The Division Championship Series aren’t over yet and I’m 12 rounds into a National Fantasy Baseball Championship league that counts as well as taking part in an industry mini-mock. Others have already opined on how they feel the first few rounds of 2015 drafts will go, so I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring.
By means of some context, I have not yet begun the process of 2015 player projections, though I may be engrossed in that exercise as you’re reading this. My list is mostly intuitive, though I do have the luxury of seeing how a couple of other drafts have transpired. This has forced me to take a closer look at a couple of players I admittedly would have omitted otherwise.
In addition, I’m a firm believer that a draft list SHOULD NOT be a duplicate of ranking by projected dollar potential - I’m officially ceasing using the term value and replacing it with the more practical and accurate term of potential. I’m more concerned about roster construct than a rank. This is most prevalent with pitchers and hitters with either speed or batting average as their primary contribution.
Finally, I don’t consider position early on, save for eschewing pitchers and catchers for strategic reasons. As such, you won’t see either Clayton Kershaw or Buster Posey listed in my first round. This doesn’t mean my eventual rankings won’t have both worthy of a top pick. Heck, Kershaw will likely end up top-five if not better. I wrote at the All-Star break to get ready for an off-season of discussion pimping Kershaw for going first or second overall. I’m just not doing it, but that’s a story for another day.
Here’s my first round in a 15-team league. I’ll follow up with the second round on Tuesday then finish up with notable omissions on Thursday.
1. Mike Trout – What distinguishes the very top from the rest is runs and RBI. Especially in today’s offensive environment (double entendre intended), having a reasonable expectation of triple-digit runs and RBI is fantasy gold.
2. Andrew McCutchen – I chose Cutch second in the aforementioned industry mock. I love the across the board contributions as well as his durability and reliability. Add in McCutchen is still on the good side of the learning curve on a team with an improving offense (Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco) and McCutchen has a shot at 100/100, though I won’t be projecting that.
3. Giancarlo Stanton – The power potential was never in question. For most, durability was and to be honest, Stanton still only played 145 games, but that’s enough for me to count on a similar number which is plenty. My concern was the lack of run production. Those fears have been assuaged by Christian Yelich, who replaces Kole Calhoun as my current bromantic interest. For me, past Trout and Cutch, everyone has a wart. Stanton’s is health and I’m not all that worried.
4. Miguel Cabrera – Skills still solid, I’m nervous about health. I realize the current issue is bone spurs that should be completely fixed, but Miggy is getting on a bit and has dealt with pesky injuries for a couple seasons. This is enough for me to fade him when there’s other options to choose.
5. Carlos Gomez – This is probably a surprise. Not many will question the contention that Gomez has an upside higher than any player not sharing a last name with an aquatic animal. Their counter will be Gomez has a floor much lower than optimal for a foundation pick. He’s actually walking a tad more while maintaining an admittedly high, but acceptable strikeout rate when taken in concert with his high basal batting average on balls in play. Now factor in Gomez will be among the league leaders in homers plus steals and I’ll take him in this spot every time.
6. Paul Goldschmidt – Others will take him higher and I’m not going to argue. I can’t point to any one metric I expect to falter. Goldschmidt has displayed the ability to maintain a high BABIP and a high home run per fly ball which counters a low fly ball rate. His contact rate isn’t great but it’s similar to that of Gomez and Goldschmidt walks twice as much. My concern is Goldschmidt has nowhere to go but down, unless he whiffs less. I see more possible downside with Goldschmidt than those above.
7. Adam Jones – It helps if you read the following in the voice of the guy that does the truck and beef commercials. Consistency, reliability, durability – Adam Jones, he’s a fantasy winner.
8. Jacoby Ellsbury – He’s been a top-20 fantasy performer in five of the last seven seasons, three of which have been top-10. It’s cliché, but it’s my own cliché. Ellsbury isn’t injury prone, he’s accident prone. When healthy, he’s a top-10 guy.
9. Edwin Encarnacion – Any residual fears of a drop in power from his bum wrist were assuaged with six September bombs. That said, there’s some concern that Encarnacion smacked 16 in May, a monthly total that he won’t repeat. But in an era with waning power, Encarnacion’s pop is worth even more.
9A. Jose Bautista – Bautista and Encarnacion profile nearly identically. The only reason Joey Bats is 9A and not 9 is he was born two years earlier than Encarnacion.
11. Matt Kemp – The narrative will be if Kemp is healthy, he’ll put up first round numbers like before, but without the steals. Well, I’ll take that a step further and say I expect that he’ll be healthy. Chances are, Kemp won’t be picked this early (unless he kills it in the spring) so I should be able to get someone above at this spot then take Kemp in the second round.
12. Robinson Cano – Hey, everyone was right and Cano hit fewer homers. But we were really all wrong since no one thought they’d drop as much as they did. My expectations for Cano are basically what they were last season - .300 with low 20 HR with a sprinkle of steals. I think the Mariners will improve their attack which should aid in run production. As mentioned, I don’t pay for position, but I do pay for reliability and durability which pushes Cano into a late first-rounder.
13. Jose Abreu – Long story short is while Abreu’s .356 BABIP is supported by a high line drive rate, I’m not confident he’ll sustain that level of hard contact. Abreu also made better contact than was expected based on his numbers in Cuba. It remains to be seen if he can maintain that with a year’s worth of video to study. I may get burned but I need to see it again.
14. Anthony Rendon – My primary concern with Rendon isn’t skills, it’s remaining in the two-hole where he gets 30 or 40 more plate appearances than he would get if he hit lower. More than likely, Rendon will be the opening day third baseman and stay there all season which should help his offense. I love his contact rate along with a legit shot at 20/20 with a 25/25 upside. Others will push teammate Ian Desmond to this spot and rightfully so since his floor is 20/20 with a 30/30 ceiling. But I’ll take the additional plate appearances and better contact.
15. Ian Desmond – The spike in strikeouts is disconcerting, especially since he already carries a low contact rate. But the reward of a three-year average of 23 HR and 22 SB makes the risk palatable.