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Saturday 24th Jun 2017

After devoting last week's column to comparing infielders taken at various stages of the MLB.com Fantasy 411 Slow Mock (still in progress), let us now shift our attention to the outfield and the mound. As a reminder, the purpose of this exercise is to identify pairs of players who were not drafted anywhere near each other but could produce at a similar level in 2016. Also note that I'm not at all criticizing the earlier picks or calling them reaches. All I'm saying is that the later pick may prove to be the better pick, particularly when factoring in the draft position discrepancy.

Outfield

Yoenis Cespedes: Round 5, Pick 1 (#49 overall)
Matt Kemp: Round 7, Pick 7 (#79 overall)

Cespedes was far and away the more productive player in 2015, and Kemp's days as an elite fantasy option are long over. But 2015 was also far and away Cespedes' finest season to date, so my confidence in Yoenis duplicating the .291-35-105 stat line is low. Would a .265-25-90 output this year surprise me? Not really. Actually, that looks a lot like Kemp's 2015 line of .265-23-100. Interesting, right?

Brett Gardner: Round 9, Pick 10 (#106 overall)
Curtis Granderson: Round 11, Pick 11 (#131 overall)

This decision comes down to whether you're in need of a few more homers (Granderson) or a few more steals (Gardner). The batting averages should be similar and maybe Gardner gets the slight edge in runs. All things equal, I'd have a tough time deciding between these two. But when throwing in the 25-pick discount, give me Grandy.

Billy Hamilton: Round 8, Pick 1 (#85 overall)
Ben Revere: Round 11, Pick 3 (#123 overall)

Let me say that I'm not a fan of one-category specialists, especially early round one-category specialists. If I end up using a top-100 pick on Hamilton in any of my drafts this year, it's a sign that something went terribly wrong with my first handful of picks. Spreading risk is one of my most important draft day principles, and relying on one player to provide nearly half of your team's swipes is just too risky, especially when considering the possibility that he gets injured. I probably won't be drafting Revere either, though Round 11 is hardly a reach for a guy who could post a .300 AVG with 40 steals and 90-plus runs hitting atop a potent Nationals lineup. He's the wiser investment here.

Starting Pitcher

Masahiro Tanaka: Round 10, Pick 3 (#111 overall)
Justin Verlander: Round 14, Pick 11 (#167 overall)

Speaking of players who I will not be owning this year, Tanaka heads the list. Yeah, he could deliver a profit if he stays healthy, but Tommy John surgery is inevitable, and I don't want to be the one with Tanaka on my roster when the inevitable happens. As for Verlander, he also carries injury risk, but he finished the 2015 campaign both healthy and effective. He won't need to rediscover his old ace form in order to make a 14th round investment pay off.

Relief Pitcher

Glen Perkins: Round 10, Pick 11 (#119 overall)
Jonathan Papelbon: Round 15, Pick 9 (#177 overall)

I haven't personally met either of these players, but I can confidently say that Perkins is the more likable person. And, perhaps likability is playing a factor in Papelbon's depressed stock, because he continues to be one of the more reliable closers in the game. Perkins is pretty good too, and I wouldn't mind drafting him as a low-end CL2/high-end CL3 in a 12-team mixed league. But he's now dealt with injuries in two straight seasons and finished off 2015 by allowing seven runs over his final 7 2/3 innings. The main risk with Papelbon is that he might get traded at some point to a team that uses him as a setup man. But with the Nats in win now mode and Papelbon in apologetic mode for his actions in the dugout brawl with Bryce Harper, I don't see a trade happening. It pains me to say it, but don't forget about Papelbon when searching for your second closer, or even your first closer if you really want to wait on the position.

While it's nice to actually like the players on your fantasy team, it's not a requirement.

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