Is it fair to say that a vast majority of fantasy players spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about their 1st-round pick? Speaking as a radio show call-in host, I can tell you that at least 70% of our calls deal with questions about the first 15 players off the board.
I suppose it's understandable. The top stars are located in round 1. If you can't get your first pick correct, what can you get correct, right?? I challenge you to look at a draft board sometime and overcome the urge to immediately let your eye wander to round 1. That's what everybody - amateur and expert, alike - does.
But, unlike fantasy football, fantasy baseball requires a true team. Yes, you need your upper-end picks to come close to their preseason expectations. But, you also need a handful of surprises, multiple unexpected pitching contributions, and non-drafted, in-season adds, if you want that crown at the end of September.
This week and next week we're going to dive into the deep end of the player pool. Let's cast our gaze beyond the first 10 rounds, outside the top 120, and away from the most-discussed names of the preseason. Up first is a look at rounds 10-19 ... picks 109-228 in a typical 12-team league. Round-by-round, I've got a guy who I consider a 'grab' and a guy I see as a 'pass' within each 12-pick run.
(Reminder: Each player is followed by his current NFBC (National Fantasy Baseball Championship) ADP mark. The following two numbers are the highest that player has been selected in an NFBC draft and then, the lowest that player has been selected in an NFBC draft. Entering March, these NFBC numbers come from a collection of 309 drafts.)
Grab - Luis Castillo (#113 overall, high - 80/low - 144) - Castillo's April was brutal (6 starts, less than 30 innings, and an ERA near-8). That silenced a large portion of the pre-'18 hype and might have caused you to miss where things ended up . Overall, Castillo's first full-MLB season was solid, but consistency was fleeting. What matters is that in 16 of his final 25 starts he allowed two or fewer runs. Velocity is his friend. It was there in the summer (near 97 mph), but was missing early on (under 95). You won't get many seven or eight inning starts, but the arm plays and a little more HR luck (1.5/9 last year) will do him wonders. Definitely, SP2 upside.
Pass - Max Muncy (111, 57/175) - It's always easy to fade the outta-nowhere, where-the-hell-did-that-come-from? effort the following season. I'll take that easy route! Muncy left the scrap heap and somehow finished with a shocking total of 35 homers. This season, the opposition will be more focused on slowing Muncy and they will continue to feed him his kryptonite ... off-speed pitches. Muncy takes a fashionable all-or-nothing approach to the plate. He'll likely still hit 20+ shots, but I'd expect the batting mark to drop below .240.
Grab - Rougned Odor (128, 80/177) - All that anyone wants to talk about with Odor is the dip in home runs ... from 30 in '17 to 18 in '18. I'll spend my time talking about the other things. Odor lowered his strikeout rate. He raised his batting average. He jumped his OBP. And, even without all the slow trots around the infield, he managed to raise his SLG%. I'll call him a sleeper for 20 thefts this year, too.
Pass - Wade Davis (122, 88/204) - You can still count on the raw save totals, but everything else isn't all too exciting. For one thing, Davis is still in Coors Field. Building a season ERA that is under-4 in that outpost is near-impossible. Davis is now 33, has a dimming fastball, and gave up a lot of rockets last year (fly balls and line drives against him spent most of last year taking off at nearly 95 mph). Too much danger to invest as your RP1.
Grab - Brian Dozier (136, 81/192) - Dozier is an analytical darling this year and most are giving him a pass on his dreadful '18 because of an early-season bone bruise in his knee. It's nice that he tried to play through it, but it killed his marks (big credit for still racking up 12 steals, though). It's just hard to believe that Dozier went from a 3-year average of 35/90/104 and then suddenly fell to 21/72/81. There is no mention of a nagging problem with the knee in Nationals' camp and I'm hoping Dozier gets the 4 or 5-spot in the batting order. Dial up 30/90 one last time.
Pass - Carlos Martinez (138, 82/302) - As discussed in this space last week ... where there's smoke there is fire. The delays on C-Mart continue and, quite fairly, his ADP continues to crash. Beeping red light stuff, here.
Grab - Stephen Piscotty (150, 113/196) - Even Piscotty would not deny that his mind was often elsewhere over the past two seasons. The well-documented failing health and eventual passing of Piscotty's mother took a toll both on and off the field. From the diamond, we saw a prospective All-Star slip to back-up outfielder. But, as the second-half of last year showed, Piscotty has a live bat, a lot of hard hitting in his profile, and can be a big time middle-of-the-order lift for the A's. He also handles lefties well enough and wasn't punished by his home park. Sleeper 30/100 pick.
Pass - Yu Darvish (153, 108/212) - I spent most of last spring warning people off of Darvish. His career workload has been immense and neck, shoulder, and overall arm issues are always up front and cause for concern. I think that Darvish could actually prove worthy if on the hill every five days, but I'm just not a believer in his health. Remember, he's 32 with a grand total of 18 wins and 327 innings since the end of ... 2014.
Grab - Yoan Moncada (158, 110/224) - The talent is still there and the playing time will be available for all of 2019. Simply stepping on the field 150 times will get Moncada up to attractive counting totals ... Think 20/70/75/20. He has spent a load of time this offseason focusing on his approach at the plate (he should) and he could easily slice 30-40 K's off his insane mark of 217 last year. Selecting him this late is an absolute win on the 'risk vs. reward' spectrum.
