Ladies and gentleman. The wait is over. For the first time since last October, it’s a fantasy baseball article from yours truly!!!
Did you miss me? Are you tired of me drolling on about college football yet? What’s that? You didn’t read any of those articles? You don’t care about teenagers getting exploited for the benefit of rich university presidents? Weird. Oh well. You can’t win them all.
So, pitchers and catchers report to their respective spring trainings in just 16 days, and WHO ELSE IS SO PUMPED ABOUT THAT?! I know, I know. We’re still a good ways away from actual, meaningful baseball being played, but it’s in the air!
As Ervin Santana says, “#SMELLBASEBALL!”
— Ervin Santana (@ErvinSantana_54) January 24, 2018
At this point in the fantasy baseball calendar, we are just now starting to see ADPs (average draft position for the noobs) form into some kind of palatable shape. The caveat being that it’s January. Of course, this data will undergo many, many changes from now until your respective draft, but we can at least start the discussion.
And that’s exactly what I intend to do with this week’s Bridges of Fantasy County. Today, my dudes and lady who read fantasy baseball articles, I’ll point out some interesting names and my reaction to their current ADP. We’ll call them “Deep” ADP Thoughts. Just like Jack Handy on SNL!
Please note: all of the ADP figures used in this article are based off of NFBC’s data. Currently, that information can be found on www.fangraphs.com. Enjoy!
Let’s go back to this past Thursday night before we begin.
*Jake hums a catchy tune to himself*
Inner dialogue: Wow, what a boring offseason. Sure wish that….TRADE. YELICH! WHAT THE….LORENZO CAIN JUST SIGNED. OH GOD WHAT IS HAPPENING?! THIS IS CRAZY.
Blackout. End of scene.
We finally got some action over here! It’s been a dang funeral march up to this point, but the Marlins finally pulled the trigger and dealt Christian Yelich to the Brewers after much speculation and spitballing. Only after the internet made fun of the Marlins for thinking they could land Ronald Acuna for Yelich, of course. Anyways, the deal is done. Yelich heads to Milwaukee in exchange for 3 pretty decent prospects (Brinson, Diaz, Harrison) and one random (Yamamoto?!). It was by far the best haul they’ve gotten in Derek Jeter’s Totally Tubular Rebuild of 2018.
Let’s get some instant reaction to the trade and how it affects Yelich moving forward.
OF Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers
Love it. Plain and simple. This is a fantastic move for both the Brewers and Yelich. As of Thursday night, his ADP was at 72, which is the very end of the 6th round in 12-team leagues. I wouldn’t be surprised if the helium vaults him up to top 5 round status. He’s going to be hitting at the top of a lineup that features Eric Thames, Ryan Braun, Travis Shaw, (maybe) Domingo Santana, and Lorenzo Cain in there somewhere. Before the trade, Steamer and Depth Charts were both projecting something close to a 86 R/18 HR/72 RBI/12 SB line, but I would expect that to change now that he gets to feast at Miller Park. Ron Shandler pointed out in his Baseball Forecaster (a must have for fantasy baseball nerds BTW) that Yelich’s upside points towards a 25 HR/25 SB season. I think that’s a tad ambitious even in Milwaukee, but you should feel comfortable projecting 20 HR/20 SB with something close to a .290/.370/.460 triple slash.
The Verdict: I love the move, and the sky is the limit for Yelich in 2018. The skills are there for an elite multi-category contributor, but I worry the price will be a little too high for me on draft day. He’s been on the verge of superstardom for a minute now, and this could be the last time he’s available after the 4th round.
The baseball gods must have sensed that we were starving for attention because soon after the Yelich trade, Lorenzo Cain signed with the Brew Crew. Here’s my thoughts on Cain.
OF Lorenzo Cain, Milwaukee Brewers
Well, ok then, Brewers. The time is now in Milwaukee apparently, which they proved by pulling off the Yelich trade and inking Cain to a “bargain” 5 year/$80 million deal. Cain has an ADP at 100 currently, which puts him in the early part of the 9th round in 12-team leagues. I feel that number will rise in the coming weeks, but the 8th or 9th feels about right to me. Cain has settled into a steady double-digit HR/SB guy with a high average and above average on-base skills. He’s a solid #2 OF option on draft day, and he is currently projected to hit 2nd in a suddenly loaded Brewers lineup. He bounced back nicely in 2017 after a down 2016, and I think the move to Miller Park will help him at least repeat last year’s performance.
The Verdict: Like Yelich, he can help you in multiple categories. He has the on-base skills and the lineup to challenge for 90-100 runs and the speed to eclipse 20-25 steals. Don’t overpay, but he looks like a safe bet assuming he doesn’t rise any earlier than the 8th round.
And now back to our regularly scheduled programming. Here are some guys who seem worth mentioning based on current ADP numbers.
