Fantasy Baseball 2018: Early look at the top 100 ADP

CHICAGO, IL – OCTOBER 17: Kris Bryant

It will be a few weeks until there is a sufficient quantity of mock draft data to give an ADP with a true representation of players’ values, but this is a good starting point.

This is our first look the average draft positions (ADP) for the 2018 fantasy baseball season. We have collated information from six different mock drafts to give an early preseason consensus ADP.

Nearly all of the participants across the six mock drafts are fantasy baseball writers and analysts. These guys know what they are talking about, but you should still expect significant movement before the draft season starts.

Participants in the drafts included:

Justin Mason, Fangraphs/Friends with Fantasy Benefits
Jeff Zimmerman, Fangraphs
Steve Gardner, USA Today
Al Melchior, Fan Rag Sports
Lawr Michaels, Mastersball
Scott White, CBS Sports
Garion Thorne, FNTSY Sports Network
Tim McLeod, Patton & Co
Derek Van Riper, Rotowire
George Bissell, Baseball Prospectus
plus many, many others (apologies for not mentioning all 87 participants).

Four of the mock drafts were for 15-team roto leagues. One was for a 12-team roto league and the other was a 12-team Head-to-Head points league.

We hope that this article will enable you to get an idea of the way the fantasy baseball world currently values players.

In a few weeks, the consensus ADP will be available from FantasyPros. It is a great tool which you can customize to suit your league settings, and it is regularly updated during the offseason. Until then, please enjoy our early look at ADP.

ANAHEIM, CA – DECEMBER 09: Shohei Ohtani speaks onstage as he is introduced to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on December 9, 2017 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)

Background information

Do not read too much into the individual positions in the top-100. As mentioned at the outset, this is a starting point to help you develop your own rankings and values for the 2018 season.

With home run sluggers being available throughout the draft, it is likely that stolen bases will be the most precious resource this season. Do not be surprised to see elite base-stealer Trea Turner taken in the first five picks in roto leagues but he could drop out of the first round in points leagues, where his skills are not as valuable.

Giancarlo Stanton’s ADP of 13 is likely to change. Five of the six mock drafts occurred before his move to New York. Although his power will play anywhere, he will be exciting to watch at Yankee Stadium, and the media coverage will undoubtedly increase his value within the fantasy baseball world. By the time draft season is underway, Stanton is unlikely to still be available at the end the first round, especially if there is a Yankees fan in your league.

It looks like the love affair with Rockies’ Trevor Story is over. Last season, his bandwagon nearly overturned with the number of fantasy owners clambering aboard after his 27 home runs in 97 games in his debut stint in the majors. He is one of only two players from last year’s top-35 ADP not to feature in this year’s top-100. The other is revealed on the final page.

Although Shohei Ohtani was speculatively taken in a couple of the mock drafts, most of them happened before he signed with the Angels. It will probably take until March before we have a better opinion of how the fantasy baseball world values the Japanese phenom, but Justin Mason, who coordinated the Fangraphs mock drafts, suggests Ohtani might have had an ADP of 40.

ANAHEIM, CA – SEPTEMBER 19: Mike Trout

ADP 1-10: That important first pick

1. Mike Trout
2. Jose Altuve
3. Paul Goldschmidt
4. Nolan Arenado
5. Bryce Harper
6. Charlie Blackmon
7. Trea Turner
8. Clayton Kershaw
9. Mookie Betts
10. Joey Votto

There is no dispute about the first pick. Mike Trout was drafted first in all six mock drafts. Astros’ Jose Altuve was also undisputed as the second pick.

There is not much to choose between the players taken third and fourth. Both Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt offer reliable, elite-level production. Although you can expect the latter to deliver around 20 stolen bases.

After the first four picks, it is down to personal preference and your league settings. Trea Turner is one of the best base-stealers in the game. Average his short Major League career stats over a 162-game season and you get 66 stolen bases to go with 109 runs, 20 home runs, 70 RBI and a .304 AVG. That will work in any format of the game. Whether he can produce at that level for a full season is debatable.

