With the winter meetings wrapped up, we are now that much closer to the start of baseball season and, more importantly, fantasy baseball season. If you are anything like me, you have already started your research for 2019 and are scouring the internet for any way-too-early mock drafts or rankings to get your offseason fix.
While the six-month journey that is the fantasy baseball season is certainly a blast to take part in, I feel the majority of us look forward to draft season above all else. It is the most exciting point of the year, similar to that of Christmas morning, and here in mid-December I am already itching to get started. That being said, let’s not waste any more time and dive into the super early NFBC average draft position (ADP) results and take a look at five players who are currently being under-drafted and five who are being over-drafted ahead of the upcoming fantasy season.
Anthony Rendon, ADP 50.29
The Nationals’ third baseman continues to be one of the most underrated and overlooked players in all of baseball. Anthony Rendon is coming off of a season where he finished ahead of Manny Machado, J.D. Martinez, Nolan Arenado, Javier Baez, and Paul Goldschmidt in overall WAR. In addition, he finished with a wRC+ of 140 which was better than Arenado, Freddie Freeman, Jose Altuve, Francisco Lindor, and Bryce Harper. These are guys who are going a good 25-45 picks earlier than Rendon currently. He has steadily decreased his K% over the past three years, and while he does have a tendency to miss some games due to the occasional DL stint, he is about as steady as they come in terms of fantasy production. You can just about pencil in a .300/.375/.500 line to go along with solid power production and a handful of steals to boot. Rendon does a little bit of everything to help fantasy owners, and while this may be the year that his ADP surges due to managers finally understanding how valuable he can be, at his current price in the early fifth round, you really cannot beat it.
Zack Greinke, ADP 65.33
What you see is what you get with Zack Greinke. In other words, Greinke is a guy who for the most part never outperforms his FIP or xFIP to an outstanding degree. This is evident by his career ERA and FIP being the exact same at 3.39 and his xFIP only a tenth of a run higher at 3.49. It is pretty remarkable just how consistent he has been and how much he can truly be counted on as a fantasy pitcher.
With the exception of a little hiccup in his first year with Arizona in 2016, Greinke has been an elite control pitcher posting a BB/9 at or below 2.00 in each year since 2014. With his velocity steadily dipping over the past couple years, he has begun to rely more on his curveball and his changeup and they have become very effective offerings for the right-hander. Both pitches posted a double-digit pitch value (pVal), with his changeup finishing with an excellent 12.2 pVal while throwing it a whopping 20.8% of the time, five percent more than 2017. Over the past two years, Greinke’s changeup has posted the highest pVAL among qualified pitchers with only Kyle Hendricks and Jacob deGrom posting higher numbers this past year. Now 35 years old, age may not be on Greinke’s side, but he is a guy who is always ahead of the curve in terms of making adjustments, and he studies the game as much as anyone. Being drafted behind pitchers such as Jack Flaherty, Jameson Taillon, and even the oft-injured Stephen Strasburg seems to be a nice discount on a guy who should still be considered a hair below the “ace-caliber” starters.
Jose Abreu, ADP 87.76
I am not sure if there is a more boring pick in fantasy than Jose Abreu, and I mean this with the utmost amount of respect of him and his abilities. The now 31-year-old first baseman feels like he has been in the league for over a decade now, when in reality he has just completed his fifth year in the states, which just so happened to be his worst yet. While this may be the cause of his relatively low ADP, it does seem to be bit unwarranted when looking at his track record. Let’s compare him to a fellow first baseman in Chicago:
Jose Abreu, 162-game average from 2014-2017
Anthony Rizzo, 162-game average from 2014-2017
Excluding Abreu’s most recent injury-plagued season, his numbers over the previous four years are very much comparable to those of Anthony Rizzo. The Cubs’ first baseman finds himself going nearly 50 picks higher at ADP 39.19 in early NFBC drafts. Now, Rizzo does have his advantages over Abreu: age, stolen base potential, run-scoring opportunities due to hitting in a more competitive lineup, and a better walk rate. But a whole four rounds earlier? That may be a tad excessive providing Abreu has clean bill of health in 2019, and prior to last year health was never an issue for him.
