Mock Draft Season is in full swing, giving us great data on players’ draft positions. In taking stock of the board, a few fantastic buys stick out as well as some players I would tend to avoid at their current prices.
All ADP data from NFC (from 1/1/2021)
ADP 29.6 (SP #10)
A key driver for much of this list will be the over-emphasis on 2020’s performance in 2021’s price. Mad Max is Exhibit A of this issue. Drafted among the top starting pitchers for the greater part of a decade, Scherzer has come to be the model of consistency among starting pitchers in fantasy.
However, 2020 marked a break from his usual dominance with a 3.74 ERA, his lowest K% since 2015, and his highest BB% since 2010.
I am not worried about Scherzer though. That “lowest K%” was still 31.2%, good for 10th among qualified pitchers. He also seems to have made an adjustment with his curveball, adding 3 inches of drop and nearly 4 inches of break to the pitch. In turn, its command was more spotty than in years past.
Otherwise, Scherzer seems to have fallen victim to some bad luck that was magnified with a small sample. I would feel more comfortable drafting him at his price than Trevor Bauer, Walker Buehler, Yu Darvish, Luis Castillo, or Lucas Giolito at theirs.
ADP 42.3 (3B #5)
There are simply no hitters available outside of the first round who are as steady and reliable as Rendon. Since the beginning of 2017, his slash is .307/.399/.550 with a 146 wRC+ and 0.91 BB/K. Over that same period, his 162 game averages are 31 HRs, 106 R, and 117 RBIs.
Sure, he is not helping you in stolen bases but neither are DJ LeMahieu (28.9), Nolan Arenado (33.1), Rafael Devers (42.5), or the new beefy Alex Bregman (42.7). This man is a simple rounding error away from being the seventh third baseman drafted! Let your league-mates go after the other guys and set your watch to Rendon returning top 25 value.
ADP 70.1 (SS #10)
Torres’ power completely disappeared last year as he hit three home runs in 160 plate appearances. But I bring up the valuable question; who cares? I must stress that I certainly don’t.
First of all, the entire ordeal was just 42 games, a small sample in the grand scheme of things. Second, the season was stressful for a number of reasons including (but not limited to) the pandemic, a delayed start, transitioning back to shortstop, and the Yankees struggling early on. Lastly, Torres dealt with a hamstring injury that knocked two weeks out of the middle of his season.
Instead of focusing on the bad, let’s take a look at the good. Torres made serious improvements with regard to his plate discipline and pitch recognition despite his power outage.
This is still very much the elite player that was being taken in the top 4 rounds last year. The BatX is projecting 30 HRs, 88 R, 87 RBI, 5 SBs, and a .267 BA, a true bargain 30-35 picks after the second shortstop tier (Xander Bogaerts, Corey Seager, and Tim Anderson).
ADP 79.7 (3B #9)
Another third baseman (it is probably my favorite position to find value in) as the buys continue with Suárez. He fell victim to the Reds’ team-wide slump and could not find a groove in 2020. Even when most of the team broke-out on the way to their surprise playoff berth, Suárez continued to struggle.
Nevertheless, the Bat X is bullish on his bounceback. They project him to have the second-most home runs in the league (42) and 11th most combined R + RBI (209). He is the leading third baseman in each category and while he is a bit of a drag in BA (.254 projected), it is within a stones’s throw of both Manny Machado (.268) and Arenado (.263). That is small potatoes when talking about a two-four round difference.
ADP 127.6 (SS #13)
This is a little more of a gut call for a talented player in a contract year. Correa has had quite the fall from grace over the last few seasons, and that is reflected in his ADP. I mean 13th?! That means he is not even projected to be a STARTER in 12 team leagues. I will not stand for that, especially after the postseason Correa had.
Mike Petriello wrote an interesting piece a few weeks ago about using last year’s postseason stats to evaluate players. They’re traditionally overlooked because 30-60 at-bats amounts to nothing in a 600+ at-bat season, but that was not the case in 2020. Correa’s 50 plate appearances were nearly 20% of his entire season’s worth and his hot streak theoretically raised his wRC+ from 98 to a very respectable 124. That is in line with his career line and creates a great buy opportunity.