Mookie Betts was drafted second overall last year on the back of his 31 home run, 26 stolen bases, .314 AVG season in 2016. There is no hiding that 2017 was a disappointment for Betts’ owners, but he was the only player in the game to score 100 runs with 100 RBI and more than 25 stolen bases. In fact, it was only some BABIP misfortune that stopped Betts being the best five-category player in the league. And that was a down year.

LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 15: Anthony Rizzo

ADP 11-20: No love for Anthony Rizzo?

11. Carlos Correa
12. Max Scherzer
13. Giancarlo Stanton
14. Chris Sale
15. Kris Bryant
16. Manny Machado
17. Anthony Rizzo
18. Corey Kluber
19. Freddie Freeman
20. Jose Ramirez

As mentioned at the start of the article, most of the mock drafts took place before Giancarlo Stanton’s move to the Yankees. There was also the bizarre occurrence in one of the CBS mock drafts when Stanton was forgotten about until the 29th pick. This obviously distorts his ADP on this list. Regardless of this anomaly, the participants in the four Fangraphs’ mock drafts only took the NL MVP with an ADP of 12. It is difficult to envisage many drafts where Stanton is still available at pick number 12.

Four starting pitchers have separated themselves into an elite tier: Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Chris Sale and Corey Kluber. Every fantasy team will want to draft one of these players, but there are not enough to go around.

Whether you like it or not, postseason results affect the fantasy baseball world’s perception of players. Kluber gave up nine earned runs over two postseason starts (12.79 ERA). Sale also gave up nine runs in his two postseason games for an 8.38 ERA. Extraordinarily, Kershaw gave up eight home runs in the postseason. Without wanting to overreact to the small sample of the postseason, it would be good to know that these are not red flags when investing an early draft pick. Monitoring Spring Training will be crucial.

The Cubs’ first baseman Anthony Rizzo has hit 31 or 32 home runs for four straight years. Over the last three seasons, he has scored between 94-99 runs with at least 101 RBI. If you want reliable, elite production, then Rizzo is an easy choice. An Arenado/Rizzo combo with the first two picks in your 10-team draft will give you a very solid base on which to construct the rest of your offense.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – OCTOBER 17: Aaron Judge

ADP 21-30: Finally Aaron Judge appears

21. Francisco Lindor
22. Aaron Judge
23. J.D. Martinez
24. Josh Donaldson
25. George Springer
26. Gary Sanchez
27. Corey Seager
28. Madison Bumgarner
29. Cody Bellinger
30. Dee Gordon

This group of picks includes several players with little track record. There is no question that Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Cody Bellinger were exceptional producers last season but a top-30 pick is an expensive investment for players with such limited experience.

You will recall at the start of the article we referenced Trevor Story’s 2017 ADP of 35 on the back of his sensational rookie season. Expect at least one if not all of the trio of Judge, Sanchez and Bellinger to fail to return their draft day value.

J.D. Martinez’s ADP will rise or fall depending on where he calls home next season. His power looks a lot more enticing in Boston than it does in San Francisco.

Speaking of San Fran, Madison Bumgarner is an interesting pick as the fifth starting pitcher off the board. With six seasons of 200+ innings, his durability was unquestioned. However, last season, the left-hander missed all of May and June after a dirt bike accident. The subsequent outings resulted in a lower strikeout rate, higher ERA and slightly reduced velocity on his fastball. There is a lot of blind faith in taking Bumgarner in the top-30.

Dee Gordon? Really? Perhaps stolen bases are more of a precious commodity than even I thought. Gordon might score 100 runs, although no one on the Mariners did last year. He might steal 50+ bags (but that is as many as the Mariners’ top two base-stealers of Jean Segura and Jarrod Dyson combined for last season). His batting average is difficult to predict but don’t bank on .300 AVG.

WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 25: Starting pitcher Jacob deGrom

ADP 31-40: Pitchers fly off the board

31. Stephen Strasburg
32. Noah Syndergaard
33. Jacob DeGrom
34. Luis Severino
35. Jose Abreu
36. Carlos Carrasco
37. Daniel Murphy
38. Rhys Hoskins
39. Brian Dozier
40. Edwin Encarnacion

Noah Syndergaard looks like a risky pick compared to Stephen Strasburg. They have comparable upside, but Syndergaard only threw three innings after the end of April. Strasburg, who is never far away from a stint on the DL, returned to the rotation in mid-August and was one of the best starters over the last weeks of the season. In his final eight starts, the Nationals’ ace posted a 0.84 ERA with 10.57 SO/9.