Scooter Gennett, ADP 96.19
Scooter Gennett followed up his breakout 2017 with a stellar second season in Cincinnati. Gennett was able to cut his K% down over three percent from the previous year while seeing an uptick in his walks as well. While his HR/FB rate decreased from 2017, Gennett was able to become an all-around better pure hitter in 2018, hitting the ball harder and to all fields more consistently. He trails only Jose Ramirez and Jose Altuve in wOBA among second basemen and appears to be a very solid source of batting average based on his peripherals. And while he won’t get the stolen base numbers that others at the position are known to accumulate, he more than makes up for it with his average, solid run totals, and power at a position that is definitely hard to come by.
Currently going in drafts around the end of the eighth round, as the sixth second baseman off the board behind the likes of Gleyber Torres and Ozzie Albies, I can’t help but feel that Gennett deserves more love. I understand the ceiling and potential for positive regression for Albies, but I definitely view Gennett as the safer pick between him and Torres, who has an ADP of 54.95. With the rumors that Gennett may potentially be traded this offseason, he may drop further down some draft boards due to his potential move away from the friendly confines of Great American Ballpark. That would be music to my drafting ears, as his splits away from Great American Ballpark were across-the-board better than they were at home a year ago.
Andrew McCutchen, ADP 169.76
The newest addition to the Phillies’ outfield, Andrew McCutchen brings a nice veteran presence to their soon-to-be contending lineup. The now 32-year-old is embarking on his first full season in a hitter friendly environment. His 11 games at Yankee Stadium last year aside, the former MVP has never played regularly in a home park such as Citizens Bank Park. McCutchen should find himself hitting at the top of the lineup, ahead of the likes of Rhys Hoskins and potentially one of either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper should the Phillies go all in for this upcoming year. Cutch had a BB% that was his highest since 2015 last year, and his career rate sits at 12%. It is not a stretch of the imagination that he could flirt with 90-100 runs hitting in front of those types of run producers. For years in Pittsburgh, McCutchen was always the primary run producer and elite bat in his lineup, and now with the potential of a productive surrounding cast, he has about as safe of a floor as any outfielder going around or ahead of him.
Even with what has been considered the beginning of a “decline” the past three years, he has finished as the 26th outfielder in 2016, 17th in 2017, and 33rd in 2018 in rotisserie/category leagues. While the speed is not quite what it used to be, 10-15 steals to go along with his 20-25 HR floor is value I will take every single time in the 14th-15th round. In fact, he was one of only 14 players last year who hit at least 20 homers, stole at least 14 bases, and scored at least 80 runs in all of baseball. That is the type of production that will play in just about any league, especially as the 44th outfielder off the board. As the years go by and more and more exciting players emerge, a player like McCutchen will continue to be overlooked in drafts in favor of the shiny new toy, and savvy managers will reap the benefits.
Javier Baez, ADP 12.19
There is certainly no debating just how great of an MVP-caliber season Javier Baez had last year. A guy who flirted with a .300 average, went 30/20, and had a combined 200+ runs/RBI definitely helped win several leagues across the industry, especially considering he was going beyond pick-100 last year. There is also no denying the type of special talent Baez is either. He has the prospect pedigree us fantasy owners look for when scouting for a draft, hits in a great lineup and ballpark, and his numbers in 2018 were similar to that of a former fantasy stud second baseman AND Chicago Cub of yesteryear: Alfonso Soriano. The power and speed combo is where Soriano and Baez draw their positive comparisons. Unfortunately, their ability to strike out and almost never walk is also a profile both players share.
The scary part of the comparison is that Soriano had only one full season with a walk rate lower than Baez’s 4.5% from last year, and never had a full season with a K% as high as Baez’s 25.9%. The downside of taking Baez at the end of the first round in a standard 12-team league is that his BB/K numbers are a huge cause for concern. His inability to make contact consistently leads me to believe it will be difficult for him to replicate that .290 average, and that he will fall much closer to his career .267 line. And when it comes to his stolen bases, Baez swiped only three bags in the second half of last year while being caught seven times. This, after going 18-for-20 in the first half. Fantasy owners may want to temper their expectations a bit, as I think it may be safer to bet on 10 to 15 stolen bases going into to 2019. While those numbers still hold value when paired with Baez’s 25+ home run potential, taking him in the back end of the first round ahead of guys like Manny Machado, Jose Altuve, Bryce Harper, and Aaron Judge is a little too rich for my blood. While you cannot always win your league with your first round pick, you can most certainly lose it.
