Gearing up for fantasy baseball drafts is one of my favorite times of the year. Crunching numbers, ranking players and observing how values fluctuate as the season comes closer is something I really enjoy. I have already been looking at the NFBC ADP available on Nesn.com and there have been interesting developments. But I was even more intrigued by the following tweet today:
While the information available is fascinating, the list that Greg Amrosius kindly posted outlines the top 200 in the money drafts that have already happened. When money is on the line, there will be tougher decisions and the players ranks could provide some early clarity. Processing the top 200 was not easy as I was busy working on spreadsheets, but I modified the 200 players into a more common 12 team format (the NFBC is 15 team league drafts) for the article’s purposes. These are rough estimates and I will follow up tomorrow with the players ranked by position to see what trends show there as well. As for today, I listed the rank of the player, what his average pick selection is and his rank by position in the charts below. After each round or two, I will give my two cents worth on the first top 200 from drafts I have seen this year. If you think you are seeing pitchers early and often, you are correct. Enjoy!
That Mike Trout guy is still number one, and he will not be fat this year. He could be a bit weak against pitches up in the zone but he is the only player in the top 12 to go number one in every single draft. I have never been a proponent of taking a pitcher in the first round, but if there is one I would consider it is Clayton Kershaw. Even in an injury riddled season he still produced the goods. There is growing concern around Miguel Cabrera’s ankle and foot surgery but if the Tigers know that they are all in with their window of opportunity closing, he will play through it like he did last September. There are some newcomers in this list with Jose Abreu, Carlos Gomez, Felix Hernandez and Jose Altuve moving into the top 12, but I would only take one at the price listed above; Abreu. Toronto owns the tail end of the first round with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion providing plenty of punch in a lineup that welcomes Josh Donaldson to the fold.
There are surprises above with Anthony Rendon and Michael Brantley making huge jumps in early drafts. I was a big proponent of Rendon last year but this may be too rich for my blood. Troy Tulowitzki and a replacement player still make up probably the best shortstop tandem in roto but he comes with risk. At a time where power is in high demand in drafts I will find it difficult to take a player like Adam Jones here but it depends on what is available. Robinson Cano was overpriced in Seattle last year but as the third second baseman, I really love him at 22. While Madison Bumgarner almost single-handedly defeated the Royals, there is a lot of mileage on his arm from last fall, which could cause for some to reach on him. I am waiting.
Like Cano, I think the depressed price on Ryan Braun makes him a buy this year. Motivated to prove his detractors wrong and possibly healthy I would rather have a third round Braun over a second round Adam Jones. Pitchers, pitchers everywhere, with four more coming off the board in this round. It is hard to gauge Max Scherzer since some of his value will be determined by where he signs. After A.J. Preller’s wheeling and dealing, there are two Padres in this round with Kemp and Upton. I am not scared by either in Petco this year. Bryce Harper will be a polarizing figure, he is 22 and while he has burned us in the past, this is a good price for him.
Projections are all over the place on George Springer but in the fourth round in the mock 200, he could provide first round value. His batting average is not going to be great, but for a player with 30/30 potential, this is a great flier at pick 41.08 overall. Speed is flying off the board here (no pun intended), but Dee Gordon and Billy Hamilton may be fighting for the National League stolen base title this year. Carlos Gonzalez, man is he tempting here, but he is made of glass. I go with Springer and take the hit in average for his possible breakout instead of reading that CarGo is out with a tweak or bad finger on a monthly basis. It is an interesting decision, you can take Cueto, Darvish or Wainwright here to anchor your staff, who is it?
Two more Rockies outfielders come off the board in Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon. I lean Dickerson here. Last year Albert Pujols was going to fall off but here he is still and somehow I think Miguel Cabrera will do the same this year. Jon Lester had a great 2014 and moving to the NL could help his peripherals, but can he win 15+ with the Cubs this year? In all honesty, the Rockie I am eying the most here is Arenado, I could justify grabbing him ahead of Longoria but there is safety in numbers. Two more closers go off the board here but I am waiting for strikeout upside later, I like Kimbrel and Holland but grab power early and often, pitchers can be had later as you will see.
Four more starting pitchers are taken in this round and Matt Harvey is among them. I am tempted to grab him but it is a risk to have him as a number one coming off of Tommy John Surgery and knowing the Mets will protect his innings, but he has had 18 months to rehab and is ready to go. Jeff Samardzija could be a sneaky play in Chicago but I am avoiding Prince Fielder and Yoenis Cespedes. Cole Hamels is nice in this round but really needs a change in scenery to make him a bargain in the sixth.
