Draft Board Busted

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening– whichever is applicable to you. Most people don’t walk away from the draft table not feeling good about what they have built. Sure, you may have a regret or two that really sticks out, but all in all you’re likely pleased. Inevitably as the season plays out, a multitude of players will disappoint to varying degrees. Some players will fail to match the perceptions you had of them. Others will disappoint to such a level that you honestly begin to develop disdain for the player. Maybe disdain may be a little harsh for some, but dammit I’m passionate about this stuff. The point is, disappointments are going to happen; the magnitude of the disappointment is dependent on where that particular player was drafted.

Back end roster fillers are easy to deal with. These players are targeted not because they are superstars, but because you feel something could click with them. Aside from your pride in “making the right call”, there’s minimal investment involved. Simply cut your losses and target another potential gem along the wire. Top tier talent – roster building blocks if you will, have to be handled differently. Once you draft Bryce Harper you’re committed the whole way. If you draft Harper 2nd and he finishes as the 50th ranked player you’re disappointed. While the disappointment’s understandable, the reality is that you still ended up with a Top-50 player. The type of disappointment that can derail a season is when building block players, such as Harper, under perform even the most pessimistic projections. In layman’s terms; if Bryce Harper is hitting .230 with 12 home runs in July you’re going to need a lot of positive performances to be competitive.

With these pitfalls in mind, all we need to do is identify who these players will be and just mark them off your draft list. Oh, if it could only be that simple. The reality is most of the players that end up in this group do so because of injury. While I do take injury history into consideration when drafting players, I try not to just assume ______ will be hurt when it comes to projecting stats. For this exercise I targeted five players being taken among the top 100 in NFBC drafts who I feel could be ranked outside the Top 200 at season’s end. To my earlier point, I avoided players who I felt are injury prone. I simply focused on players whose current ADP just simply doesn’t match my perceived performance for the upcoming season.

For a reference point I looked at 2015 Yahoo Player Rankings of the four hitters and four starting pitchers closest to 200. In addition I eliminated players such as George Springer whose ranking was more based on missed time than production levels.

Hitters

Player Rank Avg HR R RBI SB
Ben Zobrist 195 .276 13 76 56 3
Daniel Murphy 204 .281 14 56 73 2
Howie Kendrick 205 .295 9 64 54 6
Carlos Beltran 209 .276 19 57 67 0

Pitchers

Player Rank W ERA WHIP K
James Shields 196 14 3.91 1.33 216
EdinsonVolquez 198 13 3.55 1.31 155
Hector Santiago 201 9 3.59 1.26 162
Mike Fiers 214 7 3.69 1.25 180

The average statistics of the four players, useful in making a reference point.

  • Hitter – .281 AVG 14 HR 63 Runs 62 RBI 3 SB
  • Pitchers – 10.5 W 3.68 ERA 1.29 WHIP 178 K




5 Draft Day Pitfalls to Avoid

Corey Seager (ADP 55): Seager performed well in his 113 PA cameo in 2015. He projects as a plus power bat which should be accompanied by a solid batting average. Will that projection come to fruition as soon as next season?  While Seager showed solid patience with a 12.4 BB% in the majors last season, he hadn’t posted a double-digit rate above A ball. Seager showed growth last season in K%, but in both 2013 and 2014 those rates were in the 23% range. While he still managed to post a solid average throughout his minor league career (despite the K’s), it’s fair to wonder how much the PCL and huge BABIP numbers played into it.  

In his aforementioned cameo last season, Seager posted a .387 BABIP thanks in large part to his off the charts 45.6 hard hit rate. If Seager can maintain a Hard Hit rate in the high 30’s I’ll be dead wrong about this, but I tend to believe that number will settle into the low 30’s. I see him settling into a lineup spot lower in the order, effectively putting an earnings cap on those precious counting stats of runs and RBIs. His stolen base potential is limited: 10 is his career high in a season and that was posted in A Ball – 5-8 would seem to be a reasonable projection.

Even if he manages to hit .280 with 15 HR’s, only his stolen base total would be above the Top 200 reference point. Should that average fall below .270 you’re looking at a player who would have a difficult time climbing into the Top 200.

Francisco Lindor (ADP 62): Another second year shortstop whose preseason push is one that I just can’t get behind. Lindor makes better contact than Seager, striking out less and walking a little more. Unlike Seager, his power has never been considered a plus tool. While many questioned how his bat would play at the next level, the first act had to be considered a grand success. In 438 PA Lindor managed to hit .313 with 12 HR and 12 SB.

