Winning Your Draft on Yahoo: Hitters

Got a draft coming up on Yahoo? Here are the hitters who are over and undervalued in their draft room.

Whether we like to admit it or not, we are all influenced by the draft room that we are in. When you load up the draft room on Yahoo, there’s all those pre-loaded rankings, projections, and the Yahoo ADP, just begging to be looked at all draft long. As much as we all want to believe we aren’t influenced by it at all, the truth is that it’s there, and it plays a part in all our drafts. And even if you are truly able to ignore all the stuff that Yahoo puts in there, it’s important to know that your leaguemates are being influenced by it, and that’s where you can win a significant advantage.

You see, we all know that the rankings made by Yahoo are flawed. They haven’t put in the time to truly craft those rankings, they can’t even get Shohei Ohtani as one player. They’d rather add in the hitter version of Michael Lorenzen (seriously, he’s in there as just a hitter), so you know that their rankings aren’t the best. That’s your key to success. While the rest of the fools in your draft are sorting by ADP and looking at the list that way, you’ll know which undervalued players to target, and which overvalued ones to avoid.

I’ve cross-referenced our rankings against Yahoo’s ADP and pre-season rankings to find the best values at each position. If you want to win your draft on Yahoo, this is the guide for you.

 

Catcher

 

Targets: Carson Kelly, ARI – Kelly is our 8th ranked catcher, and he’s placed in the same tier as Will Smith and Salvador Perez, who are going 40 picks before him. At ADP 207, Kelly is the 10th catcher off the board. He’s got 20-HR pop and has a great prospect pedigree.

Roberto Perez, CLE – Perez had a fantastic 2019 and we think it’s legit. He made real changes to his swing that led to a lot more barrels, and that means he should be able to keep his increased power. He’s been going at pick 235 and is often undrafted on Yahoo, meaning you can get him for really cheap, despite the fact that he’s our 9th ranked catcher.

Omar Narvaez, MIL – Narvaez has always hit for a high average, but he increased his launch angle in 2019 and cut the number of ground balls he hit by 10%, giving him the power to go along with that nice .275 batting average. He’s our 10th ranked catcher but is going off the board at pick 230, making him the 13th ranked catcher on Yahoo.

 

Avoid: Wilson Ramos, NYM – Ramos has been a safe catcher, but his skills are starting to diminish as he gets older. You can’t count on the average or pop to continue as his batted ball data just doesn’t support the year that he had last year. We ranked him as our 18th catcher, but he’s going off the board in Yahoo drafts as the #8 catcher. Don’t pay that price.

Buster Posey, SFG – You can pretty much copy and paste what I wrote above here. Posey is on the decline, don’t be the one stuck holding the bag. He’s usually the 12th catcher off the board, you’d be better off taking a high-upside lottery ticket. Worst case, you can always pick him up (or Yadier Molina if you are into the old, safe catcher)  off the waiver wire.

 

First Base

 

Targets: Carlos Santana, CLE – Santana has always been knocked for hitting too many ground balls and not enough fly balls, but he significantly improved his launch angle as the season went on last year. We expect the power gains he saw to remain, and the potential for a 30 HR, 180+ R/RBI season at pick 146 is too good to pass up.

Joc Pederson, LAD – While he’s admittedly a bit of a headache to own (the Dodgers typically sit him against lefties), he’s so good against right-handed pitchers that it makes it all worth it. He smashed 36 home runs last year and held a 137 wRC+ against righties. He’s basically free in Yahoo drafts, going off the board typically around pick 235. In fact, you could pair him with the next player on this list to make sure you always have great 1B production at a cheap price.

Christian Walker, ARI – We rank Pederson and Walker back to back at 15 and 16, so it’s truly a shock to see them both going off the board around pick 235. For contrast, the typical 15th first baseman off the board in Yahoo drafts is Yuli Gurriel at pick 160. 70 picks later, you could grab Walker and/or Pederson. Walker crushes the ball, he’s elite in pretty much every Statcast metric, and his numbers underperformed to expectations last year. Get Walker before he’s snapped up by someone else.

 

Avoid: Paul Goldschmidt, STL – How the mighty have fallen. Goldschmidt is still the 4th first baseman taken off the board in Yahoo drafts, going around pick 54, but we don’t like him at that price at all. Goldschmidt is our 9th ranked first baseman. His batting average decline is very real, and his approach at the plate has really taken a sharp turn for the worse, as he chased and whiffed on more pitches than ever. He’s not a bad player by any means, but don’t pay the premium for Goldie.

