Preaseason rankings and projections are always dicey, especially in a sport like baseball.
So many variables go into a 162-game season, it’s seemingly impossible to predict. Advanced statistics have made it much easier to project performances, and fantasy baseball rankings and average draft positions can be a help entering draft season.
But it’s not always that simple.
Here are two lists of players we think are either overrated and underrated from a fantasy standpoint based on preseason rankings and average draft positions.
*All average draft positions are based on Yahoo! Sports’ positions.
2B Brian Dozier, Twins (ADP: 33) — It’s hard not to fall in love with Dozier’s power at a position notorious for not offering much pop. But as Fangraphs points out, there might be reason to have a little skepticism as to whether Dozier can repeat his 42-home run performance in 2017. It might be worth waiting a couple of rounds and trying to grab Jean Segura or Jason Kipnis and use that higher pick on someone who offers a little more certainty.
1B Hanley Ramirez, Red Sox (ADP: 72) — Since the start of 2011, these are Ramirez’s games played totals: 92, 157, 96, 128, 105, 147. Could be worse, sure, but it’s still far from a guarantee Ramirez stays healthy for an entire season. The Boston lineup is still very good, but you also have to wonder whether the loss of David Ortiz has any sort of trickle-down effect.
SP Jake Arrieta, Cubs (ADP: 29) — Arrieta is still a worthwhile, potentially high-end fantasy baseball pitcher, but we’re not so sure you should be taking him in this neighborhood. The 31-year-old right-hander is older than some people probably realize, and he showed some signs of regressing in 2016. His strikeout rate went down and his walk rate ballooned to 3.47 walks per nine innings. He induced fewer ground balls and more of his fly balls left the yard. Like we said, he’s still a fine pitcher, he’s just not a risk we’re willing to take high in the draft.
RP Wade Davis, Cubs (ADP: 89) — The case for drafting Davis is pretty simple: He’s expected to be the closer on the best team in baseball, meaning he’ll get plenty of save opportunities. But we’re not sure he’s worth a seventh- or eighth-round pick given some injury concerns. Davis battled forearm issues down the stretch last season, and fewer words raise eyebrows with pitchers faster than “forearm issues.” As a result, Davis’ velocity dropped while his ERA and WHIP jumped. Maybe it will turn out to be nothing, but is it worth the risk?
1B/OF Kendrys Morales, Blue Jays (ADP: 133) — If you don’t want to or are unable to grab a big-name, big-upside first baseman in the early rounds, don’t panic. You can snag Morales in the middle rounds. It’s unlikely Morales is able to fully replace the production Toronto will lose after Edwin Encarnacion signed with Cleveland. However, after spending the last three seasons in bad hitters’ parks (Seattle and Kansas City), Morales’ new digs are much more homer-friendly. You also could argue he’s in a better lineup, presenting more chances to pile up RBIs. And if you get Morales in a Yahoo! league, he’s currently listed as a first baseman and outfielder — despite just five outfield appearances in 2016.
SP Kevin Gausman, Orioles (ADP: 141) — It’s hard to imagine, but Gausman — who’s pitched in 95 career big-league games — is still only 26 years old. Last year marked his first full season as a starter, and there was plenty to like. The stuff alone — a fastball in the mid-90s, a wipeout slider and a disappearing splitter — are tantalizing. He’s shown improvement every season (3.61 ERA, 8.7 K/9 in 2016), and there’s no reason he can’t continue to take the next step in 2017.
CL AJ Ramos, Marlins (ADP: 142) — If you’re looking to grab some saves in the second tier of closers, you could do a lot worse than Ramos. The 2016 All-Star has 72 saves over the last two seasons. The Marlins’ offseason focus centered on improving the bullpen, which means Ramos could see even more save chances in 2017, which is good news for a guy who blew just three saves last season.
3B Maikel Franco, Phillies (ADP: 155) — Franco doesn’t get nearly the recognition he deserves in large part because he’s played for a bad Phillies team. But his ability to drive the ball is no joke. He homers once every 26 at-bats for his career and drove in 88 runs last season. We also love his low strikeout rate (16.8 percent in 2016) especially paired with a below-average .271 batting average on balls in play. Given how often he puts the ball in play, it’s safe to assume that number will climb in 2017.
2B Joe Panik, Giants (ADP: 267) — Perhaps no player in baseball had worse luck in 2016 than Panik. The Giants infielder had the lowest strikeout rate (8.9 percent) in all of baseball among qualified hitters. But he also had a .245 batting average on balls in play over 526 plate appearances. Combine that with injury issues, and it was a frustrating campaign for the 26-year-old. He’ll bounce back in 2017 and is an option worth considering in deeper leagues.
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