Can you feel it? Baseball is inching closer and closer. I realize the country was just punished with devastatingly low temperatures almost everywhere (it was in the 20s here in Texas), but STATS recently released the early NFBC average draft data to keep us warm. You better believe I’ve got some thoughts, but I can’t fit them all in one piece, so I’ll cover two positions per and knock this out throughout the week.
- It’s basically Buster Posey (pick 35), Gary Sanchez (47), and Jonathan Lucroy (50), then everyone else. Even an ailing Posey finished second to only Lucroy among catchers last year.
- I want to preach caution on Sanchez, but he was so otherworldly, even accounting for the small sample. There just aren’t any comparisons. The only other catchers to put up a 150 or better OPS+ in their rookie seasons were Carlton Fisk and Mike Piazza and they both did it for way more than Sanchez’s 229 PA.
- We know Sanchez won’t have a 40% HR/FB rate, but even if he “only” reaches his projection (.268, 25 HR, 73 RBI), it’s essentially Lucroy’s 2016 with about 12 fewer hits. I’m still taking Lucroy ahead of Sanchez, but Sanchez is no worse than third.
- From there, I’m either grabbing Willson Contreras (100) around his spot or just waiting.
- I know Evan Gattis (91) popped 32 HRs last year, but I’m just not seeing the stark differences between him and the likes of Yasmani Grandal (152) and Brian McCann (162) much later or even Salvador Perez (127) two-plus rounds later.
- Being without a team hasn’t really impacted Matt Wieters’ (196) draft spot much. He’s the 13th catcher off the board and that’s exactly where he finished on the Player Rater last year.
- I’m among the early group that is betting on Tom Murphy (232) to win the job in Colorado, but our depth charts and Roster Resource both list the left-handed Tony Wolters (421) as the presumed starter and he’s completely off the radar.
- I’ve got some love for Cameron Rupp (247). He obliterates lefties so if he can just hold his own against righties, he’s got 20-homer upside.
- Sandy Leon (255) came out of nowhere to put up an .845 OPS and while I certainly don’t expect him to repeat that, he doesn’t need to at his current cost. A .775 OPS with 12-14 HRs will work.
- The discount for Wilson Ramos (268) is deep enough to bet on his bum knee. Signing with an AL team allows him to DH for a while and work his way back into catching, but he will miss at least a month, so plan accordingly.
- After a combined 106 PA the last two seasons, folks are moving on from Devin Mesoraco (317). At this point, he has to show something to have any confidence.
- Even for a punch-less Francisco Cervelli (322), a 2% HR/FB seems too low to repeat. He should add a couple more homers, but you’re really drafting him for AVG, or better yet in an OBP league (.361 career).
- The star power at 1B (five guys in the top 30 picks) gives it a feeling of tremendous depth, but it thins out quicker than you might think.
- Paul Goldschmidt (6) is easily the top 1B thanks in large part to his sustained SB output. He stole a career-high 32 last year and had swiped 17 per 650 PA the four seasons before that.
- An obscene second half for the second year in a row powered Joey Votto (29) to the second-best season at the position, but he’s still going sixth– a bargain as far as I’m concerned.
- Wil Myers (56) stole 10 bases per 600 PA prior to 2016, but then swiped 28 in 676 PA this past season. If he continues to run, he’s a top 30ish player, but he is still a health risk and I’m not sure his average draft slot is enough of a built-in discount.
- Hanley Ramirez (86) had a fantastic close to the season (3 months of .940+ OPS) and seems fully recovered from his 2015 shoulder injury.
- I think too many people forget that he also had an unreal April before running into the sidewall at Fenway. Basically, Ramirez has been an excellent hitter throughout his 30s, save a four-month run explained by injury. There’s value to be mined even at his minimum pick of 73, which is generally where I’ve seen him go in the early drafts I’ve done.
- The volatility of Chris Davis’ (77) BABIP and thus his AVG (.286, .196, .262, .221 the last 4 years) isn’t adequately priced in, especially with the explosion of home runs across the league.
- I’d much rather wait for Carlos Santana (120) and Albert Pujols (125) nearly 50 picks later.
- On the low end of his volatility, Davis is no better than Mike Napoli (214) or Chris Carter (225), both currently searching for jobs.
- I realize they are eight years apart in age, but that’s about the only difference between Eric Hosmer (106) and Adrian Gonzalez (162) despite a 56-pick split.
- If you’re stuck on the age, you can trade a few homers for 63 picks and take Brandon Belt (169) instead of Hosmer.
- Hell, Tommy Joseph (215) hit just four fewer homers than Hosmer in 320 fewer PA. He could reasonably out-homer Hosmer without giving too much back in AVG, R, and RBI while coming 109 picks later on average.
- I’m really going in on Hosmer, sorry Eric.
- C.J. Cron (230) and Justin Bour (315) both have some upside if they can make it a full season, though their struggles against lefties (even with Cron being a righty) might make 600 PA tough even with health. Both make for strong corner infield options, though.
- First base is usually a position filled with more established bats as players often come from other positions to land there, but guys like Greg Bird (231), Jefry Marte (417), Byung Ho Park (458), Kennys Vargas (463), and A.J. Reed (466) offer some rare upside at the position.
Alright, it’s your turn. Who are your prime targets and favorite bargains at each of these positions?