The Trends of Three

Written by: John Piper

We are a couple of weeks in from the start of many fantasy baseball drafts and from that we can see some trends that can be looked at from a fantasy perspective.  This week I’ll look at three guys you should probably avoid followed by three guys who you should look up when the draft is in the middle rounds.

Three to Avoid

First off I must confess that I would love to have any of these guys on my fantasy squads, but I know the asking price or round of choice will be too high for me. Someone else will pay too much to nab one of these guys; let’s get to it then.

Jose Fernandez (SP – Mia) Currently going 34.7 ADP (Yahoo) near the end of the 3rd round in 12 Team mixed leagues and the 7th SP off the board.  This guy had an amazing season last year finishing 12-6 with 187 K’s in 172.2IP.  A 2.18 ERA and 0.98 WHIP are decent numbers as well (sarcasm included there).  Fernandez earned his trophies last year and would have had a CY Young included if it wasn’t for a certain Dodgers pitcher who also had an amazing season.  But here is my beef, and this is a pretty standard feeling from many of the experts in the business.  He pitches for one of the worst offenses in baseball which means his 12 wins could quite possibly be the highest he could attain.  No other Marlin starter had more than 5 Wins.  He could very easily finish with single digits in the Win column and that alone gives me a hesitant feel for drafting him in the early rounds.  Also, let’s look closer at last year.  On June 1st, Jose was through his first 10 starts of the season with 52.1IP, a 2-3 record, 52K’s, a 3.78ERA and 1.24WHIP.  Post that over an entire season and you have about 160IP with a 6-9 record and 157 K’s 3.78ERA and 1.24WHIP.  Not terrible numbers (except the Wins) but definitely not worth a 3rd round selection.  I’m not buying that the last 4 months of last season (1.50 ERA 0.92 WHIP) are anywhere near sustainable.

Buster Posey (C, 1B – SF)  Great hitter, great catcher, not worth the price.  Posey is going 39.6 ADP (Yahoo) currently which is early in the 4th round of standard leagues.  When it comes to catchers with multiple position eligibility it means absolutely nothing really for the fantasy world because you are not drafting Posey, Mauer, Santana, or Doumit (if you are drafting Doumit at all) and putting them anywhere else except C.  Posey is a top 5 catcher every year (minus an injury year), however the difference between drafting Posey early in your draft or at a high price and drafting another top 5 catcher is sometimes 6 rounds or $12.  You’re going to have to pay a lot for a big name when you can find cheaper talent who may very well outplay the big name later on in the draft.  Leave him for someone else to pony up the price.

Bryce Harper (OF – Was)  Again this is a great player, and in a dynasty/keeper league his value obviously increases.  Even then, he is not worth the first round selection or the $40+ it will cost in an auction to land him; here is my case.  In two seasons he has hit .272 in 957 AB. he has 59 and 58 RBI seasons to his name in two full seasons and 18 and 11 SB in those two seasons.  Also his HRs are low at an average of 21 a year, and yet through all of this he is going 9.8 ADP (Yahoo) late in the first round.  Your first round selection NEEDS (I emphasize and double emphasize NEEDS) to be a low risk investment.  You want a first rounder who has proven to be a first rounder.  Harper in his two seasons has not proven he is a top-12 fantasy player.  In fact he has only been the #24 OF in 2012 and #37 OF in 2013.  That doesn’t scream first round.  Don’t buy the name, pay for proven results.

Three to Target:

Matt Cain (SP – SF)  This is one of the easier picks.  All the experts peg this guy as this years Cliff Lee, namely a guy with great stuff that had a low win total which will scare some fantasy managers away, and those who realize what they are getting will pounce.  Cain was a top 11 SP in 2011, and a top 5 in 2012.  Last year saw a few hiccups early and his season didn’t finish as well as previous versions.   He is going in the 8th round (81.8 ADP Yahoo) and could easily finish in the top 15 SP.  Cain could again be top 10 starting pitcher but is being taken as the number 21.  Make sure you have a bona fide ace to anchor your rotation but make sure this guy is your number 2.