A mini first baseman run happens here following Prince last round with Carlos Santana, Chris Davis and Joey Votto. Gun to my head I will go with Carlos Santana of these three. Crazy? Probably but I am willing to take chances from round seven on. Two Cardinal outfielders are here but if you want safe it is Holliday, upside and playing for a contract, Jason Heyward. I really like him in St. Louis this year.
Alex Cobb is a pitcher I like at this point of the draft, especially over James Shields. Josh Harrison had a great year but gambling on a repeat here may be tough to swallow. Wong represents upside and two more closers are off the board. What are fantasy owners going to do with David Wright? I think he is a great value here. While he will not return to his glory days, he has a better track record than Josh Harrison.
Speaking of risk, the ninth round brings just that. Kris Bryant has power that is in demand not only in baseball but for fantasy players as well. Javier Baez has all-world power and could swipe 13-15 bags as well, albeit with a .220 average. If Tyson Ross and Jake Arrieta can stay healthy they are good values here, especially Arrieta for me. As a matter of fact, the pitchers in this round are really good targets including Alex Wood, Hisashi Iwakuma and Jacob deGrom. Doubling up early on two aces just doesn’t make sense to me.
If the ninth was risky, so is the tenth. Power hitting outfielders who may only hit .250-.260 like J.D. Martinez and Jorge Soler are here, but I prefer them to reaching for Yoenis Cespedes four rounds earlier. Gio Gonzalez was really good in the second half, I mean really good. Speaking of power, if Evan Gattis gets to play left field with catcher eligibility, he can hit 30 home runs. Three more closers go in this round so even though I probably have not taken one yet, the time is nearing.
I have seen articles ranking Carlos Carrasco high for this year. But so far in money drafts he is the 30th pitcher selected. Even if he flames out at this price it is easily worth the risk. Speaking of which, Dellin Betances was out of this world good last year. His same age numbers are strikingly similar to his mentor Mariano Rivera, just saying. Definitely taking Gregory Polanco over Wil Myers here. I am very interested to see what Rusney Castillo can do, he will have a better year than fellow Cuban import Yasmany Tomas. Book it.
Remember when everyone was so excited by Pablo Sandoval going to Boston? That leaves him as the 12th third baseman selected and while his average and numbers will see a bump, how much will they improve? It seems that people are frightened off by Tanaka’s elbow, and I agree. But if he pitches 20 or more games in this round, he is worth it. Chris Carter hits home runs, takes walks and will not hit much better than .250 but if he can mash 35 long balls, who cares?
Why am I not taking Pablo Sandoval in the 12th? Because I can get Manny Machado in the 13th, at least in this top 200. This is a cornucopia of value. Adam LaRoche can hit 30 home runs if he adjusts to DH in Chicago but he will be hitting after Jose Abreu and ahead of Avisail Garcia in a bandbox. Shin-Soo Choo was a consensus top 20 outfielder preseason last year, how soon we forget. Another post hype prospect is Xander Bogaerts who could provide pop at shortstop and flourish this year after some consolidation in 2014.
Some outfielders with speed in Brett Gardner, Leonys Martin and Alex Rios come off the board here. Always underrated Howie Kendrick and Justin Morneau, too. I think Hector Rondon is great value this late, he really blossomed in the second half. Jason Motte is a depth signing but Joe Maddon does change closers more than most which can be a worry.
Want to know why I am waiting on pitchers? Look no further. Drew Smyly and Zack Wheeler could provide good ratios and strikeouts in round 14. Not to mention Marcus Stroman who could break out this year. His 2014 was not a fluke and with a better defense he is primed to shine in 2015. Avisail Garcia is another target I really like here, the White Sox are going to score runs and he may hit fifth with double-digit home runs and stolen bases.
I have yet to give up on Wilson Ramos and I will be lighting a candle for his health. If anyone this year can follow Devin Mesoraco’s power breakthrough of 2014, it is Ramos in 2015. Melky Cabrera will produce in Chicago and could bat second. Speaking of health, Travis d’Arnaud is another catcher with upside if he can stay on the field.
How can you take Matt Shoemaker over Phil Hughes? His K/BB in the second half was epic and though his wins are neutralized a bit in Minnesota, he is being overlooked. Mike Fiers will also be a popular sleeper target but look at Jose Fernandez. It seems the Marlins are all in and if he can return by July, a half season of Fernandez is better than a whole one from other pitchers. At this point, I would take A.J. Pollock over Josh Hamilton and that is really all you need to know about that.
Tomorrow I will list the players by position and try to formulate a set of tiers based on this early 200 courtesy of Greg Ambrosius of the NFBC. Drafts are coming, I may be crazy, but using all the information we can will help us be right.
Statistical credits: http://nfbcforums.stats.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=16344
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/8oFeAz
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Greg Jewett is The Sports Script’s senior fantasy baseball writer. Follow him on Twitter @gjewett9!