Welcome back to another round of late-winter/early-spring Average Draft Positioning (ADP) talk. I've been lucky enough to post my thoughts and advice on handling these numbers for Fantistics/InsiderBaseball.com since 2015.
The goal over the upcoming seven weeks (with columns posted every Monday) is to provide a tool that gives you the 'temperature' on players, positions, and strategies. Thanks to the always-reliable marks and full-field live draft get-together's provided by the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC), we can accurately measure that temperature. But, as we say every year ... this is an average of where a player will go. A home-town crowd. A foolish, over-anxious owner. A heart-on-his-sleeve 'fan' of a player. All of these draft room personalities can dramatically alter the exact spot - in any league - where a player will land. With that in mind ... this year, I will also be posting the 'high-water mark' and 'low-water mark' for each player. Since the NFBC is already well-over 100 money-league drafts, we'll be working with a great cross-section of drafts and, thus, we'll be privy to the extremes for any singular player.
Take note that ADP should never be the end-all, be-all when it comes to mapping out your draft. Again, it's an update on how the wind is blowing. Being armed with the most up-to-date information and opinions is just another screw-head to pack in your fantasy baseball draft day toolkit. Each week, I'll give you the latest trends and movements, I'll tell you why a certain player is going up or down, and I'll provide you my take on whether or not it's warranted.
For our first look at the numbers of 2019, we'll focus on the initial storylines for those of you just getting started. What's the 1st-round look like? Positionally, who are the top dogs? What are the average numbers for each position and how many from each position were able to hit all five scoring averages a year ago? And, as baseball changes the way in which they handle pitching are fantasy owners doing the same at the draft table? ...
First Things First
A season ago, the ADP consensus from the fantasy community actually ... came true. That's more rare than you might assume. Expected studs were actual studs ... Mookie Betts, Jose Ramirez, Mike Trout, Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado, Trea Turner, and Max Scherzer. More than half of the April Top-12 were still there in October. Even relative disappointments like Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, Charlie Blackmon, and Paul Goldschmidt, all still finished as top-30 overall assets in a 5x5 leagues. Any fair analysis would only come up with Kris Bryant, Aaron Judge, and Clayton Kershaw as true let-downs. And, of course, all three could simply point to injury as the cause of their issues.
But, again, this is not the normal modus operandi in the first round. In other words, Lady Luck may not be so kind in 2019 to the current Top-12 (based off of 115 NFBC drafts) ...
1. Trout (High water mark - 1/Low water mark - 4)
2. Betts (1/3)
3. Jo. Ramirez (2/8)
4. Francisco Lindor (3/10)
5. J.D. Martinez (3/12)
6. Scherzer (3/12)
7. Christian Yelich (1/14)
8. Ronald Acuna (3/18)
9. Arenado (4/15)
10. T. Turner (3/25)
11. Alex Bregman (5/19)
12. Jacob deGrom (8/21)
Just beyond this list of 12, there are another dozen players knocking on the door of the first round. That group features players that have managed to get into the first round of at least one NFBC draft. If you were to sift through all 115 drafts you would come to the conclusion that the first nine players listed above will be first-round selections in nearly 90% of all 2019 5x5 drafts. Players 10-through-12 is where leagues will see things differently.
Catcher - Here's a position that has failed to keep up with its' peers. In 2018, MLB backstops put up some of the worst numbers this side of the pre-steroid era. Buster Posey (#143 overall, 89/183) has officially relinquished his grip on the top spot. Instead, J.T. Realmuto (57, 39/80) and all-pop, no-block Gary Sanchez (58, 32/78) are jockeying back and forth for the top spot. Only one other catcher - Salvador Perez (111, 68/150) is even being selected in the first 10 rounds of a typical 12-team set-up.
First Base - This corner of the infield no longer holds quite the cache of yesteryear. There are still plenty of very good hitters, but finding much beyond HRs and RBIs has become a challenge. Paul Goldschmidt (20, 12/30) settles in as the head honcho for another year, but Freddie Freeman (21, 12/30) is giving him a run for his money. There is still plenty of solid depth all the way into the late-teens where you'll find the likes of a vet like Eric Hosmer (171, 135/220) or a risky Yankee bomber like Luke Voit (192, 90/294).
