Draft Prep: NL-Only Offseason Guide
For most fantasy owners, monitoring the offseason trades and free agent signings is about finding players who are joining a better opportunity (i.e. more playing time, better ballpark, etc.) in order to bump them up in your rankings.
However, for those who play in AL/NL-only leagues, the offseason gives your league a completely new set of players to evaluate and ultimately determine draft value for. For example, a fantasy owner who has been in an NL-only league for the last decade has never had the chance to own Robinson Cano—until now. The same goes for Edwin Diaz and Sonny Gray in the NL, and guys like D.J. LeMahieu, Adam Ottavino and Billy Hamilton, who are joining the AL for the first time.
If you play in one of those formats, all the changes can be a bit overwhelming. That’s where I come in to help! As a veteran AL-only player, I will attempt to put round values on the players who changed leagues over this offseason to help you prepare for your drafts next season.
Note: For simplicity’s sake, I did not include players who switched leagues at the trade deadline last year, as they were available in both leagues and therefore are not new. That means no Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Tommy Pham, and Chris Archer, among others.
Note part two: This post was published before a handful of free agents, including Dallas Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel, Denard Span, and Evan Gattis signed. Those that are coming from the AL, and are fantasy relevant, will be added into this post if they end up signing with an NL team.
Without further ado, here are the five biggest players who are joining the National League this year, as well as a handful of other players to target in the later rounds:
Edwin Diaz, RP, Mets
Where Edwin Diaz goes in NL-only fantasy drafts depends on how your league values saves and K/9, but Diaz should certainly be the top RP off the board. He should post a K/9 over 13.00 and an ERA in the mid-2.00’s, with 30+ saves as long as he stays healthy. I’m not a huge advocate for drafting relievers early, but Diaz is going to be a hot commodity next season, and you’ll probably need to spend a 3-4 round pick to get him.
Steamer: 2.45 ERA, 33 Saves, 13.41 K/9
Jean Segura, SS, Phillies
Segura’s two seasons in Seattle were nearly identical, with .300|10HR|20SB in 2017 and .304|11HR|22SB in 2018. More of the same is what fantasy owners can expect in his first season in Philadelphia, although a move away from spacious Safeco field could see the shortstop approach 15 round-trippers—and the addition of Bryce Harper should help him score more runs. Segura is a very solid middle infield option and should go in the late-third/early-fourth round of NL-only leagues.
Steamer: .284/.330/.414, 81R, 14HR, 63RBI, 20SB
Robinson Cano, 2B, Mets
NL-only fantasy owners have never gotten the chance to draft Robinson Cano, so 2019 will be a fun one for them. Cano hit .303 with 10 home runs in just 80 games last season, and even though he’s 36 now he is still a high-end fantasy asset. The addition of Jed Lowrie, along with Amed Rosario and Jeff McNeil, could mean Cano sits more often than he has in years past. Still, NL-only owners should be looking at Cano in around the fifth round.
Steamer: .278/.339/.457, 74R, 22HR, 80RBI, 1SB
Josh Donaldson, 3B, Braves
Coming off an ugly, injury-plagued season, one of the biggest enigmas in fantasy heading into 2019 will be new Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson. Donaldson hit .246 with eight home runs in just 52 games last year, although he hit 33 home runs in a healthy 2017 season—so it’s clear the power is still there. Donaldson should hit near the top of a very dynamic Braves lineup, which affords him a fantastic opportunity to post over 100 runs and RBI if he stays healthy. You’re drafting Donaldson in the fourth round or so, banking on that health.
Steamer: .257/.364/.479, 78R, 26HR, 74RBI, 4SB
David Robertson, RP, Phillies
New Phillies right-hander David Robertson will have to win the closer job out of camp, where he will compete with Seranthony Dominguez and Hector Neris. If Robertson wins out, he will become one of the better closing options in the National League, which would make him worth a look in the 8-10 round range. However, a “committee” approach seems likely with Gabe Kapler at the helm, and that will depreciate Robertson’s value in saves leagues. Of course, in holds leagues or leagues that value K/9, he’s still a nice value pick.
Steamer: 3.23 ERA, 11.88 K/9, 22 saves
Middle Round Targets
Jed Lowrie has been a fantasy stud the last few years in Oakland, particularly in OBP formats. He’ll get a crack at the starting 3B job in New York with the Mets, and is worth a look in rounds 10-12 in standard leagues and 8-10 in OBP formats. A crowded infield picture (and a spring training injury) could give Lowrie more rest than usual, but if he stays healthy he’s a nice find for NL-only leagues who aren’t too familiar with the career AL infielder.
Sonny Gray’s peripherals were very similar in 2017 and 2018: 8.48 K/9|3.90 FIP|4.08 SIERA in 2017 and 8.49 K/9|4.17 FIP|4.28 SIERA in 2018. The results were wildly different, with Gray posting a 3.55 ERA in 2017 and a 4.90 ERA last year, which turned out to be his final season in New York. Now in Cincinnati, Gray will look to get his ERA back in the sub 4.00 range. That, along with an 8.5 K/9, will make Gray a worthwhile investment in the middle rounds.
