Fantasy Baseball's biggest risers and fallers since the start of the season

·7 min read

Last week I did a “second chance” NFBC draft, which has an overall prize. It was the first draft, so zero ADP data was available, making things extra wild. It was interesting to see the difference between drafters valuing what’s happened so far versus pre-season expectations. I went extremely pitcher-heavy early just as I did back in March. As expected, given how MLB has played so far in 2021 (and how pitching stats stabilize faster), others shared the same strategy. Here are the draft results, I’m team No. 5.

Round-by-round results from a recent NFBC draft.
Round-by-round results from a recent NFBC draft.

Let’s highlight the biggest risers and fallers compared to Yahoo preseason ADP:

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in Round 1 is something that figures to happen perennially moving forward. Although fantasy managers have to be sad to see the team leave Florida, which had been one of the very best hitter’s parks this season (and where Vlad posted a 1.418 OPS).

J.D. Martinez went early second and now looks like a bargain in spring with a Yahoo ADP of 78.2 back in March. He’s also recently become OF eligible in most formats.

• I was hoping for Tyler Glasnow in Round 2 but “settled” for Corbin Burnes, who leads MLB starters in CSW.

• We’ve finally found a league with a bigger Kevin Gausman fan than me. Round 2!

Jesse Winker’s power is legit, and a strong batting average helps more than ever, but I can’t get on board taking a hitter who doesn’t steal bags this high (23rd overall). This is also jumping his spring ADP nearly 200 spots and 17 rounds based on two months.

Joe Musgrove and Zack Wheeler both went in Round 3 and have made “the leap” into aces, while Shohei Ohtani was another who unsurprisingly saw his draft value skyrocket since spring. Ohtani is currently the No. 3 ranked fantasy hitter in Yahoo leagues, so Round 3 may have been a bargain actually. He leads baseball in Barrel% and max exit velocity both by a mile.

• Sixteen of the first 29 picks were starting pitchers. There were just 10 SPs in the top-30 Yahoo ADP before the season.

Adolis Garcia and Jared Walsh went from undrafted in most fantasy leagues in March to fourth-round picks here. It’s hard to argue against Garcia’s production, but his K/BB ratio is worrisome. THE BAT X projects a .224 batting average rest of season. Walsh has seen Albert Pujols leave and Anaheim continue to play as arguably baseball’s best hitter’s park for lefties.

• With so few elite closers locked into roles (punting any category isn’t an option if you want to compete in the overall component), the top tier rightfully flew off the board rounds 4/5.

Christian Yelich has disappointed in the power department, but any injury risk was well worth his upside in Round 5. He’s still walking a ton, and the homers could come in bunches if he’s over his back issues.

Trevor Rogers, Carlos Rodon and Alex Reyes made huge ADP leaps, all going in Round 5. While there’s almost no chance either starter will match their performance moving forward, the lefties both rank top-20 in CSW and are absolutely the real deal. Reyes continues to walk a tightrope, somehow allowing just two earned runs all season despite 25 walks over 28.0 innings. At least his main competition for saves may soon see a downtick in spin rate.

Kris Bryant is somehow blowing away his previous career-highs both in batting average and wRC+ while approaching age 30.

Francisco Lindor, who was a mid-second round pick in spring drafts, had me briefly veer from my early pitching run. He now calls home to a much bigger pitcher’s park, but Lindor’s real trouble with his new team has been on the road (.492 OPS). It’s been an extremely ugly two months, but Lindor in Round 6 was an easy call for me.

Anthony Rendon had a top-30 ADP but lasted until the eighth round here. His Statcast numbers don’t suggest he’s been unlucky, but Rendon remains a good bet to bounce back. Cedric Mullins went undrafted in fantasy leagues and was taken shortly thereafter in Round 9, so things have changed.

Freddy Peralta has lived up to his late spring ADP helium and has even surpassed his lofty expectations. “Fastball Freddy” ranks top-20 in CSW and could’ve easily gone five rounds earlier in the same Rogers/Rodon tier instead of the 10th round. Hopefully the Brewers offense can start providing their star pitchers more run support.

Buster Posey opted out of last season, and the rested version (another year removed from hip surgery) has returned as the best hitting catcher (181 wRC+) in baseball by a wide margin in 2021. His .331 batting average is simply incredible given his position and the fact the current league-wide BA (.236) is the lowest in MLB history. It’s also crazy Posey is slugging 50+ points higher than his previous career-high at age 34. In a two-catcher format, he was arguably a gigantic steal in Round 10.

San Francisco Giants' Buster Posey follows through with a swing during the first inning of a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks Wednesday, May 26, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Buster Posey is in the midst of a great season after opting out of the 2020 campaign. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Luis Castillo was the SP12 in Yahoo drafts this spring, but it’s easy to see why he slipped all the way to Round 11 with a 7.22 ERA and a 1.78 WHIP so far in 2021. His fastball has weirdly been getting pounded this season, but he’s almost certainly due for better luck (although the Reds’ poor defense and extreme hitter’s park aren’t going away). Castillo was likely a good gamble on regression here.

• We all played a game of chicken with Blake Snell, who was a common early third-round pick during Main Events in March yet lasted all the way to Round 13 here. And that was before he was annihilated in Houston on Sunday. Moving from the AL East to the National League and Petco Park, Snell somehow sports a 5.55 ERA and a 1.60 WHIP. He’s been a disaster and would go even later in drafts today but has too much upside to give up on. Snell has had a really tough schedule but ranks top-25 in CSW and gets an upcoming home start (2.10 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP in San Diego this season).

• To say Alek Manoah passed the eye test during his first start would be an understatement. After throwing four straight balls to open his MLB career, the rookie finished with six scoreless innings during a win in Yankee Stadium. Manoah was Toronto’s 2019 first-round pick and was absolutely dominant during limited work in Triple-A this year, posting a 0.50 ERA with a 0.56 WHIP and a 36.4 K-BB% that would lead MLB right now. Manoah went for $300+ in NFBC leagues this weekend and is a must-add in all fantasy leagues. I made a mistake not taking him in Round 18 here.

Dylan Bundy has been a massive disappointment, not only posting an ugly 6.50 ERA but also failing to record a win this season. But that’s come with a 3.19 expected ERA, as Bundy has been incredibly unlucky. He ranks top-15 in CSW, so I was happy to grab him in Round 19, although it’s hard to tell if I could’ve waited longer given his ugly cosmetic stats.

Kenta Maeda in Round 27 felt like a steal, as I wouldn’t mind stashing him on my bench for a bit while he fully healed his groin injury. Only problem is we’ve since learned he’s also been dealing with a hidden arm injury all season, so at least I have an easy first drop decision.

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