Adrian Gonzalez — Sixth round
Mr. Consistent, Gonzalez is the model of predictability in fantasy, posting an average above .290 every year since 2010, along with 22+ home runs in seven of the last eight seasons. While RBI are a tough category to predict given their dependance on situations a player is placed into, it’s also safe to assume Gonzalez will continue his string of seven consecutive 99+ RBI seasons.
But is a guy with such a low upside (sorry folks, he’s not hitting 30+ HR again) at a position with so much depth (he’s the ninth-best 1B available in the draft) really worth a sixth-round pick? For me, the answer depends on what you do in the rounds previous.
If you can load up on an elite SS, 2B, 3B and a couple quality pitchers, then taking a 1B like Gonzalez here is a no-brainer. If, however, you’ve yet to take a SP or you feel like you need to grab one of the last good catchers before they’re all gone, then production similar to Gonzalez’s can really be found later in the draft.
Matt Kemp — Seventh/Eighth round
Matt Kemp in the seventh or eighth round?!?! That’s a question the 2011 version of yourself would have been asking had he or she transported into the future to read this piece.
Unfortunately, it’s true.
With a radical injury history and declined production, Kemp is wallowing in the middle rounds of most fantasy drafts now. But is he even worth a pick at this point?
For me, like Puig, the question comes down to your interest in risk. Like Puig, Kemp is likely to be either the worst or best player picked in the seventh and eighth rounds of your draft.
If he hits .300 with 25 HR? Major steal.
If he hits .250 with 15 HR in 80 games? Major bust.
For me, I’m still in a spot this early where I want a sure thing. I want someone that I know will be on my roster for 162 games barring a freak injury (which is much different than a predictable injury). Right around Kemp are guys like Jordan Zimmerman, Matt Cain, Eric Hosmer and Matt Holliday — all of whom I would rather take than Kemp.
Of course, if everyone is terrified of Kemp and he falls into, say, the ninth round, then I’m all ears.
Hyun-Jin Ryu — Eleventh/Thirteenth round
Any season other than 2013 and Ryu would be the reigning Rookie of the Year thanks to his 14 wins, 3.00 ERA and 154 strikeouts — and to get that kind of value in the 11th round seems like a steal.
Here’s my concern with Ryu, however: his WHIP last season was 1.20, which ranked him No. 33 in the MLB last season. If you look at the guys around him, in fact, he’s the only person to allow that many base runners and still have a sub-3.01 ERA. In fact, there are just three guys outside the top 15 in WHIP to post an ERA below 3.01 — Ryu, Bartolo Colon and Anibal Sanchez.
For me, it tells me Ryu got a little lucky last year, putting runners on base and then getting himself out of jams. While there’s something to be said about that being a skill, it’s not one I want to bet on every time.
The flip side, however, says Ryu was just a rookie and has room to improve. Surprisingly, I think there’s some truth to that — I think Ryu is capable of posting the same numbers he did last season, making him a great value this late in the draft for people in desperate need of pitchers.
ESPN project’s Ryu as the No. 123 fantasy player this season, while Yahoo! ranks him No. 106 — if I can snag him around pick 115 or later, I’m all in.
Carl Crawford — Eighteenth round
No. No. No. No. No. No. No.
Look Carl, it’s nothing personal, I’m just not drafting a guy who might not play every day and who probably wouldn’t be ranked this high if not for some name power.
As someone who scours the waiver wire each week, I can confidently say this: I can find someone as valuable as Crawford on the waiver wire anytime I want throughout the season. Outfielders who hit .280 with no power and little speed (15 SB last season) basically grow on trees — and at least those ones will be in a lineup every day.
If you’re desperate for steals, I guess there might be some value here, otherwise, Crawford isn’t worth drafting at all. Take a chance on a young guy with a high ceiling here, and if it doesn’t work out, the likes of Crawford will be waiting for you in free agency.
Dan Haren — Eighteenth/Twenty-first round
Depending on the ranking, Haren is valued anywhere from No. 173 (ESPN) to 215 (Yahoo!). The reality is, at this point in the draft, rankings don’t matter anymore. Once you get in this deep, you need to identify the guys you want at the positions you need and ignore who is ranked the “best available”.
If you like Haren, you might need to reach into the eighteenth or nineteenth round — especially in a league with other Dodger fans. Is that the right move, though?
Surprisingly, I think you’d be fine picking him there.
In the second half of last season, Haren posted an ERA of 3.52 (once he allegedly returned to full strength) and a WHIP just over one, while striking out just under a batter an inning. If Haren can do that for the Dodgers for a full season, he’ll add 15 wins to your total.
Of course, it’s not entirely reasonable to expect that from Haren for a full season, given that he’s 33 years old and a few seasons removed from being an elite pitcher. The good news, however, is that we’re talking about the eighteenth round here — and Haren has as much upside as anyone else at this point.
If he pans out, you strike gold. If not, you drop him and pick up the flavor of the week at pitcher.
Notable omissions: Andre Ethier, Juan Uribe, AJ Ellis, Brian Wilson
Personally, I like Ethier more than I like Crawford (if I was forced at gunpoint to draft one of them), but with a potential platoon looming, I’m not touching either with a ten-foot pole.
As for Uribe, if he posts the same line he did last season, he’ll have some definite value at a fairly weak position. If he posts his line from 2012, you’re going to want to jump off a cliff for wasting a pick on him.
Ellis is an on-base machine, so if your league rewards walks, he might be worth a late-round flier. Otherwise, he’s a good baseball player in real life and a bad one in the fantasy realm.
Wilson is the wild card here because he should post good numbers despite not being a closer. Is he worth holding on to for some strikeouts, a low ERA and a low WHIP? Maybe. But throw in the fact there’s a chance he gets some save opportunities at some point and he could be a massive pick-up part way through the season.
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