Background Talent, Part 3

Back for the third and final segment of our spin through the underrated, underused, and underperforming, in search of candidates for your, and our, deep-league drafts. The numbers in parentheses are NFBC Average Draft Positions.

Milwaukee: This is a real good team, but its players are by and large underrated by the market. If you need an instant draft strategy, you could do worse than just draft the best available Brewer. Our favorite may be Keston Hiura (443). We’re not sure what happened to him the past two years, but one thing that certainly happened is that he got unlucky, by virtue of his low BABIP and HR/FB while sustaining a (relatively) high hard-hit percentage. What won us over was the precipitous drop in HR/FB (26% to 10%) coupled with a big bump in average fly ball distance (171 feet to 189 feet). We expect that anomaly to correct itself. We also note that JC Mejia (750) did nothing wrong last year except accede to Cleveland’s attempts to make him a starter. He was superb as a reliever in both Cleveland and the Dominican, and may have a future as a multi-inning guy.

St. Louis: This is a rather thin team that nonetheless offers very few late-round bargains. As long as you don’t fetishize strikeouts, Dakota Hudson is certainly worth getting earlier than ADP 433. Likewise Jake Woodford (748), who, but for one atrocious outing against Minnesota, pitched pretty well.

Cubs: Even if they don’t trade Willson Contreras, Yan Gomes will play enough and hit enough for you to take him before his ADP of 361. We wouldn’t say we actually like Jason Heyward (705), but he should remain in the lineup all season, and figures to have what has become his typical season; .240 or so, 10 home runs, 5 stolen bases. You could do worse than have him around as a plug-in when an A-Team outfielder goes down. And we are baffled as to how Brad Wieck can be at ADP 750 after his 17 scoreless innings last year. Yeah, he was hurt, and his control’s a problem. But he’s apparently healthy now, he gets a ton of strikeouts, and he has a legitimate shot at winding up as the team’s closer.

Pittsburgh: Not many guys on this team excite us. Anthony Alford (569) won’t hit more than .240, but if he plays every day, as Roster Resource indicates he might, he could well hit 15 home runs and steal 15 bases. Also here is Greg Allen (718), who has long been one of our favorites, though our love has gone largely unrequited. It’s easy to imagine him beating out Alford for the left field job or Ben Gamel for the right field job, and hitting about .250 with a ton of stolen bases.

Cincinnati: There are an awful lot of question marks on this team. Can Jesse Winker stay healthy? (Doubtful.) Is Eugenio Suarez done for? (Wish we were confident of a comeback, but we’re not.) Is TJ Friedl really a major league caliber center fielder? (He looks more like a bench player to us.) We’ve been looking, so far in vain, for complete and accurate information about Nick Senzel’s health. If in fact he’s healthy, he might be worth getting at ADP 470. It also appears to us that Vladimir Gutierrez just wore down towards the end of the season, and that his good three-month run before that makes him a solid pickup at ADP 598.

Arizona: Contemplating this team fills us with lassitude—so much so that we can’t get a clear take on them. We can imagine them winning, say, 85 games, and we can imagine them being even worse than they were last season. One guy we like is Christian Walker. He’s got a doctor’s note covering both 2020 and 2021, when his power just disappeared. We can envision it returning, and the possibility that it will makes him worth getting at ADP 445. We can certainly all live full and productive lives without acquiring any of this team’s pitchers, but the chance that new pitching coach Brent Strom, dear to our hearts as one of the few guys in uniform who’s decisively older than we are, can work his accustomed magic might make it worth your while to get, say, Luke Weaver (456), Merrill Kelly 켈리 (466), or Caleb Smith (647).

Dodgers: The only guy we see who’s not obvious is Alex Vesia (708). It’s possible Kenley Jansen will re-sign with the Dodgers—that’s what he did last time he was a free agent—but having watched his walk-heavy high-wire act last year, when he was erratic and, we think, very fortunate to post the numbers he did, we’re not so sure that, at 34, he’ll keep his balance for another season. Yes, we know that Blake Treinen is here, and that he was magnificent last season. But we also know that he’s had a career-long tendency to follow magnificent seasons with decidedly non-magnificent ones. So we can imagine Vesia taking over as the closer pretty early in the season. If only the obvious Dodgers will do for you, there are Edwin Rios (599) and Matt Beaty (643), whom you might obtain on the theory that they will replace injured guys, play a fair amount, and hit a little.

