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Many scribes are going to post this sort of thing later in the spring, and often I’ve done that, too. But where's the utility in that? How much does it help you late in draft season?
You don’t have to follow my recommendations, of course. It’s your team, it’s your investment, it’s your name on the door and on top of the letterhead. And when you lap the field and secure the title in October, it’s your glory.
Anyway, here are some names I don’t expect to land often, if at all, as we enter the main swing of draft and auction season. Your mileage may and likely will vary. I don’t know the opponents in your league, their habits and patterns.
(Yeah, I’m the guy who told you not to trust Cespedes last year, and I said it all year. I also begged you to take Arrieta and Pollock well in advance of the season. I trust that adds up to a net profit. Again, YMMV.)
Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins: Spectacles are always going to cost a little more at the draft table. Fun picks, buzzy picks, they’re expensive. No one questions Stanton’s awesome power, and the new arrangement in Miami (fences in, fences down) can only help — though his mammoth power would play anywhere. But given Stanton has averaged just 114 games over the last four years, wouldn’t you like a little more durability with your early selection? And how many categories are we really buying here? The average could be neutral, the steals are modest and could stop at any time. I see other guys I’d rather snag in the first round. (Take instead: Miguel Cabrera.)
Freddie Freeman, Braves: Lineup protection doesn’t really matter that much with respect to how often opposing pitchers offer strikes to the lone wolf in the order. But when I talk about lineup security or environment, I’m focused on how often the batters in an order will support the player in question. Are they setting the table for him? Are they driving him in? Atlanta has been the worst offense in the majors for two years running, and I don’t have much confidence in a notable improvement this year. And to make Freeman even more risky a pick, he’s coming off an injury-plagued season and his wrist isn’t 100 percent yet. (Take instead, probably cheaper: Eric Hosmer.)
Jhonny Peralta, Cardinals: This is the simplest concept going — when any player is faced with an extended period of rehab, I’m always going to bet on the higher end of the return estimate. Furthermore, I’m going to be especially grounded with expectation when that player comes back. Peralta turns 34 at the end of May and he might not be playing until the second half of the year. Listen close, that’s the sound of me scratching Peralta off my draft board.
Billy Hamilton, Reds: We’ve been through this one already. No pop, tons of batting average risk, difficult to trade, and he’s already nicked up to boot. His Yahoo ADP stands afloat at 106. I wouldn’t even consider him until outside the Top 200. Get Delino Deshields instead, thank me later.
Kyle Schwarber, Cubs: Another repeat. I hate pricing in improvement to a buzzy player, that means you have to elbow everyone else out of the way to land the player. No one wants to shop on Black Friday. Schwarber doesn’t have a natural position and he plays for a team with too many bats, not enough slots. He didn’t hit a lick against lefties last year and he’ll lose some at-bats though late-inning substitutions. I get the pro angles: The Schwa has monster power and pedigree, and you love those catcher-eligibles who aren’t really catchers. But the Cubs still can’t use a DH in their NL schedule, which means Schwarber will be around 470-500 at-bats, not 600. And if there’s a more public team than the 2016 Cubs, I can’t see who it is. You’ll pay a vanity tax on all these guys.
Felix Hernandez, Mariners: The fastball trend is headed in the wrong direction, the innings are piling up, the haul wasn’t good in 2015. Maybe Felix gets it righted in 2016, but look at how deep the pitcher board is for the Top 2-3 tiers. Never talk yourself into a pricy pitcher, especially when the pickings are this lush and interesting.
A little low-hanging fruit, because I don’t know anyone who’s really in on Latos. But just keep in mind the park is bad, the catchers could be a problem.
I'll add an anecdotal reason; take it or discard it, that's your call. I think it was Bill James who once said the better pitchers in baseball tended to be the smarter guys. I’ve never met Latos personally, but he doesn’t strike me as the guy doing the physics homework in the Harvard hallway. Nothing against Cat Latos, we're just in it for the numbers.
Yasiel Puig, Dodgers: I thought he might be a fun discount to chase after in 2016, but seeing Puig’s ADP sitting in the mid-60s, I don’t think the market has corrected enough. Does Puig want to be great? Does he have the focus and dedication needed for a six-month season? He’s hit a modest 46 home runs in 331 MLB games. On the bases, he’s 25-for-43 (the team really should red light him). There’s a moment in the middle of the draft where I switch to “ahh screw it, let’s make upside picks” but Puig’s ticket is still in the foundation round. I want surer things at his price range. (Take instead, surely cheaper: Hunter Pence.)
Aroldis Chapman, Yankees: I’m not going out of my way to collect problems in March. Enough of them will find their way onto my roster, one way or another. Are we sure the Yankees won’t decide to go with a variety bullpen even after Chapman returns? Are we positive Chapman will adjust smoothly to life in New York and in the American League? At this price point, I want six potential months of saves, and I want someone with less baggage (and pressure) hanging over his head.
Marcus Stroman, Blue Jays: He’s everyone else’s favorite, so he can’t be mine, too. When in doubt, I’m going to bet against AL East pitchers and smaller ones at that. Go hang out in the National League, where there are exploitable opponents all over the place. Don’t mess with the AL East if you don’t have to.
Jason Heyward, Cubs: Ground balls don’t go over the fence. Angelic fielding will hold your spot in the lineup, but it doesn’t do a thing for our bottom lines.
Cole Hamels, Rangers: His name brand has always screened a good but not dominant pitcher: 3.31 ERA, 1.15 WHIP for his career. The ratios skipped up to 3.66/1.20 in Arlington last year, marked by that pretty 7-1 record. We’re into an age-32 season and the miles are starting to add up. Go take one of those cheaper NL starters, there are a whole bunch of them.
This is by no means a complete list. And if the price slips substantially on any of them, hell, maybe I'll grab them too. The first rule of any draft is to stay flexibile. I’m sure I’ll tweet more on this topic, and write more, as we amble through the spring. Share your names to avoid in the comments.