Draft season has become a year-round endeavor for fantasy baseballers if so inclined. Usually the winter dotted with industry-based mocks that will appear in the magazines set to hit the shelves soon, but nowadays both NFBC and Fantrax get live leagues going so quickly that there’s barely any down time. I’ve done or am in the middle of a couple leagues of my own while also participating in a host of mocks and I’m noticing some early trends.
Trea Turner is a Top Fiver
When Sammy Reid and Doug Thorburn took Turner 4th overall in my AFL draft, I didn’t bat an eye and tipped my hat at their commitment to the 25-year old fantasy beast. I did think it’d be on the higher end of his upper range as I saw him settling in the back half of 15-team first rounders. Alas, they nailed it dead on as his current average draft position (ADP) is 4th overall. He’s even gone as high as 2nd overall, presumably behind Mike Trout.
While Turner didn’t maintain his ridiculous 2016 level, he was still pacing for essentially a 20 HR/75 SB season had he played a full season instead of his 98 games (11 HR/46 SB). He isn’t just a supercharged Billy Hamilton, he is substantially better in every facet of the game. Per 550 PA, Turner has been 18 runs better, 11 homers, 22 RBI, and six stolen bases better than Hamilton, not to mention the colossal batting average advantage.
Young First Basemen Are Surging
Last year, first base felt paper-thin during the draft season before a surge of mid-career breakouts that ended up making it a deep position. However, no one is buying Ryan Zimmerman, Justin Smoak, Mark Reynolds, Yonder Alonso, and the others as foundational 1B, but instead turning to young bats to handle the position. Cody Bellinger (26th overall), Rhys Hoskins (54th), Matt Olson (112th), and Joey Gallo (113th) are being entrusted with starting 1B roles across many leagues.
None of those guys played 150 games last year and two of them (Hoskins and Olson) didn’t even eclipse 60, but they all raked. If you pace out Hoskins and Olson their numbers are insane, but that’s worthless because I just can’t see them holding 32% and 41% HR/FB rates, respectively. I think you can safely project a .255/35 HR season for both which makes them fair game as starting 1B. I’m still a little torn on Hoskins going that high, but he has brilliant plate skills (22% K, 18% BB in MLB; 19% K, 13% BB in MiLB 2016-17) and unquestioned power in a hitter-friendly park. In the end, I think it’s a viable risk.
Reliable Starting Pitching Dries Up
The Glob™ is here and ready to terrorize you in the middle rounds of drafts. Where The Glob™ starts is up for debate, but it’s generally agreed that we enter it around SP25-30 and it spans the next 40-50 pitchers with the talent level really not differing all that much given the volume of players involved. Part of it is the lack of reliable innings counts these pitchers are slated for brings them all closer together in a projection. In the season, a substantial portion of The Glob™ will far exceed their innings projection and be the breakouts of the season, but going into the draft it’s less clear than ever who those guys will be in the coming year. I have Chase Anderson and Zack Godley up at the top of The Glob™, but I can’t vehemently argue that Rick Porcello and Aaron Sanchez are firmly behind them. That’d be based entirely on 2017 and both overrate the Anderson/Godley duo while underrating Porcello/Sanchez.
Drew Pomeranz vs. Patrick Corbin. I have those two 33 spots apart, but they were damn near dead even last year. In 2017 drafts, there was an embryonic glob, but that same 33-spot difference between Pomy and Corbin was James Paxton v. Francisco Liriano. Even before the benefit of hindsight, that felt much more severe (and I had some hope for Liriano to bounce back, but still saw clear delineation). You’re going to have your favorites emerge from The Glob™, but you will routinely be in the middle of a draft and about to take Jameson Taillon only to pause and wonder if he’s really much better than Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb, Taijuan Walker, or even Tanner Roark, all of whom are available later… some coming much later.
The Glob™ is seductive, but repulsive. Plentiful, but barren. The Glob™ can mess with your mind if you dive in unprepared. Study the pitcher pool (don’t worry, I’ll have tons more articles on the SP market this winter) and enter a draft with some personal preferences in The Glob™ lest you could be paralyzed by choice and wind up botching your whole pitching plan.
Closer is Weird
It’s bad enough if you get stuck on a bad trip with The Glob™, but then you also have to navigate the minefield that is relievers right now. The whole damn position is glob (Positional Glob… patent pending), especially if you have any concerns about postseason workload effects on Kenley Jansen. The #6 RP, Ken Giles, loses his job every nine minutes. Sometimes he just loses the closer’s role over the winter for no reason. A.J. Hinch just calls and he’s like “ya we’re going with Verlander in the ninth throughout December” and Giles just accepts it. That’s the guy we’re taking sixth among closers.
There are some mid-round targets I do like in the closer’s pool like Felipe Rivero, Raisel Iglesias, Sean Doolittle, and Archie Bradley, but the latter two aren’t even guaranteed to have the role as the Nats could still add someone and Bradley has Brad Boxberger in for competition and might be best used as a 2-inning guy for the D’Backs. Wade Davis heads out to Colorado, Greg Holland doesn’t have a team, Alex Colome is in trade rumors, and Kelvin Herrera lost the job for a spell and didn’t really impress last year.
Is Jeurys Familia definitely the guy in New York with A.J. Ramos there? Will Brad Brach take over for Zach Britton and can he hold the job even as Britton gets healthy? There just isn’t a ton of confidence at this position once you get beyond Jansen and Craig Kimbrel. I love what Corey Knebel did, but he’s been the guy for a year and walked nearly five batters per nine. We saw some flaws in Aroldis Chapman, who has now topped 60 innings just once in the last four years. We’ll get some stability as camps start and teams sort out their pens, but I think this will still be an especially volatile RP market even in March.