Pass - Nathan Eovaldi (165, 108/228) - He'll forever be known for his exploits in Game 3 of last year's World Series, but fantasy players should still know him as the guy who has topped 155 innings just once since debuting in 2011. Injuries wiped out two of those years, but even if he somehow finds his way to 25 starts this season he still might not top the magical '155'-level. Boston has made no secret of their urge to yank him after two times through the lineup. The wins could be there, but I'm not looking for anything beyond just average in the ratio cats.
Grab - Elvis Andrus (174, 92/263) - There's a big discount here because of the freak broken elbow (suffered on an HBP) last year. With less than 100 games played in '18, many seem to have forgotten that Andrus is a strong batting average/stolen base combo (.285 with 25 steals per year from '15-'17). Furthermore, he's likely to hit 3rd in the Texas lineup, so there will be more RBIs than one might initially expect. A truly great middle infield bargain.
Pass - Dallas Keuchel (175, 133/237) - Everytime another Atlanta Braves starting pitcher comes up lame (uh, was it really FOUR this past week?!), we hear the name of Keuchel as 'the free agent that they must sign. I don't have a massive dispute with that sentiment, but as a fantasy player, Keuchel isn't of interest. We've certainly seen that missing so much prep time in camp affects these guys. That's worrisome. Beyond that, Houston (who does know pitching) is letting Keuchel walk without much of a fight. And, they could actually use him. Most of his pitches are showing less effectiveness and his much-ballyhooed ground-ball percentage is now all the way down into the low-50s (from its' former heights of over 65%).
Grab - Jesse Winker (191, 147/277) - I usually work my best to avoid a hitter coming off of shoulder surgery ... but, not all recovering players get to play in Great American Ballpark. Winker won't do much running, but everything else appears in play as his home yard will lift all of his counting stats. In 70 career games at the GAB, he's posted a near-.900 OPS. Give him 140 games this year and I think you have a .280/20 season with a good chance of 80 runs scored.
Pass - Yuli Gurriel (182, 125/322) - He's old (34), not a power bat, and could be pushed out of regular playing time by the likes of Tyler White (256, 177/384) and even the forgotten, A.J. Reed (721, 509/747) who is still just 25 and offers a left-handed bat. That's important because Gurriel showed very little against RHPs in '18 (.273/.303/.390). That's dreadful. Even if Gurriel plays a load and racks up 500 PAs, there's just nothing that moves the needle in the fantasy game.
Grab - David Robertson (194, 97/411) - Paying for 30+ saves pushes you to take a closer in the first 10 rounds. A few of those guys are great bets to rack up those final three outs and they also have a strong grip on the job. But, others in that realm do not. I see Robertson as very similar to relievers being taken 50-60 picks higher ... he's proven just like they are, he's a big-K arm (12-per-nine over 11 years!) just like they are, and he's the first option for the 9th to begin the season. You can't guarantee that the job remains his, but no one in Philly emerged last year. Robertson was brought in to be 'The Man' and can easily notch 30 wrap-up's for an 85-90 win Phillies squad.
Pass - Will Smith (201, 133/405) - San Francisco really has no idea what they want to do in the back-end of their 'pen. Smith may very well be the first guy (although, I still say Mark Melancon (474, 206/723) is the 'cheap' draft route I'd go), but the unstated front office goal is to get Smith traded at some point in 2019. And, wherever he goes, he won't be closing. The bet here is that the most you'll get is a closer for three months ... if that.
Grab - Ketel Marte (216, 138/296) - Multi-positional eligibility is the name of the game here. By mid-April, the 5th year player will add OF to his already strong combo of 2B/SS. Marte took advantage of the LARGE Chase Field outfield in his first go-around in Phoenix, leading all of baseball with 12 triples. That shows his speed, but it also gets you dreaming of more than the six stolen bases of last season. I would be surprised if Marte fails to get double-digits in that category this year. It's worth remembering that 2018 was also his first real chance at every day playing. Expect gradual growth with average numbers in all five categories. That's tougher than it sounds.
Pass - Sean Newcomb (207, 124/309) - Wait a sec ... isn't Newcomb the only healthy arm left in Atlanta?? Yes, that's true ... for now. Newcomb was fine last season, but he continues to put too many runners on base. Control has been iffy through 264 MLB innings. A 4.8 BB/9 in the minors has been followed by a 4.7 BB/9 in the majors. As many have noted, the lefty is still spelunking for a second pitch to follow his fastball offering. Thus far, nothing has stuck which could portend an eventual move to the Brave bullpen.
Grab - Tyler Skaggs (226, 129/375) - Everyone likes the talent and everyone knows the injury risk. It will and always has been there for Skaggs. His '18 first half showed what can be. A 2.57 ERA with a 9+ K-rate made it fairly easy for him to notch 7 wins before the break. Then a litany of issues (hip, hamstring, groin) took root and it was a bummer of a second-half. You don't need to doubt the stuff. It's there. If you gave me 25 starts from Skaggs, I'd expect a top-30 SP. He's going off around 65th at the position.
Pass - Ross Stripling (223, 164/297) - Quietly, Stripling shined in the Dodger rotation for portions of last season. He pitched as well as could be expected, but the innings were limited (as the Dodgers are wont to do) and he shuffled back-and-forth between the rotation and the 'pen. It meant that some weeks you loved having Stripling and other weeks you were left complaining about his lack of fantasy impact. I don't see that changing this season. This is a call about Stripling's role, not so much his talent.
Coming up next week ... 'grabs' and 'passes' for Rounds 21-29.
You can hear Kyle each weeknight on 'The SiriusXM Fantasy Drive' from 8-10 ET, Sirius 210, XM 87.
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