(Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire)
So since we just put out our Staff Consensus Overall Top 300 Rankings, I figured now would be a good time to explain to you all what on earth was going through my head when I was ranking some of these players. We may look back at the end of the year and realize that these rankings were only halfway right, but creating and evaluating these rankings help us focus in on players we like, players we don’t like, and what strategies we may want to head into draft day with. Hopefully these rankings we are putting out are helping you get one step closer to total domination of your league.
Players I Love
Adrian Beltre (3B, Texas Rangers) – My Rank 72/Staff Rank 121
I love Adrian Beltre, and it’s not just because I’m a Dodgers fan and he was my favorite player growing up. It feels like simply because he’s old, he’s being forgotten, and that’s honestly just wrong. I have him ranked as the 9th best 3rd baseman coming into the season (including Jose Ramirez, Manny Machado, and Alex Bregman) and that feels right to me. Last season he slashed .312/.383./.532, and that’s pretty much in line with what he has been doing since he’s come to Texas six years ago. He makes great contact (36.1% hard contact, 37.1% fly ball rate), knows how to work the count and get the pitches he likes (elite BB% of 10%). Everything about his profile screams sustainable. He was injured last season, but he averaged 152 games played over the previous five seasons and the Rangers have talked about playing him at DH more often to keep his bat in the lineup. Nelson Cruz and Edwin Encarnacion have arguably extended their careers by making this switch, and I strongly believe Beltre will be next in line.
It’s kind of easy (and lazy) to look at Shaw’s breakout last season and attribute it to the friendly confines of Miller Park, but the truth is, he performed much better on the road last season than he did at home. He dealt with many medical complications of the birth of his daughter, and spent most of his nights in Milwaukee in the hospital with his wife as a result, the kind of lifestyle that could leave anyone feeling numb. He stated in an interview after the season that it was easier to block it out and play on the road than at home. With his daughter finally home from the hospital, Shaw should be able to perform even better at home. Couple that with his improvement in hard contact (up to 37%), as well as walking more and striking out less (increasing his B-KK rate to to a respectable 0.43), and it’s actually easy to see why he can sustain the breakout he had last year.
I’ll be honest, I have absolutely no idea how we have Rich Hill ranked as the 41st starting pitcher. He won’t pitch more than 130 innings, but let’s be honest, are we really expecting more than 130 innings from Lance McCullers (14 spots higher)? And in today’s pitching landscape, can we really safely expect that many more innings from most of the starters directly above Hill in the rankings? I get that you have to draw a line in the sand somewhere, but I don’t think it’s with Hill. He’s struck out more than 29.4% of batters in his 240 innings over the past two seasons, and had an elite K-BB% of 21.2%, putting him in the same range as Zack Greinke and Jacob deGrom. You’ll have to deal with his occasional DL stints, but the innings you will get from him will be absolutely elite, and you can count on him to win games for the Dodgers.
If this isn’t the most confusing bullpen over the past season, it’s certainly up there, and it’s remained that way so far. As of a week ago, Bedrosian was named the favorite to be the closer on Opening Day, and that’s good enough for me. Bedrosian is the Angels best reliever, with downright filthy stuff, posting a strikeout rate north of 27.9% two years in a row. The Angels should contend for the wild card spot in the AL next year, and with all that in mind I’d much rather have Bedrosian than someone like Mark Melancon, Arodys Vizcaino, or Blake Treinen, all of whom are much higher on our consensus rankings. This might be all for nothing if Angels manager Mike Scioscia changes his mind yet again on who his closer is (five different relievers recorded at least three saves last season). Until the day the Angels start giving saves to someone else, I’ll be targeting Bedrosian.
This year I’ve been breaking the habit of not targeting steals at all during the draft and just grabbing some cheap single-category contributors late, but I can’t resist adding these two at the end of my rankings. Both of these guys should get regular playing time for their respective teams, swipe more than 30 bags, help you out in runs, and hit somewhere between .240 and .260. Maybin did only hit .228 last year, but it was accompanied by a career worst .274 BABIP, and there were no drastic changes in his batted ball data that should have affected BABIP in that way. In fact, he hit the ball the hardest he has since 2014. Smith is more or less the player he was in 81 games last year, but project that out to a full season and he’ll swipe 30 bags, score 60 runs, and hit north of .260. Not bad for your last picks of the draft.
Players I Hate
That is not a typo. I left Jake Lamb completely off my top 300 this year. I honestly believe he’s going to slink into fantasy irrelevance, and I want nothing to do with him this year. You didn’t think this article was going to be all unicorns and lollipops, did you? Before I go any further, I want to just show you a simple table of Lamb’s drastic splits over the past two seasons.