San Francisco: We have spent more time than we should have trying and failing to ascertain what “procedure” Tommy La Stella had on his Achilles tendon. We are, unfortunately, connoisseurs of Achilles surgery, and we know that there are some procedures that leave you good as new and some procedures that leave you unable to manage anything more demanding than over-40 slow-pitch. If La Stella had the former sort, he may well be ready to rock, and if so, he will lead off, which makes him worth getting at ADP 535. As for pitchers: we are forced to admit that Sammy Long (645) had never even creased our consciousnesses before we did our preparation for this season. But now that he has, we are intrigued enough by his minor-league record to put him on our list of possible late draftees.

San Diego: We can’t explain why Austin Nola is at ADP 350, since he will start and is an above-average hitter for a catcher. He was hurt most of last year, but he’s not notably injury-prone, so we regard him as a bargain. We also think that Ha-Seong Kim 김하성 isn’t as bad a hitter as he appeared to be last year, though he may not get a chance to prove it if no one gets hurt. But someone will, so ADP 379, in light of his multi-position eligibility, is an okay price, though not a wonderful one.

Colorado: It looks to us like Elehuris Montero (724) is a better hitter than Colton Welker (696), and thus should be the first guy called up when a third baseman is needed, but it’s not clear that the Rockies share that view. The danger of getting a Rockies closer is that even the really good ones are likely to blow up in a couple of games and impair your ERA and WHIP. Nonetheless, we were satisfied owners of Daniel Bard last season, and won’t mind getting Carlos Estevez (484) in the 30th round or so. However: Robert Stephenson (694) came around really nicely last season. We think he’s a better pitcher than Estevez and might even emerge from spring training, assuming there is one, with the closer’s job.





The Birchwood Brothers are two guys with the improbable surname of Smirlock. Michael, the younger brother, brings his skills as a former Professor of Economics to bear on baseball statistics. Dan, the older brother, brings his skills as a former college English professor and recently-retired lawyer to bear on his brother's delphic mutterings. They seek to delight and instruct. They tweet when the spirit moves them @birchwoodbroth2.

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jbgocubsmember
8 months ago

who’s in charge of rotographs? can we bring up the level of quality? love the site, just feel like it’s fallen so far behind other fantasy baseball sites in terms of quality and quantity.

Klubot3000member
8 months ago
Reply to  jbgocubs

This is a terrible take. The Birchwood bros have an incredible blend of insightful identification of actual underrated players and whimsical nonchalance in their delivery. Way, way better than 99% of the “analysis” out there. If anything, I want MORE of this quality content! Between the BBs, Zimmerman’s mining the news, and Pod’s analysis of his xStats, no site comes even close to this depth of fantasy analysis.

LightenUpFGmember
8 months ago
Reply to  Klubot3000

I saw the original comment some time ago and had to think about what other fantasy baseball sites the poster could possibly be talking about. Most sites aren’t even talking about baseball these days, and when they do it’s mostly lists and player profiles. I don’t think the original poster knows how good he’s got it here.

Slappytheclown
8 months ago
Reply to  jbgocubs

I think what this poster is saying is we need more Birchwood Bros and more content overall because this article was fantastic. In the defense of Fangraphs though, so much talent has been poached over the years as other mostly PAY sites have ramped up analysis AND major league teams themselves have brought in more analytical talent it has become somewhat of a revolving door at Fangraphs. I believe they are managing things as well as the can, however, for a free site. Which reminds me, I have to re-up my membership for support…

airforce21one
8 months ago
Reply to  Slappytheclown

If Fangraphs simply put advertisements in place of the constant “buy a membership” popups, they could probably bring in more actual revenue.