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An Early Look at the 2018 Draft

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening — whichever is applicable to you. Hope springs eternal is the clichéd fallacy many MLB fan-bases will often site in early April. Due to varying finances, roster composition, and organizational direction; before the first game is played 10-15 MLB teams have no chance at competing for a playoff spot.

Today, the eternal hope for competing is reserved for Fantasy Baseball owners across the country. March drafts bleed into April games, and before you know it the blueprint to success is being implemented. Sure, many leave “camp” feeling better about their chances, but those beliefs are based only on perception. Injuries, improved performance, and disappointments all work in defining just what type of seasons teams will have.

With the dog days of summer upon us, a large majority of teams can classify their season as lost. First and foremost as a public service announcement, I cannot emphasize enough on the importance of finishing the season off. Not for yourself of course, but for every other owner in your league who have worked their tails off this season. Unless you find yourself playing in a non-H2H points league, your performance directly reflects the standings in some way.Back to those dog days.

Finding something to play for can be difficult this time of year. For those in keeper and dynasty formats, their focus takes shape quickly in the form of Next Year. For those in redraft leagues, perhaps a better understanding of the player pool will provide you with a head start on 2018.

Two weeks ago, 15 fantasy enthusiast meet in cyber-space in an attempt to have their first Mock Draft of the 2018 season. Some notables among the group were Justin Mason from Fangraphs, Tim McLeod of Prospect 361, and Lawr Michaels of masterball.com. Due to software glitches on the hosting site the entirety of the draft doesn’t provide you with much meaningful data. At this point in the year, however, I’m more concerned with the upper tier of the draft board. I reached out to participant, Justin Mason, and he stated that the first 4 Rounds were completed without incident.

Today my focus will be solely on the Top 50 Overall players.

  • 1-10: Kershaw, Trout, Betts, Judge, Harper, Goldschmidt, Arenado, Altuve, Sale, Trea Turner
  • 11-20: Scherzer, Correa, Lamb, Blackmon, Bryant, Machado, Rizzo, Jose Ramirez, Kluber, Freeman
  • 21-30: Votto, Springer, Corey Seager, Miguel Cabrera, Bumgarner, Donaldson, Lindor. Syndergaard, Bellinger, Murphy
  • 31-40: Sano, Encarnacion, Stanton, Cruz, Darvish, Marte, Gary Sanchez. Cano, Strasburg, Bogaerts
  • 41-50: Billy Hamilton, Andrus, JD Martinez, Dozier, Gordon, Jansen, Abreu, Carlos Martinez, Ozuna, deGrom

The full draft board can be found here on Couch Managers.




Big Risers

Aaron Judge 4th Overall/343 NFBC ADP in 2017

Has struggled post All-Star break after MVP type first half. I don’t believe Judge is a .300 hitter. K totals without plus contact leads me to believe .250-.265 feels right. The power is undeniable, but at this point I still believe I’d prefer Stanton in the same mold as to Judge. While I don’t believe his ADP will be that of a top 5 pick, the hype, celebrity, and youth will make him an overpriced perennial first round pick.

Jake Lamb 13th Overall/143 NFBC ADP in 2017

Has once again improved upon previous season, but I’m not sure we’ve seen enough to warrant even a Top 30 selection. For him to go before Bryant and Machado is laughable. None of the offensive gains have come at the expense of LHP. Until that happens you simply can’t value Lamb among the elite.

Jose Ramirez 18th/95th NFBC ADP in 2017

Has traded HR for SB this season, but you’re still looking at a 20 HR with 15 SB player. Less than a dozen players will check both those boxes this year. Increased fly ball rate has fueled the HR total, but I’m not sure that is best for the long-term. A dip in hard hit rate to previous levels could begin to eat away at the BABIP. The contact rate is elite, but the one downside to it is the potential impact BABIP regression could have. I personally couldn’t see myself selecting Ramirez among the Top 30 players next year. Then again, with a lackluster second half you may not have to.

Cody Bellinger 29th/ Not among Top 450 in NFBC ADP in 2017

Honestly thought the draft spot was conservative. Youth and excitement makes for the perfect over-reaction cocktail. The power is great, K rate and a track-record of marginal AVG would suggest .250-.260 could be the comfort zone. That plays in fantasy, I’m just not sure it is as acceptable among the best of the best. Continued success vs. LHP combined with additional periods of success could move him further up the board. If he can avoid a 2nd half pitfall this 29th selection seems about right.

Miguel Sano 31st/121st among NFBC ADP in 2017.

Strikeout concerns and favorable BABIP suggest .270 may be the high mark, but a continued hard hit rate in excess of 40% make it possible. Raw power is among the games best, and he could be on the cusp of 40 HR annually. Another selection that feels right at this point, and a player I would certainly be targeting in this range if not sooner.

Elvis Andrus 42nd/156th among NFBC ADP in 2017

For a half decade the selection of Elvis Andrus has been followed by “I needed a SS.” At 42nd overall you certainly will not be in a place where you need a SS. The 20-25 SB are a safe investment, but expecting double-digit HR would not be wise. Increased fly ball profile has feed the HR totals, but one has to question the adverse average effect a sustained increase would have. I suspect more and more of the “I need a SS.” Player will emerge, and with it a proper correction in draft price.

