The second week of March appears to have been the self-imposed deadline for many of the big-name fish in the 2018 Free Agent Pool. In just the past week the top pitcher (Jake Arrieta), the top catcher (Jonathan Lucroy), and the top hitter (Mike Moustakas) available in each category all inked deals. That list was fleshed out with a former-MVP candidate (Carlos Gonzalez), a veteran bat up-the-middle (Neil Walker), and a mid-rotation innings eater (Lance Lynn).
Now that the teams are known we can get a better feel as to their fantasy production for the upcoming year. To cut to the chase, proven players such as the guys in this group of five are unlikely to see their arrow shift dramatically. They are what they are by this point. Still, is their present ADP a fair gauge of that talent or were they being under-drafted since they lacked a uniform? Here's the take on each.
(Reminder: Each player is followed by his current NFBC ADP marks. The other two numbers next to a player's name are the highest the player has been selected in an NFBC draft and then the lowest that a player has been selected in an NFBC draft. Entering the final week of February, the NFBC numbers come from a collection of 330 drafts.)
Jake Arrieta, SP, Philadelphia (ADP #100, 62/171)
The Phillies have added Arrieta to be their ace, but he's no one's fantasy ace anymore. After the stellar and Cy Young-winning 2015, Arrieta has been good, but rarely great. His K-rate has flattened out to 8.7/9 and he's also allowing more and more baserunners while giving up harder contact. In 2017, the HR bug also caught him (1.2/9 ... a number about 50% higher than his career average). That could be dangerous in Philly's Citizen's Bank Park ... a yard known to turn outs into trots. Want more? Arrieta's fastball has lost some juice and he's now leaving Wrigley Field. For whatever the reason, the righty was a force at Clark & Addison. He was the winner in 30 of 59 starts, kept an ERA of 2.31, and a WHIP under-1. Pure ace on the North Side.
Arrieta still works as a #3 in a fantasy rotation. He's in that dwindling group of pitchers who will be allowed to keep pitching into the 7th and who isn't dealing with any kind of pitch count from game-to-game. Although his whiffs have slipped they are still quite playable. Best case in my mind is that his numbers don't turn out all that different from last year. Worst case is that his ERA creeps to 4, his HRs keep climbing, and his K-rate drops another half-batter. At that point you'd be stuck with an SP5. Don't overinvest in this move to the NL East.
Jonathan Lucroy, C, Oakland (ADP #194, 107/334)
Lucroy was a full-blown disaster last season. His start in Texas was as bad as anyone could ever imagine. A .242 average is actually manageable from a catcher, but the four homers and .338 slugging percentage is a stain that can't be washed out. The Rangers flipped him to Colorado, of course, and the pro-hitting environs livened him up. But, the 'livening up' was to turn him into a ground ball, singles hitter. Still, not what we wanted.
I see the move to the Bay Area as a major positive. Oakland is just the place for a rebound. Lucroy should see ample playing time. He should be in the middle-third of the lineup. He'll be surrounded by a surprisingly good lineup with a lot of base-clearing potential.
The thing with catchers is that they don't need to be all that good to be ... well ... good. Lucroy can hit .260 with 15 homers and 60 RBIs and be almost top 10 at the position. I think he will do more. After an OPS that dipped below-.720 a year ago, I'll call the righty bat for a near-.800 OPS (something he's done in three other seasons). He should go gap-to-gap for plenty of extra-base hits in the Coliseum while seeing starts in 5 of 7. Plug him into your top-10 catcher rankings and grab him anywhere from rounds 14-18.
Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City (ADP #129, 62/199)
Moose is right back where he started. With zero market for his services, Moustakas returns to a now-depleted KC lineup. After spending years being part of the attack, he is now THE attack. It's a scary development.
The 3B became an aggressive, fly-ball seeking hitter in 2017, and even though he didn't hit the ball as hard as usual, he topped his previous best HR mark by 16! Thirty-eight shots will stand out in any season, but even if he did that again (and, he won't), what else does he do well? I think he'll be lucky to get to 80 RBIs. He'll never steal a base. He can hit .280, but only if he sacrifices the long bombs. And with this team, runs will be at a premium.
The current ADP (Round 11 in a 12-teamer) is much too high for me. He's always been a mid-tier 3B and there are just so many other options at that spot. And if you were thinking of him as a possible CI for your squad, you'd likely be better served heading across the diamond for a mid-tier 1B. That said, I should mention that Moustakas has been whispered as a possible 1B fill-in for KC from time-to-time. Extra eligibility won't hurt, but it won't cover up the 'average-ness' of Moose.
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado (ADP #299, 196/433)
What could be better than coming back to Coors Field? Oh, how about coming back to Coors Field with a birth certificate saying you're 28 instead of nearly 33?
Cargo has always been a creation of the altitude he plays in. Last year was dramatic. In a down year he still slashed .323/.403/.520 in the home whites. When he changed into the road gray's, he turned in this ... .203/.274/.332. He also has gotten worse against southpaws with an ever-disappointing batting average and just no pop.
What we have here is a necessary platoon player. He can still find a groove as evidenced by his lights-out second half of last summer when he spit out a .314/.390/.531 line. But if the Rockies are smart about it they'll give Cargo the matchups with right-handers and pencil him in for nearly all home games. They have younger, worthy options behind him (David Dahl, Raimel Tapia) that can be used for all other moments.
The above-ADP is really low. Much of that is dictated by the four-month uncertainty of where he would be playing. He should be crawling much closer to #250 in any future drafts. I'm totally fine with that number in a league with daily changes where I'm able to adjust to the lineup every day. He wouldn't really fit for me in weekly leagues because of the uncertainty of playing time.
Lance Lynn, SP, Minnesota (ADP #225, 118/322)
Lynn is really 'just a guy' for fantasy players. He's not bad by any means. He's also not great nor featuring any real upside. He's a guy who takes the ball every five days and takes aim at earning a quality start. We're talking about a back-end rotation filler who you pick-and-choose based off the matchup.
Lynn's 2017 was actually a success because it was post-year 1 coming off Tommy John surgery. Making 33 starts and rocking out 185+ innings is a victory in most everybody's book. That said, his fastball (which he throws 80% of the time!) lost some zip. His walks were up, his whiffs were down. He's entered the 'veteran/gamer mode' of his career. He will be helped by Minnesota's fleet-fielding collection of outfielders, but any gain there will be outweighed by the move to the AL. If he's your 6th SP in a 12-team get-together, you're in a decent spot. I wouldn't go any higher, though.
Neil Walker, 2B, NY Yankees (ADP #455, 295/591)
On first glance, it appears that the rich get richer. Certainly that's part of the take-away. But, Walker is really a very ordinary hitter and fantasy option. In fact, he should go undrafted in a vast majority of the leagues out there. I can't imagine him hitting anywhere but in the 7-8-9 spots of the batting order.
If you take a look at the back of his baseball card, can you even imagine him besting a .275/16/65 kind of AVG/HR/RBI-line? And that's if he managed 130+ starts. Walker is ticketed for early-season duty at 2B, but by mid-season, the Yankees could be heading in another direction. They have back-up's (Ronald Torreyes), they have up-and-comers (Gleybar Torres), and they always have the ability to make a big trade.
Walker should be nothing more than waiver wire, fill-in fodder. Grab if you need him. Ride a hot streak that may last a couple of weeks. But, don't go investing in him for the long haul.
You can hear Kyle each weeknight on 'The SiriusXM Fantasy Drive' from 7-10 ET, Sirius 210, XM 87.
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