Yankees’ Luis Severino is riding the wave of his 2017 season and enjoying the short-term memory of fantasy baseball players. Last season, there was little to choose between Severino, Carlos Carrasco, Jacob deGrom and Zack Greinke. They all made 31-32 starts and threw about 200 innings, with an ERA below 3.30 and more than 215 strikeouts. Severino, with 5.7 WAR, was the best of the group, but it is difficult to see him matching that in 2018. Surely the best option is to draft one of the players that have done it on multiple occasions?

Another example of over-drafting the new, exciting youngster is Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins going ahead of Edwin Encarnacion. What’s the best scenario for the Phillies’ first baseman? Maybe 36 home runs with 100 RBI? That is approximately the production that Encarnacion has delivered for six straight seasons. Hoskins only has 50 games of big league experience behind him.

WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 12: Anthony Rendon

ADP 41-50: Plenty of bargains available

41. Anthony Rendon
42. Starling Marte
43. Marcell Ozuna
44. Zack Greinke
45. Nelson Cruz
46. Yu Darvish
47. Justin Upton
48. Justin Verlander
49. Jonathan Schoop
50. Elvis Andrus

According to the WAR metric, Anthony Rendon was the best at his position last season but goes in these mock drafts with five third basemen already off the board. The Nationals’ star hit 25 home runs with 100 RBI, 81 runs, seven stolen bases and .301 batting average.

Pirates’ outfielder Starling Marte is an interesting pick at 42. In the four years before his suspension, Marte swiped at least 30 bags each season. This is a feat only achieved by Billy Hamilton, Dee Gordon and Jose Altuve. Despite only playing 77 games last year, Marte was on-pace for another 40+ stolen base season.

Don’t pay for Marcell Ozuna based on his 124-RBI season in 2017. It is unlikely to be repeated in 2018. The former Marlins’ star will be patrolling the congested outfield in St Louis. Production should be good but do not expect another season with .314 AVG. It was fuelled by .355 BABIP, one of the highest in the league.

Justin Verlander split opinions in the mock drafts. Recency bias pushes him up the board. He struck out 99 batters in his final 12 starts of the regular season (82 innings) with 1.65 ERA. No one is expecting that elite performance for a full season but you should expect Verlander to pitch over 200 innings across 32 starts. After all, that is what he has done ten times before. Innings-eaters are an undervalued asset, and an innings-eater on a team with a potent offense gives you the opportunity to get those elusive pitcher wins.

Part of the reason for their bargain status is that there a lot of “maybes” in this group. Maybe Yu Darvish shakes off the problems of the postseason. Maybe Jonathan Schoop is legit. Maybe Elvis Andrus can repeat the heights he achieved in 2017. Maybe Nelson Cruz can deliver for one more season.

LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 06: A.J. Pollock

ADP 51-60: Some of the riskier picks

51. Carlos Martinez
52. Robbie Ray
53. Andrew Benintendi
54. Kenley Jansen
55. Alex Bregman
56. Willson Contreras
57. Buster Posey
58. Robinson Cano
59. A.J. Pollock
60. Miguel Sano

Once outside the top-50 picks, every player has question marks surrounding him.

Second base is a very weak position in 2018 but Robinson Cano as a top-60 pick looks aggressive. Maybe he was affected by injury in the second half of the season as suggested by Scott Servais but power is so prevalent, you don’t need to get 20 home runs from your second baseman. Although if you want, you could get a similar number of home runs from Whit Merrifield, Ian Kinsler or Javier Baez but with significantly more stolen bases. Make sure you are not drafting the 35-year-old on name recognition alone.

It will be interesting to see how Alex Bregman’s ADP varies as we get closer to draft day. Like most postseason stars, he will be overvalued by baseball fans who only watched the Astros in October, but this will be countered by skepticism from those remembering his .256 AVG and .757 OPS in the first half of the season.

Although Willson Contreras missed 29 games after the All-Star break, he was awesome when he was playing in the second half. The .993 OPS with double-digit home runs and 14.7% walk rate is valuable in all formats of the game. Interestingly his 157 wRC+ in the second half was significantly higher than the Yankees’ Gary Sanchez’s 132 wRC+.

