We’re meandering through fantasy baseball draft season and we all have our preferences, our favorites.
Or if you will, Our Guys.
These are players I’ve been commonly drafting, or at least, hoping to.
Let me be transparent about one thing — generally, I’m not someone who stubbornly attacks the players I favor, draft price ignored. I’m probably a boring value strategist more than anything. But if you wanted someone to sign off on a few names for your consideration, I have a list for you.
Some will eschew him in the Pick 8-15 range, wondering if it’s too late in Mookie’s career to dream about upside. After all, he’s already had his likely best season, already won an MVP. But I look at the first round more with a floor mindset, not necessarily an upside mindset (and anyone in the top 15 has upside, anyway). Betts is the frontman for the most ridiculous offense in baseball. Many times, Occam’s Razor is right. Go where the runs are.
When ERA and WHIP tell a differing story, I like to follow the WHIP. Giolito has consistently produced elite WHIPs and so-so ERAs; maybe this is the year the two ratios get the story straight. He’s stepping into an age-27 season, he’s backed by a stacked offense and bullpen, and he’s struck out 200-plus men in his last two complete seasons. Giolito is consistently going outside the top 40, and for that, we say thank you.
Wander Franco, SS, Tampa Bay Rays
He’s been surprisingly affordable given his glowing prospect pedigree, perhaps because of the modest category juice from last year. But any 20-year-old who slashes .288/.347/.463 right out of the box is ticketed for stardom. And remember it took Franco a while to get comfortable in the majors; over his final 50 games, that slash bumped to .323/.382/.403, with an even number of walks and strikeouts (and the Red Sox couldn’t get him out in the playoffs).
Franco is going to be on magazine covers soon. This is your last chance to draft him with sizable room for profit.
Everyone wants lockdown closers, but the draft price of the front-line guys can be a turn-off. That’s why I’ve let others chase Josh Hader and Liam Hendriks into the early rounds, while I wait for guys like Romano and Ryan Pressly to fall to me. Raisel Iglesias was also part of that plan, though he’s started to become pricy, too. And yes, saves are one gigantic pain in the neck.
(The more competitive your league is, the more important it is to have some handshakes locked down on draft day. If you’re playing with lemmings, almost any engaged strategy will win.)
He’s been a .240 hitter the last three years, but that’s not a kill shot in today’s game. And Grossman fills out the other categories nicely — he’s coming off a 23-homer, 20-steal, 88-run season. A.J. Hinch is likely to park Grossman in the leadoff spot and leave him alone. Grossman’s Yahoo ADP of 223 is one of the gifts of the season.
Once upon a time, he was a hot-shot prospect, a big name, a ceiling guy. He’s morphed into a versatile but almost forgettable veteran, reliable but unexciting. In other words, he’s the new Alex Gordon, and that’s meant as a compliment. Benintendi is a round or two cheaper in Yahoo than he is in national rooms. Enjoy the discount.
Enrique Hernandez, 2B/OF, Boston Red Sox
I’m not positive that he’s going to bat leadoff, but based on how well he played at the end of last year (playoffs certainly included), that’s the way to bet. And if Hernandez fronts this stacked Boston lineup — in one of the chummiest parks going — he’s going to score 100 runs by accident, along with 18-22 homers.
Steven Matz, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals have guessed right so often with outside acquisitions, I want to back-line bet with them. And you probably noticed that five of their defenders won Gold Gloves last year. The NL Central has some soft landings, and Matz is young enough for a career year to still be in play. I’m not asking for miracles, just throw well enough to be a set-and-forget guy in a deeper mixed league.
Yoan Moncada, 3B, Chicago White Sox
In the words of Gene McCaffrey, Moncada represents a “last year’s bum” case — where a player comes off a poor year and the ADP offers a discount. And even in Moncada’s bad year, he still had a .375 OBP. He’s not far removed from a .315 average, 25 homers. Third base is a mess. And the White Sox lineup is a party to go.
Tony Kemp, 2B/OF, Oakland A's
Please do not look at this Oakland lineup without protective eyewear; it’s a mess. But Kemp’s .279 average and .382 OBP figure to hold down the leadoff spot, and he can easily get to double-digits in homers and steals if the A’s leave him alone. A perfect late-round target, a useful fantasy player for the top of your bench.
Brandon Nimmo, OF, New York Mets
It’s been frustrating watching him deal with so many injuries over the years, but he’s an OBP machine (.393 career) at the top of a loaded New York lineup. And there will be additional RBI chances now that the universal DH is upon us. You might be able to land Nimmo outside the top 300 (or as a free pickup); if he plays even 100 games, you easily make a profit.
Cal Quantrill, SP, Cleveland Guardians
Everyone knows about ERA estimators these days, and most fantasy managers look at Quantrill’s 2.89 number last year and scoff (FIP, for instance, says his ERA should have been over 4). And with that, the Regression Police take over. Quantrill’s ADP is 224 in Yahoo, and 43 picks later in NFBC.
But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Quantrill’s career WHIP is a reasonable 1.23, he was a rated prospect once upon a time, he’s still just 27, he’s the son of a big-league pitcher. He can give back a big chunk of last year’s ERA and still be useful in a mixer.
(I also would have gone with Cleveland Naps or Cleveland Spiders, but they didn’t ask me. Okay, Guardians it is.)
Also Receiving Votes
Bo Bichette (I might pick him as early as No. 2), Paul Goldschmidt (so smart, aging gracefully), Javier Baez (category juice for the win), Brandon Lowe, Bryan Reynolds (versatility generally underrated), Framber Valdez (dreamy ground-ball rate), Ian Anderson, Elias Diaz (pop and thin air), Jonathan Schoop (boring value vet), Diego Castillo (the ratios play, no matter the role), Cole Sulser (a cheap grab at possible saves).