I know we’re still 2 weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting, but it’s never too early to start your fantasy baseball prep. The 2017 SirusXM-FSTA Experts League Draft was held in Nashville last weekend and as always it’s a great tool to start seeing how the industry feels about certain players. Again, this is the first true expert mock of the year so while it obviously has value, there’s also so much that will change between now and Opening Day. Below are some of my thoughts on the results, specifically my favorite and least favorite picks from each of the first 10 rounds.
Best: Josh Donaldson (13): Since coming to Toronto Donaldson’s average season comes out to .290 with 39 HRs 111 RBI and 122 runs scored. The Jays lineup remains formidable and both the division and ballpark are a plus. I have Donaldson firmly in the top half of my first round and would certainly prefer him to the likes of Machado and Rizzo.
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Worst: Charlie Blackmon (11): This was far and away the most puzzling selection of the round. I know Coors provides a massive advantage, but Blackmon has topped 20 homers only once in his career. Further, his steals dropped from 43 in 15’ to only 17 last season. Overall, there were several players still available at this point that I see as having both a higher floor and more upside than Blackmon.
Best: Miguel Cabrera (15): It’s not that I have Cabrera ranked significantly higher, just that I see him as far more reliable than most other selections in this round. His floor is basically a .315 hitter and the 38 homers last year showed that he is still a top tier power threat.
Worst: Starling Marte (17): The steals and batting average are nice, but I hate taking a guy this early who can’t be counted on for more than 15 homers. Marte’s terrible plate discipline is also a concern, as is his durability to some extent. Ryan Braun and J.D. Martinez, who both went much later are far more appealing alternatives in my mind.
Best: Daniel Murphy (39): For those who didn’t buy into Murphy’s magical postseason in 15’, we now have his entire 2016 campaign as evidence that this isn’t the same hitter we saw with the Mets. Even if his batting averages regresses he’s still going to hit above .300 and given the lineup his counting stats from last season are easily repeatable. Oh and did I mention that he’s struck out a combined 95 times over the last two seasons?
Worst: Christian Yelich (35): I get that Yelich is only 25 and coming off a career year, but his insane groundball rate makes me doubt that a 30 homer season could be on the horizon. The steals have also declined for three consecutive years now and I don’t see a reason why that would suddenly change. The unfavorable combination of pitchers and ballparks in the NL East is another factor to consider when comparing Yelich to other OF’s in this range.
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Best: Ian Desmond (48): Last year’s bounce back season was a good sign, but the move to Colorado is what really excites me about this pick. While most will point to an expected power increase, the batting average boost that Coors provides is actually what I think will help Desmond exceed expectations the most. And while his 15’ season was concerning, this is a players who’s gone 20/20 in 4 of the past 5 years so there’s actually a fairly high floor here as well.
Worst: Jean Segura (45): I was tempted to go with Billy Hamilton here, but he’s such a unique player that it’s nearly impossible to judge his value accurately. While I don’t think Segura’s performance last season was a complete fluke, his move to Seattle is concerning for several reasons. Based on his home run to fly ball rate he was already due for some regression in the power department and Safeco will only expedite that process. Additionally, the Mariners were far more conservative on the base paths then the Diamondbacks last season, which means we could see a dip in Segura’s, steals as well.
Best: Andrew McCutchen (62): Considering McCutchen was a borderline 1st round pick just last year, the value here is tremendous. You can argue that his subpar 2015 campaign marked the end of his days as an elite fantasy player, but I’m not buying it. The guy just turned 30 a few months ago and even if he’s no longer a threat to steal 20 bases, he still has the ability to be an above average contributor in every other category.
Worst: Wilson Contreras (63): I don’t have anything against the player, I just hate taking a catcher this early. Posey and Sanchez are at least middle of the lineup hitters whereas Contreras is currently slated to bat 8th. The Cubs also seem to use their bench players more often than other clubs so I don’t expect a major playing time advantage relative to the position the way some others might.
Best: Justin Upton (66): Considering how awful Upton was in the first few months of last season, it’s remarkable he ended the year with a career high tying 31 home runs. I’m willing to chalk up much of his struggles to switching leagues and fully expect him to return to his regular form in 2017. Still only 29, if Upton can get back near his .268 career average he will easily be a top 50 player.
Worst: DJ LeMahieu (68): He’s a nice player, but aside from batting average there’s not much else here. Despite his home park, LeMahieu has hit a combined 22 homers over the past 3 seasons and last year his steals also dropped from 23 all to way down to 11.
Best: Alex Bregman (90): Betting on a player with only 50 games of big league experience is an inherent risk, but I truly believe Bregman has a chance to be special. He’s got the ability to contribute in all five categories and Houston’s deep lineup should give him a high floor in terms of counting stats.
Worst: Evan Gattis (91): I don’t see how Gattis is going to get enough playing time to justify going this high. With Beltran locked into the DH spot, an even split behind the plate with Brian McCann seems like the best-case scenario and even that may be overly optimistic. The Astros also have plenty of bench depth so even an injury won’t necessarily make Gattis the primary beneficiary.
Best: Jose Bautista (99): It wouldn’t stun me if age had finally caught up to Bautista, though at this point in the draft it’s a gamble well worth taking. The plate discipline and power are still there, which leaves health as the deciding variable. And while his reoccurring shoulder woes are concerning, he’s coming at a 3-4 round discount.
Worst: Miguel Sano (95): Given his prospect pedigree and the fact that he just turned 22, making a judgement on Sano this early seems slightly unfair. That said, the league wide power surge we saw last season doesn’t bode well for his value. At least for 2017 I still view him as a one-category contributor, a category that you can easily fill later in the draft with players such as Adam Duvall and Randall Grichuk.
Best: Adam Jones (108): While unexciting, Jones is as reliable a fantasy option as there is. He’s hit at least 27 home runs and driven in 80+ runs every year since 2012 and there’s no reason to think that’s going to stop now. Even without much upside, getting that type of security in round 9 is a steal.
Worst: Dustin Pedroia (107): 2B is so incredibly deep that I don’t see a need to reach for a mediocre option this early. Sure, sitting atop the Boston lineup is an ideal context, but Pedroia offers minimal power and virtually no speed at this point in his career. I’d much rather take a shot at some of the younger alternatives such as Diaz, Forsythe or Travis, who all have similar if not greater upside and cost significantly less.
Best: Jake Lamb (126): We saw the power potential last year and given that it was Lamb’s first full season in the majors there’s still a decent chance he can improve in the other areas of his game. If Pollock and Peralta can stay healthy Arizona will have one of the strongest offenses in the NL and Lamb could be a major beneficiary of that.
Worst: Alex Colome (128): I like the player, but I don’t trust the situation. With Tampa’s creative bullpen usage and Boxberger still in the mix, there’s enough questions that taking Colome as the 8th closer off the board seems unnecessarily aggressive.