The baseball season is long. The baseball season is so long that by September, I can no longer remember most of the preseason consensus fantasy rankings. You might say that rankings from six months ago no longer matter at all, and you might be right. But, every September, I do spend a bit of time reviewing preseason rankings, mainly NFBC ADP data. Why? Maybe I just need to remind myself how much can change in one season.
On that note, let's travel around the diamond and look at some NFBC ADP numbers that are strange indeed.
Jonathan Lucroy C Ranking: 3
Mike Zunino C Ranking: 18
It was only a year ago that Lucroy posted a .292-24-81 line over 142 games in a season split between the Brewers and the Rangers. But, in a 2017 campaign split between the Rangers and the Rockies, the veteran backstop has produced a mediocre .251 batting average with five homers and 35 RBI through 105 games. This is surprising to say the least, as Lucroy has been one of the more consistent offensive performers at the catcher position for awhile now, so I'd be willing to take a chance on him next year at a discounted price. An impending free agent, Lucroy could be amenable to signing a one-year deal in hopes of rebuilding his market value, so he could have extra motivation to bounce back. Meanwhile, Zunino, a former top prospect, is enjoying his finest season to date, though his high strikeout rate limits his ability to hit for a decent average.
Miguel Cabrera 1B Ranking: 3
Ryan Zimmerman 1B Ranking: 39
Well, it all finally came crashing down for Cabrera this year, as the former MVP is on pace to finish the season with career-lows across the board, and he has now become a health risk. Don't get caught up in name value. He's someone to avoid in drafts next spring. Zimmerman could be on the verge of setting new single-season highs in home runs and RBI, which means that fantasy owners will probably need to spend a top-60 pick to secure his services for 2018. No thanks.
Jonathan Villar 2B Ranking: 4
Jonathan Schoop 2B Ranking: 20
I never quite understood why Villar was being valued so highly based on one great season. I get that steals are scarce these days, but even top-40 seemed like a stretch. The funny thing is that I actually own Villar in two leagues. One of those leagues is a keeper league where I was able to keep him for a 15th round pick while the other is Mixed Auction Tout Wars, where I traded for him at a steep discount. Let's just say that he won't be residing on any of my rosters next season. As for Schoop, the Orioles second sacker entered this season with plenty of critics who questioned whether he could ever improve his plate discipline. How does a .350 OBP sound? And then there's the 31 homers and 102 RBI through 139 games. Still just 25 years of age, Schoop has officially arrived as a fantasy force.
Tim Anderson SS Ranking: 16
Elvis Andrus SS Ranking: 17
This comparison carries special meaning for me, as I began my Tout Wars season with Anderson as my starting shortstop only to lose patience with him by early-June and trade for Andrus to serve as his replacement. The swap did come at the expense of Nomar Mazara, but good thing I made that move, as Anderson never quite got his act together while Andrus has already clinched his first 20/20 season.
Todd Frazier 3B Ranking: 9
Jake Lamb 3B Ranking: 20
Frazier, who is coming off a 40-HR campaign, will need to go on a monumental power tear (seven homers in a little over three weeks) to reach the 30-HR plateau this season, and his batting average has declined steadily over the past few years. Maybe he can rebound in 2018, but I'll be looking elsewhere to address power. Lamb has followed up an impressive breakout season in 2016 with an even more impressive 2017 campaign, though his .215 average since the All-Star break is somewhat troubling. Consider him a quality mid-round selection next year, but I'd be hesitant to pay list price for him, which means that I probably won't be a Lamb owner in 2018.
Gregory Polanco OF Ranking: 16
Brett Gardner OF Ranking: 78
So many outfielders to choose from but this seemed like a good comp, as Polanco and Gardner possess similar skill sets. I was very high on Polanco this year, so his 2017 struggles are truly baffling. I'd give him another chance as next year will only be his age-26 season. Over in the Bronx, Gardner has reemerged as a legitimate power/speed threat, and he's always been a reliable source of runs, thanks in large part to his ability to get on base at a high rate. He was largely overlooked in drafts this year, which probably won't be the case next year. Gardner is already 34, so I'm not sure how many more stellar seasons he has left in the tank, but it will be interesting to see how the fantasy market values him compared to Polanco entering 2018. I might go the Polanco route, especially if the Polanco route turns out to be the cheaper route.
Polanco cheaper than Gardner? Yup, a lot can change in one season.
Zach Steinhorn is the 2016 Mixed Auction Tout Wars champion. Follow him on Twitter @ZachMLB