A huge aspect of draft preparation is knowing where the value players fall and which players are being overvalued on draft day. In this article, I’ll cover the hot corner and which players I feel are being drafted too high. It’s funny because most of the third baseman I discuss are actually players I like. Unfortunately for me, a large portion of the fantasy baseball community has fallen for them harder than I have. For these evaluations, I’ll be pulling ADP data from the NFBC since the start of February. Let’s dive in!
Javier Baez (2B/SS/3B – CHC) – ADP 15
I’m going to have to avoid my fellow Cubs fans for the next several weeks to dodge punches to the face for this one. I also might seem like a hypocrite given the fact that I drafted Baez in the The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational last week. The difference is that he fell to me at 25 (10 spots below his ADP) and in that tournament, there’s an overall winner so assessing risk and upside is important. Baez has top-10 upside, we saw it last year where he broke out finishing second to Christian Yelich in the National League MVP voting. Expecting regression after a career year is not exactly going out on a limb. Given his extremely aggressive approach, Baez has vowed to walk more in 2019. That sounds great on the surface but it’s simply not who Baez is or has been at any point in his career. A change in approach may not work for a player like Baez. In fact, while Baez actually swung more often in 2018 over the course of the whole season, he actually cut down on his swing rate towards the end of 2018.
You can see Baez make a conscious effort to swing outside the zone less often around game 120 last year. So while a slight improvement in his walk rate to near seven percent is a plus, his strikeout rate skyrocketed to well over 30%, touching 35% at the end of 2018. It didn’t help that his contact rate in the zone dipped as well. My issue with a more patient Baez is how often he swings and misses overall. More deep counts for Baez will result in more walks but will also result in more strikeouts. Baez is a guy who definitely needs volume to produce. After a career-high 645 plate appearances last year, Baez put the ball in play nearly 70% of the time. If he increases his walk and strikeout rates, there are fewer balls in play to do damage. What kind of production would we see from Baez is his strikeout and walk rates rise to 30% and 7% respectively? That means over 650 plate appearances, Baez would put 52 fewer balls in play. That means a lower average and fewer home runs. Baez is a great player and great for the game but his range of outcomes is all over the map.
Vladimir Guerrero (3B – TOR) – ADP 42
Blasphemy I say! Listen, I love me some Vladito, but his ADP is bananas for a player who hasn’t seen an at-bat in the Majors. Currently, Vlad Jr. is going off the board at 41 overall since the start of February per the NFBC. By all accounts, he’s a better pure hitter with better plate discipline than Ronald Acuña and look at how well that turned out. Acuña was a top 10 player in the second half of 2018. The difference between Acuña and Guerrero is speed. Acuña provided owners with 16 stolen bases in only 111 games. That’s 22 stolen bases over 150 games. Vlad is not known as a speedster with projection systems pegging him for four to six stolen bases. In addition, Acuña was inserted into a lineup that already had All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman, a red hot Ozzie Albies, and high-contact speedster Ender Inciarte. The current Toronto Blue Jays lineup projects to be league-average at best and that includes the lofty projections of Vladimir Guerrero who projects to be the Blue Jays best hitter. Why take the risk with albeit any extremely talented Guerrero when you can draft the sure thing in Anthony Rendon instead? Let’s take a look at Rendon’s average season from the last two seasons compared to The BAT’s lofty projection of Guerrero.
|Anthony Rendon 17-18 (AVG)||.305||84.5||24.5||96||4.5|
|Vlad Guerrero Steamer Pro||.298||76||20||72||6|
The BAT’s projection has Guerrero for 581 plate appearances while Rendon has averaged 601 PA the last two seasons making this an apt comparison. Give me the steady, bankable production from a guy that I know will be in the lineup on opening day. Including Rendon, I’d prefer to draft the likes of Xander Bogaerts, Khris Davis, Tommy Pham, or even fellow third baseman Eugenio Suarez over Vlad this year.
Matt Carpenter (1B/3B – STL) – ADP 71
I realize Carpenter jacked 36 homers last year, tied for third-most in the National League with MVP Christian Yelich. I also realize that his Statcast metrics are off the charts. The guy can hit, there’s no doubt. So why am I fading the Salsa Man this year? It’s difficult to expect improvement or even a repeat of peak performance, especially from a 33-year-old. The natural expectation is negative regression from an aging veteran. With an ADP of 72, the community, by-in-large, is doing that. I just don’t believe it’s enough.
The addition of Paul Goldschmidt this off-season will push Carpenter over to third base full-time in 2019. Carpenter is a guy who has dealt with nagging back and shoulder injuries throughout the 2016 and 2017 seasons. There were questions surrounding health coming into 2018 as well. My main concern for Carpenter is whether or not his body holds up. Without the luxury of being able to move over to first base to put a lot less stress on his shoulder and back, I could see a decrease in both plate appearances and production. I believe projecting Carpenter for another 150+ games is a mistake.
Moving over to one of Carpenter’s strong suits in plate discipline, he’s started to show signs of decline. His Z-Contact rate (contact on swings inside the zone) has gone from an elite 92.1% in 2016 to solid but unspectacular 87.1% last year. His patience combined with his increased swings and misses has resulted in a 4.2% jump in strikeout rate since 2016. Don’t get me wrong a .250 hitter with 25 to 27 homers and a boatload of runs is valuable, I’m just passing on him for the likes of Travis Shaw or Matt Chapman.
Josh Donaldson (3B – ATL) – ADP 100
I love the Braves lineup and on paper, it seems like Donaldson is in a sweet spot in Atlanta. The Braves have said that Donaldson may hit second in their lineup. It makes sense. He’s patient and will take walks in bunches. The question is, will he be able to stay healthy? Donaldson has dealt with lingering calf issues the past couple of seasons. He has only managed to play 165 games the last two seasons and only 52 games in 2018, 14 of which he was only able to DH. Therein lies another issue, there will be no breaks for Donaldson in the field. If he plays, he has to be at third base. I have a difficult time seeing Donaldson playing six games a week and avoiding the IL (previously the DL) in 2019.
Now that we’ve covered his injury history and potential playtime issues, let’s look at where Donaldson’s performance has been declining. His plate skills remain strong but his contact rates are in free-fall in contrast with his groundball rate.
This is not the MVP we saw in back in Toronto. Though Donaldson did not have enough plate appearances to qualify, those contact rates would have placed him between Chris Davis and Yoan Moncada last year. He does appear to still have strong power metrics but a declining average along with his injury history has me avoiding Donaldson on draft day. If he struggles or misses time, the Braves have plenty of talent to place in the two-hole and drop Donaldson out of the top half of the lineup.
Photo credit by Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire