Third base might look fine at the top, but below has never been uglier. It’s like the top 3 of Ramirez, Devers, and Machado are the big cats, and below is the movie adaptation of Cats. Of course, this could all change in a year’s time with position eligibilities changing more than ever. But at this point, I feel it’s dire enough that it’s a viable draft strategy to try getting J-Ram in round 1 or soft punting the position until pick 200 or so. But you will probably be tempted to shore up the position sooner than that, and here are a few players whose siren song could leave you in for a rocky ride. Listed ADPs are from NFBC as of January 1, 2022.
2021 Stats: .230 AVG, 6 HR, 19 R, 17 RBI, 15 SB in 136 PA
I swear, this time I’m not going to kick that football Lucy is holding for me… But what if this time is different? I see painted on the ball the Steamer projection for 563 PA with a tantalizing 19 HR and 42 Steals… Good Grief! But if we pay her an inflation-adjusted nickel, she’ll tell us the reality that Mondesi has reached 300 plate appearances only once in 6 years in the majors (4 as a starter), so a projection assuming he’ll have 120 more PA than his career-high is bananas. Heck, even his own manager basically admitted he’s not considered a full-time player anymore.
Sure, many may point to Byron Buxton as a previously “injury-prone” breakout, but consider 2021 breakout Buxton still missed half the season in 2021. And Buxton had at least quietly improved his contact and power over the past few years, whereas Mondesi has only improved his power but with a strikeout rate that’s risen three consecutive years from 26% to 32% with a terrible 4% BB%. But wait, Adalberto can rack up enough SBs in a half-season to lead the league, so it’s baked in, right? Well, the raw truth is he may not be quite the stolen base Mondster we’re all expecting.
See, beyond the surface numbers, his sprint speed has declined two years in a row, from 30.0 ft/sec in 2019 to 29.4 in 2020 and just 28.5 ft/sec in 2021, which tanked his league rank from #11 to #96. Now, that’s still okay as his baserunning instincts are clearly top-notch (guys like Villar have managed to swipe plenty of bases despite league average sprint speed). But if the silent speed slippage stays, he could stay fairly healthy but still hit 10 HR and steal just 30 bases, well I bet you’d wish you instead used a later pick on Edman or Straw. Mondesi may even lose his starting role. Especially at his bullish ADP of 61, don’t go charging towards his bright red flags.
Kris Bryant (3B/OF, Free Agent) – ADP: 92
2021 Stats: .265 AVG, 25 HR, 86 R, 73 RBI, 10 SB in 586 PA
It’s not so easy to definitely call Kris Bryant a bust since we don’t even know where he’ll end up. But we do know that he benefited from playing in Wrigley, and he started to come back to earth after the trade to the Giants in Oracle Park. Although he did hit .262, he was somewhat lucky with an xBA of just .242 and xwOBA of .326 with the Giants. So much for a boost from a stronger supporting cast. Using Baseball Savant’s xHR leaderboard, Bryant tallied just 20 xHR, and his 6.0 HR-xHR was the third-worst in the MLB. Perhaps it’s no surprise that 3 of the top ten leaders in HR-xHR were righty batters on the Cubs (Happ and Wisdom being the other two). Although we don’t know where Bryant is going to land, he’ll likely be hard-pressed to repeat his 2021 numbers if he re-ups with the Giants, and there are a limited number of landing spots that will boost his somewhat overrated power. I’d expect a .255 22-7 campaign if he can maintain his health, but that kind of production isn’t worthy of a Top 100 draft pick. Almost every draft room will have a Kris Bryant believer, but you don’t want to be that guy.