1B Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
He’s currently checking in with an ADP around 95, which would place him towards the end of the 8th round in a 12-teamer. Honestly, I thought it would be lower than that based on his disastrous 2017, which has many thinking this is the beginning of the end for the 35-year-old, future Hall of Famer. Take a look at the chart below:
As you can see, the bottom dropped out. Thanks to injuries last season and his age, it’s safe to ask whether or not he’ll ever return to his former glory. As if that wasn’t enough, his K% jumped up to 20.8% as well in 2017, which was his highest since 2004. The BB/K rate has steadily fallen over the last 3 seasons, his ISO has plummeted, and the arrow is unfortunately pointed down.
The Verdict: I love Miggy, but this looks pretty bad. Even the 8th round feels too high. If he slips beyond the 10th, I’ll probably be inclined to take a gamble based on his phenomenal track record. But…I have a feeling I’ll be hoping for a guy we’ll never see again. For one of the first times in his career, Miguel Cabrera is a risky pick on draft day.
OF Domingo Santana, Milwaukee Brewers
The ADP was at 74 upon the writing of this article, but Santana’s value in the coming months will be directly tied to how the Brewers play this. Currently, they have Yelich, Braun, and Cain in the outfield with nowhere for Santana to go. First Base is occupied as well. Now, we’re all assuming (and rightly so) this can’t be the end of the Brewers’ moves this off-season as they suddenly have a plethora of talent available to them. IF Santana finds his way into the lineup, then you will not find a bigger fan of his than me. He made a huge jump in plate appearances, home runs, steals, runs, and pretty much every offensive category you can think of. The encouraging sign is that all of the underlying metrics suggest this is very real and right in line with his natural progression. I was going to call for a season in which Santana solidified himself as a top 25 outfielder, but now I’m saying stay tuned.
The Verdict: MONSTER talent here if he can just find the playing time. Perhaps he finds his way to the middle of another squad’s lineup soon? Stay tuned as we all await clarity on the situation.
2B Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals
Where did this come from?! The late-blooming Merrifield broke out at age 28 last year, and now he’s vaulted all the way up to the mid-6th round with an ADP of 69. (Nice). The speed was something we expected based on the skills he flashed in the minors, but the 19 home runs were completely unexpected. Every power indicator swung significantly for Whit in 2017 as he saw his GB/FB rate go from 1.50 to 0.93, his GB% go from 44.7% to 37.7%, and his FB% go from 29.8% to 40.5%! That’s a pretty drastic change at the plate. However, be very cautious. This isn’t just something you can just chalk up to a launch angle adjustment. I see a red flag in that this was not his profile at all in the minors, and he does not jump off the page in terms of hard contact percentage. This is not someone clubbing no-doubters, which could indicate some lucky shots last year. Regression is coming.
The Verdict: Although I expect regression in the power department, I believe the upside is 10-12 HR/35 SB. You can’t deny the speed skills. They’re not going away. I do worry, however, that the Royals will have no one around him, so perhaps a regression in counting stats should be expected as well. I like the player, but the 6th is too risky for me.
P Johnny Cueto, San Francisco Giants
Just kidding. Kind of. Listen, he’s going in the middle of the 13th right now, and I am comfortable there (or later) in all honesty. His 2017 was less than ideal, obviously, so his stock should be low on draft day 2018. I could sit here and explain the depth of his garbage 2017, but I think a nifty chart would be more effective. See for yourself.
Also, the groundball rate went down, the flyball rate went up, and the hard contact rate went up. It’s not pretty, folks. He got pounded last year, but is this the new Cueto or an outlier? You be the judge.
The Verdict: Maybe it was injury or something else going on, but nothing looked good when it comes to Johnny Cueto in 2017. He had been consistently good until last year, so I get it if you still have hope. If you believe in a bounce back, then he could be a steal at his current ADP. I don’t think I’ll be gambling.
P Robbie Ray, Arizona Diamondbacks
Ray is currently checking in tied with teammate Zack Greinke at ADP 47.5, which makes him a 4th rounder. He had an outstanding 2017 in which his ERA fell all the way to 2.89 from 4.90 the year before. Also, he continued to solidify his reputation as one of the best strikeout options in fantasy baseball with his second consecutive 218 K season. He was nearly impossible to hit with a batting average against mark of .197! And that’s whilst pitching at Chase Field for half his games! Also, his GB/FB mark improved 0.40 points from 2016. Before you get too excited though, take note that stats like FIP and xFIP plus a rising FB% indicate that regression could be coming in 2018.
The Verdict: Before we add him to the tier of #1 SP options, let’s keep in mind that there are a few indicators hinting at regression. Especially when you pitch at Chase Field. He’s one of the best and safest options for Ks on draft day, no doubt, but this is a 4th rounder who could return 7th or 8th round value.
SS Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers
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What a breakout, Elvis! As consistent as they come in our little, lovely game, this guy belted a career-high 20 home runs in 2017. That’s like…34 more home runs than he had hit in the previous 5 or 6 years combined. Owners got a phenomenal deal with Andrus last year as he delivered his regular stat line but with career-best power to boot. If you’re thinking it was a fluke and assume regression hits him hard, hold the phone. This may not be as crazy a jump as we think. In fact, his GB/FB rate has settled in the 1.50 range for the last 3 years. His FB% has made a steady ascent the last 3 seasons as well. Add that to a slight increase in hard hit rate over the same time frame, and we low-key may have a guy who finally got the home runs to catch up with the underlying metrics.
