As a general rule, we can use average draft position as a pretty solid gauge of public sentiment regarding a player's projected fantasy value. But ADP obviously has its limitations. A simple average doesn't really tell us about the range of opinions that exist about a specific player — and with certain guys, the range of opinions is outrageously wide.
Each year, we can identify a few names in the player pool that some of us consider likely league-winners and others treat as radioactive. One manager's early-round target is another manager's undraftable toxic asset. Today, our mission is to review the pros, cons and various unknowns of three of the most polarizing hitters in fantasy baseball for 2023. We're looking only at early-rounders here, top-50 picks, players who carry a non-trivial cost at the draft table.
You can miss on any number of selections in the double-digit rounds without dire consequences, but you'd better not whiff on anyone who goes as early as these guys.
Fernando Tatís Jr., SS, San Diego Padres (ADP 22.5)
If you're fired up to select Tatís because you see a player with top-of-draft ability who, for one magical spring, is available in the mid-second round, I completely get it. The case is easily made. He's an elite talent with a career OPS of .965 who's only one year removed from going 42/25. Also, Tatis just turned 24 in January, so it's entirely possible we haven't yet seen him at his best.
Basically, the only issues you need to overlook with Tatis are the fact that he remains suspended until April 20 for a PED violation — for which his camp gave an all-time cringy/weird explanation — and he has had three surgeries since he last played in a big-league game and he has had a very quiet spring. If you don't see any red flags there, cool.
Tatís has been selected as high as No. 7 overall in NFBC drafts and as low as No. 55 (which is wild), so the difference of opinion on him in fantasy circles is huge. Players don't get much more polarizing than this. Personally, I haven't landed Tatis in any league just yet because there's always another drafter who views him as something very close to the uninjured, pre-PED version of himself. And hey, maybe that drafter is right. I happen to think the discounted price on Tatis is appropriate, given that he's guaranteed to miss the first three weeks of the season and it's at least possible (perhaps likely) that he won't immediately return as a five-category, superhero-level fantasy monster. I'm open to taking him at ADP if any room ever gives him to me.
If you need a more recklessly aggressive take on Tatis, Dalton Del Don has you covered right 👇.
Michael Harris II, OF, Atlanta Braves (ADP 33.1)
Harris had some low-level prospect hype entering last season, then obliterated expectations when he reached the majors. He fully earned his Rookie of the Year hardware, slugging 19 homers, stealing 20 bags, batting .297 and playing elite defense in center. No question, he was awesome: a delight in fantasy and a joy to watch in reality.
He's also a screaming regression candidate with a few notable holes in his game. Harris isn't really a walker (4.8 BB%), and he didn't hit lefties last season (.238). Plus, he found a level of success in the majors that he hadn't reached at any minor-league stop. His lofty batting average was boosted by a .361 BABIP, which might or might not stick.
And yet ... well, wow. Harris was all kinds of fun last year. The defense will keep him on the field through any cold stretches at the plate. And he's just 22, so power gains aren't unthinkable. His base-stealing ability is absolutely legit, so he's a lock to be a serious asset in at least one standard fantasy category. If he gets 600-plus plate appearances in the Braves' lineup, it's kinda hard to believe he won't give us a 15/30 season with plenty of run production. His average seems likely to slip — every projection system puts him in the .270s — but he's not going to be a clear liability in any stat.
I'll never land Harris in any draft, but that has very little to do with my expectations for him and everything to do with my enthusiasm for Randy Arozarena and Kyle Schwarber. I'm not going to roll my eyes if you want Harris in the mid-third. A certain amount of regression is baked into his ADP.
Luis Robert Jr., OF, Chicago White Sox (ADP 45.6)
Robert was a catastrophic fantasy bust last season, like so many other essential players on the White Sox roster. It was a joyless team, underperforming and unentertaining from spring to fall. Injuries have been an ongoing, multiyear issue for Robert, but none of us is particularly good at forecasting health. His OPS cratered in 2022, dropping 200 points year-over-year. Without question, there are going to be thousands of fantasy managers who believe they were sabotaged by Robert last season and think it's best to make a clean break.
On the other hand, Robert can do stuff such as this ...
CHICAGO WHITE SOX:
Luis Robert hit a 487-ft, 112.2 mph home run in ALWC Game 3 last year
It was the:
- 2nd-longest HR in 2020 (incl. playoffs)
- 2nd-longest postseason HR tracked by Statcast (since '15)
- Longest White Sox HR tracked by Statcast
💪 ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/xrmYOMxE2D
— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) February 28, 2021
... and he hit .307 with 25 bombs and 17 steals in 166 games the past two years. If he can manage to remain mostly healthy over a full season, it's perfectly clear he has the traits necessary to dramatically outproduce his ADP. He's only 25, so — as with Tatis and Harris — we shouldn't consider him a finished product.
I should actually recuse myself from any debate regarding Robert because I just dropped $41 on him in an Ottoneu (salary cap) draft Monday, with zero regrets ($400 budget, many kept players, inflation, etc.). It would appear I'm a sucker for punishment. Or tools. Or both.