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Saturday 16th Dec 2017

When it comes to fantasy baseball draft preparation, I tend to wait until early-February to kick things into high gear. But usually, I will have already made up my mind on more than half of the player pool before the high gear period begins, the most important factor being risk versus reward. For these players, no amount of additional research will be necessary. I either like him or I don’t. I will either target him or I won’t.

Then there are the players that require further research and further thought. I wouldn’t mind drafting them at the right price, but I do have some reservations. So, with the 2015 high gear draft preparation phase fast approaching, here are some of the guys who reside in this group.

Jacoby Ellsbury – The 16 homers and 39 steals were nice. The .271 AVG and 71 runs scored were not. On the whole, owners who invested a late-first round pick in the speedy outfielder last year came away disappointed, but Ellsbury is still a career .293 hitter, so a batting average improvement is likely. I’m also expecting a rebound in the runs department, as Ellsbury spent most of last season hitting in the No. 3 spot. With both Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira back in action, Jacoby figures to move up to one of the top two spots to open 2015. Plus, the Yankee offense cannot possibly be as anemic as it was last season, right? That said, Ellsbury won’t come at a discount. He will still cost a top-15 pick. He could be worth it, but at that stage of the draft, I’ll probably be looking elsewhere.

Matt Kemp – On one hand, Kemp is coming off a strong bounce back season in which he finally stayed healthy, playing 150 games after logging a combined 179 games from 2012-2013. Also in his favor is that he closed out the year in MVP form, batting .309 with 17 homers and 54 RBI in the second half. But he’s no longer an asset in the stolen base department, and it remains to be seen how his other numbers will translate to Petco Park. The Padres lineup is vastly improved, but it isn’t quite at the same level as the Dodgers. If Kemp is still available outside of the top-25, I might just take a chance, but I doubt that will be the case.

Yasiel Puig – First, Puig deserves a ton of credit for opening his big league career with two straight highly productive seasons, and at 24 years of age, he should only get better. The only issue I have with him, however, is that based on early mock drafts, his consensus price has been mid to late second round in a 15-team mixed league, a price that I consider to be too heavily inflated by upside. I could change my mind about this in the coming months, as the upside is significant. But for now, I’m hesitant to go all out for Yasiel.

Freddie Freeman – I was so high on Freeman last year that I owned him in three of my five leagues. While 2014 was far from a disaster for the Braves first sacker, I did expect more than 18 homers and way more than 78 RBI. I always believed that there was a .300-30-100 season in Freeman’s future, but I’m no longer so sure. Regardless, I do think he will be better in 2015, and I wouldn’t hesitate to again call his name should I miss out on the top-tier first basemen. But he’s no longer a must-have.

Justin Upton – Another longtime favorite of mine, Upton has fallen short of reaching the superstar status that some predicted, but there’s nothing wrong with being a consistent top-10 fantasy outfielder. The bad news is that Upton comes with the same Petco Park related question marks as Kemp. On the bright side, it’s not like Turner Field is known as a hitter-friendly park, and 18 of Upton’s 29 home runs last season came in Atlanta. Oh, and if you’re a believer in the contract year factor, there’s that to consider. Justin will probably find himself on at least one of my 2015 squads, but my enthusiasm will be more tempered than in years past.

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