 

Second Base

 

Targets: Ketel Marte, ARI – Yahoo really doesn’t seem to believe in Marte’s breakout 2019, as he’s being taken around pick 50, as the 5th second baseman off the board. He’s going two full rounds later than Gleyber Torres, someone that we ranked (right) behind Marte. All the underlying metrics speak to Marte’s breakout being real, and that would make him a steal at his current ADP.

Cavan Biggio, TOR – While he’s not quite as good as his father (yet), young Biggio still showed quite a bit in his rookie campaign. Yes, he will likely be a drain on your batting average, but he’s going to hit high in a hopefully loaded Toronto lineup, and he’s got 20/20 potential. We’re talking a player who could score 100+ runs, can steal 20 bases, hit 20 home runs, and is available around pick 160? That’s insane.

 

Avoid: Whit Merrifield, KCR – The general Yahoo public does not seem to be concerned about the sharp decline in Merrifield’s stolen bases, but given his decline in sprint speed, and the change in manager to Mike Matheny (the Cardinals were 29th in stolen bases under Matheny), there’s plenty of reason to be worried. If Merrifield doesn’t run, he won’t be totally useless, as he’s elite in batting average and should still score a good amount of runs, but he doesn’t do enough to justify being picked 43rd overall and as the 4th second baseman off the board.

 

Third Base

 

Targets: Eugenio Suarez, CIN – His discounted price in the Yahoo drafts likely stems from two things: his shoulder surgery in January, and that he can’t repeat his 49 HR effort from last season. Suarez did make legitimate changes to his swing in 2019, increasing both his pull percentage and fly-ball rate, two things that help drive home run output. While the shoulder is a concern, I think that’s baked into his ADP well enough, and he’ll be a value for you in the 7th round.

Matt Chapman, OAK – Chapman absolutely smokes the ball, posting one of the highest average exit velocities in the majors last season. He also elevates the ball extremely well, and obviously that’s a combo for power success. His 36 home runs last year was no fluke, and he should certainly be higher than the 14th third baseman off the board around pick 98.

Giovanny Urshela, NYY – It feels like we’re all dismissing the fantastic year that Urshela had once he got a hold of the Yankees 3B job. He’s going off the board at pick 231, making him nearly free, and the Yankees clearly have helped unlock his potential, as his line-drive rate and hard-hit rate were both elite in 2019. He should have the 3B job locked up to start the season, and he’s got the upside to be a top-12 3B in fantasy.

 

Avoid: Vlad Guerrero Jr., TOR – Guerrero has massive potential, and that’s mainly why he’s being drafted 52nd overall as the 7th third baseman off the board. However, it was clear in 2019 that he still has quite a bit of development to do. He hasn’t elevated the ball as well as you’d like for someone with his power potential, and he had a really hard time with breaking balls, which was exploited mercilessly by opposing pitchers. There’s a chance he puts it all together in 2020, but we think he’s still another year of development away at least. Let someone else pay the high price and deal with the low floor.

 

Shortstop

 

Targets: Jorge Polanco, MIN – There was a genuine concern when Polanco was busted for PEDs that the improvements he had made before that were due to the steroids, but he showed us all in 2019 that that wasn’t the case. He hits high in the order in one of the best lineups in baseball, has 20+ home run pop, and is a contributor in batting average as well. If you miss out on one of the elite shortstops, Polanco is a steady starter and is available around pick 156.

Marcus Semien, OAK – Semien was an MVP candidate last season, and now he’s the 14th shortstop off the board in Yahoo drafts. Semien’s underlying metrics speak to what he did in 2019 being sustainable, so you should absolutely be buying in on draft day. He’s currently going off the board around pick 82, which places him in the 7th round of a 12-teamer, and honestly, I think he’s worthy of a top-60 pick.

 

Avoid: Manny Machado, SDP – Machado is coasting on name value, as his contact rate dropped to a career-low which helps explain his career-high strikeout rate. Obviously, he’s shown in the past that he can be one of the best hitters in baseball, but he certainly didn’t look like one in 2019. He’s off the board around pick 58, and you can do better there.