Buster Posey is a tough player to draft in 2018. You will need to invest a top-60 pick to get him, but there is no guarantee that he will provide more than replacement-level value. He will walk, get on base and hit for a good average but the power decline in the second half of the season is concerning. 43 catchers hit more home runs after the All-Star break than Posey. The list includes Raffy Lopez and Kevan Smith. No, me neither.

Tommy Pham

CINCINNATI, OH – SEPTEMBER 21: Tommy Pham

ADP 61-70: A mix of the old and the new

61. Chris Archer
62. Justin Turner
63. Jean Segura
64. Khris Davis
65. Christian Yelich
66. Wil Myers
67. Ryan Braun
68. Whit Merrifield
69. Tommy Pham
70. Craig Kimbrel

Who knows what to expect from Ryan Braun? Does the former MVP have one more season of stellar production or is the end of his fantasy relevancy near?

Braun posted 111 OPS+, the lowest of his career, in an injury-shortened season to fuel the suggestion that age is beginning to take its toll. Don’t forget that he hit .305 AVG with 30 home runs and 16 stolen bases in 2016. He will be a bargain if he can get close to that production this season.

At the other end of the experience spectrum are Tommy Pham and Whit Merrifield. Neither were on anyone’s radar at the start of last season, but both find themselves in the top-70 ADP based on these six mock drafts.

Pham was one of only nine players with 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases last season. The list shrinks to just three names (Pham, Mike Trout and Jose Altuve) if you only include those that hit over .300. No matter which way you cut it, being on a list with the two of the best players in the game means that he is doing something right.

Whether Pham can produce another 20/20 season is debatable. It is unlikely that more than one-quarter of his fly balls will continue to go for home runs. His .368 BABIP was one of the highest in the league, so do not expect another season with a batting average above .300. Pencil him in for 20 stolen bases but don’t rely on him being a roto superstar again.

TORONTO, ON – SEPTEMBER 9: Miguel Cabrera

ADP 71-80: Two former MVPs and two Cy Young Award winners

71. Miguel Cabrera
72. Yoenis Cespedes
73. Eric Hosmer
74. Jake Arrieta
75. Andrew McCutchen
76. James Paxton
77. Dallas Keuchel
78. Byron Buxton
79. Aroldis Chapman
80. Domingo Santana

After 13 straight seasons with at least 130 OPS+, Miguel Cabrera slumped to 92 OPS+, that’s 8% below league average. The ADP suggests many people think that his career has fallen off a cliff. He was still hitting the ball hard but 2017 represented a career-low in HR/FB rate, and he was pulling the ball less than any other season. Perhaps this was as a direct result of the injury that nagged him all year. The Tigers will not be competitive this season, but Cabrera looks like a bounce-back candidate and exceptional value if he is drafted outside of the top-70.

James Paxton and Dallas Keuchel both have the potential to finish as top-5 starting pitchers. Injury hampered Paxton, but he still made 24 starts, with a 12-5 win-loss record. He struck out batters at a rate of 10.32 SO/9 with 2.98 ERA and an even better FIP of 2.61. Using wOBA (weighted on-base average), Paxton finished the season as the sixth best starter behind Kluber, Scherzer, Strasburg, Kershaw and Sale. If he can make 32 starts, then this is an excellent pick.

Keuchel is the elite groundball pitcher in the game. He reduces the risk of damage that can be inflicted by inducing 66.8% ground balls. For the second straight year, the former Cy Young winner missed a large part of the season through injury which contributed to him tossing less than 150 innings.

Taking Cuban Aroldis Chapman in the top-80 looks like an aggressive pick, especially if you are drafting a closer mainly for saves. The left-hander has never had a 40-save season, and he lost his ninth-inning role for a time last year. The Yankees are assembling an eye-watering bullpen with Dellin Betances, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle to name just three. Chapman will continue to give you strikeouts and a low ERA even if he loses the job, but he looks like a risky investment.

