(Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)
We recently released our Staff Consensus Overall Top 300 Rankings, to which I was happy to contribute. I went through the Staff Consensus Rankings and identified a few players where I represented the high pick or low pick. In the following list, the first number listed will be the consensus staff ranking, while the second number will be my personal ranking. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the players that I’m a big fan of and some that I want no part of.
Players I Love
I love Zack Godley; there, I said it. If you’re a regular reader of Pitcher List then you know that Nick Pollack is a big fan of this guy, so it may come as a surprise to learn that I rank Godley higher than Nick does. The aptly named Godley, going into his age 28 season, comes in as my 19th starting pitcher. He ranked 15th in K% (26.3) and 4th in groundball rate (55.3). Both numbers are stellar and, paired with a shiny, new Humidor, should lead to another fantastic year.
Trevor Bauer (SP, Cleveland Indians) [166 / 116]
Bauer is one of my favorite breakout candidates of 2018. After ditching his cutter in favor of a much more successful slider, Bauer saw a massive increase in success. Over his final 12 games of the season, he posted a stellar 2.42 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 79 punch outs. A cerebral player through-and-through, Bauer will constantly be tweaking his repertoire to better himself, but this time it seems he’s found something that works. If you’re still not convinced, take a look at this RotoGraphs piece by Nick detailing Bauer’s changes in repertoire.
My catcher strategy in all of my drafts this season: draft Gary Sanchez early or wait and take Wilson Ramos late. According to FantasyPros ADP, Ramos is being taken in the 16th round, the 9th catcher off the board. With his torn ACL in the rear-view, Ramos will look to return to a 500 PA season in 2018. The Rays have indicated that they’d be willing to play him at DH in order to keep his bat in the lineup. While he won’t walk, which hurts his value in OBP leagues, Ramos is a safe bet for 20 HR, and possibly more if his 2017 increase in fly ball rate (25.3% in 2016 to 30.3% in 2017) carries over into the coming season.
This one surprised me; I did not expect to be the high guy on Torres. The Yankees top prospect was recently demoted to AAA, as expected. This doesn’t surprise me, nor does it dampen my love for him. The Yanks have prepared him to play across the infield, and seem comfortable with him at 2B and 3B along with his original SS. I believe that Torres will find his way into the Bronx Bombers starting lineup one way or another by mid-May. If Didi Gregorious, Neil Walker, or whomever-is-your-personal-favorite-to-start-the-season-at-third get injured, Torres will easily be able to slide right in. Assuming he is given 450 plate appearances, I would project Torres to give fantasy owners double-digit production in both homers and steals along with a respectable batting average.
Randall Grichuk (OF, Toronto Blue Jays) [284 / 232]
My favorite sleeper of 2018, Grichuk is a player I’ve found myself moving up slightly every time I adjust my rankings. Finally free to get a full season of at-bats in Toronto, Grichuk will have an opportunity to show off his plus raw power in the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre. This move reminds me a lot of Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista: a decently regarded player struggles for production and playing time to begin his career and winds up in Toronto. We saw how that turned out for E5 and Joey Bats. It isn’t unreasonable to project 30-35 home runs for Grichuk in his first season with the Jays, and when he’s being taken in the 300 range I am on board all day long.
Players I Hate
I’ve never been a big Giles fan, and his 2017 Postseason performance did not persuade me otherwise. Outside of the playoffs, Giles had a great 2017, however, he wasn’t perfect by any means, posting an ERA over 4.00 in both April and June. The Astros bullpen, including Chris Devenski, Brad Peacock, Will Harris, and Hector Rondon, is both very deep and talented, easily amongst the best in the league. Astros manager A.J. Hinch has already said that he is willing to use his best reliever in a tight situation, not necessarily saving the 9th inning for any one pitcher in particular. According to RotoWire, Hinch went as far as saying, “We really don’t have a guy that I wouldn’t go to in the ninth inning.” If Giles struggles at all out of the gate, there are too many talented relievers primed and ready to take on the primary closer’s role. I am not willing to take the risk of spending a mid-round pick on a closer with a recent history of failure and multiple viable replacement options.
During my interview for Pitcher List, I asked Nick to convince me to move Michael Fulmer up in my rankings. I know that Nick believes in Fulmer’s potential, but I myself have never been a fan. While I like that Fulmer is efficient and pitches deep into games (6.34 innings pitched per start), he doesn’t strike out enough batters to warrant drafting for me. During his 2016 Rookie of the Year campaign, he struck out a respectable 20.4% of batters faced, but that number dropped to a meager 16.9% this past season. With such low strikeout numbers and now a slight injury risk, coming back from ulnar nerve surgery, I am completely unwilling to own Fulmer in 2018.
I believe Zimmerman is the most likely bust candidate of 2018. Riding the narrative of finally having a healthy season, 2017 was one of his best, when he posted a .303 average along with 36 home runs and a .930 OPS. However, a closer look will show us that a large chunk of this production was frontloaded; Zimmerman hit .368 with 15 dingers in the first two months of the season—11 homers in April alone—while only hitting 14 home runs throughout June, July, and August. The 33-year-old first baseman was also supported by an abnormally high BABIP in his age 32 season. Despite a career .309 mark prior to 2017, Zimmerman posted a career-high .335 BABIP, a mark that simply screams regression going forward. While I recognize that health was a major factor in Zimmerman’s 2017 success, I’m not sure we can reliably count on that either. I expect Zimmerman’s 2018 to look more similar to his 2015 line: .249/.308/.465 with 25 home runs in 390 plate appearances. At his current ADP (143 overall, 20th 1B), I will not be owning him on any of my teams this season. I would prefer to wait a round and take Matt Carpenter or Greg Bird rather than invest in Zimmerman in the 11th round.