Carlos Santana (C, 1B and soon 3B – Cle) Alright it hasn’t been confirmed that Santana is going to play 3B this year, but Yan Gomes has a bat that isn’t going to be sitting on the bench so Carlos must play somewhere.  A catcher who can throw down a 75-22-80-5 line is worth every penny and Santana could easily surpass those numbers if he is playing nearly every game somewhere else than behind the plate.  Again the multi-position is nice but means very little in our realm of sports so enjoy this extra playing time at another position while starting him at the hardest position to find excessive amounts of ABs.  He’ll also catch a few games here and there this year and so possibly his C eligibility will remain for a few more seasons. Santana is currently going in the middle of the 7th round (78.5 ADP Yahoo) 4 rounds after Posey and could/should have better numbers than the SF backstop.

Mark Trumbo (1B, OF – Ari)  Currently Trumbo is the #15 first baseman going off the board.  In fact three catchers that qualify at 1B are being taken before him.  Why?  Entering his prime at 28 years old, averaging a line of 72-32-94-6 for the last three years, this is clearly a guy you want on your team as power numbers are down considerably across the MLB landscape.  But, he is currently going late in the 7th round (81.1 ADP Yahoo).  The only knock people have with him is his BA which, lets face it, a .250 average is not as bad as a .250 average 5 years ago.  People are just not hitting it like they used to.  Case in point, I was in a Roto league last year where the guy who won the BA title had a team BA of .282.  I remember when that number needed to be in the high .290’s to be the winner.  Helping in 4 categories and really solidifying with the power numbers we can excuse a not so glamorous BA.  In fact let him stay down there in BA, that way you can get him cheap every year.

16 thoughts on “The Trends of Three”

  1. Nice job John…you’ve given me a few things to consider. It’s easy to merge future value with present value some times. I may be guilty of this 🙂

  2. We all are sometimes, Like I said each of those three to avoid would be great on any team, but the asking price will probably cost you more than what you will be getting in return. You buy Posey and he gives you say $20 of value that’s great, but if you had to buy him at $25 to get him then you are at a net of -$5 already. It is a value based way of thinking.

  3. I agree with all your picks except Cain. His ERA outperformed his FIP and xFIP for 5 years, and it finally caught up with him (though he did suffer bad luck in 2013). His HR/FB has risen for three years (though granted, 2011 was insanely low and was bound to come up). For me, there’s just a little more risk than I like to have there. That being said, it does depend on your league. If some people remember him from the glory days and take him as a top-15 SP, you definitely shouldn’t bite. If everyone’s running scared from him, then he’s probably worth a gamble. Even so, there are other SP with equal risk and upside that you can get around his ranking, and I’d take them over Cain.

    1. Kevin, the deal with Cain is he is being drafted around the #20-25 SP. And he has the past, not that long ago, where he was a top 12 and top 6 SP. Getting a guy that could outperform his buying value is always what you are looking for, especially in the middle rounds. I’m just not seeing any other SP around Cain’s current position with his upside.

      1. Depends on the site you use for ADP, but Latos, Cole, Teheran, Shields, Medlen are going around/after Cain. Aside from Shields all of those SP are guys who I think could take a legit step forward, and I don’t read any major warning signs. Cain (and Shields) have some red flags for me.

        You are right that purchasing guys who can outperform their cost is essential. I just don’t project Cain to return to top-15 SP status at this point. You see his past success and think he can potentially reach that level again, which is fine. I can’t pull the trigger on him because I personally don’t see it. If we drafted against each other in 2014, I guess we’d find out who wins the “argument.” =)

  4. To me, the fact that Fernandez’s first 50 IP (as a 20 year old!) were mediocre before he went on to pitch 120 nearly flawless innings is an argument in FAVOR not against. Why put weight on the early 30% of his season as opposed to the more recent 70%? If there were some luck associated with that last leg, or if you’re worried about his innings increase from 2012 then I could buy it; but I don’t think citing his first 50 big league innings is a very good measuring tool.

