Fantasy baseball preview: Players to draft or avoid based on ADP
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Average draft position is a great tool for fantasy owners, since it’s always smart to have an idea of where the market settles in a typical draft. It cannot, however, be taken as gospel. For one thing, all it takes is one of your leaguemates to like a certain sleeper of yours as much as you do for all that excess value you envision landing on your team to be swept away in a few short seconds. For another, and this is likely more important, most ADP data looks at a full offseason’s worth of drafts. It averages everything from January (or earlier) all the way up to the present day. That can be misleading given how much the landscape shifts as winter turns to spring.
Luckily, the National Fantasy Baseball Championship lets us separate ADP data from before and after March 1, giving us a better idea of what players will actually cost on draft day than what we get from looking at overall ADP data. With draft season finally upon us in earnest, let’s take a look at some of the players whose post-March 1 draft status is most divergent, either positively or negatively, from their overall ADP.
Randal Grichuk, OF, Cardinals (Overall ADP: 162.39, March ADP: 140.65)
Grichuk has been one of the big risers in March, seeing his ADP climb up 22 spots. Even at his shiny new ADP, he’s a bargain well worth chasing. Grichuk’s power—he hit 17 homers and had a .272 isolated slugging percentage in 350 plate appearances last year—is undeniable. If he stays healthy, he could push or exceed 30 homers this season. He strikes out too much, and that’s not likely to change this season, but you’ll live with it if he reaches his full power potential.
Carlos Carrasco, SP, Indians (47.88, 45.21)
Carrasco’s slight uptick in ADP isn’t really all that notable, but what is worth recognizing is how his ADP has shifted relative to the starting pitchers around him. Carrasco has closed the gap since March, and his overall ADP now places him less than one full ADP spot behind Dallas Keuchel and Noah Syndergaard. You might have to act earlier than you think to secure Carrasco’s services.
Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers (47.64, 51.49)
Drafters have soured on Braun in March, dropping him to the fifth round. What’s more, his March ADP is worse than that of Carlos Gomez, Lorenzo Cain and Robinson Cano, three hitters who he was ahead of leading up to March, and remains in front of in overall ADP. There’s not a lot to explain Braun’s drop. He doesn’t have much upside with 2015 representing a likely ’16 ceiling, but that’s still profitable production at his draft slot. It’s hard to argue with Gomez and Cain over him, but Braun won’t let anyone down at this stage of the draft.
Maikel Franco, 3B, Phillies (94.6, 82.15)
Franco’s one of the buzziest players this spring, so it’s not a surprise to see him jumping up draft boards. Franco hit 14 homers, drove in 50 runs, and posted a .217 ISO and 15.9% HR/FB ratio in 335 plate appearances last season. Also, the fact that Franco is one of the last palatable starting 3B options typically available in a draft has likely contributed to his rise, and he’s certainly the only third baseman outside the top tier with significant growth potential this year. Matt Carpenter, for example, is a better fantasy choice than Franco this season, but Franco is a bit more exciting because he’s still getting better, whereas Carpenter has likely reached his full potential. If you miss out on Franco, third base starts to get quite dodgy.
Anthony Rendon, 2B/3B, Nationals (72.17, 76.7)
This one is truly baffling. It didn’t necessarily make sense that early drafters were down on Rendon, but you could at least follow the logic. His production waned in an injury-riddled 2015 season, and knee injuries can always be troubling for infielders, especially those somewhat dependent on speed. Still, it seemed that, if anything, his ADP would start to rise as spring progressed and he proved himself healthy. Instead, the reverse has happened, which is bizarre. Remember that Rendon hit .287/.351/.473 with 21 homers and 17 doubles in his first full season in 2014. He’s going to end up as one of the biggest bargains of the 2016 campaign.
Salvador Perez, C, Royals (99.5, 105.13)
Drafters are starting to notice all the red flags surrounding Perez this season. He has caught at least 129 regular season games in each of the last three seasons, and that, of course, ignores the extra wear and tear added by two deep playoff runs. He doesn’t walk at all, making him a significant drag on OBP, while he’s no better than neutral in batting average. He absolutely needs to hit at least 20 homers to justify his ADP, and that’s a bet most fantasy owners smartly don’t want to make.
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Yankees (103.92, 110.85)
Ellsbury is another guy fantasy owners are starting to avoid, which makes sense. Ellsbury is entering his age-32 season, which, on its own, is slightly troubling for a player who has always been dependent on speed. On top of that, Ellsbury missed 51 games due to a knee injury last season, and he was a shell of himself when he returned to the field. He shares an ADP neighborhood with Adam Eaton, David Peralta, Hunter Pence and Ben Revere. All of them are clearly better options for a fantasy outfield.
Hector Rondon, RP, Cubs (126.84, 113.66)
Rondon has had a brutal spring, but that really doesn’t matter, especially since his role as the Cubs closer is not in any jeopardy. Focus, instead, on his performance over the last two seasons, which drafters finally seem to be realizing. In 2014 and 2015 combined, Rondon amassed 59 saves with a 2.03 ERA, 2.48 FIP, 1.03 WHIP and 132 strikeouts in 133 1/3 innings. Rondon keeps the ball in the park, allowing just six homers over that time, as well as a manageable 5.6% walk rate. Rondon should be among the top-10 or -12 closers this season.
Corey Dickerson, OF, Rays (128.47, 145.25)
It shouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Dickerson sliding down draft boards in March. When we started compiling ADP data, he was on the Rockies. Now that he’s going to play half his games at Tropicana Field instead of Coors Field, fantasy baseball owners are understandably bearish on him. Dickerson has a career .249/.286/.410 slash line away from Coors, making it awfully hard to spin the move as anything but a negative. Still, this is a player who carries a career .299/.345/.534 line, and there’s ample evidence that playing home games in the altitude of Coors Field has a disproportionate, negative effect on a player’s road numbers. Dickerson may not hit as well at home, but he likely won’t be nearly as bad on the road. There’s room for his production to come down and for him to still turn a profit at his draft-day price.
Gerardo Parra, OF, Rockies (189.58, 175.69)
Is Parra the reverse Dickerson, or is Dickerson the reverse Parra? It really doesn’t matter, but just understand that they are the inverse of one another, at least when it comes to draft status. Parra, who freed up the Rockies to trade Dickerson, should get a Coors Field bump this year that could led to the best year of his career. He split his time between Milwaukee and Baltimore last year, hitting .291/.328/.452 with 14 homers, 14 steals and 83 runs. He’s going to hit at the top of the Colorado order, in front of D.J. LeMahieu, Carlos Gonzalez and Nolan Arenado, which could push him to 90-plus runs. An everyday gig with half of his starts coming at Coors could result in the first 15-homer season of his career, as well. He’s shaping up to be the cheapest 15-15 player on the board this year.