 

Outfield

 

Targets: Joey Gallo, TEX – Gallo is the best power hitter in baseball, period. He hit 22 home runs in just 70 games last year, after hitting 40+ each of the previous two seasons. You know what you are getting with Gallo, and if you anchored your batting average early in the draft, Gallo can be the elite power source that can carry your team. His ADP of 88 makes him the 24th outfielder off the board, but Gallo should definitely be going higher in drafts than that.

Ramon Laureano, OAK – Laureano raked in the second half last season, posting a 1.090 OPS across 31 games. He’s got power, speed, and the ability to hit for a high average, making the ceiling a .290 hitter with 30 home runs and 20 stolen bases. He’s off the board around pick 100, and he should easily return that value and then some.

Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, TBR – It’s always hard to project how Japanese players will do when coming to the states, but Tsutsugo has shown fantastic power in Japan with a great approach at the plate (.528 SLG, 13% walk rate over the last four seasons). The Rays have proven they know how to develop hitting, and while there’s a chance Tsutsugo doesn’t get regular playing time (who does in Tampa Bay?), he’s got 30+ HR upside and is going in the last few rounds of Yahoo drafts.

Shogo Akiyama, CIN – Speaking of Japanese players, the Reds also got a Japanese outfielder who should contribute from day one. Akiyama showed a well-rounded game in Japan, and could be a 15-15 type of hitter with a solid batting average. This sounds a lot like what we are hoping for from Andrew Benintendi, just about 100+ picks later. Akiyama is available at pick 230, making him a nice late flier for speed.

Nick Castellanos, CIN – Castellanos has been a pretty good hitter for a few years now, and that was despite spending most of his time in cavernous Comerica Park. Moving to the much hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark can only help Castellanos, and he’ll be hitting in the heart of their very strong lineup. Compared to the Tigers, it’s like playing for the All-Star team. Castellanos will be a solid 4-category contributor and is being drafted as the 25th outfielder off the board around pick 96.

Marcell Ozuna, ATL – By all accounts, Ozuna was really unlucky last year. He had the largest gap in baseball between his batting average and his expected batting average, and had the third-largest gap between his slugging percentage and expected slugging percentage. He’s in the heart of a fantastic Braves lineup and also in a great home stadium, and 2020 should be a great season for Ozuna.

Trey Mancini, BAL – Mancini was always talked about as a guy who, if he could just elevate the ball better, he could be a real fantasy asset. Well, he did just that in 2019, dropping his ground ball rate by almost 10%, and seeing an increase in power, up to 35 home runs last year. He’s not in a great lineup and that will hurt his counting stats, but we should still see a .290 average with 30+ home runs, a great value for someone being picked around 125th.

 

Avoid: Andrew Benintendi, BOS – A lot of people are still chasing that elite hitter that we were all told Benintendi could be, but he just hasn’t shown that lately. His power numbers keep declining, while his plate discipline has gotten worse every year. He hits a lot of fly balls, which would be good for power, but he has such a poor average exit velocity that he can’t take advantage. I’d expect another year of mediocre, but not awful, numbers in every category.

Lorenzo Cain, MIL – Cain is just another victim of Father Time, who remains undefeated (an argument can be made that he and Tim Duncan agreed to a draw). Cain’s sprint speed has been steadily declining, and he can’t be counted on for 30 stolen bases anymore. His batting average also is unlikely to climb up over .300 again as he won’t be able to sustain the inflated BABIP that speedsters usually do. He’ll still contribute in steals, but Cain is getting drafted at pick 164 as the 44th outfielder, and we just don’t see that kind of value here.

Luis Robert, CWS – There is a ton of hype around Robert, and for good reason. He should be an elite power/speed threat one day, but that day just doesn’t feel like it will come in 2020. Robert has a lot of work to do on his approach at the plate, as he’s a complete free-swinger who could get exploited, hard, at the major league level. We’re not convinced he’s ready to be a productive major league hitter, and that’s tough to swallow when you need to invest a top-100 pick in him.

Aristides Aquino, CIN – Aquino flexed his muscle last year and showed everyone the power potential he has, but he’s probably the guy drawing the short stick in a very crowded Reds outfield. We also saw what the floor looks like, as he slashed .196/.236/.382 across 27 games in September. There’s plenty of power to be had in today’s MLB and you don’t need to waste a roster spot on Aquino.

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Myles Nelson

We Love Baseball manager, Myles started playing fantasy baseball as a middle-schooler in 2004 and hasn't stopped since. Now he just wants to share his love of baseball and why baseball is fun with everyone.

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