    1. My point, Neow, was that people are going to go all in on this young pitcher in the 3rd round, on average, and my point about the split between his before/after June 1st was that you could end up buying a guy that is good but not great. If he is great then you got what you paid for, if you get a guy that is just good you wasted auction dollars or an early round pick. But because of his good numbers the last 4 months you will HAVE to go all in to put him on your roster, so it ends up being a high risk/ no positive reward guy. That’s why I advise to avoid him as there are much safer picks around his ADP.

      1. Isn’t there the same risk with every elite starting pitcher? Look at some of the more recent fantasy busts that seemed like sure things when drafted (Halladay, Santana, Verlander, Weaver, Sabathia, Lincecum)

        1. I’m drinking enough Fernandez koolaid for myself, my neighbours and surrounding cities. He’s awesome and you’ll be shocked how high I rank him in tomorrow’s top 150 for dynasty leagues.
          Saying that though, there likely won’t be much profit in 2014 from where he’ll be drafted. It’s also noteworthy that we’re talking about a 20 game stretch of dominance.
          Jarrod Parker had an amazing (though in no way comparing the 2) 20 game stretch in 2013.
          I understand the argument for caution in redraft leagues. In dynasty leagues he’s a top 10 player. There I said it! 🙂

    2. The Neow, you took the words right out of my mouth. And don’t forget Fernandez bypassed both AA and AAA. Beginning June 1, Jose Fernandez gave up 2 ER or less in 17 of 18 starts. In the other start he gave up 3 ER runs. The kid never got shelled even once the entire season. Even Kershaw can’t say that.

  5. End of the first round pick. Fielder and the hope of a big bounce back and extra power in Texas or Votto and his on base skills and consistency in a h2h points league?

  6. It’s all about risk/reward, obviously we are just going to disagree with Fernandez and what his end of season stats will look like this year, but look at other SP’s going around him [Wainwright end of 2nd round, Strasburg 3rd round, Scherzer 3rd round, C . Lee 3rd round, Verlander 3rd round] Each of these guys have multiple years as elite SP production and, aside from Lee, play on winning teams with good and improving offenses so Wins (which are hard to predict) shouldn’t be that difficult to accumulate. A “low” Win year for these guys is 12 or so, whereas Jose will be lucky to get 12 again. That screams avoid to me. If we were in the same league you can have him in the 3rd or 4th round, I’ll take a less risky pick.

  7. I feel like the up and coming prospect has become the big thing in drafting. Ever since the emergence of Mike Trout followed by the performance of Matt Harvey, everyone’s throwing money in hopes of winning the lottery. I personally am a big fan of Jose Fernandez but I’m also one of ten Marlins fans (we do exist). But his draft value exceeds so many great pitchers on teams that actually win. Nice article!

    1. There are Marlins fans out there? Just kidding, and love the lottery reference since I always refer to prospects as lottery tickets. I don’t mind reaching for the occasional rookie/prospect myself, but Fernandez is going way too early for my liking.

  8. I am a little late to the party, but wanted to weigh in on Fernandez.

    I think he should be drafted right where he is being taken, but I would be pretty nervous taking him ahead of any other elite SPs because of the small sample size.

    Fernandez enjoyed a BABIP of .240 last year despite not really showing anything in his batted ball profile to suggest that it is repeatable. Some pitchers are able to beat the numbers be getting weaker contact on grounders, but I need to see it again before I am completely sold.

    Here is the batted ball data, courtesy of Fangraphs:

    LD% 21.6, GB% 45.1, FB% 33.3

    with only 7.1% pop-ups, drafters need to prepare for a BABIP of .280 plus. Fernandez could still be elite with everything he has going for him, but he is risky for sure.

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