The first weekend of NFBC drafts is in the books, and there were no shortage of surprises. The high stakes fantasy baseball market is a crazy, volatile place to swim, filled with sharks. I almost named this piece "Bold Predictions", but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate. Somewhere between prediction and possibility, there are some things that wouldn’t surprise me that have me zagging against the market.
1) Kris Bryant doesn’t make it to Wrigley Field until June. I’ve heard endless talk about Bryant and why he’ll be called up in mid-April at the latest. I’ve yet to hear a single compelling reason to think this is anything more than conjecture. When you guess, sometimes you’re right, sometimes you’re wrong. Guessing in the 20th round is one thing, in the fifth round in the NFBC Main is another. When my name was called in the fifth, the shiniest toy of the 2015 draft season was gone. If I wanted Bryant, I needed to place that bet with a fourth round ticket. I’ve heard a lot of interviews with Theo Epstein over the years. He’s a businessman that makes business decisions. He also has a conservative philosophy about developing and promoting players. Part of that process is a belief the players his organization is developing should see a certain number of AB’s at the minor league level. Could he make an exception with Bryant? Sure he could, but the rookie is being drafted as though an April call-up is guaranteed, and we haven’t even gotten to the lack of track record against major league pitching in games that count. Apologists point to Mike Trout, but even he hit .220 his first season (40 games). The Cubs believe Bryant has fielding deficiencies at third base and have experimented with moving him to the outfield. Think that will all be resolved in two weeks? Are you fully convinced that the Cubs front office won’t parlay all this into a "Super-Two" victory? Is paying for the best-case scenario a good model for beating the market?
2) Jorge Soler earns more roto dollars in 2015 than Kris Bryant. His toolkit is not too shabby, plus he’s got the AB edge over his heavily hyped teammate.
3) Yasiel Puig repeats and produces third round value again in 2015. Career highs of 19 and 11 in HR’s and SB’s respectively and a .300ish BA don’t place the flamboyant star in the middle of the first round, but that’s exactly where the market is pushing his price tag. A very skilled owner in the high-rolling NFBC Platinum league paid that much to get him.
4) Paul Goldschmidt puts up disappointing power numbers. He had a broken hand last year and the market is completely ignoring this. There’s a difference between being on the active roster and having full strength, and you’re getting absolutely no discount.
5) Michael Brantley produces first round value in 2015 provided he stays off the DL. I understand the love for Puig in one sense because he looks great in a uniform, is exciting to watch, and has bat speed to burn. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him break out. The perplexing thing about the market is when somebody HAS broken out, and the market says a repeat is not only unlikely, but almost impossible. Just remember that the same market also said Carlos Gomez and Jose Bautista couldn’t repeat. Brantley slipped to the fourth round.
6) Victor Martinez has more than one stint on the disabled list this year. V-Mart came up limping after moving slightly to the left trying to avoid an opposing fielder. This tells me there is instability in his knee. I have Victor’s exact same injury so I know what he’s going through here. I fear this will likely sap his power and cost him AB’s. The upside is still there, but he’s a lower percentage play at this point.
7) Masahiro Tanaka makes 30 starts this year. I’ve got no support for this one, other than my lucky astrology mood watch.
8) Joc Pederson struggles in his first full season. I’m not going to sell this one too hard. I actually like Pederson, but I liked him a lot more in December when I could get him in the 17th round. He’s now moved up to 10.1, and rising still. I’d rather take a proven commodity than a guy who struggled with his 2014 cup of coffee.
9) Bryce Harper is a bust yet again. Look, it’s not as though Harper doesn’t have potential, but potential alone will drive you to the poor house in the high stakes arena. Sure, one of these years it might happen, but how much profit can you possibly earn with the second round cost that is required to procure his services? Todd Zola, the best player valuation expert on the planet, crunched the numbers and his numbers say "The Kid" earned a mere $14 in 2013 and only $1 in 2014. Are those numbers what you want from a second round pick? Granted, those stats are descriptive and not prescriptive, but they are a good starting point and shouldn’t be flippantly dismissed. Harper employs a somewhat reckless style of defense that I love as a fan, but I fear as a fantasy investor. His games played totals the last three seasons: 139, 118, 100. What’s the over/under for 2015? When he’s on the field, are you confident that he’s not playing hurt? With just two stolen bases in four attempts, is it reasonable to expect the speed to come back?
10) The Reds remove Billy Hamilton from the leadoff position. He could also start to lose AB’s if he doesn’t learn how to get on base. His .292 OBP isn’t going to get it done. He hasn’t displayed the ability to hit major league quality hitting yet. Should that concern owners investing a third round pick on the speedster?