ADP 24.3 (SS #6)
This ADP being lofty is not a knock on Bichette; he is a tremendous player with a bright future in a lineup that may be historically good. Still, taking him in the top 25 does not sit right. His experience gives me pause (only 75 major league games under his belt) as well as the expectation that he is going to steal a significant number of bases.
This lineup is far too talented to risk baserunners and Bichette will most likely be hitting atop it. That is great for his runs and RBI totals, but bad for the steals which it feels like is driving his value a bit. The BatX is projecting him for 23 HRs, 94 R, 90 RBI, .282 batting average, and 19 steals, good for the 61st rated hitter overall. That is pedestrian for this spot in the draft.
ADP 38.6 (2B #3)
This one is straightforward: Merrifield’s value has mostly come from stolen bases and those steals are dwindling. After swiping 45 bags in 2018, that number sunk to just 20 in 2019 (with 4 more games played). He was running more in 2020, but it would be surprising to see his stolen bases trend upward as a 32-year-old.
His sprint speed has been dropping marginally as well, not enough to make a huge impact at the moment but an indication that something may change soon. Without the gaudy steal numbers, this is a .280-.290 hitter with bad Statcast metrics hitting atop a below-average lineup being drafted in the top 40.
ADP 58.2 (1B #6) / ADP 110.7 (1B #13)
What the League is doing in regards to the designated hitter is beyond ridiculous. Seeming very unlikely, spring training is practically here and there has not been definitive clarity. The lack of a designated hitter is not a very big deal for most National League teams (many struggle to carry nine skilled hitters on the entire roster), but it is problematic for the Mets. Alonso and Smith are two of the best players on the team and there is a slight chance one’s role fades.
Smith has struggled defensively in left field, despite a willingness to do so when called upon, and Alonso is a defensive liability at first base. Brandon Nimmo may be incapable of playing center field and will join Smith in a platoon if that is the case.
The Mets would then be forced to sit Alonso more than occasionally to get Smith’s bat and superior glove on the field. They make odd platoon partners, too, because Alonso has reversed splits (140 wRC+ vs R, 126 vs L). Neither would have to lose very much playing time to not return adequate value on their ADPs and their places in the lineup are more fragile if the pitcher has to hit. The Mets roster has some very strange problems.
ADP 60.1 (2B #4) / ADP 74.9 (OF #21) / ADP 82.7 (OF #22)
A similar conundrum as with the Mets, here are three good hitters and bad defenders who are being drafted at a premium price despite their places in the lineup being marginally more fragile than anticipated.
Hernández broke out in a big way last year, smashing 16 home runs and garnering some MVP chatter. Gurriel has a career 120 wRC+ over more than 200 games. Both can definitely hit, but neither is a very good defensive outfielder. Both are bad, actually, and each was among the 25 worst outfielders in the league last season by OAA. Randall Grichuk is a very capable defender and could wedge his way into the lineup more than expected.
Also, Marcus Semien‘s acquisition is expected to push Biggio to third base as Vlad Guerrero Jr. moves across the diamond to 1B. However, Guerrero has slimmed down and was playing third in the LIDOM. This will allow the Jays to get Rowdy Tellez in the lineup at first if either Hernandez or Gurriel is the designated hitter at the expense of Biggio.
I do not anticipate any of these guys losing their jobs completely, but sacrificing 10-20% of their plate appearances is very possible due to defensive liabilities. The ceilings are there but realize there is some extra risk baked in.
ADP 97.0 (C #3)
Smith may have the best offensive profile of any catcher in the league and the BatX projects him as the most valuable player at the position. He is a fantastic hitter but struggles behind the plate. Austin Barnes and his defensive wizardry are still on this roster as is Keibert Ruíz, a top-100-type prospect who has a great hit tool and is a plus defender.
What is expected to be about a 70% share of plates from the position could quickly become something like 50% for Smith, making his place in the top 100 a bit tenuous and less secure than guys behind him like Yasmani Grandal and Willson Contreras.
Photos by Kevin Abele, Keith Gillett and George Walker/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Jacob Roy (@jmrgraphics3 on IG)