MLB Baseball Column: Draft Strategy
Early ADP Outliers
While parts of the Northeastern U.S. are still digging themselves out from a blizzard, pitchers and catchers are beginning to report to their team's respective spring training complexes in Florida and Arizona. Yes, baseball games are almost here. But while we still have some idle time, I figured this was a good opportunity to look at some early ADP (average draft position) outliers.
I have presented my issues with ADP data in previous years, but I still think it can be instructive as long as you are aware of its faults. At the very least, it can serve as a rough guide of where you'll likely need to strike in order to land a specific player on your wish list. With the players below, you may find them in different locations depending on where your draft will be hosted, so it's important to familiarize yourself with each site's default rankings so that you can identify overvalued and undervalued players. You could miss out on some bargains if you try to do it on the fly.
For the purposes of this column, I used ADP data from the excellent RTSports.com, the same place which recently hosted our annual experts' mock draft. You can check out the results of said draft if you purchase Rotoworld's Online Draft Guide, which is available right now. Of course, there's lots of other great stuff in there too.
Now, about those outliers...
Victor Martinez (C, Tigers) Current ADP: 129.07
With Martinez, where he should fall on draft day really depends on the specific settings of your league. Assuming he's still eligible at catcher, move him up a few rounds on your board. Sure, the 34-year-old missed all of last season due to left knee surgery, but reports have been very positive so far this spring. V-Mart drove in 102 runs in his first season with the Tigers in 2011 and I think he could come close to that total in 2013 with Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder setting the table. The catcher position is very deep this year, but Martinez looks like a nice bargain at the moment.
Josh Hamilton (OF, Angels) Current ADP: 13.72
I know what you're thinking. How could someone who hit a career-high 43 home runs last season be going too early in fantasy leagues? Well, there are couple things to consider. Now that Hamilton is with the Angels, he'll be playing his home games in the pitcher-friendly Angel Stadium as opposed to the hitter-friendly Ballpark in Arlington. Hamilton averaged 416 feet on his home runs last year, so he'll still get his fair share, but the "Big A" simply doesn't cater to left-handed batters like his old home park did. Not even close. Also keep in mind that Hamilton chased more pitches out the strike zone last season than anyone else and his strikeout rate spiked as a result. I still think he'll be valuable with Mike Trout and Albert Pujols hitting in front of him, but adding in his injury history, he's probably going a round too soon in standard mixed leagues.
Ike Davis (1B, Mets) Current ADP: 115.58
Davis got off to an absolutely dreadful start in 2012, likely due to a combination of the long layoff from his ankle injury and his valley fever diagnosis last spring, but he still managed to finish with 32 home runs and 90 RBI. Quite an accomplishment for someone who was hitting .158 as late as June 8. By the way, he hit .265 with 27 homers and 69 RBI from that day on. It's hard to believe that he'll suffer from a .246 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) again, so if he can avoid fatigue and another prolonged slump, there's room for serious profit here. I think he makes for a better investment than the likes of Ryan Howard, Eric Hosmer and Anthony Rizzo, who are all being drafted earlier.
Sergio Romo (RP, Giants) Current ADP: 102.94
It's easy to see why Romo's stock is through the roof, as he took control of the Giants' closer role down the stretch last season and pitched brilliantly during the team's World Series run. With a 2.02 ERA and 0.85 WHIP since 2010, there's obviously a lot to like here, but the Giants have always been careful about his workload because of all the sliders that he throws. It's this approach which could hold him back from emerging as an elite closer option in 2013, so I think he's going a couple rounds too soon here. It might pay to be patient and grab Glen Perkins (Current ADP: 174.84), who had similar success down the stretch last year, but was largely overlooked because he took over the closer job on a really bad Twins team.
