Fantasy Baseball: The Fourth Overall Pick Conundrum

Clayton Kershaw

The fourth overall pick wasn’t really something I had thought about until recently. I tend to do my early season tiers and rankings by position and then my draft strategy dictates how those tiers and rankings fit together during the draft. In fact, I never really put together a top 300. I prefer to just use positional tiers and ADP because I find players value is so dependent on roster make-up that it doesn’t help me to know I have Freddie Freeman at ranking “X” if I already got a stud, or even two, first baseman early in the draft. By using tiers, I can then push first base to one side and only come back to it if the ADP shows me that someone is falling compared to the norm. At that point they come back onto the table if I want to fill corner infield or utility. I feel like a top 300 forces you to pick a guy because that is where you have him even though it may not fit your need at that point.

Anyway, I digress from my original point, the fourth overall pick.

So the top three are no-brainers; the order is more of a debate, but for the record I have it Trout, Goldy and then Harper, and they are easy. It gets more difficult at four because there aren’t any no-brainer picks and you can make a case for five or more guys. That is exactly what I was doing when I put together my top 12 for Kyle Robert’s comparison article (link coming soon), and so I decided it would be good to lay out my reasons why and why not for all of you.

So, going off ADP according to fantasy pro’s:

Clayton Kershaw, SP (ADP: Fourth)

Kershaw is amazing and will likely lead the position in strikeouts and won’t be far off in WHIP or ERA, if he doesn’t win those categories as well. The Dodgers are also a pretty good team so I expect 15-plus wins with 20-plus being a realistic possibility. In fact, Kershaw grades out so well that he scored 71 out of a potential 80 points according to the roto scoring system I use to rank players, 10 points higher than second place. However, whilst all that is fantastic the ace/elite/top end starting pitching group is massive this year with 17 guys scoring 50 or above on my scoring and that group doesn’t include some pretty good names, Hamels, Strasburg and Lester. With pitchers like King Felix and Carrasco available at the end of the fourth round and into the fifth, and Hamels available as late at the top of the seventh, I would prefer to stack my hitting in the first round and grab a couple of these guys later in the draft. Taking Kershaw in the first gives me a massive disadvantage on offense and I don’t feel that is worth doing given the amount of talented guys available in the third round onwards.

Josh Donaldson, 3B (Fifth)

Can Josh Donaldson repeat the unbelievable numbers he put up in 2015?

Can Josh Donaldson repeat the unbelievable numbers he put up in 2015?

Donaldson had a perfect season in 2015 and rightly won the MVP. He hits in a great park surrounded by a great line-up and is in a generally offense-friendly division. All this means that 30 homers is essentially a floor if Donaldson is healthy all season and he should score a ton of runs and RBI. Josh has yo-yoed a little in average over his career, with the even years generally being lower so I do have a little concern that he cannot match last season’s 0.297 and could slip below 0.280. It is unrealistic to count on 240 combined runs and RBI again even in this great line-up, and I think we lose at least five home runs this season. All this plus the fact that there is are interesting options at great values later in the draft like Frazier, Franco and Rendon, combines to be just enough to stop me taking him fourth overall.

Giancarlo Stanton, OF (Sixth)

I don’t need to sell you on the upside of this guy. He has legit 40-homer potential if he plays a full year but with four seasons in his career of less than 450 AB’s there is a big injury risk. Throw in that the offense around him still isn’t that great, and all of a sudden 200 combined runs and RBI is a ceiling. Ironically, Stanton is another yo-yo’er with his average but he is actually due to raise his this year, if the pattern holds. Even so the injury risk and the potential lack of counting stats is enough to deflate his value for me.

Carlos Correa, SS (Seventh)

Now, I can legitimately take a case that Correa is the guy to take here. No one has the same 25/25, possibly even 30/30, potential that Correa has, and that includes the top three guys. He bats in a pretty good line-up that should offer a ton of runs and RBI for him with 200-plus combined being a legitimate opportunity. It is hard to project batting average for a one year in the major’s guy but he hit 0.279 last year and I think he can go higher. Oh, and he is by far the best player at a really bad position. The argument against him is obvious, he has only played 99 games in the majors and he wouldn’t be the first to have a sophomore slump and if it happens he sure won’t be the last. The thing with shortstop is that it is a messy position and taking risks on shortstops is tough given the poor options in free agency so why compound that risk by spending your first round pick. Plus, I have a couple of guys I like that you can get late who I think are low risk guys that will return a decent output, Peralta and Aybar, and that is enough to make me go safer at the fourth overall pick.

Andrew McCutchen, OF (Eighth)

McCutchen had a down year last year but even so he feels the safe, comfortable option with the ability to lock in 20-plus homers and 10-15 steals, with potential for more, and close to a 0.300 batting average if not above that. He plays in another decent line-up so runs and RBI shouldn’t be an issue with 200-plus being highly possible. However, he just doesn’t give me that buzz. He isn’t the same league as Trout and Harper and frankly, I get those extra 10-20 steals later in the draft at my middle infield or fourth/fifth outfielder spot, so why reach for them here? This is an absolute sure fire “no” for me for a few reasons; 1) If I am picking fourth I can probably get Mookie Betts on the swing, who I think is going to be close to the same guy; 2) I think outfield is a really deep position and I can cover steals late in the draft; 3) the infield positions are just so much shallower; 4) I’d rather use the pick on the upside of Stanton; and 5) I have Pollock ranked higher than McCutchen.