Second Base - Good power, plenty of speed, and a relative boost of batting average can be found all over the place at second base. Javier Baez (14, 6/24) emerged as an MVP candidate in '18 with massive marks across-the-board. While Baez ascended, the second-choice here, Jose Altuve (16, 9/27) relented a bit thanks to a second-half knee injury that dampened his final line. The position is loaded with a good 25 options to make use of.
Third Base - All of the thunder, excitement, and prestige that used to come from First Base has now caravanned across the diamond. Third Base is now the place to go for your early round stud, your Corner Infielder, and even your Utility spot. It starts with Ramirez (3, 2/8) and then keeps rolling with ace lumberjacks Arenado (9, 4/15), Bregman (11, 5/19), Anthony Rendon (45, 27/70), and a host of others. As of now, you can even rest on your laurels and secure a 25/90 hot cornerman in Mike Moustakas (151, 113/185) around the 13th-round. And, yes, I do know that you're wondering about the other-worldly, Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. (40, 17/60). Expect his draft day cost to only ascend as we near Opening Day and as we near confirmation of an expected late-April call-up. Why not invest a leap of faith when you have so many accomplished back-up options at 3B??
Shortstop - There is a case to be made that the elite at this spot are the best top-end of any position in baseball. Here's your 'Super Six' -- Lindor (4, 3/10), Turner (10, 3/25), Bregman (also eligible at 3B), Baez (2B, SS), Manny Machado (15, 5/25 ... note, SS-only, in most leagues), and Trevor Story (19, 11/33). All six are going in the first 20 picks. Still, you'll find another set of four just behind them who can also carry the water at SS ... Adalberto Mondesi (44, 20/80), Xander Bogaerts (49, 31/69), Carlos Correa (50, 26/75), and Gleybar Torres (57, 25/87). It's a jacked position that goes 20-deep. Oh, and if you're wondering why Mondesi's name near the top here ... Might I introduce you to his 32 stolen bases in less than 300 plate appearances??!
Outfield - Anyone tiring of Trout?? Yeah, I didn't think so. We'll look back on his run as the 'Almighty of Fantasy' in twenty years and, hopefully, understand how lucky all of us to be alive at this very moment. We are entering a SEVENTH STRAIGHT SEASON where he's the consensus #1 player in all of fantasy baseball. It's mind-blowing to consider and understand.
As for the rest of the guys patrolling the grass? Oh, they're pretty steller, too ... and, young. Betts, Yelich, Acuna, Harper (17, 9/28), Judge (18, 4/29), Giancarlo Stanton (23, 14/35), Andrew Benintendi (30, 15/44), Juan Soto (31, 16/44), Starling Marte (38, 25/54) ... etc., etc., etc.
When tackling the outfield position, so much depends on your league requirements. But, even if you reside in a "12-team, five starting outfielders" you should be fine filling up on talent. There's an 70 OFs who make the grade as worthwhile additions to any roster.
The Hunt for 200 Innings
A measly 13 hurlers got to the 'workhorse' level of 200 innings in 2018. That, of course, continues a trend line that has taken over the game in the past two decades. As usual, many of those 13 men were near the top of fantasy rankings ... Scherzer, deGrom, Corey Kluber (23, 14/40), Justin Verlander (24, 14/39), and Aaron Nola (22, 12/32), at the fore. Early 2019 drafts have shown an overwhelming tendency to push the best pitchers into the first 40 slots.
If you were certain of getting 200 innings from whichever man you made your first SP, any selection is cool. The issue is that injuries can crop up with anyone on the hump. In other words, just because you got that hoped-for-horse early, you are not removed from the concerns of building a true rotation with plenty of solid options and serviceable depth. What is 'serviceable'? I'd wager that in a typical 12-team league I want to walk away from the draft table with about 12 arms ... 9 starters (SP and RP) and 3 bench arms.
There is a TON of pitching talent in baseball nowadays. But, so much of that talent is working under the constraints of youth, protection, and investment. Even when a pitcher is going good and throwing strikes ... you're not assured of seven innings, you're not assured of 30 starts, and you're not even assured of 175 innings. Because of these team-mandated restraints, a fantasy player MUST rely on their entire pitching staff. As always, the waiver wire can be an absolute weapon, but starting the season with a load of hurling options that include young dart throws, proven (but, unexciting) vets, and middle relief gems ... should be a focus on everyone's draft day plan.
You can hear Kyle each weeknight on 'The SiriusXM Fantasy Drive' from 8-10 ET, Sirius 210, XM 87.
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