Josh Johnson (SP, Blue Jays) Current ADP: 112.57
Johnson is still being drafted like he's a top-25 starting pitcher, but I'm not sure that's the case. The good news is that he made it through last season healthy after missing most of 2011 due to shoulder problems, logging 31 starts and 191 1/3 innings. However, his fastball velocity was down a tick and he posted his worst strikeout and walk rates since his first full season in 2006. Now that he'll be pitching in the American League, I'm not optimistic about those strikeouts coming back. I think he'll win more than eight games this year with Toronto's loaded lineup, but be careful about reaching too early.
Pablo Sandoval (3B, Giants) Current ADP: 74.84
Hamate bone surgery seemingly sapped Sandoval's power production last season, as he hit just seven home runs over his final 84 games, but he kicked things in gear at precisely the right time for the Giants by swatting six in 16 postseason games. Sandoval's conditioning has been a bone of contention at times, so it's hard to know with 100 percent confidence which player will show up this spring, but he's an excellent rebound candidate at his current ADP. Even more so once you realize that you probably won't get fellow third baseman Brett Lawrie (Current ADP: 65.70) at a discount. If you're still hesitant about investing, just remember that Sandoval doesn't have any hamate bones left to break.
Will Middlebrooks (3B, Red Sox) Current ADP: 79.93
Perhaps a side effect of playing in Boston, it appears that Middlebrooks is being overdrafted based on his small sample of success as a rookie. It makes sense on the surface, as the 24-year-old socked 15 home runs in 75 games last season prior to going down with a broken wrist. That projects out to 32 homers over a full season. However, he didn't hit a ton of fly balls last year and it's unlikely he'll be able to maintain such a lofty HR/FB rate. His plate discipline was also pretty ugly, as he had a 70/13 K/BB ratio over 286 plate appearances. It's reasonable to expect him to settle somewhere in the 20-25 homer range, so he should still be valuable at the third base position, but he might not be much of an asset in OBP and OPS leagues. It could make sense to wait a few rounds and take Todd Frazier (Current ADP: 163.93), who has a chance of putting up similar power numbers in Cincinnati.
Erick Aybar (SS, Angels) Current ADP: 163.39
Last season was a mixed bag for Aybar, as he was terrible in April and May, then picked up the pace the rest of the way. All told, he ended up with a similar season to 2011, albeit with two fewer homers, 14 fewer RBI and 10 fewer stolen bases. His ADP suggests a lack of enthusiasm on the part of fantasy owners, but Aybar is well-positioned for his best season, as the Angels plan to have him bat No. 2 between Mike Trout and Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. I like the sound of that. I'd be inclined to take him over Derek Jeter, Alcides Escobar and rookie Josh Rutledge, who are all being taken earlier. Not a bad value if he falls into your lap in the middle rounds.
Ben Revere (OF, Phillies) Current ADP: 134.09
With 74 stolen bases over 254 major league games, there are few better bets for speed than Revere. The 24-year-old went 40-for-49 in stolen base attempts last year despite appearing in just 124 games. He likely would have pushed Mike Trout for the major league lead in swipes if he had played a full season. Revere should be off and running again this season as the Phillies' starting center fielder, but his stolen base potential and empty batting average aren't enough to justify this draft position, especially with other speed-first outfielders like Brett Gardner and Juan Pierre available later. Meanwhile, other outfielders like Dexter Fowler, Angel Pagan, Ichiro Suzuki, Carlos Gomez and Starling Marte will contribute with stolen bases and offer better all-around stats. You can afford to wait here.
Tommy Milone (SP, Athletics) Current ADP: 251.86
Milone was a nice surprise in fantasy leagues during his rookie campaign last year, notching 13 wins while posting a 3.74 ERA over 31 starts. His 1.71 BB/9 was tied for sixth-lowest among qualified starters. However, the southpaw still isn't getting much respect. I suspect this is because he doesn't throw all that hard and was so much better at home (2.74 ERA) than he was away from O.co Coliseum (4.83 ERA). Still, assuming he doesn't get tattooed to the tune of a .350 BABIP on the road once again, I think he could take another step forward in 2013. He should outproduce this ADP at the very least, especially if he is deployed strategically.
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