The Verdict: If you don’t expect 20 home runs again, then you won’t be disappointed. The metrics and consistency say it’s not crazy to project double-digit home runs again. Besides the power, he’s about as safe as they come if you miss on the big names at SS. The 5th round feels slightly high but I could see myself pulling that trigger by the time March rolls around.
2B Ian Kinsler, Los Angeles Angels
Did you know Ian Kinsler is coming off back-to-back 20+ HR seasons with 14 SBs? Yeah, it’s easy to stop paying attention to the Tigers lately. I get it. However, take heed of Ian Kinsler in LA! He’s projected to hit at the top of an order that features Trout, Upton, Pujols or what’s left of him, Kole Calhoun, Zack Cozart and maybe Ohtani every now and then. I see a huge discount at the back of the 16th round (191 overall) for a guy who could put up a line of 75 R/18 HR/63 RBI/14 SB. The triple slash has been on a steady decline the last three years, it’s true, but this is a big target for me when I need to fill that MI slot later in the draft.
The Verdict: Age and slight regression mean you won’t have to reach for Kinsler. The lineup should help ease the pain of drafting a 36-year-old middle infielder. There’s value and safety here in the late rounds.
OF Andrew McCutchen, San Francisco Giants
It just feels wrong typing the Giants’ name there. Rebuilds aside, it’s remarkable how overblown Cutch’s regression has been. He struggled out of the gate in 2016, sure, which has apparently put a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. But look again at the big picture, and you will see the model of consistency. Sure, he’s not the star he was in his 20s anymore, but this new baseline of 85 R/25 HR/85 RBI with double-digit steals and a respectable triple slash is something I can work with. Especially in the 7th round as a #2 OF. He’s going to hit 2nd behind Joe Panik and in front of Posey, Longo, and Belt. It could be much worse.
The Verdict: The best days may be behind him, but I’m ok with the new McCutch. The price feels right for the consistency even in a challenging pitcher’s ballpark.
3B Evan Longoria, San Francisco Giants
Again, it feels wrong to type “Giants” here. All good things must come to an end, I guess. Anyways, Longoria feels like a nice value play based on his 195 ADP right now (17th round). Depth Charts and Steamer both project a similar line to his 71 R/20 HR/86 RBI line from a year ago and a similar triple slash to 2017 as well. He is on the downslope of the age/regression curve, and we have indicators of that especially in the power department. Last year saw a 12% increase in GB%, 10% decrease in FB%, and an uptick in soft contact percentage. 2016 was an outlier and more than likely a Longoria that we will never see again. Adjust the expectations back to 2014-2015 Longo, and you will value him properly.
The Verdict: He’s been brilliantly consistent over the years, but you can’t outrun old Father Time. If you throw out his 2016 outlier season, he has been on a steady decline since 2014. However, he feels like a decent, safe bargain anywhere after the 16th round at the CI or UTIL spot.
P Gerrit Cole, Houston Astros
Another guy on this list with a new home. I’m sensing a trend. Anyways, Cole stayed mostly healthy last year, and his reward was a huge uptick in home runs given up. Thanks a lot! The dude literally could not get the balls out of the yard fast enough. His HR/9 shot up to a career-worst 1.37 when it had previously never gone above 0.72. His HR/FB%, which had always sat around the 6-9% range even in the minors, was suddenly 15.9%! Obviously, the ERA of 4.26 was hideous as a result. All that being said, the deeper metrics of FB%, GB%, and as a result, his GB/FB rate were all pretty much in line with previous years. I want to believe that despite the ugly surface stats, we can chalk last year up to being a fluke. Maybe a change of scenery and a competitive team is just what the doctor ordered.
The Verdict: I love Cole in Houston as he can now be just one of many instead of the only guy in the rotation. It looked bad on the surface because of the home runs, but I think there’s an ace lurking under there somewhere. When the flyballs regress back to the mean and stop leaving the yard, Cole in the 8th might become the steal of 2018.
P/OF/1B?/DH probs Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels
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I honestly don’t know what to tell you guys. His ADP is 80 right now, which means he’s a 7th rounder. It’s tough to get a read on his projections because we barely know how he’ll be used at this point. He seems to be projecting more favorably as a pitcher, and that makes sense because the indication is the Angels will definitely use him there first. This is a wait-and-see.
The Verdict: If you feel like gambling, roll the dice. Obviously, pay attention to how your league allows you to use Ohtani. I’m not touching the hitter version if he’s split into two players. I just don’t think he’ll get the at-bats you want. However, he feels like he could be worth the risk in the 7th as a pitcher.
So, that’s it. A January ADP article. VERY useful stuff. As I said before, these numbers can AND WILL change in the coming months as we get more information. Good luck researching and remember that we are only 2 months away from the season!
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