Nolan Arenado & Manny Machado, 3B (Ninth & 10th)

Does positional eligibility boost Machado enough to make him the 4th overall pick?

Does positional eligibility boost Machado enough to make him the 4th overall pick?

I have all three of the top tier third baseman pretty much level, but Donaldson just has the edge. And seeing as I would take him fourth, then I probably would take these two as well. However, there is one caveat here. If Machado is SS eligible in your league than he is in the running for my number four overall pick. He may not have the 25/25 potential of Correa but he has 30-plus homer potential with 15 steals as the kicker, although the jump from 2 to 20 last year does make me wonder if he repeats the steals. There is safety in Machado’s performance that there isn’t in Correa because he has more history of being a quality player, but there is an injury history here which wrote off 2014 and that is enough to keep him below Donaldson in standard leagues. But the line-up he plays in and the potential for even more growth is enough to keep him above Arenado.

Jose Altuve, 2B (11th)

Now this is a guy I seriously considered because I think he can steal 40-plus bases, hit close to 10 homers, score close to (or maybe more than) 100 runs and have a batting average over 0.300. However, I do like some of the lower end options at second base and I have already mentioned being able to pick up steals late in the draft at outfield and shortstop/middle infield. I cannot get power without compromising average late in the draft so it is hard to put myself in that position when there are so many other options on the table.

Anthony Rizzo, 1B (12th)

Now we really are in the right ball park; first base is frankly a bit of mess this season, even with the potential return of Pujols. And if you don’t get at least one stud you are putting yourself at a major disadvantage. There are six guys for me that I want at least one of and whilst I can likely get a few of them late in the second round I am not sure that is a risk I am willing to take. Rizzo added steals to some already impressive stats last season and whilst I don’t think he repeats that I think 10 is still possible. Add that to 30 homer with 200-plus combined runs and RBI, and we are cooking on gas here. However, the 0.275 average that I have him projected for casts doubts in my mind about whether he is the guy for fourth, but he is certainly in the running

Max Scherzer, SP (13th) & Kris Bryant, 3B (15th)

Kershaw is by far the best pitcher and Bryant is a tier below the other three third baseman, so not a chance

Miguel Cabrera, 1B (14th)

Cabrera is a guy that the industry seems to be relatively running for the hills on following one injury damaged season. However, at just 32 (33 in April) it is harsh to presume that last year is a sign of things to come considering his record of the previous decade. Cabrera is only a couple of years removed from being in the first overall pick conversation so this borderline fear of him is crazy to me. Yes, the monster 35-40-plus homer power is gone, but I still think he can get close to 30 and he will do it whilst putting up a ton of runs and RBI in a stacked line-up whilst hitting 0.310-plus. The 25 homer year in 2014 does give me some pause for concern, but having hit 15 homers through June last year I think he can top that 25 mark this year. He has close to the fewest red flags among the group and he has the pedigree, so he is definitely in the discussion.

A.J. Pollock, OF, (16th)

Although he offers more power than Altuve the same sort of argument applies here in that I am taking a fair hit on power for a resource I believe I can find later. Also there is the McCutchen argument of why him when Betts can do similar things late in the second round? All in all, he is just outside my first round but ahead of McCutchen.

The Final Verdict

So let’s summarise…

  • Outfield is majorly deep so; the potential to get Betts in the second round and the steals late in drafts rules out McCutchen and Pollock, the injury risk just scares me off Stanton this high but the counting stats don’t help him.
  • Kershaw is great but there is a really deep group of aces/elite options and drafting him would put a long way behind the eight ball with the hitting
  • I like some second base options and the lack of power is enough to stop Altuve making the grade
  • Machado is in the running if he is SS eligible, but even then he just falls short because of injury history. As a third base only guy he sits seventh. Arenado behind Machado because of Machado’s steals upside
  • Donaldson is a quality player and could hit 40 homers and put up a combined 220+ runs and RBI. However, the deeper position of third base just puts him behind the two first basemen

So it all comes down to Rizzo versus Miggy. Both have great line-up around them, Rizzo has age and speed on his side, but Miggy has a monster advantage in average.

Miguel Cabrera has the pedigree and talent to rebound big time in 2016

Miguel Cabrera has the pedigree and talent to rebound big time in 2016

My fourth overall pick is: Miguel Cabrera

Because of the lack of top end talent at first base, and also because I think he can be a close to 30-homer guy with a 0.310-plus average, and that is a rare combination that sets you up to go where you like in the next few rounds. Rizzo falls just short in fifth with Donaldson and Machado at six & seven depending on Machado’s eligibility.

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