Now it would seem as though last season’s success has completely silenced all those reports regarding the skill level of Lindor offensively. As I’ve stated before, the fantasy community as a whole tends to be overly reactionary. I still subscribe to the idea that Lindor’s glove will ultimately play better at this level than the bat. I believe Lindor will be a nice AVG hitter, but more in the .270-.280 range. The double-digit pop seems legit long-term, but I wonder if pitchers adjustments to him this season will make him more of a hit to contact type for 2016.

Much like Seager I see Lindor settling into the lower half of the lineup thus capping the run and RBI potential. Ultimately Lindor’s stolen base totals will be the only stat that will surpass the Top 200 reference point, and if that total settles into the 15-20 range I still feel the counting numbers will not be enough to avoid a huge draft day letdown.

Sonny Gray (ADP 66): I’m sorry Crash Davis: as a fantasy owner, I’m fascist. I need K’s – not the league-average type; I need a surplus. Give me K’s and leave nothing for the BABIP and LOB% gods to determine. Gray has been a very good pitcher the last two seasons despite this; I just hate continuing to go to the well over and over again. Over the last two seasons Gray has managed to combine for 28 wins in 427 innings with ERA’s of 3.08 and 2.73 respectively. His xFIP over those two seasons 3.47 and 3.69.

One has to wonder if the ERA moves closer to the xFIP what kind of impact would that have on his potential for wins. Using the reference point as my guide, I’d project Gray’s K potential to be below the 178, while his ERA from last season is nearly a full run below the 3.68 mark and his xFIP of 3.69 is almost dead on. Gray seems to be a 1.1ish WHIP type player, but should his BB/9 creep closer to 2014 ratio and he experience an increase in BABIP, suddenly a 1.23 mark isn’t out of the question.

Gregory Polanco (ADP 85): Earlier I mentioned the scouting report for Francisco Lindor to support my claims for his upcoming season.  I will now make the opposite argument to support my stance on Polanco.

What if those analysts who pegged Polanco as a plus major league player were wrong? We are a year and a half into his career so to make that claim would seem like a mistake, but aside from positive stolen base production we haven’t really seen anything. Polanco’s K/BB rate has remained consistent. While he made better contact in year two, aside from a 20 point bump to .252 in AVG, nothing really came from it. Much like Lindor and Seager, I see Polanco’s counting stats being impacted by his lineup placement. While Spring Training lineups don’t necessarily mean the world, he has found himself toward the bottom of the lineup. If Polanco finds himself in this position during the season he would struggle to better 120 combined runs and RBIs.

Nothing Polanco has shown yet suggest one should reasonably expect more than 11-12 HR. Much like Lindor, however, Polanco does posses stolen base potential. While the 27 steals from last year would be hard to duplicate hitting in the bottom of the order, 20+ seems like a given. Once again you’re likely looking at a player who will fail to outproduce the Top-200 reference point in 3-4 out of 5 categories.

Rougned Odor (ADP 95): Fantasy players have a recency bias. Rougned Odor is taking what he did from June-August of last season and parlayed that right into the Top 100 selections, almost as if to say April and May never happened. I believe Odor is a fine player; I believe in the 16 HR pop from last season, and I believe somewhere in there is a double-digit stolen base threat. Once again the problem I see here is opportunity. Odor’s not an impressive OBP player; therefore, he would appear to be a lower-in-the-order hitter.

While I like what Odor has around him much more than I do Seager, Lindor and Polanco, it’s still very hard to justify using a Top-100 pick on someone who is hitting that low in a lineup. An improvement from last season would only get Odor to the reference point — put that into perspective when you’re projecting him to be over 100 spots better than that.

*****

Every team is going to be filled with “busts” of some degree, but it’s these pitfall-type players that make such an impact on your roster. Best case scenario: you are able to sell them for 50 cents on the dollar. Worst case scenario: you’re stuck with them from day one to the final pitch. Their talent combined with the draft price makes them impossible to drop, so you’re left talking to yourself. Talking about what might have been had you just selected a starting pitcher when you nabbed Lindor, or perhaps another outfielder when you nabbed Gray. Everyone loves their draft board in March, but its little nuances such as these that leave so many draft boards broken come July.

 

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Josh Coleman
Father of four SP1 children. Replacement level husband to a top tier wife. I love my family, value my friendships, and spend as much time as possible (too much according to the aforementioned Mrs. Coleman) dedicated to the pursuit, of another Fantasy Championship. I'm the oddball at the bar who prefers Fantasy Baseball to Fantasy Football.
Josh Coleman

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