BOSTON, MA – AUGUST 04: Eduardo Nunez

ADP 81-90: Home run power available late in the top-100

81. Joey Gallo
82. Mike Moustakas
83. Jose Quintana
84. Jake Lamb
85. Eduardo Nunez
86. Xander Bogaerts
87. Aaron Nola
88. Lorenzo Cain
89. Billy Hamilton
90. Zack Godley

There is no question that Joey Gallo possesses tremendous power but he is unlikely to develop into a refined hitter. It is possible that he will never produce a season better than 2017. Despite hitting 41 home runs with 80 RBI, Gallo finished as the 84th best hitter in points leagues and 70th in roto. It looks unlikely that Gallo can return any value with an ADP of 81.

Eduardo Nunez was over-drafted in 2017 thanks to his exploits on the basepaths in 2016. He failed to get close to 40 stolen bases, but 24 was still a useful contribution. If you ignore his slow April, Nunez hit .328 AVG with 12 home runs. Drafting for batting average is always a risky strategy, especially when the only season above .300 benefited from a high BABIP.

Nunez will enter the season with multi-position eligibility. Depending on your league settings, this could be second and third base (and maybe even shortstop and outfield, if 15 appearances qualify in your league).

Expect Nunez’s ADP to change depending on where he signs. The same is true for Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and Billy Hamilton if they find new homes for the 2018 season.

Diamondbacks’ Jake Lamb offers tremendous power, he has averaged 30 home runs and 30 doubles over the last two seasons, but he suffers from extreme splits. Over these last two years, he has posted 0.919 OPS vs. right-handed pitchers compared to 0.588 OPS vs. lefties and his first/second half splits are as extreme, with the third baseman hitting at least 75 points of batting average lower after the All-Star break.

HOUSTON, TX – OCTOBER 28: Alex Wood

ADP 91-100: Final picks in the top-100

91.  Alex Wood
92.  Matt Carpenter
93.  Gregory Polanco
94.  Kyle Seager
95.  Gerrit Cole
96.  Matt Olson
97.  Travis Shaw
98.  Didi Gregorius
99.  Jon Lester
100. J.T. Realmuto

Alex Wood and Gerrit Cole are the 23rd and 24th starting pitchers respectively.

Although only tossing 152⅓ innings, Wood clocked up 16 wins. It came with an impressive 2.72 ERA, almost one strikeout per inning and 1.06 WHIP. Wood would a very valuable pitcher to own if he could replicate this performance over 32 starts, but he is still to surpass 190 innings in a Major League season.

Watch Cole shoot up draft boards if he gets traded to the Yankees. The Pirates’ ace threw over 200 innings again and, although his 4.26 ERA represented a career high, his peripherals suggest the results will be better in 2018. Compared to 2016, Cole increased his strikeout rate, reduced his walk rate but suffered a significant jump in HR/FB rate.

Matt Olson slugged 47 home runs between the majors and Triple-A in 2017 to establish himself as a legitimate power threat for the Athletics. He strikes out far too much and benefited from an extraordinary 43.5% HR/FB vs. right-handed pitchers. Couple these points with his inability to hit left-handers and perhaps he is not as surefire a fantasy superstar as first hoped.

Kyle Seager and Travis Shaw represent the 13th and 14th third basemen on this list. There is no argument that the position is deep compared to second base (nine players in the top 100) and shortstop (seven players).

PITTSBURGH, PA – MAY 7: Jonathan Villar

Final thoughts on the top-100 ADP

ADP is vitally important. It is likely that a significant number of your leagues will draft solely based on ADP. This is your opportunity to exploit over or undervalued players.

Although there are question marks over many of the starting pitchers, there was no love in the mock drafts for David Price, Jon Gray or Aaron Nola.

Despite the potential over-valuing of some players with limited experience, the participants in the mock drafts were not interested in the next batch of rookies: Rafael Devers, Ozzie Albies, Yoan Moncada or Ronald Acuna. An impressive Spring Training campaign could change that.

Among the veterans overlooked were Ian Desmond, Carlos Santana, Eric Thames and Chris Davis.

Expect the top 100 to change considerably by the time draft day arrives. A final thought for you: The early preseason ADP last year had Jonathan Villar in the top-20 based on the 62 bags he swiped in 2016. He dropped to an ADP of 30 by the time the season started, and he finished the season as the 238th hitter in roto.