Chris Davis only brings power hitting, but in the eyes of mlb.com, that is enough this year. By the way, defense or being a “good clubhouse influence” doesn’t matter in fantasy baseball, but it does in the real game.

Players ranked 19-49 will probably have great seasons; these guys bring solid numbers in multiple categories, but their power potential is a little less or pitchers might have a slightly higher rate of yielding base runners per inning pitched or less strike outs. That may mean something to a fantasy owner, but it means nothing at all to a fan looking to project a division or league winner.

Baseball players in 50-100 should produce well in multiple facets of the game. Most of these guys are either up-and-coming or on the downside of their careers. David Ortiz, for example, is 40. He has played half of his life in MLB already. Still, the Cookie Monster is projected to hit 30 home runs and collect more than 90 RBI in 2016.

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