Marcell Ozuna 49th/ 189th in NFBC ADP in 2017

At 26th Ozuna could simply be amidst his career peak. He will certainly outperform last season despite a setback in plate discipline. A 41 point advantage in BABIP from his career mark could explain the .315 AVG. Even with a batting average dip you’re still looking at a 30 HR threat in the middle of what should still be a good lineup next year. Top 50 may be too high for my liking, but Ozuna seems to be the type that will settle into the 45-75 range in most drafts.

Random Thoughts

Obviously the Kershaw injury happened after his selection as the Top pick, but given the lack of true Aces, would your thought process change at the Top? The league average ERA for a SP is 4.50 that total was 4.34 in 2016 and 4.10 in 2015. 14 SP among ERA qualifiers have managed an ERA below 3.25; that total was 18 in 2016 and 2015. Back concerns will most certainly cloud Kershaw’s outlook, but could the success of Chris Sale or another CY Young for Max Scherzer put them into the discussion?

Jose Altuve (9) and Kris Bryant (15) feel low. The batting average, power, and speed mix of Altuve makes him a Top 4 lock for me. Bryant’s 2017 has been a disappointment of sorts up to this point, but at the end of the day you have the most talented player on one of the best offensive teams. The bookend of the first round doesn’t typically possess that type of pedigree.

Trea Turner (10): One of my more glaring oversights this preseason was the undervaluing of Turner. Overall his numbers were modest, but once you factor in the 50 SB potential it makes him elite. His draft status will mirror last seasons. I will once again avoid Turner, but what he provides will leave no regret in the price those who will own him will pay.

Miguel Cabrera (24th) felt like somewhat of a surprise. Statistically speaking his 2017 has been a disappointment, but exit velocity data and hard hit rates suggest he’s deserved much better. The mid 20’s typically has been the resting place for good players coming off bad years (see Josh Donaldson at 26th and Encarnacion at 32nd). It always seems one owner is handsomely rewarded for their faith while another is burdened with regret the entire season.

Noah Syndergaard 28th, Yu Darvish 35th, Stephen Strasburg 39th, Carlos Martinez 48th and Jacob deGrom 50th speak toward my concerns for SP heading into 2018. Between his own injury history and the Mets track record of handling starting pitchers, can you have any real faith Syndergaard starts even 25 games as great as they may be? Declining K totals, an ERA north of 4.00, and a new uniform leave more questions than answers in regards to Darvish. Strasburg has the health concerns, Martinez walks too many, and deGrom, despite his good numbers, features a three-year spike in both walks and HR/9.

Giancarlo Stanton (39th) could be hitting himself back into the first round conversation. The growth is also not only health related. A career best K rate south of 25% has been supported by more contact as well as chasing fewer pitches out of the zone. A more neutral GB/FB rate combined with the hard hit rate could make Stanton a .270 hitter with 40 HR to go with combined runs and RBI north of 200.

Knocking On the Door?
The following players did not fall into the Top 50 of the draft, but are players I could working their way into that tier in some drafts.

Zach Greinke is the 13th rated player among Yahoo standard scoring. His 12 Wins have certainly helped build the ranking, but big strides in both strikeouts and walks has assisted in dropping the ERA below 3.00. With the aforementioned troubles on the SP front, I’d expect another name or two to emerge into the 50-60 range in ADP. Continued success could get Greinke into the Martinez/deGrom discussion.

Despite having last started on June the 2nd, Dallas Keuchel still ranks as the 21st player on Yahoo. A return to health in the midst of a deep Astros playoff run could be the perfect recipe to move Keuchel up the rankings. He doesn’t have the overpowering stuff, but a K/9 north of 8.00 with a BB/9 around 2.00 paired with a 67% GB rate is an excellent recipe for sustained success.

Jonathan Schoop is the 28th rated player on Yahoo. 30 HR pop from a second baseman just isn’t commonplace. While the O’s success of late hasn’t been what we’ve come to expect, I don’t see this team struggling offensively for a sustained amount of time. Schoop has emerged as a middle of the order threat with a real shot of 180 Run+ RBI annually.

Anthony Rendon is the 32nd player in Yahoo Standard scoring. It will be hard for him to shed the injury label. If you convince yourself to remove it, you will find the inconsistency warning label underneath. When all is well you have yourself a .300 hitter with 25 HR pop and a real chance at 200 Run + RBI – provided Baker finds the right lineup spot for him. The top-tier of 3B has become super talented, and Rendon’s value on draft day may suffer because of it. The production, however, would lead me to believe a Top 50 status on draft day is warranted.

Michael Conforto at 93rd on Yahoo may seem to be the outcast among this group. With the Mets committed to a youth movement, Conforto could very well find himself as the spotlight player in the Mets lineup. A good final two months could give Conforto some of the same hype that typically is reserved for the Cody Bellinger’s of the world.

*****

August can be a painful month for non-contenders. Taking in market trends and player values while others are worrying about their day-to-day business will give you a head start on 2018. For those in keeper/dynasty formats, you should look to target players where you feel market inequities lie. This process shouldn’t be resided on only those player you want.

Take Aaron Judge for example. I personally don’t value his place among the first round. Clearly plenty of others do. I would target Judge in hopes the hype train continues to build steam resulting in my ability to flip him for a top talent I prefer come March.

For those of you in redrafts, take this time to begin your ranking process for next season. Between ownership trends, player rankings, and daily monitoring of the league; you could find yourself draft day ready come September.

 

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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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