I’m not sure about you guys but I like fantasy baseball. Some people might bemoan the long season or the fact that, in order to field a successful team, you have to update your lineups practically every day. I just don’t care about any of that – fantasy baseball gives you an opportunity to dream on your team and fall in love with seemingly out-of-no-where studs like AJ Pollock in ways that fantasy football just can’t.
Had you prepped for your draft last season, you might’ve seen that Pollock actually had a great (injury-shortened) 2014 and that he was a pretty under-valued buy last season. You also would’ve known that pitchers like Jake Arrieta or Carlos Carrasco had phenomenal 2nd halves of 2014 and might have been able to capitalize on that. Obviously every player with a good 2nd half isn’t going to turn into a Cy Young-level pitcher but the more informed you are, the better. I focus primarily on Head to Head Points leagues (where speed and relief pitching might be undervalued in comparison to roto leagues) but the general player value should be more or less the same. If there is any interest in keeper/dynasty league posts, I do some of that as well.
You can find undervalued players at any point in the draft – from the 1st round to the 30th – and I am going to try to expose some players who I believe will be great draft day values. I am using these average draft rankings. In this post, I will deal with some established names who are going too late for my taste – all these guys rank in the top 100 so they’re far from sleepers but they’re still undervalued.
Giancarlo Stanton, OF, MIA is a clear 1st rounder (ranked 8th overall) who could legitimately blast 50 homers if he stays healthy (he had 27 in 74 games last year) and this power potential is one reason I’d take him over Jose Altuve or Andrew McCutchen who are each ranked above him. Altuve will see a drop in his power numbers and Cutch is simply an overrated .300/.380 hitter that knocks about 25 homers per season. Of course it is very tough to call a player that is ranked 8th ‘undervalued’ but Stanton should certainly be a top 6 pick and I could see an argument for him being the 4th player off the board.
Chris Davis, 1B, BAL (23rd overall) shouldn’t be a bet for the long run but I’m pretty confident recommending this slugger in 2016. Davis has been a clear top 10 batter in 2 of the past 3 seasons (53 homers in 2013 and 47 in 2015) and while his 2014 disaster where he failed to crack the Mendoza line may leave a sour taste in our mouths, everything was working against him that year and a lot of his failures can be attributed to a Batting Average on Balls In Play that was .078 worse than his career averages. I don’t see any reason that his BABIP dips like that again so he should be a safe bet for 40+ homers, an average that doesn’t kill you, and a ton of Ks.
Player A: 101 runs, 16 HR, 72 RBI, 28 steals, .307/.361/.477, 140 games
Player B: 111 runs, 20 HR, 76 RBI, 38 steals, .315/.367/.498, 157 games
Player C: 93 runs, 17 HR, 58 RBI, 43 steals, .287/.347/.450, 157 games
Player D: 92 runs, 18 HR, 77 RBI, 21 steals, .291/.341/.479, 145 games
Judging by this list, it looks like Player B is the clear #1 player and I think I would take Player A ahead of Player C or D straight up. Player A is Royals Outfielder Lorenzo Cain (ranked 54th overall), Player B is fantasy sweetheart AJ Pollock (ranked 20th overall), and Player C is Rockies OF Charlie Blackmon who is currently regarded as the 34th best player and player D is trendy pick and 24th ranked player Mookie Betts. Now I already said that I think I take Cain straight-up over Blackmon but even if you don’t agree there, are 15 steals (and decreased production in terms of on-base ability and hitting ability) really worth 20 picks? Betts had an excellent 2nd half of the season and I really get that but, in a single season league, I just don’t see many legitimate arguments for selecting Betts 30 picks earlier than Cain. As for Pollock, sure he was better than Cain in 2015 and will probably be better again in 2016 but the 34 pick difference for such similar production is astronomical so early in the draft. Jake Arrieta is ranked 21st overall so it basically comes down to: would you rather have Jake Arrieta and Lorenzo Cain or AJ Pollock and Chris Archer (55th overall)? For me, the choice is easy.
I’ve been singing WAS SP Stephen Strasburg‘s (62nd Overall) praises for months now but people still don’t know just how dominant Strasburg was since his return from the disabled list. I keep receiving arguments that Strasburg has never flourished into the ace that everyone expected he would be when he was drafted – I’d counter that by saying that he was certainly an ace when he was healthy. In 82 innings from June 1st on, Strasburg pitched to a 1.76 ERA (with a 2.16 Fielding Independent Pitching and 2.04 xFIP). His stuff also took a gigantic step forward and he started K-ing 12.1 batters per 9 innings while walking just 1.3 – if those aren’t ace statistics then I just don’t know what are. We can’t expect the same level of dominance from Stras in ’16 but, even with some regression, he is much better than his 62 overall rank. I would be more than comfortable picking up the righty before pick #50.
The current narrative is that LAA 1b Albert Pujols (ranked 74th) is a washed-up and overpaid former star and, while part of this may be true, it just doesn’t tell the full story. Pujols is overpaid and he may be no where close to the gold glove fielder that he was with St. Louis but fantasy players shouldn’t give a shit about the cost of Albert’s contract or his chops in the field (and I think too many people are indirectly weighing these perceived weaknesses). Pujols isn’t going to approach 100 walks anymore but this is a guy who blasted 40 homers just last season. That’s right, he hit 40 last year, good enough for 7th in all of baseball. Throw in the fact that his .217 BABIP is .080 lower than his career averages and you’re looking at the Pujols of old if he were a bit luckier on his 2015 grounders. Pujols would be a much better pick than someone like Prince Fielder who is currently coming off the boards 9 picks earlier.
Brandon Belt (ranked 93rd) is not a sexy player. He isn’t going to wow you with his power or with any of his tools for that matter but his main appeal comes from where he is ranked among first basemen. Freddie Freeman (ranked 72nd) and Eric Hosmer (ranked 76th) each had very similar seasons to Belt yet are consistently being selected 2 rounds earlier. I don’t know why this is the case and I also don’t know why someone wouldn’t just hold off on drafting Hosmer or Freeman and take Belt a couple rounds later. For the record, I take Pujols easily over all three of these 1B.
The top 100 isn’t typically a place where you’ll find plenty clear value plays so it makes sense that there are only a handful of guys on this list. On the docket, however, I’ve got some players that could really screw you if you draft them early on. In the future, I’ll also have a collection of savvy picks between 101-200, some overrated players in that same range, and finally a post with several players that you would be wise to through a dollar at in auction drafts or pick up as a lottery ticket in the later rounds of deep snake drafts.