The Diamondbacks inked veteran outfielder Adam Jones near the end of spring training, a move that appears to damper the fantasy value of super-utility player Ketel Marte. Jones himself will need to stay healthy in order to produce, but even at the twilight of his career, he is still capable of hitting 15-18 home runs and stealing a handful of bases. Pair that with a .270ish average and you have an outfielder worth snagging in rounds 14-15 or so.
Andrew Miller’s 4.24 ERA was his highest since he was a starter with the 2011 Boston Red Sox, but he suffered from some bad luck as evidenced by his 3.29 SIERA. Still, his walk totals were unnerving, to say the least, and he is probably looking at a set-up role in St. Louis with Jordan Hicks penciled in to close. Still, Miller’s high strikeout totals make him a worthwhile relief pitcher target, likely in the middle rounds (depending if your league counts holds or not).
The catching duo of Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes will be one to pay attention to in Washington. Gomes, if he gets enough playing time, could post double-digit home runs with a batting average around .250. That’s worth a draft pick in the middle rounds.
New Padres second baseman Ian Kinsler has posted double-digit home runs and steals in each of the last six seasons, and there’s no reason he can’t make it seven next year. He’ll drag your average down a bit, but he’s worth a look in the 16-17 round range even after the addition of Manny Machado. Playing time is the concern here, but if Kinsler leads off, as expected, you’ll love having him that late.
New Diamondbacks right-hander Merrill Kelly is getting completely overlooked in drafts, prompting our own Alex Fast to take a deeper dive into what he could bring to the table. In NL-only formats, he should be targeted in the middle rounds, despite an average ADP in the mid-400’s. You’re here because you want to find out about the sneaky picks that could help you win your league—here is one of them.
Late Round Flyers
Neil Walker hit double-digit home runs nine years in a row, although he’s only topped 15 four of those years. Still, as Miami’s new first baseman apparently, Walker has a chance to pop 10-15 home runs. His .219 average from last year stemmed from a .257 BABIP, which was unfortunate since Walker posted the highest Hard Hit rate of his career. I wouldn’t expect a ton here, but he’s worth a look in the 20th round or so.
No matter how you look at it, Drew Pomeranz was not good last year. His 6.08 ERA, 5.10 SIERA, and 8.03 K/9 were all poor, and his 1.77 WHIP was devastating thanks to a 5.35 BB/9. A move to San Francisco could help him regain some of that magic that gave him a 3.32 ERA in two consecutive seasons from 2016-2017. I don’t trust him to return that kind of value, but he’s probably not a 6.00+ ERA pitcher. He’s not a horrible gamble to be your final starter, especially playing in the much more spacious Oracle Park. Still, I wouldn’t take him before the last few rounds.
Catcher is a tough, tough position in fantasy, particularly in AL/NL only formats. As such, a backup catcher with pop, like Brian McCann, holds some value. I wouldn’t draft him unless something happens to Tyler Flowers, but if you need a catcher who can pop a few dingers he’s not the worst option to pluck at the very end of drafts.
Waiver Wire Watch
Brad Brach recorded 30 saves and a K/9 around 9.00 in the last two seasons combined, although he has a lot more competition for saves with the Cubs. Still, he is not a bad option in the last few rounds in holds leagues or leagues that count K/9.
If you’re looking for late-inning relievers who aren’t necessarily going to get saves, you want ones who post high strikeout totals. That makes new Brewers reliever Alex Claudio rather unappealing, although his experience as a closer and low walk rates makes him at least worth a flier in leagues that count holds.
Continuing the run of middle relievers, the Dodgers inked Joe Kelly to a hefty three-year deal. He won’t be in line for saves, and his 9.32 K/9 and 4.39 ERA from last season make him a middling fantasy target at best, and only in leagues that count holds or K/9.
The Mets just signed Carlos Gomez to a minor league deal. He’ll compete with Keon Broxton and Juan Lagares to be a bench bat, but is worth keeping an eye on when injuries inevitably push him into a regular role. He just missed his seventh consecutive season with double-digit home runs and steals, and could reach that mark again if he gets enough at-bats. It comes with a treacherous average, but he’d be a nice waiver wire find if he gets the call.
Rajai Davis posted a .278 OBP in 216 plate appearances for the Indians last year, yet he still managed to swipe 21 bases. He’s a speed only fantasy option at this point and has an uphill battle to even make the roster in a crowded Nationals outfield. Still, in a league where steals are nearly non-existent, Davis is worth keeping an eye on.
NL-only dynasty formats are going to want to keep new Padres right-hander Garrett Richards in mind, although there’s a pretty good chance he doesn’t pitch at all in 2019. Keep him on the watchlist in redraft formats however, in case he makes a handful of appearances in September.
Always known as a glove-first shortstop, Jose Iglesias showed a bit of fantasy relevance last season when he swiped a career-high 15 bases while hitting .269. He is competing for a bench role with the Reds, and unless he has a regular role he can probably be left alone in most fantasy formats. Should something happen to Jose Peraza or Scooter Gennett, he’s worth a speculative add.
(Photo by Douglas Jones/Icon Sportswire)