Yahoo Fantasy baseball 2021 ADP: Hitter draft targets one analyst likes more or less
HITTERS I LIKE MORE THAN ADP
Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins (Yahoo ADP 125)
Buxton enters as one of the bigger injury risks, but that’s baked into his ADP. He, however, brings even bigger upside. He led baseball in homers per plate appearance last season, and plenty of stolen base potential remains (he was the second-fastest player from home to first last year). Buxton could certainly improve his ability to walk, but the former No. 2 overall pick is terrific defensively, has been a bit unlucky with injuries, and continues to trend in the right direction in Statcast numbers. In hopes of getting a big contract extension while entering his prime at age-27, Buxton bulked up during the offseason (and simultaneously got quicker!). Few fantasy players can match his power/speed combo (and certainly none going after round 10 can match his fantasy upside).
Now is the season to draft Buxton, whose ADP is going to be 100+ spots higher in 2022.
Josh Bell, Washington Nationals (Yahoo ADP 169)
Bell was horrible over 57 games during last year’s shortened season, but he was one of baseball’s best hitters the year before. In 2019, Bell’s exit velocity was in the top five percent of the league, and he hit 37 homers with 116 RBI over just 143 games while playing in a pitcher’s park. Now, Bell’s not a top-150 pick thanks to a rough 2.5 months despite a huge upgrade in lineup and home ballparks after getting traded from Pittsburgh to Washington. Over the last three seasons, Pittsburgh has decreased run-scoring and homers for left-handed batters, while Nationals Park has been among the league leaders in boosting run-scoring and homers for lefties. Bell is also slated to hit cleanup behind Nationals stars Juan Soto and Trea Turner. Bell, Rhys Hoskins (ADP 161) and C.J. Cron (ADP 251?!) are all first basemen available later in drafts, making it a position you don’t have to attack early.
Jose Altuve, Houston Astros (Yahoo ADP 90)
Altuve’s ADP has taken a tumble in reaction to last year’s regular season, when he struggled badly (.219/.286/.344) over 48 games, seemingly overlooking his huge postseason (five homers and a 1.229 OPS with 11 walks to 8 Ks). He’s neither as bad nor good as both small samples suggest, but Altuve had a top-25 ADP last year at this time, so he’s a major bargain. He’s past his prime but can remain plenty helpful in fantasy at age 30, even if he doesn’t run like he once did, as he’s motivated coming off such a down season at the plate. Altuve hit .323 and averaged 22 homers and 25 steals from 2015-2019.
Kolten Wong, Milwaukee Brewers (Yahoo ADP 243)
Wong is one (weird and truncated) season away from posting an 11/24 line while batting .285. He'll now enjoy a real nice upgrade in home parks after signing with the Brewers during the offseason. Over the last three seasons, St. Louis has decreased homers by 11% for left-handed batters, while Milwaukee has increased them by 8% over that span. Slated to hit leadoff in the Brewers’ lineup, Wong’s ADP is way too low.
Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs (Yahoo ADP 63)
I’m mostly tossing Baez’s ugly 2020 out of the window, as the 28-year-old was a truly elite fantasy option not long ago. Wrigley Field oddly played as MLB’s toughest place to hit by a wide margin during last year’s shortened season, something unlikely to occur again. Baez is someone to target — and he should also benefit from the return of in-game video.
Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees (Yahoo ADP 152)
Max Muncy had the lowest BABIP among qualified batters last season with a mark of .203. Sanchez’s BABIP was .159, so it’s safe to point to some unfortunate luck. The catcher obviously strikes out a ton too, and the shift does him no favors, but Sanchez can return closer to his career .236 mark; almost all catchers struggle with batting average. He’s just one season removed from swatting 34 homers with 77 RBI over 396 at-bats, and Sanchez hits in the league’s best lineup and in a nice park for right-handed batters. He owns a career 117 wRC+ despite a couple of recent disappointing seasons and is still just 28 years old. Sanchez offers by far the most homer upside at the game’s weakest position, and his ADP says this is the year to draft him.
HITTERS I LIKE LESS THAN ADP
Nolan Arenado, St. Louis Cardinals (Yahoo ADP 24)
I’m not too worried about Arenado’s down 2020 in which he posted a .738 OPS — that included an xwOBA in the bottom 12% of the league and an ugly .227/.302/.333 line with just one homer outside of Coors Field — but I appear to be more concerned about his change in venues than other fantasy managers still making him a second-round pick. Over the last three seasons, Coors Field increased run-scoring (35%), BA for RHB (25%) and homers for RHB (18%). Arenado’s new home digs in St. Louis decreased them all, including by a whopping 15% for homers by righties. Arenado is going to hit better than his career road mark (.793 OPS) suggests because Colorado works in funny ways, but his ADP doesn’t come close to reflecting the 30-50 point batting average hit he’s going to take with the move away from Coors Field, which is a problem for someone who doesn’t run and plays in a loaded position. I prefer Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Eugenio Suarez, and Yoan Moncada all more than Arenado, regardless of ADP (the latter two are going 50+ picks later).
DJ LeMahieu, New York Yankees (Yahoo ADP 28)
LeMahieu has impressed while putting up the two best seasons of his career after age 30 and after leaving Coors Field, but that doesn’t mean you should pay up now. Put differently, LeMahieu’s ADP entering 2019 (his first year as a Yankee) was not in the top-225(!), but now two years later during his age-33 season, he’ll cost you a third-round fantasy pick. His sky-high .370 BABIP last season somehow came with a Barrel% that was in the bottom 9% of the league. Most importantly, though, he doesn’t steal bases. If you’re not starting your draft with aces, then you better be getting bags from your hitter (not to mention, LeMahieu has also eclipsed 15 homers just once during his career). While LeMahieu should have the better batting average, THE BAT X projects Jose Altuve to contribute better numbers literally everywhere else, yet the former has an ADP more than 60 spots higher.
LeMahieu isn’t a top-five fantasy second baseman on my board.
Cavan Biggio, Toronto Blue Jays (Yahoo ADP 65)
Biggio has a career expected batting average of .229 and had an exit velocity in the bottom 26% of the league last season. The Blue Jays should hit in favorable parks this year, and Biggio is a perfectly fine player who’s eligible at three different positions, but he’ll likely be slotted toward the bottom of Toronto’s lineup. His ADP as the fourth or fifth second baseman off the board is simply too high. Give me Keston Hiura, Biggio's teammate Lourdes Gurriel (duh), Ketel Marte, Jose Altuve, and even Mike Moustakas over Craig’s son.
Will Smith, Los Angeles Dodgers (Yahoo ADP 105)
Smith might be the best hitting catcher in baseball, but the Dodgers are treating the regular season as preparation for the playoffs, so volume might be a problem. Manager Dave Roberts has even referred to Austin Barnes (who’s already Clayton Kershaw’s personal catcher) and Smith as a “1 and 1A” timeshare, which certainly isn’t what fantasy managers want to hear. Smith is frequently the second catcher off the board despite Salvador Perez and Yasmani Grandal both being projected for 100-150 more at-bats. I prefer Travis d’Arnaud (ADP 140) and Buster Posey (ADP 230) later.
Follow Dalton Del Don on Twitter