There are four distinct sections in there (the total sections notwithstanding), and I want nothing to do with three of them. I don’t want him against lefties ever (and he was actually worse against lefties last year than 2016), and I don’t even want him against righties in the second half. I get that he puts up good numbers for the season, but it’s all done in a burst at the beginning of the season, and then he’s completely unrosterable starting July 1st. He’s basically like Cinderella, except you actually have to deal with the fallout at the end of the night. I’m not done with Lamb yet though. Over the past two seasons, Lamb has posted a HR/FB% of 20.6%, which is really good and doing it two years in a row shows that it’s sustainable for him. Unfortunately, he’s had a pretty favorable home/road split, launching 25% HR/FB at home and only 16% on the road. I won’t say the H word, but we all know what’s happening at Chase Field, and that just makes me even less excited to get Lamb. If you play in a shallow league and know that you can replace him on July 1st with someone like Kyle Seager (and can keep up with your roster every day to bench Lamb when he faces a lefty), then by all means, go for it. I’ll gladly let you have him.
Miguel Sano (3B, Minnesota Twins) – My Rank 166/Staff Rank 101
Just to be completely clear, we are talking about a player listed at 260 pounds, who missed a month last season with a stress fracture in his shin, who has been described by his general manager as having a “generous carriage,” and is dealing with an investigation on his sexual assault allegation that could lead to a suspension. I’m already crawling in my skin just typing that. Since the new domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse policy was put in place in 2015, a number of players have been suspended ranging from 15 to 82 games. I don’t believe that Sano will ever be able to stay healthy for a full season, and I certainly don’t believe that he’ll be able to break 100 games this year with his potential impending suspension and health and weight concerns. I’m not marking the graves on Sano yet, but I’m not going to touch him with a nine and a half foot pole.
Now that Lucroy has a team and an every day starting job, it seems like people are ready to give him another chance to disappoint. He’s our 10th ranked catcher, which is a handful of spots too high. His batted ball data was really disappointing in 2017, and even his time in Colorado doesn’t point to a promising resurgence in 2018. The first thing that jumps off the page when looking into how Lucroy hit the ball was the absurd jump in groundball rate that was almost mirrored by his stunning drop in flyball rate. Lucroy has derived most of his value from his ability to hit for both power and average, but he did neither in 2017 as his flyball rate cratered from 39% to 28%, and his groundball rate shot up from 37% to 53%. He hit almost two groundballs for every flyball he hit, a death knell for a power hitter like Lucroy. He wasn’t just hitting the ball into the ground more, he also wasn’t making the same kind of hard contact he used to. For almost his entire career, Lucroy was able to get hard contact on the ball around 35% of the time, but this year that number was a mere 22%. That percentage puts him around such “hitters” as Yolmer Sanchez and Freddy Galvis. Lucroy’s 2017 season raises every single red flag in the book, especially when you consider that he’s a 31-year-old who’s played 1,900 innings at catcher over the last two seasons. He went from being a powerful hitter to a powerless one, and going to the Coliseum doesn’t make him any more appealing. I’d much rather take a lottery ticket on guys like Jorge Alfaro, Mike Zunino, or Austin Barnes.
I don’t know how he does it, but every year it seems like everyone says “Hosmer isn’t as good in fantasy as he is in real life” and then always gets ranked like 40 spots too high. It feels like nobody’s listening to the words coming out of their own mouths. At the end of the day, Hosmer is fine. He’s a fine first baseman. He’ll hit above .280, he’ll hit 20+ home runs, he’ll find a way to break 80 runs and 80 RBI. That’s all fine. But ranking him 72nd overall? I can get 90% of that production with Carlos Santana 60 spots later, or Justin Bour 90 spots later. I know that you are paying for track record with Hosmer, but this is one of those instances where the track record isn’t anything to get excited over. Good goodbye, Eric Hosmer.
A.J. Pollock (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks) – My Rank 98/Staff Rank 70
A.J. Pollock had an incredibly sexy 2015, posting an elite statline of 20 home runs, 39 steals, and a .315 batting average, and that is why, despite extensive injuries in 2014, 2016, and 2017, people still haven’t given up on him two years removed from that incredible season. He flashed signs of that player last season, slugging 14 home runs and stealing 20 bases in 466 plate appearances, but his batting average dropped to .266. There’s reason to be concerned about his power moving forward, and after major injuries in three of the last four seasons, I just don’t trust him to stay on the field. I’ll still take a chance at him at the right price, but my right price is clearly lower than everyone else’s. In the end, it doesn’t even matter what kind of stats you put up if you can’t stay on the field.