2021 Stats: .263 AVG, 14 HR, 74 R, 61 RBI, 3 SB in 616 PA
After the year he just had, I may as well call him Yandy Moncada. Despite the season in which he hit .263/.375/.412 with 14 HR and 3 SB, he’s clearly a talented player who is coming off a few rough years, and his rough 2020 could be attributed to a small sample and a bout with COVID. The former Red Sox power/speed phenom prospect has morphed into a very different entity with the White Sox, peaking in his fantastic .310 25 HR 10 SB campaign in 2019. But back to the outrageous Yandy comp. In 2021, Moncada’s flyball rate was just 30%, with a career-high LD% of 27% and GB% of 44%. While not as extreme as Yandy Diaz’s 50%+ groundball rates, even in the hitter-friendly White Sox confines, he’s going to have trouble reaching his power upside if he can’t lift the ball more. Steamer projects him for a .258/.353/.433 line with 21 HR and 4 SB, which seems a lot more appealing in OBP formats, but quite a ho-hum return for a top 150 pick. After all, Josh Donaldson, who averages an ADP of 206, is projected for a .249/.357/.480 line with 30 HR, and even missing some time with injuries could easily reach that power total. Although he’s just 26, speed doesn’t seem to be a significant part of Moncada’s game, which makes the young Ke’Bryan Hayes, who is just ahead of Moncada in ADP at 140, a more intriguing bet in batting average leagues. Although Moncada still hits the ball quite hard, with a 114 max eV, he still hasn’t managed to translate it fully into barrels, with a league-average 8% Barrel%. He still has plenty of upside, but odds are he’ll disappoint even at this discounted price.
2021 Stats: .224 AVG, 7 HR, 27 R, 27 RBI, 3 SB, 294 PA
In 2021, I correctly predicted Biggio would cave in. Though I also predicted he would be outhit by Nick Senzel, who couldn’t hit his way out of a tissue paper bag. The good news for Biggio backers is that he’s coming at a big discount, playing in a hitter’s haven in a loaded lineup, and he’s still just 27. The bad news is, while he likely won’t be as bad, I just don’t really see how he’ll be an asset offensively. His batted ball quality remains poor with just a 6% Barrel%, and while his career-best 110 mph max eV (previous high 105 mph) gives some hope, the fact that his avg eV and HardHit% remained in line with his below-average career norms, it seems more a fluke than anything. THE BAT X projects him for a .221 AVG, 14 HR, and 6 SB over 484 PA, and I wonder if a competitive team like the Jays would even tolerate that level of production for a half-season before replacing him, especially seeing as he’s a poor defender with a 4th percentile Outs Above Average. Statcast remained bearish on his already poor 2021 line with a .207 xBA and .331 xBA, though Biggio may have managed to outperform these due to decent 80th-percentile speed. Still. I’d much rather wait for 100 or so picks and get roughly similar from Yandy Diaz.
Joey Wendle (2B/3B) ADP: #355
2021 Stats: .265 AVG, 11 HR, 73 R, 54 RBI, 8 SB, 501 PA
Wendle Mooned, hit real high, but he’s still the same guy, that’s a-bore-ay. It’s a testament to his Pedroia-like grit that he’s made a career for himself with quite limited tools to become a .270s-10-10 guy with multi-position eligibility, and despite cooling off big-time after a red-hot start, still hit a solid .265 with 11 HR and 8 SB in 501 PA. But while Tampa Bay is a bad park for hitters, I think the move to the Marlins is going to hurt him more than help him. I doubt they’ll be as crafty in their usage of Wendle to maximize his playing time as the Rays were (because let’s face it, is anyone craftier?) While he could theoretically be in a platoon with Brian Anderson at 3B or for Jazz Chisholm or even Jesús Aguilar, I just don’t see it as happening enough for him to amass much more than 350 PA. Steamer is a bit more rosy, as they project him to hit just .254 with 7 HR and 8 SB in .406 PA. But as a player that needs volume to provide value with his solid batting average, that probably means he’s going to be a low-impact 6 HR 6 SB type that is fungible in most leagues and need not be drafted, especially since this is when you should target late round prospects like Brandon Marsh or M.J. Melendez. Even at an ADP of #355, I’d much rather gamble on someone with some actual skills like Ha-Seong Kim at #369, Mike Moustakas at #379, the aforementioned Brian Anderson at #396.
(Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire) Adapted by Shawn Palmer (@PalmerGuyBoston on Twitter)