Adalberto Mondesi, ADP 47.00
Adalberto Mondesi very well might be the most contested name in all of fantasy baseball this offseason, and it doesn’t look like that will change leading up to draft day. There are many who are in the Mondesi camp who believe a guy with a potential 20/60 ceiling is far too good to pass up in the fourth round of drafts. And then there are those, like me, who gasp at the thought of risking a pick that high on a 75-game sample size.
Regardless of which side you are on, we can all agree that the first five rounds of your draft are reserved for picks that you really do not want to mess up. You don’t want to be looking back at your draft in July thinking, “Why did I take Brian Dozier ahead of Jose Ramirez in the third round?,” as I did last year. Granted, that is the disturbing beauty of fantasy sports. Now, as for Mondesi, the part that scares me the most (much like Baez) is his plate discipline. He finished his half-season of 2018 walking less than 4% of the time and striking out over 26% of the time, all the while having an absurdly high HR/FB rate. These ratios, with the exception of his HR/FB rate, all line up with his numbers in the minors for the most part and I cannot get past that. I feel that his poor plate discipline, mixed with the league catching up to him a little going into his sophomore season, really limits his ceiling as a fantasy asset.
Miguel Andujar, ADP 64.33
As much as this pains me to discuss as a Yankee fan, the current ADP for Miguel Andujar made me wince just a little bit. Andujar is currently going off the board as the ninth third baseman, ahead of guys like Matt Carpenter, Justin Turner, and Travis Shaw. While there certainly is a lot to like about the young Bronx Bomber, including his ability to make contact and not strike out, one has to wonder if we have already seen the best of him.
Andujar’s excellent contact skills should lead him to providing a very steady batting average in the .290-.300 range. Taking a deeper look into his numbers, everything lines up with his minor league stats in terms of his ratios and batted ball data, therefore there isn’t a whole lot to suggest he can take the next step into the elite third basemen category. If Andujar were able to get his fly ball rate in the 40% range and drive the ball to the opposite field more, we might be able to see an increase in his power numbers hitting in Yankee Stadium. And while there is certainly nothing wrong with a guy who can hit .300 with 20-25 HRs in a great lineup and ballpark, an early fifth-round pick is hard to justify considering the other talent going around him.
Josh Hader, ADP 91.81
Maybe it is just me and my unwillingness to invest a lot of draft capital in relief pitchers, but Josh Hader, a guy who is more than likely not the full-time closer in Milwaukee, going within the first 100 picks is difficult to fathom. Currently going ahead of more surefire sources of saves such as Brad Hand, Raisel Iglesias, Sean Doolittle, and Wade Davis, one has to wonder if Hader is being drafted on name value or legitimate speculation that he will, in fact, be closing for the Brewers.
It can be argued that Hader was the best relief pitcher in baseball last year, finishing with a heart-stopping 46.7% strikeout rate with hitters only mustering a measly .131 average against him. And while he was able to provide his fantasy owners with 12 saves, it does appear that the team will be more likely to deploy Hader in the high-leverage “fireman” role. Hader will undoubtedly have value for fantasy purposes, but in leagues in which saves are a category (i.e. the majority of them), give me the guys who are consistently pitching the ninth inning. There is no denying that the dominant lefty is deserving of a spot on draft boards, but using an eighth-round pick on him instead of Corey Knebel five rounds later or Jeremy Jeffress with one of your last picks seems a bit illogical.
Chris Archer, ADP 131.46
Alright, this is the year. This is the year that I am completely out on Chris Archer. Maybe this is based more on my own personal experiences owning Archer in leagues over the past couple years, but let’s take a look at the facts.
From 2013 to 2015, Archer pitched to a 3.26 ERA, 3.36 FIP, with a 1.18 WHIP. From 2016 to 2018, he has posted a 4.12 ERA, 3.64 FIP, and a pedestrian 1.28 WHIP, including a career-high 1.38 WHIP this past season. His FIP and xFIP over the past three seasons, and BABIP over the past two seasons (.332), indicate he may have been slightly unlucky. But the results are not helping anyone. One poor outlier of a season is something fantasy owners can overlook, but three straight?
He is currently the 35th starting pitcher off the board and going toward the end of the 11th round in NFBC mock drafts. For argument’s sake, let’s divide that across a standard 12-team league. He would be right around an SP3. I don’t know about you, but I would feel very uneasy going into the year with him as my third best starting pitcher. Archer has always been a solid source of strikeouts and innings, and pitching a full season in PNC Park should definitely help, but after three consecutive years of mediocre results, I feel I can do better in the early-to-middle rounds.
(Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire)