Fantasy Baseball 2021: Overvalued hitters going too high in drafts
Long before I was in a position to share my analysis with anyone, Cory Schwartz taught me on the Fantasy 411 podcast that “Fantasy baseball is a zero-sum game.” I’ve never forgotten that expression, as it reminds me that for every player who will experience greater success in the coming season, another player has to experience more failure. And fantasy baseball drafts are all about targeting those who will outperform their ADP (average draft position) and avoiding those who will fall short of expectations.
While I don’t usually enjoy being a hater, here are 11 hitters who I am likely to avoid.
Nolan Arenado, St. Lous Cardinals (3B, ADP 26)
Simply put, Yahoo! drafters are way out of line on Arenado’s value. His ADP at this site is higher than most others, and it does not accurately reflect the slugger’s evolving profile. Soon to turn 30, Arenado has several good years left but has already had his best seasons. He also needs to prove his shoulder is healthy, and he no longer as the backdrop of Coors Field to aid his batting average and counting stats. Finally, Arenado doesn’t deliver the steals that are coveted these days in roto leagues. At the earliest, he belongs in Rd. 4.
Aaron Judge, New York Yankees (OF, ADP 46)
One of baseball’s best power hitters, Judge makes a notable impact in just three of the standard five roto categories. More importantly, the hulking slugger has appeared in just 63 percent of the Yankees games since the outset of 2018. With an abundance of power hitters in the modern era, choosing Judge in the early rounds of drafts is an unnecessary risk.
Yoan Moncada, Chicago White Sox (3B, ADP 77)
Moncada deserves a pass for a 2020 season in which he dealt with the COVID-19 virus. But the native Cuban was overrated a year ago, as his solid '19 campaign (25 HR, 10 SB, .315 BA) was heavily influenced by a .406 BABIP. Moncada profiles as a .260 hitter with respectable power and a bit of speed, which is not a strong enough profile to rank among the top-100 picks.
Jeff McNeil, New York Mets (2B/3B/OF, ADP 94)
McNeil is a batting average stud who has earned his impressive lifetime .319 mark. But the rest of his profile is that of waiver-wire fodder, as he has delivered just 30 homers and 12 steals in 918 career at-bats. Fantasy managers are foolish to use a top-100 pick on someone who projects for roughly 15 long balls and five swipes.
Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins (OF, ADP 124)
I have ranted about Buxton on this website in the past, so I’ll keep this short. The 27-year-old has shown flashes of power and base-stealing ability, but he has yet to establish either as a consistent skill. He is also a career .238 hitter who has missed large amounts of time due to injury in nearly all of his Major League seasons. To meet his current ADP, Buxton — who consistently hits near the bottom of the lineup — would need to suddenly stay healthy while also becoming more consistent offensively.
Carlos Correa, Houston Astros (SS, ADP 127)
I may get burned on this one, but I am giving up on Correa reaching his lofty potential. The 26-year-old is entering his seventh Major League season with a career .276 average and nary a 25-homer campaign. And in an era where stolen bases are golden in roto formats, he has swiped a total of six bags since the outset of 2017. Correa will struggle to finish the season as one of the top-15 at a very deep shortstop position.
Dylan Moore, Seattle Mariners (2B/3B/SS/OF, ADP 142)
I understand Moore’s ADP, as his 23 steals in 384 career at-bats make him one of the speed saviors who can help those who didn’t grab enough projected swipes in the initial rounds of their draft. But this late-bloomer is already 28 years old and owns a .224 average across 384 at-bats. His Minor League numbers were not special (career .768 OPS), meaning that managers who pluck him among the top-150 picks are placing a lot of faith in a 38-game sample from last season. My advice: Get your steals early, and leave players like Moore for someone else.
Kyle Lewis, Seattle Mariners (OF, ADP 150)
Lewis is the perfect example of how the shortened 2020 season blurs statistics. The slugger started hot before hitting .150 with four homers, nine RBIs, and 43 strikeouts across 100 at-bats in his final 29 games. Had the season kept going past 60 games, what do you think would have happened next? Well, right now some fantasy managers are using a top-150 pick to find out.
[Draft Rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | RP]
Jonathan Villar, New York Mets (2B/SS, ADP 153)
In a full-time role, Villar has massive roto potential. After all, the speedster ranks second in the Majors with 176 steals across the past five seasons. But Villar’s decision to join the Mets has left him without a position to call his own. The veteran will take some turns at second base and the hot corner, and he may grab the occasional start in the outfield.
Not only is Villar being drafted too early; he shouldn’t be drafted at all.
Daulton Varsho, Arizona Diamondbacks (C/OF, ADP 201)
With a 50 percent share of the catcher responsibilities in Arizona, Varsho would warrant his current ADP. But Carson Kelly will likely get a chance to rebound from a disappointing 2020 season and Stephen Vogt fits the profile of a No. 2 catcher. Varsho will likely open the season in a full-time role in Triple-A and a spot on fantasy waiver wires.
Jake Cronenworth, San Diego Padres (1B/2B/SS, ADP 188)
Similar to Villar, Cronenworth would be an interesting draft option if he had a clear path to playing time. But the loaded Padres roster includes stars on the left side of the infield (Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr.) and a solid first baseman, Eric Hosmer. To have the necessary playing time for mixed-league relevance, Cronenworth would have to block Jurickson Profar and Ha-Seong Kim from sharing second base opportunities. That’s not likely to happen.